Monday, January 25, 2010

Fancy Fast Food Ridiculousness

All is can say is wow. Check out "extreme makeovers of actual fast food items purchased at popular fast food restaurants."

Friday, January 22, 2010

On the Avenida

Mt Airy's newest restaurant, Avenida, opened December 17th in the home of the former Cresheim Cottage Cafe, right across the street from the Brewer's Outlet. Based on my two visits so far, I can make two overall comments:

1. The food is consistently good.

2. The service is not.

 My first outing was on the Saturday of their opening weekend. Yes, that Saturday night that dumped two feet of snow. Yes, they were still open (which was great).

Since they did not yet have their liquor license, the four of us who ventured out brought our own wine. And, since their were four of us, we could try a lot of the new menu. The service was great, especially for a new crew (perhaps since there were not many customers because of the blizzard and all). Our server even heated up some mulled wine with our desert course for us.

The second trip had equally good food, but revealed some cracks in service. There is some confusion about reservations - the website says you can email for one (which I did), but I was then told when we arrived that they did not take online reservations. After seating, and being left for awhile while craving cocktails (they now have said liquor license), our server was changed. Our new server did not know about the wines or cocktails, and did not check on us. This was disappointing. If you are not going to train your staff on your offerings, at least offer a terse description on the menu - I can't be expected to know where every winemaker in the world is located.

Still, the food is consistently good. Chefs Edgar (from Gautamala) and Kim Alvarez have been around Philly for years, and originally met at Striped Bass. The food is Latin American yet accessible. For the appetizers, get their homemade chips, guac, and salsas. The guac is surprisingly tart from an unusually strong hand with the citrus, but it works well. The salsas vary but are fresh and refreshing. Also, try the mole glazed ribs - if only for the accompanying magical corn fritters.

All the entrees were cooked nicely, including this Flat Iron Steak.

The winner for both outings was the Pork Pepil. The pork is gorgeously tender, and I could eat four of those cheese panacottas.


For desert, the Chocolate Dolce de Leche Tart with Mango Sorbet was a nice mix of rich, satisfying chocolate and cleansing mango.

The only food disappointment was the Cinnamon Crepes. Even with the promising-sounding rum syrup, the desert tasted very one dimensional. Perhaps a better quality cinnamon, with a touch of heat, could have saved it.

Overall, a great, relaxing place worth the trip from anywhere in the city. This will be especially true in the spring once the back patio opens (called one of the best outdoor patios in Philly). If you do go, park on Germantown Ave or take the R7 to Mt Airy. The Brewer's Outlet used to let Cresheim customers park in their lot across the street, but are now actively towing cars out of there. Its all about the Benjamins.

Say hello to Avenida, and Meat Mt Airy.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bear sausage with red pepper pasta and romesco

 Step 1: Go to the Marketplace at East Falls.

Step 2: Say hi to owner Lisa, originally from Seattle's Pike Place Market.

Step 3: Buy red pepper pasta from the Pappardelle Pasta stand.

Step 4: Look up Mark Bittman's tomato romesco recipe.

Step 5: Have your step-dad shoot a bear.

Step 6: Well, just let me know if you get through step 5.

Say hello to Bear sausage. Meat Mt Airy.

Chinese Dinner Party

A fellow graduate student, originally from China, was kind enough to invite our entire PhD cohort to her home for an authentic Chinese meal. With so many choices, I simply had to try them all.

Chicken breast. The chicken was tender, and cut into such small pieces it allowed the sweetness of the peas and corn to come through nicely.

 Chinese cabbage. Refreshingly bright with a vinegary bite.

Eight treasure rice. Sweet, yet not dessert-like. A nice balance to soothe the spice of other dishes.

Fragrant beef. Tender from a two day marinade, and accompanied by a salty sauce. Didn't need it though: cooked through yet stayed surprisingly moist.

Garlic eggplant. Surprise nuggets of sauted pork add richness to the already creamy texture of the eggplant.

Red oil pork ears. My favorite of the evening due to the shear unusualness of it on my western tongue. Very spicy, with a firm texture from the cartilage.

Roasted chicken legs. What a surprisingly tender and moist meat. This was almost a chicken leg confit - it was packed in salt and spices for a day before roasting.

Snowflake meatballs. A carnivore's treat. No dilemma here. These had two surprises. First, the outside was coated with gluten rice and was thus coyingly sweet. Second, biting into the meat had you guessing for a second - wait - yes, ground peanuts.

 Water boiled beef. Great broth.

 Overall, an unbelievably huge and varying spread.

I'd like to thank the chef for all the work in preparing this meal, and for allowing a group to come together and spend time enjoying it.

This is a lesson to us all. We all have friends, neighbors, and co-workers with varying culinary cultures and histories. We do not need to go to the Brauhaus to enjoy good sausage - there is probably a grandmother on your block that will make you really authentic wurst.

Welcome to authentic, fellowship-inducing Chinese food. Meat Mt. Airy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rosemary Lamb Chops

I do not eat lamb often, and in fact only think of it when lamb lollipops turn up as a special at McMenamin’s. Yet, this past fall I was inspired to try my chops at making lamp chops.

First you need to go to a butcher. A real one. And get yourself one of these:

Ask him to remove or crack the bone at the bottom, as it will prevent you from being able to cut through the rack to make your chops. Don’t throw it away, though. You paid good money for that. And, a lamb died for you just to cut it off! Use it in a soup, or cook it up and give it to your dog, who will then adore you.

You can also have your butcher French the rack for you. Not that French! This is removing the fat and membrane between the rib bones. Alton Brown gives a good demonstration using a small knife and a string.

You can then cut down between the rib bones to make your chops.

Season liberally with salt, pepper, and herbs of your choice. I had a hankering for rosemary. But be careful, too much rosemary can be overpowering.

Now, let’s talk about pans. Get a cast iron skillet or else a heavy bottomed pan to sear off meats. Using thin pans allows the meat to absorb heat from the metal, lowering the surface temperature of the pan, and ruining your ability to get a nice sear. A nice sear adds flavorful compounds to the surface of the meat and also cooks the outside more quickly, allowing you to have a rarer, juicer inside. Oh, by the way, cast iron pans are among the cheapest pans you can buy and will last forever with proper care.


Drizzle olive oil on the meat itself and put in a heated pan (medium high). Sear a few minutes on each side until they are done to your liking.

I served this with an arugula salad and garlic toasts. For the dressing, I whisked together minced shallot, sun-dried tomato paste, sour cream, salt, pepper, white wine vinegar, and olive oil for a creamy sun-dried tomato vinaigrette.

Serve and enjoy.

Welcome to Rosemary Lamb Chops. Meat Mt Airy.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hello, World

Welcome to Meat Mt Airy. This blog, which I aim to update regularly, will feature the restaurants of NorthWest Philly and the purveyors that make them possible. Additionally, I will feature recipes and photos of my own home cooking.

This combination food blog featuring recipes and restaurant reviews was influenced by a number of local food bloggers which I read regularly. And, although I have never met these folks, I feel that I know them by reading their cooking techniques and food thoughts. A special thanks to Arthur Etchells at for keeping us all up on the latest and greatest in Philly food, and to Elizabeth at for showing that you can read, write, eat, and go to school at the same time (best of luck to her in her new baking adventures).

Also, I cannot take creative credit for the name. That goes to a vegetarian blue-grass string bass player who lives in Roxborough.

Without further ado, Meat Mt Airy.