Category Archives: Philadelphia Restaurants

{ Slate Bleu } ***

Escargot en Croute
100 South Main Street
Doylestown Pa 18901
215.348.0222

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My friend Liz and I constantly find ourselves asking the question, “where should we go for dinner tonight?” We live in a small town with fairly limited dining options, which leads us to frequent the same four places over and over again each week: Domani Star, Ooka, M.O.M.s, and Quinoa. But tonight we were longing to break out of our little routine so we ventured to try the French restaurant Slate Bleu.

It is by no means new to the neighborhood—if fact, it has established a sort of cult following—but it always falls of my radar because its location is slightly hidden. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.

Tonight we arrived without a reservation and found ourselves seated without a problem in the elegant downstairs dining area (I prefer this downstairs bar area to the upper tier dining room, which is a bit more removed from the pulse of the restaurant). The décor is very chic and modern, and lends itself well to an impressive first-date kind of place.

After looking over the cocktail list, I decided to try the Bourbon St. Ginger on the rocks, made with Elderflower liquor, bourbon, and a splash of ginger ale ($9). The slight fizz was refreshing, but the drink was definitely potent. I also recommend the Frozen Grapefruit Martini made with absolut vodka, dry vermouth, sorbet, and grapefruit segments ($13). It is certainly pricey, but so unique and delectable that it can commend the price point.

To start we ordered the Salade Ardoise with mixed greens, figs, French bleu cheese, Prosciutto, pecans, and balsamic vinaigrette ($12.50). We had the intentions of sharing the salad, but ordered a second to each have our own after the first bite! The bleu cheese was excellent and the figs were so good with the salty ham and vinegar.

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The Escargot en Croute, a classic French appetizer of snails with garlic and herb butter baked in pastry ($12.50), was also very tasty. It was my first experience with escargot and I expected to be leery about the texture, but the flakey and buttery croute provided enough contrast for me to enjoy them. Caution: there is a TON of garlic used in the making of this dish!

Escargot en Croute 2

For dinner I ordered the Thai Steamed Mussels with coconut, ginger, and lemongrass with a side order of fries ($15.50). I found the broth bland because they used coconut water instead of coconut milk. I thought it was a bit too light without the creamy component, but the mussels themselves were nice and plump. The fries were also excellent!

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Liz had an order of the Chicken Paillarde with artichokes, nicoise olives, and saffron risotto ($14.50). She is a risotto kind of girl due to her gluten free diet, and she claims that this is the best risotto that she has ever had. As for the rest of the dish, chicken is chicken….

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Since my initial visit, I have gone back and tried the Bar Steak Au Poivre, which is a pepper encrusted petit NY steak served with fries ($20.50). I was terribly disappointed by the steak, which I requested at medium rare temp and was served more than well done. The piece of meat shrank down to nothing, but I was so hungry that I continued to eat after bringing it to my server’s attention. Unfortunately, they did nothing to rectify the situation, which I found to be a bit of a turn off and I certainly won’t suggest that anyone order a steak there. The French are infamous for under cooking their beef, so to be served so well done is a bit odd.

Steak Au Poivre

Overall, I like the idea of going back for a nice meal at the bar with a friend or on a date. Get a cocktail and either a cheese platter or one of the lighter menu items to share. I would try the mussels in traditional white wine garlic sauce next time, and steer clear of steak.

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Filed under Baking, Brunch, Buck's County, Cafe / Bistro, Cocktails, Dessert, French Restaurants, Gluten Free, Lunch Spots, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Restaurants, Take-Out

{ El Vez } *****

 Chicken Chopped Salad1
 
121 S 13th Street (on corner of Sansom)
Philadelphia, PA 19107
215.928.9800

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No one enjoys Mexican food more than I do. I know it’s a bold statement, but I dare to make the claim and stand behind it. I could literally eat a taco for every meal, each day, for the rest of my entire life….and be perfectly happy about it!

Naturally, being a Philadelphia resident and a Mexican food slut, I was very anxious to try Stephen Starr’s trendy El Vez restaurant, located on the corner of 13th and Sansom. The décor is fitting for a place located in the heart of Philly’s Gay-borhood; the colors are loud, bright, and fun with retro wall hangings, and uniquely structured booths. The bar is certainly a scene, drawing quite a noteworthy crowd throughout the evening (Charles Barkley was there the last time that I visited!).

elvez

I suggest that you grab a margarita at the bar before your meal but then head to a booth for your actual meal. Personally, I like to be out of the public eye when eating Mexican food, so I can get my grub on shamelessly. …Although sometimes I do get caught!

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#I’mNotPrettyWhenIEatMexican

My two favorite cocktails on the menu are: (1) Perfecto Margarita made with el jimador blanco, Cointreau, grand marnier, and fresh lime juice (on the rocks with salt, of course!)

Skinny Marg

(2) Guava Mojito made with Bacardi, Cruzan guava rum, pink guava puree, lime, and mint. El Vez is quite famous for their Blood Orange Margarita, but I not a fan of frozen margaritas, and it cannot be served on the rocks so I have yet to try it for myself (Yelpers rave about it though!).

Guava Mojito 

I have also tried the Pina Especiada with jalapeno-infused tequila and pineapple puree, as well as the Granada Margarita, which is their version of a pomegranate margarita. The pineapple one was too acidic and the pomegranate was very generic.

Pomegranate Marg

As far as food orders go, you MUST try the Taco Tasting Platter if you want to experience a variety of flavors in one convenient and satisfying plate ($25).

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It comes with an assortment of 5 soft-shell tacos, including: seabass, beef, chicken tinga, carnitas pork, and mahi mahi. The Mahi tacos are my absolute favorite and I usually ask for two of those, in place of the one seabass taco. The Mahi fish taco is life-changing, I kid you not!

Carnita Pork Steak Spicy Chicken

I also like their guacamole, which is an enormous portion to share for a table of 3-4 people. The Bazooka Limon with goat cheese, pistachio, chile flakes, and roasted tomatoes was recommended by my server on my first visit to El Vez, and it has remained my favorite. The creamy goat cheese offsets the acid of the roasted tomatoes and the pistachios add a lovely crunchy texture to the otherwise smooth Guacamole.

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Next on my list of suggestions are the Macho Nachos with shredded steak, black beans, smoked chili salsa, sour cream, white cheddar cheese, and monterey jack. These can be ordered in a half portion for just $6!!! It is a steal because the portion is still massive. If you are dining on a budget, this is the best bang for your buck!

Macho Nacho Upclose

If your looking to keep your figure, try the Mexican Chopped Salad with Blackened Chicken, which combines romaine, watercress, pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, chayote, corn, and black beans with queso fresco, crispy tortillas, and both chipotle ranch and cumin-lime vinaigrette. It looks pretty straightforward when it arrives at the table, but the layers of flavor are complex and delicious. I like to switch between the two dressings with each forkful!

Chicken Salad

Lastly, I recommend the Creamy Poblano Corn Rice as a side dish. It is similar to a rich and creamy risotto, and it packs a tiny bit of heat. Ultra decadent, but delicious.

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This is a great place to celebrate a birthday, or go in a large group because the atmosphere is fun and loud. There is also a great little photo booth near the stairs to bring home memories of your experience!

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{ The Down to Earth Cafe } ****

doc51dcb88dabf2a3853190365
1141 N 5th St
Perkasie, PA 18944
(215) 258-2233

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Eating out at a restaurant is often an experience that is driven and dominated by the desire to socialize. People go out for a meal to spend time with the ones that they love, and the food serves as the unifying element that brings them all together. Sometimes the food is very well prepared and someone will comment on its palatability, and other times, the food is just present as a mere necessity for sustaining life and a backdrop for the conversation.

What I am trying to say is that very rarely do people make an emotional connection with their food when they dine out. After all, they are not involved in the direct preparation of their food, nor do they often get the opportunity to watch as chefs transform raw ingredients into the entrée of their choice. The food arrives at the table, they eat, and go home.

The Down to Earth Café in Perkasie Pa offers a different kind of dining experience though—one that is atypical of the norm. In all facets of the restaurant, there is a permeating sense of community; a genuine connection established between every person, object, and meal that one comes in contact with. The servers feel familiar and their smiles seem genuine, as if they would rather be nowhere else in the world. The kitchen is partially within the customer’s view so that patrons can watch as their food is being prepared, and see who is responsible for crafting their meal. The food itself is sourced locally and organically—whenever feasible—and the menu showcases how simple high-quality ingredients can come together to create something delicious.

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I went for brunch this weekend and had very few expectations for this little café tucked away in a rather non-descript and rundown strip mall. But from the moment that I walked in, I knew I was in for a good meal! I ordered the Anti-Salerno Sandwich with grilled eggplant, zucchini, asparagus, onions, mushrooms, and roasted red peppers, topped with melted goat cheese on a fresh ciabatta roll ($8.95).

Veggie Sandwich 2

I added a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and it was delightful! The veggies were chopped up nice and small so that each bite was clean, and the side of balsamic and grape quinoa salad was super tasty. I wish there had been a bit more than the level tablespoon that was dolloped on the plate, but it was excellent.

Veggie Sandwich 1

My boyfriend ordered the Farmer’s Panini Special with scrambled eggs, Blooming Glen scrapple, cheddar cheese, and baby spinach ($9.95). I am not one that cares for scrapple, so I did not sample his dish, but he said that it was hearty and delicious.

Scrapple Sandwich

To drink, I sampled one of the new Sipp organic sodas that they offered in the Mojo berry flavor with blackberry juice, mint, lime, and a touch of agave nectar. It was very refreshing and much less syrupy than a typical soda. Dare I say a healthy soda?

Menu and Soda

All in all, I cannot wait to go back and try some of the other fabulous meals offered at the Down to Earth Café…in particular the smoothies, which looked incredible!

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Filed under Bakery, Baking, Breakfast, Brunch, Buck's County, Cafe / Bistro, Coffee Shop, Cookies, Dessert, Fast Casual Food, Lunch Spots, Muffins, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Restaurants

{ Bowman’s Tavern } ****

bar

1600 River Road
New Hope, PA 18938
215-862-2972
 

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I am definitely NOT a creature of habit; I am the antithesis of anything routine, especially when it comes to my food! I like exotic meats, unusual vegetables, and all kinds of different ethnic cuisines. But provided that I live in a small town with limited dining options –only 114 according to Trip Advisor–I have inevitably become a regular at some of my more preferred restaurants. There’s Domani Star for Sunday brunch, El Tule for my Latin American cravings, and Ooka for my sushi fix.

Lately though, my parents have been frequenting a restaurant that I’ve never visited. They go at least once a week on their “date night” or bring friends for a casual dinner and drinks. I wanted to find out for myself what all the hype was about, so tonight I begged them to change their reservation for two into a both for three! They agreed and thus I had my first–of what will become many–meals at Bowman’s Tavern in New Hope.

The food earns 5 stars and the value for what you pay deserves 6 stars. Factor in the cozy atmosphere and the pleasant service, and you’re looking at a fabulous dining experience. To top it all off, there is a very active owner circulating the dining room to ensure that all of his guests are tended to and happy with their food.

To start I ordered this weekend’s special Salad with Pickled Maitake, Goat Cheese, Roasted Beets, Pumpkin Seeds, Garlic Vinaigrette, and White Truffle Oil ($10). The portion was a bit smaller than the other salads I saw leaving the kitchen, but it was very tasty. The goat cheese and the roasted beets were plentiful, and the pumpkin seeds added a beautiful bit of crunch to the dish. The only thing I found slightly disappointing was the lack of truffle flavor in the salad. I did not taste this ingredient at all, but the salad certainly did not taste bland without it.

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We also ordered a plate of the Semolina Crusted Calamari topped with Garlic Aioli, and Spicy Cherry Pepper Relish, with a side of House Marinara ($9). These were hands down THE BEST fried calamari that I have ever had because of the spicy cherry pepper relish. It really brought a new spin to the traditional fried appetizer, and the semolina breading was delicious. These are reason enough to return to the tavern!

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For my entree I ordered the Steamed P.E.I. Mussels in Garlic White Sauce ($10). The mussels themselves were meaty and plump, but I thought that the sauce was a little bland. It needed some more garlic, lemon, or shallots, or parsley. My parents have had the mussels in red sauce and said that they were much better, so I would recommend the tomato herb broth to those of you ordering the bivalves! I will restate though that quality of the mussels were beautiful though, and not a single one in the heaping bowl was closed!

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My mom ordered the winning dish of the night, which was the Seared Scallops over Creamed Corn, with Roasted Mushrooms, White Truffle Oil, and Micro Salad ($23). The truffle oil was added in just the right quantity without overpowering the dish, and the scallops were just unreal. They had a lovely, golden, caramelized exterior with a tender and creamy inside and the sweet corn underneath made for a perfect compliment to the protein. The mushrooms were used sparingly but they were packed with flavor and so each forkful that contained one was treasured.

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My dad ordered one of the specials, which was a Grilled Mako Shark, Spaghetti Squash, Braised Beans, Broccoli Rabe, Pesto, and Romesco Sauce ($23). The shark was tender and well-seasoned, especially when combined with the pesto and Romesco sauces drizzled on the plate.

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The place is great during winter months because it is warm and cozy inside, and they have live music performers that effectively draw in the crowd, inviting guests to come up, sing, and dance. It is just an all around homey place with friendly service and top notch food at a great value!

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Domani Star – BRUNCH! *****

Jessica Omelet #2

215.230.9100
57 West State Street 
Doylestown, Pa 18901

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As I mentioned in my review of Cafe Lift, I am highly critical of brunches served in restaurants. Not only is it my favorite meal of the day, but I also have become quite good at cooking it, so my standards are set pretty high. But Domani Star is one place that I can confidently go for a consistently amazing breakfast…and now that I come to think of it, I do go almost every Sunday!

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The menu features brunch classics like eggs benedict, pancakes, and 2 eggs any style, but it also features unique and memorable dishes like a Bolognese Omelet with asiago cheese, and a Carbonara Scramble with bacon, onions, and parmesan cheese. 

Italian COuntry Scramble.

My personal favorite is the Italian Country Scramble with crispy polenta, fontina cheese, and baby arugula. This dish is to.die.for.

The Jessica Omelet

I also like the Jessica Omelet with avocado, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, and baby arugula. I get mine with egg whites and a large side of hot sauce and call it a day!

Open Face Sandwich

Another Domani specialty is the Open Face Sandwich with 2 over-easy eggs atop whole wheat toast with avocado, tomato, bacon, and Vermont cheddar cheese with shaved romaine hearts! My dad is a huge fan of this one.

Cappuccino

If you go for brunch, please do not forget to try a cappuccino because they serve one of the best that I have ever had. And if you are a mimosa with breakfast kind of person–which we all know I am!–then feel free to bring a bottle of bubbly (BYOB) and they will supply the OJ. Can’t beat that!

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XIX – Nineteen *****

bellevuephilly
 
200 S Broad Street #19
Philadelphia, PA 19102
215.790.1919

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I was in desperate need of a getaway, so this Friday night my friend and I got a last minute hotel deal at the Hyatt Bellvue in Philadelphia and made plans for an 18 hour girls retreat. We packed up the car after work and headed out to enjoy our mini “staycation,” which was to include a beautiful dinner at XIX Restaurant on the 19th floor of our hotel.

XIX is known for its luxurious dining room and incredible views overlooking the Philadelphia city skyline. Sara and I were lucky enough to snag a table outside on the balcony—along with 3 other couples, who were clearly in the early stages of dating, as we listened to the men desperately attempt to impress their female companions. I have never rolled my eyes so many times while simultaneously being grateful for my single status. This being said, it is a beautiful place to take a lady on a special occasion!

Kentucky STraight Orangeedited

We got started with a round of cocktails called the Kentucky Straight Orange, made with bourbon, orange bitters, and elderflower liquor. It was much sweeter than I was expecting a bourbon-based cocktail would be, but I attribute this to the elderflower liquor, which did grow on me as I sipped it down. I tend to prefer straight manhattans, but this is a great way to work your way into bourbon, if you’re just starting to experiment with it!

Mussels with Fenneledited

Next we ordered the Steamed Blue Bay Mussels in white wine and garlic sauce with fennel ($12). I would definitely have to rank these in my top five mussel experiences. They were meaty, and the sauce was obnoxiously good with thinly sliced fennel garnishing the top of the dish. The grilled sour dough bread served alongside the pot of mussels was perfect to soak up the remaining sauce. The only complaint I can find with this dish is that ¼ of the mussels in the pot were closed shut—and everyone knows you shouldn’t eat those suckers!

Grilled Spanish Octopus

As I began coming down from my euphoric mussel experience, the waiter arrived with our second appetizer: Grilled Spanish Octopus served on top of a bed of baby arugula with sweet peppers and fingerling potatoes, dressed in a sherry vinaigrette ($14). I would consider myself an octopus/calamari connoisseur because I order it out whenever possible, and this was the second best I have ever tasted, ranking just behind Mario Batalli’s grilled octopus with limoncello vinaigrette. For those of you that don’t know, Chef Batalli is famous for his grilled octopus, so that is saying A LOT! The meat was not rubbery and the delicate balance of acid in the vinaigrette was perfect.

Scallops2edited

Finally it was time for our entrée, and I just didn’t know if it could even compare to the appetizers, but it certainly did! We split the Pan Seared Diver Scallops with spicy poblano chili polenta, carrot puree, and mango ginger chutney ($32). The scallops were so perfectly cooked and the flavors of the mango, ginger, and carrot were very interesting and brightened the whole dish with a fresh taste. The polenta cake was definitely spicy and just the perfect size portion to compliment the scallops.

Bottom line, I would definitely go back to XIX for dinner and I hope to one day go for their brunch, which I heard was out of this world (I can only imagine based on last night’s meal!). I thought the price point was completely reasonable for the atmosphere and quality of the food. My only gripe with the restaurant was the service, and that is primarily because our server got way too involved in our ordering decisions and side conversations. At times, we actually thought he was promoting other local restaurants because he seemed to be trying to recommend we go everywhere else in Philly for similar food. It was bizarre and quite annoying. But I will be back….hopefully sooner than later!

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Filed under Bars, Cocktails, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Restaurants

Cuba Libre ***

cuba libre
 
215.627.0666
10 S. 2nd Street (2nd & Market)
Philadelphia, PA 19106

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This past month featured Restaurant Week here in Philadelphia, and I had the opportunity to check out Cuba Libre with a couple of friends. The beauty about restaurant week is that you get to sample multiple courses from a  prix fixe menu at a reduced price. In this case, we were each allowed to choose two appetizers, one entree, and one dessert for $35. But before we even had the opportunity to look at the food menu, we were distracted by the longwinded cocktail list, which includes 14 uniquely flavored mojitos!

Feeling pressured to try at least one of these specialty cocktails, we decide to order the Classic Mojito and sample it amongst the table. The mojito was  fabulous but definitely not something that should be in conjunction with a heavy meal, and so we opted for a pitcher of Red Sangria to drink with our dinner ($37.50 and we got 8 glasses from it). The sangria was good, but nothing extraordinary (it is also not very strong, as 3 full glasses did not get my 100-lb self even remotely tipsy!).

Cuba Libre Red Sangria

But onto the food, which is what we came for in the first place! To start, our server brought us a nice basket of bread with an o-u-t-r-a-g-e-o-u-s mango butter. This light, almost whipped, butter transformed the bread into a sweet french toast-like dessert. Honestly, the flavored butter was probably my favorite item brought to the table all evening. It was memorable and unique.

Cuba Libre Bread and Mango Butter

For my first appetizer, I ordered the Pulpo con Berenjenaswhich is a truffle and citrus marinated baby octopus that is then grilled and served atop a Haitian eggplant salad.  The octopus was cooked perfectly and wasn’t rubbery in the least bit. The flavors were all well-balanced and the portion size was perfect, leaving me wanting one more forkful.

Cuba Libre Octopus

The Eight Hour Guava BBQ Ribs, on the other hand, were not as good as I had hoped they would be. I had high expectations for these “award winning” St. Louis cut pork ribs, glazed in a Guava BBQ Sauce with jicama-Sambal salad, but they were VERY fatty with hardly any meat at all. Very disappointing. Sad face.

Cuba Libre Guava BBQ Ribs

Others at the table ordered the Empanadas stuffed with pulled pork, roasted poblano pepper, and charred tomatoes;

Empanadas

as well as the Sopa de Frijoles Negros, which was sweet rather than spicy; and finally the signature Cuban Tostones, which are twice-fried green plantains with a garlic-mojo dipping sauce. I thought the tostones and mojo sauce were both bland compared to those I’ve had at other Cuban restaurants.

Cuba Libre Tostones

Sensing that the Cuban food not up to par with what I had grown accustomed to in Miami, I decided to deviate from a traditional Cuban dish for my entree. Instead, I ordered El Pollo del Solar, which is a lime-garlic marinated chicken breast with caramelized onions & steamed kale, served with a black bean croqueta and a sweet and sour mango gravy.  Technically, the chicken was cooked perfectly–juicy and succulent, but flavor-wise the dish was really lacking. I didn’t think the chicken was well seasoned, in fact I couldn’t detect any garlic notes and the black bean croqueta was very, very dry. Not even the mango gravy could restore it’s moisture content. The kale on the other hand, was very soft and delicious, as well as the mango gravy that bathed it.

Cuba Libre Pollo del Solar

Everyone else at the table ordered the traditional Arroz Con Pollo, which is saffron-scented rice, combined with boneless chicken thighs, wild mushrooms, green peas, Manzanilla olives and a hard-boiled egg. Garnishing the dish was an asparagus, palacio chorizo, and roasted Piquillo pepper salad, finished with a splash of Estrella Damm beer. The dish was enormous, and had beautiful presentation with the bright yellow color of the saffron, and the contrasting green of the peas and asparagus. I stole a couple of forkfuls from my friend Liz, and enjoyed them thoroughly, although it is not a traditional Cuban Arroz con Pollo. It was much lighter but very tasty in a unique way.

Cuba Libre Arroz con Pollo

For dessert, I (predictably) ordered the Tres Leches de Caramelo, which is a vanilla sponge cake soaked in three-dulce de leche flavored milks with a mocha moose.  I am a tres leches connoisseur, and this one was right up to par.

Cuba Libre Tres Leches

The other dessert that was ordered was the Dulce de Leche Ice Cream. Ice cream is ice cream. It was good!

Cuba Libre Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

Overall, I’m not in a hurry to go back to Cuba Libre for dinner. But, I am very interested in going back for a night of salsa dancing and mojitos (and maybe some bread with mango butter?!?!). Having spent 5 years living in Miami, I got accustomed to traditional Cuban food that was priced insanely cheap. This being said, I find it difficult to spend an exorbitant amount of money on Cuban cuisine that doesn’t satisfy my craving for the classic dishes. The restaurant atmosphere was very cool though and the mojitos are worth the trip.

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Felix’s Caketeria ****

Cupcake Assortment

Cupcakes became sort of food craze over the past couple of years, with several “cutesy” bakeshops opening up all over the country in a very short period of time. But but very few of these bake shops have managed to survive into 2013 because their ridiculously over-priced, miniature offerings, were just trendy items and not actually quality desserts. Felix’s Caketeria on the other hand, is going strong and even expanding because they are a phenomenal bakery that has mastered the art of exquisite cakes. Fortunately, for consumers like myself, they offer their indulgent cakes in miniature sizes (dare I call them cupcakes?!) to be enjoyed on days that aren’t specialty occasions. No birthday, no problem!

Doesn’t mean you can’t sneak a cupcake on your lunch break!

Cupcake Display

My personal favorite is the Chocolate Salty Caramel, which is a chocolate cake filled with salty caramel, topped with chocolate buttercream and a caramel drizzle. 

Chocolate Salted Caramel

I also love the traditional Carrot Cake, which is made with pineapple, coconut, pecans and topped with a cream cheese icing. 

Carrot Cupcake

The only thing that you must remember is that Felix’s Caketeria uses REAL buttercream to frost their cupcakes, so the cupcake MUST be brought up to room temperature before they are enjoyed. If your impatience gets the best of you, you will be eating a rock hard cupcake and you won’t get the most of your miniature cake experience.

Ohh, and one last cupcake special that they occasionally have is the Eclair Cupcake, shown below:

Eclair Cupcake

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Farm-to-Table: where locavores dine al fresco!

When I was in college–living on a what All-State refers to as “a Ramen-noodle every night kind of budget”™ –I chose my groceries based on one single factor: PRICE! Didn’t matter if the food was organic, Kosher, local, hormone-free, cage-free, genetically modified, partially hydrogenated, or even artificially colored. If it was cheap, I was eating it. And if I had been smart enough to buy stock in Taco Bell as a Freshman, I would probably be able to pay off my student loans right now! But, I wasn’t quite so lucky and so I am paying for my prestigious English Literature degree by working as a restaurant manager. And guess what…..

I LOVE IT!!

Sure, my extensive knowledge of Jane Eyre and my ability to recite  The Canterbury Tales–in Olde English no less–does not work its way into my  job description. But as a restaurant manager, I get to be around food ALL DAY! And for a hard-core foodie like myself, that is the best work environment I could ever ask for.

Since I began working at Jules Thin Crust (my hire date may or may not correspond to date of my last blog post), I have completely changed my perspective on food; in the sense that I now care where it comes from and what has been done to it. No more unhealthy additives, no more artificial colors, no more hormones, no more pesticides. My days late nights at the Taco Bell drive-thru are long over! I have joined the ‘locavore’ movement, and I am proud to say that the restaurant I work for was the driving force of that decision.

Located in the farm-abundant area of Bucks County, Jules Thin Crust does everything within its power to source its ingredients from local farmers and markets. At first, I couldn’t see the value in buying things at higher price just because they were locally grown. In fact, the produce we were receiving was a lot smaller than what I could find at the grocery store, and having been raised in a society where bigger often translates as better, I was confused by the idea of paying more for less. But when it came to the taste of the product, the quality was unparalleled. Organic and local produce may not appear better from a visual perspective, but one bite of an organic heirloom tomato from Barefoot Gardens or the fresh taste of organic basil from Swallow Hill Farms, and you realize the added value that organic produce offers.

Then once I had the opportunity to meet with some of the local farmers, and see how passionate they were about their product and how grateful were to the individuals/local businesses that supported them, I knew that I would never again hesitate to spend the extra dollar on local food.  Of course, I’m not taking this to the extreme and only eating things produced within a certain radius of my house (I love Chipotle too much), but I am definitely making a more conscious effort to spend less time in the supermarket and more time in the farmer’s market. I am also trying to eat at more restaurants that serve locally produced foods. Some of my favorites include Earl’s Bucks County in Lahaska, Hamilton’s Grill Room in Lambertville, and last but not least, Jules Thin Crust!! (For more information on restaurants that source local, see this great article by Bucks County Taste).

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend my first Farm-to-Table Event which was held by the Heritage Conservancy. These events, which are taking place literally all over the world (I even saw them advertised in Patagonia, Argentina!), are dinners that take place out on a piece of farmland and showcase the finest local ingredients, prepared by the areas top chefs! It can be quite expensive to attend, but I was fortunate enough to snag a seat as “Press” because of my blog (….it might have also helped that Jules was an auction donor, thanks, John!).

The stationary appetizers, which were artfully displayed on a large round table amid fresh cut flowers, included: an assortment of pickled, smoked, cured, and fried vegetables with a basil emulsion and citrus aioli. 

A cheese & charcuterie board featuring locally produced honey and spiced apple chutney. The pate was the best I have had to date, and the blue cheese was also a stand out item on the plate! Also, the Cherry Tomatoes stuffed with Goat Cheese & Dill from Flint Hill farms were incredible. 

There were Cucumber and Mint Brushettas on Brie Croustade. 

The dinner, which was an over-the-top buffet, consisted of:

Fresh Salad with a Wine Berry Vinaigrette featuring organic greens from Blue Moon Acres Farms.

Grilled Chicken from Bolton Farms with a provencal sous vide, which was hands down my favorite buffet item! 

Then there were 3 different types of Sausages from Shaffer Farms featuring locally foraged garlic mustard and nettles.  

Side dishes included Grilled Potatoes from Snipes Farm and String Bean & Cashew Salad prepared by chef Jamie Hollander.

Dessert was very light, as it ought to be after a buffet-style dinner! It was a very lightly sweetened Iced Tea from Cynthia’s Iced Tea with Peach Sorbet made byOwowcow Creamery, using fresh Peaches fromManoff Farms

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{ Best Lunch Spots in Buck’s County }

Finding good food on-the-go is tough when you don’t live in a city studded with Pret a Manager, Chipotle, and five-star food trucks. In Buck’s County, the options are pretty limited to full-service, sit-down restaurants or drive-thru, fast-food establishments. If you don’t brown paper bag it to work, you’re looking at either an overpriced gourmet salad, a 40-minute sushi luncheon, or a greasy quarter-pounder in the McDonald’s parking lot. But thankfully, local restaurant owners are finally starting to fill this market gap by opening quick-service lunch spots with high-quality food.

Here is a list of my favorite lunch spots in Buck’s County:

1. { Sariano’s Country Cafe }

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

Located right in the heart of Lahaska, is this adorable French cafe with homemade croissants, fresh soups, and delicious Croque Monsieur sandwiches. You can eat al fresco at any of the outdoor cafe tables, or take your order to-go (just be warned that there is only one indoor table, so might not be the best option for a cold/rainy day!). The menu is posted on a black board behind the counter, and although isn’t terribly long, neither is the wait for your food!

I highly recommend the Grilled Vegetable & Mozzarella Sandwich, which is served warm on a Fresh Butter Croissant ($7.00). The vegetables are chopped up nice and small, and the croissant provides delicious and sturdy base for the sandwich, keeping it together as you eat.

Of course, this being a French cafe, I also recommend the Croque Monsieur sandwiches, which are served on homemade French bread. They have the classic Ham & Cheese ($5.50), but I suggest trying the Goat Cheese & Proscuitto ($6.50) combination, which isn’t something you see every day! Keep in mind that these sandwiches are served hot, so the cheese is warm and bubbly when they come out of the oven. Delicious.

And lastly, I really enjoy Sariano’s Shrimp & Corn Chowder Soup ($7.00), which is creamy and slightly spicy but not too heavy. The soup prices seems a little high, when compared those of the sandwiches, but the portions are really generous and it comes accompanied with your choice of crackers or homemade French bread.

If you’re really in a hurry, Sariano’s also offers an assortment of pre-made meals that you can choose from.

2. { Jule’s Thin Crust }

Photo taken from TheMainLineVine

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With new locations popping up all over Buck’s County, it is clear that Jule’s Thin Crust has found a recipe for success. This gourmet pizza shop, which relies heavily on locally and organically grown produce, offer 22+ varieties of pizza, innovative salads, and gluten-free, as well as whole-wheat, products. If you stop by for just a few slices, you can choose from anything available on the line and get back to work within 10 minutes. And if you’d rather place a full pie or custom order, you’re looking at a total wait time of about 15 minutes, but you’re more than welcome to bring a bottle of wine to help pass the time while you wait! Just keep in mind that you’re still at a pizza place, so to all my wine-snobs: NO, there will not be glassware!

I suggest trying the new Buffalo Chicken Pizza with hormone free chicken, chopped celery, blue cheese, mozzarella, arugala, and buffalo sauce ($2.90 per slice). Or the Kim’s Pie with hormone free chicken, portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, balsamic BBQ glaze, mozzarella, and chives ($2.90 per slice).

Another classic, loved by all, is the Brushetta Pizza with Chopped Organic Tomatoes, Fresh Cubed Mozzarella, Garlic, Oregano, and Arugala, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil! It will revolutionize your idea of pizza.

3. { Marhaba }

Photo Taken from The New York Times

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Tucked away on a side street in Lambertville, is one of the best Middle Eastern Restaurants that I have ever been to! The interior is cozy, the prices are reasonable, and the food is authentic and a-m-a-z-i-n-g. The Gyro Sandwich, which is slow roasted lamb, topped with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and tahini drizzle on a warm homemade pita ($5.95) is a deal that can’t be beat and so it has become a regular weekly lunch for me and my mother.

Photo Taken from Jersey Foodies

I also recommend the Babaganough, which is a grilled eggplant spread mixed with tahini, garlic, and fresh lemon juice ($5.95) served alongside warm homemade pita bread. The spread has a zesty flavor and a creamy texture, that is beautiful when paired with the zatter spices on the pita bread.

Photo Taken from ThePalatePrincess

4. { Genivieves Panini & Salads To-Go }

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I found this place on Groupon a couple of weeks ago, and I have been hooked ever since! Located in the center of Doylestown, Genivieves serves up seasonally inspired food made with locally produced ingredients. The sandwiches are crafted like a work of art and the flavor combinations are a food-enthusiasts dream. My personal favorites are: the Vegetale with grilled asparagus, plum tomato, gooey taleggio cheese, and fresh pesto on multigrain bread ($7.50);  and the Tuscany with grilled chicken breast, sautéed broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone on rustic ciabatta bread ($7.50). 

In addition to their fabulous warm panini’s, Genivieves also offers gourmet salads, homemade soups, and assorted baked goods. And if you find yourself addicted, as I have, then you can also order their food for catered dinners with 24 hours advance notice. Unfortunately, Genivieves is take-out only, so you cannot dine-in.

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Filed under Baking, Cafe / Bistro, Coffee Shop, French Restaurants, Italian Restaurants, Lunch Spots, New Jersey Restaurants, Philadelphia Restaurants, Take-Out