20 Culinary Questions with Editor Amy Strauss of Philadelphia’s The Town Dish

Amy Strauss Brooklyn FleaAmy Strauss is the Editor in Chief of TheTownDish.com, a network of sites focusing on the food and dining scene in the greater Philadelphia area including its sumptuous suburbs — and beyond! An OpenTable member since 2008, she lives in Downington, Pennsylvania, where she can enjoy the best of Philadelphia proper as well the amazing hyper-local fare being served in surrounding towns. You can share in her eating experiences by following her on Twitter at @amy_strauss.

1. What are some of the best qualities of the Philadelphia dining scene? Living in the Philly suburbs, I’m fork-deep between quick-tripping into my local (and booming!) food city to experience the newest restaurant or escaping into my immediate backyard to discover the next well-deserving-of-the-spotlight chef. There’s potential everywhere, and where the Philly food scene stands, it’s eclectic and bold; it’s welcoming and honest. I’ve been around the nation and, although I may be biased, Philly is the best food city.

2. Any restaurants at which you’re something of a regular? For a casual weeknight, I’m hitting the bar. In the suburbs at Station Taproom for first-rate pulled pork sandwiches and craft beer or Tired Hands Brewing Co. for a cheese plate and one-off sour beer, and in Philadelphia, Starr’s Fette Sau for smoky, tender brisket and sharp bourbon drinks. For a “special” occasion (can’t that count as every day?), BARSAVONA or Zahav.

3. If I come to the PHL, where must I dine? In the Philly suburbs, any of these will rock your palate and provide an unforgettable dining experience: Junto (elevated PA Dutch BYOB), Nectar (Asian fusion with locally sourced sensibilities), Avalon (rustic Italian), Majolica (inventive, modernized American BYOB), Restaurant Alba (refined Northern Italian), Amani’s BYOB (local-focused), Taqueria Feliz (hip Mexican), and Bolete Restaurant (farmhouse-inspired). In Philly city proper, Serpico, Sbraga (eat the fried game hen!), High Street on Market, Vernick Food & Drink, Petruce et al., Avance, and Stock.

4. Last best restaurant you dined at? Just last night, I visited Fitler Dining Room, the newest concept from the talented gang at Pub & Kitchen. The happy hour was exceptional, with small bites like a vertical heirloom tomato salad constructed on buttery brioche and dressed with Rogue Creamery Blue. Being a bar that’s strictly beer and wine, they get impressively creative with their limited cocktails. For example, the Campobello Retreat features white wine that’s infused to taste like gin (it does!) and is finished with a fragrant splash of elderflower liqueur. It’s sharp and fun; I immediately wanted another.

5. Restaurants you’d most like to try but have yet to — anywhere? Bryan Voltaggio’s Volt, Quealy Watson’s Hot Joy, and Noma.

6. Favorite city for dining outside your own? Since part of what we do is travel for food, here are my favorite Town Dish trip destinationsAustin, Texas for Qui, Olivia, and Franklin Barbecue;  San Francisco, California for Mission Street Chinese and Saison;  Chicago, Illinois for Blackbird, Girl & the Goat, Publican, Publican Quality Meats, and Pequod’s PizzaPortland, Maine (especially in summer!) for Central Provisions, Eventide Oyster Co., Pai Men Miyake, and David’s Opus 10Atlanta, Georgia for Abattoir, West Egg Cafe, and Cakes & Ale; and New York City (of course) for The Breslin, Momofuku, and Alder.

7. Destination dining cities you’d love to visit? Nashville! Seattle! Aspen! Charleston! San Diego!

8. What’s your overall favorite type of cuisine? There’s nothing more wholesome than rustic Italian, and few and far between are doing it by the book and significantly well. I’m also always surprised with what newcomer chefs are doing with mod-American cuisine, particularly those who are scouting local gardens and throwing together fresh ideas and compositions unlike those seen before (example: Ella’s American Bistro, Majolica).

9. Small shared plates, tasting menu or app/entrée dessert? Tasting menus — always a home run! It’s the best avenue to fully experience a chef’s skill sets and where they execute their most creative dishes.

10. Dish you can’t resist ordering when you see it on a menu? I’m 100% Pennsylvania Dutch, so its in my blood to never resist regionalized, classic foods of my heritage. If I spy elevated soft pretzels, house-made pickles, hand-cut egg noodles — I got to stick to my stick-to-your-ribs gun and consider them mine! Fork and Junto put forth killer interpretations of the classics. Snack-wise, you know if a chef’s throwing deviled eggs on their menu, they’re going to be good. Same goes for hand-cut pappardelle — I usually need that.

11. Have you ever done a bang bang (a la Louis C.K.)? If not, what’s the greatest # of courses you’ve eaten in one restaurant siting? Working as a food writer and reviewer, bang bangs are a regular part of your week! My current course max (at one restaurant) is 14 — but that’s not to say I threw in the napkin. I’d adventure into the 20s. Dare me!

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September is Dine Out for #NoKidHungry Month

Dine Out NKHThis month, you can do good while dining out when you eat at a restaurant participating in Share Our Strength’s Dine Out For No Kid Hungry™ campaign. Thousands of restaurants across the country are joining the fight to end childhood hunger in America by donating a portion of the proceeds from diners’ meals during September.

You can easily find participating restaurants in the metropolitan areas below, or visit http://dineout.nokidhungry.org/maps to find restaurants nearest you.

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After the Earthquake: 15 Napa Restaurants Getting Rave Reviews

The oft-heralded short ribs at Bottega also await Napa diners.

Less than two weeks ago, a 6.1 earthquake struck the Napa Valley. Buildings were damaged and power was lost, and, as a result, the restaurant community was hit hard. According to an Eater article, damages to the area are estimated in excess of $1 billion, along with $100 million in economic losses. Fortunately, most eateries were back up and running within a day or two, and diners have come out to show their support, leaving gushing reviews from their experiences in the days since the quake. Because of the daunting (and continuing) losses, we hope you’ll visit Napa and wine country restaurants this weekend — and in the coming weeks — to help buoy one of the nation’s most important culinary destinations. Read some reviews Napa diners left this week, and book a table today!

1313 Main: “Napa has a new star: 1313. Outstanding food, service, and one of the best wine programs in the US. These guys know food, wine, and service, but, most importantly, hospitality. From the minute you walk in the door, you’re greeted by people that genuinely care about your dining experience. On top of that, the food looks, tastes, and is presented with care and respect.”

Angèle Restaurant & Bar: “We went for our 26th anniversary dinner and were so pleasantly surprised when they brought us each a glass of Champagne to toast. So sweet, and we loved our table by the window in the small intimate back room. The meal was wonderful, from the ahi appetizer to the duck confit and the scallops. Left feeling satisfied and happy. Thank you again and we will be back soon!”

Bistro Don Giovanni: “This was the best Italian I have had in Napa. Had fritto misto — fresh and not one hint of oil. Shrimp risotto was cooked perfectly, just like in Florence. Ravioli was heaven.”

Bistro Jeanty: “Anyone wanting to experience classic French cuisine without leaving the USA should go to Bistro Jeanty. It is as though somebody uprooted a French bistro in Paris and set it down in Yountville.”

Ca Momi’: “Since discovering Ca’ Momi last fall, it has quickly become our go-to spot when visiting Napa. Not only do you get to spend time at the lovely Oxbow Market, but the food and service at Ca’ Momi are always flawless! Definitely don’t miss their pizzas; their Margherita is a masterpiece, and I will forever dream of the ‘Bianco, Rosso & Verde’ pie. Divine.”

Celadon: “Only a week after the earthquake, Celadon made our visit to the Napa Valley a memorable experience! The food was tasty, the service amazing, and we will be back to dine again on our next visit to the Napa Valley!”

Cordeiros Bar & Grill: “With the earthquake, all of us in Napa have been a bit dazed, and more than amply confused. It is hard to determine in these early stages where restaurants are in the recovery process. I have seen Cordeiros Bar & Grill show up more than once on OpenTable; however, you get so used to your local haunts that you don’t venture out. Well, I am writing to say…venture out. Cordeiros was a huge surprise; everything from that atmosphere to the food was grand, and the service was outstanding.”

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20 Culinary Questions with Washington, D.C., Food Writer Nevin Martell

IMG_8718Nevin Martell may be a New York native, but he’s made himself very much at home in Washington, D.C., over the last decade, and he definitely knows how to dine like a local. A freelance food and travel writer, Martell is the author of the recently published travelogue-memoir Freak Show Without a Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. He is a sucker for foie gras and truffles and has been an OpenTable member since 2007 — as well as a super-adventurous eater since birth. He says, “Traveling the world, I’ve gotten stoned on kava in Fiji, eaten tree frogs in the Dominican Republic, and noshed on grasshoppers in Mexico. In the spirit of adventure, I’m always willing to try anything. I’ve always wanted to eat on Easter Island, so if anyone is looking for a culinary story on the most remote point in the world, let me know!” You can follow his gourmet exploits at NevinMartell.com and on Twitter @nevinmartell

1. What are some of the best qualities of the Washington, D.C., dining scene? Over the last several years, D.C.’s restaurant scene has started growing at an explosive rate. New eateries are popping up every day and everywhere. Despite the fierce competition, the dining community remains tightknit, supportive, and highly collaborative. That goes for the food writers in town as well.

2. Any restaurants at which you’re something of a regular? It’s hard to become a regular when you’re always trying new restaurants and eating out on assignment. However, I have become a common sight at G by Mike Isabella, La Mano Coffee Bar, and Republic.

3. If I come to D.C., where must I dine? Rose’s Luxury, Rasika, Little Serow, Toki Underground, and Blue Duck Tavern. A sandwich at Woodward Takeout Food or Stachowski’s is highly recommended. If you’re willing to drive, The Inn at Little Washington, Bryan Voltaggio’s VOLT, and The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm are all worth the trip.

4. Last best restaurant you dined at? The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm. Tarver King is equal parts chef and artist, so his food is as beautiful and creatively constructed as it is delicious.

 5. Restaurants you’d most like to try but have yet to — anywhere? In reality, this wishful list is hundreds of restaurants long. However, here are some highlights: The French Laundry, Alex Atala’s D.O.M. in Sao Paolo, Sushi Mizutani in Tokyo, L’Arpège in Paris, Momofuku Ko in NYC, and Le Pigeon in Portland, Oregon.

6. Favorite city for dining outside your own? New York City. Also, Clinton, New York, because that’s where my mother lives and I have the softest spot in my heart for her cooking.

7. Destination dining cities you’d love to visit? Tokyo, Casablanca, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

8. What’s your overall favorite type of cuisine? This is the Sophie’s Choice of questions for a food writer! I can’t possibly pick a single cuisine.

9.  Small shared plates, tasting menu, or app/entrée dessert? I love to simply let the server know my preferences and let the chef go to town.

10. Dish you can’t resist ordering when you see it on a menu? Sticky toffee pudding.

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