Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Foresta's Market

1098 West Bridge Street
Phoenixville, PA 19460-2370
(610) 935-1777

Any place that can stay open since the 1930's (serving Phoenixville since 1934) must be doing something right. Even if some of them are entirely overrated. Foresta's is the kind of family-owned market that that makes you wish you lived next door. Quaint, reasonably priced, and with fantastic customer service (aka attitude), this is a throwback to times when things were just plain better.

Now I hadn't been here in decades, but my fond memories of summers spent working at the local skatepark and spending an hour's pay for a lunch that left me rolling on the ground in pleasure/agony were quite strong. They were not wrong. Taking the stroll down memory lane out of the equation, this was still one of the best hoagies I have had in 2015. That made me happy.

The deli is nothing to write home about visually, but it is packed with homemade goods that are a combo of Italian and Pennsylvania Dutch, each with their own comfort food specialties and followings.

The bread was from Amoroso's, which initially caused me to scoff. They have long been the gold standard for Philadelphia area sandwiches, though in recent years have yielded the throne to competition like Aversa's and Liscio's which have that crusty outside that makes a sandwich stand up to the wet ingredients. Lo and behold, you pick your own roll at Foresta's, and I was directed by the wonderful girl working the counter to the bottom row, second from the left. Amoroso's makes a crusty roll I never knew about. Fantastic.

My take from this haul. An Italian hoagie with sharp prov on a CRUSTY Amoroso roll. Pepperoni bread, and Italian mother lickin' hoagie dip. The hoagie dip alone would warrant a five cheesesteak rating. With the other pieces, this was bound for glory.

The Italian was perfectly balanced. They shave the onions, freshly slice the meats, and did not skimp on the sharp provolone. I am not joking nor embellishing when I tell you this is the perfect Italian hoagie. They even used hoagie spread instead of beat old banana peppers or cherry peppers with stems.

The roll held up perfectly, and dare I say, was every bit as good as my current favorites, if not better.

I also got mayo without so much as a wince. Because mayo and salty meat go hand in hand. Look at the construction of this thing. You will not find a better hoagie. Parallel, possibly, but you can't improve on perfection. It's the thing fat kid dreams are made of.

If the Italian wasn't enough for you, the Italian hoagie dip had all of the components, just minced together. The addition of the hot pepper relish gave this some acidity and spice, and the result was a flavor orgy on your tongue. I ate this whole container within a couple hours' of eating the hoagie, but that can be our little secret.

Finally, for dessert, I had a healthy serving of pepperoni bread. Look at the cheese vein running through this roll. Pepperoni worked its way through every fold, and the cheese spanned the width. Airy, well baked, and full of ingredients, you could do much worse for $5.59.

Foresta's reminds you just how much you lose in today's age of extra large super markets and automated everything. They have an incredible butcher, a great little grocery store, and a deli to make you forget all about that "diet" you were pretending to hang on to.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Zoe's Kitchen - Giveaway CLOSE! Elle, you are the winner!

761 W Lancaster Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
(610) 520-1389

The folks at Zoe's Kitchen have offered one lucky Philly Phoodie reader a $25 gift card to any of their locations. To be entered to win, leave a comment on this post about your healthy food that still tastes good (even though it's not smothered in butter) and be sure to send me your contact information ( so we know how to get in touch with the winner. Contest closes 3/24/15 at 12 PM EST. Winner to be drawn at random.

I had never even heard of Zoe's Kitchen, but when I was also offered a gift card to try some food, of course I was into it. Although they specialize in fresh, healthy food, I was still willing to give them a shot.

The inside is like a mash-up of Chipotle and Jamba juice. You order at the counter and make your way to a table with one of those little numbers on a standing stick things. This place is CLEAN. Also, the people working there were extremely friendly. It makes sense for a Mediterranean/Southern place.

Two of my favorite things here were their Greek dressing and spice blend, both available on every table.

You will be happy to have the salty spices and red wine vinegar tinged dressing to pep up the fresh healthy food they serve. It is all lacking a bit of salt, but I think that's what makes it healthy? But that's also why they let you season your own food. For a starter, I went with the hummus trio. Served with fresh raw veggies, pita wedges, and toasted pita chips, the red pepper, basil, and plain hummus's were pretty filling. I think my body is not used to raw vegetables, and so I felt artificially full. After a weekend of binge eating (including burritos at 2AM at Frankford and Girard, and two racks of ribs on the new Big Green Egg) this healthy food fit the bill. The hummus was very light and nicely textured. It did need a bit of salt, which I took care of by hitting it with the spice blend on my table.

My favorite was probably the roasted red pepper, but they were all good. I can't remember when I ate this healthy in the recent past. I mean, I DO get lettuce on my Chiptole, so I guess that's close?

The shrimp skewer platter was legitimately delicious. The shrimp were coated in a fantastic spice blend that had garlic and hints of paprika. They were surprisingly well executed, lightly charred and crispy without being overcooked; served over a bed of rice pilaf that had really nice flavor. The cucumber raita was a decent dip, and the salad had a load of feta, which is always a treat. Again, I was addicted to the dressing and spices, so I loaded it up. I was really surprised with how fresh and crisp all the vegetables were. I am pretty sure mine aren't that fresh within three minutes of leaving the grocery store.

Look at the beautiful crust and char on these things – the meat was delicately sweet. I actually even liked the zucchini.

The Greek chicken pita didn't fare so well. The problem was that it really wasn't a sandwich. Just a salad served in half a pita. When I tried to pick it up, all was lost.

Loaded with feta again.

Side of slaw had feta and was dressed with an oil and vinegar dressing. Pretty light and refreshing.

The aftermath of the first pita bite. A breech of the bottom and an outpouring of caramelized onions.

The bread tore in short order, so I doused the whole thing in more dressing/spice blend and ate it like a salad. Formal structure aside, it was quite tasty.

Even though this isn't my usual type of food, it was pretty damn good for a healthy alternative. I hope whoever wins is able to nurse their hangover with some fresh fare like I did.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Ramona Susan's Bake Shop

South Philadelphia

I recently had a new local bake shop ask us to check out their cupcakes. Obviously I don't say no to free baked goods. These lovely young ladies even dropped them off at my work! Of course, in true Philly Phoodie fashion, I gave them the wrong address and they drove to West Chester. Well, I have never claimed to be good with directions. I do, however, claim to be good with fattening foods. The "unicorn cupcakes" fit that bill nicely.

The cupcakes came in a box with minimalist branding. It looked sleek. And it certainly drew my co-workers' attention when I was seen walking through the cubes with a box of bright pink baked goods.

The "unicorn" cupcakes feature a sugar horse with clouds, pink strawberry icing, and sprinkles around the edges. There is nothing about these that is not over-the-top.

There are even SPARKLES. I know many friends who have little girls that would LOVE these. That's not to say my grown-ass adult friends won't swoon over these beauts too.

But that's not all. The cake itself is a technicolor dreamcoat of rainbow proportions.

The icing was sweet, light and creamy. The cake was moist, airy, and had a velvet consistency. These were not hard to like. I may be a meat-and-bread type of eater overall, but these cupcakes were pretty damn tasty. I think I know what I am bringing to the next kid party I am invited to. Besides a fifth of bourbon.

Celebrate National Unicorn Day on April 9; call Ramona Susan's to get your order lined up!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Carlino's Market

128 W Market Street
West Chester, PA 19382
(610) 696-3788

Carlino's started as a DiBruno's-style shop in Ardmore, but has since branched out to West Chester. The West Chester iteration is much larger, though just as claustrophobic as the original. They offer a wide variety of pre-made Italian food, as well as cheeses, meats, coffee drinks, and two sandwich counters.

When you look at the layout below, it seems like there is plenty of space. But when you are actually there, the mere presence of five people in the below area causes chaos. In my half hour of shopping and eating, I was in the way, or annoyed at someone in the way at least a dozen times. One of the issues is the islands displaying additional goods for sale scattered around the store. It broke up the flow of traffic, and led to bottlenecks at every turn.

There is no question they offer quality goods, the cured meats alone could occupy me for hours. Plus they offer illustrations by Hawk Krall himself, one of my favorite local artists/food experts. See illustrations below.

One of the best things they offer is the tomato pie. It is thick, chewy, has great acidity from the tomatoes, and is just simple perfection. I am a big fan. It was the best thing I ate on this trip by far.

The "Ultimate Italian" was not so ultimate. It came on a decent roll, though it was no Liscio's, and held prosciutto, mortadella, Calabrese hot salami, hot capicola, rosemary ham,and aged sharp provolone. While the meat was definitely all high quality, the cheese was lost, and it was pretty dry overall. In a different geographic location, this would be a fantastic hoagie. Around here, it was good, not great.

The bread left a LOT to be desired...

The mortadella had beautiful pistachios studding it, and the hot salami was a nice touch. The cohesive package was just nothing special.

The beef meatballs "Sicilian Style" held fried eggplant, ricotta, and grated locatelli. This was the most disappointing of the bunch. The meatballs were under-seasoned, the locatelli was sparse, the eggplant soggy, and the bread fell apart in the three minutes from receiving to eating. Would not recommend this one.

I felt there should have been more salt and a bit of spice to really make this sandwich worthwhile. In addition, the bread was not hearty enough to contain the ingredients without ripping.

It was like they got their rolls backwards here: the Italian was dense and stiff, almost stale and the meatballs were in a spongy, seeded roll. So maybe if they were swapped, I'd be writing with a different opinion. But alas, my one experience at Carlino's will likely remain my only.