27 August 2009

Drowning in a sea of stress and bliss

Well unfortunately I haven't had time to finish my bachelor party post. This wedding thing takes up so much more time than I expected. I mean, I expected a lot of responsibilities but I didn't expect every waking moment to be clogged with finalizing tiny seemingly insignificant details. I just want to be married already! Honestly I love the anticipation. Sometimes the period of time before a big event is more exciting than the actual event itself. That happens to me a lot, actually. I know for a fact that won't be the case with my wedding. Rain or shine this wedding is going to be freakin awesome.

We're having it at Cloisters Castle and catered by manor tavern. Our DJ is Dan Hawkins from Music Masters. We have a harpist playing the ceremony music and her name is Anna Pike. I would link all of these things for you but I don't have the time, I need to leave for work. Tonight is the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner at the Stil on York Rd. Stop by and buy us a drink if you're in the area! I'll be staying with my dad in Rumsey Island tonight and then tomorrow all hell breaks loose. We leave for the Caribbean on Sunday morning. I'll try to write a quick blurb when we come home Saturday but I can't promise anything. It's going to be a wild ride from here on out. Wish me luck!

18 August 2009

The City of Brotherly Dry-Humping pt. 2

We settled up the tab at Apothecary and headed out the door, it was getting close to 6 and our reservation at Morimoto was calling to us in a sensually seductive manner. I'd just started to wonder if we had missed it since we were surrounded by featureless storefronts when we came across this blocky white beacon to fine dining:

We entered and once we were all accounted for our server lead us not to the crazy color-changing general dining space, but down a nondescript staircase and through a dimly lit hallway to our private dining room. I felt like we were the special needs kids. I felt like we been bad and were being put in time out. I felt like Sloth chained to the wall in the basement of the Fratelli hideout. Were they ashamed of us? I hoped not, we'd only been there two minutes. Our private room was really great though, complete with phallic light fixtures abound. They definitely knew how to cater to a bachelor party.

We ordered drinks and a few appetizers and almost instantly our first course was presented to us. It was a sushi platter for the entire table. This was also Andy's gift to me.

The server guy laid out each and every piece and I couldn't even begin to tell you what they all were. Since I had first dibs I gladly helped myself to the toro and a few rolls.

The toro was great but I would have better later. I can't even begin to guess how Morimoto makes sushi taste this good but the spicy salmon roll I had was the best roll I've ever tasted. The sesame seeds were so fresh and the creamy sauce sand perfectly with the flavor of the salmon. It was then that I knew we were in for some spectacular food. This was also a night of bests for me so don't let that deter you, I ate better than I ever have at this meal.

Shortly afterwards drinks and appetizers hit the table. My dad got this crazy lotus blossom martini. Whatever possessed my dad to order that, I have no idea, he's usually a T&T guy, but it was delicious.

A few orders of edamame came out and my dad got the rock shrimp tempura. The edamame was very buttery but otherwise nothing I haven't had before. Upon first sight the rock shrimp tempura reminded me of bang bang shrimp from Bonefish:

The shrimp flavor was definitely more profound here but where bang bang shrimp finishes on a creamy note, this finished more on the tart side. This dish went around the table so everyone could try and everyone approved. It wasn't until it came back to me and I dipped my shrimp in my soy sauce that the dish really took off. "Oh my god everyone try the shrimp with the soy sauce". They did. They put on their Oh Face. It was quite lovely. That soy sauce tasted like the tears of a goddess.

The beverage to compliment my first course came out and it was very pretty. Basically, my meal included the $120 dinner Omakase (chef's tasting menu) and the $65 beverage Omakase to go along with it. Everyone but my dad and George ordered the $85 Omakase which was basically a cheaper chef's tasting menu. They didn't get quite the caliber of ingredients I did and a few of the courses weren't as extravagant. George ordered a bunch of maki rolls and my dad ordered curried duck breast. Luckily our awesome waitress gave me a print out of my meal, but sadly I have no reference material for the beverages accompanying each course. After trying the waitress recommended sake that Chris M. and Andy were splitting my brother and I decided to do the same. It was called Yoki No Bosha and was ridiculously smooth and had a fruity note to it. I sipped that all throughout the meal, as if a different drink with each course wasn't enough!

Our first course arrived. It was toro tartare with fresh wasabi and ossetra caviar. It was also accompanied by a small berry to cleanse the palate. I could've sworn she called it some sort of mountain peach but this didn't look like any peach I've ever eaten. The deal here is to get some wasabi on your spoon and scoop into the tartare being sure to collect a lovely orb of caviar along the way and finally dipping the entire thing in the broth.

The tartare was wonderful. The wasabi was surprisingly subtle and creamy. The whole dish just utterly melted on the tongue. I remember the beverage being slightly sweet and bubbly efficiently cleansing to the palate. As I was savoring every bite the table gradually erupted in proclamations of how amazing the berry was. The need to order an entire bag of them to go was voiced on more than one occasion. I quickly finished the rest of my dish and gave the berry a whirl. I had never tasted anything like it. It was a complete palate wipe. It was like I had just finished brushing my teeth and using mouthwash. It was a revelation. The berry honestly generated just as much buzz as the dish itself. I read a lot of fantasy novels and this is something I imagine Salvatore or Weis and Hickman were trying to describe when writing about elaborate feasts being held in elven palaces. That is until hordes of orcs breach the city walls and start disemboweling people. I don't want to think of what that tastes like. Probably McDonald's.

Course two was kumamoto oysters with three sauces: japanese orange salsa, citrus cilantro ceviche, and thai fish sauce with jalapeno.

I've never been a fan but I figured if anyone could make me like them, Morimoto could. And he did. They had a wonderful soft texture and not a hint of sliminess or fishy taste. The ceviche was my favorite because I felt the tangyness complimented the subtle taste of the oysters the best. I asked if I could keep the shells as mementos and she didn't skip a beat replying she would have them boxed up for me. It's great to be waited on like a king.

Our third course whitefish carpaccio: chef's choice sashimi seared with hot sesame oils seasoned with yuzu citrus soy finished with shiso, ginger, mitsuba, and chives.

Dear lord this dish was amazing. We're by no means high-brow diners here so our comments on the food weren't the most accurate. We all felt that this dish tasted like bacon in a fantabulous way. This was by far the best cooked fish I'd ever eaten. If I remember correctly one response was "My mouth just had sex with itself". After eating all of the fish I bent down and slurped the sauce. Twice. It was all over my face. If the following courses were all mediocre I still would've considered the meal worth it because of this dish. Little did I know the best thing I'd ever eaten awaited just a few short courses away.

The fourth course for me was a sashimi salad with chef's choice sashimi served over mixed greens dressed with soy-onion and chive oil with a balsamic reduction, finished with shaved bonito.

After reading that description I can't believe there were that many ingredients in this dish. This was the only cacophonous note in an otherwise impeccable symphony of flavor. Again, I wish I knew what kind of fish this was, but I have no idea. I reached for the accompanying beverage with hopes that it would ignite the dull flavors of the sashimi but it was just as flat as the dish.

At this time we had an intermezzo of strawberry verbena soda. This was also a very pretty drink:

This beverage had a very similar effect to the berry accompanying the first course. It was refreshing and set your mouth back to ground zero. If Giant sold this in the carbonated beverage aisle I would buy it by the truckload. Awesome. This is also when the non-Omakase entrees were served.

Dad's duck:

And George's maki rolls(from the left that is yellowtail, eel avocado, spicy salmon, and shrimp tempura w/scallion):

I think it is here that I will leave you hanging. The next update will feature the shining star of the meal. To find out what it was, you'll have to keep tuning in to microcosm k!

Morimoto on Urbanspoon

08 August 2009

The City of Brotherly Dry-Humping

Ah, I've been dreading this update because I knew it would be gargantuan. I think I'll start trying to be a bit less detailed with the non-food related stuff. I realize that most people who read this probably don't care about what I do in my personal life and read just to see the food and game pictures and reviews. So I will try to reign myself in a bit for this post. Emphasis on the "try".

We left the house at 11am Saturday and we cracked beers as we got on the highway. My dad was driving so of course he wasn't participating in the alcohol consumption. We hit Chris D's place in Elkton and did a round of jager bombs.

We got back on the road and cracked another beer. I hadn't eaten anything yet so the alcohol hit me right away and I was borderline drunk when we rolled into Philly. The original plan was for everyone to meet at Tony Luke's so we could all get sandwiches but I read from multiple sources that Tommy DiNic's in the Reading Terminal Market had a better roast pork italian. Since the only RPI I had ever had was at Tony Luke's I decided to check it out to have something to base a comparison on. We met at the hotel--we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on Walnut St.--and walked over to the market.

This place was insane. I've been to Cross Street Market in Baltimore and this was like that on crack. There were vendors of every kind and it was packed with a busy Saturday lunch crowd. We made our way through the masses and found the glowing beacon signaling we had arrived:

I knew exactly what we were going to order. Right before I left for the trip I read a blog entry that dissuaded readers from ordering the roast pork in favor of the pulled pork with greens. So I ordered the usual roast pork italian with rabe and provolone and had Chris D. order the italian pulled pork with spinach and provolone.

Luckily a table opened up so while everyone else ordered and paid I nabbed the table for us. I didn't wait for them, I ravenously dove in for my first bite... and was met with utter blandness and disappointment. Juices literally poured out of the bottom of the sandwich upon biting in. The pooled on the table. One would think this would be a good thing but it left the meat dry. And desperately needing salt. This pork honestly didn't taste like much of a step up from roasted pork you would find in a supermarket deli. The roll was chewy. I thought to myself "So-so bread in Philadelphia?? How is that even possible? Philly bread is usually awesome..." The rabe was nice and bitter but other than that it lacked seasoning. But the biggest slap in the face of them all was I couldn't taste the cheese. At all. I turned to Chris D. and told him they forgot my cheese but then he pointed it out layering the bottom of the sandwich.

To me, the creaminess of the cheese and the perfect crusty roll to contain all of the meat juices is what makes Tony Luke's RPI great, and they were both sub-par in DiNic's version. I didn't even finish it and unless it's severely detrimental to my well-being, I ALWAYS clean my plate. My bachelor weekend feasting began with a pretty big disappointment. Luckily I still had the italian pulled pork to try.

Now THIS was more like it. Right off the bat my tongue is singing with flavor. There's so much garlic on the spinach that it burned my tastebuds. The strange thing is after looking at the pictures, you can actually see chunks of garlic in the rabe but not with the spinach. Odd indeed. Anyway, I could most certainly taste the cheese which made me consider the possibility that maybe I got slighted on the RPI. The harmony of the pulled pork along with the garlicy spinach really made a powerful flavor punch. Unfortunately, the bread was still chewy and the juices still sluiced out of the sandwich, but all-in-all this was a MUCH better sandwich. I finished every crumb of this half. Jeffroy got the pulled pork with peppers, but he wolfed it down so fast and I was so over-stimulated with everything going on, I forgot to ask about it. But here's a pretty picture:

Satisfied we decided to walk around a bit while the rest of our crew finished their lunch. Andy, Zack, and Chris M. got cheesesteaks and my brother the vegetarian got a crabcake. I didn't ask about them, I had another destination to hit before we left. I read on another blog post about Fair Food Farmstand and their Blue Sue Dark Chocolate Fudge. This was fudge with bits of blue cheese in it. I was very interested in trying this enticing combination. We had to ask a guide person to direct us to their stand. Once we found it I happily approached the counter and asked if they had some. They said they were all out. Damn. All-in-all this wasn't going very well. Meanwhile my dad had gotten in line at the Famous 4th Street Cookie and moments later had a bag in his hand and a devilish smile on his face. He reached in and started munching as we walked. He handed me a hunk of cookie and told me to try it. It was a chocolate covered chocolate chip cookie. The coating reminded me of the chocolate dipped cones at the Arctic Circle on Rte. 22 in Churchville. It was very good, but I don't think I could eat an entire cookie. It was coma-inducing.

We returned to gather up the rest of our bunch and headed over to the hotel to check in at 3pm. Our rooms weren't quite ready yet so we congregated in the lobby and tried not to get kicked out. Chris couldn't wait till we got our rooms so he cracked a beer in the lobby while simultaneously undressing me with his eyes:

We finally got our rooms and congregated into one to commence the insanity. I didn’t realize we would be pre-gaming in the hotel room so the beers we brought along for the ride were gone within minutes. Luckily my dad always packs his gin & tonic so he started dishing them out to all comers. We set up another round of jagerbombs and phase two had begun. We hung out in the room drinking and enjoying the time with a pocket breathalyzer. Apparently if you take a huge swig of alcohol and immediately blow into it you can overload it thereby making it flash H, which we figured meant hospital. I think by the time we left about an hour later the highest true score was .17, double the legal driving limit here in Maryland. Not too bad. Since the real bar we wanted to go to didn’t open until 5pm, we headed to a place called Fergie which we passed on our way into town.

This was your typical Irish pub except that there was a live fiddle band playing at a table in the corner, which was pretty awesome. I was definitely in an adventurous mood, so I was checking what was on tap when my brother suggested carbombs and I emphatically concurred. The bartender replied “We don’t do carbombs.” Ummm, wait, an Irish pub that doesn’t do carbombs? What the hell was going on here? I just shrugged in bewilderment and ordered the first thing I saw that didn’t say IPA on the tap. It was called Colonel Blide's (after going to the website to refresh my memory on what it was called, I see it says Colonel Blide's Bitter... That explains a lot) and it was barely drinkable. I will never understand how people derive pleasure from drinking these hoppy bitter concoctions. They’re what I would imagine poison tastes like. Ugh.

From left to right that's dad, Zack, Andy, me, my brother Ryan, Chris M., George, Chris D., and Jeffroy.

After asking what everyone else was drinking and seeing Guinness and woodchuck I kicked myself for having forgotten how much I love snakebites, which is a drink that is one part cider to two parts Guinness where I come from. And its delicious. The alert went out that we needed to down our beers and head to our next destination and I just couldn't. I left my first beer of Philly mostly undrunk. Blah, not a good way to start the night.

We arrived at Apothecary right at 5pm so we were the first ones there and the hostess had to unlock the doors for us. The theme of this place was awesome. Probably the coolest bar decor I've come across. It was like a hospital mixed with a mad scientist lab. In other words, like an apothecary. We were kind of dumb-founded as to what to order since the selection was nothing close to what they listed on the website. I think they only had 5 cocktails to choose from and the Recession menu was only available during the week, also not mentioned on the website. Bah. The waitress explained that the first price was for a glass and the second price was for a bottle. We ordered a bottle of Booty Collins after she said it was their most popular. Chris M. also ordered a French Buck.

The presentation was awesome. The bottle came out in a bucket of ice and was served in prepared glasses with ice, brandied cherries, and an orange slice. Once we poured our drinks she handed us a flask of club soda which we were to splash on top. I transitioned nicely into the role of mad scientist concocting an otherwordly elixir, demonstrated here:

The drink tasted like a glorified mimosa, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The best part for me was the late burn in the throat from the cayenne. The brandied cheeries were like little wonderful explosions of alcohol. Next time I'll order a bowl of those on the side.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the French Buck but I wish I had because it was very pretty. Upon sampling that beverage I immediately wished I had ordered that. I'm not a fan of black licorice flavor, actually I hate it, but I felt this concoction was a bit more forgiving and didn't assault the senses as much as straight up absinthe or jager.

As the bottle went around and we started getting comfortable we noticed some pretty awesome artwork. Behind me was a goat and sheep in suits drinking over-sized martinis:

And of course I had to get a picture posing with the poster advertising the very beverage we were currently imbibing:

The silhouette in the photo kinda looked like me too, bonus! I think I will end this post here for our next destination was dinner at Morimoto which will be quite long indeed. Chew on this for now, more to come soon.

Tommy DiNic's Roast Pork and Beef on Urbanspoon

04 August 2009

Cake & Kaddo with a side of Tommy Buckets

The plans for the adventure on July 18th started out as dinner at Blue Agave for some snazzy mexican and maybe a margartia or five. Then we dropped the whole going out idea and decided to have a small dinner party at our place so we could try out all of our new gadgets from the wedding shower. When I found out Cake was playing at Artscape most of the friends I had invited to dinner were big Cake fans, so I decided to coordinate a trip down into the city to see Cake and have dinner and drinks afterwards. Cake was scheduled to play from 6:30-8pm, so I researched the restaurants within walking distance and finally made 9pm reservations at the Helmand.

We picked up my dad and his girlfriend and headed down into the city. I wasn’t driving so I didn’t care, but I knew parking would be insane since it was already 6:15 when we started looking for a spot and Cake went on at 6:30. Luckily a spot fell in our lap on Chase St. just a few blocks from the Artscape center so we were good to go. I had had a few calls and texts from friends already there telling me it was packed, which I expected. We got there and the hill in front of the stage was a seething mass of bodies. People were even climbing the twisted metal sculptures to get a better view of the show. I knew Cake didn’t have much of a stage presence, so I was content to sit back and listen, although I did sneak up to see them for a few songs just to say I did. Nikki and I left to get drinks and noticed a line for margaritas and sangria which were $8 apiece. They forgot to put tequila into the margarita mix and the sangria was the worst white sangria I’ve ever tasted. Cake finished their set early at around 7:40 so we gathered everyone together and meandered our way in the direction of the Helmand.

We walked by a guy setting up some sort of homemade drum set made out of discarded buckets and plastic bottles and such and stopped. Being a drummer myself, this piqued my interest. This guy was either going to suck or he was going to be amazing--I had to see this. He propped up a sign that said Tommy Buckets right before he started playing and away he went. Luckily we were front and center because a crowd instantly formed after he began. This guy could definitely play. He added in some vocals and he had the crowd jamming out in no time. After the first song he handed out shakers which were plastic bottles filled with pennies. It was a pretty cool sight, people were getting into it. A guy emerged from the crowd who looked like he was half out of it on pain meds started taking video on his phone and got up in Tommy’s face and was doing these really intense angles and shots trying to seem artistic I guess. This guy made the show all the better as he looked like a complete moron. He even made Tommy crack up a few times while playing. Seeing Tommy Buckets was just as good if not better than seeing Cake. It was truly a unique show and something that added a bit of soul to the otherwise fairly soulless Artscape scene.

We continued onward down N. Charles and got to the Helmand about a half hour before our reservation time. Luckily seats opened at the bar just as my other friends arrived. Our entire group of 8 had fully assembled and it was time for the silliness to ensue. Seeing the disappointing beer list I ordered an Amstel Light and we chewed the fat while waiting for our table. We were seated and ordered drinks and appetizers. I recommended everyone try the Kaddo Borawni because it’s probably their most well-known dish, and for good reason. I order the Kaddo and the Mantwo appetizers for myself. After finishing my beer and trying my friend’s pinot noir I order a glass.

The Kaddo was just as great as I had remembered--A nice balance of sweet and savory with a tart edge from the sour cream and a nice spiciness from the pumpkin. The filling of the mantwo was hearty and also accompanied by a nice tart sour cream but the hand made pastry shell was too chewy and took away from the dish. I ate around it. I ordered the Lamb Lawand which is a special served only on the weekend. This dish came out on three different plates: the lamb, tomatoes, and shrooms in red sauce, sabzy (creamed spinach), and challow (basmati rice with cumin seed).

The sabzy was like saag on crack. It had that great bitterness to it but still retained more of its natural texture than most saag I’ve had.

The lamb was definitely the star of the dish; each piece was bursting with gamey goodness. I’m one of the few people who love gamey meats. Also of note was the subtle crunch from whatever spices the lamb chunks were rubbed with prior to cooking. The button mushrooms were very tender and a nice compliment to the sauce. The challow, as most properly cooked basmati is, was fantastic. It had a nice woodsy note from the cumin.

The bite of spinach, lamb, and rice merried nicely. Creamy, bitter, savory, smoky, and tangy. Excellent. For dessert I ordered the afghan ice cream with dates, mangoes, and dried figs.

I could’ve easily eaten a whole gallon of it. If they could mass produce it and retain the quality, they could put Ben & Jerry’s out of business. I was saddened at first because it just looked like a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but after digging in a lovely core of fruit was revealed.

I was supposed to split this with my friend but I ate most of it before I gave it up. My stomach was severely protesting but my tastebuds demanded I attempt to finish the dish. We finished our drinks and paid the check and headed out to the streets with a nice heady buzz and happily bloated.

My plan was to hit up Brewer’s Art after dinner. I’ve been there numerous times in the past and never really liked it, but after seeing it rated the #1 bar in the country by Esquire (which made me laugh out loud when I read the article) I decided to give the place another chance. We opened the doors and were confronted with a crowd that was packed all the way to the entrance. I turned back to the rest of our group and said “Yeah, no.” and walked right back out. Luckily, as usual, I had a backup plan. We walked a few blocks to Dionysis. I’d been here before a few years ago and remembered it was pretty chill with good beers on tap. We got there and it was active but not crowded. The downstairs looks like someone’s basement so we felt very comfortable there. We grabbed a corner and secured our ownership of the Megatouch and ordered our drinks. I asked for an espresso martini because it is my dessert beverage of choice. I know it’s a pretty girly drink, but when they’re made right they go down like candy. I’m pretty his version was straight double espresso vodka, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. We played photohunt and really enjoyed our time there. The place got a little crowded toward the end of the evening but after two martinis I was feeling no pain. We stayed till almost last call and then everyone off and headed home. It was probably the most drunk I’ve been this year. Luckily I got to sleep before the spins kicked in. Good times had by all.

Helmand on Urbanspoon