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Luigi’s Pizza Fresca, Philadelphia, PA

Luigi’s Pizza Fresca, Philadelphia, PA

The Fairmount area of Philadelphia is really a nice area to spend an evening. With the skyline of the city to view, the amazing Eastern State Penitentiary to visit, and many dining options available there is a little bit of everything for everyone. While the options are many for restaurants, sometimes you just want something a little lighter and quick and that is why I visited Luigi’s Pizza Fresca (LPF). This is one of three locations for LPF with the other two in New Jersey, and if the crowd at this location is any indicator, they are very poplar and I would not be surprised to see more locations in the very near future. My order would be for a Chicken Parmigiana Panini.

luigi

What I really enjoyed about LPF was the dishes of free pizza slices sitting on the counter available to eat while you waited for your order. This is a nice touch and wish more places were as accommodating and welcoming. What I did not like, was the decibel level of the music playing felt more like I was in a night club then a dining establishment. The décor is basic with many articles in different media outlets about LPF adjourning the walls, but overall gave the place a comfortable atmosphere provided the music is not blaring. The Chicken Parmigiana Panini was basic your variety, but good and a decent sized portion. The Panini added an element above a normal sandwich and it was a nice change of pace. LPF is a step above your normal pizza parlor in terms of ambiance and food offerings and a perfect fit for what I was looking for that day and I would not hesitate to go back and try some of their other selections as well.

Overall

Three and a half stars out of Five

Kitchen 519 – Glendora, NJ

Kitchen 519 – Glendora, NJ

Sometimes the places you find off the beaten path turn out to be some of the best places to go to. This can be a difficult business model if you are a restaurant. Feet usually equally fannies in seats, so if you are not close to foot traffic or a busy downtown, word of mouth is what you may live or die by. Social media has made getting the word out a little easier, and that is how Kitchen 519 (K5) came onto my radar. If you do not know where they are located, they really just pop out at you from the middle of nowhere.

Stepping into K5 they have a lot going on in modest sized digs. From various paintings hanging around the place available for purchase, to an antique stove and apron setup, mason jar lighting, to random pieces of artwork surrounding the dining area and after peaking at the menu the only thing that comes to mind to describe K5 is eclectic to the max. One of the highlights were I thoroughly enjoyed the can of trivial pursuit on each table to play while waiting for the food. I would start things off with an order of Hoisin Calamari and a lemon-lime craft soda.

k cala

I normally do not list what I order to drink in most of my reviews, but K5 made such an impression I had to note it. The waiter came to deliver my beverage and while handing over the straw dropped it on the floor. He apologized and stated he would be right back with another one. Five minutes passed and upon walking it over, he dropped the next one on the floor as well. Again apologies abound and he again stated another straw would be delivered. He was not seen again until the appetizer was delivered and forgot the straw stating he would bring it out. This was a reoccurring theme as he forgot to bring it upon his visits with my main course and dessert as well, causing a new straw to never be delivered at all.

Now it is time to talk about the Hoisin Calamari. It consisted of calamari, hoisin sauce, pepers, onions, fresh basil, and house pickled jalapenos. I did enjoy this flavorful as it was out of the ordinary, combination worked surprisingly well, and is not something regularly seen. The menu stated the calamari was fresh. If it was fresh it was must have been overcooked or cooked much earlier in the day as the calamari was pretty dry giving it more of a frozen calamari texture and not moist or tender like you would get with nicely cooked fresh calamari. With a little more care, this dish could go from good to grand. My main course would be the Strawberry Citrus Salmon.

k sal

The main dish was grilled salmon with a strawberry glaze and citrus brown rice. Interesting concept, but completely misfired. The salmon was too well done causing it to be very dry as well as very salty, and the citrus brown rice was a little too much on the sour side causing a slight pucker like when eating a lemon. Not something I would recommend or try again. Some people would call it quits after such a dish, but I decided to order dessert. I would get bananas foster and a vanilla bean crème brulee.

k foster

Just when I thought all hope was lost with K5 they came into the final round swinging for the stars. The banana foster was sautéed bananas, butter rum sauce, vanilla bean ice cream, all on a cinnamon sugar tortilla shell. I was a little hesitant at first to accept the tortilla shell, but everything single aspect of the dish worked like a charm. The bananas were cooked perfectly, while all the gooey goodness floating around the dish, and the contrast of the tortilla shell to scoop everything up was just brilliant. I only wish there was one more spoonful of ice cream. As if that was not enough the crème brulee came out and bewildered me with a dollop of homemade whipped cream topping. Again something I had never seen. Well another stroke of genius for K5 as it was heavenly. The crème brulee was amazing, with a perfectly caramelized top, the vanilla bean filling was fabulous, and the whipped cream was simply phenomenal.

k creme

K5 was a mix of major ups and downs. If I had only come for dessert I would think they were one of the greatest places of all time, and thankfully was their saving grace the day I visited. The service was slightly below average and the dishes were conceptually intriguing causing them not live up to their potential. The décor is mishmash, but gives you a welcome feeling nonetheless. K5 is new. If they can iron out more of an identity not only in the ambiance, but also the menu I think they can be successful. With the menu they offer, you can tell the chef is very creative, willing to push culinary boundaries, and experimental. I applaud him for that, but just ask for a little better execution. Last but certainly not least, they may be better suited to just put pile of straws on each table.

Overall

Two and half stars out of Five

Iceland

Iceland

church

geysir

 

waterfall

Iceland is the truest form of Fire and Ice. Freezing temperatures outside, but thermal outdoor pools to still be able to go swimming. Frozen lakes and streams, but hot steam seeping threw the cracks with hot molten lava below your feet. Close to twenty-four hours of darkness in the winter and twenty-four hours of daylight in the summer. They are a country of constant opposites, but they create Iceland’s beautiful and quirky uniqueness that I fell in love with.

airwaves

airwaves artist

 

ice view

You have to visit Iceland for yourself to even begin to appreciate it. I will provide a quick synopsis of a thoroughly engrossing experience I was able to enjoy. Reykjavík was clean and welcoming and I was lucky enough to be a part of their 2014 Iceland Airwaves concerts throughout the city with some amazing music to be found around every turn such as at Lucky Records Reykjavik. The church Hallgrímskirkja is a must visit as is the Golden Circle a must trip to complete to see some of the most amazing natural sights ever. I stayed for the majority of my stay at the Best Western Hotel Reykjavik in a very modern and comfortable suite at the very end of the third floor which they so graciously upgraded me to. I am going to list and show the pictures of some of the places I had some very nice meals. I am not going to review them as each and every one was delicious. No need to say good or bad as I enjoyed each one from start to finish and if you ever visit Iceland I highly recommend you visit them as well. Last but not least, no trip is truly complete without a visit to one of the wonders of the world, The Blue Lagoon. Hope you give Iceland a try, and ENJOY!!!!

3 Frakkar a MUST go to with a Iceland sampler of Puffin, Mackerel, Whale, and raw and smoked Shark. Plate is Filet of Lamb

frakar sign frakar plate fraker lamb

 

Reykjavík Fish and Chips

 

 

rey fish and chip rey fish dish

 

Lobster Hut Reykjavik

lobster hut lobster hut soup

 

Noodle Station Reykjavik

noodle station noodle beef

 

Hot Dog House Reykjavik

hot dog house hot dog

 

Yummi Yummi Reykjavik

 

yummi yummi yummi noodles

 

Dons Donuts Reykjavik

 

dons doughnut truck dons doughtnut make

 

Gullfoss Waterfall Lamb Soup

 

Gullfoss Lamb Soup

 

Cafe Loki Reykjavik – They serve fermented shark

 

cafe loki

 

Brennivin – Nickname is Black Death, good way to warm up in the cold weather, just do not drink too much.

 

brenivan

 

Is it ever too cold for ice cream?? NEVER!!!

Paradis Ice Cream palor Reykjavik

 

 

iparadis paradise milkshake

 

 

 

 

 

Coffee Corner – Gloucester City, NJ

Coffee Corner – Gloucester City, NJ

The other day at breakfast I saw John Wayne, Clark Gable, Betty Davis, Dean Martin, and George Burns. They all seemed nice enough, but I was much too busy to pay any attention to them. My lips were all over Mickey Rooney.

Sound hard to believe? Not at Coffee Corner (CC) whose claim to fame is where you will enjoy “breakfast of the stars”.

coffee corner outside

CC established in 1987 by Mike and Lisa Galardi has a famous name for each menu option. My order of Mickey Rooney consisted of two eggs, pork roll, peppers, and onions on a soft fresh kaiser roll for only three dollars.

coffee corner sand

CC sits at the intersection of Broadway and Market Street in Gloucester City with two gas stations next door. As such, CC is perfectly situated for locals to patronize, yet still centrically located enough for morning Philadelphia bound commuters to make a quick fuel stop before crossing the bridge to higher gas prices while grabbing something for breakfast at CC.

Those of you familiar with my reviews know that I do not rate breakfast. What I can tell you though, is that CC is a good and affordable breakfast destination with plenty of parking and a newspaper box available to grab one on the go to compliment your meal. So enjoy and afterwards brag to your friends how you had breakfast with the stars.

Witch CRAFT Beer Crawl

(The following is a special series on Bluejeanfoodcritic.com written by guest contributing writer William Knowles. He highlights his passions of of trying something new whenever the opportunity presents itself, or possibly something old, but new again since it has been a while. I hope you enjoy his very special perspective that I am sure many of you can relate to. Follow him on his exciting journey “Around Town”)

pass walk sign

Wednesday evening, October 22nd, saw East Passyunk Avenue in Philadelphia taken over by Halloween ghouls, goblins, witches and the like for the annual Witch CRAFT Beer Crawl.  Thirteen bars total along the famed South Philly street took part in the revelry, celebrating both a fun holiday, all proceeds benefiting EPABID’s cleaning and greening programs, and possibly the most fascinating season of the year for craft breweries.

pass walk beer

Kicking off at the Garage, located directly across the street from both Philly cheesesteak landmarks Geno’s and Pat’s, the tone was set early as a very large crowd gathered to partake in the festivities.  All were garbed in Halloween attire, either of the frightening or provocative nature.  Spirits were high as we strolled from bar to bar, including Cantina los Caballitos, the legendary Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar, South Philly Bar and Grill, The Pub on Passyunk East, Noir, and Stogie Joe’s, amongst others.  The event wrapped up at the Adobe Cafe, where prizes were awarded for most creative costumes.

pass walk los

In addition to providing a fun and innovative way to celebrate Halloween, the venture down Passyunk provided an opportunity to see many new shops, bars and cafes that are now thriving in this part of our city.  Although this area has always had a certain element of neighborhood charm, it seems that it is now more vital than ever as the volume of people out on a chilly and somewhat rainy night proves.

pass walk crowd

I look forward to attending this annual event again in the future.  If this is the adult version of trick or treating these days, then you can count me in!  See you around town…

Kermit’s Bake Shoppe – Philadelphia, PA

Kermit’s Bake Shoppe - Philadelphia, PA

kermit box

Situated along a stretch of Washington Avenue known more as a place to buy lumber or plumbing parts, is Kermit’s Bake Shoppe (KBS). The interior is very homely and small. With no chairs or tables and just a counter on the wall, KBS is take-out or delivery only. The service was very friendly, fast, and knowledgeable. I had a little bit of everything at KBS.

kermit food

Let us start with the good which was a slice of white mushroom pizza. The pizza was a white sauce with crimini and maitake mushrooms, sliced leeks, sea salt, crucolo, and the cheeses were grana pandano, pecorino romano, and mozzarella cheese. It was absolutely fabulous. Cooked just right with it being crisp yet soft and flavors just the perfect mix. This was one of the better single slices of pizza I had in a long time and will be back to eat more and try other varieties of pizzas they serve. The pizza was followed by a cheeseburger hot pocket. It was way better than your average frozen variety, but still was not something I would go out of my way to get. It was extremely flaky and almost fell apart with each bite, seemed to be much too salty for my taste, and the onions were nowhere near as caramelized as I would have liked. If you enjoy hot pockets, this is certainly of higher quality than most, but not my cup of tea.

I finished my visit off with an éclair. I was hoping to end with bang, but went out with a whimper. The exterior was too hard and airy and the filling just was missing something to make it grand. The saving grace was the chocolate which was very good.

I have to say when things started out at KBS I thought I found a new must visit location to call my own. KBS will be one of my must visits for a decent slice or two of pizza, but I will have to continue my search of what else I would like to pick up while I am there.

Overall

Two and a Half out of Five Stars

Dim Sum Garden – Chinatown 11th St – Philadelphia, PA

Dim Sum Garden – Chinatown 11th St – Philadelphia, PA

Sitting in a dark tunneled corridor on 11th Street is Dim Sum Garden (DSG). It is almost hidden next to a bus depot and parking garage across the street making the corridor not really retail friendly. Once inside DSG it is a whole different ballgame. The interior is small, not a lot going on décor wise, but service was very friendly and menu options affordable. My order would be Stew Chicken with Fried Rice.

stew chicken

I was thoroughly surprised with my dish as it sounded plain, but was nowhere near being plain at all. The spices and herbs gave the chicken such an amazing flavor, while the meat was tender and moist, and sauce was good enough to drink and complimented the fried rice perfectly. DSG was a surprise in every manner to me and I will definitely be back to try even more things from them now that they are on my radar. This may be a short review, but if you visit DSG you will see that they seem basic, but after eating there you will change your mind.

Overall

Three and Three-Fouth Stars out of Five

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