Archive for South Philly BYOB

FOND – BYOB

Posted in Fond, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2012 by ballymote

 

 

With our “Hall Pass” securely tucked into our wallets and our wives sipping frozen cocktails in St. Maarten, Gerry, John and I were about to finish off  our day with a visit to Fond, a highly regarded BYOB at 1617 E. Passyunk Ave. in the heart of South Philly. We had just finished watching the Phillies lose another game at Citizens Bank Park. Gerry and John were staying over for the evening at the Bella Vista B & B and we had just showered and changed clothes in preparation for our much-anticipated reservation at Fond. During their pre-dinner cigar John asked if mediocre service would put a damper on a meal where the food and ambience were both first-rate. We finally agreed that it might not have too much affect as long as the service was adequate while other factors were top-notch. Ironically, we were only about an hour from changing our opinions, not because we ran into poor service at Fond but rather the opposite; we were shown emphatically just how much GREAT service can add to the overall dining experience.

 

 This would be Steve, our server at Fond. I had read somewhere that he was recently named the Top Server in Philadelphia. He reluctantly confirmed that he had indeed been singled out for that high praise. After two hours of watching him perform great feats of customer service, the three of us concurred with whomever made that selection. Steve was professional, extremely knowledgable and exuded a sense of pride in himself and his restaurant. Later, I will mention one more trait that sets Steve apart from his compatriots in the industry.

 

 

 

 As usual, we had some very nice wines with us to serve as appropriate beverages for our meal. Gerry provided the 2005 Los Astrales Astrales Christina, Ribera del Duero, Spain. This was a big, bold Spanish red rated 97 by the Wine Advocate and not often seen as there were only 150 cases produced. Intense flavors of leather, licorice and blackberry fill the palate and linger long after the swallow. Made from 100% Tempranillo, this was my favorite wine of the evening. John chipped in with a 2003 Arrowood, Sonoma County, Cabernet Sauvignon. Lots of dark fruit, well-balanced with soft tannins and a medium finish. Perhaps just a nuance of mint. Went well with several of our dishes. My contribution was the 2007 Phillips Hill, Oppenlander Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Mendocino County, CA. Lots of black cherry fruit and earthiness in this smooth Pinot Noir. Nice lingering finish; a nice wine.

 

 

 Narrowing your choices from the menu at Fond is no easy task. Chef Lee Styer (just back from his marriage and honeymoon to Pastry Chef Jessie Prawlucki) puts forth more than a few exotic offerings  that will tempt your palate. Steve explained that their was one small course of octopus remaining so we shared this between the three of us. The perfectly grilled octopus was served with Spanish rice, chorizo and mussels and the presentation was beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 John was delighted to find the Escargot on the menu. The delicate snails were served with hearts of palm and fennel in a mint pesto sauce. His silence while devouring his appetizer was proof enough that he was quite happy with his choice.

 

 

 

 

 Gerry wasted little time in choosing the Foie Gras Pate served with toasted croutons and a mustard sauce.

 I, too, could not resist the Foie Gras but I had mine seared with rhubarb, lemon-ricotta and almonds. This tender French delicacy was cooked to perfection and an excellent start to the meal. Two different ways to serve this dish and both Gerry and I were pleased with our choices. 

 

 

 

 For our entrees, Gerry left the menu and went with one of the evening specials. He settled on the Roast Quail stuffed with, what else, foie gras. The quail was cooked nicely and the sauce was a perfect marriage with the delicate bird.

 John thought long and hard before making his choice. He went with the Harpoon Caught Swordfish, served with gold beets, radish salad and lemon grass sauce. I can’t vouch for the harpoon as the weapon that captured this fish but I can vouch for the fact that it was cooked to perfection and that John was absolutely thrilled with the rich flavors of the entree.

 

 

  I had thought about the swordfish. I had not considered the quail. My eyes kept returning to the Pork Loin and that’s what I finally decided on. It was a fine choice as the meat was tender and juicy. It was served with roasted red peppers and arugula and the dish was plentiful. All three of us were content and happy with both the great food and superior service.

 

      I had mentioned earlier that our server, Steve possessed one other quality that made him stand out from others. He has an uncanny knack of knowing each customer quickly. By that I mean, he is able to almost instantly know who he can joke with, who he must be serious with and just exactly how far he can go. This may seem like not much of a big deal but to me, it makes all the difference in the world. It was obvious he felt comfortable enough with us to offer his personal opinions of each dish and even trade barbs with us. It was like being waited on by a good friend rather than a stranger and I think I speak for both Gerry and John when I say he played a big role in making our dining experience at Fond a memorable one.

 

 I had read so much before we got to Fond about the dessert “brownie” that I was quite disappointed to find there were none on this Thursday evening. John went with the Triple Sorbet of tropical ices with a couple of waffle cookies and he found it a nice ending to his meal.

 

 

 

 

 Gerry’s dessert was picture perfect but I can’t remember what it was except that it had a fruit filling with a tart and some creme fraiche. I also remember that he liked it a lot.

 

 

 

 

 

  With the much-anticipated brownie not available I went with the Malted Milk Chocolate Ice Cream, peanut brittle, chocolate crumble and peanut butter ganache. It was almost good enough to make me forgive the absence of the brownie.

 Our dinner at Fond was absolutely wonderful. Chef Styer is a marvelous chef and the atmosphere is warm and friendly. Seating is limited to 34 hungry foodies on any given night so make sure you make reservations early.

 

 

 Steve had suggested that there was an outside chance we might find one of those elusive brownies up the street at Belle Cakery, if they were still open. We lucked out and they were open and although they had no brownies, John and I were able to pool our remaining cash and pay the women there to have their picture taken with Gerry so that in years to come he can look back and pretend he actually did something with his “hall pass”. Thank you, ladies, our money was well spent and we appreciate your sacrifice.

CUCINA FORTE – BYOB

Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Cucina Forte, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , on April 7, 2011 by ballymote

 As I mentioned in the previous post, we have a cruise coming up shortly and so on this Saturday evening in early April the four couples who will be on the Allure of the Seas met for dinner at Cucina Forte in South Philly. As usual, parking in the area was at a premium and it’s no small accomplishment to finally secure a legal spot within walking distance of the restaurant. 

Inside the restaurant, we looked over our menus while our server, Vinnie, (I know, how would a South Philly waiter ever have a name like Vinnie) recited some of the many special appetizers and entrees for the evening. I had looked at the menu online earlier in the day and was already pretty damn sure I knew what I was going to be having for my starter. Before I get to the food though, I want to talk about the wine.

 I have been anxiously awaiting the right time to open my first 2008 Bedrock Wine Co., The Bedrock Heirloom, Sonoma Vally. This interesting blend by Morgan Twain-Pederson is quickly becoming a cult classic that distinguishes itself from the other cult wines by being eminently affordable. The Bedrock Heirloom is made from 120 year old vines, some of the oldest in California and it’s spicy, full of flavor fruit has great structure and balance and drinks well now and will be even better with more time in the bottle. Just a yummy wine but only 228 cases made and it’s all gone now.

 Maria’s Dream Soup. Maria is Maria Forte, Chef/Owner of Cucina Forte. I spoke with her on the phone when making our reservation and I told her about my blog. She sounded genuinely excited that we were coming but unfortunately, she had a death in the family and was back in Italy on this Saturday evening. Very sorry for your loss, Maria. Her Dream Soup was created with love for her late husband and features grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, wild mushrooms (I took them out), broccoli rabe, home-made bread cubes dipped in a light egg batter and all served in a chicken broth. I thought it was great. Kathy thought it was just OK,  but I don’t think she sampled enough of mine.

 Some had the mussels, others split a seafood appetizers with grilled shrimp, scallops, calamari and lagostinos over broccoli rabe. There was also an antipasto consisting of roasted peppers, olives and assorted premium meats and cheeses. All of these were tasty and a great way to start dinner.

 For my entree I went with the Lobster Ravioli, in a cream sauce with four nice-sized shrimp circling the dish. I thought the dish was very nice without being overly filling as these dishes can sometimes be.

Tom had the Chilean Sea Bass served in a white wine sauce with tomatoes and capers while Kathy ordered the Veal Saltimbocca, veal medallions with prosciutto sauteed in a wine and sage cream sauce served with potatoes and asparagus spears. She thought the veal was nicely prepared but could have used additional flavoring.

 Joe and Carol both ordered one of the specials, the Sacletti, little purse shaped pastas filled with fontina cheese and prosciutto and served with tomatoes, mushrooms and shrimp in an olive and garlic sauce.

Tom had a side order of the house-made gnocchi and I managed to taste a few of these tiny pasta creations and I thought they were very good.

We decided to skip dessert  went back to one of the couples house to discuss our upcoming trip. We thought dinner at Cucina Forte was a very nice event.

L’angolo – BYOB (South Philly)

Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, L'Angolo Restaurant, Philly BYOB Reviews, Wine Dinners with tags , , , on November 28, 2009 by ballymote

Tucked away on Porter Street, just west of Broad Street, L’angolo gives new meaning to the word tiny. If it’s size and ambience you are looking for you would do well to pass on this little gem of an Italian restaurant. However, if you came in search of really good cooking at very reasonable prices, then you have found the right place.

Once you have found a parking space in this home of the double-parked vehicles you are all set to enjoy the dining experience served up at L’angolo. When you enter, the first thing you see is the meals being prepared in the open kitchen area. You squeeze your way past the cramped outer area into the equally cramped dining room. If you are like me and have your wine container and camera with you, you’re in big trouble because the tables aren’t made to hold them and your space on the floor is at a premium. These are minor complaints and the bread soon arrives, the conversation progresses and you just make believe you and your party are the only guests in the place. Our regular Friday night crowd of 8 had dwindled to 4, probably, in part, a result of this being Thanksgiving Weekend. Carol and Joe B. and my wife, Kathy and I began the meal with an Antipasta Misto, a traditional Apulian vegetable antipasti for the table. I would be hard-pressed to name a lot of the items that we shared but I did recognize beets, cauliflower, carrots, onions, a spinach quiche, eggplant, some potatoes and at least four or five items I am forgetting.

I have never been a big antipasta fan but I have to admit this version provided a nice beginning to the meal.

I had been to L’angolo before in my pre-blog days. I even remembered that I had the Orecchietta with shredded duck and shaved parmesan and that it was very good. However, since I had duck last week at Tribeca Grill, I opted for the Pollo In Padella, chicken breast sauteed with pancetta, rosemary and a white wine sauce. The chicken was wonderful, with great flavor, healthy portions, and the juice from the pancetta and other spices made for the kind of sauce you want to dip your bread into. Although it would have been easy to finish the entire plate I purposely held back and saved some to take home for lunch today. Unfortunately, on leaving, I forgot to take it off the table and missed an opportunity for a tasty snack. It seems the South Jersey Wine Blogger Guy is not particularly bright.

Carol B. had the same entree as I did and enjoyed it immensely, while her husband, Joe, and my wife, Kathy, both chose the Pork Chop Milanese, described as breaded, thinly pounded with baby greens, in a white balsamic vinaigrette. Both Kathy and Joe agreed that although the chop had a nice flavor  it did not taste as if it was a really top notch grade of meat. They liked it, but both probably wish they had made a different choice.

My wine for the evening was the 2008 Chocolate Box, Barossa Shiraz. It had a smooth texture with lots of dark fruits, white pepper and, naturally, as its name implied, a hint of dark chocolate mixing with saddle leather. It’s not an expensive wine but it drank well and was a nice accompaniment to the meal.

Overall, my second visit to L’angolo was just as good as the first and I would have no qualms about recommending readers to veer off of Broad Street at Porter to try this excellent Italian restaurant.

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