Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pizzeria Beddia

115 E Girard Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19125

For the NKOTB (for those of you too young to know: New Kid On The Block) in the Philly (Fisthtown) pizza scene, Joe Beddia's new spot is small and non-descript, but the pizza speaks for itself.

As it was the soft opening during our visit, there was some help in the kitchen from Scott Schroder, of American Sardine Bar/South Philly Taproom fame.

The space itself is beautiful, with white subway tile and exposed brick.

Most everything is sourced locally, and the small menu reflects the quality over quantity approach that wins every time.

The hand shredded Old Gold Aged Cheese lends a bit of bite to the creamy mozzarella.

It is (at least in theory) a BYO restaurant, so some cheap domestics were brought and shared with the staff. There is only one table - standing only - so you either need to be lucky, or have previously fed the owner delicious BBQ *ahem* to eat-in at the restaurant.

The crust is absolute perfection. Thin, crisp and chewy, it's the ideal vessel for the zippy sauce and flavorful cheese. See a plain pizza above and below.

Not to mention the finishing drizzle of EVOO.

The salame and pickled chili pizza below was amazing. The bright vinegar bite of the chilies blended with a bit of heat to balance out the rich sausage. A great combo to say the least.

The (surprising?) favorite of the night was the final pie, with mushrooms and caramelized onions. The mushrooms were phenomenal, rich, earthy, flavor-packed, and a nice complement to the salty-sweet onions, creating a perfect matchup.

This older couple could not stop talking about the pizza. It was charming.

I can't say enough good things about Beddia. It's going to be a landmark institution, like Taconelli's, only closer and better.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Chili Szechuan

4626 Baltimore Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19143
(215) 662-0888

With the explosion of Han Dynasty, there was bound to be some new Szechuan style places popping up. This one is right in the hot spot of the Baltimore Ave Triangle, where some new and interesting places are always opening up. I felt it was worth a try.

There was a very small crowd for primetime on a Thursday, but the inside was reasonably well appointed, and clean.

They had the dishes made famous in Philadelphia by Han, so it was a must-try situation. Enter spicy cucumbers and Dan Dan Noodles.

The cukes were good, but not QUITE as good as the peppercorn master's.

The Dan Dan were also tasty, and a good substitute, but both of these dishes were the same price as Han's, so I just couldn't justify it, given the choice.

For the entrees, the hot sauce style chicken came out in one HUGE portion, which was not a bad deal, given the $15 price tag, and definitely brought the sour/heat that it should have. It was not a bad rendition by any means.

The hot pot style rabbit, however, had issues. I knew ordering rabbit from a place with one other table on a Thursday night was likely a risky venture, but my dining partner was in the mood, so far be it from me to discourage culinary adventure.

The issue with this dish, however, was that the rabbit was served bone-in. And the pieces were chopped so small that you were forced to try and suck a tiny piece of meat off of a jagged piece of bone and cartilage. It ended up being an effort in futility, and I can't say I was a fan. The flavor was there, but the tiny pieces of chewy hare just didn't seem worth it.

This was the "bone plate". Not so hot.

I can't say that I would definitely go back, given the proximity of the West Philly Han Dynasty, but some of the dishes were surely passable.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Heung Fa Chun Sweet House

112 N 10th St
Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 238-8968

This is the type of place I love to find: Mom-and-Pop owned, hole-in-the-wall, with some surprisingly good food. I find it hard to believe that I am the only person who is taking pictures in Chinatown sometimes, but people are always surprising me.

This is a small, slightly cramped, totally chaotic little shop. It can be intimidating, so it helps if you know what you want ahead of time. First, you need to pick sweet or savory. I obviously went savory, but don't get caught sleeping on the sweet soft tofu, it is delicious.

First up was a salty tofu. It is carefully arranged and topped with a garlicy sauce, peanuts, and scallions.

The rest ended up being an order of lo mein, and two banana leaf wrapped pork and peanut gelatinous rice dumplings.

The salty tofu is incredible. Pronounced dou hua, its silken texture coupled with the variety of toppings and a squirt of spicy, vinegary hot sauce is a match made in heaven.

The pork cruellers or "zong" were an interesting approach, with a seemingly impenetrable fortress of solidified rice (at least with the supplied plastic silverware) encapsulating the delicate ingredients hidden underneath.

It was a bit like breaking open a pinata, and getting to the good stuff inside. The pork was nicely flavored, slightly salty, and the chewy rice capsule tasted just fine with a squirt of chili sauce. Note, don't shake the chili sauce too hard or it will end up all over your shirt and pants. Or so I have heard.

The lo mein, was just fine. Nothing out of the ordinary, but definitely satisfied. The barely cooked pieces of cabbage added a nice textural crunch that kept it from feeling overly oily.

One weird thing happened, and that is that my dining companion went to wash their hands, and while I was busy reading work emails, her phone disappeared. She came back accusing me of hiding it, then we looked everywhere in the tiny shop, sure it was stolen. After the owner watched us look everywhere, he handed it over and said a customer found it. It was sitting next to me at the counter, so we were both confused. But the phone was returned. I felt like I was being hustled out of something, but all ended up right in the world, and my bank account has not yet been transferred to a Nigerian prince who just needs enough money to pay the tax on his riches.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Cajun Kate's (Redux II)

Booth's Corner
1362 Naaman's Creek Rd.
Boothwyn, PA 19061

It's no secret that Cajun Kate's is my spot for New Orleans cuisine. In all honesty, they are in my top three places to eat in the area. Probably ever.

The ambiance is hectic but laid back, much like the Big Easy. There are always a lot of people waiting to order, save for a collection of diners who grabbed a seat and are in no rush to leave. It's perfect. The feeling of supremacy when you secure a stool is what I imagine people who wait in lines for new electronics experience, but better.

Once seated, you will have to figure out what you want to order. It's a lot harder than it sounds.

I always go with the fried mac and cheese. It's unbelievable. Covered in a Creole tomato glaze, this variation was stuffed with crab, crawfish, and corn. The brininess of the crawfish and crab really came to light, and kept this extremely indulgent dish tasting fresh.

The crunchy outsides are just fried perfection, and the glaze is a sweet, tangy, barbecuey thing of beauty.

Although I admittedly like seafood po' boys best (their oyster and softshell crab weekly specials are to die for), the brisket gets it done.

Tender, juicy brisket, smothered with provolone, smeared with creole mayo, and accompanied by lettuce, tomato, and pickles make for one hell of a sandwich.

I just could not resist over-ordering (seems to be a running theme) so I got half of a muffaletta to go. But I ate most of it there.

Mortadella, genoa salami, cappicola ham, provolone, and olive salad all delicately laid inside a beautiful seeded roll. Don, (the man in charge) recommends it lightly toasted, and you best listen to him. The slight warmth applied really softens the bread, and the generous application of oil keeps it from being too dry. This is greatness.

As usual, Cajun Kate's EASILY takes the highest of Philly Phoodie honors, and I look forward to many more years of eating Cajun. As long as my arteries can stand the mac.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Capriotti's Sandwich Shop

141 S. State Rd
Springfield, PA 19064
(484) 472-6257

Given such beautiful weather on a Sunday in March, I decided some hiking might be nice and made the trip out to Ridley Creek State Park. It's not without some hesitation that I also thought some hoagies might be nice. Tucked away (not at all) in a quaint little strip mall (also not true) was a little mom-and-pop place (wrong) by the name of "Capriotti's."

While the original shop in Wilmington, DE may have had an air of originality, this new breed has more of a Quizno's or Jimmy John's feel to it. Now, I'm all for operating a lucrative business, but some of the experience is lost on the corporate aesthetic that's heavy in their franchising.

Now, I don't know if you know this, but they're especially known for their "Bobbie®," which is a straight-forward interpretation of Thanksgiving leftovers in hoagie form. "In 1976, Lois Margolet's (original proprietor) concept was to capture the hearts of 'real turkey lovers,' an idea that would separate Capriotti's Sandwich Shop from almost all of its competition."

And that's pretty much where the story ends, I won't bore you with the hunger for money and the need to grow into a formulaic chain, etc. The 'kitchen' was staffed by a number of local high schoolers.

Obviously, I ordered the Bobbie® and also went with a classic Italian - to be used as more of a gauge for comparison to the competition.

Behold, the glory of Thanksgiving in March. I will say, for being so packed full of stuff(ing), this sandwich did not come across as heavy by any means.

The balance of flavors was there, with the tart, sweet cranberry sauce lending a welcome contrast to the amalgam of turkey and stuffing. Not that their individual presences weren't entirely noticeable - it's just that everything was so icy cold that it was sometimes difficult to discern them.

Now, that being said, I held the second half of this one for snacking later, and once the ingredients had settled themselves into a room-temperature presentation, it was 110% improved. If you get this one, don't eat it right away, definitely save it for later.

Next up was the Italian hoagie, with the works - which obviously includes oil AND mayo, always.

The bread left a lot to be desired. Hailing from a city that creates some of the best seeded rolls in the world, I find it nearly impossible to take an Italian (hoagie, of course) seriously when it's on something that's obviously been created to host a meatball sub.

The meat was sliced way too thick and the oregano-crusted ham overpowered the other flavors to an unforgivable degree.

Overall, if you're out in the suburbs where Cap's is the only place around to get your hoagie fix - go early, get the Bobbie and eat it once it's been left to sit for an hour. Otherwise, make the drive into Philly and get yourself some cold cuts on a proper long roll.

-Posted by gabulous