Last night, the wife and I had a phenomenal meal at Fond (1617 Passyunk Ave) and enjoyed a great bottle of wine as well; it’s a byob and we broke out the 2006 Del Dotto 887 F15 Vineyard Cher which will have a post all its own. Fond is run by some real professionals: 2 ex-le-bec and 1 ex-lacroix helm the kitchen and front of the house with a judicious take on high-end service in a more casual atmosphere. The food stands on its own.
To start, I enjoyed the seared foie gras which was served with homemade ricotta and sliced mangos. For those afraid of delicacies like foie and find it unapproachable, this is the place to try it. The sear takes the ‘pain’ out of the consistency and provides a contrast to the pudding-like feel while also providing a bed for the salt to stick to it as well. We also enjoyed the corn-risotto with pancetta and avocado cream. Again, well paired flavors with sweet corn comes the salty balance of the pancetta and smoothness of the avocado.
For our mains, I thoroughly enjoyed the octopus stew which had the most tender cephalopod mollusc I’ve ever had. It was prepared with fresh fennel in a fennel broth and also included chorizo which provided a bit of heat. The large beaded cous-cous rounded out the texture perfectly. The wife enjoyed the hangar steak, prepared simply and served with a creamy, but seared on the outside polenta.
Since we didn’t have anything really sweet, we felt the need to try 2 desserts. We had the malted milk chocolate ice cream (peanut brittle, chocolate crumble, peanut butter ganache) and the Dark Chocolate cake (whipped ganache, Earl Grey ice cream, orange sauce). The whipped ganache on the dark chocolate cake is more like a mousse, but changed the way I look at mousse. The earl grey ice cream was like a cup of tea, but in an ice cream format! On the topic of ice cream, the malted milk chocolate was smooth and creamy, but still chocolaty; I generally don’t like milk chocolate as it can taste ‘watered down’, but not this one.
Go to Fond. Go now and go hungry. Just tell me when you go so I have an excuse to go back.
We went to La Viola Ovest (252 S 16th St, Philadelphia, PA) last night with a good friend for dinner. We didn’t arrive starving as we had some charcuterie at home before heading out for dinner and looked forward to a leisurely meal. The food at La Viola is usually on the money, so we brought some wine to compliment it and looked forward to an enjoyable meal. After our waiter read us the specials, he waited about 3 minutes before coming back and hovering over our table until we noticed him and asked for some more time. Once we ordered, our appetizers were on the table 5 minutes later. Once they were picked up, our entrees arrived no slower than 10 minutes thereafter. Pastas were cooked perfectly and my veal was fork-tender; the food is the focus here, no doubt. We were full and elected to skip dessert and felt rushed to leave after that point. For the price, it’s a great deal $24pp including tip, but if you’re looking to chill out with your wine after dinner, this may not be the best choice.
Caffe Casta Diva (227 S 20th St) has quickly become one of our favorite BYOBs in the city. The food is always fresh and very enjoyable and it’s one of the few places in the area where you can sit down for dinner at 7:30 and not feel pressured to leave until you are ready. The portions are well sized and desserts are off the charts – can’t miss Tiramisu and Cannolis. Last time we were there, we brought the Mika Winery 2004 Sonoma Meritage which was a PLCB chairman’s selection and a steal at $8.50. The description said it was a $85 bottle (which seems a bit much), but for $8.50, it was solid. Back to the restaurant – I recommend anything they’re serving. I’ve enjoyed their grilled octopus, fresh pasta, and perfectly prepared fish on the many visits. Their service is solid, but one of the rare traits is that they don’t bring you a check until you ask for it. So, if you’re going out with friends and just want to chat, you can show up at 7:30 and not leave until you want to (just bring enough wine to enjoy). The only challenge for me is that it’s close to my home and easy to go to when we’re looking for a great meal.
This wasn’t the first visit to the wonderful BYOB around the corner from us, but it continues to hold up to the hype. The atmosphere is comfortable and food is continually executed well. We had dinner there on Friday and brought the aforementioned Two Vines Red to go with our dinner. It’s always a bit tricky to bring wine because you don’t know what you’re going to eat!
Nonetheless, we did just fine. The simple bread bowl was solidly complimented by a nutty olive oil dip that was practically drinkable. We shared the bosc pear carpaccio which was a light salad of thinly sliced pears with pecorino cheese and an aged balsamic syrup. I liked it, but could have used a bit more cheese.
For dinner, I enjoyed the fish special: Rockfish with Basil Oil (almost a pesto, but not that thick) served with green beans and potatoes. These were certainly not the green beans and potatoes I ate as a child or at home today, but rather were a great vehicle to transport the remaining basil sauce to my mouth (yum!). My wife enjoyed the pasta with a spicy pancetta red sauce and my mom had the pork chop. Both enjoyed their dinners and were left with the always challenging dessert decision. We opted out of dessert and instead took a stroll around Rittenhouse square and burned off a slice of bread…
I have a former colleague who has been hounding me for over a year to go to Effie’s (1127 Pine Street, Phila, PA). Well, I finally got there last night. My wife and a friend enjoyed a few drinks before at Mixto (other post) and then had a fun and filling dinner at Effie’s. This also presented an opportunity to bring out some treasures from recent Napa trips. I’ll focus on the food in this post and the wine will be separate.
To me, Greek = sharing when it comes to food and Effie’s was no different. We sat in a room which is on the other side of their outside area which is charming into itself and felt like we were in someone’s home. We started with some appetizers:
- Saganaki – lightly floured and seared Kasseri cheese: Take a pita, grab some saganaki and you have the best cheese sandwich you can imagine. What’s not to like about gooey greek cheese? Just make sure you squeeze the lemon on top before eating; it really wakes up the taste.
- Spanakopita (2) – spinach, scallion dill, feta, phyllo dough parcel: Hands down the best spanakopita I’ve ever had. No more wedding/bar mitzvah spanikopita for me.
- Thessaloniki – tzatziki, hummus, meletzanosalata, olives, feta, dolmades: I found the hummus a little bland, but outside of that, the meletzanosalata which is an eggplant salad (that makes you forget that you don’t like eggplant unless it’s breaded) was great.
For dinner we all had some type of lamb dish (and I, of course tasted everyone’s, for editorial purposes…):
- Lamb Souvlaki – grilled cubes of marinated lamb on a skewer served with tzatziki, rice and stewed green beans: This was mine and the meat was uber-tender and flavorful. I barely needed the tzatziki, although it was very good. While I was expecting green beans, it was served with green peas, which were good, just not what I expected. The rice was a throw in; I think I’ll get the souvlaki sandwich the next time.
- Paidakia – grilled baby lamb chops, feta basil risotto and greens: The lamb chops where tender, but slightly overcooked, I wish they were closer to medium-medium rare, but very good no less. The star of this plate was the risotto which was perfect and had great, fresh herb flavor.
- Lamb Lemonato – pan seared lamb cubes, roasted potatoes in a lemon wine sauce: Presented like a stew, this hearty dish had hints, rather than the strong lemon taste throughout. Very enjoyable.
By the time we finished dinner, we were (over)full, but really enjoyed our time and food at Effie’s. We will surely return.