Monday, August 29, 2011

Yogorino: It's no Capogiro

The other day, post-Tria, MS was raving about Yogorino, and it got me thinking. Given prior raves I'd heard about the Italian frozen yogurt shop, I figured it was high time for me to check it out, so check it out I did.

It's a simple affair: one flavor of plain frozen yogurt, plus toppings. It's not cheap, and you don't get a lot in their deceptively shallow cups. I went pretty basic on my first go-round, with a small cup of frozen yogurt plus hazelnut sauce.

It's pretty, at least

The verdict? Meh. The yogurt was kind of tart, and the slightly sour plain flavor really didn't go that well with the hazelnut sauce. The creamy texture of the frozen yogurt was nice, but frankly, all it made me want to do was toss the whole thing and go get gelato at Capogiro, just a few blocks away. Ah well. I'm glad I tried it so now I know-- and next time, you'll find me with gelato in my cup.

233 S. 20th Street, at Locust

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back to Tria

Philly has a number of great restaurants, but I've found myself returning to a select few so far to get to know them better. So it was no surprise that after a rainy Sunday spent in the movie theater (I will not divulge the movie we saw in order to protect innocent male parties), AP, MS, and BH and I found ourselves gunning for wine and food at Tria.

We ranged widely over the wine list, from zinfandel to pino & toi (which was my choice-- a bit of a thin and unmemorable white wine). A glass for each of us was just the right way to ease into Sunday evening.

Pino & Toi

And then a few bites to continue: some rosemary marcona almonds to start, which were decent but nothing to return for.

Almonds. Not quite spicy, not quite warm.

MS and AP shared the warm Tuscan white bean spread with baguette. There was some sort of spice on the toasted baguette (paprika?), and the dip appeared a tad oily, but AP especially seemed to enjoy it.

Looks almost like creme brulee with pink bread

Then there was the brie and strawberry bruschetta. The portion was tiny, but it was rich and very tasty. Oozy brie, sprightly strawberries, crunchy bread... nothing beats that.


My choice was the beet and goat cheese salad, which I'd promised to return for when I saw it last time. I ordered it without the onions, and it was really good. There were enough beets so that the salad was substantial, and enough goat cheese not to be outmatched by the beets. The dressing was bright, and the bits of toasted almonds added nice crunch and heft. It's a really good salad, especially with a glass of wine.

Chee-EE-eese mountain

Is there really any better way to wind down a weekend than food and wine with friends? Don't think so. Tria made it happen, and I suspect we'll be back.

18th Street and Sansom

Monday, August 22, 2011

Twenty Manning, part II

It's surprising how quickly business school gets so insanely busy that you don't see people you want to see for days or even weeks on end, despite best intentions. Since school began, I'd only gotten to spend a couple of minutes here and there with MA, so we rectified that last weekend with another dinner at Twenty Manning.

This time was even more successful than the first. The same lovely warm bread and butter emerged to tide us over until our entrees came out. After I reported good things about the tuna burger, MA concentrated on the burger section; being a fan of the bison, he got the bison burger. This was well-received, and the fries-- hoo boy, the fries-- were as insanely addictive as ever.

Not as many fries this time, but still delicious as ever

My choice this time around was the chop chop salad, with "four lettuces," cucumber, green peas, apples, tomatoes, and herb-citrus vinaigrette. I requested it without cheddar cheese, because cheddar in salads always seems like a waste to me (the flavor always gets lost in the mix, and it's so bad for you it's kind of not worth it). It was seriously tasty even so, with a hefty portion of vibrant veggies and a tangy and bright vinaigrette. I particularly noted that the peas were really, really sweet and clearly garden-fresh--gotta love summer. I would definitely go back for the chop chop salad rather than the beets.

Filling and healthy and summery

Based on two visits, Twenty Manning is a solid neighborhood contender, great for a laid-back catch-up dinner or a cocktail or two. It earns its three Offset Spatulas handily.

Twenty Manning
261 S. 20th Street, at Manning

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Twenty Manning, part I

Upon the recommendation of AB, I made it a priority to check out Twenty Manning, a seemingly casual-but-upscale neighborhood spot on Twentieth Street just north of Spruce. A couple of weeks ago, I stopped in for a quick weeknight meal with AP for my first go-round.

I really like the vibe of the restaurant. It's got an appealing aesthetic, with lots of wood and white paint, straight out of a Restoration Hardware catalogue. And the menu covers all the new-American comfort food bases, from a small list of "snacks" (olives, fries) to complement the well-edited list of wines, cocktails, and beers to a range of burger options.

The meal started with some slightly unusual bread, warm (just out of the oven?) mini-baguettes tinged with caraway seeds. The bread is truly high quality, and though I'm not a rabid lover of the flavor of caraway, these were good enough to convince me to keep nibbling.

Best with some of their sweet butter

With the help of AP, we dove into the burgers head-on. He ordered the tuna burger, which comes with ginger-soy marinade and avocado-wasabi mayo. He enjoyed the burger, although he noted it could have used a bit more flavor from the marinade. The fries, however, which came in a portion bordering on "metric ton," were a huge hit-- crisp and thin and insanely, ridiculously addictive. Bring a fry-loving friend if you tackle the burger, because it's hard to eat that many fries on your own. (Note: Not impossible, but challenging.)

Burger dwarfed by mound of fries

My choice was the farmer's market beets with goat cheese, lavender honey, and aged balsamic. I was really looking forward to this dish (also on the recommendation of AB), and I was actually a bit disappointed that I didn't like it more. The beets were huge chunks of the red and yellow varieties, tender and flavorful, but their sheer quantity overwhelmed the other elements. After a while, eating a whole lot of beets just gets a little old... and even with the funk of the goat cheese and the tang of the balsamic, the dish was a little tiresome by the end. I'm also not the hugest fan of lavender in my food, and though this was surely not overpowering, I'd prefer non-lavender honey.

So many beets...

Based on first impressions, Twenty Manning was a solid three Offset Spatula joint-- casual, with friendly, accommodating service and decent, well-priced food. Would my second visit corroborate those impressions? Stay tuned...

Twenty Manning
261 S. 20th Street, at Manning

Monday, August 15, 2011

More ice cream (but not Capogiro this time)

The other day, I needed some ice cream (yes, NEEDED), but I wasn't quite in the mood for Capogiro. I wanted something harder, more traditional, less refined. So off to Scoop de Ville I went.

After a false start-- I didn't want my ice cream put through the pulveriser, which they pretty much do automatically unless you specifically request the toppings just on top of the ice cream-- I got the holy grail. That would be, of course, a "small" portion of vanilla hard yogurt topped with Heath Bar. This so-called "small" was definitely enough for two people, and I have a pretty much never-ending appetite for ice cream. They don't skimp on the toppings-- I couldn't even begin to finish the crumbled Heath Bars, even with the copious amount of yogurt there as well, and eventually I just threw in the towel. But man, this stuff was good. The yogurt wasn't overly yogurty or tangy and tasted pretty much like basic vanilla ice cream, a perfect foil for the never-ending Heath Bar. Warning: this WILL make your jaw ache from chewing and pull out all your fillings in the process. But hey, it's part of the game, right?

Yes, there is frozen yogurt under there

So the moral of this story is if you want toppings on top of your ice cream, rather than mixed in, at Scoop de Ville, ask explicitly when you place your order. And if you do, you'll be rewarded by a huge, decadent treat reminiscent of a classic ice cream parlor's finest. Yum!

Scoop de Ville
1734 Chestnut Street

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dipping into the Philly wine bar scene at Tria

During my week to settle in before classes started, I met up with my cousin AB for drinks and bites at Tria, a highly acclaimed Center City wine bar that was close to both of our apartments. When I arrived, AB had snagged a sidewalk table, so we got to dine and people-watch at the same time. Score! That means I can't comment on the decor of the place inside (I literally haven't been in), but they do have a few sidewalk tables that are quite nice.

The menu at Tria is extensive and amusing. There's a solid selection of small plates as well as a long list of wines by the glass, beers, and cheeses, all divided into whimsical subsections (e.g., "stoic" vs. "racy" cheeses--?). We both chose glasses of prosecco, perfect and bubbly on a warm summer evening.

To eat, AB got the beet salad (a girl after my own heart, eh?). With a very generous portion of tender beets complemented by goat cheese, crushed almonds, thin red onion, and a tangy vinaigrette, this salad was very flavorful (I had a bite) and is definitely something I will return for.

Mound of cheese!

I got two cheeses to pair with my wine. From the "clean" section of the cheese menu, I got a wedge of Humboldt Fog goat cheese, which had a crumbly middle as well as an oozy layer just under the rind. It was very tasty, and I loved the interplay of textures, although it got a little salty by the end (or maybe I was just experiencing cheese overload at that point). I also got a hefty wedge of Malvarosa, an "approachable" cheese that our spunky server described as very salty, but in a good way. I actually didn't find this cheese all that salty at all (it was the Humboldt Fog that turned out to be the salt bomb); it was slightly chewy, kind of like a more crumbly Swiss cheese, with a mild emmenthal-like flavor. It was appealing but perhaps not something I would get again, simply because it wasn't especially special. Oh, and the cheese board also came with small ramekins of glazed almonds (for the Malvarosa) and some sort of compote (Humboldt Fog), which tasted slightly of beets to me, to be scooped by the tiniest and cutest spoons I've ever seen. The almonds were munchable on their own, while the compote actually did complement the Humboldt Fog quite well. The bread, planks of squishy, chewy, and almost stale baguette, was plentiful but utterly forgettable.

Really big portions of cheese, too

Overall, our first experience with Tria was a high-three-Offset-Spatula success. I hope to return soon to sample more of the wares-- from snacks to salads to bruschetta to more cheeses, the menu has quite a bit to offer...

18th Street and Sansom

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gettin' my Philly on at Capogiro

It's no secret that I love gelato, and when I'm in Philly, it's no secret that I love Capogiro. In fact, every time I've visited the city, I've made a point of getting Capogiro gelato, sometimes multiple times in one trip. Well, now that I'm here full-time, I've been making the few-block walk from my apartment to Capogiro on 20th Street on an, ahem, regular basis. Here are some highlights of recent indulgences:

Creme Fraiche was a surprise winner when I tried it a few days ago. It's light and almost refreshing with a slight tang.

I think the other flavor here was burnt sugar...

Stracciatella and Nutella are both superb. The stracciatella has a nice sweet milky base, and the chocolate bits mixed in are texturally addictive. The Nutella tastes just like Nutella (and the snozberries taste like snozberries).

Gelato mountain!

Most recently, Salted Bitter Almond truly surprised me. I almost didn't try it-- despite its label's claim that it was back "by popular demand," it simply sounded gross. But then I had a sample, and I was hooked. It was also a light flavor and didn't taste at all like either salt or almonds to me, but it had a haunting flavor that I couldn't quite put my finger on. And then, about two-thirds of the way through my cup, I nailed it: it tastes just like Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia frozen yogurt. I swear. I have no idea how that's possible, but it really, really does, and my is it tasty. There are occasional whole almonds buried in the gelato as well, and paired with their regular chocolate gelato, it was a mellow and gobble-able treat.

Isn't it pretty?

Oh, who am I kidding. Stay tuned for more updates from Capogiro. Most likely soon.

117 S. 20th Street, at Sansom

Monday, August 8, 2011

And we're off: Fork eases us gently into Philly

After the big move down to Philly, my mom stuck around for a couple of days to help me get set up. Thanks Mom! And so of course we made time for some meals, including Saturday night dinner at Fork.

It's a welcoming dining room with a vibrant open kitchen, and especially when it's 100+ degrees out and it's air conditioned inside, Fork feels like heaven. The vibe is casual and slightly eclectic, just on this side of "fine dining."

To start, we were offered a choice of three breads. Mom took the fruit and nut with a devilish look on her face, and she gobbled it down. Mine was a multigrain roll, and it was hearty and studded with all kinds of yummy seeds that I gracelessly picked off the top.

Fruits and nuts inside

Yeah, this is a terrible picture, but you get the idea

To start, we split the baby lettuces salad. This was very simple, with two fried balls of lemon ricotta- surprisingly lemony, and a nice touch. Sadly, the leaves themselves were a touch oversalted, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

Lettuces, y'know.

For her entree, Mom went for the halibut, with parsley-garlic puree, wax beans, and parisienne potatoes (essentially little potato balls sauteed in butter). She enjoyed it, noting that the fish was well cooked and not dry at all. I do also applaud the kitchen for putting a textbook golden-brown sear on that puppy. Check it out:

Pretty fish

My entree was the pickled beets and garden vegetable salad. This was decent, but it didn't blow my mind; the vegetables (beans, radishes, beets) and tangle of micro-greens were fresh, but there wasn't anything particularly special about the dish. Every now and then, I'd get a bite of pickled beet, and the burst of vinegar was the tastiest thing about the dish.

There are veggies under there

On to dessert. We debated going elsewhere for ice cream, but instead we decided to stick it out at Fork-- which may have been the wrong choice, given that pastry doesn't seem to be the restaurant's forte. Mom went for the malted chocolate cream cake, which packed layers of flourless chocolate cake, caramel mousse, and malted vanilla cream, all enrobed in chocolate ganache and paired with blackberry gelato. This got the job done-- it was chocolatey, after all-- but the plating seemed to be a bit of an afterthought.

I guess?

I went for an order of salted caramel gelato, which came with a cocoa nib shortbread cookie. The gelato was mild and sweet, which was good, but it was the shortbread that was the surprise winner: crumbly, sugary, and buttery, all interspersed with little bursts of bitter chocolateyness from the nibs. I could have gone for just a plate of those cookies, frankly.

Welp, it's gelato. Plus cookie.

So all in all, Fork was decent. We agreed it didn't blow us away, but I'd certainly return if the opportunity presented. So therefore I award fork my inaugural Philly three OS rating, with an eye toward many more ratings to come.

306 Market Street, between 3rd and 4th Streets

Thursday, August 4, 2011

It's time...

Dear readers,

If you've been reading my posts over the past few months, you may have guessed this day was coming. A week or so ago, I bid goodbye to my beloved NYC and moved south to Philadelphia to attend business school. For weeks, people have been asking, "What are you going to do with the blog?" And honestly I'm still not 100% sure, but here's what I know: I'd like to continue recording my food adventures, this time based in Philly, as best I can. So I'll start by posting a few of my first meals here, and hopefully my school schedule will let me continue to do so over the next two years. I may not post as frequently as I did in NYC, and of course I'll be commenting on the Philly food scene rather than that of NYC... but I hope you'll keep reading nonetheless. And as always, if you have any suggestions for places I HAVE to go while I'm here, email me at!



Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Eataly's gelato? Yes, please!

With my time in NYC dwindling to a close and my mom in town, we did the usual-- headed out to dinner. Unfortunately, said dinner was only mediocre, and rather than have my last NYC review be negative, I'll focus instead on dessert.

Since we were in the neighborhood, we raided the desserts at Eataly. Gelato for me, thanks: half hazelnut, half coconut, in a comically large "small" portion. The texture is the winner here, incredibly creamy with nary an ice crystal in sight. But the flavors don't disappoint, either, with the strong hazelnut overpowering the rather more retiring coconut. On a 90+ degree day, it couldn't be better.

Overflowing gelato

Mom went for a small hazelnut cake. The texture here surprised me: it was stiff and springy, almost like a slightly overbaked chewy brownie. It tasted good, don't get me wrong, but I was happier with my gelato.

Hazelnut brownie cake?


200 Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street

Monday, August 1, 2011

Je & Jo: A sweet goodbye to Hell's Kitchen

As I neared the end of packing my apartment for my move to Philly, I moved into the stage of trying to use up everything in my fridge and freezer. That included the ice cream that I always have on hand; once that was done, I had a few nights left to have some last desserts in NYC. When I heard the news that Je & Jo ice cream had opened up a tiny storefront just about a block away from me, I knew their innovative four-ounce cookie-dough ice cream cups would be one of my last NYC tastes.

I asked the friendly counter worker for her recommendation as I tried to choose among the vanilla (with chocolate chip cookie dough), peanut butter (with peanut butter cookie dough), or vegan coconut (no cookie dough). Upon her counsel, I chose the classic vanilla with chocolate chip.

Like a new-school Hoodsie

It comes in a cute little compostable container, and it's inherently portion-controlled, which is nice. My only complaint about the pre-packed cup format is that it precludes sampling, which is my usual way of choosing my ice cream flavor. That aside, it's cute and portable, if a bit pricey at $4 (that'd be $1 an ounce, folks). Of course, it's all-natural, hand-made, and all that jazz.

But how does it taste? Aside from the very top and edges of the ice cream, which suffer from a bit of freezer exposure due to the paper lid and container, pretty darn delicious. The vanilla flavor is pure and, well, natural: it tastes like vanilla and cream. The cookie dough, of which there were about two medium-sized chunks, was appealingly gritty, with tiny chocolate chip specks for a little chocolate flavor. The only problem here is the distribution; it seemed as they had partially filled the cup with ice cream, then laid a couple pieces of cookie dough on top, and then finished with another layer of ice cream, creating sort of a parfait, or an inverse ice cream sandwich, if you will. So it's tough to access the cookie dough when you're digging through a lot of ice cream; you sort of have to smoosh around the ice cream as you eat to get to that middle layer. In sum, I wish there had been a whole lot more cookie dough, and I wish it had been more evenly distributed.

Ice cream layer, then cookie dough layer

But that's only because it was delicious. Flavor-wise, ice cream and cookie dough were both noteworthy, and I support both the ethos of the company and the friendliness of the staff. Even though I'm moving away, I'm glad I got a chance to try Je & Jo, and I hope they thrive. Make the trek west to support them yourself-- your taste buds, if not necessarily your wallet, will thank you.

515 W. 47th, between 10th and 11th Avenues

Friday, July 29, 2011

LWF&D goes to Napa and chills with Michael (Chiarello) (not really)

Our last dinner in Napa was at Bottega, famous chef/food personality Michael Chiarello's Yountville restaurant. It's a palatial complex, a huge house-style restaurant with a lovely semi-wraparound patio for dining outdoors, and it was crowded in the way Cheesecake Factories are crowded... that is, it was enormous, and it was packed with people. Fortunately, we had a reservation, and we were seated at a large table set for four, which meant we had plenty of space for the two of us.

Wine comes in quartinos here, so I chose a quartino of grechetto, a light Italian white, to complement my food. Unfortunately (especially since this was our last dinner in Napa), I really didn't enjoy this wine... it was somewhat insipid and the flavor was flat and harsh. Oh well.

A half-loaf of crusty, flaky bread with a dish of some sort of cheesy spread landed on our table (literally on our table, too; there was no plate for the bread, which sat directly on the butcher paper covering our tablecloth). But there was barely time to eat it, since our shared appetizer arrived barely a second or two after the bread. This was a delicious salad of fresh ricotta, arugula, stewed peaches, pecorino, and some sort of peach gel. There's usually coppa as well, but I ordered it vegetarian-style for the two of us. And while the portion was pretty small, this was a very tasty dish; while the smear of ricotta on the side of the plate wasn't especially tasty, the rest of the ingredients were fresh and vibrant.

Bread on table

Greens on ricotta smear

For entree, Mom ordered the fish of the day, which was a white fish similar to red snapper whose name we both missed. The server came and finished filleting the fish at the table, a service note that is probably better in theory than in practice. But nonetheless, Mom enjoyed the fish.

Without head and tail, too

My choice for entree was the insalata del bosco, which was mixed greens, sliced pear, candied hazelnuts, and pecorino. While the pear wasn't much of a presence in this salad, the hazelnuts especially were quite flavorful. Again, the portion was on the small side, but otherwise this was delicious.

Pretty greens

We also shared a side of asparagus, which was both pretty and tasty, although I ate a little too much of it. But that's my own fault.

Too much asparagus. Hoooooboy.

Finally, we decided to have dessert at the restaurant. Mom chose a simple scoop of salted caramel gelato, which was really tasty. It also came with this slice of peanut-butter feuilletine-fudge-like confection, which I really enjoyed (but Mom, not so much).

Plain, unadorned

My dessert was the tiramisu profiteroles, three puff pastries split and stuffed with tiramisu & sponge cake gelato, all drowned in chocolate sauce (the menu also listed "cocoa puff," but I'm not sure what that is and don't think I had it on my plate). This was a well-executed rendition of profiteroles, although the gelato-- chock full of chunks of espresso-soaked lady fingers-- was too strongly coffee-y with me, especially with the bitterness of the chocolate sauce as well. I definitely would have preferred vanilla gelato, but I'm glad I tried the dish as is. And it was very, very rich; I only downed two of the three profiteroles before having to stop.

Pretty, no?

On balance, we did enjoy the food at Bottega, and the service was friendly and professional. It's worth a stop if you're in Napa. But-- how to put this-- it wasn't the most personal of our dining experiences. For better or for worse, Bottega is so successful that it's perennially packed and feels sort of like, well, a factory, churning diners out in a fast and efficient, albeit tasty, fashion. That said, you can get a great meal there, and if you don't necessarily want to linger or aren't out for a romantic, personalized atmosphere, it'll fit the bill.

6525 Washington Street, Yountville, Napa