Friday, April 18, 2014

Xi'an Famous Foods

(Midtown Location)
24 W. 45th Street
New York, NY 10036
(347) 294-0022

Xi'an Famous Foods is a multiple-venue operation in Manhattan with a lot of press, and a wide following. I was in Midtown for some business, and I decided to give that location a shot, because Midtown is a food desert for cheap eats.

The space is small inside, just a counter and a wall menu in the front, but you can see the food being prepped, which is always nice.

I also like the simplicity of wall menus (with pictures of course).

It didn't take too long, and was relatively cheap. I was able to find a seat in the back dining area by playing hawk.

The spicy cucumbers were a bit of a let down. They were spicy and oily, but not much else. I think I am spoiled by most of the places in both Chinatown's.

There was literally no flavor. Where was the ginger, garlic, sugar? Where was the umami?

The stewed pork burger at about $3.50 was my favorite piece of the visit. A nicely grilled bun, and fatty, flavorful meat, this alone saved the 3 cheesesteak rating from spiraling down to a two (or one, dare I say it).

The meat was nicely spiced, with some kick, but had this rich fattiness that kept me coming back.

Look at the fat glisten, and the meaty shreds with pieces of skin.

The pork Zha Jiang hand ripped noodles was "a savory-sweet pork stew, tossed with biangbiang noodles and a generous portion of cucumbers, scallions, celery, and chives." This was a decent dish, but again, there was spice and not a whole lot else. I am used to multi-faceted noodle dishes, with contrasting flavors. The noodles had a nice spring to them, but I can think of many better variations.

The "Concubine chicken" was the biggest let-down. According to the menu "Our biangbiang noodles mixed with pieces of bone-in dark chicken meat, sauteed, stewed, and mixed with our secret house sauce." The bone in chicken was a pain to eat, and the tiny pieces of meat on the bone left something to be desired. Again, the sauce was one note.

Pieces of bone were so hard to find, they were small and jagged = choking hazard. No thank you.

I eventually combined the noodle dishes, and suddenly it had a lot more complexity.

Still not worth going out of your way for. Next time I would try some of the cumin lamb, and definitely get another Chinese burger.

Friday, April 4, 2014


[FREE shipping on 8lbs. if you mention this post!!!]
322 N. Main Street
Moscow, PA 18444
(570) 842-7392

***UPDATE, APRIL 15, 12:30PM***

We did not hear from CT in time, so we randomly generated another winner!

TJGersh - please email to work out the details!

April 9, 2014
WINNER ANNOUNCED! Email me at to work out the details! Thank you for playing everyone and look for another contest coming soon! If CT doesn't contact by 12pm EST on 4/14/14, we will draw an alternate winner.

If you read the review of Sam's Butcher Shop, you know it's no joke. Rather than tease you with pictures of meat, Sam's has offered a prize of shipped meat for the newest (and hottest!) Philly Phoodie contest. 4lbs, your choice, shipped to the winner selected at random who leaves a comment on this post with their favorite type of meat. Whether it's smoked, cured, raw, poultry, beef, etc. Just let us know what you love, and be sure to check back on Wednesday to see if you won. See below for official details and become Sam's newest, most satisfied customer!

Contest details:
When: Start-Friday, April 4, 2014 at posting. End- 4/9/14 12pm EST. 
What: 4 pounds of your choice of meat from Sam The Butcher shipped to your door.
How: Leave a comment on your favorite meat product, and be sure to email your contact info or check back on Wednesday to see if you win! Comment within the parameters set forth, subject to my sole discretion. Winner to be chosen at random. 
Who: Anyone can enter, but to be eligible for the prize you must have an address within the parameters of Sam's shipping radius ( those in a 1-day radius which covers NY, NJ, CT, DE, MD, Eastern half of PA, and DC Metro Area (includes parts of VA and WV).  Again, eligibility for shipping  is subject to Sam's discretion in conjunction with Philly Phoodie. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sam's Butcher Shop

322 N. Main Street
Moscow, PA 18444
(570) 842-7392

Back in the cold and lonely days of March 2014, I received a warm and fuzzy email from a fellow by the name of "Sam The Butcher". His message was riddled with words like "smoked sausages, kielbasa, andouille, two types of bacon, pork shoulder, porchetta, pulled pork, and old fashioned smoked hams," and I knew my winter gloom was about to seriously improve.

Sam is an 'artisan meat processor specializing in smoked and cured meats,' and his shop is located north of the city, closer to the Poconos, but he does not have a storefront. In other words, all of his sales are done via the internet at, and like magic, the delicious meat products are then shipped to your front door. He limits his geographic reach to the Mid-Atlantic region, to ensure maximum freshness. Sam offered to let me try a sampling of his artisan meats on a Wednesday (of course I couldn't say no) and then Thursday morning I was greeted with a compact Styrofoam cooler packed full of beautifully wrapped butcher paper presents.

All of his items come already cooked/smoked/cured, so everything is ready to go on arrival. My care package was a selection of those mouthwatering items Sam had mentioned a week before, which was A LOT, so I figured that a meat-tasting party was in order. I called over my closest, most meat-appreciative friends and got to work on the spread. First things first, I decided to put out the ready-to-eat finger foods for some light snacking.

These are the smoked kielbasa sticks, AKA gourmet slim jims. Who doesn't love a good snap in every bite of the old meat stick? I know I sure do. They were a mild variety, with a decidedly kielbasa flavor. Firm and salty, these boys are smoked for four (4) hours with cherry wood, which adds to their reddish color.

Next sampler was the smoked andouille: a Cajun sausage loaded with spices and ingredients including ancho chile powder, garlic, red pepper and gumbo filé; they are also smoked for 4 hours using cherry.

These dark and luscious little coins hit you with a powerful heat, a low and smoky ancho flavor that sneaks up on you moments after chewing through the savory meat.

Definitely a good one for a cracker, mustard and cheddar platter. Think of it as a fancier, more flavorful version of ring bologna - a refined version with a grown up heat. I'd serve these at every party on my appetizer plate, and will surely be stocking up for Memorial Day. Did someone say Father's Day presents?

After the first course of room temperature light bites, it was time to fire up the flat top for some more serious meat prep. I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I can't speak highly enough of the Blackstone 36" griddle station. I'm talking game changer. I purchased one back in the summer of '13 and my life will never be the same again. Seriously.

It's a free standing, propane-fired griddle, so you can do your manly things outside, make a mess, and your wife will be none the wiser. But she WILL swoon when you decide to have hibachi night for her friends. But back to the matter at hand. First up, I threw on some of the smoked kielbasa grillers: a skinless (no casing) version of kielbasa that is more finely ground than the original and ideal for sandwiches.

In addition to the meats in casings, Sam also offers his version of porchetta: an Italian version of pulled pork seasoned with garlic, dill, and pepper. Traditionally the pork is rolled with herbs and seasonings inside, roasted and then sliced to serve. (I know it looks strange in a Ziploc bag, but see below and watch this stuff transform.)

The only way to cook the grillers is split down the middle and face down on a greased skillet. You could 'grill' them over open fire, but I much prefer a buttery browning via the Maillard reaction, giving the meat a richly caramelized surface. Delicious.

It turns out I have a lot of meat-centric friends, so I had to maximize the meat-to-person ratio by cutting the grillers into pieces for all to enjoy. Multiple times.

And boy, did we! All it takes is a little hot and sweet mustard and a simple saltine vessel to serve these up. Smoky with a mild spice to it, these kielbasas are a winner. Of course, if I had more of them (or fewer friends), we'd be eating them whole on a Liscio's roll with spicy mustard and maybe some cheddar or kraut.

The porchetta also browns nicely on a lightly greased skillet - just look at how beautiful it is.

The dill and garlic melt into the tender pork, and again, getting some of the caramelization on the pulled bits is key to making the flavors pop. Rich with the flavor of fresh herbs, I would serve this porchetta time and time again to my closest friends and family - they don't need to know that it came in a box through the mail, nor will they ever find out...

Porchetta is frequently served on a roll with fixin's, as you would find a traditional roast pork style sandwich, but sometimes just tasting the meat on its own is all you need.

Next item to hit the griddle is the BBQ pork: pork shoulder that is coated with a barbecue rub, smoked over cherry wood for twelve hours and then pulled. This came the same way as the porchetta, tightly packed into an air tight bag, and as soon as it hit the flat top, I could tell it was going to be another success.

You could hit it with some of your favorite barbecue sauce, but it doesn't even need it. The meat is tender, moist and full of BBQ flavor on its own. It had a mild spice, but was mostly smoky and sweet – we were literally grabbing it by the handful off the communal tasting plate.

That was all I could handle for the 'tasting' party (it was getting dark and I was ready for some drinking), so I put the remaining two products away for another day's meal. Fast forward 2 days, I decided on some BLTs for dinner to make the most of the 2 packages marked "buckboard bacon" and "keilbasa bacon."

Much to my surprise, they weren't what I had in mind when thinking "bacon." It turns out that Sam (to quote the butcher himself) 'uses the pork shoulder to make bacon rather than the pork belly, which is used to make slab bacon. His pork shoulder bacons have less than a third of the fat of slab bacon but with the same crispiness and flavor. They are also not as dry as Canadian Bacon.'

I still chose to go the BLT route and pulled out my cast iron skillet to fry up some ham. Above is the buckboard bacon: shoulder that's marinaded in molasses which imparts a dark brown color and sweet flavor. And below is the smoked kielbasa bacon: made with the pork shoulder and flavored with kielbasa seasoning. It pretty much speaks for itself.

These are also ready to eat right out of the package. The buckboard reminded me of a honey baked ham, sweet and crispy outer rim with a smooth and salty interior with fat that just melted on my tongue. Delicious. The kielbasa 'bacon' was more like a smoked bologna that definitely tasted like kielbasa.

What's not to love about fried bologna?

Throw it on some white bread with mayo, lettuce, tomato and a little bit of mustard hitting the meat and voilá! You have yourself a healthy fried ham sandwich!

Many thanks to Sam for opening my eyes to the joys of mail-order cured and smoked meats. His prices are completely affordable for such a high quality product and this dude is legit. If only mail-order brides could be as reliable...

Check back Friday for Sam's MEATSRAVAGANZA GIVEAWAY!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Shiprock Pop-up

Navajo Frybread Tacos
At Garage on Passyunk
March 17th 2014

After the success of last year's frybread pop-up at 12 Steps Down, the proprietors of Shiprock and famous Philadelphian & food illustrator Hawk Krall (see hoagie drawing at right) brought it all back to Garage for a second run.

Shiprock is made up of two masterminds (seen below): Marcos Espinoza and Lucio Palazzo. Marcos is a blogger over at Fidel Gastro and Lucio is the chef at Taqueria Feliz in Manayunk (formerly of La Calaca Feliz on Fairmount). And that's pretty much all I know.

Well, that and that Hawk is pretty much the coolest illustrator I know.

Garage has a little cart inside that can be used by food industry folks, by request, to sell their munchables to nearby drunks, like myself. This is the first time I'd seen it in use.

This night they were offering a twist on the traditional fry bread taco by throwing some chili dog action in the mix. No doubt this was influenced by Mr. Krall. The other recommendation came from all three of the purveyors and it was to try the goat birra. This was a no brainer, so I put the order in.

Hot and fresh from the fryer. (the bread is all Marcos)

The tacos are made with love, each one assembled carefully at the hand of Lucio.

The goat meat looked mouthwateringly delicious and I couldn't wait to dig in.

They hooked me up with a little extra jus, so there was no way to pick this one up with my hands. This slopfest called for a knife and fork. The goat meat was tender and juicy, with a mild spice and more of a beefy flavor. It didn't really taste like goat or lamb. It could have been some beef short rib for all I knew. Whatever it was, it was the most delicious component I had that evening.

There was a lot going on with the toppings, a bit too much at once and it was hard to discern one ingredient from another. The fry bread got soggy from all that delicious jus, which was fine with me. It just didn't have much flavor of its own.

Next up was the hot dog. This was more easily handled as a taco, I could pick it up without fear of it falling apart.

Here again, lots of ingredients, but little in the flavor department. A pretty big meh on the hot dog all around.

All in all, I love the idea of the Navajo fry bread taco, but I also love the idea of a more flavorful vessel. Think funnel cake without the sweet and with little salt to steer it the other direction. Here's to hoping the next Shiprock pop-up packs a flavor punch to match their colorful and attention-grabbing illustrations.