Author Archives: Bluejeanfoodcritic
Ok so here is the thing, Wawa convenience stores have such a strong presence in the Philadelphia area, why do they not offer a scrapple sizzli breakfast sandwich? I mean we helped Wawa become the powerhouse they are today, so why have they not shown the Philadelphia love of our beloved breakfast meat in return. It’s time to take this to the streets. On Facebook, Twitter, heck even right old fashioned letters to the newspaper, or any other way to get the message out there, time to get us the respect we deserve. A campaign with the hashtag #wewantscrapple and tell them you’re with Bluejeanfoodcritic.com on this.
Knife and Fork Inn – Atlantic City, NJ
Atlantic City has changed numerous times since 1912, but one thing in this town has stood the test the time. The Knife and Fork Inn (KF) now owned by Frank Dougherty a fourth-generation co-owner of Dock’s Oyster House also in Atlantic City has KF primed to keep watching AC’s growth or decline first hand for the foreseeable future. KF embraces its past with painted portraits such as being an exclusive men’s drinking and dining club when it first opened housing illegal gambling and rumored prostitution, as well as getting a renewed spotlight due to the interest from the HBO show Boardwalk Empire staring Enoch “Nucky” Johnson a political hotshot of the time, who was a regular at KF and main character of the show. With KF’s purchase in 2005, Frank Dougherty has renovated KF into a pristine establishment that is just a joy to walk around and witness all of this buildings architecture just thinking how much fun it must have been to visit KF in the roaring twenties.
I arrived with a party of sixteen for this article, which KF handled with ease by sitting us on the third floor that was setup entirely just for us, with its own bathroom facilities and private server by the name of Casey. Now I wish I could give Casey a better title than server, because let me start by saying I hope KF and Mr. Dougherty recognize the talent they have in this man. The title of server extraordinaire, general manager to be, or future VP of hospitality management for some corporate conglomerate would be better suited for this individual. He was the most enthusiastic, knowable, and pleasant server I have encountered in quite some time and I hope his talent is recognized by those who matter. Having him take care of us made such a positive lasting impression this group will not soon forget.
Now lets talk about what we really came for, the food. The evening started out with a Thai infused soft shell crab that was to die for. The crab was cooked to perfection, having the sweet juicy crab meat squirt with each bite, while the Thai spices added an exotic and amazing take of a shore classic. A must order for any soft shell lover.
After a start like that, KF really had their work cut out for them to out perform themselves, but they did just that with the colossal sized shrimp cocktail. They served four shrimp that were literally the size of small lobster tails and so fresh I would not be surprised if Casey himself pulled them out of the Atlantic Ocean.
Could KF keep the momentum going? The crock of french onion soup was the wildcard of my order and they did not disappoint. With a broth strong with the essence of perfectly caramelized onions, with just the right out of cheese and toasted bread, KF really sent this dish from a wildcard in my mind to a must have for any fan of french onion soup.
Now the main course finally arrives. Ribeye filet with roasted long hot peppers and a side of sautéed wild mushrooms. Unfortunately KF had a slip up. The steak was overcooked, quite a bit of gristle, and the mushrooms had a strong bitter profile to them. Do not get me wrong, this was just slightly better than the average, but when you perform with such perfection in previous courses, nothing except greatness becomes the only option.
After all of that food could anyone possibly eat dessert? For Bluejeanfoodcritic the answer is YES! A vanilla bean creme brulee with an almond florentine cookie and fresh berries is delivered. The cookie was a tasty nice touch and the berries were again so fresh I think they must have a garden out back. A perfect ending to a great meal.
Atlantic City has had many changes throughout the years, but if KF’s performance is any indicator, I think KF may be standing longer than a lot of other things AC is famous for. They excelled in every portion of a meal a diner looks for with service that just is not seen these days. Maybe Casey is just a throwback to the roaring twenties type of service, but whatever school he came from, I hope other restaurants send their servers there as well. KF has a keeper in Casey, and the kitchen staff they currently have cooking for them.
To finish the night, AC’s latest catch phrase is DO AC, and the party of sixteen did just that after leaving KF. First a visit to Tropicana Casino’s Ri Ra Irish Pub and then ending the night at Harrah Casino’s hip The Pool After Dark Nightclub. No one in the crew hit for big money, or became famous, but we can always try again. You may never know how a night in AC will go, but what I can tell you is that if KF serves meals like they did the night I went, it is a guaranteed jackpot of an awesome meal out at least if you go to KF. Tell them Bluejeanfoodcritic sent you and ask for Casey.
Four out of Five Stars
Are you or someone you know a chef who would love to work for Chef Gordon Ramsay? Well only one way to do that, win Hells Kitchen! Email this address firstname.lastname@example.org to be considered for a casting call and be sure to put in there that Bluejeanfoodcritic.com referred you for consideration.
Send in email your name, where you live, contact info, about your experience, photos, why you would be great for the show and just let us know if you have ever auditioned for the show
Good luck to all that apply!
SOWE Bar/Kitchen – Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia is a town that transforms quickly. So quickly, sometimes I feel like Rip Van Winkle around here every ten years. SOWE at 918 S 22nd St, is the perfect example of how things change fast. Who in their right mind would have thought ten years, heck even five years ago about thinking of the edge of Southwest Philly or Point Breeze section of Philadelphia as having a dining out scene. Well South Philadelphia Taproom, Circles Asian Cuisine, American Sardine Bar, and now SOWE are some very real and tasty options to try in this area that has transformed this area quite a bit.
Proprietor Nancy Law along with her business partner Troy Barton must have seen this when they envisioned SOWE and took over the spot formerly occupied by Divan Turkish Kitchen. The inside of SOWE is warm and welcoming, especially with all of the visually appealing art hanging on the walls that could be yours for the right price, a very nice and fine selection of adult beverages available to consume, and a beautiful bar area that fits any occasion without cramming as many seats as possible as a lot of other places do with theirs.
I did not go to SOWE to drink. So as much as Nancy and Troy gave SOWE a nice ambiance, my visit was for the gastro portion of their gastropub. This means that the spotlight would shine on Chef Jennifer Choplin, a West Deptford, NJ native who originally went to college and majored in English, but then found her true calling after working at a local bakery and enrolled herself to attend The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College instead to pursue a career in the culinary world. After graduating she spent some time working in Hotlanta, and came back up to her hometown area honing and crafting her culinary passions at a few places in and around Philadelphia. Did this change in career vision pay off, does she have what it takes to be the head honcho of the kitchen instead of reading this review and nitpicking all of my grammatical errors? The quick answer is, YES and hopefully my grammar is not all that bad if she reads this.
To start out, the order of the day Spice Rubbed & Fried Pork Spare Ribs lathered in a homemade bourbon barbeque sauce with hoppin john (black-eyed peas) and bacon. The overall dish was a success and the flavors were a good combination, especially the sauce on the ribs was simply amazing, but a few things could have been slightly better. The ribs were good, but just a tad dry and the way they were served with only an odd-shaped knife to cut them apart made the meal a little more work than I enjoyed or wanted to be doing. I know a kitchen staff has a million things on their minds and things to take care of already, but I feel if the ribs were individually cut and sauced before being brought out, that would have greatly enhanced the experience and have the amazing sauce surround each rib could have masked the slight dryness so that the average person would not have even noticed anything was awry and made for a much more enjoyable time with less work on this diners end. The hoppin john again hit all the right notes in the flavor profile, and made a very nice compliment to the ribs that is not normally seen around here, I just wish there was a little bit more of them on the plate as the serving was a bit tiny.
To finish the meal was the SOWE Bacon Beignets, because really what is not better with bacon. The candied bacon was just an absolute guilty pleasure, as well as the delicious homemade carmel topping drizzled all over the beignets that were heavily dusted with cinnamon sugar. The beignet was tasty, but The legendary Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans should have no worries about us Northerners overtaking their crown. For my personal taste, I would have liked to have seen the beignets have been a little more soft and fluffy,but even with that being said, overall it was a delicious way to end the meal.
Would I go back to SOWE? Without a doubt, the entire staff at SOWE was very accommodating and pleasant for the entire service. The overall meal was delicious, and with minor touches could become phenomenal. The small things I mentioned that the average person probably would not have even noticed, can be fixed very easily, and should in no way have you overlook the bigger picture. SOWE is a neighborhood gem for this area, and will continue to be one provided they keep the gastro part of gastropub alive and well. The only question is as will they still be a gem in the future as I feel this area will be seeing a lot more competition soon. I believe if the menu continues to evolve and the kitchen’s precision is a priority, I do not see why they will not continue to shine.
Four out of Five Stars
phone number), name and location of your restaurant, restaurant website (if
you have one), type of cuisine you serve, how long you have been open and most importantly…WHY you deserve Gordon’s help!
** Restaurant must have been open at least one year, not be a franchise or chain and have
at least 35 seats. This is a casting call with no guarantee of acceptance.
Andrea Trattoria – Millville, NJ
On a beautiful Saturday evening that kicked off the month of April, a crew of eight hungry showgoers and performers land in Millville, NJ with plenty of time to spare before showtime at The Levoy Theater. The downtown area has quite a few dining choices, but we descend upon Andrea Trattoria (AT) as our choice for the night.
AT is run by Andrea Covino who originates from Naples, Italy and spent a little time in my hometown Philadelphia, PA cooking at Girasole as well as their Atlantic City location. He operated another AT that was in Newfield that unfortunately is no longer in business, but he still runs AT2 in Sea Isle City. With this being said, Andrea is no stranger to the restaurant business. The question I have, is can he create another successful restaurant and rise to the top of the up and coming Millville theater district dining scene?
If stepping inside AT Saturday night was any indication of measuring success, then AT has hit it right where it counts, with butts filling all available seats. The restaurant was filled to capacity, with staff zipping around the room taking orders, filling glasses, bringing out ice buckets, quickly cleaning up when one table was done and immediately seating other patrons who were waiting at the door to be next.
Now crowds do not automatically equate to receiving great food, as fast food locations prove this theory easily. So could AT provide quality food in mass quantity? The quick answer is yes. AT started the experience off with homemade breads that were so delicious, two bowls of the stuff were dismantled so quickly I did not even have a chance to take a photo of either bowl.
After placing my order, a short while later, my two appetizers appeared. First to arrive was the Gambrei Con Fagioli, with sautéed shrimp, grape tomatoes, arugula and cannellini beans followed by my order of Antipasto. I will talk about the antipasto first as it was fabulous on every level, being fresh, tasty, with quite a nice variety, and I highly recommended it. The same can almost be said about the shrimp as the flavor profile was there, but the shrimp were slightly overcooked, and the plating was horrendous looking with the dish swimming in juice. Two very easily fixed problems, and problems that can easily occur dealing with crowds as large as they had that night, so hopefully they will take note on future orders of the Gambrei Con Fagioli.
After enjoying the appetizers my main course appeared. I ordered farm-raised bass presented over a delectable puree, mashed potatoes, and fresh vegetables Again AT hit the spots that really count, as the veggies were crisp with a taste that would make a vegetarian weep in joy. The potatoes were creamy and fluffy, and the puree simply was out of this world. Again, the meal was great, except the bass was slightly overcooked. It was not so overdone that it was too noticeable, but I could not peel the skin off the fish to enjoy like a properly cooked fish dish should provide. With a slight more precision, AT could have knocked it out of the park, but hit a slight bump in the road.
With AT being so busy, the staff seemed a little overwhelmed at times, but I must say for the most part they were all extremely gracious during the entire service and very helpful in understanding the majority of the table had to have their dinner brought out expedited as we had to perform and get to sound check at The Levoy. Service started to run just a tad late, so myself and few others at the table had to skip dessert to prepare for the show. I can not personally attest to this, but those who were able to stay said that they thought the desserts at AT were wonderful.
With a fantastic dinner in our bellies, we were all prepared to put on a killer show at the amazing Levoy Theater that night. With its revitalization, Millville may be on to something and creating a hot culture and arts destination spot in deep South Jersey rather soon than later. This has been accomplished with new restaurants appearing, people coming into town to watch shows at a theater that truly doesn’t have a bad seat in the house while providing state of the art sound and visuals, having a lineup of upcoming shows that has a little something for everyone, and also the town has provided more than ample free parking surrounding the entire theater area.
The show at The Levoy could not have gone better with a crowd that was just simply electric. Was it the food beforehand that made the show that much better? I do not know, but what I do know is my stomach thanked me for going to AT and then performing for a fun night out for the huge crowd who arrived at an amazing theater
Would I go back to AT? Without a doubt, and I hope the Levoy brings us down again soon as there are so many other things I would love to try on AT’s menu.
Is AT for everyone? For the Philadelphia crowd, AT fits in perfectly for a great meal out, but they may have to push the boundaries slightly more to appease the Philadelphia base. What I am not too sure though, is if the clientele living near AT is used to or fully appreciates what is going on there. I feel as their prices could keep a large majority of the local base away, as many of the people I talked to at The Levoy stated that while AT seems nice as well as another restaurant nearby called Winfield’s, they are a little too pricey for their taste. To AT’s credit though, AT is a byob so that does allow them to be slightly more competitive to the cost conscience consumer. To correct this, maybe Millville could come up with a restaurant week like many other towns just so those on a fixed budget could at least experience some of their nicer restaurants once and then make the decision to save up and eat there again for special occasions or feel it is not worth it and continue to stay away. Either way, Millvile would at least have the locals energized and talking about their downtown.
What could be better? As mentioned above, just a slight bit more precision in the kitchen on overcooking, making sure the plating looks appealing, maybe have just one or two more servers on the weekend so that the staff could get into a more comfortable groove to cut down on the chaotic feeling at times, and to just keep on bringing that delicious bread out all night. Even with these things being said, it looks like Cumberland County has a culinary destination for the foreseeable future as the night could not have been better. Even with the slight negatives that were mentioned, if you are in the area and lucky enough to experience a great show at the beautiful Levoy, you should give AT a try as it takes talent for not one out of eight diners to be dissatisfied in the least with their experience or meal.
Four out of Five Stars
Wursthaus Schmitz – Philadelphia, PA
Being unique is a difficult thing to do in the Reading Terminal Market with so many worldly options to choose from, but Wursthaus Schmitz (WS) seems to have been able to do just that. WS sits in a space that they have created a mini-market of European delicacies and food counter all in one. They truly maximized their space allotted and the decor seems just like the right fit. They are slightly off the beaten path, so if you do not know right where they are, you could easily walk right pass their aisle though.
WS’s is a spin-off of Philadelphia’s much larger German beer and food mecca Brauhaus Schmitz, and Brauhaus should be proud of what their sister location has accomplished. The selection of fresh foods available in the deli case are large, with prices being reasonable. Set over to the side is a few shelves of specialty imported goods, including one of my favorite condiments available Curry Ketchup, which scores brownie points immediately in my book and was purchased asap along with a jar of imported sauerkraut.
Granted some of the food provided here is an acquired taste and not everyone is going to enjoy their experience immediately. I just encourage you to try at least two completely different options, before you say this in not your style. I decided to go with a creation of my own, which was not only encouraged by the staff, but they could not have been more friendly to deal with and patient with me. My only word of advice is if you want something made to order, be aware you will be waiting 15-20 minutes extra as it has to be prepared, but it is well worth the wait. My creation was Bacon-Knackwurst, with crispy fried onions, and sauerkraut boiled then grilled.
My creation was good, but not great. This was not in any reflection WS’s fault as what I ate is not even an option on their menu, but the flavor profile I selected was too overpowering. Everything in WS’s hands could not have been better. The roll was firm, the knackwurst texture and spicing were strong and dead-on, the crispy fried onions were out of this world, and the sauerkraut would be to die for on a nice pork roast. I was happy with my meal, but I mix and matched incorrectly and next time I may just go with one the options on WS’s set menu.
Will I go back to WS? YES, YES, and YES, not only to eat, but also to pick up more goods from their market. The curry ketchup and imported sauerkraut were amazing, and I am going to try some new things as well without a doubt.
Which spot is better Wursthaus or Brauhaus? Brauhaus by far, especially since WS mostly only sandwich options to eat fresh there, as opposed to Brauhaus having a full selection of German Fare as well as its fantastic beer assortment with WS having none, but if you are in or around the Reading Terminal and having an itch for German, WS is the best place to stop by, especially for a quick affordable lunch option.
Three and three/fourths stars out of Five
Ready for a night of laughs and you the audience pick the winner of who was the funniest? Well Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling presents a night of Who’s New in Comedy at the Levoy Theater in Millville, NJ on Saturday April 6th at 8pm with a very special appearance of Bluejeanfoodcritic.com at the event as well as the other performers Rich Harkaway, Vicki Kuperman & Bill Monaghan.
Should be fun, hope to see you there! Buy tickets at http://www.levoy.net
A sleek black phone sits idly on the coffee table, window blinds
closed tightly to seal out the daylight while I sit silently in
the dark with my eyes burning from staring at it, just waiting for
the phone to let me know they still care about me. When will the
next message from them come? Will it be today, tomorrow, the next
day, or never again? Should I cancel all of my plans for the next
few days in case the message comes and the product is being sold
sometime soon. I am frozen stiff in place with anxiety and do not
want to move this way I can be assured if the message does come
through, I will be able to get my next fix of it as soon as
What am I supposed to do? I am breaking out in chills, palms warm
and sweaty, pupils large, eyes red, teeth grinding, and unsure if
I will ever have it again. Why does life have to be this way?
The phone finally chimes and a personalized encoded cryptic
message comes through. I rub my eyes to sooth the red puffiness
that has overcome them and remove the crust surrounding them to be
able to see my phone in the dark. It reads “today jerk and curry
chicken available and red snapper made to order all with rice and
beans, cabbage and plantains, $xx.xx per platter, meet at such and
such parking lot, only between 4:30pm-5:30pm, thanks for your
support”. I quickly get myself together, and frantically send out my
message to others letting them know I received notice and let me
know if they would like me to do business for them. A total of
nine orders are what I will set out to pick up undercover to have a party get started again.
I arrive at the destination with a few unfamiliar cars surrounding
me and a police patrol vehicle parked nearby. Do the authorities
know of my underground food dealings? Is this an undercover sting
operation? Have I been setup the entire time, with news reporters
and cameramen hiding in the bushes coming to flash bright lights
in my face exposing my addiction to Jamaican food. Will this be
my last meal as a free man? Should I flee while I still have the
chance, and deal with my terrible withdraw symptoms? I feel like
screaming! Thankfully, all of these thoughts passed by in only 3 seconds, and within a minute, I hear the crank of the engine, headlights flash on, and our fine protector of the peace depart the parking lot as well as the other unknown vehicles. I now sit calmly waiting for the transaction to be happen.
A familiar face pulls into the parking lot. I walk over, we
exchange pleasantries, ask how the family is doing, and anything
else on the top of our minds. The food is sitting on the floor of
the passenger side of the vehicle, packaged up and ready to go.
The money is exchanged for the product I came for, and back home I
go to start the cycle all over again of wondering if and when this
will ever happen again, and wishing my friend good luck in his
This underground food exchange is nothing new for me, and
surprisingly happens quite frequently. The one I just described is
a former restaurant owner, who tried their hand in the culinary
world by opening two different restaurants, both of which did not
survive and left the restaurant business for good. We became
friends, years have since passed and out of the blue a call came
through saying that they needed to raise some money here and there
and that they were going to dabble in the food business again, but
only cooking things at home for friends and family when time
permitted and sending out a random text when that day and time
would be and where to meet. Then there was the time I met a
professional foodie rebel, who I met making the most delicious
lobster rolls I have ever tasted in his basement in Brooklyn
during a under the radar weekend culinary tour of all five of New
York City’s boroughs. He also, will remain unnamed, but he has
appeared on the Food Network, even alongside famous Chef Bobby
Flay so it goes to show that the underground food market is not
just for some at home cooks or people down on their luck looking
to get money anyway possible. During the visit you had to stay
completely silent during your meal because his neighbors had
become tired of the amount of visitors and noise coming from his
The two dealings I just mentioned are illegal. Technically the
law is being broken and I am supporting criminal behavior. As much
as Uncle Sam may hate it, I am sleeping soundly at night, and I
will continue to join in on such illicit affairs. I am not
endorsing this type of lifestyle, I just am highlighting that such
a thing exists.
Now you may be asking yourself was the jerk chicken shown in the
picture any good? The answer is yes and I will eat it again and
again given the opportunity is there and I am available that day
to pick it up. I will say thought that it was not as good as what
they used to serve at their now defunct restaurants, but I do not
think they are interested in that lifestyle again.
I am not giving stars on the food as each experience is different
and not able to be duplicated or available to the general public.
What I can tell you, is live life a little bit, ask around to find
some underground foodie speakeasy or events near you even if they are serving horse meat. Get over your fears of food. Trust me, even if the food is not the best you have ever had, the experience alone will give you something to talk about for quite some time.