Philadelphia Feastival 2012

Feastival returned this year more decadent than ever! The chefs from some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the city pulled out all the stops with luxurious menu ingredients (foie gras being a star ingredient); and crowds were entertained by high flying acrobatics while sipping on drinks mixed by some of the best bars in town. A very memorable evening that was a feast for the senses.

(Source: iphotophilly.com)



A little taste of Plenty
"Matahambre" steak sandwich
East Passyunk Ave is blowing up lately, it’s quickly becoming a dining destination in Philly with a slew of talented chefs opening and operating restaurants there. Plenty artisanal sandwiches is another great spot worth checking out on this cool South Philly strip. Before you could only grab these awesome sandwiches at coffee shops like Bodhi or Shot Tower but now with their own space you can dine in and have a nice relaxing brunch like the one I did this past Saturday.
The name of this sandwich translates to hunger killer, which was really appropriate since I was starving when I got there. The ‘Matahambre’ is made up of medium-rare steak, spinach, carrots, chimichurri and garlic, so good!

A little taste of Plenty

"Matahambre" steak sandwich


East Passyunk Ave is blowing up lately, it’s quickly becoming a dining destination in Philly with a slew of talented chefs opening and operating restaurants there. Plenty artisanal sandwiches is another great spot worth checking out on this cool South Philly strip. Before you could only grab these awesome sandwiches at coffee shops like Bodhi or Shot Tower but now with their own space you can dine in and have a nice relaxing brunch like the one I did this past Saturday.

The name of this sandwich translates to hunger killer, which was really appropriate since I was starving when I got there. The ‘Matahambre’ is made up of medium-rare steak, spinach, carrots, chimichurri and garlic, so good!

A little taste of Vernick

Cucumber Smash “mocktail”
Roasted Carrots & Tomato Salad
Pimm’s Cup

I stopped in here because I was curious to try one of the “mocktails” on their menu. People who don’t or can’t drink alcohol for whatever reason don’t usually have many interesting options when they’re dining out, so I was impressed that these mocktails were prepared to look like regular cocktails, and the person drinking them wouldn’t feel too left out from the “drinking” experience of hanging out with their alcohol consuming friends.

This Cucumber Smash was prepared with fresh ingredients and it was absolutely refreshing and perfect for a hot and humid summer day. The Pimm’s Cup was also a stand out, I’ve ordered this drink at a variety of places around Philly, but I never felt that I’d tasted an exceptional or even a good one until this one from Vernick. The look of it is fantastic and it tasted really wonderfully balanced, another winner for a hot summer day. I’d say it’s hands down one of the best Pimm’s Cup available. Although I bet if you ordered one off menu from Franklin Bar or Hop Sing you’d also get something remarkable. 

I wanted something to snack on so I opted for a the carrot and tomato salad, the light seasoning allowed the freshness and quality of the ingredients to shine through. There is a sea urchin and warm scrambled eggs dish here that looks really interesting to try.  

The food price point here is definitely on the high side, so this is a special occasion kinda place, or maybe not if you’re a baller haha. But I’d definitely recommend stopping in and trying a cocktail to get a little taste of Vernick. 

(Source: iphotophilly.com)

A little taste of Stateside

Crispy Pork Belly
Smoked Pork Rillettes
Marinated Broccolini
Steak Tartare
Steamed Mussels

It might be a stretch to call this “a little taste” but I’ll let it go on the technicality that these are small plates except for the steamed mussels lol. A couple of weeks ago I went to Stateside with a friend and we ordered a bunch of the small plates to try. Chef George Sabatino was the winner of the Philly Ommegang Brewery Hop Chef competition and he recently went on to win the whole shebang in Cooperstown, NY. 

Stateside has had tremendous success in the past month, and Sabatino was selected as Best of Philly: Chef. I would describe this food as soul food, not as in the traditional style of African American soul food, but in the sense that the food has a lot of soul and it is very approachable in terms of taste. The depth of flavors are really intense and really incredibly delicious. Sabatino says they aim to just make food with a lot of love and you can definitely taste the care and thought that goes into each dish. 

This is a great place to try new things, I love that it’s a place that sticks to its vision and doesn’t put standard fare on the menu just to appease the masses. I like going back to places where I’ll taste something new, there are a lot of things on the menu that I make a mental note of trying the next time I go. Everything just looks so appealing!

I had steak tartare for the first time ever and it was incredible. I’m a fan of raw egg on top of anything so this was really delightful; I was especially fond of the hazelnuts on top…the truffled vinaigrette too… this whole thing was just perfection. I also had the pork rillettes for the first time and they were amazing. I’ve talked to other people who’ve visited Stateside and the pork rillettes along with the chilled lobster & bibb salad seem to be two stand out favorites. 

Anyway, go here! Have some really great food. The team that works in this kitchen are doing tremendous things.

A little taste of Rittenhouse Tavern

Wetherill Cup & Tavern Lemonade
Poached gulf shrimp pave
RT Negroni & Planters Punch
Beet salad, deviled eggs with pork scrapple, Spanish octopus a la plancha with black pudding, apricot and potato chips.
Housemade spicy fudge


After getting a little taste of Chef Nicholas Elmi’s food at the Hop Chef event, I got a bit obsessed with trying more of it. I was thinking of the hamachi with sea urchin,  wheatgrass, citrus and coriander dish he made for Hop Chef, I don’t think I had eaten anything that viscerally memorable ever. Its not just the memory of the taste, but also kind of a vivid memory of the experience of eating it, and remembering that first bite and how amazing I found the flavors to be.

Anyway after a photo session I invited Chaisely to go check out Rittenhouse Tavern, we ordered a few appetizers and starters along with cocktails. I’ll say it was a very sensory experience; I mean most people think of eating as just satisfying hunger but this meal was also a very visual experience as you can see. On paper the ingredients sound familiar, but the presentation (and sometimes the cooking technique used) made for an unexpected treat.

From start to finish our meal was exceptional and beautiful. I hadn’t been to a restaurant in a long time that served freshly baked bread, it was some of the most delicious bread that I’ve had in a while. To end our meal we got complimentary spicy fudge, which capped off our sensory journey with a nice vivid spark on our tongues.

Rittenhouse Tavern recently got a 3 bell review from Craig LaBan, so you have no reason not to give this place a try if you get the chance. 

A steady stream of contemporary Asian cuisine concocted by executive chef Michael Schulson was served at the Feastival preview party at Sampan in Midtown Village. Never haven’t eaten there before I left very impressed with the excellent food the cooks were dishing out to party-goers. We got to try a lot of items that are available (at really reasonable prices) on their Happy Hour menu; Edamame Dumplings, Korean BBQ Beef Satay, Kim Chee Fried Rice, Crispy Brussel Sprouts, among others. I definitely recommend checking it out. 

Feastival is a benefit party for the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe, it will take place on September 12th. Last year’s event was absolutely incredible (see my photos: Feastival: A Feast For The Senses). You can purchase tickets here.

I really recommend this event because you get to eat and drink from some of the best, and most lauded restaurants and bars in Philadelphia, all the while supporting a great cause; the arts in Philly. If you splurge on one dining out experience, this would be a good one to pick. Frankly I’ve been looking forward to this event since last year’s ended!

Sampan

24 South, 13th Street, Philadelphia

Feastival

September 12th, 2012
Pier 9 on 121 North Columbus Boulevard

(Source: iphotophilly.com)

Great beer deserves great food, and who better than six of Philadelphia’s most innovative chefs to prepare dishes that pair food with beer for the Ommegang Brewery sponsored Hop Chef competition. The chefs were given five ways to accomplish this task; simple pairing, interaction, incorporation, mimicking, story telling and beercentric. Joe Cicala of Le Virtu, Jon Cichon of Lacroix, Jason Cichonski of Ela, Nicholas Elmi of Rittenhouse Tavern, George Sabatino of Stateside and Scott Schroeder of SPTR and American Sardine Bar stepped up to the challenge in a big way, and delivered some truly memorable dishes to hungry beer fans.

This is a great cheat sheet for Philly restaurants you gotta try at some point.

Hop Chef winner George Sabatino’s Stateside

1536 East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 
(215) 551-2500

Nicholas Elmi at Rittenhouse Tavern

251 South 18th Street, Philadelphia, PA
in the Philadelphia Art Alliance building 
(215) 732-2412

Jon Cichon at Lacroix 

210 West Rittenhouse Square Philadelphia, PA
in The Rittenhouse Hotel
(215) 790-2533

Scott Schroeder at South Philly Tap Room

1509 Mifflin Street  Philadelphia, PA 
(215) 271-7787

and American Sardine Bar

1801 Federal Street  Philadelphia, PA 
(215) 334-2337

Joe Cicala at Le Virtu

1927 East Passyunk Avenue  Philadelphia, PA 
(215) 271-5626

Jason Cichonski at Ela

627 South 3rd Street  Philadelphia, PA 19147
(267) 687-8512

(Source: iphotophilly.com)

Scallop crudo w/ grilled apricots, Thai basil, lime vinaigrette @statesidephilly

Scallop crudo w/ grilled apricots, Thai basil, lime vinaigrette @statesidephilly

Whiskey Drinkin’ 

Keeping with the whiskey theme from yesterday here are some fantastic cocktails to try around the city.

Old Fashioned at Southwark: One of the best cocktail bars in the city, not just for the quality of the drinks, but also for an amicable staff and jovial atmosphere. My friends and I dropped in around 1:40 a.m. and they gave us no fuss about ordering a drink. In my experience some places’ staff members can be really outwardly rude if you drop in that late to try and order something. They didn’t rush us out at 2:00 a.m on the dot either. Things like that really make a difference to the customer experience.

Rust Belt Punch at Franklin Bar: Wild Turkey Rye, Galliano liquer, tropical fruit tea, lemon juice, Demerara rum along with angostura and peychauds bitters; make up this super tasty punch. Franklin Bar is nationally recognized as one of the best bars in the country. The doorman situation could easily get to be obnoxious, but the staff there is always very respectful and makes customers feel comfortable. Basically when you go, you have to wait for the doorman to escort you to an open table, if they aren’t any you have to wait outside until someone leaves. The place is super small and narrow but really fun to hang out in. This bar was one of the big reasons that the quality of cocktails in the city got elevated in regards to ingredients and care in preparation; they keep everyone on their toes. This is definitely a special occasion place unless you’re ballin’ since cocktails range from about $12-$15+

Bulleit Old Fashioned at Tapestry: I was a huge fan of this place under its previous incarnation Adsum. They closed down for a few months last fall and reopened with a new menu, sick beer list and very affordable cocktails; the prices range from $8-$11. I always thought Adsum’s cocktail program was underrated and I can say the same for Tapestry. I liked that the waitress offered up a selection of bourbons to choose from, this Bulleit one was exceptionally smooth and tasty.

Kentucky Straight Orange at XIX: Kentucky bourbon, blood orange bitters, Saint Germain elderflower liquor, fresh orange. A really approachable whiskey cocktail for those who aren’t used to drinking it yet. Super smooth and delicious. Plus the atmosphere of the bar at XIX can’t be beat, you get spectacular views of Philly’s skyline. They also have some of my favorite oysters in town.

Sowing Season at Ela: scotch-whiskey, Yards Love Stout, amaretto, maraschino liqueur. A sweet combo of two of my favorite things, stout and whiskey! Ela is a relatively new spot in the Queen Village neighborhood. I haven’t eaten here yet, however we ended up popping in around midnight on a Saturday because Southwark was too full, and this place was literally empty in comparison. It was kinda awkward hanging out there while all the staff was unwinding from the evening service, you sorta feel like you’re intruding even tho their bar is open until 2 a.m. I need to go back another time to check it out.

Dixie at Franklin Bar:  Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Grand Marnier, Marie Brizzard Mente liqueur, angostura bitters, served on a rock. They really aren’t kidding about it being served on a rock, that’s one giant piece of ice! Haha.

Whiskey is an all American product that is very close to home for us Pennsylvanians since our state used to be one of the biggest producers of rye whiskey in the 1800s before prohibition devastated the industry. It’s a very masculine drink closely associated with men in our lives; our fathers, brothers and boyfriends. It’s a not a liquor young women tend to drink a lot, which is curious considering it has a lot of complex tasting notes that range from vanilla to berries to spices; these are flavors that tend to appeal to women who like the “fruitiness” and “sweetness” of certain cocktails which are achieved with artificial additives. Drinking something that’s developed these tasting notes through oak barrel aging can be a very rich and satisfying experience.

Recent piece that I shot and wrote for Phrequency.com

(Source: iphotophilly.com)