Sunday, June 29, 2008
This is not my first trip to Famous Fourth; I seem to find myself there about once a year. These yearly visits happen mostly out of laziness and lack of inspiration of where to go. Philly digs were once a block from Famous Fourth, and are currently about seven blocks south of the deli, so it's not uncommon that I find myself wandering the neighborhood.
This last visit occurred after being awake for 24 hours, which caused me to be cranky (lunch inspiration was not flowing) and perpetually hungry (a huge sandwich would solve that problem).
Sandwiches can be ordered regular or zaftig. Regular is large. Zaftig is a joke. If you can tackle a sandwich that is six or more inches tall, go ahead and order the zaftig.
Sandwiches aren't the only thing large at the deli. The salad is large enough to be set on a Thanksgiving buffet table, and a single serving of kugel will sink a ship. Large is Famous Fourth's schtick.
I ordered the regular egg salad sandwich with a side of cucumber and onion salad. I pushed half of the faintly dill spiced, but otherwise bland egg salad along with all but one tomato slice and one leaf of lettuce out of the sandwich so that I could wrap my lips around that mother. I then adorned the sandwich with the slightly sweet and tangy cucumber salad for flavor. The rye bread the sandwich came on was very good - soft and not too heavy on rye.My partner ordered the cheese omelet, which came with potato pancake, and a bagel with cream cheese. The omelet was huge; fine, but the bland cheese inside was nothing special. The potato pancakes are much crispier than latkes I'm used too. The potato pancakes sort of remind me of smooshed, overcooked Tater Tots. He's a bagel snob, and liked the bagels just fine. He also ordered the lox.
Half of his brunch went home with him. I passed on the doggie bag of bland egg salad sandwich innards left on my plate.
I admit, I like large portions when I'm famished. And when I'm not, I don't mind taking home leftovers. But a half pound of leftover cold cuts, or in my case egg salad, does not make the most anticipated leftovers the next morning. I'd be better served with a smaller sandwich at a cheaper price (most regular-size sandwiches will run you about $12).
With your check you get two small chocolate chip cookies. Don't ask me how they were, because I was too stuffed to eat them. For those strongly in one camp or the other on cookie texture, they felt like crunchy cookies, not soft.
Famous Fourth Deli did the trick of stuffing my indifferent, hungover, cranky stomach, but it was not entirely pleasurable. I'm sure I'll see the inside of the deli next year under a similar uninspired situation.
Famous Fourth Street Deli
700 S. 4th St., Philadelphia, PA, 19147
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
I see no problem with the latter scenario. Just like you can’t sing a song that’s never been sung, you also can’t bake a cookie that’s never been baked.
When I saw these vegan peanut butter filled chocolate cookies on Vegan Gal’s blog, I immediately bookmarked them. Vegan Gal admittedly confesses to forgetting where she first spotted the recipe. One of her commenters attributes it to My Sweet Vegan.
I googled the cookie and also found the recipe (vegan and non-vegan versions) in many places. Some trace it back to the classic punk vegan cookbook Soy, Not Oi!, a zine published before the ambitious young author of My Sweet Vegan was probably even born. One even attributed the non-vegan recipe (identical, save for an egg) to Better Homes and Gardens.
I'm not sure anyone can take credit for this recipe. Just like the oatmeal cookie, the peanut butter filled chocolate cookie has probably been floating out there for some time.
All I know is that if everyone’s baking these cookies, they must be good! They are.
Vegan Peanut Butter Filled Chocolate Cookies
Makes about 26 cookies
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soy milk
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup chocolate chips
- Mix flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda in a bowl.
- In a separate bowl, cream together the margarine, sugar, and brown sugar. When combined, mix in the soy milk.
- Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix.
- In a separate bowl, mix the powdered sugar and peanut butter with a spoon or your hands.When ingredients are incorporated, add the chocolate chips and knead further with your hands to incorporate the chocolate chips.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Take about a 2 or 3 tablespoons of the chocolate dough in your hand, and roll into a ball.Flatten the ball on the parchment paper to form a disk. Take a pinch or about 1 teaspoon of the peanut butter mixture and place in the center of the disk. Fold the edges of the disk up and over the peanut butter, pressing the seams together. Place the cookie seam-side down on the parchment paper to bake.
- Bake for 8-12 minutes in a preheated 350° oven.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
The food: Okay to good.
The service: Worst. Service. Ever.
And here goes the story…
It was light outside when we arrived.
We arrived early Friday evening to hear that a Jazz band was playing in the side yard and outdoor dining area. I despise Jazz (someone please shoot the saxophone player), but we were committed to this dining experience, so entered the side yard.
The hostess greeted us and told us we could pick any table. The table we picked was dirty, so the hostess promptly ran inside to get a cloth to wipe down the table. She informed us that there was a $4 cover charge per person for the band, giving us a good warning if we wished to leave (this charge is standard for the live bands playing on the outside stage, and there will probably be one if you go on a weekend during good weather). We were not happy about the charge, but we were still committed to this dining experience.
We sat for about fifteen minutes watching tables who came in after us get drinks and complimentary chips and salsa. We also watched every server breeze past us and never look at our table. We finally flagged down the hostess, and asked if we could get a server.
We got a server about five minutes later. He nixed some of our orders (the vegetable stew and spinach and groundnut stew), saying that he didn’t think they were very good, but recommended a "banging" seitan and tofu curry special. I appreciate honest opinions, so we took his word.
We asked for water. We also brought a bottle of chilled wine, which was no longer chilled at this point. A bucket of ice and glasses for the wine were also promised.
Jazz band takes a break (thank god), and I sill don't have an open bottle of wine.
About ten minutes later we got water and plastic cocktail cups for our wine, but no bucket of ice or our bottle of wine opened.
About ten minutes later we got a bucket of ice, and the server (not our original server) started to walk away, but I caught him to ask for a bottle opener.
He came back with a cork screw and attempted to pull the cork without using the claw-like lever device, tearing the cork. I grabbed the bottle and corkscrew from him, telling him I could open the bottle. Not only did he not know how to use a corkscrew, he was using one that had it’s screw broken off; there was about one inch of screw.
We asked him to get another bottle opener. The hostess delivered one and we opened our own bottle of wine.
Operating a corkscrew is not intuitive (I still can’t figure out the Rabbit). Wine bottle opening should be one of the first things a restaurant trains its servers.
Did I mention that there’s a $4 corking fee? Yeah, we paid $4 for waiting forever to drink, plastic cups, and opening our own wine.
We knew we were doomed after the whole drink ordeal. Witnessing the table behind us leave before their food came out was also a sign of things to come.
We said that if we finished our bottle of wine before the food came out, we’d leave. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I’m a slow sipper, and my partner actually held out on the last glass in hopes of food arriving (he eventually gave up and poured the last glass right before the food arrived), we would have finished the bottle before the food came.
The food arrived about an hour and fifteen minutes after we arrived. Wanna know what it looked like? Sorry! It was light outside when we arrived on what was actually the longest day of the year, but it was pitch black when we got the food. I actually couldn’t see it with my own eyes, since we were sitting away from the few lights on the side of the building.
I ordered a sampler plate of three sides – cabbage, okra and tomato stew, and beans and rice. Cabbage and okra are two of my favorite vegetables. The steamed cabbage was great; just like any steamed cabbage you get in the
My partner ordered the bangin' seitan and tofu curry stew. I liked it, with its heavy spices, but my partner was only mildly enamored by the stew of seitan, tofu, onions, carrots, and god knows what else, because we couldn’t see our plates. The stew came with the same cabbage, and rice and beans as my plate. His entrée also came with fried plantains and a roll that tasted like a deep-fried Pillsbury crescent roll, but shaped into a knot.
All of the items on my plate were warm to luke-warm. On my partner’s plate, the rice was scorching hot, the cabbage luke-warm, and the curry stew cold.
This poor experience at the Jamaican Jerk hut is unfortunately not uncommon, as similar stories are peppered throughout comments on online restaurant review sites.
The wait staff is incompetent, part of which may not be their fault. Do they have assigned tables, or is this a communal serving system? If it’s communal, drop that! I’ve never dined at a restaurant implementing communal serving that had good service.
There are obviously problems getting food out of the kitchen.
The only person who was working their tail off, and knew what was up and what was down, was the hostess. I wish we could have tipped her, instead of our server.
Yeah, we tipped! Twenty percent on the food, but not the cover charge or the corkage fee. Like we’re really going to stiff our honest server who had no idea our table was his (maybe his fault, maybe not), and has no control over the kitchen?
You couldn’t pay me to go back to Jamaican Jerk Hut. It’s one thing to wait a long time for food when you have drinks and a little nibble to tide you over (we never did get chips and salsa like everyone else), but twiddling your thumbs for thirty minutes before even being served a glass of water does not make for happy campers.
Jamaican Jerk Hut
1436 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19146
Thursday, June 19, 2008
This cabin-shaped tin can has managed to stay intact for the last fifty or so years (not sure it's real age), but within six months of my possession a pin-sized hole has managed to appear allowing amber liquid to seep down the side (really pretty when it goes unnoticed). Rust is to blame, not me!
I twisted that sucker off, and…hey, it’s sealed!
I still didn’t want to open the tin, so screwed the lid back on, and then squeezed the syrup out of the tiny rust hole on the side of the tin.
What does 50 year old syrup taste like?
Really good! It tastes like maple syrup, in fact. A lot like maple syrup. I picked up the tin to see if it listed ingredients and it did: sugar and maple sugar syrups. Now, Log Cabin gives us high fructose corn syrup. Boo.
So, does any one know how to fix the hole? Something more professional than duct tape. For now the tin is going to sit on it’s side so it doesn’t made weepy pools of syrup on the shelf.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Watermelon, blood orange, and traditional lime were the special margarita mixes of the day. We went with a pitcher of blood orange margarita mix. Really, you can’t go wrong with mixing your own drink.
Chips and salsa were complimentary. The red salsa was smoky. The green salsa had lots of mint. Mint throws me sometimes. I like it; I don’t like it. Lolita’s minty green salsa was strangely compelling.
There are asterisks on the menu next to entrees that can be made vegetarian by substituting either pan seared three chili tofu or grilled portobello, and I would say that about half of their entrees can be made vegetarian. Our server, who was quite nice, even noted that one of the dishes normally offered vegetarian could not be done that night because one of the sauces had anchovies. Very thoughtful of him.
We both ended up substituting the tofu in our dishes. The tofu was very dry and chewy, with a crispy outside. I’ve never had tofu exactly of this texture at any restaurant, and I was not fond of it. It’s like the tofu sat in a slow oven for days and dried out. From this one visit, I would recommend vegetarians opt for the portobello substitution. Maybe this batch of tofu was off, though.
My partner ordered a dish with a smoky mole sauce, roasted corn, and I’m sure something else that I just can’t remember right now. His dish was very good, but, for some reason, a noticeably smaller portion than my plate of food.
I ordered the tofu with fried plantains, cider glaze, cherries, and orange and jicama slaw. This dish was very tart – too tart, even. The tartness from the cider glaze and cherries may have worked with the duck that originally came with the dish, but tofu could not stand up to the sauce. The only reason I could eat this dish is because I can drink vinegar straight from the bottle. The soft, sweet plantains were fabulous and generous. The slaw was also good.
Froo-froo presentations are pretty, but I never know from reading a menu if when they say salad or slaw that means it comes with an actual salad or slaw on the side, or just a dollop on top for aesthetics and a taste teaser. I love slaw, and when I see slaw on a menu, I want slaw, not a tiny bit of slaw. Lolita is a froo-froo plater. Now I know.
The entrees are quite expensive ($18-$24) for my thin wallet. My entrée might have been worth $21 if I had not substituted tofu for the duck, and I wish the bill had reflected these substitutions. Not all restaurants give vegetarians a break for omitting meat or substituting vegetables or tofu, but it sure is nice when they do.
For dessert we ordered the pecan cheesecake with goat’s milk caramel, and dark chocolate-ancho chili crust. Overall the cheese cake was great, but I was disappointed that the crust was not heavier on anchos. I could not detect any heat in the crust.
The major detractor from our dining experience at Lolita was the tofu. The texture was so unpleasant. I wish I could do it all over again with portobello – at a cheaper price. And it's cash only, so bring the big bills!
106 S. 13th St., Philadelphia, PA 19107
Sun.-Tues., 5-10 p.m.; Wed.-Thurs., 5-10:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 5-11 p.m.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
A reader alerted me to Johnnie’s Dog House, a small franchise with locations in the Philadelphia airport and in
If you know me, or actually read the crap on this blog, you know I loves me some molded, pressed, imitation pig parts in a bun, preferably from a street cart, but whatever. I take fake wiener where I can get it.
The reader alert came back in January, and I’ve been keeping my eyes pried for signs of Johnnie’s Dog House development for quite some time with no glimmer of hope. But today I spied the Johnnie's Dog House construction at 3401 Concord Pike. That’s at the intersection of
So excited! Report coming as soon as they open, and I can drag my derriere up there.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
So, there’s not much going on in the veggie garden right now. It’s a big ol’ snoozer out there.
The garden is sort of in between right now – in between the fading cool crops (lettuce, spinach, mustard, arugula, and mizuna are toast) and the growing warm crops (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumber, watermelon don't have fruit, yet).
The cilantro is blooming, which means it’s at death’s door, and, if we wait it out, coriander will make its presence (cilantro seeds = coriander).
Since it’s such a bore out there, I’ll tell you about my super-duper, kick-ass bucket. I’ve gardened for umpteen years with a used 15 gallon black plastic bucket that trees come in, and, really, it worked just fine, but... no more! I got myself a Tubtrug - extra large, to be exact.
What’s great about Tubtrugs:
wide range of colors (this is important, no?)
handles a lot of weight
holds water (hello, ice and beverage filled party bucket)
flexible, so you can grab both handles in one hand to carry, and
can squeeze it together to make a spout to pour out dirt or water
I actually gave one of these to my sister for Christmas! I was like, “Um…so...I got you a bucket for Christmas, but it’s awesome!” She then put all her presents in the bucket and was able to carry them all in one trip. See! Awesome.Urban Gardening 2.0 - Mid-May
Urban Gardening 2.0 - Late April
Urban Gardeining 2.0 - Late March
Urban Gardening 1.0
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Six hours of working outside today and I called it good. The only thing is, I live on the second floor with no AC or window units, just a box fan. You can see from my dearly loved temperature gauge that at 2 in the afternoon the inside of my house is already 89°. I’m gonna take a cold shower and go "shopping" for the next eight hours.
I did find a package of Kool-Aid in my pantry from last year when I made Kool-Aid pickles, and it is so awesome! It doesn’t matter how much water you drink while you’re working outside, you need a little sugar and salt in your drink to really quench your thirst.
I don't have a laptop to bring to a coffee shop and bang out posts in comfort, so real blogging will have to wait.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Man, do I wish this Earl Grey Tea ice cream were sitting in my freezer right now on this hot-ass weekend, but it’s not. I made this ice cream about a month ago, and it is long gone!
In the winter months I buy a big box of assorted teas that are put on the market for holiday gifts – you know, the ones with four each of sixteen different varieties. I really don’t care which tea bag I use to steep my morning cup of tea; I have no preference. But that changed with a batch of truffles I made a few months ago.
I made Earl Grey tea truffles (along with basil, port, and curry truffles) a few months ago, and it turned out that I absolutely loved the Earl Grey truffles. I couldn’t stop eating them. The Earl Grey truffles went long before the others.
Then I left an empty tea cup with an Earl Grey tea bag still in it on my computer desk. I kept getting wafts of this wonderful smell, and realized it was coming from the tea cup, so picked up the cup and started huffing what I can only describe as my most favorite scent in the world – fragrant tea olive (nothing to do with olives or the actual plant tea comes from, but the flowers are used to scent teas).
I know that what I smelled in the tea cup is the sweet, floral, citrus smell of Bergamot oil used in Earl Grey tea, but this particular used cup and tea bag smelled like fragrant tea olive flowers to me.
Fragrant tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans) is an evergreen shrub with fruity, sweet-smelling flowers, that unfortunately does not grow as far North as Pennsylvania (add fragrant tea olive to the list of requirements for the next place I live, along with Waffle House and no snow), but it is in almost every backyard in the state I grew up in, South Carolina. The tiny flowers are barely visible, but the intoxicating scent can travel blocks on a breeze.
Sorry to be all dreamy about this scent when I’m not capable of providing smell-o-vision, but it really is a scent that takes me back to playing outdoors as a child on cool fall, winter, and spring nights (grown outdoors, it blooms every month with an “R”, or so the saying goes).
Earl Grey Tea Ice Cream
makes about 1 quart
1 cup whole milk
2 cups half and half (can use heavy cream for a richer ice cream)
3/4 cup sugar
5-6 Earl Grey tea bags
5 egg yolks
- Warm the milk, half and half, and sugar in a saucepan. Remove from heat, place tea bags in the pan, cover and steep at room temperature for an hour. Remove tea bags.
- Rewarm tea-infused milk. Whisk egg yolks together in a separate bowl. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the bowl with egg yolks, whisking constantly.
- Return the milk and egg mixture to the saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring and scrapping the bottom of the pan constantly until the mixture thickens to a custard and coats the spatula.
- Cool the mixture, and freeze in your ice cream maker.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Apothecary Lounge is a relatively new bar on
We were denied roof deck access (the deck’s not that large, and the people occupying it weren’t budging), so sat at the bar on the ultralight metal stools in front on the green-glowing wall of cube shelves behind a bar brimming with tincture bottles filled with herbal essences, small bottles of fine liqueurs, and other special ingredients.
The menu lists all of their intriguing drink specials, including the many, many ingredients in each drink. It’s going to take you a good ten minutes to decide what to order. Just remember that the pleasant, and very busy bartender had patience with you as you decided, so please have patience when they make your drink; it takes a while, and your drink order just went to the back of the line.
How they remember what goes in each drink, which tincture holds what, and where that bottle of liqueur is is quite a feat. I don’t think any of these bartenders are drinking on the job, or else they couldn’t do their job.
I had a hard time deciding on a drink. I ended up ordering the Rustoleo with Brazilian Cachaca, Flor de Cana Nicaraguan Rum, honey liquor, acai, fresh blueberries, lemon, chocolate mole bitters, and European bilberry extract. Told you the ingredient list is long!
The drink smells of honey and, with a drop or two of chocolate mole bitters, the first sip is a touch dark and smoky. The drink is delicious, but is not earth shattering. And I’m sure the alcohol negated any of the anti-oxidizing, vision restorative properties of the bilberry that the drink description hinted at.
My partner ordered the Immunity Idol with Hendricks Gin, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, fresh pineapple and orange, champagne, orange bitters, Echinacea, hawthorn root, elderberry liniment, and inebriated berries. Also a good drink; more fruity and girly than the drink I ordered.
At $10-$14 a cocktail, drinks are pricier than at your average bar. The question is, is the drink worth the price?
Yes - The work the bartenders put into making your drink, and the ingredients that are used in the drink certainly justify the price.
Maybe - Taste-wise, I’m not sold just yet. The two drinks we sampled were good (there are more to be sampled, and maybe I didn’t hit my drink), but nothing so crazy-remarkable that I'm planning a return visit soon.
No - Health properties? Don’t fool yourself. I’m not knocking herbal medicine, but a drop of Echinacea extract in a cocktail is not curing anyone of anything. It’s a harmless and fun gimmick that hearkens to the olden days of pharmacies dispensing herbals in alcoholic potions.
Apothecary has a small food menu, too, but we skipped it. The two parties on either side of us seemed to be enjoying the food. Beer and wine can also be ordered, but why? You’re there for the cocktails.
We concluded that Apothecary is a great bar to take your out-of-town clients. Apothecary is conveniently located to downtown hotels, has a novelty factor that will delight (drinks, not the dark and sparse interior), plus you can expense the drinks. Everyone wins!
102 S. 13th St., Philadelphia, PA 19107
Tues.-Sun., 5 p.m.-2 a.m.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
That’s exactly what happened with this recipe for Copper Pennies, a chilled, marinated carrot salad. It sat on my dresser for nearly a year as a reminder to make the dish. I made it a couple of weeks ago.
I had never heard of or eaten Copper Pennies until last Fourth of July holiday at my Dad’s house (really, his wife made them, and the dish is a favorite in her family). Copper Pennies is an old Southern recipe that is commonly found in church and community cookbooks, yet I had never run across it at reunions or picnics. The only thing I can figure is I must have been eye-deep in mac and cheese, deviled eggs, and caramel cake.
As a lover of sweet and tangy marinated anything, I had to have the recipe. So, my Dad’s wife wrote it out for me in her lovely handwriting (I’ve got doctor’s scrawl...and no PhD). And just like so many unpretentious, yet delicious hand-me-down recipes, it’s got a can of soup in it. Gotta love it!
I broke out this dish at a gathering this past Memorial Day weekend, and within five minutes of it being on the table, just like my Dad’s wife, I had a request for the recipe.
2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick
½ cup bell pepper, chopped
½ cup onion, chopped
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup sugar
2/3 cup vinegar (I used rice wine vinegar)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 can tomato soup
- Boil carrots until tender, but still firm, about 5-8 minutes. Drain carrots.
- Put carrots, bell pepper, and onions in a large bowl.
- In a small saucepan, heat the oil, sugar, vinegar, salt, mustard, and tomato soup until the sugar dissolves. Let cool 15 minutes.
- Poor the cooled liquid over the vegetables and refrigerate overnight.
- Drain marinade off before serving, or dish out with a slotted spoon.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
The taco’s spicy soy filling and toppings full-on reminded me of taco night from when I was a kid (yay, taco night!). Except we had ground beef, and hard taco shells. My family is not Mexican, and neither were these tacos, but it was a delightful memory. A Full Plate does comfort well, and sometimes I need to be held.
Is that a creperie stand right next door?What a great weekend! Even with the occasional shower on Saturday.