Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pod | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

If you haven't done so already, please be sure to check out my East Coast Eats gallery on Nonstop (@nonstophonolulu). A "like" or comment would be greatly appreciated ;)

Pod is another venture by restauranteur Stephen Starr. Since Pizzeria Stella was such a hit, we decided to try another of his venues in celebration of my mom's birthday. Pod features contemporary Asian cuisine and very eccentric decor. The food and service, however, were outstanding. That's two-for-two for Stephen Starr!

3636 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 387-1803
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As we walked into the restaurant, we were greeted by this huge lighted sign. It had the feeling of an 80's era retro lighted billboard.

For some reason, I thought the interior was very J-Pop-ish. It must have been all the circles, colored lights and red vinyl...

Our "pod" came equipped with this light panel. Pressing a button would change the entire overhead lighting of our booth. It was highly entertaining for our four year old, but not so much for the other adults trying to enjoy their dinner.

We started with mushroom dumplings. The minimalist presentation really spoke to me amidst the heavier dishes that followed.

The House salad was tossed with a tasty ginger dressing.

The vegetable tempura was exceptional. The batter was light and crispy and fried to perfection.

Being of the Jasmine variety, the Seafood Fried Rice had a nice, fluffy texture. It was prepared Chinese style, without a lot of shoyu.

Here's a plate of their Vegetable Combination sushi platter.

The assorted sashimi was top notch. The pieces were fresh, fatty and flavorful.

Duck 2 Ways: a medium-rare pan-seared duck breast and duck confit in bao bun. This was the first time I've ever eaten duck medium rare and it rocked! It was by far, my favorite dish.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Connecticut River Valley Inn and 2 Hopewell | Glastonbury, Connecticut

About a month prior to our trip, I scoured group purchasing sites for deals on the East Coast. At one point, I was getting about 30 email notifications a day. As a result, I found this quaint little Bed and Breakfast in picturesque Glastonbury, Connecticut through Living Social (affiliate link) Escapes, which included a dining voucher for 2 Hopewell, an upscale bistro down the road. Everything about our experience here was perfect. The food was delicious, the people were warm and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking.

Connecticut River Valley Inn
2195 Main Street
Glastonbury, CT 06033
(860) 633-7374
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2 Hopewell
2 Hopewell Road
Glastonbury, CT 06073
(860) 633-9600
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We used our dining voucher at 2 Hopewell the night we checked in. To start, we both ordered the "Baby Beet." It featured red and yellow beets, mixed greens, frisée, white balsamic vinaigrette, goat cheese, pistachios and sweet pea puree.

Julie also ordered the "Hopewell Wedge," which included baby iceberg lettuce, pistachios, tomatoes, blue cheese dressing and balsamic reduction.

For my entrée, I went with a classic filet mignon, cooked medium rare. Served with mashed potatoes, haricot verts and bordelaise sauce, it was quite the experience.

Dessert was a sorbet sampler of mango, blood orange and cabernet.

The Connecticut River Valley Inn looks like something you'd see in a movie. The grounds were beautifully landscaped with a variety of flower bushes.

The inside of the building was painstakingly decorated too. For example, the air conditioning unit for our room was concealed behind this painting. That little rectangle near the bottom was the sensor for the remote.

This was the view from our bedroom window.

A closer look at the garden.

The deck wrapped around our room so we also had a view of the side of the property.

Although this place had a quintessential charm about it, it wasn't without modern comforts. There was a Keurig in the dining room as well as each guest room.

Breakfast started with freshly baked scones.

Next, we had a yogurt, cheese and fruit plate. Between the mango sorbet at dinner and the pineapple at breakfast, I was beginning to feel like we were back home.

A veggie and cheese omelet rounded out the meal.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pizzeria Stella | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

When I asked Melissa Chang (@Melissa808) for recommendations about where to eat in Philadelphia, her response was, "Anything, and I mean anything!! by Stephen Starr is going to be good." That's a pretty heavy endorsement from one of Honolulu's top foodies, so my brother suggested Pizzeria Stella in downtown for our Memorial Day dinner.

Pizzeria Stella
420 South 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 320-8000
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Melissa was right. Stephen Starr's restaurants are gold. This was probably the best pizza I've ever had (though V Lounge back home is a close second).

This is the asparagus appetizer, served with a sunny-side-up egg and parmesan vinaigrette. The asparagus was done perfectly.

We also ordered some broccoli rabe. While good, I felt it was the least memorable dish.

The chopped salad had some ridiculous number of different veggies in it. Each bite was a unique blend of flavors and textures. This is definitely worth ordering again.

But who goes to a pizza parlor for salad and appetizers, right? This is the "Marinara," done simply with san marzano tomato, oregano, garlic. All of the pizzas are wood-fired so you get that nice crispy outside and warm, chewy inside.

Here's a close-up of the "Marinara." If you're lactose intolerant, this is a good option because it comes sans cheese.

The "Pepperoni" has abbruzze pepperoni with oregano, mozzarella, tomato.

This was slightly spicier than your average pepperoni pizza and balanced nicely with the "Pistachio."

Yes, you read that correctly. Pistachio. As in the nut. This was an interesting blend of red onion, pistachio, fontina and extra virgin olive oil.

It was on the sweeter side, which is why it went well with the pepperoni. I suppose some red pepper flakes would do the trick, too.

To round out our order, we included the "Mushroom," which had rosemary ham, smoked mozzarella and garlic crema.

Like the others, this was an amazing combination of flavors that exploded in your mouth. The saltiness of the ham brought out the natural sweetness of the mushroom.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Pop Shop | Collingswood, New Jersey

This place is really noisy, but the food is pretty good. I didn't realize it until after I ordered, but one of their grilled cheese sandwiches (they have several) was featured on Throw Down with Bobby Flay. Had I known that ahead of time, I would have ordered it instead of my tuna melt.

The Pop Shop
729 Haddon Avenue
Collingswood, NJ 08108
(856) 869-0111
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The inside is reminiscent of an old soda pop shop. Note the flavored syrups behind the bar.

The menu is made of newsprint and reads like a newspaper.

Being that we were at a soda shop, I was compelled to order something from their fountain drink menu: a Cherry Cream Coke.

This is the tuna melt. It was light on mayo, but heavy on tuna and cheese. It was served atop a toasted artisan rye.

Julie was going to order "Buffalo Tofu Wings," but they were out so she opted for the "Health Nut" sandwich instead

When I checked in on Foursquare, I saw that we could get a free order of fries with a milkshake. My brother got the shake and we scored this basket of fries. This was the very first time I have ever taken advantage of one of Foursquare's specials.

Mom went with a classic mac and cheese dish.

Dad was craving some breakfast so he got eggs, biscuit, and hashbrowns.