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Craig Laban’s Top 5 Restaurants in Philly: Vetri, Bibou, Zahav and…

Craig Laban pic Craig Laban’s Top 5 Restaurants in Philly: Vetri, Bibou, Zahav and…The 5 Four Bells…

Compiled by Matt Goldstein

With the flack Le Bec Fin has taken over the last few years and the recent comments by Philadelphia’s top food critic, Craig Laban, the former #1 restaurant in the country has changed management with George Perrier stepping down in favor of Nicolas Fanucci, general manager of Napa Valley’s French Laundry.  With all the competition in Philadelphia and a younger crowd moving into the fine dining scene, many new restaurants in Philadelphia can compete with the best restaurants in the country.  There are now 5 restaurants in Philadelphia that hold Craig Laban’s top honor Four Bells: Vetri, Zahav, Bibou, Talula’s Table, and Fountain Restaurant.  Vetri and Bibou also make the top 5 restaurants in Philadelphia Magazine while the Fountain Restaurant makes the Top 10.

Marc Vetri is officially the new king of Philadelphia with Osteria, Amis, Vetri and a new Italian gastro pub called Birreria 600, opening soon.

Source: Foobooz,



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The Capital Grill Wagyu Pot Roast

Capital Grill Wagyu Pot Roast The Capital Grill Wagyu Pot RoastBy Executive Chef Jim Nuetzi

There are few dishes more red, white and blue than pot roast. It’s been a staple in American dining rooms since, well, since there’s been an America. So the question is, can a classic be improved upon and still remain a classic? Executive Chef Jim Nuetzi’s delicious recipe calls for many of the traditional ingredients that give pot roast its iconic flavor, but proposes elevating the main ingredient to exceptionally high quality Wagyu beef. Yes, Wagyu can be expensive, but using the blade cut is an economical way to enjoy it. The rich marbling really shines through in the blade roast, and creates an incredibly tender roast that is classic enough to satisfy family tradition, and elegant enough to impress guests. (Some grocery stores require advance ordering for Wagyu beef, but specialty butchers will always have Wagyu available.)


Ingredients(Serves 4-6)               

Wagyu Blade Roast         3 lbs

Kosher Salt         1 Tbsp

Olive Oil, Blended            2 Tbsp

Onions, Medium Spanish             2 each

Carrots, large     2 each

Granulated Sugar             1 tsp

Tomato Paste    1 Tbsp

White Wine        1 1/2 Cups

Beef Stock, prepared     1 1/2 Cups

Fresh Thyme                      2 Sprigs

Smoked Paprika               1 tsp

Bay Leaf               1 each

Dijon Mustard   2 Tbsp

Fresh Bread Crumbs       1/4 Cup

Italian Parsley, Chopped               3 Tbsp

Chopped Hazelnuts        2 Tbsp

White Soy           2 tsp

Sherry Vinegar  2 tsp


Heat the oven to 275°F.

Peel the carrots and onions. Dice into 1/2”sized pieces.

Season the blade roast all over with 1-1/2 tsp of the kosher salt.

Heat a large heavy Dutch oven with the blended oil to the smoke point over medium high heat and sear the roast until deep brown, approximately 4 minutes on each side.

Removed seared roast, reduce the heat to medium low, and add the onions and carrots. Coat the vegetables well with the drippings/oil and season with the remaining salt and sugar.

Cook the vegetables over medium low heat, stirring frequently for 30 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently for an additional 10 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine and scrape up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Bring the wine to a boil.

Add the beef stock, thyme, paprika, bay leaf, and Dijon Mustard, whisk well to combine.

Return the seared roast to the pan. Cover tightly and place in the pre-heated oven.

Cook the roast for two hours and then remove the cover.

Cook, uncovered until fork tender (about 1 1/2 additional hours).

Remove from the oven and strain the liquid from the pan into a small sauce pan. Discard the vegetables.

Bring the liquid to a simmer and skim the fat from the surface. Reduce liquid to approximately one cup in volume.

Stir in the bread crumbs, parsley, nuts, soy and vinegar and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste with salt and pepper.

Place the roast on a serving platter and garnish with the finished sauce and Roasted Root Vegetables.

*This recipe may be done through step 15 and refrigerated overnight. Place in a 275°F degree oven to re-heat. Heat one hour until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165°F prior to serving.*




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The Most Expensive Food in the World: Truffles Fuel Gangsters, Smuggling, Violence & Bootlegging

French Truffles from 60 Minutes The Most Expensive Food in the World: Truffles Fuel Gangsters, Smuggling, Violence & BootleggingGangsters Using Violence & Theft to Attain Truffles

By Matt Goldstein

Because of supply and demand, the price of truffles have skyrocketed to such an extent that gangsters, thieves and drug dealers are getting into the mix as well as the inevitable Chinese bootleg truffles.  A truffle is just a kind of mushroom, root or fungus that basically looks like a clump of dirt.  French cuisine has made truffles so popular that they have become extremely rare and the French truffles must be found in the wild in France.  Most truffle hunters actually use dogs to sniff them out.  About 2 handfuls of truffles go for about $1000.  Yup, a regular size carton of mushrooms from the market would be $1000 if they were French Truffles.  One truffle the size of a mini football sold for about $300,000.  A mushroom flavor with an earthy tone, this distinct taste is very difficult to imitate.

CBS 60 minutes clock logo 242x300 The Most Expensive Food in the World: Truffles Fuel Gangsters, Smuggling, Violence & BootleggingBecause the price and demand for truffles are so high, gangsters, thieves, smugglers and bootleggers have gotten into the mix.  Famous French Chef Bruno who was featured on 60 Minutes, was robbed of 200 of Kilos.  The thieves did not even try to steal any money.  Workers in the French Truffle industry have been carjacked, beaten with baseball bats and even murdered.  Gangsters are even kidnapping truffle hunting dogs as to use themselves to find the truffles.

Theft, violence and gangsters have made the truffle trade dangerous but perhaps the worst thing for authentic French Truffles, are the cheap Chinese knock offs.  Truffle in China were basically worthless at one point and used as animal feed, but one business man thought instead of feeding it to the pigs, why not feed it to the French?  There is no difference anyway.  Just kidding, of course there is a difference between the truffles.  The cheaper, more abundant Chinese truffles are now mixing up the market and the being packaged in France with labels claiming they are a product of France.

Chinese truffles are harvested immediately when found, but French truffles are harvested usually when ripe.  The difference is a major impact on flavor.  Chinese truffles are about $20 per pound while French truffles are about $1000.  Hundreds of French restaurants are passing off the Chinese truffles but still charging French truffle prices.  With 400,000pounds of Chinese truffles being imported into France each year, many of the truffles are packaged and then exported with a label saying product of France.  Because of the law, the package Chinese truffles from France will usually say “Tuber Indicum,” on the back in small print, meaning “Chinese Truffles.”  Deceitful yes, but legal of course.

Source: 60 Minutes




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The Pan Fried Cajun Creole Jack Daniel’s Louisiana BBQ Shrimp

jack daniels logo pic 234x300 The Pan Fried Cajun Creole Jack Daniel’s Louisiana BBQ ShrimpAdd Some Heat to Your New Year

By Chef Rusty Hamlin

Add some heat to your new year with Chef Rusty Hamlin’s Louisiana BBQ Shrimp!  Pan fried and fire hot, these BBQ shrimp can be cooked in any kitchen in any season.  Rusty Hamlin, a successful chef from Louisiana, is now the official chef for the Zac Brown Band who also partner with Jack Daniels.  Check out this Cajun Creole style shrimp recipe and fire up your next meal with the Louisiana BBQ Shrimp!



3 ounces unsalted butter

1teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce

1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper

1teaspoon Dried Basil

1/2 Lemon juiced and zest

1/2 tablespoon Cajun Blackening Seasoning

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

1/2 tablespoon Pepper Sauce

3 cloves garlic

1/2 small onion

1 pound fresh 16-20 count Gulf Shrimp (head on)

1/4 cup Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey

Chopped Parsley and French Bread for garnish




Cleaning Shrimp:

1. Leave the head on and using a paring knife cut the top of the shell on the tail from front to back only going thru 1/2 of the tail meat.

2. Carefully wash the trail out of the tail with running water in the sink.


Making Compound Butter:

1. In a food processor puree the onion and garlic till fine.

2. Add all of the first nine ingredients and process till all is blended.



1. Melt butter on medium heat and add shrimp. I like to line them up in the same direction, it makes it easer to turn and work with.

2. Cook shrimp in compound butter for four minutes on each side and remove from pan.

3. Line up shrimp on a serving platter all facing the same direction.

4. Add Jack Daniel’s to butter mixture and flame.

5. Once reduced (3 min) pour mixture over shrimp and garnish with chopped parsley and lots of French bread for dipping.




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Restaurant Quick Hits: Outback Steakhouse Refuses to Grill Medium Rare Steaks?

Outback Steakhouse Restaurant Quick Hits: Outback Steakhouse Refuses to Grill Medium Rare Steaks?Outback Fakehouse: Is this Really Even a Steakhouse?

By Matt Goldstein

It’s easy to pick on chain restaurants of course, but being a steakhouse and refusing to make medium rare steaks is completely insane.  If you want a steak at Outback, the best you can do is a “warm red center” which is code for a medium steak.  When they told me “warm red center” I should have immediately asked for the coconut shrimp but instead, wanting a steak so badly, I took it on the chin and just got the steak.  Yup, it was a medium steak.  In our humble opinion, the only way to eat a steak is medium rare as a well done steak is like chewing on chalk, flavorless desert dry hard chalk.  Well done steaks are horrible and if you’re a fan, we encourage you to rethink your life, there have been some major mistakes made somewhere.  Obviously, Outback Steakhouse is trying not to get sued for getting someone sick by serving a steak too rare and trying to avoid becoming a news story for the same thing.

This calculation is made strictly for the money, not for the food.  If 50 people in a given city received and overcooked steak and decided not to go back, Outback feels no effect whatsoever, but if one person gets sick at a specific location and the story is publicized, Outback Steakhouse faces the loss of thousands and thousands of customers not to mention a million dollar law suit.  It’s a chain, it’s about the money.  However, if you are a steakhouse, that is part of the game.  If a restaurant wants to serves steaks, they must serve the steaks properly.  It’s deceptive to lure customers in with the promise of giving them what they want and then simply refusing. Outback Steakhouse should either advertise that they don’t allow medium rare steaks or start calling themselves Outback Fakehouse because they don’t know shit about cooking or grilling steaks.





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The Woodford Reserve White Chocolate Bourbon Bread Pudding

woodford reserve white chocolate bread pudding The Woodford Reserve White Chocolate Bourbon Bread PuddingThis holiday season; impress your party going guests with the Woodford Reserve White Chocolate Bread Pudding.  Well-crafted holiday parties include well-crafted cocktails.  And while there are always the classics, a signature drink and a well-paired appetizer can separate your party from the rest.  We’ve assembled some of our favorite Woodford Reserve cocktails and some tasty bites that will have people talking until next holiday season.


White Chocolate Sauce

2 tbsp. Woodford Reserve®

1 c. Heavy cream

4 oz. White chocolate, finely chopped

Bread Pudding

4 oz. French bread or Challah, crusts removed and cut into ½-in. cubes

1 ½ c. Half-and-half

½ c. Heavy cream

4 oz. White chocolate, finely chopped

4 egg yolks

1 egg

¼ c. Sugar

1 ½ tsp. Vanilla extract

For the sauce, heat the heavy cream in a saucepan over medium heat; do not boil. Add the chocolate and cook until blended, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the bourbon. Chill, covered, for up to 1 day.  For the pudding, spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Arrange the bread cubes evenly in 6 lightly greased ramekins or custard cups.  Heat the half-and-half and heavy cream in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the chocolate and cook over low heat until blended, stirring constantly. Whisk the egg yolks, egg and sugar in a heatproof bowl until blended. Gradually add ¼ of the hot cream mixture to the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Whisk in the remaining hot cream mixture until blended and stir in the vanilla. Pour the cream mixture evenly into the prepared ramekins and let stand for 30 minutes or store, covered, in the refrigerator for 8 to 10 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the ramekins in a 9×13-inch baking pan and add enough boiling water to the baking pan to measure 1 inch. Bake for 25 minutes or just until set. The baking time will have to be lengthened if the ramekins have been chilled.  To serve, reheat the sauce over low heat and drizzle over the warm puddings.

You may bake the bread pudding in a 10-inch round baking dish. Bake without the water bath for 30 to 35 minutes or until set and cut into wedges to serve.  You may bake in advance and store, covered, in the refrigerator. Reheat before serving




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The Jack Daniels Jack Hot Wings

Jack Daniels Jack Hot Wings The Jack Daniels Jack Hot WingsTry the Jack Daniels original Jack Hot Wings with an original hot sauce and original wing recipe great for frying, grilling or baking.  The Jack Daniels original recipes range from hundreds of cocktails to hundreds of grilling recipes and they go perfect together.  Keep checking back for more Jack Daniels cocktails and great grilling recipes to kill it at the BBQ.

¾ cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 pounds chicken drumettes

Vegetable oil


½ cup (1 stick) butter

½ cup Jack Daniel’s® Tennessee Whiskey

¼ cup ketchup

1/3 cup hot pepper sauce, or to taste

Combine flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl. Coat the wings with the flour mixture. Heat 2 to 3 inches of oil in a fryer or heavy pot to 365°F. Fry wings, a few at a time, until golden brown on all sides and cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Dip cooked wings in the sauce. Serve with blue cheese dressing and fresh celery and carrot sticks. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

To bake the wings, place them in a roasting pan. Brush wings with melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in a 450°F oven until lightly browned and cooked through, about 30 minutes. Don’t forget you can grill the wings over medium heat for about 30 minutes, turning frequently.




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Philly Bars to Avoid: Mt. Airy’s McMenamin’s Tavern

philadelphia skyline Philly Bars to Avoid: Mt. Airy’s McMenamin’s TavernAn O.G. Craft Beer Bar: How the Mighty Have Fallen

By Matt Goldstein & Amy K. Haight

We’d like to apologize to McMenamin’s for dining at their establishment.  For some reason they seemed to be annoyed that we stopped by and decided to give them our hard earned money for a week night dinner.  We’re sorry, that’s our fault.  Don’t worry though because we won’t be stopping by again.  To be fair, this used to be one of our favorite places but if we’re going out in Mt Airy, you’ll see us down the block at the Wine Thief.  Maybe our readers should do the same since it doesn’t seem like McMenamin’s even likes their customers.  The host was rude, annoyed and gave us looks that seemed as he didn’t want us to be there.  The bartenders, although busy, forgot multiple drink orders and also seemed annoyed that we were there.  That’s OK though, because we saved money when they forgot our orders and were saved from enduring more average food and drink.

Any who, on to the food and beer:  The cheeseburger at McMenamin’s was pedestrian to say the least.  To be fare, we’ve been perusing the entire city of Philadelphia looking for the best burgers so the competition is steep.  It’s safe to say that the burger at McMenamin’s does not stack up.  When we ordered a medium rare burger, it came out well done.  Not the most horrible mistake but still, the burger was dry, flavorless and just plain below average.  Avoid the burger.

The cheese plate was also just pedestrian.  Not well matched and not really appealing to the eye, the cheese plate looked and tasted awkward and cheap.  It wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t good.  The fries are nothing to write home about either, just about below average.  To be fair, we’ve had the wings at McMenamin’s before and their pretty good, but everything else falls short, including their beers on tap.

McMenamin’s is one of the original craft beer bars in Philly, doing craft beers for years and years before the recent wave of fanaticism.  Now, this is a better tap list than most bars, but for a craft beer bar it’s falling behind the times.  Lacking variety and expertise, the PJ Whelihan’s chain seems to be more educated in craft beer selection.  The bottle list is a safe go to, but not extensive.  We did enjoy the Samuel Smith India Ale, a spicy and malty pale ale perfect for spicy Indian dishes.

Oh right, don’t order a cocktail either because apparently that’s annoying too.  If a restaurant does not want to make a drink or is not good at making certain foods, they should take it off the menu.  What else is there to say?  McMenamin’s has a culture of bad service and a staff that doesn’t seem to care.  It should be replaced immediately.




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Great Vegan Cocktails at the Khyber Pass Pub

Vegan Cocktails Khyber Pass Pub 300x136 Great Vegan Cocktails at the Khyber Pass Pub Philly’s #1 Bar: Tuesday, December 13, 2011, 6:00pm to 2:00am

On Tuesday, December 13th, from 6:00pm to 2:00am, Khyber Pass Pub will host Vegan Cocktails Philly. Vegans, vegetarians, and the veg-curious are invited to meet up, mix, and mingle, over a delicious selection of vegan drinks and eats.  A Philadelphia tradition, the latest installment of Vegan Cocktails Philly will highlight vegan specialty cocktails for the event, including a salute to vegan singer-songwriter Fiona Apple.

Fiona Apple Cider: Organic Apple Cider with choice of Buffalo Trace Bourbon or

Kraken Spiced Rum, served hot or cold

Teen Wolf: Rum Punch featuring Cruzan Dark Rum, Cruzan Spiced Rum,

Velvet Falernum, and Blood Orange

Bye Bye Blackbird: Sparkling Wine with Blackberry and splash of Creme de Violette

Monkey Business: Franziskaner Hefeweizen with Banana

In addition to Khyber Pass Pub’s usual repertoire of vegan fare, we will also be offering

these additional vegetarian and vegan specials for the event:

Sweet Potato Bisque **

Beer Cheese Soup *

Winter Vegetable Gumbo **

Beer Boiled Peanuts **

Bacon Salt Popcorn **

Natchitoches Meat Pies **

Fried Green Tomato and Tempeh Bacon BLT **

Smoked Portabello Po-Boy **

Eggplant and Okra Étouffée **

* vegetarian         ** vegan

Join us for a veg-tastic night of Vegan Cocktails Philly at Khyber Pass Pub!

Khyber Pass Pub is a historic Old City tavern that features a beautiful bar handcrafted in 1876. One of Philadelphia’s oldest bars, a ‘Philadelphia Magazine’ Best of Philly 2011 winner, and’s Number One Bar of 2011, the menu features an extensive selection of craft beers, authentic New Orleans specialties, hickory-smoked barbecue, and tasty vegan and vegetarian options.


Open Daily 11:00am to 2:00am      Kitchen Open till 1:00am

New Orleans Brunch served Saturdays and Sundays 11:00am to 4:00pm




The Capital Grille Roasted Chanterelle Mushrooms

The Capital Grille Chanterelle Mushrooms The Capital Grille Roasted Chanterelle MushroomsBy Executive Chef Jim Nuetzi

With their rich, distinctive flavor, it’s no surprise that chanterelle mushrooms were considered a culinary delicacy throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. And because they’re only available fresh a few months of the year, they still add an air of gourmet elegance to any dish they accompany. Some chanterelles have a woodsy, earthy flavor, while others can taste a little spicy. But they all taste even more delicious when roasted with fresh herbs, olive oil and garlic, and make a wonderful complement for lobster.


Ingredients (Serves 4)


Chanterelle Mushrooms               1 lb

Garlic     1 Clove

Fresh Rosemary               1 Sprig

Fresh Thyme      2 Sprigs

Extra Virgin Olive Oil       2 Tbsp

Kosher Salt                         1 tsp

Freshly Ground Black Pepper     1/2 tsp

Butter, unsalted               2 Tbsp



Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Clean the chanterelles (see note below).

Finely chop the garlic clove.

Pull the leaves off the rosemary and thyme and chop the herbs finely .

Combine the mushrooms, garlic, herbs, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl and toss well to combine.

Place the mushrooms on a clean pan and roast them until tender (approximately 10 minutes).

Remove the mushrooms from the oven, toss them with butter and place them on a clean platter and serve.

To clean fresh chanterelles, it is best to brush them and pick off any dirt unless they are very dirty. If washing is required, do so immediately before cooking to avoid storing wet mushrooms. Occasionally, you may find a few tiny insects on the inside of your chanterelles. Dunk the mushrooms in salted water for a few minutes prior to cooking.




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