Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Village Whiskey

118 South 20th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-4454
(215) 665-1088

I haven't been back to Village Whiskey since it was relatively new, and so I was overly excited to see how it has come along. I was very impressed last time, and this time I was just as happy. Our group arrived around 5PM on a Friday, and were able to immediately sit at a table under the canopy outside. They don't take reservations there, and in order to sit, your entire party must be present. Although it can be annoying at times, in such a small venue where they see such a high volume of visitors, I completely understand the policy and can appreciate it. Otherwise there could be people sitting and saving tables for larger parties indefinitely, while others had to stand and wait (not that anyone in Philly would do that, right?). Below is a shot through the window where we were sitting, looking in to the interior. Last time I was there, I sat at the bar and thoroughly enjoyed most everything on the menu, thanks to the generosity of the owners of this place (which has amazing home cooked Italian food if you are ever in the Ambler area).

We decided to try some of the appetizers to start, and I am so glad we did. The pretzels are a steal at $3; they came out warm & soft and were served with deliciously sharp whole-seed Dijon, a good way to cut your hunger pangs before you devour some of the smaller, more savory dishes.

The house-made cheese puffs came out next. They were served in a small cast iron skillet and were covered with grated cheese. They were good, but not great. Once again, a good starter, but nothing to write home about.

Pictured below is our third arrival for this meal, the coveted pickled cherry tomatoes. WOW. I somehow missed these little gems the last time around, and I can't believe how good they were. So fresh, vibrant and juicy, I could eat these indefinitely. They are served with a side of toasted bread, whipped ricotta, and olive tapenade. Heaven. Seriously. These were one of the best things I have eaten in a long time. When properly assembled on a piece of toast with the accompanying sides, they were unbelievable. How good, you may ask? Well last night I purchased canning jars to recreate them as soon as possible. That good. I will post the results next week.

Next up was the popcorn shrimp. Another pretty good dish, but nothing I had never seen nor had before - a simple take on a simple finger food. The dipping sauce was a bit runny and bland, but it did the trick. The shrimp would have benefited from a longer bath in the fryer to maximize the crispiness of the breading.

Since there is no chance that anything fried in duck fat can be on the menu without me ordering it, the duck fat fries with Sly Fox cheese sauce and homemade ketchup were next. I had these last time and loved them. I must say, I think they were even better this time around. Rich, fatty, and decadent, the fries in duck fat are deep-fried perfection. I also love cheese sauce (in general), and this really takes it to the next level, with a low-key refreshingly-beery aftertaste. The table ended up dipping the shrimp in it as well, it was that good (yes, we know seafood and cheese is a frowned-upon combo, but anything fried with a dip in some cheese is a good match in my book). The ketchup was also great, fresh and homemade, it was a welcome reprieve from the richness of the cheese sauce (or it was all that was left when the cheese sauce disappeared almost instantly, you be the judge). It was quite tasty though.

At this point, the diners were split. How could we order four huge burgers after we had just feasted for an hour on snacks?

Well, we could order two burgers and split them.

The regular burger at VW is more than rich enough, so I skipped the $25 burger topped with foie gras, and instead added Rouge blue cheese, bacon, and caramelized onions to the already huge patty which comes with bibb lettuce, tomato and house sauce. Medium rare came out perfectly cooked and I was in burger bliss. It is so juicy, that you can't put it down for fear of the tender beef dissipating, but at the same time, I can't fathom a situation in which you would want to put this masterpiece down, so fear not.

The other burger was ordered with cheddar and a fried egg on top. The egg was a perfect sunny-side-up and made for a juicy, earthy treat. Red meat and runny egg yolk are about as good as it gets.

I love Jose Garces' restaurants, and I have yet to be even close to disappointed with all of my indulgent experiences with them. I could eat at these places all the time, if the bank account allowed it. I would also need to invest in some elastic waistband pants to take it all in. I can't wait to go back to VW, I am already planning my next trip.

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