April 30, 2013


After nine years of living in Philly, you'd think we'd be well acquainted with the restaurant scene.  But there are still hidden gems waiting to be discovered, including Chloe, a small, quiet restaurant tucked just off the busy district in Old City on Arch Street.  I know I've been to this block (we adopted our cat from the PAWS location at 2nd and Arch), but don't recall ever seeing such a cute storefront.

Considered a "New American BYOB," we were introduced via a gift certificate.  Our aunt knows our love of dining out and wanted to share one of her favorite spots in the city with us.  The interior is bright and tables are well-spaced considering the size of the dining room.  It's perfect for a date night with your long time significant other- relaxed, casual, and cozy.  The menu really runs the gamut for such a small place, with daily specials nearly doubling the options.

Plenty of fresh seafood and meat options, but room for the vegetarians too-- our waiter kindly tipped us that several dishes could be made meat free (not that we want that, but we appreciate the gesture).

Instead of a basic bread basket, you start with a wonderful plate of fresh grilled pita bread and deliciously creamy hummus.  I ended up finishing the hummus with a spoon once we ran out of bread-- not too garlicky with a hint of heat.

Lots of the pita went into the bowl of mussels with which we started our meal (the specials weren't priced out and we never looked at prices since we weren't paying-- apologies!).  The white wine + garlic + butter sauce was a great rendition of the classic, and paired well with the plump mussels (just as big as the monsters we recently had at Route 6!).  I loved the addition of roasted tomatoes and leeks, although it's hard to get it all in one bite.  The promised smoked pork sausage was absent, so is probably added in post-cooking in case anyone wants a pork-free dish.

 Any time there is a steak on the menu, my husband is going to go for it (unless there is a burger.. in which case I'm not sure what he would do!), so the grilled ribeye was his choice for dinner ($29).  Rubbed in a spice mixture that includes Kona coffee, the steak gets a solid sear on the grill.  Even though he requested a medium and the interior was a perfect pink, there was still lots of that good char adding plenty of extra flavor.  The steak is served over potato "planks" and wilted spinach, classic steakhouse sides done simply.  A big pat of butter as well as house-made worcestershire gave several options for each bite, but a solid cut of beef really doesn't need the extras.

The salmon is also grilled, again a great choice for an extra dimension in a plate with otherwise simple flavors ($22).  Simple doesn't have to mean bland though-- a chunky basil pesto was just right with the fish (and inspiration for a dish I have bookmarked in my brain!).  A square of crispy polenta was topped with a sweet-and-sour eggplant chutney- I didn't love the vinegar element of the eggplant, but adored the creamy corn cake.

And of course, our meal had to end on a sweet note.  The dessert options are limited but provide a few classics, including a light cheesecake with a raspberry sauce.  The imperfections of the cake suggested it was homemade- it was more ricotta pie than classic New York cheesecake, but we welcomed it after a filling dinner.

The rumors I had heard about the ice cream selection were true- they are sourced from Franklin Fountain, just down the street.  I wish this were the case at more restaurants around town- a single scoop of really well-made plain vanilla ice cream is seriously satisfying and doesn't break the bank or your waistline.

Although at the time I kept wondering how I had never been to Chloe, I'm kind of glad it has taken me so long to discover it.  Keeping up with the restaurant scene and food trends can be kind of exhausting, and it's really nice just to fall back on the simple, comfortable neighborhood cornerstones waiting patiently for me to come on in.

Chloe BYOB
232 Arch Street

April 26, 2013

Loco Pez

Sometimes we get really excited about a restaurant, and it lets us down. As much as I hate to admit it, Loco Pez falls in that category.  The hipster-y cash-only Mexi-bar with an eternal wait somehow has an incredibly loyal following, but we just don't get the hype.  Arriving just after 6 on a Thursday means 45 minutes for a table for two.  Thankfully the new Cedar Point Bar & Kitchen right across the street offered a quiet spot to take the edge off our appetite with some tasty cornmeal-battered fried pickles.

Yes, we get it. You're cash only.

The menu is pretty straightforward- a variety of meat options available in taco, enchilada, burrito, or quesadilla form.  A few basic apps and sides, a short "cowboy menu" (think burgers and hot dogs) and you're done.  With our preview meal at COOK delivering some stellar tacos, that was the primary focus of the evening.

However, we made a detour at the beginning to check out the tortilla soup ($4).  The masterpiece of a bowl of food that we had at La Calaca Feliz had me hankering for more, but Loco Pez dropped the ball.  The descriptions of the two soups are almost interchangeable, but the Loco Pez version seemed incredibly watery and underseasoned.  After we fished out the few soggy tortilla strips and pieces of avocado, the bland broth got pushed to the side.

We somehow narrowed down the meat choices to five- oddly enough, the first five going down the list.  Served on single-layered corn tortillas that held up well to their offerings, the tacos had a good ratio of tortilla to meat.  Each was garnished with fresh cilantro and a sprinkle of chopped raw onion, and we had the option to add a squeeze of lime juice and a few slices of radish.  I'm more of a taco purist- the meat should speak for itself.  Unfortunately, the two pork options were pretty bland- the al pastor ($1.75) and the cochinita pibil ($2.25) tasted like dry slow-cooker pulled pork without the spices or sauces. The pineapple on the al pastor was a thoughtful addition, but they both definitely needed the upgrade of the lime juice acidity.  A little hot sauce helped too.

The pollo taco ($1.75) surprisingly had more flavor than the pork- I'm assuming they use a mix of dark and white meat chicken for a boost in fat and flavor.  Big chunks of meat are soaked in a light tomato-y broth- juicy and well-cooked.  A good taco for the less adventurous palate.  The carne asada ($2.50) unfortunately went the way of the pork- dry, underseasoned shreds of meat.  The chorizo and potato ($1.75) was definitely the best bet, with a mix of textures and a bit of spice from the sausage.

We ventured into non-mammal territory with an order of camarones enchiladas ($14).  Three soft flour tortillas are stuffed with chopped shrimp and coated with an ancho chile sauce, plenty of cheese, and some chopped scallions. A mild salsa and a healthy serving of refried beans and rice rounded out the dish, making the higher price tag well worth it.  Based on what I remember about the fried fish tacos at COOK, seafood is significantly tastier than meat here at Loco Pez.

To confirm this realization, an order of three cochinita pibil "quesadillas" ($8.50) brought us back to Boringville.  Shredded meat and a little bit of melted cheese (too flavorless to discern what kind it was) folded into an overly crisped tortilla does not a quesadilla make.  It was more like another taco, just in a larger wrapper.  The whole thing was just so dry... Apparently I like my quesadillas steamed closed because there were just too many crunchy tortilla edges here.

I wish I had better things to say about Loco Pez but between the wait, the subpar food, and the annoying cash only element (especially for a place with a liquor license?)... we probably won't be returning.  However, after our quick visit to Cedar Point with it's spacious feel, incredibly friendly staff, and of course fried pickles...we'll be back in the neighborhood soon.

Loco Pez
2401 E Norris St
cash only (bitches)

April 24, 2013

Manayunk Spring StrEAT Food Festival 2013

The burgeoning food truck population in Philly is bringing us better and better food-- the more trucks, the more competition, and this promotes both creativity and quality.  However, they seem to be scattered throughout the city, and oftentimes are only open during lunchtime hours.  That means for those of us with day jobs, we're limited in the trucks with which we have access-- it's a sad predicament.

Thankfully, the great people at Manayunk Development Corporation must have realized this First World Problem, and solved it (if just for one day at a time) with the Manayunk StrEAT Food Festival.  Over THIRTY trucks were invited to take part, and lined up along Manayunk's beautiful Main Street, in addition to plenty of other attractions: gourmet food vendors (who don't have trucks but still want to feed the masses!), restaurant specials at a dozen brick-and-mortar places to eat along the way, tons of specials in shops and retailers, and live music and entertainment.  All of that, combined with a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon and it's a winning combination.  Somewhat unfortunately for us, it wasn't a secret, and visitors and residents came out in the hundreds.

The Necessary Main Street Map
The Development Office was super generous and offered us press passes to the event-- which got us free samples at trucks (not ALL of them, but most of them!).  Next time, we want the ability to go to the front of the line, mmmkay?  JUST kidding-- but the lines/crowds were definitely the only downside to the day.  The trucks were parked along the sidewalk, offering limited space to stand in line, and made squeezing past the mob around each truck difficult (dear parents of little ones: no double wide strollers at a street fair!).  Thankfully, even with the huge crowd, we only waited 10-15 minutes at each truck.

First up: Mac Mart, a mac-n-cheese truck (**not Say Cheese, as we originally reported- they make grilled cheese, also ingenious).  Yep, brilliant idea.  I ordered the chicken BBQ mac, which comes with chunks of chicken marinated in a barbecue sauce, drizzled with more sauce and topped with bread crumbs.  The best part was definitely the creamy mac underneath-- not clumpy or overly cheesy, but just right.  Deceptively large portion as well!

Lil Dan's was the next in line, and they were (thankfully!) making tiny sandwiches for those getting press samples, instead of serving an entire portion.  I needed to maximize stomach space, and the six bite sandwich was perfect to sample.  I ordered the "Bella," with balsamic glazed chicken, broccoli rabe, provolone, and roasted red peppers.  A classic Italian combination with all the right flavors, and a perfectly soft Amoroso roll to hold it all together.  Mindblowing?  No.  But I could eat this for lunch daily and be a happy camper.

Moving down the street, we stopped at Delicia's, a truck that is actually located close to my Penn place of employment.  Their specialty: arepas.  Let me just stop to comment that I automatically love anything made with corn.  Therefore, an arepa is kind of my dream food: a little pita like pocket made out of chewy masa dough.  The one I chose was stuffed with "chicken salad"-- shredded chicken mixed with avocado and subtle seasonings.  I topped it with some hot sauce to give it a little extra flair but it really didn't need it-- the simple ingredients were still incredibly satisfying.  The fluffy corn pocket was definitely my favorite part, although not super flavorful on its own.  The bad thing about how much I liked this?  I ate the majority of it, leaving me stuffed and unable to venture on to more trucks!

I brought my husband as a fellow food taster and he stopped at Local 215, a truck I've heard little about but that offered interesting options, including pork belly buns.  Not your traditional bao bun, but instead a fluffy, slightly sweet bread-y bun stuffed with marinated and grilled pork belly and sweet pickled radishes and cucumbers.  Pretty expensive compared to other trucks, especially for the smaller portion (I think it was $8).

Even though I had trouble continuing on, I ended up sampling an ice cream sandwich from Little Baby's Ice Cream, which absolutely rocked my world.  I was hesitant to pay when so many trucks were giving away free samples, but it was worth the $5 I handed over for the almond-fennel cookies sandwiching the coffee toffee ice cream (weird combination, but ridiculously good).  My dairy-averse husband stopped at Sweet Box for a red velvet cupcake-- they suggested waiting for it to warm a bit before eating, but there was no stopping him.  Dense and not overly sweet, it's a perfect dessert for a food truck to carry.

The Manayunk office is planning to host another of these festivals in the fall, and we're hoping to attend again!  They are even contemplating closing down Main Street to traffic to give attendees more room to  enjoy themselves-- and maybe room for more trucks as well!

April 16, 2013

Nan Zhou

Fresh off of our adventure to Nam Phuong in South Philly, we're awakened to the opportunities for cheap, delicious food in our cities dozens (probably hundreds!) of ethnic restaurants.  These places aren't out to win awards or garner four bells from Mr. LaBan, but instead are just interested in filling bellies and satisfying souls.  However, some of them still get attention from the press, with Nan Zhou recently on the Inquirer's chopping block.  The review (two bells) had me intrigued from the start, and was more than enough to have me running to Chinatown the following weekend.

Nan Zhou Noodle House has been in Philly for almost ten years, but recently moved to a new home near the corner of 11th and Race Street.  Great for us, as the new space is apparently twice as big as the old spot.  However, it's still packed- we waited for about 10 minutes, although this isn't a place people linger.  Table turnover is quick, so don't expect to wait long.

The interior is pretty simple, a long rectangular space packed with tables.  We sat at a large round table with another group of three- kind of odd, but we've done it before at dim sum, so we weren't too fazed. Tables are ornamented with the necessities: napkins, pots of tea, and the only condiments you may need.

We ordered two small plates to share as appetizers, although the timing of the food is completely erratic, so don't be disappointed if your larger dishes come out first.  LaBan made note of the cold shredded potatoes, and we couldn't resist ($3.95).  Kind of like a mix between cold shredded hash brown potatoes and a noodle salad, the individual strands maintain their potato flavor while providing a texture similar to the strands of carrot throughout.  Soft with a fine film of oil, they reminded me of what I always WANT french fries to taste like the day after they're cooked.

The diced cucumber in sauce ($3.95) sounded familiar- reminding us of Han Dynasty's cold spicy cucumbers with which we have a minor addiction.  These had the same cool crunchiness, but with a flavor profile with much less heat and much more garlic.  Just as addicting, though.

Apparently when dishes average $5, we feel the need to order many of them-- we also had an order of steamed pork and chive dumplings, which were surprisingly the hands down favorite of the meal for all three of us ($4.75).  A generous serving of eight dumplings, these somehow managed to do everything I've always wanted in a dumpling but never seemed to find: maintain a chewy, doughy wrapper without overwhelming the filling, fit at least two large bites of meat into each wrapper (don't you hate when the contents would have trouble filling a teaspoon?), and pack a huge punch of flavor.  The ground meat was mixed with bits of green onion and ginger, making the soy sauce accompaniment completely unnecessary.

If Nan Zhou is famous for one thing, it is obviously the noodles.  There are two types of noodles: hand drawn- ridiculously long, thin spaghetti-like noodles that are stretched and pulled entirely by hand- or shaved, which.. we didn't try.  I know, we're terrible bloggers.  LaBan compared them to a pappardelle.. but I imagine it more like spaetzle from the description of how they're made.  Someone please clarify if you've tried them!

I ordered the noodles in soup form, which come with any variety of meat you can imagine.  The meat quality is definitely not going to be the best, but you're here for the noodles- meat is just adding flavor.  The beef brisket soup is not your Jewish mother's soup- the chunks of brisket are fatty with bits of connective tissue hanging on, but it's soft and falls apart in your mouth ($6.50).  A few stray vegetables aren't enough to convince you what you're eating is healthy, but the snips of fresh herbs add plenty of fresh flavor to the cooked-for-hours broth.

And then... you dive in and finally get to the noodles.  There are seriously at least a pound of noodles in a single bowl-- it's impressive.  It's impossible to find where one ends and another begins, and you may even be tempted to use the scissors provided to help dole out a bite to your dining mate.

The noodles are absolutely phenomenal- well, as good as a simple combination of flour and water gets anyway.  They are really light and almost airy, but very filling- I made three meals out of this bowl.  Just as you can identify fresh pasta at a good Italian restaurant, these are infinitely better than anything from a box.

We veered off the noodle path briefly with an order of fried rice with roast pork (a whopping $7.25).  Full of chopped vegetables and tiny bits of pork, it was just fine- but you won't come to Nan Zhou for fried rice.

Our second noodle dish was a stir fry, also with roasted pork ($8.95).  Roast pork is always a good idea at Asian restaurants- fatty and flavorful.  The dishes at Nan Zhou remain simple- both this and the soup contained everything you'd imagine in a classic Chinese dish, but the fresh noodles elevated each bite beyond your favorite corner China Garden (or Happy Dragon or Golden Palace... Chinese restaurant names could be a whole separate post).  Tons of veggies keep things interesting, and again we were able to make multiple meals out of the enormous plate.

Nan Zhou is one of those places that makes me happy to live in such a big, diverse city-- sure, it's "just" Chinese food, you can get that literally anywhere right?  But the quality and care that go into the dishes here makes it far more valuable than the crazy cheap prices they charge.  Just take care to hit the ATM before you arrive- cash only, although you won't be shelling out any more than $20 for two.

Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House
1022 Race Street

April 11, 2013

Burger Club: Bainbridge Street Barrel House

The March edition of Burger Club PHL was hosted by Bainbridge Street Barrel House, a relatively new gastropub in Queen Village.  Our visit was timely, as Craig LaBan just released his own opinion of the place- unfortunately, a "hit or miss" review.  However, he did have one relevant point: "...the message was clear: The best bets here come on a bun."  Lucky for us, burgers come on a bun.

The new (or rather, rehabbed) space is definitely beer-centric, with a long bar and equally long beer list.  However, members of the Club were given plenty of tables to fit our small crowd- a comfortable and well-lit, spacious neighborhood restaurant.

We also had plenty of options: four specialty burgers, one pork burger, and one veggie burger (falafel).  While I usually make choices based on adventurous toppings, I was in the mood for a simple burger done right... probably an after-effect of the extreme uniqueness of last month's burger at Ela.  Thankfully, BSBH offers the "purists' burger," a simple sandwich of the house ground beef (8 oz patty), a melted layer of cheddar cheese, and a smear of mayo on a brioche bun ($10). 

The bun was a tad on the "bready" side, but it held up well to its fillings and had that shiny, seeded surface for which I will continue to express lots of love. The meat itself was certainly the star, a thick but loosely packed patty with lots of flavor from both seasonings and a little char from the grill.  My medium-rare request came out a little closer to medium (the house temperature of choice), but it was still juicy without being greasy.  The mayo helped counter the dryness of the brioche.  I also loved being able to swap out my fries for a side salad- a mix of romaine, red peppers, crunchy cukes and an avocado based dressing.

The eponymous "Barrel House Burger" is much more of a beast- they really load on the toppings here. This signature burger starts out with the same patty + bun (which is appreciated here to hold everything together!) but adds the following: Muenster cheese, bacon, grilled onions, a house-made IPA-infused mustard, and a super chunky Habanero/cucumber relish.  At $12, this is really on the lower end of the price-range for outrageous burgers in Philly.  They're very generous with the bacon and cheese, but we found the cucumber relish to be a little.. weird. Cucumbers on a burger? I get that it's a "relish" but... smaller pieces at least, please.

A bit of a step-down from the Barrel House, but still a whopping sandwich, is the Sally Smothers ($13).  I have no ideas regarding the origin of the name, but I can only imagine it has something to do with the fact that the patty here is smothered with sharp provolone, crispy fried pancetta, fried shallots, and the most precariously perched over-easy egg yolk I've ever seen.  Seriously, this thing was hanging onto the edge of oblivion.  One bite and this Yelp-er describes it well- "your plate looks like a crime scene."

Another notch down the "crazy scale" brings us to the Burger Meister ($13).  This guy simplifies life a little while still providing a few knock-out punches of flavor.  Crumbled blue cheese and a "raisin himbeer mostarda"-- a fancy name for a mixture of caramelized raisins, a raspberry liqueur, and a mustard-flavored syrup-- pair excellently, while a handful of spinach provides necessary freshness.

Spinach on the side.
The not-really-a-burger category has one member- the Porkenstein ($15).  This is a SERIOUS sandwich, not for the fainthearted.  A 7 oz patty of ground pork starts us off, topped by a slab of pork belly and house cured ham.  Melted Monterey Jack cheese help separate the layers of pork, and the whole pile of pig is topped with a slightly radioactive-looking "secret sauce."  I personally can not imagine consuming this, but I'm sure plenty of pork-lovers are rejoicing.  Our new Burger Club friend finished off the whole thing (and loved it!), so folks, it's possible.

Our experience at Bainbridge St. Barrel House was pretty great.  We did have a long wait for our burgers, but we understand that there are space limitations in a kitchen, and chefs typically don't need to make 25+ burgers all at once.  The staff was apologetic (head chef even tweeted a personal apology for the wait) and took good care of us while we waited.  Everyone seemed to enjoy their meal (burgers were super solid!) and of course we always love catching up with the Burger Club crew.  See you guys in a few weeks!

625 S. 6th St

April 9, 2013

EATS Philly 2013

Spring is finally here, which means Philly's schedule is starting to fill with events and festivals.  We always have our eye on the food festivals, and there is certainly no lack of those either!  Even if you have a packed weekend social schedule, you can find weekday events as well- and even better, one in particular that benefits a great charity with local roots.  EATS Philly 2013 is set for Tuesday, April 23rd from 6 to 9 PM.

EATS Philly 2013 is kind of a mix of a million things everyone loves: a fundraiser started by well-known Manayunk chef Moon Krapugthong, donations benefitting children, street eating (if there's one thing Philly does right, it's food trucks!), competition (Iron Chef "throwdown" style), a dozen of your favorite chefs, and a super trendy hot spot locale for it all to happen in.  Whew.

Here's the rundown of what to expect:

  • Great chance to visit Vie, one of the best and largest new venues in the city (we've walked by and been very intrigued!)
Vie; Source
  • Street food samples provided by a variety of trucks representing Philadephia Mobile Food Association, including:
    • The Cow and the Curd
    • Nomad Pizza
    • Sammy Chon's
    • Foo Truck
    • and more!
Hello Battered Fried Cheese Curds, Source
  • Chef Throwdown, with chefs creating street food dishes in a high-energy competition with play-by-play commentary provided by NBC10 Reporter Tom Furlong.  Chefs include:
    • Aimee Olexy
    • Marcie Turney
    • Greg Vernick
    • Richard Landau & Kate Jacoby
    • Sylva Senat (Tashan)
    • Tim Spinner (Calaca Feliz)
  • A live auction for goods including:
    • A restaurant review visit with Craig LaBan
    • A week in Costa Rica
    • A sport's package with tickets to all major Philly sports
    • Private dinner for 16 at COOK
  • All proceeds benefit kitchen renovations at:
    • Children's Village: an early learning program for children in Philadelphia's Chinatown
    • Wat Bodd Voraditth Orphanage in Thailand's Angthong Province

Buy tickets at the EATS Philly Eventbrite site; $75 tickets gets you a sampling of food and drinks and plenty of entertainment by the Chef Throwdown.  Splurge for the $150 VIP ticket and sample the food prepared by the chefs in the competition, as well as access to more food and drinks.  All tickets come with complimentary valet parking.  Hope to see you there!

April 7, 2013

Smitten Kitchen's Key Lime Cheesecake

Alright guys, I'm still completely devoted to Deb Perelman's famed Smitten Kitchen.  It's become my go-to for pretty much any recipe- she has such a great mix of desserts and main dishes, breakfasts and snacks, influences from a variety of different cultures, and her recipes are NO FAIL.  As long as I follow the directions, I know I'll end up with a superb dish.  I've even persuaded a few friends (without much difficulty) to make it their go-to as well.

I offered to bring dessert to our Easter dinner celebration with my husband's family this year, and "borrowed" 5-6 recipes from Deb's blog as possibilities, running a tiny poll to determine what would be best.  I wanted something that would look elegant but wouldn't take all day to make.  Her Key Lime Cheesecake won out, but instead of making mini single servings, I made a (my FIRST!) full size cheesecake instead- with help from my twin, of course.

Smitten Kitchen's Key Lime Cheesecake
(makes one 9" cheesecake)

1 sleeve of plain graham crackers, finely crushed
                     OR 1 1/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
3 tbsp. sugar
1/2 stick butter, melted (Deb suggested unsalted but I think either would work fine)

2 (8 ounce each) packaged cream cheese
1 cup sugar
3/4 c. key lime juice (Nellie and Joe's recommended, sold at Whole Foods)
1/2 c. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
2.5 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3 eggs

Kitchen equipment
Stand mixer or hand mixer
9" springform
baking sheet with rim

From start to finish, this cake should take you about an hour and a half to put together, but plan to factor in several hours of cooling time.

First step: making the crust.  We crushed the grahams in a plastic bag with a meat mallet until finely crumbled, then combined it with the sugar and melted butter to form a wet "dough."  J was assigned the task of pressing it into the 9" springform pan (first buttered on bottom and sides); it helps to use a buttered spoon to prevent sticking to your fingers.  Crust should run 1/3 of the way up the sides of the pan.  Once prepared, parbake in a 350 degree oven for 8 minutes, then cool and adjust the oven temperature to 325.

Pre-bake; iPhone pic!
Next: the filling.  It's actually super easy and quick but a few precautions must be made.  My goal was to make a PRETTY dessert-- Smitten suggests making a topping of fresh mango and whipped cream, but I was keeping things simple and therefore didn't want a cake with a cracked top.  There seem to be three main ways to prevent cracking:

1) Minimally mix after addition of eggs
2) Bake in a water bath (easier than it sounds!)
3) Bake at a low temperature

Anyways, to make the filling, beat cream cheese until fluffy-- just a couple of minutes. It helps to start with room temperature cream cheese, but 20 seconds in the microwave does the trick if you're starting with the cold stuff.  Next, beat in sugar, then key lime juice, sour cream, and vanilla.  Mix in the flour and salt at low speed, just until incorporated (at this point, you're trying to avoid adding air to the mix).  Mix in the eggs JUST until homogeneous.  Done!

Carefully pour over your pre-baked crust.  Next, cover the bottom of the pan with foil, making sure the foil reaches about 2" up the sides.  Place onto a baking sheet or baking pan, then add boiling water until you've either nearly filled the pan OR about halfway up the side of the springform.  Since I was using a baking sheet, I couldn't add quite that much water.  The tin foil should keep the springform dry, otherwise you may get some leaking and end up with a wet crust-- no good.

The set-up
Bake for an hour and ten minutes at 325, until top is smooth and set.  Cheesecake will continue to set after it's cool, but it felt solid to my (gentle) touch.  I've never baked a full size cheesecake, but I still felt like I knew when it was done.

Now for the hard part: leave it be for at least 3-4 hours, cooling on a wire rack.  It should be completely cooled before you remove it.  Word of warning: I thought mine was cool but eventually I moved it to a cake carrier in the fridge and still ended up with a good deal of condensation on the cake, making for a slightly soggy crust.  Even when it feels cool to the touch, it can't hurt to give it another couple of hours cooling time- just keep it in a cool, dry place.

The cake pulled away from the edges as it cooled, making it super easy to remove from the springform.  I was too nervous to slide it onto a cake stand, but leaving it on the springform base made it much easier to transport to dinner.

The final product was just as I wanted it to be: light and fluffy, with a sweet, crumbly crust and a cool lime filling.  It's weird how much of a difference key lime juice makes, adding a bit of sweetness to the typically tart lime.  I also managed to produce a flawless uncracked cake-- and seriously, if I can do it, so can you!

A perfect Easter dessert as it just screams of spring, but this would be just as good after a Sunday supper this summer.  Many props as always to Smitten for her flawless recipes-- although I did make some tweaks to scale up, the essential tips were all found in her simple but detailed instructions.  I'm definitely inspired to make other flavors of cheesecake now that I know how easy it can be!

April 1, 2013


With the coming of spring and the promise of warmer weather, the recent opening of a new frozen yogurt shop right off of South Street is rather timely.  We're pretty addicted to Rita's custard, but we're always open to trying new frozen treats.  We popped into Igloo to check out what they have to offer.

The space is incredibly clean, sleek, and modern, with stainless steel fixtures and white flooring and seating area- a little harsh and aseptic, but bright.  There are currently 8 flavors available on the self-serve machines- these work just like any other fro-yo place.  Grab a cup at the front and mix and match flavors.  Each flavor had a description as well as flavor pairing and topping recommendations.  Of the 8 flavors (a mix of fat-free and low-fat), two were "sorbets" and one of these was dairy-free (strawberry!).

My one complaint (and this is true for almost all fro-yo shops) is that the self-serve cups are ENORMOUS.  Which of course makes you buy more (sold by the ounce!) and I prefer to keep my fro-yo consumption in check (at least to some degree). I added three flavors (strawberry sorbet, dark chocolate sorbet, and peanut butter yogurt) as well as a sprinkling of chocolate chips to fill my cup about half-way.  The chocolate was reminscent of Capogiro's dark chocolate gelato (the perfect mix of sweet and bitter), while the strawberry maintained a great creamy texture and vibrant fresh flavor, despite its lack of dairy products.

Igloo offers a relatively limited number of toppings in gravity-controlled distributing containers.  Lift the handle slooowly (we saw one customer dump a serving of M&M's into the bin below, completely missing her cup) to release the contents.  The chocolate chips on the other hand, required a pump action with only a few chips coming out each time.  What's wrong with the usual bowl and spoon??

While I put together my cup of soft-serve, A was checking out the "specialty" items offered from behind the counter.  Igloo offers a soft-serve version of FAGE's Greek yogurt as well as a salted caramel gelato.  A grabbed a sample cup of the gelato and shared it with me- the caramelized flavor was most prevalent- almost like a burnt sugar.  The salt helped balance the sweet, but overall I felt that it was pretty overwhelmingly rich.  Probably wouldn't want to eat a whole cup of it.

We were definitely the most curious about the frozen Greek yogurt (it's 2% fat, our favorite).  A small serving (comes in small, medium and large) with one hot topping is the best way to enjoy this tart, extra thick fro-yo ($3.25).  The hot toppings include the typical hot fudge, but also pistachio and lemon options.  We were intrigued by the lemon (imagining a hot lemon curd!) but the day we visited, it was replaced by warm honey.  The generous drizzle of honey slowly hardens after contact with the yogurt, making a sticky, chewy candy-like substance... amazing!

There are also a number of cold toppings- fruits, nuts, sprinkles, and the like.  As you scale-up the amount of yogurt you order, you get more options for toppings (ie one hot + two cold for a "large").

Before we left, I wanted to try a little sample of one more flavor from the self-serve machine- the Tahitian Vanilla, which apparently is one of their most popular so far.  I'm a sucker for anything with a really pure vanilla flavor, so this bean-flecked yogurt held a lot of promise.  It wasn't quite as rich as I had hoped, but it definitely had an extra depth of vanilla that most plain Jane styles don't provide.  I'll definitely be getting more Tahitian Vanilla when we return!

This area of the Grad Hospital neighborhood needed a little dessert action (the closest place I can think of is Magpie) and the super unique frozen Greek yogurt definitely qualifies as a special treat.  Plus, it's less expensive than the popular Yogorino spot closer to Rittenhouse, with more generous servings.  Even though it's a few blocks further away than our beloved Rita's, we'll be adding it into the dessert rotation.

The Igloo
2223 Grays Ferry Ave