You know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that? --Ratatouille (Pixar, 2007)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Game Changing Name Change! Introducing...

Hi Everyone!

I know I haven't posted in a while, and I know you're craving some TeenwithTaste. While that's all well and good, I need to let you in on two constant problems I've been having.

As of September, I haven't been living in my hometown of Philadelphia, PA. If you've been following my Instagram (now: thecitythatalwayseats), you know that I am now a Freshman at New York University, in New York City. Sadly, not only is it less practical for me to be posting recipes and cooking--because my kitchen space/cooking supplies/ingredients are so limited--it is also a shame that my time in the Philadelphia restaurant scene is sort of coming to a close. I.e: It's not wholly practical for me to commute to Philadelphia just to eat.

Secondly, my "Teen" years are also coming to a close. Thus, I figured it was time for...basically...a complete overhaul. If I was going to change the city focus, the content focus, etc., I might as well also change the name. So, without complicating things any further, I give you: THE CITY THAT ALWAYS EATS!

A cute play on a class phrase, my new name was submitted by a big fan, and it just stuck. Just like the people of New York are constantly moving and resisting sleep, they're also constantly eating. New York is home to limitless restaurants, coffee shops, food trucks, and more. In fact, just this weekend I was casually walking near Madison Square Garden on the way to the Rangers game when I came upon this incredible pop up food festival below in Greeley Sq. Park (32-35th and Broadway) with ~20 gourmet vendors selling all kinds of savory foods, drinks, and desserts. Too bad we had to share the festival with Maple Leafs fans.
Additionally, in the past few weeks I've gotten to experience a ton of great food I'm excited to tell you all about! In the near future I'll be showing you the best places to find a New York bagel (with all my favorite shmears, of course), all my favorite brunch spots, where to take that girl you met at a bar (but decided you wanted to see again) on a classy first date, and more. Check back here for updates, friend me on Facebook (Andy Scolnic) to see when I post, or follow me on Instagram ("thecitythatalwayseats"). 

I hope you all are excited to see what I'm eating in the future! TeenwithTaste was just the appetizer, now we're on to the MAIN COURSE. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Tw/T Exclusive Review: MAD MEX, Wynnewood, PA

I'm going to keep this review semi-short because I'm still pretty burnt out from writing my lengthy last post on peach cake! This coming Monday (August 11th), famous tex-mex chain "Mad Mex" from Pittsburgh, PA, will officially open a brand new location in our very own Wynnewood shopping center. Last night, I was lucky enough to dine at the restaurant early at the soft opening with my good family friends the Russells (hi George!)!

Arguably the most exciting part of Mad Mex is the decor--the restaurant looks BEAUTIFUL. Decked out in not-too-cheesy Mexican dolls, masks, and pieces of artwork, the restaurant's colors are vibrant, the layout of the restaurant is physically appealing to walk through, and the central bar appeared well-stocked, showcasing colorful bottles and margarita machines extravagantly. Additionally, the restaurant is just spacious. Currently, it has seating for up to 300 people, including what appeared to be multiple sizes of private rooms set apart from the general dining room. Overall, the appearance of the restaurant was incredible; it just looked great.

Addressing drinks and the aforementioned bar, margaritas are churned out by the barrel they should be at any Mexican joint. The menu offers a plethora of flavors, like the three seen below that are (L to R) classic, mango, and peach. The drinks weren't exceptionally strong, but that may be a small issue to be worked out for future dinners. The salt rimmed onto my glass was stylishly dyed blue and the general flavor of the drinks was otherwise superior, disregarding liquor content.

Appetizers were, for the most part, tasty. Guacamole was a tad spicy for my liking, but the habanero-pineapple salsa was deliciously fierce and the tomatillo blend salsa was a perfectly cool medium. All three dips are below.

I also sampled the San Francisco Wings (below) and the Potato Taquitos. The sauce on the wings was sweet and spicy; I could've lapped it up by the bowlful. The wings themselves were fairly average--they had no fry on them (they were just seared/baked) the mark of a good--but not perfect-- wing. Sadly, the Taquitos were forgettable. The texture of the mashed potatoes, cheese, and the tortilla melded together in a less than ideal way.

Entreés came out looking great--plating was obviously stressed, with colorful purple radishes and milky white queso fresco galore. I had the Barbacoa Tacos, shown below. The tacos themselves were delicious: the meat was cooked well, the queso fresco blended nicely, and the tortilla was neither tough nor doughy. However, the sides lost me a little bit. Each plate came with a flat square of regular ol' rice and beans. My rice seemed a little overcooked and my beans were just kind of underwhelming. They had no frills, no "wow," they were just black beans. That being said, when I put both with my tacos they still played their parts adequately. Overall, the entreé was good--just good.

My mother ordered the Mole Enchilada seen below. The dish tasted fine, again, it was just missing a little bit of the strong flavor expected from a mole. A mole is generally a darker sauce than Mex's, packing a strong chocolate flavor but also hinting at the classic Mexican combination of spicy-sweet through some sort of pepper which counteracts the chocolate. Mex's mole was more of a one note feel--it didn't raise my eyebrows sweetly or spicily and I didn't get enough strong flavors. However, if you aren't expecting a classic mole, the dish is still worth ordering. All the flavors worked together even if they weren't strong enough and the meat was well cooked. Other dishes, like the steak fajitas (farther) below, were also hits with diners.

If you're curled up in a ball wondering if Wynnewood will ever get a good new restaurant at this point--stop worrying! To be clear, most of the problems I've recounted so far are small problems with easy fixes. Adding a few things here and there to jazz up plates, tossing another ounce of liquor into the drinks, etc. Mad Mex showed well for a restaurant still in its pre-opening stage. What's more, it still has some points to win in the dessert category...which it definitely won! Below is the dessert burrito, followed by the brownie sundae. The dessert burrito was as yummy as it was cute and definitely a nice way to end the meal.

As I said, Mad Mex only has a few kinks to work out for it to become a truly great spot. Hopefully all goes well when it opens on Monday. I wish all the best to Mad Mex and I'm sure I'll be back soon to see how things are coming along!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Scarfing Down Summer: Peach Loaf Cake with Brown Sugar Spice Filling

When I told my mom I was considering making devil's food cupcakes in our 80 degree household the other day, she basically barfed. I could hear the complaining coming a mile away. She pleaded with me, "Use the fruit in the fridge! Make cookies! Anything but chocolate cake!" I walked downstairs and caved--we had a few medium-fresh peaches from our CSA fruit-share we joined this summer that caught my eye. I started fishing through the internet for a recipe I could play with; adapt to my taste.

The recipe below is my own version of a recipe from "Taste of Home," an old magazine my mom used to get. I don't like to mess with baking (it really is a science) but I always have a hard time holding myself back...thus, a few changes were made to the batter and, of course, the filling was a creation of my own.


  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cubed/diced peeled peaches (Peel them as thoroughly as you want and dice them into a quite small cube to ensure your batter can cook through--too many big chunks will make your cake impossible to cook. Obviously you must mostly peel them because you don't want skin floating around your cake, but you also may enjoy some of the tart flavor the skin of a peach gives, like I do!)
  • 1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • A few shakes of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (Don't worry about this only being a small amount, you'll see walnuts again in the filling!) 

  • Heat your oven to 350 degrees. 

    In terms of the process, this isn't a difficult recipe. Simply cream the butter and sugar together, add in the eggs one by one, and then add in the other wet ingredients (water/vanilla/peaches). Next, combine the dry ingredients separately (everything except the nuts) and stir that into the wet ingredients. Incorporate it all together but try your best not to overmix. Finally, add in the walnuts and your batter is ready. Toss it into a greased/oiled loaf pan and let it settle for a few minutes while you prepare your filling! Doesn't that peachy color look delicious?

    The filling, like many culinary inventions, came to me by accident. What I really wanted was a delicious caramel-like topping...but my cooking process led me to a filling instead. Looking back, I'm glad this cake had a filling--it's what it really needed! The filling allows each bit of the cake to be moist, warm, and delicious. It adds a sweetness that the cake would've been disappointingly missing without it. 

    For the filling you'll need:

    2/3 cup of brown sugar (my blend wasn't too light, but you probably don't want the darkest of the dark)
    3.5 tablespoons of butter
    1/4 cup of your diced peaches (if you have some left over like I did...if not, not a huge deal)
    1/4 cup of chopped walnuts
    6 spiced wafer cookies, beaten to a rough grind in a Ziploc bag!

    I created the filling step by step--mistakes made followed with me trying to fix them! I first melted together the butter and brown sugar in a bowl in the microwave for only about 30 seconds (use a double boiler/stovetop if you want, you're just making it harder for yourself). Let everything just get soft and then stir it together, fully melting the butter. Then, before the sugary mixture solidifies, add the peaches and walnuts. 

    Finally, you get to use one of my favorite techniques. Place 6 spiced wafers in a sealed plastic bag and just smash them against the counter, beat them with your hand, etc, until you have a pretty solid grind of the cookie. A few pieces of wafer left in the mix aren't a problem, just as long as they aren't inedibly large. Dump this grind in with the wet brown sugar mix, stir together, and your filling is done! The spiced wafer will soak up all the delicious sugar mixture, making for a delicious center in your cake. 

    Here comes the last trick: place your loaf pan of batter in the oven WITHOUT the filling inside for about ten minutes. It's imperative that you let your batter get a head start on cooking or your filling might just fall out of the bottom of your cake. After ten minutes, open the oven and dump your filling atop the loaf batter that should start to be taking form. No need to push it into the batter, it will fall in on its own. 

    Cook the cake for about another 20-30 minutes, or until you can push a toothpick into the cake (the batter-filled part, not a filling filled area) and pull it out clean.

    At the end, hopefully your cake looks and tastes as good as mine did! This cake was refreshing and decadent at the same time--definitely a keeper in my recipe book. Happy baking!

    Thursday, July 10, 2014

    Fuji Mountain or Mt. Fuji? Try BOTH!

    Let it be clear upon reading these two reviews that sushi is not my thing. If you've read my blog before, you'll know I'm no sushi aficionado: I can't tell you half of what you'd need to know about it to be an expert and I really only eat it a few times a month. That being said, I know the difference between a good piece of fish and a bad one, and a great piece of unagi (eel) really warms my heart. After eating more sushi lately than I usually do, I've found that Philadelphia and Ardmore present two winning restaurants that sound and serve alike!

    Fuji Mountain (Website, 2030 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA) is a hidden gem amongst the high end restaurants scattered throughout nearby streets. Though it doesn't look similar to others of fame from the outside, the food inside is just as high quality. The menu is extensive, with an insane amount of appetizers to start. From classics like agedashi tofu (gently fried tofu found in nearly every Japanese restaurant) and edamame, to innovative dishes and entreés like onzukuri, a torch seared fish plate, and even a Japanese version of Mexican ceviche, Fuji Mountain knows how to begin a meal.

    From there, the fun escalates. Fuji Mountain has over a full page of what you really crave: Maki (the traditional white girl "sushi roll") and duos of sushi (single pieces of rice with fish sliced atop). Everything you could ask for, Fuji Mountain delivers. From more than a few kinds of everyone's favorite tuna to crab thrown at you 3 ways--only two of which are actual crab (one is just for the vegetarians to feel like they're eating crab without the misguided guilt)! Two pieces of hamachi sushi are shown in front of my father's specialty "pumpkin" maki roll below. How delicate, beautiful, and elegant do they look?

    In addition to the specials, like the pumpkin roll (check out that classy orange tint) above, the maki list is endless. In front of another special (the Inferno roll) seen below is one of their general maki selections, the crazy roll. While the crazy roll was delicious, the Inferno roll really crushed it. As you can see in the picture, the Inferno roll had a scrumptious spicy sauce coating it which added a completely different element to roll that the crazy roll really could have used too. So, sadly, I suppose you could say that, while all the rolls at Fuji Mountain are delicious, the specials are those worth devoting most of your stomach space to.

    But let's say you want this same quality of sushi at home in the 610...where do you go? I was told by a good friend a while back that there was a new restaurant in Ardmore called Mt. Fuji (36 Greenfield Ave, Ardmore PA, no website for the ardmore location yet, visit their Facebook page)...and I just laughed. Is there a hat that gets picked out of when restauranteurs are deciding on names for Japanese restaurants? Wondering if it could possibly top my enjoyable meal at its palindromic (sort of :/) cousin, I visited Mt. Fuji recently with my family.

    For Ardmore, Mt. Fuji is pretty darn classy. A BYOB nestled in next to a cut-rate modeling salon and a state liquor store, beyond the walls, the ownership has created quite an enticing ambiance...and the food matches the atmosphere. Food at Mt. Fuji is even more luxuriously presented than at Fuji Mountain. As you can see below, seemingly average foods (like grilled asparagus) are presented as if they're worth millions of dollars. This sort of precision and care not only makes the customer feel as though they're worth those millions too, but I truly believe it makes the food taste better. The asparagus below tasted like was soft yet crunch, sweet yet natural. It glowed on the plate.

    But once again, nothing could distract me from the true purpose of my visit: the fish. Another appetizer, the tuna salmon tower, was tasty but didn't wow me. The rice seemed a little too dry, and the fish stuck together in a rather awkward way. Nevertheless, it was seasoned well, tasted fair, and looked great--check it out below.

    The meal shot up from there. We ordered a few rolls, but the two winners, the "Three Musketeers" (Tuna, salmon, yellowtail, avocado, and tobiko) and the "Out of Control" (tuna, salmon, yellowtail, asparagus sprouts, and mayo miso eel sauce) are pictured below. Though the presentation of the Three Musketeers is obviously more delicate looking and more beautiful, both rolls were absolutely delightful. What the Out of Control lacked in presentation it won back in taste--it was soft yet its crunchy sprouts were pronounced and textured in a very different way.

    Overall, my dinners at both Fuji Mountain and Mt. Fuji were spectacular. Both restaurants served food with passion and grace, and are definitely deserving of a visit from any sushi lover. Hope you can all visit soon!

    Saturday, June 21, 2014

    Out of Wynnewood and into winning cuisine: Finding good eats semi-closeby! (The Kettle and Teresa's Next Door)

    Lately, I've gotten tired of settling for the same few restaurants within a few miles of my house. Everything feels boring and old; I can't find a menu I haven't already picked through at some point in my 18 year food marathon. Sadly, I'm also super lazy-- going all the way into the city is a pain. This post is a double feature (one brunch, one dinner) of restaurants I found in areas just a few minutes outside my bubble. 

    BRUNCH: The Kettle, (1 Brookline Boulevard, Havertown, PA)

    The Kettle has quickly risen through the ranks of my favorite places to eat on weekend mornings for a few reasons. Firstly, the menu really does accommodate those who want a true brunch. If you're caught in between wanting breakfast and lunch, you can scan the menu and find a fair array of omelettes and griddle offerings sitting next to soups and sandwiches. The menu isn't huge, but, as far as I know, everything printed is done well--and that's what counts. As far as breakfast, the corned beef hash and eggs never fails, as seen below with the eggs presented over easy (you pick your preparation) on top. 

    If you're leaning more towards the lunch side of things, the burgers and sandwiches can't be beat. Seen below, The Kettle Burger is a simple angus burger that can then be customized with a selection of cheese and toppings. Mine below had cheddar and fried onions--definitely a winning combination. Sandwiches also rotate on the menu, and there are usually a few specials. Farther below is the regular reuben sandwich, which always shows admirably. 

    If I have a complaint with The Kettle it would be that the service is often spotty. It's not really their fault, sometimes, the place is just packed and the staff kind of scrambles around doing their best to keep things moving. But, last breakfast, I sat on outdoor seating to skip the lengthy line of those waiting for the indoors tables...and I walked into a wall of said poor service. Our coffees were never refilled, it took a while to get our order taken, and getting water mid-meal was a pain. We were basically forgotten about. Nevertheless, if you can avoid sitting outside and still deal with the mediocre service, The Kettle can really put out some great meals. 

    DINNER: Teresa's Next Door, 124 N. Wayne Ave, Wayne, PA

    Teresa's is a large restaurant that's been effectively split into two smaller ones. Upon entering the front door, you're asked to choose between the higher end "Teresa's Cafe" (it's not really a cafe, it's a serious restaurant) and "Teresa's Next Door," which is cutely dubbed a bar, fits the billing of the trendy brewpub that is blowing up all over America. Don't think too hard--just walk into Next'll be happier in the slightly more casual setting. 

    Teresa's is the most elegant "bar" you'll see these days. With a humongous, elegant, and well stocked actual bar accompanied by booths and stand-alone tables, Next Door offers classic pub food (burgers, sandwiches, steaks, etc.) but with some outliers in between. Things like summer scallops and frenched pork chops elevate what would be a regular pub to the next level. Next Door even prides itself on having quite a few cheese offerings, allowing customers to create a cheese plate all their own. 

    Favorites can be found all across the menu, from the special game burger that rotates occasionally (when I dined it was the goat burger seen below) to the to die for thai-ginger wings farther below. All meats were cooked to perfection, and the pomme frites served alongside them are some of the best fries anywhere. 

    Finally, if you aren't full from all your cheese, pubby starters, and killer sandwiches or fancy plates, you can sample from the most surprisingly delicious section of the menu: the desserts! Below, a mini apple pie with ice cream wowed us all. How can Teresa's cover so many bases? By showing the ability to show restraint in appearance yet variety in flavor, Teresa's shoved it in my face that it is way more than a pub or bar--it's a whole new type of restaurant...and one that I'll need to go back to!

    Thursday, May 22, 2014

    TeenwithTaste on Tour?--Senior Project Extravaganza

    You may have seen me out of school--in early May nonetheless--and wondered: what is he doing with all his time? Well, when I'm not making pizzas at Snap Custom Pizza in Ardmore, PA, I'm working on my Senior Project! The Senior Project is a required study that each senior at LM has to do before he or she graduates. It's super open ended and has allowed for me to take on a project where I make most of the rules.

    For my project, I'm trying to create a picture of what I think "dining out" in America will be like in the future. In the 60s and 70s when McDonald's began appearing everywhere, fast food was on the horizon for America. Now, the scene has changed. My job in a fast-casual style restaurant has caused me to think about what kind of restaurant will succeed in the future of America. Americans want food quickly--but with a level of quality. The  environment one gets from Snap, for instance, offers food quickly without compromising quality. But Snap is not the entire answer to my question--what about those who want luxurious food? Or food even more on-the-go than fast-casual can offer?

    Today, I spent time exploring one path I see food walking in the future: the food truck. Food trucks are becoming a staple in cities across America. A good food truck offers high quality food served up on the go, in whatever relaxing environment it's parked in. Today, I visited three trucks parked in LOVE Park, in Philadelphia.

    First, I visited the "Foo Truck," an Asian sandwich truck that--while it didn't look gorgeous on the outside--seemed to pack a flavorful punch into every sandwich it put out and draw a huge crowd--see below! The concept of the Foo Truck is that they take what would be traditional Asian dishes (Lemongrass Chicken, Thai Chicken Curry) and serve them up ready-to-go in a tortilla wrap or "Foowich." When I finally made it through the mob waiting for their food, I ordered Saigon Pork-Belly Foowich Special. Pictured below, it was a succulent combination I just couldn't get enough of! A cool and creamy carrot-daikon slaw (think fancy coleslaw) paired insanely well with the rich, sweet pork belly. I'll definitely have to catch up with The Foo Truck again in the future...and you should too! See what's happening at

    Next, I visited the Vernalicious truck. A cleaner design than Foo Truck, but, confusingly, it didn't have the crowd. To make things worse, I realized that I couldn't figure out what kind of food the truck specialized in. The name "Vernalicious" didn't lend itself to any region or type of cuisine. The menu, shown below, confused me further. The top billed item was a pulled pork sandwich, but the next three items were greek specialties! I spoke with an older woman named Claudia who had dined at Vernalicious before, but she couldn't seem to do anything other than rave about the pulled pork sandwich.

    I tried the Spanakopita because it's not only one of my favorite dishes to eat but one of my favorites to prepare as well. I was excited--and kind of nervous--to see how the chefs would serve what is usually known as a delicate dish in such a raucous setting, passing it out of a glorified car onto a street corner. Not only was I disappointed with their presentation--the phyllo wasn't flaky, it all seemed uncomfortably doughy--but I was also uncomfortable with the taste. Spanakopita is generally pure: spinach and feta is required; nothing else can take the front seat. With Vernalicious' spanakopita, there was some overwhelming flavor I couldn't place that absolutely soiled the taste I was hoping for from the spinach and feta. Finally, my piece was slightly burned on the bottom. If you want to catch up with Vernalicious later, check, but I can't promise you'll like it. The plate of spanakopita is shown below.

    The final truck I went to was the "Cupcake Carnivale" truck. The truck didn't have any sort of crowd, so I decided to strike up a conversation with the only employee in the truck, a nice young lady named Christine. Christine explained she wasn't worried about the fall in sales because she had been at a festival all weekend over a thousand cupcakes each day. After talking about her truck for a few minutes, Christine sold me the signature Carnivale Red Velvet Cupcake seen below. There might have been a little too much cream cheese icing on top, but the cake and the icing were both well done and I was quite pleased with the cupcake as a whole.

    Overall, I had a great day in Love Park! I'm excited to see other food trucks in different neighborhoods of Philadelphia--I'll keep you updated on the mission to see if anyone can top what I tasted today!

    Sunday, April 27, 2014

    La Taqueria me hizo feliz--Taqueria Feliz, Manayunk, PA

    Hey Everyone!

    As my senior year winds down, I'm finding more time in what should be less time. As I manage finishing up my schoolwork, working my job making pizzas, and doing other extraneous things like mowing my lawn and finding a matching bow tie and suspender set for my senior prom, I've also managed to try out some new and interesting restaurants and recipes. Today I have a restaurant, but I'll have a recipe soon!

    A few weeks ago I read an interesting positive review of "La Taqueria Feliz" (located at 4410 Main Street in Manayunk, PA, Laban's ReviewTheir Website) by Philly Inquirer critic Craig Laban. So, when my family sat, wondering where to go on a cool and early Saturday night--I knew we had to try this new spot out.

    La Taqueria Feliz is but one restaurant in a booming enterprise invested in by investment partners Brian Sirhal and Tim Spinner. La Taqueria is the newest, most casual addition into the family, where each restaurant incorporates the spanish word for happy into the name (see: "La Calaca Feliz") The decorations, including a sheet metal laser cut with the restaurant's name, are bright and exciting; the layout just works.

    The food just works too. The chips came out hot (which is so easy and I always scowl when a restaurant can't pull it off), and the salsas and guacamoles are delicious and varied. The classic salsa is thin and soupy but packs a flavorful punch, and the guacamole is smooth and a little bit plain, but with a lovely citrus-flooded aftertaste.

    The drinks, cited by Laban as the easy way La Taqueria draws the young Manayunk crowd that creates the bustling atmosphere, were tasty, but slightly undeserving of any overhype. A good mexican restaurant should serve a decent margarita, as La Taqueria does. The Dead Man Ryes (below, first) was a tickling rye whiskey and cranberry drink and the Feliz Margarita (below, further) was, as it needed to be, a formidable option. The restaurant also offers more adventurous cocktails such as the "Moonshine Margarita" and the "Three Chili Margarita" which proved too scary for any of us to try.

    The entreès were where La Taqueria Feliz earned its stripes. I ordered the Enchiladas de Pollo with Mole Oaxaqueno sauce and was blown away. The tortillas, handmade in house by chef Lucio Palazzo, were stuffed to the brim with well-cooked and juicy shredded chicken. They were then bathed in a deliciously crafted mole sauce--sweet and spicy at the same time, smooth and complementary to the chicken, while not overwhelming.

     I also sampled the Brisket Al Suadero tacos coated in the famous Salsa de Arbol. The brisket was well cooked and tender, but the salsa may have been a little overwhelming. The heat was just too much to be eaten without a coolant--chef Palazzo would've done well to attach some of his smooth guacamole to the dish.

    Finally, I merely witnessed consumption of the Red Snapper Enchipotlado, a well cooked piece of fish with a few sides (labeled as a "Plato Fuerte" or, "Strong plate" on the menu) like a seriously spicy corn salsa and some of La Taqueria's deliciously coated sweet plantains which we also ordered extra of as a side. It might not look awesome, but blame that on my poor iPhone photography, not the restaurant.

    Overall, La Taqueria Feliz excited us. We can rarely find quality Mexican food and an exciting, hip environment without making the trek into the city, so when we can, it's quite thrilling. The most exciting part for me, is that I've only tasted one of La Taqueria's highlights: The restaurant is, arguably, better known for it's lamb barbacoa dish and its exotic "Tacos de Chapulínes" (that's grasshoppers for all you gringos). All I can say is that I can't wait to try those two when I will most certainly be going back to La Taqueria Feliz soon.

    Sunday, March 30, 2014

    Snap and Szechuan--What have I been up to?

    Sorry to all of you, my loyal readers, for the times recently that I've deflected your questions of, "When will you be posting a new entry?!?!" with "uh, soon." It's not so much that I've been busy experimenting in the kitchen or eating out lately--it's that I've been busy working. I recently got a job making pizzas at Snap Custom Pizza ( in Ardmore, PA. 

    Snap, which opened last Monday (March 24th), is the creation of the owner and investment team of Peace-a-Pizza (, the locally-started pizza chain that now has multiple locations in the Philadelphia area. Snap Custom Pizza replaced the first Peace-a-Pizza location in the storefront looking out on 4 Station Ave, Ardmore. The space was completely redesigned with a rustic look in mind, using refurbished and polished wooden tables and cast metal piping for light fixtures. A small piece of the dining area can be seen below. 

    The ambiance of Peace-a-Pizza was not the only element that was completely redesigned--the concept and menu are completely new. Essentially, Snap's concept could be thought of as that of Chipotle's--but with artisan pizzas. We set you up with an 11-inch personal pizza and you get to flood that pie with a wide array of sauces, cheeses, meats, vegetables, and condiments, all for one fitting price of $7.49. If you can't seem to handle the pressure of putting together a pizza yourself, we've put together 8 signature pies that we're sure yield scrumptious combinations. Below are some of the original creations my co-workers and I have come up with whilst taking breaks from serving customers: 

    Come in to Snap Sunday-Thursday 11AM-9PM or Friday-Saturday 11AM-10PM! If you're lucky, maybe you'll get a pizza made by a TeenwithTaste!

    Continuing--if you read the title of this post you realize we've only talked about half of what we were supposed to--I had an amazing dinner at Traditional Szechuan (No website--yes, it's that authentic) at 935 Arch Street in Philadelphia. T.S. is a true Szechuan restaurant where the menu probably has more written in Chinese characters than it does in English script. The waitstaff spoke little broken English, and most of the customers were not curly haired Jewish boys like I am. This made for a truly one-of-a-kind meal.

    The menu had surprisingly few markings denoting spice: Szechuan food is notoriously hot, wielding a spice unseen in most other types of Chinese cuisine. Our waitress tried her best to hint at which foods we should and shouldn't order, some being just too spicy for our white people taste buds. We had the Garlic Chicken, Ma Po Tofu, and the Szechuan Beef Hot Pot (all below) among other appetizers and well crafted, delicate bowls of wonton soup. 

    Across the board our dishes were delicious and intriguing; we had never tasted anything quite like these plates. Each bite of my hot pot brought a new fiery whirlwind of power on to the tip of my tongue. If I had any complaint, it would've been that my beef wasn't well prepped--I tasted a few too many bites of gristle and fat. However, I can't imagine that fat wasn't what made my broth taste thick and delicious. Maybe a more careful cooking/trimming process would've done the chef well.

    Additionally, the menu was a hefty four pages long, showing us that we really could continually come back again and again with new experiences every time. We saw may regulars order a dish dubbed the "ChongQing Spicy Chicken," that appeared to be chicken and chili peppers presented on an elaborate aluminum foil tower. We were warned not to try it--and thus shied away--but I really couldn't stomach going back without giving that dish a shot. 

    Finally, I managed to bake a little bit after one long work day. I had a cookie craving, so I whipped up a batch of these dark chocolate and sweet coconut cookies. No recipe this time...let's just call it a secret recipe ;). 

    I hope to post again soon! I have plenty of culinary adventures left to show to all of you! 


    Sunday, February 23, 2014

    Breakfast in my own Backyard! Sabrina's Café--Wynnewood, PA

    There's been a lot of buzz surrounding the brand spankin' new branch Sabrina's Café in scenic ol' Wynnewood. From when the word of the Philadelphia favorite coming to our small suburb was barely sprouting in the rumor mill of Tronceletti's Barbershop over a year ago to the past few months when all of us gossiping townsfolk were sneaking around watching as the kitchenware was loaded into the storefront-- and finally to the opening yesterday-- the journey to having a great breakfast place in our neighborhood has been a long one. I'm happy to say the road has come to a fresh and delicious culdesac with Sabrina's Café. 

    If there's any major negative to Sabrina's, it's that you can't just waltz in and start stuffing your face. Because it built up so much hype, Sabrina's has (and will have) a constant line out the door. When I got there at a crisp 9 A.M (Jews trying to beat the post-church crowd time), we were met with a 45-minute wait. We waited, despite the dearth of seating for those who pile up waiting for tables, and were finally seated after what really was a true 45 minute wait. 

    After that glum start, the meal was fabulous. The menu at Sabrina's was smaller than I'd imagined, an average sized amalgamation of omelettes, griddle products, and a medium sized lunch/dinner menu of sandwiches, salads, and burgers. 

    The most famous item on the menu--to be seen on any given main-line teen's Instagram feed with a flood of likes-- is the stuffed french toast. Sabrina's lays out four humongous triangles of french toast (which they argue fit into two regular pieces of toast) and stuffs them with a cream cheese frosting mixture. No one I was dining with could stomach filling their body with that much richness in the morning--it was a wimpy Sunday--but, as you can see below, one of us did order the regular french toast. It was still delicious with a sugary crust on it and coated in Sabrina's signature vanilla bean syrup. 

    Another one of us got mexi-special omelette (below). This would've been great, but it was outshined by the huevos rancheros (further below). The huevos rancheros were absolutely mind blowing. It's a mouthful: two fried eggs topped with house made spicy guacamole and lime sour cream sauce over a spicy chorizo-bean-salsa mixture, also served with pico de gallo, all on top of two crispy blue corn tortillas, served with a side of fried breakfast potatoes and topped with a fried jalepeño. The dish encompassed everything that is good about spicy food in the morning: it had heat, but no element overpowered any other. At any given time I could taste the smooth guacamole, the intensely spicy chorizo, and the natural flavor of the fried eggs. If I had any complaint it would've been that the breakfast potatoes weren't quite hot. They seemed as though they'd been sitting out of the fryer for a few minutes. I guess that's what you get when you deep fry your potatoes instead of letting them sit on an old flat top. Nevertheless, the actual dish itself was arguably flawless. 

    I'm so excited to go back to Sabrina's soon! Time to work my way through the rest of the menu!

    For more information visit

    Saturday, February 15, 2014

    New Local Café Falls Flat! The Tasting Room--Ardmore, PA

    I like to think that I'm pretty easy to please. I like simple food that has a developed flavor to it. I rarely leave a restaurant with little positive to say about it because most types of foods appeal to me. Yesterday, I had the privilege of trying out a brand new restaurant in my own backyard, ready to make it an everyday favorite. Let's just say I'm still looking for that everyday favorite.

    "The Tasting Room" had a meager setup, just a few tables cramped into a small storefront, but was well put together. A clean appearance with a glass case holding most dishes--you order your food at the counter and see it there before it arrives to your table--and the limited menu chalked onto the rustic blackboard seen below.
    Our meal started off nicely as we talked with the co-owner of the restaurant. Joe Petrucci, the brains behind the operation, explained the restaurant's unusual style. As you can see on the board above, each dish can be ordered in any of three sizes: Taste, Entreé, or Family. My dining companion and I wanted to sample a few things, so we ordered various dishes in tasting and entreé sizes. The family size is really only ideal for picking up quick and large takeout dinners--it serves 3-4 people.

    The premise had me. I was enthralled with the idea that I could split up my lunch (and its cost) between different mini-courses. It seemed like such a brilliant scheme that I couldn't believe anyone hadn't come up with it before. But I had yet to taste the food...
    I first tasted the sweet potato fries (above), boasted by the owner to be healthily prepared in an oven and organic (not something I'm concerned with but never a detriment to the food), a big crowd pleaser. I had never tasted worse sweet potato fries in my life. They were completely overcooked, until the oven had sapped all the delicious potato flesh out of them. The disappointment of baking french fries (as opposed to frying them) is that they simply will not taste as good. Healthier, sadly, rarely is a synonym for "more delicious." Even so, there is little excuse for overcooking them.

    I also tasted the lobster bisque (above), the soup of the day. The soup base itself was just average, it didn't have much body to it but the flavor wasn't terrible. The disappointment here was that the soup had little actual lobster in it. After I scooped out two small chunks, my soup bowl might as well have been empty.
    Other dishes I sampled included the brussels sprouts and the "Twenty-Something-Spice Meatloaf" (above). I think my problem with the meatloaf adequately represented my overall gripe with the restaurant: why use twenty spices when you can use two? My first bite kicked me in the pants and out the door of the restaurant.  I looked at the board, saw the explanation that the meatloaf was a mix of beef and pork, and realized that I couldn't even feel the familiar taste pork gives my tongue because the meat had been pushed aside in favor of spices.
    The final dish I tasted was the "Three Cheese Mac n' Cheese" (above). This was the only dish I enjoyed. The cheeses were tasty, well selected, and well blended, and the dish wasn't killed by too many obscure herbs. Additionally, it was topped with an adequate amount of adequately toasted breadcrumbs. Sadly, I can't see myself coming back to this restaurant for one decent dish.

    Finally, for those whose first time it is reading this blog, let me be clear: I hate giving bad reviews, especially to local places. I really want Ardmore to be successful and welcome new and interesting restaurants. Still, I will not recommend a restaurant if I dislike it as much as this one. I left the restaurant feeling uncomfortable: the interesting idea for a restaurant that I had been so excited about not even an hour ago had already been dumped over my head. What could have been? We will never know, unless "The Tasting Room" makes some big changes.

    For more information, visit:

    Sunday, February 9, 2014

    Simplicity and Authenticity ALWAYS Win. Lee How Fook-- Philadelphia, PA

    Recently, after my mother saw a positive reference to a first review of it by Philly Inquirer food critic Craig Laban, my family traveled to a restaurant called Lee How Fook in Philadelphia's Chinatown. Naturally, we had to try the spot out.

    Lee How Fook is the definition of modest. The storefront (above) is meager, with an unassuming sign out front.  The restaurant can't hold more than 30 or so, and the kitchen appears to occupy at least half of the total area of the store. Nevertheless, this modesty carries to the food. The food appears simple and unassuming. Just WAIT 'till you try it.

    The simply presented food packs a flavor punch that's indescribable. The pork buns, below, absolutely blew my mind. The components of the dish were laid out simply in front of me. Pork, a simple celery looking vegetable I can't say I could identify for sure, green onion, a  soft mustard sauce, the perfectly put together pork, and the "buns." The plate looked plain, almost too plain. Then, I assembled a bun. The bun itself seemed undercooked--but it wasn't. It was a strange, puffy dough I had never seen before. But it made my mouth absolutely tingle. It's emptiness let the pork shine through, the sauce tickling my tongue and the meat itself melting in my mouth. The plate was one I will never forget.
    Along with the buns, I tasted the vegetable dumplings (below) and the wonton soup (also below). The dumplings were good, but I can't say any different from many others I've had. The wonton soup was pretty much perfect, one of the best bowls I've seen. The wontons were crafted so particularly, packed tightly in a paper thin wrapper. 

    The main courses rolled out of the kitchen and at this point I was nearly satisfied. The restaurant had begun to prove itself and all I needed was the nail in the coffin. I'd love to say the main courses did that--but they didn't quite. Across the board they were good, but not amazing. My father ordered a sort of tofu dish that he claimed to be quite good. My mother, conservatively, ordered the chicken lettuce wraps. These were good, but no better than at any other restaurant. Probably not the best thing to order if you were interested in finding out how skilled a chef is. Finally, I ordered the lemon duck, which was pretty delicious, if a little over-fried. As you can see, all the plates are fairly simple, coinciding with the style of the restaurant. All dishes are below: the duck, the tofu, and the chicken, in that order, from top to bottom.

    Nevertheless, the restaurant blew me away. The straightforward and ordinary appearance of the place and the food initially tricked me into thinking it would just be a normal meal--but I couldn't have been more wrong. I highly recommend Lee How Fook for a great, honest meal next time you're in Philadelphia in search of some good Chinese food. 

    For more information, visit the website by clicking here