Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sketch Burger

413 East Girard Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19125
(215) 634-3466

I wrote about Sketch Burger years ago, but I felt it was time to see how they have progressed. Located on the now ultra-hip Girard corridor, they are tucked away on a drab block. Which makes the fact that their store-front is nauseatingly bright all the better.

While you wait for your order, you get to draw your own burgers. Mine is in the background shooting a lunch gun.

I opted for the green chili cheese fries, truffle butter burger and a regular old bacon blue cheese burger. The fries arrived first, and although they were thicker than I prefer, have a clean peanut oil taste. They are not for the faint of heart, when smothered with molten-green chili-laden processed cheese. At first I was not too enthused about them, but I must say, when the cheese cooled, they were pretty tasty. Not the best, but certainly not bad.

The burgers arrived shortly thereafter.

The truffle burger is served simply with mushrooms and the butter, you can add cheese for $1. Of course I wanted cheese. It's a delicious way to accentuate the truffle flavor without going overboard in the earthy mushroom department. Both burgers were ordered medium rare and shockingly, both were cooked to perfection. I guess if burgers are your bread and butter, you better be cooking them to the correct temperature.

While I really enjoyed the truffle burger, the bacon blue cheese burger was the true star. The bacon was crisp and generously portioned. The blue cheese was, well, delicious, and the traditional lettuce and tomato added just enough moisture and crunch.

I really, really love the meat mixture at Sketch. It has a perfect blend of fat and seasoning. If you can muster up the courage, they have a great selection of vegan and non-vegan baked goods. Like a true fat kid, I picked up a giant red velvet cupcake and ate it later in the evening. It was delicious, and I am disgusting.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Chevy Food Crawl - New Hope

Last week I had the pleasure of working with GM and a number of other Philadelphia-centric food writers to go on a "Food Crawl" to New Hope, PA. We got the opportunity through the website "Driving the Northeast." They were a great group to work with and put together an awesome day. Although I generally don't do this sort of thing due to lack of time (mostly), I couldn't pass up a chance to drive a brand new car to New Hope (I had never been). The group arrived at Fredrick's Chevrolet to get a lesson in the new Chevy Malibu and Cruze, before embarking on the harrowing ride (I was driving and it was a torrential thunderstorm most of the way). We learned a lot about the cars during this tutorial, such as MPG, how to inflate a flat tire, and how many bodies fit in the trunk of each (not kidding).

See below for a picture of some guy looking at an engine.

And here for the guy looking at the steering wheel.

Below are people solemnly realizing that there may only be a three body capacity in the Cruze, while the larger Malibu can easily stow five. Or alternatively they may be discussing how the remote start works, it's open for interpretation.

I do like the grill on these cars, especially the one I got to drive, which came with two-tone leather, paddle shifting, and Bose speakers. I was really happy to have XM radio, until I realized that it doesn't work in the woods, in the rain, or if you are trying to listen to a song. Never-the-less, the Malibu (by now I had nicknamed the car the boo) had a pretty nice ride, even in the rain, and the stereo sounded great.

See below for an explanation of what an engine looks like.

Our first stop was the Logan Inn. Apparently this quaint bed and breakfast was the first in New Hope. Although the weather was not working in our favor, we were taken to their amazing deck and seated under a roof.

Below is someone talking about Bucks County and the enormity of the largest hoagie ever eaten in one sitting in the entire county. Alternatively she may be describing how beautiful it is in Bucks County (and I have to agree).

We then spent some time talking about food and Bucks County as the food came out. We then spent some time watching people take pictures of the food like it was on Project Runway. I had a great camera to bring along for the day, but I forgot it when my trip-mate showed up late and I was angry.

Finally, we had a chance to taste some of the food. I think that some of the items were rather pretentious and refused to be eaten until photographed at least thirty times. As we ate more than I should be willing to admit, I will not be going over every item in detail, but instead just hitting the high points. The crab cakes with white slaw and roasted red pepper coulis were delicious.

How do you win over a group of snobby food people? Here is some inside info . . . serve a bloomin' onion. I was so excited to eat that thing – it wasn't more than fifteen seconds after it was done posing for the paparazzi, and I was shoving HANDFULS into my mouth. The spicy red pepper sauce was pretty great with it. Thank god I can now just go to New Hope rather than have to step foot in an Outback steak house for my 15,000 calorie fix.

The cavatelli pasta was good, but it's hard to follow a freaking bloomin' onion.

The baked brie in phyllo dough was another delicious, calorie laden treat. The raspberry preserves were a great way to sweeten the tiny, savory burritos. I even managed to eat some fresh fruit before diving back into the bloomin' onion that had been picked apart by the vultures surrounding it.

The Greek salad below. A tasty, generously portioned rendition.

The deck is like being in a covered garden. Quite the opposite of outdoor dining in Philly.

More pictures.

We next walked over to Marsha Brown. This place was an old Methodist Church that was re-purposed into an incredibly beautiful restaurant.

According to the giant mural in the large dining area, if you are going to fight lions, you better be riding a flaming horse. I am definitely going to keep that in mind.

Everything in this place oozed class. There were two beautiful bars adjacent to a large dining room and plenty of delicious food. The turn-around time between restaurants was about ten minutes, so we had to get right down to business. The chef offered a cup of lobster and shrimp bisque to start. Although it was a bit more like a chowder to me, it was quite good.

Next came the Jambalaya with crab meat, shrimp, duck confit, and andouille sausage in a dark roux with the obligatory peppers, onions and rice. I was a big fan of this dish and couldn't resist eating more than my fair share of the andouille.

One of the more interesting dishes was the Eggplant Ophelia-shrimp and crabmeat casserole, topped with grilled eggplant and baked. It had a strange look to it, but the end result was mighty tasty.

The crawfish etouffee was a bit too "seafoody" for me, but some of the other diners loved it.

Here is the chef explaining the menu.

And the biggest winner of the day was . . . crab cheesecake! It starts with a jumbo lump crab meat and smoked gouda tart, green onion coulis, and remoulade sauce. It comes with a side salad, but I was fixated on the slice of heaven next to it. I would describe it as a piece of delicious smoked gouda cornbread, mixed with crab dip and pimento cheese. Pure indulgence. It was something none of us had seen before, and something we will all be talking about for the forseeable future.

The chopped salad was another heavy dish (heavily dressed), and although I really liked it some others did not. To each their own, I suppose.

Proscuttio, spinach and fig salad was fine. But I was more of a fan of the chopped salad above.

One of the chefs slices andouille below.

We next waddled towards the final destination, the Blue Tortilla. On the way we passed an alleyway that was full of creepy mannequins. One of the things that makes New Hope pretty cool is the fact that this is perfectly acceptable.

We got to the Blue Tortilla and were pretty well stuffed by that point, but we had a bit more eating to do.

We were greeted with nachos, homemade guac and some quesadillas. The nachos were addicting with black beans hiding in the bottom and grated cotija all over the top.

The guacamole was super creamy, I think they might have added some dairy to achieve this texture. Either way, it was a delicious end to our feastival.

The quesadillas lacked some of the components that make a good quesadilla. Namely cheese, fillings, and a hot stint on the flat top to grilled the tortilla. By this point however, we were queasy and more than likely on the poor organizer's last nerve.

As we made our way back to the boo, we briefly considered napping before heading back to Philadelphia. We also passed back by the creepy mannequin area again, and the light was hitting what was possibly the most terrifying one just right. Back corner.

I even let one of the diners, who may or may not be a member of the Russian mafia, take a turn behind the wheel (for photo purposes only) before jumping back into the Chevy and attempting to make the passengers uncomfortable while I explored the intricacies of paddle shifting and the windy roads of Bucks County.

A big thank you to everyone involved. We had a great time, and would love to do something like this again in the future.

Driving the Northeast

Fredrick's Chevrolet
6301 E. Bustleton Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19149-3400
(215) 537-2377

Logan Inn
10 West Ferry Street
New Hope, PA 18938
(215) 862-2300

Marsha Brown
15 South Main Street
New Hope, PA 18938-1320
(215) 862-7044

Blue Tortilla
18 North Main Street
New Hope, PA 18938-1315
(215) 862-5859