Friday, January 31, 2014

Marigold Kitchen (Philadelphia) 01/2014

Marigold does not look much like a restaurant. It is housed in a Federation style old house and has only about ten tables. There did not seem to be much signage outside and it is a bit isolated in a domiciliary area well out of the centre of town.

Food means different things to different people. The way it is prepared and the circumstances under which it is eaten are all important. We are not going to venture into the mammoth subject of the sociology of gastronomy except to say that, apart from all the profound considerations, eating can be FUN.
That is one of the driving forces behind the quirky menu at Marigolds.  It varies, to some extent, most days but has some regular favourites. 
This was our menu:
Liquid Nitro Popcorn
This frozen popcorn was just a little too warm when it got to the table diminishing the effectiveness of the sudden release of flavour although the potential was obvious.

Frozen Citrus Salad
Tiny little gems of citrus sorbet, barely a teaspoon full but full of flavour.

House Cured Everything Swordfish 
Caramelized Onion, Pumpernickel, Pear Blossom Honey

The small bit at the 12 o'clock was the swordfish. It was indistinguishable from 1000 other fish but it provided good contrast to the rest of the dish. This one did not really work for me.

2 Year Aged Cabot Clothbound Cheddar
Sorry, I ate it before I thought to take a picture! It was a crunchy little packet to be eaten in one mouthful and released and beaut moderately sharp cheddar taste as it opened in the mouth.
Lobster Bisque
Thyme Bubbles
A small cup full of delicious taste.
Foie Gras Chocolate Tuille
A total taste contrast, creamy delicate foie gras and crisp sweet tuille
Chestnut Ravioli
Mushroom Dust
  It was just what it was reported to be!

Beef Tartare
Too many Garnishes to List
 Everything was fine until I tasted the fiery red pepper sauce. A shock after the mild tastes of the other garnished which included the quail egg, a cube of meat jelly, a cube of beetroot jelly, a dob of cheese, a little coleslaw and a cold sweet which could have been ice cream.
Moonstone Oyster
Pine Nut Tempura, Radishes, Winter Fruits
 From Rhode Island area we loved these oysters, raw or cooked. Another weird combination. I would have happily had more.
Diver Scallop
Foie Gras Soup, Mushroom Forrest,Candied Pineapple
We both gave this one top marks. The scallop was deliciously sweet qnd the mushrooms outstanding.
 A palate Cleansing Sorbet
Red Grouper
Lamb Tagine,Cauliflower-Vanilla Puree, Poached Pear
 The tagine here was chickpeas

Cheese Plate
Birchrun Hill Blue, Old Chatham Nancy's Hudson Valley Camembert, Valley Shepherd Red Goat
 Lovely American cheeses accompanied by quince jelly, candied pecans and grapes with super house made bread
 Pineapple Cake
Frozen Spice Foam Caramel, Carrot, Chocolate Soup
More fun


A lovely end to the dinner.
It took eight chef's and a washing up person to look after the 14 or so patrons that night. If the place is full they have a couple more in the kitchen. They no what they are doing so in part it becomes like a production line in there. Keith, the head chef on the night we were there spent some time speaking to us about how the place works and how they develop new dishes. They seem to enjoy and we certainly did! This was an exceptionally interesting meal but it is not for everyone.
Score: 16.5/20

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bistro St.Tropez (Philadelphia) 01/2014

There are a large number of restaurants in Philadelphia purporting to serve French style meals but we have not had much success  finding ones that really fit the bill. Bistro St.Tropez is a little off the beaten track, on the 4th floor of a building housing high quality home ware stores. Only five minutes from the centre of town it still seems to be isolated and is now a destination restaurant. The entrance to the building is graced with some graffiti art.

Their is no doubt when one eventually reaches the entrance to the place.
It's restaurant week here just now so a large number of restaurants are providing three or four course meals for $35. This is something of a community service as many of these meals would normally cost twice that, and many restaurants are struggling, even waiters will be getting much reduced tips. Such is life.
Here the four course French menu, with English descriptions, consisted of a creamy truffle wild mushroom soup as first course a second course which was a choice of  one of Saumon, a Terrine Duet, Escargot, Tarte de Legumes and Salad d'Artisan.
Third course, the main course, was a choice of Dorade (stripped bass), Agneau (Lamb shank), Canard, Cassoulet, Bavette (Hanger steak), Coquilles, Saumon or a Vegetarian dish.
The last dish was a choice of Tart Tatin, Creme Brulee or St.Tropez cake. A remarkable menu for the price.
The soup, in a small cup, was delicious, rich and full of taste. I could have enjoyed three times as much.
Escargot, sauteed Burgundy snails and mushrooms in a herb garlic butter sauce was the popular choice.These were quite good but I have a preference for them in a garlic and herb butter sauce in their shells. They're more photogenic that way too!

The salad, field greens with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, golden apples, walnut pralines, walnut vinaigrette was a successful dish and a very good size serve. 
 Cassoulet, traditional white bean stew with lamb, pork, sausage and duck leg confit was excellent although I found it rather too dry.

Saumon, pistachio and goats cheese crusted Scottish salmon filet wrapped in phylo with carrot puree, piperade and curry sauce was another good choice.

All three desserts were very good. Few chefs can turn out a first class tart tatin, they did here.

Creme brulee is a test for a good chef and they passed with flying colours.

 For me the St.Tropez cake, a sort of opera cake, was beyond criticism
 The whole meal was enhances by the pleasing room with attractive table settings and a fine view.

 Score: 14.25/20

Monday, January 27, 2014

Lacroix (Philadelpia) 01/2014

Lacroix is the restaurant on the second floor the upmarket Rittenhouse Hotel on Rittenhouse Square. A harpist was playing to the guests enjoying afternoon tea in the lobby.
That room overlooks an out door dining ares, currently covered in snow.
 A wall at the top of the stairs to the second floor has an entertaining fresco. 

Entry to the restaurant is via a narrow passage
Which opens up into an elongated room with a fine view over Rittenhouse Square.

During the week it is a fine dining restaurant but for Sunday lunch it is something else. What else? An extraordinary smorgasbord, under the guiding hand of Executive Chef Jon Cichon.
They run a first seating at 11.00 am and a second at 13.30, not that anyone needs to leave, running through to 4.00pm. With everything immediately available and no need to wait for servers it would be hard to eat for two hours. I'll run through the $69 menu with a some pic's and a few comments.

It's divided as follows:

Sushi Maki: California, BBQ Eel, Spicy Tuna, Vegetable
Jumbo Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce
Smoked Trout, Peppered Mackerel

Assorted American Caviar, Traditional Accoutrements
House Smoked  Salmon, Classic Accompaniments
Chef's Selected Oysters Rhode Island were particularly good, large, good taste without being overwhelming
and ?Sheff River, improved by the variety of fish roe available.

Apple Soda, 
Casper, Golden Raisin Croissant
Butternut Squash Parfait, Yoghurt, Pumpkin Seed Granola, superb

Banana and Cinamon Smoothie

Pork Confit tart, Apple, Frisee

Whipped Riccota, Huckleberry Truffle Honey
Pork Belly Slider (a mini burger), Apple Parsnip Slaw
Branzino, Winter Citrus, White Chocolate
Rosemary Macaroon, Yuzu Cream
Sausage and Buttermilk Beignets
Squid Escabeche, Piquillo Pepper, Meyer Lemon, one of my favourites

Crawfish Vol-Au-Vent, Romesco Vinaigrette

Fennel salad, Guanciale, Navel Orange, Pickled Chili
Heirloom Carrot Salad, Avacado, Lime, Fenugreek Vinaigrette
Edamame Hummus, Pickled Red Onion, Charred Scallion, Naan Bread
Hearts of Palm Salad, Black Bean, Truffle Vinaigrette
Gem Lettuce Salad, Dill, Cellery, Gribiche Dressing
Holland Leek, Crosnes, Dijon and Lemon Vinaigrette


Lavendar and Mustard Glazed Scottish Salmon
Roasted Venison Loin Pomegranite Molasses 
Giant Diver Scallop Sausage. This pic fails to properly show two of the tastiest dishes the scallop sausage was absolutely fantastic.

Leg of lamb, Smoked Paprika, Fennel Orange
Duck Magret.

A sample plate, clockwise from the top Diver sausage, bread, black sage, mushroom, duck, two hams from the charcuterie platter and lamb.

Weekly Selection of Cured Meats, Pickles and Breads
Crispy Duck Confit,Trofie Pasta, Cippolini Onion, Red Verjus

Applewood Smoked Bacon, House Made Pork Breakfast Sausage

Braised Endive, Celery Root, Prune, Parmesan

Black Kale, Sunchoke, Pepitas, Sheep's Milk Cheese
Baby White Turnips, Harissa Monkfish
Vietnamese Beef Broth, Quail Egg
Pain Perdu, Lingonberry Jam, Sage
English Muffin, Egg, Cantal, Pork Roll, Piperade
Cauliflower Pot au Creme, Golden Raisin
White Cheddar Grits, Andouille Sausage, Winter Greens

Sauteed Wild Mushrooms in Sauce Nage

Belgian Waffles with Fresh Mixed Berries
Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Pancakes
Potato Gnocchi, Escargot, Artichoke, Hazelnut
Fleur de Sel Potatoes

 A small selection

          Join us in the Kitchen for

They also offer a range of cocktails at a very reasonable $10
There is plenty of imagination in these dishes including interesting combinations of flavours and unusual ingredients. For example I have never seen crosnes outside of Paris. Not everything is exquisite, not everything is original but there is absolutely nothing one might complain about except too much of everything!
 Score:18 /20