To the Briny Depths of Me Stomach with these Smoked Chicken Wings!

wings

I’m just going to say it. These are without a doubt, the best wings I’ve ever had. They may possibly be the best wings in the world. The. Entire. World. When my first mate and I recently dined at this South Street gem, I asked the server what he would recommend that I order if I were his best friend. He said the wings- so we got the wings. I generally would never order wings out, especially not at a nice restaurant. To me, wings are a something you and  your college roommates get delivered, in quantities of 25 or more. They taste mediocre, but you’re hung over and in your pajamas, and Center Stage is on TV, so who cares? These are not those wings. These are gourmet wings. After FM took his first bite, he said, “Why aren’t all wings this good?!” Seriously, that good. According to the menu, these are smoked chicken wings with birch beer, black pepper and buttermilk. They’re sweet, but not sweet like candy. Just lightly sweet, with wonderfully crispy skin, and a gooey, messy coating. They are sitting in a bit of buttermilk sauce. The tang of the buttermilk is the perfect pairing with the birch beer crust. The chicken meat is hot and plump and juicy. Most perfect wing I could ever imagine. The server came back after we had finished our entrees and said, “If you were my best friend, I’d recommend the dense chocolate cake for dessert.” We got the cake.

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Yer Gonna Get a Flogging if Ye Touch Me Mee Siam!

meesiam

I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a mee siam noob. I’m very well versed in the language of pad Thai, but this Malaysian noodle dish has only somewhat recently come into my life. Which makes me very disappointed in my friends, family and acquaintances pre-Quinn’s 25th birthday dinner. This pile of yum is very similar to pad Thai, but in a way where it’s the best-ever-possible version of it. Instead of the crapshoot that PT can be- greasy, slimy noodles that make you feel fat in a bad way, this dish seems surprisingly light in comparison.  The super thin vermicelli is mixed with cubes of tofu, plump, perfectly cooked shrimp, crunchy bean sprouts and is stir-fried in very-mildly spicy Thai chili sauce. It’s finished with a sprinkle of chopped peanuts, sliced hard boiled egg and a superfluous lemon wedge. The end result is an incredible, flavorful dish. The vermicelli absorbs the sauce without grabbing too much of the oil, and is thin enough to wrap itself around each delicious element. A little bit of everything in one bite is always the key to my heart, and this Chinatown restaurant never lets me down.

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Don’t Be a Drivelswigger and Get this Tofu Bento Box!

friedtofu

I love, love, love this tofu bento box. It’s one of the items that I regret not mentioning in my Midtown Lunch profile. It’s my go-to when I want to treat myself a little, but not have a food coma when I get back to my desk. All components of this dish are delicious, but the tofu is undoubtedly the shining star. These little yum cubes are very lightly fried in what tastes like a light sesame oil and soy sauce mixture, and finished with a few black sesame seeds. They are wonderfully sweet and crisp on the outside and soft and flavorful in the middle. Plain, steamed white rice is always a favorite of mine, and their jam is always on point. Uncommon to me, the edamame and broccoli are both served cold. It threw me off at my first rendezvous with this dish, but never again. The edamame isn’t soggy and has the appropriate snap, and the broccoli is tender and well seasoned. I’ve begun to love the hot/cold combo in this lunch treat. With this spot being but a quick pirate’s jig away from my Rittenhouse office, how could it not be one of my faves?

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I’ll Give Ye All Me Dubloons for this Bacon Grease Popcorn!

popcorn

Yes. You heard that right- bacon grease popcorn. Freshly popped bacon grease popcorn, with Cajun seasoning. It was really something special. When I told a friend that I was going to this remodeled Old City haunt, he recommended that I get it. “But only if you have a bunch of people eating with you. If you split the bag between two people, you WILL feel bad about yourself.” Well, I didn’t think I had anything to worry about. Food usually makes me feel awesome. And how decadent could popcorn really be, right? Wrong. Very wrong. The bag comes to your table piping hot, with the grease stains already forming. When you take a bite, it’s not so much a bacon flavor that hits you, but an earthy, smoky richness. And the Cajun seasoning is the only way to complement it. The spice and the heat is exactly what you want with the bacon grease. With each bite you take, it’s a tiny little burst of hot, buttery, spiced goodness. Outrageously decadent and so, so wonderful. Okay, and so maybe I felt a teensy bit bad about myself after I ate this, but it was worth it. And I’d do it again.

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Give Me Truffle Fries or Prepare to be in Davy’s Grip!

trufflefries

So I feel like a bit of a hypocrite here, because I’ve already told you that I don’t really love white potato fries. But there’s one thing I will always love,  and that’s truffle seasoning. These truffle fries blow my mind. As a person who’s meh about fries, might I say that these are damn good fries? They’re not too thin, not too thick, not greasy, they have the perfect amount of salt, and they hold their shape, and don’t flop around like some of their oily brethren. And the incredible, decadent, fragrant truffle flavor is just- ahhhh. Truffle fries are the perfect balance of casual and upscale. Put some fancy-ass seasoning on a working class favorite, and I’m totally game. And while you’re chowing down on these Rittenhouse love sticks, I’d suggest you ask for the special fry sauce. As far as I can tell, it’s just a basic chipotle mayo, but the creamy kick is the perfect compliment to these truffled delights.

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Keep Yer Grubby Hooks off Me Chocolate Chip Banana Cake Ball!

bananacakeball

Soooo, my dad was diagnosed with Celiac disease a few years ago, meaning he’s allergic to gluten. As a chef, (Yes, he’s seriously a chef. And yes, he makes lots of good food.) and an obvious lover of food, it’s was a tough adjustment to go to a strictly gluten-free diet. He definitely has it figured out now, and has been able to modify lots of his favorite foods, (He’s your guy if you want a gluten-free matzoh ball.) but I’m always on the look out for gluten-free restaurants and treats. That’s where this little gem of a bakery comes in. All of their products are gluten-free, vegan, kosher, and basically food allergy free. It’s pretty amazing that their products taste so darn good without any traditional ingredients. They have super-soft cookies with icing sandwiched in the middle that are amazing. But since I’ve already written about a cookie, on my latest treat-trip for my dad, I asked the woman behind the counter to recommend something new. She suggested this little ball of yum, and I couldn’t have been more happy.  What you’re looking at here is a chocolate chip banana cake ball. The CCB cake mixture is rolled in a ball and dipped in chocolate ganache. Let me just tell you- they’re heavenly. When you bite in, the flavor of really fresh ripe banana hits you, and you get the texture of cakey goodness, and then you get the smooth decadent chocolate. So, so good. And believe me, food allergies or not, you’ll be able to find something here that you love.

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Stop Swingin’ the Lead and Get Me Some Seafood Pasta!

shrimppasta

This was actually a surprise dish. I was really hungry and didn’t read the menu very carefully, so I thought this pasta would be coming in a spicy red sauce. This confusion obviously stemmed from my aching stomach, but also because I had never had a spicy white wine sauce. (Weird?) I’ve had tons of spicy red sauces, and loved them all,  but now that I’ve had the other variety, I realize how much I’ve been missing. This al dente spaghetti is served with plump clams, tender grilled shrimp, bits of wonderfully crispy, salty pancetta, basil, parsley, and red pepper flakes- in a garlic and white wine sauce. There was a nanosecond of disappointment in this Washington Square West BYO when the plate came out and I didn’t see red. But as soon as I tasted it, I realized this was what my friends from college call a B.I.D. – blessing in disguise. I quickly asked for extra bread to sop up every last drop. The next time my Italian step-mom makes her linguini and clam sauce, I’m gonna have to ask her to spice it up.

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I Be a Fancy Lass with this Lobster Roll!

lobsterroll

Well, well, well. I’m having quite the fancy week. First the foie gras burger, and now  the yummiest lobster roll in town. If you haven’t had the pleasure of having a lobster roll before, lemme give it to you straight. It’s a mound of freshly-cooked lobster meat mixed with just a teensy bit of mayo, salt, pepper and usually lemon juice. It’s served in a sweet, buttery, hot dog-type roll with a lightly grilled inside. And Sweet Jesus, does this Rittenhouse hot spot know how to throw together a good lobster roll. I think the key is having really delicious, fresh lobster, and they’ve definitely got your back. This lobster’s incredible- tender, succulent, flavorful, mmmm. And it’s clear that they know that this is the lobster’s time to shine, and don’t overdo it with the dressings. A bite of this lobster on a bite of this roll… heaven. Yum, yum, yum. I would do some very terrible things to have an unlimited amount of these at my disposal. Maybe just order a few oysters on the side, and you’re good to go.

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No Friend or Foe Shall Keep Me from this Foie Gras Burger!

foieburger

Okay, but sometimes it really just is about the biggest, baddest burger, AM I RIGHT? But to call this just a burger almost seems sacrilegious. It’s a total-body experience. I have somewhat recently become a lover of burgers. I constantly crave 500 degrees, and get Sketch almost weekly. But this burger. Is just. The. Best. Burger. I. Can. Ever. Imagine. Existing. In. The. World. I had been looking forward to trying it, and was nervous that it would be a publicity stunt- like a $100 cheesesteak, or some nonsense like that. I worried that the ingredients were picked to make it “The Greatest Burger of All-Time™”, and not picked because they would make an incredible dish. Boy, oh BOY was I wrong. Lets go back to these ingredients… Every single component of this burger was perfectly executed, and worked in perfect harmony together. Absolutely nothing was superfluous. The toasted sesame bun is the first thing to hit your tongue. It’s fluffy and light, and has the necessary sponginess for such a juicy burger. Next comes the fresh lettuce and impossibly ripe tomato. Then comes the thickest, crispiest applewood bacon I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. The bacon is topped with maple bourbon glazed cipollini onions that are out of this world. They’re so delicious and sweet and just melt in your mouth. Plopped on top of the onions is a perfectly cooked, thick, juicy, medium rare patty. Mmm… then comes the really creamy, stinky, amazing blue cheese. Then the end-all-be-all of ingredients, the foie gras. The foie threw me off for a moment, because I was expecting it to be the star of the dish. In reality, it’s the more talented supporting character that totally makes the show. The foie gras adds this buttery richness to the entire burger, that could never be obtained with any other ingredient. I could eat this burger once a week, every week, for the rest of my life. Knowing that Philadelphia’s sweetheart created it, how could I have doubted even for a minute?

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I’d Suffer the Hempen Halter for this Strawberry Milkshake!

strawberrymilkshake

Sometimes it’s not about the biggest, baddest burger, or the spiciest chili dog- it’s about the simple, perfectly executed things that make you happy. That’s what this milkshake is for me. It’s of the strawberry persuasion, and it’s perfect. It’s definitely no frills- just the milkshake with a dollop of whipped cream in a plastic diner cup. But what you can’t see is how much damn strawberry flavor is packed into it. And don’t go thinking that there’s some artificial nonsense in there- the celebrity chef responsible for this dairy delight is way above that. I assume they use the freshest, ripest strawberries and the best ice cream. And then see that dollop of whipped cream on top? Don’t be fooled because it didn’t come piped out of a fancy pastry tip- it’s real, thick, fatty, incredible whipped cream. It’s not too thick, and not too thin, and has a super wide straw to enable you to wolf this down as quickly as you’d like. So next time you’re in West Philly, I’d recommend stopping to get a shake, and maybe a burger to go with it…

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