after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Posts Tagged ‘BYO

With a Heavy Heart …

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t says:  Every now and then you hear about something devastating and have a severe negative reaction: sadness, anger, regret.  These emotions are often appropriate, following things like national/international tragedies, losses of family, etc.  But every now and then, they sneak up and ninja you at times you didn’t expect.  For example – it’s like when you trade in your first car – I mean who cares – it’s just a car!  It didn’t matter yesterday, when you used your foot to kick your door closed because your hands were full.  And you were so excited today, when you bought a new car!  But I’ll never forget the few seconds of remorse that flashed into my mind as we left the dealer, never to see our trusty ‘ol red-orange-burgundy-colored S40 behind ever again [even though we were driving away in a newer, better car!].  Sometimes I still look for her …

Well, today is one of those days:

Pig BYOB extraordinaire, Cochon, has closed.

For those that don’t know, Cochon was the classic “Philly BYO” in the truest sense.  It was small.  It was homely.  Chef cooked spendidly, but stayed out of the spotlight.  Prices were incredibly reasonable, often in the low-20’s.  Portions were incredible.  You always felt like you were “getting away with something” when you ate there – like how could it be that you had such a great meal without spending $50 per head?!

That said, I recognize that g and I haven’t been to Cochon in years – 2013 according to our blog.  Of course, we still recommended it to everyone, but we just hadn’t made it there ourselves.  I guess we, like the rest of Philly, forgot about it.  Damn.  Had we lost our way?  Maybe we got caught up in things like “craft cocktails”, “beer gardens”, and “tasting menus”.  We sought out the hot new restaurants with narrow niches, like Pho and “plant-based” cuisine.  “Interesting wine lists” made us tolerate the non-BYO-tariff.  “Celebrity chefs” came from New York and/or television cooking shows.  Meanwhile, the Solomonov, Vetri, and 13th Street empires continue to grow, proving that success-begets-success.  The Philly dining scene has certainly lost its Scrappy-Doo attitude, nowadays far closer in resemblance to Fred[dy Prinze Junior].

So let’s to take a moment to reflect on the Cochon:
It all started in 2009 for us.  (Cochon apparently opened in 2007, though).
There were pork shoulders and tenderloins and everything inbetween (want “the fish?” or “the duck?” – it probably had pork in it).
But of course, the memories that will get me just a little choked up will be those of the BRUNCH:
The Elvis French Toast and Those One-Inch-Thick Pancakes (sometimes with chocolate!)

So yes, we at adsz will mourne the loss of Cochon.  While I am sad they didn’t have a celebratory “Cochon is closing week!” where undoubtedly the adsz would have dropped everything to attend one last hurrah – perhaps it is better this way, leaving us with the fond memories of dining with mimosas/wine in hand, raising a glass to how lucky we were be together, eating [there].

Written by afterdinnersneeze

4 August 2015 at 2:10pm

Posted in Happenings

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Happy Anniversary [To Us!]

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t says:  Four years ago, we (g & t) went on our first food-centric outing with a & v.  We chose Modo Mio, as we heard about this “great tasting menu option” … and it was FABULOUS.  Fast forward 4 years, and here we found ourselves: four friends, with a helluvalotta good food and stories.  And guess what: Modo Mio is still killing it:

November 2014, Friday Dinner, Party of 4.  The challenge of the evening was: “who could eat the most eggs?”  You’ll see what I mean in a second …


My appetizer was the chestnut crepes.  It was amazing.  To this day, I couldn’t tell you what was in it, but I was amazed.  I remember thinking to myself, “this  is kind of like breakfast … but boy am I happy to have it now at dinner.”


There were lots of fried eggs topping a lot of the dishes.  Consequently, we have no idea what was under each …


And here’s another fried egg!  We swear the things under the fried eggs were great.  one was a lasagna, while another was a “special appetizer” featuring some other vegetable concoction.  Darn.  I wish we wrote down notes …


Another special, this wrapped up thing included a variety of veggies and meats that I remember wishing they would have put together with a normal noodled pasta (or something thicker like a lasagna noodle – but overall, the flavors were spot on.


I remember that v got the papparedelle, which included mushrooms and chicken liver.  The pasta and chicken livers were both fantastic – we hope that the mushrooms were acceptable to v.


No wait … THIS was the lasagna … right?  No?  I’m so confused …


gnocchia and shortrib … classic …. delicious.


My pulled pork was “like  a roast pork sandwich …”.  Except even better.  I don’t know how they treated it, but it was so incredibly savory and sweet at the same time – but not like a “sugary” sweet.  Gawd – is there any animal tastier than pig?


ah, yes – a steak hides underneat that egg.  g demolished it.  it’s always good here – but don’t think something like a refined piece of meat cooked perfectly medium rare, meant to stand alone – this is a fixed-up piece of meat with a ton of additions.



a went for the veal as his main.  It was one of the best veal parms I’ve ever had!

You know – I know we’re light on details – so sue us.  But know that the meal was fabulous.  The price was right (did I mention it was BYO?)  And we’ll go on recommending it friends and family alike … just so long as they bring us with them when they go …


Written by afterdinnersneeze

21 November 2014 at 12:42am

Taking Stock at Stock

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t says:  a is a huge fan of soup.  Like a huge fan.  He could get soup in the middle of summer.  He could get soup in the middle of September, too!  So when faced with a choice of restaurant (and in an attempt to avoid Restaurant Week), we journeyed on out to Stock.

September 2014, Friday Dinner, Party of 4.  So, first things first, this place is TINY.  I don’t know the official seat count, but there was only one “large” table (it can accommodate four … maybe 6 in a pinch).   There’s also no reservations.  Oh, and if you do put your name on the list, there’s also no phone for them to call you back on – so they give you an estimated time to come back and you just show up on time.  While this sounds absolutely crazy – it turns out that they’re true to their word!  When we showed up, they were busy, so they said come back in an hour: we showed up at the suggested time and boom! there was an empty table – ready and waiting!  And while the rest of our party was assembling, we saw them turn away at least two groups of people!  What loyalty!  Love it.


raw cobia, with ginger, pomello, and dill. very fresh, slightly firmer than I expeced, and pieces rather haphazardly cut/presented. It could have been more finessed.


the main event: beef pho.  Best said by a: “Pho was good, but I’m sure there are Asian people doing it better”.  I would tend to agree.  While the noodle cookery was spot-on, and the herbs were as fresh as can be, I felt that the broth was a little lacking in oomph.  Like, when I was done eating, I had no desire to slurp up the remaining soup on my own.


sideways dessert: fresh and light and tasty, but, in the words of a: “nothing to make you slap your mother.”

They were so nice there!  They accidentally forgot my cobia, so

They were so nice there! They accidentally forgot my cobia, so the server comp’d my dish – but really – it wasn’t a big deal!  And then the chef came out and also apologized for the wait – but in all honesty – we didn’t even notice!  Their thoughtfulness was as refreshing as their food.

So would we go back?  If they had different Pho, sure!  That’s not to say that we had anything bad – but we just want to see what more they can do.  Also – they were missing ALL banh mi’s that evening!  a was so sad – who knew a sandwich could have meant so much to him?  In any case, while there wasn’t one thing in particular that we’re going to be craving in our dreams, there was a lot of promise with the space and freshness that we look forward to seeing what they can do!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

14 September 2014 at 9:57pm

mon cheri, Le Cheri

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t says: The gang (a, v, g, and me) had the good fortune of going to Le Cheri on its second night open.  Would the Calmels be able to breathe some life into the ridiculously awesome location just off Rittenhouse that had been seemingly cursed to fail? (RIP Gardenia and Rittenhouse Tavern).  Let’s find out …

November 2013, Thursday Dinner, Party of 4.  We were happy to see lots of familiar faces, like our favorite server Ricky and Charlotte and Pierre.  They seated us promply (we had made a last-minute reservation through opentable, so I’m not sure they were expecting us), and gave us their menu.  The first impression was that this was a much larger space than Bibou.  While we knew it from going to previous restaurants in this location, I forgot just how much additional space there was.  The second was that the decor was a little haphazard.  On one hand there were sizable wine glasses, white tablecloths, and darker woods, but on the other, the walls were a peculiar color and the finishes weren’t as nearly upscale.  So was this place supposed to be more casual than Bibou – more like a bistro?  But can you really be more casual than Bibou?  Hmmmm – it’s only the first week, so we’ll see how things shake out with the decor.  No – we’re not expecting something as sensation as a Starr-ified or Garces-ified restaurant, but at least with a little bit more focus.

Now for the food:


these little cheese ravioli and buttery sauce were amazing.  they were like little puffs made to carry the buttery sauce to your mouth.  It was a delicious and rich dish that still had a hint of ?chive?/herby length.  Wonderful!  And they coupled so exquisitely with our wine of the evening: 2012 Massican “Sauvignon” Sauvignon Blanc.  The wine, made by Dan Petroski, had a broader palate than the lightning-in-a-bottle 2011, but still finishes with a snap of citrus so forceful it could give you whiplash.  It cut straight through the butter like a frickin’ lazer.  B-e-a-u-tiful.


welcome to the new escargot: as you can see, this is very different than the normal escargots than one can find at Bibou – gone is the classic snail-like dish, and in its place is a shallow bowl where the escargots are paired with chicken “oysters”, cauliflower, and some kind of parsley-laden broth.  And let me tell you that this was CRAZY-good.  It was much lighter than any rendition of escargots that Bibou has ever had, and the snails are smaller … BUT, the light and lively flavors danced on forever on my tongue.  I was forced to savor the seconds that went by.  If only the snails were a smidge larger …


this blurry picture is of the lamb pat-au-feu.  The broth was deep and lamby, while the pieces of lamb were moist and tender.  I wish that the sweetbreads had some color on them to add some depth, but overall this was a solid dish.


this blurry picture was the most surprising dish of the evening: boudin noir.  While it looks like a puddle of fudge or poo or whatever, I assure you that this was mindbendingly surprising.  I imagined that boudin would be very hearty or rich, especially after having boudin at other restaurants.  However, with a single spoonful, it was apparent that there was one part of thick rich boudin and one part of a light fruitiness (no, not literal “fruit” – more of a figurative light-and-agile-like-a-fruit.  I’m not sure how this is accomplished, but both a and I were stunned.  It’s worth trying again because I want to be able to understand it better.

The unpictured dish was the short rib and pasta which was downright amazing.  It’s everything that you’d imagine a pasta by Pierre could be.  The shortrib was perfectly cooked, as was the pasta.  I thought I was sitting in Melograno or something (except the portions were much larger here).  Very nice indeed.

We did get a chance to chit-chat with Pierre, and while we were privileged to pick his brain and get some insight into the inner workings of Le Cheri and Bibou, we won’t put it here – we don’t wanna start any rumors.  We’re just happy to be able to talk with Pierre to show him the smiles that the food he cooked put on our faces …

So yes … go to Le Cheri – and live up that BYO-ness while you can!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

3 December 2013 at 9:42pm


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t says: Last weekend, g and I hit up Noord with bw and some mutual friends.  We had heard great things, and because we were itching to BYO-it-up, it was the perfect opportunity.  When thinking of which wines to bring, we encountered a little bit of difficulty.  While I gravitate towards red as a matter of preference, and while the weather favors drinking a nice rich luscious red, I couldn’t help but wonder whether something white would go better with Noord’s foods.  But wait – isn’t it cold in the North Sea?  We had no choice but to bring one of each: bubbly rose, white, and red.  And what a great decision it was:

November 2013, Sunday Dinner, Party of 5.  Right off the bat, the five of us encountered a serious problem at Noord.  What to order!?  Each of us had first, second, and third-string choices.  And then there were some great-sounding specials on top of that! (There was a striped bass that sounded amazing).  In the end, we did finally manage to make our selections … from which here is a selection of photos:


Uitsmitjer (?”Oits-might-er?): open faced egg sandwich.  This was a wonderfully heart and homey way to start th emeal.  Actually – it was so oomphy, that I could have eaten it as a main course for a breakfast or a lunch.  I enjoyed it quite a bit – reminding me quite a bit of the now-gone Cochon’s brunch fave, Eggs Cochon.  And the side salad almost made it feel healthy – with the crunch of fresh vegetables and the sour of vinegar.  I paired it with an Australian dry Riesling that was quite nice – some good petrol zip and lightly tropical fruit (kind of like a lighter New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc).  Altogether, the course was rich, but with a certain amount of restraint, but not at all “delicate”.  Hell – it was just a piece of bread, some egg, some cheese, and some pork – so I’m just going to move on …


Two of our tablemates split this appetzier which was an assortment of smoked fish, all served open-face style.  And I know what you’re thinking: is everything an open-faced sandwich at Noord?  No – but when they’re this interesting, why not? 


My main was a massive piece of pork.  Sure, there were some veggies underneath, but the star was clearly the slab of meat – and what a wonderfully ?braised? slab it was.  The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender, but permeated with a nice stewed apple sauce.  It was like fall on a plate.  Big props to Noord for doing right by that hunk of pig.

There were other items, like a celery soup that g enjoyed, and the rabbit leg confit bw had … but let’s be honest – mine won.  My only regret was that I wasn’t more hungry.  It’s ok – I sense that I’ll be making me some braised pork omelettes later this week – yum!!

Now, as for dessert, I have to say that I wasn’t quite as impressed as Laban was.  We ventured the doughnuts, which were a little more dense than I enjoy (Talula’s Garden kills it when it comes to dooughnuts) as well as the apple pie thing.  bw, a masterful baker and general dessert enthusiast (although he did reveal to us his disdain for light-and-airy-cakes), did find that perhaps it was a caramel issue: he suspected that they could have “pushed” the caramel further, getting it to be a bit darker and deeper-flavored, and we all agreed – it was missing that last little bit of warmth that a darker caramel provides.

In all, we enjoyed the food at Noord.  I’m not sure it’s going to replace any of our go-to’s, and it’s probably not going to replace Serpico as our newest “eat-here-now” fave, but if they do undergo a menu change next season, you can bet that we’ll be there!  Their food was interesting and fun and worth getting to at least once!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

20 November 2013 at 10:28pm

Philly’s not-so-secret weapon’s secret

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t says: So yea, Serpico has been getting a crap-ton of press lately – be it the pedigree of of the chef and his menu, the new digs, novelty of a grated foie dessert, whatever.  So, with some reservation, I made a reservation this past week, as it was a triple-celebration:
1) g & t anniversary
2) my birthday
3) after I had just finished the final installment of the national medical board licensing exam
So … basically … it was time to party …  To illustrate how important the confluence of these three big momentous occasions was, I had originally made a reservation at Vetri (i.e. that makes the combination of the above three occasions about equal to one celebration of g’s birthday … or at least one celebration on one weekend of g’s birthday … g’s birthday lasts a whole month …).  But in the end, I cancelled because I wanted something a little more unique (because 2 of the 3 things were more me-cenric, I got to call the shots).

So … did Serpico live up to the expectations?

Hell yea it did …

So, first, this review has no pictures.  g and I had ringside seats … meaning that when you’re that close to the executive chef, you feel less inclined to disrespect by taking pictures of every dish.  Sorry guys – no eye candy this time.  But what I can say about the food is that it was all superbly done.  We started with the scallop crudo which was so delicious that I asked myself “gee – how come more people aren’t serving raw scallop?”  And then I realized that our other favorite Philly restaurant, Bibou, does … so Serpico’s in good company – ha!  It was a delicious combination of buttermilk and poppy seeds and a green chili oil and a tiny sliver of chive.  As g and I ate, we were impressed with the flavor combination – it was a perfect balance that I couldn’t get enough of (truly, we were sad when the dish was done).

Next up, we did a duo of pasta.  The hand-torn pasta with the Chinese sausage, chicken skin, snail, cheese, was put in front of me first.  It was this peculiar combination of pasta carbonara meats snail and a flair for the Asian.  I loved it – I could totally come home and eat me some of that at the end of a rough day, where the intention is to eat myself into a food coma while being hugged by that cheesy-salty flavor.  Yummers.  The corn ravioli was the most surprising dish – I had not expected the dishe’s richness given the description including corn, onions, and lime.  It was actually also very smokey, probably due to the chorizo – so much so that it had this paprika-y flavor that was so strong that g was reminded of eating paprikash when we were in Budapest … right up until the sweet sweet corn hit you.  I remarked that “really, these two flavors [the corn and the smoke] need eachother – there’s no other two that can be put together better”.  Nice job, chef.

We finished up with the wagyu “chuck flap” (i.e. kinda-lika-short-rib).  This was the most traditional of the dishes we had, with two pieces of meat (they was nicely done – not the absolute-most-tender braised beef I’ve ever had, but I don’t think they wanted to go that way – they wanted you to approach it more like cutting into a steak that a fall-apart-at-the-slightest-touch hunk), some perfect broccolini, and “potato” that were perfect little globes of hashed brown.  And these were all put together with a sauce that was one-part ?mustard?, one-part ?bbq sauce?, and one-part sweet fruit (?Asian pear?).  As you can see, there lots of question marks because in actuality I have no idea what the sauce was, but the sweet was an addictive component that nicely balanced out the rest of the dish.

The rocky road dessert was a bit unremarkable (so go for something more interesting when you go).  In its most simple form, it was chocolate ice cream, marshmallow, and some candied nuts.  It wasn’t bad, but let’s just say that Talula’s Garden’s chocolate desserts could wreck this one any day of the week … BUT, that brings up an interesting comparison: The Garden vs. Serpico – who’d win that rumble?  We decided that Serpico’s food was indeed “fussier” than Talula’s Garden, but it paid off with more interesting flavor combinations.  That said, I don’t think there was any one point where we wanted to bathe in any one dish, rather, with each dish, we’d be surprised/impressed and then excited to see what was next – nothing in particular was so great that we’d absolutely have to have it again next time … but don’t get us wrong – we still wanna go back asap!

So what is the secret to this not-so-secret weapon?  Check it out (get ready to squint!):


our wine selection for the evening: TOR napa valley 2010 and Alexana Riesling 2012 … Now those who know us also know that our body size and our wallet limits our drinking-out ability – so did g and I really splurge on two bottles of wine off the wine list in one meal?  Nope.  And if you scrutinize the drink menu when you arrive, you’ll notice that neither of these bottles are listed.  How so?  Did we have the hook-ups?  Were these from the private cellar of the sommelier?  Nope and nope.  You see, the “secret” is that Serpico doesn’t charge corkage.  I’ll write that again so you know it wasn’t a typo: Serpico doesn’t charge corkage.  Now when I made the reservation, I asked repeatedly to ensure that this was true (e.g. “So, when you say ‘no corkage’ is that like when restaurants say ‘no corkage’ but actually mean ‘you can’t bring your wine here’ … or do you mean like ‘yea we have  a liquor license, but you can BYOB’?”)  So at least for now, somehow, the snowball has made it out of hell, Sisyphus finally got that frickin’ boulder up the frickin’ hill, the Pope stopped wearing the funny hat, and the bear did not crap in the woods: a Starr restaurant is not charging corkage so you can BYOB!! You want proof?


so … as you can see, there was no corkage fee, and I don’t think it was because g and I had an extra special consideration.  For example, at no point did someone say, “oh it’s your anniversary celebration, so your corkage is on us” or “you guys are just too cute, so your corkage is on us” – they just kept saying “we have no corkage fee” (but they never said “we’re BYOB”).  In any case, g and I were “in” to Serpico originally because of the food, but just so long as this no-corkage thing holds out, we will be back many-a-time for sure (of course, then we give the server a super-large tip to compensate because we feel bad … but it’s still cheaper than corkage x2 for the two bottles we brought!).  Also, for $81 of food, g and I were stuffed – that’s pretty cheap if we’re going to start drawing comparisons to Talula’s Garden!  (But don’t worry, Garden – you know you’ll always be the one we go back to …)

In summary: go to Serpico for the interesting flavor combinations, the friendly staff, and the spectacle Chef Serpico doing what he does (he was great to watch – he was teaching some new guy the ropes while we were there).  Stay for the BYO.  And finally, debate the “beauty” of “Philadelphia’s most beautiful restaurant” (that was such a stupid title/focus for a post), but instead agree that the chalk drawings by children on one of the walls near the open kitchen are adorable (and secretly wonder if the restaurant staff, themselves, drew it …).

Written by afterdinnersneeze

29 June 2013 at 4:26pm

long live pig at cochon

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t says:  For the past couple weeks, we’ve had some fabulous meals, hitting up Little Fish and Bibou on consecutive weekends.  We kept the trend going by visiting Cochon.  We visited Cochon for Mother’s day brunch and it was fabulous (as usual … so no pictures taken) – but in that instant, we knew we had to come back for dinner, soon!  So we did!  And we brought along kp and two other close friends (a and v were still MIA …) to take on the piggerific dining experience that is Cochon.

May 2013, Saturday Dinner, Party of 5.  This one won’t be a full review of every dish, as you already got the punchline from the title: YES, Cochon makes delicious food.  YES, you should go.  NO, leave your vegetarian friends at home.  Well, maybe that’s not fair – I keep on wanting to try their unlisted vegetarian item, but I keep getting sidetracked by things like this:

duck heart

duck heart appetizer: I’m a sucker for a duck heart.  Is it the future cardiologist in me?  I have no idea.  But there’s something that’s so simple about a duck heart that’s wonderful.  Tablemates did try it and we agreed: it had the texture of filet mignon, a brilliant smokey flavor (a lot of the grilled items at Cochon have an intense smoky flavor to them), and a surprisingly mild duck flavor.  The accompanying sauce added a hint of sweet and that herbed slaw reset the palate nicely.  Quite a delicious appetizer!

prok shoulder

out-of-focus shredded suckling pig: if you go to Cochon and they offer you the suckling pig as a special … you get the suckling pig.  period.  super-tender shreds of pig, accompanied by charred brussel sprouts, lentils, and a bacon broth – instant game over.  it’s a dish that could do no wrong.  now on one hand, it was so rich that after my appetizer I couldn’t finish it all at dinner …


… but on the other, I took home the leftovers and g whipped up an omelette the next morning that was absolutely to-die-for.  I show you the picture so you can see in the upper left corner the congealed fat gold that was so critical in the omelette’s success.

Now, we do have to put a disclaimer up here.  Cochon is indeed absolutely brilliant.  But in a monkey-knife-fight with Little Fish and Bibou, the other two are going to win.  Cochon is all about richness and smoke and decadence.  And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that …  But Bibou’s steak is always going to have that extra layer of refinement, and their pig’s foot and lentils will always have the extra depth.  Of course … Cochon is easier to get in to and a tad cheaper that the other two, so pick you poison wisely!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

25 May 2013 at 10:37pm