November 13, 2012

Charleston Part II

Back to Chucktown because I just couldn't stay away. Naturally, we just had to go to Poe's for lunch again. The second time was even better than the first and of course everyone ordered burgers because that's what vacation is all about :)

Lunch on a sunny day = perfect
Pit & Pendulum (Applewood Bacon + Cheddar Cheese)
Amontillado (Guac, Pico de Gallo, Chipotle Sour Cream & Jalapeno Jack Pepper)

Annabel Lee (Crab cake & remoulade sauce)
Burger of the Day (Pineapple salsa and other ingredients I can't remember)

And a new addition - Pougan's Porch! Seriously the best mac & cheese I have ever had and I don't even like mac & cheese. The salmon and the grilled cheese were only so-so but the fried chicken sure looked good :)

So much Southern charm

Mac & Cheese (Smoked Gouda & Country Ham) ~ deliciousss!
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Duck Confit Grilled Cheese w/ homemade chips
BBQ Grilled Salmon w/ cheddar grit cake, fried sweet onions, sautéed spinach
 A few more Southern eats to come!

October 28, 2012

New & Improved

Nan Zhou La Mian has gotten a face lift. Bigger store, bigger menu and a new location. My mom and I journeyed over for a quick lunch and opted to order our respective favorites despite the extended menu.

Aromatic Platter of tendons, pig ear and beef
Beef Shaved Noodles
Beef Pulled Noodles
Loving the upgraded camera!

October 14, 2012

Jose Garces Trading Co. 5 down, 2 to go

Back in the day, my first few posts on this blog often compared the restaurants of Steven Starr and Jose Garces'. 2 years and a few restaurants later, I still stand by initial assessment that Garces' restaurants are easily superior. The food's consistently better and more innovative so before graduation, V and I are trying to hit up every single one of the Iron Chef's restaurants. What is sad is that I actually don't have any legit blog posts on most of his restaurants because I always use V's phone and then I never get the pictures :/ Maybe I'll have to make myself also do a blog post one each of his restaurants to make the experience complete.

Cheese Platter (Goat Manchego) with Truffle Honey
Salami with Mustard
House Bread & Olive Oil
I've been to Jose Garces Trading Co. 2 previous times (you can see the post here), but never for their restaurant week. Although not spectacular, the dining experience was still quite enjoyable. Plus no restaurant in the city can beat having a wine cellar that cells $10 bottles of wine in the actual restaurant. A few things that Garces Trading is very well known for: cheese, cured meat and the flatbreads. There's a deli by the front of the shop that sells all sorts of goodies including local cheeses, vinegar, olive oils and meats. Plus, you get the awesome truffle lavender honey (first made famous in his other restaurant Amada) when you order the cheese plate and I'm pretty sure this honey has its own cult following.

Scallop with Peanut Sauce

October 9, 2012

Ramen Bar!

Spicy Pork Ramen w/ Straight Noodles
Miso Ramen w/ Wave Noodles
I've heard a lot of mixed reviews about the new Ramen Bar by 40th and Locust. Maybe I just have low standards for ramen, (I still think Shin ramen is an amazing 2am meal), but I'm a fan of this place. Especially compared to the heavy weights in New York like Ippudo and Momofuku, this place is in terms of relative value and quality is comparative. No its not as good as Ippudo but it is a lot cheaper and it is still pretty good.  I'm particularly fond of the thick broth which I think is crazy flavorful.

Harvest Seasonal Grill

The new Harvest Seasonal Grill opened last week in the old Marathon Grill location by the Rave Theater. The concept of the restaurant is that everything is farm-to-table with locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. The inside of the restaurant has been beautifully renovated with a new open ceiling in the front half as well as an open faced kitchen in the back. Almost everything on the menu is under 500 calories. On paper, the business plan sounds great especially with all of the calorie conscious students at Penn. Problem is, I  don't really like the food.
Pear & Bleu Flatbread - Seasonal Pears, Birch Run Hills Bleu Cheese, Baby Arugula, Fig Glaze
The flatbread was tasty but something was off about the dish. The arugula seemed too wilted which is kind of weird when all of the ingredients are supposed to be crazy fresh. I was a fan of the blue cheese which was exciting since I hate blue cheese. The reason why they get away with making the flatbread under 500 calories is by making the crust absurdly thin. I would almost prefer a smaller portion but with more ingredients to the dish.

Grilled Portobello Burger - Housemade Mozzarella, Sun Dried Tomato Pesto, Mixed Greens, Tomatoes, Honey Whole Wheat Bun
Cashew Pork - Apples, Raisins, Baby Spinach, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Natural Jus
The burger was tasty but felt underwhelming. The only ingredient that really jazzed up the burger was the mozazarella. The cashew pork dish was interesting. It was surprisingly sweet and reminded me of Sunday brunch apple french toast which then made me want to just eat french toast instead. A comforting and homey dish but a little too much sweetness for my liking.

Probably won't be coming back to visit this place for a while.

October 2, 2012

Back to Pietros

Just had our induction dinner at Pietro's a week and a half ago. I always feel obligated to blog about it since this was the location of my first blog post :) Throwback here. Tried the arugula salad which was quite tasty, the bruschetta which was somewhat underwhelming and the sausage and arugula / prosciutto pizzas which are still the winners on the menu.

A huge array of oven pizza
Arugula salad

Dessert Platter
More pizza

Went to the new Harvest restaurant (old Marathon Grill location) by 40th and Walnut, will have to write something up shortly.

September 30, 2012

Oyster House

Doc Magrogan's Oyster House recently opened a new spot right on Penn's campus.  I wasn't particularly excited to try it out as I'm always dubious of seafood restaurants that aren't located right next to the ocean and even more dubious of the ones that are chains. After hearing quite a few rather good reviews about the new location, I decided to scout over and give it a try. 

Oyster imperial with crab
Fresh oysters 

This was probably the first time I've ever eaten raw oysters, but now I finally understand what all of the excitement is about. Fresh oysters are delicious. We tried two kinds - one that was very light and creamy and another one which had a little more brine to it and tasted like the ocean. Both were great but we definitely liked the one with less brine. The oyster imperial is served warm with crab and a mixture of cocktail sauce on top. The fresh ones were much much better.

Clam chowder
Big bowl of clam chowder which we both agreed would be absolutely perfect on a cold day. I also really liked how the soup was not the usual white creaminess you find in a Campbell's can.

Hurricane cocktail
Lobster roll with old bay fries

The lobster roll was also fantastic. I think V. proclaimed that this was his favorite sandwich of all time - a bold statement considering he doesn't really like seafood. I appreciated the brioche roll as opposed to the typical hot dog bun you usually get with your lobster. Although the fries aren't sweet potato fries - they were perfectly crispy and we gobbled all of them up. The cocktails we ordered were decent tasting. Nothing amazing but served in big portions which made me happy. 
I definitely plan on coming back for the $1 oysters during happy hour!

September 29, 2012


Consistently ranked one of the best restaurants (if not the best restaurant) in Philadelphia and easily hands down, the best Italian restaurant in the entire city, Vetri is actually not a prominently know restaurant among many people.  Although not in the limelight as much as Stephen Starr, the Marc Vetri's portfolio of impressive Italian restaurants have heralded him just as much fame. Vetri, is easily the star in the entire portfolio - once an a la carte restaurant, Vetri now only serves a 7-course tasting menu that changes monthly.

The interior of the restaurant is well-furnished yet homey. Everything from the stone walls to the quaint wooden tables and chairs says rustic Italian.  However, you would never know from just looking at the dining room that this is one of the highest standard restaurants in Philadelphia on par with the likes of Le Bec Fin.

So here goes my attempt at digesting this intimidating restaurant.

apples with parmesan
fish sandwich
foie gras with apricot jam on toast
chilled farm vegetables
balsamic vinaigrette
homemade bread with olives

The meal started with an ensemble of amuse bouche including the most delicious bowl of raw vegetables I have ever eaten. They were served on ice and chilled to a delectable temperature. A perfect bowl of crispy baby carrots, radishes, squash, cucumber, and artichoke hearts. Despite the last time we had foie gras which was a little overwhelming, we were quite happy with the small portion we were given this time around.

axis venison tartare with parmesan grissini
 corn flan with quail egg
 crispy sweetbreads with plum gastrique
 sweet onion crepe with white truffle
First round of appetizers included vension tartare and corn flan. The vension came all the way from Texas (I'm guessing from some sort of grass-fed farm). The dish was seasoned lightly and the meat itself was very lean. The corn flan was creamy and cooked perfectly with an oozy quail egg on the inside - how they managed to do that, I have no idea.

The second round of appetizers consisted of sweetbreads and onion crepe. As soon as I saw on the sweetbread on the menu, I knew I just had to try it. It always amuses me to see super provincial ingredients become a part of "high" cuisine. For those unfamiliar with sweetbread, wikipedia has a mechanical description that's pretty informative. Anyways, the sweetbread was delicious, just a tad less crispy then I was expecting but the inside was creamy and tender. The sweet onion crepe is one of the signature dishes of the restaurant with the onions being cooked for over 10 hours before the dish itself is assembled.
spinach gnocchi with brown butter
stuffed pasta
almond tortellini with white truffle
chestnut fettuccine with wild boar ragu
squid ink linguini with dungeness crab and uni
48 day dry aged beef ribeye with heirloom bean trifolati
Next came the handmade pastas, after the initial 2 or so - we were pretty much stuffed already. The spinach gnocchi was chewy and tasted of spinach as opposed to the usual starchiness of pasta you taste in vegetable pasta. A great thing if you love spinach - which I do. I love love loved the stuffed pasta which had what I'm guessing was minced pork or beef on the inside. The wild boar ragu and beef trifolati tasted very similar. There were generous portions of meat which were cooked tenderly and heaping portions of parmesan to accompany it.We got most of it packed up and it tasted just as good the next day :) My favorite dish was hands down the squid ink linguini. Ever since my trip to Venice, I get super excited whenever I see squid ink on a menu. This dish was amazing, the squid ink was in the pasta itself and it was served with big chunk of crab and creamy uni. It also tasted a lot lighter (which I prefer) compared to the other pasta dishes.

stuffed guinea hen breast with chanterelles
The main course was stuffed hen with chanterelles mushrooms. There was also a foie gras stuffed quail with summer melon which I forgot to take a picture of! At first the dishes looked so similar, I thought they were the same. The hen had a very thick layer of fat which was rendered down to a nice crispy texture.

peach sorbet
petit fours
apple dessert with cinnamon ice cream

We asked to stay away from the chocolate dessert options given the heaviness of the meal itself and got a beautiful looking apple pastry instead. The bottom was cooked crispy and golden brown and the apples on top were cooked until they were soft but still firm. What we also really loved was the peach sorbet which came before the main dessert dish itself.

Overall, a spectacular and very memorable meal for a lovely celebration. Will be a very long time before I get to come here again but hopefully not that long!

September 22, 2012

Carrot Cake & Birthday Weekend

First blog post in weeks and weeks and weeks. Naturally, it was a celebration (and a new camera!) that finally prompted me to start blogging again! My parents and I have always been a fan of carrot cake - a big deal considering my parents don't even really like cake. The problem I have with most carrot cakes is there's either too much stuff in the cake or its wayyy to sweet. So instead of driving all the way to the store to buy a cake no one really wants to eat, I decided to bake one instead. Recipe is a combination of what is provided by Smitten Kitchen's maple cream cheese frosting carrot cup cakes, a can of canned pineapple and various googling of carrot cake recipes online (recipe shown below).

Carrot grating, nut meg grating & grounding of spices.

One of the reasons why I love carrot cake is the richness and depth of flavor you get from all of the different layers of ingredients. There's also a reason why carrot cake is a pain in the butt to make - grating cups and cups of carrots. At first, I tried to find a way to use the electric mixer...which failed miserably, and opted for the old-fashion method of hand grating instead. Since this was a birthday cake after all, I also went for some freshly grounded nutmeg, all spice, and cloves.

Mixing in the carrots to the cake batter & making cream cheese frosting (with a generous portion of maple syrup)
Feeling particularly ambitious, I also decided to pipet the frosting onto the two layer cake...which didn't go all that well. Apparently, its really not as easy as it looks! And homemade piping bags made from ziplog bags also don't work all that well. Nevertheless, after a few hours of chilling in the fridge, the cake came out respectable enough for me to take some pictures :) Only thing that matters is that it taste good right?

Some guesswork in the baking time but still managed to  produce a rather tasty cake :)

And that's not all! I can't skip the celebratory dinner can I?

1/2 a bushel of crabs, growler of beer and some Irish car bombs.
Happy Birthday dad :)

June 6, 2012

May Eats - Prague & Beijing

May literally came and went: semester finals, Prague farewells, sojourn to China, move to NYC and now the first week of June is already reaching its conclusion. With the end of May, it also meant the end of my travels (and eating) through Europe. I am so extremely grateful for having had the opportunity to experience not only Prague but all of the  vibrant culture and history that each city I visited had to offer. I know for a fact that this will not be the last time that I journey to Europe (especially with many countries left to visit!). It also really does not feel all that long ago that I was blogging from NYC  about all of the ramen and cupcakes I was planning to feast on for the summer. Now, here I am once again in the Big Apple having completed yet another week of training (ironically, it was the exact same training program) - what a weird sense of dejavu. So here is the official wrap-up of my  final days in Prague and an overview of my eating adventures in Beijing.

1) Back to Aromi 
+ Seafood tomato soup with fish sashimi on croutons

Linguine with crab and tomato; Agnolotti filled with cooked ham and ricotta served with asparagus

Aromi quickly became one of my favorite restaurants in Prague. With michelin level quality of service and a bowl of authentic pasta for around 15USD - its one of the nicest experiences I discovered in Prague, too bad the only place you can find a deal like that is in Central Europe. Compared to the pastas that I ate in Italy - Aromi's pastas are easily just as good as what you would get from the home country.  During our visit, we were given an amuse bouche of smoked salmon and a hummus-like puree as well as a refreshing lemon sorbet drink. I never got a chance to post the pasta dishes I had for my first visit at Aromi (mostly because I devoured too much of my meal before I remembered to take a picture) but those dishes we ordered were also amazingly good and that was right before my Italy trip.

2) Completing the trio - Mlynec 
Veal Sausage with Celery puree; Deer Medallions with potato dumplings; Crispy Roasted Duck with bread dumplings
Mlynec is owned by the same restaurant group that also owns V Zatisi and Bellevue (probably one of my favorite restaurants of all time). The three together are some of the most popular and prestigious restaurants in Prague. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to post about V Zatisi or Bellevue since all of those food pictures are on V's phone (maybe I'll have a nostalgia Europe post on all of the eats that I missed). Mlynec is located right next to Charles Bridge and the menu has a heavier emphasis on Bohemia and Czech cuisine compared to its sister restaurants. The meal was hearty and satisfying and pretty much what you would expect when it comes to Bohemian cuisine.

3) Oh Hello Beijing & Ding Tai Fung
Spicy Wonton dumplings; Dan dan mian; Seaweed & tofu cold salad

Shanghai juicy buns: original pork and crab roe (look at those 18 folds on each dumpling!)
Sweet red bean buns; grass jelly ice dessert

May 23, 2012

Berlin (and a little bit of Dresden)

1) Eating like a Berliner: Doner Kebabs, Currywurst & Mushrooms, Pfannkuchen

Doner Kebabs from the Turkish district (after an intensive 4 hour walking tour - too hungry to take a proper picture..oops)
Currywurst in Dresden
Pfannkuchen aka the "Berliner" - yeast dough donuts covered in sugar
2) Movenpick Ice Cream
Technically Movenpick is Swiss but 1 scoop of Mrvenpick for 1 euro??? We each got was our dinner for the day.
+ chocolate chip & coconut, cappicino and straticella flavors in a waffle cone

 3) Haggen Daaz
Not really that big of deal except that we got German ice cream in Germany. Woot.
+ Hazelnut hot chocolate
+ Chocolate chip/chocolate ice cream cake with brownie filling.

4) Brunch Buffet
Almost missed our bus for this meal but it was so worth it. 12 euros for unlimited brunch buffet? Finally a city that has heard of brunch! I went for the smoked salmon, roasted veggies and caprese salad.
Cappuccino with a plate of desserts including chocolate covered strawberries, nutella crepes, fruit sticks and yogurt parfait.

May 17, 2012


People and by people I mean wikitravel warned me that Dutch food was not going to very good, something about the dishes being bland and underwhelming. So it came as a big surprise when my mom and I literally spent our entire trip eating. Our schedule consisted of breakfast, walking, snack, lunch, walking, dinner, and dessert. Then repeat for 2 more days. Granted most of the food we ate consisted of crepes and french fries. Is that considered real food?

Dutch Pancakes at Sara's Pancake House
+ crepe with cherries, chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream and powdered sugar
+ cappuccino
+ legit syrup
We had our first Dutch pancake experience at Sara's Pancakehouse, a small shop somewhere in the Southern part of Amsterdam. Apparently Amsterdam is known for its pancakes? The pancake aka crepe was out of this world. It might have been the best crepe I have ever had (Shocking considering we are comparing this to Paris and Montreal). Everything about the dish was perfect and most surprising of all was the nondescript place we ate them from. After that experience, we were hooked and decided that we needed to eat our fill of pancakes before we left. I did some googling and according to the New York Times, the place to go for pancakes is none other than Pancakes! so that's where we headed the next morning.

Breakfast at Pancakes!
on left: traditional Dutch apple pancakes with raspberry sauce
on right: chocolate, banana and mixed nuts crepes

Pancakes! is a tiny little establishment with about 5 or 6 tables and swathed in typical Dutch blue and white. There was about a 30 minute wait but what's 30 minutes for the city's best pancakes? We opted for the dutch pancakes which came with fresh squeezed orange juice and a banana/chocolate/nut medley. Unfortunately, the meal was somewhat disappointing. Maybe it was all the hype or our raised expectations or the specific dishes we ordered but we both agreed that Sarabeth's offerings were definitely better.

Pomme Frites and Pickled Herring
Pomme frites with mayo
Picked herring sandwich with pickles and onions
Before I visit a new city, I compile a list of the it foods that the city is known for and I make it point to try it when I am there. Pickled herring was one of them. I've never actually encountered the concept of pickled herring as a dish before, except for the jars sitting in our fridge at home that my dad buys and then no one eats...but since this was supposed to be an authentic Dutch specialty, I had to give it the proper attention. Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed the combination of the herring with the sweet pickles and onions on a roll, my mom was not a fan. On the other hand, pomme frites aka french fries was something that we were quite familiar with. The way they serve them up is in big thick wedges in a paper roll with a massive serving of mayo on top (we asked for ours on the side). Golden perfection. 

Ice Cream 
Yogurt and Mango flavored ice cream

We stumbled upon this ice cream place after our breakfast at Pancakes! and lo and behold, there's a line stretching out onto the sidewalk and an award on the window stating that its been crowned the best ice cream in Amsterdam. Yea, it was pretty darn good.

+ stroopwafel
+ waffles with dark chocolate and candied nuts
On Saturday, we journeyed  to the Albert Cuyp Market which one of the most well-known flea/foodie markets in Amsterdam. In addition to some nuts and a cornish hen (yup a whole one) that we sampled, there was also a stroopwafel and a chocolate waffle. Stroopwafels are made of two layers of as sweet cinnamony batter and in the middle is a layer of thick caramel sauce. They are fantastic. You can buy them from the grocery store or if you are lucky and happen to stumble across a little stand at the flea market, you can buy a fresh one for 1 euro. wowzers. The waffles were also absurdly delicious, made fresh to order and smothered in chocolate and nuts :)

Beer and Meat
+Cornish hen
+ beer
+ dippings for fries and meat
There's a been a big trend in microbreweries in Amsterdam in the past few years. Although the city is the HQ of Heineken, independent breweries weren't really a thing until pretty recently. We had dinner at Bier Fabriek, a rustic restaurant with a small food selection and even smaller beer selection. There's a handful of bar snacks you can order, some salads and the roasted cornish hen.  For beer, there were about 4 offerings with 2 on tap that the restaurant brewed themselves. You can see them roasting the cornish hens about 20 or 30 at time upon entering the restaurant, there's a huge rotisserie oven right by the front and 4 chefs manning the device. All in all, Amsterdam was quite the foodie adventure.

May 16, 2012

Tuscan Wine Tasting

We had originally planned to stay in Florence for a little over 2 days but then we found out that our flight was a good 6 hours later giving us almost an extra day. Sooooo that meant that we could be even more adventurous with our time. If there is one thing that I know about the the region of Tuscany (which is not very much), its that the countryside is gorgeous and the wine is fantastic. What else was there to do but to confirm this for ourselves through a tour of the Tuscan countryside and a wine tasting in an 800-year old castle?

Different barrels we saw during the wine tour each housing different kinds of wine at various stages of the fermentation process.
The place that we did our wine tasting is known as the Trebbio Castle, it used to belong to the once powerful, Italian family known as the Patsys. It also houses the "conspiracy room" for you history buffs out there who might just happen to know what that is. Currently, there is a family who lives in the castle and the husband and wife have turned the castle and surrounding area into a winery. The history of the family is quite beautiful and somewhat tragic, and our tourguide provided us with an enthusiastic recount of how the Trebbio winery came to be.

The first two wines that we sampled: a light Chianti with about 7% alcohol content (bottle is shown in the middle) and a heavier Chianti with about 12% alcohol content (shown on the left).
We also tried three wines authentic to the Tuscany region. Two of which are "chiantis" made from a specific type of grape only found in Tuscany. One was quite light and had only been aged for about 6 months before it was bottled and one which was much heavier and had been aged for about 3 years. During the wine tasting, I got to learn all about the nuances of wine smelling, sipping and swirling.  Now, I quite enjoy swirling my wine around its glass to observe the level of the alcohol content although I still cannot tell for my life the different fruity aromas that each wine emits. With our wines, we also received a medly of tasty snacks including olive pate, bruchetta, pecorino cheese, Italian salami and freshly made olive oil all on homemade bread. During the tour through the dungeons of the castle, our tourguide also spent an extensive amount of time teaching us about the different qualities of oils and how to tell a really legit olive oil from a not-so-legit one.

The last wine we sampled which was a much heavier and very sweet dessert wine.
The last wine we tried was a dessert wine, it resembled more of a port than wine as it goes through a wild process of hot and cold fermentation for quite a few years. The alcohol content on this one was over 16% and tasted incredibly sweet. Not surprisingly, this was my favorite one of the three that we tried.

Snapshot of the outside of Trebbio Castle, a nearby edifice whose purpose I have forgotten and some misty rolling hills.
And yes it is true, the countryside of Tuscany really is absurdly goregous. It was raining the day we went which just made everything get covered in a romantic misty fog and added that much more to the countryside charm. The rolling hills and fields of oil trees and vineyards made the 1 hour bus ride to and back quite enjoyable.