Tuesday, March 30, 2010

peanut butter eggs, a success of the strausses

There are not enough words to describe the love that the Strausses have for their glue that stuck them ever-so-willingly together, Naomi Strauss. 

 My grandmother & I, circa October 2006.

If you've read any of my posts where I trance back to my days with my beloved grandmother, it's obvious that you know that I possess an undying love for her. This month, it has only been three years that she has passed,  and as the days dwindle by, I always think of her more and more.

My Mammy had a keen eye for crafting the tastiest treats anyone's sweet teeth could ever experience, and I must modestly admit, this is not a biased statement. My family members and I hold these dear recipes as a triumphant trophy and as holidays approach, with appropriate traditional Strauss treats in tune for each, we are sure to gather together to reenact what our dear grandma did best in her comforting kitchen space.

Most recently, my cousins and I, as we like to think we're blessed with the gift that our grandmother possessed so gracefully, gathered to sculpt her chocolate-covered peanut butter eggs a tradition we've began since her passing.

This year was the first festive occasion for the Strauss family's newest member, Cheyanne Naomi Willman, and as you see below, she too now loves these candies as much as we ever could (and, that is a hell of a lot!).

Here's a photographic step-by-step of our family-sacred, sugary Easter concoctions:

Monday, March 29, 2010

craft brew nights at pickering creek inn

As the sippable obsession with American craft beer continues to grow, so does the desire for drinkers to dive deep into the educational process of how it was developed.

Luckily for local enthusiasts, Phoenixville is home to two highly-considered microbreweries, Sly Fox Brewing Company and Iron Hill Brewery, but that does not mean that curious consumers want to conclude their liquid knowledge with what only slips into their zip code.

Phil Maniscalco, General Manager of Pickering Creek Inn on Bridge Street, strives to assist passionate, local hop-infused heads by offering his Craft Brew Nights every other Thursday. As an evening affair that is themed around a featured craft brewery, Maniscalco invites the local community to become captivated by some of the country's best beers without having to travel to their territory.

"If scheduling allows, a representative from the brewery or their distributor sometimes attend," he revealed. "But, I always have pint specials and almost always have giveaway items."

Most recently, on Thurs., March 25, Pickering Creek Inn hosted an evening promoting Cooperstown, New York's Brewery Ommegang. Pumping several of the bars' taps with pleasurable picks from the upstate brewing company, including Rare Vos, an Amber Ale; Hennpin, a Farmhouse Ale; and Ommegang, an Abbey Ale, the inn afforded the authentic Belgian-styled ales with pizazz and grace.

Additionally, Maniscalco led a giftaway of several of the brewery's pristine beer glasses, and like many beer drinkers are quite adamant of revealing, you must drink an Ommegang out of its proper glass.

Ommegang, a brewing company that is absolutely not "overhopped or overhyped," joins the company of Ohio's Great Lakes Brewing Co. and New York's Southampton Brewery as those featured within the local establishment's brew nights. For lucky patrons who attended the Southampton beer bash in January, Pickering Creek paired that festive occasion with an outlandish hot dog eating contest, and looks to do similar entertaining gestures for future nights.

Maniscalco concludes with what's on tap for local beer fiend's futures: "I have Weyerbacher Brewing of Easton scheduled for Thurs., April 8 and Breckenridge Brewery of Denver, Colorado scheduled for Thurs., April 22.

Published this weekend here.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

majolica embraces economy by offering an edible education

(above a photographic recap of the sample dishes Chef Andrew Deery offers during his cooking demonstrations.)

Food-obsessed fiends may have lamented when Chef Andrew Deery announced early 2009 that his locally-inspired eatery, Majolica of Bridge Street, was painstakingly closing its doors.

With the economic downturn significantly impacting his and his wife's, Sarah Johnson, establishment, the darling duo confessed that they could not "go anymore."

"We ran out of money and we hit the wall," retold Deery. "It was an honest-to-goodness closing."

Since late 2008, when economy led many daring diners to have an acute accountability per each penny spent and also, created them to dine out in upscale eateries less and less, the entrepreneurial couple decided that they could possibly recover if they reexamined and modified their business for the ever-present economy.

Inspired by the outcries of those had come to love the old business model of the sophisticated, luxurious "special occasion spot," Deery and Johnson downsized their kitchen staff, sliced their prices, mapped a menu approachable to the masses and even, added Sundays to their open availability.

However, what Deery did not think twice of doing was compromising his craftsmanship, opting to always continue his offerings of eclectic, skillful entrees paired with delicate, seductive sauces and cozy, small-plated bistro creations.

With a reemergence onto Phoenixville's dining scene as of the summer of 2009, Deery also announced he was willing to weasel is way outside of his kitchen to host a series of cooking demonstrations for the local community to uncover, step-by-step, the pinch-perfect quality of his edible successes.

As a chef, who has spent a majority of his professional career behind closed doors, surprisingly offering cooking demos has also become an awarding experience for Deery, as well.

"It has really helped me out personally and I have come to enjoy being in front of people," he confessed.

Twice a month, with a distinct theme per each, the proprietor entertains his dining room of almost 20 guests with the tricks of his trade, and appealingly concludes each affair with a succulent sampling of what was just prepared before their hungry eyes.

As an evening defined as a "conversation," Deery invites attendees, along the way, to share their personal experience with whatever the chef is crafting at each given moment. He also promotes the hands-on approach to the course by allowing his guests to continuously sneak to the front of his room and practice slicing, dicing, twisting, sculpting, or reenacting whatever kitchen-inspired motion he previously demonstrated.

Adoring the simplicities of the ritual of making and eating food together, Deery suggests that his classes aren't just pumped with people looking to fill their stomachs (although that is a perk), but rather those in attendance are generally interested in learning the subject manner.

A chef who appreciates the value of keeping your money local and supporting your community, Deery leads programs pumped with local produce and materials on pasta making, knife sharping and skills, dessert making, vegetarian cuisine, and much, much more.

"There's value in shaking the hand of the farmer that grew your food," he said.

Following suit of Majolica's philosophy to bring the farm to the table, the operating duo also invites local farmers and business partners into their restaurant for specialty dinners, like their extremely popular, upcoming Sly Fox Beer Dinner on March 30.

"A lot of farmers and small businesses recognize the benefits of working together," said Deery.

Deery devised a menu with Sly Fox's brewmaster Brian O'Reilly to together feature the best of both of their worlds. Additionally, the chef will use Sly Fox's wert (un-fermented beer) to create a mild sweet syrup that pairs wonderfully with a spread of cheeses.

Other specialty dinners that will have Majolica diving deep into the spring season includes a meal with Birchrun Hills Farm, held April 27; a jazz dinner featuring Erin Dickens, held May 4; and a sustainable fish dinner and discussion, with a date to be announced.

To tantalize your kitchen techniques via Deery's friendly expertise, his April cooking demonstration is themed around knife sharpening and how to always achieve the sleekest and sharpest blade on all of your kitchen's knives, held April 6 and 20.

"I'm forming friendships I never would have envisioned," concluded Deery of his evenings of entertaining his guests with an edible education focused around approachable foods.

For more information, or to participate, visit Majolica here or call 610-917-0962.

Also published here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

fascinating face fur in philly

Excuse me as I don't blab about food for once (a shocker!), but I attended an evening affair that cannot go without being mentioned!

Last week, as a scribed about Philadelphia's First Annual Beard and Moustache Competition, held at Studio 34, I pined to experience first-hand the energy one room could possess when filled with furry gentlemen.

What I wrote of the March manliness was this:

Anchorage, Alaska, may be the notorious nesting ground for seasonally appropriate, fascinating face fur, but that doesn't mean it's the only locale capable of capturing the artfully unkempt in a rousing beard-praising competition. Roo Vandegrift (see his icy beard below) and Mica Baum-Tuccillo, the Beard and Moustache Competition co-originators from West Philly, encourage all of the area's urban hillbillies to flaunt their fuzz in an energetic battle of the beards. Vandegrift, proudly unshaven for more than six months, invites fellows and females to contend in five non-gendered, audience-judged contests over natural and free-styled full and partial beards, 'staches, fakes and much more — all while boozing on beastly homebrews inspired by Fu Manchus, mutton chops and the scandalous Salvador DalĂ­.

After partaking in the exhilarating eve of beards, 'staches, mutton chops, goatees, and all things alike, I was also enthused that several members of the Lancaster County Bart und Schnauzer Friendship Society participated in the roused contest, which of course, led me to tap tap on my keyboard about a recap of the event.
You may view that anxious retelling here. Leon Lutz, who I mention in detail in that link, is seen below during his small speech admist the mustache category he competed.
And now, several snapshots from the evening:
A Brooklyn-based participant of the full beard category, energizing his fellow comrades to "long live the beard," as did his furry friend below.
And Roo, the emcee of the harried event, also provided me with the following photos of several individuals who were victorious in having the best face fuzz.
AND, the marvelous Molly Eichel over at City Paper also posted a perfect slideshow of photographs from the evening, all done by the graceful Greg P. Check them out here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

riesling ale of war horse brewing company

As wonderful as a frosty pint can be only most terrible of nights, I was recently doc-ordered to temporarily cease my liquid consumption. And now, as you must be sick of my whines of myself wallowing in self-pity, I'm encouraging my lil' stomach to get better pronto as I plan to then fast-forward back to my beer connoisseur status.

But, in the wake of my dreary limited diet I shall leave you with a photographic recap of one of my many stops I took last month as traveling through the Finger Lakes of New York's Wine Trail.

Yes, it is true that brews are severely limited on a lively varietal route, however, as seen above War Horse Brewing Company is an ideal diamond in the rough. Part of a versatile wino's haven, The Three Brothers Wineries and Estates, the miniature brewery crafts a limited number of craft beers and it almost seems fitting that their most popular, Riesling Ale, spouts not only a wine-themed name, but also is sculpted with New York's Riesling juice.

A mashing between a flavorful wheat ale and a local grape mix, the ale is comparable to lightly-fruited beer blend and also, perfect for any sweltering summer day. 

Other beers of War Horse definitely worth the mention include their seasonal Raspberry Wheat, East Coast Amber, American Black Lager, India Pale Ale, and as the lil' one seen above loved, hand-crafted root beer.

War Horse Brewing Company, 623 Lerch Road, Geneva, New York

Saturday, March 20, 2010

the americana sirloin patty of coventry tea room

Set in a structure that dates back to 1790 with a historical background tracing to a colonial farmhouse, a doctor's office, an underground railroad spot, and much more, the Coventry Tea Room is a the definition of home-styled country cuisine.

As the name assumes, the petite eatery provides curious diners with an incredible selection of teas, set in a  crafty and cozy dining room. Flooded with antique tea cups and hand-sewn dollies, it is obvious that elder lady clubs flock to such a local space, but it is not as obvious, how true to grandma's tastes the cuisines parlays to its guests.

Personally a fan of  Coventry Tea Room's lunch menu that sprawls through options of sauteed baby beef liver, antipastos, tea sandwiches presented on fresh zucchini bread and freshly-swirled soups, my utmost favorite has to be their upscale preparation on a sirloin burger

Hearty and satisfyingly juicy, smothered in sauteed mushrooms and onions, and coated with a delicate Swiss cheese, there's not doubt that the country-esque, Americana locale knows a thing or two about preparing an impression all-beef patty. Let's not forget to mention, grandma knows best that what's better than the average french fry is an ideal side of lightly sauteed and nicely squared potatoes.

The evening entrees are even more mind-blowing and I will leave you with just a small revealing of what their menu transcribes on their weekend, 5 to 9 menu:  Roast Young Turkey with savory potato stuffing, Slow-baked Ginger Hawaiian Salmon, Veal Parisian, and their namesake sweet endings including homemade cream puffs, chocolate-drizzled profiteroles and cocoa-raspberry mousse cake.

The Coventry Tea Room, 1161 Ridge Road, Pottstown, 610-469-2124

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

the luxury of ladder 15

Contrary to many individual's beliefs, I like to consider that I am a sassy, smooth female. However, in all reality and honesty, I am not smooth at all. 

So, last Tuesday when I had gushed that finally I could squeeze in my attendance to Burger Club Philly with my last visit being the gathering at the scrumptious spot, known as Fishtown's Sketch (that was the end of summer!). But, when I sashayed into March's selected locale, the recently opened Ladder 15 on Sansom Street trotting the skilled cuisine of David Ansill, 10 minutes late, NO ONE WAS THERE! Well, no burger nerds were there.

Confused and saddened because, if you love beefiness as much as this girl, and love to share the same interest with other "nerdburgers," it is an extreme bummer when you realize that you were a week early!

Obviously, I sucked up my cocky pride and decided that if I was already standing in the latest-raved burger spot, so might as well indulge in what the eatery was rumored to have, an "over-the-top" burger worth the outlandish title.

The appearance alone of the Burger 15, seen above,  quite frankly notes that Chef Ansill had laid his grace in the construction of this bar burger feast. Composed of a juicy, decadent prime sirloin patty that's smothered in perfectly-paired braised short rib, red wine 'shrooms and grilled red onions, and then sided with a salty truffle sauce, this bodacious burg' is a mouthful both in words and in experience.

Let's no forget, it's served with an offering of bone marrow, which although I tend to flock toward the marvels of marrow, I could of skipped this selection. And, I make that statement with tons of love for Ansill, who happened to be present in Ladder 15's dining room for a majority of our meal (always an awesome sight to see). Since I was already overwhelmed with the intensity of my piled-high goodness atop my fresh bun, the boned delicacy just about jump-started me into a welcoming food coma.

But, if you're planning to pop into Burger Club Philly on the appropriate day (TODAY) you are in luck, because the firehouse-esque eatery is also hosting Ansill's re-emergence to the local dining scene soon after, with a launch party at 8 p.m. 

Freebie alert: There's going to be a round of free appetizers, including these light-and-heavenly potato and goat cheese cigars, pictured above. And, to excitedly note, they'll unveil a new beer list that already has me utterly satisfied, and is set to include: Yards Philly Pale Ale, Bell’s Oarsman Ale, Ommegang Hennepin, Left Hand Polestar Pilsner and Sly Fox O’Reilly’s Stout.

Monday, March 15, 2010

wined and dined with tamanend winery

In conjunction with Uncork, York, the darling wino duo of my close friend and I journeyed to the outskirts of Lancaster to indulge in a denched winemaker's feast of Tamanend Winery. Catered by the Fenz Restaurant, a local love to many in the area, the exciting evening was spent pairing delicate courses with twice the amount of deliciously versatile wines.

The adored (and engaged!) winemakers, Linda Jones McKee and Richard Carey entertained their packed warehouse space with incredible class and sass, and not a dear soul could even remember by the night's end of how incredibly dreary it was outside their pleasurable place.

Below, is a pictorial recap of my dashing date of fine food and drink, as well as the friendly faces of the affair.
Winemaker Linda Jones McKee and I, who I now absolutely adore!
Tamanend's Lab Manager Beth Hess who shared our dining space with us and was such a wonderful companion to the evening. Here, she allows us to sample both the orange and lime margarita wine.
The feisty first course of a miniature corn quiche splashed with red pepper coulis and arugula pesto. Wines: Ole & Cardinalis
The saucy second course with a perfectly-prepared, seared scallop plopped in a luscious lobster sauce and topped with an adorable potato crisp. Wines: Moonstone & Irresistible
A nicely roasted duck rounded out course three, dosed with a cherry and green peppercorn reduction. Wines: Alleluia 2004 & Alleluia 2006 (seen below)
With beautifully-served beef being one of my most favorite things, it is no surprise that the short ribs braised with red wine demi-glace and sided with roasted root veggies was my utmost adored course.
Wine: American Beauty 2003
To graciously note, saying that we were skimped on wine would be a ridiculous thing to mention, and completely untrue. I would love to thank our new friend Leann (seen here on the left) for taking care of us sloshed, silly girls.
Finalizing our feast was this fancified flute pumped with a pear panna cotta. Wine: Azul D'Oro
And also, hello to our other dashing dining companions, this dear couple who are smartypants in the health service field.

Sadly, I couldn't make it to the after dinner drinks, since I had already exceeded my petite frame's limit, but I hear what was served was a succulent ending to an overall incredible evening. Wines: Altissimo 2008 & Cerise Amour

To conclude, I beg of you to give Tamanend a go, ASAP!