Friday, January 15, 2010
Bill Beck has 86'd beignets at his Reading Terminal market counter, Beck's Cajun Cuisine.
Reason: They've been awful.
Although my first sampling found them just fine, with a reasonably light texture, he's had problems since. In two subsequent tastings, the outside was impossibly crunchy and the interior hollow. Beck's tried to figure out what's wrong, but for the time being decided to forget about them. And all this after spending bucks on a heavy-duty mixer whose sole purpose was to prep the dough.
So, once again, the Reading Terminal Market will have to wait for a superior sweet fried dough.
Friday, December 11, 2009
The heavy-duty stand mixer finally arrived at Beck's Cajun Café so the new Reading Terminal Market eatery can now make those beignets.
I've never been to New Orleans so I won't presume to make comparisons to what's offered by the finer establishments of the Crescent City at 2 a.m. to local and foreign drunkards looking to put something in their stomachs to hold down the liquor.
Who among us doesn't, at least occasionally, crave hot fried dough? It's even a religious tradition. (Tonight being the first night of Hanukah, it's time to indulge in sufganiot, one of the the traditional fried foods of this festival, basically a jelly doughnut, just as the Pennsylvania Dutch love their fastnachts for Fat Tuesday.)
Bill Beck's rendition is among the lightest hot fried dough I've ever had, which seems like an oxymoron. Not that these are low-caloric! He drowns them in confectioners' sugar, as you can see in the photo. Order them with a cup of Community Coffee (with chicory) imported from New Orleans.
Beck is also proud of his jambalaya, as you can see in the second photo.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Want a muffaletta, or a Po' Boy? You can get them now at the Reading Terminal Market with the opening this past Monday of Beck's Cajun Café.
Alas, no beignets yet. Bill Beck, the proprietor, said he wasn't told when he ordered his mixer that it was on back order, but it is. So we'll have to wait to try this version of sweet fried dough.
She Who Must Be Obeyed and I visited the market today to sample Beck's fare. SWMBO ordered the muffaletta, I opted for the Oyster Po'Boy.
I didn't ask Bill where he got his bread, but the hoagie-style roll for the Po' Boy and the round, sesame seeded muffaletta bread were both excellent. (I can't compare to what you'd get in New Orleans, since I've never been there.) Although I generally like my hoagie rolls with a thin crispy crust, the soft-style long and round rolls were good protein holders.
SWMBO enjoyed the muffaletta, but she prefers the pressed style of this sandwich. Bill explained he modeled his on the version found at Central Grocery in New Orleans, which claims to be the home of this sandwich; Central's versions, and Beck's, is an unpressed sandwich filled with cold fixings. And the fixings are very good, indeed: mortadella, salami, tasso ham and aged provolone with a New Orleans style vinaigrette and adorned with an olive salad. And the sandwich is huge. The $8.95 "half" sandwich easily fills up two hearty eaters. SWMBO didn't eat half of a half; we took the remainder home and will press it on the stove between two cast iron skillets for lunch tomorrow.
Of course, the muffaletta is nothing more than a variant on the hero, sub or hoagie, something you'll find in any Italian-American community. The difference, to my mind, is in the breads and the garnishes. The olive salad on Beck's was superb, a mix of what seemed to be two or three different olives, including one that actually has a reddish cast.
My $7.59 Fried Oyster Po' Boy was a bit less massive, though it easily could feed two lighter eaters. The six large oysters were expertly fried with a breading of panko. They sat atop a hoagie style roll slathered in remoulade and garnished with lettuce and tomato.
If you're a root beer fan, be sure to order a bottle of the Abita root beer. It's a strong, herbal brew that will satisfy your root beer cravings. Just a whiff of it satisfies.
We also added the Cajun fries, which were tasty potato wedges spiked with onions and something to give them heat (maybe Tabasco or Crystal?).
Service at the counter (which seats about a dozen, I'd guess) was personable and fast.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
If you want to start up a stall at the Reading Terminal Market, you'll have to wait for an existing vendor to fail.
With the recent move of the Fair Food Farmstand to the 12th Street side of the market, the opening of S&B Meats and Barb & Suzy's Kitchen, and next week's opening of Beck's Cajun Café all available space has been leased for the first time in a couple of years.
The move of Fair Food expands the available seating in the court closest to Arch Street, and it will remain that way, according to Paul Steinke, the market's general manager.