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GDSwamp's Profile

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I lost a bet and now I need to cook the winner a brilliant meal: best sources?

I didn't see any.

Dec 15, 2013
GDSwamp in Manhattan

Great NY Noodletown ginger-scallion sauce - makeable?

There's not much good evidence to be the least bit scared of MSG, unless you're scared of a possible mild headache if you happen to be one of the people that gets those when they eat that.

On the other hand it looks like there's reason to worry about some hoisin - specifically cheaper brands that use hydrochloric acid to speed up the fermentation process:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3-MCPD

So there's an argument for investing in higher-end slow-fermented hoisin.

Dec 13, 2013
GDSwamp in Home Cooking

I lost a bet and now I need to cook the winner a brilliant meal: best sources?

Ugh. PA is insane. Every search directs only to "Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board" - the central gov't agency in Harrisburg.

Dec 13, 2013
GDSwamp in Manhattan

I lost a bet and now I need to cook the winner a brilliant meal: best sources?

Oh! okay I'll take a closer look.

Dec 13, 2013
GDSwamp in Manhattan

I lost a bet and now I need to cook the winner a brilliant meal: best sources?

That'd be a great idea, coasts, except wine-searcher points you to online stores, many of which won't ship to PA, because it's technically illegal to do so.

And by "technically illegal" I mean "it's illegal, which is so absurd that I feel obliged to add the word 'technically' as a qualifier."

Dec 13, 2013
GDSwamp in Manhattan

Great NY Noodletown ginger-scallion sauce - makeable?

Been awhile since that post. My memory is that the resulting sauce was very good but didn't quite have the "How is this so effing delicious?" quality of the NYNoodletown version.

Since then I've bought some MSG crystals - you've reminded me to try out making this again and stirring in a little of the magic monosodium at the end.

Dec 13, 2013
GDSwamp in Home Cooking

I lost a bet and now I need to cook the winner a brilliant meal: best sources?

That's a perfect analogy, and the head butcher is the cranky clerk who thinks you're a Philistine (but does know some great music).

The story is more detailed than anyone wants to read about here - for instance, the kid who I was initially talking to about my meat purchase was very sweet, and did his best while shuttling back and forth between me and the butcher to keep everyone happy. (And consequently he was visibly uncomfortable when the butcher and I started talking to each other over his head).

Anyway. C'est la vie. I'm going to a vegan restaurant tonight.

Dec 12, 2013
GDSwamp in Manhattan

I lost a bet and now I need to cook the winner a brilliant meal: best sources?

I've gone back and forth on this. I'm 100% certain that the Meat Hook butcher thought that I was the one being a pain, and that what I took to be his bad attitude was, from his perspective, justified frustration.

That said, every other person I dealt with that day was so remarkably kind, he really stood out in contrast. And the fact is he didn't take the time to figure out why I was persisting about the filets - which was that I'd been led to believe I only needed to buy a whole one and I'd be okay - and instead jumped right to the assumption that I was "some idiot."

So, meh. Probably won't go there first, on the rare occasion when I'm meat-shopping in the 'burg.

Dec 12, 2013
GDSwamp in Manhattan

I lost a bet and now I need to cook the winner a brilliant meal: best sources?

thanks!

Dec 12, 2013
GDSwamp in Manhattan

I lost a bet and now I need to cook the winner a brilliant meal: best sources?

Thanks toof. My wish for you is that when you say, "I haven't bought wine in that price range in a while," you mean that you've graduated to exclusively higher-end drinking.

Dec 12, 2013
GDSwamp in Manhattan

I lost a bet and now I need to cook the winner a brilliant meal: best sources?

Thanks Tt, this is good information. I wish PA stores had the kind of selection where you could go in looking for a particular bottle and stand a snowball's chance of finding it. But good to have ideas in mind, just the same.

Dec 12, 2013
GDSwamp in Manhattan

I lost a bet and now I need to cook the winner a brilliant meal: best sources?

Thanks coasts!

Dec 11, 2013
GDSwamp in Manhattan

I lost a bet and now I need to cook the winner a brilliant meal: best sources?

sgordon, I'll say the same thing I said to sugartoof (below) - if you're willing to name any of those $30 bottles you're liking right now, please do. I need all the wine help I can get - not just for this particular dinner, but in general.

Dec 11, 2013
GDSwamp in Manhattan

I lost a bet and now I need to cook the winner a brilliant meal: best sources?

sugartoof, if you feel inclined to mention any of the $25 gems, please do. Here in Philadelphia we are still stuck with state-run wine stores that feel like old-time Eastern Bloc food dispensaries. I am not a wine expert and neither is anyone working at any of those stores, so good advice is always in short supply...

Dec 11, 2013
GDSwamp in Manhattan

I lost a bet and now I need to cook the winner a brilliant meal: best sources?

Thanks so much, all, for your good advice and your recommendations. Just in case anyone's curious here's a brief run-down of where I went and what I got:

beef: I stayed in Williamsburg the night before my shopping day so decided to try to knock out the meat buying there, so as to cut down on the perambulating-with-shopping-bags in Manhattan. Stopped first at The Meat Hook - a cool shop with undoubtedly good meat (aged at least three weeks in-house) but the butcher wasn't so nice (to me). First he told me that he had filets (I decided to make a very traditional filet au poivre) but could only sell them as whole tenderloins, because he had begun reserving whole loins for holiday orders. I left but then found a friend who was willing to go in with me on the whole loin, so I came back. But now, suddenly, he decided he wouldn't sell it to me anyway. "I told you - those are for holiday orders." "You mean they're not ready? They're not aged yet?" "They're for. The. Holidays." I was annoyed at this point so I said. "Okay, I'd like one whole loin for Christmas - and hey, I'm going to pick it up early. Today!" He wasn't amused. I bought some of the house bacon anyway. It was delicious.

The butchers at Marlow and Daughters, by contrast, were total sweethearts. They age their meat forever and I watched the young butcher break down the swathe of steer containing my loin on a steel table at the back of the shop. We talked about how filet is not either of our favorite cut, but he wasn't snotty about my choice to get it anyway, and he had good basic suggestions for prepping and cooking the meat. Everyone else in the shop was totally lovely as well. Bought a couple cheeses and some Ben's cream cheese.

Total for the entire Chateaubriand portion of the loin (about three steaks-worth): $45. I also needed one short rib which was about $9.

Next stop was SOS Chefs on 2nd and B. Never been before and now I know this is the most dangerous store in the world, in terms of my future retirement savings. The proprietress treated me like I was Thomas Keller, dragged me around the store giving me tastes of their various vinegars and honeys, crushing italian oregano under my nose, tearing open vacuum packed bags of Iranian pistachios and foie gras in order to get me the tiny amounts I needed to cook for two people. I was amazed at her generosity to a plain-old home cook. Bought ten different things (chanterelle and black trumpet mushrooms, pistachios, thyme honey, birch vinegar, bottarga di muggine, fresh sansho peppercorns, a few other things) and left with a couple other items she gave me just because she thought I should have them.

Total was about $100, which was cheap for what I got, and not all of it went toward my limit - some of the things I bought were just for me.

Union Square Greenmarket: again, this shop was marked by the kindness of the people I bought from. The lady at PE & DD Seafood put a fat scallop in my hand and told me to eat it so I'd believe her that they didn't need any washing to be grit-free. At Flying Pigs (best pork in the world) Mike's adorable son and daughter helped me find the sausages I wanted. The Windfall Farms stall looks a little precious, with its ordered tubs of pristine microgreens, but the people working there were handing out generous tastes of everything, and the farmer wasn't kidding when he said that his frost-sweetened carrots and radishes were like candy (better than candy). I got my salad elements there for about $8.

Bought a bunch of other stuff around the Market - some for the dinner (ratte and Orzette fingerling potatoes, sunchokes, treviso radicchio, chiles, brussels sprouts - at various booths, about $15 total) and some for myself. Even with the insane crown, a totally brilliant two hours.

Last: wine. Ended up at Discovery Wine Shop on the lower east side (wanted to stay in the neighborhood so I wouldn't have to re-park) and ended up telling the women working that evening about my bet and my agenda for the wine. They got very into my project and spent a lot of time with me, debating bottles and bang-for-buck ideas in the $40-$60 range. Again, it was just striking how nice they were and how thoughtful. Ended up with a '98 Morgon and an '04 Barbaresco, plus a couple other things I couldn't not buy. Both were delicious. Delicious. About $90 for the wine.

So that was that for NY. I picked up my last items back here in Philadelphia at DiBruno Brothers (our Dean and Deluca, more or less), where I have to say I got more good treatment and good advice. Go Philly.

The meal turned out beautifully and I have to say that although I lost the bet, and consequently had to foot the bill, I'm glad that was how it turned out.

For anyone still reading and still curious, the menu was:

Antipasti:
charred shisito peppers with dashi salt
Jasper Hill Farm Harbison
La Quercia Tamworth prosciutto
New Zealand thyme honey
persimmon
dried california Blenheim apricots

bay scallop crudo with meyer lemon-chive vinaigrette and blood orange

braised short-rib ravioli with brown butter, sage and Grana Padano

Warm mushroom salad (oyster, black trumpet, chanterelle, beech) with braised pistachios, pickled sunchokes, watermelon radish, microgreens, sweet lime vinaigrette.

Filets, sansho-peppercorn au poivre
Robuchon potato puree
roasted brussels sprouts with fish-sauce viniagrette and bacon.

Cocktails (something with blood orange and gin and a few of those fresh peppercorns) by my indulgent wife, dessert (milk-stout cake, mocha buttercream) by a nice friend.

That was that.

Dec 11, 2013
GDSwamp in Manhattan
7

I lost a bet and now I need to cook the winner a brilliant meal: best sources?

Thanks mitch, that's helpful. Good to know that they still match that description. Thanks also for the other pointers. I'm so glad to know Blue Moon is still going strong (their website is out of date so I was a little worried).

I don't know Sherry Lehmann or Morell's (heard of both, haven't been). Is one of those more service-oriented than another? I am of the "don't know wine but I know what I like" variety, so I think I'll need a little more help than Astor provides. I'm also interested in any smaller corner places that people especially like, on the wine front. Here in Philadelphia we are still stuck with the Eastern Bloc-style state stores, so it's been awhile since I talked to a nice, obsessive wineseller.

Dec 05, 2013
GDSwamp in Manhattan

I lost a bet and now I need to cook the winner a brilliant meal: best sources?

Joan I do realize that I could spend $125 on meat alone at Lobel's (I'm not planning on buying a 4 lb. roast like the one you linked to, but still). That's part of why I'm polling the boards. There has always been a debate about whether Lobel's meat is "better enough" to justify the price vs. other good butchers in the city. My go-to in the past - for dry-agd meat that was comparable to Lobel's at a somewhat more reasonable price - was Ottomanelli. But that was awhile ago.

So you've hit the crux of my question, which is about where people go these days for the best-possible quality without too much of a hype-based markup.

For some things there's no way to get one without the other - it may be that all the best butchers in the city are charging $40/pound and up these days. But that's why I'm asking.

Dec 05, 2013
GDSwamp in Manhattan

I lost a bet and now I need to cook the winner a brilliant meal: best sources?

Dear NY hounds:

I lost a weight-loss contest with a friend, and the loser's prize is to cook one meal for the winner, spending $250-$300 on ingredients and wine.

It's an amount of money that can feel like a lot (I'm a grad student) and then turn out to be not that much, especially at NY prices. But I'm planning to buy a few standout ingredients and a bottle or two of excellent wine, and then hope my cooking lives up to the investment.

I have one day (this coming Saturday) to shop in the city (I live in Philly now). Can folks help me get to the best providers for my shopping list? I moved away in 2005 and my old favorites may not be best bets any more. I need:

A butcher (Lobels? Ottomanelli?) for an outstanding piece of dry-aged beef.

A wine shop where the staff are knowledgeable and helpful and will be interested in pointing me to the best of the $30-$70 bottles.

A fish market where I have the best chance of being pointed to the freshest options for a crudo I'd like to make (does Blue Moon still sell at the Grand Army Plaza market on Saturdays? Is there a comparable provider at Union Square?)

A market where I might have a chance at fresh porcinis, truffles or other harder-to-get fungi at an optimal quality-to-price balance.

Help?

Dec 05, 2013
GDSwamp in Manhattan
1

Anyone buy from the Flying Pigs Farm at the Union Square Greenmarket?

Best pork you'll ever eat.

(and don't trim off the fat. It's amazingly flavorful. Leave it on and with a little salt/pepper/herbs you don't need anything else).

Sep 29, 2013
GDSwamp in Manhattan

fresh (rendered) lard?

Haven't got it yet. But I'd imagine he's likely to have any of the above.

May 07, 2013
GDSwamp in Philadelphia

fresh (rendered) lard?

They've got it! Closed today but tomorrow I'll be good to go. thank God for Sonny (and more proof that the people who don't buy there just because he's a little moody are missing out).

Butchers up and down the Italian Market told me no one asks for the stuff, which is a shame because rendered (non-hydrogenated) leaf lard is amazing for baking and frying, and is on the healthy end of the cooking-oil spectrum (not true of the solid, hydrogenated lard you can get in the supermarket):

http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/l...

You can get it in butcher shops and pork stores in NYC but I guess demand in Philly is still dragging behind the food science. Although it's also possible that supply is dragging behind demand. The butcher at Cappuccio's told me, with perfect pretzel-logic,

"We don't stock fresh lard - nobody wants it. That's why we have the blocks of solid stuff. And now everybody wants fresh lard!"

May 07, 2013
GDSwamp in Philadelphia

fresh (rendered) lard?

Alright Bigley, I may check that out, thanks. My hope is that Sonny D'Angelo sells some as well, so I can pick it up before the weekend.

May 06, 2013
GDSwamp in Philadelphia

fresh (rendered) lard?

Does anyone know of a butcher that definitely sells fresh, non-hydrogenated lard in Philly?

Lots of places have the blocks of solid hydrogenated stuff, but I'm looking for plan rendered lard that's semi-liquid at room temperature (and better for you).

I tried a bunch of the butchers in the Italian Market today and no one had it, but some of the main sellers are closed on Mondays....

May 06, 2013
GDSwamp in Philadelphia

Philly’s best short-order cooks, lunch counters, one-$ spots? I’ll start with McNally’s.

Sounds good. I will check it out.

Apr 21, 2013
GDSwamp in Philadelphia

Philly’s best short-order cooks, lunch counters, one-$ spots? I’ll start with McNally’s.

Another addition, just discovered today (by me, but recommended by Holly below): The Street Food Philly truck.

This afternoon tried their braised pork tacos with frizzled shallots and some kind of salsa and some other sort of greens and (maybe) pickled onions - $6 for two well-stuffed soft tacos that were just freaking amazing. Maybe the best tacos I've had in Philly. And just, aside from any sort of ranking, delicious food.

33rd and Arch, next to Rival Brothers coffee truck which is seriously good coffee. That intersection on the Drexel campus has a small-parking lot's worth of promising food trucks, but I'm not sure I can try any of the others until I eat my way through Street Food's menu.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Street...

Apr 17, 2013
GDSwamp in Philadelphia
1

Philly’s best short-order cooks, lunch counters, one-$ spots? I’ll start with McNally’s.

Tried Vernalicious last Friday, at the beginning of a late-night drive to Connecticut. They're near the highway and open late, my last chance to eat something good before I got on 95 with nothing but rest stops for 200 miles.

Verna (or "Verna"?) recommended the pulled-pork grilled cheese, and it was awesome. Simply what the name says: a heap of good BBQ on a buttery grilled-cheese sandwich. A little drippy, completely delicious. The small collection of foodtruck vendors that serve the bar crowd in that corner of the Kensington/Fishtown area on weekend nights are friendly people and they're making good things. Verna and the guy from the nearby cupcake truck came out and sat with me on the front steps of a darkened bank while I ate my sandwich (which took about three minutes though it was a thick piece of work), and a woman from a tiny Korean cart let me taste her homemade kimchi (good. promised to try her food next time). Then a big group of barhoppers staggered up and everyone got back in their trucks to serve their customers.

Vernalicious: definitely a great one-$'er.

Apr 15, 2013
GDSwamp in Philadelphia

Philly’s best short-order cooks, lunch counters, one-$ spots? I’ll start with McNally’s.

Well, Holly, you are the authority. When I moved here in '05 your site sent me to a bunch of one-$ places that are still favorites now (George's is one).

If you haven't been in awhile, you might pop up to McNally's sometime and try another bowl of soup and a slab of carrot cake. They could earn that fifth grease stain.

Mar 17, 2013
GDSwamp in Philadelphia

Philly’s best short-order cooks, lunch counters, one-$ spots? I’ll start with McNally’s.

One thing that disappoints me whenever reviewers (or Philadelphia Magazine) come out with their Best Restaurants lists is how weighted they are toward high-end places. As if the only way to give people an outstanding eating experience is with the kind of meal that costs >$50 per person. Which is just wrong. Smarter: the way rating sites like Yelp offer the $, $$, $$$, $$$$ categorization (same goes for something like the NYTimes’s $25 and Under category). It doesn’t just tell you how much places cost, it sorts them into categories that mean something. At any of those levels there are restaurants ranging from lousy to outstanding, and it’s a pyramid – lots more bad and so-so places at the bottom, a very few at the top that do what they do brilliantly. Most of the qualities that make the best places the best are the same at each price level: caring about the quality of every plate of food, and having the skills to convert caring into great food. The proportion of griddle-based joints that are amazing at what they do is as small as the proportion of high-concept restaurants that earn their price point.

So my question is: what are folks’ picks for the top 5% of places in this city where there’s just one cook or maybe two at the most, (s)he’s mainly working a griddle or some other tiny space, and the check comes hand-written on a little green pad with a double-digit price at most?

As an example, I nominate McNally’s in Chestnut Hill. They’re slightly famous as the home of the Schmitter, Philly’s other, other (, other?) signature sandwich (yes they have a spot in Citizen’s Bank Park. Haven’t been and can’t comment). Besides being a great invention, the Schmitter is a good example of why McNally’s gets my vote: a cheesesteak with the addition of grilled salami and onions, a slice of tomato, and Russian dressing, it could be too much, too sloppy, just gross. But the roll is always fresh and toasted perfectly on the griddle; the meat and onions are always grilled to order and never come from some steaming pile like at so many of our well-known cheesesteak spots; and everything gets put together carefully. It’s still a cholesterol bomb that will kill me one day, but it’s extremely tasty and totally worthwhile.

The same attention to detail makes everything on their small-but-complete grill menu top notch: crisp bacon and fresh lettuce on the burger, hand-carved turkey in the club sandwich, hot dogs that are split and griddled. Beyond the proficient, consistent, careful way that they make their short-order standards, a few special details put McNally’s in top-5% contention. The soups of the day change all the time, are made by a family member, and are ambitious and delicious: last Friday they had beautiful, densely flavored cream of mushroom, and turkey orzo generously stocked with good dark meat. The cakes are made by (I think) one of the owners. Best carrot cake I’ve had, with the best cream cheese frosting I’ve had on top. Excellent chocolate bundt, sometimes coconut, sometimes something special. All among the best bakery cakes in the city. On the service end: I come in semi-regularly with my son. They set us up with a beer for me and a juicebox for him, service is always friendly and gracious (and patient when I try to get him to do his own ordering and remember his please and thank you). They never rush us, no matter how crowded the place gets, even when my son is dawdling over his grilled cheese. They make the meal a pleasure, which is what a top-5% spot should do.

So that’s the kind of place I mean.

What else is out there?

Mar 15, 2013
GDSwamp in Philadelphia

Hints about Canlis recipes for an east-coast home re-recreation?

Thanks, Dee!

Mar 07, 2013
GDSwamp in Greater Seattle

Great NY Noodletown ginger-scallion sauce - makeable?

Just happened to check back in on this thread - so glad to've gotten more responses. I'll try again this week!

Mar 07, 2013
GDSwamp in Home Cooking