Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On the Road Eats: Philadelphia

I spent July 4th weekend in the great city of Philadelphia and as ever, found some good meals.

Sabrina's has a faux diner aesthetic to it and the hearty meals here support the dineresque appeal. A full page of weekend specials does the job of making the brunch choice difficult. Feeling hungry and in the mood to take advantage of the specials, I went all out and ordered the "4th of July Blowout Breakfast Special: green onion-jalapeno buttermilk biscuit topped with sharp cheddar scrambled eggs with tri bell peppers and arugula. Finished with fried potato-herb encrusted chicken breast and Chipotle-plum tomato-shallot gravy."

I might just have been extremely hungry (and craving fried chicken), but this comes close to being one of the best breakfast combos I've had. The chicken and gravy were flawless — the chicken wasn't greasy or overly fried and it was tender, with a great match in the gravy. The potatoes were sufficiently crisp and salty, not quite french fries but close enough. I was thankful they were not bland sliced potatoes on a plate (a breakfast pet peeve of mine). I don't eat scrambled eggs often because I find them to be dry and tasteless, but if they could always taste like this, maybe I'd order them more often. A good helping of peppers and arugula was mixed in so that every bite had flavor. The biscuit was the weakest corner of the dish because it was too firm and the flavors mild. This biscuit would work better with a fried egg, where you'd need to sop up every last bite.

My dining companion kept saying she'd be amazed if I finished this whole thing. Seems like people want to evoke my competitive eating spirit. But I didn't officially step up to the challenge here. Nevertheless I nearly finished the entire thing and no doubt could have, but stopped short of the last few bites of the dry biscuit and a few potatoes that went home with my dining companion's French toast leftovers.

My dining companion went the sweet route and got one of the tallest brunch dishes I have ever seen: "Stars and Striped stuffed french toast filled with a sweet cream cheese and ricotta blend of blueberry jam, marshmallow, strawberries and sugar cookie crumbles. Topped with berry molasses compote and fresh berries." I had one bite and thought the filling was heavenly, but maybe a bit rich for an entire meal.


Dinner at Cuba Libre

We ended up at Cuba Libre because it was convenient for returning to Penn's Landing for fireworks later in the evening. My dining companion noticed Philadelphia's mayor, Michael Nutter, having dinner here as well.

Arepa: Grilled white corn cake filled with short rib “Ropa Vieja” and mozzarella cheese. Roasted corn crema and romesco drizzle. A nice, light appetizer and the corn crema was delicious.

Ceviche: Chilled cocktail of poached shrimp, roasted tomato and pepper sauce. Black Hills organic popcorn. Diced Bigeye tuna, jalapeno-coconut ginger sauce, red onion escabeche. My dining companion and I were totally baffled by the popcorn — it seemed like a bad move because by the time it reached the table, the popcorn had absorbed some moisture and was slightly chewy and unappealing. Though the shrimp could have been slightly sweeter, the tuna was fresh and delicate.

Arroz con Pollo: Saffron rice, chicken, wild mushrooms, corn, chorizo, corn, sweet peas and peppers, braised with Presidente beer. Grilled peppers, asparagus and red onion salad. Before this dish arrived, my dining companion and I thought we might need to add a dish to our dinner. But this turned out to be filling, the rice heavy with flavor. The vegetables made it feel summery and healthy.


Bobby's Burger Palace
L.A. Burger with Avocado Relish, Watercress, Cheddar Cheese, Tomato 

Though one of my friend's had already deemed celebrity chef Bobby Flay's burger place "just okay," we ended up here for lunch. I liked that you could choose between a beef or turkey burger or a chicken breast. I'm not much of a burger person, but it seems as though lately I have ended up at several burger places; it was a nice alternative to be able to get a turkey burger. My burger overall was tasty, though too salty and left me gulping water for the rest of the day. And though it looks to be a decent size, it will leave those with big appetites (me) feeling hungrier than expected. The burgers, mostly $7.50, come only with the pickle on the side; fries can be ordered separately. I'd have to agree that Bobby's Burger Palace was just okay and while it'll do for a quick burger fix, I wouldn't make it a repeat destination.

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