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I know a good handful of people who’ve traveled to France in the past few months; in my French class alone three people, including my teacher, have visited Paris and other amazing cities in the country. Unfortunately my own plans to travel there have yet to come to fruition but all of the unbelievable stories I have recently heard have me itching to get there more than ever. Though I’ve been lucky enough to hear several accounts of trips to the country, all different but equally dreamy, I’m beginning to have the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” complex regarding French travel.

A few weeks ago, upon his return from his trip, my French teacher brought a stack of material out of a giant briefcase and reviewed with me maps, guidebooks, and brochures of the amazing places he visited in just over a week in France. Using a guide to the restaurants of Paris, he showed me the places he ate and described for me in detail his meals, which sounded très délicieux. The visions of fresh fish in butter and herbs; sweet, pillowy macarons; and carafes of red wine have had me craving the tastes of France ever since. Even more so, I’ve been itching to expand my repertoire of French recipes.

Bistrot La Minette, a French restaurant located on 6th Street between South and Bainbridge, does an excellent job of bringing authentic French flavors to Philadelphia and the ambience adds to the experience – they have a beautiful, romantic outdoor garden with seating underneath white string lights that makes you forget you’re only several blocks away from the kitschy South Street shops. Of all the unbelievable things I’ve tried there my favorite is their Flammenküche, a rustic French pizza with crème fraîche, onions and lardons (thinly sliced, small strips of bacon). This grilled version of the dish, with homemade crème fraîche, is a great way to incorporate outdoor cooking with French flair. Read More…

Beer Braised Pot Roast

It’s funny how our tastes change with age. As a kid, I expected Brussels sprouts to taste like fresh, crispy, Iceberg lettuce in miniature form, and was so disgusted when I discovered it to be false. Now, I’m dying to re-introduce myself to the teeny-tiny cabbage (and invite my faithful friend, bacon). My younger self would get away with not eating all of her vegetables and still get dessert, but as an adult I crave corn and steamed carrots. Any item from the ocean only ever crossed my lips if I were duped into eating eat when I was little, yet now I am to shrimp cocktail what Wing Bowl 2011 winner Jon “Super” Squib is to chicken wings.

There are certain dishes I would think were unimpressive (I was a very opinionated child) and could only find them edible with a condiment on the side. For example, pot roast never seemed like a “fun” dish and I’d only finish my dinner  plate with a side of ketchup. As an adult, the thought of braising a chunk of meat for hours in juices and stock and topping it with ketchup is heart-wrenching. Here is a for the comfort-food classic that requires nothing more to dress it up than what is listed below.  Read More…

Country Style Ribs

Since the McRib came back to McDonald’s, I’ve secretly been dying to try it. The “golden arches” and I have an interesting relationship that dates back to my childhood. My pop-pop took me on lunch dates – so he could get his free coffee, and I could get my Happy Meal – frequently when I was a child. So much that I had a barrel full of toy souvenirs from our lunches by the time I was 12 (I definitely had some duplicates, but my favorites were the Fraggle Rock collection). Though I was always a McNugget kind of a girl, I do remember the McRib making its debut at Micky D’s when I was younger. The saucy sandwich looked delicious, but, since it didn’t come with a toy, my attraction to it was never strong enough to actually order it.

When I heard the buzz about the McRib making a temporary comeback, I felt it was my chance to finally sink my teeth into it. The banners that adorn the restaurant location in University City are so enticing, and  they stress, in not totally fine print, the sandwich will not be around forever. On top of that, the commercials are intense: shots of people, McRib in hand, chowing down, making sure to lick the leftover barbecue sauce from their fingers and faces. Before I made a run for the drive-thru, I decided to try my hand at making a homemade variation of the exclusive rib patty. Read More…

Stuffed Cabbage

My 8-year old self would have scoffed at my twenty-something self if she knew I made a dish centered around cabbage. I would then explain, over her laughter, how I actually liked it, and that she’d be amazed at the slew of things she would one day enjoy. The leafy, bitter vegetable falls under the heading of “Things I Would Have Never Eaten as a Child,” with brussel sprouts, kiwi, and seafood. If the 8-year old me thought it was ridiculous that she would one day like the taste of cabbage, she would be speechless at the thought of devouring a sushi roll.

My library of cookbooks includes a giant compilation of Cook’s Illustrated dishes, separated into chapters by the regional cuisine they represent. This has made it especially easy for my recent appreciation for Eastern European dishes, and this section of the book includes a pierogi recipe (similar to the one I just tried), beef goulash, and blintzes. The stuffed cabbage recipe was impossible to pass over: reading the description for Stuffed Cabbage with Sweet and Sour Tomato Sauce made me salivate to the point where I had no choice but to satisfy the craving I had just created. Read More…

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