Sunday, February 28, 2010

fascination with fork(s)

On my 23rd birthday (June 2008), a close friend and I embraced my love for all things cutlery, and dined at Old City's Fork. Then, I recently completed my time as an food-tern for Philadelphia City Paper, where I'd pass the alluring eatery on my way to the train too many times to note, and couldn't help but gush over their large-sized fork displayed on their entrance way. (Also during that time, I had wrote the What's Cooking column, and my oh my, Fork tended to have an impressive handful of programs and edible events.)

Around then, during which the above and below pictures are from June 5th of that year, I was just shaping into the food-obsessed fiend that y'all know today. And, I also have to say, that my beer-love was soon to unravel (before, I was a proclaimed wino). Below, I am sipping on my first likable IPA, the 60 Minute from Dogfish Head.
Dining at Fork on your birthday is a perfectly pleasuresome too, for the fact they serenade you with a free glass of bubbly and a dessert of your choice. I opted for the banana bread pudding with a delicate caramel sauce (seen below).

BUT, the point of this post, fast-forward two years to February 2010, and there I am, back in Fork finally attending one of their foodie frenzies that I wrote so vividly about in CP.

This one, part of their Thursday evening programs, was focused on the making of mozzarella cheese. And, as exciting as any cheesy course could be for this adoring lady, this one in particular was not what I anticipated, but more so, a bit simpler than I had assumed.

However, in all fairness, preparing mozzarella in an hour or less from complete scratch is impossible, so the teachings from Fork's Executive Chef Terence Feury were as informative as they could be. (Although, if anyone knows where to purchase mozzarella cheese curd, do tell!)

Below is a photographic recap of our mozz making experience:

Feury suggested that we all slip on disposable gloves to protect our lady fingers from the heat of the boiling water and also, to assist in the smoothness of the cheese.

Here, B and I give cheese making a chance, standing aside the chef.
The process went as follows: Fork's Feury chopped up a cube of mozzarella cheese curd (available for purchase at Fork, Etc.) until it appeared almost crumble-like. Then, dividing it in separate bowls for all of the attending public, he individually poured a ladle of boiling water over the solidified cheese.
Each guest was asked to work the water with the dairy lumps until they formed beautifully into a round ball. The frenzied fun of its making then began, as we all took our balls from the warm water and worked it into a gorgeous cheese ball.

After the smooth-shaped ball was near-perfection, we all placed the mozzarella in a bowl of brine, which Feury suggests adding salt or other seasonings to, in order to enhance the flavor of your cheesy creation.

I have to admit, I never made mozzarella before, so the overall experience at Fork was a great bookmark in my life novel. Coming up, they will offer other Thursday programs like ones with topics of home brewing, pizza making and simple soup recipes. I care to attend another soon, and, by the way, they are FREE!

To conclude this fork-fiend's post, I felt the need to share that I also love silverware so dearly that in the fall of 2008, I was inked with the first tattoo, crossbones of a knife and a fork. Since, I have followed a theme of food-adoring tattoos, but the below, was my first and although the picture is terrible, I do love it. (The knife is a fish knife, for I obsess over seafood, especially snazzy sushi.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

photographs of fasnacht day from this full-blown pa dutchy

With a sigh of relief and an upward puff to brush the remaining flour off my forehead, I completed my second year of whipping up over a hundred fasnachts for my family and friends. As I previously wrote about here, the recipe is one of my grandmother's, a woman who wowed the Strausses' tastebuds day in and out with the best of her Pennsylvania Dutch cooking.

However, adamant about good-health, Fasnacht Day is one of my only baking days that I shy away from my recipes pumped with nutrition-hidden ingredients like whole-grain flour, raw sugar, soy milk and agave nectar syrup. So, in honor of doughnut lovers who have recently scarified their sugary addictions and also, being that the fattest day of the year has passed, I've decided to offer you a much simpler and healthier version of browned rounds that sing victory for your lent-crazed ways and also assist in dejellying your belly.

Doughnut Muffins
makes 10 regular muffins
(also published here and adapted from here.)

3/4 cup raw sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup soy or rice milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour (whole-grain, spelt or flaxseed meal)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
blueberries or strawberries (optional for fruity doughnuts)

2 tablespoons butter or vegan butter, melted (optional)
1/2 cup superfine sugar (or raw sugar pulsed for 30 seconds in your blender)

Lightly grease a muffin tin with vegetable oil or spray.

In a large bowl, beat together sugar and egg. Add vegetable oil, milk, and vanilla to sugar mixture and combine.· In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Then pour into liquid mixture and stir to combine.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full, and bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, or until nicely browned and when the center is poked, it comes out clean.

And, only after you enjoyed the nutrition of the healthy-version of the above-mentioned doughnut bites, I leave you with photographs of my escapades of Fat Tuesday.
Roughing the doughnut dough the night prior to frying, quite a pleasant experience.
Although traditional fasnachts are cut rectangular or just circular, minus the hole, the Strauss way was to use a round dough cutter and then, cut the center out with the thimble. I still have my grandmother's cutter and I most definitely use it every year.
The most time consuming part of the doughnut making, but possibly only because I can only fit 10-12 rounds in my fryer at a time.

Being a local reporter at a nearby newspaper group that has a coverage area that spreads to Lancaster County, I was in pure, traditional bliss pitching that I journey through the land of Dutchies finding the best bakers around.

Laura Jenkins of Eliza's Bakery of Phoenixville offered the sale of lard-ridden doughnuts all last week. Just entering into her shop left me intoxicated by the fresh smell of sugary sweets.
Closeup of Eliza's decadent offering of granulated and powdered sugar fasnachts.

Jim Chudnovsky of Bird-in-Hand's Bakery and Creamery cheerily continued throughout the day of Fat Tuesday whipping up the bake shop's distinct version of the Dutch doughnut. Hundreds stopped in the Lancaster County sweet spot to celebrate the tradition of the fasnacht.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

tony's family restaurant's annihilator eating competition

For the last week, I've been scribing stories about a local restaurant's eating competition. Premiering the ultimate heavy weight of sandwiches around the beginning of February, Anthony Storti, Jr. of Tony's Family Restaurant devised the plan for his stacked sandwich from watching many upon many Man v. Food episodes.

The challenge prompts daring diners to devour a record-breaking 2 1/2 pounds of slow-roasted, top round beef (or pork, your choice) with a half pound of provolone cheese piled to the brims inside one of Conshohocken Bakery's freshly baked 1 pound Vienna buns. This alone may sound like a ridiculous feat, but that's not where it ends. The Annihilator is then smeared with the eatery's own horseradish sauce and served with a side of 1 1/2 pounds of onion rings that ALL must be completed for the competition — all of which brings the total of food that is pumped into your stomach to a peaking 5 1/2 pounds.

On Sat., Feb. 13, I attended Tony's for the premiere of the challenge, which included William Myers of Allentown willingly accepting the terms of the contest. Little did I know that Bob would, from briefly watching Myers compete, decide that he too should take on the competition. And, I have to admit, nothing says I love you more cheering on my boyfriend as he stuffs his face, all in hopes of a victorious prize.

Below, I photographed a play-by-play, which you must view in order to see how Bob and Myers ranked in the competition.
The originator first weighs out the roast beef to make sure that each contestant receives exactly 2.5 pounds of meat.
Storti prepares the fresh Vienna bun for the Annihilator, stacking a half pound of provolone cheese slices to melt, gorgeously.

Tony weight 2.5 pounds of his freshly cut roast beef per each challenge, and then soaked it in a steamy pot of au jus. The silver platter before consumption.
Storti passes on his set of rules to Bob, which included that you may drink whatever your heart desires, you may not have a bathroom break, and you must devour the entire platter in an hour.
B knifing the wholesome Annihilator in two, with hopes this is the best strategy to tackle the hefty sandwich.
The optimistic first bite for B, and the first taste of Tony's eatery's food — which, at the beginning, he gushed over, yet too much of a good thing (i.e. trying to compete in a challenge with their food) becomes a bad thing.

Reaching the half-way point at 22 minutes on the clock, B starts to feel the side effects of chowing down on too much, too fast.

After the last bite above, B took one more and then, threw in the cloth napkin. Making it half-way in half of the time seems like an impressive feat to me, although he could not bare to go any further.

William Myers victorious was able to complete the challenge with 6 minutes to spare. Here, B throws on his disappointed expression as he poses with the first winner ever of the Annihilator competition.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

the chompable pups of puttin' on the dog

Opened at the close of November of 2009 at the Market Place at Oaks, Puttin' On The Dog succeeds in providing frankfurter fanatics with a new savory, bun-packed standard.

In a compact, unpretentious storefront shop, owner David Carpani provides area diners with the "best dressed hot dogs around," and there is no need for him to be modest when promoting his slogan. His all-beef frankfurters split down the middle and dressed up with whatever you can heart desires, far surpasses your casually plopped ketchup-and-mustard picnic classics.

From sauerkraut, bacon, chili, bruschetta and spicy mustard, his decorations for his dogs are endless, and his concocted specialties do not fall short, either. The most popular combination found in this street food shop is the Hot Smokey Dog, which loads a sliced, jumbo beef sausage in a nicely toasted bun that is drizzled with a decent dose of spicy mustard. Fried peppers and onions finish off this beloved staple, and the ambitious bite is born.

Other interesting iconic bites include Carpani's Tixxie Dog, which mashes a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich with a gigantic beef hot dog. The Tixxie is finished off with a comforting amount of cheese, while the Mighty Dog may fall short on dairy, but doesn't forget anything from the garden. Relish, chopped onions and tomatoes, pepperoncinis and kosher pickles are loaded atop the all-beef wiener, while yellow mustard and celery salt round out the bun.

Puttin' On The Dog, the new and upbeat paean to the frankfurter in all its variations, is also keen in providing an edible paradise for all those who are not victim to hateful heartburn. The Sloppy Dog, their perfectly juicy chili dog is hefty and delicious, and is also layered with crisp coleslaw and yellow mustard.

However, hot dogs aren't the only handheld meats that trump this counter service spot. Bite-size chicken nuggets and tenders are available for the anti-tubular eaters, and are willingly served with honey mustard, barbecue or ranch dipping sauces. Of course, the perfect companion to any hot dog is served here, too. Their Royal Burger is simply offered with all the necessary condiments like lettuce, tomato, mayo, cheese, etc. and grilled to perfection. The side order of french fries are top-notch, also, served in small and large sizes and sprinkled with a seasoned salt blend that is ideal for any fried food lover who enjoys a light kick.

Carpani's unapologetically high-cholesterol glory of all-beef sandwiches may additionally be seen as the perfect all-American snack bar because he offers equally as many dessert and ice cream options as he does dinnertime dishes. From gooey brownie sundaes and fudge nut parfaits, to M&M shakes, malts, latte freezers and root beer floats, an option for everyone taste buds is available at this one-stop shop.

Affordable with speedy service, Puttin' On The Dog soars in huge heaps of comfort food that will most definitely, have you barking back for more just after one bite of their dogs' buns.

Puttin' On The Dog, Market Place at Oaks, 180 C. Mill Rd., Oaks, 484-924-8940.

Also published here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

for valentine's, waltz on wine and chomp on chocolates

For wine-loving locavores, the Berks County Wine Trail has a Valentine's Day gift that might be more welcome than the typically gifted fresh bouquets of flowers or heart-shaped boxes of chocolates.

Offering lovers a weekend-long event of self-guided wine tours throughout their eight participating locations that span from Reading to Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley, each winery is set to host an array of activities sculpted around chocolate tastings that specifically accompany their locally produced varietals.

The Berks County Wine Trail requires no reservations, and all wine pairings will be offered for free, and even better, couples are encouraged to start and finish at any winery location most convenient to them. Also, to lessen the pressure of traveling from one winery to the next, each location offers directions to journey to the following sipping spot that falls nearest to them.

In appreciation of what southeastern Pennsylvania has to offer to individuals who adore smooth sips produced in our neighborhoods, the Berks County Wine Trail encourages couples to plan a pleasurable afternoon locally, all while providing what every lady loves - chocolate in all its assortments.

Begin at one of my closest winery, Kog Hill of Morgantown, and you will be delighted by the tastes of their Raspberry Dessert Wine paired with the light bites of chocolate torte. Their bottled raspberry sips are rich in flavor and color, and offer an excellent comparison to the sweetness of the cocoa dessert.

Kog Hill, Morgantown's winery is a close stop to either Clover Hill of Robesonia and Manatawny Creek Winery of Douglassville, who will entice traveling samplers with sugary treats like cannolis rolled with miniature chocolate chips or a slice of ultra-chic chocolate Cabernet cake.

Pinnacle Ridge Winery of Kutztown will serve classic French crepes pumped with strawberries, drizzled with decadent bittersweet chocolate sauce and dusted with confectioner's sugar and chocolate shavings. The winery's homemade crepes will be paired with one of their decadent red wine, the beloved bottle of Sweet Seduction.

Family-run Blair Vineyards of Mertztown, who are slated to relocate to Kutztown in April, will tantalize sweet teeth with a dessert titled Mocha French Kiss, which is a coffee truffle treat that goes perfectly with their Lower Block Pinot Noir. Bashore & Stoudt Country Winery of Shartlesville will offer chocolate fondue for fresh fruit dipping, which is offered inconjunction with their series of fresh fruit wines like pear, peach, elderberry and blueberry.

Also participating is Calvaresi Winery of Bernville and Long Trout Winery of Auburn. Long Trout plans to whip up wine-infused Chex Mix batches to accompany their series of cocoa wines, while Calvaresi warps into a chocoholics' haven by joining their Cayuga White with chocolate-covered mango and their 2009 Concord red wine with triple-chocolate malted-milk balls. The Auburn winery also produces sherry, which they will offer to individuals with chocolate-covered red raspberries.

Although J. Maki Winery of Elverson is not a partner of the wine trail, they too make for a great Chester County sipping spot, offering boldly distinctive red and white varietals made in the European premium dry wine tradition. The winery of Grove Road will be open both days of the wine tasting weekend, on Saturday and Sunday from noon until 5 p.m.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

the canned culture now found in craft beer

On Sun., Jan. 25 the historic beer can celebrated 75 years since it was churned into creation in 1935 in the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company of New Jersey.

Since the beginning, when the classic aluminum can was first tested and tasted on the lips of American drinkers, traveling from New Jersey to Richmond, Va., the satisfying pop of snapping open an alcoholic beverage quickly caught on, and we have not looked back.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the majority of the 22 gallons of beer that each American drinks per year, cans are selected over bottles. Fittingly so, Sly Fox Brewing Company of Phoenixville leaked last week that although craft breweries are notorious for supplying their blends in bottles, they will continue to release their canned series of beers.

Finding delight in canned varieties, they will add a fifth sample of beer to their portfolio this spring, the Rt. 113 IPA, Sly Fox's brewmaster Brian O'Reilly reveals that through popular demand, they have caved to customers' requests.Recently, the local brewery, with brewhouse locations in Royersford and Phoenixville, reopened their Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania markets and expect to see an increasing demand for all our beers, said O'Reilly.

The Rt. 113 IPA will join the Pikeland Pilsner and the Phoenix Pale Ale as year-round can releases, although all three will also remain available in 22 ounce glass bottles.The canned portfolio is available to consumers in 24/12 loose cases, six-pack cases and variety packs of 12. The two seasonal brews that rounds out their five-can listing are the Royal Weisse, available only in the spring and summer, and the Dunkel Lager, available in the fall and winter.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

a handsome roasted beet salad from henry's cafe

Being a lil' Pennsylvania Dutch gal, it is appropriate that I love all things pickled. This of course, includes pickles (obviously), but also such things as beans, peppers and most definitely, red beets. Since I was raised on the sweet-and-sour of canned vegetables, I find it odd when I come across individuals who do not share the same fascination in mini-vinegary bites as myself.

All the above being said, recently revisiting Henry's Cafe of Pottstown, I immediately gushed when I viewed that Frank Raski's revised menu offered a seasonal roasted red beet salad as a first course.

Henry's, one of my top five restaurants of my almost-25 years, is quaint and comforting, and serves top-notch entrees prepared before your eyes in a pristine open kitchen. Raski, owner and chef, sculpts each dish to order aside his sous chef, Jesse Daniels, as almost a comedic show, making your dining experience much more than a simple dinnertime feast.

Mashing laughs into the kitchen scene does not lessen the complexities of each perfect plate either, which identifies that these males' skills far surpass the norm' knifing talent found in any kitchen's scene.

For my beloved starter of roasted reds, Daniels lined the bottom of the dish with a handful of their delicately-sliced beets, drizzles of housemade vinaigrette, a pile of field greens, a dashing of diced tomatoes, and the big finale, a nicely-toasted crostini on the side, plopped with a generous amount of their goat cheese spread sprinkled with cracked pepper.

My first course was just the beginning, and with an ever-changing list of fresh fish, and a seasonal offering of second and third courses, to find out much more, you have to sample Frank's cuisine for yourself.