Points for Pittsburgh: The Pierogi Hot Dog

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I love talking about crazy sandwiches (clearly) but what I don’t like is when they cross over the border from genius to gimmick (it’s a fine line, people!)

For example, if you serve a hamburger with giant onions ring on top, but then even an extra-large-mouthed person has to deconstruct the burger and take the onion rings off to get any kind of decent bite in, then that’s not really that crazy of a dish. It’s actually just a burger with onion rings on the side, but presented crazily, with more work involved for the eater. #foodaddictproblems

In Pittsburgh this weekend, home of the great Primanti’s french-fry-on-a-sandwich, I was fortunate enough to stop in Franktuary and be offered a hot dog served “Pittsburgh style” — topped with housemade, slaw and a housemade cucumber-y ranch dressing on top. Now, this could easily fall into the gimmick category if they overloaded that dog with so many pierogies that you have to pick them off and eat on the side. But with just two crispy pierogies on top it’s just crazy enough that you can actually pick the whole thing up and get a taste of each element — dog and dumpling included — in each bite.

In fact, they didn’t even offer me a fork. Bravo, Pittsburgh.

 

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The Endless Road Trip, Philly: A Waffle to End All Waffles

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At Philly’s new V Street, the all-vegan menu is inspired by street food from around the world, fusing flavors from as far afield as Hungary, India, Peru and the Philippines into an amazing array of meat-free snacks like jerk trumpet mushrooms and harissa-grilled cauliflower mixed up with spiced avocado, olive salad and chermoula, an intensely flavorful North African marinade.

The cocktails are particularly off-the-wall—the “Cruz Control” mixes tequila with horchata, lime and tepache—a Mexican fermented pineapple drink—but the true crazy prize has to go to this dessert waffle: it’s layered with rich chocolate ganache, gooey bites of banana, vegan ice cream and a chunky miso caramel, with Sriracha peanuts and syrup poured over the whole thing. Yes, please.

(Photo: V Street)

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Endless Road Trip, Philly: Chicken Schmaltz Rugelach

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This savory, fat-filled take on the classic Jewish pastry is just the amuse bouche at Abe Fisher, but it’s a perfect introduction to Chef Michael Solomonov’s unique new restaurant, where he explores inventive takes on foods from throughout the Jewish diaspora. Solomonov offers a tiny, flaky take on the rugelach cookie and fills it with schmaltz (clarified chicken fat, a Jewish traditional ingredient usually used for frying or spreading on bread). It may seem like a gimmick, but it’s one of those gimmick-seeming things that actually work, and makes you wonder why they ever put chocolate in these doughy pastries when pure chicken fat works so much better.

Elsewhere at Abe Fisher, the borscht tartare is a deconstructed beet dish topped with trout roe, hard-boiled egg and onion potato chips (any dish that has both caviar and chips wins my vote). The smoked sable cakes are a crispy, crustacean-less Kosher answer to Maryland crab cakes, bursting with the surprisingly effective combination of Old Bay and dill, while the requisite Kosher-busting piggy dish subs pork belly in for pastrami on a delightfully cheesy rueben. Even the simplest dishes here impress, like a side of warm and juicy carrots amped up with aged gouda, little bits of pumpernickel bread pudding and savory prune butter. Overall, one of the best new restaurants in the country I’ve been too lately. Also, it’s March and still like 10 freaking degrees. Can I get some more chicken schmaltz in here please?

(Photo: Yelp / Melissa P.)

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The Endless Road Trip, Philly: A Thousand Layers of Joy

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At Rangoon, a Burmese restaurant in Philly’s Chinatown (one of only a few longstanding Burmese spots on the East Coast), there are curries and skewers and tea leaf salads (all delicious), but the star of the show is a not-so-humble slice of bread.

Their thousand-layer bread is similar to an Indian paratha — a buttery, crispy fried pancake of dough — except here the hot and greasy bread achieves such a flaky, pull-apart consistency that it’s only a slight exaggeration to bill it as having a thousand layers. Each time you tear into this thing it comes apart with such soft and gooey satisfaction, offering all the joy of pulling apart those endless Pillsbury biscuits (pretty much one of my favorite things to do as a fat little kid), albeit with a thousand times more flavor. It comes with curry or a thick white “vantana” bean sauce for spreading/dipping, but really nothing else is needed but this hot and heavenly roll of carb-y wonder.

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Miso-Cured Salmon with Cucumber Vinaigrette

Miso-Cured Salmon with Cucumber Vinaigrette

Miso-Cured Salmon with Cucumber Vinaigrette

Looking for a new way to prepare dinner? Try curing! Yeah, it takes a little bit of planning and patience (like, you need to plan to do this days in advance) but once you get your ingredients it’s just a super simple waiting game. Salmon and miso go so well together in this recipe from Finn & Porter. Paired with a fresh cucumber vinaigrette, this is a light, bright meal that will turn you into a curing convert.

Miso-Cured Salmon with Cucumber Vinaigrette

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Endless Pairings: European Beer Dinner

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Thankfully, beer pairing dinners are becoming increasingly popular in my area. And lucky for you, you get to hear about it. Now, we can all embrace the fact that beer pairs just as well with food as wine does! Sands Bethlehem and St. James Gate hosted a European Beer Dinner. The dinner paired imported European beers with four courses of fall flavored gourmet style meals. Similar to the wine pairing, representatives introduced each beer to discuss the characteristics of the beer and where it comes form. The chef also circulated during the event and was willing to answer questions.

The pairings were not what I expected for each meal, but each complemented the meal nicely. In speaking with the chef, he explained that he tasted each suggested beer first, then he decided what kind of meal to pair it with. Meanwhile, in our DIY pairing, we were thinking about what the beer would taste like, then finding something to complement the beer. For a true beer pairing, the beer should really complete each meal and bring out the flavors of the meal. We determined our favorite meal, favorite beer, and favorite pairing. Check it out.

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Endless Road Trip: Collingswood Pop Shop

There is more to South Jersey than the Real Housewives: there is food. We were recently visiting  to celebrate my future sister-in-law”s birthday and went to the Pop Shop in Collingswood, NJ. The name “pop shop” insinuates great ice cream floats, milk shakes, and fountain soda. However, I noticed that every waiter was wearing shirts touting their love for cheese. The shop was featured on Food Network”s Throwdown with Bobby Flay for their grilled cheese. The menu features the sandwiches from the show so some of us got that, while future sister-in-law ordered the trophy of dessert breakfasts – s”mores french toast. Then of course, we all gorged ourselves with desserts. Enough chit chat – on to the food.

S”mores French Toast:

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Under the heading of “Fantastic French Toast Dreams,” you will find cinnamon bun french toast, banana”s foster, and even ham and cheese. But then you see the s”mores french toast on the menu and by chance see a waiter flaunting a pile of french toast, graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallow on what has to be a silver platter. Clearly someone at the table is ordering the s”mores french toast. Sister-in-law ordered it with a small amount of persuasion from the table and offers to give up half of their sandwich for a bite of the gooey french toast.  Well I got my bite in a trade for some bacon and cheese fries. The bite included savory fresh french toast  soaked with chocolate sauce. Then the marshmallow sauce that glues the stack of french toast together hits you. Your bite must include a piece of the top of the stack, since that is where the crunch of the graham cracker comes from. While I would never be able to finish an entire dish of it, I would suggest someone at my table order it again.

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