October 12, 2014

Have You Tried the New Orleans at Plenty Cafe?

Keeping up with best new and old sandwiches in Philadelphia is difficult with only one stomach and limited time. Without your recommendations to help prioritize Sandwich Quest, I'm merely a one man rowboat trying to cross an endless ocean of sandwiches.

Thankfully the recommendations come often, like this from a recent Twitter tipster:
Not only had we not tried the New Orleans, we had never been to Plenty Cafe. We took Tim up on the suggestion and headed to Plenty's new-ish 16th and Spruce Street location (the original is on East Passyunk Ave.)

Tim was right - the New Orleans is certainly a worthy subject for Sandwich Quest. Pressed between halves of a demi-baguette, the cured and smoked spicy tasso ham, sliced green apple, fig jam and gruyere make for a delicious sandwich.

I don't recall having tasso ham before, but the spicy, peppery flavor is the star of the show, making this sandwich stand out from others in Philadelphia. As I reported back on Twitter, the sweet fig jam combines perfectly with the spicy ham to make the New Orleans a must-try sandwich. It's expensive at $10.50, but the final product is worth the price of admission.

Since the first visit, we have also tried the pesto chicken, Texas brisket and Seoul sandwiches as take out. All were just fine, but none of them came close to the New Orleans and the brisket is the only one I'd recommend. Has anyone tried others or disagree?

Please tell us about your favorite sandwiches and restaurants via Twitter, Instagram, email, whatever. Hearing about all your food experiences is a big reason why we write this blog! Frankly, it's the interaction with all of you that keeps us going.

Also, check out a guest contribution from @TRappaRT - How to Make a Turducken. Just in time for Thanksgiving, it's an epic post full of humor and tips to make your own legendary monument of meat.

October 5, 2014

Fall Day Trip Idea: Wyebrook Farm

We visited Wyebrook Farm at the tail end of fall last year, so we held off sharing that experience until now. Just about an hour from Center City in Honey Brook, PA, it's a great destination to get your fix of fall colors, farm animals, hot cider and a delicious farm-to-table lunch.

Grab a burger and cider at The Café window and sit outside at one of the picnic tables. We got there early but by 12 or 1pm all the tables in the photo above were packed with families making a full afternoon out of their visit. As you can see, dogs are welcome, too.

The grass-fed beef, heritage pork, pastured chicken, lamb and goat dishes served are all raised at Wyebrook Farm and vegetables are sourced from other local organic farmers. Some days there is live music and you can always bring your own wine or beer. The Café is open Wednesday - Saturday, 11AM - 4PM.

September 30, 2014

What Every Neighborhood Needs: Society Hill Society

Society Hill Society (SHS) recently transformed the old Artful Dodger location at the corner of 2nd and Pine in Headhouse Square. My first reaction walking in the door was "wow, it's so bright!" If you'd been to the old bar, you'll be a little shocked to see how much bigger, more open and airy the space can be without a wall cutting it in half. 

SHS is now an appealing little neighborhood spot, which I'd recommend for anything from a first date to an outing with friends. Finished in a rustic copper, the bar is small enough to get close attention from the bartenders and immediately sets a tone of casual sophistication. 

Pairs or small groups are best at the bar but tables can accommodate parties of six or so. It was lovely to sit with another couple in the front corner picnic table, with fresh herbs growing in the window sill and the bustle of Headhouse Square just outside.

The menu made it tough to choose - go with a group so you can try a few dishes. Here's a quick tour through what we ate off the late summer menu. I would expect some items to change for fall. 

The pictures above recap the starter selection that we ordered. In the middle: refreshing Thinking Machine cocktail with bourbon, lemon, coriander shrub and montenegro, a bittersweet liqueur. 

Clockwise from top right: complimentary housemade pretzel and mustard for each table; Chicken pot pie croquettes (great app!); Chilled peach soup with goat cheese truffles, surryano ham and bell pepper; Market green salad with meyer lemon ranch (also a solid choice). 

September 14, 2014

Hit Me Banh Mi One More Time: Ba Le and Nam Son

"What's your favorite banh mi?" is the question that stumps us whenever we discuss Sandwich Quest with someone in Philly, considering our first banh mi at Q.T. Vietnamese more than three years ago was a big disappointment. The two sandwiches we tried there were just not good enough for us to recommend and we have not sought another since.

It was clearly time to jump back on the horse and try the banh mi again. This time we decided to tackle two - one each from Ba Le Bakery and Nam Son Bakery along Washington Ave.

Close-up of Nam Son banh mi
Thank the food gods that we did because the banh mi is squarely back on the list of things to try on Sandwich Quest. The shredded pork banh mi at Ba Le was the "a-ha!" moment, in particular. From the first bite, I began to understand why people love the banh mi. Just like any good sandwich it starts with the bread, and in the case of the banh mi - the French baguette!

The Ba Le baguette surpassed Nam Son although both were good. Soft and light on the inside with a crackly crust, every bite was a joy. And get this: you can buy individual baguettes for dirt cheap. At Nam Son they are 65 cents or 4 for $2.50. Compare that to Metropolitan Bakery, where a single baguette costs $1.25. The full banh mi sandwich is also a bargain at $4.50 at both places.

What really made the difference for both Ba Le and Nam Son was the freshness of the ingredients. Ba Le, where I tasted more of the cilantro flavor and the right combination of cucumber and carrots atop shredded pork, was a step ahead even though Nam Son was not bad by any means. Nam Son was a bit heavy on the carrots as you can tell from the picture.

Shredded pork banh mi from Ba Le Bakery

Shredded pork banh mi from Nam Son Bakery

And yowzers did the Ba Le version pack a punch of heat. It was just the right amount, though, as the jalapenos and spicy pork added much to the flavor without overpowering the rest of the sandwich.

If this were a banh mi smackdown, I’d give it to Ba Le with a late round knockout. However, the real winner was Sandwich Quest as both places more than proved that the "Vietnamese hoagie" belongs on anyone's list of Philly sandwiches to try. 

Let me know your favorite banh mi and be sure to tell us which type to order, too (barbecue pork, tofu, etc.).

And yes, the headline parody is the first and last Britney Spears reference that will ever appear on this blog.

September 6, 2014

7 Reasons to Eat Cambodian Food at Khmer Kitchen

Pra_hok Kateeh, a signature Cambodian pork dish
Few food experiences excite us more than when the flavors of a new culture zap our taste buds for the first time. It’s like finding a new toy that you didn't know existed as a kid.

It's happened to us many times, like with Pakistani food from Lahore Kebab House in London and our first crack at Dim Sum in San Francisco. Now we can’t get enough of either.

While Cambodian flavors are similar to Vietnamese and Thai, a twist in the way they use certain vibrant ingredients made our experience at Khmer Kitchen in South Philly an eye opener.

Here are seven reasons why you need to go to Khmer Kitchen, too: