Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Supper, Philadelphia PA

I first ate brunch at Supper in September and remember it as a perfect meal. The food was superb, the atmosphere warm and inviting, the service attentive, a brunchmate spotted a celebrity a table away, and chef/co-owner Mitch Prensky came to our table at the end of the meal requesting feedback.

Perhaps my expectations were set too high because, aside from two exceptional highlights, my second visit in December proved disappointing.

The first highlight is the hot chocolate that I request off the menu. It ranks in the Top 5 Best Hot Chocolate That I Have Ever Had. It is made from real chocolate and is not too sweet or rich. The only drawback, I unfortunately discover after agreeing to a second cup, is the price tag ($6).

Cornbread Hushpuppies
The second highlight is the Cornbread Hushpuppies ($4). Covered with grated Parmesan, they are crispy on the outside and sweet and moist inside.

Over the summer my brunchmate ordered the Cornmeal Pancakes ($12) and I had had a bite. They were quite hearty and filled with berries—a bit too heavy for warm weather but exactly what I want now to fill me up on a cold December day. They arrive with berries on top, rather than in the batter, and are much lighter and more gritty than I remember; not bad but not at all what I envisioned.

Cornmeal Pancakes
My brunchmate orders the Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Marshmallow ($8). The presentation is outstanding: marshmallow is torch-blown on the side of the bowl and our server pours the soup table-side around a dab of apple slaw that rests in the middle of the bowl.
Butternut Squash Soup

Unfortunately the soup itself is a bit too sweet and could use some heat to create the complex flavors that are essential in a good butternut squash soup.

Overall the atmosphere of Supper is relaxing, my brunchmate and I stay chatting after the meal is finished, but the service is curt and perfunctory.
The restaurant is mostly empty, but I have the distinct feeling that we are interrupting someone who believes he has more important things to do. It is fortunate that we have exact change because after delivering our bill, our server does not come near our table again.

Still somewhat of a newcomer among Philadelphia restaurants, I hope that Supper will get things back on track again soon—and not let the Best Of Philly 2008 award-hype get to its young head—because where else in this city will you find an “Old School” Breakfast Cereal Buffet ($7 for as much as you can eat) with selections such as Quisp, King Vitaman, Crunch Berries, and Kaboom.

Cereal Buffet

If you go:

  • 926 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
  • Phone: (215) 592-8180
  • They accept credit cards.
  • Supper Website

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cafe Estelle, Philadelphia PA

Cafe EstelleThis jem of a breakfast nook is tucked away inside the lobby of the 444 Lofts. While not the most convinent location for those on foot, if you drive there is both ample on-the-street metered parking as well as a few free spots reserved for the cafe in the loft's parking lot.

Inside, the walls are covered with art for sale by local artists. Tables, couch, or counter seating is available. On the tables are fresh flowers and under the tabletops are recipes from vintage magazines and cookbooks. The chairs have thick comfy cushions, encouraging guests to stay awhile.

Cafe Estelle's menu is rather eclectic ranging from Bagels with Vegan Butter Spread ($2.00) and Homemade Granola with local yogurt ($6.50) to Duck & Gorgonzola Flatbread Pizza ($8.50) and Braised Lamb Sandwich ($10.50). The unifying theme seems to be local and fare-trade menu options.

I decide to be decadent and order the Chocolate Banana Peanutbutter Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast with warm maple syrup and fresh fruit ($9.50). The first thing that I notice about the french toast is how clean the presentation is for something stuffed. I am used to filling pouring out over the sides when ordering stuffed creations and there is always a mess involved!

French Toast
At Cafe Estelle, the chef cuts a hole in the middle of the bread, stuffs it and covers it back up. This creates not only a very clean look but makes the toast much easier to eat! The bread is thick yet airy, the filling has just a hint of peanut butter, and the cream cheese is blended perfectly. The Stuffed French Toast does sit a bit heavy, but is much lighter than most.

Cafe Estelle's coffee is fair-trade, organic, and from a local vendor. You can order a “Bottomless Cup” for $2.75. According to my brunch-mate it is “strong but very good.”

Omelet My brunch-mate orders the Smoked Salmon, Scallion & Cream Cheese Omelet ($9.00) which comes with homefries and toast. The toast is made with a sourdough baguette that is baked on the premises. Our server informs us that the salmon is also smoked on premises. My brunch-mate, who was on the fence about ordering the omelet, is thrilled with her decision. The gentle smoke flavor of the salmon pairs beautifully with the cream cheese—it is not overwhelming as feared. The homefries are nicely seasoned and crispy.

Cafe Estelle makes all of their baked goods onsite. The chocolate chip cookies ($0.75 each or 3 for $2.00) are soft but also have a delightful crunch to them around the edges. The chocolate cannot really be called “chips” but rather are big globs that spread throughout the cookie.

chocolate chip cookie
If you plan to go before the new year, call ahead because the sign on the entrance says they will be closed from December 22-January 1.

If you go:
  • 444 N. 4th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123
    Between Callowhill and Spring Garden Streets
  • Phone: (215) 925-5080
  • They accept credit cards. BYOB.
  • Cafe Estelle Website

Friday, December 5, 2008

Du Jour, Philadelphia PA

The corner of Broad and Pine streets in Philadelphia greatly improved this past year with the addition of the upscale eatery, Du Jour. Adjacent to the Symphony House, it is headed by Matin Grimes who also operates The Moshulu and Du Jour Haverford Square, among other places.

If you're looking for a quick bite to eat before seeing a show, a low-key spot to unwind with friends, or a place to read the morning paper, Du Jour is the answer. They offer dine-in, takeout, and catering options.

The decor is Austin Powers meets Ikea 2009: Funky orange lamps hang over black tables with white swivel chairs. Service is always friendly and prompt, and food presentation is beautiful.

Having been to Du Jour a few times, I highly recommend the Organic Field Green Salad ($8), which comes with candied walnuts, goat cheese, cranberries and a not-too-sweet raspberry vinaigrette. Even die-hard carnivores can't resist it!

The Trio of Waffles ($12.50) with berries and almond crème is also quite tasty but rather pricey for the portion size. The waffles, which are about the diameter of a tennis ball, come three to a plate with whipped cream, slivered almonds, and berries atop each.

I am underwhelmed with the brick oven pizzas and flatbreads. The Four Cheese Pizza ($8.50) is greasy with bland bread and and globs of cheese that refuse to "string."

On my most recent visit to Du Jour, I ordered the Butternut Squash Soup with Apple Fennel Slaw ($4.75). The apple slaw is innovative, fresh, and balances the creamy soup with a delightful crunch. Perfect for a crisp fall day, the soup is sweet with a subtle undertone of spicy-heat.

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple Fennel Slaw

My brunch-mate was impressed with the delicious Angus Beef Burger ($9.95), which comes with fries and a pickle.

Angus Beef Burger
Du Jour also offers a full menu including dessert as well as beer, wine, and cocktails but rumor has it that if you order anything that has “tini” in the title you need to clear your schedule for the remainder of the day!

If you go:
  • 440 S Broad St
    Philadelphia, PA 19146
  • New Location: 2001 Market Street
    Philadelphia, PA
  • Phone: (215) 735-8010
  • They accept credit cards.
  • Du Jour Website