Friday, June 22, 2018

Long Beach Island Excursion

This past week, the GF & I took a quick, mid-week mini-vaca and returned to Long Beach Island. Situated near the heart of Long Beach Township is Daddy O, the premier boutique hotel in LBI. With only 22 rooms, Daddy O's achieves a nice balance between sophistication and comfort. To start - think homemade chocolate chip cookies all day, valets that deliver picnic lunches to you on the beach, and a partnership with PRIV to offer on-site beauty & spa amenities.

And the rooms? Frette bathrobes, C.O. Bigelow bathroom products, flat-screen TVs, wireless internet, ultra-plush mattresses, and rain showers in the marble and natural wood decorated baths are what you can expect!

GM & Director of Operations Pete Palladino holding court at Daddy O

After checking in and getting ourselves situated, the GF and I came downstairs to Daddy O's outdoor garden area to enjoy cocktails. Riffs on standards like an Old-Fashioned were easily enjoyed. And what a rum selection! The bartenders here know their stuff and take their time to shake up a proper cocktail to suit everyone's needs. Try some of the tiki drinks - set ablaze before service, they're the perfect balance between booze and easy sipping. 
Clockwise from Top Right: Tuna Nachos | Lobster Quesadilla | Cheese Curds | Thai Chili Panko Shrimp | Crab Bruschetta

For dinner that night, we were excited to return to Plantation Restaurant in nearby Harvey Cedars. A few miles north on LBI, the restaurant underwent a full renovation last summer. The new interior is bright, inviting, and hints at Miami Beach. To start, we enjoyed a slew of starters, including a lobster quesadilla, the always standout tuna nachos, and who can say no to fried cheese curds? The special of crispy Thai chili panko shrimp were spot on and the crab bruschetta were perfect beach eats.

Clockwise from Top Right: Truffle Halibut | Viking Bay Scallops & Bacon-Pea Risotto | Grouper | Beet Salad

Plantation also had a special of truffle-crusted halibut with an accompanying Parmesan broth and gnocchi - clearly a hit. The grouper was well-cooked, with the light, lemon tartar really making each bite. We always enjoy the local scallops - perfectly seared, with a smoky risotto that was studded with plenty of bacon and peas.

Bottom Left: Bread Pudding | Bottom Right: Key Lime Pie

For all the sweet tooth's out there - Plantation has got you covered. Bread pudding with a salted caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream? Yum! And my favorite dessert of all-time - key. lime. pie. Nicely tart, with a graham cracker crust - this hit the spot. Needless to say, the GF and I went to bed happy (and satiated!) that night.

Daddy O Restaurant & Bar

Clockwise from Top Right: Shishito Peppers | Baby Kale Salad with Jumbo Lump Crab | Tuna Tartare

The next morning, I went for a run along the beach to prep for another day of eats. And eat we did (after a few homemade cookies for breakfast!). With beautiful weather upon us, we ate lunch at Daddy O's outdoor patio. The tuna tartare was nicely dressed and seasoned - but what really blew us away was the care in which the tartare was constructed. Check out those crisps! And yes, we are at the Shore. 

Clockwise from Top Right: Shrimp Tacos | Fish & Chips | P.E.I Mussels with White Wine | Kobe Beef Dog

You can't get more "Shore" than the mussels in a white-wine sauce or shrimp tacos. The standout for me though? The fish & chips - a perfect fry, with just the right amount of batter and a nice firmness to the fish, these really hit the spot. And the sesame dressing on the coleslaw was a home run for me. It's also accompanied by housemade Old Bay chips with a kick! And if you really want to do it up big? Check out that Kobe beef dog. Makes all other dogs feel inadequate and insecure, that's for sure!

Tucker's Tavern

Drinks at Daddy O Rooftop Bar | Shrimp Cocktail & a Dozen Oysters at Tucker's Tavern

After a few hours luxuriating at the beach, we enjoyed drinks on Daddy O's rooftop bar (the place to be after the sun sets in LBI!). We then went to Tucker's Tavern for our final meal before returning to the city. Beautiful hardwood throughout, Tucker's has plenty of space to host parties and celebrations. Fresh seafood abound, with oysters, shrimp cocktail, and tuna tartare to be enjoyed.

Clockwise from Top  Right: 8 oz. Burger with Short Rib & Cheddar | Tuna Poke | Onion Rings | Flounder Francaise

Tuna poke was fun, well-dressed, and nicely light. On the other hand, the burger was all heft - cooked mid-rare, with plenty of cheese and additional richness from the braised-short rib. Do order the onion rings - clearly homemade, with a beer batter that will hit the spot. Old-school flounder francaise was rich, with plenty of butter and lemon. 

And with a bit of a tan (burn?) and our bellies full, we went back home to Philly, albeit wishing we were staying through the weekend. I still can't believe I only recently discovered "the Shore" and certainly, LBI. Definitely consider it the next time you need to get away from the hectic nature of the city. You won't be without any of the dining or hotel options you're used to in Philly either!

FTC Disclaimer: Special thanks to the Fearless Restaurants Group for inviting us out to LBI and the Fearless properties. Regardless, my opinions are mine alone and, therefore, unbiased. 

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