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Author Archives: Bluejeanfoodcritic

High Steaks: The Great Philly Cheesesteak Challenge and Cocktail Competition Coverage

(The following is a special series on written by guest contributing writer William Knowles. He highlights his passions of trying something new whenever the opportunity presents itself, or possibly something old, but new again since it has been awhile. 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”)

chessesteak challange

Square 1682, a popular restaurant located in the heart of Center City Philadelphia, held an event on Sunday, October 12, celebrating our cities most beloved delicacy – the cheesesteak.  High Steaks: The Great Philly Cheesesteak Challenge and Cocktail Competition brought together some of the city’s finest dining destinations in the form of a block party, to pit their own versions of our favorite sandwich and decide who earns the top spot as judged by a panel of local “experts”.  The proceeds from the event go to benefit Philabundance, the local non-profit food bank.

Some notable highlights were Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, who went the traditional route with a chopped steak and smokey cheese on a soft long roll.  Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse had an excellent cheesesteak egg roll – tender meat in a crisp wrap, with ketchup and a special cheese sauce to dip.  I thought this would earn the top reviews from both the judges and public alike, but then we came across the tent for Tuk Tuk Real.  This is a Thai/Mexican eatery that was previously mentioned here on Around Town for my review of the Ferment Your Event at the Philly Tour Hub.  In my mind, the award for both creativity and deliciousness firmly resides here, as their specially crafted cheesesteak dumpling was well worth the wait.  It seemed that many others agreed…

In addition to the food competition was a cocktail creation event, spearheaded by Victory Brewing Company and Manatawny Still Works.  All in all, over 20 local establishments participated.  A beautiful fall day helped for what was an excellent turn out that both celebrates the city’s culinary vision, while helping those less fortunate in the process.  See everyone soon at more events like this, around town…


Press Release:


east pass

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Grab your broomstick and fly around East Passyunk Avenue during the 5th Annual Witch CRAFT Beer Crawl on Wednesday, October 22, 2014, from 5:30pm to 9:30pm. Enjoy seasonal craft beers bubbling up in cauldrons at 13 bars and restaurants along Philadelphia’s new restaurant row.  Registration takes place at Garage (1231 EPA) from 5:30pm to 7:00pm. Tickets are $6.66 and include $3.00 craft beers, a witch hat and a Witch CRAFT stamp card (for a chance to win $325 in prizes). Tickets can be purchased online at All proceeds benefit East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District’s cleaning and greening programs.

Cast your spell at 13 award-winning bars and restaurants this year, including:

* Adobe Cafe (1919 EPA)

* Birrra (1700 EPA)

* Brigantessa (1520 EPA)

* Cantina los Caballitos (1651EPA)

* Garage (1231 EPA)

* Lucky 13 (1820 EPA)

* Noir (1909 EPA)

* Pub on Passyunk East (1501 EPA)

* Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar (1200 EPA)

* South Philly Bar & Grill (1235 EPA)

* Stateside (1536 EPA)

* Stogie Joe’s (1801 EPA)

* The Bottle Shop (1837 EPA)

Every witch can earn a stamp on their Witch CRAFT stamp card by purchasing a craft beer, food or other beverage at above locations. Witches that collect five or more stamps will be entered to win a gift certificate prize package worth $325+ and prizes from Victory Brewing Company. Scare up your most frighting garb and enter the costume contest for more prizes. One winner will be named the “Witch of East Passyunk” and another “Most Original.” The costume contest is held at 9:30pm at Adobe Cafe (1919 EPA).

Other tricky and fun along the Avenue will include:

* Bell’s Bike Shop (1320 EPA) will serve samples of natural Apples and Cinnamon Skratch labs hydration drink and a special “warmed” adult version.

* Nicole Rae Styer Boutique (1822 EPA) will offer 20% off anything orange and black including jewelry, vintage, antiques and one-of-a-kinds.

* NOORD eetcafe (11th & Tasker) will host an outdoor Bitterballen stand.

* Passyunk Gardens (1304 EPA) will entice with natural witches brew.

* Look for other tricks and treats to be announced soon!

Witch CRAFT Beer Crawl is presented by East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District, with support from sponsors Victory Brewing Company, Drink Philly and Yelp.

Witch CRAFT Beer Crawl is 21+ only. Please drink responsibly. East Passyunk Avenue is easily accessible by SEPTA via the Broad Street Line and several bus lines. Taxis are accessible on Broad Street, or bartenders can call one for you.

East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District is home to over 150 independently-owned shops and restaurants. For more information, like East Passyunk Avenue on Facebook, follow @epassyunkave on Twitter, pin East Passyunk Avenue on Pinterest or visit

Sang Kee Peking Duck House – Philadelphia (Chinatown), PA

Sang Kee Peking Duck House – Philadelphia (Chinatown), PA

Sang Kee Peking Duck House (SK) in the Chinatown section of Philadelphia is the original location since 1980 of the many different variations of the Sang Kee brand all over the Pennsylvania and New Jersey region now. With wanting to see what put SK on the map, I decided to go with their namesake, Peking Duck in their Peking Duck Dinner for two option. The dinner consisted of Wontons with Vegetable Soup, chopped Peking Duck with Pancakes and Hoisin Sauce, Shredded Duck Meat with String Beans in a XO Sauce, and their House Special Fried Rice.

sang kee
Let me start out by saying the dinner was flat-out phenomenal. The wontons in the soup were light yet flavorful with a nice selection of vegetables throughout. The chopped pieces of Peking Duck were very meaty with the skin nice and crispy and not too fatty like a lot of places that serve duck and once put in the fresh warm pancake covered in the hoisin sauce, every bite was like floating in a cloud of wonderful tastes. The shredded duck with string beans in XO sauce was also a nice surprise. The spices of the sauce give the dish a slight spicy kick, yet it did not drown out the duck flavor or take away from the crisp string beans and other fresh veggies sautéed in the dish. To finalize the dinner, the house special fried rice really brought it all together. I am not usually a fan of these sort of rice dishes, but SK really pulled it off with high quality and fantastic flavors.

The staff at SK was very friendly and the pace at SK is very fast. Everything seems to be moving at the speed of light, from servers bouncing around to food being brought out to tables being bused for the next round of diners to sit down. It was very loud in SK and with the fast pace surrounding me got to be a little much to me. SK is perfect to eat your meal there, but also perfect to bring home with you as well at a very affordable price for what you seem to be getting here. SK has been around for over thirty years and has grown into a name brand destination for many patrons in many different towns now, and if they keep up doing what they are doing I see them getting thirty more years and many more locations to come.

Four and Half Stars out of Five

Ferment Your Event Party

(The following is a special series on written by guest contributing writer William Knowles. He highlights his passions of trying something new whenever the opportunity presents itself, or possibly something old, but new again since it has been awhile. 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”)

ferment tour

The Philly Tour Hub recently opened shop at 229 Arch St. in a historic building in the Old City Neighborhood of Philadelphia. The newly renovated facility recently held an open house to spotlight a few regional businesses looking to expand the public’s knowledge of them. Philly Tour Hub is a new private venture that offers walking and riding tours of our great city. Segway tours are also available to the destination of your choice.

ferm sign

Another venture highlighted was Ferment Your Event, an upstart agency that will liven up your office party, business workshops, dinner party, and fundraising events and so on by providing a unique take on the ever growing world of craft beer.  Owners Tara Nurin and Gary Rosen specialize in creating specialized beer menus for your event big or small, and their expertise in the industry dates back years. They have partnered with gourmet chocolatier Elyissia Chinchilla, who founded 2 Chicks with Chocolate in Northern New Jersey several years ago with her mother.  The novelty pairings of beer and chocolate surprised and impressed the visitors, including myself.

ferm choc

The beer and chocolate were more than enough to have a great party, but to top it off, Tuk Tuk Real, a combination Thai and Mexican restaurant located at 428 South Street, provided amazing food (notably a great pork kaprow taco).

ferm beer

All in all, it was a unique way for multiple businesses to get their word out, while emphasizing fun by thinking outside the box. See you at more events like this, around town…


More info on:

Ferment Your Event – CLICK HERE

2 Chicks with Chocolate – CLICK HERE

Philly Tour Hub – CLICK HERE

Tuk Tuk Real – CLICK HERE

Percy Street Barbecue – Philadelphia, PA

Percy Street Barbecue – Philadelphia, PA

I am wondering if Percy Street Barbecue (PSB) is what it is like to join Steven Cook and Michael Solomonov for a backyard feast of barbecued meats. Sitting on the famed South Street in Philadelphia, PSB has a warm feel and smokey aroma abound inside. As much as I would have loved to dine-in as I did not realize the menu differs from dine-in and take-out, a take-out order rack of ribs and side of pinto beans is what the doctor ordered as I was pressed for time.

percy st

The ribs were tasty, with a nice texture and bite and enough smoke throughout the meat that I decided to eat them with no sauce. I was happy to see the sauce came on the side as too many places slather sauce to hide subpar meat or cooking technique. While not the best ribs around, they are priced competitively and are better than most. The pinto beans were very nice with a smooth yet spiced flavor with a kick profile and nice pieces of brisket throughout. I would definitely get them again.

PSB is a nice take-out for bbq and an even nicer night out on the town if you decide to eat there. They have been around quite some time and with such talent like Steven Cook and Michael Solomonov overseeing the operations, I have confidence they will continue to be a good choice whenever you have a craving for bbq.


Three and Three-Fourths out of Five Stars

Hibachi Grill and Supreme Buffet – Audubon, NJ

Hibachi Grill and Supreme Buffet – Audubon, NJ

Just the word buffet on any dining establishment sign usually turns me off, but when trying to please a toddler it is a destination where they will have the opportunity run around and say “NO” to a multitude of foods offered to them instead of just one. With dinner needing to be eaten as soon as possible, nothing prepared at home, and my son cooped in the car for way too long, we stopped at Hibachi Grill and Supreme Buffet (HGSB).


HGSB is a step above your average Chinese buffet, but not as nice as other Asian themed buffets I have been to. You know you are at any buffet for the quantity, not quality, and to save time from the usual sit-down restaurant. HGSB had a little bit of everything for everyone and was just OK. For the price they were very economical and I must admit the staff was amazing with my son. I am not going to get into detail with what I had as HGSB stated the menu changes daily and even if a menu item was there one day it is no guarantee it would ever reappear.

buffet food

I did enjoy for the price point that HGSB offered sushi, hibachi selections, Chinese foods, American dishes, and a nice sized fruit bar. It was a nice change of pace from the normal, but was by no means great. Would I go back? If I was in a rush and in the same situation, yes I would, but I would not plan in advance to go to HGSB.


Two out of Five Stars

High Steaks! The Great Philly Cheesesteak Challenge & Cocktail Competition

Hey Philadelphia!!!! How would you like to experience gourmet versions of Philadelphia’s beloved Cheesesteak, Cocktail competitions, a benefit street party to celebrate the five year anniversary of restaurant Square 1682, and all proceeds of this amazing event going towards the great charity Philabundance????

Well you are in luck because on Sunday, October 12th from 1-4pm it is going to be a party you should not miss!!!! Come join as we are covering the event along with everyone else who is hip. Want to join?? All the info is below:

Press release:

Square 1682 to host

High Steaks! The Great Philly Cheesesteak Challenge & Cocktail Competition

5TH Anniversary Culinary Block Party Celebration Benefits Philabundance

PHILADELPHIA (September 29, 2014) – Square 1682’s Chef Caitlin Mateo and team will celebrate the popular restaurant’s fifth anniversary with High Steaks: The Great Philly Cheesesteak Challenge & Cocktail Competition, an all-inclusive block party, open to the public and featuring an array of Philadelphia kitchen and bar talent on Sunday, October 12, from 1-4pm along Sansom Street, between 16th and 17th Sts.

NEW FOR THIS YEAR: Kimpton City Lead Bartender Chauncey Scates (formerly of the Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co., Stateside, and Nashville’s acclaimed Patterson House and one of Zagat’s 30 Under 30) will spearhead the Cocktail Competition.

The Cheesteak Challenge is a competition among Philadelphia chefs to get creative and do their unique rendition of Philadelphia’s most iconic sandwich. Attendees can sample chefs’ creations while sipping on mini-cocktails from top bartenders, beer from Victory Brewing Co. and samples from local distiller Manatawny Still Works. Soft drinks and water will also be included.

Participants are still being added to the line up that includes Will BYOB, Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse, Rouge, Red Owl Tavern, Rex 1516, Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery, Crow and the Pitcher, Paradiso Restaurant and Wine Bar, Devil’s Den, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, Circles Contemporary Thai Cuisine, Tuk Tuk Real, and Square 1682.

Look for more information in the coming week on added restaurants and bar talent.

Tickets $40 on sale now and CLICK HERE to buy or $45 day of event

Twitter: #HighSteaksPhilly @Square1682


Square 1682 is located in the heart of Center City Philadelphia, just steps from Rittenhouse Square. The corner restaurant and popular bar was recently voted USA Today’s Best Hotel Bar by and USA Today Travel – thanks in part to City Lead Bartender Chauncey Scates, who was recently spotlighted on Zagat’s 30 Under 30. Executive Caitlin Mateo wields a deft touch in crafting dishes that manage to intrigue and comfort, all the time. Square 1682 is also a LEED-certified restaurant with a strong commitment to ecologically responsible culinary practices and dedication to independent farmers, local purveyors, boutique ranches and sustainable fisheries. Square 1682 is adjacent to Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar Philadelphia; 121 S 17th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103; (215) 563-5008;


Founded in 1981 by Bill Kimpton, San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants is a collection of boutique hotels and chef-driven restaurants in the U.S. and the acknowledged industry pioneer who first introduced the boutique hotel concept to America. Like each hotel, all Kimpton restaurants share common cornerstones: heartfelt care; chef-driven, seasonal menus that celebrate local farms and purveyors; artisanal wines hand-selected by master sommelier Emily Wines; cocktails crafted by master mixologist Jacques Bezuidenhout; and striking interiors with a vibrant style and design. Guided by company-wide EarthCare practices, Kimpton restaurants demonstrate a dedication to preserving the environment through the use of local and sustainable ingredients whenever possible. With concepts ranging from rustic Italian cuisine in the Pacific Northwest to oceanic fare on the Florida coast and alluring lounges and bars tucked away in the nation’s capital, each Kimpton Restaurant is as distinct and expressive as its location. Kimpton restaurants include Fifth Floor in San Francisco, Tulio in Seattle, Poste Moderne Brasserie in Washington, D.C. and Panzano in Denver. For more information, please visit or call 1-800- KIMPTON.

ABOUT PHILABUNDANCE: There are almost a million people in the Delaware Valley who face hunger every day. Their stories are as diverse as the nine counties served by Philabundance: working families hit hard by the recession, women and children, seniors trying to make ends meet. The one thing they have in common is being part of a food system that desperately needs additional support. Astonishingly, more than a quarter of the food in the United States goes to waste each year. Within the Delaware Valley, Philabundance has experienced 26 percent more people coming to us for food compared to last year. Philabundance was created in 1984 with the simple belief that no man, woman or child should go hungry. Our growth and eventual integration with the Philadelphia Food Bank in 2005 has made us the region’s largest hunger relief organization. We are now able to address hunger through direct service programs and a network of 500 member agencies, as well as contribute to a broad spectrum of social services through food cupboards, emergency kitchens, shelters, daycare and senior centers and beyond. Philabundance has taken a stronghold of the hunger issue in the Delaware Valley, implementing both emergency relief and also long-term strategies to strengthen the hunger safety net. There is no quick fix, but with a unified dedication from our partners, donors and the public at large, we are creating innovative programs and support to our agencies that make nutritious food accessible to all.


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