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Penn Appetit

issue 4 • spring 2009 penn appetit • spring 2009


Penn Appetit Editor-in-Chief

Emma Morgenstern Layout editors

Olivia Coffey Brynn Shepherd photography Editors

Michael Chien Kendall Haupt publicity chairs

Courtney Brown Maria Pellegrini Treasurer

Susan Luo blog Editor

Alex Marcus general board members

Elise Dihlmann-Malzer Celine Kosian story editors

Amber Alhadeff Melissa Braff Michael Chien Khánh-Anh Lê Alex Marcus Kristen Martin Karuna Meda Copy Editors

Charlotte Crowley Diane Dao Elise Dihlmann-Malzer Celine Kosian Michelle Lee Karuna Meda Dana Robinson Calder Silcox Rebecca Weeks


penn appetit • spring 2009


Amber Alhadeff Alyssa Birnbaum Audrey Farber Jennifer Green Khánh-Anh Lê Alex Marcus Karuna Meda Lucy Medrich Jamie Png Calder Silcox Allison Stadd Andy Tan David Winchell photographers

Michael Chien Olivia Coffey Jonathan Coveney Elizabeth Cunningham Alice Gao Lydia Gau Kendall Haupt David Knipp Dana Robinson Rachel Stone Erika Yamasaki Ed Zawadzki business staff

Matthew Belgiovine Melody Chan Charlotte Crowley Elise Dihlmann-Malzer Alexandra Leavy John Meadows Kelly Newman Kate Wiber layout staff

Dorothy Ahn Kendall Haupt Katie Sanders cover photo by Missy Ma

letter from the editor:

spring 2009

Dear Penn Appétit Readers and Eaters, When we write, edit, and design this magazine, we look at other magazines for inspiration: Gourmet (my favorite), Bon Appétit, and Food & Wine, among others.

bored with Penn Dining, let Audrey Farber whisk you away to Jordan and tell you about the food there. She’ll even help you recreate the experience with an accompanying recipe.


Khánh-Anh Lê’s poem about the Real Lê Anh food truck will remind you to pause for a minute to appreciate your food and those who provide it; Lucy Medrich’s narrative about growing up with a cookbook author

But much to my chagrin, this semester we’ve noticed that all of these

mother will remind you to really taste when you eat. Jen Green’s inter-

publications are copying us! If you read our last issue, you’ll under-

view of Rosemarie Certo from Dock Street Brewery is perfect for readers

stand why I was upset to see a Vietnamese hoagie in Gourmet, why the

who are passionate about beer, local business, and high-quality ingre-

layout editors were ranting and raving when they found another maga-

dients. This is just a sampling, however; be sure to indulge in the full

zine with a wine-pouring action shot. And gosh, Bon Appétit, can’t you

range of articles in this semester’s issue.

find a different name?

It’s fun to watch Penn Appétit blossom because it really demon-

Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating.

strates the amount of time and effort our awesome staff puts in, the

We may still be under the radars of a lot of these “real” food maga-

increasing food awareness of the Penn community, and the dedicated

zines, and our circulation might be slightly smaller. But Penn Appétit is

support of our university and non-university sponsors. So I want to

growing, to say the least: our staff has grown from 29 to 47 people, and

take this opportunity, at the publication of our fourth issue, to thank

we’ve jumped from 12 to 16 to 20 pages. What really makes me proud

all of you so much once again. I would also like to specially thank the

is that we’ve come into our own, that we’ve developed a unique edito-

instructor of my food writing class freshman year, Professor Thomas

rial and design style. Plus, we were mentioned on

Devaney, for his continued support of Penn Appétit.

last semester! I think you’ll find that this issue follows our trend of steady

And lastly, if you see any giant spoonfuls of cardamom pods in Food & Wine, let me know.

growth – everything has matured so much from our first issue in the Fall of 2007. If you’re a restaurant junkie, check out Jamie Png’s review of the down-home, fine-dining experience at Supper, or Alex Marcus’s review of the reputable but inconsistent Mercato. Or if you’re feeling

Emma Morgenstern, Editor-in-Chief

Penn Appétit is a semesterly magazine for all types of food writing, including food features, restaurant reviews, recipes, creative food writing, interviews, and food narratives. Look for our next issue in the Fall of 2009. Our website,, has more information about our student organization as well as an electronic version of the magazine. Penn Appétit has its own food blog,, which features writing and photos about all kinds of food and food-related topics. The blog, which mostly focuses on food in Philadelphia, is updated daily by Penn-affiliated writers and photographers. To get involved or for advertising inquiries, please email the editor at penn appetit • spring 2009


thinking inside



rofessor Thomas Devaney’s students learned the true mean-

about the information from their boxes online,” Devaney said. “How

ing of researching primary sources in their Fall 2007 English

could something so interesting not be on Google?” he joked.

course, “Art of Eating and Life.”

Devaney was so impressed by the resulting essays that he col-

In 2006, the University of Pennsylvania inherited the cookery collec-

laborated with Penn Libraries to create a book called The Library as

tion of Chef Fritz Blank, who lived most of his life in Philadelphia and was

Learning Matrix: The Art of the Box Lunch. The book is a collection of

the executive chef and owner of the city’s Deux Cheminees. Much of the

essays, including one introductory piece written by Devaney and four

collection—boxes of recipe books, photocopies, and pamphlets organized by food type—remained virtually untouched until each



The project touched on the most basic principles of education: research and exploration, reinterpretation and creation.

student projects. It features recipes, diagrams, and photos from cookbooks and pamphlets in the original collection.

member of Devaney’s class chose and explored a particular box to do

The project touched on the most basic principles of education:

research for an essay. Boxes ranged from common categories like meats,

research and exploration, reinterpretation and creation. “The stu-

desserts, or fruits, to intriguing collections like condiments or JELL-O.

dents connected various parts of their own world to both Chef Blank’s

The “Box Lunch Project” required students to spend time in the

and the world he collected and gathered,” Devaney said. “Ultimately, I

Rare Book and Manuscripts Library, a section of Van Pelt almost exclu-

realized the Box Lunch Project was not about archival research or even

sively frequented by graduate students, professors, and librarians.

a writing assignment at all. It was, in fact, about education in its most

Students found their information from original documents, straight

elemental sense.” It is Devaney’s hope that the project was a pivotal

from the source. “[Students] were not finding many references, if any,

experience in the academic lives of each student in his class.

penn appetit • spring 2009

Book review:


Grant Achatz’s Alinea story by David Winchell • photo by Kendall Haupt as coming in a huge tin around Christmastime,

level, it is a coffee-table discussion piece par excellence. But second,

or maybe in a paper cone at an amusement park. But through the inter-

and more significantly, it offers culinary professionals and dedicated

pretive magic of Chef Grant Achatz (rhymes with “rackets”), it can come

amateurs an invaluable primer on an increasingly important approach

in a shot glass: warm, buttery custard, a “purée” of popcorn topped with

to haute cuisine.

i picture car amel corn

oodles of foam, caramel blended with soy lecithin. The taste is explo-

A handy section entitled “How To Use This Book” stresses that the

sive, like putting a whole handful of caramel corn in your mouth at

authors make no accommodations for home kitchens. However, it also

once. One little cup is more than enough.

suggests alternatives for certain pieces of equipment and suppliers for

That dish is to date the only one I have prepared out of over 100 in

unconventional ingredients; an “antigriddle,” for example, can be approx-

the Alinea cookbook ($50), published last October as a companion to

imated with dry ice and a sheet pan. Further support comes from the

Achatz’s Chicago restaurant of the same name. Relative to the other rec-

Alinea Mosaic, an online discussion board that allows readers to inter-

ipes, it is hardly challenging: most recipes call for five or (many) more

act with Achatz and his team as well as with each other. With enough

separately prepared components and give elaborate plating instructions

determination, even modestly skilled cooks can try methods like “spher-

(tweezers are often involved). That the restaurant serves as many as 27

ification,” in which drops of intensely flavored liquid are submerged in

of these miniature marvels to each guest for a single meal explains both

a sodium alginate solution to form gelled spheres.

the high cost of eating there (over $200) as well as its many

accolades – Gourmet named it best in the country for 2006.

Alinea is at the forefront

Alinea provides a vivid document of the creative and technical processes at the highest levels of American cooking.

All of this makes for food that appears alien, even forbidding, at first glance; we might reasonably wonder why such bizarre preparations are worth celebrating.

of a style of cuisine popularly

The answer, I think, is surprise:

called molecular gastronomy,

Achatz delights in playing with

although Achatz prefers the

his guests’ expectations and pre-

term “progressive American.”

conceptions, whether through

It is a rigorously scientific

seemingly unusual f lavor pair-

approach to food and cook-

ings (beef with root beer sauce,

ing that combines commercial

inspired by his love of burgers

food additives like gelling

and floats at A&W) or studies of

agents, emulsifiers, and other

the many textures possible with

oddities with cutting-edge tech-

just a single ingredient (rhubarb

nology and a fanatical attention

served seven ways, from a crispy

to detail to achieve otherwise

“chip” to a creamy sorbet).

impossible results.

This is challenging food.

The handsome and heavy

Perhaps it isn’t always delicious

black-and-grey book serves two

in the manner of your grand-

purposes. First, its hundreds

mother’s meatloaf, but it is

of pictures and lovely essays by

never, ever boring. For those of

food writers Michael Ruhlman,

us who have yet to make the pil-

Jeffrey Steingarten, and oth-

grimage to Chicago or who are

ers provide a vivid document

simply curious, this book makes

of the creative and technical

Achatz’s passion and consum-

processes at the highest levels

mate technical precision easily

of American cooking. On that

appreciable. penn appetit • spring 2009


Finding Farm Fresh Chevre Story By Calder Silcox • photos By Kendall Haupt & olivia coffey

i first stumbled upon

Rawson Brook Farms about two and a half years

ago – and it’s not an easy place to stumble upon. At the recommendation

verge of melting. Waters’s pairing of the chevre with arugula is still unparalleled in my book.

of the Monterey General Store clerk, we found the unassuming goat farm

My next encounter with goats came two years later, on the opposite

two miles off of windy Route 23 in Berkshire County, Massachusetts,

side of the globe in a Bedouin tent. Seated on pillows in another breezy

across a wooden bridge, and down a dirt (often mud) road. Rawson

setting I tried labneh, a Middle Eastern goat cheese that had little in

Brook’s 70-odd Alpine goats rarely take a break from their grazing to

common with goat cheese as I knew it.

greet visitors, but it’s not the goats that people come for. We come for the cheese. I never liked milk as a kid, and from an early age I ate cheese to

Chevre in the West has a tangy but sweet taste. The labneh was soft like a typical chevre, but was strong and lip-puckering sour. I could only eat so much. But I still bought an entire glass jar filled with balls

fill that void. It didn’t matter what

of labneh and olive oil, wrapped it

kind: from string to Stilton, brie

in a t-shirt, and brought it home –

to whiz, I ate it as long as it didn’t

more for a souvenir than a snack.

smell too rank. But it wasn’t until

My love for c hev re was

recently that chevre found a spe-

renewed when I found Rawson

cial place in my stomach.

Brook Farms. Their soft Monterey

Chevre is French for both goat

chevre took fresh to a whole new

and goat cheese, and is the popu-

level. Though Rawson Brook

lar name for the cheese in menus

does business from New York to

and markets. It wasn’t until I was

Boston, I like to think it’s my hid-

13 that I tasted my first chevre,

den gem – that I’m one of few to

and I’ve spent every moment

have tried their thyme and olive

since making up for lost time.

oil blend.

The “baked goat cheese with

Like many small New England

garden lettuces and levain toast” was actually my last resort on the menu

cheesemakers, Rawson Brook operates on the honor system. A wooden

at Café Fanny, a small Berkeley eatery owned by renowned California

shack with two refrigerators holds the cheese, a laminated pricing sheet

restaurateur Alice Waters. As a picky pre-teen I wasn’t interested in

taped to the door. Visitors take what they like and leave payment in a

much on the menu, so I gave chevre a shot. I tried it cautiously. Seated

basket by the entrance.

at a picnic table in the café’s parking lot, I had what I can only describe as a minor food epiphany.

Before leaving Rawson Brook Farm it’s customary to make a stop at the baby goat paddock. It houses 12 to 15 kids (baby goats, that is) eager

It was a brisk, windy day in Berkeley and the baked chevre warmed

for a pat on the head. Occasionally, they get a bit over-excited and take

me from the inside out. Though chevre is often served at room tem-

a nip at a coat or pocket, but who can get mad at a baby goat? Especially

perature, the rich, tangy flavors come out best when it’s hot and on the

one that will turn out next year’s Monterey chevre.


penn appetit • spring 2009

Breaking Down Breakfast story by Alyssa Birnbaum • photos by Kendall Haupt & Lydia Gau Sometimes the last thing on your mind before sprinting off to class is eating breakfast. But remember this: eating in the morning can jumpstart your metabolism, allowing your body to burn fat, expend energy, and be productive longer. Instead of snoozing those extra 15 minutes, make a nutritious breakfast—it will increase your concentration and efficiency later. The following suggestions, which balance high-fiber whole grains, low-fat protein, and fruits and vegetables, will help you work a healthy meal into your schedule.

some like it hot

just add milk

top that yogurt

egg you on

Hot cereal options are loaded

The protein in milk , combined

Yogurt is loaded with probiot-

Most of an egg’s vitamins are

with fiber. Add a little water, zap

with whole grains, makes a

ics, healthy bacteria that aid in

within the yolk, so add one

in the microwave, and sprinkle

balanced breakfast. Certain bran-

digestion and combat destruc-

full egg to egg whites for an

some bananas or berries on top.

or whole wheat-based muffins

tive bacteria. Flavored yogurts

extra boost. And don’t settle for

Oatmeal will keep you satiated

can be made (or purchased) and

tend to have lots of sugar, so

scrambled; there are easier ways

for extended periods of time.

frozen. Defrost overnight so it

try plain yogurt instead. With

to prepare eggs.

By heating with milk instead

will be ready on your way out.

a little granola, muesli, nuts,

of water, your breakfast will be

The Fiber One Apple Cinnamon

prunes, or other dried fruit,

a bit richer and you’ll get some

muffin mix has a high fiber

you can add f lavor, protein, and

extra protein.

content. Also, Eggo, Kashi, and

fiber to your breakfast.

Oat Br an contains a good

deal of protein and soluble fiber without much sugar. You

Van’s waffles now have whole grains. They contain protein and are low in sugar.

Microwaving beaten eggs for a minute can avoid a messy skillet and save you time. Make it into a breakfast wrap by adding

Greek yogurt has a slightly

heated, chopped vegetables into

thicker texture and contains

the mix; roll in a fiber-rich tor-

large quantities of protein. If

tilla with some salsa and eat on

can also try other hot cereals,

Or, have milk in cereals with

you can’t stand the tart taste

your way out the door. Or, make

like Multi Grain with Milled

little sugar and lots of fiber, like

of natural yogurt, try Dannon

hard-boiled eggs in advance-

Flaxseed, Soy Hot Cereal, or

Good Friends, Honey Toasted

Light & Fit, Activia Light, or

and spice them up by mixing the

Bulgur Wheat with Soy.

Heart to Heart, or Cheerios.

Yoplait’s Yo-Plus Digestive.

yolk with mustard and paprika.

penn appetit • spring 2009


Taste • o • lo • gy (n.): the science of taste SWEET: Oranges

Story By Karuna Meda • photos By Alice Gao, Rachel Stone, Dana Robinson, Ed Zawadzki, & David Knipp

the tongue is a multi - ta sking organ ,


out which we would not have the gift of gab or


BITTER: brussels sprouts



the strongest signals dominate what we finally end up tasting.

the palate. For most of us, the tongue’s abil-

Pseudo-tastes like “spicy,” “metallic,” and

ity to taste has been simplified to five distinct

“dry” are actually detected by pain or tac-

populations of taste buds: sweet, sour, bitter,

tile receptors on our tongue. So after you’ve

salty, and the most recently discovered umami:

assaulted your tongue with Sriracha hot

“savory” or “meaty.” This taste system evolved

sauce, frantically gulping down cold water

so that we could differentiate between high-

won’t actually wash away the “taste.” It will,

nutrient sources and potential toxins. Not only

however, soothe the taste buds that have been

is the science behind tasting extremely com-

pinched by capsaicin, which causes the spici-

plex, but it can also explain why our taste buds

ness in hot peppers.

pucker in anticipation of some foods, while

Our sense of smell accounts for nearly 75%

they remain apathetic about the prospect of

of what we taste. When you put food in your

tasting others.

mouth, odor molecules travel through the

You sense taste when your brain detects

nasal passage to olfactory receptors in your

changes in ion concentrations in receptors on

nasal cavity. If mucus builds up in the passage,

your tongue. For instance, when you’ve (acci-

odor molecules cannot reach your olfactory

dentally and unfortunately) poured salt into

receptors. That’s why even the most aromatic

your coffee instead of sugar, there is a sud-

foods are tasteless when we’re stuffed up.

den increase in sodium ions flowing through

Our sense of smell can explain our innate

channels in your taste cells; after all, salt is

attraction to some flavors and aversions to oth-

simply sodium chloride. This change in ion

ers. Volatile oils pleasantly tickle our noses,

concentration is detected as a deviation from

causing favorable “tastes” like “piny,” “floral,”

the normal balance of ions, causing an elec-

and “minty.” These volatile oils are released by

tric signal to travel to the brain via gustatory

herbs, f lowers, and spices found universally;

neurons. Similarly, sour foods cause a change

this is the basis for our love of certain flavors

in hydrogen concentration, while umami is

like strawberry, vanilla, and even chocolate.

derived from changes in extracellular cal-

The fermentation of chemicals such as caf-

cium and sodium. On the other hand, large

feine and theophylline found in cacao beans

molecules like sucrose and alkaloids bind to

makes the smell of chocolate very appealing.

specific receptors and activate biochemical

In fact, our keen sense of smell for these vol-

pathways inside taste cells to create sweet and

atile oils has medical advantages too. Common

bitter tastes, respectively.

spices, herbs, chili, and garlic contain potent

So how do we perceive a combination of

antimicrobial and antifungal chemicals. It

tastes, like a sweetish-sour green apple? It

makes sense, then, that these ingredients are

turns out our taste buds act as a population

often used in poverty-ridden countries, where

sending signals to our brain, so the ones with

foodborne diseases are rampant.

Growing Up Gourmet Story By lucy medrich • photo By alice gao

“i’m sorry, you guys , but could you come in here for a minute?” That

were perfectly normal that turned out not to be. I grew up think-

was my mother, apologizing for feeding chocolate to third graders.

ing that eating an artisan chocolate bar wasn’t pigging out, but

In the throes of research for her next cookbook, she would often call

doing “research,” and just last week I was informed that the old

my friends and me into the kitchen to test three or four samples of

cookie sheets I brought from home were twice the weight of reg-

pudding or ice cream. She wouldn’t tell us the differences between

ular ones.

them, and she usually wouldn’t ask us to look for anything in par-

ticular. She would just tell us to taste.

Though we may have been jumping on the furniture a moment before, my friends and I would adopt my mother’s calm as we reverently dipped our spoons

into her latest creations. Many

But the real difference between the ways my friends and I were raised did not lie in the fact that my mother had an endless supply of ramekins in our cupboards and tongs in her office

Tasting was a mindset I brought with me to every dining table.

(“to fix a paper jam”), but in how we approached food. There were always delicious “experiments” hanging around my kitchen, so

people don’t ask their children’s opinions on so much as what

while I never got tired of tasting my mom’s recipes, my enjoyment

to have for dinner, but here was my mom asking her eight-year-

of the process was casual compared to that of my playmates. It

old daughter and her eight-year-old friends for input on her next

wasn’t that I was spoiled or jaded; it was simply that I had been

book. We didn’t have a gourmet chef’s vocabulary—we didn’t

not eating, but tasting food since before I can remember. It wasn’t

even have a delinquent teenager’s vocabulary—but my mom

something I did at special times in special circumstances. Tasting

scribbled down every word we said.

was a mindset I brought with me to every dining table.

We did our best to live up to the faith she placed in us. I had

Recently, as a gift, my mom took me to Orson, a trendy San

done this enough times to know she wouldn’t settle for a simple, “I

Francisco restaurant. She knew the owner and asked her to bring

like number one, because it’s…yummier.” The combination of my

out her favorite desserts. We went from one dish to the next, eat-

example and my mother’s serious interest in their opinions inspired

ing each component part of every dessert separately, then together,

my friends to dig deeper, too. We sat around the table gravely con-

discussing as we went. We weren’t just talking about what did and

templating our spoons and knitting our little brows, musing about

didn’t taste good, but what f lavors and textures were unexpected or

which sample was creamier, which was thicker, sweeter, saltier,

dull, well-paired or jarring. We embarked on this line of critique

coarser, richer, denser, subtler, cleaner, crisper. Eventually, we came

without really thinking about it – it’s what we always do, part of

to a consensus about which was best and what changes should be

the architecture of any meal, sweet or savory. Eventually there was

made, and then we’d take a sample with us to enjoy while playing

a lull in the conversation, and we noticed the woman at the next

with our Beanie Babies.

table looking at us.

I always knew my upbringing was a little unusual. I noticed

“I’m sorry.” She blushed. “I’ve been watching you eat, and

that our big drawer of chocolate was connected to my playmates’

it’s just been so interesting. It’s like you’ve been having an

faces like strings to marionettes: the wider it opened, the lower


their jaws dropped and the larger their eyes grew. Apparently, not everyone had one of those. But there were some things I thought

We smiled and shrugged. For us, that’s what a meal is supposed to be.

The writer’s mother, Alice Medrich, is an award-winning cookbook author and chocolate expert. Her latest books, Bittersweet and Pure Dessert, are available at major bookstores and on

penn appetit• •spring spring 2009 2009 penn appetit



crack open the

Story & recipe by Audrey Farber • Photo by Elizabeth Cunningham

A foray into Jordanian cuisine and its star spice


ft forgotten in the back of the spice cabinet, trampled in the race to ethnic culinary stardom by cinnamon, cumin, or curry powder, cardamom is a fundamental flavor in Jordanian cuisine. I always connected cardamom with the forgotten spice cakes of yesteryear or shortbread cookies of ambiguous origin. But despite its mere supporting role in American desserts—from streusel topping to rice pudding—cardamom figures prominently in all types of savory Jordanian dishes.

I spent the fall semester in Jordan, a Middle

overturned onto a huge platter to serve large

Eastern country whose cuisine ref lects spic-

groups. (Maghloubeh literally means “upside

iness from the East, Mediterranean f lavors

down” in Arabic.) I brought cardamom pods

from the West, and Bedouin customs and

home from Jordan with the express purpose

hospitality from the surrounding desert.

of making maghloubeh for my family, which I

Because of its location along ancient trade

did much to their delight. Despite the fact that

routes, this cross section of cuisine has

my maghloubeh nowhere near measured up to

historically been inf luenced by spices origi-

that of my host mother’s, my family thought it

nating in India, including cardamom. Today,

was delicious and loved the experience of eat-

because of its popularity, whole cardamom

ing “Arab style.”

pods can be found anywhere in Jordan from

Mansaf, a traditional rice dish reserved

the supermarket to the spice market in the

for special occasions or guests, also relies

downtown souq. The sheer number and vari-

on cardamom. It features lamb (including

ety of spices at these spice markets turns a

the head – I was once convinced by a cunning

trip downtown into an adventure through a

host uncle to eat the eye socket muscles) boiled

culinary wonderland.

in a special spiced yogurt sauce, jameed. The

One of my first unexpected encounters

lamb is arranged over the rice with the head

with cardamom was in a cup of coffee. The

in the place of honor atop the heap and gar-

assortment of light green cardamom pods and

nished with toasted almonds, fresh parsley,

medium and dark brown coffee beans in any

and jameed.

Jordanian roastery is striking. All three are

A Jordanian cook is never shy about using

ground together to make “Turkish coffee” –

cardamom in her dishes; you can smell mansaf

always served strong, fresh, and in small doses.

or maghloubeh cooking from a mile away

It’s ubiquitous in cafés, restaurants, homes,

because of all the cardamom. For those daring

and in the hands of exhausted taxi drivers.

enough to try cooking with cardamom, pods

Cardamom is the dominant flavor in two of

can be purchased at Whole Foods for $6.99/

my favorite Jordanian dishes: maghloubeh and

oz. (one regular spice jar). They are green and

mansaf. Maghloubeh is a rice and chicken dish

about the size of a pumpkin seed but with

that incorporates fried eggplant, caulif lower,

three faces. Using the whole pod (cracked) is

and potatoes. The chicken, vegetables, and

the authentic way; save the ground cardamom

rice are layered in a large pot, which is then

for the spice cookies.

maghloubeH Like most Middle Eastern cooking, amounts and proportions are inexact. Experiment depending on what you have, how much you need, and how you want it to taste. Just don’t be shy with the spices, as long as you don’t overdo the cinnamon; it’s hard to get too much cardamom. Traditional sides are yogurt and Arabic salad: diced cucumbers and tomatoes dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, and salt. 1 1 2-4 1 1 5

large or a few baby eggplants head cauliflower potatoes whole or cut-up chicken lb. rice cardamom pods, cracked dash of cinnamon salt, to taste turmeric (optional) olive oil, for frying

› Pour enough boiling water over rice to cover. Set aside. › Cut chicken into 8-10 pieces. Boil in large pot of water with 5 cracked cardamom pods, using more or less to taste. Add cinnamon, salt, and turmeric. Boil until chicken is cooked through, about an hour. › Thinly slice eggplant, potatoes, and cauliflower. Fry in a skillet with ¼ inch of oil. (Alternatively, roast cauliflower with olive oil in a 400 degree oven.) Set aside. › Layer chicken, then vegetables, then rice in a large pot. Pour in cooking liquid from the chicken until it is 1 inch above the top level of rice. Add spices to taste. Cook over very low heat, so liquid is barely simmering, until all liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked. Add more liquid as necessary. › Overturn pot onto a large platter and serve.

penn appetit • spring 2009


Supper Takes It Home


Story By jamie png • Photos By MICHAEL CHIEN i confess :

I’m a jaded foodie. Yes, my restaurant addiction is already con-

strained by my student budget, but even if my dollars were less tightly wadded I’d still rather spend them at a roadside barbecue shack or a blowsy breakfast joint. My tolerance for pretension has worn thin from too many uptight, underwhelming, overproduced “fine dining” experiences. So when I sat down at Supper, I was prepared to be unimpressed. Supper’s seasonal menu consists of “hors d’oeuvres” – canapés;

“firsts” – appetizers; “plates” – smaller entrées; and “large plates” –

chef mitch prensky

traditional entrées. We started off with five “hors d’oeuvres” to share. I was delighted by the crisp shell and pillowy interior of the duck fat fingerlings with truff le mayo ($6) – the care and technique lavished

atmosphere to do this. We later learned that the restaurant has received

on simple potato wedges boded well for the rest of our meal. The crab

half-serious requests for bulk order wings come next Superbowl.

latke with lemon, capers, and Joe’s mustard sauce ($7) was also a treat,

Sidestepping the charcuterie and cheese, we ordered our “firsts.” If

with splashes of lemon juice brightening the fried potato. The little

you only order one thing on the menu, make sure it’s the smoked but-

details of our meal thus far were noted and notable: the crunch of the

ternut squash soup with cinnamon marshmallow and sage ($8). First, a

sea salt atop the fingerlings, the light dusting of grated cheese on the

white bowl was placed in front of me, with vague pieces of green in the

butter for our bread. Our party’s hands-down favorite, though, was def-

bottom and a smear of scorched marshmallow. Then, from a pitcher,

initely Chef Mitch Prensky’s smoked chicken wings with birch beer,

my server poured the thick, luscious butternut squash soup, moving his

black pepper, and buttermilk ($6). Wait, let me write that again. Birch

wrist in a circular motion around what was now becoming the dish’s

beer. Black pepper. Buttermilk. The meat fell off the bone and the mari-

sage garnish. The quiet theatricality of it all was thrilling. I dipped my

nade was smoky with a surprisingly complex sweetness. The stack of

spoon into the soup, collected a sage leaf, and scraped some cinnamon

artfully arranged wings, topped with black pepper and generous curls

marshmallow from the side of the bowl on the way up. One bite and my

of spring onion, was gorgeous, even refined.

faith in fine dining was restored.

It was also slap-your-mama good.

Other standouts were the slow roasted pork belly with spiced yams,

So good that we threw silverware to the wind and went at it with our

greens, and pineapple mustard ($17), and the stellar round of desserts

bare hands, marveling that we felt comfortable enough in a fine dining

by pastry chef Justin Relkin. Our favorite was the milk chocolate pretzel tart with banana gelato ($8); I asked for seconds of the heavenly gelato

slow roasted pork belly

and got three scoops with a chunk of caramelized banana. Not everything was perfect. Though it was Prensky’s professed favorite, the shellfish pan roast ($28) fell short. The Thai-inspired concoction variously described to us as “paella” and “curry” (but which was neither) consisted of scallops, mussels, clams, head-on prawns, eggplant chunks, and black rice in a dense coconut gravy. The seafood was impeccably cooked, but the dish lacked unity. Supper’s ethos is one of community: the liberal use of the word “family” on the menu promotes a sense of coziness that extends into the service. Both Chef Prensky and his co-owner and wife Jennifer stopped by our table to chat about our meal. Supper’s “urban farmhouse aesthetic” also wins points for good feng shui: natural materials and warm lighting create an atmosphere of flow and comfort. Still, take a cue from the dining room’s centerpiece—a quirky chandelier assembled from various kitchen gadgets by a local artist—and expect subtle anarchy.


penn appetit • spring 2009

restaurant reviews:

supper and mercato

Mercato both hits and misses


Story By alex marcus • Photo By dana robinson on a weekend night, wine

beans with basil pesto. Crafted expertly with

Scallops ($25), though, came perfectly seared

bottle in hand, and you’ll see a crowd lingering

loads of garlic, the bruschetta ruined our

on top of a hearty risotto with wild mushrooms

on the corner. Weekend waits can get extreme

breath but we loved every minute of it.

and English peas. The dish melded rich, Italian

approach mercato

and one step inside confirms why: the cozy,

Main courses include both Italian-

flavors with a unique, modern twist – exactly

sophisticated Philly vibe and Chef Mackenzie

inf luenced entrées and upscale twists on

Hilton’s imaginative, modern Italian menu.

traditional pastas. Lobster and shrimp ($22)

For dessert, the chocolate pecan caramel

what Mercato is aiming for.

Cheese ($6) is a good place to start.

abandoned banal ravioli, instead coming

tart ($8) was an unremarkable muddle of fla-

Standouts included some of the simplest pair-

enclosed in three-dimensional pyramid pasta.

vors. The molten chocolate cake ($8) won out

ings: smooth California goat with clover honey,

But the dish’s “parmesan brown butter” didn’t

with its simplicity, and limoncello sorbet ($3)

and tangy French triple cream with macer-

resemble that rich, nutty concoction so much

also shined: sweet, sour, and citrusy.

ated strawberries. We decided to try Mercato’s

as drawn butter in which you might dip a sim-

Mercato—nearly four years old—is not

extensive menu of olive oils ($1.20 to $1.80):

ple boiled lobster. A special of orange roughy

young enough to still be working out its kitch-

Go for the Chilean oil with an intense basil

served with sautéed spinach and roasted fin-

en’s kinks, and one look at Chef Hilton while

infusion; a similar, garlic-infused oil was good

gerling potatoes ($23) exhibited brighter,

she’s working confirms that the restaurant is

but less remarkable.

cleaner f lavors. Grilled fillet mignon ($25)

not resting on its laurels. More attention to

Moving on to prepared dishes yielded gen-

was also superb – aggressively seasoned and

detail is all that’s missing. After all, the slip-

erally good results, but there was much missed

perfectly cooked, served with flavorful roasted

ups in execution—not browning butter long

potential. Radicchio and wild mushroom salad

red bliss potatoes and airy homemade potato

enough or underseasoning gnocchi—were

dressed with Chianti vinaigrette ($9) was deli-

chips. The only weak link on the plate were the

minor and preventable.

ciously light, with pine nuts and butterbeans

too-smoky Brussels sprouts with bacon.

Despite inconsistencies, it’s hard not to

adding flavor and texture. Warm portobello in

Striped bass ($23) was well-seasoned, with a

love this restaurant. Even the least successful

puff pastry ($10), on the other hand, was suc-

delightfully crispy skin, but it was swimming

dishes are still quite good, and the most suc-

cessful only until we reached its ice-cold center.

in an intense Chianti reduction that dominated

cessful make it worth trying your luck at least

The misstep was redeemed by a bruschetta trio

every bite. Short rib ragu ($22) was hearty and

once. Mercato is cozy and hip, tucked away

($9): crusty bread topped with portobello and

pleasantly sweet, but the accompanying ricotta

from urban commotion. It all makes the mis-

fontina, tomato and mozzarella, and white

gnocchi were a bland, rubbery disappointment.

steps a little too easy to forgive.

cured meats and artisan cheeses

penn appetit • spring 2009


Earning a Degree in Delicious Story By Allison stadd • photos By erika yamasaki & olivia coffey


penn appetit • spring 2009


Crazy for Cupcakes gushes Marie

changers. Boccia is in her thirteenth year at

Stecher, Pastry Instructor at The

The Restaurant School and teaches nutrition

Restaurant School at Walnut Hill

and a “College Success” course for first-year

College. She proffers a tray of min-


t ’ s corny but cute ,”

I could barely contain my excitement as we entered The Restaurant School for a cupcake class, one of the School’s many classes open to the community. A pastry instructor at the School,

iature golden delicious cobblers

One draw for students is the reasonable

Marie Stecher, welcomed us with a beaming smile

made with sage-infused raisins,

tuition: $21,000 per year, including books

and unmistakable warmth. She introduced us to

each crust constructed from tiny heart-shaped

and travel. Travel is important: one curricu-

the students who would be helping us including

pieces of dough. Under her tutelage, her class

lar component is globalization, including a

Gina Valentino, who encouraged us along on our

has crafted the desserts for a Valentine’s Day

gastronomic tour through England for bach-

cupcake endeavors.

treat. Stecher has been whipping butter and

elor’s candidates. “Not only do you need to

Chef Stecher explained the choice of recipes

icing cakes at The Restaurant School for nearly

come here with your knives, you need a pass-

we had for the cupcakes and icings. For cake:

four years, and she herself earned an associ-

port,” says Delcamp.

cream cheese pound cake, chocolate cake, or red

ate’s degree in pastry arts here. She went on to

Off-campus experiences can be local,

serve as a pastry chef at Philly favorites such as

too: starting sophomore year, students par-

Susanna Foo and Tangerine.

ticipate in internships in venerated kitchens

The Restaurant School, just a mere three

like those of Le Bec Fin, The Four Seasons,

blocks off campus at 42nd and Walnut, was

and Waterworks. “We shoot for the top,” says

Philadelphia’s first hospitality education-


velvet torte. My mouth was already watering. For icing: Swiss buttercream or chocolate ganache. We decided on cream cheese pound cake with chocolate ganache, and with a gleam of approval in her eye, Gina brought over the ingredients. “I’m just going to start you guys off here,” Gina said, and dumped what looked like half a

focused college. Since its 1974 inception, The

Despite The Restaurant School’s proxim-

pound each of butter and cream cheese into our

School has garnered national acclaim for its

ity to campus, most Penn students remain

mixing bowl. My heart almost squirmed at the

associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in four

unaware of the gustatory riches of its four

sight of all that saturated fat. Gina laughed at my

concentrations: culinary arts, pastry arts, res-

student-run restaurants: the Great Chefs’

dropped jaw and googly eyes. “You get used to

taurant management, and hotel management.

Room for elegant fine dining, the European

it,” she said.

Coursework blends kitchen experience with

Courtyard for more casual fare (lunch is just

While the butter and cream cheese churned

business acumen; regardless of major, pupils

$5!), the Italian Trattoria for low-key pasta and

away, we sifted the flour and sugar, then beat it to

receive basic training in every area.

salad, and the American Heartland (styled as

a soft peak. I scooped the batter into molds and

“Food is always the answer!” reads the

an Idaho farmhouse) for traditional home cook-

sticker on the office door of Tom Delcamp,

ing. There is also a fully stocked bar, with an

Vice President of the School and graduate of

extensive wine list starting at just $20 per bot-

the Culinary Institute of America. This is his

tle. The pastry shop, full coffee bar included,

twenty-third year at the School, with a back-

has glass cases bursting with fresh products

ground in hotels, country clubs, catering, and

made each morning, ranging from scones to

restaurant entrepreneurship. Delcamp has

sticky buns. The velvet torte and éclair in par-

worked in cuisines ranging from classical

ticular are divinely rich and creamy.

French to American diner, and is the former

sent them to the ovens. We couldn’t resist licking the batter from the bowl with our spoons. We started on the chocolate ganache, which only requires two steps: bringing heavy cream and sugar to a boil over dark chocolate pastilles, then two minutes of mixing. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the pool of glossy molten chocolate. Finally, the best part of the evening: decorating our cupcakes! Chef Stecher demonstrated how

Other opportunities for engagement

to decorate with an array of toppings: crushed

include cooking courses open to the com-

pecans, chocolate, and coconut. We could also

The School’s growth since Delcamp started

munity, ranging from “Fun With Sushi” to

accent the ganache with white chocolate icing or

has been remarkable. “My first class had

“Spanish Tapas.” Classes are available for

various colors of buttercream. For the fillings,

five students,” he recalls. Now the student

all levels of culinary expertise, and range in

there was lemon cream, cherries, salted caramel,

body is over 400, with an expanded range of

price from around $60 to around $300. Some

peanut butter, or pecans. For the larger, filled cup-


classes meet several times; others are one-day

owner of Sweet Bay Café in Reading, PA.

The average age has also shifted from

affairs. Most require attendees to bring their

around 23 to around 19, says Dean of Academic

own equipment. Heather Flemke, Director

Affairs Lenore Boccia. She says it has become

of Marketing and brand new to the School,

increasingly common for high school stu-

recently took “Cocktail and Hors D’ouevres”

dents to segue straight into culinary education

and “Cooking With Thai.” “They were really

at The Restaurant School; in the past stu-

fun,” she says. “It’s very hands-on, and fun to

dents have more commonly been adult career

have a buddy with you.”

cakes we simply poured the chocolate over the cupcake, hoping some of it would land on top and salvaging the rest with the bowl underneath. By the end my hands were dripping with chocolate. All in all, the cupcake class at The Restaurant School was everything I imagined: thrilling and wonderfully sumptuous. Story by Karuna Meda

penn appetit • spring 2009


A Dip Around the World


Story By andy tan • photo By Elizabeth Cunningham

t my first fondue bour -

kelp soup stock. Despite the differences, all

winter; for example, hotpot and steamboat

guignnone party years

these varieties require cooking pieces of food

are central at family reunion dinners during

in a pot of hot liquid at the dining table.

the lunar New Year, celebrated in January or

ago ,

I was struck by

t he fondue’s sim-

The combinations of food and dipping

February. However, both cheese fondue and

i l a r it ies w it h t he

sauces seem limited only by our imagination.

fondue bourguignnone—traditionally eaten

steamboat (huo guo)

For instance, I’ve tasted fresh bread paired with

in winter—are now increasingly popular in

from home in Singapore. Fondue bourguign-

cheese and wine fondue – divine. And succu-

the United States year-round with restaurant

none refers to cooking pieces of meat at the

lent cubes of sirloin, pork, or turkey for fondue

chains such as The Melting Pot. You can also

table in a pot of hot oil, while steamboat has

bourguignnone, dipped in steak sauce, mustard,

savor Chinese hotpot off-season, at Chung

diners dipping pieces of seafood or vegetables

or aioli – indulgent. Or fresh seafood and vegeta-

King Garden in Philly’s Chinatown.

in boiling broth. Both involve communal-

bles in a Singaporean steamboat, drenched with

Hosting a fondue party is a fuss-free way

style dining and are messy but thoroughly

various chili and barbecue sauces – wickedly

to have a DIY meal. This winter, I hosted two

enjoyable affairs. I offered to prepare the

fiery. And even juicy strawberries and marsh-

steamboat parties to the delight of friends.

Singaporean version for our next gathering,

mallows with chocolate – the ultimate sin!

What was truly enjoyable for us was the com-

marking the start of my journey into fondues around the world.

Most cuisines reserve their fondues for

munal dining experience, the anticipation as everyone waited for their

Fo n d u e , f r o m t h e

delicious morsels of food to

French word fondre (to

be done, and the wonder-

melt), was conceived in the

ful aromas. And I wasn’t

eighth century BCE when

stuck in the kitchen, but

Homer described a recipe

instead could enjoy the eve-

made with flour, wine, and

ning with my guests at the

cheese. Now fondues are

table. All I had to do was

popular around the world:

boil the broth and prepare

from the Alpine regions of

the raw ingredients before

Europe (cheese fondue) to

the party, and my guests

France (fondue bourguign-

did all the cooking.

none), from China (hotpot)

If you want to become

to Japan (shabu shabu) in

a fondue host or hostess,

East Asia, or from Thailand

a cheese fondue set comes

(sukiyaki) to Singapore

in at under $60 at most

(steamboat) in Southeast

online retailers. Electric

Asia. While European

fondue sets (rather than

fondues are cheese or oil-

gas-heated ones) have eas-

based, Asian fondues are

ier maintenance and more

typically prepared with

consistent heat. Chinatown

clear broths and spices.

grocery stores are the best

For instance, the Singapore

bet for getting a Chinese

steamboat is based on a

hotpot set. And feel free

simple soybean broth,

to look online or in any

while the Japanese shabu

number of cookbooks for

shabu is prepared using a

a fun-to-dip recipe!


penn appetit • spring 2009

The Real LÊ. AnH Food Truck The lights flutter gently, as though moths were caught among the bulbs. The woman stir-frying, sautéing inside the toaster of a foodcart seems familiar. Her cheeks dimple sharply, her eyes lost in the creases of her smile. “Were you born in Viêt . Nam?” “Oh no,” I bow gently, proud of my Huê´ accent. She could be my aunt. I’ve been feeling comfortfoodsick lately. No more pizza, pasta, and questionable meats. I long for rice untainted by butter and parsley, clouds of ginger chicken dumplings, jade spears of winter melon in broth. “Here’s your thit . heo kho.” She places the warm container in my mittened hands. Impatient, I tease my appetite and open the lid for swirls of star anise to overwhelm my nose, fogging my glasses. Marbled pork slick from fat, mahogany eggs simmered in soy. ` “Thank you so much, thit . heo kho này ngon quá quên duòng vê.” It’s so delicious, I’ll forget the way home. She beams, tossing me a clementine from the carton. Poem by Khánh-Anh Lê • Photo by Jonathan Coveney

penn appetit • spring 2009


ROSEMARIE CERTO OF DOCK STREET BREWERY Story By Jennifer Green • Photos By ed zawadzki


penn appetit • spring 2009


rosemarie certo

What are the origins of Dock Street? We started Dock Street Brewing Co. in 1985 as an answer to a demand we thought existed. There were no good American beers; if people wanted good beer they had to buy imported. We were part of the whole microbrewery movement which started in the ’80s, mostly on the West Coast. We had no idea what we were doing. We were home-brewing – my husband was a chef, I’m a gourmet cook, and we just thought, why not? We had no idea of the business aspect, and if we did, we might not have done it. That’s the beauty of being young and having no barriers. So we started, and it developed into where we are today. We were one of the pioneers. Do you make everything from scratch that you serve in this restaurant? Absolutely. My family in Sicily (where I was born) are all winemakers, and they make olive oil. I grew up with making things from scratch. The concept behind Dock Street here in West Philly is a real hybrid. It has really fresh pizza, a wood-burning oven. Everything is the old-fashioned way and has a lot of integrity. It’s not expensive. But you have the basics and really fresh beer, as fresh as it gets. How do you cater to such a diverse crowd with your short menu? I think that this is such a sophisticated neighborhood, from the students to the artists to the people who were born and grew up here. They have one thing in common: they’re culturally intelligent, socially conscious, and politically conscious. If you sit down any given night, you’ll find

full-bodied, whereas the color just forms from roasting the barley.

any culture, race, and presence represented. That to me is very impor-

Making that clean Pilsner, which is very light and bright and com-

tant, because I would never want a brewery or restaurant that just had

plex, is usually more difficult to make than any stout.

college kids or older people or businesspeople or white people or black people. That’s not what the U.S. is; that’s not who I am.

What are the most popular items on your menu? Which pair well? We have four standard beers: our Rye IPA is our number one seller;

Do you have many regular customers?

we also have the Bohemian Pale Ale, the Goldstock, and the Man

There’s a whole base of neighborhood people who are here all the time.

Full of Trouble Porter. The darker stouts (like MFTP) go with strong

When I come in, I don’t know who to say hello to first. The restaurant

desserts or rich meat, maybe a filet mignon. The IPAs go well with

part of the business is like showbiz. You open the doors, people come

poultry (like our barbecue chicken) and spicy food, because they are

in, and you’re entertaining by feeding them good food. Behind all of

bold enough to take on anything. The Bohemian Pilsner is great with

this is the quality of the beer, the quality of the food. My real love is in

our beer-battered fish and chips. We also have a hummus plate that

the beer-making process and this is a showcase so that people can really

the MFTP pairs well with. It’s just a really nice session beer – you

taste all of the beer.

don’t need something strong to stand up to hummus.

What is the beer-making process exactly?

What distinguishes an American craft-brew from a European beer?

It all depends. There are two major categories of beer: ales and lagers.

We’re a bigger beer: bigger in alcohol, bigger in flavor, bigger in body.

An ale yeast ferments at warmer temperatures, a lager at cooler tem-

America has such an amazing beer-drinking culture that now for-

peratures, taking longer to process from beginning to end – maybe two

eign countries like Belgium are making American-style craft beers.

months, whereas an ale might take one. It’s all about balance and tex-

The difference with Americans is that they don’t have tradition. All

ture: the yeast gives it quality, the hops give character, the malts and

the great beer countries are so steeped in tradition—that tradition

barley give body. The thing with making any lager is that they’re usu-

has allowed them to develop their craft—but they are very technical.

ally very clear – they’re basically malts and hops. You can’t mess around

They don’t have the mentality that Americans do. We don’t have any

with them. A lot of people think that a darker beer is stronger and more

boundaries. We’ve got the whole world in front of us. penn appetit • spring 2009



penn appetit • spring 2009

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