In the late 19th century, intellectuals gathered in coffee houses where they smoked cigarettes, drank Turkish coffee, and talked incessantly about anything and everything under the sun. Today, intellectuals, inc. hopes to accomplish the same thing by providing a forum for intelligent commentary on history and culture, politics and current events, art and music, literature and movies, and today's best (and worst) restaurants.
I love a good Belgian Tavern because the beer is in a class of its own, and the food, starting with moule frite, is always so good. Last night at Teresa's Next Door in Wayne, PA was a delightful discovery, and not having to schlep into Philadelphia means I will be back.
Maybe the best thing about Teresa's Next Door is the service. From the moment we sat, our server was there to take care of us, whether recommending a beer, delivering the courses in a timely but not rushed way, or whatever else was needed. There was a real genuine desire to make this a great experience for all the diners. At the table next to ours, our server brought out a flight of typical Belgian beers for a patron to educate her palate to the differences in styles. It
was a nice touch.
At Teresa's cheese is half off on Sunday, so how could we resist starting with a couple. First was a beautiful artisanal cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy in Georgia. Green Hill is made from cow's milk. Soft with a bloomy-rind, it is a beautiful Camembert-like double cream with a buttery flavor, and mild grassy undertones which come from the cows' grazing habits. The second cheese was from Cabot Creamery in Vermont, their Clothbound Cheddar. Made from pasteurized cow's milk, this is a mild, slightly nutty, buttery example of cheddar with just the slightest hint of caramel, which makes it a perfect accompaniment to my favorite Belgian brews. The final item of cheese course was possibly the best salami I've ever sampled. The Argumi from Salumi in Seattle is a new pork salami with citrus and cardamom. This may have been the porkiest thing I have ever tasted, reminiscent of good quality gaunciale, and the addition of the spices is with such a practiced hand, I would venture to say this is maybe the best cured meat maker around. I would expect nothing less from the father of Chef Mario Batali. Teresa's sourcing of the very best cheeses and salamis is just an hint of their commitment to deliciousness.
Moule frite--mussels and fries--is one of the quintessential Belgian dish with the mussels cooked in a broth composed of beer or wine, herbs, and if your adventurous porky deliciousness in the form of bacon. The frite must be crispy with plenty of potato taste accompanied by a mayo based dipping sauce. Teresa's pulls it all together with panache. The Drunken Mussels immediately caught my attention. There is nothing subtle in this preparation, it is all big flavor. The base of the broth is Abbey Dubbel--a dark beer--which will bring lots of flavor tot he party. Add to that chroizo, red pepper flakes, shallots, garlic, and chervil, and you have a broth that is slurp-worthy. The mussels were plump and meaty, and in this drunken style I could have eaten a bushel of them.
Mussels were not the main course, but they would be a hard act to follow. I opted for another classic, Schnitzel. This pounded and breaded pork loin chop, was sauteed to golden but remained juicy. It was accompanied by a mustard cream sauce that blew my mind. Another over the top flavor burst with bacon and caper. Mushrooms on top, the schnitzel sat on tasty potato pancake with a dilled cucumber salad on the side. This was not the shoe leather schnitzel I have had from other restaurants. Like every other dish, Teresa's made this with competence and love of good food.
The night was topped off with a peanut butter and chocolate chip bread pudding topped with a fluff gelato. A happy twist on my favorite fluffer nutter, and there was no complaint from me.
After my visit to Teresa's Next Door, I have a new favorite Belgian brew for the moment, Bosteel Pauwel Kwak. A unique beer with 8.4% alcohol, this dark ale is has great sweetness in caramel notes with fruit like pineapple and banana and yeast and great maltiness. I'm looking forward to trying Bosteel's Tripel Karmeliet and DeuS when the chance arises.
I'm sorry you lost faith. I understand that you came to Liverpool FC to advance your career, bringing glory to yourself and the club. You were our idol, and under Rafa you flourished. Of course, things were complicated by Hicks and Gillett. They were terrible stewards of the club, and ultimately did not support you or Rafa, much less the supporters.
Fernando I understand that you see you career and your legacy in grand terms, winning everything. Though you won the World Cup with Spain last year, your contribution was in getting there, but not at the three weeks where the world watched to see if Espana could finally succeed where other failed. On top of that, you had only to look forward to returning to Anfield with the lackluster Roy Hodgson at the helm.
With only three or four years left to make your mark and win the Premier League, I realize that the clock is ticking, and then Chelsea came calling. You turned them down once, but after the miserable start Liverpool suffered through, a ridiculously overpriced offer to both LFC and your personally became irresistible. Not only would the club make a tidy profit (which you knew) but your family would never want for anything again. You saw the Champions League calling, and maybe the EPL too.
I wish you could have had faith in King Kenny. In just days he worked his magic and your form began to return. Imagine what might have happened with half a season, and then another and another. By then though, you had already lost faith. Daglish was (and still is) only the caretaker manager, and you future would have still been uncertain. There is no guarantee of the Reds finishing top four and returning to Champions League football. So the cacophony of voices and arguments convinced you to leave the Kop behind.
I wonder, two weeks later, if you have begun to regret your decision yet. I believe eventually you will. There are few guarantees in life. Roman Abramovich may be more dedicated to his plaything than Hicks and Gillett were to theirs, but who know if Carlo Ancelotti will even be at Chelsea at the end of this season. The top four is looking very difficult for you new team as they are in free fall. It is quite possible that next year you will have no Champions League football, not premier league title, and no adoring fans.
There are few guarantees in life, but here's one. Stevie G will always be a Liverpool legend. He too was wooed by Abramovich's billions and promises of glory, but Captain Fantastic chose to remain true to the Kop faithful. Should he never score another goal, he would still remain in the football pantheon of Reds glory. El Niño, you were on your way to join the pantheon, but now you are just another tragic figure like Michael Owen.
There is one other guarantee I want to share with you. John W. Henry is committed to winning. Though he might not have been able to say what you needed to hear, he speaks loudest with action. My beloved Red Sox won everything twice within four years of his takeover. Do not be shocked Nando, should Liverpool win the League for the nineteenth time while you are still at Chelsea.
I do not hate you Fernando. I will not burn your kit or send it to young footballers in Africa as some of my fellow Reds have. No, I will pity you for your loss of faith. Good luck. You are one of the world's best, and for a little while, you were one of us. YNWA.
Paul Begala, with whom I rarely agree, has a great piece in today's Daily Beast. He analyzes the schizophrenia of Kentuckians hating taxes but being addicted to Federal spending in their state. His suggestion of defunding Kentucky certainly makes a point.
Recently I had dinner at Osteria, Marc Vetri's casual Philadelphia restaurant featuring thin-crust pizza and homemade pastas. I was privileged to eat at Vetri this summer, and Osteria had been on my radar for a while. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.
Everything about Osteria was just wonderful, from the silky pastas to near perfect service. I opted to start with pasta, but being unable to make up my mind, the waitress suggest I do half portions to sample different flavors. I opted for two, first one of the evening specials, a pappardelle with a light tomato sauce flavored pig trotters. Never having eaten pig's feet, I couldn't resist. The meat from the smoked trotters was shredded and added to tomato and herbs, melding with enough parmigiano to become something much greater than the sum of the parts.
I'm a sucker for short rib (I will often order it as a way of judging a chef's abilities), so my second pasta dish was a regular off the menu, the canestri with braised short rib. These little shell-like noodles are perfect for holding onto the sauce, which again was simplicity itself--short rib meat, stock, herbs, and cheese to bring in all together. I enjoyed the short rib, but it suffered by comparison to the dish that magically appeared on my table in place of the canestri.
At exactly the moment that I expected my canestri to appear, a food runner placed the candele with wild board bolognese in front of me. I had actually debated ordering the wild board instead of the short rib, and for a second I thought my waitress was privy to my internal dialog and chose for me. Instead I learned that my short rib had gone missing just as it was about to come out, so the chef sent the wild boar as a place holder less I begin to starve. A simple explanation would have sufficed in any good restaurant, and many would just let you wait, but at Osteria, they just feed you, the way your nonna might. The wild boar was delightful, it was a perfect moment of kismet, and I was never happier to have someone misplace my food.
My third course was pizza, the other reason I was here. I love pizza, but rarely do I have it as I am most often disappointed. Osteria does not disappoint. I ordered the pie I have heard the most about, the le pizze napoletane mortadella. This thin crust beauty is topped with fresh mozzarella, a pesto made from Sicilian pistachios, and of course, mortadella--the Italian bologna that includes eye-popping chucks of lard and gorgeous green pistachios. I was in heaven. No pepperoni pizza ever tasted this amazing.
I had not planned on dessert, but I rarely turn down the chance to read a dessert menu. I was quickly won over by the meyer lemon torta soffice with poppy seed gelato. Tart, creamy, it was your average morning muffin deconstructed and then reassembled but so much better.
Marc Vetri and his partner, Osteria Executive Chef Jeff Michaud, are demiurges of the delectable, creating flavorful offerings from the simplest ingredients. Osteria will be a regular stop for my friends who come to Philadelphia.
For those who cook, I recommend Marc Vetri's cookbook, Il Viaggio. He shares not only recipes from his restaurants, including signature dishes and pasta secrets, but the story of his journey as a chef, including his time in Bergamo, Italy. I have it and love it. I might even cook something from it this weekend.