Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Opinicon

1697 Chaffeys Lock Road
Elgin, ON K0G 1E0
CANADA (eh!)
(613) 359-5233

Dreaming all the way back to summer... I spent a magical evening drinking beer and eating pizza in beautiful Ontario, Canada. I have been traveling to this particular area for most of my life, and the local lodge is undergoing a major renovation.

They have kept the fantastic color scheme, and gutted the main structure, now incorporating a modern menu and pub.

Check out the charming general store. They serve ice cream and coffee. So dreamy.

The liars bench is for after your fishing trip.

While the completely renovated beer garden is what made my night so special.

A couple of pizzas did not hurt either.

Mushroom Chorizo - Chipotle Alfredo, Sautéed Mushrooms, Seed to Sausage Chorizo, Roasted Peppers, and Pickled Onions. Well executed for being served out of a truck (the kitchen was still under renovation).

Look at that overlap of toppings onto the crust.

Duck Confit - Parmesan Sauce, Pulled Duck, Caramelized Onions, Hoisin Sauce, and Mozzarella.

A bit more exotic, the rich duck paired perfectly with the Hoisin.

I recommend checking this area out for a long weekend away. It's about a six and a half hour drive from Philly. But it will make you feel as though you are in a different world. The people are as friendly as can be, and the scenery is gorgeous.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

MealPal: Philly Launch Party

Website/Join MealPal

I was invited to a launch party for a new lunch purchase program for folks working in Center City. MealPal lets you pay per month, and then choose from a multitude of vendors for a daily lunch option. Kind of like Netflix for food. You can choose what you want to eat from a mouthwatering display of Pinterest-style food photos, up until 9:30am that morning, and then pick up your meal around . . .  lunchtime. It ends up costing about $6 a day, and you basically just walk in and grab your food without having to pay or wait in line. Some of the vendors were offering samples, so I indulged. My favorite of the night ended up being these Kansas City Beef Dogs from Destination Dogs.

The casing had a great snap, and the short rib chili and house slaw on top added just the right amount of savory and sassy accessories. They also baked the top loader buns in house. I was a big fan.

You could also tell that the care that was put into the assembly process was a carry-over from the general thoughtfulness and "love" that these guys had for the product.

I spent a good bit of time eating these doggies talking to the chef/co-founder Jimmy, who clearly has a passion for what he does and as I mentioned before, it shows. The short rib chili is a task in itself and when you make your own sausages (and other cased meats) and breads in house too, the dudes at DD have their hands (deliciously) full.

I may or may not have eaten three (along with all of the other foods I sampled). I felt a bit like Frankie MacDonald by the time I was done.

Real Food Eatery is another newcomer on the Center City scene that I pleased to meet, literally. I spoke to John (co-founder) about his passion for nutrition and how it shouldn't be considered a bad thing. AKA bland. I was surprisingly pleased with his options. I tried some of the sweet potato hummus and the chicken dish, again both surprisingly good for how healthy they looked.

Plenty of herbs on the tender and flavorful chicken thighs.

And here I was trying yet ANOTHER new place with some Asian flair, Oishii Poke in Chinatown. The spicy salmon poke bowl was yet another favorite.

Look at the color on that salmon!

The shrimp "ebi crunch sushi burrito" rolls were also delicious. Reminded me of my original favorite sushi burrito, but with a little less pizzaz (AKA spicy sauces).

The Farmer's Keep brought some ranch flavored beef meatballs that were not made with your packet of dried ranch mix, but with actual fresh herbs. Surprisingly delicious.

I passed on this one, below, from a local fitness-oriented fast food joint (too healthy for my tastes at that moment) but just want to show you that there is definitely a good mix of options for those who might be watching their waste line.

Matt and Marie's brought some sandwich options including their famous Italian stallion. A decent choice for an Italian hoagie in Center City.

This is actually a great lunch option for people who work downtown and want a reason to get out of the office. You have the option to eat on premises or go back to your desk (like so many of us are guilty of doing). You also get a huge variety of options every day, and can get in and out of the restaurant in less than 5 minutes. Definitely worth a trial subscription, if you ask me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Kabob and Grill

107 E. County Line Road
Ardmore, PA 19003
(484) 417-6672

Indian food, in addition to being difficult to photograph, generally falls into two categories: good and great. I rarely have great Indian, but Kabob and Grill is up there. It's located right by Hymie's, and has a small bright storefront.

While it is BYOB, they offer a complimentary beer (Kingfisher) if you feel like it. I had both my Ballast Point Sculpin IPA AND a Kingfisher. When in Rome.

It is a bit more expensive than my usual targeted food spots, no matter the time of day, but for lunch they offer several killer deals around $10. I decided to try the Lamb Kadai (left) and the Chicken Tikka Masala (right).

The lamb is actually a Pakistani dish and came highly recommended by the server. The polite enthusiasm was fantastic, and it was just the right level of attention. Kadai, per the menu, features tender lamb cubes cooked with fresh onion,tomato and chief (chef) special spices. It came out like a lamb stew, and was delicious. Deep, rich flavor from the tomato and spice blend kept me coming back for more.

I mean, who's kidding, why would I put 3 only chunks on my plate? I like to start light. The lamb chunks truly were tender, and melted with each bite.

The Tikka Masala was another winner, with tender chicken in a creamy, spicy yogurt sauce. It boasted the standard orange tint, and the portion was spot on.

Look at this tender chicken. Delicious, flavorful and very clean.

An order of garlic naan came glistening with ghee and was crispy yet pliable. Exactly as it should be.

Look at the layers of flaky dough.

I also sampled the raita, a yogurt based sauce that I generally dip my naan in and can help cool down anything that brought too much heat. Luckily the mains here were well balanced with just enough heat to get the sweat started, but not enough to burn you. At lunch it is a steal, for dinner you will not be disappointed.

Monday, November 14, 2016


1528 Packer Avenue
Packer Park Shopping Center
Philadelphia, PA 19145
(215) 467-1111

If there is a mecca for hoagies it's Philly. If there is an eden inside that fantasy world, it's South Philly. You can literally find a different sandwich every couple of blocks, all unique, and almost all delicious. Pastificio is located in a strip mall by Chickie and Pete's, and the sandwiches there could inspire pilgrimages.

One part pasta company, one part Italian market, one part sandwich church, they pack a lot into a narrow but long footprint.

They also sport their own wrappers, which is a nice touch.

The hoagies come on Abruzzi bakery rolls, which are perfectly crunchy and chewy, and rank among the best in the area (and obviously the world). Below are the namesake "Pastificio" on top, and the "Stu Gatz" below.

The Stu Gatz is a simple creation, packed with mortadella, sliced cured green olives, 4 cheese Italian blend (Asiago, Parmesan, American, Romano – packs lots of flavor for one kind of cheese), and sliced tomato. This sandwich is perfection. Salty and briny olives transform this from a fancy ham sandwich into something magical.

The tomato cuts the salt just a bit, and the pistachio flecked ham is rich enough to stand as the main meat.

I honestly could barely put this down to chew.

The proportions are spot on as well. Look at that perfectly thin-sliced meat to bread ratio.

The Pastificio is Italian hoagie holiness. Sopressata, capicola, and sharp provolone. My two favorite meats and favorite cheese (for hoagies). Everything was sliced razor thin (as it should be), and the typical Thuman's "The Deli Best" quality was apparent. Shredded lettuce, thinly sliced onion, tomato, banana peppers, and a shake of salt/pepper/oregano rounded out the party.

And, of course I got my usual oil AND "little bit of mayo."

Again, everything was in perfect balance, and this Italian was quickly devoured. But not before I savored every bite.

They also have a great selection of frozen pasta, sauces, and various meats. Come for lunch, take home dinner. This place deserves every cheesesteak.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


1430 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 609-4758

New to the Center City pizza scene is &pizza. Yes, &pizza. They are a D.C. area-based small pizza chain that has expanded into the Philadelphia market. I was recently invited to check out their grand opening, which was more like a well-lit night club than a pizza shop, but they were pulling out the stops for the preview night.

There was a "DJ". Actually, there were two. Dueling  DJ's?

A list of the most popular pizzas was available at the counter. Ordering is a Chipotle-like experience (I compare all fast-cas to them because they're still the reigning king), with a line of people ready to add your desired ingredients. OR you just pick a standard option.

The pizza itself is a long, narrow flatbread that goes through a conveyor belt. It is served on a long narrow tray, but also on a piece of paper between said tray and pizza (overkill). The staff paraded around with trays of almost every style pie.

My favorite was probably the "Pineapple Jack," with classic tomato, mozzarella, salami, pineapple, pickled red onion, Parmesan, and cherry bomb BBQ sauce. I am such a sucker for sweet, heat, and meat.

The "OG" was tomato sauce, mozz, cherry tomato, and basil. Pretty run of the mill but still tasty and well manicured.

An interesting twist was the "Farmers Daughter" — spicy tomato sauce, spinach, mozzarella, Italian sausage, egg, Parmesan and hot sauce. Yolk makes it fancy. This one was pretty good and probably took third place in my line-up.

The cringe-worthy offering named "Gnarlic" was better than it sounded. With garlic ricotta, mozzarella, grilled onion, pesto, garlic sauce, and Parm, it was the second place white pie to my preferred "Moonstruck." The mushroom truffle, garlic ricotta, mozzarella, mushroom, grilled onion, goat cheese, fig balsamic was a great combo, and my second favorite overall.

High ceilings and a black and white design made for a pleasing interior, more fancy than about any other pizza place I can remember.

They offer free pizza for a year if you get a tattoo with their logo on it. So that is an option for any of my poorer readers. I mean, it's almost worth considering. And an exercise in branding and advertising for anyone looking to commercialize America's favorite comfort food.