You knew this was coming. In Philadelphia, where chefs are constantly popping up in one another’s kitchens or dueling each other at Cook, it was only a matter of time before two of them would notice a FOR RENT sign as they carpooled home one night and decide to take the next logical step and move in together. Read more »
Craig LaBan finds a much needed wake up to the farm-to-table trope at chef Ezra Duker’s Mainland Inn in Harleysville. La Ban finds lots to praise in Duker’s use of Quarry Hill Farm, the farm two miles away that is owned by Sloane Six, who also owns Mainland.
The extraordinary lamb dish, meanwhile, was a snapshot of two farmyard generations on one plate. A roulade made from a yearling, its braised neck meat shaped into a disk glazed coal-black with olive puree, anchored one end, while the long bones of two amazingly tender chops from a milk-fed baby arced over a spring montage of new onions, favas, and a salsa verde piquant with sorrel and boquerones.
Three Bells – Excellent
Mainland Inn: Direct from the farm, with flair and flavor [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Mainland Inn [Foobooz]
Everyone knows that opening a restaurant is the surest path to an empty checking account, but George and Jennifer Sabatino know better. For truly shredding your bankroll, nothing beats not opening a restaurant — as the couple spent an agonizing year doing before the first customers finally came to Aldine in October.
Juniper Commons adds brunch to its repertoire, just a week after adding lunch service. Brunch is available on Saturdays and Sundays between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and Sundays are particularly special with complimentary champagne and a jazz band from 12 p.m.to 2 p.m. The 1980s inspired restaurant is of course offering quiche as well as strawberry compote but has a full menu of breakfast and lunch dishes to get you excited.
You can also expect several Bloody Marys to choose from as well as a list of cocktails made with sparkling wine–because what would an ’80’s restaurant be without sparkling wine coolers?
Tonight, Kensington Quarters opens on Frankford Avenue in Fishtown. The combination butcher shop, restaurant and classroom is unique to Philadelphia and it will be interesting to see how the concept grows and evolves.
For now, we have the opening dinner, dessert and drink lists. The restaurant is starting off with a tight menu of small plates, starches and entrees. The menu runs from $11 for rare beef to $26 for a pork shoulder entree, served with potato torta and mustard greens. Though Kensington Quarters does include a butcher shop, the menu is far from strictly carnivore as the menu includes dishes that are or can be prepared for vegetarians.
For drinks, Kensington Quarters offers wine ($8 to $10.50) and beer ($5 to $6.50) on tap plus a list of cocktails.
Tomorrow, we’ll have a report on opening night.
Craig LaBan enjoys much of what he eats from chef Yun Fuentes’s menu at Society Hill Society. In particular he enjoys brunch and the fresh Pilsner Urquel.
His ode to pierogi are delicate, their handmade sour cream dumpling skins stuffed with truffled mashed potatoes over molasses-sweetened Vidalia onion jam. He tapas-izes chicken pot pie, tucking a creamy velouté of leg meat, carrots, and peas into croquette sticks that would please even the toughest Amish Spaniard. His summer peach soup is simply a gazpacho-good tribute to ripe local summer fruit, the sweet pureed peaches tanged with a hint of vinegar and garlic, sparked with salty bits of shaved ham and tiny floating spheres of creamy goat cheese.
Two Bells – Very Good
For another opinion on this Society Hill restaurant, read Trey Popp’s review of Society Hill Society from the October issue of Philadelphia magazine.
Society Hill Society inspired by the past [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Pity the Philadelphia hotel restaurant. City dwellers will flock to food trucks, night markets, pop-up gardens and pizzerias with no seats, but just try getting us to eat in a building full of minibars. For every A.Kitchen, there are five Winthorpe & Valentines (a place that really exists, no joke). With Bank & Bourbon, the downtown Loews is now targeting the ground in between.
As the successor to the awkwardly named SoleFood (again, not kidding), which merged corporate decor and loads of dead space under Miami Vice lighting, B&B clearly yearns for some kind of contemporary relevance. Its whiskey-bandwagon name and predictably rustic trappings—now dominating restaurant design so utterly that Fortune 500 conglomerates are doing it, too—are enough to make a cynic roll his eyes and sigh, “Here we go again.”
City Tap House has been on a bit of a tear lately. For the past year or so — ever since chef Chad Vetter took over the kitchen — the beer bar has been showing new culinary aspirations. Sure, there are still nachos on the menu, and chicken wings and other snacks friendly to the 60-plus beers on tap. But those wings are rubbed with a house blend of 10 spices, and the nachos are crowned with pulled pork and topped with a Walt Wit white cheddar sauce. What’s more, Vetter does shrimp-topped fried green tomatoes, and chicken and waffles with honey-thyme butter. And as if all that isn’t enough to convince people this is a perfectly respectable place to settle in for dinner and drinks, he recently added a spread of new gourmet pizzas topped with everything from Cantimpalo chorizo to Benton’s ham, peaches and arugula.
Oh, and you know. There’s still beer, too.
City Tap House [Foobooz]
There are two ways a restaurant can be and remain successful: It can stay relevant, or it can become a classic. Sometimes, when the planets align and the gods approve, the two happen simultaneously. Pumpkin has lived at 17th and South for what’ll soon be 10 years, the anniversary of the day when owners Ian Moroney and Hillary Bor grabbed hold of a space nobody believed in and created (and kept) the BYO atmosphere we all know and love.
Alas, with the surrounding restaurant neighborhood explosion — the fancy toasts, the small plates — tiny places like this can get lost in the scrum. But Pumpkin stayed true and stayed exciting. Fregola sarda (toasted beads of Sardinian pasta) risotto with an English pea salad on top was not only comforting, but a texturally fun play on popping peas and smooth risotto. And it was the succotash that brought the sweet, tang and heat (from Styer Orchard chili peppers) that tiny gobbets of snails reveled in.
It’s easy eating at Pumpkin — not dated, not too precious, not clinging to trends, but not losing sight of what Philadelphia wants, either. It’s a restaurant that’s both current and classic, and that still harks back to a day when Philadelphia began to do what we do best: bring our own.
Originally published in the September 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.