Expanding culinary horizons

Today I finally got to try Honest Tom's Taco Shop! It's a funky taco truck that I heard about through Twitter or Facebook. Aside from their usual spot in University City during the traditional school year, they smartly started popping up in Logan Circle near the Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul on Fridays during Lent - to sell fish tacos. I appreciated their novel marketing and rave reviews, so I had to get there.

On my way over to 18Th and Vine St., I asked someone who works in the cafe if he'd like some tacos. He wasn't sure what one was. It gave me pause to remember that not everyone travels with their own personal gourmand to expand their culinary horizons.

I had the sweet potato tacos which even as a non-vegetarian I loved! Fresh guac, pico de gallo and what was either a homemade flour tortilla or one that was shown extra special love on the griddle out of the pkg. It was grand.

The lesson? Share your food and your lunch plans! You never know when you can brighten someones day and treat their tastebuds.


Crowd Pleasers

I love chocolate anything. I've eaten chocolate covered tortilla chips and potato chips, chocolate bars with bacon, chipotle and various salts. I can taste differences in chocolate as if I'm sipping fine wine or describing a great craft micro brew. Thanks to the various food allergies/aversions/phobias I assume are present at gatherings of more than 6 people or so, I hesitate to bring chocolate when I am responsible for dessert or an extra treat. Enter blondies.

Easy to make, essentially a bar cookie, blondies are brownies without the chocolate. They are great plain, but are also pantry friendly to accept the scant 1/4 cup of leftover nut hanging around. I've made them with half whole wheat flour, and have even substituted some olive oil if I was short on butter and a trip to the store would derail me when I'm in "the zone". My favorite combination is pressing salted cashews in the top and sprinkling with toffee pieces before baking.

In my vast cookbook collection I couldn't find a blondie recipe so I turned to the Gods of Google. I stumbled upon a fantastic blog, Whipped - complete with a post full of alliteration as a nod to V for Vendetta! You can whip it up on a whim and feel like a whiz and share the wonderment that is, BLONDIES!


Frog Burger

My first time email blogging is a burger review! Had some extra time after work before attending an author event at the Free Library (Steven Raichlen!) so I trotted across the very difficult to navigate on foot Ben Franklin Pkwy.

Frog Burger's been getting lots of press over it's chub-burger, touristy named "Love Burger" which features TWO grilled cheese sandwiches for buns! I can rarely resist but here I did and got a standard cheddar cheese burger. They didn't ask for a temp but mine came out a juicy medium. Acceptable for a place I'm not good friends with yet. I also had jalapeƱo fries and a Kenzinger Ale from Philadelphia Brewing Co ($2 @ happy hour!).

It was well executed. For a gourmet burger stand I want more than a potato roll fresh from a bag for a bun, even though it was grilled. Nor am I a fan of the almost shoe-string cut of the fries. Yet what it comes down to is this : Is it the best burger on the Parkway? YES. Is it destination burger worthy? NO.

What I wonder is, how did they get the license to do this? I know a little too much about opening a business in this neighborhood and it ain't easy! Outdoors and serving alcohol? Who did they blow? Service was great, BTW.

Frog Burger
Address: under the metal airplane on the lawn of The Franklin
Hours: 12-8pm 7 days/wk

Sent from my iPhone


Deep 'Za

Do not stand between me and a craving. Ever. The other day it was deep dish pizza. I've had both kinds of Chicago deep dish pizza (in Chicago!). The first - the stereotypical kind which consists of at the very minimum a two inch layer of mozzarella topped with a one inch layer of sauce. Cut into it right out of the oven and you will have cheese lava on your table. To me, this is best eaten at room temp or cold the next morning. It's tasty, but it's like ordering a 'Philly Cheese Steak' at a random pizzeria in Florida when what you should really have is a 'Cheese Steak' from Cosmi's, a tiny unassuming deli in deep South Philly.

The second deep dish pizza is the one you spend waiting an hour for a table for, even possibly standing in vehicular traffic because the sidewalk is too crowded with people waiting for the same table you are. It's from Pizano's which I've already mentioned. What to do when you can't head to Chicago on a whim for a pizza craving (and a visit with my Godson!)? Get out the Google and slice some mozzarella.

I had tried to recreate it before. I used my standard pizza dough recipe in my deep dish clay baker, pre-baked the crust, added sliced mozz and some toppings. It was OK. The crust was all wrong. You can't have a crispy/chewy crust with mile high toppings. My latest research revealed some cornmeal in the crust. It made sense to me. Cornmeal would retain crunch but minimize chew. I decided to replace 25% of the flour with cornmeal and set out to make the dough. Every time I make pizza dough I recall how I LOVE to make dough and don't make it often enough.

After it rose for a little over an hour, I oiled the clay baker, set up the dough and baked it. If you put the toppings on raw dough, you will get raw dough under cooked toppings in your finished product. While it was baking I sliced the mozz, sauteed mushrooms with some onion, spread on some crushed tomatoes (the sauce cooks along with the pizza), sprinkled it with oregano and some thick slices of Sicilian pepperoni which would self-fry in the oven and become little pepperoni crackings by the time it was cooked. All baking is done at 500 degrees, don't be shy about oven temp! After 20 minutes of cooking and 10 minutes of resting (this is crucial and hard to resist) the feasting begins.

The dough recipe will yield leftover dough. If I was thinking ahead I would have popped it into the freezer for deep dish pizza on demand in the future, but I spread it out and topped it with some of the leftover sauteed mushrooms and Asiago cheese so we had a little appetizer while the pizza was cooling.