AC Food and Wine Fest: Blues, Brews and BBQ
There were many events at the AC Food and Wine Fest this year. The Blues, Brews and BBQ event was hands down the best one! Even tho it was, no lie, 900 degrees out and this thing was held in the parking lot across from the Showboat Casino, even tho the guys using smokers and grills made it 200 times hotter and even tho the big tents were no help from the heat, it still was a blast!
Yes, there was a band and yes, there was a lot of beer. But hey, I went for the BBQ!!
First up was Devil’s Alley. They are a, surprise, bar and grille in downtown Philly at 19th and Chestnut Sts. Chef Brian Fidiam come with a something offbeat, but still awesome! Spicy Dry Rub Wings. Now when I say these things were moist, tender and delicious, believe me. I ate, well, I coulda put their kids thru college. Let’s just leave it at that!
Next up was Smokin’ Betty’s, a place down at 11th and Sansom sts, in downtown Philly. They brought their signature Riblets. Now, some of you might remember places like Applebee’s who would have all you could eat riblets. these are not that! Not that! Not even close! The sweet sauce mingles with the porky goodness and the fat disintegrates right as it touches your tongue. Again, I think I ate a whole table’s worth.
Also, I cannot go much further without a shoutout to some neighbors of mine I ran into and went to a few events with! Maureen is a huge fan of the blog and her kids (All grown up now. I am so old!) love going to food events. Also, a shoutout to Brigid’s boyfriend Joe who bought a 5 gallon oak barrel in which to brew beer inside! I want to see how that turns out! They also kindly showed me some of the more awesome things I’m writing about today! So, hats off to Joe and the Ramseys!
Paula Deen was big and loud at the event and she cracked everyone up. As you can see in the picture, she’s lost a bunch of weight, as has Michael. She was really loving talking to the crowd, got onto the topic of her Diabetes and having to eat better and lose weight. Her son Bobby has been helping them eat better (and she plugged his show “Not My Mama’s Meals”, in which he remakes some of her recipes in a way that won’t kill you…as fast), which has helped with the weight loss, but she didn’t put a big shine on the whole thing. She basically pined what we all feel, that weight loss is hard and sometimes you just want that donut, but you gotta stick to it. Sometimes tho, have that donut! Am I saying Paula Deen, Queen of Butter, was being realistic? Yes, I am! Good god, anything is possible I think.
Paula also brought along her Braised Beef Brisket. I have never actually tasted anything she has made (or, as it was probably at this event, supervised the making of), and this brisket was pretty fantastic. It had a great crust on it and the sauce had a kick but with a smokey backend. It was right on!
This little puppy melted the socks right off my feet. Local Smoke BBQ brought their world-famous Smoked Jalapeno Poppers. When I saw the sign, I was intrigued. However, I have a problem with Jalapenos these days. You see, I’m getting kind of old and certain things just, well, tie me up into knots. They turn my body into a festival of terror. I actually start twitching when I see seeds sometimes. Once I was assured there were no seeds, I dug in and wowza! A hollow Jalapeno stuffed with a cream cheese and pulled pork filling, wrapped in dry-rubbed bacon and slow-smoked to perfection & served with BBQ ranch dipping sauce. Pop that sucker right in your mouth and your eyes immediately roll to the back of your head. You need to sit down. The layers of flavor melt all over your mouth. These things are a National Treasure. These things should be on every tv show in the land. These things are amazing.
Tyler Florence was in attendance at the fest as well. He brought up Paula and then later came out and mingled amongst the sweaty unwashed. When I say this guy was the nicest fellow I have come across, believe it. I approached him, told him my blog name and said maybe he should check it out and he repeated it back, and said he would. I got the feeling from him, well, he just might. He then asked if I wanted a picture and I snapped one of just him and then he insisted we take one together (of which I will spare you of because we both look like we just climbed out of a pool). I felt bad for him, he was wearing that chef coat and he was soaked all the way thru. But he stayed and took more pics, talked to people, signed autographs and all. I know they all get paid to be at these things but the guy is a trooper (and just as cute in person as he is on tv).
Zac Pelaccio is a world travelin’ dude. He’s written a book called “Eat With Your Hands” and pushes that exact idea: to get into with your food. He also owns 2 restaurants: Fatty Crab and Fatty Cue. This guy knows what’s what.
Zak was working with Amstel Light and made a Pork Burger with Twig Farm Goat Cheese, Citrus Mayo, and Onion Jam served on a soft rye burger bun.
It was juicy and very well seasoned. However, I am not a fan of goat cheese. I keep trying and trying but no go. The Ramsey’s really liked it tho, it seemed. I really wanna visit one of Zak’s places tho, they sound amazing. You can order a half pound of deep fried bacon!!
The biggest, brightest part of the day was from Dinosaur BBQ! I didn’t think it was the same one in Harlem, from which I have heard many fantastically awesome things from people I know. They didn’t mention that on the menu, they just mentioned Newark. Turns out, it was! And oh my dear mother of all that is good and holy on this planet and the next, this thing was transcendent.
Look close at the meat, you’ll see the smoke ring. Look closer and you’ll see how juicy that meat was. Look again and see the amazing sauce they laid on there. I walked away looking like a toddler who fought a plate of spaghetti and I did not care. Not one stinkin’ bit. It was that good. I was sweaty, tired, and covered in bbq sauce and it was some of the best BBQ meat I have ever had. Unreal. UNREAL.
Whew! So that was the Blues, Brews and BBQ event! I left there seeing BBQ everywhere I went. I should say that two of my favorite beer companies were there as well, Anderson Valley and Pyramid Brewing! Check them out when you get a chance, you will not be disappointed!
Thanks to the AC Food & Wine Fest crew for having me and thanks to Joe & The Ramseys for hanging out! It was a blast and I can’t wait for next year!
AC Food & Wine Fest: Redefine Cheesesteak
In the parking lot of the Showboat Casino, the AC Food and Wine Fest trucked on with “Redefine Cheesesteak”. And redefine they did.
Massive tents were set up in the parking lot and cheesesteaks were aplenty. Being from Philly, I am really picky as to how my steaks are, specifically that they resemble a cheesesteak or change the name. By definition, a cheesesteak is thinly sliced ribeye fried up with or without onions and served on a long roll with cheese of the american, provolone or whiz variety. Is it something I need to get over? Indeed. But I was able to bend enough to enjoy some of the offerings.
First up was Mike Scoats of The Grey Lodge and his merry band of steak slingers. The Grey Lodge is located on Frankford Ave in the Mayfair section of Philly and has a ridiculous amount of oddball beers and even hosts a Friday The Firkinteenth event on every Friday The Thirteenth that has just won Best Beer Event in Philly Magazine’s Best of Philly 2012! Mike has a great calendar full of fun things they do and an interesting menu full of outstandingly delicious food! He brought along his Lodge Steak for the masses to try: Rib-eye, Genoa salami, roasted pepper mayo & house cheese sauce. They cut their own steak, use quality imported salami and you can taste the handcraftedness. I guarantee you will not find a more unique steak in town. They could barely keep up with the demand of the people who came by and then returned, time and time again!
Next up is my friends at Tony Boloney’s! They won the Guy Fieri’s Cheesesteak Battle at The AC Food & Wine Fest in 2010 with their ridiculous Cheesesteak Ole’ and haven’t looked back since! If they sent Californian Fieri back home with the picture of the Ole’ in his head as to what a cheesesteak should be, then everyone is a winner! Their Cheesesteak Ole’ is actually a little more like a cheesesteak hoagie, but it’s still fantastic. It involves 10 spiced sirloin steak, pepperjack cheese & chipotle house sauce on top of lettuce and tomato. It all melds together to form what I like to call the Cheesesteak of Greatness. In all honesty, Tony Boloney’s, at 300 Oriental Ave and a stone’s throw fromt he Revel, is one solid reason to drive to AC. Keep an eye out for more of thier menu on this blog.
The Community Food Bank Of New Jersey had a stand and they weren’t messing around! A soft, buttery roll center stuffed with steak and perfectly cooked onions with a nice crumble of cheese of top made it one of my favorite steaks of the fest. I also love what they stand for: helping anyone who needs a hand in the area. They run a food service training academy, they run a whole kids division with a kids cafe (to feed kids who otherwise wouldn’t have anything to eat), a kids closet (clothing and coats), a backpack program and even a tools for schools program. They also distribute food, do catering and lots of other stuff. If you want to donate some money, sending them some cash would be a great move, or buy their new book “Cooking For Change: Tales from a Food Service Training Academy“. All proceeds benefit the Community Foodbank Of New Jersey! This is truly an organization that knows how to help people and help them move forward!
Percy Street BBQ come to the fight with their unreal take on the cheesesteak, which is not a cheesesteak at all. Frankly, I could care less because it blew my mind. Bercy Street BBQ sits on South Street in Philly between 9th and 10th streets, cranking out BBQ that, until recently, was only really available closer to the South. They understand what the ring is and they are dead serious about this fantastic meat.
The meat was carved in front of you and packed with delicious strips of it, and smothered with a creamy cheese sauce. Easily my favorite non-cheesesteak cheesesteak. Well, it’s actually a tie with..
This sandwich was unlike everything else at the fest! Definitely not a cheesesteak but definitely on my meat list! It was like juicy shredded potroast on a roll and I could not get enough of it. Unfortunately, I lost their business card and only remember that they were next to Tony Boloney.
I have to also mention that it was about 900 degrees that night. Eating cheesesteaks in that kind of heat does a number on your body. What helped was that there was plenty of beer, provided by Amstel Light, and plenty of booze, provided by Jameson, Jim Beam and Red Stag. Red Stag is a flavored whiskey that Beam is putting out. At first I found it to be a party foul of massive degrees to do such a thing, but after tasting it (the Black Cherry flavor), it’s actually kind of interesting.
Andrew Zimmern, of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, was the host of this shindig, and he is really the nicest guy ever. After talking onstage for a little bit, he hung out at his booth, making sandwiches for people, answering questions, taking pictures and overall being a very personable and cool dude.
It was super crazy hot and humid, like I said above and he very easily could have disappeared into his tent/trailer/hotelroom and retired for the night. He didn’t and that was very cool of him.
His offering at his table was a cheesesteak made, of course, of tongue. I found that funny, because, well, us Philadelphians are known for having big mouths. As you can see, it looks like a typical cheesesteak, with nice carmelized onions and green pepper strips. I have not had tongue before but I figured if Andrew can stand in that heat and cook it, I can stand there and chew it. It was a little chewy but the flavors were nice and subtle. The tongue itself has a really weird aftertaste that I didn’t particularly like, but I applaud the effort!
Here are some more cheesesteaks that were pretty awesome!
This steak from Carmine’s, the “Italian Cheesesteak” was pretty great, the meat was very juicy and the roll was deliciously chewy after it soaked up all the juices. two thumbs up!
Union Trust Steakhouse, at 7th and Chestnut in Center City Philly, was there too with thier very traditional but also awesome cheesesteak.
Square 1682 is a fancy pants restaurant in the also fancy Rittenhouse Square area of Center City. Thier little cheesesteak on a square bun (get it?) was amazing. It was like the big pot roast sandwich above but on a tiny little bun and covered with a delicious cheese sauce that was thick enough to stay on the meat but thin enough to roll around a little bit.
Lastly, but not leastly, was the Sammy D’s cheesesteak dumpling. As someone who used to make a cheesesteak pierogies, I have to say that these guys got it right. The meat was wrapped tight, with the cheese mixed in with the right proportions (too much and it’s cheese with a hint of meat, too little and it’s drier then a desert). Huzzah to Sammy D!
The event in general was pretty awesome: not too crowded but the chefs were all putting out top notch food for the crowds. My hat is off to Showboat and the organizers for putting together a fun event that clogged my arteries!
That brings the first half of Day 2 to rest. Stay tuned for the second half soon!
Crabby Nachos Are Nacho Good
I’m on vacation this week. Some friends went to the shore with me and we went to dinner at The Island Grille in Ocean City. I controlled myself enough to not moon the Tabernacle assholes as we drove by (if you are unfamiliar: Ocean City is a dry town. The restaurants are hurting in this economy by not doing any sort of liquor and a lot of people will go to nearby Somers Point so they can imbibe. The restaurant guys came up with a plan to offer BYOB only between Memorial Day and Labor Day, but as usual, the rich douchebags don’t care about the working guys out there and lobbied enough to scare people into voting it down (by saying “The Town will turn into Wildwood” which I find to be elitist and douchey). The funny part about the whole thing is that they were saying that it would ruin the “family vibe” of OC if they let in liquor. Meanwhile, check out the recycling bins on trash day or the long lines at the 2 liquor stores conveniently located at the bottom of both bridges leading into town.) and we circled around long enough to park within walking distance of The Island Grille.
I found this place because my Mom had a magnet from there on her fridge, no kidding. The website looked nice and the prices seemed ok. They have nice outside seating as well as arctic ac inside if that’s your thing. They offer lots of seafood and pump in a lot of Jimmy Buffet music. I hate Jimmy Buffett but that’s just me. I guess it goes with the decor? Whatever. Anywho, as Julie, Cecilia and I sat down, we saw “Crabby Nachos” and ordered them immediately.
It said they came with crab and “cheese sauce”. I didn’t think much of it, I thought it would be cheese whiz, which I am a big fan of (keep your hate mail to yourselves). I could have done without the giant salad on top, but I suppose it was for color. For some reason, they used bagged tortilla chips. You might not know this but it’s cheaper to MAKE YOUR OWN CHIPS. Please take note, everyone in the food industry who insists on using these shitty chips. But, I am flexible. Perhaps they are busy and don’t have the time to do prep. Who knows.
I have to say they are not skimpy with the crap. These things have tons of crab on them. Do you like crab? I know I do (insert Will Ferrell doing Harry Carrey here). The crab doesn’t disappoint. What does disappoint? I hope you are sitting down.
Let’s start with the jalapenos, of which came out of a can. Seriously. Seriously? How about the salsa? Of which is also from a can (or, a plastic bottle). Seriously. Do you have any idea how cheap it is to make salsa? And the longer it sits, the better it gets, so it’s not like you have to throw it away every nite! You could make one big thing of it once a week and be done with it! Jalapenos that come from a can…I have no words for that. No words. Actually, I do have words: you suck.
Let’s sit a spell and chat about this “cheese sauce”. Now, I love cheese whiz. I am a Philadelphian, and it is in my DNA to enjoy a few things: Tastykakes, cream cheese, water that tastes like a pipe, and cheese whiz. I could put it on anything. I have put it on lots of stuff. I don’t want to say I have licked plates or wrappers that it might be on, because my Mom reads this and will yell at me…but I’ll let your imagination work it out.
This is not cheese whiz. This is straight up cheap ass, 7-11 nacho cheese. When I worked at the Sev, it came in a bag, and the pump attached to it. They might have it on a Bain-Marie, which is like a water bath type of thing, like you see on a buffet line. It would probably be in one like you’d see soups in. Do you know how cheap it is to buy shredded cheese in bulk? Super, crazy cheap. And that cheese is used everywhere and for something like nachos, it’s great! To say “cheese sauce”, you’d think it was something like the melted cheese sauce they use at Chickie and Pete’s for the Crab Fries. But no, no, you’d be wrong.
If this place was run by some idiot wahoos who decided it would be fun to have a restaurant without any training and they pulled this sort of thing, I’d understand. They wouldn’t know any better. But according to the website: “Andy is the chef and runs the back of the restaurant. Wife Allison manages the front of the restaurant. Andy is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University with a BS in Food Service Management and an Assoc. in Culinary Arts.”. Johnson and Wales is right behind the CIA in pumping out trained culinary people. There is no excuse for this.
So let’s see how this went:
Chips. Eh. Jalapenos. Bleh. Cheese. Ugh. Salsa. Nasty. Crab. Tasty. I don’t get it. I don’t understand. The crab is awesome, but the rest of it could be fixed so easily. Please, Island Grille, FIX IT.
Guest Eater: Shannon Brown & ManiPedi Hit Austin, TX
For those of you who aren’t frequent readers, we started a new thing here called “The Guest Eater” column. Friends of the blog pop in and share some great food stuff they have come across with all of you! This week, Shannon Brown, from the sketch group ManiPedi writes in about their trip to Austin, Texas (where they were performers in the “Ladies Are Funny” (or LAFF) Festival).
While preparing for Austin, I found myself very excited for a few things: performing, seeing shows, The Bat Bridge and eating…well, mostly eating. We had heard a lot about all of the great food we would eat, we watched shows about food in Austin, and picked up maps of food truck locations. We were an unstoppable group, with cast iron bottomless pits for stomachs.
Around the fourth minute into our stay in Austin we were on the hunt for food. Due to seeing shows and eating at some okay places, I found my favorite dishes the second day we were there. During our visit to the Capitol Building, the wonderful people that ran the LAFF suggested we go to Guero’s. I ordered a chicken especial, breakfast taco (with eggs, cheese, and if I remember correctly, bacon).
I can’t describe any of the flavors of the chicken taco, because I more or less inhaled it. It was so good, I couldn’t stop eating until I reached my own human fingers. I loved it. I didn’t dig the breakfast taco as much( I also don’t really like breakfast pizza) but it was still pretty good. I added some of their mild salsa—from their salsa bar(just as you would imagine, an array of salsas) and that made it pretty great. I also drank a strawberry margarita which was also wonderful.
That same day, I spotted Amy’s, an ice cream shop I had seen on a tv show about five
strangers who travelled to Austin together. They made a pretty big deal about the place, so I wanted to check it out.
It had been a dreary, rainy day. While everyone else went to get coffee, I convinced Briana to walk over to the outdoor establishment (on the show the cast went inside. When we went, it was only a walk up window. I felt duped.) to wait in the rain as the patrons ahead of us sampled various flavors.
When it was our turn, I ordered an emo kid—dark chocolate ice cream, homemade chocolate cake pieces and homemade hot fudge. I opted for rainbow jimmies, which was met with a “hey, I guess this is a cheer up emo kid now…” I didn’t find this as amusing as the youth behind the counter did. However, the slightly tweaked specialty was goddamn amazing. It was everything I could have ever wanted. The suckers who opted for coffee each had a taste and loved it as well.
I should also mention that the Embassy Suites we stayed at had a fabulous free breakfast buffet. We hung out there as long as possible each morning stuffing our faces with all of the delicious hotel food they offered. They also had a complimentary happy hour every night. We only went to that once. In spite of all of the rain, that was my favorite day in Austin.
Thanks to Shannon & to the gals in ManiPedi for writing up thoughts on Austin food on the trip! Check out their new video “The Taco Bell Jar”. Funny stuff!
Federal Donuts: Doin’ Their Own Cluckin’ Thing!
I like donuts. I like fried chicken. Shocking, I know. So when I heard about Federal Donuts: a donut and fried chicken joint in Pennsport in South Philly, I was intrigued. But then I heard about the massive lines and the early sellouts, so I figured I would wait a little while and then check it out. My friends, that day was the other day. And now, I shall share it with you.
Federal Donuts isn’t actually at 2nd and Federal, it’s on the smaller street right after Washington Ave. but before Federal. Look for the red rooster! Parking could suck for you if you come a little later on in the day, but I popped in with my friend Michael around 11, so it wasn’t too bad. You can’t really see it, but there is also a red bench you can sit on outside to enjoy the weather while stuffing your face with awesome donuts. That’s some thinking right there. Lady with baby carriage that won’t move out of the picture frame not included.
This place is not really big. Keep this in mind because it can get crowded. Luckily, everyone is usually very excited about the food so everyone is in a pretty good mood. When we visited, Cristal was manning the counter. She had to repeat herself a thousand times to a bunch of people and never once did she roll her eyes or take a swing at them when they whined about chicken not being sold until 11:45. In fact, she was making jokes with the customers and chatting while taking orders and being awesome.
If you look at the top of the picture, you will see the menu hanging over Cristal’s head. The first board lists the beverages: hot and cold coffee, hot and iced tea, water and a variety of sodas, including the very awesome Doc Brown’s line of sodas. I am partial to the Black Cherry (and yeah they have the Diet version too if you want to even out the calories you are gonna pack in…what do you mean it doesn’t work that way?…).
The second board is very important. These are the donuts they make all day long, what they call the “hot donuts, fried fresh all day”. These donuts are delicious & are lightly flavored in 3 varieties: Indian Cinnamon, Appolonia Spice, and Vanilla Lavender. The flavor isn’t overpowering and they go really well with a beverage of your choice. These donuts are cake based, which are usually heavy and chewy, but these are light as a feather. More on that below.
The third board lists the fancy donuts. These go on sale when the place opens and are usually gone by 10-ish. If you want them, I would suggest crawling out of your snuggie and getting down there early. They change varieties a lot and this is what they have now. Check the website to see what is going on when you read this. At that time they had: Halvah Pistachio, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, Mandarin Coffee, Root Beer Float, Chocolate Banana and Ginger Snap. I didn’t get to try those because they were all gone by the time I got over there. Next time FedNuts! Next time!! *angry fist shake*
This brings up the 4th board. It outlines the chicken. You can get a whole chicken or a half (or do what me and Michael did and get a whole with a different flavor on each half. We may be gluttons, but we are crafty gluttons.). The flavors they offer include dry selections and 2 glazes. The dry includes: Za’atar, Coconut Curry and Buttermilk Ranch. The glaze includes: Chili-Garlic and Honey Ginger.
We ordered a half of the Buttermilk Ranch & half Za’atar along with some Honey Ginger wings. At 11:45, Cristal asked all the people who had already been there how many orders of chicken they wanted and we all got numbered red cards. Did we do a little dance like we found golden tickets? Maybe. We did clutch them and look around to make sure no one was eyeing up our tickets. You get one for each order of chicken you put in. Notice the tickets are numbered? They only go up to a certain number and then you gotta come back the next day.
A few minutes later, our chicken was served up in red baskets. The chicken comes with a honey dipped donut. Now, if you quick looked at this donut, you’d notice it looks kind of like the Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Old Fashioned Donut. That is where the resemblance ends. This donut is honey dipped and warm, which means it is automatically probably the best warm thing you will ever have in your mouth (ahem).
The thing about these donuts is that they are cake donuts, as opposed to yeast donuts. Yeast donuts are the ones you might be used to, light and fluffy, especially right out of the fryer. Most people prefer those because they go down so easily.
Cake donuts are usually denser and chewier (Have you ever had a Polish Packzi? That is a great example of a cake donut. Also, my favorite donut.). The donuts at Federal are cake donuts but they are super light, spitting in the face of conventional thoughts on cake donuts. Can you tell I love it? The flavor is so subtle but coats your tongue with happiness. Out of all the things I ate at Federal Donuts, I loved this donut the most. Did I mention you get one every time you order chicken? You also get these little japanese cucumber pickles but, unfortunately, I didn’t really care for those (weirdly too sour for me), nor did my friend Michael (or my mom when I brought her an order home). But hey, in the grand scheme of things, who cares. Not everything can be jaw dropping and I have not even gotten to the amazing chicken yet.
Moving onto the chicken! This is not your usual KFC-style fried chicken that is coated in egg and flour, fried and then tossed onto your plate (or into your bucket or whatever). This is Korean Style Fried Chicken: the chicken is dipped in a cornstarch based batter and fried once, rested and then fried again when you order it to crisp it up. Look closely at the picture and you can see the chicken sitting on pans and racks (so they aren’t sitting a puddle of grease) just waiting for 11:45.
The first batch that I tried was the buttermilk ranch fried chicken. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Was the batter infused with buttermilk ranch flavoring? Would it be white? As I have said many times before, I am not that bright. The chicken was the fried chicken that they do, and they cover it with a dry coating of buttermilk ranch flavoring. As it’s called “dry seasoning”, that makes sense. And it was deeelicious! As you can see, they are not stingy with the seasoning and I am A-ok with that. The flavor of the buttermilk ranch powder soaked up the little bit of grease along with the juiciness of the chicken to create a festival of happiness in my mouth. (and I thought only whiskey could do that).
The second kind of dry seasoning we had was Za’atar. What is Za’atar? It is a Moroccan flavoring and the Federal website describes it as “sesame seeds blended with wild savory and sumac, so it has a very green and lemony flavor”. That is a spot on description, and I know Michael loved it the most. When you look at it, it looks like someone sprinkled grass clippings and sesame seeds on your chicken, but dig in! The flavor balances nicely with the mild taste of the chicken and the slight bit of grease. We had a bit of fork stabbing going on for the last piece (I’m a quick healer).
Finally, we started in on the Honey Ginger wings. It took us forever to figure out what flavor to pick (chili-garlic being the other flavor (glaze actually) we were considering). They sat there patiently while we buzzsawed thru the fried chicken and the hot donut. They looked delicious and smelled delicious.
The ginger is subtle and the honey made them slightly sweet. We both didn’t particularly like them at first. I took them home and the key is to let them sit for a little while, then they become amazing! I almost got you Federal Donuts, but you pulled it out again!
I cannot wait to go back and try the Chili-Garlic!
So, to sum it up: you have to get up super early to get the good special donuts. You have to get there early to get a ticket(s) for chicken that doesn’t go on sale until 11:45. Is it worth the hassle? Michael and I both agreed the answer was a resounding YES. Obviously, donuts and fried chicken are not things you can eat everyday without seriously hurting yourself (I read about that in a book…), so checking this place out and stuffing your face with some chicken and donut goodness is not only a good idea, it’s an excellent idea! Go there and check it out! And don’t forget your Doc Brown’s soda while you are at it!
White House Subs: WTF?
I have to admit, I do not enjoy writing about food I don’t like. Negativity is not something I enjoy spewing all over the internet like a heavy meal after a run at a bottle of Jameson. I genuinely like food and sharing it with all 4 of you who read this blog. But when I go somewhere with a reasonable expectation of awesome, and it only half registers a pulse, I gotta talk about it.
When I was in college up in North Central Jersey, I had a lot of people in my dorm who were very anti-Philly in terms of sandwiches (and anti-Philly in general, which I found hilarious considering that they had never been there and they were all from podunk tiny towns and always referred to NYC as “The City”, like there weren’t any others in the world) and very pro-North Jersey and I heard a lot about this White House place. I even remember Bill Cosby name dropping it a few times on the Cosby Show when I was a kid (side note: I cannot remember my phone number half the time but I can remember a food reference from 25 years ago. Go figure.)
I have a thing for old places. I like some history, some backstory. Smiling old people in pictures on the walls make me order more food. I also like vinyl booths, pop up napkin dispensers and cool signs. I’m a sucker for a place with soul. So, in that part, The White House did not disappoint. It had an old school sign up on the roof and it is pretty no frills, which I can appreciate.
When you see a sign like this, proudly pronouncing that they have been open for 60 years, it’s a cool thing. Nothing these days lasts very long. You think Bobby Flay’s Burger Joints will be around for 60 years? Much like any famous deli/sandwich/steak shop, this place is covered with famous people who have swung by to stuff their face with sandwichy delights. I’d imagine, since this place is literally up the street from the Taj Mahal Casino, it wasn’t too hard to get people to come and eat, but whatever.
But enough about the decor. Let’s get down to the brass tacks. The food. (also, I will be referring to all of the white house offerings as “sandwiches”, not “subs”.)
This place does sandwiches. Not “hoagies” but “subs”. A whole is pretty big, most people get a half. The roll is pretty awesome. They get them from a place up the street, The Formica Brothers Italian Bakery. Nice and fresh. It’s the kind of roll called an “Atlantic City Roll”, just call it a great roll. It’s crusty and chewy but not too much of either of those things. It’s just right and saves both of these things I ordered from me having a fit.
I ordered 2 different sandwiches: 1. The Ham, Cappicola, Genoa Salami & Provolone Cheese and 2. The Chicken Parm Sub.
The Ham, Cappicola, Genoa Salami & Provolone Cheese was pretty good. The meat was not skimpy, but it also wasn’t really piled on. I did enjoy the fact they they didn’t cheap out on the provolone, sometimes when you get a sandwich the cheese is sort of an afterthought. Really, the only issue I had was my own fault, I forgot to ask for mayo and I got oil. There is a line of thought that italian hoagies always get oil but I am a mayo freak so I like it on everything. In fact, I usually order extra because rolls tend to soak it up and then the sandwich gets dry. That’s not acceptable to me. (oh, I also ordered a side of sweet peppers as well. They give you a nice sized container of them, it made me happy.)
The thing about these sandwiches, and maybe it’s just me, or that’s the way a sub is supposed to be, but these sandwiches are flat. Any good hoagie I have ever seen, and a sub is a hoagie, have been round. I just found that weird. What do you guys think?
Let’s talk a little bit about the Chicken Parm Sub. I ate this thing like 3 weeks ago but I had to wait to actually sit down and write about it because of how angry it made me. Yeah. Angry. A sandwich made me angry (seriously people, I need a life). You might think I am being ridiculous but when you see this thing, you will understand.
I have eaten hundreds of chicken parm sandwiches over the years. It’s an easy idea: breaded pieces of chicken are put on a roll. You cover in sauce and cheese. Delicious and done. It is almost impossible to screw up. Or so I thought.
Let’s talk about the size of this thing. As in, the lack of filling. If you click on the picture, it actually kind of looks like stacked up chicken cheesesteak meat. That is NOT acceptable.
I started eating this thing, half in shock and half wondering what the hell was going on. Then I took a bite of the dry sandwich. Wait, it’s supposed to be saucy. This thing has about 2 tablespoons of sauce on it. And the sauce was flat and nasty.
Like cheese? Cheese takes a vacation on this thing. I do NOT UNDERSTAND what they are doing here. Was this thing made by an intern? Or half the sandwich fell out on the way to my table? Maybe aliens escaped with half the chicken? Maybe they ran out of breaded chicken and had to fill the sandwich with this crap?
I ate half of it and took the other half home. Sometimes, a sandwich tastes better the next day, or even just a hour or two or three later.
I took this thing home and it was even shittier later on that nite. And I was drunk! Everything tastes better when you are drunk!
This whole thing baffles me. I was told by a local that the place isn’t the same as it used to be. I don’t understand how that is possible. A chicken parm sandwich is a simple item of food. Chicken is fairly cheap to buy and you already got the rolls. The sauce can be made in
huge batches and frozen so it’s not a big deal. You can buy bags of shredded cheese at places like Jetro and Sysco for a song. Whatever the hell they are doing with this sandwich, in the name of all things holy and sandwich related, should be STOPPED.
I am sure someone is going to slam me for writing this post. Trust me, there is no one out there who would love to love a new sandwich shop like me. As someone who has worked in food, loves to eat and loves when people have a small business that is thriving, I was hoping for the best.
So, here are some things I did like: they have nice napkin dispensers that pop up the napkins and it makes it easy to grab when covered with various sandwich accoutrements. The waitress was super nice. They give you a choice between bottled water or water from the soda machine (aka tap). If you are a single person, they have a small booth that is good for one or two people if you don’t want to eat at the counter (the regular sized booths are saved for 3 or more people). Like I said above, I enjoyed the pictures on the wall, especially the Tug McGraw (my favorite Phillie) at the grill picture. I also enjoyed the size of the cups they put the sweet peppers in, it was just enough.
Here was the brightest spot in my visit to The White House. A taste of Philly.
So, if you are headed down to Atlantic City, if I were you, I would avoid this tourist trap and go to Tony Boloney’s (300 Oriental Ave) instead. While I had one ok sandwich, that chicken parm was so horrendously bad, I wouldn’t risk eating anything else there, except for, of course, Tastykakes!
Tony Boloney’s Food Truck: Food Of The Gods
A little while ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Atlantic City Beer Fest. It was pretty awesome. Lots of beers from all over the world, friendly people, beer themed oddities to buy and food to eat.
Wait?…Food to eat? Well, yeah. You can’t have a whole giant convention floor full of beer and not offer food, that would be wrong. Or, more succinctly, it would result in some very drunk people driving their cars into the ocean. That’s not good for anyone.
There were lots of different food vendors selling everything from crabcake sliders to yelp offering pretzel necklaces to kielbasie sandwiches. But I was more interested in the truck with the curly moustaches on it.
Normally, when people start blabbing on their website about how good their sandwiches are, I tend to automatically roll my eyes. I am from sandwich-land, aka Philly, and it is real hard for me to accept boasts from others about these things. Even with pizza, I feel the same way. There is something in the water here that makes for fantastic bread (and, of course, dough. Doh!). I don’t know what it is (nor do I want to know, save your emails), but you can’t find it anywhere else.
I did some research before I went to the Beer Fest and Tony Boloney’s caught my eye. Funny little name. Fun to say is good branding, along with the big fat chef that’s the mascot. They have a pizza & sub (not hoagie, we are outside the Philly area) shop in
AC. They obviously understand branding and food, because the menu for the shop is like 4 pages long and every single thing is a different spin on favorites (Like meat on a pizza? Try the Casino Carnivore with “every animal noah brought on his ark ravaged by mozzarella”) as well as things I never would have even thought to make (Reuben Fries!).
They decided to start a food truck (and bring it to the Beer Fest!): The Moustache Truck! Obviously, these guys are up on trends and understand marketing. It’s nice to come across a food place that understands marketing that isn’t a shitty major chain. I had emailed them and asked if they might be interested in donating a shirt for the giveaway I was doing and they were excited about it! That was cool,
because a lot of the beer vendors and assorted other vendors came with nothing to sell, nevertheless give away (besides, ya know, beer). Another thing I loved about these guys is that they are putting forth the idea that people actually *live and are from* Atlantic City, a fact that a lot of people tend to forget
when they come to empty their pockets and stuff their faces full of famous chef restaurant food (not that there is anything wrong with that, but there is much more to the city then that). Their slogan “Indigenous Atlantic City Grub” hammers that home in a mouth watering way!
When I made my way over to the truck, I was impressed with the smartness of the menu: pizza and the cheesesteal ole’. People who are drinking love pizza and cheesesteaks! They had a bunch of pizza options, but as soon as I heard it, I knew I had to try it. What was it? Reuben Pizza!
Say what? That sounds odd. That sounds weird. That sounds…delicious. And you know what? IT WAS!
The Reuben pizza would have been something terribly simple to totally screw up. How much kraut do you put on? Do you just use a squeeze bottle to put the dressing on all around? Or do you use it like sauce and cover the whole pie?
Do you cover the whole pie with corned beef like you do with pepperoni? The questions are endless! (seriously people, I need a life.) I think they nailed it. They used a 2 cheese blend to keep the pizza from tasting flat. under the meat, there is kraut, under that is a glob of the thousand island sauce that ooozes a bit but not too much. So ridiculously good. I had to physically restrain myself from getting another piece.
I also really liked how they were having fun with the crowd. It got a little chaotic, so what did they do? They whipped out a bullhorn. There was no panicking (what I would have done. To the panicking!), no freaking out, just a little louder and they kept on cranking out some awesome pizza!
I realized, after awhile, that I wanted to try the cheesesteak: The Cheesesteak Ole’. This thing had apparently won some kind of 2010 Guy Fieri Cheesesteak Battle. (An aside: I find it funny that a guy from Northern California can put his name anywhere around something called “cheesestesk” because, um, that’s all that is wrong with the world.).
This thing was awesome. It might be a tad small, length wise, if compared to what we can get in Philly, but make no mistake, this thing si PACKED with meat. Is it more like a cheesesteak hoagie then a cheesesteak because it has lettuce and tomato on it as well as the cheese and steak? Probably. But honesty, I could not care less, because this cheesesteak was fantastic.
Let’s start with the steak. Chopped sirloin. A little different then the usual meat used, which is a thinly sliced ribeye, but it’s cooked tender with a 10 spice mix. It’s a kind of taco spice that works deliciously with the jack and chipotle house sauce. Have no doubt, this thing is cheesy in all the right ways. It sticks with the meat, not like a weird cheese “sauce” you see sometimes, and it doesn’t sink to the bottom of the roll either. I was a little thrown by the lettuce and tomato on the bottom (nice and fresh too), but it gave the cheesesteak a nice bit of texture. Finally, the roll was chewy but not too chewy, and really fresh. Those Atlantic City rolls are no joke!
Wrapping this rambling review up: if you find the Tony Boloney Moustache Truck anywhere you are, go grab some food! If you find yourself in Atlantic City, wander on over to 300 Oriental Avenue (by the new Revel Casino) and go grab some grub. This place is awesome and while I wish I lived closer to them, I’m kind of glad I don’t, because I really can’t afford bigger pants. My hat is off to the Tony Boloney guys! Go now! Go!
Last July I finally got to get down to the Jersey Shore. Say what you will about those twits on tv, but I have a soft spot in my heart for the shore, as well as the eats you can find there. Here are a few shots I took on my getaway.
When I get to Ocean City, my car immediately drives to Manco & Manco’s Pizza (formerly Mack and Manco’s). This place has been around since 1956 and as far as I can tell, they haven’t changed a thing. The sauce is sweet, the toppings are plentiful, and you can still watch them make every single one (drooling is optional, but usually happens anyway). The large pies are the size of a buick and the kids who work there are always right on top of things. You might have to wait a bit for a slice or a pie, but the people watching makes the time fly. My dad used to complain about the price, but let’s face it, the days of a 99 cent slice are over. You get what you pay for at Manco and Manco, and I am quite alright with that! I cannot wait to get back down there for a slice of awesome! Hit up Manco and Manco on Twitter at @MancoMancoPizza
I am also a sucker for a great club sandwich. In North Wildwood, there is an old school diner, complete with fun old ladies with a little attitude and a stand when you check out that sells postcards and a full range of lifesavers and gum, called The Vegas Diner. You know a diner has something going on when it was voted Best Diner 12 years running! The breakfast is awesome (and served till 3pm) but I have a soft spot for their Club Deluxe: Turkey, Ham and Swiss Cheese! A lot of times when you get a club sandwich, it’s all lettuce and tomato and slim on the meat. This thing is brimming with turkey, ham and swiss, along with some lovely fresh lettuce & tomato. They throw in some fresh coleslaw, a pickle (yeah, I ordered extra mayo, which you can see on the plate in the corner of the picture) AND a plate of fries! It couldn’t get any better if you made it yourself, and the price is quite reasonable. Quite possibly the best club sandwich I have ever had! I can’t wait to get down there this year! (PS: try the homemade desserts!)
Back to the Ocean City Boardwalk. After stuffing my face with pizza, I walk off the calories by walking towards Kohr Brothers Frozen Custard. I can take or leave most desserts for the most part. When I was a kid, I used to think water ice and popsicles were a cheap substitute for ice cream (yeah I had kind of an attitude, whatever). A step above ice cream is frozen custard and Kohr Brothers does it just right every single time. I managed to get there twice the last time I was down the shore. The first cone I got was a chocolate and vanilla twist. Smooth, creamy and chocolatey good with vanilla to smooth it out. It’s flat out fantastic!
I also like to take have a different kind of custard sometimes, beyond the chocolate and vanilla. This time I went with the chocolate and mint twist. Awesome minty flavor and chocolate fantasticness. Of course to take this monstrosity to the next level, I had the thing covered in chocolate jimmies. Some people call them sprinkles. Those people would be wrong. They have always been jimmies and they always will be jimmies. And they will always be the perfect way to top a delicious dessert involving ice cream. Some people go for rainbow jimmies. I can take them or leave them, but chocolate jimmies, well, they rule all.
So now that winter is slowly crawling to the finish line, these tasty summer foods are waiting for me and you, to help your getaway make it’s way to legendary status. Come see them, they will be happy to help out!