About Last Night: South Street East Neighborhood Pop-Up At Cook

All snaps courtesy photographic kitchen ninja, Yoni Nimroad

Last night was a total sausage-fest.

And, really, how could it have been anything different? Bringing together the neighbors from the South Street East restaurant ‘hood meant we were talking about Jeremy Nolen from Brauhaus Schmitz, Keith Garabedian from Hot Diggity, Mitch Prensky from Supper and Erin O’Shea from Percy Street BBQ–two of whom showed up to showcase their wieners (and other tube-shaped meats), one of whom killed it with some very non-tube-shaped ducks and one of whom brought ice cream and cookies and caramel sauce fit to send everyone in the crowd into the sweet, sweet blackness of a full-on diabetic coma.

It was another great night–quieter than some of our other Foobooz classes, but also more educational, more civil, more DIY with every chef pitching in to help out his or her neighbors in a totally unlikely ballet of hands and knives and pepper-grinders, and just full of some of the most amazing plates that anyone in Philadelphia was eating that night. No one brought their B-game to Cook. No one slacked off or froze up under the spotlight’s glare. And, of course, no one left sober–least of all me.

Here’s how it all shook out, in photo form.

Arrivals, introductions and, of course, the traditional ice-breaker question which, this time, in honor of South Street, was: What is your earliest or best memory of the old South Street? Most of the audience responses can not be reprinted here, but suffice it to say Art’s involved baseball cards, pornography and the movie Flash Gordon.

Keith Garabedian showing everyone his wiener(s)

That’s Keith, Mitch and Mitch’s sous chef from Supper, all working together to get the hot dogs plated. In their finished version, they looked like…

…this. Tiny little mini-dogs in homemade brioche buns, topped with caramelized cabbage (which was excellent) and served with a side of the best pork-and-beans ever. In this case, three kinds of beans in a smoky, sweet sauce, crowned with a big piece of seared pork belly.

After that, it was Mitch’s turn at the stoves. Overachiever that he is, he decided to put up two fully-plated courses, hitting the assembled crowd first with…

…a salad of wilted kale in a warm vinaigrette, served with fingers of kale frittata and little cubes of pastrami-cured salmon. This, he followed with…

…duck and waffles! In a play on the classic fried chicken and waffles, Mitch did some kind of savory sage-and-something-or-other waffle, mounted it over a pile of vinegared red cabbage, then laid on the confit duck–which was just flat-out amazing. Dark and gamey and crispy and greasy all in the best possible way, with some strange edge of spice or herb or something that I couldn’t figure out until it occurred to me that maybe it was simply damn fine duck, prepared in the very traditional fashion. Either that or there was just heroin in it.

Think German food is heavy, stilted and boring? Well then you’re an idiot. Also, you’ve obviously never paid a visit to Brauhaus Schmitz where Jeremy Nolen is (no joke) modernizing German cuisine. Exhibit A: This version of linsensuppe, made with beluga lentils and topped with two fat slices of scratch-made pork and foie gras sausage wearing a little bit of horseradish and parsley gremolata as a hat. If I was able, I would’ve loaded up a bucket with this stuff and carried it home with me, eating it straight from the ladle.

This is Erin O’Shea from Percy Street. She is trying to explain to a stuffed crowd how to make salted caramel and why making ice cream out of corn is a good idea.

At a certain point, she stopped explaining and just showed everyone why she was right. All the chefs lent a hand in the plating, and the result was a kind of ice-cream-and-cookie sandwich with salted caramel sauce. Every plate in the house was licked clean, and when it was announced that there was one extra portion, the night almost devolved into a knife-fight over who got dibs.

And then it was over. Last shots were poured, last notes were taken and everyone waddled off into the night having eaten (and drunk) better than anyone in town–personally served by four of the best chefs in the city, representing four of the best restaurants on South Street.

Want to play along next time Foobooz throws a pop-up? Then get over to Cook and get your tickets for the South Street West pop-up that’ll be happening next month. There are still a few available, and trust me: When it comes time that I can announce who we’re going to have in the house on that night, you’re going to want to have those tickets already comfortably in your back pocket.

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