October 31, 2006

October/November 2006 Palate Ballot

It’s no secret that things aren’t going so well in Iraq these days, and in many international circles America’s credibility continues to take it squarely on the chin. But this is a time of year when Americans have the opportunity to restore some of that credibility by showing the world what democracy looks like in action.

No, silly—I’m not talking about exercising your constitutional right to vote in the upcoming mid-term elections. I’m talking, of course, about the Palate Ballot.

That’s right folks, it’s back—the Palate Ballot. Whether you’re an eat-and-run Democrat or a stay-for-the-last-course Republican, the Palate Ballot is one race in which we all have a steak. [Yeah. Painful, isn’t it? Trust me—it gets worse.]

For those of you just tuning in, here’s how democracy is cooked up PhilaFoodie-style:

  • I list four area restaurants in a post. This is called the Palate Ballot.

  • In the comments section of the Palate Ballot, you will vote for the restaurant you want me to review. One vote per person, please.

  • After a designated period of time (usually a week), voting will end. I will then count the votes and review the restaurant that received the most votes.

  • In the event of a tie, I will call a friend of mine who used to clerk for a federal judge, we will go duck hunting and then he will pick the winner.

  • If there is a restaurant you want me to review that is not listed on this particular Palate Ballot, send me an email and I will put it on the next one.

Now that you know the rules, it is time, once again, to dip your fork in the purple ink of true democracy and vote in the comments section of this post for one of these four candidates:

1. Bistro 7 (New American, 7 N. 3rd St.). Although this was on the last Palate Ballot, Matt over at FoodADelphia asked for this to be on the next one, so here it is.

2. Pif (French bistro, 1009 S. 8th St.).

3. Bar Ferdinand (Spanish tapas, 1030 N. 2nd St.).

4. N. 3rd (Traditional American, 810 N. 3rd St.).

Voting ends on Tuesday, November 7, 2006 at 11:59:59 p.m. EST.

And remember, folks—if you don’t vote, the pomme de terre-arists will win. [Oh, stop groaning. I told you it would get worse.]

Photo credit: AP.

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October 26, 2006

Copper Bistro


Copper—man’s first metal. It holds a sacred place in our history as the first metal to be unearthed and shaped by human hands. Man’s first use of copper, interestingly, was decorative and ornamental. Copper became a vehicle for artistic expression. Its color and malleability inspired craftsmanship. Since that time, however, copper has become more known for its utilitarian contributions to society. Even today, copper continues to show its versatility. We rely on copper to make calls on our cell phones and to access blogs from our computers. For inspiration, though, we typically look elsewhere.

That is, until now.

Copper is a New American bistro and BYOB in Northern Liberties. The setting is intimate—the front room has roughly thirty white tablecloth, candle lit seats. There is also a back room, which can accommodate a small group or two. The foodsmiths are owner / executive chef Daniel Connelly and chef de cuisine Todd Braley. The kitchen is open and stationed in the front room, inherently making the chefs part of the dining experience. Yet, you barely notice them. Apparently, aside from the help of only one prep person, Connelly and Braley effortlessly manage the entire restaurant all by themselves. And they do it with a quiet, measured synergy. It’s truly impressive.

Hubbard Squash Soup with Mascarpone Cheese and Nutmeg

Our first appetizer was the soup du jour, Hubbard Squash Soup with Mascarpone Cheese and Nutmeg ($6.00). The soup was incredibly rich and buttery. Addictive and satisfying at a core level; however, a bit of sweetness would have helped to balance out the richness.

Turnip and Beet Carpaccio with Gorgonzola and Carmelized Walnuts

I also ordered the Turnip and Beet Carpaccio with Gorgonzola and Caramelized Walnuts ($7.50). The presentation of this dish was elegant. The rich, whipped Gorgonzola at the center of this dish provided a nice contrast to the cool, comforting root vegetables. The sugar on the walnuts, which were addictive, was a bit too candy-ish for this dish. A sugar with the depth of honey or molasses, for example, probably would be more complementary to the vegetables and Gorgonzola.

Rosenblum Zinfandel, San Fracisco Bay Carla's Vineyard 2004

We brought a bottle of Rosenblum Zinfandel, San Francisco Bay Carla’s Vineyard 2004 ($26.99, PLCB No. 13724, Specialty). This wine was deep and bold—black cherry, black currant, raisiny plum and grass. With an alcohol content of 16%, this Zinfandel was a formidable (and enjoyable) dinner companion.

Seared Day-Boat Scallops, Potato Rosti, Wild Mushroom Ragout

For her entrée, my wife ordered the Seared Day-Boat Scallops, Potato Rosti, Wild Mushroom Ragout and Proscuitto Jus ($22.50). The scallops were perfectly prepared. The mushroom ragout was flavorful and earthy, yet delicate, and paired well with the scallops.

Seared Duck Breast, Fregola Sarda, Cherry Gastrique

I ordered the Seared Duck Breast with Fregola Sarda and Cherry Gastrique ($21.00). The quality of the duck was amazing—no gamyness whatsoever. Probably the best duck I’ve had in recent memory. This, too, was perfectly prepared. With a duck of lesser quality, one would expect the skin to have been treated to a few more seconds of searing and the meat to be coated in a deeper cherry gastrique. But, given the high quality of the duck, it was wise not to do so here, a testament to chefs’ discretion.

Copper's Flourless Chocolate Torte (airial)

For dessert, we ordered the Flourless Chocolate Torte ($6.00), which I wrote about here in this week’s Culture Shock section of the City Paper.

Chefs Connelly and Braley demonstrate that Copper is synonymous with artistry and craftsmanship. Inspiration is just a reservation away.

Copper Bistro
614 N. Second Street
(215) 627-9844

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October 11, 2006


Pumpkin Sign

All seasons bring change. But for many people, no season brings changes that are more evocative than autumn's. The days are shorter. There’s a crisp bite in the air. Winter looms. It is a time of new beginnings, too—especially for those whose lives have ever revolved around an academic cycle (or watching football). Autumn is synonymous with the harvest. We set aside time to celebrate the fruits of our labor and explore the flavors of the year’s bounty. Autumn has a distinct feeling all its own. And the one symbol that captures that feeling, and uniquely represents the season of autumn, is the pumpkin.

You take on a certain risk naming your 28-seat BYOB after a symbol that is so closely associated with one particular season; some people, after all, aren’t always in the mood for autumn. Chef Ian Moroney does find ways to subtly work autumnal themes into many of his creations; however, he is not a slave to the season.

Romaine Salad with Figs Candied Pecans and Cashel Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

The Romaine salad ($7.75), our first appetizer, included figs and candied pecans, both of which are sweet, rich and flavorful Fall staples. The salad was topped with vinaigrette made from Cashel Blue Irish Farmhouse Cheese, a semi-soft blue cow’s milk cheese from Tipperary Ireland, giving the salad a slight touch of the comforting richness you seek out in the cooler months.

Seared Scallops with Mushroom Friccassee and Buternut Squash Emulsion

The second appetizer was the seared scallops, which were served floating on top of a mushroom fricassee and surrounded by a butternut squash emulsion ($9.75). The mushrooms had a deep, smokey flavor that made me nostalgic for an evening in front of a campfire.

Pork Two Ways with Pear Confit, Fingerlings and Cider Sauce

The entrée I had was the pork two ways with a pear confit, fingerlings and cider sauce ($22). The larger piece of pork was the broiled loin, which was juicy, sweet and tender. The other was the braised belly, the part normally cut into bacon. This slightly darker meat was wrapped in an intimidating ribbon of fat. But the intimidation spilled away as it instantly liquefied in my mouth, stimulating parts of the brain where the caveman and the addict lurk in all of us.

Pot de Creme

For dessert, the pot de crème ($7.50)—a dessert I’m pleased to see is becoming ubiquitous in Center City. Pumpkin separates itself from the pack by adding milk chocolate and coffee. The milk chocolate gives it a smooth, silky texture some of the others may lack, and the coffee allows you to pretend you’re a grown-up while you're reliving the decadence of youth.

Pumpkin Check

Pumpkins make their appearance only in the fall and are around only for a short time. But this particular Pumpkin is a reasonably priced treat you can enjoy any time of the year as many times as you like—assuming, of course, that you make reservations.

1713 South Street
(215) 545-4448

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