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.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Bob's Haven Deli

1442 Charlestown Road
Phoenixville, PA 19460
(610) 933-8788

Bob's Haven Deli is a local joint in Phoenixville that has been around for ages (over 63 years according their website). They also have the most amazing pizza .gif on there that I have ever seen (see above).

There is a LOT of prep space here, with a large enough waiting area. I was trying to get a picture for a friend who recommended the place and was yelled at by who I can only assume was Bob himself.

They have "Zep's" instead of hoagies. While Zep's are usually a Norristown sandwich, they do pop up sometimes in the surrounding area. As is typical, the Zep is a hoagie with extra raw onions, tomatoes, and NO LETTUCE.

This was not a small sandwich by any stretch. At about $8, it was reasonably priced. I was hoping the hot pepper request would yield hoagie spread, which is the standard for Zep's. Unfortunately, it consisted of a few cherry pepper slices hidden along the bottom of the roll. There were also a load of onions on this. More than even an allium-lover like myself would typically have the pallet for.

Look at the girth of the onion pile. This was a spicy meatball. All in all, the bread was good, the meat was freshly sliced, and the sandwich was pretty well constructed. I would say the combination of onions being a bit much, the lack of hoagie spread on a Zep, and the fact I was yelled at resulted in a three cheesesteak rating. For Phoenixville, not too bad. Of course, this place is also just a hop, skip, and jump away from Foresta's, so I would be hard pressed to forgo the reigning champ for a Zep.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

320 Market Cafe

211 West State Street
Media, PA 19063
(610) 565-8320

The 320 Market (originally written about here) has an outpost in Media that recently moved into nicer, larger digs. It may not look to pretty from the outside, but inside is a nice market, cafe, and full liquor license hangout.

The prepared foods here are always the best. This is still the case.

Pre-made sandwiches and re-heat items available below.

Although the sandwiches were never anything to write home about, the one constant is the chips and pico. Holy hell. The salsa is approximately 50% avocado, and the rest is tomato, red onions, and some sort of voodoo that makes the ingredients stay tart, fresh tasting, and utterly addictive. Some of my favorite anywhere. PP tip: get the to-go version for about $10 over the $6 menu offering. You will get 3 times the salsa and chips, and can take the extra to go.

I am sad to say, the third best thing I had here was a salad. Yes, a salad. The Misto has all kinds of green leaves, nuts, figs, blue cheese, and a house dressing. (the second best thing was the beer)

You can go ahead and skip the Italian. The bread was good, the meat was quality, but the sandwich was tiny, dry, loaded with red onion (?), and subbed basil instead of lettuce. Sometimes things are better left alone. Italian hoagies in the Philadelphia area are one of those things.

Sparsely filled sandwich below.

Compare this with a recent gold standard Italian hoagie and you will understand my tears of sadness.

The meatball looked good in theory, but was another item weak in practice. The sandwich was dry (again), although they did microwave some extra gravy from a container of meatballs in the to-go case for me upon request. The balls themselves were bland, dense, and tended to fall out the back of the roll. After having ricotta meatballs recently, I have developed a palate for fleshy, tender spheres with some zing. These were not they.

Also, meatballs need a supple rolls to avoid the aforementioned "loose rear" issue, and these rolls were better suited to a wetter job.

The market is a great place to get some beer (they have 20 great, reasonably priced drafts) or chips and salsa. But my money is better spent on sandwiches with some soul. And ingredients.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Foresta's Market

1098 West Bridge Street
Phoenixville, PA 19460-2370
(610) 935-1777

Any place that can stay open since the 1930's (serving Phoenixville since 1934) must be doing something right. Even if some of them are entirely overrated. Foresta's is the kind of family-owned market that that makes you wish you lived next door. Quaint, reasonably priced, and with fantastic customer service (aka attitude), this is a throwback to times when things were just plain better.

Now I hadn't been here in decades, but my fond memories of summers spent working at the local skatepark and spending an hour's pay for a lunch that left me rolling on the ground in pleasure/agony were quite strong. They were not wrong. Taking the stroll down memory lane out of the equation, this was still one of the best hoagies I have had in 2015. That made me happy.

The deli is nothing to write home about visually, but it is packed with homemade goods that are a combo of Italian and Pennsylvania Dutch, each with their own comfort food specialties and followings.

The bread was from Amoroso's, which initially caused me to scoff. They have long been the gold standard for Philadelphia area sandwiches, though in recent years have yielded the throne to competition like Aversa's and Liscio's which have that crusty outside that makes a sandwich stand up to the wet ingredients. Lo and behold, you pick your own roll at Foresta's, and I was directed by the wonderful girl working the counter to the bottom row, second from the left. Amoroso's makes a crusty roll I never knew about. Fantastic.

My take from this haul. An Italian hoagie with sharp prov on a CRUSTY Amoroso roll. Pepperoni bread, and Italian mother lickin' hoagie dip. The hoagie dip alone would warrant a five cheesesteak rating. With the other pieces, this was bound for glory.

The Italian was perfectly balanced. They shave the onions, freshly slice the meats, and did not skimp on the sharp provolone. I am not joking nor embellishing when I tell you this is the perfect Italian hoagie. They even used hoagie spread instead of beat old banana peppers or cherry peppers with stems.

The roll held up perfectly, and dare I say, was every bit as good as my current favorites, if not better.

I also got mayo without so much as a wince. Because mayo and salty meat go hand in hand. Look at the construction of this thing. You will not find a better hoagie. Parallel, possibly, but you can't improve on perfection. It's the thing fat kid dreams are made of.

If the Italian wasn't enough for you, the Italian hoagie dip had all of the components, just minced together. The addition of the hot pepper relish gave this some acidity and spice, and the result was a flavor orgy on your tongue. I ate this whole container within a couple hours' of eating the hoagie, but that can be our little secret.

Finally, for dessert, I had a healthy serving of pepperoni bread. Look at the cheese vein running through this roll. Pepperoni worked its way through every fold, and the cheese spanned the width. Airy, well baked, and full of ingredients, you could do much worse for $5.59.

Foresta's reminds you just how much you lose in today's age of extra large super markets and automated everything. They have an incredible butcher, a great little grocery store, and a deli to make you forget all about that "diet" you were pretending to hang on to.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Zoe's Kitchen - Giveaway CLOSE! Elle, you are the winner!

761 W Lancaster Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
(610) 520-1389

The folks at Zoe's Kitchen have offered one lucky Philly Phoodie reader a $25 gift card to any of their locations. To be entered to win, leave a comment on this post about your healthy food that still tastes good (even though it's not smothered in butter) and be sure to send me your contact information ( so we know how to get in touch with the winner. Contest closes 3/24/15 at 12 PM EST. Winner to be drawn at random.

I had never even heard of Zoe's Kitchen, but when I was also offered a gift card to try some food, of course I was into it. Although they specialize in fresh, healthy food, I was still willing to give them a shot.

The inside is like a mash-up of Chipotle and Jamba juice. You order at the counter and make your way to a table with one of those little numbers on a standing stick things. This place is CLEAN. Also, the people working there were extremely friendly. It makes sense for a Mediterranean/Southern place.

Two of my favorite things here were their Greek dressing and spice blend, both available on every table.

You will be happy to have the salty spices and red wine vinegar tinged dressing to pep up the fresh healthy food they serve. It is all lacking a bit of salt, but I think that's what makes it healthy? But that's also why they let you season your own food. For a starter, I went with the hummus trio. Served with fresh raw veggies, pita wedges, and toasted pita chips, the red pepper, basil, and plain hummus's were pretty filling. I think my body is not used to raw vegetables, and so I felt artificially full. After a weekend of binge eating (including burritos at 2AM at Frankford and Girard, and two racks of ribs on the new Big Green Egg) this healthy food fit the bill. The hummus was very light and nicely textured. It did need a bit of salt, which I took care of by hitting it with the spice blend on my table.

My favorite was probably the roasted red pepper, but they were all good. I can't remember when I ate this healthy in the recent past. I mean, I DO get lettuce on my Chiptole, so I guess that's close?

The shrimp skewer platter was legitimately delicious. The shrimp were coated in a fantastic spice blend that had garlic and hints of paprika. They were surprisingly well executed, lightly charred and crispy without being overcooked; served over a bed of rice pilaf that had really nice flavor. The cucumber raita was a decent dip, and the salad had a load of feta, which is always a treat. Again, I was addicted to the dressing and spices, so I loaded it up. I was really surprised with how fresh and crisp all the vegetables were. I am pretty sure mine aren't that fresh within three minutes of leaving the grocery store.

Look at the beautiful crust and char on these things – the meat was delicately sweet. I actually even liked the zucchini.

The Greek chicken pita didn't fare so well. The problem was that it really wasn't a sandwich. Just a salad served in half a pita. When I tried to pick it up, all was lost.

Loaded with feta again.

Side of slaw had feta and was dressed with an oil and vinegar dressing. Pretty light and refreshing.

The aftermath of the first pita bite. A breech of the bottom and an outpouring of caramelized onions.

The bread tore in short order, so I doused the whole thing in more dressing/spice blend and ate it like a salad. Formal structure aside, it was quite tasty.

Even though this isn't my usual type of food, it was pretty damn good for a healthy alternative. I hope whoever wins is able to nurse their hangover with some fresh fare like I did.