Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Worst Shit I Ate All Year

Wow.  What a deplorable showing in the blog post department this year.  I won't make excuses (twitter), but I will agree with Che Gruyere's father Jim that "Having two kids is like having three."  Better words have never been spoken.  Still, judging by my waistline and the fact that I currently fit into only two of the twelve pairs of pants in my closet, I must have eaten some pretty bad shit in 2011.  It's a shame that much of it went undocumented, but it makes it easy to put together a Top 10.  Better yet, here's a Top 5, because I barely made it past that number in total.  Buen provecho.

5. Manhattan Burger, Tokyo Airport McDonald's: This went undocumented on Fidel, but I did put a video on YouTube. Happy to be alive after a massive earthquake, I unhappily scarfed this sandwich down while the aftershocks continued to taunt my own insignificance.
4. BK Minis, Burger King: These sliders should be knocked out of the park, couldn't get past the catcher, or any other baseball analogy apropos for saying that we'd be happier without ever knowing they existed.
3. Big 'n' Toasty Breakfast Sandwich, Dunkin' Donuts: An annual offender, Dunkin' Donuts sold me on the idea of a fast food fried egg.  It was a lie bigger than the moon landing and the creation story combined.
2. Durian Chips: Almost missing its 2011 eligibility, it was a Christmas miracle that I could stomach this.  The dehydrated version of this foul fruit has all the fart-tastic qualities of the fresh version.
1. Ghost Pepper Steak, Jake's Sandwich Board: This was actually pretty good, but the ensuing havoc it wreaked on my insides was really really bad.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Blogroll Addition: Kyle Gibson Takes Wicked Good Photos

Jason once told me about the raisin esters in Victory Storm King

Recently added to the sidebar is photographer Kyle Gibson at This one here is of professional beer judge/homebrewer/amateur soccer player/salon owner/beer program coordinator/dude that looks a bit like a young George Michael or maybe Rey Mysterio Jr. if you look real quick—and good buddy Jason McLaughlin.  Kyle also counts anthropology, music, and surviving a Ph.D's worth of time in Utah among his many talents.  Since you're probably doing less than I am at work right now (it's my lunch hour, what's your excuse?), why not take a moment to check out some more of his great photography and copy?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why Did I Eat This? Revisited: Durian Chips

Remember when I tried Southeast Asia's king of fruits alongside two comrades who squared off in a "Who Can Eat More Durian" challenge?  Well, those same two pals of mine went to Asia this past year and returned with a special Christmas gift for me: durian chips (I would have preferred a lump of coal).  Not being one to let food defeat me, I immediately opened the bag to try one, completely disregarding the fact that an entire pot luck of brunch items could resurface in the middle of my cousin's Christmas Eve party.  Check out the video above to see who wins between me and the durian.  Buen provecho.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hey Philly, Wanna Open a Restaurant?

3rd Ward, a hub for all things creative, recently announced that they're headed down the turnpike to open a location here in Philly, and now they are looking to for somebody to keep their community of artists and makers fed. Because they walk the talk of community, they are conducting somewhat of an open casting call for the restaurant space. If you're vision aligns with theirs, I strongly urge you to check out the details in the RFP recently released on their website. There's an opportunity to get up to $80k in capital, and the process seems a lot easier than a month's worth of Quickfires and sleeping in bunk beds.  Plus, you get to work with a solid group of folks that will be a welcome addition to Philadelphia's already amazing artist community.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Biter Alert: Infidel Gastro

Look at that asshole face.  I'd like to knock that sandwich out of his hand and kick him in the chest.

This is Matt Basile, some random ass canuck who is using my name for some sandwich making enterprise that probably sucks butt.  I've currently been harassing him on twitter, but I'm tempted to make the 8-hour trip to Toronto to eat one of sandwiches, give it a horrible review, and then settle this thing one of the only two ways I know how: kumite or dance battle.

Don't get me wrong, a poutine and bacon sandwich sounds intriguing, but hasn't something like that been done before, like a year ago (RIP Adsum)?  Whatever. Good for him for following his dreams.  Bad for him for not doing better name research, and worse, being a biter.  Mr. Basile, I urge you to stop using my name, lest your dream turn into a nightmare.

P.S. I hope you get diarrhea.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Worst $40.83 (Plus Tip) I Ever Spent

Philadelphians, feel free to chase me out of town with torches and pitchforks in hand after saying this, but I am disappointed with Chickie's & Pete's.  Don't get me wrong, a Big Gulp-sized order of fries sprinkled with a sneezeable (yes sneezeable, not sizeable) amount of Old Bay seasoning and served with American cheese sauce just seconds away from congealing into an undippable globule is great when you're watching one of our local teams break your heart.  But remove that context (along with the gallons of light beer), replace it with one screaming infant and an anomaly of a toddler who prefers vegetables instead of chicken fingers and fries (how the hell did that happen?), and you're left with food that is crappy at best.  It may have been voted the "Best Sports Bar in North America" by ESPN, and I may still want to drive home drunk from there after a long Sunday of football watching, but since I'm supposed to be writing about food, here's a quick breakdown of the crap we ate last night:

1) Crab Fries: They're just too damn thin and flimsy, especially when the cheese sauce hardens.  Furthermore, it's kind of hard to eat them when you're holding a toddler.  My sincerest apologies to my son for the Old Bay fingerprints on the onesie.
2) Chickie's Cutlets: Standard frozen and boxed chicken fingers.  How they can get away with calling them "cutlets" is beyond me.
3) Signature Salad: Bagged romaine topped with Old Bay croutons and crab fries.  A real pile of shit.
4) Cheeseburger: Pre-formed patty, terrible burger-to-bun ratio, no toppings.
5) This last one's not about food.  I just thought I would mention that I was wearing sweats when this all went down.

You may be thinking, "Jackass, you're supposed to get the seafood when you're there," or you may have just stopped reading.  If you are still reading, it's obvious from the above list that much of the food at Chickie's & Pete's is pre-made and at the ready to get unsuspecting families like mine in and out the door and/or pump out food quickly to keep the drunks at bay.  Either way, not a great family or food destination, so save it for a night out with the boys, or leave the kids in the car.  Buen provecho.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Federal Freakin' Donuts is Worth the Early Long Lunch

I'm late to the party, but it's nowhere near finished.  In its third week of being open, the birds at Federal Donuts continue to fly out the door.  I showed up at 11:50 A.M.—ten minutes before chicken service is supposed to start—and I was already order number 35 and 36.  When I walked in, a small crowd leisurely waited for their chicken, each of us holding our golden post-it notes.  The good part about the wait is that you can have a coffee and a donut for an appetizer; the bad part is that you run the risk of spoiling your appetite.  This actually isn't a worry for a fat ass like me, but it's something to think about if you're one of those people who actually listens to their stomach.

Starting with a nutella-tehina-pomegranate donut and an iced coffee, it was immediately evident why the closing time on their website is listed as "'til it's gone."  The sugary sponge studded with sesame seeds begins with the heart smart tartness of pomegranate and ends with the richness of the chocolate-hazelnut spread I stole from Pat Keller's pantry in high school because it was so good.  Still waiting and still calm (because you're guaranteed a couple orders of chicken), the POS crashed, and this is where things got slightly hairy.  I had intended on using a debit card for my orders of harissa and chile-garlic chicken, but without modern technology, I was fucked.  Thankfully—and keep this in mind if you wind up in the same situation—there was an ATM at the beer distributor on Washington Avenue, a few short blocks away.  Clocking what was probably the fastest 1/4 mile I've ever ran, I made it back, and before even taking a bite of the chicken, this is where the place went from good to great.  Because of the computer turmoil (they will one day turn on us, as evidenced by this mishap), the staff was extremely apologetic, comping my coffee and throwing a couple donuts into my takeout bag.  Even if I made it all the way back to my office and the chicken sucked, this kind of service would make it worth returning again and again.  But that's not how the rest of my day transpired.  It was a lot more like this:

Tooth-chippingly crispy (a very good thing), spicy, and cooked flawlessly, I can't wait to have it again.  Buen provecho.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

First the McRib and Now Top Chef? I Love This Time of Year

Artist's interpretation of Colicchio's first elimination
For those of you still reading this poorly maintained excuse for a blog, we have kicked off Top Chef Season 9 on on Foobooz, and you can find my Episode 1 recap here.  The best part about writing for an online publication?  You can say shit more times than Jesse Pinkman does on Breaking Bad.  Looking forward to another great season of Colicchio-induced tears and drunken Padma slurs.  I hope you are, too.  Buen provecho.

Monday, October 17, 2011

So What Did You Do With Your Peck of Apples?

Although I may lack the scalp sheen and creepiness of the Sweet Genius guy, it turns out I'm a bit of a sweet genius myself.  How so, you ask?  Well, I just used most of the apples the Gastros picked to make a pie from scratch for the first time.  Since I nailed it, I'm gonna go ahead and hoist that title belt above my head while you guys enjoy the first installment of "Straight Guy Stuff."  Fabulous Baker Bros, you too can harness the power of the pastry, and if you do it while wearing a backwards hat and sports team apparel, nobody will accuse you of being a dandy.  Buen provecho.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Am an International Rap Superstar

I'm definitely late to the party on this one, but I just discovered that Eater has spent the past two years interviewing bands in a recurring post called Sound Cheque. Typically–and I'm only judging from the headlines and photos–the bands are like, "Tacos rule but there's not much time to eat on the road and my hair only looks like I don't shower and blah, blah, blah."  Pretty cool stuff, right?  Well, I decided to take the concept in a new direction. Instead of interviewing other people who make music, I made some music of my own, and the music is about food, specifically, falafel. From a box.  Part freestyle, part written, all talent, I present to you, "The Falafel Sessions."  Buen provecho.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

R.I.P. Joey Vento

Foobooz reports that Joey Vento, founder of Geno's Steaks in South Philly, died last night of a massive heart attack at 71 years young.  Mr. Vento gained notoriety as a racist back in 2007 by demanding that his customers order in English.  All politics and -isms aside, however, I tip my jar of whiz to Mr. Vento. I hope the pearly gates are neon-clad and wide open for you.  Buen provecho.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Why Did I Eat This?

By now, you've probably seen the latest Burger King commercial advertising their version of the slider, the BK Mini.  If you haven't, it's basically a montage of people stealing other people's food, the food being a miniature hamburger or chicken sandwich.  Burger King's thought process was probably, "These things taste so good that you'll want to steal them."  Philosophically, however, it is proof once again that humans are dicks.  Alas, marketing makes me curious, and a rushed lunch the other day presented the perfect opportunity excuse for me to see whether or not these sliders were theft-worthy.

At $4.99, the value meal includes a 4-pack of the Minis.  I wanted two chicken and two beef, but you can't mix and match, so I opted for beef.  When I got the box, which was about the size of a McDonald's Big Breakfast container, I realized why.  The meat and buns are attached in fours and you need to rip them apart.  You could probably leave the whole thing intact, but then you would just be eating an enormous burger.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but when you're stuffed in the driver's seat of a parked car blasting both the AC and XM's Hair Nation channel, you don't really need the extra attention.

And how did they taste? Definitely not theft-worthy.  Without the extra shit that typically goes on a Whopper (the Minis are just ketchup, pickles, and cheese if you want it) you get the standard BK artificially flavored flame-broiled taste, but not much more.  I also caught a bad batch of fries, making the already crappy BK fries that much worse.  I'll probably go back for the chicken Minis, but in the meantime, I'll get my slider fix at White Castle.  Buen provecho.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Playing Catch-Up: Ramen in Tokyo

Less than 24 hours before the earth underneath Japan decided to burp, fart, and sneeze at the same time, I had the opportunity to slurp down what was easily the best bowl of ramen I have ever had.  Behold, the Shinjuku Ramenologues.  Buen provecho.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Free Wiener Wares! (My First Ever Giveaway)

Long before there were food trucks bedazzled with bottle caps, there was the singular gas-powered mobile mecca that spread the good word of wieners, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.  Currently on the road, it will be making a brief stop in Center City (15th and Market) next Wednesday, July 20, where local artist/hot dog hot shot Hawk Krall will be serving up an assortment of franken-franks of his own creation starting at 11:30 A.M.  In conjunction with this, I'm offering my readers the opportunity to win a bag of goodies that includes:
  • T-shirts
  • Coupons for Oscar Mayer Selects
  • Mini Grill
  • Apron
  • Grilling Accessories
  • Wiener Whistle
To select a winner, I'm going to try a little trivia (please answer in the comments).  The first person that can tell me both the names of the super troopers that pulled the Wienermobile over AND the name of the Texas town where it happened wins.  So get commenting already. Your wiener whistle awaits.

Update: With the first and only response (which means nobody's reading this goddamn thing anymore), Brooklyn-before-Brooklyn-was-cool resident Matthew Imberman takes home the grand prize.  Congratulations!

Friday, July 08, 2011

The Second Annual Pathmark Lobster Special Home Cooking Event

I hate fireworks.  I know that may knock me down a few degrees on the bromometer, but sudden loud noises and the potential for being someone with an awkward handshake after a short fuse mishap keeps me as far away from the rocket's red glare as possible.  So, I've begun a new 4th of July tradition, cooking lobsters.  Last year, I tried my hand at grilling them, and although successful, I wasn't too impressed at the way they turned out.  This year, we are also contending with a very curious and very needy two-year old, so we needed to take the shells out of the equation.  Enter the lobster roll.  Boil and shuck the lobsters the night before, and defer the fruits of your labor until lunchtime the next day.  Mine was a simple preparation, a spoonful of mayonnaise for roughly a pound of meat, a squeeze of lemon, and some salt and pepper.  Not being able to find New England style split-top buns (the ones that look like a piece of Wonder bread folded in half), I opted for Martin's potato rolls, which were buttered and griddled to give them some reinforcement.  Served with corn on the cob, the lobster roll beats the shit out of donning a bib and fighting with your food while being judged by a full dining room.  Buen provecho.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Failure Sounds Like the Crunch of a Lightly Fried Tortilla

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Let us all remind ourselves of the definition of insanity: doing the same goddamn thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  Without getting my head checked, my mental illness and yen for defeat was confrimed as I undertook the Drinker's Taco Challenge for a second time, thinking hard shells and chicken would have been much easier to choke down than the previous choice of soft shells filled with beans.  After the inevitable failure, however, I now realize that no matter how you take your tacos, this is a sucker's bet.  Oh well.  At least I'm a handsome sucker.  Buen provecho.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Why Did I Eat This? Shanghai Edition

In Shanghai, the Colonel's face is literally everywhere. Peppered in between wet markets and high end retail stores, the unmistakable smell of fried chicken even cuts through the malodorous fog of the diesel fueling the country's endless growth spurt.  Typically, "Why Did I Eat This?" is a result of marketing, but I had a different reason this time around.  I read that Yum! Brands—the fast food behemoth whose weapons in the war against health also include Taco Bell and Pizza Hut—pushed into emerging markets by catering to local tastes, and I was curious to see how these local tastes were interpreted as fast food.  But I fucked up (typical).  Instead of seeing how the classically good KFC meal of a two-piece, mashed potatoes, and a biscuit stacked up to the American version, I wound up ordering the New Orleans Chicken sandwich, a non-breaded breast filet doused in not-very-hot sauce on a sesame seed bun (who orders non-fried chicken at a fried chicken joint?).  As expected, the sandwich was pretty terrible, although the amount of mayo they put on it kind of made up for things.  The videos give you the whole story (if you turn up the volume), plus an awkward interaction with a deaf Chinese panhandler, who, had he not been deaf, would have panhandled himself a faceful of high fructose corn syrup.  Buen provecho.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why Did I Eat This?

Where does a one-legged waitress work?  The same place that my fat ass can't resist ordering country-fried steak and eggs for breakfast: IHOP.  Lowlights of this disaster include:

- The grey leather of overcooked and low quality beef.
- The congealed chalkiness of country gravy subjected to an overdesigned air conditioning system.
- The watery and undercooked hash browns that weren't quite browned.
- The general taste of failure

Stick to the pancakes, but not the ones with all the shit on them, because those are crappy too.  Buen provecho.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Elderly Aspirations: Prime Rib Night at the Windrift in Avalon, New Jersey

I've given up on the idea of being famous when I grow up.  Instead, I have refocused my sights on retirement in Avalon, NJ, where Mrs. Gastro and I can enjoy Prime Rib Mondays followed by endless goblet-sized snifters of somewhere-between-well-and-top shelf whiskey on the rocks, all the while listening to the musical stylings of Jim Bannach, the piano man's piano man. Buen provecho.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pain is Temporary, Indigestion Lasts a Few Days

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"Torture motherfucker" - The Wu-Tang Clan

Hoping to hallucinate a la Homer in what is now an ancient Simpsons episode (and one of the last ones before it started to suck), I stopped by Jake's Sandwich Board with The Feast to try their Ghost Pepper Steak, a cheesesteak topped with 20 drops of a sauce whose main component is 1 Million Scoville Pepper Extract.  I managed to get through most of it (I was three bites shy of finishing), but it was a pain unlike anything I've felt before, and it was even worse once it worked its way through me (gross).  If you like to push the spicy food envelope and/or you have something to prove, you should definitely give it a shot, but make sure you watch the video above to see what it will do to you.  Moving forward, I'll probably just stick to their goddamn delicious roast pork sandwich.  I've had all the discomfort I can take for the rest of 2011.  Buen provecho.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Best $48.33 (Plus $10 tip) I Ever Spent

My life is essentially complete.  I've got Mrs. Gastro, Baby Gastro (plus another on the way. Yikes!), a phone with a touchscreen that allows me to instantly tell people what I'm thinking (because they care), and a full head of hair that has yet to turn grey.  Shit's pretty damn good, but there's an itch that repeatedly needs scratching, one that only gets the claws sporadically because of geography and other excuses that simply translate to lazy.  Call it chasing the dragon, but I have yet to find a proxy for Lobo, our local Tex-Mex in Brooklyn, where Mrs. Gastro and I would suck back margaritas even faster than we'd devour the complimentary chips and salsa.  We've tried all the greatest hits in the area (Distrito, Cantina Feliz, Xochitl, etc.), and while they are truly great, the oxymoron of high-end Mexican leaves the wallet much lighter than it should be after getting messed up on tequila and refried beans, and the whole point of having a local spot is the fact that it's truly local.  Our closest place, Mi Pueblo in Mt. Airy, sucks the big one (sorry, Mi Pueblo).  Avenida's nice on a special occasion, but it's too much cash for daily degustation.  I could fill the void in Chestnut Hill (investors, I have an amazing business plan if you're interested), but in the meantime, I just want a goddamn margarita and a bowl of chips without having to break the bank.  Enter Plaza Azteca, literally hiding in plain sight across from the Plymouth Meeting Mall.  Purists would shy away from it, but for us purists who also have children, this is the kind of place where you get all the kid-friendly benefits of a chain (plenty of space, high chairs, other like-minded idiots who thought having kids would be a great idea, staff that distracts said kids while you drink more than you should on a Tuesday) without too much of a chainy feel.  The food is good, and the service is even better.  Plus, it's cheap as fuck, especially when you go during happy hour.  For $48.33 plus tip, we both enjoyed tableside guacamole, chips and salsa, fish tacos, fajitas, rice, and beans, and I enjoyed a margarita and a giant beer.  Our only problem now (or at least after Baby Gastro #2 shows up) is figuring out who's going to drive home.  Like I said, my life is essentially complete.  Buen provecho.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Why Did I Eat This?

I have wanted to do the Drinker's Pub taco challenge for some time now, but much like going on a diet, at what point do you decide that it's a good idea to do so?  The answer, as expected, is after a few half-priced beers and an unsuccessful quest for a pickleback shot* in Center City.  Thinking that a place like Drinker's would definitely have them, my brother-in-law and I stumbled into their Chestnut Street outpost just as happy hour was ending.  This was supposed to be a brief final stop before catching the regional rail back to Philly's outskirts, but the disappointment of having to do a SoCo and lime shot instead of a pickleback coupled with the giant pitcher of beer that was waiting for me upon my return from the bathroom fueled my competitive spirit stupidity and convinced me that I could eat 33 tacos in 13 minutes.  I love me some tacos, but this was sheer torture, and I'm a little pissed about the fact that I may have been had.  In my drunken stupor, I went with the recommendation to do soft bean tacos in lieu of crunchy chicken tacos.  The latter would have gone down much easier, but the waitress pushed for me to do soft bean, knowing that 13 minutes is barely enough time for a large mammal to take down 33 tacos, let alone my fat ass.  Not surprisingly, amid the cheers and jeers of a packed house and a diminutive Mexican holding up a timer, I barely made it through half of the tacos when the 13th minute ticked by.  Had I been allowed to eat the tacos as I ordered them, I think the story would have had a much happier ending.  Instead, I left Drinker's with my head down, picturing the tacos that remained singing a taunting yet melodic rendition of Busta Rhymes' "Light Ya Ass on Fire."  You won this round, Drinker's Pub, but I shall return.  Buen provecho.

Piss poor video footage of my piss poor decision-making can be seen here (turn up the speakers) and here.

*For the uninitiated, the pickleback (or is it pickelback?) involves a shot of whiskey chased by a shot of pickle juice.  Trust me, it's delicious.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why Did I Eat This?

With the firm knowledge that every food item produced behind the counter at Dunkin' Donuts comes from a microwave (or a similarly designed cooking box), I should really know better than to get excited about the prospect of a "fried egg" in their Big 'n' Toasty breakfast sandwich.  Unfortunately, curiosity and stupidity are two innate qualities that continue to make me powerless against appetizing pictures of a sandwich most likely prepared in a test kitchen and not in a metal cube, and so here we are discussing the disgusting.
Sandwiched between to giant slices of Texas toast, the "fried egg" was a scrambled egg white with a yellow circle in the middle, presumably the yolk, but probably just some strategically placed food coloring.  The cherrywood smoked bacon was the same shitty bacon they put on all the rest of their sandwiches.  It does the trick, but it gets lost in the size of this sandwich.  The Texas toast dwarfs the rest of the ingredients, and its size makes it so dry that you have to scald your throat gulping coffee so that you don't choke.  This sandwich ruined my Saturday morning, so if you find yourself in the Dunkin' drive-thru on any day of the week, I would stick to coffee and donuts.  Buen provecho.

Monday, April 04, 2011

After 45 Courses, a Winner is Crowned, or, I Had Dinner with Questlove Last Night

Last night, I had the distinguished honor of judging my first cookoff.  While I fully expected my first judges' panel to be for something more along the lines of a Rotary Club Chili Cookoff, this one was certainly more A-list, and I found myself seated among Philly food folks Drew Lazor and Audrey Claire Taichman, as well as Sasha Grey and the host, Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson.  Inwardly, I thought to myself, "How the fuck did I wind up here?"  Outwardly, I donned my Hill-side tie and (hopefully) held my own with my winning smile and freshly trimmed beard.

The event was intimate, probably no more than 50 people, creating an excellent opportunity to network and/or make jackass comments to Mr. Thompson like, "With a name like Jazzy Jeff, he should probably be on time." (Turns out Jazzy had babysitter issues)  Being on the panel, I got to taste and judge five courses from nine different chefs, including Scott Schroeder from SPTR and Kenny Bush from Bistrot la Minette (Kenny came in first, winning the opportunity to cook backstage at The Roots Picnic).  I haven't eaten that much since the Pastrami Challenge, and while certainly fun, such caloric excess is challenging to say the least.

As an added bonus, I got to meet Top Cheftestant and 10 Arts Chef de Cuisine Jen Carroll, who will be cooking with steely blue-eyed Eric Ripert later this month.  Hopefully this won't be my last judges' panel, but if it is, I can at least check both "Meet ?uestlove" and "Eat fried PB&J" off the bucket list.  Buen provecho.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Meanwhile, Over on The Feast

Not that there's any excuse for my lack of posting, but you can check out what I've been doing in my spare time over at The Feast, NBC's new website dedicated to helping you find the best places to eat (that's me), shop, and play.  Buen provecho.

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Friends Are Cooler Than Your Friends: Paul and Sara Bergman of The Freshary

CNNGo totally scooped me on this, but it's still my duty to spread the gospel of Paul and Sara Bergman of The Freshary in Shanghai.  I met Paul a little over 10 years ago in college.  Typically, he would either be running to class or in the library, not preparing to take over the world, but to save it.  Starting with food, I think he's on the right track.  The Freshary sells certified organic baked goods and ice cream, and is the first to do so in China.  Their first store is also the only LEED Gold certified retail and food production space in China.

I sampled a vegan chocolate muffin and some soy vanilla ice cream (after Paul donned a lab coat and fixed the machine). If I could live on these two things alone, being vegan wouldn't be a challenge in the least.  The muffin, literally made from scratch (the flour is ground daily from seeds and wheat in house), had none of the shortcomings that typical vegan baked goods possess.  And not being an ice cream person, their soy ice cream is actually something I could scream for (yes I'm ending a sentence with a preposition. Deal with it).  Slightly savory, the vanilla soft serve is more comfort food than dessert (a very good thing), but it's not heavy at all. The Freshary also offers a black sesame-flavored ice cream, something that Paul spent 14 months perfecting.  Clearly, Paul is as passionate about perfection as he is about people, which can be difficult in the Chinese market. "Paul is too nice," Sara says of her husband and partner.  In what little time I spent there, I could see how being nice could negatively affect the business.  "We really wanted to have a flat hierarchy in the office, but you just can't have that in China.  It was disappointing to have to readjust the organizational structure, but it was necessary." 

Even with the steep learning curve, Paul and Sara have continued to pursue their vision, and will soon be opening a second store.  It's my hope that once they get the China operations off and running that they'll expand to the U.S. and move back, because they're both two of the nicest and coolest people you'll ever meet, and they're both sorely missed.  Buen provecho.

If you find yoursefl in Shanghai, The Freshary is located in the SML Center at 618 Xujiahui Road, B2 Level, T-13. You can get there by Subway Line 9, Dapuqiao Road Stop, Exit 3.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Excuse Me While I Kiss the Ground

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Here's a recount of my experience in Tokyo last week.  Stay tuned for the food portion of the trip, and please keep everyone still over there in your thoughts and prayers.  Buen provecho.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Friends Are Cooler Than Your Friends: The Brothers Corsillo

The Hill-Side S/S '11 Preview from The Hill-Side on Vimeo.

As a self-styled wiener, I proudly admit to wearing L.L. Bean wrinkle-free shirts and Dockers on a near-daily basis, but when the time comes to get dressed up, I have Emil and Sandy Corsillo to thank for making me look like the folks in the video above (although typically 100-125 lbs. heavier depending on the season). My former roommates continue to evolve their Hill-Side brand, a brilliant line of neckwear that elevates your stock way above wiener levels.  Their latest collection features floral elements, a reminder that Spring will be springing soon, so all you Jack Torrance types, lose the axe in favor of the computer, and log on to Hickoree's Hard Goods to pick up some new neckwear. Your family will thank you.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Chefs Are Cooler Than Your Chefs: Philly's Four Contenders and Two Write-Ins for People's Best New Chef Award

Yesterday on The Feast, I put up a list of places to check out in order to make an informed vote in Food & Wine/Eatocracy "People's Best New Chef" award.  Four of the handsome heads above were nominated, and the The Feast Philly editors and I decided to write in a couple more candidates, Marcie Turney of Barbuzzo and Matt Levin of Adsum, two more of our hometown heroes whose names have recently been tattooed into your dome piece by the press.  Buen provecho.
Give these peeps some props by voting your face off here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why Did I Eat This?

It should come as no surprise to the sue-happy consumer that Taco Bell's "Taco Meat Filling" contains less than 40% beef in its composition.  I understand the whole "truth in labeling" thing, but c'mon people, you're eating fast food.  You should already know that it is hyper-processed, pregnant with preservatives, and generally contains little to no "food" at all.  But who gives a shit?  It's cheap (and getting cheaper, even with commodity prices on the rise), fast, and convenient.  So what does my fat ass do with the news?  I immediately make a run for the border to try their latest offering (of course), a collaboration with Frito-Lay (that's a bit of a stretch) that is the textural masterpiece known as the Beefy Crunch Burrito.  Simply put, the sum of Flamin' Hot Fritos and their standard "beef" burrito is greater than the parts.  The sour cream eases the hot-for-hot's sake of the Fritos, and to repay the favor, they give the mushy little burrito some structural integrity.  Beef or no beef, these things are small enough and cheap enough that you may want to eat three or four, and I see nothing wrong with that.  Furthermore, for those of you in favor of this whole lawsuit, know this: if you fuck up Taco Bell for the rest of us, I will personally see to it that a laxative will somehow make its way into each and everyone of your meals until you meet your respective makers from a hopefully non-poop-related death (because I don't want you to think I'm making threats here, just promises of discomfort). Buen provecho.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Bartender is Cooler Than Your Bartender: Ben Miosi of Fork and Barrel

When happy hour gets the best of me, my Friday night typically ends with a poorly chosen movie such as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's latest kid-friendly fartfest, Tooth Fairy. As crappy as it was, however, the Rock's washed-up hockey player character said something that stuck with me as I sidled up to Fork and Barrel's upstairs bar on Saturday.  I won't go into detail, but the gist of it was that you may be at the top of your game, but sooner or later, somebody younger and hungrier will emerge in your rear view mirror and eventually overtake you.  In his case, it was a bad thing, but for the ever expanding population of beer geeks in Philadelphia, Fork and Barrel's arrival on the scene is a boon.  In this town of tremendous tap lists, Fork and Barrel pushes the envelope with the most obscure and interesting beers they can source, each one more complex than Google's search algorithm.  With names like Grado Plato Chocarrubica and Liepziger Porticus, even the names seem daunting, but our bartender, General Manager Ben Miosi, was more than happy to ensure our palates were pleased. Above, he gives us a brief monologue on what it takes to become a beer geek, his favorite beer, and his opinion of the home team craft brewers.  Buen provecho.

Fork and Barrel is located at 4213 Ridge Avenue in East Falls. The 1st floor features European food and European craft beer.  Upstairs, you've got casks, peanuts, and hot dogs.  Happy hour runs Tuesday-Friday from 4-6, when all drafts are $6. Like them on Facebook for updates on draft lists and special events. More excellent reviews here and here.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Pumpkin Ale for My Real Friends, Pumpkin Real for My Ale Friends

A very happy new year, dear readers.  In my quest to become a raging alcoholic beer nerd, I have invested a significant amount of time, brain cells, and money on craft beers with neat labels and myriad uses of the word "hops."  I regret none of this, but it's nice to have a bone thrown your way every now and again, so I'd like to give a nod to reader Matt for saving me a bottle of homebrewed pumpkin ale from a batch he and his friends made back in the fall.  Being raised in the good ol' U-S-of-A, I prefer my beers to be ozone-hole-burning cold and soda-pop-fizzy, and this was a great example of that. 

Typically, homebrews err on the side of flatness, making you feel like you're drinking a beer you poured last night but couldn't finish so you put it in the fridge for consumption today because you are too cheap to toss it out.  But this beer, surviving a week in the fridge, was extra cold and nicely carbonated.  You could taste the nutmeg, but it wasn't so overpowering as to remind you of the time you tried to hallucinate/poison yourself by eating a spice jar of it, and it had a malty finish.  Even Bob, a beer nerd before being a beer nerd was cool, gave it the seal of approval.  Buen provecho.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

A Very Gastro Christmas

Because you totally care about what I did over the Christmas holiday, here are a few videos of what happens when you drink too much egg nog, including my dear aunt Lynn caroling above, and a 3-part series below I like to call "Christmas Jalapenos":

First, I take a small bite while my unsuspecting brother-in-law eats the whole thing.

Then, after being told I "bitched out," I agree to finish the thing.

Then the heat catches up with me.  Hilarity ensues.  And in case you're curious, that is a woman's cardigan with the sleeves removed (but cuffs preserved) over a woman's turtleneck embroidered with Christmas trees.  Buen provecho.

The Worst Shit I Ate All Year

Typically, the best of/worst of lists are published before the year's done, but I'm going to go ahead and call this one better late than never.  Behold, the worst shit I ate all year.

5. Taco Bell's Bacon Club Chalupa: Mexican-American fusion just led to nuclear waste.
4. KFC's Doublicious: A pathetic follow-up to the Double Down gimmickry.
3. The Angus Snackwrap at McDonald's: This thing sat under the heat lamp way too long.  Acrid was an understatement.
2. The one-and-a-half Four Lokos I drank before the ban: File this under "Shit you shouldn't do past the age of 30."
1. One singular bite of a durian fruit that I couldn't even swallow: I dare you to try it, but careful, you may wind up having to wear jean shorts if you can't eat it.

Happy New Year, and as always, buen provecho.