Friday, June 20, 2008

Breaking News: Venezuela derails France

So, French Month got a little derailed. Which is okay, because I wasn’t too interested in it anyway. I think French is just not my thing. That being said, I do believe that I will be making French onion soup this week, because I love it and I’m going through a major soup phase right now. All I want to do is eat cans and cans of soup.

Thankfully, for you, dear readers, I have resisted this impulse and have been enjoying the bounty that Philadelphia has to offer. In the last week, I’ve tried several new restaurants (Café Apamate, Honey’s Sit n’ Eat, and Rx in West Philly) and finally made it to Reading Terminal Market (where I found cherries for $2. And mint fudge brownies. And organic meat. And other delicious things). But I can’t really shove all of that into one post—those restaurants will have to wait for a later post, or for me to make another visit.

I really love this city. It’s dirty. It smells funny a lot of the time. There’s a lot of crime. There is a LOT of good food. And I love it. I even love the silly liquor laws that abound in this state, because that means that there are an abundance of BYOBs, like Café Apamate. And thus, to Café Apamate did the dear GF and I go last Thursday for date night.

Café Apamate’s chef Ormaechea has brought a blend of Venezuelan and Spanish food to Philadelphia, in the form of mini tapas called “Pinxtos” as well as large plates. The tapas are literally about 2 to 4 bites; just enough to love what you just put into your mouth and little enough that you pay attention to savor the tastes. And everything—I swear, everything—is delicious. We ordered an array of tiny plates, a charcuteria plate and another appetizer to share, as well as sangria that was mixed at the restaurant with the bottle of Spanish red that we brought with us.

The GF and I shared some things and not others. She really wanted to sea scallops with an herb reduction; I rarely eat any kind of seafood. I really wanted to try the shot (!) of gazpacho (remember that soup obsession?)—she thinks that gazpacho is glorified salsa. The gazpacho was actually tremendously amazing, with Jersey heirloom tomatoes in the starring role. We shared a warmed goat cheese mound with a red bush tea and pistachio reduction. I had to restrain myself from licking the plate. We also shared the charcuterie board, with chorizo, Serrano ham, and lomo embuchado—all amazing meats. Paired with them was a nevat goat cheese—semi-aged, almost like my beloved Pata Cabra from Tria Café—drizzled with lavender honey, manchego with slivers of quince paste, and Cabrales blue cheese (which neither of us really liked at the time). This was followed by a mini plate of flank steak with a Cabrales reduction. It literally melted in our mouths. I have never had a more delicious or tender piece of steak in my life, and the Cabrales took on a completely different persona. It went from being a mild, though still too strong for me, blue cheese, to being a mellow, warm, delightful counterpart to the richness of the steak. After this, deciding that we were still hungry, we ordered a plate of béchamel and Serrano ham croquettes—think hush puppies dressed up for the prom—unthinkably delicious. To round out this lovely meal, we had handmade churros stuffed with dulce de leche.

Apamate is small, cash only, and doesn’t take reservations, but staffed by friendly people and beautiful it sit in. The verdict: Excellent. I would go back again and again

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