Thursday, June 30, 2011


Today my dad and I hit up Pumpkin, a BYOB on South Street.  It is a small, ten table restaurant whose hook is serving food made from seasonal, locally sourced ingredients.  We started with grilled shrimp and a plate of raw, pickled, or slightly cooked summer vegetables.  The colors of the vegetable plate were killer, and the shrimp was very well prepared.  For the main course, my dad had skate served with hearts of palm and a Meyer lemon sauce -- not overpowering, and the fish was again simple but superbly prepared.  I had duck -- seared breast along with leg meat wrapped in pastry.  It was very tasty.  For dessert, I had a warm chocolate cake with coconut ice cream, accented with some cardamom and lemon.  Again, very well done, and I enjoyed the reasonable size of the dessert.

Pros: Very colorful and pleasing plating, fresh flavors, exceptional culinary skill
Cons: Cash only (why do such places exist in the 21st century?), food could be a bit more daring

I'd give Pumpkin a 7 out of 10**, and I would definitely come back to try something from their ever-changing menu.

**Have I rated restaurants like this before on my website?  I don't think so.  So, as a reference, on a scale of 1 to 10, I would put Vetri at 9.5 (the best restaurant I have eaten at in Philadelphia -- not a 10 because I assume that worldwide there is better), most of my top 10 restaurants in Philadelphia around 8 or so, and TGI Fridays around -2.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Beets are Da Bomb Diggity

I've had beets before, though mostly pickled, boiled, or thinly sliced and served raw in a salad.  Yesterday I roasted the red beets I received in my CSA shipment, as an accompaniment to some chicken paillard (or escalope, as the kids are calling it).

Wow, talk about tasty awesome.  I peeled the beets and cut them into 1/2" slices, halving the larger slices to even out the sizes of the various pieces.  Then I tossed them with extra virgin olive oil and a liberal dash of kosher salt, and put them into a 425F (~220C) oven for 25 minutes.  Honestly, they probably could have stood to roast longer, just to caramelize the edges a bit more, but regardless they were sweet, mellow, and delicious.

Thus, eight weeks into the CSA, I've discovered I really like radishes and beets.  Go figure.

Monday, June 27, 2011

CSA: Weeks 7 and 8

Oh no, I am behind!  Here is a quick recap of what I received last week and what I just picked up (15 minutes ago) this week:
  • New red potatoes
  • White cucumbers
  • Broccoli
  • Curly endive
  • Garlic scapes
  • Red chard
  • Strawberry jam
  • Blueberries
I quickly used the red chard in a pasta dish with butter and lemon (of course I overdid the lemon, and I actually do not like chard).  Both the scapes and the broccoli were used in stir fries.  I have eaten one white cucumber just to try it, and I am accumulating potatoes (week 6 also included new reds).  The endive, predictably, did not get eaten.

This week, my delivery is once again ridiculously robust.  I am doing my best to give away a few of the items:
  • Green romaine lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower (swapped for fennel)
  • White cucumbers
  • Collard greens
  • Pea tendrils
  • Red beets
  • Yellow squash
  • Cilantro
  • Blueberries
  • Sour cherries
Hopefully I can find takers for the lettuce, broccoli, and maybe the cucumbers.  I do not normally cook or eat collard greens, but these ones looked really good.  I am probably going to freeze the blueberries with last week's pint.  And I have no idea what I am going to do with the sour cherries -- baking them, or maybe some sort of compote or sauce to go with duck or those beef short ribs I have in the freezer.  I am looking forward to trying the beets (I like beets, but never cook with them) and the squash.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

11 days on the Philly food scene

Over the last eleven days, I have eaten at three exceptional restaurants in Philadelphia, so I thought I'd post three nano-reviews:

Amada: Jose Garces's Philly flagship, serves high-end Spanish (and Spanish-inspired) tapas.  We had the chef's tasting menu paired with wine.  Overall it was very good, though I can't help thinking that compared to his other small plates restaurants, Tinto is a bit tastier and Distrito is more creative.  The standout dish of the night, in my mind, was some amazing grilled Spanish rock octopus -- perfectly charred yet still marvelously tender.  Runner-up were raw oysters with strawberry escabeche.

Zinc: Zinc is a French neighborhood bistro, and walking into the place it certainly felt that way, all the way from the decor and the music playing to the menu itself.  It was my dad's birthday, and he loves duck, so I had ordered ahead of time Zinc's signature pressed duck dinner.  The stars of this show are the duck, the antique press, and the chef.  The chef came out and showed us the duck, which had been roasted for 14 minutes at 500F (260C).  He removed the breasts and placed them in a pan tableside, then removed the wings and legs (sending them back to the kitchen for the second course).  Then he chopped up the carcass and placed it into the press, while sauteing the breasts.  Then the chef pressed the carcass, collecting a steady stream of red liquid in a saucepan.  After flambeing the breasts and setting them aside, he reduced the liquid into a sauce, strained it once, and then continued reducing.  Finally, the crisp duck breasts are served with the dark, rich sauce (which includes blood, other juices, marrow, and I think some of the organs).  The sauce was rich and decadent, and went perfectly with the duck.  The second course consisted of the grilled wings and legs.  They were a bit chewy, but even more flavorful than the duck breast.  If I lived closer to this place, I would probably go once a month.

Adsum: A newer bistro in Queen Village, Adsum has a quirky, sometimes daring, and always decadent menu.  The signature is poutine made with foie gras -- I passed this time, saving it for another occasion when I am dining with someone who would actually help me finish it :)  Instead, we started with grilled rock octopus in a black pepper caramel sauce (really good, though not quite as perfect as Amada) and fried oysters with a pickle juice remoulade, which my dad adored.  For our main courses, my dad had the pork belly and I had the fried chicken, which is apparently cooked sous vide before frying.  The fried chicken came with some amazingly buttery cornbread.  For dessert, my dad had vanilla sugar doughnuts and I had mint panna cotta with a hard chocolate layer topping it.  The panna cotta had an incredible fresh mint flavor that I am still thinking dreamily about.

So those are my most recent excursions in the Philadelphia food scene.  I would highly recommend all three -- I know my dad wants to go back to Zinc for the pressed lobster (!) dinner, and Adsum has a few menu items, including the pig tails (which they were out of) and the poutine that I must try.

Friday, June 17, 2011

CSA: Week 6

I waited to post a bit longer this week, so I could talk about what I've made using the fruits and vegetables from my CSA share.  This week was the first for fruit shares (even though the shares have included strawberries the last two weeks):
  • Red butterhead lettuce (I gave this away)
  • Radicchio (I also gave this away)
  • Garlic scapes
  • White scallions
  • Pea tendrils
  • New red potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Rainier cherries
  • Applesauce
As you can see, I gave away the salad greens because I probably would not eat them otherwise.  I also had some portabello mushrooms and scapes left over from the previous week.  The first thing I made was a pesto from scapes and walnuts.  It was very tasty and the scapes had a slight sweetness, but it probably needed to be sauteed briefly -- otherwise the pungency of the scapes eventually became too much.  The next day, I made a stir fry of tofu, scapes, and portabello mushrooms, finished off with hoisin sauce.  That was very good.  Finally, I prepared some of the new potatoes -- nothing fancy, just quartered, boiled, and mixed with butter, dill, salt, and pepper -- as a side dish to accompany a pork chop with, what else, applesauce.

I also ate the one pound of cherries in one night.  I really like cherries.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

CSA: Week 5

I am ashamed to admit that last week was not a good one for my CSA-motivated cooking.  As much as I like mint, I have not found occasion to use it the last two weeks.  I did use some of the lettuce for a nice salad, and made a lamb stir fry using the spring garlic.  However, the red kale is still hanging around (eventually I will try the kale chip recipes I've seen).  But another week has arrived and I am looking at the following haul:
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Green endive
  • Purple mizuna (I swapped out collard greens to get this)
  • Garlic scapes
  • Cilantro
  • Portabello mushrooms
  • Strawberries
I am planning on making a salad tonight, and I am very excited to try the mizuna and the scapes, as they are entirely new to me.  This week was the first time I used the swap box at my pick-up location.  Basically, you can swap one item you received in your share for one in the box.  I dumped the collard greens and grabbed the mizuna, because I wanted to try something new.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

CSA: Week 4

Four weeks into my CSA, and I have learned a few things.  First, even a half-share is a bit too much for me, especially when the majority (by mass percentage) of produce I have received recently has been lettuce.  I am not a big lettuce eater -- when it comes to salad, I prefer things like arugula, spinach, rampon, and the like.  Second, I still need to become more creative with these vegetables.  Third, I really like radishes!

This week's half-share featured my first fruit, though my fruit share delivery does not officially start until later this month:
  • Red leaf lettuce (I gave this to my dad)
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Red kale (maybe make kale chips?  I failed to use the kale from the previous delivery)
  • Spring garlic
  • Strawberries
  • Mint
If nothing else, the mint smells amazing.  I already had a salad last night (supplemented with red radishes I picked up at the farmer's market stand that shows up on Tuesdays at Drexel), and hopefully I will try the kale chips this week.  The strawberries were pretty good -- some were excellent, others were not yet ripe.  The good news is that these strawberries are pretty much red right through, unlike the giant mutant monstrosities they sell at grocery stores, which look beautiful on the outside but are otherwise tasteless.