Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why Did I Drink This?

I love the fever pitch, especially when it reaches a level where my my curiosity and stupidity can no longer ingore it.  This Wednesday, the FDA is expected to decide on the safety of boozy energy drinks such as Four Loko,  so before my window closed on the opportunity to see what all the fuss was about, I convinced Mrs. Gastro and the Gastro-in-laws to join me in a controlled experiment involving a case of blue raspberry-flavored Four Loko.  The results, not surprisingly, were disastrous.  So disastrous in fact that we can only show you the pre- and post-Four Loko-logues.  In between, we only managed to finish two cans among the four of us, I made my nephew cry (on his birthday. Sorry, Paddy), and I didn't even make it to bed.  Instead, Mrs. Gastro informed me that at the end of the experiment, I passed out on the couch, and like a soldier wounded beyond repair, I simply told her, "I'll be fine here."  The next thing I remember is waking up at 5:30am because I felt like I was getting kicked in the face repeatedly, and I dragged myself up to bed, where this final clip is shot (turn the volume up on this one).
I started the evening against the ban, but after Four Loko dragged me face-first over glass-impregnated gravel, I would be happy to see it removed from the shelves.  Buen provecho.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Check out Rachael Ray's awesome recipe for "Late Night Bacon." I can't wait until midnight tonight to fire up the microwave. Buen provecho.

P.S. Rachael Ray, please kill yourself.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Quotable Gastro

So it turns out people actually read this thing AND they value my opinion enough to associate it with their own publications.  Score one for Fidel, and a hat tip and a handshake to Emily Guendelsberger over at the Philadelphia Weekly for including me in their food and drink issue. Check out my quick take on DiNic's roast pork sandwich and Delicatessen's Jubano.

"I Dunno, Where Do You Wanna Eat?" - Philadelphia Weekly

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why Did I Eat This?

Much like drinking can be worth the hangover, fast food gimmicks can sometimes be worth the inevitable intestinal discomfort.  The McRib is ALWAYS worth it.  Finally reintroduced after years of yeti-like existence, I was lucky enough to find one at the McDonald's in Suburban Station prior to their nationwide availability on November 2, which gives me an additional week to eat it for every meal of every day.  As good buddy Matt Cannon* said, "It shouldn't be 'Why Did I Eat This,' it should be 'How Many of These Can I Eat?'"

Perhaps a large part of the attraction is its inherent nostalgia and mystique, but then again, maybe it's just goddamn good.  I've always been a fan of McDonald's BBQ sauce with its err on the side of spicy and not sweet. Slathered all over a patty of mystery meat topped with pickles and onions, you are dealing with some top-notch second-rate sandwich innards that rest nicely between a marshmallow-soft cornmeal-dusted bun. We have a six week window, folks; let's supersize ourselves. Buen Provecho.

*Loser of the Durian Challenge and wearer of jean shorts

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Street Legal

Let me tell you about the way I make a purchase.  I'll find out about a product, talk a whole bunch of shit on it (typically, "whoever eats/uses/drinks these is a total douche nozzle and I hope they get scabies"), let a week pass, then buy the damn thing with little to no research, regardless of the cost.  Mrs. Gastro was kind enough and sage enough to point this out when my brother-in-law walked into our living room wearing neoprene and rubber "socks" that made his feet look like Shrek's. By now I'm sure you've all heard about Vibram Five Fingers, quite literally a second skin for your feet that will allow you to essentially run barefoot.  I spent at least two weeks talking shit about my brother-in-law's "freak shoes," laughing heartily at the thought of him stepping on a syringe (because I'm sadistic); then I went and bought a pair (just like Mrs. Gastro predicted).  I've had them now for almost a year, and I'd really like to tell you that they are life changing when it comes to running, but in order for me to do that, I'd actually have to use them. Instead, they've spent much of the past year gathering dust (an unspoken Mrs. Gastro prediction).  Fast forward to now, when these fuckers are on backorder and I don't really know how to use eBay but wouldn't get rid of them even if I did, because what you don't know about these special "freak shoes" is that they allow you to run and drink beer at the same time.  I found this out when our dear friends Dave and Rachel, accompanied by their third and youngest son, Falcon, had inquired about this barefoot running craze while visiting from Salt Lake (side note: Dave is an incredible woodworker and Rachel writes a hilarious blog about food and how hospitable Utah can be when you're not from there).  What you see above is proof that these shoes do indeed have magical powers (and that I am, for all intents and purposes, a fool).  Too bad they couldn't prevent the ensuing hangover.  Buen provecho.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Beginner's (Un)luck

 This is my shitty ass garden.  It was not organic.  It was also not very successful.  Granted, this was my first attempt at channeling Kingsolver/Pollan/hippies in general, but I make no excuse other than I am equal parts lazy and easily distracted.  Plus, gardening is super hard when you're not paid to write about it.  Hopefully either myself or one of you readers will learn from my mistakes.  Here's what not to do when planting a garden:

1. Do not just go to the hardware store and buy a bunch of crap (who really needs two basil plants?).
2. Do not select a location beneath huge black walnut trees that provide lots of shade and danger in the autumn months.
3. Do not just dig up a patch of grass in the backyard on a whim.
4. Do not take weeks off at a time from watering your garden.
5. Do not plant tomatoes within inches of each other.

I don't have any tips for a successful garden, but at a minimum, I would recommend a smidge more planning before your shovel hits the dirt.  Good luck future green thumbs.  Buen provecho.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why Did I Eat This?

More like AngASS SnackCRAP.  Surely I am neither the first nor the last to refer to this Andy Garcia's unfortunate twin of a snack as such.  Following a gameful but foodless visit to Charles Edward Cheese, there was a hunger inside me that could only be satisfied by drive-thru eats.  Unfortunately, there aren't many options along the I-276 and 309 exits (not that we looked all that hard), so we had to settle for McDonald's.  Trying not to be a total fatass, I opted for an Angus Snackwrap.  And you know what?  Fuck McDonald's, especially off-hours McDonald's.  What you see above must have been under the heat lamp since noon, onions, pickles, and all.  The half-patty was about as appetizing as a nerf football that had spent some time with a slobbery dog, and the ketchup tasted like pesticide.  To make matters worse, I order an M&M McFlurry, quite possibly the worst combination of candy and ice cream ever conceived.  If you're in the mood for a snack, order anything but this disaster.  Please. Buen provecho.

Monday, September 27, 2010

My Friends Are Cooler Than Your Friends: Adam Curfew of the Utah Brewers Cooperative

I can say with great confidence that 99.9% of the population who didn't grow up in Utah typically associate it with Mormons, polygamy, Karl Malone (who is dead to me), Sundance, and that Band of Horses song that has nothing to do with the Great Salt Lake.  For myself and others who grew up there, the reality is somewhat different.  True, everybody has blond hair and blue eyes, and yes, Tony Danza did get his ass beat by a snowboarder outside of a nightclub in Park City, but Utah is much more than a bunch of wholesome white folks that wear an extra layer of underwear, and a lot has happened since someone showed Mr. Danza who was really the boss.  Lately, my behated state of rearing has been enjoying a fair amount of food and drink press.  Cristiano Creminelli's artisan salamis and sausages are the latest cure for common cured meat, the High West Distillery is making moonshine from oats, and the Utah Brewers Cooperative (also known as Wasatch and Squatters) took home the hardware for best mid-size brewery at the Great American Beer Festival.  Adam Curfew, good friend and brewer for the UBC, sat down with me after recovering from the week-long hangover associated with celebrating the win.  We discussed his likeness to the 'Hoff, why brewing in Utah makes you a better brewer, and the chances of Wasatch and Squatters making it out here for Philly Beer Week. Check it out after the jump, and next time you find yourself in Salt Lake, head down to the brewery for a tasting.

Moral Dilemma

As the baby becomes increasingly mobile, it becomes increasingly difficult to enjoy a sit-down dinner at the chain restaurant of our choice.  Recently, we've caught a few bad ones at California Pizza Kitchen, where the laid-back California attitude that the name suggests in nonexistent.  You're rushed in, the appetizers and entrées show up at the same time, they take the plates off the table before you're even halfway done, and they fuck up your beer order.  So what do you do if the waitress doesn't take the wrong beer off the table after she replaces it?  Is it okay to drink both?  Let me know in the comments.*  Buen provecho.

*I waited until the check came, then shamelessly chugged the mistake beer

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Friends are Cooler Than Your Friends: Kelvin Natural Slush Co.

Stories about former suits saying "fuck it" to pursue their dreams have become so commonplace these days that it was only a matter of time before the protagonist would turn out to be a long lost college buddy, so it came as no surprise when I found out that Alex Rein was behind the wheel of the recently opened Kelvin Natural Slush Co., a truck dedicated to slanging slushies.  True, he never seemed to be the "company man" type.  In college, we broke bread over cheesesteaks, likely having a profound conversation* that would ring in his ears almost 10 years later, telling him to bag the briefcase in favor of the freeze.  Since July, his big blue truck has been rolling around the streets of Manhattan serving up a refined riff on Slurpees that the rest of us suits would be proud to bring back to the office (or use in concert with the liquor of our choosing to numb the pain of being a suit).  Kelvin's been well received by Manhattanites, and Grub Street announced yesterday that they're up for a Vendy in the category of best dessert.  Amidst the craziness, Alex was kind enough to answer some questions for me.  I've yet to try the slush, but hopefully I'll get up there soon.

*Actual conversation may not have been very profound

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why Did I Eat This?

 Taco Bell is really pushing the menu envelope. First, they almost kill me with a shrimp taco, and now, they've added a Cantina Taco to the menu, a damn near perfect replica of something you'd expect to be fed as an innocent kidnapping victim of narcotraficantes.  Not that it's a hard thing to fuck up (there are 5 ingredients if you count the lime), but it's still fast food. Let's taco 'bout it:

1. A lime actually does come with each taco.  Tucked into the folds of foil, its freshness was debatable (food additives can do wonders for appearance), but it did the trick.
2. The corn tortillas, doubled up just like they do in the cantina, weren't terribly brittle.  Taken at face value, however, even the best corn tortillas have little to offer in the way of flavor.
3. The cilantro bled all over the white onions, giving them an offputting greenish-brown hue like that of guacamole left out too long.  The mixture was also soggy.  More than the flavor of onions, I appreciate their crunch, which was lacking here.
4. The pork was mushy, and as you can see in the picture above, it looks a lot like the "beef" that's ubiquitous in the rest of their offerings.  It really didn't taste too bad, though.  Perhaps a grain too salty, but with sodium levels in fast food being as high as they are, it's a taste that's hard to mask.

I think we paid something like $1.89 for each one.  If you find yourself at Taco Bell for other reasons (Mexican Pizza, maybe), it's cheap enough for you to try, and there's no reason you shouldn't.  Buen provecho.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Why Did They Eat This?

Behold, the durian fruit, an oversized exotic pine cone full of what good pal Mark Novasack called "mayonnaise with hair in it."  Uncut and frozen, there's little evidence of the putrid smell so widely documented (there's even some folklore about your stomach exploding if you combine it with alcohol), but what lies beneath the surface is a deceptive fruity aroma that gives way to a subtle yet gag-inducing fart smell.  At least that's what happened when I got close.  One would think that the need to wear puncture-resistant gloves while handling it would be enough for you to steer clear.  This was not the case for two friends of mine, who, after watching Andrew Zimmern gag on the thing, decided to have a durian fruit showdown.  Whoever can eat the most durian gets to choose a costume that the other has to wear for 24 hours--at work, at home, and more than likely, a happy hour with cheap enough drink specials to make you forget that you lost the bet after subjecting yourself to such gustatory torture.  Dubbing themselves Eva Pierogi and Borscht Yeltsin (damn creative guys), we filmed and photographed the challenge.  And yes, we were drinking, and no, none of our stomachs exploded, although it would have been really cool and really messy to see that happen. Check out the photos and videos after the jump.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Why Did I Eat This?

At the risk of having a trio of douchebags materialize out of thin air, I went ahead and ordered the Bacon Club Chalupa, thus falling off the Taco Bell wagon once again.  Granted, I was in a drive-thru on City Avenue, where the likelihood of a combination stabbing/carjacking is ten times that of getting hit on by a few feathered-hair passersby than it would be in the brightly lit and clearly exclusive club shown in the above commercial, so I wasn't too worried about an onslaught of douchebags.  I'm also a dude.  I also do my best not to carry a clutch, but every now and again, it's unavoidable.  But enough about my fashion sense.  Let's talk about what happens when Taco Bell runs out of ideas thinking outside the bun and goes back to thinking inside the bun.
The Wall Street Journal, master of the obvious, is only now stating what we already know: people love themselves some bacon.  Pork belly prices are up 53% from last year. But my favorite part of the article is the fact that bacon demand coincides with an increased consumption of BLT sandwiches in the summer (if I was one to write "WTF," this would be where I would write it).  Thinking back, I don't recall summer being associated with BLTs, but apparently Taco Bell is hip to the game.  Let's see how it stacks, er, folds up against what the Journal claims to be summer's most popular sandwich:

1. The crunch of the toast, even though it doesn't get its name on the marquee, is one of the most important parts of the BLT.  The chalupa shell, limp from an extended bath in the fry grease, was a terrible proxy for the toast.
2. The lettuce and tomato were minutes away from being rancid.  Even the smoky flavor of the bacon couldn't mask the acrid taste.
3. Speaking of the bacon, it was diced so small that I could have snorted it.
4. The chicken was barely there, maybe a chunk or two, and not worth commenting on.
5. Another key ingredient to the BLT is the gloppy, oozes-out-the-side mayonnaise (a very good thing).  In its stead, Taco Bell substitutes "club sauce," a watery thin condiment that looks and tastes like whitewash.

I think there's a concurrent promotion happening with the cheesy gordita crunch.  If you're going to fall off the wagon, it's really the only thing worth ordering at Taco Bell.  If you don't believe me, ask the other 2,693 people that like it on Facebook.  Yes, the cheesy gordita crunch has more fans than me on Facebook.  Get liking people, and use your disposable income for better things than a bacon club chalupa.  Buen provecho

Monday, July 26, 2010

Why Did I Eat This?

The Doublicious is to the Double Down what Signs (and according to most people, the rest of the M. Night follow-ups) was to the Sixth Sense, but way worse.  Heading home from a party where I ate more than my fair share of slow cooked pork, home grown tomatoes, and self-cubed pepper jack cheese, there was no reason to subject myself to this, but the perfect storm of a drive-thru and a soundly sleeping baby begged a sharp left turn into the KFC house on City Ave, where the intoxicating aroma of the colonel's cologne (two words that make English extremely difficult for non-native speakers) was the lipstick on an awful pig of a sandwich.  Actually, to call this sandwich a pig is insulting to the pig, so let's just call it a failure.  The marketing materials indicate that the "Doublicious" is named for its sweet and savory tastes, but the only taste I got was crap (singlicious? singlawful?).  It had to have spent some time under the heat lamp.  Both breast and (artificially grill-marked sweet Hawaiian bread) bun were chokeworthy, and it didn't help matters that the "colonel's sauce" was little more than a squirt.  Even the bacon grease couldn't bring it back to life.  The meal is five bucks, which isn't a bad deal, but for the same price, you're better off ordering a couple drumsticks and a side order of headache-inducing mashed potatoes and gravy.  Buen provecho.

More Kentucky Fried Coverage:
KFC Can't Stop, Won't Stop - Phoodie.info
Double Down Follow-up Uses "Sweet Hawaiian Bread" - Huffington Post 
Double Down Showdown: KFC's New Doublicious - Serious Eats

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


For business school, I had my managers anonymously provide feedback about my leadership skills. One of the questions was:

"In order for this person to become a better leader, what would you like to see him do LESS of or stop doing altogether?"

These two answers were my favorites:

A: Pay attention to details so that client expectations are met.

A: Become more serious with his career goals

Thank you, managers, for (a) not paying attention to details yourself, and (b) telling me to follow a career path akin to Jeff Spicoli.  Buen Provecho.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Captains of Industry, Take Heed

What better way to give the middle finger to the upper class than to take the epitome of opulence and put it on a bun?  Whether or not this was the intent, PYT's latest Burger of the Week does just that, adding a few ounces to their always-perfectly-cooked patty, then topping it with truffled lobster and a creamy aioli. What the fuck indeed.  It worked on more levels than there might be at the summer home of Juan D. Rockefeller,* but the overarching success was its balance.  The flavor was neither too beefy nor too lobstery, and the texture of the ground beef commingled with the texture of the lobster like old country club friends over one too many old fashioneds.  The chunks of lobster stayed with the sandwich due in large part to a tycoon-sized helping of fresh aioli, which I thought was a great strategy to handle any dreaded lobster leak-out.  The fries, whose portion was also tycoon-sized, spent too much time in the salt mines for my taste, but I was able to cut the saltiness with a can of 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer.  At $14 for the burger, there are very few places where you can get more bang (and lobster) for the buck.  For all you early majority/late majority/laggard types that couldn't make it last week, you're in luck.  According to Tommy Up's twitter feed, it was so popular that he's keeping it on the menu, and since they're currently swimming in lobster, there's even the possibility of a lobster roll special.  Now count how many times I said "lobster" in this post and take a drink for each one.  Lobster.  Buen provecho.

*John D. Rockefeller's Mexican non-union equivalent, also a captain of industry.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

No Se Olvide: El Mejor Cocinero

Check out the Top Chef recaps on foobooz, coming at you all season from yours truly.  This week, we learn that some of the cheftestants are doing what sherpas call "sauce making."  Use your imagination.  Buen provecho.

Top Chef Episode 5: Angelo Cheats on Tamesha with a Duck - foobooz

My Friend's Friends are Cooler than Your Friends: Kirsten Henri

I'm definitely not as lucky as your typical toothless lottery winner, but I am rather fortunate when it comes to being in the right place at the right time.  In October of 2009, I shook hands with a dude named Jayson Tonkon, whom I would discover a few weeks later was in my fraternity after a string of "get outta' heres" and "no ways" led to the secret handshake (yes, I was in a fraternity; yes, I paid for my friends; and yes, there was a secret handshake. Commence judgment).  Since he lived a few doors down, we would start to bump into each other on the commuter rail, and as the "getting to know you" evolved, he mentioned casually that he was really good friends with Kirsten Henri, you know, the new food editor of Philly Mag?  I thoroughly enjoy being in the right place at the right time, and after a brief introduction, Kirsten agreed to meet for lunch to discuss roots, (w)riting, and rockstars. What follows is actually an email interview that was equal parts humbling and amusing.

FG: Firstly, congrats on your new gig at Philly Mag.  Great bunch of writers there.  How’s it going so far?

KH: It's going well. Print is so quaint and charming! We use paper and think about things for days at a time! It's fun.
FG: Now let’s ask some tough questions.  What’s the square root of 7?

KH: Please don't ask me math questions. It's painful for everyone involved.
FG: Speaking of roots, which one is your favorite? You can say ?uest Love if you want.  He’s everybody’s favorite root. 

KH: I do like ?uestlove. 

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Why Did I Eat This?

 Ladies and gentlemen, we now have a proxy for the unicornwich that is the McRib. Subway is now slanging a pulled pork sandwich that--when toasted and taken for a swim in way too many squeezes of the BBQ sauce bottle--is about the closest you'll get to a McRib sandwich until someone figures out that whole time travel thing.  While there is no substitute for the subtle crunch of the McRib's "bones," the flavors are spot on.  I topped mine with american cheese, red onion, banana peppers, jalapeños, and mayonnaise. The footlong is eight bucks and I can no longer justify spending more than five there, but at that price point, the six inch is a much less depressing alternative when you consider the fact that you just ordered a pulled pork sandwich from Subway.  Buen provecho.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Shameless Self Promotion

My (somewhat) incessant nagging and bleak outlook on life has yielded an opportunity to do Top Chef recaps for Foobooz (Thanks, Art). Please feign interest by making comments.  It keeps me that much further away from the operable window on the 34th floor.  Buen provecho.

An Irreverent Look at Top Chef 

Photo stolen from Bravo website

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Friends are Cooler Than Your Friends: Rachel Chamberlain

Our dear friend Rachel, whose lasagna was documented back in May of 2008, has finally decided to do what we've all been hoping she'd do for a while now.  The answer you're looking for is not "re-up on the pregnancy (although we're stoked that her and Dave are proliferating la raza cosmica), but rather "putting shit down on digital paper,"  so it is with great pleasure and high hopes that I introduce Blog Gras, an account of what happens when a Baltimorean marries a cowboy and decides to settle down in Salt Lake (there are also plans to involve food, home cooking or otherwise).  So far, we've seen a restaurant that looks like a dentist's office that houses a full bath, complete with a pair of socks drying on the shower door. We look forward to more such hilarity that can only come from reality.  Her acerbic wit cuts through life's bullshit like a jagged and rusty saw.  Plus, she's got the mouth of a sailor.  Welcome to the terrordome. Buen provecho.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Why Did I Eat This?

The Bread Bowl Pasta from Domino's had fallen so far down the to-do list that I almost forgot about it (that's a lie). While I didn't think about it every day, I was nervous that it would be taken off the menu before I could subject myself to such torture.  Unwilling to drive the 20 minutes to pick it up (the slogan's "Get the Door. It's Domino's," not "Get in the Car. It's Domino's."), I was certain that the Bread Bowl Pasta would leave this world before passing my lips.

Fortunately, we found ourselves directly in front of a Domino's on our way home from rug shopping, and it was just late enough that cooking dinner would have been too hectic.  Some curse timing; I champion its crucial role in the instant gratification of rationalization. It's one of the soupiest, hottest, hurts-to-breathe days of the year, and I'm eating penne alfredo out of a bread bowl.  What the hell is wrong with me?  To save yourself the calories (which you should), here's a list of why you shouldn't follow suit:

1. It's not that it tastes bad. It tastes bad for you.  I'm usually fine with this, but when every bite is followed by a stabbing pain in your chest, it takes the fun out of eating.
2. It's summer.
3. Their new crust--which shows up here in bread bowl form--is taken straight from the Pizza Hut playbook: saturated in grease.
4. It's the middle of summer.
5. The pasta was overcooked to the point of being gummy. I expected overcooked, but they went way overboard.

We all know that I'm stupid enough to try this again, but I'll probably (hopefully) wait until it's not 90 degrees out.  I don't recommend it, but it you must, please wait until winter to eat this.  Buen provecho.

Field Trip: Austin, TX

The traditional stag party has given way to opulent jet-setting. In an effort to maintain this new status quo (and to avoid a weekend of unsuccessfully pretending to be the dudes from the Hangover), Las Vegas lost the destination race to Austin, Texas, where opulence is offered at a steep discount.  I showed up with a hundred bucks in my wallet and went home with more than half of it (that's a bit of a lie, but not much).  Here's a list of what we shoved in our face when we weren't too busy knocking back cold ones:

Happy Hour at Hickory Street Bar & Grill: Chili cheese fries and onion rings. My hands were too greasy and cheesy to snap a picture of either, but both provided an excellent Tecate pairing.  The fries looked like they came from a potatoes the size of footballs, while the onion rings were probably the size of basketballs before being sliced.  Among six of us, these two apps plus fifteen beers was a jaw-dropping $40.  Turns out everything's bigger in Texas save for the check.

Dinner at Parkside: Thanks to a heads up from Tasting Table, we ordered nearly everything on this classic yet inventive menu. My personal favorite was the blond pate with strawberry relish (can anyone tell me what makes it blond?).  It tasted like cheetos (a great thing). Once again, food took priority over pictures, so you'll have to check out their website for the food porn.

Breakfast on the go from the Hideout: Waking up with an uncharacteristic burst of energy, I went for a jog (who goes jogging on a bachelor party?), which ended with me scooping up iced coffees and a dozen breakfast tacos.  This is a thing down here that I wish would be a thing everywhere.  Packed with chorizo, eggs, cheese, and refried beans, your hangover will thank you.

Lunch at the Salt Lick: Finally, some footage.  This place is as touristy as it gets, but the giant smoker piled high with assorted meats is truly a sight to behold.  Another example of how cheap things are down here, the all-you-can-eat offering is $18.95, and includes a heart attack's worth of baked beans, potato salad, pork ribs, brisket, and sausage. When you get full (which usually happens after one plate), the leftovers are shoved into a container for you to enjoy over the next few days.  Above is a video sampling of their beef rib, on special for $4.95 each.  It was a toothsome and greasy homage to Flinstonian times.  Something to try, at least for the photo opportunity.

Dinner at Manuel's: The afternoon-to-evening went thusly: I got the shit kicked out of me by a wave runner, the bats decided to stay under the bridge (supposedly thousands of them fly out at dusk to eat people bugs), and I got iced (yes, I am a not-so-secret fan of this douchebaggery). When we could no longer ignore hunger, the group consensus was good Tex-Mex.  Unfortunately, the concierge gave us a bum tip, and the trend of cheap and delicious eats was brought to a screeching halt.  My cousin Orlando has a theory about Mexican food's deliciousness being inversely proportional to price.  This meal further verified the negative correlation. The last thing we wanted was contrived Mexican food, but that's exactly what we got.  It was all brittle tortillas and watered down sauces, and the service was tortuga-slow, even though we were one of only three groups in the dining room.

It was a great trip from start to finish (except for the stupid bats and the stupid Manuel's).  I could have used more time and a bigger stomach, but that would mean me being jobless and fatter than I already am, so I'll just have to plan another trip down there.  Buen provecho.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


As I write this, an Indonesian and an Irishman are fighting about floor areas.  Sadly, there isn't a punchline to follow.  There's a serious language barrier that may have to be overcome with fisticuffs.  As I await the outcome and then keep it to myself, please enjoy the following links:

- Guess who's a featured luncher over on Midtown Lunch Philadelphia?  I'll give you a hint.  He just typed this.

- Phoodie (plumber) cracks the (crave) case of Where Is This Is Why You're Fat?

- If you happened to attend any events during the delicious amazingness that was Philly Beer Week, taking this quick survey could net you free tickets to next year's Opening Tap imbibery.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Friends are Cooler Than Your Friends: Jason Goodman and Jeremy Lovitt of Goods Restaurant

When the world ends (which might be soon), I can say for a fact that Jason Goodman and Jeremy Lovitt will be among the few to manage the daunting task of recreating civilization.  Their Mad Max approach to sustainability not only allows them to make lemonade out of lemons, but helps them find the right lemons to use.  Case in point, Goods--their recently soft-opened food concept in Williamsburg, Brooklyn--began as an empty lot and an abandoned trailer (that they tracked down in upstate NY).  Two years later, they've transformed the two into a kitchen, bar, and outdoor eating/drinking spot.  Some of the neater details: the fully custom kitchen is inside a 1946 Spartan, the outdoor flooring will be repurposed wood from Coney Island's boardwalk,and the menu--created by chef Alex McCrery--will feature beef sourced from Pat LaFrieda, hot dogs made with grass-fed beef, house made pickles, and beignets made to order; quite possibly the freshest donut you'll ever eat.  I went with a Goods burger and curly fries.  The loosely packed ground beef made for a surprisingly juicy burger for what I'm told is an 85/15 blend.  Topped with local cheddar, caramelized onions, and served on a potato roll, I made a mess of myself eating it, but it was too delicious to put down and bother with napkins.  And the curly fries.  It was amazing to see these on the menu, not only because hand cut fries aren't my favorite, but because I haven't had them in years, and they're really fucking good.  While I ate my face off, Jason took time out of his busy schedule to catch up with me about the project, about 3rd Ward, and plans for the future.  It's a bit long, but we hadn't caught up for while.  Regardless, it's an excellent opportunity to deconstruct the synapses of an artist who has launched himself, along with his business partner Jeremy, head first (and nuts on the table) into the role of being an entrepreneur, and a successful one at that.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why Did I Eat This?

 I've been burned by Dunkin' Donuts on numerous occasions (check the WhyDIET? archive, it's full of Dunkin' disappointment), which has lowered my near-zero expectations even further, which means there will be a huge upside if they ever manage to serve something worth eating for enjoyment and not just to break the fast.  I present to you said huge upside: Pancake Bites.  They are the answer to oft asked question*, "Is it okay to have mini-corn dogs for breakfast?"  Provided that you dip the shell in maple syrup and replace the cocktail wiener with sausage, the answer is a resounding yes.  And much like the donut hole, you can convince yourself that you're taking the healthy high road because, hey, it's just a few bites, not an entire donut/breakfast sandwich.  You can further rationalize using the price tag: $1.49 for a sack of 3.  So, dear Dunkin', thanks for not ruining my breakfast this morning.  For the rest of you, I highly recommend trying these as soon as possible. Buen provecho.

*Question may not actually be oft asked

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Why Did I Eat This?

I have no idea how they did it, but Burger King has managed to transform hot dog meat into something that resembles ribs, complete with a bone.  No mention of them on the consumer website (yet), but I tracked down a press release claiming that their ability to bring "authentic" bone-in ribs to market is due to "proprietary cooking technology."  So how does this cooking technology taste?  Imagine a hot dog marinated in liquid smoke, then burnt beyond recognition.  In other words, just like the turkey leg at Disneyworld, but somewhat easier to eat.  Not surprisingly, the mad scientists came real close to recreating the charcoal flavor, but it wasn't enough to mask the disappointing flavor of the rib meat.  With a hefty price tag of $8.20 for a value meal that includes a half-dozen ribs, you're better off ordering from your local Chinese fast food joint with the bulletproof glass and the lunch specials that you can get at any hour of the day.  Buen provecho.

Opening Tap: Complex Beers, One Word to Describe Them

Philly Beer Week, now in its third day of ten, kicked off the festivities this past Friday with Opening Tap, a veritable Eden for beer geeks and alcoholics alike.  Two hours of drinking the finest craft beer the region has to offer, crowded yet intimate, it's the kind of event that makes you loathe your day job.  I get paid to make graphs (which do not get you drunk); these guys get paid to make beer, and the good majority of them are really cool.  For example, Mitch from Yards probably should have punched me in the face after I told him he looked like Jake Gyllenhaal. Instead, he shook my hand and poured me another glass of their Polish smoked wheat beer (he told me what it was called, but I forget). It was, in my opinion, easily the best beer of the night.  No joke, it tasted like an Islay single malt (a very good thing).  If you couldn't make it this year, you should definitely mark your calendar for next year.  After the jump, some tasting notes on the weedy, pickly, and cardamom-y, in video form, complete with crappy audio.  Buen Provecho.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Why Yes, that IS a Hamburger Patty Sandwiched between Two Sandwiches

It's called the LOVE burger, which I am assuming is an acronym for "Life's Over Very Early." From top to bottom, a grilled cheese sandwich, special sauce, a medium rare patty, and another grilled cheese sandwich. I didn't bother with the lettuce leaf, slice of tomato, and onion.  While the patty was delicious, the "buns" were not. One was burnt, and both were straight up bland (Kraft singles are great for their melty-ness, but not much else).  On the side, I opted for jalapeño fries, which were nothing more than regular French fries tossed with fried jalapeños.  They would have been better executed had they been able to get the peppers to stick to the potatoes, but the flavor was great nonetheless.  If you've ever had jalapeño-flavored Dirty chips, Deli chips, or Kettle chips, imagine that flavor on a McDonald's French fry. Seemingly, we now live in an era of throwing ideas at the wall and using the power of prayer--or the more secular, buzz--to make them stick.  This one doesn't stick to the wall, but it will certainly provide a good base for Philly Beer Week's Opening Tap tonight.  Buen provecho.

Frog Burger is located in front of the Franklin Institute at 220 N. 20th St. Look for the big tent on the lawn next to the bi-plane sculpture.  In addition to the LOVE burger, they've got regular burgers, crab rolls, hot dogs, and fries.The LOVE burger, fries, and an Arnold Palmer set me back $16. More coverage and full menu here.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Lemonade out of Lemons: Pathmark's Lobster Special

Betting that the blowout sale was primarily a function of the Memorial Day mass exodus and not because they were poisonous, I scooped up three lobsters at $5.99 per pound and upped the fancy ante for Mrs. Gastro and the Gastro-in-laws this past weekend.  It was my first time grilling lobsters, which is somewhat labor intensive, and consequently requires more sobriety than usual at 4pm on a holiday Sunday.  I overcooked the claws (might be a good idea to snap them off before grilling), but the butter-basted tails were resplendent. The crowd agreed that it felt like being down the shore, even though we were nowhere near it.*  Four days later, there have been no complaints about getting sick, so the bet paid off, and I can now add grilled lobsters to my wheelhouse, although I'll probably wait until the next lobster fire sale to do it again. Buen provecho.

Grilled Lobster, adapted (mostly stolen) from Kim Knox Beckius
How ever many lobsters you want to cook (I made three 1-1 1/4# chickens)
3 tbsp butter
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp lemon zest
Granulated garlic, salt, and pepper to taste

Bring a stockpot full of salted water to boil. Drop the lobsters in, two at a time, and boil for 5-7 minutes. Remove from water and let cool.  Meanwhile, melt butter and combine with lemon juice, zest, and granulated garlic, salt, and pepper. When lobsters are no longer too hot to handle (nor too cold to hold), use a chef's knife to split the lobsters in half. The easiest way to do so is to stab between the eyes and then rotate the knife down and into the rest of the body. Rinse out the tomalley, pat the halves dry, and baste the tails with the lemon-garlic butter. Place the prepared halves on a heated grill, shell-side down, for another 8-10 minutes, or until meat is white and opaque. Serve with the rest of the lemon-garlic butter, grilled corn on the cob, and whatever else you fancy. We had potato salad and some ridiculous skillet macaroni and cheese. Save the shells to make stock, use the stock to make risotto, extend the fancy bender.

*Conversation may not have occurred

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Getting High on Beef at 500°

 As the burger trend wanes if favor of offal in spandex (hot dogs, gourmet or otherwise), what's left in its wake is nothing to mourn.  Philly now has a burger for everyone, even Bobby Flay fans.  But if you're like me, and Bobby Flay's steely blue eyes and mascara-stained lashes make you want to cry tears of rage, you're much better off forgoing the food emperor's palace for anywhere else.  Today's "anywhere else" took me to 500°, the burger joint that Burgatory calls "a champagne burger on a beer budget."  The verdict?  Sorry to say, but this one's got PYT beat, which is huge for me considering that their Fat Boy Monster topped my 2009 list of "The Best Shit I Ate All Year."  Griddled enough to help you get over the moral dilemma of being a meat eater (if that's an issue for you), their medium rare still drips with blood-tinged juices to remind you that you're at the top of the food chain.  The patty’s cross section fades from a griddled edge to a deep red center, a color gradient that looks as beautiful as it tastes.  Thanks to the cheese, the ribbon of bacon stays with the sandwich instead of prematurely jumping ship, and not only do the fresh jalapeños provide a crunchy contrast to this pillow of perfection, their spice reminds you that this world is cruel.  Served with truffle fries on the side, I could eat 499 more.  Buen provecho.

500° is located on 15th and Sansom Sts in Center City.  I got their version of an extra value meal for $10.80.  The burgers alone are closer to the 5 to 6 buck range, which is a stellar value. You can follow them on Twitter @500_Degrees.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why Did I Eat This?

Thanks to Foobooz, I got wind that the Philly Soft Pretzel Factory was giving away free cheesesteak pretzels today.  After my first bite, I realized why.  It was nothing more than a glorified hot pocket.  The meat inside was a grade shy of Taco Bell standards, and the "cheese" part of "cheesesteak" was neither present nor accounted for.  The other realization I had was that while seemingly good on paper, a pretzel--especially a mass produced one--is the wrong vessel for delivering shreds of meat that are too good for the hot dog casing, but not quite good enough for fajitas.  This meat requires the cloudlike structure of an Italian roll, not the waxy and dense just-barely-cooked doughiness of a pretzel.  I appreciate the effort, but I think the pretzel should remain a lone wolf.  A few grains of salt and a streak of spicy mustard is all he needs.  As Will Smif (quoting someone else) once said, "If it ain't broke then don't try to fix it."  Buen provecho.

 Philly Soft Pretzel Factory is all over the damn place.  After striking out at the location on 19th and Chestnut, I went to one on 15th and Sansom.  On a regular day (unless they pull the idea after failing in test markets), you can get a cheesesteak pretzel for $3.50.  Oh yeah, and the first person to put a pretzel bahn mi on their menu will get a free punch in the face from me.  Leave the damn pretzels alone, people.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Why Did I Eat This?

I'm not a candy blogger (nor am I a shrimp blogger), but a buddy of mine threw out a challenge to review what could have potentially been a match made in heaven, Pretzel M&M's (if you think I'm improperly using that apostrophe, look at the packaging). Unfortunately, Mars came up short.  While the idea of salty and sweet is as old as last night's Lost characters, a ball bearing-sized pretzel is just too small to strike the appropriate balance, and the attempt to give it any diameter whatsoever left little room for chocolate, especially after figuring in the thin candy shell.  The sum was way less than the parts.  Furthermore, there couldn't have been more than 10-12 candies in the package, so Josh, if you're reading this, I'd like the dollar back that I wasted trying these.  Buen provecho.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Magnificent Mexican Mush

While the rest of the world is busy being tasered and/or trying to blow up Times Square (dumbasses), I'm using the Mexican holiday that only Americans celebrate as an excuse for some home cooking in front of the camera. Please enjoy this simple recipe for the best guacamole you will ever taste. What's that you say? Guacamole on Cinco de Mayo? Wow, that's original! Buen provecho.

Seriously, the Best Guacamole You Will Ever Taste
2 avocados, cubed
1/4 medium onion, diced
1/4 medium tomato, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, diced
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste
Cilantro, if you don't think it tastes like soap

Dump all ingredients in a bowl, mash and stir with a fork using whatever technique you think looks cool.  Drink a shot of tequila, then serve with your choice of tortilla chips (except the baked ones; they suck).

Friday, April 30, 2010

Field Trip: Local West

Dear New York friends, I'm sorry I didn't look every last one of you up when I was there the other day.  I was too busy drinking away the pain of the realization that the douchebags surrounding me at Local West probably make more money than I do.  Submitted for your consideration, Emil Corsillo from Hickoree's shows us the proper way to order a drink there.

And as a follow-up, Mr. Corsillo explains what would happen in a world where swift justice is the norm. Unless you have a sponsor (Pete Bisso's a good choice, and he's not much of a douche), you're better off brown bagging a 40 by the pier. And yes, I'm thirty-one years old. Buen provecho.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Field Trip: McCrady's, Charleston, SC

There is a distinct possibility that Sean Brock, executive chef of McCrady's in Charleston, SC, may have stumbled into a time machine fashioned by Eli Whitney somewhere around the turn of the century.  Better yet (and capitalizing on recent media trends), perhaps he is a vampire.  That might explain the fact that he never sleeps, which I am guessing there isn't much time to do so as he tackles the dual role of executive chef and gentleman farmer.  Or quite simply, farm-to-table was the norm for his rural upbringing.  Whatever the case may be, he is both an old soul and an innovator.  In the soft-spoken monologue above, he exudes passion for food, stresses the importance of creating a sense of place, and outlines some of his efforts to undo more than a century of agribusiness food fuck-ups.

Upstairs, where I drank way too many bourbon and cola cocktails, I got the pulse on the Charleston wedding scene from Kiah Stone, who was also pivotal in getting me an audience with Mr. Brock (and more importantly, rattling off his many accolades and food philosophy before I sat with him).

Prior to the interview phase of the evening, I ate what could have easily been my last meal. Passed h'ors d'oeuvres included fried green tomatoes--a single bite of brittle cornmeal surrounding tart and juicy flesh--and crab cakes that posessed a subtle crunch and delicate meatiness (that's a good thing).

As an amuse, a perfectly cooked scallop presented with oyster mushrooms (I think) and asparagus (maybe a bit more than an amuse).

For the first course, a charred marshmallow slowly melted into a rustically textured sweet potato soup.

The main course was a standard filet mignon that was anything but. It was perfectly executed, and the flavor of the beef needed little more than salt and pepper.

For dessert, a duo of chocolate mousse cake and something that everyone was calling, "oh my god, did you try the banana cake?" It was perfection from start to finish, and I'll be shocked if Mr. Brock doesn't take home the Beard award in the coming weeks. Given the time and resource, I would go back to Charleston just to eat here. If your travels take you to the dirty south, I recommend you do the same. Buen provecho.

McCrady's is located at 2 Unity Alley in Charleston, SC. All pertinent info regarding reservations, etc. can be found on their website  Some tooling around on the internet helped me locate Sean Brock's blog as well. Much props to both Kiah Stone and Sean Brock for taking the time to talk to me.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Why Did I Eat This?

If cleanliness is godliness, then what is timeliness?  Beats the shit out of me, because I'm overdue in trying the Double Down.  A week late, but certainly not $7.54 short, which appears to be the going rate for heart disease.  That's for the meal, which comes with potato wedges and a soda.  The sandwich itself is $5.38, enough to make the "lady" who ordered behind me taunt the cashier with threats of "It better be good."  If it were any cheaper, I'd be asking myself more than "Why did I eat this?"  Of course, I do my best to eat first and ask questions later, but by the time I'm done eating, I'd rather take a nap, so most questions go out to pasture.  Regarding WhyDIET? however, the answer lies of course in my own stupid curiosity, but also some goading from the in-laws, one of whom even told me I had fans (note to the rest of you readers: tell me my fans want me to do it, and I may even take the milk bet (again)).  Initial reviews of "it's too greasy" and "it's too spicy" (biter Sam Sifton, Hamburger Calculus, and Mikey Il on Unbreaded) lowered my expectations so far that I was more scared than excited to try it, but the franken-wich that I unboxed was neither.  In fact, it was actually kind of dry.  The teaspoon of Colonel's sauce didn't help matters, nor did the one square inch of bacon that was blanketed by a congealed slice of processed American cheese product.  And much like the rest of KFC's menu, the impending headache grew more intense with each bite as the novelty was quickly replaced with depression.  This was no triumph.  I suppose it's like seeing the musical Cats, or so I've heard. 

Slightly unhealthier than the sandwich was the venue I chose (for its proximity to my office), the food court in the Gallery mall in Philadelphia.  Even in the absence of flash mobs, there's no guarantee you won't get stabbed, which is a shame, because it's got an all-star cast of fast food, including a Golden Krust.  Wherever your local KFC might be (if you have a "local KFC," chances are you've eaten one of these per day since their inception), it wouldn't do all that much harm to try it, if for nothing else than to say you did.  You'll feel slightly dirty afterward, but that feeling fades, especially after a few gin & tonics.  Buen provecho.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Friends are Cooler Than Your Friends: Delicatessen's Michael Spector

Michael Spector surveys his deli and sighs.  "My mother and grandmother used to bring me to places like this for Saturday lunches, usually after a bit of shopping."  This is something I know absolutely nothing about, but it's one of those memories that even a lobotomy couldn't erase.  So vivid, and so formative.  Granted, I didn't meet my first Jew until high school, so it's not like I would know about such things.  But it's a jump-off point, an homage to the old school with a progressive bent, call it Deli 2.0.  Being the diplomat he is, Spector's ultimate goal is to have a deli rooted in tradition that also offers something for everyone.  Judging by the extensive menu (thanks, Meal Ticket), he's off to a great start.  There are traditional offerings such as matzo ball soup and house-smoked pastrami, as well as offerings such as Bubby's Kitchen Sink Pho (rice noodles in matzo ball soup with assorted meats and whatever else is lying around in the kitchen) and a Tuxedo Dog (cheese-stuffed and bacon-wrapped Hebrew National).  Another goal of Spector's is to have fun, and to do so, Delicatessen is currently running a sandwich naming contest on their Facebook page.  Leave your idea on the fan page, and whoever gets the most comments will be able to eat their creation for free the entire month of May.  Next month, they are running a funniest Bar/Bat Mitzvah photo contest.  Clearly, nobody is taking themselves too seriously here (that's a good thing).

So how's the food?  I ordered "Mom Mom's Tuna Fish Salad Melt" and Pastrami Waffle Fries, more than enough for even the likes of me.  The tuna melt was served open-faced on challa bread, with muenster cheese and sliced tomato.  Latkes were served on the side, one of many items you can order as an accompaniment.  The tuna salad was excellently balanced.  It was neither gloppy nor dry, and there was enough celery to add a subtle crunch without overstepping its boundaries.  The latkes were thin and crisp, the grease held in suspension so you got the flavor without the sogginess.  The pastrami waffle fries--well, let's just say that I'm not too proud of how I handled myself after the first bite.  A decadent mess of potatoes, swiss cheese, russian dressing, cole slaw, and pastrami, I couldn't put my fork down.  The pastrami was peppery and chewy and meaty, and I know this may sound disgusting, but it was so good that I might not floss for a few days in the hopes that some of it sneaks out from in between my teeth.  Failing, that, I'll just have to return, and soon.  For drinks, Delicatessen offers micro-brewed sodas from Multi-Flow, a local brand of fizz sweetened with real cane sugar, the requisite Dr. Brown's sodas, and La Colombe coffee.

Spector still considers Delicatessen very much a work in progress.  Although he's been in the game for a number of years, this is his first role as proprietor. He says that right now, there is more that he doesn't know than what he does.  But he's an eager student, constantly looking for ways to improve product and service.  Personally, I think Delicatessen is off to a great start, and not just because I ate for free because we are old friends.  Being there during the lunch rush, I watched a cohesive kitchen and waitstaff expertly handle a full house, including a stroller brigade and an old lady with too much money and time on her hands.  My only recommendation besides getting there as soon as you can?  Go hungry.  Very hungry.  Buen provecho.

Delicatessen is located at 703 Chestnut St. in Philadelphia.  They are open M-F from 8am to 4pm, and Sa-Su from 9am-4pm.  For takeout, call 215-923-4560.  I ate for free, but you can get nice and full for around $12-$15 plus tip. More photos here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Why Did I Eat This?

While the rest of the world clogs the arteries of the press (here's Unbreaded's take) with tales of clogging their own arteries with KFC's Evel Knievel of a "sandwich," I find myself at Dunkin' Donuts eating a somewhat (but not by much) healthier gimmick, the Bagel Twist.  Currently offered at 3 for $3, what you see above is the cheddar cheese offering in actual and ad form (in the top image, you can see that I asked for mine to be stepped on.  The cashier happily obliged).  You can also get cinnamon raisin, and according to the Dunkin' website, select markets will have jalapeño cheddar and french toast offerings. I will be sampling none of these.  The takeaway here is that a shitty bagel is still a shitty bagel, no matter the shape.  Even with the cheddar cheese product baked into the top, it's hard to get past the rubbery staleness that is the Dunkin' bagel.  They should really stick to donuts.  Buen provecho.

Sam Sifton is a Biter

I know it's a free country and all, and I suppose that it's my own fault for lack of timeliness, but this post by Sam Sifton on the NY Times Diner's Journal blog sounds a lot like "Why Did I Eat This?"  To which I say, in Beat Street parlance, "You're a biter."  Do yourself a favor and stick to the high brow dining in obscurity for the benefit of those with an expense account. I'll scoop the readers on the deadly empty calories.  Otherwise, a breakdance battle will ensue, and I guarantee that you will get burned.  This is not a threat, it's a promise.  Buen provecho.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pillow Status: Dining On the Slept On

I suppose it's ramen's and pho's fault that Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House in Philly's Chinatown has reached pillow status, but it's a boon for the likes of us who have limited time for lunching.  Shoehorned into a row of storefronts slanging shrinkwrapped rubber products and dehydrated foodstuffs of questionable USDA status, you might miss it if you blink.  Once inside, you're not greeted by much--a few restaurant depot tables and chairs, but looking back into the open kitchen is a sight to behold.  Just beyond the cash register, you'll see a Chinese dude tossing about an enormous blob of dough that will eventually become your noodles.  Served with your choice of protein in a bowl of broth that tastes like has been simmering since before I was born, the noodles have a just-made-this-second gummy texture (a very good thing).  You can also get them on a plate topped with either peanut sauce or "pork soy sauce," a gingery and salty meat sauce that might just be the Chinese version of bolognese.  It was exactly what I wanted to eat and I had no idea until the first bite.  All in all, a stellar find.  Before comfort food season gives way to lighter fare, it would be in your best interest to forgo the pho and the ramen to give Nan Zhou a whirl.  And if you're not in the mood for soup, just order the noodles straight up.  You won't regret it.  Buen provecho.

Nan Zhou is located at 927 Race St in Philly's Chinatown. It's a tiny hole in the wall, so be careful not to stumble into what might be an opium den behind the wrong door (or try your luck). I got a huge plate of noodles for $6 including tip.

Friday, April 02, 2010

How Much Is That Birdie in the Window?

You learn something new every day, but on the days you have lunch with Ethan, you want to make sure you pay attention.  Case in point: The best English translation for the scallion-tattooed chicken hanging in the windows of many a Chinatown restaurant is "smoothly and fragrant" chicken. Sounds fuckin' weird, but it's the best thing on the menu. The lacquered one hanging right next to it is called soy chicken (not to be confused with the spongy alt-meat reserved for those who want chicken flavor without the moral dilemma), and it's equally delicious. At five bucks a pop, even if the translation is offputting, it's definitely worth the gamble. Buen provecho.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Green Chile: Worth the Food Miles

A recent article posted in the Atlantic's food section gives a nod to Mormon cuisine, an ironically sacreligious mess of processed and highly caloric foods laid atop a jiggly foundation of Jell-O (I suppose procreating at a methamphetamine-addicted rabbit's pace leaves little time for food).  Growing up there as a triple minority (poor, Messican, and Catholic), I was not privy to many of the staples mentioned in the article (although I do reserve a special place in my heart for Cool Whip).  Had I been, I'd probably be a lot fatter than I am now.  Instead, every year just before school began, I was shuffled into the backseat of a car at 4am for a no-stops-allowed-just-pee-in-this-cup drive to New Mexico to pick up enough beans and green chile to last us the whole year.  Bland was not an option in the Gastro household, and neither was anything from a can.*

Years later, there's very little I miss about Salt Lake save for my folks (and their delicious Navajo tacos), and it was their own green chile addiction that has resulted in them now being forced to stuff their suitcases with it every time they visit (not that my father really needs much room for the only things he packs, a ratty Penn sweatshirt and a threadbare t-shirt he's worn since I was 10).  Only now--when I'm even further away from the land of enchantment--do I appreciate my folks' effort of a 13-hour drive and a marathon week of roasting burlap sackfuls of green chile. I suppose being an outsider did have its perks.

On its own, roasted green chile adds a unique flavor and texture that opens your sinuses without making your eyes water.  In a stew prepared with chunks of pork, tomatoes, garlic, and onions, it will warm your soul's soul.  Recently, I had the chance to spread the gospel of green chile to Marc Sanders of Burgatory.  We topped his signature burger and homebaked buns with the stuff, and the results were both mindblowing and tongue-numbing.  Paired with a helping of sweet potato home fries and a few pale ales, it made for a great Sunday afternoon.  If you're ever in New Mexico, make sure to order green chile on everything, and not just because you can.  If you're out here on the east coast, drop me a line, and I might be willing to share some of my stash with you.  Buen provecho.

*Full Disclosure: After my folks opened a restaurant, there was little time for home cooking, so there was a time when I did eat a lot of fast food/processed food/canned food, the same crap I continue to eat to this day.  They still managed to make the trip each year, but I figured it should be known that home cooking was not exactly the norm during my teen years.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Or, Thank Gaga It's Friday And Honest Tom's Taco Truck Is In Center City. If you think that's a mouthful, wait 'til you get a load of the tacos themselves. Typically reserved for Dragons, Quakers, and the staff that cater to those punk kids in West Philadelphia, Honest Tom's is using the spring break hiatus to bring the truth to Center City. Foobooz says that the truck says (not the actual truck, because talking trucks only exist in the land of make believe) there's a possibility of coming to Center City every Friday and that location suggestions are welcome.  I would be perfectly happy if they stayed put at 18th and Vine, where they are right now, serving up delicately cooked fish tacos topped with a pineapple salsa.  And if you need something to wash them down, they've got cold brewed Stumptown iced coffee by the jugful.  An infinitely better choice than the shrimp taco disaster of last week.  Buen provecho.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Why Did I Eat This?

The Butterfly Effect was a really stupid movie. On the contrary, the concept of one event being able to change the outcome of your situation is fascinating. Case in point, the haircut lady I normally go to quit/was fired from the place in Suburban Station, so instead of switching up my look from a fat Justin Bieber to something a little more grown up/professional, the time spent doing so was immediately reallocated to tracking down Taco Bell's latest offering, the Pacific Shrimp taco. Suspending all better judgment in the name of "Why Did I Eat This?", here's a rundown of what surprisingly didn't suck as much as I thought it would (but still sucked pretty bad):

1. The shrimp, which I imagine (hope) comes pre-cooked, were not texturally offputting, and they had a decent kick to them.
2. The sauce, a thinned out mayonnaise with flecks of dehydrated herbs, was bland, and most of it leaked out after a few bites.
3. Three bucks for one taco makes me feel better about the quality of the shrimp, but it also makes me feel stupid for spending three bucks on a single item at Taco Bell.
4. The rest of the composition was standard issue yellowish brown lettuce, mealy tomatoes, and a damaged tortilla to hold it all together.
5.  I didn't eat the thing too long ago, so the possibility of getting really sick from eating shellfish at Taco Bell is still very real and very frightening.

As the impending doom digests, I leave you with this: if you must partake in the unholy union that is seafood and fast food, do yourself a favor and stick with a Filet-o-Fish.  Buen provecho.