Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Peeing into an Ocean of Hype

Back in July, I sat down to a gratis meal at PYT. Soft open or no, free or paid (come to think of it, I threw down a $20 tip), I was blown away. Then, in September, Trey Popp made me feel guilty for giving props, thinking perhaps that the only reason I didn't find the burger marginally better than an Angus Third Pounder was because it was free. I don't know the guy from Adam, and a single post shoudn't make you a villain, but it's hard not to take it personal, especially after hearing the deafening rally cry put forth by the dude behind Phoodie.info. I wasn't able to shake his hand at last night's Social Media Club meeting, but it was like watching a white Che Guevara. If I had a gun in my hand, it would have been fired in the air, if not at someone else. But this isn't the point of this post. What we need to discuss is that for the second time in as many visits, PYT delivered the goods once again.

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

Riding the Old Timey Wave

If we're being honest here, I recall that nostalgia for the good old days was reserved for the kids who sucked at sports (the same ones who sucked at drama but insisted they were good, or at least could pull it off at a high school level). The 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s were the test scores the cool kids got, not decades of bygone eras begging someone to say, "Those were the days." In recent times, however, it has become increasingly more badass to sidle up to the bar in your bespoke suit and order a cocktail that nobody's heard of since before your dad stopped drinking. Score one for the drama geeks for being way ahead of their time (and for continuing to ballroom dance at any cost), and score one for Jose Garces for capitalizing on old timey chic with Village Whiskey, a time warp of an establishment that makes you want to smoke a pack a day (indoors).

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.

It was major.

Not only was the cast iron skillet of potatoes blanketed in sharp cheddar and tender beef, but there was a shallow bath of cheese sauce beneath! The potatoes themselves had a hint of cinnamon, making them taste like picking apples on a crisp Autumn afternoon (that's a good thing). You know the commercial where the snowman comes in from the cold, eats the soup, and transforms into a little kid? Eating cheddar and short rib fries is like that, but a million times better. There was also the added bonus of Sixpoint Righteous Rye on tap (the best I could do given the fact I had to go back to the office. As a side note, there's a wall of whiskey that would be worth the alcohol poisoning and/or job loss). Eventually, I'll get to the burger, but probably not before having another ten or twenty plates of these fries. I strongly recommend braving the crowds (lunch is probably better than dinner) just for these, but among the cocktails, booze selection, and food, there is certainly no shortage of great things to try. Buen provecho.

Village Whiskey is on 20th and Sansom, right next to Tinto. I got nicely sated for $24 including tip.

This Free Meal Makes a Total of Two Free Meals as a Food Blogger

Free food is never a bad thing (even though Trey Popp might lay a guilt trip on you) provided that whatever the freebie happens to be won’t poison you*. Bottom line, there’s risk involved, and today’s (actually two weeks ago's) risk was the Basic 4 Vegetarian CafĂ© in Reading Terminal Market, already behind the Fidel eight-ball by being vegetarian. I get it, eating healthy is right and good, and reducing your meat intake can shave years off your life. But try as I might, opulence and gluttony suit me a lot better than being able to look down at a gnarly pair of 98-year old feet in Birkenstocks.

Somehow and somewhere the PR heads at Basic 4 stumbled upon my contact info, and I was given the opportunity to eat their “Press Sampler,” a Styrofoam clamshell of their greatest hits: carrot “tuna”, “chicken” salad, pickled vegetables, and a veggie burger. I even got a drink, a rather refreshing lemonade that was thankfully made of lemons and sugar (at least that’s what it tasted like). Here’s a quick review of the herbivore eats:

Carrot “tuna” –I couldn’t wrap my head around why anyone would want to eat shredded carrots that tasted like chicken of the sea, but I was pleasantly surprised that the dominant flavors were mostly Asian and not canned fish.

“Chicken” salad – Mayonnaise makes anything—even smoked soy protein—taste better. Add a crunchy element with diced celery and you’ve got me fooled.

Pickled vegetables – Again with the Asian flavors. Not revelatory, but not soggy either.

Veggie burger – There was no attempt to imitate beef flavor. Instead, they made a patty that tasted like Stove Top stuffing. A bit mushy, but by no means bland. Hands down the best of the bunch.

One thing you have to get past is the service. The two old ladies behind the counter were working their asses off, but it was very slow going. My lunch buddy had already eaten and taken a lap around RTM before I even got to order. Clearly, Basic 4 should put less focus on press and more on hired help. After I ordered (at 12:30pm, aka “the eye of the RTM shit storm), there was a line that must have been 12 deep (I imagine that the last of them got back to work at 4pm). Another thing you have to get past is the crazy voodoo lady loitering by the cash register. I don’t know what’s worse, crazy people screaming expletives in your face, or crazy people who are dead silent that just stare blankly (like this voodoo lady). Buen provecho.

*If the sign says “Free Poison Donuts,” you should assume that they’ll kill you, although they might just be named after the band, which would be kind of sweet.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

To the (not quite 5th place) Victor Go the Spoils

If they had actually tasted the "fajita" roast beef sandwich (not saying they didn't), I'm sure the outcome would have been much more favorable, but I gotta give it up to the folks at Vincent Giordano for softening the "you suck on camera and you're ugly" blow with a $25 American Express gift card. Buen provecho.

How Do You Deal with Colic?

I lip-synch:

Buen provecho.