Foodcation: Philadephia

1 Sep

Other than the big names like Garces or Morimoto, I don’t hear much food news coming out of Philadelphia. Maybe I don’t pay enough attention. But when you hear about something really big and delicious, it’s usually coming from New York or California. So it was a pleasant surprise for me when I visited the city one weekend for a wedding and I ate and drank at some quality local spots. There is much more to food in Philly than just cheesesteaks.

Campo’s Deli, 214 market street, Philadelphia, PA

But if you’re going to be in Philadelphia, you might as well have a cheese steak, right? Right. So we walked in what felt like 100 degree heat to Campo’s Deli, near the waterfront. I’ve never had Pat’s or Geno’s but I have had Rick’s in Reading Terminal Market and that was chock-full of meat and veggies and cheese. This cheese steak (we ordered a standard) pretty much was filled with those classic tastes you expect from a cheesesteak: succulent sliced meat, soft peppers and slightly sweet onions, and buttery thick bread. I love cheese and I could’ve used more on my cheesesteak, but there was a fair amount.

10 Arts by Eric Ripert, 10 Avenue of the Arts

(This is a nice establishment and I was shy about bringing a big DSLR and start shooting, so I just used my handier point-and-shoot without flash. Thus the photos are not so crisp and clear.)

“Top Chef: Las Vegas” alum Jennifer Carroll is Chef de Cuisine at 10 Arts by Eric Ripert in Philly’s Ritz-Carlton hotel. She reached 5th place in the competition and I could taste why she did so well…but I could also taste why she didn’t win. There were some very inventive dishes that were well-balanced with flavor. I enjoyed the crab stuffed zucchini blossoms appetizer, as there was plenty of sweet crab meat. There was a light cream sauce drizzled about it and the entire dish kind of made me think of a deconstructed crab cake. We also ordered an heirloom beet appetizer; I’m not a huge beet fan but these were soft and seasoned well, but wasn’t too mushy.

My entrée dish, rabbit rolled into small pinwheels around carrots and leeks with a bacon jus, was light but meaty enough to be filling. The rabbit was cooked perfectly – a bit tough on the outside, tender on the inside. The bacon jus added a bit of saltiness but it wasn’t distracting.  However, we did have a side of macaroni, ham and cheese that was way overseasoned. I don’t know if it was the type of ham used or if someone accidentally dumped the salt shaker in the pasta water, but I couldn’t taste anything but salt. I admittedly had high expectations since I’m a macaroni and cheese fanatic, plus our waitress hailed this as the best ever. But I just couldn’t take having to gulp down water after every two or three bites of it.

Dessert did help balance out the salt factor. We shared a remixed version of Red Velvet cake – small pieces of cake with a light cocoa powder, white chocolate triangles and walnuts. Frankly, I could’ve eaten the whole thing myself; it was small enough but not too small. The cake was soft and moist and the white chocolate was creamy, mousse-like, and buttery sweet.

The Ranstead Room, 2013 Ranstead St.

I’m totally into speakeasies now. Not that speakeasies are really that secretive these days, but I like the uncertainty of not really knowing if you going down the right alley or if you passed the secret door. The Ranstead Room isn’t that easy to miss but its discreet enough. And it’s literally just one room, very darkly lit with plush booths. It almost feels like a bar you’d see on Mad Men, straight from the 1960s. Interestingly, the walls are  decorated with nude paintings and, um, risque, explicit scenes. Weird twist, but I guess it works. Raunch factor aside, the drinks at Ranstead are good. They have a list of custom cocktails you can order from, but you can also list your preferences to your waitress and the bartender will whip something up. I did ask for a grasshopper but they didn’t have crème de menthe. Oh well. The bartender did serve up an alternative that, though way strong for a lightweight like me, was worth the money. Any cocktail here is a very boozy one, so your money’s worth it.

Kanella, 1001 Spruce St.

I won’t fully show you any of the three photos I snapped at this Greek/Cypriot eatery. Our waiter actually told me that taking photos was strictly forbidden by the chef, who apparently has a thing or two against food bloggers and restaurant reviewers. And he is one very opinionated chef, as he has writings about all sorts of topics, from his love of cooking to his disdain for critics and bloggers, taped to the window at his kitchen. Yes, it’s hypocritical of someone to bash those who are also simply speaking their mind, but I could care less, as I believe in freedom of speech. That, and this guy’s food was damn good. I had an egg scramble with leeks, chives, onions and cheese, served with a half loaf of thick, freshly baked bread  and a side of smoked salmon.  The eggs were perfectly cooked in soft lumps and slightly runny, just the way I like it. And the sweetness of the sautéed onions married well with the bite of the chives and the lightness of the leeks. And the salmon was soft and flaky and had that saltiness that makes you forget about craving bacon in the morning. First Amendment issues aside, brunch at Kanella was totally worth waking up for on a Sunday, left me with a good taste of what Philadelphia has to offer.

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2 Responses to “Foodcation: Philadephia”

  1. bk September 1, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

    you got to eat at one of eric ripert’s establishments. that means i’m jealous.

  2. Jess September 1, 2010 at 6:56 pm #

    Sad that Kanella has that little rule but their food is delicious!!!

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