Dec 2006

Brasserie Perrier – Philadelphia

December 16, 2006
Cuisine: French, Bistro

1619 Walnut St, Philadelphia 19103 *CLOSED*
Btwn S 16th St & S 17th St

Phone: 215-568-3000

Appetizer I: House Smoked Salmon Lemon Crème Fraiche, Potato Blini, Red Pepper Caviar ($13)

Appetizer II: Housemade Potato Gnocchi Butternut Squash, Fontina Cheese, Toasted Pumpkins Seeds, Sweet Garlic Sauce ($15)

Entree I: Crispy Black Sea Bass – Truffled Parsnip Puree, Braised Belgian Endive, Extra-virgin Olive Oil Emulsion ($36)

Entree II: Roasted Breast of Free Range Chicken and Leg Stuff with Forest Mushrooms, polenta cake, Sauce Natural ($29)

Our dinner at Brasserie Perrier was hands down one of the best meals the Astronomer and I have ever eaten. I dined at BP once before with my brother during Swarthmore Family Weekend 2004, but didn’t think too highly of it because we ordered strange items like sweetbreads and wild boar. This visit was a totally different story…

We started our feast with two appetizers. I chose the smoked salmon, while the Astronomer chose the gnocchi. I had read good things about the smoked salmon and liked the fact that the fish was smoked on the premise. A more than generous portion of thinly sliced smoked salmon was placed atop a potato blin, which is a small, yeast-leavened, buckwheat pancake. The smoked salmon was luxurious! The salty fish paired beautifully with the hearty blin and rich lemon crème fraiche. The red pepper “caviar” was made with science, but tasty nevertheless. I especially liked how each “egg” popped in my mouth and released it’s flavor. The smoked salmon appetizer was incredible.

The Housemade Potato Gnocchi was also outstanding. The Astronomer described the gnocchi’s texture as “delicate.” I had a couple of bites of the dish and totally agree; each gnocchi melted in my mouth. The butternut squash added a wonderful sweetness and the pepitas brought about an interesting crunch. The cheese and sauce were amazingly rich and creamy. Almost too much goodness for my taste. It’s a good thing the Astronomer prefers decadent sauces. The dish was a refreshing and innovative take on the classic Italian dish.

For my entree I ordered the chicken, while the Astronomer ordered the sea bass. We traded plates numerous times throughout the meal because sharing is caring. Even though I think chicken is an inferior meat, I had a good feeling about BP’s preparations. While I’m not a full convert yet, I’m on my way because this dish was the greatest chicken I have ever eaten.

Moist, moister, moistest!

The juices were locked in and the spices (probably just salt and pepper) were perfect. The forest mushroom stuffing was also very lovely. In fact, I would have liked a side of mushroom dressing. The polenta cake was wonderfully dense and full of buttery flavor. The dish also included some sautéed vegetables including green beans, spinach and baby carrots. Wow, what a combination of flavors!

The Astronomer’s sea bass was equally divine, but much more subtle in flavor. The sea bass was battered very lightly and fried to a perfect crisp, skin included. The batter was salted nicely and thus contrasted impeccably with the sweet pureed parsnips. The dish’s only flaw was the braised Belgian endive; it was much too bitter to be enjoyable.

By the time dessert rolled around, we were much too stuffed to indulge. I look forward to returning to BP for their lounge menu which includes fondue and steak frites!

Brasserie Perrier on Urbanspoon

Dec 2006

Davio's – Philadelphia

December 13, 2006
Cuisine: Italian, Steakhouses

111 S 17th St, Philadelphia 19103
2nd Floor of the Provident National Bank

Phone: 215-563-4810

Hors D’oeuvres
Philly Cheesesteak Spring Rolls, Spicy Ketchup
Mini Crab Cakes, Caper Aioli
Tomato & Mozzarella Bruschetta
Smoked Salmon, Lemon Mascarpone, Potato Chip

Antipasta Station
Marinated Vegetables, Cured Italian Meats, Imported Cheeses, Mixed Olives, Roasted Peppers, Focaccia Bread

Salad Station
Mixed Field Greens, Cucumber, Balsamic Vinaigrette
Davio’s Classic Caesar Salad, Homemade Croutons

Pasta Station
Penne, Applewood Smoked Chicken, Spinach, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Walnut Cream Sauce
Ricotta Stuffed Rigatoni, Rose Basil Sauce

Carving Station
Roasted Filet Mignon
Roast Pork Tenderloin Seasonal Accompaniments and Sauces (gargonzola, mushroom, red wine)

Roasted Asparagus
Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Dessert Station
Assortment of Davio’s Italian Desserts – Cheesecake, Lemon Tartlet, Praline Hazelnut Mousse cake, Pumpkin Cake, Chocolate Raspberry Cake, Chocolate Dipped Biscotti

P/PV had our annual holiday gathering yesterday afternoon at Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse. As far as office parties go, this one was one of the best. The food was phenomenal, the band was festive, the room was gorgeous, and the company was good too.

The party began at noon, but I didn’t arrive until 12:30 because being fashionably late never goes out of style. When I arrived, the three-piece band was in full swing playing peppy holiday music, waiters were walking around with Hors D’oeuvres, an antipasta station was set up in the back of the room, and the bar was open with wine and top shelf liquors. I passed on the booze because I don’t drink my calories.

Appetizers: I was quickly offered a mini crab cake; the first of three or four. The crab cake was placed atop a crustless round of white bread and dabbed with a Caper Aioli on the bottom to adhere it to the bread. The crab cake was excellent – slightly crisp on the outside, large chunks of crab on the inside, and its natural flavors brought out by the aioli. Another appetizer standout was the Philly Cheesesteak Spring Rolls; I had two of those. A better name would have been the Philly Cheesesteak Taquito because it was deep fried. I liked everything about it – the meat was salty, the wrap was crisp, and the ketchup was spicy. Well done. I had one of the Smoked Salmon appetizers, which was pretty good. However, the potato chip had a very strong taste so it sadly outshined the more delicate Lemon Mascarpone and fish.

The antipasta station had a good selection of meats and cheeses, as well as fruits (berries and figs) and vegetables to complement the flavors. My favorite cheese was the smoked Gouda. The smoky flavor was divine. There were stronger cheese offerings as well, including two types of goat cheese. However, they were a bit too intense for lunchtime. I also really enjoyed the prepared mushrooms. My favorite cured meats were the salami and prosciutto.

Main Course: The salad, pasta, side dishes, and meat were served buffet-style. I passed on the salad because greens are a waste of precious space. I went with a piece of roasted filet mignon drizzled with the gargonzola sauce, a side of asparagus, and both types of pasta. The filet mignon was delicious; it made me appreciate cows all over again. I received an end piece of the roast, so it wasn’t as rare as I would have liked but tasty nevertheless. The gargonzola sauce was good, but not needed because the meat itself was fantastic. The asparagus was simply prepared. The pastas were excellent as well. Even though I hate penne as a pasta shape, I couldn’t complain about the accompaniments. I loved the sun dried tomatoes. The rigatoni was stuffed with ricotta cheese, which was creamy and mild. The rose basil sauce was the perfect sauce choice. I tried to go back for some polenta, but they were fresh out. So I moved on to dessert!

Dessert: The dessert offerings were AMAZING! I tried the pumpkin cake, cheesecake, lemon tartlet, and the praline hazelnut mousse cake. The cheesecake was decent, but nothing uber special. The lemon tartlet was very lemony which I loved, but the tart shell was a bit too tough. So I ate the filling and tossed the crust. My favorites were the pumpkin cake and the praline hazelnut mousse cake. The pumpkin cake had a lite, airy, pudding-like consistency. It tasted like whipped pumpkin pie filling. Mmm! The praline hazelnut mousse cake rocked my world. It consisted of three layers – the base layer was a flaky and crunchy praline cookie of sorts, the middle layer was a hazelnut mousse, and the top layer was a hazelnut gel. OMG. The three different textures worked incredibly well together and put Nutella to shame. What a wonderful note to end a spectacular feast!

Davio's on Urbanspoon

Dec 2006

Escarole and Little Meatball Soup

meatball soup 12


The soup is delicate but filling at the same time, with its pasta and baby meatballs. Unless you have Soprano-size appetites, this is a main-dish soup. We’ve cut the recipe in half so it will fit in your soup pot.

  • 1/2 head escarole (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 1/2 large carrots, chopped
  • 12 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 4 ounces ditalini or tubetti, or spaghetti broken into bite-size pieces
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


  • 1/2 pound ground veal or beef
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup very finely minced onion
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Trim the escarole and discard any bruised leaves. Cut off the stem ends. Separate the leaves and wash well in cool water, especially the center of the leaves where soil collects. Stack the leaves and cut them crosswise into 1-inch strips. You should have about 4 cups.

Combine the escarole, carrots, and stock in a large pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until the escarole is almost tender, about 30 minutes.

meatball soup 12

To make the meatballs: Meanwhile, combine the ground meat, bread crumbs, cheese, onion, egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Shape the mixture into tiny balls, less than 1 inch in diameter.

To assemble: When the escarole is almost tender, stir in the pasta and return the soup to the simmer. Drop the meatballs into the soup. Cook over low heat, stirring gently, until the meatballs and pasta are cooked, about 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Serve hot with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Serves 6.

Recipe from The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker and Michele Scicolone

Substitutions: Broth – used 1 lb. of escarole and 7 carrots to up the nutritional ante. Only used 8 oz. of broth to make room for extra veggies. Used macaroni. Meatballs – doubled the entire recipe. Used lean ground turkey, quick oats in place of bread crumbs, shallots in place of onions, and pre-grated Parmesan cheese.