STRAIGHT UP – SALTY DOG

salty dog w/ Hendricks

salty dog w/ Hendricks

Or…a really good cocktail with the grossest name ever

I am horrible at ordering drinks at bars. Put me in a restaurant and give me an incredibly complex menu of artisan cocktails, a five page wine list with an entire section dedicated to the Loire Valley, or volumes of craft beers on tap and I can easily pinpoint my drink of choice in under thirty seconds.  Put me in a crowded bar on a Saturday night and my mind goes completely blank and I stare at the bartender like a deer in headlights before panicking and stuttering through a truly terrible order like orange juice and rum or Bacardi Razz and Sprite (RIP college years).

Over the years, I’ve tried to standardize my go-to bar order and finally settled on Jack Daniels and ginger ale (I know, classssssyyy). Despite the fact that ordering a Jack and Ginger makes me feel way cooler than I really am, it’s kind of a heavy drink for summer (and whiskey doesn’t have the most charming effect on my personality). One of my favorite mixed drinks during the warmer months is the Greyhound because it only involves two ingredients – gin or vodka and grapefruit juice – but mostly because it reminds me of the beach and makes me feel like a 70-year old man on a golf course in Kennebunkport.

In an effort to elevate the standard Greyhound, I decided to make a Salty Dog (which is basically a Greyhound with a salted rim). With fresh squeezed grapefruit juice from my Breville juicer and the addition of Hendricks’ gin and rosemary, this cocktail was the perfect herbal, citrusy introduction to summer and allowed me to mentally transport myself to a sailboat off of Hyannis even though I was really just listening to my neighbors yell at each other through the walls of my Philadelphia apartment.

Salty Dog

2 oz. gin (I used Hendricks for the heavy juniper taste. You can also use vodka)

4 oz. freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice

Salt for rim of glass

Rosemary sprig for garnish (if using Hendricks) or Lemon/lime for garnish (if using other gin)

Rim Collins glass with salt and fill with ice. Pour all ingredients into glass and stir well. Garnish. Sit back, sip and feel like Ted Kennedy (minus the whole Chappaquiddick thing).

 

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THE CLEANSE – SPRING LENTIL SOUP WITH TARRAGON & THYME

Michael's horse Sundae (with all the photo cred to Henry Thibodeau)

Michael’s horse Sundae (with all the photo cred to Henry Thibodeau)

Growing up in the middle of absolute nowhere definitely has its perks (…though my claustrophobic, city-obsessed 13-year old self would kill me for even thinking that). Aside from an idyllic childhood spent riding around on horses and most high school parties taking place in someone’s parents’ recently-harvested cornfield, an aspect of South Jersey I’ve just recently come to appreciate is the easy access to farm-grown, organic food that existed long before going to farmers’ markets was a hipster pastime and farm-to-table was a novelty “dining concept.” And considering that 90% of my diet now consists of Chipotle burritos, I’m grateful for trips back home that allow me to raid my parents’ refrigerator for organic tomatoes, hydroponic lettuce grown by actual Mennonites, and Jersey corn (I know I can get this all at Whole Foods but that’s like blocks away, guys, and Shake Shack is like, right there). In the growing trend for Philadelphia restaurants to list ingredient sources right on the menu, there is nothing I love more than recognizing the names of family farms from South Jersey next to free-range eggs, grass-fed beef and organic kale.

If there’s one person that shares my appreciation for “farm food,” (and also my insane eating habits), it’s my oldest friend Michael. Both city-dwellers (he recently moved from Miami to New York), each time we see each other we’re forced to ask exactly what the other’s latest diet is. After a fun few years as vegetarians, I went back to eating only bacon (naturally) while he got back into fish. Then the Juicing Phase of 2012 happened. At one point, we both ate turkey but not chicken (I know, this makes a ton of sense in retrospect but it was very convenient during Thanksgiving).  Our only alignment was a dalliance with veganism that overlapped by about two weeks (If I’m being honest, I was vegan for about 2 ½ weeks because I have major addiction issues when it comes to triple-cream brie. Michael, who has way more self-control, stuck it out for much longer).

One book that both of us constantly come back to regardless of our ever-changing views on red meat is the holy bible of vegan eating, Veganomicon, or more specifically, its recipe for French Lentil Soup with Tarragon & Thyme.*  With tons of herbs, plum tomatoes and French lentils, it’s the perfect complement for rainy spring days (and definitely tastes better eaten on a front porch overlooking green fields).

*I had to hold back from throwing melted gruyere on top of it and ruining the cleansing veganism of it all

French Lentil Soup with Tarragon & Thyme

French Lentil Soup with Tarragon & Thyme

these are actually probably from Mexico or California or somewhere, but you get the picture

these are actually probably from Mexico or California or somewhere, but you get the picture
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STRAIGHT UP – BLACKBERRY SANGRIA

 

Everything tastes better in a mason jar.

Everything tastes better in a mason jar.

I know…two cocktail recipes in a row but it’s been a really rough week, guys

White sangria is one of the few instances where I will bend my “no-fruit-in-cocktails” rule and also my “don’t-order-drinks-that-scream-‘Girls-Night-Out!!’” rule*. My tolerance for sangria really comes down to the fact that it pairs nicely with my never-ending love affair for any and all Mexican/Spanish/hot sauce-covered food groups. I can’t drink red sangria anymore due to an unfortunate incident in college involving a bout of food poisoning from Catalan-style calamari (I’m dry heaving just typing this) at a tapas bar notorious for serving underage students (ok, maybe it wasn’t just the calamari).

I typically use a sweeter wine such as Sauvignon Blanc for white sangria to avoid adding pure sugar later on in the process**. My current favorite is a 2011 Cliff Lede from Napa, recently voted one of the best bottles of sauvignon blanc by Bon Appetit for the third or fourth year in a row.  (Side note: “Lede” is pronounced “lady”  if you don’t want to sound like an idiot asking for it in a local wine store and then having it take the salesperson approximately 25 minutes to understand what the hell you were talking about and now you can never ever go there again at least not for a month or two…). If you wanted something even sweeter and lighter, Riesling also makes a great base for sangria and Rosé is perfect for later in the summer.  Some people enjoy using Chardonnay but I really only do this if I have an insatiable craving for cardboard.

You can literally add any and all fruit to sangria but I typically pair lighter fruits with lighter wine so no individual ingredient overpowers another (the one exception: blackberries are awesome regardless of a white or red wine base).

1 bottle wine Sauvignon Blanc (or other white wine of choice)

1/4 cup of blackberry brandy (if you wanted to go for more citrusy undertones, replace with Cointreau)

1/4 cup sparkling water (I used the lime-flavored Perrier)

Blackberries

Strawberries

1 lime

1 peach

1 nectarine

Mint or Basil for garnish

 Combine all ingredients except sparkling water in pitcher with ice. Cover and chill completely 1-2 hours. When serving, top with sparkling water.

 *My idea of hell is a bar where they only serve cosmopolitans and force you to watch Sex & the City over and over again against your will

** Complaining about eating “pure sugar” while currently polishing off a family-sized bag of Twizzlers

Processed with VSCOcam

 

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STRAIGHT UP – MINT JULEP

Mint Julep with Maker's Mark

Mint Julep with Maker’s Mark

As an avid horseback rider and having been thrown off a few jittery ex-racer Thoroughbreds, I usually have an issue with horseracing (see: Barbaro ☹). But while the “sport of kings” may be morally questionable, there’s no denying my love for the fanfare that surrounds the Kentucky Derby*:  the grandstands, rose garlands, the Brown Hotel, Bob Baffert’s smirk, and most importantly, the Mint Julep (80,000 are consumed each year). In honor of this Saturday’s 140th running, I decided to make Churchill Downs’ classic cocktail for the race Hunter S. Thompson best described as “decadent and depraved.”

Mint Julep

Leaves from 4-5 mint sprigs

2 sugar cubes or ½ oz. simple syrup (if using sugar cubes, add a splash of water or club soda)

2 ½ oz. bourbon

Mint sprig for garnish

Place the mint and sugar or simple syrup into a julep cup (I’m finally using mine as something besides flower vases here), Collins glass or old-fashioned glass. Muddle to dissolve sugar and release mint oils. Add bourbon. Fill with crushed ice and stir (And stir well. I can’t get this step right. I end up having three sips of an immediate sugar rush and then am suddenly hit by pure, unadulterated bourbon …which I’m not complaining about). Garnish with mint.

The traditional julep served at Churchill Downs uses Early Times Kentucky Whiskey but I went with classic Maker’s Mark. Woodford Reserve is another favorite. I also like Lexington Bourbon Whiskey (but specifically for the bottle, if I’m being honest).

Side note: Growing up, I had a poster of Thunder Gulch in my childhood bedroom when everyone else had an N’Sync poster (and that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about whether or not I was a late bloomer).

*Going to the Preakness during college…totally different story

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BRUNCHING – PEAR & PANCETTA WAFFLES

Pear & Pancetta Waffles (I purposely undercook waffles because I am disgusting and like them really doughy)

Pear & Pancetta Waffles (I purposely undercook waffles because I am disgusting and like them really doughy)

For someone who lives in an apartment the approximate size of many peoples’ closets, I’ve had to spend a lot of time prioritizing what I consider a “necessity” and what can be kept in boxes* in my parents’ garage (I swear I’ll move them, eventually).  I might not live with a coffee table or a full set of towels, but I’ve somehow to managed to squeeze in Every. Single. Kitchen. Gadget. Ever. And if there’s one appliance that makes me feel most like a mature, responsible adult who has their act together and can wake up early enough to make breakfast on weekends and eat carbohydrates in a controlled and orderly fashion (I usually just inhale them), it’s my totally unnecessary completely essential waffle maker.

Because roughly 80% of my thoughts are devoted to bacon and I can’t resist a salty-sweet pairing (see: my affinity for gross breakfast sandwich combinations), I decided to add caramelized pancetta to this mix for incredibly light Belgian waffles (made with whipped egg whites which is an arm workout long enough to justify eating six of these) topped with Asian pears this past Sunday morning.** You can also turn these into hipster waffles by using hand-crafted, bourbon barrel-matured maple syrup by Noble Handcrafted, which can be found at Di Bruno Bros. or Terrain in the Philadelphia area.

*Using the term “boxes” loosely as I went through an unfortunate mirrored furniture phase a few years ago

**Also using the term “morning” loosely as I made these when I finally managed to roll out of bed at 2pm

Some people get really turned off by marbelized fat (I am not one of them)

Some people get really turned off by marbelized fat (I am not one of them)

Side note: the May issue of Bon Appetit features a great write-up on the Philadelphia food scene by food and drinks editor Andrew Knowlton. Featuring my beloved Serpico, A.Bar and the Barnes Foundation, he eats 15 meals over the course of 2 days in Philly (basically living my dream).

The May 2014 issue of Bon Appetit

The May 2014 issue of Bon Appetit

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STRAIGHT UP – FRENCH 75 & THE CLASSIC CHAMPAGNE COCKTAIL

Champagne two ways: the French 75 & a classic champagne cocktail

Champagne two ways: the French 75 & a classic champagne cocktail

Not to sound like a total white girl (I promise I won’t include any Marilyn Monroe quotes in this post) but it was probably around my fourth or fifth glass of champagne* at a friend’s birthday party a few weekends ago that I decided I really, really like champagne, you guys (I guess I was undecided for the first three glasses).  Always preferring prosecco, I’m considering switching to sparkling French wines given their ability to elevate any occasion, or say, a super boring Tuesday night. Below are two of my favorite champagne cocktail recipes. which made even my depressing dinner of half a yogurt eaten standing up at my kitchen counter extra glamorous.

~ the French 75 ~

(…or my favorite cocktail that’s named after WWI artillery)

 1 oz. gin (I use Bluecoat or Tanqueray because both are very mild and don’t overpower champagne)

½ oz. simple syrup (simple syrup is extremely easy to make. Or buy…Because my laziness knows no bounds)

½ oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice

Brut Champagne or a dry sparkling white wine — I used Veuve Cliquot because I like its…grapiness (I don’t know how else to put that. Food writing at its finest here), but if you want a less expensive option, sparkling wine by Marquis de la Tour is another fave

Lemon twist, to garnish**

Combine gin, simple syrup and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well chilled and strain into a glass. Top with champagne and garnish with a lemon twist to serve.

If you’re feeling crazy, switch the gin out for vodka, add a dash of grenadine, and you have a French 76.

 ~ the Classic Champagne Cocktail ~

(if you’re more Audrey Hepburn-esque)

1 sugar cube (I like pure cane rough cut sugar cubes)

Angostura bitters

Brut champagne or dry sparkling white wine

Orange or lemon twist, to garnish**

Soak the sugar cube in Angostura bitters and drop into a champagne flute. Top with Brut Champagne or sparkling wine. Garnish.

If you’re not trying to get super aggressive on a school night, I recommend buying a champagne stopper. This protects the wine during storage in your fridge so it will still be bubbly the next day.

*Champagne glasses are like, really small

** If you want to up your garnish game, I’ve made candied grapefruit peels to use as a garnish before in champagne-based cocktails by following this recipe by Amanda McClements, the owner of DC’s Salt & Sundry.

French 75 ingredients

French 75 ingredients

 

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RESERVATIONS – THE BURGER @ PARC

Carbo-loading

Carbo-loading

And so begins the second installment of the Philadelphienne where I basically eat every burger in the city that has at one point been dubbed the “best of Philly” until I die a slow and painful death at the hands of saturated fat.

Parc, located at 18th and Locust, is Stephen Starr’s tribute to the classic Parisian brasserie where on any given spring Sunday morning, you can find most residents of Rittenhouse Square spending hours sipping Kir Royale (or in my case, the Hummingbird: an effervescent concoction of Marquis de la Tour sparkling wine, St. Germain and club soda) and feeding hangovers with traditional French fare such as beef bourguignon, moules frites and salade Lyonnaise (I need bacon right now just even thinking about it). Due to the “see and be seen” atmosphere and insane brunch crowds, I usually prefer Parc prior to 1pm on weekends before Friday night’s heavy drinkers come out for quiche Lorraine and egg white omelets. (It may also have something to do with the outdoor, street-facing, Euro-style seating, affectionately nicknamed “the Catwalk” by Philadelphia Magazine, where you can literally feel tens of eyes on you as you just try to walk by as fast possible in sweaty gym clothes while carrying seven grocery bags and I know, I know I’m wearing spandex way too late in the day and my hair is atrocious but I’m just trying to get home…). But I’ll be the first to give Parc credit for having one of my favorite brunch menus in the city (and their cranberry walnut bread is right up there with the pretzel rolls at Blackfish).

In typical American-in-Paris fashion, I usually get the burger at Parc. Last weekend found me at brunch with my aunt and uncle, once again (actually, it was for the third day in a row, but who’s counting) ordering a burger with sweet grilled onions, creamy raclette cheese and pommes frites (which I don’t trust myself around because they’re ridiculously good) and considering that maybe I should start making better decisions like my aunt, who ordered Parc’s light and tangy spinach and goat cheese omelette. The carbs take center stage with Parc’s burger and don’t disappoint because in addition to unbelievable Belgian-style pommes frites which can transport you to Les Deux Magots or Café de Flore, the burger is served on buttery sesame brioche which I actually finish every time instead of my usual mastication of burgers by using a fork and knife.

Location: 227 S. 18th Street; Phila. PA (southeast corner of Rittenhouse Square)

Website: Parc

Take Note: Reservations available on OpenTable. Book early for weekend brunch.

TLDR: Anything and everything accompanied by pommes frites.

Parc (image via visitphilly.com)

Parc (image via visitphilly.com)

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STRAIGHT UP – THE CLASSIC VODKA MARTINI

Ketel One Martini with excessive olive usage

Ketel One Martini with excessive olive usage. Silver cocktail picks from Crate & Barrel.

In addition to the smell of Sharpie markers and going on WebMD, one of my absolute favorite things in life is the very first sip of an ice-cold, straight up, extra-dry, Ketel One martini with olives. Because I treasure martinis more than some people probably love their children, I try to limit the number of times and places I order them (R2L and Butcher & Singer both do martinis extremely well. For a more casual atmosphere, the martinis at Twenty Manning are also impressive). Despite the fear of completely ruining this cocktail for myself, I decided to try to make my own…fittingly just in time for the season premiere of Mad Men (I know, I can’t keep track of which TV shows I watch either).

The Classic Vodka Martini*

3 oz Vodka

1 1/2 oz dry vermouth (I love Dolin vermouth but it’s very difficult to find in Philly. If someone knows of a supplier, please let me know!)

Martini olives (I like Mezzetta)

Shake vodka and vermouth together with ice in a shaker. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with three olives (or eight olives, if you’re me because I need to involve food in literally everything) and serve.

I thought I was a really chic 22-year old college student ordering martinis at the Eastern Standard in Boston until I realized I was ordering all wrong and the bartenders probably felt really bad for me (and my student debit card). Below is a list of commonly-used martini terminology:

Straight Up – martini is shaken with ice and then strained into glass (without ice)

On the Rocks – martini is shaken with ice and added to glass with ice (you’re probably over 70 years old if you’re ordering martinis this way. It’s very old school and I respect it).

Dry/Extra Dry – martini is made with little to no vermouth. AKA a socially acceptable way to mask the fact that you’re basically just drinking a glass of vodka

Dirty – olive juice is added to the martini

Extra Dirtya lot of olive oil juice is added to the martini

With a twist – a twist of lemon is added

With olives – um, olives are added.

*Nothing good comes from drinking more than two of these. Not that I’m speaking from experience…

Martini accoutrements

Martini accoutrements

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(NO) RESERVATIONS – PHILLY FOOD TRUCKS

Gourmet Macaroni & Cheese

Gourmet Macaroni & Cheese

Last Tuesday, Craig LaBan, the much-revered restaurant critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, held an open chat on Philly.com. This was a chance for literally anyone to ask him anything about any restaurant or food trend currently gracing our foodie city and over and over again, the chat kept coming back to the city’s food trucks (full disclaimer: two of the food truck questions came from me, but whatever).

I have come a long way in my acceptance of food trucks. It was only a few years ago that a friend dragged me to Drexel’s campus in the middle of a workday to get lunch from Jose Garces’ (now closed) Guapos Tacos truck. Not familiar with the concept, I easily spent fifteen minutes pacing up and down 33rd and Walnut deciding whether or not I felt like getting food poisoning from “street” fish tacos.* As soon as I took the plunge and ordered absolutely delicious $15 tacos and a Mexican coke, I was in love with food trucks.

Proving that everyone in Philly loves a food truck, an absolutely gorgeous Saturday afternoon unexpectedly found me along with three friends at the Manayunk Spring StrEAT Food Festival, desperate to try three trucks I’ve recently heard so much about: Spot BurgerMac Mart (gourmet macaroni and cheese), and Zsa’s Gourmet Ice Cream.  At Spot Burger, I ordered the namesake burger with hickory-smoked bacon, cole slaw and “Spot sauce.” It was phenomenal and made me forget about the fact this is the second day in a row I’ve had a burger and am probably slowly dying of heart disease. I sadly skipped a block-long line for Mac Mart (not that I needed macaroni and cheese topped with pancetta) and ordered creamy vanilla ice cream nestled between two salted toffee and almond graham crackers from Zsa’s.

The eponymous Spot Burger

The eponymous Spot Burger

Zsa's Ice Cream

Zsa’s Ice Cream

Many concepts that started as food trucks are now starting to have a brick-and-mortar presence in the city as well. My favorite cupcake truck, Sweetbox, recently opened shop on 13th and Pine and branched into other desserts (their banana pudding is amazing). Rival Bros. Coffee, a truck that can usually be found most weekdays in Love Park, is set to open up a shop in the coming months at 24th and Lombard (I recommend ordering the densely flavored, frothy Derringer coffee). And don’t worry about trying to track them down – most well-known trucks will tweet their location or you can log onto RoamingHunger.com.

*I once read an interview with Anthony Bourdain in which he was asked if he ever knew he was going to get violently ill before eating something on No Reservations. His answer was “of course,” but he ate it anyway for the experience. I’ve stupidly adopted this as a motto to live by.

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STRAIGHT UP – PIMMS CUP

Pimm's Cup: Pimms No. 1, lemonade, lemon, cucumber, strawberries and mint

Pimm’s Cup: Pimms No. 1, lemonade, lemon, cucumber, strawberries and mint

If there’s one cocktail that I look forward to once the weather begins to warm up, it’s the English staple, Pimm’s Cup. Created in a London oyster bar in the early 1820s, Pimm’s cup has lasted through the ages and is the official drink of Wimbledon*, the Henley regatta, polo matches and my apartment when I’m feeling super aristocratic.

Pimm’s No. 1 is an herbal, gin-based liqueur that prides itself on the secretive fact that no one is quite sure what the hell is actually in it (just that it’s really, really good). In its simplest form, a Pimm’s cup combines Pimm’s No. 1 with lemonade, mint, strawberries, oranges and cucumbers. You can also take it to an extreme with Bon Appetit’s version, which combines Pimm’s No. 1 with ginger beer and a medley of fruit and herbs that includes the addition of rosemary, thyme and rhubarb. As someone who doesn’t like chewing their way through a cocktail, I typically ere on the side of tradition and use a simple lemonade and strawberry-cucumber-mint base. For added effervescence, you can also cut the lemonade with lemon-lime soda or ginger ale.

~ Recipe ~

2 1/2-inch thick English cucumber wheels

3 strawberries

2 mint sprigs

1/2-inch thick lemon wheel

2 oz. Pimm’s No. 1

4 oz. lemonade, lemon-lime soda, ginger ale, ginger beer or a combination of these (your call)

Gently muddle the cucumber, lemon slice, strawberries and one mint sprig in a chilled highball glass. Pour in the Pimm’s and desired mixer. Stir to combine. Add ice to fill glass and garnish with mint and cucumber slice. This cocktail also gives me the chance to break out my kitschy paper straw collection (which sadly exists).

If you want to up the alcohol factor, the addition of Thatcher’s Cucumber Liqueur is also a nice addition to any Pimm’s Cup. If you REALLY want to up the alcohol factor, I’ve also seen people add Hendrick’s gin to the mix. Just be careful if you’re going to jump on a polo pony or a tennis court after a few of these.

*the one time I was at Wimbledon, it was easily 35 degrees and I got caught in an afternoon downpour in really insensible shoes, got separated from friends (while they were trying to hit on ESPN cameramen) with no umbrella or cabs in sight and then had to take a 40-minute train back to my flat in London freezing and possibly crying. So yes…Wimbledon is lovely.

Pimms Cup

Pimms Cup

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