Monday, July 22, 2013

The Franklin Fountain, Philadelphia PA

This summer whenever we've been passing through Philly, we've made a point to stop in Old City to get ice cream at Franklin Fountain.

Franklin Fountain, and its sister store the Shane Confectionery, are the brainchild of the Berley Brothers. Both establishments are loving and meticulous re-creations of an old-timey ice cream parlour/soda fountain, and an old-fashioned candy store.

From the vintage cash registers (with iPads actually doing the transactions), to period uniforms and tin ceilings, the stores are an homage to simpler times. And the ice cream is really darn good!

Redneckhunter is a purist and sticks to his black and white milkshake.  I have never dared to order one of the massively huge sundaes or banana splits, though they look amazing. Instead I stick to the "college" scoop - one scoop and one topping - my go-to is peanut butter ice cream with their own super rich homemade hot fudge.
I've also tried their fountain creations. Above is a phospate with chocolate ice cream, chocolate syrup, and strawberry syrup -- fizzy and refreshing and lighter than an ice cream soda.

There's always a line, but it generally moves quickly, and definitely worth the wait!

The Franklin Fountain
No. 116 Market St. Philadelphia, PA 19106
Telephone (215) 627-1899 

Follow-up to Despaña, Princeton

As promised, and long overdue, here's a follow-up to the Despaña post.

We sat out on the upstairs terrace and ordered from their tapas menu.  I was tempted to order one of everything, but the waitress brought me back to my senses.

We didn't order the pan con tomate, but they brought a basket of it out - wonderful.  They couldn't, however, bring plain bread when we asked for it to go with our jamon serrano. Oh well.

The absolute best thing we ate were the croquetas with jamon iberico - 1) seems so wrong to use the world's most expensive ham in croquettes, but 2) tastes so right! We had these at the preview event, but when they are fresh and hot from the fryer, they are heavenly!

We also ordered eggplant fritters - not what I was expecting - instead of pancakes, these were like eggplant fries; and a paella mixto. We had also ordered a gazpacho that never came, so was cancelled; and last were shrimp which were super garlicky, but a little too salty, and just too much after the paella.
Definitely a place we'll be going back to. They serve a different menu at lunch, with salads and sandwiches that you purchase at the counter and bring upstairs.

I also loved the Cow Statue of Liberty glasses -- too bad they weren't for sale!

Despaña Princeton
235 A Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ 08540

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Despaña, Princeton, NJ

We've been eagerly awaiting the opening of the Princeton outpost of Spanish food market and cafe Despaña.  It's finally opening this Friday June 21.

We were lucky enough to get to the sneak preview event last Friday, along with other locals, New Yorkers come down on the train, and we even met a Spanish couple who had come from as far as Ottawa. The wine was flowing, a trio of Spanish musicians were playing, the weather was beautiful, and they were serving up a huge paella and fideos on their rooftop deck.

Inside, they were carving up a leg of jamon iberico -- we spent some time parked by this station, where we each ate probably at least $50 worth of meat.

There was also croquetas, papas bravas, tuna on crostini, cheese, jamon and more... 

Here's a picture of the jamon iberico about halfway through the evening...

We are hoping to get a table for a real meal this Friday - will report more later!

Despaña Princeton
235 A Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ 08540

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Taverna, Newark, DE

My dad and my have birthdays that are only 2 days apart, so we always celebrate together. This year, we went to Taverna, a new restaurant on Main Street in Newark, DE.

For a college town, Newark lately has been getting more and more upscale and trendy. A wine bar opened in the spot of the demolished dive bar The Stone Balloon, fellow dive bar The Deer Park was renovated and reopened, there's a banh mi shop, cupcakes, and tart yogurt.

So Taverna is yet another recent addition to the Newark dining scene. It's part of a restaurant group with a handful or restaurants in Wilmington and Hockessin, Delaware, and focuses on rustic Italian, wood-fired oven, etc.

 It being shortly after graduation, and Memorial Day, the town was quiet, and we pretty much had the restaurant all to ourselves. We started out with an antipasto board - created with 3 selections of your choice. We went with prosciutto, housemade mozzarella and eggplant caponata.

We also wanted to try their homemade ricotta. This was a bit salty for my taste, but still creamy and yummy. Ricotta's one of those things though - even bad ricotta in a plastic tub from the supermarket is pretty good...

For entrees, my dad got the canelloni (stuffed inside with chicken and proscuitto) - quite good!  My mom got the chicken taverna with a caper, lemon, white wine sauce on capellini.

Redneckhunter got the neopolitan pizza, and I made him order it with an egg on top (I got that slice, of course!) 

And I ordered the roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwich, and substituted asparagus for my side of fries. It was a ton of food, and I ended up taking half of mine home as leftovers. All in all, another good addition to Newark!

121 E Main St
Newark, DE 19711
(302) 444-4334

Monday, June 03, 2013

Mistral, Princeton, NJ

We were around over Memorial Day weekend, the opening weekend of Scott Anderson's (Elements) newest restaurant in downtown Princeton.  Small plates, lower price point than Elements, BYOB and great central location -- what's not to like, right?

The answer (for now, at least) is service. When we walked in we were told that it would be roughly 20 minutes to seat our party of 5 (they only take reservations for parties of 6 or more), but we were shafted when some "friends of Scott" came in behind us.

Over an hour later, we finally sat down. Not sure, but seemed like a couple other parties were in the same boat - there was definitely confusion as to who was getting seated and who wasn't.

The waitress was nice and helpful and recommended getting 2-3 small plates per person, extras of things that everyone wanted to taste.  So we made a checklist on our place mat menus and were excited to finally eat!
No complaints about the food, but there was no sense of "coursing" or paying attention to the pacing. Plate after plate were just shuttled to the table. We'd have to quickly finish off a previous plate in order to make room for the next, and flag someone down to take it away. (I also didn't get why stuff had to plated on such large plates given the concept.)

Here's the rundown of what we had (not all pictured):

Fennel salad -- orange, mizuna, cilantro, olive oil
Kimchi pancake -- housemade kimchi, tamari, scallions
Pork Belly Salad -- chinese chili, scallion, sesame oil
Semolina Gnocchi -- spinach, morels, spring onions, green garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs
Housemade Bucatini -- Lump crabmeat, scallion, chipotle pepper
Hamachi tartare -- lime, honey, curry, papadum
Grilled Calamari -- artichoke barigoule, crispy artichokes
Grilled octopus -- “papas bravas”, caper aioli, smoked paprika
Sweetbread Cannelloni -- short rib bordolaise, chard, honshimeji mushroom
Weisswurst sausage -- caraway, mustard, pickled cabbage, marble potato
Lamb Merguez Sausage -- chickpeas fresh and dried, harissa, sheepsmilk cheese, mint
Korean short rib -- soy, ginger, ramp kimchi, shishito pepers
The standouts for me were the short rib (apparently slow-cooked for 48 hours), bucatini (wish there were more), hamachi tartare, and pork belly salad.  The weisswurst and merguez were also delicious.  My least favorite were the calamari and sweetbread canneloni - both just a bit bland.

All in all, it was just the feeling of being rushed through our meal.  Frustrating especially since we waited so long.  Our wait time was longer than our meal time.  Maybe we shouldn't have been so decisive as to order 15 plates all at once, and should have added more to our order halfway through...

Desserts came highly recommended, so we ordered one of each.  The Lemon posset with candied citrus and shiso was the favorite - such an interesting flavor and so refreshing yet luscious at the same time.

The other one that surprised us was the innocuously named Chocolates.  The cucumber (melon too perhaps?) sorbet that accompanied it was great! 

 The other two -- Rhubarb cobbler with sorrel and buttermilk and  Hay & vanilla panna cotta with biscuit and asian pear -- were delicious as well, just less surprising.

Let's hope they get it together with the seating and serving.  I have the feeling that going back, we'll try to make sure we get 6 people together and make a reservation. 

66 Witherspoon Street Princeton, NJ 08542

Friday, May 24, 2013

House of William and Merry, Hockessin, DE

We took my mom out for Mother's Day to the House of William and Merry in Hockessin. I've always liked going out to Hockessin. Not that Newark, DE is a city or anything, but Hockessin always felt like going to "the country."

For years our go-to place in Hockessin was The Back Burner, so it was nice to notice William and Merry just down the street the last time we were there. While I still like the old standbys of pumpkin-mushroom soup, classics like the iceberg wedge or chicken salad at the Back Burner, I have to say I think W&M is more inventive.

My duck confit sandwich was the best dish we ordered, I think. The duck was melt-in-your-mouth-falling-apart good, with saga blue cheese, and super yummy fig jam -- served on a brioche bun, cut with a hole on top to let the poached egg show (growing up we called this "dong dong dan" - hole hole egg). 
 I already knew Redneckhunter would order the biscuits and gravy.  W&M's was less filthy than the Southern standard, and interesting to add the melted Cheddar cheese.

My dad got the Bacon and Gouda crepe with a "crispy poached egg."  This was an interesting take on a Scotch egg.  My mom's Smoked Salmon Crepe was made with the same delicious fig jam, as well as brie and capers.

We all shared a side of house made scrapple too.  It was definitely the clean plate club that day at brunch -- so much we didn't have room for dessert.  With their emphasis on local ingredients, I wasn't surprised that they served Woodside Creamery ice cream (just a few minutes down Valley Road).

My parents said they wanted to go back to try dinner at William and Merry.  I think we've found a second go-to place.

The House of William and Merry
1336 Old Lancaster Pike, Hockessin DE 19707

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pig's Head at Alla Spina, Philadelphia

Redneckhunter's brother came to visit and flew into Philadelphia airport, so we picked him up and immediately took him to Alla Spina for dinner. We sat in the "lounge" area, and the whole place was an entirely different atmosphere from brunch.  Much more bar-like with low lights, low-key hip-hop.

As soon as the waitress (the same one we had at brunch incidentally) told us that night's special was a pig's head for 2 served with thick cut toast and a blueberry reduction, we all knew what we were having for dinner.

We got that along with some starters -- homemade pretzels (served in a wooden cute piggy bowl) with beer cheese dipping sauce, rabbit terrine, and poutine with guinea hen ragu. The prices were similar to the brunch prices, so totally reasonable. Redneckhunter and his brother naturally ordered some sampling flights, and we settled in.

The starters were good (if I would have one complaint, it would be that I wished there were more cheese curds on the poutine), but the pig's head was absolutely heavenly!  The meat was falling off tender, juicy, with just enough gooey cartilage to be delicious but not fatty.  It went well with the wonderful sticky gooey sweet and tartness of the blueberry reduction. Even the toast was buttery and divine. I picked that poor piglet's head apart, but it was the perfect size for 3 people to share. 

Alla Spina
1410 Mt Vernon St
Philadelphia, PA 19130

Monday, May 20, 2013

Aux Epices, NYC

On our last LES shopping day, Petitesoeur wanted to try a Malaysian place called Aux Epices she had read about in Serious Eats. So we hiked over to Chinatown to an unassuming pleasant little eatery tucked away on Baxter Street.

We both wanted the Nasi Lemak for sure, and decided to get a couple appetizers as well -- hijiki fish dumplings and duck spring rolls. 
The Serious Eats review had mentioned how the Rendang was less greasy than Nyonya.  We didn't try that, but I felt the same way about the Nasi Lemak - definitely less rich than Fatty Crab's, but still very delicious. The plate was artfully arranged, and I thought Petitesoeur (who likes to keep her food separated) would appreciate being able to mix the curry, dried fish, peanuts, pickles, etc. herself.  I did miss having an egg on the plate though...

I think our favorite dish of the night, though, may have been our 2nd dessert. We first got their signature Maylasian specialty - warm tapioca, taro, sweet potato, coconut milk - I wish I could remember the silly name it had (Petitesoeur reminded me -- bo bo cha cha!) This was comforting, but with most Asian desserts I find them just a bit too healthy and wholesome and not decadent and sinful enough.

So we decided to go for it and order the mango tart on top of that - talk about decadent!  It was warm and flaky and creamy, with a great burnt sugar flavor and freshness of the fruit sweetness.  So good!

The husband and wife team were friendly and inviting too.  The husband was eating his own dinner in the dining room, and came around a few times to check on us.  The wife came out of the kitchen after the meal to say hi.  Definitely a place to go back to with more people, so we can try some of the delicious looking noodle bowls and dishes we saw going to other people's tables.

Aux Epices 
121 Baxter St, New York 10013
(Btwn Hester & Canal St)
(212) 274-8585