Lacroix Unveils New Ways to Experience Fine Dining

Plus: Humpty’s Dumplings celebrates 10 years and 10 million dumplings, a new chef joins the Oltremare team, and Honeysuckle Provisions hosts its second annual Juneteenth Cookout.

Lacroix’s “Savoir Faire” menu / Photograph by Mike Prince

Howdy, buckaroos! And welcome back to the Foobooz food news round-up. Just a few quick things to get you caught up on this week, including new summer menus, a Juneteenth cookout, golden dumplings and open-fire cooking in Spring Arts. But let’s kick things off this week with …

Lacroix Takes a Shot at Democratizing Food and Wine

Lacroix, on the second floor of the Rittenhouse Hotel, has long been the definition of fine dining in Philadelphia. From the fancy-pants brunches with their carving stations and seafood towers to the various iterations of its unabashedly French (and occasionally quite avant garde) dinner service, it has been the spot for that certain kind of white-tablecloth experience that is becoming harder and harder to find in Philly — or anywhere else, for that matter.

Once upon a time, there was La Bec-Fin, Striped Bass (in its first incarnation), and other destination restaurants that thrived on the pomp and spectacle of elegantly appointed dining rooms, deep wine lists and menus dripping with caviar and Bordelaise. These were spots where French cuisine reigned supreme, where the city’s swells (and the occasional couple celebrating an anniversary) came to drink champagne, be treated like royalty and eat themselves stupid.

But Le Bec is gone. All those places are gone. And with the possible exception of Jean-Georges’ place still squatting up there at the tip of the Comcast World Domination spire, Lacroix is now the last man standing. There are plenty of fancy restaurants left in Philly. There are plenty that cover the tables in white linen. And there are still some very expensive meals to be had here. But Lacroix is of a different age. It is fine and French and fussy and fancy and still inventive and still highly curated and — possibly — more interesting right now, under chef Eric Leveillee, than it has been in quite some time, but no one has ever called the place inexpensive.

At least not until now.

See, being that kind of fine-dining/destination/experiential restaurant comes with some costs, and one of those is … well, the cost. Dinner has always been pricy here, wine pairings even more so, and price will always be a hurdle — especially for younger diners. But without bringing in a younger crowd, no restaurant will survive long. You need a steady stream of new customers coming through the doors. And those new diners need to tell their friends about the place and convince them to go, too. Regulars and long-time fans are great, but without some new blood pumping through the dining room, a restaurant just becomes a relic at best. A new real estate listing at worst.

And Leveillee and his team at Lacroix understand that. They’ve been making some moves lately to try to stay relevant and to get the word out that their dining room isn’t just the place you bring grandma for brunch on her 80th birthday. Their newest trick? A $55 prix-fixe that they’re calling their “Savoir Faire” tasting menu, available on Thursdays only, starting June 13th.

The new menu — which will serve as a “tasting experience curated to represent a taste of executive chef Eric Leveillee and his team’s seasonal specialties” — will be three courses and available on Thursday nights. That’s smart because Thursdays have become like an extra Friday night for the newest generation of diners — a time to get out to try something maybe slower or quieter than the usual weekend haunts, or maybe just something new. If you’re down, reservations are available here starting … now.

Meanwhile, for the young wine enthusiasts, Bar 210 at Lacroix will be digging deep into the impressive cellars at the Rittenhouse and pulling up some special bottles for a new series of “Cellar Nights,” which will happen every Wednesday, starting on the 19th. There’ll be “unique vintages and funky pours,” mostly of bottles rarely seen on menus around town, all hand-selected by Lacroix’s in-house sommelier Daniel Kunz. Bottles and pricing will vary, so Lacroix is telling everyone to keep an eye on their Instagram page to see the “weekly drop.”

Honestly, that last sentence alone is one I never thought I’d write about Lacroix. So that’s a pretty significant change already. Who knows what else the team has up their sleeves.

Tales of the Golden Dumpling

Golden dumplings by Humpty’s Dumplings / Photograph by Mike Prince

Remember last week when I told you about the new Fishtown Seafood promo where they were hiding five “Golden Oysters” in their buck-a-shuck buckets and seeing how long it would take for people to find them and claim fabulous prizes? Yeah, well, it seems like the Fishtown Seafood crew weren’t the only ones who caught a midnight screening of Willy Wonka recently, because Phillip Yesenosky and Patrick Doyle of Humpty’s Dumplings were already in the works planning something similar.

Not with oysters, of course. That would be weird. But they’re hiding 10 Golden Dumplings among their stock at their Keswick location, and among the dumplings being sent out to their farmer’s market stands (Saturday at Lansdale, Sunday in Horsham). And starting on Saturday, June 15th, anyone who gets served one of these special gold-brushed dumplings wins free dumplings for a year.

Not as many as you want, of course. If I won that, I’d bankrupt the joint in a week. But anyone who finds a golden dumpling will get two dozen free dumplings a month for an entire year — which is still a lot of dumplings.

Yesenosky and Doyle are doing this to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Humpty’s Dumplings and, concurrently, the rapid approach of their 10 millionth dumpling sold. The two high school friends started the business back in 2014 with just $1,300 between them, but they’ve managed to parlay that into a dumpling operation with multiple locations, an expanded menu of noodle bowls and unique dumpling varieties like Mexican street corn (in addition to all the dumplings) and tons of loyal fans. So if that isn’t something worth celebrating, I don’t know what is.

So now we have golden oysters and golden dumplings. First one to come up with a golden cheesesteak promo gets their name in print next week.

Now what else is happening this week …

The Incubator Plays With Fire

Lucky Well Incubator will be kicking off their “Made With Fire” series with Carlos Aparicio from El Chingon on June 18th. / Photograph by Mike Prince

We’ve talked a fair amount about chef Chad Rosenthal and his Lucky Well Incubator project over the past year, so I’m going to assume that you’re already caught up on what he and his team have been doing for their “Second Season” on Spring Garden Street.

But this is something new. Something different that Rosenthal has going on at the incubator — and a series that’s perfect for these hot summer months.

“Made With Fire” is what they’re calling it, and it’s a recurring series that brings some serious talent into the incubator to cook one-off meals, all over live fire. Unlike the regular incubator crew, which is generally made up of young talent looking to make a name or experienced pros working out the kinks of a new project, “Made With Fire,” on the other hand, brings in working chefs from all over the city to do a single Tuesday night dinner that reflects their cuisine, only cooked over open flames.

June 18th is the first dinner, and Rosenthal is bringing in Carlos Aparicio from El Chingon to do a full-on Mexican feast. Then, on June 25th, he’s got Davide Lubrano and Vinny Gallagher from Pizzata Pizzeria coming to do a little Italian grill work and sling some sourdough pies. On July 2nd, Liz Grothe (of the forthcoming Scampi) will be in the house, and after that, it’s Midnight Pasta Co.’s Natalia Lepore Hagan.

Anyway, it’s a good lineup. And it should make for some interesting dinners. Tickets are $100 for each event, but that’s all-inclusive. Food, tax, tip, even the booze — it’s all covered. So if you’re interested, I’d suggest getting yours now because I think these are going to sell out fast.

A New Chef for Oltremare

Chef Sean O’Brien / Photograph by Gab Bonghi

Oltremare, Townsend Wentz’s new(ish), seafood-focused Italian spot on Walnut Street, has had about six months to get its legs under it and figure out exactly what kind of restaurant it wants to be. And now, with the summer season upon us, they’ve just made the announcement that former Wentz loyalist Sean O’Brien (just recently back home again after a turn through California’s restaurant scene) has taken command of the kitchen.

O’Brien is rolling out a new summer menu as his first order of business, focusing on seafood and handmade pastas. Highlights of the new board look like this:

Roasted Scallops – heirloom cherry tomatoes, charred corn, serrano pepper, salsa verde

Hamachi Crudo – kumquat, Calabrian chili, blood orange

Vongole – little neck clams, n’duja, white wine, sourdough gremolata

Whipped Ricotta Toast – Calabrian chili honey, toasted focaccia, giardiniera, mint

Frutti di Mare – shrimp, calamari, mussels, clams, squid ink

Crab Cavatelli – peas, fava beans, cherry tomatoes

Swordfish alla Griglia – fennel, mussels, n’duja, tomato saffron broth

Chicken al Mattone – ½ roasted organic chicken, arugula, Castelvetrano olives, salsa verde

Rosemary Panna Cotta – blueberry marmellata

Bomboloni – whipped cream, orange

So yeah, crab cavatelli and a little white clam sauce? Definitely sounds like summer in Restaurant World. The new menu is live right now, accompanied by a refresh of the cocktail menu at the bar.

Now who has room for some leftovers?

The Leftovers

Omar Tate and Cybille St.Aude-Tate of Honeysuckle Provisions / Photograph courtesy of Honeysuckle Provisions

Honeysuckle Provisions is throwing their second annual Juneteenth Cookout this year at Plowshare Farms on Sunday, June 16th. This’ll be a big, outdoor party with shuttle service available from Honeysuckle to Pipersville (where the farm is), and because this is Omar and Cybille running the show, it should be a very good party.

Tickets are $60 per person. Kids 10 and under are free. Catching a ride on the shuttle will run you an extra 10 bucks. And the cookout is scheduled to run from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. You can get your tickets and whatever information you need right here.

Meanwhile, toward the end of June, Washington D.C.’s beloved Moon Rabbit will be taking over in Rittenhouse for a two-night collaboration dinner with chef Kevin Tien.

Tien will be doing a four-course Vietnamese tasting menu. He and Eli Collins have collaborated on a special menu of bar snacks that will be available a la carte in addition to the tasting menu. And the whole thing will take place during dinner services on June 23rd and 24th. Tickets for this one will run you $125 plus tax and tip, with a $55 wine pairing you can tack on if you are so inclined. Reservations are available here and here, but I’d be quick about it. Most of the prime-time seats appear to be gone already, and the rest are selling out quickly.

Finally, about a month ago, I told you about Nick and Jen Wendowski’s work to bring Stone’s Beer & Beverage Market back to its old home at 17th and Fairmount. After a temporary move to Brewerytown (following the tear-down of the old Stone’s building) and a complete rebuild and revamp, they were getting ready to move back into their old address after more than a year away. They’d promised a big grand opening for the neighborhood in early June, and guess what? That’s exactly what they did this past weekend. There was beer, pizza, ice cream, more beer and now Stone’s is officially back. They’ve got rotating beers on tap to sample, craft kegs, window seating if you want to hang out and have a drink, a huge beer selection and an online shopping portal that they’re very proud of. So while the temporary Brewerytown location might now be closed, the new/old Stone’s at 1701 Fairmount Avenue is now fully open and will be up and running seven days a week for what I’m hoping is a good, long time.