Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My First Cooking Lesson

A while back I gave out my first cooking lesson.

I need to work on keeping the crowd's attention.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Want a little more insight into my food-obsessed life? Ok well this little tidbit may frighten you, or it may connect you to me on so many levels.

What occurs at midnight?

We make Betty Crocker brownies.

What's for breakfast the next morning?

The very same thing.

10 Arts Review

I'm in the process of writing my review for 10 Arts. Eric Ripert's attempt at a true "Phili" restaurant. I took the new camera, so don't expect the crap photos I so thoughtlessly presented you for the Vetri review.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Restaurant Wars

What a great episode last night. The cheftestants finally had a fun challenge.

The show started off with a quickfire consisting of manning the egg station at a popular breakfast joint (not Ihop). Antonia won, but we really didn't get to see much of the challenge. Clearly most of the time was being saved for restaurant wars. Mmm I was excited. Antonia's advantage allowed her to choose her team, and she clearly had the best picks, taking Steph and Richard. Wow, that's a team to beat. That left Spike, Lisa and Dale, and ahh the drama was inevitable.

The latter team tried an Asian restaurant, which was doomed to fail, while Antonia's group played it rather safe with a gastropub. I'll keep this post short, but I wish I could've gone to the gastropub. Is it only me? Or does anyone else hate Lisa? I can't stand her. Contrarily, I love Spike. It's pretty obvious he has no chance of winning, but the fact that he can seem to slide by every episode by doing nothing, is pretty amusing. Does he buy a new hat for every challenge?
I was kinda annoyed that Dale had to go home. Looks like no more Dale-Lisa drama for us viewers. I really hope Lisa flips at like Richard, who is rather quiet, next week. I wanna see her uppercut.

Dale being cut is just one step closer for Richard, and that makes me one step closer to the 5 bucks I'm entitled if he wins!

Monday, May 19, 2008

New Camera

Hey, Listen! There is light on the horizon. For mothers day my dad got himself, I mean my mom a new camera. It's kinda tricky, but I've finally figured out how to use it. This will replace the (as one commenter called it, and I agree 100%) "pinhole camera" that I've been using.

Nickmuffin Revamped!

I have recently taken the famed egg nickmuffin TM to the next level! My precious duck eggs have been gone for some time now, and endlessly I've searched for that same feeling of satisfaction that a fried duck egg sandwiched between two buttery english muffins can give you. The addition of other ingredients (cheese, spinach, mushrooms) has helped me in the mourning of my lost duck eggs, but nothing has helped me recover nearly as much as a new discovery. One day, a radical (not reactionary) idea came to me. Who doesn't like bacon and eggs? No one? ok good. Recently, my sister broke off a two week stint as a vegetarian with the sole quote "I couldn't resist the bacon." If my sister likes bacon, everyone does, trust me.

So yea, I was thinking about what I could do with bacon and eggs, but I didnt wanna do any of the boring (but delicious) obvious stuff like put a piece of bacon in my nickmuffin TM. So I took lots and lots of applewood smoked bacon. I rendered out all the fat, threw the bacon to my former-vegetarian sister, and saved the rendered fat. The next day, I took some of the fat from the fridge, heated it in a skillet, and fried an egg.

The outcome? Extremely delicious! The rich egg flavor combined with the salty, smoky notes from the bacon fat , and the buttery english muffin to create one amazing afterschool snack that would rival Cheetos if ever mass produced.

Yea, so how to end? Well, if you have money, and you want to do a restaurant based around the nickmuffin TM, phone me. Even just like a breakfast stand would be great. I'm free on Sundays.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sam Talbot!

Sam Talbot, what a guy (he's even well dressed). Sam was my pick to win Top Chef season 2, and he should have, but came up just short. He came back last night as a guest judge and maintained his signature scowl throughout the episode.

The cheftestants had to forego giving some Chi-Town cops doughnuts and feed them some healthy meals. Spike (and his hat) won the quickfire with a messy-looking salad, and as a result got to shop for a few components of his healthy dish 10 minutes before anyone else. His choices would be unavailable to anyone else. Though he wouldn't admit it to Tom, Spike clearly tried to sabotage everybody by choosing bread, tomatoes, and chicken. Despite this advantage, Spike made an awful grape and olive filled chicken salad which he claimed "should work because it's salty and sweet." Tom reminded him that olives and grapes have other flavors to them.

I honestly can't remember the winning dish. I know Dale won, but none of the good dishes really stuck out to me. The bad dishes, on the other hand, were noticeable. Andrew's "sushi" did not appeal to me in the slightest. I knew he was landing himself in the bottom three once he substituted sushi rice with a parsnip, pine-nut mixture. Lisa was also in the bottom for jumbling some veggies and rice into what she called a "stir fry."

At judges table, Lisa made another enemy in Andrew. Of course she had to call him out in front of the judges. Fortunately for her, Andrew and his dirty mouth went home. I think Bravo might have rigged this elimination so that they could move their rating from TV-14 down to TV-PG.

As I saw in the preview for next week's episode, I was wrong about what I said in my previous top chef post about wedding wars replacing restaurant wars. Can't wait till next week.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Main Line Prime comes through again

Today my mom unsuspectingly stopped by Main Line Prime while I was at school and picked up a few dry-aged prime ribeyes. She had no idea why they were so expensive. She had had no idea what dry-aged meant, and maybe you don't either, so listen up.

If you or your significant other is a steak buff, you may have jumped out of your seat when you saw the price of a dry-aged steak on your favorite steakhouse menu. Dry-aged beef is rarely found in grocery stores and is absent on the menus of all but the most fancy restaurants and steakhouses. Essentially, it is meat that has been hung to dry for a certain amount of time. During the drying period, a certain amount of the meat's water evaporates, concentrating and intensifying the meat flavor. In addition, enzymes, only activated at higher temperatures (warmer than your fridge) work to break down tissue, making the meat more tender. Unfortunately, the meat loses a lot of mass from evaporation during this process, so your 10 oz dry-aged ribeye may have originally been a few ounces heavier. This, and the practice of dry-aging meat in general, justify the all the dough you'll be spending on this meat.

Anyway, I ate well tonight

Monday, May 12, 2008

Herb Garden

As I did last year, I once again decided to have an herb garden for the summer. Why would I go to the trouble of watering the plants, keeping them from predators and so on when herbs will always be waiting at Whole Foods? Well firstly, my mom takes care of that and second, the freshness, and organicality (add that to the dictionary) is ensured. I just love the feeling of having your own vegetables and herbs in your backyard. I dream of having a restaurant in Sonoma that grows its own vegetables and makes a house wine from the vineyard out back.

We're growing pasley, basil, mint, curry, thyme, romaine lettuce, strawberries, coriander, green peppers and of course, heirloom tomatoes. We're even growing Cabernet Grapes! This fresh produce will constantly be featured in my summer dishes.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Finally, I'm getting this review up. Next time I won't tell you when I'm going!

This is what you all, and I, have been waiting for, as it my return to what has been called the best Italian restaurant on the east coast, by Mario Batali. Would my return trip be a sophmore slump? Read on.

Oh and P.S. The pictures suck, I know, but I guess they're better than nothing.

The occasion was Grandmom. That’s enough of a response. Everyone knows grandparents love their grandchildren, and they are not humble in displaying their affections. A dinner with grams (a veteran of Le-Bec Fin) had long been on hold and though I had marveled at Vetri’s refined rusticity (Hey! Oxy moron) once before, I couldn’t resist a second chance. Joining us were my aunt and my mom (bringing the latter of which to restaurants is an excuse to try more food). JK love ya mom.

Ahh Vetri. The restaurant presents the ultimate contrast between rusticity and refinement. The unsuspecting diner walks into the dimly lit, simply adorned restaurant. The small, Italian cottage-like space that once housed Le-Bec Fin, is a far cry from the lights and action of center city. A few pots and pans decorate the walls and the intimate space (just 35 seats) gives a sense of comfort, a rare feat in the temples of fine dining. We were in Nona’s house, and judging by the small amount of seats, Nona was not interested in large profits. Her sole aim was to please her guests, and it seems she has taught Chef Vetri (guy on the left in my picture) a few tricks.

A friendly waitress explained the menu and described the specials of the day. I glanced to the left of the menu and saw the house specialties. I yearned to once again taste the rich, torchon-like foie gras cured in the style of pastrami, and the heavenly light spinach gnocchi that had highlighted my previous trip (my friend and I had attempted Vetri’s spinach gnocchi from a newspaper article, at home, and had thought they were delicious until I tried these). I also, however longed for the new. I satisfied both cravings by ordering the gnocchi for my grandmother and the pastrami for my mom and ordering sweetbreads with caramelized endive, and rhubarb jam, and a roasted lamb loin with English peas and lamb bacon, for myself.

A charcuterie plate for the table arrived, covered with cured meats and pickled vegetables. A silky, salty, bresaola melted in my mouth and the acid in the pickled fennel offset a cured pork belly’s richness perfectly. After I tasted my sweetbreads, I was finally satisfied with my decision of them over tripe. They were like mcnuggets, in the nostalgic sense of the word. These tender delights were without the off-putting flavor commonly associated with offal meets. A light almond dusting and rhubarb “agro dolce” (basically a fancy word for a sweet, tart, jam), took these mcnuggets avant garde. The spinach gnocchi were as delicious as I remembered, and since my mom’s palate is self proclaimed “to bourgeois for foie gras” I received the majority of the smoky, salty “foiecuterie.”

I received my lamb dish as the other three members of the party received pasta dishes. The fresh, English peas held their own against the tender, succulent lamb loin, both collaborating to form an excellent dish. After tasting the table’s other dishes however, I realized that I had made a mistake. Pasta is clearly the star at Vetri. A dish of garganelli (penne shaped pasta) with capon (castrated male chicken, swear on my life) and castelmagno (Piedmontese cheese) took me back to Italy. Casconcelli with sage and pancetta was so luxuriously rich; I could’ve sworn I saw old men checking their blood pressure after eating it. Short Rib Ravioli with morel mushrooms was my favorite of the night. Once again the pasta was impeccable, with the richness of the pasta melding into the complexly flavored, braised short ribs. Morels just fresh for the spring were highlighted just as they should be; with lots of butter.

Hey! I’m not done just yet. For dessert I just had a few cheeses that were so so. They were more a vehicle for the delicious condiments, most notably a raspberry jam, and an orange marmalade. Once again my mom made the better choice then me as she ordered the trio of rhubarb. A scoop of light refreshing rhubarb sorbet sat perched atop puff pastry. To the right was a delicate, petite, yet full-bodied rhubarb flan. A rhubarb crumble that despite being in an Italian setting, saluted America, completed the trio.

I left craving Italy, and praying to the gods that Nona will one day find me and show me her secrets. Until then, I will be writing on this blog and making $1 a month from my google ads. I love Vetri. It is unique in that is an escape. For a few hours you can venture away from the hustle and bustle, and sit in Marc Vetri’s intimate space. Italy emanates from every corner, every plate, and every strand of spaghetti. So how to conclude? I guess the way I started. Vetri presents the ultimate contrast between rusticity, and refinement.

I'm Popeye's Wet Dream

I'm popeye's wet dream, quotes Andrew, amidst a mountain of spinach.

This week's episode was my favorite yet, despite the fact that they took out the beloved restaurant wars and replaced it "Wedding Wars." The cheftestants started with the skills challenge, which divided them in two teams and pitted them against eachother in peeling oranges, cleaning artichokes, filleting monkfish, and making mayo.

Richard's (blonde mohawk) team obviously prevailed as it was clear they had the better cooks. They then won the elimination challenge which required them to cater a wedding. We saw Dale freak out a few times, Andrew utter a few priceless quotes, and we saw Richard do that thing he does (win).

Did anyone see that monkfish dinosaur? That thing is rediculous! I wonder if that's what gave Andrew a "culinary boner?" Or maybe it was my girl Stephanie who really knows how to work a whisk.

I loved seeing Dale get angry and dent that locker, kinda exposes him for the five-year old he is. The Dale, Stephanie, Nikki tension really elevated Top Chef in the drama aspect. I felt like I was watching the "Real World" with no sneaky hookups and a lot of stoves in the house. Actually I take that back. Who knows what happened with Spike and Mark (the aussie) in that bathtub.

I don't know how the contestants managed to stay up for over 24 hours without passing out. All that seemed to do was create a few yawns and stop Andrew from talking.

Anyway, the food from that challenge was delicious. I wanted Richard's brisket and I would've loved some of Stephanie's cake. In the end, Richard pulled out the victory, but gave the award to Stephanie (what a guy) because she took the challenge of making the cake. Nikki was ultimately sent home, probably because she hasn't done anything up until now. She had just been gliding by on the strands of her pasta, not creating any sort of impact on the competition. I stick with my prediction and say Richard's gonna win. I have money resting on him and I have the utmost confidence that he will pull out the W.

Until Next Thursday

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Chipotle has just beat out the likes of Wendy's, Qdoba, Cici's Pizza, and Mickey D's to win the award of "Nick's Favorite Fast Food Joint." How was Chipotle able to garner such a prestigous award? Well, by being downright awesome.

Never has a fast food restaurant had such class, such an environmentalist attitude, and most importantly such great flavor. I don't feel like I'm eating fast food when I eat Chipotle. Indeed, it has nearly undermined the "higher class" burrito-serving restaurants in the area, and has captured the attention of my community. Recent articles in the school newspaper praise its greatness and proclaim its superiority over Qdoba (for a much more detailed description, and more big words than I can muster, talk to my friend Avi ).

Tomorrow, a new one opens 5 minutes from my house and free burritos are being served all day. Don't be surprised if I begin to feel sick during lunchtime.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Review is coming!

Hey! Listen, Vetri review is coming up as soon as possible. I have an essay to write and a band concert (yes I'm a band geek) today, but don't fret, it will be up soon.

Here's a little spoiler: Yummmmmmm

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Post- Workout Drink

Look at that. That was my post-workout drink yesterday. You're supposed to have protein after you work out right? Well I think so, but maybe I just say that to justify an extra helping of Fage Greek Yogurt. Anyway, I came home exhausted, and drenched in sweat and saw my sister eating some stawberries with some Ready-Whip on top. This sparked an idea! Rather than simply eat a Fage yogurt (the 0% fat type is almost exclusively protein), I would make a strawberry-yogurt smoothie and top it with whipped cream. Take note, this is the first, and most likely last time one of my sisters will inspire a culinary creation.

I tossed some ripe strawberries in a blender and added a few globs of Fage. As the mixture was blending, I drizzled in some acacia honey (pick it up at DiBruno's), added some more yogurt for a thicker consistency, then took it out and put it in a mug (strain it if you don't want the seeds). I put a generous helping of that delicious whipped cream you buy in the cans (guilty pleasure) on top (I added more after I took the picture), then got in the shower before I could completely infuse the house with the inevitable post-workout odor.

Though by the time I finished making this drink it was probably more sugar than protein, I felt great eating it. Try it! The thought of having this when I come home makes me want to exercise.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Top Chef

Top Chef is my jon. Translate that to English and you have "I love Top Chef." I however, wasn't too fond of last night's episode which started with the contestants making Uncle Ben's microwave rice and concluded with them making $10 family meals. Ultimately Mark was sent home due to some lackluster vegetable kerry (curry in American accent).

Why didn't I like it? What's wrong with a family meal challenge? Aren't I a family guy? Um, of course, but I don't want to see $10 meals when I watch a show who's ultimate goal is to find a "Top Chef." I want to see heavily refined, well, not necessarily refined (depends on your style) but food that was painstakingly created and clearly shows the chefs potential. Uncle Ben's microwaveable rice! Come on!

I also can't believe that the chefs just used $10 to create a four person meal, and went to Whole Foods to shop! What food store on earth is more notorious for being overpriced? Ok, maybe Williams Sonoma but that's more appliances. Though Whole Foods usually has good quality products, I would definitely not reccomend it to someone on a budget. Anyway, next episode should be exciting. We will talk more then.