Monday, February 28, 2011
This week's AHT related musings are about JG Domestic... a restaurant that serves only dishes comprised of the freshest ingredients available (in the Mid-Atlantic anyway). It's gimmicky, the farm-to-table concept is played out, and the burger is all sorts of disappointing. You should still read my post over at SE... just because you enjoy supporting my cause (of eating burgers?), but here's a short summary: unless you like playing Russian roulette, I suggest you not seek a burger at JG Domestic. At best, it can be considered good - nothing earth shatteringly great - and at worst, you will have a burger that spills its guts in blood faster than a Rambo movie. It made me sad ಢ_ಢ in a way I can't really describe... so I won't.
Instead, we'll talk about beignets.
After finishing my burger - and wiping the tears and snot streaming down my face - dessert seemed like a good idea. I don't believe in doing drugs to run away from my problems, but drowning my sorrows in sugar and boozy syrups? Yeah, that's totally kosher in my book.
For $9 (I don't know what I was thinking) you get three huge-ass beignets, covered in enough confectioners sugar to make anyone look like a crack addict after eating, a side cup of "Maker's Mark Butterscotch," and a dollop of bourbon laced vanilla mousseline. Absolutely... incredible. I would've been perfectly content just eating the mousseline by itself (actually I think I did that first), but I have to say... those beignets were pretty sensual. Yes I rubbed them all over my face... I am slightly ashamed at that, but they were delicious.
The duck fat fries also deserve another mention. These things are titillatingly good, forreal. The fries at M2M always tasted awesome to me because they did their frying in the same oil as their tempura shrimp... the result was a slight sweetness to the outer layer that I've never tasted with fries from anywhere else. This is kind of similar. If you've ever found yourself wanting to simultaneously eat fries and fried chicken skin (I do... all the time), this is pretty much it. There's a certain... avian flavor to the crust, if that makes sense.
TL;DR - JG Domestic doesn't suck 100%. It just sucks at cooking burgers. Go there for the fries and the beignets.
Friday, February 25, 2011
I don't normally like dessert food trucks . I tend to find that they're just rolling excuses to charge more for the same things I can get in bakeries (I hate you soooo much Treats Truck). You start shuffling goods from the back of a truck and all of a sudden it becomes okay to charge $2 for a mini-cupcake? No. That's fucked up and counterintuitive to me. If food comes out of a truck... it should be super cheap and of questionable origins (this second point is key). For one reason or another, as I passed by the Sugar Philly Truck one day, I noticed their sign that said 3 macarons for $2. While that's not cheap, it's also not stupid expensive like some of the boutique-ish shops in NYC. Three it was. Chocolate ganache, sesame, and tiramisu.
I went to pay and handed over my $2. I was about to set off in a merry skip (or possibly frolic) when I was greeted with a look of confusion. Apparently, dyslexia got the better of me. The macarons were 2 for $3. Fuck. In my head, I didn't want them anymore - why in the world would I pay $1.50 per cookie? - but I smiled sheepishly and supplemented an additional $2.50. Why didn't I just say I didn't want them? Because I am powerless against cute Asian girls who hand me desserts. Sigh.
As I shoved each in my mouth (tiramisu, sesame, and chocolate ganache... in that order), my anger/annoyance slowly melted away. Someone commented that they weren't filled very well and looked sad. This is true. The filling is not spread out very well, but it's not because they're trying to rip you off. Standard macarons are roughly the size of Oreos. These are just under 2" in diameter... meaning they're twice as large based on pure surface area, and four times as large volumetrically. So really, from a value standpoint... it's not all that bad after all. As for how they taste? Like a unicorn pissing rainbows in your mouth. Yep, that's a good thing. Of note is the sesame, which is really just like eating 湯圓 (tang yuan) in cookie form... one that melts on your tongue. Despite the shitty construction, these things are alright in my book. Plus the girl at the truck is cute. That's a plus too. /creep
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
With a name that translates to "The Fire," El Fuego can be one of two things... a dance club for gay men or a small Mexican restaurant that specializes in "California style" burritos. Luckily for me, it is the latter (although there is nothing wrong with the former). El Fuego is basically a clone of Chipotle and Qdoba... except you get no choices. No choice of black beans or pinto, no choice of if you want corn or salsa, no choice of if you want cheese or guac. Nope, what they say goes. They're like fucking burrito Nazis. That's fine with me, sometimes I don't want to "have it my way." I just want to be told what tastes good and to eat it. But you know what? You should trust these dudes. They really speak Spanish... and they really know their burritos. Way more authentic than the random Asian dude working at the Taco Bell.
Their menu is pretty minimalistic, they do only burritos, bowls, tacos, and quesadillas. Yeah they have chips, but that shouldn't be counted as an entrée... ever. The fillings are pretty standard too... chicken, steak, chopped beef, chorizo, and vegetarian. If you were expecting cow tongue and fancy crap like that, sorry. Like I said, it's kind of like a Chipotle/Qdoba clone.
Except their burritos don't reek of mediocrity (full disclosure: I eat at Chipotle quite a lot and I am perfectly okay with their averageness). El Fuego makes a kick ass burrito that's too legit to quit. First off, at $6.95 it's a little bit more expensive than its franchised brethren, but that's okay... because you're getting a 10" atomic bomb of compressed meat. It's under a dangerous amount of pressure, with a thin layer of flour tortilla just barely holding back rice, beans, and meat from exploding right in your face in a glorious display of fat-based fireworks . This of course is awesome to me. The burritos are all the same... pinto beans, rice, lettuce, but they're remarkably well balanced. I ended up getting the chorizo variant which was rich in fat, subtle in spiciness, and appropriately salty... just enough to make me savor every last drop of my guava flavored Jarritos.
Their tacos aren't too shabby either. I ended up going back on a separate occasion just to try them, and to be honest I'm pretty smitten with their chicken version. The amount of juice the meat contains is actually quite absurd, and they're definitely not lacking in flavor.
Inevitably, I have to ask myself... is El Fuego so good that I'd turn my back on Mr. Memo? No. I'm really lazy. Going to El Fuego involves crossing a bridge! I don't even really know how to swim. It is good enough that I'd make a return visit if I were near Rittenhouse though, if that means anything to you.
Friday, February 18, 2011
If this photo doesn't look familiar to you, then you're doing it wrong. Go read my normal post about the Butcher Burger on AHT first. Then come back. Anyway... let me reiterate this point: writing for Serious Eats is a buttload of fun. In my last few interviews, every time I said I was paid to photograph, eat, think deeply, and then write about burgers, I had something of a "fuck yeah" moment. But just to make things clear. It's not all fun and games. Nope, sometimes I get thrown outside of my comfort zone in pursuit of an awesome burger. This is what happened at Butcher & Singer. Now if you know me, I'm a big fan of college tees, jeans, and Birkenstock sandals. Ties and dress shoes are foreign to me. Fine dining and I do not mesh well. But if you promise me a burger made from 10-ounces of dry-aged beef...
Not much to really say is there. It's 10-ounces of dry-aged sirloin topped with creamy cheddar and caramelized onions plopped on top of a brioche bun from Parc. Basically it's 10-ounces+ of pure win. Something I didn't really mention on AHT is the fact that the Russian dressing is really good. It adds an additional component of moisture (not that the burger really needs it), but you only really taste it after some time has passed. It has a slight tartness and spiciness that makes the onions that much sweeter.
Mmm pink beef. I'm not used to my beef glowing neon, but you know what? I think I like it. Truly something magical, their patty is broiled until a fantastic crust develops from the charring. Yet somehow the center looks like that. I cannot explain it. This burger kicks ass, and it's primarily because of the beef. At $9.95, it's a stupidly good deal, and would easily rank as one of the best burgers I've had in my life. It's unfortunate I feel so out of place stepping inside, or else I'd go all the time.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
I'm sure this is no surprise to anyone who reads my blog with any frequency, but I'm not above eating fast food. Some food writers like to scoff at the low quality and questionable origins of fast food, but you know what? Fuck 'em. I love it. I am not ashamed to admit it. While undoubtedly a burger from Wendy's can't really compare to one from Shake Shack, I still have a soft spot in my heart for it. That said, one of my greatest guilty pleasures is McDonald's chicken McNuggets. Yes, I've seen the video of how they're made, and you know what? Don't care. They taste good. That's all that matters. When I saw the giant sign proclaiming I could get 50 for $9.99... shit was on.
Look at that sea of fried golden chicken paste. It is seriously an engineering marvel that they can churn out such delicious things, in the quantities they do, with almost perfect uniformity. To the man who invented the McNugget, I salute you. In any case, as I slowly made my way through my treasure chest of deep-fried poultry, dipping each piece into my vanilla shake (don't hate... it's delicious) and savoring the flavor of every bite, my world of perfect bliss quickly transformed into an insatiable rage...
(sorry for the blurry picture... my hand was shaking from the indescribable amount of anger I was feeling)
What the fuck is this McDonald's? This is not a McNugget. This is half a McNugget... if that. I realize, to you... your promise of "50 McNuggets" is really just a volumetric approximation for the container you serve them, but to me... this is breach of trust. An irreparable chasm in our relationship of some 17 odd years. How could you do this to me? In fact, the reason why this post is coming several weeks late isn't because I'm lazy, but because I had to think about how to creatively craft my fury into words. The point is this... you are dead to me now McDonald's. I will not be returning ever again. At least until St. Patrick's day, when you bring back the Shamrock shake.
Friday, February 11, 2011
When someone first suggested I go to Tyson Bees food truck for some Korean tacos, I was really confused. The first thing I think of when someone says the name Tyson is usually Mike... or the chicken company. After purging my brain of the idea of Mike Tyson taking my order, handcrafting Korean tacos, and then taking a bite out of my ear... I did some research on this truck. As it turns out, a former Iron Chef contestant by the name of Tyson Wong Ophaso decided to try his hand at a food truck based on Asian-fusion. Korean-Vietnamese-Mexican flavors. Can't get more serious than that. I mean... the flavor combinations can definitely work together (bulgogi cheesesteak anyone?), but it's also been screwed up a lot. Color me skeptical.
First things first... their truck. It is baller as fuck (hey that rhymes!). I'm not entirely sure where Tyson came up with the whole bee theme, but whatever. It's his truck. He can do whatever he wants with it. If I made a truck, it would be plastered with action shots of Kevin Durant and Godzilla. It would also be awesome, but that's not the point. The point is, when all the other trucks go rolling around the Penn campus looking all crappy and the like, Tyson is ridin' dirty in his flamboyantly fluorescent truck plastered with cute bees and hearts. Also, that blue thing looks like it's licking someone's butt. Like a boss.
I actually did not get tacos. Korean tacos has gotten so played out over the past few months that it's not even fresh anymore. Everyone and their grandmother is in the Korean taco game. Instead, I tried their "Grilled BBQ Lemongrass Pork Banh Mi." At $5, it's more expensive than most of the banh mi you could get in Manhattan's Chinatown, but goddamn was it tasty. Sweet bbq pork is accented with the crisp flavor of cilantro and just a hint of lemongrass. My only gripe would be that they give you too much pork and not enough bun since the bread kind of falls apart. Seriously though, that's not much of a complaint... I would never tell a food truck to give me less meat. That's just stupid.
I also got a Korean kalbi and kimchi burrito, because my ass... it is not fat enough yet. Yeah I took a bite of it to take a picture, what of it? Anyway, it is what it is. It is stuffed with marinated beef short ribs (and yes, they are juicy and flavorful), kimchi, lettuce, and rice. Super simple construction, but the final product definitely surpasses the sum of its parts. Not too spicy, which was somewhat disappointing, but pungent indeed. Also costing $5, I would get it again. At first I thought it was a tad expensive for the size, since I was left wanting, but I realized that somethings are worth the price. This is one of those things.
Monday, February 7, 2011
It is not good. The end. No seriously, everyone's always going on and on about how awesome the Five Guys burger is, saying shit like "Imma let you finish, but Five Guys has the best fast food burger... of all time." No. Just stop. If you're one of those people, I'd like you to take just a few seconds to stop sniffing your whiteout and honestly tell me the burger you see above looks delicious. Because you'd have to be high on something stupid if that looks good to you. Maybe Five Guys used to be something incredible, maybe it used to be better, but let's be honest, the Hamburglar probably wouldn't even want to steal the miserable thing you see above.
OH NOES, Let me run down everything that's wrong with that burger. When I was unwrapping my ball of aluminum foil, I realized that the guy making the burgers was none other than Edward Norton, hit star of such films such as "Fight Club" and "American History X." How do I know this? Because he Hulk smashed the shit out of my sandwich, transforming a spongy light bun into a ball of condensed matter. It took a lot of effort to make that photo look less pitiful than it tasted... and I'm pretty sure I still failed. It'd be great if that's where my fail-sandwich ended, but then I bit into what I think were the mushrooms. They were like tiny little rubbery erasers exploding with the taste of bland in my mouth. And then there was the cheese. I didn't think it was possible to fuck up prepackaged sliced cheese, but when you fail to melt it on a "FRESHLY MADE BURGER," something's wrong. The culmination of sadness was with the patty. It was cooked to oblivion and clearly falling apart (this might've been directly related to the Hulk's handling of my sandwich). Seriously? People get pissed off at doughnut burgers, but love this stuff?
People have also told me that Five Guys fills a cup with fries... then shovels more to fill the bag. No. That also did not happen. I had a cup of fries with maybe 10 or so spilling over into the bag. They were also kind of cold. To be fair, they would've been fantastic if they were fresh from the fryer, but alas... they were not.
Inevitably, someone will tell me that I had a bad experience, and that I should give them another try. I probably will, but first impressions count big, and Five Guys screwed up royally.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
I want to say that I waited a extra few days to post part two, the riveting conclusion to this cheesesteak tragedy of Shakespearean proportions, because I wanted to keep you on the edge of your seat, butthole clenched tightly in sheer anticipation... but really I'm just lazy. I didn't do much thinking this past week with regards to food or anything really. Anyway, in part one, me and my cohorts braved plunging temperatures and grueling winds into the mean streets of South Philadelphia... the land where the Italians laid their claims. It was there that we found an oasis, a promised land of milk and honey (by which I mean cheese and thinly sliced steak on a roll).
Except it wasn't all that and a bag of potato chips. Was Pat's good? Sure, it was decent. Was it worth having frozen snot rolling down my face? No. I didn't need to experience that for a mediocre cheesesteak, just as you probably didn't need that disgusting visual used to describe an eating experience. Maybe Geno's would be better. His name sounds more Italian. Italian people know how to make good sandwiches. Flawless logic.
That there is their cheesesteak. Like a torpedo of meat, cheese, and onions. It's so sleek. It just oozes sex, by which I mean oil from the beef. It also cost $8.50. Sure, to most people who have jobs and whatnot that might seem reasonable, but not me. If a sandwich costs over $5, it better make my jaw hurt from the excessive amount of chewing I have to do to finish it. To me, this leads to an obvious conclusion... that it must be so overwhelmingly delicious and full of love that value was irrelevant!
Except it wasn't. In fact, it was downright disappointing. Let me break this down in order of components. The bread is not bad. Let's be honest here, it's pretty hard to fuck up a pre-baked hoagie roll. Then we move onto the cheese. Whiz of course. It comes from a can, some people hate it, I happen to love it, but no matter what, the fine people at Kraft Foods make sure that every can comes out exactly the same. No complaints from me there. The beef... come on. It's like they didn't even try on that one. I'm pretty sure it's just frozen steak that they threw on the griddle. Fuck. I could do that! I also wouldn't charge $8.50 for it. You know what's the worst part? They didn't even bother to chop it. "Some people like it better this way," they might say. To me it just reeks laziness. To further worsen my experience, I clearly only have onions on half my cheesesteak. Can someone explain to me how that even makes sense? It was cold outside. You had plenty of time to not screw up one of the few sandwiches you had to make. Goddamn.
The roast pork sandwich. It's actually not too bad. Gobs and gobs of juicy and oily pork get piled over a bed of fully melted and integrated provolone cheese. There's so much pig-on-pig action it should be considered criminal. But there's something missing. Hrm, what could it be? Oh I know... variation. This sandwich gets boring... fast. First bite is sheer ecstasy, second bite is still impressive, third bite is indifference, and it just goes downhill from there. Know what this thing needs? Greens. Roasted peppers. Something.
The best in South Philly you say? Oh, that must be a very small place... since you're not even the best in the neighborhood. You're even more mediocre than the one across the street. What was the name of that place again? Pat's or something? My point is, they both make overpriced forgettable sandwiches, and they're living purely off hype. Would I eat there again? Sure, if it were free... but I'm a fat kid at heart, what wouldn't I eat if it were free?