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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Killin it at Kanella

forks: 8.8
price: $$

1001 Spruce St.
Philadelphia, PA

For a while now I've been dying to try Kanella. First of all, I LOVE any type of Mediterranean food and when I heard that this quaint little restaurant was serving up authentic and delicious Greek dishes, well I had to go. Second, I remembered seeing Kanella featured on the Salty Goodness episode of "Best Thing I Ever Ate" and since I will some day be featured on that show, I felt that it was my duty to try the spot where Ryan D'agostino claimed he had the best "salty goodness." Well, last week the opportunity for brunch arose, and I suggested we give the spot a shot. My group was in full support and we headed downtown to check Kanella out. It was a b-e-a-utiful day out, sun shining, literally summer weather, and when I saw the adorable outdoor seating, I knew we'd enjoy our food outside. The restaurant, in fashion with it's Greek theme, boasted a blue and white striped awning, little cafe tables outside, and thick honey wood tables on the inside.

The brunch menu had me salivating as soon as it was placed in front of me, so many options from egg dishes to lamb and chicken kabobs and too little self control. To start, we ordered the mixed Kanella plate; a plate of classic Greek staples like stuffed grape leaves, tzatziki dip, olives, tabouli, a tomato salad, falafel balls, tahini, fried eggplant, and some pita, duh. The presentation was great as the plate was vibrant and offered a great assortment of tastings. The grape leaves totally stood out. They had great texture, and the rice stuffing within them had raisins that added a sweet and welcomed contrast to the saltiness of the leaves. The fried eggplant, was, well, fried eggplant. The tabouli and tomato salads were fresh and delicious, and perfectly seasoned. Falafels were averages but the tztatziki was thick and creamy and had a strong cucumber flavor rather then an overwhelming garlicky one, which is ALWAYS appreciated.

For a main course, three out of my four fellow diners, Sarah, Ari, and Stephanie, ordered the Shaksouka. This was a really hard battle for me, because at first, it was what I wanted. But when I heard the three others ordering it, I knew I couldn't do so as well and jumped ship off the Shaksouka ship. After I jumped ship and was floundering in the ocean, my over-eager waiter suggested I try the Cyprus Breakfast plate, the dish featured on "The Best Thing I Ever Ate." I didn't even have to read the description, that last comment sold me. Embarrassing I'm that big of a fan. The food came out rather quickly and was, once again, beautifully presented. The Shaksouka, composed of two eggs poached in a cumin scented tomato and paper stew with a side of grilled bread, was AWESOME. It was basically poached eggs in tomato sauce. The eggs were perfectly poached and the sauce was divine. It had a complex flavor that went beyond your classic tomato sauce and when scooped onto the grilled bread was a total winner. The cumin was evident, the tomatoes were rich and soft, and it all came together perfectly. I'd drink it like soup if given the chance.

 When the Cyprus Breakfast arrived in front of me, I was content with my jump-shaksouka-ship decision. But when I tried it, I was MORE then content, ecstatic, and can now totally see why it got the salty goodness title it so deserves. The dish was made up of two eggs (yolks runny) fried in olive oil, halloumi, lounza, and bread. Greek Lesson: Halloumi is a salty Greek cheese and Lounza is basically Canadian bacon.The olive oil gave the eggs an intense flavor and a crispy edge. The halloumi, oh the halloumi. It was fried and had a crispy outside and was SO delicious and salty and when eaten with a bite of runny egg and the lounza was a divine combination. The lounza was thick, salty, and so satisfying. Also, the description I said above just said bread. But that doesn't do justice because the bread was a multigrain roll that was rustic and went stunningly with the rest of the dish. A little salad of kalamata olives, tomatoes, and cucumbers gave the dish the light and tangy note it needed to balance t. It was certainly a great representation of salty goodness.

 SO, I loved Kanella. The service was okay, the food was awesome, and the outdoor seating (while the table was unstable) was perfect for the beautiful day. I cannot wait to go back to try the rest of what Kanella has to offer.
Steph liked it too.

its all Greek to me

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mmm Melograno?

Forks: 4
Price: $$

2012 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA

Tonight I had a dinner date with some friends and was eager to try a new restaurant. One of my dates, my main date actually, Jaclyn, suggested we try Melograno, a well-known BYO in the middle of Center City. Honestly, I jumped. I LOVE Italian food and have been struggling to find some good Italian in Philadelphia. While Osteria and Vetri are remarkable, I'm seeking a low key place I can go to often and order an insanely comforting and cheesy chicken parmesan. Is that so much to ask? Well, I was hoping Melograno's would be this place. When we walked in, it had promise. A simple yet intriguing menu, while not exactly Italian comfort, had comforting flavors that were ready to warm my old not-so-Italian soul (I swear I actually must be some part Italian, I like food too much). We had a little wine buying mishap, *cough being 21 will make life easier cough* so while the vino wasn't flowing, we didn't really mind as the conversation was flowing N-E-WAYZ. The atmosphere was nice; warm wooden chairs and tables with a relaxed dim lighting and a somewhat open view of the kitchen. The menu boasted antipasti, pasta courses, entrées and sides and we munched on Foccacia and rustic sourdough as we planned our meals. The olive oil was really good and the Foccacia had a nice crisp crunch on the outside but was a little to crusty in the middle. To start, we ordered the Antipasti Rustico, an array of cured meats, cheeses, spreads, and vegetables. The spread was classic and elegant; a simple buffalo mozzarella, grilled marinated zucchini, artichokes, and eggplant, some salami and prosciutto, a variety of olives, and three crostini topped with spreads, (artichoke, olive tampenade, and mushroom). Yes, it was good, but for $17, I was expecting a little more. While the eggplant and artichoke were probably the group favorites the mozzarella was a little watery and didn't have a great texture.

For a main course, I ordered the Zuppetta di Mare, a spicy fish stew with a Fregola and Saffron broth. The stew was a large portion (always appreciated), of a mix of mussels, shrimp, pieces of sword fish, and calamari nestled in a chunky tomatoey broth. It was good, the shellfish was fresh and the broth had a great hearty flavor and wasn't fishy at all and when I dipped a piece of the crusty sourdough into it, the flavors sang.

 Jaclyn got the Gamberoni, grilled shrimp with creamy polenta and a gorgonzola sauce. The shrimp were a nice size and well cooked, but the polenta really kind of ruined the dish. It was cold, lumpy, and tough, three things that polenta should not be, and I was disappointed as polenta is one of my FAVE things.

If there are truffles mentioned anywhere on a menu, Ali will order whatever item it is that features them, the magic word is all she needs to see. While she prefers actual truffles, *major truffle diva*, when she saw the Pappardelle Tartufate which boasted wild mushrooms, walnuts, pecorino, and truffle oil,  even though she hates mushrooms (and ordered it without) she couldn't resist the magic word and had to have it. This pasta was disappointing. The noodles were all stuck together and overall the pasta was bland. While I wouldn't have skimped on the mushrooms, I can't imagine that they could have saved the dish because it was lacking in basics to begin with.

Neesh and Dre split the Ravioli alla Zuca, a ravioli filled with pumpkin, amaretto, and mascarpone (if you're Ali its pronounced mask-car-pony) with a brown butter sage sauce. The dynamic duo said the ravioli was good, but was slightly undercooked and a little chewy. Neesh said the filling, however, was great and "packed a good punch" *Neesh is a food critic in training<3*.

Nes and Elena both ordered the Pappardelle Al Ragú di Cinghiale, a pasta with braised wild Boar Ragu. While I didn't get a taste, the two weren't overwhelmed with euphoria and said it was decent, not great.

 The good, not great motto, excluding my dish which was good-er, seemed to be a common theme of the meal. I won't be running back to Melograno and was disappointed as it will not be filling the gaping black hole in my heart for my go-to Italian spot. Maybe it would have been better with a lil of that vino...

still longingly searching

Friday, March 23, 2012

Pod Pleaze

Forks: 6
Price: $$$

3636 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA

We all have those days when we're sad, feel a little low, and want something to pick us up yet don't feel like traveling more then 5 feet off campus. And when you're feeling REALLY low and ordering in to your room just won't do it, you know it's time to treat yourself to some Pod. Honestly, it's bizarre I haven't written about Pod and it's already March because it has gotten me through some pretty rough days and made them bearable. I think I just enjoy myself so much each time I'm there I lose myself and forget to document, so unlike me, but hey it happens. Well, me and my girls were having one of these low days when eating a chicken platter from Greek Lady in our rooms just wouldn't do it so we decided to wish ourselves *in particular our good friend Seth* happy birthday, and take ourselves out to dine in style. So, we picked ourselves up and marched our tired bodies over to Pod. For the first time ever, I got to sit in an actual pod. Just from the seating arrangements alone, I knew it was going to be a good meal. Between the uber chic modern vibe of the pod itself and Bronwen's insistence on testing out every color, all of our moods started to pick up. Somehow the feeling worn out beyond belief is always accompanied by sever hunger, and because of this unexplained link, we were all salivating like a pack of wild dogs and were eager to order/demolish everything on the menu.
Some of the pack:
 Because Ali and I are both obsessed with ginger dressing, we each started with the house salad, a mixed green salad with ginger-soy vinaigrette and some crispy things on top. It was fresh, perfectly dressed, and really delicious. A nice hearty portion, which is so refreshing since many Asian restaurants feel tiny miniature portions are okay (WHICH THEY'RE NOT) made for a perfect appetizer.

 Bronwen started with the Chicken Lettuce Wraps, a mixture of onions, bean sprouts, that was served with Bibb Lettuce Cups to hold the chicken mix as well as a plum hoisin sauce. The lettuce wraps are good, a tad saucy but good. The chicken mixture isn't chopped into minuscule pieces and remains recognizable which I appreciate.

I have a problem that when I come to Pod I am severely stuck in an order rut. I always plan on trying something new have SUCH a favorite dish that I feel like I can't order anything else because I'm too afraid to miss out on my favorite thing. Slightly pathetic, but, can't help it. So what is this favorite obsessive dish? The TNT roll; a vegetarian sushi roll filled with spicy crunchy mixed vegetables with tamago, confit tomato, and a jalapeño cucumber salsa.  While I'll admit I'm a bit of a sushi noob, this roll is SO good. It's crunchy, slightly spicy, sweet, salty, soft, everything sushi should be and its all vegetarian. I'm obsessed.

Dre was feeling something heavier and went with the Szechuan Lamb Chops, served with Shanghai noodles and a sesame aioli and I'm guessing she loved it because it was devoured completely.

Bronwen went with the Chicken Robata, a tokyo scallion chicken cooked at an insanely high temperature and served on a skewer. It was tender, had a beautiful glaze, and tasted deeelish.

Birthday girl Seth went with some sushi, a classic california roll and a salmon avocado roll. Now here lies the one problem with Pod, the sushi just isn't that great. Yes I'm a sushi noob but the sushi doesn't celebrate the real flavors of the fish and it seems like they're trying to cover it up.

And finally, dessert. Peanut butter and fluff spring rolls dipped in a rich dark chocolate sauce and a scoop of birthday ice cream for Seth. The spring rolls were sickeningly good, a crispy fried outside gave way to a warm gooey center of melted marshmallow and peanut buttery goodness that once dunked into the chocolate was almost too much to handle...almost. 

Well, we left full of yummy food and good spirits. The cooked dishes are very good and while the sushi isn't first rate, Pod was just the trick to revive and rejuvenate us and was just what the doctor prescribed.

sometimes Pod's just the best cure

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Definition Bento-licious

So lunch time came, and I was hungree. But, today I was in the mood to be somewhat healthy and was already tired enough so didn't need a meal that would weigh me down and would force me to take a nap. I wanted tasty and light, yet healthy(er) and filling. The food truck, Bento Box, popped into my head and the crew around me was in full support. I was the only one who had previously ventured to the Japanese food truck and was excited to introduce them to a new spot. Bento Box, located on 38th and Walnut, is a not-so-widely known food truck that deserves some recognition. The first time I went I had a great experience, quick and friendly service, great food, and kick@$$ price. The menu at Bento is simple and straightforward. You can get a hibachi meal, a teriyaki meal, or a yakiudon meal, as well as Vietnamese pho and a few sides. Each meal comes with a choice of chicken, beef, vegetable, tofu, or salmon, and is accompanied with jasmine rice, a salad with killer ginger dressing (MY FAVE), and two crispy dumplings (pictured below).

Today I went for the chicken hibachi, and they were super friendly when I requested light sauce and double salad rather then the usual rice accompaniment (health kick GO ME!)  Ali and Dre followed in suit with the chicken hibachi, Feli went with the tofu hibachi, and Nes tried the beef yakiudon, a stir fry of thick flour udon noodles with strips of tender beef and vegetables.
Feli's veggie version:

Ali, Dre and I all agreed that our chicken hibachi was great. The chicken and vegetables were well cook and well seasoned, with a salty and tangy hibachi sauce that wasn't too overwhelming or potent. Ali and Dre's meals were served with a fluffy jasmine rice that sopped up the extra sauce and married perfectly with the chicken and vegetables. The salad, while small, was fresh and crunchy and the dressing is awesome. Its that perfect ginger dressing that you crave and secretly want to ask your favorite hibachi place if you can take a few bottles home. Not only was my tummy happy, but with a price tag of $5.50, my wallet was happy as well.

Nes' yaki-udon was awesome as well. The noodles were thick and perfectly chewy, the sauce was sweet and salty and was just the right amount, the beef was tender and had great flavor, and the vegetables added a great crunch. Topped with sesame seeds, the noodles were slurp worthy, yet not too heavy or over-sauced that you felt sick.
Basically, we all lurrrved our lunch and Bento Box once again proved to be a great experience and was certainly bento-licious.

iz all about da bento baby

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Granola Goddess

Granola Goddess: I'm adopting it as my new name. For the first time yesterday I made homemade granola, and now I can absolutely positively NEVER go back. I don't mean to brag, but this granola was insane. Literally it can be compared to crack. Once you start eating you will NOT be able to stop! Its beyond addictive and sooo tasty. So enough adjectives, lets get into business. I decided to tackle this granola with a recipe à la moi. I left out nuts because it was going to be served at an event where someone had an allergy and I wanted all to be able to partake in what I knew was going to be a sure winner. Make this now, follow this beautiful recipe slideshow and thank me later for your new addiction. I apologize for your new obsession in advance.

2 Sticks butter
3 cups dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups pure maple syrup
1 cup honey
4 cups oats, NOT instant oats
1 box crispix cereal
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dired blueberries
1 cup dried pomegranates
12 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips
2 cups shredded coconut (toast on a cookie sheet for 6 minutes until lightly browned)

First: Melt butter and mix it with maple syrup, honey, and brown sugar and let caramelize and heat till smooth.

 Next: Get some beautiful oats, not the quick cooking ones.

 Then: Pour the hot melted magic mixture over the oats and crispix cereal and combine. Make sure all the pieces are covered and nothing is dry.

 And then: Grease a baking sheet and pat the oat mixture down until flattened.

 Bake for 15 minutes in the oven at 375. Take it out of the oven and shuffle the contents around and return to the oven for 15 minutes to brown the other side.

Next: Remove from oven and cool. When cool, break the baked crunchy deliciousness into pieces and transfer into a mixing bowl. Add in the mix ins, in this case; dried blueberries, dried cranberries, dried pomegranates, toasted coconut and chocolate chips.


 and MIX together, thanks T

 Now: eat massive amounts plain or serve over yogurt or ice cream.

call me the granola goddess

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Snack Attack

Visited Tyson Bees today for a quick snack fix. Hit up the Thai BBQ Chicken Wrap, a nice flour wrap filled with sticky rice, bbq Thai chicken, fresh cucumbers and cabbage, and a spicy thai bbq sauce. Quick, well priced, and ooooo sooo GOOD. The rice was sweet, the cabbage and cucumbers crunchy, the chicken tender, and the sauce tangy and spicy, making it the PERFECT snack. (a very large snack, which is even more perfect).

hungree for that quick fix

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Rum Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

It's my mom's birthday. My mom's FAVORITE cake in the world is carrot cake. Since I'm literally home for 48 hrs and my mom is da best, I thought I'd be an extremely thoughtful daughter and whip up a batch of carrot cake cupcakes. Cupcakes are more fun, cupcakes are portion controlled (except that is when you're me and have 4 portions), and cupcakes are delicious. Carrot cake is awesome because when done right because it's sooo moist, slightly spicy, and has the best texture. When you break open a carrot cake cupcake/muffin it should be beautifully aerated, with little pockets to catch slathers of cream cheese frosting. They also rock because if you don't frost them you can toast them and smother them in butter. They get all toasty and crispy and delicious and the butter falls into the little airy crevices and make it a stunningly mouthwatering breakfast. So I set to work whipping up a batch and started following Judy Rosenberg *love her my idol* but severely tampered with it because I hate following recipes. I was feeling like amping up the classic traditional cake and replaced the raisins with dried cherries which was a great move as they added a little tart bite. When I think carrot cake, I think cream cheese frosting, and too kick it up a notch I made a honey rum cream cheese frosting that had quite the punch. They were SICKENINGLY good, if I do say so myself, and mom loved them. Baby bro JJ also ate 3 toasted for breakfast this morning so I think its safe to say he's feeling them too. So, if your looking for a great cupcake, a great breakfast bite, or something to really WOW your friends, look no further and sink in.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes (based off of Judy Rosenberg's pineapple carrot cake but very very very adapted)


5 large carrots, peeled and grated
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped (NO PITS)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs

2 tbs dark molasses
2 tbs honey

Recipe: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl combine the carrots, walnuts, and cherries and set aside. In an additional bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg and set aside as well. In a bowl with a mixing attachment, combine the sugar, oil and vanilla and mix until completely blended. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure all the little bits are combined. Add the eggs one at a time and mix on medium speed after each addition, scraping the bowl each time. Add the molasses and honey and mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes until the batter is fluffy and light. Add the dry ingredients gradually and beat on low speed, scraping the sides of the bowl. Add the walnuts, cherries, and carrots by hand and mix thoroughly until well incorporated. Line a cupcake pan with liners or heavily grease them. Pour the batter evenly into each mold, about 3/4 of the way full. (I use an ice cream scoop to ensure even distribution). Bake in the middle rack of the oven until the top is golden brown and springs back to the touch and a tester inserted comes out clean, about 20 minutes. 

Rum Honey Cream Cheese Frosting


2 sticks unsalted butter, softened room temperature

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 tbs. vanilla
1/4 cup honey
2 tbs rum (you can make this stronger or less strong depending on your taste, this amount will definitely hit you and you'll taste it)
4 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar

Recipe: Combine butter and cream cheese in a bowl with mixing attachment and beat for about 2 minutes until well combined and light. On a low speed add the vanilla, honey and rum and beat for about 2 minutes. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix on a low speed. Once all the sugar is mixed in, turn up the speed to a high medium and whip the frosting for about 2-3 minutes until it becomes light and fluffy. If the frosting is too thin, add more sugar in small batches.

Assembly: When you take the cupcakes out of the oven, let them cool in the pan. Once cooled, remove from pan and frost. MAKE sure they are totally cooled or the frosting will melt. Top cupcakes with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and a drizzle of honey if you desire.

And then there was the photoshoot...
this is what one portion looks like...HA if you stop at one tell me and I'll pay you with another.

And then some toasted with some butttaaaa

happy birthday mommy!

Day By Day

Day By Day
Rating: 7.9
Price: $$

2101 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 564-5540

So this is a little overdue but none the less deserve STELLAR recognition. My friend Tamara and I were looking for a place to brunch (honestly its a joke how much I have this meal, i know every other post is about brunch, but HEY can't help it) and she suggested a spot she'd heard of called Day By Day. I looked up the menu, and it was extremely enticing so we made the plan to check it out. Located in a little corner of Center City, Day By Day was hopping when we pulled up. Perhaps it was it's quaint little cozy charm, it's delicious food, it's wonderful location, or it's constantly changing menu, but whatever it may be, this spot was PoPPppIN. We put our names in and were told it would be about a 20 minute wait but Tamara and I were determined to try it and passed the time eating complimentary pieces of fresh baked gingerbread. A polite and self controlled human would probably take one, maybe two if they were hungree, but they had a whole plate on the counter and I mean hey thats just asking for I did some damage. While we waited I poured over the menu and longingly stared at all the little pastries in the glass display case. Our names were called, snapping me out of my brunch haze, and we were finally seated at a nice little table for two near very spacious windows that flooded the room with light. It was such a perfect brunching day/brunching weather and I was loving it. The menu consisted of some staples as well as a very large list of specials. This morning Tamara and I were both feeling some eggs but when we saw that they had a special Stuffed Tiramisu French Toast we knew we couldn't pass it up. *Again with the french toast, I KNOW, i'm seriously addicted and need to attend FTLA (french toast lovers anonymous) but it's there and its stuffed and WHO can turn that down?!?*.  I ordered the Eggs Florentine: two beautiful poached eggs served atop sautéed spinach, roasted mushrooms, and shallots, with crispy potatoes and a creamy hollandaise sauce. The eggs were perfectly cooked and the vegetables were well seasoned, tasty, and not too moist or soggy. The potatoes were the perfect side to sop up the runny yumminess of the yolk and were lovingly salted and had great crispy skins.

Tamara got the Potato Pancakes Benedict: two poached eggs served over smoked salmon and house-made latkes topped with hollandaise sauce. She said it was egg-cellent (HAH so punny) and I love the innovativeness of replacing the classic english muffin with the latkes because latkes are just as, if not more delicious and make the perfect accompaniment to some runny yolks. Also, they served it in a smiley face. How can you not be in a good mood with a smiley face of eggs smiling up at you?

So, Day By Day features a weekly Stuffed Challah French Toast and this weeks was Tiramisu. I mean really? COME ON. The french toast was fluffy yet crispy on the top and edges and was sandwiched with a generous amount of a tiramisu mousse/pudding. It was un real. Sweet, yet not TOO sweet, as it still managed to retain a savory eggy-ness that is hard to keep when you turn french toast into a dessert paradise.
And now you understand my addiction/obsession/serious problem...

Day By Day was an extreme success and I love that they change the menu so much because there is always more to try. I'm still dying to try the baked apple pancakes and the BLT with horseradish mayo so will definitely be back, and I might, just might, have to get the weekly french toast again too.

here's a hungree toast to french toast