Thursday, October 10, 2013

#21 Capital Grille

Another race to the finish- using a gift card on the day before the expiration date. Capital Grille was not a place I had been super excited to try. I know the prices, I've been to Capital Grilles before, just unenthused. I was even more unenthused because on the night we went, we had plans to go to a bar in Northern Liberties later. 13th & Chestnut and Girard & Frankford aren't exactly neighbors. But, alas, we do what we have to for the fans.

We went into Capital Grille with the mindset of sitting at the  bar- having a drink and ordering appetizers. So that is exactly what we did. Well, actually, we couldn't get a seat at the bar. It was filled with what seemed to be Friday night regulars. The bar crowd was what you would expect it to be, overdressed women, men in suits, etc. Luckily, we got a small high top in the bar area, right near the entrance (ideal spot for people watching). We had access to the full menu and to a waitress as well, which was exciting since we weren't actually sitting at a table.

We ordered the Calamari & the Prosciutto Wrapped Mozzarella with Vine Ripe Tomatoes. They were both what you would expect- amazing. The calamari had hot cherry peppers intermixed into the dish which really made the flavor pop. Plus they give you a huge portion. This was good since we were replacing appetizers for our dinner that night.

The prosciutto wrapped mozzarella doesn't look pretty in the picture below- but let me tell you- it tasted pretty. I go back and forth with my feelings on prosciutto, but this dish sold me. It was like bacon, but lighter and better.

And folks, that's all about what we could afford so we were outta there. 4 drinks, 2 apps, $70. Cannot avoid paying more than $50 anywhere I go! I will say that I really liked the atmosphere and that this gave us a chance to experience Capital Grille when we most likely never would have before.


Friday, October 4, 2013

#20 Amuse at the Le Meridien

I have been scrounging around lately because a number of my gift cards decided to expire in the fall months of 2013. Even though I have heard from multiple sources that gift cards are not allowed to expire, I didn't want to take any chances and force my blog followers to miss out on any life shattering, world changing posts. So with 1 day left on my gift card to Amuse at the Le Meridien, my mom offered to come down and take us out to lunch. WHEW.

Amuse is such a hidden gem! The Le Meridien hotel is located in an amazing location, right near Love Park. It was a beautiful day and in that moment I was happy that this gift card with its pending expiration date dragged me out of bed on a Sunday afternoon to experience Center City.

We walked into the beautiful hotel and noticed that Amuse was basically the Le Meridien's dining area. It was a small cozy area with a fireplace and beautiful city views. I do have to mention that it was a bit of a struggle to get a table for 5 people. The host was being very indirect and said "I just don't know if we will be able to serve you". Not, "there is a 15 minute wait", not "let me find a table for you", it was more like, "please leave, we don't want you". So we hung around the bar area (closed bar, btw) until this man figured out  how to serve us. We waited about 15 minutes and sat at a table right by the window.

There isn't much to say about the food, it was all very good. Pretty basic hotel food, but the service was on point. They even gave us a little free sample of a little tart filled with some goat cheese mixture. Collectively we got the Cesar salad, French onion soup, the spring quiche (I applaud Regan for this out of character order!), the chicken club, the French omelette, and the cheeseburger.



One of my shorter blogs, the most memorable thing was that my self proclaimed wine snob mother ordered a $7 glass of Oak Vineyards Chardonnay. She also guilted me into getting a glass which led me to pass out for an hour after I got home.

Oh and how could I forget our trip to Love Park. Such a wonderful spectacle on a warm Sunday. The smell of urine and homeless people just made my day! For some reason, in my head I had a prettier picture of the park. The woman voluntarily directing pictures in front of the Love sign while asking for tips really threw me off. Not enough to snatch one, though :)


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

#19: Alma de Cuba

Alma De Cuba, post 2 of my restaurant week series.  So pumped to write this. I've heard how great Alma De Cuba was, I've walked past the place many times, nestled on Walnut street among the shops, but I was still curious what it was all about. When I say that I've heard how great Alma De Cuba was, I mean mostly through my cousins, Melissa & Jeff's, raves. So I thought it would be a perfect idea to invite them down for restaurant week to join us at Alma De Cuba! I also prefer going to new places with people who have been there before. Sometimes these ethnic menus confuse me and its nice to have some back up.

Alma de Cuba was surprisingly big. It looks pretty small from the outside, but there were 3 floors with plenty of seating. The restaurant was dark, with candles and red lighting all around to make the place feel intimate and trendy.  Their restaurant week menu was pretty limited, only about 3 or 4 choices per course. That being said, I would have liked to order every option.

Melissa and Jeff talked up Alma de Cuba's El Jefe Mojito all summer, so clearly had to get that. It was worth the hype. The only complaint I have is that the glass was pretty small for being $12. (Are you shocked that I am complaining about a drink being too much money and too small?) Just a side note, you are not supposed to eat the sugar cane stick in the drink. Chewing it and then having to spit it out on your bread plate is not a good look.


During restaurant week you typically have to order your 3 courses up front. This is a lot of pressure. I slightly panicked and ordered the black bean soup, the Panca Glazed Chicken with yucca fries and plantains and the Tembleque for dessert. After I avoided saying any word that I didn't know how to pronounce to the waiter, I thought, do I even like black beans? What even is black bean soup ? I am going to get sick? Fortunately, it was delicious. I don't want to go ahead and say that I would order black bean soup from anywhere else just yet, but baby steps.

Other starter items we got were the Smoked Albacore Tacos and the Plantains. I didn't get a chance to try the tacos, so I am going to go ahead and assume they were good since everyone ate them pretty quickly.  The plantains tied the black bean soup for my favorite part of the meal. They were perfectly sweet with a buttermilk sauce. I basically ate most of my meal in plantains. Ugh, I miss them.


Melissa got the Cuban Shrimp and Grits for her meal and Brendan and Jeff got the Vaca Frita (skirt steak with rice and beans). I got to try both entrees and they were basically amazing.  


For dessert I was the only adventurous one and got the Tembleque when everyone else got the Alfajores (boring cookie sandwich). Tembleque is a Puerto Rican custard with a mango sorbet. I didn't love this. The custard tasted like flan to me, even though I've never had flan. It had a spong-ey texture and stood straight up on its own.

Overall, we had a great time at Alma de Cuba. Once Melissa & Jeff got over me taking pictures of their meals before they could have a bite with my obnoxious camera flash, we were good. We basically tried everything on the restaurant week menu, and if you know anything about my aversion to ordering the same thing as anyone else at the table, you know that this made me happy.

My advice for Alma de Cube: get the mojito, get the black bean soup, get the plantains, expect to pay a pretty penny!