Sunday, June 17, 2018

Burger Brawl 2018

During last year's Burger Brawl, I was sadly out of town and wasn't available to judge. So when I was tapped to judge Burger Brawl 2018, I was incredibly excited and honored at the opportunity! Eight years since the first brawl at the William M Meredith Elementary School, Maggie & Rob Wasserman continue to create the city's standout burger competition. 

And what do tickets to this all-you-can-eat burger competition support? This annual event benefits The Fund for the Philadelphia School District, which allows for curriculum development and technological advancement programs. Since its inception, more than $200,000 has been invested by the Burger Brawl team into the various programs.

Over 50 burgers and tacos ready to be judged!

And yes, in addition to the charitable cause that Burger Brawl supports, attendees were able to party at Xfinity Live! while tasting and helping to pick out the city's best burger (and taco)! This year, there were over 30 respectable entries that ranged from offerings that were creatively chef-fy to simple, but no less tasty. Originally there were more than 50 entrants, but unfortunately bad weather forced Burger Brawl to be rescheduled a week later. 

Clockwise from Top Right: Arpeggio BYOB's Brie & Mushroom | Union Tap's Grilled Pineapple & Mango Salsa Brown Sugar Glazed Bacon Burger | SOMO Manayunk's Scrapple & Long Hots Cream Cheese Burger | Botto's Italian Line Sriracha Bacon Cheddar & Onion Avocado Burger

So how does Burger Brawl go about picking the city's best burger and taco? Attendees were given tokens to help choose the People's Choice winners. But for the Judge's choice, it involved multiple foodie & media judges indulging in several rounds of tasting. And taste we did! It doesn't get more Pennsylvania than with SOMO Manayunk's scrapple & long hots cream cheese burger, with the texture of the porcine patty coming through against the rich kick of the cream cheese. There was enjoyable sweet heat with Union Tap's rum-spiked pineapple and mango salsa, which married well with the sugar-glazed bacon and the homemade Jamaican jerk sauce. But who were the winners? 

Cutthroat Cocktail Winner
Ripplewood Whiskey & Craft - Buzzed Bunny
Maker's Mark, carrot juice, ginger juice, lemon juice, rosemary tincture and sprig

There were quite a few restaurants that participated in the Cuthroat Cocktail competition, sponsored by Maker's Mark. Ripplewood Whiskey came out on top with this union of spirit and cleanse. Light, herbaceous, yet boozy, the Buzzed Bunny was easy to enjoy.

People's Choice Taco
El Vez - Tacos al Pastor
Smoked BBQ pork, Morita chile, pineapple

Who doesn't love an El Vez taco? The succulent pork was dressed with a chile sauce, cilantro, red onion, and pineapple. 

Judge's Choice Taco
Ripplewood Whiskey & Craft - Tongue & Cheek
Braised veal tongue, beef cheek marmalade, corn tortilla

Especially for the more adventurous eaters out there, Ripplewood's offering was clearly a standout. The braised tongue and cheek marmalade was more than just a cute name. The taco featured tender and well-seasoned beef, nicely balanced by the cucumber and mustard seeds.

People's Choice Burger
Lucky's Last Chance - PB&J Burger

For the third year in a row, Lucky's Last Chance satiated the crowds with their PB & J burger. First off, you can't win three years of Burger Brawl without having a well-seasoned and well-seared burger. And the marriage of salty, creamy peanut butter and sweet jam hits the nostalgic notes that secured the trophy once again. 

Judge's Choice Burger
Northeast Sandwich Co. - NESCO Patty Melt
House-blend beef patty, pastrami sliced pork belly, 1001 Island dressing, Cooper American, pickled red cabbage, grilled rye

For the judges, NE Sandwich Co killed it with their patty melt. Perfectly cooked medium-rare, the burger was amped up by the pastrami sliced pork belly and creamy Copper American cheese. And who needs 1000 Island dressing when NE Sandwich Co. has got 1001? Definitely a standout burger! 

Missed out on this year's Burger Brawl? Be sure to look out for next year's competition! Will Lucky's Last Chance make it four in a row? There's only one way to find out. All while satiating your burger, taco, and cocktail cravings all at the same time! 

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Tavola Restaurant & Bar Review

This past week, we drove out to the burbs and enjoyed dinner at Tavola Restaurant & Bar. Located by the Springfield Country Club and golf course, the views are picturesque, yet the vibe is low-key and easily approachable. It was nice to be able to see the sun go down over the golf course while dining al fresco. 

Bread Service

Dinner started off with fresh-baked bread and an olive oil & garlic dip. 

French Onion Soup [$7]
Caramelized onions, beef broth, melted cheese, crostini

The french onion soup is a show stopper and sure to satisfy. All your cheese pull dreams will come true, with a broth that thankfully isn't overly seasoned and has plenty of caramelized onions. 

Crab Avocado Tower [$17]
Jumbo lump crab, avocado, salsa, shaved cucumber, radish 

Seeking a light starter? Look no further than the crab and avocado tower. A generous portion of jumbo lump crab provides the sweet and fresh flavors you're looking for, with the crisp cucumber and radish adding some texture to each bite. 

Crab Cake Sliders [$14]
Jumbo lump crab, Japanese mayo, corn salsa

Crab cake sliders are generously portioned, with sweet japanese mayo and corn salsa. Easily enjoyed with a side or two! 

Onion Rings [$7]

Sides you say? I'd definitely recommend the fresh-cut onion rings - deftly fried and abundant. A steal at $7! 

Burnt End Fried Rice [$25]
Plum BBQ brisket ends, carrots, edamame, snow peas, fried egg

We enjoyed the crisp texture on the rice, with sweet plum BBQ sauce and plenty of brisket interspersed throughout along with diced carrots, edamame, and snow peas. The perfectly fried egg will ooze on top, adding even more heft to each bite. 

So if you're in Springfield, PA or looking to enjoy brunch or dinner along with a round of golf, be sure to stop by Tavola. Pro-tip: check out Quizzo on Tuesdays and their live music as well! 

FTC Disclaimer: Thanks to Tavola Restaurant & Foodie Tribe for inviting us in. Regardless, my opinions are mine alone and, therefore, unbiased. 

Tavola Restaurant & Bar
400 W. Sproul Rd. 
Springfield, PA 19064
(610) 543-2100

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Amis Trattoria Review

It's been a few years since the GF & I were last at Amis. And that's completely on us - we no longer live at 10th and Spruce. Still, we fondly remember some of our best first dates at Amis, which were always coupled with great food and hospitality. Based on  a recent visit back, I'm happy to say that nothing's changed on that front. But it's clear I need to get my butt back out here more often. 

Clockwise from Top Left: Negroni Fresco [$12] | Sangiovese [$12] | House-baked Olive Oil Foccacia

After a fairly busy work-week, drinks were needed. The Negroni Fresco hit the spot for me, with the gin balanced by Atxa Blanco vermouth and the sweetness of Ramazotti amaro. The GF enjoyed a glass of Sangiovese. FYI - the wine list at Amis has always allowed us to find some real gems! House-baked olive oil foccacia was easily enjoyed while waiting for starters.

Baked Pecorino [$12]
Almond honey

Baked pecorino was pretty perfect - hitting the salty and sweet notes that were just right for the grilled bread. Nice texture from the almonds as well.

Bass Crudo [$14]
Fava beans, preserved Meyer lemon

Chef Brad Spence and company dropped the bass nicely with the crudo. Hits of salt and citrus made each bite, with the hearty heft of the favas incorporating bits of spring.

Charred Octopus [$12]
New potato, ramps

Octo was meaty and tender, with lovely charred bits that were accented nicely with garlicky ramps and creamy new potatoes.

Cacio e Pepe [$18]

Cacio e Pepe is always a must order. Perfect tonnarelli noods were tossed in plenty of butter and Pecorino Romano, with the hits of black pepper providing that bracing bite that makes the dish so memorable.

Pork Chop Parmigiana [$29]

Beast of Amis is what this restaurant is known for. With whole animal cookery in mind, there are a few dishes centered around a specific protein. On this particular night, the "Beast of Amis" was rabbit and normally that's the route I would have taken. But I couldn't help but opt for the massive pork chop parmigiana. Nicely pan-fried, this thick-cut pork chop was juicy on its own, but made even better dressed in tomato sauce, olive oil, ricotta, and plenty of basil. Delicious.

Creamy Polenta [$6]
Brown butter, sage

As a side, the glutton in me couldn't help but order the brown butter polenta. And by brown butter, I mean drowned in browned butter and crispy sage. Nutty, rich, and creamy, this was the perfect side for the belly of this pig.

The kitchen also sent out this delightful strawberry ice cream and chocolate sundae, knowing that we recently got engaged. A nice touch and a wonderful way to cap off a great meal.

Chef Brad Spence and his kitchen continue to knock it out of the park at Amis Trattoria. But the evening wouldn't have been as memorable without the exceptional service we received throughout the meal. Yes, potential blogger's bias to be sure, but this sentiment has held true since back to 2012. Already looking forward to returning for our next meal! 

FTC Disclaimer: Thanks to Amis Trattoria and Urbn Food & Beverage for inviting me in. Regardless, my opinions are mine alone and, therefore, unbiased.

Amis Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato