after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

“Square Peg … i like you …”

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t says:  In my first-vacation-since-freshman-year-of-high-school (and by “vacation”, I mean “a period of time greater than 1 week in length in which I had no work to do”), I have found that I get restless pretty darned easily.  I just need things to do!  This has been good for reading (I conquered the Hunger Games trilogy and browsed a few cookbooks), blogging, swimming (I got destroyed by Penn swimmers last week), watching horrible horrible free movies on Hulu (as you’ve read), organizing our finances and health insurance, and, of course, eating.  Not a whole lot of learning going on here, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to be completely inept when I start my real job in June, but I guess I’ll have to worry about that then.  What I lack is a partner in crime.  It turns out that all of my friends either have real jobs or are doing someactually productive things that don’t lend themselves to missions like wine-hunting and lunch-searching …  Except for today!  k texted me out of the blue with a request to go to lunch.  In a flash (because I have nothing else to do), I immediately began constructing a list of lunch places I wanted to try.  At the top of the list: Square Peg.  With Matt Levin at the helm, I was super-psyched to go.  For those who don’t know, he’s the genius behind the Tastykake sliders (imagine mini-hamburgers … but instead of bread, think Kandy Kakes).  Take a peak, if you dare:

Adsum’s Tastykake Sliders

And this is just the tip of the Matt Levin iceberg.  The rest of it includes FourLoko dinners, super-awesome fried chicken, and more!  Square Peg is supposed to be “comfort food with a twist” (my words, not theirs).  I like comfort food.  So does k.  I like twists.  So does k.  And with that, we booked a reservation and trekked on over to the middle of Center City.  It was time for another t & k adventure (past adventures: zahav lunch, Philly Food Tours)!

May 2012, Thursday Lunch, Party of 2.  We were late.  I hate being late.  Ugh.  Stupid cars – let’s just say that traffic/parking on Thursdays around noon absolutely sucks in CC.  After crawling for what seemed like an eternity (I was hungry, so my perception of time was a little “off”), we pulled into a parking lot on 9th and Sansom only to find there were absolutely no spots left.  Sunuvamotherlessgoat!  So we pulled out and searched [at a snail’s pace] for street parking.  Fortunately, k must have some sort of super-secret car-moving abilities because on the next block, a car pulled out right in front of us.  Beautiful!  Good job k!

Sensing that we were going to be late, I called up Square Peg to see if they could make sure to save our reservation despite our tardiness.  The female voice on the phone was A-OK with it.  Great!  We walked in 15 minutes late and indeed – not a problem at all.  I was surprised, as lunch was ending soon – but I wasn’t complaining.

After taking our seats, I was faced with a conundrum similar to that which I was in at Talula’s Garden – too many things to try and only one stomach to eat with!  French Toast, burger, turkey sliders, pulled pork, and tons of other stuff, too!  After much debate, k and I decided that we should be strategic and order two things we both wanted to try and share.  Boom.  We’re smart like that.  Now, reading the menu at Square Peg is fun because with every dish, there’s something tweaked to make it different.  If you’re not paying attention, you just might miss it.  Take the above: “mac-n-cheese ‘grilled cheese'”.  I read it and didn’t even bat an eyelash – but that’s because it didn’t cross my mind this was not going to be just some kind of heavily crusted mac-n-cheese, rather, a grilled cheese sandwich with the cheese replaced by mac-n-cheese; k figured it out instantly.  Check it out:

k’s pick: mac-n-cheese grilled cheese + tomato soup

I have to say that I was pretty impressed with the execution of this dish.  How the hell did the macaroni stay inside the bread?  At first, I thought maybe the mac would be one of those “fake” mac-n-cheeses where so much egg and crumbly cheese is used that the end result comes out friable and not the least bit smooth (I hate those mac-n-cheeses).  And it wasn’t all thick-and-congealed and it wasn’t all super-compressed-like-a-panini either.  It turns out that this mac was indeed smooth and cheesy, with some good cheesy oomph, and just the right amount of stiction to stay in place.    How did they do it?  Well, however they did, I liked it!  I will say that I think maybe interspersing a few (a very few) crumbles of blue cheese would have stepping up the cheese flavor without sacrificing texture.  k felt oppositely, feeling that the grilled mac and cheese was already a bit too rich.  So we agree to disagree.  Either way, we both felt like the tomato soup was a nice counter-point to the sandwich – punching up the flavors and cutting through what was essentially a super-thick cheese sandwich.  Nicely done!

t’s pick: “leftover” turkey sliders + gravy

These next sandwiches were “my” choice, even though k spotted it first.  Basically, think of a sandwich you’d make using Thanksgiving leftovers: turkey, stuffing, yams, cranberry sauce, and gravy.  Brilliant.  While an obvious a combination, and not one that is completely unheard of in restaurants (Smoking Betty has had it for a while), this is the first that I had tasted not in the comfort of someone’s house.  And it was awesome, tasting exactly like what you’d expect – with some caveats:
1)  The cranberry sauce is chunky.  I don’t mind this, but some people are partial to super-smooth cranberry sauce.
2)  The stuffing doesn’t have stuff in it.  g’s mom’s stuffing, the current adsz stuffing champ, is so chocked full of more than just carrots and herbs.
3)  The turkey (and rest of the ingredients) is served cold.  This is on-theme, as it’s supposed to be a “leftover” sandwich, and probably allows the kitchen to just pull the ingredients out of the fridge … however, I normally zap the ingredients in the microwave first.
4)  The gravy is plain … my gravy is not …

Be that as it may, these were some damn good sliders – we devoured all of em (k ate the big one, I ate the two small ‘uns).  Sure, they could have been fussed up a bit more, but to be honest, I’d take these over another boring burger any day.  But, if I was allowed to change only one thing, it’d be the gravy (and it’d probably be the easiest to jazz up, anyways).  Mushrooms, nuts, herbs, cream of celery, belgian pale ale … anything like that would be a nice addition.  Of course, I’m no cook/chef, so what do I know?

Finally, we went for dessert:

dessert = chocolate pudding pie = fudgey chocolate + crumbled pretzels + bruleed banana

Ok, so this one was the most unexpected item of our meal because it didn’t really resemble a pie at all.  That kinda stunk because we were really in the mood for pie!  On the flip side, the dessert did resemble Barbuzzo’s salted caramel budino in presentation, so that made us happy initially, but unfortunately means that it’s going to be compared to the budino, whether it wants to be or not.  So about this dessert … The chocolate was definitely not pudding-like, rather, thick and fudgey.  I didn’t mind (I like fudge), but it did require some finger strength to drive a spoon all the way to the bottom of the jar.  The crumbled pretzel added some nice saltiness and texture.  And the banana (bruleed and salted) was nice touch, too, breaking up the chocolate monotony!  But now the problem: if only somehow the banana was somehow incorporated better so we wouldn’t have to carefully dissect it to ensure that each bite had some banana.  I don’t know how this could be done – maybe mash the banana into a creamy top layer and then brulee the top?  I really like the combination of flavors going on here, but it’s just not put together ideally … which is a shame … because … k chimes in: The dessert in a jar definitely filled my chocolate needs, however in no way compared to Barbuzzo’s budino – the original dessert in a mason jar.  t’s back:  We recognize it’s totally stupid to think that every layered dessert presented in a glass jar is “biting” off of Barbuzzo … but theirs just tastes so damn good!

k delivers the finale:  It was a fun lunch place.  I liked the atmosphere and the music.  The menu was filled with cute and creative twists on old things you’ve had before.  For the most part, the twists seemed like yummy ideas.  One exception – I thought the tacos with Fritos in a bag sounded terrible.  Our choices hit the spot, though.  Not out-of-this-world tasty, but still solid.

t refuses to let her have the last word:  Yea, I’d totally go back to see what other kinds of crazy are going on up in there.  Lunch, dinner, whatever.  There’s some real potential.  And the prices aren’t ridiculous, either!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

13 May 2012 at 7:33pm

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