Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Snyder of Berlin

PA's Laurel Highlands
(near Pittsburgh)

I am often asked to review products, and I usually forget to respond to those requests (sorry PR people!). However I DO love some chips, and Berlin, Pennsylvania holds a special place in my heart (I ate a sandwich there once), so Snyder of Berlin was too good to pass up. I received a large box, with three bags of chips inside.

Rippled, BBQ, and "Vlasic" dill flavored chips were my fodder for this post. They've recently revamped their packaging to more accurately reflect their love of all things Americana. Pretty cool.

Unfortunately they got a bit crushed in transit (not Snyder's fault).

Initial results were as to be expected – I liked the "Sweet and Sassy" BBQ best, followed by dill, and finally the ruffled. Nothing wrong with ruffled, but I like the flavor to punch me in the gullet. And I didn't have any time to whip up my famous French onion dip, so they were sort of at a loss.

I decided to eat the dill pickle version on their own, while pairing the ruffled and BBQ with a sandwich. The dill had a tart and salty flavor, much like the fermented cukes they were based off of. The ruffled were good for an over-the-top sandwich, and took the place of potatoes with my breakfast club riff. Fried egg, arugula, bacon, and hot pepper relish, with some salty crisp chips to sop up the yolk. Pretty delicious.

The BBQ were put to task complementing my corned beef sandwich another afternoon. They're not kettle cooked, but they have good texture and really addictive flavoring. Sweet, tangy with pops of fresh parsley flavor, these were definitely the best.

Next time you're in the west-central PA area, grab a bag and see for yourself.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Tacos El Rodeo

(food truck)
1000 Washington Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(267) 997-3415

Always on the lookout for top notch Mexican, I had seen/heard about the Tacos El Rodeo, and it got rave reviews, so I figured it was worth a try. My consensus, however, is that it needs to try harder. There were a surprising number of walk-up patrons at 5 PM on a Saturday, including a cook from Paesano's. He said it was hands down the best in the city. I immediately regretted ordering only three tacos and a burrito.

It had potential, with a spit of al pastor, and friendly folks working inside. Not to mention the sweet-ass mural covering the truck itself. A real beaut.

I took my offerings to Garage, which not only boasts a rotating food cart inside, but allows all outside food as well. I was excited for the fiesta about to transpire on my taste buds, but was left with a flavor siesta instead.

The burrito was well wrapped, the lard-infused tortilla looked so very promising – glistening in the setting sunlight, I could almost taste the fatty flavor. The inside had a sufficient amount of al pastor, but everything else must have gotten run out of flavor town.

The al pastor was chewy and mostly gristle; the rest of the components were just bland and kind of mushy. I wondered if they had run out of salt. The rice was missing that 'cooked with bouillon' flavor. Even the hot sauce had little to no spice, and was a watered down version of the traditional Mexican sauces I know and love. That tortilla was pretty much the most flavorful item.

The chicken tacos were equally as underwhelming. Sure, they were a deal at $2 a pop, but having eaten hundreds of street tacos (I spent my drinking years out west), these were just so boring. The avocado was a nice touch, but I couldn't get any bit excited about these. The chicken pieces were also without any noticeable flavor and again, the tortillas may have been the stand-out flavor. So disappointing.

I mean, when you're slingin' your wares in the hotbed of Mexican restaurants, you can't perform so lazily with seasonings. The people working were VERY nice, but my itch was not scratched. Maybe I caught them on an off day, or maybe I have become spoiled with my go-to spots around the city. I'll stick to my favorites for now...

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Bittersweet Kitchen

18 S. Orange Street
Media, PA 19063
(610) 566-1660

There are some great places in "Everybody's Hometown" but the go-to breakfast spot, Seven Stones, has really dropped off in the recent past. Good thing a newcomer stepped up to take the throne. Bittersweet Kitchen has a medium sized menu, casual dining room, and great food. Take, for example, my scratch biscuit with bacon, egg, and cheese. The biscuit was reminiscent of the legendary Red Lobster version, except made from real ingredients and not totally shitty.

The bacon was cooked well, and the egg nicely peppered and folded below. A solid breakfast sandwich all around.

The Huevos Rancheros featured sunny-side up eggs, corn tortillas, house-made beef chili, cheddar, tomatillo salsa, pico de gallo, avocado crema, and breakfast potatoes. The eggs were perfectly sunny-side up, the ingredients all were fresh, and well proportioned.

One of my favorites was the pickle chips. I ALWAYS love fried pickles, even at breakfast, and these were very well breaded, crispy, and had a nice spicy dipping sauce that I could have used on my biscuit.

Another side, the blackened brussel sprouts with bacon, had a delicious char, plenty of salt, and were tender yet not overcooked. A definite winner, even for breakfast.

My final taste was the sweet potato and black bean chili. I am always a sucker for anything served in a skillet, and although next time I would try the beef version (I already had beef in my Huevos), this was not a bad rendition of veggie chili. The cornbread was delicious, and I used it to mop up the oil left from the sprouts. The coffee is also quite good, which is very important for a breakfast joint. There was not much to complain about here. I think I know where I will be going for the hangover breakfast in the future.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Frankie's on Fairview

604 Fairview Road
Woodlyn, PA 19094
(610) 543-2300

I am not inherently a breakfast person. Although I do love a hearty weekend breakfast, lunch is my favorite meal of the day, and in that regard, I don't cover a lot of greasy spoons. Frankie's was not on my radar as I don't frequent Woodlyn, but last Saturday I hopped on the motorcycle and decided on a breakfast ride. I found myself near Frankie's, and hot damn, I am glad I stopped in. Frank the owner is a food service veteran, and it shows. I heard rumors of him expanding, and if he keeps the product consistent, I think a lot of folks will be saying "Sabrina's USED to be the best" (I for one have NEVER been impressed with Sabrina's).

They have a rather large menu, with breakfast and lunch offerings. They even offer some vegan options if you don't like real food.

The coffee was Lavazza, and it was a huge step up from typical diner coffee. One of my biggest pet peeves with breakfast spots is when they have gourmet food and crappy coffee; that's an automatic cheesesteak off the rating. Not at Frankie's though.

The "Ultimate Biscuit" was a must order. One plate, containing at least 3 meals' worth of food. It housed buttermilk fried chicken, applewood smoked bacon & two sunny side up eggs, served open face on a biscuit with sausage gravy. Yes, all of those things rolled into one pile of savory flavor.

The chicken was prepared Japanese Katsu style, thinly pounded and panko fried; it was tender, juicy and the outer shell stayed very crispy throughout the time it took me to down this entire load. The gravy had a hint of maple, and was filled with chunks of sausage. 2 perfectly sunny side up eggs doused with some drops of sriracha, usually something I would complain about as it tends to overpower, but the heat cut through the richness of this dish and the sparse application was just right.

The bacon hid underneath, and I was so happy to dig into a slice as I cut into the fried chicken. Perhaps my favorite part is that I was JUST about to complain about the lack of bread, as I had completely forgot about that delicious biscuit resting underneath this mountain of calories. And then there it was. In all its crumbly, buttermilk glory.

Nicely seasoned/peppery gravy and well fried bacon.

Look at that biscuit hiding under the pile of dreams.

Never one for moderation when heavy dairy-based sauces are involved, I also tried the creamed chipped beef (or SOS). This iteration was served over Texas toast. I absolutely LOVE SOS, and this certainly did not disappoint. The dried beef was tender and salty, the bechamel was creamy and well spiced. To further the indulgence, the Texas toast acted as a carb-centric vessel to deliver indulgence to my overwhelmed taste buds. I was basically like this when the dish hit my lips.

The crispy potatoes were fried very well, and as had been the standard for all other things throughout this meal, very well seasoned. To perfection.

This is a perfect breakfast spot. Hands down one of the best I've ever experienced. As I waddled back to my motorcycle, I was already planning a return trip to try out their lunch menu. I have to recommend this as somewhere that could stand against any of the famous breakfast/brunch spots in the area. Every dish I saw served would have been a winner, though ordering something other than my staples is going to take some effort.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Qdoba (of Conshohocken)

200 West Ridge Pike #108
Conshohocken, PA 19428
(484) 243-6118

While it may not be my typical fare, I have some love for fast food. In particular, new "fast casual" chains where they are serving actual food, and not the garbage you get at the Golden Arches. Qdoba is a weakness of mine, especially with all of the new spicy options. I get so tired of "hot" not actually being hot. They put the heat into some spicy queso dips, and it has improved my love of burrito-bar chains. Oh, and they invited me to come "roll my own" at a grand opening in Conshy which was a perfect fit for an April twentieth posting. See below for video.

The new interior is much sleeker than what I was used to. ¡Qué color! They're officially opening tomorrow and are having a DJ with some free foods tonight. If you can't make that, then click here to get a coupon for free chips and salsa tomorrow only.

I was brought some of the new quesos to sample. The spicy version was called "el Diablo" and it brought the heat. Plus, it was spicy cheese. So it was obviously a winner. The three cheese blend was a mixture of cheese thinned with tortilla soup. A good use of resources. It certainly had more complexity than the capsaicin version.

The next sample was "Mexican Gumbo" which was really just the burrito ingredients served over rice and tortilla soup. Still, it showed some creativity, and let you create the stew you want.

We were also treated to a handmade guac tutorial. where they took 87 (appx) avocados, and smashed them using a giant masher. It was pretty impressive for a burrito chain, Especially if you have ever had WAWA's guac, which tastes like citric acid mixed with unripe bananas.

The guacamole was good, could have used a bit more salt, but the acidity was there, and I was more than happy to eat well over my fair share.

Now for the moment of truth. Qdoba - behind the glass. I strapped on my gloves and showed my dinner mates how the rolling was done.

My personal trainer was very knowledgeable (as was all of the staff we encountered) and anxious to help.

I used almost everything on the line.

Including their bacon jalapeño queso. That's right, they have 3 different kinds and I put a bit of each on my pile. The bacon jalapeño is amazing.

See a video below if you want to waste a minute watching me roll a giant burrito and struggle to atone for my glutenous choices on the line.

Now that was just the roll, you can waste 6 more minutes of your life and watch me down the entire line if you want. CLICK HERE to do so.

My dining mates were convinced they rolled a better burrito. But I disagree.

Guess which one is mine?

So anyway, check out the new menu at Qboda, they have a whole bunch of new menu items, and possibly win a card for a free entree... Come back tomorrow and enter to win.