Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Eat Like a Top Chef Judge: Nick Elmi's Laurel

As Seen on TV. Four of Elmi's Seven Course Tasting Menu

After 16 weeks spent writing, singing, and spoken word-ing about the guy (plus another 8 weeks until we could get a table), Mrs. Gastro and I finally got to taste Nicholas Elmi's food.

There are words, but I can't find them/use them without sounding like a starfucker. Besides, the critics have already set the tone (here, here, and here). Suffice to say that the meal exceeded expectations, especially the ricotta gnocchi, which rested dangerously atop that precarious foundation of overhype until I found myself licking the empty bowl and wishing for a real-life instant replay button to relive each bite. Our server told us that some people order a second bowl for dessert, but since we were there on a Friday, only the seven course tasting was available (some food for thought when making reservations).

What you need to know if you want to go:
1. According to Elmi himself (because he runs your food and says 'hi' and makes you feel all cool because he was on national TV and said "jawn" while on national TV and also won Top Chef), they're booked until August, but don't let that deter you...
2. Because Elmi also says, "Everyone in the dining room has been waiting for this table for weeks or months, or they're willing to take the 10:40 seating on Tuesday. This is constantly on my mind and I make sure it's also on the mind of my staff. What they're eating in September should be exactly what you're eating now."
3. You may be tempted to "jump-hug" Nick. Do your best to suppress this urge. The dining room is too small.
4. Laurel is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

I'm hoping we can get back again someday, but for now the gnocchi (and the rest of the meal) will live in my dreams. Buen provecho.

Laurel Restaurant
1617 East Passyunk
Phila, PA 19148
$200 including coffee and tip. We brought our own wine.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Fat Ham Isn't Open for Lunch Anymore

(Fidel Gastro eagerly walks up Walnut St and into The Fat Ham)

The Fat Ham Employees: We're not open for lunch.

(awkward stares you'd expect from the dudes behind the counter at Supreme)

Me: Really? Fuck.

(walks out of The Fat Ham. Has a shitty turkey melt at the "Irish" pub next door. Cries)

In case you didn't already know, The Fat Ham is no longer open for lunch as previously advertised. Buen Provecho.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why Did I Eat This? Taco Bell's XXL Steak Taco

More of an XL, don't you think?
Today's trip to Taco Bell is brought to you by double-rationalization. Since I ran for a humblebraggingly long 45 minutes and I felt like writing (slow workday), I decided to treat myself, which was an XXL mistake. In the interest of your time, I'll keep this fairly short and to the point. Don't waste your money on the XXL Steak Taco. The slightly oversized shell falls apart at first crunch, and it's a bland sonofabitch (probably because I've spent the last year eating shells that are either made of assorted Doritos flavors or waffles). The steak wasn't actually too bad, though it was more brisket than steak, and there was nowhere near enough of it to warrant 'XXL' status. The avocado ranch sauce was more sour creamy than anything (not a bad thing), but the whole experience felt like I was eating a boring old taco supreme. Good thing I could chase it with a Fiery Doritos Locos taco. In retrospect, I probably should have just gotten two of those, which I could have done for the same price as one stupid slightly bigger taco.

In summary, we should just let Nate Robinson have them all, because we can't handle the XXL Steak Taco. Buen provecho.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

5 Reasons Why You Should Drink Cortados

Hub Bub Coffee Makes an Exceptional Cortado

If coffee has become more than part of your daily routine to wake up, then you've probably heard of a cortado, the espresso drink that lacks the shittily poured beer foaminess of a cappucino, but has enough steamed milk to remind you that you don't really like coffee unless it's full of cream and sugar. It is coffee's best example of a happy medium. If this is the first time you're hearing about this nifty new coffee drink, then please take this moment to read this dumbass list while you sip your Cookie Dough Iced Coffee, then find your nearest non-Starbucks and go order one.

1. The coffee-milk ratio is such that you can drink a cortado immediately.
2. When you order one, the barista knows that you know, and that part of you that wants so badly to be the cool kid inwardly smiles.
3. You get more than a single gulp of an espresso.
4. Matt Duckor drinks them when he's not drinking Negronis. Matt Duckor is cool as shit and you want his job. See #2 above.
5. Motherfuck a latte.

Lists are stupid. This one is no exception. Buen provecho.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Why Did I Eat This?

Overmarketing. It's the way shit gets done these days. This time around, we've seen a Taco Bell Breakfast Phone, early previews extended to the media, and of course an endless Twitter feed perpetuating both. Not that I needed any real arm-twisting to try Taco Bell's new Breakfast Menu, even after I had been warned twice. The first red flag came from my best buddy's wife, who happened to be working on the campaign years ago. According to her, the Run for the Border Bosses' only requirement for the menu was that it had to be cheaper than McDonald's. The second warning was via this guest post last August, when another friend of mine was fortunate enough to be in one of the test markets. Still, this was something I needed to try for myself as soon as the opportunity came about, and by opportunity, I mean being late for work by getting off the train one stop early and making my way through the stabbier parts of Philly's Gallery Mall. Some opportunities are created.

I have a love/hate thing with Taco Bell (that skews toward love). In fact, the only reason I hate it these days is because mid-thirties me can't handle it from a gastrointestinal perspective. Getting old sucks, but I'm not here to complain about aging, I'm here to tell you that despite the facts that the casualty of Taco Bell's price war is "food" that could barely pass as such in a laboratory and my test market buddy wasn't totally impressed, I found Taco Bell's breakfast to be more than passable. So if you're still reading, here's a brief review of the Waffle Taco and the A.M. Crunchwrap. I skipped the breakfast burrito and breakfast taco because nobody really cares, and I also opted out of the Cinnabon Delights to stave off the impending diabetes.

Waffle Taco: The Waffle Taco is packaged in a carton whose lid taunts "Right Now I'm Eating a Waffle Taco and You're Not," the context of which only makes sense if you're sending a picture to your social media friends. Otherwise, is the carton eating your waffle taco? And what about the carton littered on the street? It's not eating a Waffle Taco, it's just garbage. I get it, but not really. And the taco itself? It's normally what I'll build at the Hampton Inn hot breakfast, some chafing dish bonanza whose sum is much greater than the parts. The waffle had the consistency of a rubber dog toy, but the sausage patty and side of syrup saved it. And the elastic nature of the waffle shell held the whole thing together quite well. I couldn't really taste the cheese, but I also ate the thing in two bites.

A.M. Crunchwrap: Because I blog so infrequently, I have yet to share my thoughts on Sonic's Ultimate Meat & Cheese Breakfast Burrito, a tour de force of meats, potatoes, cheese, and eggs. It is easily my favorite breakfast item in the fast food universe. The Crunchwrap is a smaller version of this concept. The size of an Egg McMuffin, it takes the best of what breakfast has to offer and wraps it up like a giant dumpling. There's none of the Waffle Taco braggery on the packaging. Instead, it offers the practicality of covering all your breakfast bases without having to use a fork and knife. And it tastes pretty damn good (because it's probably loaded with sodium).

If you think your stomach can handle it (or you simply don't care), both items are highly recommended. If nothing else, there's always the novelty of trying something you haven't before. And if that whole irony thing is still trendy, you can chalk it up to that if you feel guilty about eating at Taco Bell. Just take care not to get syrup in your handlebar mustache. Buen Provecho.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Two Whitest Things I Heard at Last Night's Philly Feastival

If you weren't at last night's Philly Feastival, you missed an opportunity to sample ridiculous food from all the restaurants you've ever wanted visit if you could ever manage to find a last-minute babysitter willing to watch two kids on a weeknight. You also missed Jesse Rendell stumbling through the auction items once again (if you need an emcee/auctioneer/hype man for next year, I'm your guy), heaps of dancey performance art that sort of made sense, and these two gems that you could only hear at such an event:
  • "Oh my God, I didn't recognize you without spinning clothes on!"
  • "I can't wait to check out Stephen Starr's restaurant row."
White people are amazing. Buen provecho.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Regular Ass Guy Bullet Point List to Being a Man

While indeed thoughtful, Business Insider's "Unofficial Guide to Being a Man" appears to be written for a narrow audience. After all, we can't all be overworked and miserable millionaires with no life skills at the ripe old age of 28. With that in mind, I've curated my own list for the rest of us, because being a man today is basically the same as it was when our dads were on their grind, just with tighter clothes and a lot more fantasy football.
  • If you're gonna talk about where you went to college, make sure you went to a sports school, but if you played sports, stop talking about how you could have gone pro.
  • Khakis are both comfortable and versatile. The best ones come from Kohl's.
  • Pee outside. Just not in the middle of a busy intersection.
  • Tattoos are fine as long as they aren't on your face or neck. Plus, they look wicked hardcore when you're on the Tough Mudder course.
  • Join Twitter. Follow Karl Welzein, Zoo With Roy, and Deadspin.
  • If your house and your office are both relatively close to the bus stop, there's little shame in the bus game. However, the monthly payment on a Scion or a Ford Focus is about the same as a bus pass. The jury's out on which one's more depressing.
  • Do your laundry while watching football on Sundays. Make sure the entirety of your business casual wardrobe is non-iron/wrinkle-free. Life's too short NOT to multitask.
  • When the bartender asks, Miller Lite.
  • If you perspire, make sure that you're the first to point out how disgusting it is, then continue to sweat like the pig you are. Hope everyone laughs.
  • You have to like baseball. This is America.
  • When people don't invite you to a party, it's probably because of your perspiration problem. Those people are high falutin' and can suck a fatty.
  • It's always better to be the funny drunk guy than the angry drunk guy.
  • Brunch is for hipsters. Hipsters are anyone different from you and who like things other than sports.
  • There's always another level. You just won't get to it, unless you're referring to video games.
  • Place-dropping is cool so long as it's the Super Bowl, the World Series, or one of the majors. Nobody gives a shit how many DMB concerts you've attended.
  • If you're not driving and it's free, whiskey away.
  • You can't afford cocaine.
  • If it's got velvet ropes and lines, you're at the wrong place. Buffalo Wild Wings is down the street.
If you need a little more clarity, this song ought to help.