Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Gusto

240 South 22nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 546-7200
Website

Gusto is tucked away on 22nd, and to be honest, I totally forgot about it. I ate there years ago (+/- 8) when I lived in Rittenhouse, and it was good, but not that memorable. It's still about the same. But for the prices and quality of ingredients, Gusto earns a hefty 4 cheesesteak rating. The pictures will show you why.


The buffalo chicken cheesesteak hoagie was pretty decent. It had freshly shredded romaine and sliced tomato over gooey chicken smothered in a tangy, spicy buffalo sauce served on a nice crusty roll.


The bread here would be better suited to hosting a po' boy, but even with that, it made for a good vessel.


They certainly didn't skimp on the blue cheese either. It was nothing life changing, but not bad in a pinch (that area is a tough spot for a decent lunch at times).


I have also recently had the Italian hoagie, and though it was a bit fancy for my liking, it was surprisingly delicious. I attribute this to the quality of ingredients they use in all of their food. Again, you could certainly do worse, given the neighborhood.


Did I mention the pricing??? The above mentioned chicken cheesesteak ran a whopping $8 and the Italian hoagie came in at under $7. I mean, DiBruno's would serve the same for about twice the price.


They use Carangi's rolls and this seeded version won my heart. The freshly sliced and generously applied Italian meats and thick chunks of sharp prov didn't hurt either. I mean, it is a fancier version of my favorite Italian and given the competitive pricing in a ritzy part of town, I think I'll be revisiting Gusto sooner than later.


Well played.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Pok Pok

3226 SE Division St
Portland, OR
(503) 232-1387
Website

Sometimes you get to a place that is full of hype, and it lets you down. Pok Pok is not that place. Located in Portland, OR it is a landmark for one thing in particular, the wings, but it offers so much more.


Daily specials galore.


I went with friends, and we tried a whole host of menu options – all of which were insanely flavor-packed in their own way.


I do have to say, however, that nothing could touch the wings. Technically they are called "Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings." I just called them heaven. Marinated in sugar and fish sauce, fried crispy, and then tossed in caramelized fish sauce and garlic, these were some of the best wings I have ever eaten.


Spicy, sour, sweet and sticky the crunchy skin was unreal and underneath that shell, the tender meat fell right off the bone. The fat was so well rendered and the remaining meat almost melted on my tongue.


All of the items presented a host of seasonings, mainly the sweet, spicy, and sour profiles that good Thai should always cover. Below is your standard papaya salad, but it was elevated through their use of an exceptionally spicy-sweet-tangy dressing.


Below is the Da Chom's Laap Meuang: Northern Thai spicy hand-minced pork "salad" with aromatics, spices, herbs, cracklings and crispy fried shallots and garlic. Noted on the menu, this dish was learned from a friend's father who lives in a village near Chiang Mai. Not only is every dish perfectly complex in its taste, each one has also got its own story to take it to the next level. Amazing.


What I admired most about Pok Pok were the insane combinations and juxtapositions of flavor and texture. Everything was crunchy and chewy, yet salty and earthy. Fresh herbs and citrus were included with almost everything, and they helped to cut some of the offal and more iron-rich offerings.


The Khao Soi curry bowl with chicken and noodles was pungent, rich, and satisfying. They could have taken the meat off of the bone for ease of eating, but I get it – their M.O. is rustic style. And the fact that I had to work for it made me feel less guilty about eating 5 entrees and a cocktail at lunch.


Accoutrements below.


Chiang Mai sausage with chicharones and spicy green chile dip made for an interesting and salty-delicious treat.


The quick-poached green beans were tied into little knots! How thoughtful (and tedious).


The grilled corn special was very tasty as well. It was a daily special on the board (a spin on elotes, one of my faves) and as with everything else, it presented a complex flavor profile, and gave just enough food to keep you wanting more. As if everything else hadn't been filling already...


Well played, Pok Pok. I hope to be seeing you again very soon.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Larry's Bar and Restaurant

1115 South 2nd St
Millville, NJ
(856) 327-1144
Facebook

I was looking for a quick bite on the way to the shore this summer, and wanted a cold beer to go with it. Larry's seemed to fit the bill. A word of caution, Millville is not the best town, so I advise caution if you actually end up at Larry's depending on the time of day.


Luckily there was almost no one there when I stopped.



The buffalo chicken cheesesteak came on a soft roll that was grilled prior to loading. It was nothing out of the ordinary, but certainly not a bad sandwich.


The meat was finely chopped, and the buffalo sauce mixed in. I did like how the onions were finely chopped and caramelized to the extent that they blended into the meat.


The crab bisque was surprisingly good. It had a sprinkle of Old Bay to zest it up, and though it wasn't earth shattering, it was solid.


Not overly heavy (though loaded with cream), it had some herbs and claw meat to add flavor and texture.


Finally, I had to give the fried pickles a go. These we unique in that they were very thin slices, and it made for an interesting textural experience. I liked the slightly sweet taste, and the crunchy shell. Overall - food was fine, beers were cheap and cold, and I didn't get shot (though the bartender told us there was a shooting there a couple days earlier). So it was a win-win.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Okie's Butcher Shop

2107 Long Beach Blvd
Surf City, NJ 08008
(609) 494-5577
Website

Okie's is a staple of the Long Beach Island scene. I don't make it to the shore very often, but when I do, I love to check out the "beach version" of my favorite thing to eat, sandwiches. Okie's is a very good butcher shop, with a huge prepared food section. And a made-to-order deli, in which I partook.


This place gets packed on the weekends, so just grab a number and hang out for a bit.


The counter people work very fast, and are quite courteous for their speed. The hoagies come wrapped in saran wrap, which makes them perfect for a beach lunch. They are also huge. A "half" (shown below) is more than enough for one person.


They are like a hybrid "sub" and "hoagie" (soagie?), with a hard seeded roll, but cut all the way through.


The meat was freshly sliced, with the cheese nestled between layers. I would have loved some sharp provolone on this, but the overall package was a pretty damn good sandwich. The veggies were fresh, the roll had a perfect chew, and the meat was quality.


The setting certainly didn't hurt my enjoyment of this sandwich either. I would have to say, if I am getting a hoagie in LBI, there is only one choice.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Full Spirited Flavours

Schwenksville, PA 19473
(610) 933-6411
Website

I recently received a package in the mail from a company run by some sisters who make booze-infused cakes. While I was skeptical, because this seemed like a gimmick (and it admittedly is), I wanted to give them a fair shot.


Each box contains four individually wrapped cakes.


From twelve o'clock: Amaretto, chocolate razz, mango coconut and limoncello.


The cakes were very moist, and had a nice shine. Yes, sheen, shimmer, glisten. They looked mouthwatering.


The real shock was the consistency. These were surprisingly delicious cakes, and had a texture that many cakes lack. I assume that an ample use of oil didn't hurt.



The limencello was probably my favorite of the group. They had a nice lemon flavor, with a bit of zip from the sweetly bitter liquor, some extra sugary sweetness from the white chocolate pieces, and the glaze of more limencello helped balance the acidity.


Coconut rum and sweet mango was another favorite. Not cloyingly sweet, and like the rest of the cakes, had a great texture.



Chocolate razz was another crowd pleaser. It's not to say the amaretto wasn't well received, but these three were the definite favorites. I can see this product catering to a niche like work gifts, bridal showers, baby showers etc. I am still shocked at how well the cake turned out given my initial skepticism. Hopefully these sisters continue to do well.


If you're involved with any of the aforementioned events/groups, I suggest you give them a try. Build a gift basket around them!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Wayside Market

469 S Old Middletown Rd.
Media, PA 19063
(610) 566-9989
Website

Every once in a while, a gem escapes my radar. It makes me so happy to stumble upon a place that I never heard of. And love it.


When I walked in and saw the Lisco's bin, I knew I was in the right place.


To really gauge a place, I look to the big two: cheesesteaks and hoagies. In this case, I also ordered some BBQ ranch fries to go alongside as I was feeling particularly chubby.


The "Old World Italian" took the DelCo meat wrap to the extreme. This thing was literally draped with thinly sliced Italian meats.


Sharp Provolone, Genoa, Cappicola, Ham, Coteghino, Pepper Ham, Prosciutto, olive oil, lettuce and tomato are the standard fillings. Works for me. The Liscio's roll held everything together perfectly (as usual) and the ultra thin, fresh sliced cold cuts melted in your (my) mouth.


They didn't over-stuff the sandwich, but rather let the quality of the ingredients (and construction) speak for itself.


The cheesesteak was another no-frills winner. There was no gimmick, just extremely quality meat, a nice ratio of melted cheese throughout, and some sweet caramelized onions. This is how it should be done. My only concern was that it was dangerously close to having too little meat. The quality and seasoning of the chopped beef inside was so good, I let it slide. But I could see that being a complaint.


It was really true of both sandwiches, but they were so good I didn't care. I don't need a mound of meat to chew through, when I can have a great ratio of carbs-to-protein like we have here.


The BBQ Ranch fries were a surprising sleeper hit. The fries were very crispy, fluffy inside, and the salty dry rub was quashed by creamy ranch dressing. Another big winner.


This is the kind of out-of-the way market I LOVE to find. And it truly is out of the way. I don't know how anyone would ever drive past it unless they were lost. Or they heard about the hoagies.