Mother’s Milk

30 07 2009

So much for not marketing.

I was really hopeful that this wine would be an exception to my general rule about Australian wines (I have had some decent ones). Somebody out there thought that his wine was great and I picked it up in the PLCB for about $16 (not so bad). I hadn’t had a decent Syrah in a while, and thought it might be fun for Erin and I to share something nice.

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Unfortunately, this wine turned out to be a fairly typical marketing nightmare. Comic book label, catchy-name (hey, who doesn’t want to drink “Mother’s Milk”?) The wine turned out to be super-alcoholic, though. Not a lot of fruit quality, plenty of tar and heavier flavors, lots of rich spice (particularly clove), and hefty wood, but the main thing going here is that it smells mostly of alcohol. Yeah, OK, so they estimate an ABV of 14.5 % but still, I love Pax wines, which regularly creep up to 15% or more, but they manage to make something that smells like wine not ethanol. I should add that with a little time (and air) the wine mellowed out. So, long story short, it’s not all bad. When Erin first opened the bottle, she thought it was cooked (overexposed to heat, ruining the wine) and in a sense, it is. The grapes were more likely than not very over-ripe at harvest, and once you have too-developed flavors in the grapes, it’s hard to go back. I wish people would focus on making wine, not ridiculous stories.

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One potential saving grace is that it is screw-cap, so if you want a catchy-looking wine with a cool label and a great tag, go for Mother’s Milk, if you want something that tastes like wine and that you can actually inhale the aromas without choking, then you may want to skip this wine, or give it an hour in an open bottle or maybe even decant it (if you’re into that sort of thing) and it should be decent.

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Almost Meatless Blogger Potluck: Pizza Strata

29 07 2009

My assignment: follow a recipe from Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond’s Almost Meatless cookbook for their Almost Meatless Blogger Potluck.

I love to cook, but I never follow recipes and I am extremely impatient. I would never have been able to make this Pizza Strata without a recipe and it is the perfect meal to make for guests. I hate being tied up in the kitchen while guests are over, so this strata can be completely prepared either the night before or the morning of a dinner party and then just popped in the oven an hour before you want to eat. Served with a simple salad and some brownies or ice cream for dessert, the strata looks and tastes like the main event. And, if you have friends with young children, I’m pretty sure this would make foodies of all ages very happy.

Additionally, it is versatile and tastes just as delicious eaten as leftovers. You could leave out the pepperoni if you are a complete vegetarian and, as I ate some right out of the baking dish the next day, I found that it was perfect as a cold snack. Reheating is unnecessary.

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On to the recipe.

I roasted the tomatoes the night before and refrigerated them overnight. I used 6 huge “Ugly” heirlooms instead of the 10 plums the recipe calls for.

(I did a bit of improvising when I made this. Forgive me.)

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I really like to prep. While the tomatoes were roasting for three hours, I prepared the ricotta/spinach mixture, pepperoni, and cubed the loaf of Italian bread so it was all ready to assemble in the morning.  Disclaimer: I did not toast the bread like the recipe said to do for two reasons. Reason #1: I forgot. Reason #2: the breakfast strata my family makes once a year doesn’t call for toasting so I decided that this would be a bit of an homage to that (after I forgot). Maybe the Almost Meatless ladies can comment on why I should have toasted the bread.  😉

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Since the recipe called for the assembled strata to sit for 1 hour minimum but overnight if possible, I decided to put everything together in the morning and let it sit in the fridge all day until I was ready to bake it for dinner.  Layered in the baking dish were the cubed bread, ricotta/spinach/pepperoni mixture, other cheeses (mozzerella and provolone), and roasted tomatoes. Poured over top was a mixture of eggs and milk.

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After one hour, it came out of the oven looking like this (see below). My husband even commented before he tasted it: “If anything else, this is a really great-looking meal.”  It was also really yummy: crisp and crunchy on top, cheesy and gooey in the middle, with the bread soaking up all of the egg and the tomatoes making it moist but not wet.  In retrospect, if I were to do anything differently, it would be to cut the pepperoni in smaller pieces so that its flavor permeated more of the strata.

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This is the kind of recipe you want to make over and over. It’s comfort food. It’s versatile. It looks and tastes really great. And being an impatient, improvising, perfectionist, I’ll be practicing my technique on this strata for a long time.





Recap and Reflection

28 07 2009

I am taking a breakfast sandwich hiatus this week to reflect on what is important in a breakfast sandwich. Is it the quality of the carbohydrate delivery system? Is it the taste and tuckage of the egg? Or simply taking the extra step to put the ketchup directly on the sandwich instead of throwing in packets as an afterthought? I have learned a lot these past few weeks and what it boils down to is taste. How refreshing.

To recap, here are the ten sandwiches I’ve tried so far, from highest to lowest score:

Bagel Shop: 89
Ali’s: 84
Sexy Green Truck: 81
Ernie’s: 69
Richie’s: 67
Adriatic Grill: 61
Ray’s: 60
Eppy’s: 56
McDonald’s: 54
Tommy’s: 53

Now let’s compare their total scores to what their Overall Taste score was:

Bagel shop: 10
Ali’s: 9
Sexy Green Truck: 9
Ernie’s: 6
Richie’s: 6
Adriatic Grill: 6
Ray’s: 6
McDonald’s: 6
Tommy’s: 5
Eppy’s: 4

Overall, if your sandwich tastes good, you’re going to get a good total score.

So, where should I go next? I’m running out of vendors. Anna’s Middle Eastern is closed for the summer and I know she would be a contender with her breakfast burrito. Any other ideas?





The Polish Princess’ Pierogie Palace

26 07 2009

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Regional food always fascinates me.  On a recent trip to upstate New York, I tried pierogies from The Polish Princess’ Pierogie Palace, located at The Windmill near Penn Yan, NY.  Looks-wise, this ain’t no palace.  But the pierogies that come out of this humble establishment are fit for royalty.  (That was so cliche, eh?)  Simply put, these were the best pierogies I have ever tasted.

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Served with a dill sour cream, they were light and fluffy with a tasty filling of potato and cheese. I shared six with my parents and we were all satisfied.  A plate cost $5.50. Quite affordable.  A combination platter with kielbasa cost $8.00.  I’ll try that next time.





Adriatic Grill Breakfast Sandwich

23 07 2009

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Adriatic Grill sounds all fancy shmancy. You don’t usually find fancy shmancy on campus so I was excited to try something they served. It’s probably the cleanest food vendor on campus but the sandwich tasted really bad. All look and no substance is Adriatic Grill.

I ordered a bacon egg and cheese (big surprise) on wheat toast (wheat just escaped my lips today. Should have been white but I went with the slip.) I asked for salt/pepper/ketchup but got the damn ketchup in a packet, not on the sandwich. I have said this so many times before: it is almost breakfast sandwich suicide to give the ketchup on the side. In packets. And Hunt’s! Who likes Hunt’s ketchup? Post a comment if I am crazy and you love Hunt’s.

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This might be one of the most perfect-looking sandwiches I’ve tried so far, complete with the cut in half, but the perfection ended there and I only received this superficial shell of a sandwich.

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Eggs: spongy, dry, tasteless. Tuckage was great, though:

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Bacon: cut in little bits but this works better if ketchup is applied to keep the bits from falling out. Not much taste but the texture was a bit like jerky.

Cheese: couldn’t taste it until half way through the sandwich and the taste was average.  The cheese was liquid while eating the first half but hardened up by the second half. A hardened, solid, glob. Look! Pathetic!

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And hey you North Philadelphians, Temple students, and staff: I am running out of vendors. Let me know where I should go next!

Scoring:

Overall appearance: 10

Meat: 6

Egg (quality, quantity, and tuckage): 7

Greasiness: 5

Cheese (quality and quantity): 5

Condiments (quality and quantity.): 2

Carbohydrate Delivery System (credit: Matt Palmer): 5

Price: 7 ($2.75)

Accuracy of order: 8

Overall taste: 6

Total score: 61

Adriatic Grill is along the Anderson Hall vendor strip on N. 12th St.





2008 Seyval Blanc (Hunt Country, Finger Lakes, NY)

22 07 2009

On a recent trip to the Finger Lakes, I stopped at Hunt Country winery to escape the rain. Hunt Country is usually a pleasant enough winery to visit, but recently their wines have been a bit too sweet for my palate–I don’t think it’s a major change in their production, just a change in my taste buds.

The 2008 Seyval Blanc stood out when I tasted it as a more refined wine that my very picky husband might like, and it was on sale for $8.99 on site.  Score.

Seyval Blanc is a French hybrid grape known for its resistance to the cold, which explains why it grows well in the Finger Lakes region.  It is often compared to white Burgundies and is a fair alternative to some Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blanc varietals.

This particular Seyval Blanc has a lot of white Burgundy (typically Chardonnay) characteristics, such as the tropical fruit nose and flavors like pineapple and honeysuckle with some grapefruit and vanilla thrown in.  It does lack minerality and there is no stoniness or edge to this wine, which most white Burgundies would have.

The wine has a moderate acidity and you can tell that it’s been held in the barrel for a while due to the oakiness in scent and flavor.  And just FYI, most French white Burgundies start at $20-$25 a bottle and can cost as high as $300.

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Azie On Main

21 07 2009

Now for the proper Azie on Main post. As I said a few days ago, Matt and I ate there for the friends and family soft opening. Matt knows a lot about the Win Signature Restaurants but I had never been to one and I had very high expectations.

We arrived at the second-floor location in Villanova and immediately noticed the outdoor seating. Having an outdoor option always improves my opinion of a restaurant, even before I’ve walked in and tasted the food. If it hadn’t been threatening rain, we would have chosen to sit outside.

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The staff was accommodating and friendly from the moment we walked in the door. Part of it was probably because that was the point (to practice pleasing the patrons) but I do believe that everyone we interacted with, especially our server, was sincere and excited about working there. I asked a few questions about the menu and our server’s answers were spot on.

The decor was warm and inviting. It wasn’t over-the-top but a great deal of thought had obviously gone into the design, which focused on dark woods and deep reds. The lighting was varied–a bit bright as you walked in but dimmed in the main dining room, which was also lined with windows that allowed in a nice amount of natural light.

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We started with a cocktail, the Jinger Caiphirina, made with fresh ginger, lime, cachaca, ginger liqueur, corn syrup, club soda, and ginger coin. It had a smooth flavor and the ingredients were mixed with a nice balance.

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We chose the Sauteed Fois Gras (with Fuji apple confit and honey balsamic flavor) and Spicy Tuna Crunch sushi rolls for our appetizers. Both were delicious. The bonito flakes on the sushi rolls were a nice textural finish and the tuna was spot on: like room temperature butter. The fois gras was seared but creamy with the apples complimenting every bite.

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We both ordered fish for our main course. The pan roasted halibut with lobster and cheese risotto was yelling, “Choose me!” and of course I couldn’t resist. This dish was incredibly rich and creamy with flaky halibut placed on top. The miso beurre blanc was intense but was mixed with the creamy risotto like that’s where it had belonged all the time. I was a bit confused about the fried tempura batter as garnish–it didn’t taste bad, it just wasn’t necessary. Overall this was a huge winner of a dish.

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Matt selected the miso-broiled black cod with sweet potato mash and fava beans. I commented that the plate almost looked like a play on a traditional American meal: meat, starch, green vegetable. The colors were so vibrant and a strong contrast from the tower of food that I ate. This cod was absolutely perfect: golden brown miso crust action but flaky and juicy throughout. Matt liked the cod much better than the halibut. I thought that they were both scrumptious.

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I almost considered the dessert as an afterthought, unfortunately, because I was so full of great food at this point. I ordered the fruit fondue–the perfect light ending that I needed. All of the fruit (strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, kiwi, mango, grapes, melon) was fresh and the marshmallows a nice playful touch.

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I can’t find the name of Matt’s dessert anywhere right now, and I did not write it down, so here are two photos and I will try to explain:

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The outside was a chestnut cream that we call “marron” because that’s what it is called in Japan. It reminded Matt of a Japanese tea sweet because of the rich, creamy, nutty and smoky flavor.  The inside was like a vanilla meringue and a green tea creme anglais was drizzled all around. Matt was in love. I think he would like it if I gave birth to one of these some day. I tasted it and thought it was a fascinating concept and just an amazing-looking dessert, but it wasn’t entirely to my taste. Matt was really, really, in love with this dessert.

We had an amazing experience here and plan on returning. I even showed the menu to my mother, who is very picky about where she will spend her restaurant money, and she is excited to try it as well. The menu is so extensive that there is a price-point for all budgets. Soups, noodles, and rice go from $2-$12 and cold and hot appetizers range from $8-$25. The main courses are varied and range from $14-$38. Our total meal (with two more cocktails and an espresso at the end of the meal) would have been $147. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Thanks to the Win team and Azie on Main for having us! We’ll be back!