A Farm To Table Meal from FARMiCiA Restaurant

FARMiCiA Food and Tonics

15 South 3rd Street

Philadelphia, PA 19106

 


have this fellow foodie friend, and we try to go out to eat somewhere unique every few weeks. We were supposed to go out to Zahav restaurant, but she had accidentally made the reservation for the following week instead of that night (look for a review of Zahav in a few days!). So we were walking around the Penns Landing area, when I suggested we go to FARMiCiA on North 3rd Street, a farm-to-table restaurant in Old City. I had actually been there a couple of times for brunch, and both meals had been great. So, we walked over and were able to get a great table next to one of the restaurant’s large front windows. The Farm, as it is called on their website, is all about great tasting food and drinks that are locally sourced, artisanal and organic. The inside of the restaurant is almost a blend of warehouse modernity and farmhouse comfort. There are big windows to let in lots of natural light, and the tables are decorated simply, but elegantly. The real stars here are the food and service.

  


After all that walking around Old City—searching for a replacement restaurant—we were pretty hungry and decided to split an appetizer. I had remembered having some great cheese here once, so we ordered the Trio of Cheeses ($13) starter.  The cheeses were served on a large square white plate with some pickled cauliflower as a garnish. The cauliflower provided a wonderful lightness contrast to the heaviness of the plate, as well as a great crunch. The first cheese that I tried was the cheddar, which was delicious. Not too strong, but worked very well with the fruit chutney. The chutney had, I believe, tangy sour cherries that helped cut through the rich cheddar. The next cheese was a bold feta that gave a punch of briny flavor, somewhat echoed by the pickled component of the dish. It paired nicely with the simple red peppers. The final cheese was a creamy, salty goat cheese that I ate along with some sweet and juicy red seedless grapes. Of course, there were some nice breads (and even housemade matzah since it was still Passover at the time) to go with the cheeses. Two of the developers behind FARMiCiA are the owners of the Metropolitan Bakery chain in Philadelphia. The plate came with a toasted crostini and some soft, chewy sourdough—both stood up well to the cheeses.

 

 The entrees were up next. I ordered the Yellow Fin Tuna ($21.75), which was absolutely delicious. The fish was perfectly cooked at rare/medium-rare, and served atop a chickpea purée that definitely evoked hummus-y flavors. It actually reminded me of travels in the Middle East. The spinach was lemony and slightly floral, with a subtle saltiness in the background. It wasn’t overcooked or mushy, so it gave some crunch as a textural contrast to the plate as well. The tuna medallion had a nice sesame crust, with a hint of acid and smoky flavors, but wasn’t overpowering. It lent a subtle aromatic flavor to the dish and tied in well to the chickpeas. The chickpea purée was meaty and heavy, and still semi-chunky—I love when purees aren’t super smooth so you know what’s in it! In fact, our waiter was really nice and asked the chef for me what was used to flavor the puree: saffron, coriander, cumin and garlic. There was a simple garnish of picked peppers served on top of the fish that not only cut through the heavy puree, but also highlighted the individual flavor profiles within it.  


My friend opted for a more carnivorous option of Grilled Skirt Steak ($24). The plate presentation was very elegant, with the melting herb butter on top of the steak as the centerpiece. The mashed potatoes were rustic with a subtle cheddar flavor, and not too overpowering. My friend didn’t eat much of the potatoes, but I thought they were delicious, especially with the sauce! The broccoli still had a good crunch and maintained its bright green color, but the charred aspect was sort of lost in comparison to the rest of the plate. The steak itself was super tender. Major kudos to the chef, since skirt steak is usually a tough cut—we used to use it for fajitas in my house growing up.The meat was filleted very well, with a nice sized portion,  andwas had a perfect medium temperature on it. The accompanying demiglace was delicious, and really soaked into the meat. They chose to serve the dish in a large oblong bowl, which was a goodchoice since it kept the sauce in the middle of the plate. The dish was essentially a Modern artisanal take on more traditional meat and potatoes. For some reason, it jumped out at me as an amazing version of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and broccoli that I ate growing up.

  


Since the meal was so good, and didn’t feel super heavy in our stomachs, we decided to order dessert as well. The Rich Bittersweet Flourless Chocolate Torte ($7) did not disappoint. The cake was super dense with an almost truffle-likeconsistency. It was very rich, and since it was made with bittersweet chocolate, it wasn’t cloyingly sweet. The torte came with house made mint chocolate chip ice cream. The ice creamtasted a little more like a palate cleanser than an ice cream, but was still delicious. The chocolate chips in the cream were great full sized chips, as opposed to pieces, and the cream was very smooth with a great mouth feel. The light ice cream and very heavy torte made for a nice balance of textures, and also made up for the (maybe) light meal. My only complaint would be that I didn’t sense much of the mint flavor in the ice cream, though my friend tasted it. The torte also would’ve been fabulous served hot, especially paired with the cold cream. Yum!

  

Philly Burger Round Up: Week 2 – Good Dog Bar and Restaurant

 For the second installment of my Philly Burger Round Up, I decided to visit the location of one of my first burger experiences in Philadelphia, Good Dog Bar and Restaurant. Good Dog Bar is a casual gastropub located on 15th Street in Center City that has been around for over 10 years. It has a decent selection of craft beers, creative cocktails, but most importantly, decidedly delicious food. This place is no frills in the best possible way, and the food is what matters in the end. The menu is made up of mostly modern comfort foods like burgers, Buffalo Shrimp, truffled cheesesteak empanadas, and one of my personal favorites, duck pot pie.   IMG_1726-0I went with a classic, the Good Dog ($12.50) burger, which consists of 1/2 lb. of beef—ground in house—stuffed with Roquefort cheese, and topped with caramelized onions. It’s served on a brioche bun. I ordered my burger medium rare, and it was cooked nicely—the temperature was spot on! The blue cheese inside the burger not only kept it moist, but also oozed out when I cut my burger in half. The onions weren’t too sweet, but gave the sandwich a nice change in texture. They were soft, but still chewy. The bun was a bit dense, but absorbed a lot of the burger juice. The sandwich didn’t need any ketchup since the burger was so juicy.

IMG_1728The burger came with a large side of mixed regular potato and sweet potato fries, which accompanies all of Good Dog’s sandwiches, as well as their signatures fry sauce—a homemade garlic aioli—for dipping. Aioli is similar to mayonnaise, but made with garlic and does not always have vinegar, and it is not as thick as mayo. The fries were fresh-cut and crisp, and the aioli helped cut through the heaviness of the burger and fries.

Overall, the Good Dog burger was delicious, and was everything a bar burger should be; it was comforting, juicy, meaty, no frills with great gourmet touches. It was a stick to your ribs kind of burger, and unique enough that it earns high marks. Always a classic, and all it needs is a good beer to help wash it down. Good Dog Bar has plenty of drinks and other tasty dishes to help complete your meal!

Grade: A-

Philly Burger Round Up – Week 1: Shake Shack

Shake Shack – Center City
2000 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103FullSizeRender-17

Shake Shack is a burger chain that’s modeled on a traditional drive-in. All of its locations have tasty burgers, hot dogs, frozen custards, milkshakes, and Shack brand beer. I came here the other day with some friends and left very full after a great meal.

FullSizeRender-19The Shack Stack ($9.49)* is my go to pick when I visit Shake Shack. There’s just something about the combination of mushrooms, cheese and meat that calls out to me. Specifically, the Shack Stack consists of a cheeseburger patty, topped with a ‘shroom burger, lettuce, tomato and shack sauce. They toast the inside of their hamburger buns, which are buttery potato buns of course. The buns are nice and sought in the outside, and ready to absorb juice on the inside with a great mouthfeel as you bite in. In addition, Shake Shack uses their own customized Angus beef blend from famous butcher, Pat LaFrieda, though the specific cuts and meat-to-fat ratio is a closely guarded secret. This fat is important because they cook their burgers on a wide griddle; as soon as it hits the flat top, the patties are mashed thin, and the fat not only greases the griddle, but helps the outside of the meat caramelize and develop a delicious crust. Plus, they use a cold patty, which makes sure that the burger juices stay inside as the fat starts to rapidly melt from the heat of the griddle. They let the crust develop before flipping too—so much flavor! The ‘shroom burger is their version of a veggie burger; it has a whole Portobello mushroom, which is filled with muenster and cheddar cheeses, breaded and fried until crispy.

Speaking of flavor, this sandwich is delicious! As you take your first bite of the burger you go through the fluffy bun and your teeth sink into the seared meat and break open the mushroom patty. You get a little bit of crunch from the lettuce, the ‘shroom patty starts to ooze cheese, the burger juices begin to run down your hands, you get the creaminess of the shack sauce and the buttery goodness of the bun. Thank god the tomato is there to provide a burse of freshness and cut through the decadence, lol. This burger should be saved for special occasions every day. In fact, this burger is its own special occasion! Just bring a lot of napkins to your table. 

FullSizeRender-18The ShackMeister Dog ($4.00) also made an appearance in my stomach on my most recent Shake Shack visit. Shake Shack actually started out as a hot dog cart in New York City’s Madison Square Park in 2000. This hot dog comes topped with a cheese sauce made from Shack cheddar and American cheeses, and crispy ShackMeister Ale marinated shallots. The dog was split and griddles so it had a nice snap, and also meaty chew. The shallots have a subtle onion flavor that doesn’t overpower the dog, and the cheesesauce is velvety and coats your tongue as you take a bite. This hot dog is rich and satisfying—not your ordinary cookout dog—and could be a meal on its own. Mustard isn’t necessary, but gives it a nice tang and a sharp bite that helps elevate the aromatic flavor of the fried shallots.

IMG_1537To round out the meal, I munched on some of my friend’s Fries ($2.95). Shake Shack fries are made from Yukon potatoes and are crinkle cut. They’re seasoned with salt, crispy and delicious. These fries make Nathans’ fries look stupid. The only thing that makes these fries better would be some cheese sauce for an extra $1. The restaurant has ketchup and mustard dispensers in the back with little cups for dipping. If you ask nicely though, they might give you a mini-cup of the Shack Sauce to dip your fries into instead!IMG_1536

Grade: A-
The Shack Stack burger would’ve gotten an A, if not for the price. The burger itself is actually kind of small for the hefty price tag, so it loses a few points. It’s definitely still worth it for the taste, and quality of the ingredients. Overall, delicious and always worth another trip!

* Prices listed are for the Philadelphia – Center City location.

Philly Burger Round Up

Behold the humble burger. Everybody loves a burger, all over the world. Why? One theory–my own–is that a hamburger is a cheap way to crave our carnivorous appetite. We want meat! Having the experience of biting into a meaty burger, chewing through the beef, juices running out of the patty, the texture of the bread, is an (almost) divine experience.

Feeling inspired by my recent gastropub night at home, in which I made a bistro style, French Onion burger, I’ve decided to search for great burgers around the city. Philadelphia might be best known for cheesesteaks and hoagies, but there are plenty of places–hidden or not–that offer a great burger experience. I hope you come with me as I search for the best local burger in my Philly Burger Round Up series.

McDonald's_Hamburger

Intimate Mexican Food = 3 Day Fried Chicken

Xochitl

408 South 2nd Street, Philadelphia PA 19147

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Xochitl is a Mexican restaurant located in the Society Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia. It’s situated on a super pretty brick street, and this picturesque street is an ideal location for this intimate spot. The restaurant has a fabulous bar, with a daily happy hour (including $6 margaritas) at the bar. There is a sunken dining room with lots of wooden tables and warm colors. The service is great, and the staff is very friendly. I’ve also heard great things about the Molcajete Dinner for 2, which is available Sunday-Thursday, and includes make your own tacos of various proteins.
Guacamole with house made tortilla chips
Guacamole with house made tortilla chips

We started the meal with some customized Guacamole ($9). Each table in the dining room is set with a guacamole form and pencil in order to complete a checklist of ingredients and mix-ins. We chose to have ours made with cilantro. chipotle, cotija cheese, plum tomato, and roasted garlic. The guacamole comes to the table in a heaping bowl with a sprinkling of cotija cheese resembling snow on top. The guacamole has a nice briny taste, along with a pop of citrus, offsets the saltiness. It’s very creamy, but still has the house made chunky consistency. There’s an aftertaste of spicy heat without too much of a bite. Instead there’s a building heat from the more mild chipotle pepper, and freshness from the cilantro. The fresh plum tomato gives a nice chewy change from the creaminess of the avocado on alternating bites, and the house made tortilla chips gave a great crunch. Great way to start off the meal!

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Ahi Tuna Ceviche
My friend ordered the Ahi Tuna Ceviche ($12) as her main meal. The ahi tuna itself was super fresh, sliced very thin, and came dressed in a citrus and guajillo chili marinade. The tuna is garnished with some micro cilantro and cucumber. The dish had a subtle heat from the guajillo chilies and a punch of flavor from the marinade, which was refreshing and helped cut through the richness of the avocado and cheese. The dish only came with three yucca chips, but there were plenty of leftover chips from the guacamole to scoop up the rest of the tuna.
Pollo Frito
Pollo Frito
I opted for a far less healthy, but super delicious entree choice – the Pollo Frito ($23). I ordered the half a chicken portion that was cut into four individual pieces with a sweet and spicy chili sauce drizzle. The three day preparation, including brining, steaming and frying, gave the chicken a nice crispy skin, but kept the meat especially moist. The chili drizzle did not detract from the crispness of the skin, and actually highlighted the juiciness of the meat. The dish is usually accompanied with corn bread and chipotle creamed spinach. The spinach is somewhat liquidy from the cream without being watery. In addition, the spinach has a pleasant heat and is a great rendition of a classic dish. This time I decided to substitute esquites, or Mexican street corn, in place of the spinach. The esquites complemented the cornbread nicely, and the corn was not overcooked. It maintained a small bit of crunch, and an overall richness from the cream, and a subtle background like flavor. of lime. There was no overt heat in the corn, which was a bit of a relief from the spiciness of the meal. The corn had an amazingly addictive quality to it though, and made me come back more and more. The dusting of cotija on top was a nice garnish. The cornbread had chunks of fresh corn throughout, and generous pad of melted butter. It came out as an individual loaf–freshly baked and hot from the oven.
Xochitl has a great vibe–perfect for an intimate dinner or a group night out. Next time I’m there, maybe I’ll check out the dinner for two, and I’m definitely I’m going to try the Chocolate Tres Leches Cake–as long as I have enough room left in my stomach!