Friday, April 30, 2010

Brunch at The Belgian Cafe, Philadelphia

We met up at The Belgian Cafe in Philly for brunch one weekend. Redneckhunter got the Croque Madame gruyere, Lancaster ham and sunny side up eggs.
I ordered the Breakfast Arepas, with scrambled egg, fresh pico de gallo, jalapenos, and hot sauce.

2047 Green Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130-3271
(215) 235-3500

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The BlueGrass Tavern, Federal Hill, Baltimore

A great new restaurant opened up only a few blocks from where I live in Baltimore, The BlueGrass Tavern. The food is New American with a good emphasis on local foods. I went once on my own late one evening, and another time with Kwan and Bigfatlar. Both times were good.
The menu has a lot of small and medium sized dishes in addition to the usual entrees, and both times I opted to have those in order to try more items.
Both visits, I did have the Bacon Jam with Crostini. When I saw it on the menu, I thought of Top Chef. The flavor was nice- sweet, smokey, and bacon-y.
In the larger group, we got two different charcuterie plates. The first had duck rillettes, pheasant ballontine, and chicken liver mousse.

The second was called the Grand Southern Platter and had rabbit pate, duck speck, Benton's ham, and a deviled egg. All the plates had a nice spicy mustard and pickled okra and radishes.

My favorite item was the foie gras preparation one night (top pic). It was seared foie gras set between two pancakes with an egg and bacon and covered with maple syrup. The waitress said the chef wanted to call it their version of a foie gras McGriddle.
I also tried the Gunpowder Bison Carpacchio with mushrooms and a quail egg. The meat was really nice, but I kind of wished the egg was raw.

Because it's asparagus season now in the Mid Atlantic, I ordered the asparagus salad. They were blanched and served with mushrooms and a poached egg. The asparagus was so nice and sweet.

Bluegrass' dessert menu was also really good. Our table favorite was the banana creme pie.
I kind of liked the idea of the PB&J, which deconstructed the sandwich into peanut butter powder, a peanut cookie, a stewed strawberry, and a "cake" of peanut butter and jam.
The strawberry rhubarb pie with basil ice cream was very good.

1500 S. Hanover Street
Baltimore, MD

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Pop Shop, Collingswood, NJ

My only experience eating in Collingswood up until now was a really awful Taco Bell before a Billy Bragg concert. So I was pleasantly surprised to read about The Pop Shop -- which had been featured in a grilled cheese match on Bobby Flay's Throwdown.

It's a super cute place right on the main street in downtown Collingswood - a retro soda shop all done up in bubble gum colors and black and white checks. On a Sunday at noon, the place was packed with families with young kids.

Redneckhunter ordered a black and white milkshake to start. He decided to go for breakfast with his milkshake, while I chose from among the 30 varieties of grilled cheese. I opted for the one that had been invented by Bobby Flay for the show: brie and goat cheese with applewood smoked bacon and tomato on country white bread. Redneckhunter got biscuits and gravy with cheesy scrambled eggs.

So the problem wasn't with the food itself - just that it came out kind of cold. Since we sat at the soda counter, we had a front row view of the waitresses clearly getting ready for some sort of kids make-your-own-sundae party. They must have scooped 40 dishes of ice cream and put out 30 dishes of toppings in front of us. Unfortunately, the waitresses were probably a little too busy to get our food out hot. Poor Redneckhunter - sausage cream gravy is not something you want to be eating lukewarm...

I liked this place despite all that. I think if I lived in Collingswood, we would be at this place often. It's fun, I love the retro vibe, and there's ice cream...

The Pop Shop
729 Haddon Avenue
Collingswood, NJ

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Back at the Brooklyn Flea

I'm determined that this summer I will make it up to the Brooklyn Flea as often as I can. While I do always like a good flea market, we've got bigger and better ones here in New Jersey. No, the reason to frequent the Flea is the food.

This past Saturday I met my friend Catwalker there. Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs unfortunately... thus necessitating the need for repeat visits!

We started off sharing a Lobster Roll from the Red Hook Lobster Pound - to die for! We got the traditional Maine lobster roll with cold lobster salad on toasted bun, but they also make them with hot lobster, which I guess is Connecticut style... Next off was a pupusa from the Red Hook Ball Field vendor -- we were disappointed here -- first off they accidentally gave us chicken instead of beef, and it was on the cold side (though granted it was an unseasonable cold day). The best part of the pupusa was definitely the slaw.

We moved on to the next Red Hook stall for pork tacos. I loved the spiciness of these, excellent limey guacamole too -- though I think there could have been a tad less sauce - would have made them easier to eat.

We had planned on moving on to a fish taco from Choncho's, but just didn't have any more room... Next time...

After some walking around and browsing for $5 and $10 costume jewelry, Catwalker got some sweets -- a Linzer cookie and a mini cupcake from Kumquat Cupcakery. I opted for a gruyere paprika pretzel from Sigmund's.

Brooklyn Flea
Fort Greene every Saturday, 10am-5pm, 176 Lafayette Ave
One Hanson every Sunday, 10am-5pm, 1 Hanson Pl. (at Flatbush Ave.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Apps at the Spotted Pig, NYC

Redneckhunter and I had some time to kill in the city before meeting friends one evening, so we stopped into The Spotted Pig.

The place was packed by 6 pm, so we opted to grab a stool and order from the bar. Inspired by the obsessive-compulsive Grub Street article deconstructing the Spotted Pig's deviled eggs, we had to get those.

We also got (of course) Redneckhunter's beloved chicken liver toast, Sheep’s Ricotta Gnudi with Brown Butter & Sage, and Codfish fritters.

Our favorite, by far was the chicken liver (and we've eaten a lot of chicken liver...). I wasn't as wowed as Grub Street by the deviled eggs, but then again maybe I'm a purist - these were far smoother than the traditional picnic eggs but I kind of like that thick yolky goodness.

The gnudi were very tasty but remembering a similar dish at Vetri in Philadelphia, they paled in comparison. Vetri's brown butter sauce was just heavenly.

I have to say I was a little surprised to see that 70-80% of the plates coming out of the kitchen were burgers. With options like Grilled Beef Tongue with Duck Fat Potatoes and Pickled Beets, Braised Rabbit with Fennel & Ramps, or Pan Fried Calf's Liver with Mashed Potatoes & Sage, why on earth would someone order a burger? Especially when there's an amazing burger for $5 down the block at the Corner Bistro (as opposed to $17). I mean I'm sure the Pig makes a great burger, but if you weren't into nose-to-tail eating, why would you even go there?

Instead I was happy to see a large Chinese family (elderly parents and adult children), looking completely out of place among the West Village yuppies, but happily feasting away at a table in the corner.

The Spotted Pig
314 11th Street (at Greenwich), NYC

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stuggy's - Hot Dogs in Fells Point, Baltimore

I went to a newly opened hot dog & sausage place in Fells Point in Balitmore called Stuggy's.
While they don't make the dogs onsite, they do try to rely on local sausagemaker Ostrowski's for their meats.
I ordered 2 hot dogs: the Carolina Slaw Dog, a 1/4 kosher hot dog with chili, & cole slaw, and the Bmore Dog, a similar hot dog served with grilled bologna & mustard. Both were hearty and delicious.
I should note that this place is the first place I've seen a whole soda machine serving only Boylan's soda. I had the birch beer.
I just could resist getting their fried Oreo cookies. They were dipped in funnel cake batter, deep fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Wrong and yummy.
I am interested in heading back to try their bison sausage and their hot Italian.

809 S Broadway
Baltimore, MD 21231

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Jack's Bistro, Baltimore

Redneckhunter and 1000yregg had gone to Jack's Bistro without me during one Baltimore Restaurant Week. But Redneckhunter, knowing that I would like the retro feel of the place, and craving foie gras poutine, wanted to go back.

This time around, we ordered everything off the small plates sections of the menu. We got The "Bacon + Egg"- and egg slow-poached at 147 degrees, fried pork belly, mushrooms with pig jus (above). Redneckhunter's perennial choice of chicken liver mousse topped with cognac and clarified butter and pickled onions (left).

We also got the Mac + Cheese + Chocolate -- an interesting mix though I got a little tired of the sweetness of the chocolate shavings. The cheese was nice and creamy though.

We also got a side order of the jalapeno bacon and gouda grits. And of course what Redneckhunter had been craving - the foie gras poutine.

It's not Au Pied de Cochon's (but then again, what is?) - obviously there's no slab of foie thrown on top - it's in the sauce instead, but when you can't drive up to Montreal, at least there's something closer...

Jack's Bistro
3123 Elliott Street
Baltimore, MD

Friday, April 23, 2010

Baohaus, NYC

1000yregg and I needed a snack before a late dinner reservation, so we stopped at Baohaus with petiteseour - a cute snack bar with a small menu of Taiwanese street food - primarily stuffed steamed buns known as bao. There's something great a place that only does a few things, but does them well.

1000yregg and I loved the tongue-in-cheek self-referential FOB-iness (Fresh Off the Boat) of the place. For instance, we ordered the set with 3 baos and a cup of boiled peanuts named (in your best Charlie Chan accent now...) The Straight Frush. The 6 bao set is The Royal Frush.

We got one of each variety of bao: the Haus Bao (Niman Ranch Skirtsteak), the Chairman Bao (Niman Ranch Pork Belly), and the Uncle Jesse (Pan fried tofu coated in sweet potato starch) -- all were served with crushed peanut, cilantro, Haus Relish, and Taiwanese red sugar.

They were all delicious - so much so we had to remind ourselves that we were eating dinner later, otherwise we would have ordered another round!

The peanuts boiled in kosher salt, rice vinegar, and spices were surprisingly tasty as well. For those who live in the Lower East Side, they do deliver as well!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Village Tart, NYC

Petiteseour and I are huge fans of Pinchet Ong. His Spot Dessert Bar is one of our favorites, and we liked the fact that he himself was there behind the counter making desserts.

So we knew we had to try Village Tart - his new sweet and savory bakery, cafe, and wine bar in Nolita. And sure enough Chef Ong was there again! This time we got to talk to him.

All of us - me, petiteseour, and 1000yregg - were consumed by the deliciousness of the Valrhona chocolate skillet torte. Baked literally in an iron skillet, it was simultaneously high-brow in its quality of ingredients, and low-brow in its gooey kid-like simplicity. We weren't as impressed by the carrot cake with dulce de leche frosting. Because Chef Ong was nice enough to talk to us and assured petiteseour that he wanted her honest opinion, she in her inimitable way, told him. The cake was dry and overbaked and while she appreciated that it was not too sweet, it needed more carroty flavor. I think he appreciated the honesty because he gave us a little bag of rugelach to go on the house!

Beyond the yumminess of the desserts, the charming French cafe atmosphere is another reason to visit. Every detail was thought out perfectly, from the marble table tops, black and white small-tiled floor, gold-trimmed dessert plates, wood paneled walls, leather banquettes, tin ceilings and glass chandeliers. Just view the slideshow.

We will certainly need to come back sometime for some real food, which looks delicious as well (as the slideshow will attest).

The Village Tart
86 Kenmare Street

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Eden Center Food Safari

My friend, Mike, and I went on a mini food safari for lunch at the Eden Center, a giant Vietnamese shopping center located at the Seven Corners in Falls Church, VA.
We started at Bánh Cuốn Thang Long, and ordered their #1, which was the name of the restaurant. Bánh cuốn is a dish consisting of thin sheets of rice flour, in this dish, filled with either pork, crushed shrimp, or fried onions.
It came with bean sprouts, crispy shrimp cakes, and sliced of pork "bologna". We dipped everything in fish sauce mixed with chilis.

Our second stop was a restaurant called Tay Do which had at one end a stage set up for a band to play.
At this restaurant, we noticed that most of the Vietnamese places in Eden Center have ubiquitous mason jars of fish sauce to go with meals.

Here, I ordered a drink called Nuoc mia, made of sugarcane juice. It was not too sweet as I imagined, and it had a nice hint of lime flavor to it.

For our entree, we ordered the Bún Cha Hanoi, which consisted of vermicelli rice noodles that came with a bowl of grilled pork, pork meatballs, & shrimp and a large pile of veggies including bean sprouts, pickled cabbage & carrots, basil, and cilantro.

To put the dish together, you place the noodles and veggies in a bowl, and then pour the meat items along with the sauce on top. Certainly adding extra fish sauce is good as well.
This was a really nice version of Bún I had never had before. Normally, I was used to the Bún dish with the fried eggrolls and pork, but this had a really nice sauce that was used to cook the meat and shrimp.

Our third stop was Bánh Cuốn Saigon. Mike tried the pennywort drink which had a flavor reminiscent of wheat grass, but at least it was sweetened.
Our dish here was the Bún riêu cua (top). It was like pho, but the soup broth was made with shrimp and tomato. It came with the usual side vegetables: bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, and chili peppers.
All together, the ingredients tasted delicious.

After lunch, I went to Saigon Mart, a grocery in Eden Center and picked up a few tins of Frentel for Fougoo. It's a French butter that was popular in Vietnam thanks to colonial occupation. It comes in tins and is mainly used as a spread.

Bánh Cuốn Thang Long
6737 Wilson Boulevard, #22
Falls Church, VA,

Tay Do
6793-C Wilson Blvd.
Falls Church, VA

Bánh Cuốn Saigon
6795 Wilson Blvd.#54
Falls Church, VA,

Monday, April 19, 2010

Capogiro Gelato, Philadelphia

While we here at TIGBG feel that our favorite gelato is from The Bent Spoon in Princeton, NJ, we also really like going to Capogiro Gelato in Philadelphia, PA. I think Fougoo wishes they had sorbet sometimes, but I'm pretty happy with any gelato. Last time I went, I had butterscotch and dark chocolate.
When we were their this summer, we happened to see First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters drop in for delicious gelato. That was pretty neat.

119 South 13th Street
(Corner of 13th and Sansom)
Philadelphia, PA

117 South 20th Street
(Corner of 20th and Sansom)
Philadelphia, PA

Friday, April 16, 2010

Garces Trading Company, Philadelphia

We went for a great supper at Garces Trading Company, a small bistro, wine store, butcher, cheese shop, and bakery from Chef Jose Garces.
Seating is in the center of the store, and the atmosphere is nice and casual.
We started with a few selections of items from the cheese menu. The housemade mozzarella was spectacularly. It was served drizzled in olive oil and covered with sea salt and pepper.
We also got a 15 month French Comte cheese served with apple slices.

We had to order a few items off the charcuterie menu as well.
The housemade chicken liver mousse with a shallot confit was terrific, and it went really well with the housemade bread that had a great crust.

We also tried the housemade fennel sausage served with a nice mustard.

We tried two salads. The first was Insalata Semplice, baby greens, pomegranate, pistachio dusted
goat cheese and blood orange vinaigrette.

I preferred the Endive Salad with sevilla orange, bucherondin (a goat's milk cheese), golden raisins, and Anjou pears.

We then ordered a few hot plates. First was the Margherita Pizza. The crust was really nice and crisp.
When we have time the next time, we will need to try the decadent looking deep dish pizza on the menu.

We also got a pasta order, the Parpadelle with Lamb Ragu.

For dessert, we shared a lemon meringue tarte and my favorite, the spring verrine, a buttermilk panna cotta with grapefruit curd, topped with pistachio-hazelnut crunch.

1113 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 574-1099