10 07 2009

I had my doubts about a Tangerine Happy Hour (just started on Wednesdays last week) but I was doubtless by the end of the evening. $3 beers, $5 wines and cocktails, and $3 hummus and flatbreads. We chose the hummus: classic, olive, and tomato (yes–three kinds for $3!). It was out-of-this-world hummus. The classic was, by far, the most tasty and authentic. You could taste each ingredient down to the dash of paprika on top. The olive oil was quality. It was mmm mmm good.

I also enjoyed the tomato hummus, although it wasn’t quite as traditional. Little bits of tomato throughout gave it a slightly sweet flavor. The olive hummus was good, but not as good as the prior two. Generous amounts of kalamata olive bits made it a bit too olive-y but since I am an olive lover, I was fine.

I am not one who raves about “portion size.” I actually will berate someone who raves about portion size. I think that this is the least important aspect of a meal. But this was amazing, incredible, never ending hummus and pita. This portion size was almost magical. After inhaling the hummus for a half hour, we hadn’t even made a dent. Those bowls were deceivingly deep.

And after filling up on hummus and a few Walt Wits each, our total bill was around $20. Hey, Tangerine? This concept might be your savior for an otherwise empty establishment these days.



Campo’s at the ballpark

7 07 2009

Matt and I are taking advantage of our trips to Citizens Bank Park this summer and trying different vendors and food each time. Last night (during that really “close” game against the Reds), since we had treated ourselves to good seats in section 109, we were sitting close to Ashburn Alley. Cheesesteaks were definitely in order. Tony Luke’s line was obnoxious so we opted for Campo’s, whose line was just a bit less obnoxious. We got in line at 6:15 and sat in our seats just in time for the first pitch at 7:05.

Phils 109 007

Phils 109 010

Phils 109 012

Phils 109 014

Phils 109 015

We both decided that cheesesteaks are by far the best option at Citizens Bank Park. Matt ordered “The Works” and I ordered a chicken cheesesteak with Whiz and fried onions. They were juicy but not greasy, filling but not heavy, and tasty but not too salty. We did not feel the need to get any other food or snacks throughout the rest of the game because we were so satisfied with these steaks. It will be hard to try a different food at our next game–maybe we’ll give Tony Luke’ s a try for a basis of comparison. The only way Luke’s could top Campo’s was if they used more Whiz. I can never have too much Whiz.

Bistrot la Minette

6 07 2009


With Bistrot la Minette on one corner, Beau Monde across the street, and Coquette down the street, we think that the area around 6th and Bainbridge in Philadelphia should be called the French Quarter.  Last Thursday, Bistrot la Minette had a special tasting menu with wine pairings for $50.  We were really excited to sit in the new courtyard in the back.



Soft french bread with salted butter staved off our hunger while we waited for the first course.


The olive tapenade amuse bouche was pleasant.  It tasted like standard olive tapenade with a good salinity.


The first course was fish soup (aka vichyssoise) with toast pieces topped with pureed potatoes and shredded cheese.  The soup had a rich and full briny seafood taste.  I thought it was a bit too strong but the toasts cut the fishy taste for me perfectly.  This course was served with a rose from Chateau Mourlet.  It was like pulling teeth getting that little bit of information from the waiter!


These scallops were the best scallops we’ve ever had.  We agreed.  Matt: Best scallop ever! The seasonings were simply salt and olive oil, served with diced vegetables (summer squash, red pepper, onion) AKA Ratatouille as per the chalk menu in front- far more helpful than our waiter.  We were served a Viognier with this course. When I asked where it was from, the server said: “um, Provence.” Thanks.  I didn’t pry.  The wine was surprisingly and overly sweet.


The beef stew, Provencal style, was very tasty.  The beef fell apart. Some of it was extremely tender but a few random pieces had gotten a bit too dried out.   Cooked with the beef were perfectly roasted fingerling potatoes, tomatoes, and olives.  The sauce was rich but was used in just the right amount.  The beef came with a Cotes du Rhone. By this point we had given up asking for any additional information about what we were being served.


Our final drink was St. Germain liquer and Savignon Blanc with spritzer and ice. Dessert was a creamy creme brulee with a rich berry sorbet filled with bits of caramel.  The sorbet was so dark it looked like chocolate.  Besides the scallops, this was my favorite course.


The moral of this restaurant adventure was that the food was delicious but the service should have been much better.  A trained monkey could have served us our wine and food.  None of the dishes were explained to us. “This is fish soup.” “These are scallops.” “Viognier is a grape. This is Viognier from, um, Provence.” Um, thanks.  But we have no idea exactly what that was, nor the Cotes du Rhone that was served with the beef.

One of the appealing aspects of a tasting menu is that you don’t always know what you are getting until it is set in front of you, but then you usually have a trained server explain the food and drink in detail.  We’ll go back, but only when we can order and know what it is that we are eating and drinking.

**Update: after I posted this I received a follow-up note from Bistrot la Minette. It stated: “Our first tasting menu had a hiccup or two, and I appreciate you filling me in on the service issues.  Having been a James Beard award winning Service team member, this is an issue that I take great care in and will remedy well before the next tasting menu evening takes place.” **

Just to clarify, Matt and I look forward to trying Bistro la Minette again and we will be posting another review in the near future.

The Aran Islands

3 07 2009

I’d like to take a trip down memory lane this weekend, back to a time when I could pick up and travel for three months without a care in the world. This time was the summer of 2001, before the twin towers fell, before I knew what blogging was, and, obviously, before I had a digi-cam (I apologize for the scanned images below). I spent the summer in Ireland, and I spent some of that time on the Aran Islands off of the west coast. Time went so slow on these islands that I think I left before I arrived.




I was on Inishmore, the big island, for a week. This was uncommon as most visitors took the morning ferry to the island and left on the last one, back to the mainland, at 5:00. I stayed overnight and met some young Irish troublemakers who were camping for Bank Holiday weekend. They took me on a pub crawl (three pubs, one street) and rode me back to my B&B on the backs of their bicycles.

By day I rented bikes and rode around the island. Dun Aengus was the main attraction:


Inishmaan (Inis Meain) is the middle island, and the furthest from civilization. This island warranted a day trip only. I was planning on spending another week, but in half a day I was waiting for the ferry to come back and get me.  The main problem was that I was there during a hoof and mouth outbreak and a lot of the island was off limits (because most of the land was used for sheep grazing).



This was the town of An Cora:


These were the major sites I saw (Synge’s Cottage and Synge’s Chair):



It was beautiful and desolate. Completely desolate. The only pub was closed all day and the only person I saw was peering at me from behind a closed door. It was a welcome change from the hoards of tourists.

The last island is Inisheer (Inis Oirr). Closest to the coast of County Clare and the town of Doolin, this island doesn’t attract the sheer number of tourists that Inishmore does, but there is a bit of civilization: a small cafe with ice cream.  The sites are below and are, in order, the Plassy Freighter Shipwreck, Teampall Chaoimhain, and O’Brien Castle.




Getting to and from the Aran Islands can be tricky, but it’s easier in the summer.  Ferries go to Inishmore from Galway and Doolin a few times a day in the summer and the biggest and fullest boat is usually going there so you can’t miss it. To the smaller islands, make sure you tell the ferry men which island you are going to, or they may skip it. I was the only person on my ferry going to Inishmaan.  Island Ferries goes to and from all three islands from Galway.  Inishmore trips are a few times a day but the ferries only take one trip in the morning and one in the evening to and from the smaller islands year round.  Doolin Ferries goes to all three islands from Doolin.  In the summer the ferries go back and forth a few times a day but from November through March, there is no ferry service.

Top 5 Breakfast Sandwiches (so far)

1 07 2009

An early Top 5 Breakfast Sandwich breakdown:

1st: Bagel Shop (89 pts.)

2nd: Sexy Green Truck (81 pts.)

3rd: Ernie’s (69 pts.)

4th: Richie’s (67 pts.)

5th: Ray’s (60 pts.)

So there’s still lots of room here to have a new top 5 by the end of the summer.  Nine more weeks, nine more sandwiches.