Half the fun of discovering a new restaurant is sharing it with people you know will enjoy it. As Rachael Ray’s resident restaurant guru, here’s an inside look at what I report back to Rach about some of my favorite restaurant finds and food experiences!
Sent: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 10:10am
Subject: Philly Series, Part 3 of 3
Oh yes, Ms. Ray…it’s Part 3 of my year in Philly food, 2011. I hope you’ve enjoyed it up to this point. I should add that I’m on track to keep this Philly train moving in 2012, as I’ve had some good eats there this year already.
The team behind Zahav Restaurant and Percy Street BBQ semi-recently opened a place called Federal Donuts. They serve coffee, homemade donuts and Korean-style fried chicken. An unusual combination indeed, but it’s working, and it’s working well. I was lucky enough to pop in just before they opened to get a sneak peek at the place. I tasted the chicken, which they serve with the option of a few different glazes on it, and I stuffed my face with some donuts, including Key Lime with Graham Cracker, Chocolate Glazed with Raspberry Filling and a coconut-topped donut with pineapple filling. There are only a few counter seats where you can sit and eat, so it’s mostly for take-out. You’ve got to get there early, because they run out. And when they’re out, they’re out!
I had yet to hit up a food truck in Philly, so when I heard that Iron Chef Jose Garces had launched a truck called Guapos Taco Truck, I tracked it down and gave it a whirl. I tried a carnitas taco and a short rib taco as well as the esquites, which is essentially a version of the Mexican elote corn, but this version is cut off the cob.
Speaking of Chef Garces, I asked some folks on his team where they go for down and dirty food when they go out for a casual meal. They directed me to Dim Sum Garden, right near the bus terminal. I knew I was in good hands when there was a woman sitting at a table making dumplings from scratch as I walked in. I started with the marinated pork, which is unexpectedly served cold, but was packed with flavor. On the recommendation of my server, I also tried the pan-fried pork dumplings, along with the soup dumplings, which they are known for. Those and the scallion pancakes I added to the mix were both fantastic. I even brought some leftovers to the crew at work the next day and they loved it!
I don’t eat Philly Cheesesteaks that often, but when I do, I try to save the craving for when I know I will be in Philly. A guy I work closely with at QVC recommended Jim’s Steaks. He told me there was always steak cooking on that flat grill… and there was. Although it was new to me, Jim’s has been around for a while and when you see it, you can tell it has some history. I got mine with onions and wiz. I know you don’t like the cheese sauce thing, but I felt like I had to. While everyone has their favorite place for a cheesesteak in Philly, Jim’s is right up there on top for me.
For one of my last meals of the year, I went to Top Chef winner Kevin Sbraga’s restaurant, Sbraga. I sat at the kitchen counter and watched the show while Chef prepared a selection of tastings for me and a guest. Kevin is not only entertaining in the kitchen, he’s talented as heck. We started with the Celery Royale with Lobster, a light and delicious custard-like dish. We then had a little piece of black cod with jalapeño and ranch popcorn. Next was something that I thought was going to be the end of me, but I’ll tell you this: if you ever have the chance to try Kevin Sbraga’s Foie Gras Soup, you must do so. I am not a huge foie gras fan, but I can do it in small doses. This soup had a light quality to it with a subtle richness of foie gras – it was truly unbelievable. I also tasted a black truffle risotto with a butternut squash puree in the middle and some sea bass with clams and lobster. I then dug into the ultimate meatloaf, which had foie gras folded into it. Ending the night on a high note was a pumpkin mouse with maple whipped cream. The menu is updated regularly with seasonal ingredients and to reflect Chef Sbraga’s most recent creations, but you can count on an incredible meal at Sbraga.
And that’s what’s on my plate!
1219 South 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Guapo’s Taco Truck
Dim Sum Garden
59 North 11th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
400 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
440 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19146
Andrew “Kappy” Kaplan loves food. A professionally trained chef, by day he runs Yum-o!, Rachael Ray’s charity focused on kids and cooking, and keeps special projects running smoothly for her. By night he hops course to course, place to place, all across the country. He’s Rach’s own personal dining guide! You can also follow Kappy on Twitter to see what’s On Kappy’s Plate in real-time!