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.

Oct 2006

Paninoteca – Philadelphia

Photo by heidiologies

October 12, 2006
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Sandwiches, Italian

120 S 18th St, Philadelphia 19103 *CLOSED*
Btwn Chestnut St & Sansom St

Phone: 215-568-0077
Website: none

Entree I: Smoked Salmon – spicy hummus, mesclun greens, capers on black bread

Entree II: Honey Roasted Turkey – sharp provolone, sweet onions cranberry-pear relish, mesclun greens on baguette

My co-worker Ricky and I went to Paninoteca for lunch. We both ordered sandwiches and had them wrapped up “to go” so that we could enjoy them in Rittenhouse Square. I ordered the Smoked Salmon and Ricky chose the Honey Roasted Turkey.

The Smoked Salmon was very tasty, but I wouldn’t characterize it as a panino. For one thing, there were no grill marks and another thing, there wasn’t any melted cheese. I think grill marks and melted cheese are key elements of panini.

Unfortunately, the chef’s vision couldn’t be fully actualized during my visit because Paninoteca ran out of black bread. My sandwich was made on a baguette instead. Other than that minor technicality, my sandwich totally rocked. The size of the sandwich was surprisingly robust, the greens were tossed in a light vinaigrette, the hummus was on point, and the smoked salmon was excellent. The baguette held the contents in nicely and had a lovely, chewy texture. All the ingredients worked together very well. My only complaint was that the ratio of greens to salmon was 10:1, so I had to eat the salmon separately to fully take in the flavor. While I never thought I’d ever say this, perhaps the sandwich could use less greens in the future.

Ricky’s choice was definitely a panino. Grill marks? Check. Melted cheese? Check! I only had one bite of the Honey Roasted Turkey and thought that it was a good combination of flavors overall. Ricky thought that the relish could’ve used more sugar. I thought the panino could do with less relish because the tartness of the pears and cranberries overwhelmed the milder flavors such as the onions and turkey.

Paninoteca is a delicious establishment, but with so many eateries in Center City, I probably won’t return anytime soon. Ricky on the other hand said he would definitely return to try some other offerings.

Oct 2006

Cranberry Walnut Pumpkin Bread

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup canned pure pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9 1/4×5 1/4×3-inch loaf pan. Line bottom and 2 long sides with waxed paper. Whisk flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating until blended. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in pumpkin, then vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions each. Fold in cranberries and nuts. Transfer batter to pan. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake bread until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool bread in pan on rack 15 minutes. Cut around bread at short ends to loosen from pan. Turn bread out onto rack; peel off waxed paper. Cool bread completely. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Wrap and store at room temperature.)

Makes 1 loaf.

Bon Appétit, October 2003

[For Printable Recipe Click Here]

Substitutions: Whole wheat flour in place of white, cinnamon instead of pumpkin pie spice, non-fat plain yogurt instead of butter, only used a 1/2 cup of sugar, no walnuts.