Monday, December 28, 2009
10. Taco Bell's Blackjack Taco: As the unofficial spokesfood for the Phillies' 2nd World Series bid, the photoshopped images were pure comedy, but the actual taste of this thing was more miserable than the entire white sneakered population of gents mourning a loss to goddamned Yankees.
9. Big Ben Burger at Union Jack's: Amazing wings, terrible burger. I guess you can't be good at everything (Michael Phelps is a great swimmer, but he sucks at not getting busted for smoking pot).
8. Flavia Coffee from my office pantry: Is it that difficult to make single serving coffee not taste like burnt water? And is a carton of half-and-half really that much more than a squirt bottle of non-dairy creamer?
7. Wawa cheesesteak: Duh.
6. Baja Fresh burritos: We really tried to like these. Even if you give them odds against the likes of Chipotle and Qdoba, they still can't get past "sucks only a little" status, which makes them a waste of money.
5. Dunkin' Donuts Waffle Breakfast Sandwich: A poor excuse for a McGriddle with waffle marks.
4. Pizza Hut Tuscani Pasta: You're better off making a box of Kraft macaroni & cheese. Hell, you're better off just opening the packet of cheese powder and dumping it into a glass of water.
3. Herr's Kansas City Prime Steak Flavor Potato Chips: I will forever feel stupid for falling victim to these.
2. Buffalo chicken cheesesteak from Cosimo's Pizza: Last time I checked, hot sauce wasn't supposed to taste sweet.
1. Wendy's Asian Chicken Bites: A high fructose corn syrup-based sauce sloppily glopped over boneless breaded chicken that was obviously fried in grease weeks overdue for a change almost ruined fried chicken for me.
There were two things I couldn't manage to get to that would both be shoo-ins for this list, but you'll just have to wait and see what 2010 brings (aside from another 15-20 lbs on my frame). Here's to another great year of regrettable eating. Buen provecho.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Disclaimer: I'm rushing this out, so if it sucks, I apologize.
It's been a big year for the Gastro family. Following a move to Philadelphia (yes, Chestnut Hill is STILL Philadelphia), we managed to cram in a house purchase, a baby, and the beginning of business school. Through it all, I've been fortunate enough to have the time and inspiration to eat, write, and inflate the spare tire that is my ever expanding midsection. Without giving it much thought at all (assuming that there are few of you out there who give a rat's posterior), here are the best things I've shoveled into my face in 2009 (a worst list will follow shortly).
10. Nachos at Solaris Grill: The homemade chips and mountain of toppings are a bright spot in an otherwise dim menu at this Chestnut Hill jack of all trades.
9. Wings at Union Jacks: Full of townies (my favorite kind of place), the crispy/spicy/meaty balance of these wings more than makes up for the shitty service.
8. Chicken cutlet sandwich at Shank's: I can only infer from the photos and write-ups eating the wall space in the new Shank's that the old timey location was magical, but for me, having it within walking distance of my office is all the magic I need. If you don't like broccoli rabe, you will after eating this sandwich.
7. Butcher & Singer burger special: For $5.95, it's worth the derision of a thousand vintage upselling waiters, not just the one that you get stuck with.
6. Veggie burger at Campbell's Place: It's a samosa on a bun, and the bun is one of best you'll ever eat.
5. Short rib huarache at Distrito: Garces' year kicks the shit out of my year. I'm just happy that I was around to see it all go down. Even if the Phillies shit the bed, we've always got Garces. The gooey cheese was the highlight of this pizza-esque dish, one option of many on the list of small plates (I also recommend the pork tacos).
4. Roast pork w/sharp provolone at DiNic's: There are few lines worth standing in. This is one of them.
3. Short rib and cheddar fries at Village Whiskey: What can I say? The man knows his way around short ribs. Served in a cast iron skillet and lightly scented with cinnamon, these will warm your soul, even on the coldest of days.
2. Strike Zone and D.P. Dunkers at D.P. Dough: Surprisingly, I preferred this vegetarian zone to any of the meat options I had. I just supplemented it with a box of boneless and breaded bites of chicken. Make sure you get a side of bangin' sauce. You won't be disappointed.
1. Fat boy monster at PYT: The burger that I paid for (this one) was better than the burger I got for free. Go figure. This burger makes you want to be morbidly obese just so you can have a second or third without making yourself sick.
Stay tuned for the worst. Because I ate so many awful things, I'll need to think on that one a bit. Buen provecho.
Friday, December 18, 2009
After two artificially flavored successes, Herr's suffers a face mangling fall from grace with their Kansas City Prime Steak Flavor potato chips. If the shittily designed packaging was any indicator of what lurked inside, I should have heeded its warning. The off-putting "Western" font whose name I can't place (because I'm not well-versed in fonts), the brown-checked background, and a floating steak that looks like it came from an old Sizzler advertisement. Clearly Herr's is paying the flavor fellas more than the graphics guys. I could have opened a packet of Lipton Onion Soup Mix and gotten the same result, an overly salty and artificial crunch that could only be delicious if I were exiled to the eternal blackness of a space station behind the moon, and there was nothing left to eat after the other dude lost the coin toss. Space station or no, there's a better use for a dollar. Buen provecho.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
" 'Twas the hour before lunchtime
And all through the city
Chipotles were starting
To steam rice...not too sticky
The foil was all stacked
By tortillas with care
With the knowing that customers
Would soon be there...
Friday, December 11, 2009
Available at Wawa for a limited time. You can also forgo the hoagie roll and get the same pile of shit in a plastic bowl.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
b. Innovative in the face of adversity, the adversity being that there is no beer, wine, or whiskey in the house
c. A pathetic drunk
If you're curious (which you shouldn't be), it tastes like a sickly sweet hangover reminiscent of the days when you would pour whatever you suspected mom and dad would not miss into a plastic tumbler and hope for the best. Adults, don't try this at home. Kids, I'm pretty sure you're already trying it, so I won't tell you to do otherwise, but I don't condone it. Buen provecho.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Located at roughly the midpoint of Chestnut Hill's stretch of Germantown Avenue, it's great for both old money and new money (and in our case, no money) Northwest Philadelphians. The menu reflects the clients, running the spectrum from a burger with your choice of toppings to filet mignon with truffled mashed potatoes. In between, pub standards such as fish and chips, and a few departures, notably, guava glazed ribs, and a veggie burger that could make me quit meat (well, that might be a bit dramatic).
Campbell's Place is located at 8337 Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill (that's in Northwest Philly). We got full and drunk for $55 including tip. Full disclosure: I have a tall and handsome friend that introduced me to the owners, but they didn't remember who I was when we were there.
*I really hope Campbell's Soup doesn't sue me.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Holidays kick ass on many levels, but at the top of my list is always the copious amounts of food and spirits, and the way things have gone down in the households I've been a part of, consumption of said food and spirits usually transpires while wearing pants with an elastic waistband. It puts the comfort in comfort food. It also saves you from that whole cliche of eating too much and then having to undo buttons that really shouldn't be undone in public. Even if your family says they don't mind, they're all re-thinking your place setting at next year's table. Luckily for me, elastic pants or otherwise, my indispensable roles as both stuffing stud and turkey titan (wow, those are both horrible) have hopefully secured me an invite for many years to come, even if I decide to stop wearing pants altogether.
This year I opted for what I'm sure was everybody's alternative to Alton Brown's brining method (which has slayed in the past), the dry-brine (or cure, for all the hair-splitters on Chow.com). The thought had popped into my head after reading an article by Drew Lazor over at Meal Ticket. In fact, my man was even the first to respond on Twitter that this has been done before (in Vail, CO, likely sometime between skiing and skiing). Salting the cumbersome holiday bird and letting it sit in the fridge seemed a lot easier than immersing it in gallons of vegetable stock in a cooler, then balancing it on top of whatever you can find in the garage so the bird will stay submerged for however many hours. Turns out I wasn't the only one with the idea this year, and the NY Times was gracious enough to both lend me a recipe and make me look like I was jumping on some sort of bandwagon.
So last Saturday, I picked up my naturally raised bird from Fair Food Farmstand and gave it a nice rubdown with salt before throwing it in the fridge for four days (I got stuck with a nineteen lb bird so it needed some time). I won't bore you with more details, but as you can see, it turned out beautifully, more likely because I got a little nutty with a stick of butter than any method of making the meat more succulent. Underneath this golden brown dermis resided somewhat of a disappointment, however. The meat was juicy and flavorful, but nowhere near what I had experienced when I used the same method on the chicken. Compared to the wet brined turkeys of years past, I prefer this method, but at the end of the day, I didn't taste too much of a difference. The real game changer was the bird's size. I just don't like working with such a big bird. I think next year's festivities will involve two small birds (and perhaps a deep fryer).
My other signature, a pound of sausage intermingled with processed cubes of cornbread and aromatics, came out a tad dry, but still gorgeous and about as Thanksgiving-y as you can get. And on that note, here's hoping you and yours had a blessed and delicious holiday. Buen provecho.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I really miss the days when basketball was cool. Nowadays, the freakishly tall dudes just look bored running up and down the court. It's kind of sad, but if nothing else, it gives me an excuse to eat arena food, and as written so eloquently in a previous post, it gets better as you get closer to the action. The poor saps eating hot dogs way up high (even though they could have easily walked down) ain't got nothin' on two of my favorites: chili cheese fries and boneless buffalo wings. As you can see above, the chips are replaced with french fries in these Irish nachos, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, especially when you have a fork to do your bidding. I love the redundancy of cheese and sour cream. It's like wearing belts and suspenders, or so I've heard.
*Before you comment on how John Stockton was the cheapest player in the NBA, I already know, and I don't care. As the all-time assist leader, his generosity with the rock cancels out any cheapness. Eat it.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Maybe it's because I'm Mexican, but I find it very hard to fuck up beans, cheese, grilled chicken, and tortillas. Not knowing whose concept Baja Fresh belongs to, I'll just assume that it's a bunch of white dudes in suits who say "tor-till-uh" instead of "tor-tee-yah," and then proceed to talk a bunch of shit on their inadequate burritos. Here goes:
1. When your fresh salsa bar sits out from 11am to 9pm, I question exactly how "fresh" any of it can be at 8pm, hours after the acid in the tomato finally loses the battle to the acid in the lime, and the pico de gallo becomes a mealy mess of sodden produce. The mango salsa suffered a similar fate, and what remained resembled canned peaches in syrup (a bad thing).
2. Don't put the word "fresh" in your menu if you're going to serve the chicken with the artificial grill marks.
3. "Enchilado" is neither a word nor a style.
4. Since you're really not much higher up the food scale than Taco Bell, I strongly recommend not serving fish.
5. Tortillas should be gently warmed, not toasted to the point of crumbling at the slightest bit of pressure.
I imagine we'll eat here again because it's so close, but if you can avoid it, you should do so at all costs. You're better off just buying a can of beans and a stack of tortillas from the grocery store. Buen provecho.
Our local Baja Fresh is on Ridge Pike across the way from FWOT in the shopping center where there's an REI. We wasted $18 on two burritos and two sodas. The burritos came with chips, but they were soggy and salty and very upsetting to eat.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
A late-night (read: drunk) food staple in Ithaca and various other college towns, D.P. Dough makes calzones filled with a dizzying assortment of ingredients, so you're covered whether you need to soak up some of the booze with pepperoni and cheese, or if you find yourself so high that steak, eggplant, and ham sounds like a great idea.
I was able to catch up with the proprietors the other day, and between banking, commuting from NYC, children, and whatever else life can throw at you, they were gracious enough to school me on their version of the American Dream, a three year journey that taught them, in their words, "Everything."
Check out the interview after the jump.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
1. It's 3:19pm. That means this has been sitting and sweating for over three hours, and it's a soggy mess.
2. The food service lady had some serious saran wrap skills, and I had to wrestle with her handiwork.
3. I'm eating this with my hands. In a classroom.
4. It's not even mine. It belongs to the guy next to me. Granted, he offered it to me, but common courtesy requires I say "no" instead of taking it before he actually put out the offer, thereby forcing him to offer it up out of guilt.
Feel free to pass judgement, because if I was reading this about someone else, I'd do the same. Buen provecho.
*image stolen from hamburgercalculus.com
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Service was of the bartender-as-server variety, a little less than attentive, but not to the point where you say, "Man, that guy's a dick." I really wish I would have made it to the beefsteak, but Alison Two at least gave us the opportunity to make some lemonade with the shitty ass lemons we were dealt. Buen provecho.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Ethan drops some serious knowledge on "sky juice," an unlikely pairing of gin and coconut milk available at the Fish Fry in Nassau, Bahamas. Tommy Up, if you're reading this, it may well rival the Pickleback in the category of sounds gross/tastes great. Buen provecho.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Further contributing to my premature death was a stuffed crust pizza. As if it's not enough to soak the crust in butter, they haul off and put a ring of cheese in the damn thing? And of course, there's me again with ranch dressing in hand, squeezing away (the picture of health). This pizza is so greasy that when I finally take my accounting midterm this coming Saturday, I wouldn't be surprised if there are grease spots on it when I hand it in. Buen provecho.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Wading through the endless @tommyup tweets and retweets, the good reviews and the bad, I'm reminded of 2001, when there was a group of five trust fund shitheads who gave sliced bread a run for its money, sailing the tradewinds of hype until they wound up marooned on an island of haters. Oh yes, The Strokes were munched up into bits and pieces until some kid in Pumas informed me that "they were so six months ago." But objectively speaking, if you drowned out the noise and just listened to the music, it was brilliant. An old friend of mine hit the nail on the head by saying that they made rock sexy again (I guess they brought sexy back before JT). I would have to say the same goes for the burger at PYT.
This time around (and to the disdain of my arteries; sorry guys), I opted for the Fat Boy Monster, two patties, cheese, special sauce, bacon, and two onion rings. The challenge was not whether I could finish the thing, but how well it would travel back to Chestnut Hill (newborn baby and all). And the verdict? PYT knows how to cook a burger, season a burger, and top a burger. Cooked perfectly to temperature, each bite was juicier than the previous one, and although I got my stemless wine glass a bit greasy, it was totally worth the mess. I was also pleasantly surprised that it traveled so well. The fries were another story, but the onions they were tossed with made up for the expected sogginess.
I have to agree with the masses on service. I placed an order to go, so I suppose I'm an outlier, but it's clear as day how little of a shit the bar/waitstaff gives about the customers. It's almost like PYT is Leave it to Burgers from Silver Spoons and the staff are just extras in the background. Make no mistake, the vibe is fun, but a little bit of "how's everything?" goes a long way, and if it's what transforms good into great, I suggest Mr. Up give his employees a kick in the pants. Buen provecho.
Friday, September 11, 2009
More important than the ambience, though, is the food. There's been a fair amount of dialogue regarding the Whiskey King, a culinary triple-dog dare of a burger piled high with the richest toppings imaginable. The right thing to do would be to accept the challenge, but it's best to leave it to the experts. Besides, I've had one thing and one thing only on my mind since Meal Ticket posted pictures earlier this month: short rib and cheddar french fries. So today (actually today), I braved the wind and the rain (could this also be considered 'going postal'?), sidled up to the bar (in khakis), and tucked into this most comfortable of comfort foods.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Behold the first (and probably last) installment of "Cooking in Bike Shorts." This episode features a very well filmed (thanks, Mrs. Gastro) but horribly produced (way to drop the ball, self) segment of me making the Homesick Texan's carnitas recipe. Since I do a shit job of explaining what it is that I'm making, I've included the recipe below.
Carnitas is one of my favorite ways to prepare pork, and I love the simplicity of these tacos: a warm corn tortilla is the vehicle for a handful of carnitas, onions, a squeeze of lime, cilantro, and salsa (if you like). I could eat fifty in one sitting. I used to get them at a place called Panaderia La Diana in Salt Lake City for a buck each. It was a tortilla bakery with a small kitchen tucked into a corner of the building, the stuff of legend. I couldn't exactly replicate the flavors, but I think I came pretty damn close. Buen provecho.
Carnitas (adapted from Diana Kennedy)
3 pounds of pork butt
1 cup of orange juice
3 cups of water
2 teaspoons of salt
1. Cut pork into strips (three inches by one inch), add to a large pot with the liquids and salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered on low for 2 hours. Do not touch the meat.
2. After two hours, turn heat up to medium high, and continue to cook until all the liquid has evaporated and the pork fat has rendered (about 45 minutes). Stir a few times, to keep pork from sticking to bottom of pan.
3. When pork has browned on both sides, it’s ready (there will be liquid fat in the pan). Serve either cubed or shredded (pork will be tender enough that just touching it will cause it to fall apart).Goes very well with a green salsas such as Ninfa's green sauce or this tomatillo salsa or this salsa verde with avocados and tomatillos.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
In directly related news, this is my entry for the Vincent Giordano Video Chef contest. My entry, as you'll see, is a delicious "fajita" sandwich I made by putting VG cold cuts on the grill and topping them with sauteed peppers and onions, pepper jack cheese, sour cream, and homemade (housemade?) salsa. If there was online voting, I would ask for your support, but there's not, so merely enjoy it/hate it/poke fun at it/link to it. And if you're feeling inspired, hurry up, because the contest ends today. Buen provecho.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons mild chili powder, like ancho or New Mexico
2 teaspoons paprika
1 pork shoulder, about 5 or 6 pounds
1. Start gas grill, using burners only on one side to achieve a heat of 250 to 300 degrees. Put a couple of handfuls of wood chips in a tinfoil pan, and set it over working burners. While grill heats, mix together dry ingredients, and rub them all over pork, including under skin as best you can and in any crevices.
2. Put pork on cool side of grill and cover. Check about 15 minutes later to make sure chips are smoking and heat is below 300 degrees. Check every hour or so in case heat escalates too much or chips need replenishing.
3. Pork is done when it reaches an internal temperature of about 190 degrees, about 4 hours later (less time if you used a smaller piece of pork, more if larger). Meat will be very tender. If you like, raise heat and grill meat to crisp it up a bit. Serve immediately.