Oct 2006

Capers Comfort Foods – Birmingham


October 20, 2006
Cuisine: Southern/Comfort

151 Industrial Road *CLOSED*
Alabaster, AL 35007

Phone: 205-620-0889
Website: none

Beef Tips over Rice with Macaroni and Cheese, Cornbread, and Pecan Cobbler ($6.48)

The Astronomer and I were drawn into Capers Comfort Foods after perusing the Birmingham News Readers’ Choice Awards. Capers won Best Inexpensive Food and Best Take-out and was the runner-up in a number of categories including Best Restaurant, Best Chef, Best Desserts, Best Meat and Three (meat and three vegetables), and Best Pie! This restaurant had our names written all over it.

We drove down Industrial Road, but had the most difficult time locating the restaurant. The Astronomer gave Capers a call and was informed that the restaurant was located inside the BP gas station! How could we have known that one of Birmingham’s best was inside the kwik mart? In order to give this restaurant a fair shake, I had to put the snob within aside.

The food at Capers was terrific! Really! The beef tips over rice were moist and flavorful. The mac and cheese was creamy and delicious. The cornbread was crispy on the outside and warm on the inside. And the pecan cobbler was full of sweet and buttery goodness. One entree, a side, and cornbread or roll was priced at $6.48. We received a free dessert since it was our first visit. While the food was amazingly great, the hospitality was even better. The owner asked us on a three occasions how the food was and shook my hand twice. I have never encountered such warmth and happiness from anyone in a restaurant before. Loved it!

I will definitely return to Capers on my next Alabama visit.

Oct 2006

Philly Soft Pretzel Factory – Philadelphia

October 17, 2006
Cuisine: Philadelphian

1532 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Phone: 215-569-3988
Website: http://www.phillysoftpretzelfactory.com/


Philly Soft Pretzel (3 for $1)

There are a number of foods that are distinctly Philadelphian: cheesesteaks, scrapple, cream cheese, TastyKakes, Herr’s Potato Chips, hoagies, and soft pretzels. I felt like a true Philadelphian (if only for a fleeting 15 minutes) yesterday when I had a fresh soft pretzel with yellow mustard drizzled all over.

The true Philadelphia soft pretzel:

  • Is usually bought from a street vendor or small “mom and pop” shop – seldom from a chain store
  • Is fresh, soft, and chewy
  • Comes in a sort of slab in which a number of pretzels are stuck together
  • Is sprinkled with just the right amount of coarse salt

My pretzel was warm out of the oven and provided an excellent pre-dinner snack. I’ve had Philly soft pretzels before while at Swarthmore, but never fresh ones. Since the pretzels have no preservatives it makes a huge difference eating them when they have just been baked.

And the best part is that three pretzels go for $1. You can also get a single pretzel for 45 cents.

Oct 2006

Maggiano’s Little Italy – Philadelphia

October 13, 2006
Cuisine: Italian

1201 Filbert St, Philadelphia 19107
At N 12th St

Phone: 215-567-2020
Website: www.maggianos.com

Appetizer: Full Order Parmesan Garlic Bread ($4.95)

Entree I: Full Order Lobster Ravioli – Pasta stuffed with fresh Maine lobster, roasted corn, garlic and basil, topped with Parmesan and Romano cheese baked in a light cream sauce with roasted peppers and applewood smoked bacon ($21.95)

Entree II: Half Order Chianti Beef Stew – Tender cuts of sirloin with onions in a Chianti wine sauce, finished with portobello and button mushrooms served over a bed of pappardelle pasta ($12.95)

While I generally frown upon chain restaurants, my frown is always turned upside down at Maggiano’s. The Astronomer and I, along with the entire Swarthmore Cross Country team, dined at Maggiano’s for a pre-meet dinner. I tagged along to take advantage of the Fall Harvest Specials. I had a small order of the Chianti Beef Stew, while the Astronomer had a large order of the Lobster Ravioli. We shared a large order of the garlic bread with five others at our table.

Gastronomer: First off, I’d just like to say what a pleasure it is dining with runners. They are SUCH good eaters! Love it! Okay, now on to the food… We’ve had the garlic bread on many occasions. The Astronomer always orders it even though Maggiano’s serves bread on the table for free. While I find ordering extra bread sort of redundant, I must admit the garlic bread is very tasty. It’s moist yet crispy, not greasy, and so savory. The Parmesan cheese and parsley sprinkled on top intensifies the flavor.

Astronomer: Maggiano’s may well be my favorite restaurant ever, so needless to say I enjoyed the meal. Most of our party was new to the Maggiano’s experience, so I felt it was imperative that they try the amazing Parmesan garlic bread–a Maggiano’s staple. The garlic bread is always succulent and perfectly flavored. We gobbled it up in no time.

Entree I:
Astronomer: I was feeling “hungry hungry,” so I attacked the complementary breads. I ate so much that I was worried I might be overwhelmed by my pasta, but fortunately the full order of lobster ravioli was not too large. Unfortunately, actually. There were only THREE ravioli. They were large and delicious, and there was plentiful cream sauce and lots of bacon bits, but still, I expected a bit more from Maggiano’s. I managed to leave the restaurant feeling pleasantly stuffed, but only after dipping large quantities of bread in my extra sauce and helping to finish some leftover ice cream. Complaints about quantity aside, my ravioli was everything I had hoped for. The lobster flavor really came through nicely, and the bacon and cheese were excellent complements. I’m glad I took advantage of the Fall Harvest menu, but from now on I vow to abstain from ravioli at Maggiano for the foreseeable future.

Gastronomer: Since the ravioli portions were a bit on the skimpy side, I only had one small bite of the dish. While Maggiano’s flavors generally consist of salty and cheesy, I found the ravioli quite mild.

Entree II:
Gastronomer: I loved my pasta! I wish the Chianti Beef Stew were a menu mainstay rather than a fleeting special. Sigh… The fall harvest menu ends on the 25th, so I have about a week left to indulge. The stew was perfectly seasoned, the meat was tender and plentiful, and the vegetables (carrots and mushrooms) were lovely foils. Pappardelle is my favorite pasta shape and went perfectly with the flavorful stew. So hearty and delicious.

Astronomer: I tried a couple of bites of the Gastronomer’s beef stew. It was pretty awesome–I would consider ordering it myself if it ever becomes a permanent fixture on the menu.