after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

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July-to-August Review!

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t says:  We’ve had a pretty month since coming back from London – the summer is flying by!  We need to play a little catch-up.


V Street!  That’s right – we finally did V Street.  Well, to be clear, g had done V Street several times before, but I had not.  This is one of her favorite dishes, and was demonstrative, in general, of the style of food there.  What you see above I think is called their “Peruvian Fries”.  In an interseting-taasting aioli, herbs, and peanuts, the nicely cooked potato wedges were fantastic!  However, I have to say that I wasn’t quite as blown away as she, as I was expecting something “punchier” – tangier, spicier, louder.  The other dishes, too, just felt a little muted to me, not quite hitting the expectations that I had after having eaten at Vedge and reading V Street’s interesting menu.  It’s not “bad”, but I’ll leave this place for the vegans (and g).


oh – and don’t do the custard – the texture is atrocious.  (unless you’re used to vegan ice cream).


Hop on over to Jersey and visit Vineland, our hometown.  It’s a quaint little city, Vineland, with not a lot of the craziest gastronomic advances going on – but that’s fine – that’s just Vineland!  That said, I’ve had these pretty amazing ravioli at Larry’s so I just had to give them a shout-out!  Often filled with ricotta+vegetable (pea, or caramelized onion, or whatever) and sparsely dressed, it’s my new favorite when visiting our parents!


Ah, yes – the good ‘ol blurry photo.  Why bother including it?  Because it’s a reminder to one and all that Mercato is still frickin’ killing it, Italian-BYO-style.  Remember when Philly was reknowned for its Italian BYOs?  When Mercato, Melograno, Modo Mio, and La Viola were all the rage?  Before we cared about celebrities and expensive tasting menus.  Well, we won’t forget those good ‘ol days (obviously we are old and crotchety and resistant to change).  The above is a dish from Mercato during the “Summer Tuesday Tastings” they got going on.  Pasta, braised meat, pistachio, and some shreds of cheese?  Yes please.  God it was good.


It has been a while since we did brunch here on adsz – we just kept going to the usual suspects.  But now, check out the newest king of the hill: TRIA!  Yes, that’s right – TRIA (the one on Fitler Square).  These blueberry ricotta pancakes were absolutely insane!  So delicately light and fluffy, (but substantive) and full of flavor.  It was incredible.  And there were still like three other dishes we wanted to try!  Get their early, avoid the lines, order a glass of Riesling (obviously!), and enjoy breakfast!


Now here we go … here we go …  Look at these four beignets, sitting in a row. Stuffed with apples or chocolate or crawfish, Brenda’s does the most amazing sweetly fried dough that I have ever had.  The catch?  Brenda’s is in San Francisco (  Consequently, we’ll just have to keep going back every time we visit …


Oh – and Brenda’s does upside-down peach cobbler pancakes, too – imagine peach pie (with crumble topping) but in pancake form.  Seriously – blew my head off.  So delicious.


Also on a recent visit to SF, I dined at Saru, a place we first visited for lunch some time.  As usual, it was delicious, from the charred shisito and daikon salad …


… to the nigiri I chose from the menu.  Now, because I dined alone, I had the chance to make a few observations.  The first one was weird.  I arrived at restaurant opening, which meant there was a line.  While there were parties of 2 and 3 and 4 being turned away with wait times of about 30 minutes, I knew that a solo diner like me would just sslliiddee right in.  So when I finally got up to the host and hostess, I told them, “party of 1, please” and looked over to the bar, eyeing an open seat, smiling.  So he nodded and I swear he was about to seat me, right up until, I overheard her lean in to his ear and telling him, “make him wait”.  WTF!!  But it’s ok – I waited the 20 minutes (I visited a nearby chocolate shop) and it was worth it.  The sushi is crazy.  The other observation is that Saru is only prepared for a single ordering for each party – the “oh if we’re hungry we’ll just order more” tactic doesn’t work.  The kitchen is small, busy, and doesn’t have time to go back and make another order for you  – they want you in, ordered, fed, and gone, ready for the next party.  Lingering, ordering “just a few more” is discouraged – that messes with their workflow.  The couple next to me didn’t understand this.  It was an interesting exchange to say the least: “another 45 minutes for just 1 more roll and a few nigiri?”.  So remember: order, eat, leave.


k and cm took me to a wonderful little restaurant for seafood pasta, cioppino, and oysters – so great.  No idea what it was called, but I can’t wait to go back!


Remember when we said we needed to go back to Mercato more?  Done!  Boom!  My dish: pasta, meat, cheese – done!  g’s dish: pasta, meat, cheese – done!  So simple,  SO GOOD.  It used to be second fiddle to Melograno, but no more – Mercato is our new-old-fave Italian BYO.


Oh, yes, this.  I’ll just leave this right here.


And to close: check out our pseudo-porchetta.  Let’s zoom in:


From “All Abour Roasting”, the lovely sage, rosemary, thyme, and garlic sang between the two slabs of meat (5lb pork belly, 3lb tenderloin).  Yea – it was as good as it looked – had it with some broccoli rabe, provolone, potato rolls.  Next time, I’ll cook it a little slower so it’ll be a bit more tender, but nevertheless, 6 people demolished 8lbs of meat over two days.  Success!

mission: sprouts and fennel

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t says: g and I were in the mood for a veggie-centric dinner, so we were set on grilling up some fennel and Brussels sprouts … until it rained.  Damn!  No outdoor grilling for us …  To the broiler!!

    Because I'm trying to cook anise and Brussels sprouts at the same time, I have made up a pretty involved manner to broil something, and not just "broil for 20 minutes, and you're done".  That'd be too easy.  AND, it'd result in unevenly cooked food!  So this is how I do it ...

Because I’m trying to cook anise and Brussels sprouts at the same time, I have concocted a pretty involved manner of cookery involving broiling … but it’s not just “broil for 20 minutes, and you’re done”. That’d be too easy. AND, it’d result in unevenly cooked food! So this is how I choose to do it …

0)  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

1)  Arrange halved sprouts in the center of a lipped baking pan, as above, such that all of the sprouts (~30 Brussels sprouts, therefore ~60 halves) have their cut side facing up.  Place the layers of fennel bulb (~2 bulbs worth) on the extreme right and extreme left of the pan, and arrange them such that they all curve upwards.  Drizzle with olive oil and aggressively season with salt and pepper.

2)  When ready, change the oven over to the “BROIL” setting, and get ready to start cooking with the oven door propped slightly open.  Now it’s time rock and roll: the cookery is a 4-step process …
2a)  Place baking sheet on oven rack ~6″ from the heating element, all the way to the left.  In a normal sized oven, this will place the right-most Brussels sprouts directly under the heating element, while the left-most fennel will be all by their loansome, barely getting any love/heat.  Continue until the sprouts right underneath the heating element are golden brown (~5-7 minutes).
2b)  Move the baking sheet all the way to the right.  Now the left-most sprouts will be directly under the heating element, while the right-most fennel (which has also been nicely browned) will be cooling off way away from the heating element.  Continue until the sprouts right underneat the heating element are golden brown (~5-7 minutes).
2c)  By now, all the sprouts are beautifully browned, but as usual for broiling, they are not yet cooked completely (you can try one to see how it is, and unless you got some really small sprouts, they’re probably very raw-crunchy (as opposed to cooked-crispy).  Thus, remove the baking pan from the oven and flip all of the sprouts over, so now the cut side is facing down.  Repeat steps 2a and 2b in an effort to brown this side of the Brussels sprouts.  When you are done, this is what you’re left with!

Voila!  Beautiful fennel.  And almost-copmpletely done sprouts!

Voila! Beautiful fennel. And almost-completely done sprouts!

3)  Remove the fennel and arrange on a plate in a dramatic fashion … like this:


Sure is pretty!

4)  Now, the sprouts have one problem left … when you turned them upside down to broil their undersides, the beautifully browned cut sides are now a little mushy!!  Boooooo!  Having crispy leaves is the best part!!  So now what you do is turn them all back over … stick them back under the broiler for a few minutes … and when you see that they’re getting to an almost-but-not-quite-burnt state, you take ’em out … and, of course, arrange them nicely on a plate:


Brussels sprouts can handle this amount of char – they taste awesome this way!

And there we go – roasted fennel and a broiled Brussels sprouts!  It seems like I’m nit-picky [and I am!] but it’s worth it!


Written by afterdinnersneeze

28 May 2014 at 9:30pm

korean roast chicken

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t says: My cooking method of choice for some time has been braising – it’s just so much fun! The one meat that I’m just not 100%-pro-braise for is chicken – and I’m pretty sure that it’s because of a single problem: soggy skin. I mean who likes soggy skin?! No one! Chicken skin is supposed to be crisp and delicious! And between Rotisseur and FedNuts, there’s a lot of good skin out there! I was determined to put together a recipe that offered great skin, reasonably-tender-meat, and minimal time commitment (braises take way too long). So, with the help of Molly Stevens’s “All About Roasting”, I went back to basics: roasting skin-on chicken thighs.

garlic, gouchichang, lemons, roasted sesame seeds, salt, pepper, rosemary, orange liqueur, chicken


the rub

the rub

Step 1: The rub. The above is a concoction of a heaping teaspoon of gouchichang, a heaping teaspoon of roasted sesame seeds, a half teaspoon of sesame oil (you can use whatever oil you want – I like the sesame flavor), 4 cloves of minced fresh garlic (yes, it’s a LOT of garlic), a dash of black pepper, and then enough lemon juice to make it spreadable (~0.5 lemon). So basically, it’s made of everything awesome, mashed together (and yes, it needs to be mashed to release some of the garlic essences). And, because I added gouchichang and sesame seeds, I can now call this “korean roast chicken”.  Afterwards, coat the entirety of each chicken piece with the rub – and make sure you get a good amount between the skin and chicken.  Let the chicken temper at least a half hour.

the pan

getting fancy in the pan

Step 2: The pan. Here’s where we make it fancy. Place a slice of lemon wherever you plan on placing a chicken thigh. Top it with a sprig of rosemary. Add a half teaspoon of orange liqueur to each slice (we tend to have GranGala on hand, but whatever).  You don’t want to put in more orange liqueur than can be contained a single lemon slice, as the excess will leak away from the lemon, and then burn and smoke when heated in the oven (trust me – I made this mistake already).


the assembly

Step 3: The Assembly. Place each piece of chicken on top of each slice of lemon. Basically, each piece of chicken is on its own lemon pedestal. It’s weird, but I feel that these slices of lemon really add some zing! Season with salt and pepper.  Snake some remaining sprigs of rosemary between the chicken – if nothing else, the pan will look more festive, and your house will smell like rosemary, so what do you have to lose?

Step 4: The Cookery. 450 degrees for 30-35 minutes (40 minutes was great, but I’m anticipating I could go shorter and it’d be juicier).

And that’s it! Based on how hot you like it, you could smother more of the sauce on the chicken before cooking.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

9 February 2013 at 5:54pm

Our Philly Diner en Blanc Primer

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t says:  Ah yes.  Diner en Blanc.  Pictures are everywhere.  We have some, too, but a lot of them have our mugs on ’em, so we’re not going to be able to show those off.  Instead, we’re going to treat this kind of like a “how g-&-t-&-a-&-v do Diner en Blanc”.  Hopefully this post will be helpful for our planning next year …

g and I easily sourced our table and chairs, but we had to decide what was going to go on the tabletop.  There were so many options of glasses and utensils that we needed to visualize it.  Fortunately, Dr. Moody (a gift from lc) was ready-willing-and-able to help out:

Dr. Moody lends a helping hand by modeling different dinnerwares …

Eventually, we did decide on our tabletop selections, and everything looked pretty darn spiffy:

our tabletop!

The ONLY regret we had was that our selections were damn-heavy.  The glasses: real glass.  The dishes: real porcelain (and there were two!).  The silverware: real metal.   That bottle our water was in: real glass.  g and I are not World’s-Strongest-Man material – we can say that by the time we got to the site, we were quite pooped.  And we can only imagine what a was going through, as his table was even heavier than ours!  Of course, part of why we were pooped was due to stupid-as-crap route they took us to go from 30th street to Logan Square, but that’s another rant …  (“To the Main Line!”)

The official g & t mascots of Diner en Blanc … hiding under the shrubbery … we should have won “best table” for them alone … nevermind the edited, classy display of properly placed utensils, a single vase, a single candle, real steak knives, antique cheese spreader-thingees, big wine glasses …

The four of us also brought our own home-made food.  There were others who did the take-out thing with some classy-looking foods (table next to us had some sliders, I saw some Italian take-out elsewhere).  I saw there were a lot of people there trying to be “unique” by bringing sushi, but that ultimately ended up being as “unique” as getting a butterfly tramp stamp <re-read this sentence and play the effect at for full effect>.  Ultimately, v and g took it upon themselves to craft a meal that was built especially for DeB.  The food needed to be able to be served at room/outdoor temperature.  It needed to be transportable.  It needed to be light.  It needed to be filling.  It needed minimal number of components (i.e. minimal number of gladware).  It needed to lack any sauces that would dribble everywhere or leak in our picnic basket.  It needed to be pair-able with wine.  It needed to be shareable in case we got friendly with neighbors.  It needed to be eaten with fork and knife (after all, this is a classy event …)  This is what they came up with …

quinoa salad

v made a quinoa salad and it was scrumptious.  v said that it was based on a recipe she found here – except no gouda and a different vinegar; it turned out to be a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth.  We paired it with a rose that a picked out from the PLCB and we were in heaven (seriously, this may have been the best rose I’ve had all year … it’s been such a tough year of roses for me – nothing like a legit Bandol to really show the world how to do a proper rose).  I could not think of a more fitting start to an outdoor summer meal.

“g surprise”

g whipped up a pasta dish inspired by something her mom crafted the other day.  The main idea was pasta and cheese and chorizo and wilted spinach and multi-colored bell peppers for some crunch.  g’s still got it!  And, of course, we microplaned some more cheese at the table.  For this course, a pulled out a delightful red he found at Moore Bros.  I was worried at first that it was going to overtake the summery pasta, but the tango was pleasant (there was a good amount of cheese in the pasta, so there was some richness and flavors in there to compete with the red).  The pairing probably wasn’t “perfect”, but of course a also had no idea what was going to be in the pasta, either (we literally called it “g surprise” when we made up the sample menu).

cheese plate

For the cheese plate, we had some Pecorino Fulvi, a triple creme goat/cow blend from GTC, and garrotxa.  This was accompanied by garlic dulce de leche (not pictured), some pistachios, prosciutto, and fig.  It was a very interesting assortment of mild cheeses – fun to mix-and-match with accompaniments and wine.  By now, we moved on to Erath “Le Jour Magique” White Pinot Noir … it rocked my socks again.

dessert …

We finished with an apple tart that v made (recipe here).  It was beautiful (and somehow we managed to transport it still intact).  I topped it with some crushed heath bar, and we would have had some diced cherries had I not forgotten them at home (my one actual regret!)  Nevertheless, the tart was bold enough to stand on its own, proudly proclaiming its appleness and showing off a crust that kept me coming back for more.  The dessert, combined with a Vouvray bubbly (NV Francois Pinon Brut, of NYT fame) was a solid outdoor sparking wine (not that I could drink the bubbly … but I’m told!).  I heard so many positive things that I bought another bottle!

In all, DeB was a great time.  We liked our food choices.  We liked our wine choices.  The “lows” of the evening were probably the lugging of our stuff to Logan Circle/Square and trying to manage a cracked cork without spilling red wine everywhere (I hope a’s official DeB attire is ok!).  The people around us were nice enough.  Fun was had by all.  Can’t wait for next year!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

31 August 2012 at 12:39am

w’s bash

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 t says:  w’s thoughtful and loving fiance threw her quite a party in celebration of a milestone in her career.  I have to admit that I was pretty tired that evening (i.e. I was working that weekend), so I wondered whether I could find a gracious way to bow out – sleep was very desirable.  Boy am I glad I did no such thing … cuz then I would have missed this:

Lord of the Flies, anyone?

w’s fiance wasn’t kidding when he said he would supply “lots of meat”.  g and I were thinking, “charcuterie platter?”  No – this was WAY better.  And it didn’t just have shock value – it was a damned tasty pig.  Super-succulent.  And it also had a gallon of what I can only imagine are pig drippings in case you wanted to have some jus on the side.  (Speaking of which: kp, did you freeze that stuff?).  This was perhaps one of the most brilliant moves I’ve ever seen at a potluck-y celebration – so much so that I will certainly steal it.  If anyone knows where the pig came from, comment on the bottom and I’ll add it.

There was a LOT of other food there – and it was all spectacular.  g whipped up her nana’s potato salad, which seemed like it had some pretty fervent supporters.  Stay tuned for a post in the recipe section for more details on how to make it.

And finally, there was a ton of great homemade desserts.  The one that caught my tongue the most was this one:

[a melting] key lime pie

It’s totally not fair to say that this was “the best” dessert – but I am a sucker for key lime (really – I love key lime pie) and I’m also the one behind the keyboard, so bam! I just did it.  It was made by an adsz-lurker (and I mean “lurker” as in “person who reads but doesn’t make their presence be known”, not “super-creeper-we-need-to-get-a-restraining-order”) who confesses that it was a particularly easy pie to make.  I don’t know if it was how refreshingly zipping it was in comparison to the unctuous pig I had just eaten?  Or maybe it was its light creaminess that I liked on a warm summer night?  Whatever it was – if she sends up the recipe, I’ll surely post it here.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

29 August 2012 at 8:18am

a serious tofu post

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t says:  I like tofu.  I don’t like it because of some health-related reason (i.e. it will never replace meat in my book).  And I certainly don’t like it because eating it is sometimes hip/cool/fashionable.  But sometimes, I just need a little tofu in my life.  g doesn’t like it.  sr doesn’t like it (he points out that it sounds remarkably like “dogfood”).  lc, despite being tricked into eating it, doesn’t like it.  But man-o-man, put it in a good kimchi jige and I’m a happy guy.

The thing is, what do you do with tofu that’s nearing the expiration date but hasn’t yet been used?  My mom likes to make something that she calls “tofu steaks”.  Don’t be misled by the name – there’s no meat in it.  Actually – I’m confused because as far as I can tell, at no point does the cooking process resemble that which one could use to cook a steak.  Thus, I decided to find a recipe that does …

The one I settled on was this one.  It’s pretty simple and has some nice pictures.  I followed it and got the same result:

fried tofu

The golden crust was sweet and crunchy.  The consistency was kind of like a scrambled egg (it wasn’t just watery mush).  And as for taste, it was probably some of the best unadulterated (i.e. un-sauced) tofu I’ve ever had.  I don’t know if it was the olive oil, the salt, the pepper, or the crushed red pepper flakes I added, but I’d buy some tofu and try it again just to make sure it wasn’t some kind of mistake (maybe I was really hungry?).  I do need to note that I wasn’t eating all that tofu completely solo – I had it with some rice and bulgogi and kimchi.  g didn’t even try it it – she doesn’t know what she’s missing.  Oh well – maybe I’ll trick her into it next time!  Or maybe I’ll try this!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

22 March 2012 at 10:02pm

impending steak-off

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t says:  I’m a fan of Alton Brown … but I’ll be first to admit that his recipes are often a little complicated/fussy.  In his defense, he at least attempts to justify the extra steps with some kind of logic/theory/evidence.  I often use his steak-cooking procedure when I cooking my steaks at home.  But then I saw this:

My world has been rocked.  Hmmmm …  I think we need a steak-off.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

16 November 2011 at 12:27pm