Local Brothers Aiming to Shake Up Craft Beverage Market

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BKON Craft Brewer at Philadelphia’s Counter Culture Training Center

Two local brothers are looking to shake up the craft beverage market. Lou and Dean Vastardis have co-founded BKON (pronounced beacon), a company looking to utilize negative pressure to infuse teas, coffee and made-to-order, infused cocktails.

When I met up with Lou Vastardis upstairs from Ultimo Coffee in Philadelphia’s Counter Culture Coffee Training Center, he had samples of  tea leaves, coffee, dried fruit, herbs, spices and chilies lined up on a workbench. Also present, the Vastardis’s BKON Craft Brewer, a touchscreen controlled brewing apparatus that promises an easier way to make tea, more flavorful coffee and unique cocktail combinations. The Craft Brewer controls the extraction of flavor using temperature, pressure and time to create a replicable drink quickly. The device, which was awarded the “Best New Product” at the World Tea Expo in 2013 can in 60-seconds pull the flavor out of a loose-leaf tea that might ordinarily take multiple brews and ten-plus minute wait times, not to mention the possibility of human error.

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Restaurant Review: Society Hill Society

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Society Hill Society | Photo by Courtney Apple

In the annals of faint praise, neighborhood restaurant is a peculiar epithet. People usually apply it to the places that make them feel most welcome. Yet it’s a dismissive classification—not just because it implies that a place merits only limited attention, but because it suggests that one neighborhood restaurant is more or less interchangeable with any other. Warm hospitality, a menu that’s not trying to reinvent the wheel, consistent cooking, and bang—your Brewerytown pals are all, “Why can’t somebody open a place like this by us?”

Nobody would ask that about Society Hill Society, because Reed Barrow has remade the old Artful Dodger into a public house that looks like pints have been sliding across its hammered copper bar since the first bricks were laid on Headhouse Square (and only lately, eclectic cocktails). Locally crafted spindle chairs and coarse-grained chestnut soak up the warm light of yellow globe fixtures on patched plaster ceilings. The upper bar shelves hold objects so random, it seems they must have taken decades to accrue. Is that a femur wedged in next to the ship captain’s hat?

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The Menu at Abe Fisher

abe-fisher-logoMichael Solomonov’s Abe Fisher will be opening on Tuesday, September 2nd. Co-owner Steven Cook says “everything from Montreal-style smoked meat and Ukrainian borscht to the American Jewish tradition of Chinese food on Christmas is fair game” for the restaurant that celebrates the Jewish Diaspora.

The Sansom Street restaurant next to Cook+Solo’s Dizengoff and across from Federal Donuts will have seating for 50 plus a full-service bar that seats ten. Two kitchen counter seats will offer a front row view of the action on the line. These seats will be available nightly for walk-in guests.

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Restaurant Review: Charlie Was a Sinner

Charlie Was a Sinner | Photos by Jason Varney

Charlie Was a Sinner | Photos by Jason Varney

Just how much sinning do you like to do over dinner?

That’s a good question to chew on at Nicole Marquis’s mysterious new bar on 13th Street, where you can drink bourbon and absinthe beneath a looming hardback edition of In Cold Blood, watch sultry projections of Marilyn Monroe flicker upon the ruffles of a diaphanous wall curtain, and soak up your alcohol with food completely untainted by animal products.

In an era abounding with culinary hobgoblins—gluten for him, fructose for her, GMOs for the guy down the street—veganism still reigns unrivaled as the diet of the ethically upright. But the plant-only jawn feels a little racier at Charlie Was a Sinner, and not just because it’s next door to the last surviving porn shop on this once-seedy strip. Marquis, the woman behind HipCityVeg, named her lounge the way Elmore Leonard started crime novels. Who’s Charlie? Has he—or she—repented? Exactly what sort of sin are we talking about here?

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