Cheerful Weather for the Mash
Saturday, October 03, 2015
The chilly wind and rain of the last few days sent us straight to brand new British Pie and Mash shop Stargazy’s Facebook page in the hopes they hadn’t sold out yet for the day. They hadn’t, and in addition to shots of the daily menu and the pies themselves we also noticed something that’s always a good sign to us: a proud picture of their weekly farm delivery, this one from nearby Wuillermin Farms in Hammonton, NJ.
Tired Hands Brewing Company
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Delaware County is, relatively speaking, bereft of restaurants that focus on locally grown foods. Here in Aldan and the surrounding areas, you’re more likely to find chain restaurants and diners than anything else. There’s Sycamore in Lansdowne, but they stopped serving brunch years ago. What’s a girl to do on a Sunday morning?
The answer is: drive to Ardsmore.
True, half of Ardsmore is in Montgomery County, but beggars can’t be choosers. I’m not sure which half of Ardsmore Tired Hands Brewing Company is in, but I’ll claim it for Delco! Tired Hands is a little over a year old now. However, they’re major players in the microbrewery world already, and they’re routinely featuring locally made cheeses and other local ingredients.
Today I had a small glass of 5 out of 5 beer, a dark beer containing chocolate and marshmallow fluff, and Lil Lady, a lighter beer with rooibos tea. Both feature local ingredients—the 5 out of 5 has local maple syrup, and the Lil Lady has local wildflower honey. I also a cheese plate composed of several cheeses from Birchrun Hills Farm, including Nettlesome, Red Cat, and Equinox, and Pepato from Valley Shepherd. The Jeano’s Panino, a grilled cheese with haricot vert, featured Birchrun Hills Farm blue cheese.
The charcuterie plate was also filled with great meats. The sopressata and abbruze came from Licini Brothers in Union City, New Jersey, while the amazing duck prosciutto is from River & Glen in Warminster.
If you’re near Ardmore, give Tired Hands a try. The service was friendly, the food was quite good, and I loved the focus on locally grown foods. And I didn’t even have to leave Delaware County!
New Hope: Eat Local and Support a Local Author
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
This weekend I’m heading to New Hope, Pennsylvania for a signing of my new novel at Farley’s Bookshop, which I’m quite excited about—and not just because of my author event. New Hope has always seemed kind of magical to me, for reasons I’ve never quite been able to articulate. It may have something to do with the really great chocolate shop. Or it could have something to do with all the restaurants.
There are some really great places to eat that feature locally produce, so if you’re going to be there soon (either for my book signing, to which you are cordially invited) here are some places to check out:
Sprig & Vine: This vegan restaurant is on Union Square Drive. It changes menus routinely to focus on the best locally grown produce they can get their hands on. Right now you can get locally grown salads, as well as a small plate of pickled local cauliflower and baby carrots.
Cafe Blue Moose: Located on West Mechanic Street, Blue Moose features locally-sourced foods and an eclectic menu. The place has a neat story—it was started in 2006 by a couple of teenagers.
Triumph Brewing Company: There’s a Triumph Brewing outpost on Union Square. In recent years Triumph has added locally grown ingredients to their menu—that includes cheese from Cherry Grove and Valley Shepherd Creamery, as well as meat, produce, and fruit from local growers. Plus, you know, good beer.
Marhaba: Across the bridge from New Hope is Marhaba, a great BYOB Middle Eastern restaurant. They also strive to use local ingredients.
If you’re in New Hope on Saturday, April 20, after you’ve stuffed yourself full of great food, stop by Farley’s from 1-4pm. I’ll be signing copies of THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS (which you can also pick up at Farley’s), and I’ll also be pelting people with a fun giveaway: astronaut rubber duckies.
Local Restaurant: C19
Tuesday, June 05, 2012
With so many great restaurants in the Philadelphia area who are focusing on fresh, locally grown ingredients, it’s hard to get to them all! Last night a few friends were in from out of town, so it was the perfect excuse to visit C19 (formerly Cichetteria 19). One the south side of Rittenhouse Square, the restaurant not only supports great farmers like Green Meadow Farm, Rineer Family Farm, and Griggstown Farm, it also gets produce from its own farm, Greatful Acres. It’s the first restaurant I’ve run into in Philly that also runs its own CSA program.
First up was a cheese plate, which featured Shellbark Hollow Farms goat cheese and a local fresh ricotta, as well as three non-local cheeses. It was interesting to note that even though my guests loved all the cheese, it was the goat cheese and ricotta that received the most accolades. There’s just something to be said for fresh cheese—and it’s enough to make me want to make some fromage blanc this week.
Only one of my party ordered off the regular menu (the Polpette pizza); the rest of us ordered specials—mushroom risotto, and I ordered skate (which was caught off the coast of New Jersey) and citrus risotto. The skate was delicious and fresh, and I did try a bite of everything else—all fantastic. Also on the menu, though, were tomatoes, salad greens, cheeses, herbs, mushrooms, chicken, and steak from local purveyors. C19 also boasts a really great wine cellar, many of which come from local vineyards.
Owner (and former gondolier in Venice) Andrea Luca Rossi was behind the bar when we arrived and proceeded to charm the pants off my guests with his lovely accent. He also knows exactly where his food comes from, and the passion was obvious.
I wasn’t a fan of the tiramisu (made from sponge cake instead of lady fingers, and it wasn’t as moist as expected), but there were probably no local ingredients there, so it probably doesn’t matter! Other than that, though, if you’re looking for a locally grown meal, check out C19.
267 S. 19th Street
Something New for Dining Out Locally
Sunday, April 08, 2012
At first, using local ingredients meant a deliberate choice of restaurant and (often, limited) menu. Now the variety of food available year-round has expanded menu possibilities and expanded the practice beyond typical “farm-to-table” options. It’s a true measure of how far tthis has come that even restaurants not commonly associated with it incorporate local food into their menus. Case in point: Triumph Brewing Company.
Triumph now features its Home Grown Menu, a frequently changing menu of locally sourced dishes. These include Flaim Farms from Vineland, Doe Run Farm in Coatesville, Solebury Orchards in New Hope, and Blooming Glen from Perkasie.
Couple that with beer brewed on site, and you couldn’t do much better for reducing your food miles.
Here’s the current menu.
Sycamore’s Chef Tasting
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Philadelphia and the surrounding areas are now seeing more restaurants than ever that focus on locally grown produce and meats. As someone who cares about that sort of thing, it’s a thrill to have Sycamore. around the corner from my house. The other day I received an email about their Tuesday night chef tasting, announcing there would be no set menu—Sam Jacobson, the chef, was heading into Reading Terminal Market that morning to buy up what looked good and would serve accordingly.
Well, I can never turn down a mystery dinner.
The theme ingredient (I’m giggling because I sound like the Iron Chef announcer in my head right now) was wild Maine lobster, which isn’t exactly local, but many of the ingredients in the dinner were. So what were the courses eventually served up?
- Lobster salad—persimmon, jicama, baby fennel, marinated Napa cabbage
- Tempura-fried lobster tail—crispy pork belly, kimchi aioli
- Fragrant lobster risotto—lemongrass, kaffir lime, scallions, crushed marcona almonds
- Buttered lobster with hen of the woods mushrooms—heirloom carrots, parsnips, turnip creamed potatoes, sambuca lobster sauce
- Local butternut squash crisp—cranberries, amaretto ginger crust, maple mascarpone
Yes, it was delicious. Then again, I’ve never had a bad meal at Sycamore.
Other than the butternut squash, I can hazard a guess about what else may have been local. Can you?
Coincidentally, I was thrilled to see the kimchi aioli on the menu. If you’ve been reading Farm to Philly long enough, you know I love to make kimchi. I may need to experiment with that aioli, see if I can make a passable fascimile! With cabbage and some radishes in season, now’s the time to pickle.
Sycamore 14 S. Lansdowne Ave, Lansdowne, PA 19050
Eat Local: News From Lansdowne’s Sycamore
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
When Lansdowne farmer’s market opens at the end of May, so will a new booth: the Lansdowne Table. Chef Sam Jacobson of Sycamore will be selling some of the things you’ll find at the restaurant—drunken raisins, completed dishes, etc. What makes this exciting is that he’ll also be making some locally produced cheeses and other items available when he can get them. That includes the Oak Shade cheddar cheese (available through Green Meadow Farm) used at last night’s Green Meadow Farm to Table dinner.
The dinner, by the way, was stellar.
If you’re not familiar with Sycamore, consider stopping in next time you’re in Lansdowne. Yes, I know what you might be thinking: Delaware County, particularly that part of Delaware County, is a bit of a no-man’s-land when it comes to good, non-chain restaurants. I like to think that Sycamore opening up five minutes from my house two years ago is a karmic payback for all those times we had to drive into Philadelphia for dinner. Philadelphia Magazine voted it one of thetop 30 restaurants in the Philadelphia area and Philadelphia Inquirer restaurant critic Craig LeBan gave it agood review. My husband and I eat there fairly often, although we miss their Sunday brunch terribly (they stopped doing that last year).
When we first received the email about the Green Meadow Farm dinner, I was excited. And then I got this email the night prior:
Here is a list of what Chef Jacobson bought at Green Meadow Farm today. He will be improvising tomorrow night’s Farm to Table Dinner.
Baby Back Ribs, Capons, Brisket, Butter, Cream, Oak Shade Raw Aged Cheddar, Heirloom Tomato Juice, Salsify, Fiddleheads, Claytonia, Baby Arugula, Golden & Chiogga Beets, Baby Fennel, Red Cabbage, Rabe, Leeks, Cucumbers, Pea Shoots, Asparagus, Rhubarb, Wild Garlic, Spring Onions, Strawberries, Honeysuckle, Chives, Cilantro, Chervil, Thyme, Mint, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Dill.
Yep, I immediately started drooling. And then Chef Jacobson disclosed that he picked the majority of the produce himself with the help of some of the folks at Green Meadow Farm, several of which were at the dinner. For someone interested in eating locally grown foods, that’s just . . . well, fantastic. And the dinner didn’t disappoint, let me tell you.
We started off with an amuse bouche—a spoonful of honeysuckle sorbet. Ian Brendle, one of the farm’s owners, told us later that this was made with honeysuckle syrup that his girlfriend makes from honeysuckle blossoms collected from the farm. She says she makes a tea concoction of sorts from the blossoms, although Ian’s father noted it takes forever to collect the five gallons of blossoms needed to make the syrup. Oh, and if you have honeysuckle on your property and want to use it, make sure it’s the edible variety—some honeysuckle blossoms would make a nasty-tasting syrup. The sorbet itself was lightly sweet and quite good.
Next up was chilled heirloom tomato soup made with coconut, Kaffir lime leaf and cilantro. While everything was really good, this soup was my second favorite dish of the night. Yesterday was pretty warm as far as spring in Philadelphia goes, so it was nice to have a cold soup. The coconut milk used (not local) was done with a very light hand—just enough to give the soup a bit of creaminess. The lime was very evident but not heavy in the slightest. The cilantro was the last flavor to come through, bright and delicious. Oh, and let me tell you about the heirloom tomato juice this soup was made with! Ian let us know that it is pressed through a sieve by local Amish women. The flavor was really wonderful, especially after suffering through crappy, tasteless supermarket tomatoes all winter.
We then moved on to seared scallops with butter roasted salsify, minted fiddleheads, and pea shoots. Chef Jacobson always seems to have scallops on the menu, and no matter how he makes them, they’re always excellent. Sadly, they’re not locally grown, but that’s okay—my guesstimate is that at least 90 percent of the ingredients from last night’s dinner were. I’ve cooked salsify before, but I liked last night’s version better. The fiddleheads had such a great, fresh taste. The pea shoots, by the way, were actually Claytonia, a green I’d never heard of before. As a whole, it was a really nice dish.
And then there were the main courses. Yes, courses. Chef Jacobson served up three dishes, all served family style at each table. The first was capon in mustard cream with caramelized leeks, spring onions and baby fennel rice, along with asparagus spears. The capon was just . . . really, really good. The asparagus was a little on the thick side but still tasty. My only complaint about this dish (and the entire dinner) is that I might have enjoyed more sauce—it was very lightly sauced.
The house-smoked barbecue brisket and ribs with sauteed red cabbage rabe with wild garlic, Oak Shade cheddar mashed potatoes, and fresh watermelon relish was something I could eat every day of the week. The brisket and ribs came from aged angus beef, and both were tender and yummy. The red cabbage rabe was a first for me—I’d never heard of it. Ian’s father told us that the shoots sent up by overwintered brassica vegetables—the rabe—are all edible (and delicious, I might add). The wild garlic made this dish. The pungeant fresh garlic added a very specific taste and I couldn’t get enough of. It’s hard to make bad mashed potatoes (okay, I guess that’s not entirely true), but these were fantastic. Just enough cheese, perfect texture.
There was also a baby arugula salad (micro greens, really) with roasted beets, cucumbers, and a creamy dill and chive dressing. Also good, particularly the dressing.
But the last dish was my favorite: strawberry rhubarb compote with a shortcake biscuit and Lancaster cream and custard. I’m much more of a cheese person than a sweet dessert person, so it’s strange for me to rave over a dessert. This was so perfect and so simple, though, and it was insanely good. Maybe it was the light ending to dinner or maybe it was just the flavor of the fruit and the texture of the biscuit. Chef Jacobson noted that they are considering adding a version of it to the regular Sycamore menu, so hope springs eternal that I’ll get to have it again.
So, there you go: last night’s Green Meadow Farm to Table dinner. I feel like a moron for all my superlatives, but the truth is that it’s in the top five meals I’ve eaten at a restaurant. Period.
JG Domestic Opens Tonight!
Thursday, October 21, 2010
JG Domestic, Jose Garces’ new restaurant venture, opens tonight in the Cira Centre. JG Domestic features “artisinal” domestic foods and drink - the best from the United States - and though certainly not all of the food is sourced locally, a good amount comes from the PA/NJ area including eggs from West Philadelphia! You can browse a complete list of their farmers here. I can’t wait to try the Keswick Creamery Fondue with grilled baguette, vidalia onion jam and apple. And of course, the pickles.
Monthly Green Drinks on Wed, June 2nd.
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Green Drinks Philly meets the first Wednesday of every month at Standard Tap in Northern Liberties. Open to anyone who considers themselves any flavor of environmentalist (that’s you, local eaters!), Green Drinks is an opportunity to hang-out, drink, and network with like-minded Philadelphians. Not only is Standard Tap a beautiful building in a convenient location, they source ALL local beers! Hurray! Join this international green drinking movement. And if you don’t happen to live in our fair city, find a Green Drinks in your town HERE.
6:00 - 9:00 PM
2nd & Poplar St.
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Tel: 215 238 0630
Turkeys, Challenges, Sprouts, and Oysters - Oh My!
Sunday, November 02, 2008
It’s November and that means one thing: it’s Turkey Day Challenge month! Contributors to Farm to Philly will be sharing their favorite Thanksgiving dishes with you all month long! My own Thanksgiving should be interesting this year. My in-laws have been coming for Thanksgiving dinner for the last couple of years, but this year my own parents might be joining us. This puts me in a bit of a pickle - while my mother will at least try anything you put in front of her, my stepfather is deeply suspicious of high-falutin’ cooking (and when I say “high-falutin” I mean that anything other than plain old mashed potatoes with milk and butter, for instance, is considered bizarre and potentially dangerous). And so I might need to do a lot of cooking this year - stuff that I want to make, as well as stuff that my stepfather will eat.
Oh, and speaking of Thanksgiving, Fair Food Farmstand is now taking orders for Thanksgiving turkeys. They’ve got naturally raised turkeys from Green Meadow for $2.99/lb, certified organic turkeys from Lancaster Farm Fresh for $4.50/lb, and Bourbon Red heritage breed turkeys from Griggstown for $6.50/lb. If you’re trying to save a bit of cash, you might consider signing up to volunteer at Fair Food - volunteers get a discount. I’m a seasonal volunteer, and my first shift back after dragon boat season was this past Saturday morning. Stop by and say hello if you’re around - I’ll be there loading up vegetables, bagging spinach, and wrapping cheese every Saturday from 7:30am to around 11am.
My first contribution to the Turkey Day Challenge is a very simple way to prepare brussels sprouts: brown halved sprouts in olive oil with finely chopped bacon. That’s like crack in a bowl right there. I don’t eat bacon too often because I don’t like the texture, but I do like the bacon available from the Fair Food Farmstand. I believe it’s double smoked bacon from King’s Butcher Shop - nice, thick bacon. My husband, who generally thinks brussels sprouts taste like dirt, will eat brussels sprouts this way. For him, bacon makes everything taste better. For an extra special dish, use walnut oil in place of olive oil. Delicious!
As an unrelated aside, my husband and I had dinner at Ansill’s last night (I had the Trick or Meat Halloween special - squid cooked in its own ink, a skewer of beef hearts and veal kidneys, and Tongue in Cheek - a bowl of veal cheek and pig tongue with white beans and pumpkin. Everything was delicious!). On the appetizer menu they offer raw oysters - the oysters of the day were Cape May Salt Oysters. Offal aside, I would have gone to Ansill’s just to have the locally grown oysters!
Good Food, Good Beer
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
...and the Rest Is History
Please join me—and many people who enjoy the abundance of amazing locally-produced food and beer in this region—at this lovely event! I would love to see Farm to Philly bloggers and readers there!
EVENT: Good Food, Good Beer, and the Rest Is History
TIME: Saturday, July 19, 5.30-8.30 pm
PLACE: Headhouse Shambles, 2nd & Lombard Sts.
We invite you to this great local food and beer-tasting annual event, now in its fourth year. Many great local restaurants and micro breweries will offer tastings of their finest under the shambles at the historic New Market, 2nd and Lombard in Philadelphia’s Society Hill.
Farm to City puts on this event, which rounds out Philadelphia’s Buy Fresh Buy Local Week for 2008. The event is a fundraiser for the Philadelphia Convivium of Slow Food and Green Village Philadelphia. Entrance tickets are $30 for five plates and $22 for three plates. Beer is complementary.
Go to the Farm to City website for reservations.
A visit to Ithaca, New York
Monday, July 14, 2008
It seems like many of us here at FTP are on the move this Summer - first Kevin goes to London, and now my trip to the slightly more domestic location of Ithaca, New York. This past weekend I was in Ithaca for the Fingerlakes International Dragon Boat Festival. Knowing that Moosewood Restaurant is in Ithaca, there was at least something locavore-ish to check out. Not knowing anything else about Ithaca, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As it turns out, Ithaca has an amazing local foods scene and is incredibly progressive about environmental issues.
Even the dragon boat festival is trying to become what they call a ‘zero waste zone’. There was a stand at the festival dedicated to educating people about composting, something I’ve never seen at another festival. And the recycling bins! It took me nearly 15 minutes to figure out which was the appropriate trash can into which to toss a yogurt cup. Already a ‘zero waste zone’ is Ithaca’s lovely farmer’s market.
A few of my teammates and I stopped in at the farmer’s market yesterday morning on the way out of town. It’s beautiful setting: right next to the lake. And it’s charming - it’s a pretty outdoor market with a roof. It’s an interesting mix of local artisans and local growers. And what’s better is that these local growers seem truly interested in educating people about what it is they’re selling.
The very first place I stopped was the Cherry Knoll Farm stand. The farm produces only blueberries, and sells blueberries, several varieties of blueberry wine, and blueberry wine vinegar. I could not resist buying the vinegar, especially after the recent discussion in the comments section of a post here on FTP about making salad dressing! The very nice man at the stand was very excited to talk about the vinegar - he told me that it takes about nine months to make, and is aged in barrels. I also purchased a bottle of their dry blueberry wine.
Three types of cheese came home with me from Finger Lakes Farmstead Cheese Co. Here was another vendor who was incredibly proud of the cheese - she proudly boasted that she makes all cheeses by hand. They use the milk from the hormone-free, grass-fed cows on the family farm. I bought a chunk of the Red Meck, a Muenster-style washed in beer, as well as a cheese with stinging nettles and one flavored with onion and chives.
And lastly, I could not resist buying a jar of pork liver pate from The Piggery. The Piggery raises heritage breed pigs and sells charcuterie at farmer’s markets and direct from their farm store. Oh, and even more amazingly their goal is to eventually have a product line that uses every single part of the pig, and their whole business focuses on reducing their carbon footprint, even down to making their products in a solar-powered kitchen. I think it might have been Heather, one of the owners, who was so sweet to me yesterday morning at the stand.
Have I mentioned that I love produce/meat vendors who are so excited about their products that they can’t stop talking about them? We have too few of those types here in the area. Don’t get me wrong: I know the local farmers are proud of what they produce, but I rarely run into one who wants to talk your ear off about what they’re selling.
One thing I do think we do a little better here in Philadelphia (and this is based off a single farmer’s market visit, so I might be dead wrong) is bringing heirloom and more unusual vegetables to market. The produce at all the stands at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market were stunning and beautiful, but I didn’t see anything unusual or interesting (produce-wise).
As I mentioned, I was able to visit Moosewood Restaurant. As someone who owns a few of the Moosewood cookbooks, I was delighted to have the chance to eat there. It’s an interesting place - the menu changes twice every day, and the dinner menu offers only four entrees to choose from. I wouldn’t say the food is spectacular, but it came across as very comforting. They did have a nice selection of local wines. And, of course, the menu included many locally-sourced items.
Surpisingly, in what seemed like the suburban hinterlands of Ithaca (where our team’s hotel was located) there was a restaurant called Watercress that we found by accident. Watercress also uses locally-sourced ingredients in many of their menu items. The food was a little more contemporary, and very delicious. Excellent service, too!
I’m always amazed at the differences between Philadelphia and other cities when it comes to supporting local farmers. The Philadelphia area definitely has an amazing farmer’s market system and there’s a vibrant community of those who seek out locally grown produce and meats. Ithaca, too, has a fantastic community of local farmers and producers.
Eating local, Midwestern style
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
There are several restaurants in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas that feature locally grown ingredients - FARMiCia, White Dog Cafe, and many more. With the ‘locavore’ movement still in its infancy in many ways, I’m always curious to see what the restaurant culture around eating locally is like in other cities. I recently had a chance to find out - I was in St. Paul, Minnesota last week for a work conference and met up with some local friends for dinner.
We chose Heartland, a restaurant recently featured by the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmer. Not that Heartland really has a lot of bizarre food on the menu - it was featured because it endeavors to use all of an animal - from tail to snout. On the night I was there, there were no testicles in sight, alas.
Heartland bills itself as ‘contemporary Midwestern’ and sources many of its ingredients locally. It’s obvious from looking at the menu, which changes nightly, that it’s seriously thought out and very seasonal. There’s an a la carte menu, as well as a vegetarian and non-vegetarian prix fixe menus.
The amuse bouche the night we went to dinner at Heartland was a slice of venison prosciutto. I went with the non-vegetarian prix fixe, which was veal liver with mushroom and onion sauce, grassfed beef with cranberries and yams, and a butterscotch tart with peach coulis. The menu was more specific about ingredients, but when I think about the meal my eyes just gloss over and I remember how fantastic everything was. There wasn’t a speck of anything left on any of the plates. It was just….tremendous.
I was also able to steal bites of everyone else’s dinner. I have never had better onion soup - I actually don’t really like onion soup…until I tried Heartland’s onion soup. The beet salad was great, and don’t even get me started on the wild boar chop.
I understand that St. Paul and Minneapolis have quite a few restaurants devoted to locally grown ingredients, although I wasn’t able to get to any of them in the limited time I had in town. I can honestly say, though, that I’m jealous - totally jealous of anyone who lives in the vicinity of Heartland. Around here, Restaurant Alba comes closest to Heartland, but none of the restaurants here seems to do ‘eating local’ with the kind of daring and detail that Heartland does. Still, I have hope.
Review: Restaurant Alba
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Today is our seventh wedding anniversary. We used the occasion to try one of several restaurants out our way [the Delco burbs] that focus on locally grown ingredients. Restaurant Alba won out, and we had our anniversary dinner there last night.
Being slightly snobby about suburban restaurants, we didn’t count on how hard it would be to get a reservation! It’s in Malvern, for pete’s sake! Who flocks to Malvern on a Saturday night? Well…people do, apparently. We couldn’t get a reservation until 9pm. So let this be a lesson: call early. I think I made the reservation last Tuesday and that was still late to get in at an earlier hour.
Restaurant Alba is a BYOB, so we arrived with a bottle of Chenin Blanc (not local, alas) in hand at the appointed hour and were graciously shown to our table. The place was absolutely packed solid. I won’t bore you with details about the decor or whatever, because we both know what’s important: the food. But I will say that the waitstaff was absolutely lovely, and attentive without being annoying.
My husband, Craig, and I decided to order the antipasto (which changes daily) and the wood grilled octopus to start with. The wood grilled octopus was a plate of large chunks of slightly blackened meat in a very light lemon vinaigrette, along with a few bits of potato that were supposed to be ‘pesto dressed’. The octopus was delicious. It really was - perfectly cooked. It reminded Craig and I of octopus we had last year on Mykonos. It was so good that I could overlook the very plain potato with it.
There wasn’t a single bad thing about the antipasto. The star of the plate was large marinated shrimp in lemon-infused chickpea sauce. Also on the plate: seared tuna with a pine nut salsa, bruschetta with Shellbark Hollow goat cheese and fig, crostini with baccala, and a slice of sopprasetta. Everything was fabulous. We practically inhaled it.
A word here about the bread. The staff keeps the bread basket filled, and bring a little dish of olive oil for dipping. The bread was…OK. It was bread. It wasn’t bad and it wasn’t excellent. The overall quality of their food makes me wish the bread was better.
Anyway, moving on. Dinner for me was North Carolina fresh water trout, spinach crema, crab risotto cake, tomato jam, and spinach salad. Craig ordered prosciutto wrapped Chatham cod, pistachio butter, spaghetti squash, and braised endive. Both the trout and cod were perfectly done and absolutely delicious! The tomato jam topped the risotto cake, and the spinach salad topped the jam. The spinach crema was beneath the trout. A bite of trout with the spinach crema was a great combination. The spinach salad was very nice - little bits of goat cheese accompanied it. The tomato jam was good and so was the risotto cake - but I couldn’t taste any crab in it. Craig’s cod was good and salty because of the prosciutto wrap. I was thrilled to see spaghetti squash on the menu, and it was very tasty with the pistachio butter. Craig liked the endive (I didn’t have the chance to try it).
By this time I was absolutely stuffed. For a restaurant that is supposed to focus on locally grown food, I felt like I hadn’t really had very many in my meal. Just about the only thing I knew for sure was local was the goat cheese on the antipasto plate. Would the menu have indicated if the spinach or the squash or tomatoes for the tomato jam were locally grown? I don’t know. I mean, the menu clearly stated if the cheese was local, and on the dessert menu there were desserts with local apples and local honey. My point is that aside from a few things clarified on the menu, you really don’t know if the restaurant is sourcing a lot of their produce locally. Do we trust them, or don’t we? I don’t know.
Anyway, because I felt like I should go out of my way to order the locally grown thing, Craig and I decided to split the apple betty made from locally grown apples. It came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. It was absolutely delicious! The apples were tangy and warm and lovely.
The food at Restaurant Alba was very, very good. I just wish we were able to discern a little easier how much of the produce is locally sourced. Still, being able to get locally made cheese and a dessert made with locally grown apples is more than most restaurants around these parts will do!
As a snarky aside, there was a table next to us full of people talking about how awful foie gras production was. Restaurant Alba normally has foie gras on the menu (last night they had sweetbreads instead), so I’m shocked that people so concerned about it would eat there. They were talking about it pretty loudly, and I was so tempted to lean over and direct them toward an article on foie gras production that appeared in City Paper this year written by Farm to Philly’s own David Snyder. I understand why people might be concerned with how foie gras is made, but it pays to be well informed about the subject - not just content to accept one side of the story.
7 West King Street
Malvern, PA 19355
Slow Food Dinner Tonight at Marigold Kitchen
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
On Wednesday, September 26, 2007, Slow Food Philadelphia is sponsoring a five-course dinner at Marigold Kitchen inspired by chef Michael Solomonov’s recent trip through Turkey and Israel.
Modern and Classic Mezze. Eggplant salad, chopped Israeli salad with quail eggs and white anchovies, tuna carpaccio stuffed with tabouleh, and mussels cooked with spiced basmati rice.
Braised swordfish with Shakshouka (classic tomato stew) and poached egg.
Smoked loin of lamb with stewed prunes and flavored with Za’atar.
Peach sorbet with peach salad, peach mousse, and peach cobbler with labneh ice cream.
$50 + tax and tip (the total price will be $65). Reservations can be made through Open Table Philadelphia.
Slow Food USA is an educational organization dedicated to stewardship of the land and ecologically sound food production; to the revival of the kitchen and the table as centers of pleasure, culture, and community, to the invigoration and proliferation of regional, seasonal culinary traditions. The members of the Philadelphia chapter come from a wide variety of professions and backgrounds. It organizes dinners, tastings, tours, lectures, and picnics, where members gather in a convivial setting to explore the richness of our area’s culinary heritage or the food and drink of other cultures around the world.
501 S. 45th St.