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The Hungry Nomad: 07/01/2012 - 08/01/2012

July 31, 2012

Cafe Mogador- East Village (New York City, USA)

One of the many perks of living in Philadelphia is its proximity to other major cities. So on one rainy Philadelphia morning the Count and I decided to drive to New York to visit friends, eat and drink (but mostly eat). 

So with 'New York State of Mind' blasting the speakers of the car we rode through the Lincoln tunnel and arrived in beautiful New York. Traffic greeted us on the other side of the tunnel along with cars honking and heads sticking out of the car yelling at the car ahead. Oh New York. I love that organized chaos that can only be offered in big cities like New York. 

Upon arrival, the Count was adamant on taking me to his favorite restaurant, which he used to frequent weekly while living in New York many years ago: Cafe Mogador. I liked the name it sounded like something from a Medieval novel or Harry Potter. Expecting medieval treats we walked in walked in to a quaint restaurant when the Count informed me that Mogador served staple Moroccan dishes. Okay, so I wasn't going to try medieval food but Moroccan sure sounded good too. 

The restaurant had both indoor and outdoor seating and was full of hungry patrons at 2pm on a Saturday. Some were having brunch with your staple eggs and sausage and others were having skewers of meat and rice. The Count came with high hopes of having their famous hanger steak only to find out that they no longer offered it on the menu. He was so disappointed. He even signed a petition to bring it back (he is serious about his steak). So he settled for the goat cheese salad while I had the mixed grill plate.

The mixed grill came with a skewer of chicken, merguez sausage and lamb served over basmati rice, a skewer of vegetables and a side of yogurt dip. It was also served with a side of salad.  It was one of the most delicious meals I have had in New York to date. There was so much flavor in the meats and everything was tender and juicy. Perfect proportion of food, although I am sure I could have had more if the plate was any larger. 

The Count enjoys anything with goat cheese so not surprisingly he enjoyed his grilled goat cheese salad. He was still sad that he came all the way from Philadelphia to have his hanger steak only to find out it was no longer on the menu. Maybe next time we go, they will have brought it back? 

Although, we only had two dishes I could tell from what everyone around me had ordered that everything on the menu would be tasty. The brunch looked fantastic- although if I had to choose between eggs Benedict and my grilled dish I would pick mine all over again.  

If you ever find yourself hungry in the East Village, then do yourself a favor and find Cafe Mogador. You won't be disappointed. 

Café Mogador on Urbanspoon

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July 30, 2012

Jamonera- Washington Square West (Philadelphia, USA)

We ended up at Jamonera quite randomly one evening while walking the streets of Philadelphia trying to get ourselves acquainted with the city. We stumbled upon 13th street which seemed like the place to be on a Monday night since all the restaurants were packed. Since then I have learned more about chef Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran and their 13th street empire. They practically own the entire block with Jamonera being one of several of their restaurants (which I have yet to try). 

Jamonera is a wine bar specializing in Spanish tapas. We walked in to a very dimly lit restaurant with red reflector lights displaying the wine bar and art work on the walls. We were immediately seated and served a small plate of gourmet olives. 

We started our dinner with the Crispy Cana de Cabra: fried goat cheese served with salad, picked cherries in a sherry vinaigrette.The goat cheese was creamy and crispy on the outside and combined well with the cherries and tangy flavors of the salad. 

The Papa Frita was next: a plate of crispy skin potatoes, wood smoked garlic aioli, brava salt and house made sherry vinegar-hot sauce. I found that the potato skins were not crispy but chewy. I don't like eating potato skins if its not completely crispy. Besides that, the pieces that didn't have the skin were good: crispy on the outside and well cooked on the inside. It was not an extraordinary dish and like many I've had at other tapas restaurants around the world. Perhaps, a bit too oily. 

Next was the Berenjenas: crispy eggplant served on top of a smoked tomato salmorejo and truffle honey layered with Parmesan. This was my favorite dish. I have never had eggplant served this way and thought it was a wonderful creation. I will definitely attempt to make this at home. The eggplant was crispy with the creaminess on the inside. The sauce went perfectly with the eggplant. 

By this point we were both full. The portions were much larger than we expected. Given the price I assumed the dishes would be a lot smaller so we had ordered more dishes than our stomachs could take in. 

Next was the Calamarest en su tinta: crispy calamari which was fried in its own black ink, served with lemon aioli and garlic chips. The Count is not a big fan of tentacles but I can't get enough. I think I finished this plate on my own. The Calamari was fresh and melted in my mouth, not at all chewy like I've had at other spots. I didn't really taste the ink and think it is added more for it's visual effect. It could have used more flavor as the calamari was a bit on the flavorless side and there was not enough lemon or dipping sauce to add the proper flavours. 

The next dish was a definite first: roasted Spanish peppers. It seemed to be quite a simple dish: peppers sauteed in olive oil sprinkled with salt and viola: a new favorite. I did find that it was a bit too oily but it was too good to care.  

We were so full but still had more food coming! Our last plate was the wild mushroom tosta: seared mushrooms, dry oloroso, cadi urgelia cheese, grilled ramps drizzled with truffle oil served on toast. The mushrooms were very strong and drowned out the other flavors. But overall it was a bit too oily for my taste buds. 

Stuffed at this point, the waiter came over with the dessert menu. The Count and I looked at each other and knew there was physically no more room for dessert. Maybe next time we will know better than to order half the menu!  

I enjoyed our meal at Jamonera. Overall, the dishes were delicious but a bit on the greasy side. Don't expect to have anything healthy if you are going here as many of the items have some fried element. It's a great place to dine for a small group as the restaurant is quite small and the tables are literally one right next to the other. If you don't like intimate settings where you can feel your neighbour breathing then ask for outdoor seating. 

Jamonera on Urbanspoon

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July 28, 2012

Insomnia Cookies (Philadelphia, USA)

I don't think much needs to be said after viewing the above photo. But if you are still not convinced let me tell you: this cookie is worth making a trip from out of town for! It's warm, gooey and oozing with flavours. I bought a variety of different ones including the chocolate s'more, peanut butter chocolate and the sugar cookie. All amazing. All gone within hours. I've been over the cupcake fad for a while now, in fact, I have never been a big fan of cupcakes and the icing on top. But cookies! Cookies I can eat for life! If only there was an Insomnia Cookie closer to home I would be making orders daily. 

Insomnia Cookies on Urbanspoon

July 27, 2012

2nd Annual Vendy Awards- Saturday, July 28th

Tomorrow I'll be attending, eating, photographing and interviewing food trucks at the Second Annual Vendy Awards held at University City. There, the city's best food trucks nominated by patrons will compete for the Vendy's title. 

The Philly Vendy's benefits the Food Trust and is a branch of the Urban Justice Center's Street Vendor Project. If you love food and food trucks then you should definitely make it out. The event will take place Saturday, July 28th from 3 to 7 pm at the Lot located at 39th and Market street. Tickets for the event includes all you can eat and drink (beer and wine). You can purchase it here for $55 in advance and $60 at the door. 

Here are  list of vendors that will be battling it out tomorrow: 

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WaJoe Korean Restaurant- Rittenhouse (Philadelphia, USA)

Korean food is one of my favorites.  In fact, if I had to choose between all Asian foods I would choose Korean and Japanese as the top two. I can't believe I just said that because I also love Vietnamese and Chinese. How about we forget this favorites thing all together. I'll just restart by saying I love Korean food. Vancouver has a large Korean community and growing up there meant I am completely spoiled when it comes to authentic Korean food (and all other Asian food). 

It's funny how I learned to love Korean food since my first exposure to Korean was completely through smell. Ah yes, the infamous Kimchi. In College I lived in an all girls dormitory and on our floor there lived a Korean exchange student. Having a communal kitchen and fridge meant that everyone stored their exotic foods in the fridge. None of us knew what Kimchi was at the time, we just knew that the pretty Korean girl had something really smelly in the fridge all year. As soon as you opened up the fridge door, the smell of Kimchi would permeate the entire floor and linger there for days. Oh kimchi. The not so great odour of pickled Kimchi tickled my olfactory senses in the worst way possible and remained there for years. 

It was not until a few years later that I discovered just how amazing Korean food was.  I also fell in love with Kimchi to the point that I now store bottles of pickled kimchi in my fridge. I also introduced Korean cuisine to the Count who having similar taste in food also fell in love. We now make regular trips to Korean restaurants where ever we can find one. New Orleans was lacking in Korean cuisines (and many others in fact). So, you could understand how excited we were when we arrived in Philadelphia and realized that there is such a large pocket of all different types of international cuisine.  Within our first week we made our way to WaJoe Korean restaurant. 

Wajoe is one of many Korean restaurants in Philadelphia but we mainly chose to go there based on the proximity to our home. We went around 3 p.m. and the restaurant was empty. Each table has an installed barbecue in the middle. But we weren't there for Korean barbecue. We were there for bibimbap and Japchae. 

Once you place your order, it is customary to be served several small side dishes including fermented tofu, potatoes and bean sprouts in gochujang (chili paste). 

And of course, no Korean meal is complete without a side of Kimchi. 

For starters, we ordered the spicy rice cake. For a starters dish, it turned out to be quite large but so delicious that nothing remained except maybe a few rings of onion. 

Spicy Rice Cakes
We ordered the Japchae. After I had half of it I realized there was no beef and the menu included beef  in the description. When I brought it to our servers attention she said that most people in America don't eat beef and that is why it was served without it. Never heard that one before. Needless to say she brought a small plate of fried beef to add to the dish. I thought that was a bit unprofessional. If you are going to list an ingredient in your menu then you should serve the dish as described. If I ask for no beef then serve the dish with no beef but don't assume. 

Japchae is made with sweet potato noodles or glass noodles, stir fried in sesame oil with various vegetables and served with beef. It is very tasty. 

Our next dish was the traditional beef bibimbap. Bibimbap literally means 'mixed rice'. It is served as a bowl of warm white rice topped with sauteed vegetables and chili paste. A fried egg and sliced meat are also optional additions. The ingredients are stirred together in a hot stone bowl right before eating. 

The result is shown in the photo below! A mixture of rice, beef, eggs and vegetables for a mouthful of bursting flavors. 

Mixed Bibimbap

WaJoe met our expectations. We went there craving Korean food and left with our bellies full of Kimchi, bibimbap and other Korean delights. In terms of quality, I would not say that it is the best Korean food I have ever had but it certainly does serve staple Korean dishes. It was good enough that we have considered going there again. 

WaJoe Korean Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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July 26, 2012

Sabrina's Cafe and Spencer's Too-Fairmount/Art Museum (Philadelphia, USA)

Saturday morning, stomach and fridge empty we decided to go out for brunch. With the help of Yelp we found out that one of the best rated brunch places was right next door. So with a hop, skip and a jump we ended up outside of Sabrina's Cafe. The restaurant and outside was packed and the wait was over an hour long. But we got offered to sit at the bar and quickly made our way through the restaurant to the back. It was a perfect place to sit since I had a great view of everything that came out of the kitchen. And boy, did everything look tasty!

Our order was taken right away: the burger special for the Count and huevos rancheros for me. After a few minutes of food-watching we were served with what I rate as the best huevos rancheros I've ever had. It was presented differently than your typical huevos rancheros. It was served with two blue corn tortillas topped with a smoky chorizo sausage sauce finished with lime sour cream and spicy red pepper guacamole and 2 fried eggs with a side of hash browns and fried jalapeno peppers. I don't think I need to go on about how amazing this meal was for the photo below explains it all. It was such a large serving but I polished my plate clean. Needless to say I could barely walk after since I was so full. 

The Count's burger special was served with a side of coleslaw and hand-cut fries. He was also very happy with his meal and he is known to be quite the burger snob. He said it was one of the best he has ever had. I can't really give you details of the tasty burger because I confess I was so into eating my dish that by the time I looked up he was done with his.  I could only take that as an indication of how good it was. But I think the photos are an accurate image of the tasty burger. 

Everything that came out of the kitchen looked amazing. And every patron looked extremely happy. It is just one of those feel good places with good, rich and filling food  in a great environment. In fact it was so good, we have already been there twice since. I guess you can say we are big fans! 

Sabrina's Café and Spencer's Too on Urbanspoon

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July 25, 2012

Osteria- Fairmount/Art Museum (Philadelphia, USA)

It's been almost a month since we moved to Philadelphia. I've settled in and gotten myself familiar with the city and most importantly the dining scene. So after some research online I found the top 50 best restaurants in Philadelphia on PhillyMag's website. Determined to find out for myself I started my culinary adventure at a James Beard Foundation 2010 Winner Osteria

Jeff Michaud won best Mid-Atlantic Chef in 2010 and the restaurant was nominated for the 'Best New Restaurant' in 2008. Not surprising given that everything from the decor to the wine and house made pasta was beyond perfect. 

We went on a Friday night with reservations...a good thing since the place was full. 
The restaurant is beautiful. It has a rustic yet industrial feel to it. The best part was the glass covered patio looking onto the church next door. It was quite the experience. 

As soon as we were seated, we were given our regular menu and an ipad for the wine list. That was a first. Is that what restaurants are doing these days? Anyway, I found it to be a bit confusing and wonder what the not-so-tech-savy crowd would do when selecting their wine. 

The menu offers homemade pastas, thin crust pizzas and wood grilled meats and fish. We skipped the antipasti and went straight to ordering our entrees: the lombarda pizza (thin crust pizza with baked egg, bitto cheese, mozzarella and cotechino sausage- $18),  the robiola francobolli (postage stamp ravioli served with royal trumpet mushrooms, butter and thyme- $16) and the farfalle pasta (farfalle pasta served made with smoked chorizo, zucchini and aged goat cheese- $16). See Menu

The Lombarda pizza was served exactly as it was described on the menu. The crust was perfect and crispy yet not burnt on the bottom. A few burnt bubbles on the top but not enough to ruin the taste. The flavors of the cotechino sausage and baked egg with the cheese blend and sprinkled herbs made for a perfect combination. The Count and I both loved it and found ourselves eyeing the last piece. I of course always get the last piece since the Count is too nice to say no (but mainly because there was so much more good food to come). 

The primi pasta dishes were both delicious. However, we both agreed that the robiolla francobolli was the better of the two dishes. The dish was creamy and covered with butter and Parmesan cheese and quite literally melted in my mouth. It was the first time I tried such a pasta and thoroughly enjoyed every bite. I would have licked the plate if I could but it was a classy joint so I held myself back. 

You can really taste the freshness and superior quality of all the ingredients in each bite. Hand made pasta is just something else and in my opinion should become the norm in all Italian restaurants. 

Dessert consisted of the butterscotch bonet and chocolate flan with pistachio gelato. When our server described the butterscotch bonet I pictured something resembling a creme caramel. Hence, my surprise when I took the first bite. It was very rich in texture and nothing like a creme caramel. It was doughy and very heavy, drizzled with caramel sauce. It was the one thing I did not like all night. But of course it depends on personal preference. 

The Count ordered the chocolate flan and advised me against the butterscotch bonet. So, with eyes that said 'I told you so', he refused to share his dessert. You may remember that we refer to him as Count Chokula for his love of all things dark chocolate. Of course he gave in and ended up sharing with me as he always does! That's what husbands are for afterall. The chocolate flan was warm and gooey in the middle. It tasted like a flourless chocolate cake. The combination of the chocolate and pistatchio gelato made for a perfect dessert. 

Glass-covered outdoor seating overlooking the church
Berkel slicer

Brick pizza oven
Vintage Faema Coffee Machine
Osteria was the perfect way to be introduced to Philadelphia's dining scene. It was one of the best Italian meals I have had to date (en par with many of my dining adventures in Italy). 

Osteria on Urbanspoon

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