Monday, March 31, 2014

Shiprock Pop-up

Navajo Frybread Tacos
At Garage on Passyunk
March 17th 2014

After the success of last year's frybread pop-up at 12 Steps Down, the proprietors of Shiprock and famous Philadelphian & food illustrator Hawk Krall (see hoagie drawing at right) brought it all back to Garage for a second run.

Shiprock is made up of two masterminds (seen below): Marcos Espinoza and Lucio Palazzo. Marcos is a blogger over at Fidel Gastro and Lucio is the chef at Taqueria Feliz in Manayunk (formerly of La Calaca Feliz on Fairmount). And that's pretty much all I know.

Well, that and that Hawk is pretty much the coolest illustrator I know.

Garage has a little cart inside that can be used by food industry folks, by request, to sell their munchables to nearby drunks, like myself. This is the first time I'd seen it in use.

This night they were offering a twist on the traditional fry bread taco by throwing some chili dog action in the mix. No doubt this was influenced by Mr. Krall. The other recommendation came from all three of the purveyors and it was to try the goat birra. This was a no brainer, so I put the order in.

Hot and fresh from the fryer. (the bread is all Marcos)

The tacos are made with love, each one assembled carefully at the hand of Lucio.

The goat meat looked mouthwateringly delicious and I couldn't wait to dig in.

They hooked me up with a little extra jus, so there was no way to pick this one up with my hands. This slopfest called for a knife and fork. The goat meat was tender and juicy, with a mild spice and more of a beefy flavor. It didn't really taste like goat or lamb. It could have been some beef short rib for all I knew. Whatever it was, it was the most delicious component I had that evening.

There was a lot going on with the toppings, a bit too much at once and it was hard to discern one ingredient from another. The fry bread got soggy from all that delicious jus, which was fine with me. It just didn't have much flavor of its own.

Next up was the hot dog. This was more easily handled as a taco, I could pick it up without fear of it falling apart.

Here again, lots of ingredients, but little in the flavor department. A pretty big meh on the hot dog all around.

All in all, I love the idea of the Navajo fry bread taco, but I also love the idea of a more flavorful vessel. Think funnel cake without the sweet and with little salt to steer it the other direction. Here's to hoping the next Shiprock pop-up packs a flavor punch to match their colorful and attention-grabbing illustrations.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Pica's Restaurant (Pica's Pizza)

7803 W Chester Pike
Upper Darby, PA 19082
(610) 789-7770

Pica's was all over the news recently due to Tina Fey bringing some pizza from her hometown of Upper Darb's to a late night talk show. As it was already one of my favorites, I figured it was high time to cash in on the sudden popularity, far after it was still relevant.

While waiting, it was difficult not to overhear EVERYONE talking about the recent TV appearance. And of course, wherever there is celebrity gossip/bottomless sodas, the Evster from every girl's favorite reality show blog "TV My Wife Watches" will also be found. I am pretty sure he stalked me and happened to show up at the same time, completely independent. Below you will see him right after he ditched his beautiful wife who was waiting for their table, and before he stole some of my pizza. It's a real who's who of DelCo.

They make it a point to say that bread and peppers doesn't come with pizza. It costs an extra $3, and is probably worth it if you are like me and don't care how many calories you eat or don't listen when your doctor tells you that if you don't stop eating so much food you are more likely to die.

The Greek Salad is a big meh, especially at $11.50. Olives, feta, tomatoes, eggs and onions served on mixed greens. I mean, it's not bad, but you aren't here for freaking salad. You know what, just get it. Whatever. God, now I sound like Evster.

The calamari was surprisingly good. It was fried crispy, and had a light breading on it. The marinara was pretty tasty.

Perfect chew on the squid and just the right amount of salt.

Now, for the real reason to go to Pica's. The pizza. Square pie, cheese on bottom, sweet garlicy sauce on top. It's not too thick, but certainly not thin crust. I can eat an unbelievable amount, as it is not heavy at all (relatively speaking). The perfect amount of buttery char makes the dough just right, and the crust has sauce baked into it.

The pepperonis are a large, thin deli style. They drape the entire pizza, like some delicious window treatments.

Look at the golden bottom of the pie. A product of the signature pans they are baked in. Perfection. You can see how airy the dough is and you can almost taste that buttery crispness.

The plain pie is also fantastic. It gets way better when it cools a bit, and the flavors really meld. These are both larges, and they are a pretty decent value for the money. I could have gotten another pie to go, just for a midnight snack.

Did I mention Pica's interior is like the shitty family restaurant you grew up going to in the 1980's-1990's? It's amazing. I love everything about this place. But mostly the ridiculously good pizza.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bombay Local Pizza

1120 White Horse Rd #132
Voorhees Township, NJ 08043
(856) 375-2246

I recently got an invite to check out an Indian pizza place in Voorhees, and since I LOVE Indian pizza, and free food, I could not possibly turn it down.

Located in a typical NJ shopping center, Bombay Local has been open for about a year. The interior is sparse, but what this place lacks in ambiance, it crushes with fresh ingredients and the best damn marinara I can remember tasting.

Below are owners-brothers: Parig & Sam from Chatanooga, TN. The duo worked in finance for a few years in New York and then decided to open a restaurant closer to Philadelphia, in New Jersey. They base their creative menu on some family recipes mixed with new ideas, focusing on the freshest ingredients.

They recommend I start with the Desi bread served with a side of original tomato sauce. My god this was incredible garlic bread. It was simple, buttery, and packed with fresh flavors. The side of aforementioned marinara was just unreal. They take a traditional tomato sauce and add in a few extra Indian flavors. It's subtle, smoky sweet and positively addicting.

The bread itself had chopped peppers, garlic, and onions on it. It would make a fantastic sandwich wrapper.

They were kind enough to bring out two pizzas, each quarter boasting a different pizza style. So basically it was like getting to taste eight pizzas in one. Perfect.

Baingan bharta below. Probably one of my favorite Indian specialties off of a pizza, it was definitely also a winner on the pizza. "Bharta" refers to dishes in which the ingredients are roughly mashed either before or after the dish is prepared, so here we have a smoky, roasted eggplant mash that's full of garlicy garam masala flavor.

Bombay masala below, my second favorite of the day. The Indian BBQ sauce was sweet and spicy – so robust!

Chili potato below. Nothing too exciting there, but still pretty good.

Four alarm below, with habanero, jalapeno and small Indian chile peppers littering the melted cheese. This one was hot. With a really slow, creeper kind of kick that is also slow to dissipate.

After my mouth recovered from the four alarm, the next pie came out.

Spicy paneer below - it was bit like the bombay masala, but with less sauce and double the cheese.

Chutney paneer was probably the best of the 'paneer' selections. I mean, cheese chunks on top of melted cheese is certainly a no brainer for me, but this one had the fresh tang of mint-coriander chutney to cut the dairy. It's always nice to finish with some acidity...

Paneer tikka below, another take on the Indian-style BBQ sauce, a bit milder than the masala version.

Samosa below. It was like unwrapping a samosa and eating it flat. The flavors were spot on and the potatoes and curry seasoning took me right to the best Indian buffets of my memories.

If you are familiar with Indian food, you will know what each of these variations consist of. Each had their own unique flavors, and I have to say, the quality and freshness of the ingredients was evident in every slice. If I was in Jersey, this would undoubtedly be on my regular rotation. I didn't get a chance to try the Indian hoagies, but I certainly will next time.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Anna's Sandwich Shop

303 Sutton Avenue
Folsom, PA 19033
(610) 534-9289

The DelCo hoagie hunt continues, with the venerable old timer known as Anna's (est. 1935) on deck this time.

It's a great little corner spot on MacDade just down the road from a couple of well known local burger joints that I visited back in '09 and '10. Which reminds me, I need to get back to Charlie's very soon... The other one, not so much.

I went on a Saturday for a late breakfast/early lunch, it's definitely not brunch here. And although they're known for their cheesesteaks that come with forks, I was in the mood for the old Delco meat drape.

There was a steady flow of eggs and bacon coming off the grill and the phone was ringing off the hook with take out orders. Popular spot and it's obvious that part of the allure is in their bottom dollar prices.

I couldn't wait to get down on some 10am Italian hoagie.

The breakfast special AKA "morning delight" includes a 6" roll with eggs, cheese and choice of breakfast meat for $4. I chose bacon, knowing that my main-course sandwich was going to be full of other deli hams.

This is the perfect size sandwich to start your day. Well, my day requires more, but you get my point. Right off the bat, Anna's has my heart – they use only the very best rolls around and I am a sucker for falling in love every time I see or hear the name "Liscio's." The perfect roll for all things hoagie, their bread has never failed. My mouth is watering just thinking about the chew on that dough.

The eggs, cheese and bacon were cooked just right and the sandwich was delicious. There wasn't much inside but there's nothing fancy here and I'm glad I asked for a bit of mayo, ketchup and hot sauce to round it out. Without said condiments, it would have been too dry. For $4 though, it's unbeatable.

Now for the main event. The Italian hoagie here is served like all other DelCo hoagies - with veggies on the bottom and the meat on top. My, what a beautiful ham curtain you have.

These Italian hoagies can't be compared to some others of the same name, they're not served on crusty seeded rolls or made with high quality cured meats and crumbled chunks of spicy-sharp prov. They're the working man's version and they're delicious.

Look at this plank of meat and cheese. It had a straighter edge than any ruler I've ever seen. You have to get all up in it - press, fold in and enjoy. This version was tangy, the vinegary hot peppers bursting with flavor in every bite. The meats and cheese played second fiddle to the crunchy veggies, but they held their own in the background.

All in all, Anna's puts love into everything they make and I'll certainly be back to roll up my sleeves and dig in to their cheesesteaks.