Tuesday, February 23, 2010
This being the winter doldrums, at least as far as fresh produce is concerned, my posts normally decline in quantity this time of year. This winter of near-blizzards is no exception, but the weekend before last caused me to alter my opinion, slightly, about a root vegetable I've regularly slighted: the humble rutabaga, a.k.a. Swede, a.k.a. Yellow Turnip.
The cause of my conversion is the delicately-flavored smallish specimens which have been on sale at the Reading Terminal Market's Fair Food Farmstand since the onset of winter. They hail from Vermont's Deep Root Organics. a cold storage coop on the northern climes of the Green Mountain State.
Along with parsnips from the same coop and supermarket "baby" carrots, they became the vegetable component of a Valentine's Day dinner I composed for my Valentine, who has always held the rutabaga in high esteem (must be her Scandinavian heritage). I cut the veggies into half-inch dice, tossed with a minimum coating of olive oil, along with a little thyme, salt, pepper, a scant teaspoon of sugar (to encourage browning) and roasted them in the oven.
To my amazement, the rutabaga actually tasted good! Maybe it was the sugar, maybe it was the roasting, since my previous encounters with rutabagas had always been simply mashed with butter. But these roasted rutabagas had a more subtle countenance than the mash, so that the flavor note I previously found offensive became appealing. Will wonders never cease?
The veggies accompanied filet mignon, a cut she enjoys but I rarely prepare for myself because of its lack of flavor compared to other cuts of steaks, though its tenderness is always to be admired. This beef came from Harry Ochs, and the combination of high quality beef and the method of preparation made it a hit, even with me. I simply seared it in a pan, three minutes on a side over medium high heat to get a nice char (not disturbing the meat except once, to turn turn it), then finished it off in a 450F oven for another four minutes for medium, my Valentine's preferred doneness. While it rested on a warm platter under foil, I made a pan reduction with cream sherry finishing with a small knob of butter. Although I prefer my steaks rarer, this retained just enough pinkness to remind it came from a living thing, and had great flavor.
Dessert was a sampling of truffles from Neuchatel Chocolates of Oxford, Pennsylvania, every bit as good as any truffle we've had. The creations from Swiss chocolatier Albert Lauber can be had at the Pennsylvania General Store.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
When I first started visiting the Reading Terminal Market more than a quarter century ago, Spataro's was known as the place where you could stop for lunch and pay about as little for a sandwich as humanly possible. Inflation and menu upgrades have changed that, though Spataro's (which has since moved from one part of Center Court to another) still represents good value.
The addition of cheese steaks to Spataro's bill of fare earlier this year is partly responsible for the hike in average menu cost ($7 for a plain steak, iirc). Their version of the cheese steak represents the third and final entry in my RTM survey of this Philadelphia classic.
The best thing about Spataro's is the meat. Although it would take side-by-side comparisons to confirm this (I've spaced my tastings over the past five or six weeks), I thought their meat was the beefiest I've tried so far, when compared to By George and Carmen's. There was also a satisfactory taste of onions in my sandwich though I could have used a bit more. The bread was okay, the typical soft steak roll -- I'd like just a hint of crunch to the crust.
The main failing was the cheese: I couldn't taste it, let alone detect the cheesy, gooey mouth feel I want my cheese steak to convey. As best as I could determine, they used two thin slices of American, though provolone is also offered. Another failing is the unavailability of hot sauce.
Still, it's a fine representation of a cheese steak and you won't be disappointed when you crave this icon of our fair city's culinary heritage.
More About DiNic's Pulled Pork
This morning Joe Nicolosi offered me a taste of some of his pulled pork fresh out of the oven. Gotta say, while this sandwich is excellent eating any time of the day, it's better if you can get it fresh before the fat has a chance to re-congeal. It absolutely melted in the mouth, with textural contrast offered by the crunchy bits. As previously noted, don't confuse this version with what you're likely to find in North Carolina: the seasonings are Italian (with tons of garlic), not barbecue.