after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

a true aspirational story

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t says:  I don’t think there will every come a time when I will “own” a vineyard, “farm” the land, or “make” the wine.  But it is a pretty cool story:

Written by afterdinnersneeze

11 May 2015 at 11:01am

Posted in Happenings

welcome springtime!

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t says:  It’s been two weeks since last time, and while my phone seems to have only one additional photo:



And then I remembered: we went to the Poconos!  And no, not to the place that has the weird tall pink champagne glass jacuzzi (i.e. on the billboard on 76 headed east), but to someplace I got a rando-deal on  Overall, the place was fine – we enjoyed its secluded location and nearby park.  The food left much to be desired (except the above chocolate dessert – which was awesome), but we got to bring our own wine, read our own books, and rest in the silence that is nature.  The Poconos: Highly Recommended for Doing Nothing.

I guess this means that g and I will just have to eat out more to make sure we have stuff to blog about!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

29 April 2015 at 8:44pm

Posted in Happenings

It Has Arrived

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t says:  After 4 years on a waitlist, coordinating a three-party cross-country split (partly enabled by kp), and cashing in an “it’ll be my birthday present to myself” rationalization, mine finally arrived yesterday.  Sleep well, young lad.  I’ll see you on your 18th birthday …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

15 April 2015 at 8:38am

Posted in Happenings

[Finally] getting to Abe Fisher

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t says:  g and I went to Abe Fisher not too long ago – far after the buzz had begun to subside.  Now, we have to say, we’re coming at this from the points of view of two people who have little-to-no emotional attachment to “cuisine of the Jewish diaspora” that Abe Fisher boasts.  In our little part of SoJo, it just wasn’t something we encountered.  So we basically had no idea what to expect in terms of themes, flavors, or anything …

March 2015, Sunday Diner, Party of 2.  So we started off with


the brussels sprouts caesar was precisely what we imagined – very nice done, and yet another bit of proof that sprouts need not be roasted or fried to shine.  the grapes made it a bit on the sweeter-than-expected side, but overall an ok start.


ever wonder how to do a sweet potato in a manner other than just with marshmallow?  go there and have this.  this was a thoughtfully constructed dish flirting with perfection (for a sweet potato).  pickled long hots and the mild sweet potato were crazy-good with the boursin.  this hit all the right notes.


pastrami hash knish also killed it – from the sesame exterior to the poached egg and of course, the meat, it was beautiful.


broccoli 2 ways was probaly the weakest dish.  i have long since forgotten the details, but i do recall thinking to myself, “gee – i kinda wish this was just a plate of roasted broccoli, instead”


i ventured the pseudo-“gefilte fish” thinking it’d be really unique – and here’s an example where I think that knowing what the original dish was would have made me appreciate this one better.  but for me, it didn’t offer me much more than carrot-on-carrot-on-nondescript-fish.  sorry guys.  I mean sure, it tasted fine, but it’s not going to win any records for making me contemplating the true meaning of food (i.e. what I typically like to contemplate when eating dinner out).


g’s sweet-n-sour meatballs were pretty tasty – a nice take that we ultimately ate all of.  But come on – will this honestly dethrone the meatballs of Barbuzzo?  No …


i’m a sucker for a properly-jiggly panna cotta (it shouldn’t jiggle like jello – it should jiggle like … something else …) … but as good as my dessert was, with its creaminess and bright fruit punches …


… g’s dessert made me forget about that broccoli thing and that fish thing and that meatball thing – it immediately obliterated any-and-all thoughts, as I was instantly transported to the year 1990.  Boom.  Life was simple again.  Forget adulthood and being fettered to worries of work, bills, taxes, and responsibility.  No.  Not 10-year-old me, sitting in the car (where I ate most of my dinners, between after-school activities), with McDonald’s baked apple pie half-hanging out of my mouth and a stupid grin on my face.  My thoughts were simple:  Did I get a 100 on my spelling test?  Did I practice the piano enough this week?  Was there any way I could watch X-men on Saturday morning instead of going to karate class?  When was Super Mario Bros 3 coming out – and would I be able to find the hidden warp whistles?  As I slowly came back to the reality that I was 32 sitting in Abe Fisher, and not 10 eating McDonald’s, I admitted it: g won dessert.  Screw panna cotta …  

So it wasn’t a meal without a few hiccups – perhaps it should have stopped at course 2 with that knish.  g and I hadn’t ventured the Hungarian duck or the Montreal short ribs – so it’s not like we did everything.  But we did like the majority of what we had – and for the fixed price of $39, the damage wasn’t that bad.  We’d definitely go back when they change the menu to see what else comes out of the kitchen … except they better not change that f-ing apple strudel …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

14 April 2015 at 8:26pm

Shabu Shabu

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t says:  I have a confession to make.  g and I don’t spend enough time in China town.  Like WAY-little.  We rarely do dim sum.  We [regretfully] miss out on hand-drawn noodles.  And certainly we haven’t shabu-shabu’d it (or “hotpot” as it’s referred to by our friends).  Fortunately, one very persuasive friend of ours made an excellent case to go: she had been, she knew what to do, and she was going …  So off g and I went – an adventure to Chinatown’s Hippot Shabu Shabu (most recently mentioned here).  What was it like?  It was insanity.  I don’t have many pictures of the pot, as my battery managed to very-nearly die.


g’s side of the table went for a vegetable free-for-all.  personally, i felt that this method lacked the precision of perfectly cooking individual items, but i guess that’s just how they roll …


on the meat side, we went for their “bone broth” (which i neglected to photograph.  we also went for thin slices of lamb and beef, as well as a variety of dumplings and balls.

In all, the meal was quite delicious.  For a bunch of neophytes like us, it was quite also quite the experience: dip, boil, slather, eat, and repeat!  Thanks to our shabu-master for organizing the outing because we would have been completely lost (there was a lot of speaking in tongues with which I was not familiar).  g and I also loved the social experience of gathering around a pot of food – much like a fondu … just with more exotic flavors.  Oh – and the “sauce bar” was good fun – I’m pretty sure I re-created General Tso’s sauce.  BUT, I have to let me Korean-ness shine through for a moment: I confess that I like Korean BBQ a bit more.  There’s something about the sizzle that I miss in hotpot.  And when you put that almost-burnt-outside-but-still-soft-inside cow in your mouth with a crisp leaf of fresh lettuce and a slice of cold kimchi – now that is heaven (so much so that g and I made some ssam at home tonight before I wrote this piece).  True, shabu gets major points with variety – I mean they had a whole page of balls for crying out loud!  But I’d never bring those balls to a kalbi fight …

After shabu-ing it for dinner, we hit up a place I have heard so much about but hadn’t had the chance yet to visit (because, you know, we never go to Chinatown …): Audubon Bakeshop.  So when you walk in, you think “oh, macarons … i like macarons – i’ve had them before” (and for a snob like me, add on: “i ate at a new macaron vendor every single day of our trip in Paris … if there’s only one thing i know, it’s eating macarons”).  So I sashayed my way up to the counter …


I began to notice that these were not macarons of a single flavor, rather, combinations.  What gives?  Is it simply that the exterior is a different flavor than the filling?  …


Nope!  It’s because there are two fillings!  Interesting!  While I have no idea how unique this is, I was intrigued.  It was time to taste some … so naturally, I bought 1 of each … you know, “to share” …

And of course, I pretty much ate them all by myself.  They were as addictive a potato chips.  As soon as i ate one, I knew I had to eat another – I just had to know what it tasted like, because the flavor combos were so much fun!  It reminded me of wanting to try ALL the donuts at FedNuts … except that I hated myself far less afterwards (6 donuts vs. 6 macarons …)  In the end I’m not sure which was my favorite, but what I can say is that I’m definitely putting down this place on the short list of “desserts to bring from Philly” when we attend parties in the south Jersey suburbs.  These small bites packed a slightly more profound punch of flavor than a typical macaron – I can’t wait until they make new flavors!

So a successful Chinatown outing.  I’m sorry we neglected you.  We’ll be back.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

7 April 2015 at 8:25pm

rice vs. calories

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t says:  Check it out – people think that adding coconut oil will make rice a bit healthier via chemistry.  Pretty cool – but will it still have the same texture and taste?

Written by afterdinnersneeze

25 March 2015 at 7:08pm

Posted in Happenings

How does your Garden grow [more delicious]?

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t says:  You know, there are some restaurants in the city that have been open for some time and have fallen out of the limelight.  Maybe the chef isn’t using the fanciest gastronomic techniques.  Maybe the decor isn’t minimalist-chic.  Maybe the menu doesn’t have enough hipster-ironic items.  But they still do a damn fine job.  Take Talula’s Garden.  Now I have to confess that it’s hard for g and me to be unbiased when it comes to all things Talula, so I won’t do a course-by-course breakdown … but I’ll leave the punchlines here:

1)  TG gives first-class service – prompt and frequent clearing and resetting of tables, cheery smiles from happy servers.  No one’s “cool”, no one’s stuck-up or snotty (i.e. no long tirades over the conception of the idea of a dish and sourcing for every single ingredient).  This is a lesson in old-school serving, where people appear genuinely concerned about whether you are having a great meal.

2)  Their food still brings the thunder …


“pumpkin gnocchi” … how could “pumpkin gnocchi” turn heads (actually, i don’t think pumpkin is in the gnocchi)?  I don’t know how – but it did.  I dare not try to dissect this dish because this is one of those times when knowing the components is irrelevant, because really, it’s about having the most perfectly cooked gnocchi on your fork, driving it through the sauce and ?cheese? and nuts, and sticking it in your mouth and realizing that you just had the second-best gnocchi you’ve ever had (sorry, first best goes to Vetri … still … although I’m not sure if those spinach gnocchi count because they aren’t the same type of gnocchi – they’re some kind of volatile ricotta gnocchi).  Maybe it would have been different had I been sitting in Mercato or Melograno or something, and I was expecting pasta greatness – but this just came out of nowhere and surprised the hell out of us with its mix of rustic attitude (like “so what?  i’m gnocchi! no big deal”), burst of fresh flavors (despite “pumpkin”, I was feeling spring more than fall), and perfect harmony.  I don’t know if it’ll ever taste the same again, now that I have such expectations (and now you, the reader, does, too!).


pork belly.  So pork belly is “bait”, right?  You can’t mess it up.  Hell – I can make pork belly taste good.  But, can you elevate it to something otherworldly – and how do you do it?  It’s widely known that this blog LOVES the pork belly at Fond.  It has that sweet crisped crust on top of a delightfully soft pork belly.  It’s our undisputed champion, beating out competitors due to its shear hedonism (fat + salt + sugar).  TG’s strategy was to walk a completely different way.  On the surface, it looks like someone “put too much sh*t on their pork belly”: black garlic, fruit, pomegranate sauce, ginger, sweet potatoes …  It looks crazy.  It almost looks like a mystery basket on Chopped …  Shut up and eat it.  A. MAZ. ING.  It all worked.  I could not believe it.  Believe it!  Unlike the pork belly champions of yesteryear, this one seeks balance.  Acidity to keep the mouth watering.  Savory and sweet flavors to go with those from the pork.  Textural contrasts with the fruit and pomengranate.  A bit of starch so you’re not just eating fat on fat on fat.  This the pork belly you take home to mom – the one that’s tastefully dressed, delicate, and could keep your attention for a lifetime.

Sure there were other dishes we had that were also fantastic (other pasta, shortrib, crudo, vegetables), but I think what’s important is that TG still has “it”.  I know there have been chef changes, and I know that farm-to-table isn’t sexy anymore – but these weren’t the reasons to go.  The reason to go is because I cannot think of a place that expresses its ingredients as well as TG, no matter how far-fetched or familiar they are.  No fancy foams, mists, or meat glue – just a plate of ingredients prepared in such a way that honors and elevates the raw product.  When you’re done eating, the first question you ask isn’t “Holy crap – how did the chef do that?”, it’s “holy crap – where can I get me some ramps?”.  It’s a shame, because I think that this recipe will not yield chef stardom in the way other, more “unique” places will (i.e. those places with cutting edge techniques, or fusion of disparate cultures, who are in it for the “show” of it al), but for us, TG will always remain as one of our “special occasion” restaurants.

3)  Oh – and did I mention that their desserts are fantastic?  Have your cheese and eat your sweets, too!

Ok … so g and I love TG.  Nothing new there …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

17 March 2015 at 1:07pm


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