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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Spring Dinner at Caribou Cafe

Spring teased us about a week ago with a perfect day. It was sunny and almost 70 degrees. There’s nothing better than opening the windows, letting in that perfect warm air, and going for a walk in the city. We decided to go somewhere for happy hour, and dining al fresco was a no brainer. We were both in the mood for French cuisine, and decided to visit a place that we hadn’t been to in a while. Welcome to Caribou Cafe!

Caribou Cafe is a wonderful Parisian bistro located in center city. It’s owner and head chef is our good friend, Chef Olivier Desaintmartin. I did an exclusive interview with Chef Olivier last year, and we have remained good friends ever since. You can read the interview by clicking here.

The decor at Caribou Cafe certainly transports you back to Paris. It’s warm, inviting and quaint. It’s so relaxing, you really don’t want to leave. Since the weather was perfect this day, we chose a table outdoors. We were in for a big surprise. We were seated by our new friend and fellow wine lover, Meredith Magoon! We had no idea that she worked here!

As a quick recap, we met Meredith very recently at a wine and chocolate event. She is a representative for Direct Cellars wine club. I just wrote an article about her and one of their wines, and you can read it by clicking here. We were so excited to see her again this afternoon.

We started our happy hour with the two house specials, a wonderful French 75, and their specialty cocktail. Both were absolutely fantastic. For our food order, we tried their french fries with coq au vin gravy, veggie pizza, and a salmon rillettes slider. Can I just say that we will never want french fries again if they don’t have coq au vin gravy? They were delicious! The fries were perfectly cooked and they put the right amount of sauce over them. The veggie pizza was also fantastic. It was cooked perfectly and was loaded with veggies and mushrooms. The salmon rillettes slider was also delicious. It was so light and fresh. All three happy hour menu items were outstanding.

We were still a little hungry so we decided to order some more food. We ordered the soup du jour, which was a wonderful cream of rutabaga drizzled with creme fraiche. It was one of the best soups we had ever tasted. It had the perfect creamy consistency, and the flavor was wonderful.

Eric ordered escargots on a warm puff pastry, covered in a tomato and cream sauce. We can’t begin to describe how delicious this dish tasted. It was perfect. It was heaven on a plate. The balance of flavors between the escargots and sauce was so good. The puff pastry added that warm flaky richness to soak in the sauce. Every time we come here, we are ordering this dish.

For the finale, I ordered their homemade egg pappardelle. It consisted of asparagus, wild mushrooms, goat cheese, red beets and an herb sauce. I loved it. The size of the pappardelle was perfect because it just picked up all the other ingredients. The flavor and texture of the dish was wonderful. Everything we ordered was outstanding.

The surprises weren’t over yet. Chef Oliver sent out to us a wonderful mini dessert plate. It was so incredibly nice of him! He and the staff treated us so well. It’s no wonder why Caribou Cafe is one of our favorite restaurants. Try it soon, and I guarantee it will become a favorite of yours as well. Bon appetite!

 

Burlesque Brunch!

What better way to enjoy a Sunday brunch by seeing a burlesque show? You would be amazed how popular burlesque and cabaret shows are in Philadelphia. They usually draw large crowds, but one place that seems to always sell out is L’Etage.

If you enjoy burlesque and cabaret, you really need to visit L’Etage. There is a nice sized bar and plenty of seating throughout. It has a French, speakeasy atmosphere to it. We arrived early, and were able to sit wherever we wanted.

After settling in, we started out by ordering their mimosas, which was delicious. It was bright, and well balanced with champagne and juice. They are known for their crepes, so I ordered the chicken breast, broccoli and cheddar cheese. Eric ordered the bacon, mushroom, French blue and poached egg. Both were absolutely delicious. The chicken breast was moist and juicy, and  the broccoli and cheddar cheese is a classic pairing. Eric’s crepe was fantastic. When you cut into it, the egg broke apart  and coated the mushrooms, bacon and French blue perfectly. Our waiter told us that we ordered his two favorite crepes. We chose wisely!

Now on to the show! The burlesque show was wonderful, funny, and really entertaining. All the performers were fantastic, and you could really see how much they enjoy their craft. It is an art, and requires skill, passion, and talent. The place was literally packed, and everyone enjoyed themselves. It was our first time seeing a burlesque show at L’Etage, but it won’t be our last. We had a great time, and had the opportunity to meet the performers after the show. They were so friendly, and enjoyed talking with and taking photos with the patrons.

If you’re looking for something really different to do, and are curious about seeing a burlesque show, L’Etage is a must. The food and drinks are delicious. The show and performers are top notch. Trust me when I say, you will have a great time!

 

Short Ribs and Shiraz Dinner

Normally, I would be writing a restaurant review. It’s been several months since I have posted an original recipe of my own. Because my fiancé and I have a wedding to save for, you will be seeing many more home prepared meals on my blog. This meal is a simple, Korean-Asian style dinner, with a little bit of spice.

We bought the short ribs from our favorite meat and poultry vendor, Giunta’s Prime Shop. Located inside the historic Reading Terminal Market, the staff are super friendly, and have an amazing selection of meats, pork and poultry.

Once we got home, we prepped and marinated the meat for three days. The marinade consisted of salt, white pepper, Allepo pepper, dill weed, paprika, smoked paprika, chopped serrano peppers, chopped garlic, Worcestershire sauce, mirin sauce, dark soy sauce and teriyaki sauce.

When we finally were ready to cook the meat, we used our cast iron grill pan. It gave it a wonderful sear on the outer part of the meat, but we kept the inner temperature at medium rare. For our side dish, we had snap peas. We used the sauce leftover from the marinade to cook the peas. Everything was delicious, if I do say so myself.

With a good meal like this, you need a good wine. Luckily, we had the perfect wine. It was a 2017 Shiraz from Rose Ridge Winery, located in Riverina, Australia. How did we come across this particular wine? Glad you asked.

A few weeks earlier, we went to a wine and chocolate event. There were dozens of vendors giving out samples of various wines, ports, chocolates and desserts. One of the best wines we tried was this Shiraz from Direct Cellars. We also got to meet their wonderful representative, Meredith Magoon. She was so nice and told us more about Direct Cellars. They are a wine club that deliver top notch wines to you every month. The difference with them, is that they find wines that you can’t find in your local state store. This way, you will experience something new every month. Other great perks include their replacement bottle guarantee, and customers can earn free wine. Please visit the link above to find out more.

We met up with Meredith again a few weeks later for lunch. We talked more about Direct Cellars wine, food, and of course, more wine. She also teaches yoga to small groups. So if you’re looking for a good yoga instructor, and want to enjoy some great wines afterwards, be sure to look her up on her Instagram account.

Our wonderful Korean short rib dinner was everything that we hoped it would be. It had the Asian taste we wanted, and the Shiraz paired perfectly with it. The wine had a nice dark color, and a bold, spicy taste. I’m so glad we met Meredith and stayed in touch! We’ve only tried the one wine from her and Direct Cellars, but so far, they really delivered. I can’t wait to see what they have next.

 

 

 

Cellar Tasting and Dinner at the Rittenhouse Hotel

This past Sunday, the Rittenhouse Hotel hosted a wonderful wine tasting in their beautiful ballroom. Guests got a chance to savor wines from over 50 vineyards. We did our best to try them all, but in the end, we fell short. Overall, the wines we did sample were very good. Some of our favorites were a couple of 1995 Poco do Lobo wines from Portugal, and Moet champagne.

The hotel also provided plenty of bottled water, and a nice charcuterie spread with various cheeses, fruits, breads and crackers. It was a great respite when one needed a wine timeout! Patron tequila was also represented, and their margarita was amazing. We also tried their Reposedo tequila neat, and it was so good. It had a smooth, smoky, grassy finish. This was one tequila that I could drink straight.

After the wine tasting, we headed over to the hotel’s restaurant, Lacroix, for a incredible dinner. Since we had reached our wine limit for the evening, I ordered a Kir Royale cocktail, and Eric enjoyed his Patron margarita so much that he got another with dinner. We started with oysters on the half shell that were delicious. They were cleaned and shucked perfectly.

We next ordered the ceviche, that was made with orange, carrot, kohlrabi, and mint. It was so light, flavorful, and a fantastic mix of color and freshness. I ordered their soup of the day, which was a cream of rutabaga. It was amazing. It had a perfect creamy consistency, and was seasoned beautifully.

For our entrees, I ordered there steak frites, which was a beef filet, and served with bordelaise sauce and pomme puree. This may have been the best steak I have ever had, and I have had some really excellent steaks. It was cooked a perfect medium rare. The sauce and pomme puree were the perfect accompaniments to this wonderful steak. Eric ordered the scallops, served with Spanish octopus, chickpeas and crispy rice. It was amazing. The scallops had a wonderful sear, and they were cooked textbook perfect. Both entrees were simply stunning, and this may have been one of the best dinners we have ever had.

Since it was my birthday, we kept it light, but ordered the pear panna cotta. It was served with an apple compote, vanilla, and poppy seed. It was delicious. As an added surprise, the restaurant brought out for me a wonderful treat, with “happy birthday” written in chocolate.

If you ever get a chance, you must go to Lacroix for dinner. The food was absolutely amazing. The service and attention to detail is among the best in the city. Everyone was so pleasant and friendly. It’s one of the reasons why the Rittenhouse Hotel is one of our favorite spots for food and cocktails. They also have live jazz music downstairs outside their other bar, the Library Bar. Make sure you read my articles about the Rittenhouse!

 

The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company: Speakeasy and Mezcal!

If you are a fan of speakeasy bars, The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company is a place you need to check out. The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company was a front for America’s largest alcohol running ring during prohibition. Alcohol is alive and well here, and the cocktails are among the most creative and delicious you will find anywhere in the city.

This place is a personal favorite of ours. The low lighting, candlelit tables, excellent service, and amazing cocktails are reason enough to love this place. We were here last week because they were launching a pretty big event. The speakeasy bar in located on the lower level the building. The upper level used to be a tiki bar but it’s now a mezcal bar!

If you have never tasted mezcal, you don’t know what you are missing. It’s different from  tequila in many ways. Most noticeable is the taste. It has a much more smokey taste. But more on this later. We arrived about an hour before the mezcal bar opened, so we had to wait at the speakeasy bar. I know. Poor us. Seriously though, this place is now the best of both worlds!

Eric commented that he felt that he died and went to heaven. We love speakeasy’s, and now there is a mezcal bar as well. I see what he meant! I started by ordering a drink similar to the Minutiae, but with the flavor of lemon meringue. It is a particular favorite of our bartender Chris. This drink was absolutely delicious and light. Eric ordered, “Ain’t Even Olde Timey”, which is made with calvados, cognac, amaro abate, allspice, lemon, ginger, and a whole egg. It was wonderful and was the perfect cocktail to order on a chilly night. The cognac, allspice and ginger reminded us of the holidays.

We still had time to kill, so we ordered another round of drinks. I got “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”, which was made with Nutella washed Rittenhouse rye, averna and Grand Marnier. Eric ordered “Daddy’s Medicine”, which was made with angostura, rye, benedictine, lemon and ginger. Once again, both drinks were fantastic. Who would have ever thought to wash rye with Nutella? The creativity level of the cocktails at the Franklin Bar is really amazing. Well, it was finally a little past six o’clock, so it was time to head up to the mezcal bar!

Their mezcal bar is still a work in progress, but it’s progressing nicely. The space is much smaller than the speakeasy but it’s still cozy and quaint. There were still tiki decorations throughout but the staff assured us that they were coming down in the next week. While remnants of a tiki bar remained in the decor, the menu was anything but. It was all mezcal and it was beautiful. At the time we were there, they had around 30 or so mezcals available, but they were hoping to increase that to round 70 over the next few weeks.

We started off by ordering the “Sadaukar”, which was made with Espadin mezcal, abano, averna and Jamaican jerk bitters, and “Whispers of the Old Gods”, made with Espadin mezcal, green chartreuse, Dolin blanc, lime and egg white. Both drinks were delicious. We just loved the smoky flavor of both. They were well balanced and so full of spice and flavor.

During the Franklin Bar’s mezcal bar launch, they were offering free food that paired perfectly with the drinks. We ordered the street style fruit plate, that consisted of watermelon, mango, papaya, cucumber with salt, lime and chili. We also tried their guacamole, that was made with avocado, chicharron, lime, salt and salsas on a fresh tortilla. Finally, we tried the Mexican street corn, made with fresh corn, Mexican crema, lime, cojita cheese and chili. All the food we tried was delicious. We really loved the street corn! The sweetness of the corn, mixed with the crema, lime and chili was so good. I have a feeling that this dish will be their most popular one.

We decided to order one more round of drinks before calling it a night. We got the “Oaxacan Old Fashioned”, and the “Mexican Firing Squad”. The old fashioned was made with Espadin mezcal, blanco tequila, demerara and mole. It was smooth and smoky, and the mole just elevated the flavor. The firing squad, was made with Espadin mezcal, blanco tequila, lime, pomegranate and molasses. It was fantastic. The sweetness of the pomegranate and molasses just balanced the smoky flavor of the mezcal and tequila perfectly. I loved it!

If you love mezcal and tequila like we do, you have to visit the Franklin Bar and give them a try. Just like the cocktails downstairs in the speakeasy, the mezcal drinks are just as creative, and just as delicious. We now have the best of both worlds in one place. Thank you Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company!