Dew’s Deli

South Philly needs another deli like I need a hole in my head, which is why I didn’t give Dew’s Deli a second glance when it opened. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even notice it. Sitting just up the street from Neumann-Goretti High School, Dew’s has an unassuming outside, with a small sandwich board sign with its name.

After reading about the unique Mediterranean menu items on Passyunk Post, my husband and I decided to walk there on sunny Saturday afternoon, dogs in tow.

When I walked in, the place was packed. Everyone knew everyone, it seemed, and the women working behind the counter were extra-friendly; greeting many folks by name. I ordered a hoagie for myself and wrap for the mister and perused the prepared foods case. The longer it took to prepare our sandwiches (and it did take a little while, given the amount of people ordering,) the more items I put in my basket, deciding instantly that we were going to have a Mediterranean themed dinner. As I browsed, the friendly ladies chatted me up and told me about some of their plans for the place (expanded hours and menu.)

We walked home with our tasty treats and unwrapped the sandwiches (for those of you who don’t have time to wait, they have prepared sandwiches and salads in the case.)

My roast beef hoagie (meat sliced to order) was pretty typical. Fresh and tasty, although the bread tasted just a touch on the stale side. In their defense, it was a little later in the day. However, the sandwich itself was hearty and could have stood up to most of the other spots in the neighborhood.

IMG_3947

In an interesting twist, Dew’s actually serves their wrap on pita, like you might find a gyro.

IMG_3948I didn’t taste it, but no complaints from the husband.

That night, we served our Mediterranean feast.

IMG_3952Clockwise, from the upper left-hand corner: Greek-inspired pasta salad with feta; tabbouleh, olives, grape leaves and hummus; spinach pie, zaatar bread and pita; grilled chicken and tzatziki (those were not from Dew’s.) The pasta salad was on point. Not too oily, nice bites of feta. The tabbouleh was excellent and bursting with lemony, parsley flavor. Hummus on the thicker side and a great accompaniment to the fresh pita (not made in-house.) I have an affinity for grape leaves and am scared to think how close Dew’s is…great for a quick afternoon snack. The spinach pie was packed with a surprisingly vivid lemony zest. And the zaatar was, well, zaatar. I love the sumac, sesame, herb blend.

Bottom line, Dew’s makes a good sandwich but if you’re in the mood for something a little more unique, bypass the hoagie counter and chomp into some Lebanese delights!

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Gooey Looie’s

I’ve been hearing about this Gooey Looie’s place for years. Apparently it is THE place to get ginormous hoagies in South Philly. Even my lazy, carless neighbor walks the 11 blocks to get his fix because they are just that good. Unfortunately, my plans to get their hoagies have been foiled more than once, my favorite involving a hopeful take out order in which I called ahead.

I’d like to place an order for pick up,” I asked, sweetly.

“We’re out of rolls.” Click.

Finally, during my summer vacation, my husband and I both had a random Friday off and after a long morning with no breakfast, we thought we’d reward ourselves with some Gooey Looie’s. I knew I wanted a cheesesteak and figured we could try a hoagie as well. My first mistake was ordering the cheesesteak with whiz.

“No whiz,” he explained.

Not to be deterred, I put in my order–no frills. They don’t have fries or any other sort of side items so don’t bother asking.

The address is listed as 231 McClellan (between Mifflin and Moore,) but I had trouble picturing it. Luckily, a little digging on the internet told me that it was actually in Pennsport Mall. I pulled into the parking lot and headed down towards this unassuming walkway.

From the outside, Gooey Looie’s looks like your typical South Philly convenience store.

Sports signs, check. Empty bread boxes, check. Signs from at least 20 years ago, check. When you walk in, there is a lottery ticket kiosk, a cooler and a large selection of chips, snacks and other convenience store items.

I walked to the register and told them I had a pick up for Zoe. Despite the fact that the register was about 2 steps from the deli counter, he told me I had to tell them at the deli counter. When I rotated 90 degrees and told them my name, once again, they got very excited.

“Zoe’s here! Zoe’s in the house! Hey, Zoe!!!” Again, typical South Philly. I grabbed my (extraordinarily heavy) sandwiches, had some small talk with the register guy (while paying under $20 for these gigantic sandwiches) and headed out the door.

I got home and plopped my sandwiches on the counter. These were some big boys.

We ate the cheesesteak hoagie first.

Extra points for thinly shredded lettuce. There’s something about shredded lettuce that just completes a hoagie for me and it’s harder and harder to find a place that does that any more. Now, this picture doesn’t do it justice but there must have been at least pound of meat on that thing. Hearty, hot and chock full of meat–this is something I could get used to.

Later in the day, we took a go at the corned beef special hoagie.

This is one of those two-fisted hoagies. One hand will certainly not suffice when picking up this monster. While I loved all of the toppings (hello, more shredded lettuce!), the lunch meat, itself, fell flat. I liked the concept of the corned beef special hoagie with Russian dressing and the works, but I would probably try it with turkey lunchmeat in the future. Which is unfortunate because I had a little meat left over.

That’s only from one HALF of the hoagie! As I later learned, pros get their hoagies with a couple extra rolls. I’ll keep that in mind for the future.

Gooey Looie’s is a zero-pretention type of place that picks one thing and does it right. Are the hoagies the OMG ABSOLUTELY BEST in the whole wide world? Not necessarily. But they’re damn good, especially the cheesesteak hoagie. And when you’re looking for a big meal with lots of South Philly attitude (for better or worse,) Gooey Looie’s is the place to go.

Just don’t forget the extra rolls.

Cosmi’s Deli

Cosmi’s is one of the neighborhood stalwarts. Sitting on the corner of 8th and Dickinson since 1932, Cosmi’s is both a go-to lunch spot for South Philly regulars and a destination for others. With hoagies named after Rick Nichols, Questlove, Howard Eskin and someone named “Big Ant,” this place does meat right.

On a lazy Friday evening, we were looking for a new place to deliver dinner. In the mood for sandwiches, we discovered that Cosmi’s did, in fact, deliver and was open for dinner, unlike some of the other local delis. I took my husband’s order, made my selection and then, well, something caught my eye.

Our food came quickly with a friendly delivery guy.

The husband, who often veers for the Italian, had the “Vespe” with prosciutto, sopressata, hot coppa, mortadella, sharp provolone, roasted peppers, along with a few of his own, personalized add-ons. Extra special bonus to Cosmi’s for slicing their onions paper thin on the meat slicer which is obviously the best way for hoagie onions. He enjoyed the Italian trimmings, especially sharp provolone like you can only get in South Philly.

Preferring a softer, simpler roll, he got a plain roll while I went with seeded for my “award winning” cheesesteak hoagie.
Meaty, cheesy and a great balance of filling to the chewy, seeded roll. I can certainly see why these are “award winning.”

And just in case I didn’t have enough cheesesteak, I figured I’d check out their cheesesteak fries. Yep, cheesesteak fries.

I opened the container to this glorious concoction staring me in the face. We know I love cheese fries but cheese fries with meat AND fried onions? Oh yeah.

This is what was hiding under that delightful layer of whiz.

OK, I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t need the cheesesteak hoagie AND the cheesesteak fries. But they were both oh so good. A word to the wise: eat the fries first as they won’t keep well. My husband and I split the fries (most of them, at least,) and by the time we were halfway through, I was already too full for my sandwich. Well, I suppose I did eat some of it…

Cosmi’s is a neighborhood institution that has remained true to itself throughout all of the neighborhood’s changes. I look forward to going back to try some of the other hoagies and chicken cutlet sandwiches. But really, ya gotta try those fries.

Khmer Kitchen: From Cambodia with Love

My brother is the nomad of the family. He’s lived in Salt Lake City, London, Ohio and myriad cities in the Middle East, just to name a few. Recently, he fell victim to the death of paper journalism and was hit in a round of layoffs at a newspaper in Florida. He quickly began to freelance (which was aligned with the unfortunate events of the Trayvon Martin case just a few miles from Orlando) in hopes of eventually writing longer pieces for The New Yorker and other fancy rags. Amidst a flurry of writing, he submitted an application to the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia. A few months later he was packing up, selling his car and moving to Cambodia. Sure, why not.

When he’s abroad, conversations with my brother (thank you, Skype) often involve food. In Cairo I heard about the falafel cart by his apartment, in Jordan it was the tea. Ironically, even though he’s in Cambodia, he hasn’t eaten much Cambodian food. Because there is such a large Vietnamese population, he’s enjoyed enough pho to last a lifetime. Regardless, when I drove past Khmer Kitchen on 6th and Morris a few weeks ago, I was excited to share a gastronomical experience with my brother across the globe. I pulled over, grabbed a menu and impatiently waited for him on Skype. I then proceeded to read much of the menu to him as he could bear (while holding it up to the camera too, of course.) He pointed out lok-lak, sauteed meat over lettuce tomatoes and onions with lime sauce, as a popular Cambodian dish. Then he asked if any dishes had prah-hok in them. I scanned the menu, finding prah-hok kahteeh under the “Traditional Khmer Dish” section.

“What’s that?” I asked him.

He proceeded to describe the dish as little fish being fermented in large buckets. It sounded disgusting…but also kind of intriguing.

The following week, my husband had off from work on a weekday and we decided to check out Khmer Kitchen. We were joined by my father and his friend–Dad was delighted to go to a Cambodian restaurant as he and my mother will be visiting my brother in November.

We walked into the colorful store and sat down. There are about eight tables, two or three of which were filled. The waiter walked over to our table and immediately told us “the only appetizer we have is the meatballs.” Um, ok. Guess we won’t be getting the grilled meat skewers or spring rolls. Boo. The meatballs were priced at $1.50 so I asked if that was per meatball. He responded affirmatively so I ordered one for each of us, with the exception of my father who eschews pork. We also got the bok la-haong (papaya salad) so there was something for Dad.

The salad came out quickly.

Papaya salad is a staple in many Asian cuisines and this one wasn’t earth-shatteringly different than others I’ve had. Fresh and cool with a bit of a kick for the hot, summer day.

The meatballs arrived next. For $1.50 per skewer, we actually got four hearty pork meatballs with a mild chili dipping sauce.

The ordering of the entrees was a complicated affair. My father, husband and father’s friend planned on ordering the same thing (two with beef, one with chicken,) but the waiter convinced us that the portions were “very, very big” and another gentleman walked by to let us know that “Cambodian food is meant for sharing.” We ended up deciding on the same dish–one of chicken, one of beef; fried calamari and the pra-hok that I was just dying to try. It was a confusing interaction and I was intrigued to see what we would actually end up with.

Khmer Kitchen seems to be a family affair, with the older parents cooking in the kitchen, younger folks waiting tables and youngest children hanging out, playing games behind the counter. The dishes are all cooked to order which can mean hurry up and wait. Finally, the first dish came out.

Whoops, miscommunication. We got two of the sauteed beef with celery and peppers.

The dish was simple yet tasty. The tender beef had a bit of heat and a slight curry flavor. I don’t know that I would order two of the exact same dish next time, but it was certainly a solid option.

Next up was my pra-hok. Yes!

The waiter told me that I could pick up the veggies and spoon a little pra-hok on them all fancy “like caviar” or I could do it “like we do it” and load a bunch of veggies together with a huge dollop of the ground pork. I think I hit those two somewhere in between. When I initially ordered the pra-hok, the waiter perked up, mentioning that it was a Cambodian special. The dish did not fail to delight. It was smooth and creamy with just a hint of coconut and little heat. The vegetables were a great vehicle for the pork, letting the protein shine. My favorite veg for this purpose was probably the cabbage as it has little flavor and perfectly encapsulated the meat. This is a great dish for sharing and no need to be scared of the fermented fish. There was no fish flavor to be found. I’m not sure if I was happy or sad about that one.

Next came the fried calamari.

The calamari wasn’t heavily breaded and was surprisingly tender. It was reminiscent of salt and pepper squid that you might find at a Vietnamese restaurant.

We waited and waited some more and finally out came the chicken saute.

Nope, not the chicken saute. I think it was the Sah-Law Kah-Rhee Mohn, a curry chicken dish also listed in the “Traditional Khmer Dish” section. The waiter did, at some point, suggest that dish but none of us quite remembered ordering it. Oh wells. It was a nice change with lots of veggies, peanuts and a not-too-overwhelming curry flavor.

This feast was a whopping $55 for four people, an incredible deal given the amount of food we ate (and leftovers we went home with.) The service is slow, yet friendly and they pour bottled water to everyone. I will certainly be making a return trip or two and hope their appetizer menu expands on my next visit.

Caffe Chicco

A few months ago, I tweeted that I was going to Nick’s Roast Beef for the first time. I got a tweet back from someone imploring me to try Cafe Chicco on South Broad Street, just blocks from Nick’s. I had never heard of Caffe Chicco and despite driving up Broad Street frequently, I couldn’t even picture the space. I tucked it away for a day that I had off from work as their weekend hours are limited. When I started my summer break and still hadn’t gotten there, I knew it was on my short list. In fact, I went there on my second day off!

Caffe Chicco is easy to miss amidst some of the other more prominent store fronts on South Broad Street between Snyder and Oregon.

With a simple glass sign and a small sandwich board advertising their specials (gravy fries!) it’s rather unassuming. On one of the hotter days in June, I dropped my husband at work and hustled back down to Caffe Chicco to try the famous roast beef sandwich. Once I saw the sandwich board, I was obviously planning on adding gravy fries to the order. Duh. I snagged a meter right out front with 32 minutes on it. Score!

I walked inside the small shop with just a few tables holding a woman studying and an older, Italian guy waiting for his order. I waited. And I waited some more. Finally, a younger teenager emerged from the back to take my order of gravy fries and a roast beef sandwich with sharp provolone on a round roll ($5.50 + $1 for sharp provolone.)

I sat at an empty two top and waited. Then I waited some more. When I was done, I waited a little more. In the meantime, two others came in and ordered roast beef sandwiches. Finally, a gentleman came out of the back and started composing the sandwiches. Like Nick’s Roast Beef, the roast beef sandwiches are made in front so you can watch the meat being sliced and dipped in the juicy gravy. As the man kept making sandwiches, I kept thinking ONE of them had to be for me. Finally, the girl walked up to me.

“Are you allergic to peanuts?” she asked.

“Uhhh, haha, no,” I responded quizzically. She turned to the guy in the back.

“See, everyone laughs at me when I ask,” Apparently, the potatoes are fried in peanut oil. Luckily, I’m not allergic and all could proceed. Then I waited a little more.

Finally, the girl let me know that my food was ready. I hopped in the car with just minutes to spare in my free 32-minute meter (that was a looong wait.) Luckily, I lived just a few blocks from Caffe Chicco and was able to rush home to rip into my lunch.

Look at that gooery cheese! Opting for a thicker cut than most places, Caffe Chicco’s sandwich was certainly good. The meat was warm and tender, although I could have used a bit more cheese and gravy.

Then I opened the gravy fries. Oooh, the gravy fries. I recently wrote about my love affair for this dish at Nick’s Roast Beef and was excited to try the competition.

What I got were limp fries, bland gravy and just a dash or two of shredded meat. I could taste (and enjoyed) the peanut oil that was used for the frying but they could have benefitted from being twice fried or something to get them just a little crispy. And the gravy was a complete let down. Let’s be honest, folks. The gravy makes or breaks a dish and while the fries were lackluster, the sandwich was good. I think it could have been great with a richer gravy. Guess I’ll stick to Nick’s, unless anyone can give me another suggestion?

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.

Fuel on East Passyunk

It’s tough for a food blogger to eat healthy. We’re always checking out the hottest dishes at the latest restaurants and dining (and boozing) out with friends. We try to make up for our fat and carb laden weekend splurges by eating relatively healthily on weeknights. A general summer dinner consists of a grilled protein and two veggie sides.  On Friday nights, we usually order out and spend the evenings watching movies or playing with our new Apple TV.  Our go-to is Los Jalapenos, which stills delivers to us despite their move, but we also love Circles Thai, many of the local pizza/cheesesteak spots and New Noodle Heaven, the Chinese store on 12th and Snyder. Some nights, however, we get a little too comfortable with our routine and are itching for another cuisine. Recently, we didn’t quite know what we wanted, but we know it needed to be healthy. A former student of mine, who loves food just as much as I do, had raved about Fuel, the healthy dine-in/take-out spot who advertises all of their dishes under 500 calories.

Fuel has two locations–Center City and Passyunk Avenue in South Philly. Their menu is a little odd as it has a salad section but you also have the option to order any of the sandwiches without bread, thus making them a salad. I decided to go with a traditional chicken caesar salad, while my husband ordered a grilled chicken sandwich (hold the bread, please) with artichoke, mixed greens, provolone, sun dried tomato and balsamic reduction. I was a little hungry so I added the sweet pea dip as an appetizer. Fuel has the nutritional information along with Weight Watchers points on their menus so you can have a clear snapshot of what you are eating.

Our food arrived promptly. The green pea dip was phenomenal. My parents used to make mashed peas for us when I was growing up and this sweet vegetable was certainly reminiscent of the past with nice, chewy bites of sun-dried tomatoes to add some texture.

I’ve ordered this salad again since this meal and still don’t quite understand why they don’t cut up their lettuce. The salad is simple, yet tasty but it can be difficult to eat.

Also, if you’re a “light on the dressing” kind of guy or gal, you might want to ask for it on the side. I thought it was just dandy.

My husband’s salad sure was pretty.

That’s all I know, though. Between the pea dip (I must have “forgotten” he didn’t like peas when I ordered it) and my whopping salad, I was too full to check it out. He gave it two thumbs up, though, so that’s good enough for me.

Fuel is a great option if you want to eat out (or in) without letting the calories pile up. They have a dessert and smoothie selection as well that I have yet to check it out. Let me know what you think.

La Rosa Pizza: Potato Pie!

I kept hearing about La Rosa’s. Not from just anyone but from people who knewwhattheyweretalkingabout. You know, Dennis from the Saturday morning Reading Terminal coffee crew or Philly Phoodie. What intrigued me was not their supposed simplicity, square pies or local charm. Instead, I was drawn towards their potato pie. Potato pie?! I live steps from La Rosa and folks were SHOCKED upon hearing that I had never tried their pizza–in particular the potato pie. POTATO? On a PIZZA? I had to check this out. My husband, on the other hand, was a bit skeptical. He’s never been a carb fanatic and the concept of potato on dough had him leery.

I waited patiently until he left for a weekend visit to his grandparents’ place in South Carolina. Three nights of eating for one. I obviously had to plot accordingly. On the second night, I decided that I would finally go in for the kill. I googled “La Rosa menu” to no avail and wondered how I would decide what to order. I saw somewhere that they would do halves and the question arose–what do get on the second half? I ended up asking the friendly man who took my order for a half potato (duh) and half sausage pie. One size.

After a brief wait, my pie appeared. The simplicity of the place is evident in my order and contact info scratched quickly onto the bare box before it is filled with my cheesy, doughy bounty. The weird photoshop smudge on the upper left is my erasure of my phone number lest I get overwhelmed by my myriad fans.

I opened the box to a thing of beauty.

Wait, hold on. Let’s get a little closer here.

Look at that rosemary, eeeeh!!!

I started with a piece of each (actually, I finished with a piece of each too. Two pieces was more than enough for me.) The pizza, despite the speedy delivery, was a little cooler than I’m accustomed to. Regardless, the sausage was phenomenal. It had an excellent ratio of dough: cheese: topping and the crumbled sausage was just. so. flavorful. The slight fennel flavor subtly imposed on each bite. The potato on the other hand was, well, different. The flavor was absolutely spot on–the traditional marriage of rosemary and salty potatoes was managed perfectly. The pizza suffered from the temperature, however. I did not realize until the next day (when I had a slice reheated in the oven) that the best way to enjoy the potato half of this pie is hot and crispy, right from the oven. So, if your order takes a little longer or (ahem) someone insists on having a photo shoot before eating, stick it in the over for a few minutes. You’ll thank me. Despite the minor temperature woes, I dare you to try the potato pie. I know you’ll like it.

Philly Beer Week on Passyunk Avenue

Although we did not get to visit as many Philly Beer Week events as we would have liked to, one of our highlights of the week was the East Passyunk Avenue Craft Beer Fest. After my husband returned from the Bike Race, we made our way west on Passyunk to our first stop–the beer garden at Le Virtu. My husband and I love everything about Le Virtu and one of our very favorite things to do is to stroll down there on a weekend evening and have dirty martinis (Belvedere for him, Tanqueray for him) with a side of arancini. We were excited to check out their outdoor garden, taste some Victory, Troegs, Innis & Gunn, Saranac and Riverhorse and have $5 tastes of their Abruzzese fare. When we got there, the place was popping. My husband hopped in line for some beer while I spotted two friends and grabbed a seat at the table with them.

I decided to check out a few of the beers.

My friends were especially excited for me to sample the Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer.

I tried the original and the one aged in a rum cask. You could definitely tell.

What a complex beer.

After we had a few tastes of beer, we decided to order some $5 snacks from the owner, Catherine Lee, who was acting as waitress for the day. We went with the fried olives stuffed with porchetta and sausage with polenta. Meanwhile, Chef Joe Cicala was serving up pieces of roasted pig.

The food was delicious, as usual. I hadn’t tried the olives before but my mother had them about three years ago and still raves about them. She was right.

For my olive-phobic readers, have no fear. This has only a very subtle olive flavor. You mostly taste the pork and fried goodness! The sausage was simple yet bursting with grilled flavor. I loved sopping up the polenta and getting a little bit of everything in each bite. My only complaint is that we didn’t order enough.

My friend, Heather, and my husband enjoying themselves in the sun.

After I ate, I spent some time exploring Le Virtu’s garden. Check out these zucchini blossoms!

I also fell in love with this contraption they have hanging on their wall that allows them to grow herbs in neat and organized “lanes.”

I had to run out to a graduation party for a bit and met my friends at Stogie Joe’s about 90 minutes later. Stogie Joe’s was concurrently celebrating the Craft Beer Fest and the Italian Fest on Passyunk Avenue. Thus the craft beer served inside and piss beer served outside. They were running a special of a bucket of five Riverhorse beers for $20. By the time I got there, however, they were out of Riverhorse and were allowing you to make your own bucket–they even let my husband sneak a Chimay in there! Stogie Joe’s was packed–there was a band playing right outside.

Our last stop was Salt & Pepper’s meet the brewer happy hour with Riverhorse. I was pumped to try some Riverhorse since Stogie Joe’s had run out. Unfortunately, Salt & Pepper was down to their last bottle as well. I let my husband have it and I got an Ithaca Apricot Wheat. That was yummy too.

We did get a chance to chat with one of the Riverhorse reps.

Then we ran into a friend and finished our beers with her and Robert Reilly, one of the owners.

And then, after that jam-packed day, I went home and went to bed!