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Visiting from Boston and seeking feedback/suggestions on where to eat and drink

YES, +1 for Kanella (even brunch - my favorite in the city) and Helm, newly opened and possibly the best meal I've had in Philly this year. Still prefer Zahav to Abe Fisher though...

Apr 25, 2015
kasiav in Philadelphia

Helm BYOB

Had a really excellent meal last night at the freshly opened Helm, a BYOB a block north of Girard on 5th. There isn't much out there yet because they are so new, but this was definitely one of the most inventive and inspired meals I've had at any BYOB in the city. The menu focuses on local/seasonal with a modern american preparation, and knowing the chefs came up from Fork and Stateside makes perfect sense.

Each dish was artfully and beautifully plated and priced quite affordably for the experience. Menu is small and large plates, four of us split 4 small, 3 large, and 2 desserts for $128 pre tip and left full. We probably could have gotten away with 3 small, 3 large and 1 dessert depending on the specific dishes.

Everything we had was very good to excellent, no real weak dishes and all very interesting preparations/combinations

Small:
Rhode Island Squid, Fennel, Preserved Lemon - Great dish. Thinly sliced squid rings super tender yet full of smoky flavor. The fennel was a sliced bulb meltingly tender, then seared off

Leeks, Tewksbury cheese, Yogurt - Buttery tender leek spears on top of a flavorful yogurt spread. Simple but tasty.

Bloody Butcher Polenta, Stracciatella, Broccoli Rabe - Great dish but a much more mild flavor compared to the other 3. Bowl full of super light and soft polenta colored with beet juice (no detectable beet flavor) with the wilted greens and melted chunks of the stracciatella cheese. This would be a good one to eat first due to the delicate flavor and before the melted cheese cools and starts to firm up.

Sweet Potato, Mussels, Pistachio - A half of a regular sweet potato and half of a blue (?) sweet potato, these are the stars of the dish, poached then seared off with a sauce underneath. The mussels (shelled) are more garnish along with the pistachios. Surprisingly tasty for a dish that seems like 'just' 2 potatoes.

Large:
Skirt Steak, Potato, Jalapeno - I'm not usually one to order steak off a menu but this was really stellar. Super tender skirt steak over a jalapeno chimichurri-like spread, served with a potato pave that was just delicious. Dish was a bit spicy, but was noted by our server when we ordered

Pork, Buckwheat Noodles, Shitake - Similar to the polenta, this dish was more delicate in flavor compared to our other 2 large plates and consequently was outshined, but still a really nice dish. Juicy white meat in an intensely porky broth and buckwheat noodles.

Brussles Sprouts, Spring Onion - Another amazing dish that does not seem like much on the menu. Small pasta purses filled with buttery breadcrumby sprout mixture, mixed with baby brussels sprouts and cheese (curds?). Really great dish.

Dessert:
Chocolate Mousse, Buckwheat crumble, Sunchoke - Didn't love this one as much as the next dessert, was interesting but the (savory) sunchoke crisps did not make sense to me in the dish

Grapefruit, Tonka Bean, Chantilly - really nice buttery cookie type cake with grapefruit supremes, citrus curd, and chantilly with just a note of a flavor I couldn't place until the server reminded us of the tonka bean.

Reservations recommended; Saturday night every table was full, though when I logged onto OpenTable to book the night before, there were open slots for a 4 top across the board.

http://helmphilly.com/

Apr 05, 2015
kasiav in Philadelphia

Anyone looking for Bobbi's Hummus?

I saw on another CH thread that someone heard from their store that Bobbi's closed down. Did some google searching and saw a post on Glassdoor.com that they closed... sure seems like they are no more, which is a bummer. Loved their black bean and mild garlic hummus

Mar 26, 2015
kasiav in Pennsylvania

The Olde Bar

I do like their happy hour buck a shucks - nice not to have to go all the way to oyster house. Really enjoyed the Sorry Miss Blackburn cocktail - well balanced and (naturally) fruity considering the liquors involved

Mar 26, 2015
kasiav in Philadelphia
1

Short Istanbul Report - 2nd visit

Just returned from a weeklong trip to Istanbul. Visited in April 2008 and was able to hit some old favorites and make some new ones. We stayed in the Beyoglu and Taksim areas which I find much better for food options in general than in Sultanhamet. Many of the new spots we tried were culled from IstanbulEats.com

çukur Meyhane - located just off Istiklal Caddesi almost directly across from the Flower Passage featuring homestyle mezes. Ate here twice for dinner, reservations recommended otherwise eat early (6 or 7pm). Favorite dishes include the fish ravioli (manti) which were lightly fried cubes of fish/spices/breadcrumbs (?) in a yogurt sauce, eggplant in sauce (chunky cold stewed eggplant with tomato), pepper puree (classic Turkish spread), cretan puree (bright springy taste, greens, herbs, and a farmers cheese), grilled halloumi, thin sliced pan fried liver (with pickled cabbage and carrots) if you are a big liver fan. Fairly inexpensive meal, was a favorite

Farrooj al Zaeem - 24 hour Syrian fast food chain also a few blocks off the top end of Istiklal Caddesi. No reservations needed, very inexpensive. Recommend the chicken durum wrap (tavuk durum) with garlicky mayo and a less spicy red sauce like hot sauce. Great creamy hummus as well topped with whole chickpeas. One durum + hummus is enough for 2 people to share.

Sıdıka Meze Restoranı - a little further out in the Beşiktaş neighborhood, walkable if you are on the far outskirts of Taksim. Reservations needed. Modern mezes (updated, not fancy) Pistachio and feta spread, dilly fava puree, char grilled octopus recommended

Kara Mehmet Kebap Salonu - If you're shopping at the Grand Bazaar and get hungry, this is your spot. Tender and juicy Adana kebab was a clear winner. This spot is a bit hard to find in the far right corner of the Cebeci Han courtyard, up an alley off of one of the bazaar's aisles.

Took the bus out to Rumeli Fort for breakfast at Kale Cafe (featured on No Reservations) for what looked like an amazing breakfast spread. It was pretty good but if I were to do it again would probably stay local to the Beyoglu area and give Van Kahvaltı Evi a shot.

Karakoy Gulluoglu - The best baklava. Love the Sutlu (rich, no nuts) baklava for something a little different. I always bring back a box or two as my food souvenir.

For dried fruits and cheeses, there is a really great market street on the Asian side, Güneşli Bahçe, that has a number of shops similar to what you'd find in the Spice Bazaar with much less hassle. Picked up amazing dried apricots at Brezilya Kurukahve along with some great fruit leather triangles studded and filled with hazelnuts. Ciya and Eta Bal honey shop are also located on this street. There is a large supermarket as well for buying packets of spices cheaply as well as interesting varieties of candy bars, chips, fruit molasses etc. This street is 3 blocks inland from the Kadikoy ferry station.

My favorite snack is the mussles stuffed with spiced rice most easily found at the fish vendor stalls off Istiklal Caddesi next to the Flower Passage (Çiçek Pasajı). My favorite stall is the 2nd or 3rd in on the left that has a few bright red bar height tables parked out front. Mussels are 1TL each here and are large. Order a plate of 5 or tell the vendor how many you'd like, squeeze on some fresh lemon and away you go. There were also a number of vendors offering these in the market on the Asian side at .75TL each.

If you're hungry for crispy and slightly greasy borek while walking Istiklal Caddesi, check out Borek Center (delicious spiced beef was our favorite flavor, one portion enough of a snack for 2 at 5TL).

Mar 20, 2015
kasiav in Europe
1

Best pizza joint near Penn Station?

Hahaha actually in the same boat with the Suprema pie - down to the last 2 slices, which are in the fridge, so I feel you!

I could have sampled a slice first but I trusted the opinions here enough (and noted the top 10 in NYC designation) to skip ahead for the full pie but next time I'll definitely try a slice first before committing. Food regret is The Worst :(

Feb 28, 2015
kasiav in Manhattan

Best pizza joint near Penn Station?

It is definitely possible but if you are judging a place on a plain cheese pie, I think that is a fair across the board for level setting and would not expect to start asking about sugar content in all of their sauces on offer. Even though sugar in the sauce is common (it is sadly the norm in Philadelphia) a noticeably detectable sweetness is not what I associate with traditional NYC pies (and definitely not CT pies).

Personally, I have very strong feelings about sweet sauce (if you couldn't tell!) and wished I'd have known before picking up a pie from Suprema, I would have skipped and went elsewhere if I'd have known beforehand, so I'm just noting it here for future reference.

Feb 27, 2015
kasiav in Manhattan

Best pizza joint near Penn Station?

Yeah I almost chose Lazzara's until I cross checked and saw Suprema on an Eater article of best area eats and that it was a NYC top 10... oh well, you win some you lose some :(

Feb 26, 2015
kasiav in Manhattan

Best pizza joint near Penn Station?

I know this is an old thread but wanted to let anyone know who might come across this via google or search - Pizza Suprema puts sugar in their sauce, the sweetness is noticeable so if you don't like that kind of thing you probably will not like this pizza. I picked up a large pie to bring home to Philly today - I grew up on CT and NYC pizza and can't find any in Philly I like because in PA sugar in the sauce is the norm - and was extremely disappointed after trying a slice and even more disappointed to have a $20 cheese pie on my hands I am not really interested in eating.

The crust is good but I am really surprised this is a top 10 NYC pie.

Pro Tip: call ahead for a pie to go - I stopped in before 2pm (Thurs) and the line was almost out the door. Since I called ahead I bypassed the line to pay and was out the door in 3 minutes.

Feb 26, 2015
kasiav in Manhattan

Brunch/lunch rec near 4th & South St.?

You must be talking about a different Downey's then. As a resident of this area for the last 6 years, Downey's is not a place I would recommend to anyone for a meal. Mediocre food, mediocre beer, and it's on South Street (aka usually filled with tourists). Sorry to be a downer, but I'm shocked to hear this as a recommendation on CH

Dec 10, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia
1

Brunch/lunch rec near 4th & South St.?

I live at 4th and South and LOVE Kanella (10th and Spruce) though not sure how into walking you are. Ethnic, casual BYOB but has the light and brightness of Sabrinas. My personal brunch favorite, actually.

Farmers market is good for snacking but not sure if there's enough there to sustain you if you are hungry for an actual meal...

Oct 16, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia

Any Abe Fisher reviews?

Did you search the board? I did a report on the soft opening...

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9878...

Oct 16, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Wedding Caterers (Report)

Thanks guys!

Oct 01, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Wedding Caterers (Report)

Ok, so the recipe the bar will be using for the old fashioned is:

OLD FASHIONED Muddle: Brandied Cherry, Orange slice, dash syrup, 3 dash Bitters, 2 oz Whiskey, splash Seltzer

Do you approve?

Oct 01, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia

ISO Best French Onion Soup in the Center City

I know you are most likely looking for a restaurant, but (shockingly) this Rachel Ray recipe is super easy and tastes just as good as anything I ever picked up at a restaurant (instead of following her directions on the bread part, I slice and add the traditional amount). Love a good bowl of french onion!

http://www.rachaelraymag.com/recipes/...

Sep 23, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Wedding Caterers (Report)

Nice - I was actually planning on getting the Flor De Cana 4 year but when I called Canal's to verify price they said they only have the 7 year in stock. Thanks for reassuring me on the El Dorado... I was going crazy for a day over it, wondering if I should have one of my NYC guests pick up a bottle but then I realized I had crossed the line into crazy bride mode.

Sep 22, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Wedding Caterers (Report)

Sure, I'll have to get back to you on the specific recipe they are using but my bar list is as follows:

New Amsterdam Gin
Bulleit Bourbon
Luksosowa Vodka
Johnny Walker Black
Cruzan Light Rum
Flor de Cana 7 yr Rum
Cointreau
Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth
Dolin Dry Vermouth

My choices are mostly outside of what the caterers suggested, only because I am a micro manager and wanted to spend the time researching how I could get the most value from brands chosen (ie, scrimping to save $ where possible).

I am a gin drinker so that choice was easy, but things like rum and vermouth I know nothing about - I made my selections based on searching Chowhound and some additional googling. I'm pretty happy with the list, the only disappointment was wanting El Dorado 4yr for my white rum and not being able to locate it anywhere in the Philadelphia/DE/nearby NJ area.

Thoughts?

Sep 22, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia

Homemade Gnocchi at Restaurants

I am partial to the crispy parisienne style at Kennett, a neighborhood joint in Queen Village. It's always on the menu and served with a seasonal combo of vegetables.

Right now the menu shows it served with pulled brisket, currants, confit leek, carrot, celery & cabbage topped with house made farmer’s cheese

Sep 21, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia
1

Philadelphia Wedding Caterers (Report)

Thanks! You may be a good one to ask about this given your bartending background: can you tell me (a bourbon drink layman) the general difference in overall flavor profile between an old fashioned and a manhattan? We had the opportunity to do a maple version of either and I let my fiance make that call but I am curious.

Sep 21, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Wedding Caterers (Report)

This was a really interesting post so thanks for the insight! a recently married friend went your route and staffed their own bartenders pulling from connections at some local cocktail spots - drinks were the Most Important thing to them and that totally makes sense.

Birchtree's (head?) bartender did send me a list of suggested quantities of alcohol to purchase along with recommended brands (about 4-5 for each type of alcohol). After I sent back the exact quantities I was planning on purchasing and reviewed our bar menu (gin greyhound, maple bourbon old fashioned, and two 'virgin' fresh mixers - ginger fizz and a lavender citrus drink) in addition to the usual well type drinks we went through the rentals list and revised final numbers on glassware so they were drink appropriate. Right now our largest order is highball, then equal amounts each of single rocks, double rocks and wine glasses, then a handful of champagne and pils glasses (not doing a toast). This is a great reminder to ask for one (if possible) for sure.

You made an excellent point about extras - I asked the bartender just last week whether they provided bitters so I could be sure to purchase (Birchtree does). The fresh squeezed juice was a special request (of mine). This is a great tip to remember for any future bride/grooms for sure.

Sep 20, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Wedding Caterers (Report)

I didn't actually say... we did go with Birchtree and I do remember reading your post on a catering thread that was about 3 years old and wondering about the issues you briefly touched on.

So far my experience with them has been exemplary - in both food and professionalism. I believe they are a younger company so it is possible they were still working out the kinks at your wedding experience, which definitely sounds problematic. I will be sure to report back after ours next month, but luckily we are doing a plated dinner service so there is no chance to run out of food, and as far as the glassware, that may have been the bride and groom's issue. As the bride, I selected the types of glasses to be used for our reception (ie I am forgoing martini glasses and coupes, so martini drinkers will have to live with a double rocks glass) - it is definitely strange to me there were only wine glasses/goblets available. Hopefully our bartenders know how to make a gin and tonic! Not only is that is my standard drink of choice but one of our signature cocktails is also very similar - gin with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice.

Sep 20, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia
1

Philadelphia Wedding Caterers (Report)

When I started planning my wedding about a year ago, I noticed there was not a ton of information on the board regarding wedding caterers. I was lucky to find a venue where one could select any caterer of their choosing, so after combing Chowhound and a few wedding boards, I put together a list of those with strong food-centric reviews. The companies I spoke with are as follows:

Birchtree
Provence
Brulee
Michael Doris
Cricket
Diverse
Feast Your Eyes
Feastivites
Sage
Frog Commissary

I started out each conversation exactly the same, letting the caterer know they had carte blanche to give me *anything* creative and delicious for the menu proposal, no set budget but rather a range as a starting point, just to see what they could do. Some caterers loved it and proposed some very interesting dishes

The Great:
Birchtree, Michael Doris, and Brulee had the most interesting/creative menus.

We did tastings at Birchtree and with Michael Doris at The Mildred (he was a co owner before it closed a month ago). Birchtree uses seasonal and local ingredients which really showed. Standouts include an amazing bacon in a hearty duck cassoulet and beautiful roasted hen of the woods mushrooms used with a housemade pasta. All appetizers tasted fresh and handmade, and a departure from the usual wedding bites. Loved a mini focaccia topped with roast figs and gorgonzola. Everything they make from the bread to ricotta to drink mixers and simple syrup is homemade which I found really impressive.

Michael Doris served us at the restaurant, so it was hard to say if the same level of quality would be achieved without a full cookline. Really enjoyed the sliders (house meat mix) and chicken and biscuits. Flavors were bold and dishes a nice twist on familiar food elevated from the usual boring fare.

*note: Brulee looked really great but when negotiating budget could not match what others offered, so we did not move forward with a tasting. Brulee does have ties to Lacroix, so there's that.

The Middling: Diverse, Sage

We did a tasting at Sage, who we decided were just too 'weddingy' for what we were looking for. Their shortrib was good enough (not great) but they had an excellent rich and cheesy potatoes au gratin which was done almost in a pomme anna style. Unfortunately their appetizers were a little small and did not seem 'special' enough - ie one that utilized puff pastry was done with those precut fluted mini freezer shells. We did attend a wedding that was catered by Sage, and had a really lovely hot appetizer bite of puff pastry, melty gorgonzola and honey, but the main course steaks were all overcooked (well done). The bride did later tell us she was disappointed as she was assured they would be cooked appropriately (not sure if she was told medium, or med well)

We did not do a tasting with Diverse but attended a buffet style wedding Diverse catered. Their crabcake appetizer was full of lump crabmeat and they offered more interesting choices such as a Moroccan spiced salmon but their accompanying cous cous salad was criminally underseasoned.

Provence, Cricket, Feast Your Eyes, Feastivites - Did not make it past the initial consult. This group still sent over a very pedestrian selection of your usual roast chicken, steak/shortrib, pasta variations.

The Worst:
Frog Commissary never even bothered to return my initial phonecall/voicemail to inquire about availability/pricing. I am attending a wedding they will be catering in a few weeks and will update this thread if I remember.

Sep 19, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia

Trip Report: Dining unexpectedly on a dime

I should clarify - Lee is the quirky owner who has an... interesting deadpan sense of humor.

Sep 15, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia

Trip Report: Dining unexpectedly on a dime

that 100% sounds like a comment Lee himself would make. pretty sure it was a joke, TU

Sep 15, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia

Quick trip from DC - Monk's Cafe, Vedge, Hop Sing?

agree with above 100%

Sep 15, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia

Quick trip from DC - Monk's Cafe, Vedge, Hop Sing?

Another vote for zahav. It's truly the best for both a vegetarian and meat eater to enjoy as well as a great restaurant that is very unique to this city - highly recommend.

Sep 15, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia
1

Best Indian Food on the Main Line

Yeah, I miss having a reason to dine that far out (fiance's commute is now local) on the mainline. Their Lamb Pasanda (similar to korma but deeper flavor) was a favorite.

Sep 15, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia

Trip Report: Dining unexpectedly on a dime

I *think* you are joking but at Hop Sing they card everyone. Before you are let inside. I once saw a woman well above 21 who did not have ID and she was turned away so they are pretty serious about it and also, nothing to do with criminal activity

Sep 15, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia

Best Indian Food on the Main Line

I live in Center City and as of last year Taste of India was better any any of the options downtown hands down (Ekta, Saffron, and some really awful spots on South Street)

Sep 12, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia

Best dumpling dive in Phl Chinatown?

Might as well update this - anyone looking for Dim Sum Garden: it's moved north, to 1020 Race street right across from Hop Sing and next to Lan Zhou

Sep 12, 2014
kasiav in Philadelphia