C19 Cichetteria Venezia, Philadelphia

Dave and I are in a very serious competition right now.  I mean, a lot is at stake here.

I’m not sure if I mentioned this to you in the past year or not, but Dave and I are using a heart rate monitoring program with my gym called “MyZone”.  Without going completely into the schpeel, MyZone is a belt you wear while working out that measures your heart rate.  Depending on your age, gender, weight, height, and resting/max heart rates, the program will design personal heart rate zones that apply to only you.  Each zone is designated a color (the prettiest and best part of this) and a point value for those zones depending on how hard your working, or your effort.  Since it’s all personalized, the points make it possible to compare workouts to people who are different than you (you know, since guys burn a ton more calories than girls… heavier people than skinny people, etc).

You get your own website to keep track of your workouts and your progress.  This program has absolutely helped me step up my workout game and in turn, helped me lose a lot of weight.

If you’re still following… Dave and I are currently in a MyZone challenge against each other to see who gets the most MyZone Points in March (aka who is working out the most or hardest).  The loser has to take the winner out on a date night in April planned by the winner.  Like I said… a lot is at stake here.

Here's what a Kickboxing class looks like on the MyZone system.  Blue to Green to Yellow is least to most effort exerted.  Great workout, right?

Here’s what a Kickboxing class looks like on the MyZone system. Blue to Green to Yellow is least to most effort exerted. Great workout, right?

Our current standings are:  Beth @ 3153 & Dave @ 3043.  I’m barely holding onto my lead!  You could hardly tell I want to be the winner and choose date night 🙂

Just Stelly saying bye before we leave for our date night!

Just Stelly saying bye before we leave for our date night!

Our last date night was also chosen by me.  I took Dave to a restaurant near where we live called C19 Cichetteria Venezia.  I had actually been to C19 for a happy hour dinner with a group of girls- loved it, and have been telling Dave we have to go since.

C19 is a medium-sized restaurant specializing in fresh, seasonal, Venetian-Inspired cuisine.  It has a bunch of tables in a room with the bar, and then larger tables in the back.  The walls are covered with Italian words that are beautifully hand-painted.  While it has that darker, romantic feel it also is a little funky with the bar covered in orange and red tiles, making it a great spot for happy hour, a date, or just a nice dinner out with friends.

I do also have to mention how wonderful the service is here.  You can tell that the service works as a team, as someone will fill up your water, someone else will take your order and serve your food, another person will clear your plate, and about two other people will check in on you and make sure you’re okay.  Everyone is super friendly and you can tell how much they love the food (and drinks!).

My friend from Penn State, Elisa, and her husband go here all the time and told me to introduce myself to the manager, Kevin.  I had done this during my first visit but it was months before and I figured I should just do the same again.  Once I introduced myself, Kevin not only stopped by to chat about some new items on the menu… but he remembered me.  He remembered who I was with (a bunch of CHOP doctors… lucky girl, right?) and where we were sitting.  Whoa.  Now you have to believe me about the great personalized service here, right?  (Elisa will also tell you a story about a time they asked about a dessert no longer on the menu.  The C19 team went out to buy the ingredients and re-created it for them that night.  WOW!!!!)

Anyway, let me get onto our actual meal.  My tummy is grumbling just thinking about it.  

We started our date night off right with a spicy, sweet, and very creatively named cocktail, Catching Fire.  Adorable, right?  The drink was so good.  Here’s what was in it:   Hornitos reposado infused with jalapeño, passion fruit, fresh lime, combier l’original, hibiscus salt rim.  I probably shouldn’t admit that between Dave and I, we ordered three of these babies!  Worth the splurge, for sure.

Just the perfect amount of spicy, sour, and sweet.  The flash made it look yellow, lol.

Just the perfect amount of spicy, sour, and sweet. The flash made it look yellow, lol.

As soon as our drinks arrived, we ordered our meal and were brought a wooden bowl of olive oil and grilled bread.  It was even still warm… mmm!

After some careful deliberation the starters that we chose for the night were the Pork Belly Brasato & the Roasted Tomato Gnocchi.  Both of us have a hard time passing up a pork belly dish (complete with radicchio, pine nuts, and raisins), so that was an obvious choice.  The Roasted Tomato Gnocchi (served with Duck Ragu & Spinach Pesto) sounded so delicious.  I had to pick it because it was recently added to the menu, but also because C19 is famous for their light and fluffy homemade gnocchi.  Mmmmm… getting hungry yet?!

The Pork Belly with its accompaniments.  One hell of a way to start a meal.

The Pork Belly with its accompaniments. One hell of a way to start a meal.

Perfectly soft gnocchi... loved this.

Perfectly soft gnocchi… loved this.

Next up, we ordered a pizza and a pasta.  I remembered from my first visit to C19 that their pasta is soooo good… fresh and homemade.  It’s hard to resist.  I had never tried the pizza, but we decided to try the Dry Aged Venetian Meatballs on the pizza instead of as an appetizer.  I told you our ordering was thought out.  The pizza we picked had the meatballs, Polpette Mozzarella, and fresh Basil.  The crust was light and crispy, my favorite kind.  Of course the pasta we ordered was the one with Spicy Marinara.  There was some house-cured Pancetta in there too… and I only sort of stumbled over the name “Pasta A’Matriciana“.  Totally didn’t make an ass out of myself.  Don’t you worry.

Saucy & fresh pasta.  So good. This was the large portion, but you could also get a small one to taste test.

Saucy & fresh pasta. So good. This was the large portion, but you could also get a small one to taste test.

Check out this pizza... sooooo good.  The meatballs are fab.

Check out this pizza… sooooo good. The meatballs are fab.

This would have been the perfect place to end a night with delicious cocktails and dinner… but when our server came over to tell us about dessert… I just could not resist!  I am on a Tiramisu kick and C19 seemed like a great restaurant to try it.  I think something like “oh my goddddd” came out of my mouth with every bite going in.  It. was. SO. GOOD.  

Nom nom nom!! Look how creamy this Tiramisu is.  I think I've found a favorite dessert... Tiramisu tour of Philly, anyone?

Nom nom nom!! Look how creamy this Tiramisu is. I think I’ve found a favorite dessert… Tiramisu tour of Philly, anyone?

So, if you’re looking for a nice neighborhood restaurant… try C19.  The Venetian food and huge selection of wines and creative cocktails are some of the best in town.  C19 will also have you coming back for more and often, as they change their menu weekly depending on what fresh local ingredients are available.  And if you go, tell Kevin “hi”… and expect him to remember you!

Continental, Atlantic City NJ

Sometimes, all you need is a good Date Night!

While my boyfriend Dave and I love being with my entire family at the shore in the summer, sometimes it gets to be a little much!  Dave had spent the week at the shore at Adam’s house, so I hadn’t really seen him much either.  He was so sweet and asked me out on a date night!  

After an hour on Yelp, we couldn’t decide where to go.  We ended up waiting so long that most places had a huge wait.  We ended up picking one of the most dependable restaurants we know:  Continental.

Continental is one of Stephen Starr’s restaurants, and also happens to be the first one ever!  Stephen Starr restaurants are pretty much all fabulous.  Maybe a little overpriced, but you can always count on interesting, fresh, and really really delicious food.  His restaurants are all themed and beautifully decorated too, which makes for a great atmosphere.  He’s got Sushi, Asian, French, British, Steakhouse, Burgers, Italian, Mexican, and a ton more.

“Global Tapas” is the theme for Continental which also has some pretty fabulous cocktails.  One of my favorites is the “Twizzle”:  Smirnoff Citrus, Strawberry Puree, Lemon, and garnished with a red licorice wheel.  It’s adorable.  On this particular night, I decided to change it up and order the “Champagne-O-Rama”: Smirnoff Raspberry and sparkling wine with a grenadine-sugar rimmed glass.  It was REALLY strong, maybe even too strong!

Loved the rim!

Dave and I were actually not that hungry but we ordered some great stuff!

French Onion Soup Dumplings: gruyere cheese

These are awesome!  You have to be careful when you go to eat them though, they are HOT.  We popped the dumplings out of their little holes and let them cool first.  It tastes exactly like french onion soup.

French Onion Soup Dumplings baked in its’ very own crock!

MMMMM!

Jumbo Lump Crab Pad Thai: rice noodles, tofu, egg, scallions and peanuts

While I still think that the best Pad Thai is at Silk Cuisine, my favorite Thai restaurant… Continental’s Pad Thai is pretty high up there on the list.  First of all, it was huge.  The sauce was really good, not too salty, not too sweet.  The entire thing was covered with crab meat.

Pad Thai

Crispy Calamari Salad: chopped greens, carrots, tomatoes, sprouts and soy-sesame dressing

I absolutely positively cannot go to Continental without ordering the Calamari Salad.  It is actually on my own personal “Best Thing I Ever Ate” list… as well as Anne Burrell’s!  She picked this salad as her favorite thing in the “…to eat with Chopsticks” episode.  It is freakin’ amazing.  The calamari is only lightly coated and is perfectly seasoned.  The dressing… wow… it’s a little tangy but very light, and is the perfect compliment to the salty calamari.  WOW.

Check out alllllll the good stuff in this salad. WOW

Although this was all we ordered this time around, I of course have to recommend a few other items for you:

Szechuan Shoestring Fries: drizzled with Chinese mustard sauce

Orange-Chile Glazed Calamari: papaya salsa

Chilean Sea Bass: miso glaze, Chinese broccoli and sweet potato mash

Cheesesteak Eggroll: crispy onions and sriracha ketchup

Amazing Sea Bass.  Also, voted one of the top French Fries in Philly!

Sampan

When Mer asked me if I had ever been to the famous, fancy, delicious Asian restaurant, Sampan… I thought she was crazy.  I tried to explain to her that it’s pretty good but that it was just normal Chinese food… nothing special?  Mer was convinced she heard it was pretty spectacular… so I decided to go to my dear friend, GOOGLE.

Apparently… Sampan is indeed a fancy Asian restaurant downtown, not just the neighborhood place I grew up walking to.

1 point Mer.  0 points Beth.

Once I glanced at the menu, I was sold.  Mer… we’re so in!

We ended up going for Happy Hour on Wednesday for Center City SIPS with both of our guys (Dave and Mike) and their friend Lee.

The Happy Hour Menu is sorta like asian tapas.  Everything is from $3-$5.  Here’s what we picked out (and a fabulous ordering job done by Mer):

Korean BBQ Beef Satay:  Short Rib, Kim Chee, Ginger
Edamame Dumpling:  Truffle, Pea Shoot, Sake Broth
Pork Potsticker:  Kim Chee, Scallion, Shallot
Kobe Slider:  Soy, Swiss, Brioche
Kobe Hot Dog:  Smoked Mustard, Brioche
Pork Bao Bun:  Shallot, Pork Belly, Mint
Chicken Bao Bun:  Chili Sauce, Shallot, Sweet Basil
Kim Chee Fried Rice:  Shrimp, Shallot, Sunny Side Egg

Kobe Hot Dogs… 3 orders! I wished there was more mustard and maybe some kind of topping?

While I was most excited for the Kobe Hot Dog, that was probably the biggest disappointment.  I mean, it was a great hot dog and all… but there wasn’t much to it.  The biggest surprise was the Kim Chee Fried Rice… omg it was heavenly.

The server popped the egg and mixed up the rice for us tableside.

Closeup of the Fried Rice

I had some great expectations for the Edamame Dumplings due to tons and tons of Yelp reviews, and they lived up to their high standards.  The dumpling was really light while the edamame filling was super creamy.

Now, for the great “Bao Bun” challenge… which is better the Pork or the Chicken?  Dave and I are not really into pork so we were thinking the chicken would be better.  I tried the chicken first and thought there was NO WAY the pork could beat this.  It was soooooooo good.

Chicken Bao Buns

Winner, winner, Pork Bao Bun dinner!

Well, let me tell you… the next bite I had was the Pork Bao Bun and it was even better.  Couldn’t believe it!  The sauce it’s cooked in is sweet and tangy and the pork has a really nice crispiness to it.  WOW.

Kobe sliders were great as they usually are.. Kobe anything really… right?

The Pork Potstickers were tasty but nothing special… I guess this is comparing them to the Edamame Dumplings!

Korean BBQ Beef Satay was one of the last things to come out… it was amazing but I was too full to really enjoy it as much as I should have.

Lee let us know that missing dessert wasn’t an option.  We ordered some kind of Peanut Butter Smores Pie… UM WOW.  We almost fought over it.  Not a drop was left on the plate.

We also ordered the Mini-Ice Cream Cones… we were pretty disappointed by these.  Although the “Vanilla-Twizzler” flavor was strangely dead-on to Twizzler… there were only two (despite the fact that there were 3 holes for cones in the holder they used) and they were like… really really really small.  Not big enough to share.

Mocha Chocolate & Vanilla Twizzler Ice Cream… YUM! I want more!

All in all, Sampan in PHILLY is pretty awesome.  The restaurant itself is “trendy” and would work for happy hour with friends, a date, or really anything.  AND, just a little tip for when you go: Lee told Mer and I to check the bathroom… instead of music playing they have classic movie quotes.  How perfect for us two filmies!

Oh, and anywhere that has Sriracha on the table is a fine place for me!

A Foodie Trip to Baltimore

My original plan for It’s Good to be the Cook was to do part recipes, part restaurants… and part travel.  Well, it’s true, 2 outta 3 ‘aint bad.

Times have been tough for both myself and my boyfriend Dave (or Dahv as I usually call him) for the past year.  We have been dating for almost four years and until 2012, we’ve taken too many trips to even count.  We’ve traveled to the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas (for <2 days!), Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Florida, and even Israel.  We haven’t been able to travel in 2012 YET, but to keep ourselves sane, we’ve planned a ton of little day and weekend trips that are affordable yet awesome.

A few weekends ago now, we ventured down to Baltimore to visit Donny.  Donny is famous on It’s Good to be the Cook at this point.  Dave and I met Donny on our trip to Israel and have been able to keep in touch and visit with him often.  He is one of the smartest people I know, I can never beat him on Scramble with Friends, and he is the most fun foodie to be around.  Donny introduced me to Slab Bacon, Homemade Corned BeefWhite-Trash Creme Brulee Pie, and now the Baltimore JFX Farmers Market.  OMG.  I died and went to heaven.  Seriously.

Let me start at the beginning of our weekend.  We arrived in Baltimore on Saturday, early afternoon.  The first stop on the agenda was to Tortilleria Sinaloa, a teeny-tiny little Mexican Taco place not too far from Donny’s house.  There were maybe 8 seats in the entire place.  The rest of the space is taken up by a giant tortilla-making-machine.  YUM!  We ordered a few Tacos- I obviously had to choose one of each:  Chicken, Steak, and Pork.  Each taco was amazing, and the tortillas were fresh as fresh gets.  The salsas were spicy but flavorful.  I couldn’t decide which I liked better.

After shoving our faces with tacos, we walked around town for a bit.  Outside one of the bars, they had a table set up for $1 OYSTERS.  🙂  How cute?  We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have DOLLAR OYSTERS ON THE STREET!

Dolla Dolla Oysters!

My only requirement for the weekend was that I had to have a “Crush”.  Crushes come in either Orange or Grapefruit, and are probably my favorite drink ever.  They are flavored Vodka (either grapefruit or orange), Triple Sec, Crushed ice, Soda, and FRESH SQUEEZED JUICE.  Like… they take a grapefruit… and muddle it all into the drink… then squeeze the juices of one in too.  MMMMMM!  They’re so refreshing!  We headed over to a really fun bar to satisfy my Crush craving- Alexander’s Tavern.  We grabbed 3 crushes and went upstairs to part of the bar that had tons of games.  We played shuffleboard & photo hunt and made friends with another couple from Philly.

Nothing like a Grapefruit Crush…

A few Crushes were crushed then we headed back to Donny’s to relax for a few minutes.  Next up, we went to a party with Donny’s co-workers in a gorgeous apartment.  These people had windows everywhere, such an amazing view of the city.  The three of us got a little hungry and went to Tapas Adela in Fells Point.  We enjoyed a pitcher of Sangria (which I made the boys drink) and a few tapas- Short Rib Flatbread, Blistered Padron Peppers, Crispy Artichokes, and Chilled Lemongrass Mussels.  We continued onto another bar, then not too long after took the walk home to catch up on some sleep for our BIG day coming up:  THE JFX FARMERS MARKET!

Tomatoes, Mushrooms, and VATS of the best Pickles out there.

I was amazed.  Donny is my new hero for introducing me to this amazing place.  There were several produce vendors, meat, cheese, pastries, dairy, seafood… anything and everything imaginable.  There were also so many vendors serving food to eat at the market we could hardly decide.  We shared a Gary’s Turkey Burger, a Garlic-Sage Biscuit (my favorite), and a pit-beef sandwich.  We also were introduced to the most delicious Ginger drink, with lime, mint, and blueberries.  It was super refreshing and I could have drank an extra one… despite how huge they were!

All of the ingredients ready to be filled up for the ginger drink

I wish I had this at home… and I’m not even a huge fan of Ginger!! Oh, the best part being that we’re drinking out of a giant Wonton Soup container 🙂

The best biscuit ever! Sage and Garlic Flavor. I could have eaten it all by myself…lol

Gary’s Turkey Burgers… so yummy!

Dave picked the open pit BBQ Sandwich… wow!

some amazing action at the JFX Farmers Market!

We had the best time ever, Donny won 1lb of free shrimp for trivia, we bought GIANT zucchinis, tomatoes, corn, goat chorizo, horseradish, beets, the best spicy pickles and olives ever, and so much more.  We dropped off our arsenal at Donny’s, then were back out on the town and headed for the Oriole’s game.  It couldn’t have been any hotter outside.  My clothes were literally sticking to me!

Despite the terribly humid weather, Camden Yards is one pretty cool place.  We had awesome seats up high behind home plate and (duh) ate some pretty awesome food… bacon on a stick!

This trip to Baltimore was one of the best yet, and now that I know about the farmers market… I’m sure we’ll be back really soon!

Verdad: Tapas & Tequila

Not too long ago, my friend Genna took me out for a fabulous dinner.  How nice is that?!  She is the best!  I have avoided writing this post for the longest time, just because I knew that re-living this meal would make me want to go back… like soon.  She took me on our girls night to Verdad, a Latin influenced tapas restaurant and Tequila bar in Bryn Mawr, a suburb of Philly.

This place is awesome.  The atmosphere of the restaurant is perfect for a night like ours, a date, or it even could be good for a large group of people.  They have two floors, and the first floor has large tables, small tables, and even leopard-print booths.  Love.  Our server gets an A+ for the night too, as she was very helpful with our ordering, deciding, and very attentive throughout.  We even saw her walk upstairs holding a martini glass with a flaming drink.  Impressive.

She recommended that we order 2-3 dishes per person.  Genna and I both agreed that we should start with the Strawberry Habenero GuacamoleLike, okay… have you ever heard of anything so amazing before?  I haven’t!  The guacamole was topped with the fruit mixture (strawberries and kiwis) which we then mixed together.  The spicy of the habenero was cooled down by the guac and also the sweetness of the strawberries.  We LOVED it.  The homemade tortilla chips that came with it were just as good as the guacamole itself… if not better.  No lie.  We could have eaten them all night.

BEST Guac ever. I wonder if I can recreate it? Hm....

Had to sneak a close-up in... it was just so good.

Next up was the Bibb Salad, topped with Blue Cheese, Granny Smith Apples, Spicy Cashews and Lavender Vinaigrette.  This is my favorite type of salad.  And by favorite type of salad… I mean it had Blue Cheese on it.  And boy was it SO GOOD!  It was light and everything was fresh.

Amazing salad with beautiful presentation

Genna and I both quickly agreed to order the Kobe Beef Taco with Mahon, Dates, and Pico de Gallo.  WTF is Mahon?  Good question… I asked the same thing!  It’s a really yummy Spanish cheese.  I didn’t realize the kobe beef would be ground like… a taco (imagine that?) but it still tasted delicious.  I don’t know if I could notice the difference between Kobe and regular beef in this dish.

I love tapas! These were just the right size to have enough to eat but try lots of different things.

Similar to the Kobe Beef Taco, we ordered the Pork Carnitas.  They were served taco-style also, but these were topped with Chipotle Honey BBQ, more Mahon, Jicama, Avocado, and Pomegranate.  I liked the pork carnitas better than thekobe tacos.  The flavor had more of a “wow” factor with the pomegranate and the pork was just so “melt in your mouth” tender.  MMM!

I think I'm starting to really LOVE pork! So good!

Finally, we ordered one of the larger plates recommended by our server.  She said it was her favorite dish at the restaurant, and I don’t blame her!  Our final dish was the Striped Bass served over homemade Papperdelle, Black Truffle, and Oyster Mushrooms.  (What you should start to notice is that I always order mushroom dishes when I’m out without Dave… he hates them!)  The sauce was rich from the truffle and mushrooms but the dish wasn’t too heavy with the crispy, light fish on top.

The fish was so tasty and I just love restaurants that make their own pasta. It makes a huge difference.

Overall, I loved Verdad.  I can’t wait to go back, and would probably have to order at least the Guacamole again.  What else is really cool about this restaurant is that they make authentic Paella that has to be ordered almost an hour before serving!  I have to try it out, it sounds amazing!  … but that will have to be for next time, when I take Genna out to dinner 🙂  Thank you Genna!

Amada

The only good thing about January in PA is Philly Restaurant Week.  Lucky for us, the weather this year has been pretty mild and we (knock on wood) haven’t had too much snow.  Our recent “good” weather allowed for an easy drive down into Old City Philadelphia to enjoy a tasting of authentic Spanish Tapas from Amada.

Amada is Iron Chef America’s Jose Garces’ first restaurant and this was my first time dining there.  This special occasion was the perfect time to have a double date with my favorite foodie-friend, Allie and her boyfriend Jay.  Allie and her adorable blog, are what inspired me to start my own!  Allie and I have been talking for a while now about trying to co-write a post, so we thought our unbelievable tapas feast at Amada would be a great time to try it out.

For the restaurant week menu, each person was allowed to choose two first courses, two second courses, and one dessert.  In typical food-blogger/foodie fashion, Allie and I made the decision for the table that we were going to get different dishes and share them all!

Sangria:
Before even getting to the menu, we had to try out one of the famous seasonal sangrias.
Beth: as a new wine drinker, I went with the Blanco Sangria. It was loaded with chunks of apples, pears, and oranges. It was sweet and so easy to drink. What was really interesting was there was a small sprig of rosemary floating on top.
Allie: I tried the Tinto, Spiced Red Wine withOrange, Apple & Cinnamon.  It was perfectly sweet and refreshing yet warmed me up with each sip!
First Course:

Garlic Shrimp

Beth: My favorite first course was the Garlic Shrimp. The shrimp dish is served in a little ceramic pot which is cooking the shrimp as the server brings it out to the table. Needless to say, the shrimp were PERFECTLY cooked- something I rarely do well. The broth was super garlicky and had a little kick with some red pepper flakes in there too.

croquetas de jamon

Allie:  I was actually surprised by the croquetas de jamon and how amazingly flavorful they were!  They were crispy on the outside and soft and savory in the middle.  I’m pretty sure there was mustard mixed in with the ham, which made it a little spicy!  Then it was served on top of a red pepper spread, which I was wishing there was more of!

Serrano Ham

Beth: the Serrano Ham came with a side of Bread, Cornichons (those itty-bitty baby pickles), French Dijon, and Caperberries. Caperberries were basically giant capers so they paired really well with the sweetness of the Prosciutto-like Serrano Ham.

Serrano Ham Garnish and HOT mustard!

Allie: Unlike any cheese you’ve tried at a restaurant, garrotxa cheese came out on a board with garlic dulce de leche, bread and sliced apple.  Yes, garlic dulce de leche!  This dish was simple yet the flavors all came together for a serious party in your mouth.

Garrotxa Cheese and Garlic Dulce de Leche Sauce

Beth: The Serrano Ham dish just wasn’t enough ham for us, so we had to choose the Melón Con Jamón plate. Not only does this dish RHYME, but it tasted fantastic! It is unusual for fruit to be the star of a dish, but this melon gave this jamón a run for its money! I was not suspecting such huge, fresh, juicy chunks of melon, let alone the sweet sauce that was drizzled on top. Sweet and salty is my favorite combination and the balance of the two were just perfect in this plate.

Melon con Jamon

Allie: Escalivada was fantastic.  It came with small toasted pieces of bread spread with creamy, tangy goat cheese and roasted veggies. I’m a sucker for roasted veggies and the eggplant was phenomenal!!

Escalivada

Beth: With all the protein we had ordered, Dahv suggested we get something green… and green it was! The Ensalada Verde dish was a chopped green salad with asparagus and avocado. It was light and delicate but loaded with flavor.

Ensalada Verde

Allie: The tortilla espanola was probably the most unique dish we tried.  It was a small cake that had the consistency of a tamale and polenta.  It was very dense but once you took a bite it was creamy and buttery.

Tortilla Espanola

WHEW!  Can you believe that was all just the “first course”??  I am starting to REALLY like tapas!  If you were salivating at the dishes we described so far, just wait until you hear about our second course choices…
Second Course:
Beth: The Madre e Hijo makes the ranks of one of my favorite chicken dishes EVER!!  The chicken was perfectly juicy, tender, and loaded with flavor.  What makes this dish even more special is that the chicken breast is locally farmed, which is true of many ingredients at Amada.  And what a great idea, putting a fried egg on top!  MMM!

Madre e Hijo

Allie: The chicken brochette was a decision that we kind of guessed about but it was a great addition to our meal.  I enjoyed the simplicity of the chicken and how perfectly it was grilled.  And of course I enjoyed the lemony sauce it came with.

Chicken Brochette

Beth:  We just couldn’t resist trying both flatbreads… the Gambas Con Garbanzos Coca was so light and crispy!  The presentation of this flatbread with shrimp, chorizo, & garbanzo bean puree was simple yet colorful, with the shrimp cooked in a bright green pesto.  The unexpected cheese that wasn’t described on the menu looked so good that I had to break my month of “No-Cheese” diet to have a small piece.  It was worth it!

Gambas Con Garbanzos Coca

Allie: The other flatbread we tried was Costillas de Ternera Coca, beef shortrib flatbread with horseradish, parmesan and bacon.  I’m a huge fan of flatbread because who doesn’t like crisp little bites topped with savory toppings!?  This reminded me almost of a cheesesteak with the meat and cheese and then the hit of horseradish at the end really left your taste buds dancing.

Costillas de Ternera Coca

Beth:  The group thought this one sounded so good that we decided to order TWO… of the Lubina Al Pescador: a roasted Sea Bass with potatoes, arbequina olives, served with preserved lemon and salsa verde.  This plate was a great example of why Sea Bass is always my favorite fish!  I loved the light, fresh flavors that the lemon and salsa brought to the dish.

Lubina Al Pescador

Allie: We had to sneak some more veggies in somewhere so we tried the setas a la plancha, or seasonal wild mushrooms.  I’ve been ordering mushrooms everywhere I go lately and these did not disappoint.  I loved the different textures and earthy flavor mixed with the zesty-ness of the sauce.

setas a la plancha

WOW!  And believe it or not we still had room for dessert.
The choices were:
PASTEL DE CHOCOLATE
Flourless Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Ice Cream
& Chocolate-Hazelnut Caramel
or
CREMA CATALANA
Vanilla Custard, Caramel Veil, Ginger & Pine Nut

Pastel de Chocolate

Allie:  Naturally I chose the Pastel de Chocolate.  I was so thankful that the portion size was small, although I probably could have ate everyone’s dessert at the table…it was that good.  The chocolate cake was rich, topped with the velvety ice cream.  My favorite part was the hot fudge-like sauce on the plate and the chopped hazelnuts.  I’m a true believer that chocolate and hazelnut should be the new chocolate and peanut butter.
Beth:  I chose the chocolate as well but had to have a taste of the Crema Catalana that Dahv ordered.  The vanilla custard was rich and creamy.  The ginger was an interesting flavor to add to the vanilla but it went together really well!

Crema Catalana

We both hope that you are now starving after looking at all of these beautiful pictures of amazing food!  Although Amada is normally on the expensive side, I highly recommend treating yourself to the best Tapas restaurant I’ve ever been to!
Thank you Allie for taking all of these amazing pictures with your FANCY camera!!  When is our next dinner date??

This is exactly how I felt after leaving!!!

The Tomato Bistro

Who doesn’t love a great deal?  I do!  I recently purchased a Groupon for The Tomato Bistro in Manayunk.  The Tomato Bistro is the newly renovated “upstairs” at the Couch Tomato.  The deal was $25 for a FOUR course meal for TWO!

I felt like this would be a perfect time to mention- until about five months ago, I have hated, and I mean HATED tomatoes my entire life!  It’s actually just raw tomatoes that get me.  The seeds, the goo in the middle… it’s disgusting!  Everything ordered in a restaurant, sandwiches, salads… I always had to request “absolutely no tomatoes please”.  When the kitchen would forget (this happened often, since who doesn’t love a good tomato??) someone else at the table would have to pick them off for me, since I couldn’t bear to touch them.

Thankfully, I recently forced myself to try a cherry tomato on a big bite of salad with a friend of mine in Philly.  I could hardly taste it but decided then and there that I was over my fear of tomatoes, and have been eating them ever since!  It took some getting used to but I do enjoy them now, and even choose to include them in my sandwiches and omelets!

The Tomato Bistro 3rd Floor

Now, back to the Tomato Bistro!  One of my close friends, Allie (who is my inspiration for starting my blog) was the perfect date for the four-course evening.  When we arrived at the restaurant, we decided to sit on the third floor.  The atmosphere was bright and happy but cozy, perfect for our date.  Along with our wine, the waitress delivered us a small cup of their Tomato (duh) Bisque and a few cheese croutons.  It was an unexpected nice touch and it was so yummy!

Sample of Tomato Bisque

For our first course, we were able to pick any three items from their small plates menu.  Allie and I decided on trying the Crab Crepe, the Cornflake Chicken, and Popcorn Mac & Cheese.  Everything was so good we couldn’t decide what we liked better.  Allie also convinced me to try grilled artichokes- one of the only things i don’t like to eat these days.  Turns out, I was pleasantly surprised and wished there was more of it!

Our Three Tapas

Crab Crepe:  Leeks, Carrots, Jumbo Crab, Dijon Cream

Crab Crepe

Cornflake Cicken:  Artichockes, Prosciutto, Cornflakes, Caramelized Onion, Ricotta, Arugula

Cornflake Chicken

The Popcorn Mac & Cheese is actually not listed on their online menu!  Weird!

Popcorn Mac

Crispy Artichokes:  Baby Long-Stem Marinated Artichokes, Olive Tapenade, Lemon Aioli … we ate this one too fast to snap a picture!  DUH!

Next, we got to pick a salad and a pizza.  The decision was so hard, but we finally decided on the Prosciutto Di Parma Salad & the Mushroom Pizza.  Neither of our boyfriends eat mushrooms, so we jumped on the opportunity to be able to order them.

Prosciutto Di Parma Salad:  Arugula, Red Onion, Olives, Piave Cheese, Prosciutto, Grapes, Lemon, Olive Oil

Prosciutto Di Parma Salad

Mushroom Pizza:  Garlic Oil, Assorted Mushrooms, Goat Cheese

Mushroom Pizza

I didn’t love the salad, but the pizza was to die for!  The thin crust was perfectly crusty without being burnt, and the goat cheese tasted amazing with the mushrooms.

We also got to choose a dessert, but we had already talked ourselves into (or I talked Allie into) making a stop at Whirled Peace, the DIY Frozen Yogurt place down a block or two.  We did try Tomato Bistro’s Lavender Scented Crème Brûlée.  It was a perfectly tiny little dessert for a bite or two, but the garnish was pretty strange, don’t you think?

Creme Brulee

Overall, the Couch Tomato’s new sister restaurant “upstairs” Tomato Bistro was delish.  Maybe it was the creative tapas, maybe it was the crispy crust pizza, or maybe it even is the FREE vallet service (so clutch in Manayunk, for this non-paralell parker!) …  but I think it’s my new found respect for the TOMATO!

By the way, you can find my awesome date Allie’s food blog here!  She started it over a year ago, and has some amazing suggestions and recipes.  ENJOY!