Friday, February 20, 2015

Big Green Egg | Pizza Party

Well, given the previous post about Red Pack tomatoes, I knew some pizza sauce was in order. This is one of the best pizza sauces ever. It's simple: whole peeled tomatoes, fresh minced garlic, oregano, red wine vinegar, quality olive oil and salt & pepper (I also added some garlic powder for some extra umph! Recipe below.) It's also uncooked because when your Big Green Egg hits temps of 700-800, it's plenty hot to 'cook' the sauce; this keeps it tangy, sweet and bright.

In addition, some homemade pizza dough was necessary. It is really not as onerous as you would think, in fact, if you have a Kitchen Aid mixer, the process is pretty damn easy. Three important pieces to this are using at least OO flour (very fine) letting the dough sufficiently rise so that it is not too elastic, and stretching it out THIN. I love thin crust pizza, and it took me two pies to get the method down for cracker thin crust (it had been a WHILE since I had made pizza at home. Recipe also below).

Oh, two more tips. I used a pizza peel covered in cornmeal to set the pies up, and then slid them into an 800 degree Big Green Egg! When using an Egg, the longer you leave the lid open, the cooler you are going to go. This is exponentially magnified when it is in the teens (as it was when I was making these pizzas). Twenty seconds with the lid open and the dome temp was down 150 degrees. You want to make sure your stone is hot, rather than just the Egg/grill/oven. I let it heat for at least an hour prior to pizza time. I am a newbie to the BGE, but I can't recommend it enough. It's expensive, but it's so much fun. The range of temperatures is mind boggling.

My first effort below. They started getting thinner after this one - admittedly, I was in a rush to get my pizza party started.

Look at how the cheese started to brown. This was the worst pizza of the four I made and it was better than 99% of the pizza I have eaten in my life. Which is a boatload of pizza.

The second pizza got better through the incorporation of spicy meats.

This version incorporated previously made meatloaf (also smoked to perfection on the egg), and featured BBQ sauce and cheddar. Incredible.

The char on the bottom is perfect. Each pizza cooked in a couple minutes. I can't wait to have some pizza parties. Now if I only had friends.

BEST MARINARA RECIPE (this recipe should do about 6 pies)
1 (28oz.) can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
1 can of tomato paste
2-3 cloves of minced garlic
2 T red wine vinegar
1 T quality olive oil
1 t oregano
1 t garlic powder
salt & pepper to your taste

I was following a recipe that called for one can of tomatoes, but it didn't say to dump out the liquid, so I went all-in with the entire contents and added a can of tomato paste later to thicken the juicy sauce and I couldn't have been more pleased with the result. So I'm telling you here my exact method.

Dump the 28oz can of tomatoes with juice and the minced garlic into a medium stock pot (not because you'll be cooking it, but because the high walls will help reduce splash action in the next step). Using a potato masher, smash the tomatoes until they're pulverized and broken into bite size chunks that suit your fancy. Do not use any sharp blades or machines to do this step because you do not want to break the seeds open - the broken seeds will just add unwanted bitterness to your sweet and tangy sauce. Once you have a good crush going, add the remaining ingredients and mix well with the potato masher, again, just combine everything and don't get too aggressive. Make sure your tomato paste is amply dissolved and you're done! Set it aside until you're ready to spoon it onto your crust.

THIN CRUST PIZZA DOUGH RECIPE (this recipe did 4 10 inch pies and takes almost 3 hours)
By weight - I do not recommend volume measurements for any baking because precision is key
500 grams Tipo 00 flour
325 grams lukewarm water
10 grams salt
6 grams sugar
3 grams active dry yeast

Mix all ingredients in a stand mixer, slowly for 2 minutes, faster for 5 minutes and then slowly again for 2 minutes. Remove bowl from stand and form dough into loose ball and cover with Saran wrap and set in a warm area to let it rise for about 1.5-2 hours; punch it down and push any air bubbles out. Form the dough into a loose ball again and cut into four equal pieces. If you want bigger pies or a thicker crust, do three equal pieces. Form each of those pieces into balls with a smooth top and seam-side down, set them on a baking sheet and dust the tops lightly with flour; cover with the Saran wrap (this prevents them from drying out, you want them to stay moist until you're ready to roll out your crusts) and let them rest for another 45 minutes to an hour. This is important because the balls will become soft and elastic, allowing you the thinnest crustabilities.

Roll that shit out!
On a lightly floured surface.

Top it!
With anything.

Cook it!
On a pizza stone in a 500 degree oven if you don't have a grill. Your ideal temp is 700-800, so if you have a grill and a stone, try that to get even hotter. You want your stone to be piping hot before sliding the pie on - put cornmeal down on the stone and put it on your pizza peal - or if you don't have a peal, use the bottom of a baking sheet as your prep surface and slide your pie easily off it into the oven.

How long?
Keep an eye on it. You'll know when it's ready.


Friday, February 13, 2015

Red Pack Giveaway- WINNER- Sandra Meaders

UPDATE- Sandra Meaders- Please email me ( and I will get you your prize pack! Congrats!

Do YOU like pizza/gravy/stew? Do you ALSO like free stuff? Red Pack is giving away a free kit to a reader. It will be shipped to your home and look like the below. I got this pack, and am using the fantastic tomatoes to make pizza sauce for my new Big Green Egg (post coming). In the meantime, leave a comment below about your favorite canned tomato based recipe/dish/experience, and one winner will be chosen at random (please remember to email me your contact info or check back on 2/18/15 to see if you won). If you hate the Philly Phoodie website and refuse to comment, but still love winning free tomato based goods, you can enter on their Facebook page until March 4th. Our winner will be chosen on Wednesday, February 18th at 12 PM EST, when the comments will close and the winner will be chosen. Good luck!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Frankie's Cafe

25 South Eagle Road
Havertown, PA 19083
(610) 449-8771

I was recently looking for somewhere to eat before a show at the Tower, but didn't feel like Pica's. I decided to try a little corner bar that offered some home-style South Philly Italian that was recommended to me.

Frankie's is a two floor space with a bar on the first and a restaurant on the second. I chose to sidle up to the bar and grab some sandwiches (and beers). Two of the menu items I have a hard time passing up just about anytime I see them. A meatball sandwich and a chicken cutlet. I also feel these are great barometers of a place's ability to do Italian comfort food. One thing you will note, the chips are fried fresh, which is a nice touch.

The chicken cutlet was nicely fried, with a crispy seasoning and nice thin slices of meat. The provolone was melted and in good proportion to the rest of the fillings. As usual, the garlicy broccoli rabe added some bitterness and zest to the heavy sandwich.

The side of "gravy" was fresh, acidic, and a welcome addition to the chicken cutlet sandwich. Dipped or ladled, marinara usually doesn't disappoint.

The meatball was similarly smothered in cheese, and again, melted to a delicious coverage.

The meatballs themselves were light, juicy, and had plenty of seasoning. The bread was toasted to help hold it together with the sloppy mess going on in the middle. It was perfect comfort food, and didn't break the bank at about $9 a sandwich.

Add great lighting/atmosphere (darkness) with some reasonably priced drafts and you've got one heck of a joint.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Front Street Fountain

1 W Front Street
Media, PA 19063
(610) 565-4130

Everybody's Hometown has a lot of great little Mom and Pop shops. Front Street Fountain is the perfect place to stop in for a hot dog or burger and some ice cream.

If you have kids, this is the place to go. It is always packed with young ones who are equally excited for a grilled dog as they are for a milkshake. Myself, I was most excited for chili cheese fries.

The fries were perfectly crispy, the cheese perfectly processed, and the chili was salty and chock full of meat. I was a happy camper.

They also layered the toppings quite nicely, making sure they were distributed throughout.

I wanted to give the burgers a try. The bleu onion boasted BBQ sauce, bleu cheese, and an onion ring. When I ordered, I had thought there might be a little more to it than that. I was wrong. I was wishing for some lettuce, tomato, onion, or something. I guess I should have known that the was quite literal. Anyway, from the below picture, I believe you can assess the situation as dry.

This was not a $7.25 burger. Especially when I could go to Freddy's and get a meal for that amount. The patty itself was under-seasoned and overcooked. The bread was overwhelming. The onion ring was nicely fried, but that was certainly not going to save this one. It was reminiscent of something that would be at a church cookout.

I had better luck with the crispy chicken club. The roll was fresh and spongy. The vegetables were crispy, as were the chicken and bacon. It ate more like a meal than the burger, and was a much better value.

The chicken breading was deliciously crunchy, and well fried. I needed extra mayo, but that usually is the case anyway. It wasn't mind blowing, but it was solid enough. Next time, I would recommend sticking to the chicken, dogs, and ice cream.

Clearly it's a family place and the kids all seemed more than happy with their plates so if you find yourself babysitting or on a road trip through Media with your niƱos, stop on in.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Spatola's Pizza

20 West Lancaster Avenue
Paoli, PA 19301
(610) 644-1544

Pizza in the burbs is typically better than pizza in the city. Before you raise the pitchforks, hear me out. The average pizza place in the city (not high end), has some medium thickness crust that tastes like cardboard, and bland rubbery cheese that tastes like nothing. Often called "Greek style" it's garbage. The average suburban pizza place at LEAST makes a thin slice and uses real cheese. Now obviously there are exceptions, but this is often the case. You hit about any spot in South Jersey and the pizza is at least decent. I have ordered and not eaten pizza a number of times in Philly because I would rather go somewhere and eat something better. Spatola's is one of the suburban places that is hard to top.

They offer a larger number of slice pies, strombolis, and breadsticks.

Oh, and these insane little mushroom rolls.

Did I mention the pepperoni sticks? Holy hell. Look at that delightful little cheese topper, complete with parsley sprinkle.

Obviously those two items had to be mine. The pepperoni sticks were amazing. They were also something like $2 so they made for a hell of a cheap snack. The bread was nicely browned, the cheese made for a nice stringy pull-apart, and the pepperoni left just enough grease to keep it salty and tasty. These are like an adult version of a hot pocket. I am in love.

The mushroom roll was a bit more refined. Sauteed funghi with carmelized onions, and mozzarella. Another great little snack. I was carbo-loading before my pizza course was ready.

One of my favorite parts about the whole place is that they offer Trenton-style slices as well as the regs. Simple sauce of crushed tomatoes, a bit of salt and herbs. The thin, square crust was perfectly cooked, and had an addictive crunch.

Not to be outdone, I threw a slice of sausage on the order as well. Thinly sliced meatcurls adorned the top of this one, and it was cheap pizza perfection once again. A slightly sweet sauce, quality cheese, and thin crunchy crust were augmented by the meaty, fennel laced ribbons on top. Once again, they hit this one out of the park.

This is not something you should run out of your house to seek, because it's a just a local pizza place. But it is the type of place that you should hope your neighborhood has, a perfect by-the-slice pie place where you don't have to eat shitty pizza from a greasy cook that doesn't care, nor dress like an idiot and choose from the latest fad toppings while waiting in line with a bunch of hipsters. It's a perfect pizza joint.

Monday, January 12, 2015


1122 Baltimore Pike
Glen Mills, PA 19342
(610) 459-9494

Thanks to the generosity of Realtor extraordinaire Jeanne Whipple [insert shameless plug for her amazing abilities to find and sell Philadelphia real estate here], I was given the opportunity to eat more wings than I should have ever wanted. Jeanne won an auction that included a 100 wing VIP party at Hooters in DelCo, and for some reason she was not especially interested. Luckily my gluttony knows no bounds, so it was quickly snatched up and an impromptu wing night commenced.

While I waited for the other members of my wing committe to arrive, I sat at the bar and had a very large, very cheap domestic draft poured by the lovely young lady seen here.

When the team arrived, we decided it wasn't enough to have more wings than a group of five (including two young ladies that were not known for their fat kid prowess), so we got some fried appetizers. We are gross. Curly fries were first up, with molten cheese dip, and salty seasoning. These were damn good. Like a well cooked version of Arby's famous fries.

The fried pickle chips were really, really good. Among some of the better versions I have tried. Crinkle cut pickles sliced relatively thin, were breaded and fried crispy. Not much to complain about here.

Next thing you know, the wings started coming out. Now unbeknownst to the eaters, a group member had previously "dated" a server at this very location. This was years in the past, but it led to a couple of insider tips (including the fried pickles recommendation). However this gentleman forgot to mention that the wings could (and should) be ordered "naked" or without breading. We therefore started with 40 breaded wings, which severely reduced our capacity for later consumption. Below are the hot and honey Thai (front and rear respectively).

The breading was not bad, and I am not usually a breaded wing fan (fried chicken is not the same as wings). They were actually kind of crunchy still, but man did that breading fill you up.

The hot were fine, but the honey Thai were definitely the winner of the two. Spicy, sweet, it was vaguely reminiscent of Korean wings.

No blue cheese was needed, but that didn't stop us.

After a couple of pitchers, we worked up the nerve to order five more flavors. Spicy garlic, Daytona (sweet/spicy/smokey), chipotle honey, BBQ, and lemon pepper. Notice, these were ordered naked, and crispy, and they were a VAST improvement. The way wings should be. I can't tell you much more than these wings were pretty damn good. Daytona style was a sleeper. Some of these packed serious heat. Some not so much. I was in a delirious state of chicken skin and salt, so they kind of blended.

To their credit, they were all cooked extremely well - at our request of 'extra crispy' – and packed a necessary crunch.

Overall, I would not be against coming back for a wing night. At all. The beer is pretty cheap, the food was very well done for what it is supposed to be, and the company was perfect. Not a bad night at all. Now the next morning was a different story. Meat sweats all the way.