after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Posts Tagged ‘Mercato

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.

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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).

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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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 (sadtrombone.com).  Consequently, we’ll just have to keep going back every time we visit …

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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.

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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 …

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… 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.

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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!

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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.

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

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

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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!

Mercato kicks it up a notch

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t says:  Those who have read our blog know that we love Mercato.  As far as Italian BYO’s go, it’s up there with Modo Mio, Monsu, and Melograno.  But now, let’s just say that it made a play for the #1 spot in our hearts.

July 2014, Monday Dinner, Party of 2.  g and I wanted a date night, so out we went, with a bottle of wine in hand.  We wanted something casual and tasty, and because our nearby restaurants are so pricey (looking at you, Fitler Dining Room).  Mercato delivered …

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We pulled out this special bottle of Blanc de Noir, courtesy of Ayoub.  An orange color, it had this interesting mix of vanilla and apple pie up front, with a thunderous lemony, chalky snap.  It was a refreshing way to cleanse the palate between each delicious bite that was to follow.

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If you go to Mercato, you have to get the antipasti.  Made to share, this dish featured meats, pickled items, and pesto brushetta that I would have kept eating and eating and eating had there been more.  Yes, it’s pricey, at nearly $20, but between two people it’s worth it. 

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g went pyramid pasta – an item which she has had before that was still every bit as delicious as it was.  But mine.  Oh mine.  It was a roasted suckling pig and mushroom papperdelle that is most definitely the best dish that I have ever had at Mercato.  Some of Mercato’s pastas can be kind of wimpy.  The sauces can be a little thin, with not a lot of meat shreds.  Not so with this one, where the meat helping was bountiful and had this intriguing mix of pork and herbs.  And I’ve had issues with some of Mercato’s noodles being flimsy – but not this one – the papparedelle had a hearty bite that sticks to your ribs.  I loved every bite.  Now if only it wasn’t a “special”, and was on the daily menu.

We were too full for dessert, but were so happy we didn’t care.  We stumbled home smiles on our faces.  Thanks Mercato!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

2 August 2014 at 5:50pm

Mercato keeps the dream alive

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t says:  g and I have a confession to make.  We’re “over” Restaurant Week.  Back in the day, when it was $30pp, we were all over it like white on rice.  But nowadays, with that $5 price increase (actually, I think the increase is a couple years old now), we’re just not so optimistic.  The restaurants are crowded.  The servers are overworked.  Chefs whine/complain in the blogosphere left and right.  Of course, there are some exceptions out there (looking at you, Amada!), but all-too-often, the food just isn’t a good representation of what the restaurant can do (which is kinda-sorta-the-fault of the restaurant – if you can’t deal with the RW crowd, then don’t participate!  Go on vacation, like Kanella used to!).  But … this season … g and I got back into it RW.  Why?  Well – we had some wine to taste from our Napa trip and people to taste it with (a and v) but nowhere to eat!  As we looked at BYOs to go to, g remembered one we hadn’t been to in a while: Mercato!  AND – because they did a great RW some years ago,  g tasked a to set it up.  a got the job done (he’s dependable like that) ,and we showed up, ready to eat and drink …

October 2012, Tuesday Restaurant Week Dinner, Party of 4.  g and I met a and v at the restaurant.  I pulled out the wine selections for the evening (I caught a with his pants down: his Philly wine stash was low, so he was happy to leave the choosing up to me this time):

wines for the evening … the sauvignon blanc is from a rising young-gun, while the red [covered to conceal its identity] is a lesser-known varietal by life-saving winery Ehlers Estate

Both of these wines are small[er]-production bottles from California (Massican is small-production is general, while Ehlers produces quite a bit more, but only limited quantities of its non-Cabernet Sauvignon bottles like the mystery bottle above).  Is it pointless for me to put these here?  Kinda.  It’s super-hard to find these, especially in PA.  Does it drive you crazy that I haven’t revealed the identity of the mystery wine?  This allows me to introduce our new resident tweeter: TallGlassOfVino.  If you have any questions about these wines, send ’em our way!  The short story for these two particular wines: both delicious, both “interesting”, both worth getting again.

Ok, so back to the food …

meet [nearly] the best antipasto in the city!

The antipasti at Mercato is off-the-hook.  When we saw it on the RW menu, g and I knew that we just had to get it.  It looks like a cluster on a plate, but I assure you that every single thing on this plate is worth eating.  The crostinis, the cheese, the artichoke, the tomato, the pickled red onion (!! surprise awesomeness !!), the cured meat, the lentils, the eggplant, the olives … the sour-savory balance is done so well!  It just doesn’t get any better than this!  Well … except maybe Vetri … but come on – does that really count?  I say no …

Here are shots of a’s and v’s appetizers and food.

a’s app: soup of some sort

v’s app: artichoke – v didn’t seem to really take to it – I guess she was imagining something a little more interesting than artichoke and some aioli

v’s main:  chestnut fettucini – it smelled wonderful – and I liked how it tasted like fall on a plate!

a’s main: blurry picture of veal: a’s was absolutely delicious!  that veal was so succulent, so well-prepared, and the sauce was impeccably seasoned.  i loved it!  (and I only had one bite!)

t’s main: gnocchi with braised beef and broccoli rabe

I remembered the gnocchi dish from the last time we went to Mercato, so I felt the need to revisit it.  And, to be honest, it wasn’t quite as good as I remember.  So instead of “in-the-running-for-the-best-gnocchi-in-the-city”, it’s going to settle in as “better-than-La-Viola”.  As you might gather, there were some issues.  I think the biggest had to do with the sauce consistency – it was just a little too thin for my taste – it didn’t really cling to the gnocchi at all, so in the end, I had some gnocchi that didn’t have a lot of taste due to lack of coverage by the sauce.  The beef was also a little lackluster – it just wasn’t “loved” with the intensity during cooking that I wanted my cow to be loved (I realize that this sentence makes no sense – but I’m sticking with it).

pyramid pasta stuffed with lobster shrimp and cheese

g felt that she won dinner.  I’m not sure I agree, because a’s dish was so wonderful.  However, g was in the mood for something a bit “lighter”, and so she was very satisfied with the surprisingly-light brown butter sauce, the sweet sweet shellfish/crustaceans, and the fresh veggie flavors.  Between this and the super-citrus of the Massican sauvignon blanc, she was in heaven …

The desserts … hmmm … to be honest, I can’t find the pictures of dessert.  I suspect that the lack of pictures and the lack of memory means that they were unremarkable.  g and v had some kind of apple pie thing with cinnamon ice cream (g loves-loves-LOVES cinnamon ice cream).  a had panna cotta (that unfortunately failed the “woman’s-breast-test”).  I had a molten chocolate cake (that fortunately passed the “I-hope-this-doesn’t-suck-test”).   The desserts solid overall – I’m not sure they’d be worth $8ish dollars, but the way we see it – RW is kind of like “you-pay-for-two-courses-and-get-dessert-for-free”, so we couldn’t complain.

In all, 2 of 3 appetizers and 2 of 4 mains were exceptional.  The remaining dishes ranged anywhere from “good” to “could-probably-be-great-with-some-execution-details”.  With better menu selection on our part, we could have probably assembled a flawless dinner (each of us was deciding between at least two options for every course, so I guess we just got a little “unlucky” for the less-than-exceptional choices).  The four of us felt that this was a big win for Mercato.  We’ll have to keep it in mind for future RW when we want to sling some wine.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

29 October 2012 at 10:03pm