Forest and Main

My in-laws live about 45 minutes outside Philadelphia and often come into the city to meet up with us and try new restaurants. However, we thought we’d give them a break from 76 and come closer to them last time we met up. After conferencing with my friend, Dorrie, we decided to meet at Forest and Main Brewing Company in Ambler, PA. Dorrie said they had a great beer list and we were looking forward to checking it out. In fact, unbeknownst to us, Forest and Main won Philly Mag’s coveted “Best of Philly” award in the brew pub catergory.

Forest and Main is just off the Main Street in “downtown” Ambler in an adorable old Victorian house. It was a gorgeous evening and we were able to dine at one of the few tables on the front porch, giving it an incredible homey feeling. Our visit happened to be during Ambler Restaurant Week. I’m not usually a big fan of restaurant weeks, due to overcrowding, sub-par food and service and the fact that you’re not always getting a deal (paying $35 for 3 courses when you would normally only order two for $25, for example.) Forest and Main’s Restaurant Week menu had two things going for it: you could choose any three dishes, none of which had to be a dessert AND the price tag of $25 included a beer. What a great deal!

My husband and I both opted for the Restaurant Week menu while his parents chose to order a la carte. Before the food order, we had a more important decision to make–beer. Forest and Main’s beer list is split into two sections: of British Inspiration and of Belgian Inspiration and you can get 16 or 20 oz. pours ranging from a reasonable $4.50-$7. For the indecisive, or those who like to taste a little bit of everything, flights of four are also available.

I am of the “like to taste a little bit of everything” mindset and got the flight of all four “of Belgian Inspiration” beers.

Of the four, my favorite was the tripel-style Ablution. Big and fruity, it was a favorite to everyone at the table, even my non-beer drinking mother-in-law.

For my three food choices, I selected summer corn soup, pierogies and the F&M sliders. My husband chose the same, but swapped the sliders for the fish and chips. We had a discussion at the table about whether we wanted to order bacon popcorn. My father-in-law was mysteriously quiet until we asked his opinion.

“You can get what you want, but I’m getting one for myself,” said the bacon lover.

The popcorn came out with the soup. It was adorable in the tin, Ikea buckets.

The popcorn received mixed reviews at the table. The in-laws loved it, but I found it to be a bit greasy for my taste. There was a definite smoky flavor from the bacon, so be forewarned if you’re not a fan of smoke!

The corn soup was a hit.

It was thick and chunky with just the right kick of jalapeno and creamy sweet corn. Besides, it’s the height of corn season. It would be hard for this dish not to taste good. I did sneak a few pieces of the popcorn into the soup which is highly recommended! This was probably my favorite dish of the night.

Next was a generous serving of pierogies. They looked beautiful.

I was surprised to receive such a large serving and ended up taking two home. These pierogies had potential to be good–I loved the sauteed leeks on top–but they were absolutely swimming in butter. And I do love butter.

I was looking forward to the sliders. Sliders are so cute. And they came with aged cheddar and bacon mayonnaise. Sold!

The sliders turned out to be a bit overdone with a bread to meat ratio that leaned heavily on the side of bread. Perhaps the full-sized version would be better. The house made chips were a great side, though.

The fish and chips were decent and came with a bottle of malt vinegar for that extra sour tang and a solid side of fries.

We decided to forgo dessert and took a stroll around “downtown” Ambler. Before heading back, we stopped at Toto’s Gelateria and Caffe for some gelato made in house.

I chose a decadent mix of dark chocolate fudge and nocciola (hazelnut.)

What a perfect combo. After chatting with the friendly owner, we sat at an outdoor table and enjoyed our dessert.

Overall, Ambler is a cute little town. While I wouldn’t go out of my way to hit Forest and Main, I think it would be a great stop for a beer and some apps. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt since I did go during restaurant week, but I’d like to see some more consistency in the food because this place really has potential.

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l’Angolo

l’Angolo is one of those places akin to Mr. Martino’s that we have been going to for years. Before I even knew the charm of the neighborhood, my family and I celebrated special occasions at these two places. Since moving to the neighborhood, it has become a special place for my husband and me. In fact, we often give it top honors as our “favorite” restaurant in Philadelphia. Why? The food is simple and authentic with rich flavors and no pretension in service. Besides, it’s BYO so we can bring a bottle or two of our favorite wine.

When we got married a few years back, some of our favorite gifts were restaurants gift certificates, of which we received many. We used our l’Angolo one quickly but had $18 remaining and decided to tuck it away for later use. Fast forward three years and it was still hanging out in our gift card file. As we decided where to celebrate the end of my school year, we figured it had been too long since we’d eaten at l’Angolo, despite our proximity. We called on a steamy Tuesday afternoon and were able to get a reservation for that evening (don’t try that on the weekend, folks.)

We walked the eight blocks to the tiny restaurant on the corner of Porter and Rosewood (between Broad and 15th.) As we stepped in, we were greeted by the friendly staff, but both us were drawn to the open kitchen where they were sliding a pan of pappardelle onto a plate. Mmm… Although we were early for our reservation, they were more than able to accommodate us.

Something to be said about l’Angolo is that it is a place where anyone can feel at home. As we sat down, two burly, older men to our left were having a conversation about cell phones (“I don’t really check my text messages,” said the man who later discovered he had 59 unread messages.) In the back was a large party celebrating a birthday next to a very tattooed table of four. As we got ready to leave, a younger couple arrived who appeared to be on a first date. Most interesting, however, was the Italian couple next to us. Our waiter obviously knew them and the three babbled away in a thick regional accent–or so I say, I could barely translate a word or two of their conversation.

Onto the food. Why is it that it always takes me so long to get to the food?

l’Angolo starts each meal with a simple bread basket with a sun-dried tomato pesto. I could, of course, eat it by the spoonful and I may or may not have eaten about 3 slices of bread loaded with this tasty topping.

Some time ago, I heard ago l’Angolo’s grilled baby artichoke hearts (carciofi.) They’re not on the menu but if you ask, they’re happy to make them for you. Ever since, I’ve been ordering them. They have a fantastic char and are swimming in garlicky olive oil.

Since we’re both suckers for grilled food, we also got an order of the lemony calamari grigliati (grilled calamari.) Simple, fresh flavors with a great grill flavor.

Be sure to rescue some bread from that killer sun dried tomato so you’ll have a couple pieces left to sop up the juices from both of these dishes.

When the waiter shared the specials with us, two dishes jumped out. One was a homemade pappardelle with cinghiale (wild boar) ragu. This was what we saw the chef preparing when we walked in. My husband had his eyes on a veal chop that someone at the table behind us had ordered. However, I had a strange hankering for something simple and the spaghetti al pomodoro con ricotta salata jumped out at me. When we learned that we could do pastas in half orders, I cheered with delight! We opted for a half order of the pappardelle special, he got the veal chop special and I went with my gut.

The papparedelle came out and boy were we pleased.

The homemade noodles were chewy ribbons that corralled the ragu perfectly. The ragu, on the other hand, was rich and tender with a mellow tomatoey sauce. We quickly licked our bowl clean.

At this point, I was full. Yup, didn’t even get my entree yet and I was full. Of course our entrees arrived.

The spaghetti was tossed with oven roasted tomatoes and lots and lots of garlic, topped with a healthy shaving of ricotta salata.

You can’t see it in the picture but HELLO GARLIC. There must have been one full head of garlic in the spaghetti. MY KIND OF DISH, although I’m glad I wasn’t on a first date. OK, maybe I wasn’t completely full. Maybe I had just a lil room left.

Meanwhile, my husband was attacking this monster.

The chop was from Esposito’s and topped with an umami mixture of wild mushrooms in a sumptuous gravy, perched atop a mountain of extra buttery mashed potatoes. You pretty much can’t get any better than that. Oh yeah, add a side of broccoli rabe. The meat was a perfect medium rare and the best bite involved a little bit of everything. Ohh, that gravy…

We decided to forgo dessert (being as how I was full before we even hit the entrees,) although I kicked myself for not bringing one of the many bottles of homemade ‘cello in our freezer. Instead, we packed up our leftovers and walked off our lavish Italian meal (which came to under $100, including tip.) We both had our leftovers for breakfast the next day. They were just as good.

Stateside

Green Eggs Cafe and I had a love/hate relationship from the start. I’ve discussed it elsewhere so I’ll leave it to that but let’s just say I was tentative upon hearing of the owner’s new venture, Stateside, just a few blocks from our house. All I knew was that Stateside’s aim was to focus on local ingredients in their small whiskey and small-plates bar overlooking the Passyunk Avenue fountain. I was interested in checking it out but only cautiously optimistic about this new addition to the “Avenue.”

A few weeks after they opened, I had heard some positive buzz about their food on Twitter and decided to finally check it out. It was a chilly Saturday night and I had just put duck legs in the oven. We planned on grabbing a martini and possibly a bite or two while the duck braised.

From the time we stepped through the door, we were treated to nothing but smiles and friendly staff members going above and beyond in order to please. As we settled into two recently vacated bar seats and ordered our martinis, our bartender informed us that all of their alcohol was local to the United States as well. What a novel concept. However, have no fear! The bartender, Jen, asked us what brand of booze we usually take in our martinis and patiently offered up other options. It was obvious then and at many repeat visits that she has a strong knowledge and command of her bar. Jen has also created their custom cocktail menu which contains unique (and seasonal) offering such as the recently added “hot buttered rye.”

Zach and I both opted for Death’s Door in our martinis–gin for him and vodka for me, of course. We perused the menu and chatted with Jen as she mixed our drinks. I, not unusually, wanted pretty much everything on their menu which is divided into meats, pickles, cheeses, small plates and large plates. We decided on a cheese and a small plate. We were immediately drawn to the Bayley Hazen Blue cheese with SMOKED BACON CARAMEL. I mean, I love blue cheese but add bacon AND caramel. I was sold. It was a little tougher to pick just one small plate but we ended up agreeing on the beer braised beef cheeks with cauliflower puree, radish and pickled mustard seeds.

Our cheese arrived first.

Look closely and you will see a little chunk of smoky bacon swimming in the caramel atop the cheese. Smoky, sweet, tangy, creamy…what a fantastic flavor collaboration. This is a great nibble for just $4 and bacon + caramel + blue cheese is really a winning combination. I may or may not have been tempted to lick my plate…

Next came the beef cheeks.

Don’t you just love their menu font, by the way? These beef cheeks are perhaps the favorite thing I’ve eaten at Stateside thus far. While the meat was good (and it was damn good and buttery soft,) it was the accompaniments that shone. The cauliflower puree was rich and creamy and I could only imagine what it was doing to my arteries while the pickled mustard seeds popped at just the right moments. The best bite was a piece of meat and a dollop of puree swirled in the braising liquid. This was a memorable dish.

Unfortunately, our braise beckoned and we begrudgingly walked home, happy to have found our perfect neighborhood gem for that night when we just want a well-mixed drink and tasty bite at the bar.

We went back the next weekend, of course. When we stepped through the door, the general manager, Anthony, greeted us with “good to see you again.” This was the neighbor-friendly service that was always lacking for me at Green Eggs. That visit and future ones gave us gems like the crunchy house made goat cheese.

We have also enjoyed charred broccolini (great sleeper dish) and duck sausage with sweet potato, sour cherry mustard and frisee.

Our friend, who wasn’t sure about the duck sausage, was an immediate convert. This dish even turned my husband into a sweet potato aficionado (for the moment, at least.)

More recently, we finally got a chance to try the crispy maple glazed pork belly over fried nora nora grits, gala apples and spiced cider jus.

Everything about this dish was phenomenal. Duh. I don’t have to tell you that though–just look at it. The pork belly followed the beef cheeks in highlighting and focusing on not just the main protein but every component of the dish.

As a special treat, Anthony brought out the rabbitt rillettes with pear preserves. This is something I never would have ordered but that’s what made it especially neat to taste.
This dish was subtle, yet robust. While the flavor was not overwhelming, it had an easy “eatability” to it. Another perfect bar snack to share with some of your favorite people. Besides, the jar they serve it in is just so darn cute.

Executive Chef, George Sabatino, is obviously having a blast pushing out fun and unique dishes comprised of all local ingredients. If you’re on twitter, check him out. He tweets out specials and other fun kitchen pics. Most recently, the bartender told us about their new seafood purveyor who offers only line caught fish. In fact, customers will soon be able to receive a code that will allow them to track the fisherman and boat that caught the dish they’re eating in this food-forward little restaurant in South Philadelphia. Talk about Stateside…

I cannot say enough good things about this place. From the front of the house to the back of the house, this restaurant aims to please and achieves on so, so many levels. I just hope, for our sake, that it doesn’t get too popular and will be able remain our neighborhood gem where we can always snag two seats at the bar. I won’t hold my breath though. If you haven’t eaten at Stateside, get there now. Seriously.

Izumi

As I’ve mentioned before, one of my  favorite things about living just off Passyunk Avenue is the ability to step out of our house for a stroll, a bite to eat and/or a drink or three. During the warmer (but not too hot) months, we love taking our bulldog, Jewels, along on our jaunts. She loves it too for two reasons. First, we almost always stop at Doggie Style (it’s a pet store, folks) where she is doted upon and receives numerous treats. Second, she usually receives people food (and more attention) when we’re out to eat. Gee, this dog likes to eat. She’s obviously part of the family.  One of our favorite places to visit is Izumi Restaurant on the corner of 11th and Passyunk. We love lingering over their maki and a glass of wine.

A few weeks ago, we set out to do just that and our plan was thwarted. We waited at the front door. Then we waited some more. Then we flagged down a waitress who told us she’d be right with us. It was around that point that my husband thought he saw Darren Daulton walking into the restaurant. Who knows. Then we waited some more. And some more. I was not pleased. My husband knew what was coming. The waitress finally came over and told us there would be a 20-30 minute wait (after asking if we wanted an inside or outside table. Duh, lady, we have our dog with us.) I let her know how I felt about that and walked away frustrated. My husband tried to put things into perspective on our walk back down the Avenue saying things like “maybe someone else was supposed to come in tonight but they died.” Who knows. Either way, it wasn’t about the wait for an outdoor table, it was about the wait to even be acknowledged.  I may have mentioned this before, but I put some weight on being a neighborhood place. You have to put yourself out just a little bit more. Be a little friendlier.

Anyway. We went home and ordered some delicious take out from Tres Jalapenos and my trials were forgotten.

Last weekend, we decided to give it another try. We headed up 11th street on the later side–close to 9pm–and were treated to a number of empty outdoor seats. We were seated quickly and our speedy waitress whipped open our bottle of wine and poured two glasses before we could even tell her that we wanted to start with this.

(See the glass of wine in the background.) No biggie though. We sipped our beers and took in the specials while perusing the menu. A number of the specials stood out to us and we opted with two of them, two maki, the sashimi sampler and a heavier dish.

Our kumamoto oysters came out first. These were a refreshing and oceany start to our meal.

The oysters were followed by an interesting-sounding dish–grilled octopus in sesame oil. My husband bit into one before I did and exclaimed “it’s cold!” Although we expected a hot dish, this octopus was chewy without being rubbery and the sesame imparted a great flavor throughout. The sesame seeds sprinkled on top added a nice crunch to balance the chewiness of the octopus.

The sashimi sample was up next. The sampler consisted of two small bites of the following: tuna with tofu vinaigrette, fluke with tataki sauce, salmon carpaccio, squid with smoked sea salt and lemon oil and surf clam with spicy miso.

Surprisingly (to me,) I think my favorite was the salmon which had a perfect texture and the most subtle of flavors while leaving a buttery finish on my tongue.

Our food just kept coming. I swear it was flying out of the kitchen. Our maki and pork belly came at about the same time, but we ate the pork belly first because it was warm.

The braised pork belly over congee is definitely more of a cold weather dish, but we had had it before and liked it. Besides, all of our other dishes were very light so it was nice to have something to balance that out. This dish is phenomenal, by the way. The pork belly is, well, pork belly. It slips apart under the gentle touch of a fork and the flavors just fill your mouth with comfort and happiness. The congee is a tricky little devil. It has the porky flavor of the meat along with sweet soy sauce. As you eat it, you’re likely to happen upon a mushroom or edamame pea nestled in the porridge. This is a soulful dish.

We finished with the maki–shrimp tempura and a softshell crab. The shrimp tempura was great, while the softshell crab left a bit to be desired. I was hoping for more meat and less veggie. Let’s just say we emptied our plates anyway.

As we slowly finished up our meal, I started to make my way to the bathroom before noticing that the entire staff was busy cleaning the inside of the restaurant and the floor was being mopped. Oops, guess I’ll hold it. It was before the 11pm closing time so I guess they were just trying to get a jump on their evening.

Izumi is just the kind of restaurant Passyunk Avenue needs. While they may have some missteps here and there, they fill the perfect niche and I’ll keep coming back for more.

Gnocchi

I made gnocchi, y’all! Let’s go for a pictorial on this post…

I tossed them in flour and laid them on a cookie sheet lined with a dish towel for a quick freeze. Once that was complete, I tossed them in a ziplock bag. A week or so later, all I needed was the following:

And I ended up with this!

Adsum Collab Dinner with Kevin Sbraga

There are so many things I love about Twitter. One of them is the ability to connect and communicate with people with whom you might not otherwise know. Another is that it allows one to be a voyeur, of sorts, watching others interact with one another. This brings me to my  most recent meal. A few months ago, Adsum chef, Matt Levin and Top Chef Season 7 winner, Kevin Sbraga were chatting on Twitter.  As their online (and very public) conversation unfolded, they made plans to cook a collaborative dinner at Adsum. As an Adsum and Top Chef fan, I thought that sounded neat and tucked it into the back of my mind. Soon thereafter, I caught sight of the details, once again on Twitter, and booked a reservation for four knowing nothing about the menu or pricing but banking on Chef Levin’s top notch cuisine and Chef Sbraga, well, dude won Top Chef.

The day of the dinner, my best friend called out sick from dinner. She’s a huge Top Chef fan and I knew she had to be in bad shape to miss the dinner. Nonetheless, I was sad to see her go. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find another pair to join us and we had to change our reservation at the last minute. I hate doing that.

As we prepared to leave the house, Twitter provided us with a sneak peek as my friend, Amy, had the earlier seating. From her reports, we were in for a fantastic meal. We left the house with intentions of taking the bus and ended up taking a cab whose “meter didn’t work.” Oh well, better deal for both of us.

We walked in the door of the light and airy restaurant and were seated immediately. We were even lucky enough to have my friend, Jason, as our all-star waiter for the evening.  We  browsed the menu and I was immediately a little nervous for the pig tails. For someone who doesn’t eat much pork, pig tails seemed to be just a bit, um, adventurous.

Although I didn’t realize there would be a wine pairing, we both opted for it upon Jason’s suggestion. We were almost immediately bestowed with some bubbly in champagne saucers (which my husband just adores.) My wine recollections for the night will be poor as I’m belated in my blogging, but each one paired nicely with the dish, especially the bubbly and the sparkling rose with dessert.

The first course was a variation of eggplant (crispy, charred and marmalade.) I wasn’t sure what to expect from this as eggplant isn’t exactly my favorite veg.

Much to my surprise (ok, I wasn’t actually that surprised) this dish was quite enjoyable. Although I was especially a fan of the marmalade, the three variations played off of one another nicely–and I always enjoy a nice crunch which the fried version so nicely provided. This was also one of Winston Justice’s favorite dishes, as he told me later on Twitter.

The next course was probably my favorite dish of the evening–smoked mahi with cabbage slaw and green goddess dressing.

While smoked fish can sometimes have a very strong flavor, this mahi had such a subtle smoke that it was almost undetectable. The fish was cooked perfectly and had none of that overly fishy flavor. This dish as a whole was clean, light and refreshing and was paired with a white that was just as crisp and drinkable.

Uh oh, the pig tails were up next. We received our third wine and first red of the night. It was robust and matched the strong porky flavors nicely.

Pork cheeks adobo are on the top and the crispy Korean-style pig tails on the bottom. Both of these were phenomenal and packed with flavor in their own unique way. The pig tails felt almost like chicken wings (which made me feel a little better) and the pork cheek was fork tender. I could have eaten either one of these all night, but I was especially partial to the pork cheek adobo.

We ended the night with a chocolate moelleux with a beetroot ice cream paired with a sparkling rose. The moelleux tasted like a brownie but the star of the plate was the ice cream. I literally felt like I was eating liquefied beets. The flavor was so fresh and prominent.

Chefs Levin and Sbraga were in and out of the kitchen throughout the evening, mingling with guests and quite obviously having fun with one another.  My husband and I had the opportunity to chat with Chef Sbraga for a bit and then we snapped this photo on the way out the door. Pardon the sunburn–those are the downfalls of being a softball coach. Check out these two four-eyed cuties!

The Cantina

Ever since September, my former student, (and new friend!) Jerome, and I have been trying to get together for dinner. We both love good food and looked forward to spending some time together outside of school. Well, September became October, November, December and all of a sudden it was March and we still hadn’t gotten together. We finally committed to making it happen and I asked Jerome to come down to my neighborhood so I could check in on the dog before we went out.

When Jerome got off the 23 at Passyunk, I gave him the choice of Mexican (the Cantina,) bar food (Lucky 13,) or something else…I think I threw Stogie Joe’s or Marra’s out there as well. He immediately chose Mexican and we crossed the street and headed into the Cantina.

Sometimes the former vegetarian in me sneaks back and I couldn’t help eyeing up the seitan buffalo wings. Jerome was nice enough to indulge me and we split an order of them to start.

The “wings” were good. They were fried extra crispy and had a big kick. We sopped up plenty of blue cheese to counter the spice. Those who get squeamish when dealing with seitan or other “fake meat” probably would have been ok with this dish.

I went with the quesadillas for my entree. I knew this would happen. It’s been a few weeks since our visit and now I can’t remember what kind I got. It was either chicken or mushroom. Either way, they were darn tasty.

And Jerome went with the goat burrito. Now Jerome is not a little guy but look at the size of this burrito!

Isn’t Jerome adorable??? I love his blog, too, even though he hasn’t updated it in months! The burrito defeated him about 2/3 of the way through and he packed up the remainder for the next day’s lunch (or perhaps a late night snack.) What a lovely evening with a lovely gentleman.

Scannicchio’s

Last week, my father’s best friend of 40+ years came to visit Philadelphia with his daughter, Emily, for a whirlwind visit to the region’s top colleges. It’s always so much fun when Pat visits. We eat a lot and drink a lot and my dad is very happy. I saw Pat and Emily, twice during the week. The first night we ate in with a massive amount of Pat’s famous grilled paella (to be blogged at a later date.) On Friday night, however, Emily wanted to visit an authentic Italian-American restaurant. It was immediately a battle between Villa di Roma and Scannicchio’s in my mind, although Scannicchio’s won out for two reasons: proximity to my house and its BYOB status. For some reason, I didn’t think Pat would be a fan of Villa’s jug of house red served in juice glasses, although it’s never bothered me. When in Rome, right? Pun intended.  Scannicchio’s it was and no one was disappointed. We first visited it with my parents a couple of years ago for some sort of family birthday or going away celebration. We can’t remember why we were there but everyone had a great time.

Pat and Emily got to our house about an hour or so before our reservations. Emily wanted a cup of coffee so I sent my husband and Pat off to the “Fine Wine and Good Spirits” store to pick up some wines for dinner while Emily and I set out in search of caffeine. Although I wanted to take her for a stroll along the avenue, I thought Ultimo Coffee on 15th and Mifflin, which also has the distinction of being attached to Brew, a boutique bottle shop. How cool is that??? I quickly eschewed my plan for peppermint tea and Emily got a chai latte while I settled for a little taste of the past.

My brother studied abroad in London and we all drank many a canned Strongbow during a chilly December visit. In fact, last time I was at Brew, I requested that they add Strongbow to their offerings so I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was available. Talk about customer service!

We arrived at Scannicchio’s just in time for our 6:30pm reservation and were seated by the owner’s friendly fiancee. As they dropped off the complimentary bread and roasted peppers, we opened my first ever rich, raisiny Amarone.

Our waiter came over to recite the specials and all of the appetizers sounded fantastic. They had my absolutely favorite arancini (which I pretty much have to get when they’re on a menu) so I was pumped! For appetizers, we ended up with two orders of the aranicini (they called them rice balls) and sausage and figs for the table while Emily got a salad of mixed greens and Pat got the special grilled romaine heart with strawberries.

The arancini were, not surprisingly, amazing. They were crunchy on the outside and soft, cheesy and gooey on the inside. As an added bonus, they came with a small serving of greens as well. While each order only had three balls, each one was pretty sizable, making sharing an option–not like you’d want to share this bite of deliciousness.

The sausage and figs was a surpringly good combination, although the darkness of the dish makes for a terrible picture. It was very sweet but the soft figs and chewy sausage provided a great textural combination along with a kick of syrupy balsamic. I would have liked for the dish to have a little more sausage though, as it seemed to be a bit fig heavy.

Pat’s salad could have easily been split between a few people as the romaine heart was generous. Pat believes it was grilled with the outer layer of leaves were removed in order to maintain the smoky grill flavor without the char of the leaves. The strawberry dressing and blue cheese were a perfect marriage for the crisp, clean bite of the romaine. What a refreshing dish.

We opened up another bottle of wine as the entrees came out. I didn’t really taste many of the entrees as I was busy focusing on my heart attack on a plate. I love fettucine alfredo. As much as I enjoy trying different things, I can be counted on to get fettucine alfredo at just about any Italian restaurant (Marra’s, Villa di Roma and Ralph’s come to mind.)  In my very unofficial search for the best fettucine alfredo in Philadelphia, Scannicchio’s is officially leading the way. The sauce was thick, flavorful and creamy. All it required was a quick twist of the pepper grinder and some parmesan for the added texture and it was perfetto!

Look at that thick, white sauce! The fact that I got two meals worth of food for $14.95 doesn’t hurt either.

It was around this time that they noticed me taking pictures and said “I hope you’re going to put them on the internet!” I assured them that I would.

I only tried two of the other entrees. My mom’s pork chop and Emily’s veal chop special. The pork chop was incredibly moist and chock full of flavor.

My husband’s white fish special.

My father and Pat both got clams with white sauce. One of them had fettucine and the other had linguine. About halfway through they realized they were eating the other’s dish. Whoops.

My dad got a side of escarole with white beans. I didn’t eat too much because my dish was more than enough, but the few bites I had were homestyle Italian perfection in the brothy dish.

Last up was dessert.  We had no need for dessert with the amount of food we had just consumed, yet everyone wanted to hear the options. We ended up  with three orders of blood orange sorbet (or was it gelato?), some other fruity gelato–maybe dried cherry and some crazy dessert of nutella ice cream sandwiched by two pizzelles for my mom.

The blood orange gelato was a little too fruity for my taste and I only had a few bites. Blood oranges are EVERYWHERE lately (including my house, where a batch of blood orange-cello was, ironically, straining through a coffee filter as we dined)

Oh whoops, did I forget to take a picture of the complimentary pina colada-cello that came with dessert? I guess we enjoyed them a little too quickly for that! Overall, Scannicchio’s is an amazing place to go with a group of hungry friends or family. While we enjoyed nicer libations, a group walked in with a cooler of Miller Lite and boxed wine as we were finishing up and they were welcomed just the same. Scannicchio’s welcomes all sorts of diners with open arms.

Shepherd’s Pie (Turkey Style)

When I was a vegetarian, I made a lot of dishes with “fake meat,” as I liked to call it. Boca or Morning Star crumbles were a great substitute for ground beef or turkey as long as you appreciated it for its own flavor and texture rather than looking for a real meaty flavor. My very loving then-boyfriend (and current husband) patiently and hungrily ate all of my creations from stuffed shells to shephard’s pie–all incorporating some form of “fake meat.” I think he even liked most of them.

Since renewing my meat-eating lifestyle, we’ve made over some of our vegetarian classics, carnivore-style. Zach’s famous stuffed peppers and my shepherd’s pie were two meatless mainstays that would transition nicely to our meatier meals.

Turkey Shepherd’s Pie (adapted by me for me)

-1 tbsp. olive oil

-l.25 lbs ground turkey (or 1 lb. ground beef. Turkey cooks down a bit more)

-1/2 onion, diced

-1 carrot, peeled and diced

-3 cups of broccoli (give or take, I’m totally guessing here.)

-2.5 cups mashed potatoes (guessing here too)

-1/2 cup parmesan cheese

-1/2 cup bread crumbs

-seasoning of your choice

1. Preheat oven to 400′ and put a pot of water on to boil (for the broccoli)

2. Saute the carrots, onions and garlic in the olive oil until soft. Add the turkey and saute until brown.

3. Meanwhile, prepare mashed potatoes. I was short on potatoes and usually have a little more. The potatoes are my favorite part.

4. Steam the broccoli in the water until crisp tender. Be careful not to overcook as they will continue to cook in the cassserole.

5. Start your layering! Coat a dish (I like to use a round pyrex, but a smaller, rectangular shaped dish will do as well) with cooking spray and layer the meat into the bottom. Follow with the broccoli and top it off with the mashed potatoes.

Check out these pretty layers.

Top with parmesan and bread crumbs, if you like a little crunch. Bake in the top third of the oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese gets brown and delicious. Then, if you’re like me, forget to take a picture of the finished product. Enjoy!

Los Jalapenos–The End of an Era

About a year or two ago, my husband and I caught sight of a unique delivery menu tangled between the myriad pizza and chinese trifolds that litter our front steps each day. Taqueria Los Jalapenos was a Mexican delivery place at 4th and Moore. South Philadelphia is teeming with Mexican taquerias yet we were moved by the affordable menu and their willingness to deliver. And the kicker–they even took credit cards! Score! We checked it out for the first time with my family and shortly after we hung up the phone, our hot food was at the door. I don’t quite remember what everyone got, but highlights were definitely the chicken and rice soup in a creamy tomato broth and my sister’s carne asada.

Since that fateful night, my husband and I have been ordering from Los Jalapenos almost weekly. We love the friendly service (no joke, every time I hang up the phone I say to my husband “they’re so nice,”) speedy delivery and, more than anything, their hearty and flavorful fare.

A few weeks ago, my husband sent me an article with a note “this is terrible.” We learned that Los Jalapenos would be closing so the owner could focus on his new restaurant, Three Jalapenos, that recently opened at 8th and Christian. Tragic news! We had to get our last few orders in before they closed at the end of February (according to the article.)  On Friday, I called in an order and things seemed a little different. The man answering the phone had trouble hearing me due to lots of metallic banging sounds in the background. When he finally got my order down, I asked him when they would be closing and he responded “well, we were supposed to close today but now we’re closing Monday.” HUH?! First of all, who pushes back a closing? Isn’t it openings that don’t happen on time? More importantly, we thought we had much more time with our beloved Los Jalapenos. Whatever would we do?!? Luckily we ordered a truckload of food that would make for a memorable last meal.

The food came quickly, as usual, and we gave our delivery man a healthy tip in honor of our farewell meal.  This was our closing order: A steak, pepper and onion burrito with guacamole, hold the rice; crispy ground beef tacos, chicken rice soup and El Mojado (two crispy tacos, one guacamole tostada, one cheese enchilada and a side of rice and beans.) The burrito was large and in charge, as usual.

It was chock full of meaty, cheesy, beany, guacamole-y goodness.

We usually share the crispy tacos as an appetizer. Simple, yet tasty. I love a well-made crispy taco with a perfect balance of filling and CRUNCH.

If our dog is extra lucky, she’ll get to lick the container of extras that fell out of the tacos.

The chicken rice soup never skimps on fresh, shredded chicken breast with a rich tomato broth. It comes with a side of corn tortillas for dipping.

Ouch, that picture is really, really bad.

Next up, the noble El Mojado. It starts with two crispy tacos and one guacamole tostada. Depending on the day, the tacos are either chicken or ground beef (or sometimes one of each!)

That tostada is awesome–lots and lots of guacamole contained in a crispy tortilla cup. The next container has a cheese enchilada with a side of rice and beans. My husband usually saves that for leftovers the next day.

My favorite way to eat this is to get a little bit of everything in one bite. The creamy beans are a personal favorite.

I couldn’t write a post on Los Jalapenos without discussing their salsas. Our refrigerator is littered with leftovers of these little packets. The green tomatillo is usually a little smoother and fresh tasting while the red salsa has a great smoky kick. We have a love-hate relationship with these sauces as they seem to be slowly taking over our fridge but they’re just so darn good.

Unfortunately, as quickly as our food was delivered, the dinner came to an end. Goodbye, dear Los Jalapenos (or Three Jalas, as we so affectionately call it,) we will miss you on our Friday movie and Mexican nights. Guess we’ll be seeing you at your new location’s Taco Tuesday–$11.95 for All-You-Can-Eat tacos. While our relationship was too short, we’ll never forget you.