Blume: Fantastic Grand Opening!

Anytime a friend opens a new restaurant, I go. It doesn’t matter where the place is located, the theme, nothing. A close friend of mine, Teddy Sourias, opened another restaurant in center city called Blume. We went to the public grand opening a few weeks ago, and the place was packed within a half an hour. Teddy has established himself as a force in the restaurant world in Philadelphia. He owns several other places, and they all are doing quite well.

A little side note. Owner Teddy Sourias has opened up versions of Blume, and another one of his restaurant, Bru Craft, at Piazza Pod Park in Northern Liberties. They will be under the names Craft Beer Concepts and Craft Cocktail Concepts. The pod park is a new concept that will feature food, seating, art installations, and entertainment.

The exterior of Blume is breathtaking! It’s painted in bright, vibrant colors with, of course, a flower theme, and you can’t miss the large butterfly on the main doors. It’s really quite wonderfully done. The theme of flowers continues when you go inside. There is a large display of plants hanging from the ceiling, and there are faux white roses throughout.

We started out with a carafe of Domaine de Maubet Sauvignon Blanc from Gascony, France. For our appetizers, we ordered the salmon tartine, and the baked oysters. Everything was delicious! The wine paired perfectly with our food. The salmon was served with horseradish and creme fraiche on a baguette. The baked oysters were out of this world. They came with a fennel cream sauce that, by itself, was to die for!

We decided to try another carafe of wine with our entrees. We ordered the Henriques Côtes du Roussillon Altitudes Red from Roussillon, France. Again, this was a great bottle of wine, and it went very well with our food. Eric ordered the chicken satay, which came with farro and a peanut sauce. It was delicious. The chicken was hot and tender, and the peanut sauce was fantastic.

I ordered the New York strip steak. Unfortunately, this is where Blume came up short. It came out almost cold and already sliced. Our wonderful waitress took it back immediately, and produced another within several minutes. Again, it was cold, and I was really disappointed. Our waitress, and the manager, were really embarrassed and extremely apologetic. They offered to send it back again, but I was really hungry and decided to stick with it. The staff more than made up for this error. I understand when a new restaurant opens, there will be errors. That’s the nature of the business. We promised them that we would come back in a few weeks.

Overall, the food and wine were fantastic, minus the steak mishap. The decor of Blume, inside and out, is amazing. Owner Teddy Sourias should be very happy, and proud of his latest venture. We will definitely be back soon, and I have no doubt everything will be perfect!

Rouge: Revamped and better than ever!

There are a number of restaurants located around Rittenhouse Square. One that we walk by often is Rouge. We never went in to check them out, and then at the beginning of this year, they closed for renovations. When they reopened in March, there was a positive response about how beautiful the restaurant looked. We were intrigued, and had to finally try them. I’m so glad we did.

When we first walked into Rouge, we were amazed how wonderful the place looked. It was bright, well lit, and very inviting. The bar area was almost full. We got the last two seats, and started out with a couple of cocktails.

I ordered the Tokyo Fizz, made with Roku gin, cranberry syrup, fresh lime juice, and egg white, and Eric ordered The Muse, made with Roku gin, green chartreuse, St. Germaine, mint, and lemon. Both were absolutely fantastic. I liked my drink so much, that I stuck with it for the rest of the evening. Later on, Eric had to try their Sazerac, which was made with Knob Creek rye, Courvoisier VS, simple syrup, bitters, and an absinthe spritz. It also was fantastic.

Their food menu was really impressive. Everything looked so good, and it was difficult deciding what to order. We split several dishes and started with the duck wings. They were cooked perfectly and delicious. We next ordered the cauliflower croquettes. These were amazing. They were served with an herb mayo and trout roe. We next tried their Spanish octopus which came with purple potato, green olive, celery, and basquaise. It was fantastic. The octopus was cooked just the way we like it. The next time we go back, we will definitely be ordering the Spanish octopus!

Next came our order of chicken liver mousse. It came with a port gelee, pickles, and toast. It was very well done. The creaminess of the mousse paired very well with the crispy bread. Our last dish was their lamb cigars. These were amazing. The lamb was cooked perfectly, and still had a hint of that gamey taste we love. It was served with chickpeas, and zhug.

Overall, Rouge did a fantastic job. The restaurant makeover was amazing, and the decor is beautiful. The cocktails were fantastic, and the food was delicious. We really had no complaints. The service, and attention to detail were also exceptional. Rouge is definitely on our list of favorite new restaurants. Be sure to give them a try!

 

South featuring Pablo Batista

There are just some things that go so well together. South Jazz Cafe and Pablo Batista are a prime example. South is the premier jazz venue in Philadelphia, and their food and cocktails are top notch. Pablo Batista is one of the finest jazz percussionists we have ever seen live, and whenever he preforms and South, it is a sellout.

Pablo preformed at South about a month ago, and the show we attended was amazing. The great thing about South is that there are typically two shows, one at 7 pm and one at 9 pm. This way, you have two chances to see you favorite artist, but get your tickets early. Many of the performances at South sellout quickly.

We usually have dinner or appetizers whenever we go to South. The food is fantastic. They feature southern classics, but with a twist. One thing that doesn’t change is the quality and taste. It’s always delicious. On this night, we started with a couple of cocktails. We ordered the Southern Hospitality, which featured Hendricks gin, rosemary and cranberry, and the NOLA punch, which featured their house rum punch, tropical flavors, and a hint of cayenne.

For our food order, we kept it simple and ordered their Prince Edward Island mussels, served in a coconut curry broth, and Texas toast with grilled herb butter. It was one of the best mussel dishes we have ever tasted. Prince Edward Island mussels are one of the best mussels you can order anywhere. They are large, and robust in flavor. The coconut curry broth was so good, but the kitchen didn’t over do the coconut flavor. It was really well balanced.

For dessert, we had to order South’s beignets, and a round of their Sazerac’s. You can’t get much more New Orleans than that! The beignets were probably the best outside of New Orleans that we’ve ever tasted. They were not too doughy or over-fried. The dipping sauce incorporated Cafe Du Monde, and it was out of this world. The Sazerac’s were perfectly crafted. The entire course made you feel like you were in New Orleans.

Now to the music! Pablo Batista is a local musician that you all really need to familiarize  yourselves with. He is amazing. He brings so much spirit and energy to every performance. It’s no wonder why he sells out. He and his band brought the house down with their performance. A big plus is that after each show you can meet Pablo, and purchase his music, and talk with him. He is one of the friendliest people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting.

It was a perfect night of food, cocktails, and music. Again, I implore you, my readers. If you haven’t been to South yet, you really need to go. Even if it’s just for the food, please give them a try. Make sure you stay for one of the jazz shows. I guarantee that South will become your favorite jazz spot in Philadelphia.

Beet Gazpacho and prawn dinner

My apologies for not posting any new articles for the last couple of weeks. I have been finishing up my studies at Widener University, and will be graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies with a concentration in Public Relations next week. I’m so excited!

Now, back to food and wine! We recently made a wonderful beet gazpacho with prawns, and paired it with a fantastic wine provided by our good friend, Meredith Magoon. If you don’t remember, Meredith is a seller for Direct Cellars wines. Click here, visit her website, and learn more about the wonderful wines she represents. The wine was a 2016 Spartan Hills Chardonnay from Washington State. It had a wonderful vanilla and fruit flavor, but finished with a buttery note. It was delicious. Additionally, this wine can also be paired with a fruited curry chicken salad. But back to the main course!

The main ingredients for our gazpacho consisted of beet stems, carrots and broccoli. We also added shallots, jalapeño peppers, fresh garlic, fresh ginger, tomatoes, two cans of coconut milk, cayenne pepper, curly parsley and fennel seed. It may seem like a lot of ingredients, but it all came together very well and tasted great. We cooked it covered for 15 minutes from the last ingredient being added, then pureed it with an immersion blender. Once it had a smooth texture, we put it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, or until it was chilled to our liking in the serving dish.

While the gazpacho was chilling, we cooked our prawns. They were marinated in salt, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce and cayenne pepper. I wanted to keep this simple since the gazpacho had so many ingredients. Prawns, like shrimp, cook very quickly. It only took about three to four minutes for them to be done.

Side note: Prawns need to be cooked within 73 hours of purchase and cannot be placed in the freezer beforehand. Also, any marinade made with olive oil needs to marinate outside the fridge.

Once the prawns were cooked, we placed them on top of the gazpacho, and dinner was served. Everything just bursted with flavor. If you have never tried prawns before, I highly recommend you do. They look like gigantic shrimp, but they are so flavorful and have a buttery taste. The gazpacho had good, but not overpowering heat. The Spartan Hills wine was the perfect choice with this dish.

The fun thing about cooking is that you can experiment as much as you want. You know what flavors you like, so go ahead and get creative. Try making a gazpacho, or cooking prawns if you haven’t before. The important thing is to try new things, and have fun cooking. You never know what you’ll end up making and liking!

 

Happy Hour at Nineteen!

If you are looking for a great spot to relax, take in the city skyline, and enjoy good cocktails and food, put XIX (Nineteen) bar on your list. XIX sits atop the Bellevue Hotel in center city. The decor of the bar is warm and inviting. There are cozy alcoves, leather booths, and a working fireplace that just lends more charm to the place.

I was getting my hair done downstairs at the Artur Kirsh Salon & Spa at the Bellevue, which I highly recommend, so Eric headed up to XIX. He promptly order a raspberry martini, and immediately started to text me photos of it. As much as I love getting my hair done at the Bellevue, I couldn’t wait to head up to XIX and join him!

When I finally made it to the bar, I also ordered a raspberry martini. I recognized our bartender, Amirah, who was working last time we were here. She is super friendly, and a great bartender. She made my drink really well. It wasn’t overly sweet, and it had nice balance of flavor.

Along with any good happy hour, you need to have a good snack. We decided to put in an order of their soft pretzel tartine, sautéed mussels, and daily oysters. Everything was absolutely wonderful! The soft pretzel tartine was amazing. It consisted of prosciutto, pears, humboldt fog cheese, basil, and whole grain mustard. The mussels and oysters were so fresh and delicious. We had no complaints.

XIX is such a great happy hour spot. The decor is beautiful, the food and drinks are fantastic, and the entire staff are so nice. You can’t go wrong if you come here. If you decide to stay for dinner, you can dine at the bar, or head over to XIX restaurant which also has amazing views of the city skyline. Make sure you stop by for a drink if you’re in the area!

 

High Tea at the Sofitel Hotel!

When you think of high tea, what words does it conjure up? I think of elegance and relaxation. Evidently, so do many other people in the city. High tea is alive and well, especially at the Sofitel Hotel. You will definitely need to make a reservation because it fills up quickly.

High tea is served in the Sofitel’s Chez Colette restaurant. It has a modern flare, but you are surrounded by French decor. When the restaurant is full, and it was this day, it can get a bit loud, but the whole experience is worth it.

We started out with a glass of bubbly, followed by a choice of nine different teas. I chose the Toffee, which is a black tea with a blend of natural vanilla and cocoa. Eric chose the Rooibos Pretoria, which had hints of wild cherry. Our good friend, Randee, who joined us, chose the Montagne Bleue, which is a black tea with honey, lavender, blueberry, strawberry and rhubarb. All the teas were delicious, but we agreed that Randee’s choice was our favorite.

High tea is always served with a selection of scones, tea sandwiches and desserts. The seasonal scones were delicious. They weren’t dry at all. On the contrary, they were moist and very flavorful. The tea sandwiches were peanut butter, jelly, and goat cheese on brioche, ham, pear, honey on pretzel bread, smoked salmon and cucumber on pumpernickel, and eggs and pickles on rye. The pastries consisted of a Queen Victoria roulade, hibiscus and white chocolate serine, macaroons, and a sticky toffee pudding tartlet. Everything was fantastic. I can’t say which was my favorite because everything was so good.

I have to thank my future in-laws because they paid in advance for the high tea as a birthday gift to me. Our wonderful server, hearing that our tea today was to celebrate my birthday, brought out chocolate covered strawberries, a candle, and “happy birthday” written in chocolate on a plate. I can’t thank my soon to be in-laws enough for the wonderful gift. I also want to thank the fantastic staff at the Sofitel for the incredibly nice gesture.

This was our first time experiencing high tea at the Sofitel. I can see why it is so popular, and reservations fill up fast. The service, attention to detail, food, and tea were all spot on. It was a wonderful afternoon, and I can’t wait to go back again. High tea is a great way to relax and unwind for a few hours. If you have never tried a high tea before, I highly recommend it. Lose yourself in the moment, dress up, and have fun.

 

 

 

Talbingo wine and salmon dinner!

I recently did an article about a home cooked short rib dinner, paired with a wonderful Shiraz, courtesy of Direct Cellars representative Meredith Magoon. A few days ago, we prepared a Scottish salmon appetizer and dinner at home. Meredith had also given us a white wine to try, and now was the perfect time to open it up. I’m glad we did.

We had our very good friend, Shawn Murray, over for dinner. Shawn is the owner of a fantastic art gallery in Philadelphia, Twenty-Two Gallery. Please be sure to visit whenever you can. It’s a wonderful gallery, and he’s expanded it so now he will be able to have two openings a month instead of one.

The menu would consist of an appetizer of thinly sliced Scottish salmon, along with a French baguette, rosemary crostini, and a Dijon mustard and dill sauce. Scottish salmon has become our favorite salmon. It has a fantastic mild, fatty, but flavorful profile. It takes well to acidity and strong spices, but can paired with lighter spices and sauces.

We opened up a bottle of 2017 Talbingo Hills White Blend Big Rivers Australia wine, and it was delicious. It was smooth, refreshing, but not too sweet. It paired perfectly with the salmon, bread and crostini. It was so good in fact, that the three of us finished the bottle before our main course was ready!

The main course consisted of a two pound piece of Scottish salmon that we seasoned with fresh dill weed, Serrano hot peppers, fresh garlic, salt, black pepper, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. We let it marinade overnight to let all the spices really soak into the fish.

For our side dish, we made a roasted beet salad, mixed with a wonderful Andazul goat cheese from Spain, freshly cooked spinach, cucumbers, and carrots. I tied it all in with a tzatziki dressing. I have to say, everything was delicious.

Unfortunately, we forgot to take pictures of our main course and side dish! My apologies. We will make this again very soon, and I promise we will remember to take pictures. That’s what happens when you’re having a good time with good company.

I’d like to thank Direct Cellars representative Meredith Magoon once again for letting us sample a wonderful wine. Please make sure to click on her link. Direct Cellars is a wine club that deliver good wines to you every month. They are different because they find wines that you can’t in your local state store. Some other great perks include their replacement bottle guarantee, and customers can earn free wine. I can’t wait to try some more of their wines!

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