Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Soy Cafe

630 North 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123-3040
(215) 922-1003

I had been living in the area for a long time and often passed by Soy Cafe, always without the slightest bit of interest. Many years later, a friend moved to the neighborhood and expressed such interest, sighting,"they have really great reviews on Yelp." So I did my own research and found that, yes, he was absolutely right - maybe it was time to give them a try. By now, a taste of Soy Cafe was in the cards.

Nearly deterred again because I absolutely can't stand their signage, I remembered that it's not (always) proper to judge a book by its cover. I mean, great food doesn't have to be represented through great design, right? (In a perfect world...)

The interior is actually quite nice and has most of the original architecture in-tact, refinished & painted in cool colors to create a relaxing environment, with a mish-mash of tables and chairs – I guess it would be considered "shabby chic." If that means anything at all.

There's also a crazy magazine collection. They must spend upwards of $500/year on subscriptions alone.

Well, finally, to the food. The menu offers an odd mix of American-Japanese items with an emphasis on fresh veggies and vegan ingredients, though they do offer a few carnivorous alternatives. I opted for a special item, the vegan cheesesteak wrap.

Talk about freshly delicious. Bursting with flavors of crispy fresh romaine and juicy ripe tomato, the wrap was a very unexpected translation of the Philly classic. Like, I don't even think it warrants being called a 'cheesesteak,' but in their defense, there was an abundance of fake meat (seitan) and fake (vegan) cheese to account for the bulk of the sandwich. Finished with some marinated red onions and honey mustard drizzle, this thing was absolutely delicious. Be warned, Soy Cafe, if any die-hard cheesesteak fans find out about this menu option's namesake, there might be trouble on the horizon.

We also ordered the turkey pesto sandwich, made with 98% fat free turkey, homemade sun-dried tomato pesto, black olives, tomatoes, soy cheese and spring mix on choice of bread - sun-dried tomato, in this case.

This was another winner, for certain. Using only the freshest ingredients with thick slabs of juicy turkey, this sandwich was a well balanced construction served on rather thin slices of bread that stood up to the challenge. I couldn't remember the last time I'd actually had properly ripe tomatoes like these on a sandwich, save for the ones I pick out of my own backyard.

And not to mention the Asian-style salad! That ginger-sesame dressing gets me every time. Fresh greens topped with paper thin spiral-shaved beets & carrots and a healthy dose of the Japanese topping, this would make for the perfect accompaniment to any meal.

Well done, Soy Cafe, well done!
-Posted by gabulous

Monday, July 25, 2011

Oscar Meyer Wiener Winner

Well the winner is in. J. Smith won as per the random number generator. Thanks everyone for playing, and look for more giveaways in the near future. I am so jealous of this thing.

Friday, July 22, 2011

THE Best Crispy Fried Chicken Recipe

I'm a huge fan of fried chicken but sometimes it's hard to find a recipe that's not overkill on the batter. Fried chicken should NOT be a piece of poultry inside of a pancake, this isn't a corn dog. Too many recipes don't get it crispy, or the breading burns before the chicken is fully cooked. This recipe cures both of those problems and results in the best fried chicken you've ever had. Perfect for a summer picnic, the chicken is delicious served hot out of the fryer, room temperature, or even cold out of the 'fridge for a late night snack. There are two secrets that help make this version of fried chicken irresistible: one is the corn starch, which results in a crackingly crisp exterior; two is the lack of any dairy in the ingredient list, this prevents from any burning before the chicken is cooked through.

First, you need to buy the right chicken - all of which has the skin-on. I opted for a package of mixed thighs and drummies, and a package of bone-in split chicken breasts. The breasts will each need to be cut in half, to make smaller pieces comparable to the thighs. Then you brine.

This recipe is good for approximately 8 pieces, so adjust accordingly.

1QT water
1/4C sugar
1/4C salt

Whisk together thoroughly and fully submerge chicken, place in the 'fridge for 30 min. to 1 hour.

You also need the right type of oil, which is peanut oil. It's costly, but it's worth it for the results. I found some "100% Peanut Oil" at my local Asian supermarket, just under a gallon for $9.99 - thing is, the ingredient list says: peanut oil, vegetable oil - which means it's not 100%, but it's mostly peanut oil, and it worked out just fine. Alternatively, you can use canola oil.

Anyhow, bring your oil to 350 degrees F, you want enough to fully submerge the chicken pieces while frying. You can use a dutch oven, you'll have to keep a close eye on the temperature here, it will drop significantly when you drop the cool chicken in.

I have 2 deep fryers that I set up out back - to avoid the kitchen from becoming a disaster - I was making 24 pieces here for a housewarming party. These units are great because the temperature regulation is built in and there's no fuss with having to worry about adjusting your stove dials.

1C flour
1C corn starch
5tsp. black pepper
1tsp. salt
1tsp. cayenne pepper
1tsp. ancho chili powder
1tsp. paprika
2tsp. baking powder
1+3/4C water
whisk thoroughly

Pull the chicken out of the brining liquid, pat each piece quite dry with paper towels. Dip into the batter, one piece at a time, and let excess drip off. Use tongs to slowly lower into the frying oil. (NOTE: If using a domestic deep fryer, I noticed that it helped to hold the chicken for about 10 seconds so that just the batter on the bottom can cook, then drop it all of the way in - this prevents the batter from cooking on to & sticking to the wire mesh of the frying basket.) Cook each piece for 15-18 minutes, or until internal temperature reads 170-180 degrees F.

Let cool on drying rack, so excess oil can drip off. Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Oscar Meyer Giveaway

Unfortunately I don't have a "Wienermobile" to give away, but I DO have an Oscar Meyer swag bag filled with tee shirts, coupons for Oscar Meyer selects, a mini grill, an apron, grilling accessories, and a freaking wiener whistle! The whistle ALONE is one of the best things you could possibly ask for in a contest prize. To enter, simply let us know your favorite hot dog toppings in the comments section below, and a winner will be chosen at random (based on what sounds the best to me). Submissions will close Monday, July 25th 2011 at noon (12pm). Good luck!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Guest Post: Wienermobile Food Truck

On a hot (dog) day in Philadelphia...

Today, the new-ish Wienermobile Food Truck made an appearance at Centre Square (15th & Market) as part of the original Wienermobile's 75th anniversary celebration. We're one of only 12 cities on their trail for the summer debut of their "Selects" line - all natural ingredients, including preservatives (nitrates) only sourced from celery juice. They're making a cross-country trip to promote the dogs, where Tyler Florence first introduced them to New Yorkers back in May.

But more importantly (and more relevantly) - chef, writer and artist extraordinaire, Hawk Krall, was there to serve up the free eats.

Each of 1,000 lucky contestants (or peoples bold enough to wait in the searing hot sun) were able to choose from a menu of 5 hot dog styles, created by Hawk Krall himself, including: Pennsylvania Pepper Hash Dog: Oscar Mayer hot dog split and grilled on a potato roll with German mustard, fresh diced onions (small dice, Hawk specifies), pickled green tomatoes from Reading Terminal Market, and pepper hash (shredded cabbage, green peppers, grated carrots, sugar, salt, and vinegar); Seattle Style Cream Cheese Dog: Oscar Mayer hot dog split and grilled with Coca-Cola onions (sliced white onions sauteed on the flat top and finished with Coca-Cola for carmelization), Whipped Philadelphia Cream Cheese, roasted long hots (an optional Philly twist but Hawk says, trust him and go for it!); Kosher Tommy: Oscar Mayer hot dog split and grilled, topped with grilled Oscar Mayer bologna and ooey-gooey cheese sauce; Perro Colombiano: Bacon-wrapped dog with pineapple salsa, crushed potato chips, avocado, pink sauce (basically Russian dressing), chimichurri mayo, and yellow mustard; AND FINALLY the Jersey Special: Grilled dog with Jersey hot relish (cabbage, carrots, spicy red pepper, mustard powder, turmeric, yellow mustard), and diced onions.

I mean, what's NOT to love?

Check back for a FREE giveaway of Wienermobile goodies!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Guest Post: B.B.Go

20 S 18th St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 569-3905

"Fusion Rice Bar." This place would have you believe that it's a fast food chain, but really it's just a local mom 'n pop Korean food joint. They claim to use the freshest ingredients, and it's no lie.

I ordered the Seaweed Bibimbap to go and it came to an even $10 - and yes, they take plastic here. It was a heavy bag for the low cost and when I got back to my desk, I realized that I got even more than I had expected.

They send you out with a bowl of miso soup to accompany the main dish, as well as the expected side of traditional kimchi. I asked for extra go chu jang, and they were kind enough to throw it in at no extra cost.

The dish was bright and fresh, all of the vegetables were crisp, even the ones that had been marinated. With romaine, zucchini, bean sprouts, seaweed salad, carrots, broccoli, pickled radish and a beautifully fried sunny-side-up egg, this enormous food bowl easily made for a meal-and-a-half.

Refreshing and filling, this quick-stop Korean food fix is well worth your (lunch) time and money.

Friday, July 15, 2011


1311 Sansom St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Opa is one of those places I had been meaning to get to, and when this opportunity arose, I knew it was time. This coming Monday, to celebrate their new lunch menu, they will be offering FREE lunch. That's right, your lunch will be free if you merely show up. Proof below. So go and try a Greek "toast" which is a variation of a grilled cheese/panini, and get it for FREE this Monday.

That being said, I was given an opportunity to sample the new lunch menu today, and as an eater of the people, I felt it was my duty to give the head's up.

The ham and cheese "toast"is a local take on a traditional Greek pressed sandwich with sweet Lancaster county ham, smooth and creamy Manouri cheese (like a smoother version of feta) and honey mustard dressing. This was a perfectly executed variation of the American classic. The bread was light, slightly sweet and perfectly pressed, an execution in simplicity. The fresh-cut oregano fries that came on the side were decidedly delicious. Salty, with some crunch, I couldn't get enough. The dried Greek oregano was pungent and earthy, a perfect match for the crispy sticks.

I also had to try the Bifteki, a feta-stuffed burger featuring local grass fed beef, and topped with a tomato, dill, and cucumber relish. I was thinking stuffed like this, but it was more stuffed like this. That aside, the burger was well seasoned, and very moist, but the real show stopper was the relish. Fresh, briny and crisp, it made the vegetables sing. I would have "relished" a bowl of that on the side. I didn't realize that the burger ALSO came with a choice of fries or salad, and I ordered them with the burger as well. Fat kid problems.

From the amazing staff to the funky decor, and the damn affordable lunch, I will definitely be back to try some of the other offerings, the gyro for starters. If you know what's good for your taste buds, you will make it here too. If not on Monday (because you hate delicious free food) then soon, because this is some spot on Greek food. I hear they make some mean cocktails as well.