Monday, December 31, 2007

Philly Food Blogger Meet-up

Philly Food Blogger Meet-up and Potluck
Friday January 11
Near Jefferson Square Park


We're doing it again!

If you blog, vlog, podcast, or whatever about food in or around the Philly area, are not already a member (you already have an invite if you are), and would like to join up and meet some of your fellow bloggers
, please send your name, blog url, and email contact to mac.and.cheese.review (at) gmail (dot) com.

An invite with details will follow. (Please pardon any slow responses, as I'll be out of town starting...now!)

If other bloggers would like to post this announcement on their blogs to cast a wider net, it would be appreciated.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Riverfront Market

Wilmington has its own version of Reading Terminal Market, only it’s called Riverfront Market, and it’s miniscule in comparison.

With only twelve vendors along the two aisles in this restored historic warehouse on the Christina River and Riverfront Park, you’d be mighty disappointed if you were expecting an eating destination as large and varied as the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia.

But if the crowds at Reading Terminal Market make you avoid that market like the plaque (like I do), you’ll find the Riverfront Market in Wilmington charming.

There’s this riverfront revitalization project going on in Wilmington (like every city in the U.S.), where they put in walkways and landscaping along the riverfront and called it the Tubman-Garret Riverfront Park. At one end of this park you have a small outlet mall (don’t bother), and really cool cranes on the waterfront from WWII when they used to build ships. On the other end (almost the end) you have the Riverfront Market. In between are businesses and a few restaurants that have tied their landscaping in to the park.

About four years ago, before I even lived in Wilmington, I got intimate with the park when I, along with two other women at the landscape company I briefly worked for, spent a week hand weeding the entire park. I pull weeds all the time – and love it – but this was one of the least enjoyable things I’ve ever done.

I particularly did not enjoy having strangers repeatedly ask me if I was hot in my Carhartt coveralls (I’m never hot. Mind your own fucking business), being sexually harassed my bums (Dude, I’m dirty and in coveralls! Raise your standards.), and being leered at by people leisurely enjoying their late afternoon cocktails from patio tables (I was jealous).

This week of weeding four years ago acquainted me with the Riverfront Market. We stopped in a couple of times for hot chocolate. Once, I even forwent my bagged lunch and grabbed some sushi from the sushi stall and a cookie from the Amish bakery and deli. I haven’t eaten there since.

The week before Christmas, I stopped by the Riverfront Market on three separate days to see what a vegetarian could scrounge up. Here’s what went down:

Day 1

I circled the entire place (quick trip) to see what I could eat:

Market City Cafe – slice of pizza
Eeffoc's – coffee
Jeenwong Thai Cuisine– eggplant and tofu stir-fry, veggie fried rice, veggie lo-mein
Olde World Cheese Steak Factory– veggie cheesesteak
Lapp's Kitchen – salad
Tokyo Sushi – veggie sushi, edamame, seaweed salad
Jona Miller’s Butcher and Bake Shop – pastries, Garden Griller panini
Riverfront Produce – fresh and dried fruits, nuts, candy, bottles of fresh squeezed juice
P&S Ravioli Company – eggplant parmesan sandwich, veggie rabe sandwich, ravioli in containers from the deli case that they’d heat up.

If it were up to me, I’d eat the sushi, but I’ve already had the sushi. My blogger-self tells me to try something else. I’m not eating fruit, nuts, or pastries for lunch. I’m not eating a lame salad, or an even lamer slice of pizza.

I go for the small Veggie Rabe sandwich ($3.95) at P&S Ravioli Company. The Veggie Rabe has breaded and fried eggplant, broccoli rabe, roasted peppers, and provolone. It’s a sandwich. Very Italian. If I were to order it again, I’d ask for some tomato sauce. (I don’t know why people make sandwiches without any sauce or spread. Inconceivable!)

Day 2

I’m curious about Jeenwong Thai Cuisine. They have a small steam table with serving trays filled with the day’s offerings behind a glass pane separating your filthy face from the food. It’s mostly meat.

I ask the jovial guy behind the counter what’s vegetarian. They have an eggplant and tofu stir-fry, veggie fried rice, and veggie lo-mein. You can get some meal deal, but there aren’t enough veggie options to make a meal deal I’d be interested in, plus I don’t really need that much food.

I opt for the eggplant and tofu stir-fry, and ask for the smallest container. He asks me if I want just the stir-fry in the container, or some rice, too? I’ll take rice, too. Steamed or stir-fried? Steamed. He rings me up for $2.75!

The stir-fry contains firm fried tofu, eggplant, cauliflower, red peppers, and onions atop short grained white rice. The stir fry is very mild. If it weren’t for the lemongrass, I’d say this was a stir-fry at a Chinese restaurant. I do appreciate the rounded, short grain white rice at the bottom.

There were other dishes, like the curries, I would have rather tried, but they were not vegetarian. I do like the friendly guy behind the counter, the price, and the authentic rice.

Day 3

Am I really going back? My masochistic, semi-obsession with veggie cheesesteaks is telling me to go back and try the veggie cheesesteak at Olde City Cheesesteak Factory. Uhg, ok.

First, I peak to see what’s offered at the Thai place, since the first two days I went they had the same eggplant and tofu stir-fry. The steam table is completely different from the days before, but I don’t see any veggie option other than the fried rice and lo-mein. Bummer.

At Olde City Cheese Steak Factory, the girls at the counter are very nice. I ask what’s on the veggie cheesesteak ($6.75). Onions and peppers done up Cajun-style with cheese. If you want to add mushrooms or anything else, you can for a charge. I’ll just do it up normal with Provolone. Do you want ketchup on that? Uhhhh... How about on the side? OK.

Everyone who ordered before and after me has already gotten their sandwich. I’m thinking that veggie cheesesteak stuff (I’m assuming there’s some soy or seitan involved) must be frozen, or something. Really, it’s not that long of a wait.

What I have to wait on is a table. Tables with tops depicting historic photos of life and industry in Wilmington are clustered at the ends of the market and off the side towards the center. These tables are all full. There’s also a sweet upstairs level with seating (only plain tables here), and an open center that overlooks the lower level of the market. This is where I like to sit, and these tables are full, too.

I wait at the bottom of the stairs and P&S’s deli case to keep an eye out for people leaving from the upstairs. I notice that water is dripping from the upper shelf in P&S’s deli case onto the unwrapped plate of chicken cutlets on the bottom of the case. Gross. I know lots of unappetizing things happen in kitchens that I can’t see, and eating it makes me stronger, if not sick, but I do not like to see this.

A ten minute wait, and I’ve got a seat upstairs. I open my sandwich, and it’s grilled onions, peppers, and melted cheese. No fake meat. So much for assuming. I pick up my onion and pepper sandwich to find the bottom of the roll disgustingly soggy. It could not have been wetter if I had thrown it in the river outside.

And what’s this Cajun-style the counter person was talking about? I assumed Cajun spices, but there were no spices. I don’t think anyone from Louisiana or Philly would claim this sandwich.

I’m perusing Spark (Wilmington’s free weekly that insists on putting scary photos of local “models” on every issue cover), and there’s a piece about Riverfront Market in the dining section. How timely. They say the Garden Griller panini ($6.50) at Jona Miller’s Deli pleased the vegetarian in their crowd. Did I miss the Holy Grail?

I went downstairs for sandwich #2! One asparagus, avocado, roasted pepper, grilled onions, and pesto on grilled sourdough, please. They also throw in a pickle and a bag of Kettle Chips. I don’t eat chips often, so hate the free bag of chips deal at delis. I would have loved a cookie, though.

The bread is crisp. The pesto and avocado combo is a little odd, but tasty. The asparagus spears are awkward when you think you’ve bitten through a spear, but the whole thing pulls out of the sandwich and hangs from your mouth like a limp cigarette.

This is my favorite sandwich out of the bunch, but I don’t think I’d go out of my way to eat a Garden Griller. The asparagus also makes for technical difficulties when eating the sandwich.

Well, that was my week at the Riverfront Market. My initial instincts of eating sushi four years ago were probably right. The market is a beautiful building on a riverfront park. And the park, I must say, is a nice place to eat lunch outside when the weather is nice.

But, you wanna know why you really stop in the Riverfront Market to grab a quick bite to eat?

You’ll need some fast food after you’ve squandered your entire lunch hour at the best Salvation Army that’s directly over the bridge from the market.

This place is HUGE, well organized, and always has what I need. I’ve found ski bibs that fit me; a pretty blue rain coat (a real one) for work; a red wool pea coat; a punch bowl for a party that I’ll never use again, but that’s ok, it was cheap; don’t know how many skirts; pretty plates… oh it just goes on. They even have couches that I'd sit on.

This is one place Wilmington does have over Philly.


Riverfront Market, 3 S. Orange St., Wilmington, DE, 19801
Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sun., closed

Some vendors open at 7:30 a.m. for breakfast

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Food Not-Gifts

I'm back. I hope everyone's holidays were just as lovely as mine. Here are my favorite food related holiday gifts that weren't actually gifts under the tree (too many of those to list):
  • My Dad thought I should start a vintage food tin collection to dust, since my childhood chore was dusting his extensive collections (I despise dusting). He started me off with a Log Cabin tin from the 50's (?) with syrup still in the can, an imitation black pepper tin from WWII or earlier (?) with imitation pepper still in the tin, and a mustard tin that was empty.
  • I gifted myself with a supply of Duke's mayonnaise for 2008.
  • My sister surprised me with a Piggly Wiggly canvas shopping bag after a run to the store. I returned later to get my new work uniform a Piggly Wiggly sweatshirt.
  • Our waitress at the Waffle House in N.C. we stopped in for lunch on the way home gave us a handwritten Christmas card with our bill. I can't imagine hand writing cards for every customer the hand cramps!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Santa's Diet Plan

I’m going home for Christmas, so won’t be around for a while. I leave you with one of my guilty pleasures, and Christmas memories.

About twice a year I break down and buy a roll of Pilsbury cinnamon rolls from the refrigerated case in the grocery store. I love these things. Probably more than your homemade cinnamon rolls or the corner bakery’s cinnamon rolls – which are vastly superior, but I don’t care.

I delight in pressing the edges of the cardboard seams after ripping the paper off the tube, and popping the package open with a bang. I like actions with amusing and rewarding results. Similarly, I enjoy popping champagne open. (Ooh, gotta try the two together!)

I inherited a vicious sweet tooth from my mother and my granddad, so when the rolls are baked, you better believe that every ounce of the icing gets slathered on the hot rolls. I then eat the entire pan. Maaaybe one or two gets saved for later. (Do you think the reduced fat variety I buy helps?)

So, where’s the Christmas connection?

On Chrismas morning, after all of us kids plundered the toys Santa left for us, my mom, too tired from staying up and putting all the toys together to make an extravagant breakfast, would pull Pilsbury cinnamon rolls from the oven and serve them with hot chocolate. I think I looked forward to the cinnamon rolls just as much as I did the presents.

The Pilsbury cinnamon rolls only played a part in the Christmases when we were little. I guess after we figured out the truth about Santa (I was the last in the know), Santa didn’t have to work so hard, so could make a real breakfast.

What that real breakfast was, I don't know. I have no recollection of any other Christmas breakfast. (I also have no recollection of any Christmas, period, during high school. I'm not sure I was alive during high school.)

At any rate, I kinda wish we still ate Pilsbury cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

K.C.'s Pastries

My eating schedule doesn’t sync with anyone’s. I like to eat lunch between 10:30 a.m and 11:30 a.m.; dinner between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.. And if I don’t snack every two hours on the hour, I get cranky. (Really. I don’t lie.) A dinner date at 8 p.m with normal people? Gotsta have a snack to survive.

Seriously cheap snacks – buns, cakes, and bubble tea – are what K.C.’s pastries in Chinatown is good for. Grab a bun, a Chinese pastry filled with sweet or savory fillings, and you’re (I’m) good to go ‘til dinner on normal people’s schedule.

Steer clear of the meat-filled buns (if vegetarian), and most of what’s left are sweet-filled buns, but the cheese and corn bun can take care of your savory cravings. Canned corn and cheese atop a sweet bread roll may sound like something from a college dorm kitchen, but it tastes just as good as you remember your ramen culinary creations – damn good!

For whatever reason, we were more scared of the peanut butter bun than the corn and cheese bun, but that peanut butter bun was out of this world. I think we feared a glob of gooey peanut butter in the center (that was my fear, at least), but, instead, the pastry had layers of dough and layers of just enough peanut butter to satisfy. No goo bomb inside!

Thanks K.C.! I made it to dinner (at 8:30 p.m.), and was most pleasant to be around.


K.C.'s Pastries, two locations:
109 N. 10th St., Philadelphia, PA, 19107

145 N. 11th St., Philadelphia, PA, 19107

215-238-8808

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Wild Chives & Rosemary

Update: no longer open.

I have passed Wild Chives and Rosemary, a corner lunch and breakfast spot in the mostly residential 40 Acres neighborhood of Wilmington, twice a week for the past two years. The sidewalk marquee advertising the daily specials of quiche and beef stroganoff make me yearn for the indulgence of actually taking the time out of the day to enjoy lunch. For two years, I have threatened to stop in and eat at WC&R.

I finally did it! But I’m afraid my two years of imagining what this corner eatery held only led to disappointment.

The corner store front, with plants in the windows, not to mention promises of quiche from a place with an herbal moniker, had me imaging a frilly, girly atmosphere inside. So, I was shocked to see a cluttered counter with a small open grill and prep area when I walked in the door.

The stark white walls sparsely decorated with photos of local landmarks high above anyone’s eye level didn’t convey any loving coziness. And the tables (except one picnic table taking up valuable floor space) were those cheap, fake wood veneer-topped tables with plastic edges you find in office break rooms. My inner amateur designer was screaming for the pictures to be lowered, a coat of colorful paint, and an eclectic assortment of antique tables to give the restaurant a cozy ambiance to reflect their name and location.

To top off the white wall and cheap table feeling of not caring, beverages were served in plastic Solo cups. Really!? The waste. The cheap image. This disturbed me to no end.

I read somewhere that WC&R’s salads were good, so decided to give one of the twelve salads on the menu a go. With so many salads to choose from such as the inventive curried chicken, salmon with avocado, tangerine and turkey, and classics like Caesar, nicoise, anti pasta, and chef salad, I got a little confused after reading all of the descriptions in an attempt to narrow my selection down.

I ended up ordering the wrong salad. I ordered the mild mediterannean salad with oven baked herb tomatoes, leeks, feta cheese, black olives, cucumber, and croutons with house-made herb vinaigrette thinking that there were chic peas on the salad. The whole time I kept wondering where the chick peas were. The chick peas were on the nicoise salad. Doh!

This is not a salad at a fine dining establishment, but a salad you eat as an excuse to escape from the office. The salad was large enough to be the proper lunch staple large salad. With twelve salads to choose from, including the option to make your own salad from a list of ingredients, I’m sure you can find a favorite.

After years of dreaming of quiche, I had to try a piece. I ordered a piece of spinach quiche to go for dinner. While I was at it, I took the servers dessert suggestion and ordered apple crisp for dinner, as well.

I enjoyed the spinach quiche with hints of sweet nutmeg that evening. Good, but again I think my fantasies of dainty dining unfairly built up my expectations for something grander.

The apple crisp was good in that homey, buttery, cinnamony, apple way, but there was no crisp to it at all. (I checked this upon immediately walking home. It did not sit for hours.) This was apple pie filling in a cup.

The soup, salad, and sandwich offerings, including the quiche specials, are classic lunch fare – nothing out or the ordinary. WC&R is just a reliable lunch spot, and an excuse to not stay in the office. WC&R is, food-wise, exactly the kind of place I would meet my mother for lunch once a month when she was not retired.

Well, Wild Chives and Rosemary has been marked off my list. I don’t know if I’ll ever do it again. If they ever put some love into the interior and 86 the Solo cups, let me know.


Wild Chives & Rosemary, 1836 Lovering Ave, Wilmington, DE, 19806
302-655-1190
Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun., closed

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Pepper Spice Cookies

Like all the bookmarked recipes sitting in my computer that I’ll get around to trying sometime in 2010 or later, this recipe for spiced cookies ripped from an issue of Better Homes and Gardens sat on my living room chair for a year, then was filed away in a binder for another year. It’s properly aged and ready to be enjoyed.

If you like ginger snaps, but want more kick, this cookie is for you. These cookies have a pleasant heat thanks to black pepper and cayenne pepper. And there’s chocolate!

So good, I took these as my date to a party!

Pepper Spice Cookies
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
Makes about 50 cookies

½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
medium grind black pepper
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon shortening

  • Mix sugar, baking powder, black pepper, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and cayenne in a bowl.
  • Cream butter into sugar and spice mixture.
  • Beat egg and milk. Add to creamed butter and sugar mixture.
  • Beat in as much flour as you can, then add the remaining flour. Knead dough if necessary.
  • Shape dough into a ball. Divide in half. Roll each half into a 6 ½ in roll. Wrap with plastic wrap, and chill 4-24 hours.
  • Slice rolls into ¼ inch rounds. Place on an ungreased baking sheet, and sprinkle tops of cookies with medium grind pepper.
  • Bake for 8 minutes at 375°, or until done.
  • Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Incorporate shortening.
  • Dip cooled cookies in melted chocolate. Place on waxed paper.
  • Transfer to the refrigerator until chocolate has hardened.

Win a Man...and Wine

What? I can win an attractive, intelligent man bearing wine for $10?

Quit your Craigslist missed connections searches. For a $10 donation to Menu for Hope, a worldwide food blogger’s fundraising campaign with proceeds going to the UN World Food Programme to benefit hungry farmers in Lesotho, Africa, you can buy yourself a raffle ticket to win a man with wine (Sommelier services from David McDuff of McDuff’s Food & Wine Trial).

What? You like to get around? Ok, here’s another man with wine – David Snyder of Philafoodie is offering a prize of two class gift certificates to the Wine School of Philadelphia.

More info on the sommelier service prize here.
More info on the gift certificates to the Wine School of Philadelphia here.
List of other prizes you could throw $10 at – all for a good cause.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sansom Kabob House

What I like is in the small ramekin.

The bf digs the hummus at the Afghan restaurant, Sansom Kabob House, in Center City so much; he dragged me there for a snack.

I’m not a fan of their hummus.

But just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s not good. People have their preferences. I don’t prefer ultra creamy, smooth hummus with pronounced tahini bitterness like the hummus he loves so much, and is served beneath the street level at Sansom Kabob House.

What I do like is the dipping sauce that comes with the hummus. Love it!

I’m not one to dip bread in fine olive oil at Italian restaurants and discern the regional nuances – it tastes like oil – but this I’ll stick bread in. The sauce (don’t know its name) that accompanies the hummus is oily, herby, tangy, and spicy. This sauce tastes like pickle juice with heat, and is balanced with olive oil.

And that I can dip into! Your preferences may differ.


Sansom Kabob House, 1526 Sansom St., Philadelphia, PA 19102
215-751-9110
Mon.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Sat., 1 p.m.-10 p.m.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Genelle's

Update: as of Jan. 30, 2009, Genelle's has closed to the public after 14 years of business, and is only offering catering.

Until the other day, I have been missing out on the best curry I’ve had since moving to this region. It's at Genelle's.

I’ve actually passed Genelle’s, a Caribbean restaurant right on the main drag in downtown Wilmington, and looked at their menu taped to the front window, but always pass by on Sundays when most every store in downtown Wilmington, including Genelle's, is closed.

The interior of Genelle’s is divided in two - a small, dine-in area with a takeout counter up front; and larger back area with white linen-topped tables, and a bar with live jazz on Saturdays. The casual, front dining area did me just fine.

If dining in, just say so, and they’ll put your food on a plate. I just spaced it.

Jerk chicken, curry chicken, curry shrimp, curry goat, oxtail, chicken and okra, and jerk burgers are just a few of the Caribbean delights on Genelle's menu.

Vegetarians can order the curry vegetables, or two of the Chinese (?) dishes – vegetable lo mein or vegetable fried rice. If you're a vegetarian, don’t let the limited vegetarian choices stop you from trying Genelle’s.

The side orders read like a specials board at a Southern meat-and-three studded with Caribbean flavor – steamed cabbage, collards, sweet potatoes, mac and cheese (not available that day, or else I would have been all over it), fried plantains, rice and peas, dohl pourri, and Guyanese patties (owners are from Guyana).

More than enough for a big boy...or a small girl that just can't quit.

Standing at the counter, looking through the glass at the large pans of stewed curry on the steam table, I could just tell my meal was going to be good. And, oh, buddy, was it!

Genelle’s yummy vegetable curry plate ($5) consists of potatoes, corn, carrots, sweet peppers, peas, beans, and tomatoes, and is pilled atop a generous portion of rice and peas. The flavors mingled, with nothing overriding, and the spices and heat were perfectly piquant.

Steamed cabbage also comes with the vegetarian plate. I love all cabbage, even Genelle’s cabbage that was boiled to a translucent sweetness.

A bake.

Genelle’s also has baked goods – corn bread, carrot cake, pound cake, and occasional Caribbean specialties like cassava pone, coconut buns, and Guyanese rum cake.

I couldn’t resist the pastry unfamiliar to me – a bake ($1). A bake is a slightly sweet bread spiced with cinnamon. Stuffed from the curry, I brought the bake home for later. The grease-soaked, brown paper bag carrying the bake was evidence that a bake is not baked! If Genelle's bake were topped with powdered sugar, you could call it an elephant ear.

I like to visit my Wilmington lunch spots during lunch hour to get a feel of their popularity. Genelle’s had a steady flow of people coming in for take out, but not nearly the business they deserve. There should have been a line out the door and wrapping around the building!

My ignorance of Genelle's divine curry was a crime. I'm hoping this PSA counts towards community hours served.

Genelle's Bakery and Cafe, 730 Market St., Wilmington, DE 19801
302-654-5322

Mon.-Tues., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Wed.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-1 a.m.; Sun., closed

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Christmas Crack

Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Joe-Joe's are dangerous. You only have a few options when confronting these Oreo, Thin Mints, and peppermint bark hybrids.

Abstinence
Yeah, right!

Moderation
Only for those with a very strong will and non-addictive personality.

Fiendish Hoarding
These cookies are seasonal. Stave off withdrawal symptoms by hoarding. Twelve to twenty boxes should do you until this time next year. (Buy hundreds if you are a street corner entrepreneur.)

This is the face of an addict. It could happen to any one.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Shiroi Hana

I love not having to pick new restaurants to try, so was thrilled when another couple picked Shiroi Hana, a Japanese restaurant in Center City that’s been around since the ‘80’s.

Shiroi Hana’s narrow downstairs with two and four-top tables and a small sushi bar was filled when we arrived, but we snagged a table after a brief fifteen minute wait. Three years of Japanese classes began to kick in. Hana means flower. Shiroi? Shiroi? White! Yes, White Flower!

Given the choice of miso soup or salad at a Japanese restaurant, I always choose salad. It’s not the lettuce I’m after, but the carrot-ginger dressing. Shiroi Hana’s dressing was grainy and muddy in flavor. I’d choose miso soup at Shiroi Hana, instead.

We all ordered sushi – how could you not order sushi at a Japanese restaurant? The others ordered sushi with fish. I, of course, ordered the vegetarian sushi sampler, which is always a crap shoot when trying out a new Japanese restaurant. More often than not, the assortment is cucumber, carrot, daikon, or asparagus maki. And the “fancy” roll is asparagus tempura maki.

I was visually impressed with the variety of Shiroi Hana’s vegetarian sampler. Yeah, they were, for the most part, the usual suspects – cucumber, avocado, daikon, and asparagus – but at least they were presented differently than the skimpy hosomaki you’re familiar with from grab-and-go plastic containers of sushi, and even some restaurants.

The vegetarian sushi sampler came with: avocado, bean sprout, cucumber, daikon, and asparagus nigiri; inari; seaweed salad gunkan; and an assorted vegetable futomaki.

For dessert, I chose the green tea mochi. I don’t know why. I’m not fond of the vaguely sweet rice cakes filled with bean paste. I do like green tea, though, and these mochi hinted of green tea. The only explanation I have for ordering this dessert is that I like to test myself every once in a while, and revisit food’s I’m not fond of. I still am not fond of mochi, but that doesn’t mean Shiroi Hana’s mochi were bad. I ate them.

All in all, a generally pleasant meal of sushi, except…I felt rushed to finish our meal when, at 10 p.m. on the nose, the sushi bar noisily cleaned up their station – and turned out the light! Not all the lights, just the lights over the sushi bar, but this was enough to get the message that they were closing.

The message was a little unfriendly, so we wrapped it up quickly and got out of there. Sayonara, Shiroi Hana.

Shiroi Hana, 222 S. 15th St., Philadelphia, PA, 19102
215-735-4444

Lunch: Mon.-Fri., 12-2:15 p.m.
Dinner: Mon.-Thurs, 5:30-10 p.m.; Fri., 5:30-10:30 p.m.; Sat., 5-10:30 p.m.; Sun., 5-9 p.m.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

ING Café

This is not more ING propaganda. Well, maybe it is, but I’m not getting paid for it. This is actually a food review, and the first dining adventure of my Lunch-in-Wilmington winter project. But first can I rant and rave about ING?

Yes, I have an ING account. Two, in fact. A piece of unsolicited mail from ING landed in my mailbox right about the time I was gearing up to transfer money from an out of state account. ING's high interest rates sold me.

Great interest rates, great website…blah, blah, blah. ING is great! Unless your parents have done you the disservice of calling you by your middle name, and everyone identifies you by your middle name, and, therefore, all checks are written to you using your middle name.

When I opened an ING account, I called to make sure it would not be a problem using my middle name. Not a problem. ING was depositing checks written to my middle and last name for about a month…then it all stopped.

Four phone calls and a month later, I end up with a woman at the ING headquarters (hello, Wilmington) who tells me that, regrettably, all the customer service representatives I’ve been in contact with previously are morons, and my middle name is not my legal name. Really? 'Cause it's on my birth certificate and social security card.

Never having had this problem with any other bank, be it for a checking account or a loan, I was fuming and considered moving my money at once. Having just gone through a two month battle to get my money from an out of state bank, I was tired and defeated. I gave in. So, please, send all checks to me using my first name. Thanks. (And FU, ING!)

So...on to my first Wilmington lunch. Well, maybe not first, but I really think I have eaten lunch in Wilmington maybe only once before. You see, I am a devout brown bagger – except my lunch bag is a rectangular duck head with googly eyes and a protruding orange bill.

I’ve been dying for months to try out ING Café in Wilmington. I don’t know why. Big orange ball; large, glowing blue walls of computers visible from the street; sleek interior; hot, young, corporate men in pressed pants and crisp, button-down shirts – all very compelling.

If you don’t know already, ING has internet cafes in Wilmington, Philly, NY, and a few other major cities in the US (Wilmington does not qualify as a major city, but their corporate headquarters are in Wilmington) where you can grab a coffee, a bite to eat, and hop on your own computer or one of the many computers inside the café for free.

Wilmington’s ING Café is the feeding grounds for the ING employees, unlike the smaller ING cafes in other cities, and during lunch hour you might as well be in a corporate cafeteria if you're in Wilmington's ING Café.

Against my better judgment, I hit Wilmington’s ING Café at noon, and within minutes of walking in the door, the flood gates opened and suits and skirts flooded the café, nearly knocking me over as I stood gazing around the large cafeteria-like space trying to get my bearings.

The ING propaganda in the café is overwhelming – ING logos on coffee cups, ING merchandise (ING totes for Xmas!), cards on tables advertising their accounts, ING computer homepage, ING ATM, orange plates, orange straws, men wearing orange. Really, it all fades to the background after a while, and you can take advantage of what ING Café truly is good for – coffee and computers.

I’m not a coffee connoisseur. I drink coffee sparingly, and amusingly to great effect as a drug. ING Café serves Peet’s coffee, which apparently is the shit, as it has recently come to Philly and people are going gaga over it. I had a cup. It was coffee. Very strong coffee. Thirteen hours later I was still wired.

Soup of the day, sandwiches, and salads are the main food groups at ING, and change daily – at least in Wilmington. Employees seemed ecstatic that the daily hot sandwich offering of the day was a pitifully ugly Philly Cheesesteak, but I guess all cheesesteaks are ugly,so.... Chips, cookies, fruit, yogurt, chocolate bars, sport bars, and granola bars are also available to supplement your meal.

I went with the only vegetarian sandwich of the day – mozzarella, tomato, and basil on ciabatta bread – which the counter person enthusiastically recommended. (There were some seriously hopped-up on coffee people there – behind the counter and waiting in line. An employee in line in front of me quickly whipped around to ask me if I had gotten some Girl Scout cookies? 'Cause they're handing them out in the lobby! Then whirled back around and proceeded to rhythmically beat the counter with some folded papers. Um...ok.)

Where to sit all by my lonesome amid a sea of corporates grouped at tables still discussing what ever it is they do up in those tall buildings? How about a small table over by the large window wall overlooking the lower level, pseudo-Japanese garden?

While I ate my bland mozzarella, tomato, and basil sandwich – similar to any you’d pick up at an airport or any other sandwich kiosk – a cute ING employee sits at the neighboring table. Oh, yeah!

We are probably the only two people in the entire cafeteria sitting alone - bar those sitting at one of the maybe twenty computers in the cafeteria area. He watches the news on a large-screen TV right above his head, and me. I watch the garden down below, the alien (to me) workers eat, and him. Awkward!

At this point, the lunch venture is not about food, but about my unfamiliar surroundings. I feel like a fly on the wall observing a new culture. I know that office workers are people too, but you have to understand that I've never had a job with a desk or a computer – or such perceived seriousness: informal meetings over lunch, texting, the constant twitching of checking the BlackBerry every thirty seconds.

It's all so serious. Yet, I wonder if it is really necessary. I don't do this at all. Are you office people really that serious, busy, and stressed? Judging from my boyfriend (who does the corporate dance, but, thankfully, doesn't twitch to the BlackBerry), I'm gonna sadly conclude, yes.

After I polish off the sandwich, I stick around to do some more observing of this foreign society and their culture.

The Wilmigton ING Café is huge. Not only is there a large cafeteria with dining tables and computer stations to the right of the lower level lobby (also with dining tables), there's an area to the left of the lobby that's divided into smaller rooms containing couches, cushy chairs, and low coffee table, and, of course, more computers.

Not forgetting the free Girl Scout cookies in the lobby, I grab a few Thin Mints...but a woman behind the table stops me (oh shit, I don't look like I work here) to thank me for all my volunteer work with the Girl Scouts, and offers me an ING-logoed mousepad. Oh, you're welcome, but, no thanks, I think I'll just take a few cookies.

Across the lobby, I find a nearly empty sitting area in the far front corner next to the computer stations. I sit across from a lone man engrossed in the newspaper and last night's leftovers. There's a TV over my head playing the news. Hey, look, the cute guy that sat next to me in the cafeteria is sitting down next to me – again. Awkward!

Why is he following me? Is he attracted to the only girl in the building that looks like a teenage runaway? Can't be? Well, I am wearing my most cleavage-revealing hoodie. (It's times like these that I wish I had cleavage.)

Cute guy's looking at the TV above my head. Or is he looking at me? I have nothing to do – no book to read, BlackBerry to text on, or phone call to make, and all the computers are taken by the ING employees and a group of city kids playing video games and music, and, damn it, I'm not leaving; I have observations to make. I can only stare in different directions. Awkward!

The two of us sit bouncing gazes left, right, up, down...and then...he falls asleep! No lie. I guess he didn't drink the Peet's. And I guess I'm not really that alluring. Sitting inside the parenthesis, looking across the lobby to the entrance of the café.

I quietly sneak out of there, and have a seat at an open computer amongst the kids playing video games and music (more my element) on the outside of the oval, room-like computer station. (Imagine two parenthesis ( ) as the room. Computers line the outside of the parenthesis, and a sitting room is in the interior of the parenthesis.)

You know what? I hate reading or working in public, and I can't use a computer in public, either. But it's nice to know that a computer with free internet connection is available at ING Café.

After an hour of dining and observing the strange society, I'm outta there. Au revouir, sexy corporate men. I've got my own sexy, well-dressed, working man. And he only falls asleep in my presence at appropriate times - bedtime.


ING Café, 802 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, DE, 19801
302-255-3750
Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-6 p.m.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

New Winter Project

Best/worst city slogan ever.

For those paying attention, you know that I actually live in Wilmington, Delaware, but mostly write reviews of Philadelphia restaurants. Why no love for Wilmington? Because, well, Philly is were I spend my weekends and non-working and non-sleeping hours.

But, I’m about to give you some love Wilmington! Even though the only readers I have in Wilmington are people looking for Buckley’s brunch menu. (You really need to get a site up, Buckley’s.)

Due to the nature of my job, I have lots of free time in the winter, so...I figured during the week I could get off my ass occasionally, walk out my front door and down the street to see what I could find in the lunch department in downtown Wilmington.

Why lunch? Because 9-5 is when downtown Wilmington is open, and I’d like to keep my destinations in walking distance. Plus, I always bring my lunch to work, and would like to see what Wilmington has to offer. And, I hate to admit this, but I'm uncomfortable eating dinner alone lunch is another story, though. So, lunch it is!

Now, I know this new venture is going to alienate most of my Philly readership (all four of you), and is not the wisest decision, but, don’t worry (not that anyone is), I will still be covering my Philly beat.

But, please, do still read. My first lunch outing is kinda fun and strange.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

White Fruitcake

As if my copious mayonnaise consumption weren’t proof enough that I’m a disgusting individual, I made fruitcake this past weekend. I’m one of the fifty people out there that actually likes fruitcake. In fact, I’ve been known to foster unwanted gift fruitcakes at my house.

My Dad also likes fruitcake. Ever since he’s discovered my blog (beware of links), he emails me occasionally with recipes or ideas. I’ve yet to follow through. Not that they aren’t lovely idea, it’s just that I don’t actually plan what I’m going to post. Posts just happen.

My secret ingredient: crystallized ginger.

The other day, he asks me if I have the prize-winning fruitcake recipe (not his recipe, someone else’s). Because it's prime time (maybe even a little late) to make fruitcake, if you want it ready for Christmas. Yep, I’ve got it. I was actually planning on making fruitcake last year, and a year later is about the perfect time to get around to doing things.

Blue ribbon be damned, I could not follow the recipe. It called for creaming butter and sugar for 15 minutes, and everyone knows I have no patience. And for giggles, I added crystallized ginger. I went with my Dad’s suggestion of using Sunmaid's Jumbo raisins – they’re huge! He just moved into a new house with a slow oven, and declares that slow and low is key. Mine was done in 2 ½ hours at 225°. We’ll compare notes at Christmas. (I hope I win.)

My camera got a bath after this shot.

And for those of you that bitch about fake fruit in fruitcakes…It’s candied, not fake. Get over it – or make one with only dried fruit. And if you still can’t get over it, send all shunned cakes to my house.

White Fruitcake
Adapted from Revised Version of Spices of Life Past and Present by Lee A. Harley, Sr.

20 ounces candied pineapple, cut into ¼ inch pieces
12 ounces candied cherries, cut in half
4 ounces jumbo raisins
8 ounces dates, chopped coarsely
2 ounces crystallized ginger, chopped finely
1 ½ cups pecans, chopped coarsely
1 cup walnuts, chopped coarsely
2 cups flour
¾ cup butter, (room temperature)
1 cup granulated sugar
5 eggs (room temperature)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon mace
2 ounces sweet wine, (port or cream sherry)
brandy, rum or other spirits to add after the cake is baked

  • Preheat oven to 225°.
  • Mix fruit, ginger, and nuts in a large bowl, keeping a few pieces out for decorating the top of the cake.
  • Sift flour, and mix about 1/3 cup flour in fruit and nut mixture until coated.
  • Cream butter and sugar together in a small bowl and beat for 15 minutes, if you can stand it that long. I lasted 5 minutes.
  • In another small bowl, beat eggs on high for 1 minute. Add the cinnamon and mace to the egg mixture.
  • Add the creamed butter and sugar to the fruit and nut mixture, mixing well. Then add the egg mixture, mixing well. Then add the flour in three parts, mixing after each addition. Then add the sweet wine and mix. (It’s best to just reach in there and mix with your hands.)
  • Fill a greased, or greased parchment-lined bundt pan (or a few smaller pans) with the batter, pressing down and smoothing out the batter. Decorate the top with nuts or fruit.
  • Bake at 225° for 2-2 ½ hours, or until center of cake is done and straw inserted in middle of cake comes out clean.
  • When completely cooled, unmold cake and wrap in foil for a week to cure. (Some add spirits after cooling, but I'm following the recipe sent to me, and will wait.)
  • After a week of curing, sprinkle a few ounces of any combination of spirits (brandy, whiskey, port, rum, scotch, sherry) on top for the cake to absorb. Repeat, adding spirits every few days until the cake is moist throughout, or until you’re satisfied with the results.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Meju

Update: No longer open.

I stumbled upon the newly opened BYOB Korean restaurant, Meju, in Old City a few weeks ago. It was after 10p.m., and I was already happily liquored-up when I walked in the cozy BYOB that was getting ready to close. Unaware of their hours, I asked if they were closing. Yes, but they happily set a table for us.

Now, I would never impose on a hard-working, tired restaurant crew (I make a point to not even enter restaurants 30 minutes before closing), but they seemed genuinely carefree and unbothered by our presence. Had they rolled their eyes or hesitated, instead of cheerfully waiving us in, I would have gladly turned around.

After the lone dinner party remaining exited, the crew cleaned up, and set themselves down at the table behind us and had a snack and chat, all the while attentively and happily attending to our table. The service was so genuinely nice – not even considering we were there after hours.

I came in really seeking a late night snack of kimbap, Korea’s version of sushi. I used to eat kimbap every week at my favorite Korean/Southwestern restaurant (unlikely combination) in my hometown (and, dang, if they aren't closed at Xmas when I go home), so miss kimbap very much. Sliced thinner than sushi, the carrot, pickled daikon, and spinach-filled kimbap is great for people like me with small mouths – tasty, too.

We also ordered the vegetarian dolsot bibimbap, a rice dish served in a scorching-hot stone bowl and topped with vegetables and tofu. Our food came with about eight of so small dishes of spicy banchan, which we polished off. Never once trying to rush our table, the nice server offered us refills of our banchan. We declined, as we were stuffed and didn’t want to take up more of their time.

Besides the food being excellent (sorry, no pics; I was not anticipating eating out), I am truly amazed at how nice the staff was to a couple of people who walked in after hours. I’m doing a side job tomorrow a block from Meju, and I know exactly where I’m eating when my day is done.

Meju, 213 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA, 19106
215-238-9403

Friday, November 23, 2007

Apple-Cranberry Pie

I should have participated in that post-every-day-in-November-cause-I’m-a-badass-blogging-mofo NaBloPoMo, ‘cause I have posts out the wazoo to get around to. I’m trying really hard to stick to my normal regularity of posting, but the shit’s getting backed up. I’ve got about six restaurant reviews to get around to, and the unveiling of my winter project, but other posts keep popping up. I can’t decide…do I post that restaurant review, or get started on the winter project, or post that timely recipe? Timely recipe wins.

I made the apple-cranberry pie from Cook’s Illustrated for Thanksgiving. It’s the pie that came with the revolutionary foolproof vodka pie crust, but Smitten Kitchen beat me to the punch on the pie dough (she beats everyone, so no biggie).

Smitten Kitchen just reneged her recommendation of the pie crust due to its stickiness, but still declares it the flakiest yet. I experienced stickiness when mixing the dough, but after the dough slept in my fridge overnight bundled in plastic wrap (at least 45 minutes in the fridge is recommended, but I stretched the pie making over two days), the stickiness was no more. Rolled out perfectly. And the baked crust? Flakiest yet.

So, no more on the crust. Go get the recipe at Smitten Kitchen. The cranberry and apple filling, though! Yum! I’m not a die hard apple pie fan, and wondered why I was even making an apple pie – other than the fact that Cook’s Illustrated wills me to make their recipes through mind control.

The cranberry mash is layered on the bottom of the pie, and apple slices sit on top, guaranteeing cranberry and apple in every bite, but no mixing or polluting of the individual flavors. The scent of butter, apples and roses seduced me as I drove the 45 minutes to my friend’s house for Thanksgiving with the warm pie riding shotgun.

Sorry for no final pie-innards picture (it’s rude to run around with a camera at someone else’s Thanksgiving table). But, trust me; it was beautiful and tasty. Cranberries and apples work well at Christmas, too, ya know! Apple-Cranberry Pie
adapted from Cooks Illustrated

2 cups frozen or fresh cranberries
¼ cup orange juice
1 cup granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon for top of pie
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon table salt
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 ½ pounds sweet apples (6-7 medium), peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
1 recipe Foolproof Pie Dough
1 egg white, beaten lightly

  • Bring cranberries, orange juice, ½ cup sugar, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally, while pressing the berries against the side of the pan with a spoon to assist in breaking the berries down. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until the berries achieve a thick consistency (scrapping spoon across bottom of pan leaves a trail that does not fill in). Remove from heat, and stir in water. Cool to room temperature (30 minutes).
  • Meanwhile, mix ½ cup sugar, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon salt, and cornstarch in large microwave-safe bowl. Add apples and toss to coat. Microwave on high, stirring every 3 minutes, for 10-14 minutes or until the edges of the apples are slightly translucent and liquid has thickened. Cool to room temperature (30 minutes).
  • Move oven rack to the bottom and place a baking sheet on the bottom rack. Preheat oven to 425°.
  • Roll one disk of the refrigerated dough out to a 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick on a generously floured surface. Place dough in pie pan, leaving a 1-inch dough overhang. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Spread the cranberry mixture evenly in the dough-lined pie pan. Top with apple mixture.
  • Roll the second dough disk out to a 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick on a generously floured surface. Place on top of the pie, leaving a 1-inch overhang.
  • Cut both layers of the overhanging dough, leaving ½ inch overhang. Fold the dough under so it’s flush with the pie pan edge. Crimp pie edges. Brush top of pie with egg whites, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar. Cut slits in top of pie dough.
  • Place pie on preheated baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°, rotate baking sheet, and continue to bake for 25-30 minutes, or crust is deep golden brown.
  • Cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Cupcakes

Thanksgiving cupcakes from Whole Foods.

How could I resist a carcass-topped cupcake? And the mini-meal made me want to break out the dolls I never owned and play house.

Happy Thanksgiving!