Monday, December 21, 2015

Mast Brothers: The Artisanal Catch-22

Mast Brothers: Actually Just the Devil?
I'm at my day job right now. I have bills to pay so I can't pursue my life's passion, but then again, I'm not sure what my life's passion is. I used to write this dumb blog a few times a week, then I started to get paid to write for other blogs, then I kind of got bored so I tried my hand at a pop-up restaurant, then I started a beef jerky company, then I tried to make my daughter a YouTube sensation (shameless plugs, every last one of them). None of these make money (and only one has a very minor investor who doesn't meddle), so the decisions I make are solely based on my lazy work ethic and fickle personality. I don't have to answer to anyone holding a sack with a giant dollar sign sewn into its canvas. There are no real revenue targets, no SMART goals, really nothing from the two years I spent getting a part-time MBA. I do it because it makes me happy. I wish like hell that the business side of things was as enjoyable as the creative side of things for me, but it's not the case. In fact, the opposite happens. Money and management dilute my creativity, which is probably why I'll die penniless (sorry, kids).

I'm meandering towards a point here, which is the paradigm shift that happens when small business becomes big business. Last week, took a big dump on the Mast Brothers. The author claims they're not actually a bean-to-bar chocolate company, their chocolate is worse than an order of fries at In-n-Out Burger (my description, not theirs), and their claim of being artisanal is based solely on being bearded and from Brooklyn. It's the second time they've been called out for having shitty chocolate (the first in a Slate article earlier this year), and the first time for being a total sham. Personally, I love the brand, but their chocolate isn't my favorite (I don't really like sweets to begin with). Flavor aside, however, there's an inherent flaw in the concept of artisanal foods, and that's the ability to scale. I just googled the term artisanal, and the result was "made in a traditional or non-mechanized way."

According to this definition, the only way you can grow your business is with more and more hands, which means more and more money, which means "oh shit, we're broke because of our quest for the way things used to be." Civilization advanced because of industrialization. We also fucked ourselves along the way, but it's a long road back to the barter economy, and nobody wants to put the machine in reverse. All the while, the decision makers have been, and continue to be, the ones holding those dollar-sign-emblazoned bags I mentioned previously. It would be one thing if the Mast Brothers stayed in their hometown of Iowa, where labor and real estate are probably cheap as shit (didn't really do the research to find out) and rents don't spike as soon as Goldman Sachs figures out some complex math to trade on, but they started in Brooklyn. It's the right play because that's where all the cool kids are (and where all the money is), but growth has to be part of the business model. Otherwise, failure is imminent. In order to do so, you need to figure out how make your inputs cheaper so your outputs can yield higher margins, especially if you have someone else footing the bill. Take the case of a $10 chocolate bar with a sexy wrapper. When you figure in raw materials (and getting them from the far reaches of the globe), labor, packaging, rent, etc., you're probably making $2 per bar, which is fine if you're making them in your kitchen and trading at the local farmers' market once a week. But if you want to sustain (not to mention grow) a going concern, you've got to sell a shitload of chocolate bars. This requires a healthy amount of working capital, which usually means outside investors (or a trust fund), which could mean finding yourself on the wrong side of the closed-door meetings where real decisions are made.

Maybe this is what happened to the Mast brothers. A skateboarder whose name I don't remember was once accused of selling out, to which he replied, "You gotta sell out to eat out." It sounds smug, but it's the truth. As much as I want to hang onto the reins of my beef jerky company and tout the virtues of artisanal products, there will (hopefully) come a time when it's just too damn big to be "made in a traditional or non-mechanized way." If and when that happens, I'll be faced with the same difficult decisions. No matter how much you try, you just can't be everything to everybody. Keep it small for a select few, the masses will brand you a snob. Figure out a way to get your product in more hands (so you can ultimately enjoy a bit of success), the early adopters will burn you at the stake like a goddamn Salem witch. My incoherent two cents on the matter.

Read all about the witch trials here.
And here's Mast Brothers' response to all this shade.
And here's a link to buy my beef jerky.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Take a Luke at This: Free Lobster Rolls Today!

If your name's Luke and you live in Philly, you should head to Luke's Lobster for a free lobster roll today. It beats the shit out of going to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters. On a related note, can anyone make me a fake ID in the next couple hours? Buen provecho.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Press Release Translations

Because I'm a hack (and because I don't write all that much anymore), it's rare that press releases show up in my inbox (why should they?). I also seldom read them, but since I'm in the mood to procrastinate today, I donated five minutes that I'll never get back to learn about Urban Farmer Steakhouse, opening at the old Four Seasons/new Logan Hotel on the Parkway (but not sure when because the press release didn't say, so I guess it's already open even though the hotel itself doesn't seem to be finished? I don't know).

I understand that the purpose of a press release (in addition to making yourself known) is to pique the reader's interest, but the verbiage can often be heavy handed and abstract. If you happen to be struggling though this press release or others, here's a quick list of translations for you. That way, you don't have to rely on adjectives to make your dining decision.

"Soul-nurturing sides" - probably macaroni and cheese

"Tailored to the local community" - black and white pictures of Love Park and Rocky

"Originating in Portland" - from Denver

"Rustic ambiance (sp)" - somebody found some old shit, cleaned it up and marked it up 600%

Since I work next door, I'll probably eat and drink there a whole bunch (and the place actually does sound pretty good), but I really couldn't let "soul nurturing sides" lie. Buen provecho.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Dudes, Ugly Christmas Sweater Fiesta/Contest at Distrito

I can say with great confidence that I invented the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party back in 2001. Since then, through the power of parallel creativity and other people just plain stealing my idea, the concept has mushroomed into an industry in and of itself. But I still take credit for it (even though it never benefited me financially).

Anyhoo, there's a whole host of these parties happening, but so far I only got a press release for one, which is going down at Distrito this Sunday, December 6, from 4pm to 7pm. In addition to $3 drafts and $15 buckets of Corona, there are $5 nachos, giveaways, and cornhole.

There is certainly no guarantee that my man Jose G will be there in the gem pictured above, but you know how I love those ZANY photoshops. Buen provecho.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Red Lobster's Crabfest Commercial is Bullshit

The last time I wrestled with a crustacean, I walked away with puncture wounds on 6 of my 10 fingers. Even dead, a lobster will fight back. The grocery store tank-to-table experience is gratifying nonetheless, and most of the time, it's much cheaper than going to a restaurant and requires way less pants.

The other added bonus is not looking like a jackass when trying to extract a scant chunk of meat from a shell more difficult to open than heat molded anti-theft plastic (another source of bloody fingertips).

What's my point here? Eating giant shellfish is hard, and Red Lobster is straight fucking with you if you think otherwise. Watch their Crabfest commercial and tell me I'm wrong. Marvel at the ease with which anonymous thumbs separate a crab leg to reveal a giant muscle of expertly cooked meat. Watch as a crab cracker encounters a shell so thin and brittle, it shatters at the slightest hint of pressure.

It's all a goddamn lie.

Here's the reality. You make your way to your neighborhood Red Lobster and proceed to order the "Mega Crab Feast with 36 Preparations of Crab (and two sides and cheddar biscuits," because YOLO. It's like $30, but remember: YOLO (side note: nobody says YOLO anymore, but YOLO, so YOLO). A few minutes later, a plate the size of your DirecTV satellite shows up, its center piled high with legs and claws. Flanked by a mess of gummy linguini to the left and an oversized ramekin of butter to the right, you're thinking, "This is what middle management's all about, bitches." You're also thinking, "I can't wait to shove this crab meat all up in my face, and it's going to be sooooooo easy."

Armed with this false sense of confidence, you grab the crab cracker and proceed to fuck shit up. And that's exactly what you do. First, a cluster of snow crab legs. Not sure how to approach this Rubik's cube, you try and pull a leg apart and hope the meat falls out in a neat pile, just like in the commercial. No such luck, so you resort to the cracker. You center it in the middle of a leg, expecting a clean break. Nope, wrong again. The shell buckles under the pressure until it finally gives, and you're left with a tiny little hole where the two halves of the cracker meet. Total bullshit, right? Then, you twist the rubbery shell in the hopes that tiny little hole will propagate into something big enough for the cocktail fork. This kind of works, but whatever progress you've made is nullified by the shape of the hole, and you're left with a few tiny shreds of crabmeat that don't exit as well you'd hoped. What's worse, you're crunching on shards of shell that stowed away during the extraction process. Not being one to give up, you do the same thing with the rest of the cluster. Your mounting frustration and hunger result in less crab and more shell with every leg. Finally, you surrender, waving your plastic bib in defeat.

At this point, your only solace is that pile of crab-alfredo mush. Call it the consolation prize, a final opportunity to "enjoy" some crab, but since you spent so much time wrestling with the damn crab legs, it has cooled into a congealed blob of fat and sodium.  It's a metaphor for the entire experience, and you have become a Red Lobster cautionary tale.

Many others will succumb to the siren song of that commercial. It's hard to resist that hunk of crab meat splashing down into a baby pool of drawn butter. If you're one of them, I urge you to manage your expectations, because the commercial above is bullshit. Buen provecho.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Rhode Island Round-Up Pop-Up to Feature Awesome Ass Austin Chefs

Last Minute Road Trip to Rhode Island, Anyone?

In high school, I played lacrosse (LAX, BRO!) with this dude named John Prescott. Between Junior and Senior year (I think), it was alleged that he went to a hair salon to get dreadlocks like some sort of prehistoric Ras Trent. White people do the darndest things, but that really has no bearing on this post. Nor does the fact that he told the entire student body I had one testicle (even though I'm still packing two last time I checked. Thanks, John!).

But instead of revisiting salon-styled dreads and bold-faced lies, we should really discuss what Prescott's been up to between the time we were dumbshit kids and now (and no, it's not telling the rest of the world lies about my nuts or lack thereof). He's actually been cooking his face off, first in Salt Lake City and now in Austin, and as you're reading this, he's en route to Rhode Island for a 4-day pop-up at the Horseshoe Farm in Westerly that starts next Wednesday, August 19th. He'll be cooking with Sonya Coté, owner of Austin's farm-as-fuck-to-table Eden East, who called Rhode Island home before she moved to a hippie commune in Iowa at four.

I've yet to experience John's cooking, but if it's anything like the way he played lacrosse (LAX, BRO!), then I imagine it hits really hard and is good at picking up ground balls (that's a terrible analogy). In all seriousness, if you've got the time, then you should definitely have the inclination, because the menu looks ridiculous. Plus, John's a cool ass dude with some cool ass tattoos (check out his food on Instagram @blackwidowchefs), so it should prove to be a lot of fun. Buen provecho.

Rhode Island Round-Up
August 19-22
Horseshoe Farm
Westerly, RI 
Tickets are $150 and can be purchased here

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Benihana: The Rose Colored Tint of Childhood Memories

The requisite Onion Volcano. Dave nailed it.

Remember how cool Benihana was when you were a kid? Remember coming home with a Polaroid of you and the family destined for a few months' tenure on the fridge, the smell of griddled meats and garlic butter glued to your clothes, and you practicing your knife skills with whatever dull objects happened to be within arm's reach?

No? Well then, your childhood must have been awful. Or maybe you didn't grow up near a Benihana. Either way, I'm here to let you know that as an adult, it's sadly not quite the same. Not that you shouldn't check it out, but if you do, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Pay the extra money for the Hibachi Chicken Rice. This is the undisputed champ of Benihana's menu, primarily because the rice is fried in gobs of garlic butter and doused with soy sauce.

2. Interact with your chef. If you stare at the guy cooking your food like you would a caged animal at the zoo, he'll be sad like a caged animal at the zoo. Give him some props for nailing the Onion Volcano or an "It's cool, bro, Mondays." if he fucks up the Shrimp Tail Toss.

3. If your kid chugs their Dragon Juice too quickly, DO NOT order them a second, unless you want to spend the latter half of your meal trying to keep them from doing a belly flop on the hibachi while your steak/shrimp/chicken gets cold.

4. Always tell them it's your birthday or that of someone in your party. You'll get a free dessert and a pretty terrible picture.

5. Be friendly to fellow diners. If you've got less that eight people in your group, It's rare you'll be the only ones at the table. Don't make it awkward by avoiding eye contact and not drinking. If you're at the receiving end, make sure and talk a bunch of shit on the way home. Those wieners deserve it.

6. If the Sugar Hill Gang shows up, definitely get a picture with them (happened once in New York City, I swear).

Follow these tips and tricks and your first/next visit to Benihana will be a good one. Man, what a terrible post. Buen provecho.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Stupid List About Hangover Food

I got blotto last night and since I'm old as shit I'll be paying for it until Sunday, during which time I'll consume at least triple the amount of calories I average on a daily basis. We've all been there (and we all have yet to learn), so the next time you spend the night alternating between Fireball and Miller Lite for 6 hours, here's a handy list of food to shove in your face the morning after. It probably won't make you feel better, but it's worth a shot.

1. Menudo (or Posole): I blame my dad for a lot of things, but I have to give him credit for taking me to hole-in-the-wall places at a very young age. One of them, Taqueria Piedras Negras in Salt Lake, had menudo on Sundays. Pops knew exactly why. "It's a hangover cure," he said (I didn't really know what a hangover was, or how often I would be getting them later in life). Then he proceeded to tell me that the gelatinous honey combs I was eating used to be a cow's stomach. Then he dumped a shitload of onions and cilantro in my bowl and gave it a generous squeeze of lime. Fuck, I could really go for some menudo right about now.

2. Sausage, Egg, and Cheese croissant from Dunkin' Donuts: Pair it with an iced coffee that's more cream and sugar than actual coffee. If you're feeling especially shitty, order two, because they're kind of small.

3. Spam Musubi: If you have an aversion to Spam, you're dumb. Spam is goddamn delicious, and if you fry it up and glaze it with what is essentially teriyaki sauce, it's even more delicious. Put it on top of a sushi rice brick and wrap it up with nori and you've got a near perfect food.
4. Ultimate Meat & Cheese Breakfast Burrito from Sonic: If you're lucky enough to have a Sonic nearby, this has all of the breakfast meats, a generous ladle of cheese sauce, and TATER TOTS.

5. Five Guys: Put every single topping on their double cheeseburger, douse a giant order of fries with malt vinegar, and don't be shy with the free soda refills.

Alternatively, you can just start drinking again. It's 9am somewhere. Buen provecho.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

My Rappers Are Cooler Than Your Rappers: Marv Mack's New Single

In case y'all forgot (even after being reminded for a second time), Philadelphia's own Marv Mack is here to let you know that Paula Deen is a human old lady version of the confederate flag.

h/t Eater.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Why Did I Eat This? Pizza Hut's Hot Dog Bites Pizza

'tis not a pizza, 'tis a many-headed hydra, sent from the darkest depths of fast food Hades to murder us from the inside.

Perhaps that's a bit dramatic.

It's really just a pizza that was creatively engineered to be equipped with a hot dog crust on some ultra low-brow Ferran Adrià type of shit. But of course I had to try it. And of course it kind of sucked. Admittedly, I was scared at first. I expected Pizza Hut's Hot Dog Bites Pizza to be dripping with grease and redolent with the fragrance of preservatives that cause migraines, but it was actually kind of dry. The crust you normally get from Pizza Hut--the one you can wring the butter out of--was replaced by a thin and wobbly breadlike substance held together by a few pigs in a blanket. I think my mistake was lingering too long at the wine store before picking up the pizza, but how does one choose the perfect white to pair with a Hot Dog Bites Pizza?

In any event, by the time I got the pizza home, filmed a couple failed monologues, took a few shitty pictures, and tried unsuccessfully to get the kids to even look at this pizza, the slices were cold, the sauce congealed, and the bread enveloping the hot dog bites hardened to day-old bagel status. Still, it was no worse than anything on Pizza Hut's regular menu (I have yet to try all of their new crust and topping permutations, however), although it was a bit of a challenge to eat as you approached the hot dog crust. Personally, I think the combination of hot dogs and pizza is worse than Donald Trump at a quinceañara, but when sales are down and your job's at stake, any idea is better than no idea.

You may have missed your opportunity to try it (Pizza Hut's website is no longer advertising the Hot Dog Bites Pizza), but count yourself lucky for not having done so. Buen provecho.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Mike Solo Fangif

Eater recently answered the question, "Why Philly's Mike Solomonov is the Genius of Modern Jewish Cooking" (go read this, it's really good). In honor of the honor, I made this super sweet bobblehead GIF in my spare time* yesterday of a young Mike at Purim. That is all. Enjoy your Friday, folks.

Oh yeah, and put all of the CookNSolo restaurants on your must eat list. It's no secret that they're all really fuckin' great. Buen provecho.

*By spare time I mean time when I should be doing things that actually benefit society.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Why Did I Eat This? Taco Bell's Cap'n Crunch Delights

If I had a dollar for every dollar I've spent on poor food choices, I might be able to afford the mountain of inevitable medical bills that will result from a life spent eating garbage. My latest questionable digestible? A 2-pack of Taco Bell's Cap'n Crunch Delights, an impulse buy I paired with a Grilled Stuft Nacho that was an impulse buy itself.

Under different circumstances, I may have enjoyed both, but almost missing a train and then having to eat them hunched over a greasy bag while sandwiched between fellow commuters made the experience one I'd like to erase from memory. For starters, the Grilled Stuft Nacho is an inane concept. Whereas the Crunchwrap Supreme maintains its structural integrity, the GSN has no tortilla chip skeleton, only bits and pieces of chips floating in a cumbersome blob of "cheese" sauce and sour cream barely held together by a tortilla triangle. It's impossible to eat on the go without making a mess.

Let's not get off topic, however. We're here to discuss the "delights," a misnomer if there ever was one. They're made to order, which would normally be a good thing, but my local Taco Bell (located at the stabbier end of Suburban Station) doesn't keep their grease hot enough to properly fry them. What I bit into had the texture of gulab jamun. In college, I spent a lot of time on the Indian food buffet circuit, and learned to loathe gulab jamun. Furthermore, any sweetness was overpowered by unmistakably rancid vegetable oil.

Perhaps if cooked at the right temperature and with time enough to eat like a gentleman, my opinion might change, but I'm certainly not willing to make the same mistake twice. If anyone disagrees, I'd love to hear your counterpoint. Buen provecho.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Wawa Employees are Stoners

Duuude. We should put BBQ sauce AND honey mustard on it. And pickles. And jalapenos. And onions. And cheese. Dude. Dude.

It's Hoagiefest, motherfuckers! For the next however many weeks, Wawa--the Philly area's mega-bodega--is offering deeply discounted 10" hoagies. To keep things interesting, the suits and ties at corporate looked to the employees this year to expand hoagie offerings beyond hot and cold and meatball and turkey.

The result is a menu of sandwiches bursting at the seams with every meat, cheese, topping, and condiment available, which is a telling tale of how some Wawa associates spend their free time. I'm not judging here. This is a boon to fat asses like me who appreciate a kitchen sink sandwich daily every now and again.

If you're feeling Colorado (or just plain curious), each creation is already programmed into the touch screen for ease of ordering. I tried the Texas Two-Step (pictured above) yesterday, and I was not at all disappointed with the combination of chicken fingers, jalapenos, honey mustard, BBQ sauce, pickles, and cheddar. Sounds hectic, but it works. Here are a couple more clear examples of recipes that really earn the tie-dye hoagiefest t-shirt:

The Flock: Turkey, Roast Beef, Ranch Dressing, Creamy Chipotle Spread, Spinach, Pepper Jack, Sweet Peppers, Tomato, Jalapeno

Wild Imagination: Cheesesteak Meat, Chicken, Ranch Dressing, Creamy Chipotle Spread, Buffalo Sauce, Provolone, Pepper Jack, Lettuce, Spinach, Tomato, Jalapeno, Pickles 

I forget how long the promo runs, but it's probably the best $4.99 you'll spend all Summer. Oh yeah, and they've got a game called Hoagiequest if you need a break from your first-person shooter. Buen provecho.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Why Did I Eat This? Lance BOLD Crackers

The latest in an effort to blanket the entire world in buffalo wing sauce (and then top it with bacon), Lance BOLDS cracker sandwiches grab their nerdier counterparts by their day-glo orange shoulders and kick them square in their Toast-Chee nuts. Remember the Bonestorm episode of the Simpsons? That was me at the grocery store yesterday. I told my entire family to "Buy me Lance BOLDS crackers or go to hell!"*

Fast forward to 10am this morning, when I'm ready to make snacktime EXTREME!  The spokesbro for Lance BOLDS is Nyjah Huston, a 20-year old skateboarder who's had a skateboard under his feet from the time he could walk. Armed with that knowledge, I'm expecting to be able to switch kickflip at least 10 stairs after my first cracker.**

I started with Buffalo Wing Blue Cheese, which have the same orange hue as Lance's Toast-Chee variety. I expected a pronounced artificial flavor, but instead got a mouthful of heat and an excellent rendition of blue cheese flavor. These were the best approximation of buffalo flavor I've had since Herr's Buffalo Blue Cheese Curls.

With my mouth on fire and expectations riding high, I moved on to the Bacon Cheddar flavor. What should have been another roundhouse kick to the face turned out to be a disappointingly bland and crumbly cracker. I should have been on high alert after noticing that the "bacon" crumbles studded into the cracker itself resembled a bunch of scabs, which is probably what happens after you assume that you'll be good at skateboarding after eating these cracker sandwiches.

Ew, there's scabs on my crackers.

There's a third flavor, Pizza (yes, just plain old pizza), but fuck that shit. I guess one out of three ain't bad, especially since the Buffalo Wing Blue Cheese (BWBC) flavor was so damn good. Stay tuned for an update on how much better I am at skateboarding after eating these. Buen provecho.

*Actual Interaction: Me putting two boxes of crackers in the shopping cart and then moving on to the coffee aisle.
**Ed. Note: Lance BOLDS makes no guarantee about improving ability to skateboard.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Philly Burger Brawl 2015: Can You Eat 53 Burgers in 3 Hours?

Everybody's pissed off at Game of Thrones and I made this image over a year ago, but sometimes you need a lede and you're at work (and you're a lazy excuse for a writer).

Anyhoo, in less than a month (June 14th, from 3pm-6pm, to be exact), the 5th annual Philly Burger Brawl will descend upon Xfinity Live!, bringing with it 53 contenders vying for a really cool trophy and bragging rights. For you, this means that for $35, you can subject yourself to an eating challenge that carries its own bragging rights. And, if you can get through all 53, it'll only cost you $0.66 per burger (you can also pay the VIP rate of $100, which gets you started an hour earlier than us common folk)! Sadly, I'll be on my way to the shore, but this is definitely something you should check out if you're in Philly for the weekend. Buen provecho.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

And the Award for Shittiest Meal of 2015 Goes to...

Maybe it's the fact that we decided to go out for dinner on Monday. Maybe this past Monday was, in general, one of those Mondays that gives Mondays a bad rap. Or maybe, just maybe, the Manayunk Brewing Co. has decided to mail it in with their food now that their beer is a level above your ambitious neighbor's "Dave-Brau."

At the risk of sounding like an insufferable Yelper, I'm going to bitch and moan for a few paragraphs in order to get this meal off my chest. Before I launch headlong into it, I will say that the service was great, albeit slow.

But the food was an absolute atrocity.

No sushi on Mondays, I get it. My daughter, not so much. Her reluctant second choice, apples drizzled with caramel for dinner. Three apple slices, two strawberry halves, six bucks, and none of it eaten.

Mrs. Gastro and I (since there was no sushi) decided to split fish tacos and artichoke dip. No fish tacos. Our reluctant second choice, a veggie burger that was allegedly house made. The provolone cheese and mayo both failed to mask the taste of freezer burn. The artichoke dip was another loser. Ten bucks for a baby handful of stale chips and a ramekin of brown goo.

The only bright spot on the table (which was covered in outdoor filth and pollen) was my son's chicken fingers. Unfortunately, he's not real big on sharing these days.

At the end of it, we dropped 70 bucks and got in a big fight. Two days later, I'm still depressed and angry. I guess the moral here is "Don't go out on Mondays, but if you do, get the chicken fingers. And now, a stupid Dos Equis meme to support this point. Buen provecho.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Volvery Special Announcement: Garces Re-Imagines Menu at Kimmel Center Flagship

How many chefs does it take to change a light bulb?

Duh, chefs don't change light bulbs, they change menus! Whether it's the changing seasons or the constant drive to push the envelope, Philly's chefs refuse to sit still. Case in point, Jose Garces and his GRG Team, who just announced a major Spring overhaul at Volver.

The new menu is a four-way collaboration between Garces, chef de cuisine Natalie Maronski, and corporate chefs Justin Bogle and Gregg Ciprioni. You can choose 8 courses for $95 or get straight baller and opt for the 12-course $150 testing menu (do people say "baller" anymore?). Both menus can be paired with beverages curated by somm and beverage director Gordana Kostovski.

The Kimmel Center hosts plenty of performances, but Volver is where the food theater happens. Buen provecho.

Click through for menus.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Earth Bread + Brewery Loses Its Finest

Devastated is an understatement.

Good, bad, or ugly, social media means that you've access to a constant stream of news (provided you're plugged in, which of course you are because it's 2015), but it doesn't mean you're prepared for it. Last night, when Mrs. Gastro burst into tears next to me on the couch, neither of us were ready for the news of Bernard Ray's passing, especially at the hand of violence. If you knew him, you'll know that this is a terrible irony. If you didn't, it's a shame you'll never get to experience his disarming smile, his open arms, and the way he made you feel so goddamn welcome anytime you sat down for a meal at Earth Bread + Brewery.

Although we didn't know him outside of the restaurant, he leaves a lasting impression with me and my family and a giant hole in our collective hearts. 

This Thursday, January 8, Earth Bread + Brewery will be donating all proceeds from guest checks to his three young boys, daughter, and grandchild. Additional contributions are also welcome and can be given to servers or bartenders. Alternatively, if you can't make it, donations can be sent into the restaurant.

It's going to be difficult to walk through those doors Thursday, but I strongly urge you to do so. My deepest condolences to Bernard's family and to the Earth Bread + Brewery staff.  And to Bernard, rest in peace my friend. Your smile will never be forgotten.