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: Thursday, March 7, 2013 12:52pm
Subject: Back to the City of Brotherly Love
Hey RR -
Despite our recent runs at QVC toward the end of this year, I still had many places to try in Philly. This visit, I arrived early for lunch, tried a few places, and then headed straight into drinks (and bites) and dinner. I landed, got my rental car, and headed to the Rival Bros. Coffee Truck (pictured above). Rival Bros. is a small batch coffee roaster putting out a distinctive product. I ordered my latte, drove to a café and posted up to do some work for the afternoon.
When hunger struck, I headed to John for a roast pork sandwich. I’ve had Philly’s roast pork sandwich a couple times, but I hadn’t had one at John’s. As you know, roast pork is the sandwich the locals eat… it’s not all about the cheesesteaks. John’s is no joke. It’s a tiny place with some character. The sandwich is pretty straightforward: spiced up roast pork, sliced thin and sitting in an au jus, à la Chicago’s Italian Beef sandwiches, and offered small size or large. They slap it on a baguette-like roll and you can top it with sharp provolone, broccoli rabe or a few other topping options. While it looked really simple, this sandwich is one of my favorite sandwiches I’ve had in Philly. I sat in the car, ate half of my small size sandwich (they make a large, too), and headed to the next stop.
I arrived at a tiny storefront of a sandwich shop, Paesano’s. I sat at the counter, as that is all they have (about 8 seats) and ordered the Giardina Sandwich with breaded eggplant, tomato sauce, roasted fennel, caramelized onions and pesto, all on Philly’s famed sesame seeded hoagie roll. Paesano’s is the hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop with really great sandwiches that I’m always on the lookout for whenever I travel.
I drove through the city and picked up a bunch of cookies from Insomnia Cookies before heading to a friend’s to work for the rest of the afternoon: snickerdoodle, s’mores, oatmeal raisin…The cookies were pretty good, but next time I’m going for their ice cream sandwich.
After the work day was done, it was off to Ranstead Room for a cocktail, and I couldn’t pass up some light bites. Ranstead Room is a small, unassuming bar behind El Rey Restaurant, one of Stephen Starr’s many places in Philly and beyond. My friend and I enjoyed a cocktail and picked at their amazing chips and guacamole and a nice cheese and meat plate. Don’t miss their popcorn spiced with a Jamaican marita seasoning. If you’re looking for a well-mixed cocktail in a cool, quaint atmosphere, check it out.
From there, we headed to dinner at Vernick Food & Drink. I’d heard some really good things so I was happy to finally have the opportunity to go. We got an enviable seat at the counter in front of the kitchen and went to town, starting with a little taste (espresso cup) of tomato soup with a spiced cream. We followed it up with a really light goat cheese custard with a touch of red wine vinegar on top. One of my all time favorite dishes is Mario Batali’s Parmigiano Sformato and this reminded me of that, but of course with goat cheese. We then picked at a Scallops Crudo app dotted with a cranberry vinaigrette, some ginger and tarragon - a unique blend of flavors and really tasty; one of those things we didn’t want them to take away from the table even though we had finished it. We also tried the Brussels sprouts salad with apple and a satisfying side of the fried potatoes with padron peppers. And we didn’t stop there! My favorite thing may have been the mushroom toast on sourdough, though the whole wheat garganelli with shiitakes definitely gave it a run for the money. Our last side was the black pepper roasted cauliflower, featuring a creatively presented blend of different varieties of cauliflower. We had to find room for their individual Blueberry Pies with vanilla ice cream that were off the hook! So off the hook, we felt guilty eating it all…so my friend whose name may or may not be Caroline had it wrapped and put it in her purse for the morning! (Sorry to blow your cover, Caroline!)
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And that’s what’s on my plate!
Rival Bros. Coffee House
14 Snyder Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19148
152 W. Girard Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19123
108 South 16th Street
2013 Ranstead Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Vernick Food & Drink
2031 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
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!