Thursday, November 06, 2014

Why Did I Eat This? A Cronut for the Rest of Us

Back in May of 2013, the world lost its shit over the Cronut, a pastry likened to a croissant-donut hybrid created by Dominique Ansel in New York City. Lacking both the time and the patience, I didn't bother to go out of my way to see whether or not it was worth waiting in a line of Shake Shack proportions. Hell, I didn't even try any of the clones that popped up locally. To be honest, I just wasn't that interested, and I prefer to keep my donuts and croissants separate, much like my quesadillas and burritos.

Fast forward to now. Ansel has released a cookbook so we can all fuck up his recipes at home, and Dunkin' Donuts has finally reverse engineered a way to bring shelf-stable Cronuts to the masses. Since the word "cronut" is trademarked (shoulda, coulda, woulda, "Flaming Moe"), Dunkin' is simply calling them "Croissant Donuts," and retailing them for $2.49. They come in their own nifty little box instead of being haphazardly thrown into a brown paper bag (cute touch), and while they resemble the iconic pastry, they aren't that different than Dunkin's regular glazed donut. The butter flavor tastes artificial, the layers of pastry dough aren't flaky, and the shellac of milk and confectioners' sugar slurry weighs the whole thing down. Simply put, it tastes like diabetes with a heart disease filling.

At some point in the future (provided we're not all dead because the world is horrible and full of horrible people), I hope to try the original. For all of you out there, I'd recommend doing the same and skipping this clone in favor of a few extra years on your life. Buen provecho.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mike Jerrick to Host "Ya Gotta Try This!" Food Festival

Mike Jerrick is my fucking hero and I want his job. He's also a board member for The Second Chance Foundation, a non-prof that raises money and resources for community organizations serving "at-risk" youth and their families. To assist with the fundraising, Mr. Jerrick and District Attorney R. Seth Williams are hosting the first annual "Ya Gotta Try This!" food festival next Thursday, October 2, from 6:30-9:30 P.M. at the Independence Visitor Center, because raffles and spaghetti dinners are stupid.

There will be 24 local restaurants featured alongside beers from Yards and an open bar from Southern Wine and Spirits, which makes the $50 worth it if you're a drunk like me. Plus, you get to see Mike Jerrick act all Mike Jerrick in person. Buen provecho.

Buy tickets and get more details here.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Victory Brewing and Key Ingredient Market "Spread" Dip Distribution

Heady Topper: Hop Devil Cheddar Spread is one of three offerings from Victory and Key Ingredient Market

While day drinking is preferable, it's not always feasible. Thankfully, Victory Brewing has teamed up with Key Ingredient Market to provide a trio of cheddar dips and spreads that offer a good proxy, and after a successful test run outside the Philadelphia market, all three are now available at Whole Foods locations in Glen Mills, Devon, and Jenkintown, as well as Whole Foods across the bridge in Cherry Hill and Marlton.

And cheddar spread distribution isn't the only thing they're expanding. The brewery also announced they'll be building another brewpub in Leesburg, Virginia, also known as Phase 2 of their plan for world beer domination, an endeavor in which they plan to be, ahem, victorious. Buen provecho.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Old Standbys: Cin Cin Restaurant in Chestnut Hill

Pandiarrhea's Box: Takeout Hurts Sometimes

Chinese takeout was/is/always will be delicious. It's loaded with MSG and often fried and you get to eat it out of a cool box that supposedly unfolds into a plate. But it's also murder on the midsection, especially if the really cool box/plates are handed to you through bulletproof glass. Still, it's as American as racism and diabetes, and if you can find a place that's both cheap and high quality, you've got a great excuse not to cook.

My local is Cin Cin in Chestnut Hill. Although much more restaurant than takeout, they do a great job with the latter. It's great for when Baggage Claim is free on demand and you skipped dinner with the kids but started drinking and now you're hungry and you haven't had General Tso's Chicken in a while and since you're watching a romantic comedy you need an excuse for the tears you'll inevitably shed at the end of it (I blamed the dry peppers). Do you have a local? Or do you prefer to wait for a trek to Chinatown, licking peanut butter off a spoon in the meantime since you've removed your pants for the evening? Buen provecho.

Monday, August 18, 2014

All Things Ramen at CoZara Ramen Sundays

"My horned dome is always thinking about ramen burgers" - Satan

I know what you're thinking. What does Satan have to do with ramen? More specifically, ramen burgers? The answer is simple. Not a goddamn thing, but I'm pretty sure Satan is a huge ramen fan, and I suppose the whole ramen trend is still hotter than hell (there's your connection!). But enough about our cloven-hooved prince of darkness, let's shift our focus to CoZara in University City, where Chefs Zama Tanaka and Chris Paulikas have dedicated Sundays to the humble noodle, featuring a menu of ramen rarities like Ramen Burgers and Mazemen available from 2-8pm alongside their regular Sunday menu. Not sure how long this experiment will last, so I'd recommend skipping brunch next Sunday to go and try every dish. Buen provecho (oh yeah, and hail Satan).

(Full menu after the jump)

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The Dark Side of Barbie's Beau

Sometimes the guitar comes out and the kids don't immediately tell you to put it away. And sometimes they even ask you to play a song about a Ken doll. When that happens, this happens, especially if you're friends with a gentleman by the name of Brad Podray, who was gracious enough to record me and this video and then overlay the two, the result of which is Ken's lament. Please enjoy!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Why Did I Eat This?

"There's a burrito in my quesadilla." - Taco Bell Wrapper

Behold, Taco Bell's version of a stuffed crust pizza. Originally something found on Chipotle's secret menu, Taco Bell did what any self-resepecting corporation would do with such a great idea: rip it off and market the shit out of it.

With little willpower and only a salad for lunch, I was an easy mark for the Quesarito, a burrito with a quesadilla shell. Sadly, the addition of said quesadilla is not accretive. Apart from the (also ripped off from Chipotle) cilantro-lime rice and a spicy mayo-based sauce, it tasted like your standard beef burrito, just with the added calories of an extra tortilla. For $2.80, you're better off getting a Cheesy Gordita Crunch with a Doritos shell. Buen provecho.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Chef Spike's Good Stuff Eatery Opens, Nobody Seems to Give a Shit

No lines out the door. No lines inside. Not that there was any real hype to begin with. According to Foobooz, Spike was there on Tuesday when the place opened, but after the requisite Scott Schroeder selfie...

Photo Credit: Scott Charles Schroeder, People's Champ
He seems to have split. Not that I was interested in meeting the dude. It would have probably been awkward considering my opinion of him is less than favorable (TV makes you hate people). Instead, I'll continue to hide in the tall grass of the internet and serve up this quick photo series of the newly opened Good Stuff Eatery. My early troll's opinion is that although it's a blatant Shake Shack ripoff, it's not bad. I would caution against shitting on "Cheese Whiz," however. Buen Provecho.

This sign is stupid and anger-inducing.

Good Stuff might have it in the fry department.

Despite my hatred for Evangelos Mendelsohn (Spike's gubment name), the Good Stuff Melt was pretty delicious.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Super Easy Coconut Curry Chicken Recipe

Last night I set Instagram ablaze with this recipe (20 likes!), but rather than float the recipe into the sea of comments (6 total including mine!), I figured you could get to it much easier if I posted here. I used chicken breasts, but any protein will do (a meaty fish like turbot works very well). If you do make it, constructive criticism/regular criticism is welcome in the comments. Buen provecho.

Easy Ass Coconut Curry Chicken
1.5 to 2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 tbsp red curry paste
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup light coconut milk
2 tbsp lime juice
5 scallions, green parts only, sliced
Roughly chopped cilantro, about 1/2 cup
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in your biggest skillet on high. While the pan heats, cube the chicken and add to pan when oil shimmers. Toss in some salt and pepper, brown the chicken, then remove from pan. Add onions and cook until translucent or slightly browned, then add curry paste and cook until fragrant. Stir in chicken stock, coconut milk, and cooked chicken, then let the broth cook down until desired consistency. Remove from heat, stir in lime juice, scallions, and cilantro. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve over steamed spinach if your metabolism runs at a snail's pace and you're sentenced to a miserable life of not eating carbohydrates. Otherwise, serve over a bed of delicious basmati rice.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

You Have Four More Days to Try the Carbonara Burger

Impossible to photograph and nearly as hard to eat, the Marc Vetri x Shake Shack collaboration burger is definitely worth the mess. And if you get there early like I did, you probably won't need to stand in a record-breaking line to eat it. It's one thing to have patience when you're not hungry. But if you haven't eaten since breakfast? Fuck that shit.

The burger (Patty La La patty, peppery over-easy egg, bacon, and pecorino cheese) is a mere $6.75, and a dollar of that goes to The Vetri Foundation, so if you were too poor to attend last night's Great Chefs Event, this is a great way to contribute before it gets taken off the menu on June 16th. Plus, the burger is ridiculously good. Buen provecho.

Friday, May 30, 2014

ICYDFMOT (In Case You Don't Follow Me On Twitter), Here's Some Terrible Photoshops for Your Friday

In light of the recent news that culinary bad boy Guy Fieri is wasting someone else's money on a steakhouse that will probably fail within two months of opening, I started thinking about an alternate universe where Philly chefs donned the denim chef coat and bleached spikes and kame up with some kewl koncepts. Then I tweeted a bunch of terrible photoshops called "Philly Chefs in a Denim Chef's Coat with Guy Fieri Hair." Now I'm taking it a step further and presenting some highlights in the series with each chef's money menu item since it's Friday and you need a distraction from your soul-crushing job. Buen Provecho.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Big In Munich Cancels June 2nd Show

Channeling Miley Cyrus, part-time rockstars and full-time chefs Jeremy Nolen and Ben Puchowitz have canceled next Tuesday's Philly Beer Week show. Their Facebook page cites unfortunate circumstances, so we're all hopeful that the Summer hiatus isn't anything too serious, but this is some shit news for sure, and definitely more disappointing than the time I went to the Fat Ham for lunch and it was closed. At least there's a bajillion PBW events where we can drown our sorrows. Buen provecho.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Free Japanese Burrito Day at Hai Street Kitchen & Co

Thanks to Michael Klein, much of Center City got wind of a free Japanese burrito promotion happening at Hai St Kitchen & Co today, a new concept from one of Morimoto's sous chefs that first debuted in London (because America wasn't quite ready). I can count myself among the jackasses that subjected themselves to a two-plus hour wait to try what was essentially an enormous maki roll, something that would set you back eight bucks and most likely a shorter wait on a normal day. Part of it was curiosity, and part of it was, "Hey! Free food!" And although I'm not much for lines (because we get everything instantly because we live in the future), I have to admit that it was actually worth the wait. I'm curious to know if others felt the same way, because this was all I saw when I looked behind me:

But enough about the social dynamics of subjecting people to long wait times to get free shit. Let's discuss the Japanese burrito. I had plenty of time to go over the menu, but I was pretty set with a Signature Roll Combination called "The Crunch" from the time I decided to wait it out. To keep things moving, ordering and preparation follows Chipotle's assembly line concept. It all starts with a magic machine called a Maki Master that cranks out square tiles of sushi rice, providing Hai Street's version of a tortilla. Next, you pick proteins, vegetables, and sauces, all of which are overstuffed into the roll. This is what differentiates it from normal sushi. The roll is literally burrito-sized (and only cut into two pieces):

Empty Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee cup shown for scale. That's only half the roll.
Inside this monstrosity was shrimp tempura, spicy mayo, romaine lettuce, cucumber, pickled mango, and asparagus. Since it's mostly made-to-order, everything tasted fresh. The tempura had a nice crunch, the rice was well-cooked, and the spicy mayo was balanced nicely with the cucumber and mango's brightness. Oh yeah, and it was free (if you don't count the opportunity cost of waiting). I could probably take down more than one in a sitting, but this was a good start. It will definitely be a welcome addition to the lunch options in Center City. Buen provecho.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Why Did I Eat This? Domino's Specialty Chicken

Contrary to what Eater reported, Domino's Specialty Chicken doesn't really qualify as "pizza with a breaded chicken crust," but it's as good a description as any for the pile of fried chicken chunks fused together with cheese and drizzled with assorted sauces.

Whatever the nomenclature, it's hard not to like this marriage of appetizer and main course. We tried the Classic Hot Buffalo and the Crispy Bacon and Tomato offerings, and both were great, albeit small. When I opened the box and saw that they were no bigger than a French bread pizza, I was disappointed, even though you get at least a dozen chunks of meat that actually have the taste and texture of chicken. This turned out to be a good thing, however, because it forced me to control my portions. Granted, I went to bed hungry, but at least I could look myself in the mirror when I woke up. Right now, you can get two for $5.99 each. I strongly recommend ordering six. Buen provecho.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Fat Ham Isn't Open for Lunch Anymore

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

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

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

Me: Really? Fuck.

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

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

Thursday, April 10, 2014

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

5 Reasons Why You Should Drink Cortados

Hub Bub Coffee Makes an Exceptional Cortado

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

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

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

Friday, March 28, 2014

Why Did I Eat This?

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

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

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

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

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