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Monday, April 30, 2012

A very Happee Hour

A while ago I ventured to Sampan and had an absolution D-lish meal. While there I learned about their happy hour, offered every day from 4-7 that features their appetizers for $2, $3, and $4, instead of the usual $7. Well, because of Ali's persistence and intense cravings for edamame dumplings, T-mar, Ali, and myself found ourselves heading downtown to test it out. We rushed to make it before 7 to get the Happy Hour specials and placed our order with 10 minutes to spare. The food was light, tasty, and totally hit the spot. ALSO, the prices were incredible, seriously, best kept secret. HIT IT UP.

*for full review:

Edamame Dumplings in a Golden Sake Broth with Peashoots
All 3 of us ordered these. SO good. Literally the texture of smooth velvet. Totally melt-in-your-mouth. $4

 Korean BBQ Beef Satay, a shortrib topped with kimchee and ginger. The meat is beyond tender, is thinly sliced and well cooked, and has a rich and tangy marinade. $4. T-mar and i lOVED.

 While not on the Happy Hour menu, Ali was persistent in getting the Kobe Beef fried rice, and after trying it myself, I could not complain. Grilled kobe beef pieces with tomatoes, scallions, and crispy shallots, the rice had a great flavor and had something to offer in every bite. One complaint: a little oily.

While I'm not a duck person, T-mar ordered the crispy duck spring rolls and found them divine. $4

T-mar and I ordered a side of the Roasted Broccoli, with pine nuts, white soy, and garlic. It was soft yet still had a crunch, but was too wet from an overdose of white soy glaze. $4

 And now, the STAR. Honestly, I liked pork. But recently I have a new infatuation with it. When I saw a Pork Banh Mi on the menu, I decided to go for it. Served on crusty bread, crispy pork belly, carrots, cucumbers, pickled red onions, cilantro, and a spicy mayonnaise made for an unreal sandwich. Yes, it looks big. And yes, I happily demolished the whole thing. Seriously, this is what you cannot skip. The pork was crispy and fatty and salty and delicious and must be tried. $4

And then, while it wasn't on the menu, we couldn't skip the signature daily soft serve. Today's flavors were peanut butter and oreo. OMG. The peanut butter was sooo creamy and rich and super smooth. Tasted like eating frozen Skippy straight from the jar.

 And then the oreo. I love oreos. This was frozen oreos. You could taste the oreo texture in every bite. Beyond good.

T-mar/Mickey Mouse/Mara/Tammy enjoying her i'scream.

hungree 4 a very happee hour

The Dandelion

The Dandelion
forks: 7.8
price: $$$
DONT SKIP: fish & chips

124 S. 18th Street,
Philadelphia, PA

Besides myself, my friend Brette is the most foodie person I know, if not more. Well, actually we're different types of foodies, but regardless, she's the only person I can talk about anything edible with for hours and she won't ask me to shut up. Brette and I had a date and she suggested we try out Dandelion, Stephen Starr's English pub inspired restaurant. When we arrived I felt like I was in a fancy grandmother's home that doesn't feel like a home but feels like a museum. The entry room was dimly lit with a Victorian feel, as china plates and pottery lined the walls and a sturdy old fashioned fire place completed the room. Then the true English pub vibe kicked in as we headed upstairs to the bar room as beers were proudly on display on a rich mahogany bar that was a little too poorly lit. The menu was full of simple English pub food that sounded much better then anything I ate when I was in London. We were handed a bread basket and I was extremely excited about it because I knew the bread was freshly baked from Starr's neighboring famed restaurant Parc. This bread is to die for. The fluffiest crustiest doughiest bread on the planet. NOM.

To start, Brette and I ordered the Pickled Beetroot Jar: pickled red and golden beets served with olive tapenade, goats' cheese, and sourdough toast. The beets were delicious, pickled to perfection while still maintaing their naturally sweet and earthy taste. The goat cheese was creamy and tangy, and when smeared on the toast crisps and then topped with a beet made the perfect combination. The olive tapenade, however, was WAY too salty and potent. I kept trying it because I wanted to like it, but it was just beyond overpowering with saltiness.

I couldn't come to an English place that had Fish & Chips and not order it. Besides being one of my favorite dishes, I had heard great things about the Beer-Battered Fish & Chips at Dandelion and had to check it out for myself. Honestly, they surpassed the hype. The white fish used was cod and it was in the CRISPIEST crust I've ever tasted. It had that crackly crunch sound when you bit into it, yet a soft tenderness from the fish on the inside. Dipped in house made tartar sauce and sprinkled with lemon and malt vinegar, perfection. It was served with a side of "triple cooked chips" that were basically thick cut french fries. They were salty, well seasoned, and totally delicious, especially after I completely drowned them in malt vinegar and tartar sauce. Props to Stephen for nailin it.
 ***yes first name basis***

Brette took the lighter route, ordering the Mussels. Served in a white wine sauce with parsley and a piece of grilled bread, they were clean and delicate. The broth was tangy and lemony and truly brought out the natural beauty of the mussels. And when you finish the mussels that does not mean the dish is done. NO NO NO. It means its time to sop up the rest of the heavenly broth with that crusty grilled baguette. Mmmm.

Then dessert. We ordered the Chocolate Hot Pot, a warm chocolatey molten cake served with chocolate sauce and ginger ice cream. When it arrived we flooded it with the add-it-yourself chocolate sauce (I love when you can add as much chocolate as you want). The cake was rich and moist and super chocolatey. The ice cream on the other hand was a mess. Ginger ice cream sounded like a good idea in theory, but in practice the ginger just did not mix properly with the milkiness of the ice cream. Brette and I both agreed that it was just not a good combination, and a classic vanilla would have been much more appreciated to cut the richness of the chocolate.
MMmmmm (minus ice cream)

On the whole, the meal was very good, and I definitely would like to come back and try the Burger and the Sunday Roast.When you come, you can't skip the Fish & Chips, so don't. My complaints apart from the olive tapenade and the ginger ice cream was the lighting. Seriously, I like to be able to SEE what I'm eating and the person who I'm with, especially when its Brette.

I wish I was British

Friday, April 20, 2012


Whoopie Pies. They're that dessert I'm always gazing at on the bakery counter. Two chocolate pillows smushing fluffy marshmallow cream together. Heaven much? Well, this was my first attempt at making them and they turned out just as great as all the one's I've had before. The recipe below was beyond easy and the cookies bake in no time. While it is a little messy, who doesn't like to be covered in marshmallow goodness? Answer, no one. And if you answered incorrectly, just stop reading and close the page now.

Recipe (adapted from Annie's Eats), yields about 24 pies (48 cookies)
Ingredients for the cookies:
31/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbs. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp. *MAKE SURE
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk

For filling:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
16 oz. marshmallow fluff
2 tsp. vanilla extract

What you need:
2 mixing bowls
electric mixer
cookie sheet
plastic bag

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine flour, salt, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl

3. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes

4. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat well after each addition

5. Gradually mix in buttermilk until the mixture is well combined.

6. Slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix until thick and there are no clumps.

7. Using an ice cream scooper, scoop the batter onto greased cookie sheets. Make sure to evenly space them, about 2 inches apart as they will grow. Bake for 12 minutes.

8. Cool the cookies either by putting them on a baking rack or into the fridge. Make sure they are completely cool before applying the frosting.

9. In a bowl, beat the butter, powdered sugar, fluff and vanilla. Start on a low speed and slowly increase until the mixture is thick, creamy, and well combined.

10. Take a ziplock bag and fill it with frosting. Cut a hole in the corner of the bag.

11. Make sure the cookies are COMPLETELY cooled. Then, match them up by size. Pipe a dollop of frosting onto the flat side of one cookie and then sandwich it with its matching counterpart.

12. ENJOY!

whoopiee for pies!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


forks: 7
Price: $$

205 S. 18th Street
Philadelphia, PA

The first time I ever visited Penn, my bro Jake and cousin Whitney took me to Rouge. I had the classic Rouge Burger, and well, now I'm at Penn. When Ali asked me to go to lunch today and was looking for a  place, I suggested the restaurant for another reason besides the burger. Ali is absolutely OBSESSED with anything truffle and I remembered them having these Truffle Fries and knew they were right up her Ali *lol alley* so we made the plan to go. Honestly, it was the most beautiful day out in the world. It was a little bit hot, but the sun was shining, everyone was in such a good mood and it just felt like summer. Ali's mom, Barbara aka Boppy aka Bopstar, was in town so I met the two of them at the restaurant. While the table was actually the size of my hand, the location couldn't have been better. There we sat, overlooking Rittenhouse Square on this b-e-a-utiful day as Ali sipped on her favorite Arnold Palmer and we gazed at the scenic almost movie-like view. Before we ordered we were brought a sourdough roll and a pat of butter. The roll was so good and so fresh, a crusty outside with a perfectly doughy center, and the butter boasted fleur de sel (flakes of salt) which brought out its creamy sweetness even more. Just the right way to start the meal.

I decided to order something new, and thought since the classic burger was good, I might as well try the Tuna Burger. The Tuna Burger was a tuna patty topped with pickled daikon and carrot, shiitake mushrooms, and wasabi mayonnaise all on a buttery brioche served with a side of cold soba noodle salad. I actually didn't even know for sure if I liked tuna before ordering this, but now I know that I DO (as long as its not tunafish ew). The burger was amazing. It was well cooked, slightly pink in the middle, and had an incredible flavor. The mayonnaise packed a slight punch and the carrots and daikon gave it a needed and appreciated crunch. The brioche roll tied it all together, ugh that roll was buttery and fluffy and just delicious. The soba salad was good, sprinkled with red onion, edamame, tomatoes, and red peppers. It was simple and light, not overdressed, but a nice accompanying side.
Papparazi on the burger

omg NOM pleeeze

Boppy went with the Panko Chicken Salad, a mesclun salad topped with panko breaded chicken breast and a mango salsa. While the chicken was good, Boppy and I both felt that the dressing was way too sweet. She said it was almost "dessert-like." Not exactly what we want on a salad. We wanted something saltier, like some kind of miso ginger or soy dressing or maybe just some more SALT. It was just aaiight, disappointing, certainly nothing special.

One of us had to order THE burger so Ali took it upon herself. Although Ali likes her meat cooked as well done as a burnt marshmallow, the burger still managed to be succulent, juicy, and so so tender. She doesn't like ketchup, cheese, onions, or basically ANYTHING that usually comes on top of it, but somehow it still managed to be great, showing how a great burger really can stand on its own. Once again the buttery brioche was used, major winner.
(yes I know it is cooked to a crisp, don't blame Rouge for Ali's well done taste)

At first when the burger came down with its side order of fries, they were plain and not the truffle version. Minus points. But once it was remedied, points went up. They had a strong truffle flavor, but were crispy and delicious and still tasted like french fries. The parmesan added a salty nuttiness and Ali was loving it. I think I got two fries before she finished the whole thing.

 As we were about to leave the table next to us received their food and I just had to photograph it because this is what I will be getting next time. A buffalo chicken sandwich with bacon. OMG just look. Beautiful, wish I would have asked for a bite..just kidding, too far. Seriously someone grab my leash.
So lunch was good, the salad was disappointing, but both burgers, even Ali's plain patty, really lived up to the hype. But while the food was great, the company was better! Love my Immerguts!

burgers be da bomb

Monday, April 16, 2012


Pizzeria Stella 
forks: 9.3
price: $$

420 S. 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA

Get ready 4 a rave, because this is certainly that. Tonight, to celebrate Loulou's big 19 we headed to Pizzaria Stella. Its an interesting story but the reason I picked this place was because I had been there before but actually hadn't been able to eat the food, but just pick it up. On this pick up I was literally DYING to eat everything being served around me and promised myself I'd go back and thought tonight was the perfect opportunity. Stella boasts nice outdoor seating, long wooden family style tables, and dim yet not too dim lighting. It's rustic yet refined atmosphere shouts comfort yet quality food.

 The menu offers a selection of antipasti, soups, salads, pastas, and pizzas, and all are described in a delicious yet simple manner, not overwhelmed with adjectives. To start we ordered the chopped salad and the special ravioli. The salad was fresh and flavorful, jam packed with lots of vegetables so every bite had something to offer. My one critique was that it was a little heavy on the tomato vinaigrette, but besides that the fresh radishes, carrots, and garbanzo beans really gave it something special.

The special ravioli was some kind of polenta mixture with edamame and mushrooms. Honestly, no words. It was melt in your mouth INCREDIBLE. We fought over them. They tasted like melting velvet, a silky sauce enveloped them and ugh I'm having anxiety trying to capture them in words because they were truly un-capturable.

It just so happened my brother randomly came to the restaurant too (sibling telepathy) and when I saw that he ordered something we didn't have, well I had to try. It was some kind of fried risotto balls in a marinara sauce and it was incredible. Literally my mouth was singing. Steaming hot, creamy on the inside, and crispy on the outside, beyond tantalizing, so thank GOODNESS he was there.

Okay, so we are very hungree girls and wanted a variety of dishes, so we basically ordered, well, everything. We ordered 5 pizzas..tehe...The first to arrive was the Pancetta Pizza: Italian bacon, wood roasted onion, tuscan kale, and mozzarella. It was delicious. The kale was crispy, the bacon salty, and the onions caramelized and sweet. BUT, very very salty.

Then came the Margherita, your classic tomato, mozzarella, and basil. It was clean  and simple and was made just right.

Next was the Tartufo: black truffle, a sunny-side-up egg, and fontina cheese. Unlike some restaurants in which they skimp on the truffle, there was NO skimping here. The pizza was smothered in them and I was literally in heaven. The egg was broken table side and the yolk was sopped up by the airy and doughy crust for a sickening bite.

Then, (yes still going), there was the Zucchini: oven roasted tomato, thyme, black pepper, ricotta, and zucchini. This one was like a pizza I'd never tasted before. It was clean, not greasy in the slightest, and was incredibly light.

 And then, FINALLY, was the classic Pepperoni. The pepperoni were extremely crispy, in the good way, and were salty, a little spicy, and gave the pizza a great bite.

Loulou enjoying her birthday pizza:

SO, pizza summary: they were awesome. The crust and dough was actually incredible. One common theme was, however, salt overdose on basically all of them. Heavy hand on the salt there Stella.

Aftermath of 5 pizzas:

We also ordered the Lamb Bolognese, because as Andrea says "Lamb is a deal breaker for me. If its on the menu, I get it." Girl likes her lamb. The rigatoni was perfectly al dente and the sauce had a grreeeat flavor and texture, but once again it was pretty salty.

When it came time for dessert, we were actually immobile from eating so much, but needed to put a candle in something, so we ordered a scoop of house made Honey Mascarpone gelato. An interesting combination, it was sweet, tangy, and salty all at the same time. Both the mascarpone and honey flavors were obvious and it was a welcome and interesting combination. This meal was amazing. While it was a little salty, we are all very sweet so it kind of balanced out.