December 31, 2012


We had a wonderful Christmas including a long weekend with the parents- they braved the wind and cold (and even a little snow!) to pay us a visit.  Friday night found us at Kris, a "seasonal Mediterranean" restaurant just a few blocks from my apartment in South Philly.  I honestly thought the place was brand-new seeing as I had only recently even heard of it, but the hostess informed me that it's been in business just over a year.

The restaurant occupies a corner brownstone-sized space, including several sections of tables and a bar for those in the mood to catch a game.  We sat in the back room, which was well-lit and pretty quiet considering we were there during prime eating hours.


The menu is pretty lengthy, giving us some difficulty in selecting a meal for four.  Thankfully the waitstaff delayed bringing the bread out until after we'd made up our minds- otherwise I might still be there trying to decide.  A generous section of a thick and doughy Italian loaf was fine, but the lemony olive oil soaked white beans were the real hit.  Intensely flavorful, playing off little bits of red pepper and herbs. 

We split a couple of the "small plates," starting with the mushroom grilled flatbread ($11).  A personal pizza-shaped crust was chewy in the middle but had slightly over-done edges.  Shavings of mushrooms and onions were caramelized and scattered around the pie (wait.. this wasn't pizza) and covered with a melted layer of fontina and truffled pecorino.  I get excited for all things truffled, but to be honest, this was relatively plain.

We also split the grilled octopus ($13), which I definitely would rather not have shared.  Big chunks of chewy tentacles with smoky char marks are tossed in a mildly spicy oil tinted with smoked paprika.  The vinegar from the pickled vegetables provided the perfect acidic contrast, as well as a bit of crunch- we particularly enjoyed the fennel, an underrated vegetable if there ever was one.

Our mom often orders a couple of smaller plates to make up her main course, this time starting with a classic Caesar salad ($8).  Kris continued the trend of the super-flavor, transforming a pile of crunchy Romaine ribs into a peppery, smoky, anchovy-infused pile of crunchy Romaine ribs. Garlic-y ciabatta croutons added another dimension of texture and flavor, rounded out by a generous amount of shaved parmesan.  Probably nothing healthy about this salad, but it certainly was delicious.

The other half of her meal was comprised of the baked crespelle ($10), a super savory crepe filled with butternut squash puree and ricotta cheese.  A rich (and slightly over-salted) Marsala and mushroom cream sauce provided an almost meaty substance to the dish, with fresh sage the predominating herb.  A nice crispy fried sage leaf served as both garnish and a fun little bite.  Probably a reason this is a "small plate"- its richness makes it a great dish to share.

The padre opted for the special of the evening- a pan-fried skate served with lentils and braised greens ($23).  I'm not big on skate but a bite of the lentils mirrored the buttery texture of the fish.  A bit lighter than some of our other dishes, but still a hearty winter meal.

A chose from the pasta section of the menu, ordering the pappardelle with sea scallops ($18).  The noodles were on the skinnier side for a pappardelle, more like a slightly fat fettuccine. Bite-sized half-moons of tender scallops paired with the basil pesto cream sauce made for an ultra-luxurious comfort food.  Roasted fennel and tomato gave it a tint of smoke.  Overall just a very satisfying bowl of food.

I continued the trend of comfort food with the venison osso bucco ($25), an enormous hunk of slow-cooked, fork-tender deer meat that easily peeled off the chunk of bone.  Osso bucco literally means "bone with a hole."  The cooking method preserves the bone marrow inside the hole, and our waiter kindly provided me with a skinny metal tool for scooping out the fatty chunks.  Spread on a piece of bread- meaty butter at its finest.  Butternut squash and spinach risotto absorbed plenty of the venison juices, with a dried cherry and red wine sauce as a finishing touch.

I'm interested to see how Kris alters their menu to fit the spring or summer season.  Based on our experience, the majority of the dishes were rich and heavy, which fit just fine for a blustery December evening.  It was a memorable meal, and Kris will probably become another neighborhood staple for me- a casual atmosphere, great service, and definitely a good value (no skimpy portions here!).

1100 Federal St

December 27, 2012

Burger Club: Red Owl Tavern

This month's Burger Club "meeting" was held at Red Owl Tavern, the newbie restaurant in the also-newbie Hotel Monaco in Old City.  The Monaco is the second Philadelphia area hotel in the Kimpton line, following just a few years after one of my personal favorites, the Hotel Palomar near Rittenhouse.  While we haven't heard much about the Red Owl, we did come in with a few preconceived notions.  First, we're somewhat familiar with Executive Chef Guillermo Tellez, as he was formerly the chef at Square 1682 (ironically or not, in the Hotel Palomar- he must love the Kimpton benefits).  Second, we had recently read a scathing review from Phyllis Stein-Novack at South Philly Review, and it became an inside joke that Red Owl "almost ruined Edward's birthday!" (said in mock horror).

The restaurant spans a long corner slot at 5th and Chestnut (nobody from our group could come up with the previous use of this building) with the hotel entrance immediately adjacent.  The pastry chef works in a tiny kitchen near the entrance, enticing us all with a display of pies and cookies before we even ate dinner.  Our group had a space reserved upstairs, in a loft complete with all the loft-y accoutrements: lots of dark wood and black metal and a few uplights (Mrs. Stein-Novack's complaints of lack of light are certainly founded).

Unlike some of the other restaurants we've convened at, Red Owl only has a single burger, the "Big Red Owl Burger"- the waiters simply had to ask us how we wanted our meat cooked.  Thankfully we had a delicious distraction while we waited- housemade truffled popcorn.  This stuff was insanely good and super addictive.  Our table of ten went through several buckets of it in half an hour- warm, salty, buttery with a kick of truffle oil.

The burgers all arrived almost simultaneously- impressive for a group of 20+.  Of course, this means that there were probably a few mix-ups and a few overdone burgers, but that's pretty much par for the course.  The burger is described as topped with crispy bacon, cheddar, herb sauce and onion marmalade, and is a hefty serving living up to it's $15 price tag.

In examining the burger upon it's arrival, it's clear there are a few changes from the menu description.  Shredded lettuce and tomato are little extras (fine by me but not by all others) and the "onion marmalade" clearly had raisins within.  I don't like raisins, and I definitely don't want them on my burger next to lettuce and bacon.  That's just weird.  Thankfully, the mix consists primarily of  caramelized onions which were easy to remove.

The bun was a good fit for the meat, with a floury surface and a light texture.  The bacon and cheddar added the necessary salt and grease to the well seasoned lean beef.  The patty isn't monstrously thick, making it that much harder for the chef to reach the requested medium-rare.  The lack of pink didn't kill this burger, though- a definite sign of a well prepared sandwich made with quality ingredients.

Other club members decided the onion marmalade really made the burger- a hint of cinnamon and sweetness was reminiscent of an empanada.  I'm still not convinced that either cinnamon or raisins belong in a burger, but to each their own- and again, a nod to the chef for making such an odd topping a hit with many in our group.  The crispy fries lightly coated in shaved pepper jack cheese were a good complement to the meal - a special touch to an otherwise normal side.  Since we never actually perused the rest of the menu at the restaurant, I'm not convinced I'll make it back here for a regular meal.  But if you're in the neighborhood and need a solid burger in a lively atmosphere, Red Owl could be your spot.

Red Owl Tavern
433 Chestnut Street

December 20, 2012


Before the craziness of the holidays sets in, we wanted to get a few friends together and were contemplating a potluck style dinner party.  However, one friend alerted us to a fabulous different idea: a pie party (original inspiration a la Elizabeth Banks).  I mean, really, who doesn't love pie!?  And the chance to try almost a dozen homemade pies-- I couldn't resist.  Thankfully, many of our friends were up for the challenge, many of them baking THE FIRST PIE OF THEIR LIFE!

I have to admit I scoured the internet for a long time looking for inspiration for my own addition to the party- I was leaning away from the holiday classics of apple, pumpkin, and pecan to ensure we didn't have lots of repeats.  I also knew I wanted to construct my pie in a single afternoon, unfortunately eliminating many delicious pies from my search.  Eventually I decided to morph a few different recipes, using some of my favorite ingredients, into an original pie.

Elvis Pie
For the crust:
9 graham crackers (one sleeve)
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/8 c. granulated sugar

For the mousse filling:
1 large ripe banana
1 c. peanut butter (any variety, I used this one)
1 Tbsp. vanilla
8 oz. cream cheese (one block)
1 c. + 2 Tbsp. confectioner's sugar
1 c. heavy whipping cream

For the middle layer:
1 ripe banana, sliced
5 slices thick cut bacon, cooked until crisp and drained

Surprise! Yep, this pie isn't vegetarian.  Ever heard of "the Elvis"?  Rumor has it that Elvis' favorite sandwich consisted of peanut butter, banana, and bacon, although reports are controversial.  Either way, it sounds like a great combination to me- I love anything sweet and salty.  Another surprise- even with multi components, this pie only takes about half an hour to put together (not including chilling time which isn't absolutely necessary).

Constructing the crust may be the most time consuming step.  I crushed the graham crackers in a plastic bag until only crumbs remained, then combined with melted butter and a bit of sugar.  Press it carefully into a pie pan until the bottom and sides are covered with a compact layer-- the back of a buttered spoon helps this process immensely (it will stick to your fingers or an unbuttered spoon, making things messier!).

Bake the crust for 10 minutes at 350F, then allow to cool briefly before adding your filling.

For the mousse, first whip together the first four ingredients (banana through cream cheese).  I used a regular hand mixer, but a stand mixer would get the job done even faster.  Whip until a smooth texture is obtained.  Then, add 1 cup of powdered sugar-- sifting it will help prevent lumps but I skipped this step and still managed a smooth pie.  Beat an additional 1-2 minutes until completely incorporated.  In a pre-chilled bowl, combine the additional 2 Tbsp. confectioner's sugar with the whipping cream and beat until stiff.  You want a really fluffy texture, so go that extra 15-20 seconds to prevent any soupiness (but without making butter!).

With a spatula (or in your stand mixer), fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture just until well-mixed.  Spread half of the mousse into your pie crust.

Make an even layer of banana slices over the mousse, making sure to cover all the way to the edges.

Then, add your sliced bacon, again ensuring even coverage.  I tried to break my bacon into "bite sized" pieces.

Add the rest of the mousse and carefully spread over the bacon and banana (and without disrupting the crust which is still fairly fragile!).  Chill (uncovered) in the fridge for at least two hours.  If you want to eat it immediately, go ahead-- it will just have a much softer texture and won't slice evenly (but will be guaranteed delicious).  If you are keeping it for the next day, cover it after two hours- at this point the mousse will be solidified and won't stick to foil or plastic wrap.

The final result was just as I imagined- very rich, with both the banana and peanut butter flavors well apparent in each taste of mousse.  The bacon pieces were odd texturally, but added an extra smokiness that I loved.  The bacon flavor was even stronger two days later- enough time for the ingredients to settle.  Definitely best served cold, as the mousse is most solid straight out of the fridge.

Our guests brought a large array of amazing pies, of which I really attempted to sample as many as I could.  We joked of having a Best Pie competition, but at the end of the night, I'm not sure most of us could have agreed on a favorite.  Some of the samplings:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
Peach and Cherry Hand Pies

Chocolate Hazelnut Pie (made with Nutella!)

A huge crowd favorite- Apple Cranberry Raisin with a perfect crust!

One of my favorites- Washington Nut Pie (similar to pecan but made with walnuts)
Others included a chocolate bourbon pecan pie (modeled after the version sold at Magpie) and a mint Oreo pudding pie.  I loved the huge variety, but was definitely on sugar overload at the end of the night.  However, it was a great excuse to get some friends together and show off our baking skills- I was incredibly impressed by all of them.  We hope your holidays are filled with as much cheer and good food!

December 18, 2012

Brunch at Russet

Continuing on the theme of luxurious weekend brunches, the two of us carved a little bit of time out of the busy holiday season to have a meal together- a "twin date" as we like to call them.  We decided to stay close to home and check out the brunch scene at Russet, a new-ish farm-to-table concept on Spruce.  In the early afternoon, we had our choice of tables and grabbed a well-lit corner table by the window.

The space is on the smaller side, but with only a few tables occupied, we felt like we had our own private dining room.  The lone waitress was attentive and friendly, but seemed bored in between checking on tables. The vibe is definitely vintage chic, with a rustic holiday-themed window display (seasonally changing just like the menu!).

 Speaking of the menu, Russet's brunch is edited down to the bare minimum, but provides options for everyone regardless of sweet or savory preference.  I threw in a request for one of the house-baked pastries- the lemon raspberry scone ($4).  The pastries come with an assortment of accompaniments- creamy butter and two types of jam, peach and balsamic strawberry.  The table also hosted a little dish of salt for sprinkling on other dishes- a fancy little touch.

The scone was the perfect way to start the meal- not too sweet with a touch of tartness from both fruits.  Dense in the middle with a crumbly crust coated in a thin layer of glaze. A dab of butter and peach jam... scone heaven.

We both happened to be in the savory mood, so we decided to split the two egg dishes.  The duck confit croque madame ($16) is well-worth its higher price tag.  This is a VERY serious sandwich.  Two thick slices of brioche toast are practically coated in melted Swiss cheese, sandwiching a generous leg of slow-cooked duck.  The inclusion of the bone was an odd accessory- thankfully, it was incredibly easy to twist it right out of the sandwich.  With the addition of the croque madame signature- the over-easy egg on top- the richness of each of the elements combined to make an almost overwhelming sandwich (but who are we kidding, you better use a knife and fork to eat this one).  Some lightly dressed baby arugula helped cleanse the palate in between bites.

We were so enamored by the grits at Khyber the previous weekend, it inspired us to try another version. Russet's cheesy grits ($5) are served hot in a miniature Le Creuset.  While they definitely had a good, stone-ground texture, the grits were on the soupy side and could certainly have used more of the "cheesy."  Thanks Khyber, you've spoiled us.

The other egg dish of the morning was the chanterelle omelet ($14), also served with a side of arugula salad.  For any other Top Chef followers like myself, you may have seen a number of chefs compete in the first episode this season to make the perfect omelet.   While some of the Top Chef contestants succeeded at this task, the omelet served to us at Russet was far, far more perfect than any of those.  Seriously.. look at that thing. It's flawless!

Chewy chanterelle mushrooms and the subtle onion flavor of sauteed leeks made for a super savory (but meat-free!) combination.  The earthiness was counterbalanced by a spread of budderfass inside the egg- a creamy and pleasant "Alpine style" cheese.  And the egg itself? About as good as it looks.  Fluffy but with a little snap to give the dish some structure.

To be honest, splitting the two egg dishes ended up being a little too much savory for me- the chef was a tad heavy-handed with the salt.  The crispy chocolate crepe could have been a great antithesis to one of these dishes.  However, we really enjoyed our meal at Russet, especially the cozy and quiet atmosphere.  I'm hoping business is just slow due to the holidays, because I'd love to see this place stick around in our neighborhood.

1521 Spruce Street

December 13, 2012

Brunch at Khyber Pass Pub

I really believe that there are very few things that are better than an indulgent, delicious weekend brunch spent with great friends (or family!).  Here in Philly, there is certainly NO lack of great places to eat this lazy midday meal.  However, we admit to keeping it easy and typically close to home (Parc and, if we're really feeling bold, Lacroix are our less-than-five-minutes-away favorites).  Hopping in our friend's car this past weekend, we discussed our brunch options at our Old City destination.  As soon as I mentioned Khyber Pass Pub, the rest of the girls immediately jumped at an opportunity to try a Southern style meal.  A quick phone call revealed that there was no wait in the dining room AND that fried pickles were in fact on the menu (a requisite).

A sunny corner table was acquired and our first request was an order of those pickles, one of the daily specials.  Khyber has a distinct way of preparing them, with thin cut slivers dredged in a grainy cornmeal batter.  They almost no longer taste like pickles, but the salty, crunchy pieces were still super addictive (especially in the garlicky aioli dip).

Our other shared appetizer were the Boudin Balls ($5).  Khyber's menu has an emphasis on Creole/Cajun/Southern dishes, many of which are difficult (if not impossible) to find elsewhere in the city.  Boudin is certainly one of them.  A rich sausage made with dark strands of shredded pork, lots of Cajun spice, and a bit of rice to hold it together.  Apparently a convenience store specialty, the mix is then battered and fried- what else could make it better?

Warm, rich, and a bit smoky, it almost tastes like the stuffing you would want in a Cajun style turkey.  The mustard sauce it's served with was tangy with a bit of heat- but these balls don't need any additions.

Amongst the four of us, we managed to cover a good deal of the menus- both brunch and the regular lunch/dinner menu.  The portions at Khyber are enormous, so be prepared to take lots of leftovers home.

If you're looking for an incredibly comforting Cajun dish, you probably wouldn't look much further than jambalaya ($12).  A hearty mix of shrimp, chicken and sausage is mixed with red beans, rice, and a thick tomato based gravy- while Khyber's version might not be 100% authentic (not having been to New Orleans myself, I can't be the judge of that!), it's a darn good dish.

Did I mention hearty and comforting?  It truly is the theme of the food at Khyber-- you're not going to have a light meal or stick to any healthy diet here, but every dish calls to your soul.  Feeding that is just as important as fueling your body, right?  The Big Ass Biscuit and Gravy ($8) surely fits that bill- and yes, it is pretty darn large.  Thick, flaky, and chewy, I might just have a thing for biscuits.  Especially those that are smothered in a thick, spicy sausage gravy without becoming soggy- the biscuit has to have a certain density to avoid this.

My brunch of choice almost ALWAYS contains eggs.  And hot sauce, but that's another story.  It wasn't difficult for me to choose the Gulf Oyster, Spinach, and Bacon omelet ($14).  I've never seen oysters as an omelet filling before, and the chewy, briny animals were generously distributed along with just-wilted baby spinach and thick chunks of salty bacon.  If you're a fan of oysters, definitely consider them as a breakfast food!  The dish came with my choice of grits or hash browns, and our waitress carefully considered my question of which she recommended.  Eventually I decided on the grits, which were not a disappointment.  I wish making such thick, creamy grits was as easy to do in the microwave, because I would surely eat them more often.  With a few hits of hot sauce (yeah... I told you), it was the perfect side.

Another one of my favorite breakfast dishes is a hash, and Khyber has one that is particularly noteworthy ($12).  Even though it looks a bit of a mess, the hash consists of chunks of roasted sweet potato, lots of cooked down collard greens and large strands of beef brisket- a delicious "refrigerator" combination (you know.. all the things leftover in your fridge!).  Topped with two over-easy eggs (or your preferred style), it really gets good when those yolks run all over the base of the hash.

The hash browns proved to be semi-miraculous, as our friend who doesn't like potatoes (I know... right?) tried a burnt bit and approved.  A side order of the shredded and pan-fried potatoes is enough to split amongst a large group, and has just the right amount of crispy edges and piping hot fluffy "insides" ($3).

Just as on our previous trip to Khyber for dinner, we had a wonderful time and couldn't stop raving about the food- it's super unique for Philly which always makes it that much better.  It's a large enough space that it was never crowded while we were there, which is another plus point- no waiting in long lines or crammed into a tiny space.  Just enjoy a leisurely delicious brunch with friends- like I said, there's nothing better!

Khyber Pass Pub
56 S 2nd St

December 11, 2012


If there's one thing I've learned by following Philly restaurant and food news over the past several years, it's that chefs don't often stay in once place very long.  They're constantly coming and going, moving onward and upward, typically with the goal of opening their own restaurant.  One such chef is Joey Baldino, who after getting some (probably very high quality) experince at Vetri, opened his own Sicilian-inspired Zeppoli across the river in Collingswood.

Located in a small strip of other shops and restaurants, Zeppoli's defining feature from the outside is a triskelion, a (creepy) three-legged symbol of Sicily.  The space is tiny, seating 35, and feels a little like your Italian grandmother's dining room, except darker.

Zeppoli has a unique approach to service, with four waiters and waitresses working together to take care of all the tables.  One of the waitresses came over to explain the menu- split into salads, pastas, and entrees, with portion sizes appropriate for each person to take on a salad, half order of pasta, and entree.  

After we placed our orders (declining the three-course extravaganza), another server brought us a basket of bread and some olives.  A few different varieties of foccacia (topped with tomato or sauteed onions) as well as a few slices of a soft seeded bread provided more than enough for two.  I found the focaccia to be entirely too greasy, essentially pre-soaked in olive oil.  On the plus side, my boyfriend doesn't like olives (so weird) so I got to enjoy a good mix of hard green and salty semi-dried black olives.

The pasta special of the day was a spaghetti with grilled calamari and squid ink sauce.  Anything with squid ink in it is an "auto-order" for me, so we decided to split a half portion ($10).  I don't even want to know what a full portion looks like, because this was the perfect amount to share.  The spaghetti itself was terrific- Marc Vetri would be proud- with the bite of a bucatini and the propensity to soak up a significant amount of squid ink.  Why is squid ink so darn delicious?  Essence of the sea... Rounds of slightly chewy calamari helped provided some texture that matched the squid ink flavor.  My one complaint was that this was sort of messy- spaghetti is notorious for splattering and there was a significant pool of the thin black sauce hiding under the pasta.

My boyfriend ordered the Sicilian fisherman stew ($27), a great choice for someone who loves seafood.  I was impressed with the assortment of components- mussels, clams, calamari, shrimp, a crayfish head (?), and a few chunks of swordfish.  A pile of Moroccan couscous tinted with saffron rounded out the dish.  The broth was rich and aromatic- essentially a very concentrated tomato-based seafood stock- and unfortunately, incredibly salty.

The stewed rabbit ($28) also followed this theme- so salty I couldn't finish the entirely approachable portion of meat.  There was a leg and a piece of rib meat (complete with mini ribs) as well as a few other indiscernible cuts- each of which had their own tiny bones that had to be carefully picked out.  The rabbit was cooked well (similar to poultry in flavor and texture), moist and with a pleasant texture.  However, the meat was coated in a oregano-heavy marinara-type sauce that was the salty culprit.  Slices of rosemary and olive oil roasted potatoes provided little respite from the barrage of sodium.

I enjoyed visiting a new (to me) dining scene outside of the city and I thought the atmosphere and service at Zeppoli were quite enjoyable- a great little place for a date.  Thankfully, we didn't have to tolerate a ton of noise as has previously been reported- it was actually on the quieter side for a Friday night.  I also enjoyed the traditional Sicilian menu but can't overlook the fact that almost everything we ate was oversalted.  Of course, I admit we didn't even make a dent in the menu options- perhaps a salad and pasta would make a fine meal here.  And this won't keep me from continuing to explore other restaurants in South Jersey- any recommendations?

Collingswood, NJ

December 7, 2012

Gingerbread Cookies

Last month's book club, though a bust book-wise, was pretty delicious in the food category.  Bite-sized gingerbread cookies were a big hit, and knowing our dad's obsession with and eternal hunt for "the best gingerbread," we knew we needed to make these as our contribution to the annual family Thanksgiving feast.

You can find the recipe in Jenna Weber's "White Jacket Required," but a few minutes of internet sleuthing can save you a few dollars.  The recipe is actually for cookie sandwiches filled with chocolate buttercream but... we like our gingerbread plain, thankyouverymuch.  The ingredients list is rather simple, with one "secret" touch- a bit of white pepper.

Making cookie dough doesn't typically require any heat (till the baking part, of course), but this recipe was a whole new experience- the dough is actually made stovetop.  It starts out with boiling brown sugar and a whole bunch of spices together- this is the crucial step for building that rich and spicy flavor base.

The real fun comes when the baking soda is added- two teaspoons of it created a rapid transition from thick and bubbly to frothy and light- I literally felt like I was stirring a pot of brown marshmallow fluff.  So weird!

Here the pot comes off the heat and two sticks (two sticks!) of butter are melted in one piece at a time.

Adding the cold butter helps cool things down, and the flour pulls everything together into a slightly sticky but workable dough.  We pulled out Mom's ancient rolling pin and rolling surface and added a bit of flour.

A took on the rolling job and used a small glass to cut perfect circles out of the 1/4 inch dough.  It would be fun to make other shapes as well, but we loved the bite-sized option.  Uncooked, the gingerbread dough is very dark and shiny.

Ready to bake! The recipe calls for 12 minutes at 325, but our book-club friend did plenty of experimenting and determined that six minutes made a perfect, chewy cookie.  If you prefer a crispy cookie (like a gingersnap!), follow the 12 minute rule.

The cookies don't expand much so you can actually place them a little closer together on the cookie sheet than we did.  Cool on the sheet for a minute and then transfer to a cooling rack, as usual.

These cookies were a huge hit with our family, especially with the padre.  The cooking process was a lot of fun and they really produce a delicious, spicy and chewy gingerbread perfect for the holidays.

Our dad did suggest we really up the ante by trying a really high quality molasses and the best quality spices we can find.  The cinnamon we used was a fancy version from Penzeys, but the rest were just generics.  I guess we'll have to try again!

These are a perfect cookie for a holiday party, your Christmas dessert table, or a cookie swap- they're fun (but very simple!) to make and doubling or tripling the recipe would produced plates and plates of cookies (good for gifting!).  We love soft, chewy, spicy gingerbread, and will be making these for years to come.