Posts for May 10, 2012

Two Takes on Marc Vetri’s Alla Spina; Rex 1516 Gives the American South a ‘Strong Nod’

• At Marc Vetri’s Alla Spina, the pig pot pie put Adam Erace on the ropes. But on follow up visits, tweaks to the Italian gastropub’s menu took the fare from “klutzy, deep-fried grope at fatty-chic” to a spread that’s “executed with same sharpness and finesse you'd expect from Vetri, Osteria and Amis.” The guinea hen Bolognese and mozzerella curd-laden poutine, he writes, “would make even the most traditional Quebec lumberjack's knees buckle,” and the addition of rendered beef fat to the fryolater gives the fries a “satisfying meatiness.” [CP]

• Leah Blewett develops a man-sized hunger for pig tails after her visit to Alla Spina. Pickles, whole roasted pigs’ heads and puff pastry-topped pig pot pie she says are all “crave-able” plates. Of the beef fat fries, she writes, they “evoke the subtlest whisper of a perfect burger.” [PW]

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Another Hurdle Cleared For Dinerman’s East Passyunk Ave. Gastropub

One step closerPhoto: Collin Keefe

The Fountainhead, the gastropub that Gordon Dinerman has planned for a follow up to his East Passyunk Ave. beer and pizza joint, Birra, is one step closer to fruition. The Passyunk Square Civic Association’s Zoning Committee enthusiastically signed off on the project on Tuesday, giving a unanimous “non-opposition,” which essentially means approval, before sending it off to the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment. Since there’s no apparent friction, it’s expected to be get the go-ahead there too. Dinerman was seeking variances to allow a double faced projecting sign to be attached to the building, and commercial use of its second story. From that we can infer that if and when it opens, the restaurant will likely have seating on two floors.

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Accused Wine Counterfeiter Actually a Brilliant Wine Blender

Back in March we reported on the arrest of jet-setting wine collector and dealer Rudy Kurniawan, a.k.a. Dr. Conti, who was busted for allegedly selling counterfeit bottles of ultrarare French vintages. It turns out that a key to Kurniawan's success over part of the last decade was his palate, and his skill at mimicking — via blends he made in a home laboratory using recent vintages — the bouquet, color, and flavor of very old and expensive wines.

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Gratuity Included: A Quick History of Big Celebrity Tippers

We've spent enough time working restaurant jobs and slogging through part-time drudgery to truly appreciate any baller who knows how to tip big. And in celebrity circles, a huge gratuity (made public) is a surefire path to good PR and image rehabilitation. Yesterday, we learned that John Travolta wasn't too shabby with a tip at a fortuitously timed dinner at Mr. Chow in New York. So today, we present some huge tipping moments that might make you think, however, briefly, that the celebrities who left them aren't such bad people after all — even notorious ne'er-do-wells such as Naomi Campbell and Russell Crowe. Check it out, straight ahead.

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Finnegan’s Wake Taking a Second Crack at Its Bodine Street Takeover

Finnegan's Wake's dumpster blocking Bodine Street.

You know that old saying about if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again? Well, it looks as if the folks at the politically well-connected Finnegan’s Wake are taking it to heart, and are back at their Bodine Street hustlin’ shenanigans. You’ll recall back in December that then lame duck (he’s since retired) City Councilman Frank DiCicco was working with cronies, including Finnegan’s owner and Democratic Committeeman Mike Driscoll, to turn the stretch of North Bodine Street between Spring Garden and Green streets over to the bar — for nothing, apparently — so it can expand and build out balconies. Citypaper reports today that the effort is getting a second push courtesy of DiCicco’s replacement, First District Councilman Mark Squilla.

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Vegemite’s Sales Stink

And how about revamping the dated packaging?

Australia is having something of a culinary identity crisis as younger eaters increasingly fail to embrace Vegemite, writes The Wall Street Journal. The yeasty spread (a by-product of beer-making, we just learned) is notorious for its pungent smell and salty flavor, not qualities generally beloved by children. And a growing Asian population in places like Sydney means many youngsters have no familial obligation to ingest the stuff, since their parents never did.

Marmite, however, is in demand. »

‘Around the World in 80 Plates’ Recap: David Rees on the Premiere

Cheers!Photo: Virginia Sherwood/Bravo

Do you like food? Do you like the world? If you’re like me, you do! But here’s the most important question, reader: Do you like plates? I think plates are pretty cool — I like big circular plates covered with leafy greens and pork chops and mashed potatoes and other such delights. I’m also fond of oval platters suffocating under the weight of extreme nachos. I’ll confess to hating rectangular and triangular plates of the type you find at certain restaurants who take as their motto “Let’s confound diners’ expectations about the most basic shit in the universe,” but overall I guess you could call me a fan of plates. Anyway, there’s a new show made for people just like you and me: Around the World in 80 Plates is Bravo's celebration of travel and cuisine and arguing and all that stuff we’ve come to expect from reality TV (and reality itself).

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Here’s Why Philly Never Adopted Letter Grades For Restaurant Inspections

Whether or not there's a letter grade posted, mice in restaurants are gross.

Have you ever wondered why Philly’s Department of Health never adopted a letter-grading system — A,B,C,D, and F — for restaurants’ health inspections, like those assigned to food businesses in New York? In a story about the inspections process, Fox News uncovers a lot more than Cosi’s ongoing mouse problems and that Mission Grill had so many issues that inspectors shut it down for six days. Between all the torrid details of dirty and potentially hazardous conditions at some area restaurants, we also learn that there are just 36 inspectors responsible for making sure that the city’s 12,600 licensed food businesses comply with health codes.

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Ten Fantastically Nasty Fast-Food Meltdowns

It's a fact: Crazy things happen at fast-food restaurants. But we always assumed that people who did things like dial 911 for McNuggets or stiletto-stomp patrons at Taco Bell were predisposed to such behavior despite their diet. But turns out, if they favored wheatgrass over Whoppers, things could be different. Recently Ohio State University announced a research project that seeks to link fast food to the body's reaction to stressful situations (like, say, not getting McNuggets right now.) And in that spirit of academic pursuit, we've put together a list of the ten most outrageous fast-food freakouts. All the people on this list behaved poorly, but don't judge. Science might just be on their side.

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