Tag Archives: philadelphia

Top 10 Noms of 2011

29 Dec

I can’t believe 2011 is over!  I always love going back through the past year of blogs to pick the top 10, and this year proved MUCH harder than years before.  There were just so many great Noms in 2011!

For the past Top Noms of the year, check out 2010 and 2009.

#10 – Alma de Cuba: Philadelphia I dream about the pork entree I had here, and that chocolate cigar for dessert (that was on fire) will always hold a tender spot in my food heart.

# 9 – The Breslin lived up to expectations with an awesome lamb burger and the scrumpets… oooooooohhhh the scrumpets.

#8 – We had wanted to visit Barbuto for a long time, after falling in love with the chef, Jonathan Waxman, on various food shows on television.  It was a meal made of some of the freshest, most lovingly crafted ingredients.


#7 – Our experience at Maialino was just a few days ago, but I am still thinking about that bacon and those desserts.  I can’t wait to go back again and try more… especially their namesake pasta.

#6 – When we decided to try Catch, Top Chef Hung’s new restaurant we didn’t know what we were in for. It was dark. It was Meatpacking. But it was delicious and inspired.  Awesome combinations and executed beautifully.

#5 – Imperial No. 9 was a fantastic journey of food, with many dishes that I would go back to eat all over again.  If you go, order as much as possible and share. Totally worth it.

#4 – Our adventure at Mountain Flying Fish in Breckenridge, CO was something I will never forget.  A well curated Omikase from the chef, who is a personal friend of my aunt proved to be one of the most perfect, original, and exciting meals I have ever had.  Land locked sushi shouldn’t be this good. Food shouldn’t be this good.  It was just… bliss.

#3 – Mike took me to Daniel for my birthday, and it was impressive.  The entire tasting menu was already one of the best meals I ever had, and then the desserts came.  The best series of desserts I have ever had. Hands down. And I LOVE dessert.

#2 – When I think of epic meals, I have to mention Blue Hill at Stone Barns.  A day-trip from NYC in Westchester, NY, it is actually ON the farm (which made for a lovely day as well).  Everything that comes out in the blind tasting menu was from the farm or locally sourced.  You don’t get fresher than that. And it’s hard to get any better.

#1 – Valentine’s Day at Colicchio and Sons for the Tasting Menu was phenomenal.  It took over the #2 all-time spot (under WD-50, which we tried again recently, by the way, to see if it could hold on to that #1 spot… more on that soon).  I have been to Colicchio and Sons a few times for their a la carte menu, and it’s always fantastic, but this tasting menu was other-worldly.  The duck egg, confit gizzard, & parsnip dish was hands down the best thing I have EVER eaten.  Just… wow.

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Honorable Mention:

The Truffle, Gruanciale, and Egg Pizza from Otto

Birreria at Eataly for the fantastic ambiance, beer, and damn good food

The classic New York feel (and food) of The Palm

Thumbs Up Diner: Atlanta for The Heap

Peking Duck House for the Peking Duck Special

Kefi for that amazing octopus

And 2 great Restaurant Week meals that were worth repeating…

Ilili for Restaurant Week

The Modern for Restaurant Week Winter and Summer

And last but not least… It’s hard to write about 2011 without mentioning Albert Hall Tavern, but now that Chef Bill is gone, the spark just isn’t there like it used to be.

Goodbye 2011! Onto even more fantastic adventures and Noms in 2012.

Philly Noms- Naked Chocolate

27 Apr

This was supposed to be in line with all the previous Philly posts, but it looks like this one got left off.  Sorry about that!

We were on a quest in Philly to find a dessert place.  We checked through Yelp and found a recommendation for Naked Chocolate Cafe.  We walked in to find many fun things to try.

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And cases filled with treats.

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We decided to try a sampler of their filled chocolates.

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I was especially excited to try their St. Germaine filled perties.

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We also tried an assortment of the other flavors…

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The chocolates themselves were beautiful.  Each one with their own touch of design…

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We also sampled some gourmet hot chocolate, including one with salted caramel.

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I would say that the chocolates were absolutely stunning, but the taste isn’t quite up the par. They were all tasty, but the chocolate itself wasn’t as flavorful as I would have liked and I had a hard time distinguishing between the flavors once I bit in.  I am also a complete chocolate snob, however, so I think I have very high expectations for homemade chocolates.

It was a fun place to go, however, and I think the hot chocolate alone was worth it.

Philly Noms- Amada (AKA the most disappointing Celebrity Chef restaurant EVER)

15 Apr

Philly was so packed with restaurants we wanted to try that we actually found no time to get some famous Philly Cheesesteaks.  We aren’t cheesesteak fans, however, there is always next time.  Though after our meal at Amada, I think a gross greasy cheesesteak would have been a MUCH better idea (and for an arm and a leg cheaper).

We had VERY high hopes for Amada.  It is a Jose Garces restaurant and were told it was his best.  And Jose Garces was picked as the Next Iron Chef, so how could this not be awesome?

Well… we’ll start with some things that WERE awesome… like the meat hanging from the side of the bar.

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And what was listed on the HUGE menu…

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And especially the SANGRIA!  (The best I have ever had)

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The awesome pretty much ended there. 

On the menu, we were having trouble deciding so we decided to splurge for the tasting to make sure we got a good sampling of all that Amada had to offer.  We inquired as to the three different prices listed on the Chef’s Selection Menu (see below) and were informed that the price would determine the quality of the ingredients.  So there would be more higher end things at the $65 level with more meats.  Each would have 9-11 dishes over 3 courses.  We decided to take the middle-road and went with the $55 tasting… and since it was our final meal of this little trip, we went for the wine pairing ($20 was a 3 ounce pour and $35 was the 5 ounce, but each had only 3 glasses total, 1 per course).

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We mentioned at the get-go that we LOVE artichokes (hoping for at least a few of the awesome sounding artichoke dishes from the menu) and, of course, that I was allergic to peppers.  We even had a long discussion over what type of peppers, which we informed her includes paprika.  I THOUGHT we were in good hands.

The bread that came out was crispy and garlicky, with a tuna, olives, and capers dip (compliments of the chef).  This was okay.

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Next up came aged manchego cheese with truffle lavender honey.  The cheese was very good, though the honey was more lavender than truffle.  Still enjoyable though.

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And the presentation was awesome (this was true throughout the meal actually).

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Next, we were served a few things all at the same time (even before we finished the cheese).  First was the sorano ham and fig salad, which came wrapped in the thinly sliced ham and it all went very well with the fig and blue cheese inside.  This was one of our favorite dishes of the night, though we both noted that the best things were the items that were basically assembled and not really cooked.

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Cured meats came out next.  I asked the busser who put this on the table if the meats were spicy at all and his answer of “OH YEAH!” was scary.  I finally got a hold of the waitress who informed me that I couldn’t eat a row of meat (Damn! Glad we asked).  She hardly apologized.

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While most of the above dishes were still on the table, the next course came out.  Now I understand that they wanted to serve things in courses, however, the table was nowhere near big enough for the food and we found most of it got cold before we got to it because it was just so much.  It also made us feel VERY rushed (we did, in fact, finish this entire tasting in just over an hour).

First, we had the flat bread with short ribs.  It was VERY short on flavor and we both laughed over the fact that the short ribs were nowhere near as good as the ones from Chef Bill at Albert Hall Tavern.

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We were also given caramelized melon with ham.  This was good but, again, more assembled than cooked. 

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We were then served garlic shrimp which was… garlicky.  So garlicky that you hardly tasted the shrimp.  And super oily.  This reminded me of a bad diner meal.

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Next we were served… more grilled shrimp… with more garlic olive oil.  (MEH?) This was good but way too salty, and Mike and I are some of the biggest over-salters we know.  Bleh.  (At this point I started getting ornery).

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The next course was garbanzo beans with spinach… and peppers.  Lots of peppers.  WTF.   Mike tried it and mentioned that it tasted awful and the beans weren’t cooked.  We sent this back.  (For me to send something back at a restaurant is HUGE.  I think I have done it twice in my entire life).

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FINALLY an artichoke came out.  It was the parmesan artichokes… but it was 1 small artichoke… split in half.  It was literally 2 bites a piece.  Why so skimpy?  I understand if you skimp on things like lobster… but artichokes and cheese? GIVE ME A BREAK.

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Next up we had NY Strip Steak which came with currants and spinach.  The combination of spinach, the cheese, the sweet sauce, and the currants on the steak was really great and at least a bit special.  But I don’t know if this one well cooked plate could come anywhere close to making up for the atrocity of a meal we had.

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Then we got our last dish which was… fava bean and lima bean salad?  What a weird ending!  And totally bland.  I think this may have been what was replacing the chick pea pepper catastrophe, however, to end on this was just icing on the awful cake.

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The tasting didn’t come with any dessert, and after the terrible meal we decided to wade our way through the rain storm to go somewhere, ANYWHERE, else. But it ended with this interesting almond thing.  It was a lot like a fortune cookie.  Pretty good actually.

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Oh! And we got a wine pairing didn’t we?  Ugh.  All 3 wines tasted like they came out of the bottom of a house wine bucket.  Nothing even remotely good or noteworthy.

It felt like there were a lot of great ingredients that were mostly executed terribly. Whomever selected this tasting really didn’t put much thought into it.  To follow up garlic and oil shrimp with garlic and oil shrimp made that obvious.  And very few dishes were executed well.   I was beyond disappointed by this meal. I was actually quite horrified.

And to make matters worse… both Mike and I got food poisoning on the way home… on a train.

Curse you Jose Garces. CUUUURRRSSSSSSEEEEEEE YOUUUUUUUUUUU.

Total Nom Points: 3 out of 10

 

Philly Noms- City Tavern

13 Apr

Mike’s second reservation was at City Tavern, a theme restaurant.  Typically, I would be skeptical about a restaurant themed around 18th Century America, but what is vacation if not a place to do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do? 

The interior was more like a series of individual colonial rooms than what we think of as current restaurants.  I guess this was the style in the 1700s.  Quite cool.

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We decided to go with the beer tasting, which were all made from recipes from the Revolution. Cool!

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The Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce was my absolute fave.

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And it was served on a very nice paddle.  Good touch.

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The breads were all good, however, the biscuits were sweet potato and pecan (a supposedly favorite of Washington himself) and I had to ask for seconds.  They were so good.

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We started with the mallard duck sausages which combined pork and duck over sweet and sour cabbage.  These were some of the most flavorful sausages I have ever had.  Delish.

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Mike chose the colonial turkey pot pie for his entree.  The top was so perfectly fluffy and crispy.

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And the inside was creamy without being heavy and all the flavors were fantastic.  Impressive.

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I chose the Medallions of Venison with leeks, rosemary-bourbon mushroom sauce, herbed barley, and vegetable of the season (which wound up being various squashes). 

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The sauce on this was packed with flavor, the venison was perfectly gamey without being tough, and the barley and veggies were a great pair.  This was so hearty and homey.  I loved it.

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For dessert, they brought out a tray of goodies.  It was a tough choice…

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But we went with the raspberry linzer torte.  It was good… but not as buttery as it should have been and the raspberry was kind of bland.  Then the whipped cream on top was more like whipped butter… and it was AWFUL.  Shame to end such a good meal on such a dud note.

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But City Tavern had one last treat before we went.  Right outside the bathrooms and downstairs dining area was the harpist.  It was awesome.

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Overall, for a themed restaurant we were VERY impressed.  Even as compared to most restaurants, our meals were great.  Next time I might just skip the desserts.

Overall Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Philly Noms- Reading Terminal Market

11 Apr

On our trolley tour of Philly, the guide mentioned that the Reading Terminal Market was a foodie paradise. So when Mike and I found ourselves close and with a few hours to spare, we ducked in and checked it out.  I took pictures of the things I liked, and while we ate nothing from the market, we sure enjoyed looking around.  I hope you enjoy this photo-only blog of the Market…

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Philly Noms: Continental

8 Apr

On our first morning in Philly, we decided to try a restaurant that a coworker recommended, Continental.  There are two locations in Philly, and we took a trolley tour (to get a lay of the land in the city and hear some good history) and we took most of the loop before going to the midtown location on Chestnut. 

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I was instantly enamoured with the decor.  It was so modern yet such a throwback to the 50s era diner.  We sat at the window facing the bar.

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And the sculptural bubbles in the middle were awesome (Quick… Where’s Waldo on the below pic to find Mike).

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We were on vacation, so we had to get some brunchy drinks.  I went with the Aviation, which had Bluecoat Gin, Luxardo Maraschino Liquor, Creme de Violette, and Fresh Lemon.    It was good but a little sour for my taste.  Mike got the Shanghai, which came with Bacardi O, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur (our fave), Green Tea, and a Honey Sugar Rim.  I LOVED this.  Licked the rim clean.  Mike wasn’t too much of a fan. We should have traded.

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We were served a chef’s special watermelon sorbet to begin.  It was nearly flavorless, but a nice touch.

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We started with the french onion dumplings.  These were AWESOME.

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They came in a dish I usually see escargot served in.  They filled dumpling wrappers with a thicker version of french onion soup and topped it with cheese.  Besides being scalding hot for a LONG time, this was a creative and delicious dish.  Highly recommended.

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I chose the poached eggs with smoked salmon hash.  It came with crispy yukon potatoes, poached eggs, and dill hollandaise.

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Everything was perfectly cooked and a great combo.

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Mike went with the crispy calamari salad which came with a ginger soy vinaigrette.  I would have never ordered this, but it was really great.  Perfectly cooked calamari and excellent dressing.

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We were very pleasantly surprised by this place.  It wasn’t at all what we expected, but it wound up being some of the best bumped up diner food.  I wish we could have tried the philly cheesesteak eggrolls that they are famous for, however, they are not on the brunch menu.  Bummer.  Just means we’ll have to go back!

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Philly Noms: Alma de Cuba

6 Apr

I love NYC, but sometimes, you just need to escape for a weekend.  Without a car, our choices are a bit limited (and renting usually comes to nearly $300 for a weekend, and wasting $300 makes me feel like we should be flying someone cool).  So when I had the urge to leave a few weeks ago, we did some digging and found out that the train to Philly was easy and cheap, and hotels were SERIOUSLY cheap (we stayed at a Le Meridien for $125! Thank you priceline.com.)  Neither of had ever been, which is odd since I grew up about an hour away.  We decided to take a weekend in the city to explore the history, museums, and, of course, the Noms.

Mike did some great research and booked a few recommended places.  Our first stop on the night we got in was Alma de Cuba. I’m always a little wary about Cuban food due to the peppers allergy, but Mike assured me the menu would be safe.  (Alma de Cuba is a Starr restaurant, which seemed to be a very popular thing to be in Philadelphia. Note to self: Further research this Starr guy)

The interior was modern and beautifully done.  They did a great job with the space.

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And they left in some old touches, including the staircase.

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The bread came out and I knew already that Mike had made a great choice.  It was sweet and warm and doughy and everything RIGHT about bread.   I could have eaten this for dinner and been happy.  But I was good and saved room.

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Mike began with the chorizo sliders.  He was totally in love with these things.  I wish I could have tried them.  He talked about them the rest of the weekend.

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I went with the Royal Palm Dates, which were almond stuffed and wrapped in bacon with blue cheese.  Holy cow! These were amazing. And such a portion.  At this point in the meal, we started singing Philly’s praises.

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We moved into the mains and Mike chose the Sugarcane Tuna which had a Costa Rican coffee-rum glaze, malanga fondue with shrimp and roasted tomato escabeche.  This was very good, but I think it was a bit of a let down after the apps. 

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Mike and I split the yuca with creamy mojo.  It was DELICIOUS.  Just the right crispness with a very slightly sour sauce that was perrrrrrrrrrrrrfect.

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My main was mind blowing.  It was the Lechon Asado which was crispy roasted pork, congri rice and sour orange mojo.  I had to switch out the congri rice for white rice due to peppers, but it wasn’t lacking in flavor ONE BIT.  It was so perfectly crisped on the outside and so perfectly slow cooked and tender on the inside.  It had so much flavor.  My only regret was that I was way too full to finish it and was trying really hard to save room for dessert. (I wound up doing something I never do in NYC and gave my leftovers to a homeless man because I seriously could not stand the thought that a bite of this would go to waste)

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Every review and comment we read about Alma de Cuba mentioned the chocolate cigar for dessert.  How could we not? 

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It was described as award winning almond cake wrapped in chocolate mousse, dusted with chocolate and served with dulce de leche ice cream.  What we were not expecting was the cute little matchbook that came out on fire.  Flames and all.  Quite cool.

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But the taste?

Oh

My

Goodness. 

This was hands down one of the best desserts I have ever had. And you know I am a harsh dessert critic!  This was just a perfect blend of flavors.  I want to go back to Philly just for this.

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Overall, our meal here was sensational.  On par with some of the best meals we have had in NYC and I am confident it will make the top 10 list of 2011.  I would probably skip the tuna next time, however, everything else I would go back for in a heartbeat.  This meal alone was worth the train ride.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10