after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Posts Tagged ‘Barbuzzo

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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t says:  Ah, yes.  Valentine’s Day.  g and I love celebrating it, but we just hate eating out at restaurants during it.  Determined to stay at home for yet another Valentine’s Day, this year we enlisted the help of a and v to make it a truly special day …

… but first: we have to play some catch-up.

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what the hell is this?  “rice crunchins?”  this is what they now serve instead of Rice Krispies at my workplace.  wwhhaatt?  but it’s just like Rice Krispies, right? …

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… WRONG.  The shapes are these square-ish things that, when exposed to milk, have a crunch that is completely inferior to the original Rice Krispies.  Who thought this was a good idea?  I don’t even like Rice Krispies that much to begin with, and even I can tell that this is horrible!

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February 2015, Thursday Lunch, Party of 2.  I had a chance to catch up with k at Barbuzzo and let’s just say that it continues to rock my world, even after all these years.  Yes, the budino is wonderful.  Yes the pizza was delish.  But come on: this frickin’ burrata gets me every time.  That creaminess, and that baslsamic, and that oil, and that perfect bread.  It just doesn’t get better than that!  If I could do this at home, I’d eat it every day for breakfast.

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February 2015, Friday Diner, Party of 3.  Ok.  Buried within today’s post will be this one picture.  This will be our little secret.  Hidden in West Philly, there is a restaurant called Szechuan Chili.  I was directed there by a coworker, and his one recommendation has changed my life forever.  This restaurant serves “Americanized” Chinese food as well as their more traditional dishes … where are exactly like Han Dynasty’s.  What you see above you is the aftermath of some Dan Dan noodles that were just as good as Han’s (less pork, better spice, less gummy noodle), a huge pot of pickled vegetable fish soup (better balance of sour and spice, more fish, and noodles!), and their Chinese broccoli (perfectly cooked!).  We also sampled a chicken dish and their cumin lamb, both of which were awesome.  AND it’s BYO.  AND it’s staffed by real Asians.  AND they’re really nice.  AND there are no undergrads, d-bags, or main-liners.  While it’d be foolish of me to say that “I’d never go to Han again”, I guess what I will say is, “I’ll go to Han … but I’ll know deep down inside that Szechuan Chili is just as tasty, $1 per entree cheaper, with larger portions, and lets me feel like I’m truly supporting a family business” (whether or not that last bit is true is completely unknown to me).  Next time you’re in West Philly, check it out.  Just make sure you bring your wine from home, because the local PLCB (50th and Baltimore) absolutely blows. (They do have Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling in the refrigerated case, tho – a good standby for spicy foods).

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Which brings us back to V-Day.  The four of us cooked (cheese, charcuterie, salad, pork belly, pork chop, risotto, Fednuts, chocolates), drank (see below), talked, and laughed.  While an at-home double-date is unconventional for a “Valentine’s Day” date, it’s everything we could have wanted on a made-up holiday like this …

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Even though it’s a Hallmark holiday, we took it very seriously in the wine department.  Our grape graveyard of the night featured a 2013 Illumination (personally flown back from CA by yours truly, as it’s hard to find on the east coast), a 2010 M. Etain (sold out in 48 hours to its mailing list customers upon offering in 2012 and now only available at a handful of retailers for a ridiculous up-charge), NV Pol Roger (wine of the Royal Wedding), and a NV Perrier Jouet (i.e. why-drink-Moet-if-you-drink-Jouet).  While I know that none of these will make a master sommelier swoon, for non-bawlers like us, they were an excellent reminder that although we love our usual “weekday-warriors” and “cellar-defenders”, sometimes it’s nice to “treat yo’-self”.

happy to sad to happy in 3 minutes …

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t says:  k and cm brought over some desserts to a recent party we threw (I turn the big 3-0 soon!).  And while there were several delicious desserts (including superb contributions from several castmembers and also g’s “giant Tastykake Kandy Kake” … which tasted exactly like a Kandy Kake), one of them has outlasted the others by virtue of being jarred.  Here it is:

all better.

Ha.  I ate it.  Sorry.  What you see above used to be a salted caramel budino from Barbuzzo … and it was unsurprisingly delicious.  k and cm brought them over for the party, however, through some accidental oversight (or was it “accidental” oversight?), I ended up with three of these bad boys leftover.  So lately, this has been the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been encountering at the end of my meals:

Step 1: “Holy crap – I have budinos in the fridge!  Awesome!”  <5 seconds elapse as I frantically search for a spoon>  “Ohhh, this is soooo good.”
<170 seconds of heaven elapse>
Step 2:  “Aww man!  I’ve consumed my budino ration for the meal …”  <5 seconds of despair>
Step 3:  “Oh – it’s ok – I still have more in the fridge for next time!”  <Happiness resumed>

Thanks k and cm!  It’s a gift that keeps on giving!

(And in case you were wondering, I’ve been on a strict 0.5 budino per meal ration.  That’s as much restraint as I can muster … although k is convinced that because I’m about to be 30, I should be allowed to “let myself go”.)

Written by afterdinnersneeze

12 June 2012 at 12:48pm

Posted in Happenings

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a + v = ahelluvalotta restaurants …

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t says:  a and v have been to quite a few restaurants that have gone unblogged here on adsz.  They’ve decided to right those wrongs (and there’s still more to come):

v says: 

Cubra Libre:  Definitely not your grandmother’s (re: my abuela’s) Cuban food. The food is overpriced, but the mojitos are worth the trip. If you needed a Cuban food fix, order the appetizer special during Happy Hour. The $30 Picadas Sampler, which can easily feed a party of three, is well worth the price and pairs well with the Caipirinhas. We recommend starting your happy hour early since this offer is only available at the bar and requires a significant amount of counter space to be enjoyed.

Union Trust: The setting is outstanding and, not surprisingly, so is the steak. We did not encounter great service when we went but it could have been an off night. The place knows how to age beef and their sides only compliment the decadence. We haven’t visited many steakhouses in Philly but this certainly must be one of the best. Get there soon as management has had recent run-ins with the law.

Barbuzzo: Life isn’t worth living without piggy popcorn, sheeps milk ricotta & fett’ unta, or salted caramel budino. In fact, the salted caramel budino is tied with first place for best dessert in Philadelphia, and possibly the world. That’s right … the WORLD … and she doesn’t even like dessert. Now if Barbuzzo was a BYO… it would be even harder to get reservations. a notes that their wine program needs work if it’s ever going to match the food.

Chloe: a and I have a theory that Chloe is in business because they want to be, not because they have to. Don’t show up at this establishment after 9 or without knowing for sure that they are open. They stop serving at nine and on any given day.  Sometimes, they may not even be open. a and I last ate at Chloe with a group of intoxicated friends. Our poor manners, inappropriate language, and obscene gestures did not faze our server. She was very patient with us! The food is always very good and sometimes outstanding. This is OC’s neighborhood bistro, our Audrey Claire. And, in the past we’ve said that Chloe, much like AC, is only worth going for the appetizers. We take that back. All of our entrees challenged our palates this time… but then again, you have to take our opinion with a grain of salt, as we normally eat D.P. Dough, cheesesteaks and grease-truck sandwiches when inebriated.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

21 February 2012 at 5:53pm

Debating Barbuzzo and James Beard …

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t says: Barbuzzo’s a seminfinalist for a James Beard award.  Hooray for them!  I can’t wait to see how they do!

Now, I’m a huge fan whenever any Philly restaurant is nominated – it’s a very nice accomplishment, and they deserve the recognition for their work.  And as you know, we do like Barbuzzo … a lot (go ahead and search our blog for it).  But to be honest, I’m not actually sure if they’re going to be able to bring it home … our friend, a, decided that I am indeed mistaken.  And so here we begin the debate …

I’ll let a go first, with the question: “Do you think Barbuzzo can win?”:

a says: Honestly, yes. Looking at the list of competitors, I see nothing I’ve heard considerably more about over the past few months (realizing I live in Philly). Also, the James Beard Awards seem to be very fluid in that they move with current food trends to keep them relevant. The current trends are f-t-t, ingredient-focused kitchens, and unadulterated final products (noting that the WD-40 trend has slowed). Currently, I think no one in Philly, and especially no one new, is doing this as well as Barbuzzo.

t says: Well then what about JG Domestic?  They’re probably sticking closer to the prevalent food movement than Barbuzzo?

a says: I’m not surprised JG was omitted because it’s not as polished (they overcooked my burger during lunch; your adsz title is “Growing Pains“) nor is it as inventive. f-t-t is their main shtick but I don’t feel (yet) that they add a lot of value to their dishes, which is not how I feel about Barbuzzo.

t says: Ok, well then I’ll give my take on their food (I’m going to ignore the very weird warm-wine-issue; a interjects: the wine program needs work but this is their first non-byob).  I think I agree with your take on the goodness of the food … for the most part.  Barbuzzo has the flavors, and their execution is usually spot-on (their pasta’s a little too al dente – but they fixed it on our second outing at our request).  Overall, the food is bold and fun and makes you want to eat more!  In summary, my brain feels like Barbuzzo is the food equivalent of the show Stomp … or a Lady Gaga video …  From the moment it starts, it sucks you in.  It’s whiz-bang, it’s engaging, and when it ends, I’m even a little disappointed that there wasn’t any more (of course, I’m usually full by the end of the meal, so it’s ok).  So, overall, Barbuzzo definitely has “good food” and I’m happy to go back to Barbuzzo any time to eat …

But for me, I feel like food can do more than just entertain me.  I’m looking for food that will move me.  I want something that will take my breath away.  I want it to make me ponder the meaning of food.  Does that make me weird?  I have no idea, but right now I’m the one at the keyboard – muhuhahaha!  Are these attainable goals?  Sure!  I recall a short rib ravioli at the old Django, and quite a few dishes at the old and new Talula’s.  Of course, there’s Bibou which consistently delivers such an experience (and they were a James Beard finalist in the past – and Pierre’s up for another!) and newcomer Fond with an amazing pork belly and foie gras (and a nomination for their chef!).  That said, if Bibou couldn’t pull it off and bring home the medal last year, then I suspect that Barbuzzo’s superficially good food (my new terminology) will only at most get them to be a finalist, which is still a fantastic accomplishment, but is certainly not a medal.

a says: Superficially good? Good, is good. Can you make sheep’s milk ricotta & fett’ unta or those meatballs at home? And even if you can, would they be that good? I don’t think a place should be penalized for using amazing ingredients and bold flavors to reconceptualize food people are comfortable/familiary with (meatballs, pizza, etc.). Morimoto or Vetri or Lacroix may seem more mysterious and intriguing because they use exotic/odd ingredients – to us. In Japan or Italy or France, I doubt people would have the same experience but the restaurants would still have outstanding cuisine deserving of recognition. I think Barbuzzo just happens to have food that we have “tasted before” but when you get down to it, has it ever been that good?

And on that note, I’m heading to Barbuzzo for lunch …

t says: I suspect you and Barbuzzo are in cahoots …

g pops in from nowhere: who cares as long as blackfish isn’t winning?

t says: zing!

g says: not that i have a problem with blackfish, its acclaim is just putting philly restaurants into a pissed-off depressive mood. and that is the last thing we need, sheesh…

Written by afterdinnersneeze

22 February 2011 at 5:54pm

Living the Dream: Chocolate Sushi

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t says: Valentine’s Day.  What a rip-off.  All you want is a good meal with that special someone, but if you walk into a restaurant, you’re often faced with fixed price menus at ridiculous prices …  Well not g and me.  We have rebelled!  We’ve seen the crowds in restaurants offering Valentine’s Day fixed price menus and shout in triumph: “NEVER AGAIN!”.

So what did we do?

Sunday we went to Barbuzzo.  We couldn’t go on Monday because they were offering a special menu, too!  Good thing we got in a day early.  We’ve already talked about Barbuzzo before, so I’ll spare you the details.  Basically – it boils down to this:

The sheep’s milk ricotta and meatballs are still obligatory/compulsory selections – they’re that good.  The paccheri, we preemptively requested they cook a few seconds longer (last time was a little too al dente for us), and it came out perfect ; and this time it had a smoky flavor to it – very nice.  Our new dish of the evening was the gnocchi, and it was surprisingly good (it’s a very rich dish though, so be careful!), putting La Viola to shame (I like picking on La Viola’s gnocchi …).  Finally, the salted caramel budino, which I would not be surprised if it’s the easiest-to-make, highest-profit-per-serving dessert ever put forth by any restaurant ever, is just too good to not get.  Drawbacks?  For the love of all that is good and holy, please please please serve your red wines at the appropriate temperature!  The wine was actually getting cooler the longer it sit in the glass!  That alone could probably win them like another half-bell from Laban or something!

Then Valentine’s day continued on Monday.  We got an email from Tria that said something like “come and taste some 1999 Dom for $20”.  We had to go.  Why?  #1 – g likes bubbly.  #2 – g has never had Dom.  #3 – it’d be so cool to “go out for drinks before dinner” – very bawler.  #4 – we were going to get a bottle of ’99 Dom for our wedding (it was the year we started dating … awwwwww ….) but couldn’t justify spending that much cash at that time for something that really not too many people were going to drink/enjoy/appreciate (but we got a nice ’99 Veuve Rose that was awesome).  So it was destiny.  We rolled up into Tria and immediately ordered g a glass.  She liked it quite a bit!

If you notice, there’s another glass in the pic.  A short glass filled with a dark liquid.  That, my friends, is a glass of wine travesty.  Delicious, delicious sin in a glass.  It is a chocolate dessert wine.  Yes, there’s some Zin in there, but it’s clearly been adulterated with chocolate.  And it is so good.  It’s like an alcoholic Hershey’s syrup (but textured like wine – not like syrup).  g found it weird that her tongue wasn’t encountering a thick, viscous liquid when she took a sip.  I found it to be amazing.  I know that some people will read “Hershey’s syrup” and turn up their nose – but I happen to like Hershey’s syrup – it has all of those childhood memories attached – how can you not like it?  Granted, it’s not the best “chocolate” in the world, but I like to think of Hershey’s like “white chocolate”, i.e. I don’t consider it “chocolate”, I consider it its own thing.  Of course, the dessert wine was way too rich to drink a lot of (I left a third of the glass behind), but it was a nice treat before dinner: sushi!

That’s right!  The dream has been fulfilled!  Chocolate sushi (the name for the blog that I was championing before we … umm … “compromised” …)!  Basically, I was thinking it’d be fun if there was a restaurant or bar or hangout that specialized in two things I could really eat almost any time: chocolate and sushi.  But these two things don’t really “go” with eachother – one is pure and clean and fresh, while the other is decadent and rich and seductive.  Let’s face it – I’m never surprised if a sushi place only offers chocolate-free desserts (or, in the case of Kiss Seafood in SF, no desserts).  But tonight was a special night!  It was Valentine’s!  So I tried out the combination and consumed  a considerable amount of chocolate along with a considerable amount of raw fish, enjoying chocolate both before and after the sushi …

Whose sushi?  We went to Zama, which ended up being quite impressive.  Long story short (cuz this is turning out to be a long post): the decor is reasonable (a not too over-the-top combination of clean, modern, a splash of chic, and a twist of trying-too-hard).  The service was quite friendly, which we appreciated.  And, of course, the fish was very good (we got the sushi and sashimi combo for 2), and, just as important, the rice was very good, too.  Using the amount of soy sauce I use as a marker for how good the sushi/sashimi is (i.e. the better the food, the less the soy sauce), I can say that their sashimi and nigiri required none (their maki still needed a bit).  Very nice!

Zama also offered some pretty good desserts, too.  They had this “pick 3 for $10”, where you choose three little desserts from a list – it was like a little dessert tasting!  And a few of them had chocolate!!  In the end, the yuzu creme brulee was my favorite, giving a nice zesty flavor that was enjoyable.  The PB-chocolate-cake-and-crisped-rice was also pretty good, as now I wonder if anyone has ever made a 100-Grand chocolate bar, but replaced the caramel with peanut butter … mmmmmm …  Unfortunately, the green tea eclair kind of sucked, as the pastry was very hard … sorry Zama.

What were the bad parts of Zama aside from the eclair?  Actually, the big black eye of the evening was the ridiculous acrylic dish they served our sushi in.  g called it “a sushi corral”.   After she said it, I contemplated herding the sushi together into a group and making bleeting or mooing noises.  Man, that sucker was big, unwieldy, and ugly; give me one of those silly wooden boats any day.

But the memorable part of the dinner was the inadvertent entertainment.  The girl sitting at the table next to ours was hilarious.  Why?  Cuz she used her fingers.  Ok – now I want to say right away that I’m totally cool with people not using chopsticks.  Chopsticks are a weird instrument that not every human being is required to know how to operate.  I even know real live Asian people who can’t use chopsticks.  That’s totally fine.  This girl had a fork.  I’m down with forks.  I use them all the time.  But what was funny was not the mere fact that she was straight-up using her fingers, rather, the manner in which she was using them.  This was no, “oh, I’m being silly and funny and sneaking a piece of sushi in my mouth by using a pinching motion with my thumb and forefinger” … this was a fumbling around, using all five fingers, dropping pieces of sushi (she even dropped a piece onto her fork), dripping soy sauce everywhere style.  I guess it’d be like me … trying to eat spaghetti … without a fork …  Ok – maybe it doesn’t sound that funny as you read this, but we were there … and it was funny, damnit!

So kudos to Barbuzzo, Tria, and Zama.  A great Valentine’s day (actually, two days), with not a single fixed price in sight!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

16 February 2011 at 12:43am

We Dragged a and v to Barbuzzo

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t says: So we dragged a and v to Barbuzzo (and they kicked and screamed the whole way, right?)  Well, this is what they had to say:

a says: The space was nice, more comfortable than many comparable Center City BYOs. Service did not blow-me-away but was attentive and polite. Food came very quickly which was a surprise for such a busy (and new) restaurant and pricing seems very fair – good thing since they aren’t BYO!

The piggy popcorn is the perfect way to start a meal – light, crunchy, and delicious. The meat board was very good and on-par with the best in the city, however, I give the edge to GTC for overall taste and presentation. The Brussel sprouts are some of the best I have ever had though I only recently started eating them and Pancetta makes anything better. I could have easily drank a gallon of the sheeps milk ricotta & fett’ unta but am still sour over paying for more bread. Finally, the meatballs were the highlight of the night for me which says a lot for such a great meal. Their consistency and flavor was perfect and may change the way I look at meatballs, for the rest of my life.

We went with a Portuguese red from the Dao which was well-rounded and paired admirably with our mix of food choices. The wine list is very accessible but also very limited and I think the current policy – no BYO/no corkage – is a mistake. This may be the best restaurant in Philadelphia currently and certainly a direct competitor with another favorite, GTC. The menu is more thoughtful and varied at Barbuzzo but GTC still has a slight edge in my book, mainly due to their BYO policy.

v says: Rivals GTC. More choices, more intimate, more affordable (if you don’t drink).

t says: For anyone who knows a and v, for a restaurant to rival GTC is quite impressive – but the more I think about the $2 charge for extra bread, the more annoyed I find it.  If they gave us a mere 1-2 more pieces, then we wouldn’t need to get a whole additional “order” of bread.  Also, I didn’t have the heart to mention it at the time, but I believe that Barbuzzo stores their wine right next to their kitchen – maybe it was my mind playing tricks on me.  But if that is the case, then a might have had something else to say about that had he noticed.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

29 December 2010 at 12:05am

Barbuzzo Gets 3 Bells (and a Supper Sidenote)

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t says: That’s right.  We went there.  We liked it.  And then Craig Laban gives it three bells.  Coincidence?  Obviously not.  They are actually that good …

Guess who has reservations there every weekend from now ’til new year’s?  This [neurotic] guy.

As a sidenote, we met one of the owners of Supper on South Street.  We mentioned how awesome their burger was – I still have not found a burger in the city better than theirs (although I still have some notables to taste: Butcher and Singer, Rouge).  She was very nice.  I still don’t know how people who have to stay at work until midnight can still be nice during the day …  I think we’ll have to give Supper another whirl – it has been over a year since we’ve had their burger, after all …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

6 December 2010 at 12:35pm

Posted in Happenings

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