Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Garces Trading Co – Philadelphia, PA from 21 August 2010

This is actually a trip that we made back on August 21st, and I had started writing the review, but never got around to finishing it. Now that I have, I think that it is best to post this at the top of the blog so it doesn't go unseen. Enjoy!  Actually, I just want to see if our friends at South Jersey Wine and Dine are paying attention since he asked me about this review when we say him on September 11th at the Stefania tasting!  ;-)

After our trip to Delorenzo’s on Thursday night, one of their waiters, Tony, who always has good suggestions for us, said that we had to check out Garces Trading Co in Philadelphia. That said, here it is Saturday night, and a great night to take a trip into Philly, even though it’s a work weekend for me. Thankphilly, I mean, thankfully, Philly is nice and close, so it wasn’t a bad drive at all.

I had originally heard about this restaurant in a big old storm of controversy, as restaurant owners and big wigs in Philadelphia were upset with the fact that the PALCB let Chef Garces put this store in his restaurant. I can’t remember how all the controversy started or ended, but there was a big spat for a while, and I am assuming that it has calmed down now.

For those of you who do not know who Chef Jose Garces is, he won Season 2 of The Next Iron Chef, and is currently undefeated on Iron Chef. He is originally from Chicago, and owns 5 other restaurants in Philly: Amada, Tinto, Distrito, Chifa, and Village Whiskey. What had me most intrigued with this restaurant is not only the fact that Chef Garces is from Chicago, but also the fact that he has deep dish pizza on the menu! Could this possibly be as good as anything back home? Could it be authentic? We'll see...that is of course if I am in the mood for some deep dish.

Popped and poured the Burgundy on the street, and started looking at the menu. Down the whole left hand side of the menu is a great selection of cheeses, broken down by region. He has anything from cheeses from Spain, to France, to Italy, and the United States. We ended up going for the 3 cheese sampler, with the manchego, brie de nangis, and house made mozzarella. For a dollar each, you can also order condiments on the side, so we chose the truffle lavender honey, as well as the roasted garlic duce de leche which came highly recommended from our server.

So we sat and drank our wine, and watched the hustle and bustle of the cars, as well as the foot traffic, and had a nice conversation with two of the boys who were sitting at a table beside us. A few minutes later our first two cheeses came out, along with the condiments for the cheese. We also received some fresh crusty bread, and what may be some of the tastiest olive oil I have had this summer.

Back to the cheeses, these came out on a long and narrow piece of stone, and it looked very nice. The stone was then garnished with slices of fresh apple, which complimented the cheeses nicely. The first I tried was the manchego, which comes from Spain, and is a firm sheep's milk cheese. This was a nice rich cheese with good flavors and great texture, and I really enjoyed this with the truffled honey which was delicious! As for the brie, this was French of course, and a soft cow cheese. This had a nice mild nuttiness to it, with buttery characteristics as well. Our waiter recommended using the roasted garlic dulce de leche on this, which was tasty. I did however prefer the truffled honey on both of the cheeses, while the garlic dulce de leche was wonderful on the bread.

About 10 minutes later our mozzarella came out. This takes a little longer, and is actually made to order in house. What a fabulous idea, and a great cheese. We actually took a mozzarella making class back in the spring on Zelda's birthday, so I can definitely appreciate the effort that goes into making this!

This came out in a bowl with a nice, round flatness to it, positioned over some fresh olive oil in the bottom of a bowl, and scored into 4 sections. It was then drizzled with olive oil, and topped with fresh cracked pepper and sea salt. The texture in this is absolutely awesome, and it comes out still warm. You really can tell that this was fresh pulled and shaped, and it was gorgeous. Nice subtle flavors, and a million times better than the balls of mozz you buy at your local grocery store. What is there to say here other than awesome?

For entrees tonight, there really were ton of options I could have bought into. One nice feature they have is the "Plats Du Jour," which is a special they have every night that serves to. The special tonight however was the Steak Frites, which sounds great to me, but not so good for my non-meat eating partner in crime Zelda! At $30 though, this seems like a heck of a great deal! Other weekly specials include Coq Au Vin on Monday, Choucroute on Tuesday, Grilled Whole Bronzino on Wednesday, Bouillabaisse on Thursday, Paella on Friday, and Lasagna on Sunday. This range from $28-$45 for the meal for 2. Not a bad deal at all!

Tonight however, Zelda talked me into the deep dish, and I was very hopeful that it would be in the style of the Original Pizzeria Uno or Pizzeria Due in Chicago. Needless to say, it came out, and it looked gorgeous. The crust was very nice, and pretty authentic. I'd say it was pretty similar to what you would find in Chicago, but lacked just a bit of the flakey butteriness that I love about Chicago style pizza. Regardless, it was still good, and it by far the most authentic thing I have had around here.

Zelda went with just cheese on her side, and I figured I would give the sausage a try. What I was really hoping however was that he got some good sausage "imported" from Chicago to use on his pies. Unfortunately, that was not the case, and it was actually a sausage that was in the casing and sliced. Although this was tasty, to me it didn't do the pie justice. The sauce on the pie was good, but again, not truly authentic. The flavors in the sausage were good, but again, not authentic.

All in all, I will say that I wasn't disappointed in the pie in the least, however, I was really hoping that it would be something similar to the great deep dish pies of Chicago. But I think Chef Garces has the right idea here in not trying to duplicate a true Chicago style pie, as it seems that people around here just don't get Chicago style pizza! I guess when you are born and raised on this thin stuff out here that you have to fold in half to eat, you just aren't open to try "the good stuff! ;-)

At the end of the meal, we paid our tab and stopped inside to check out the store, mainly on the lookout for the truffle honey to take home. It was also nice to see them selling many different kinds of olive oil, so we picked up a bottle of the California oil that they were actually serving on this night!

So what's there to say other than the fact that we had a nice dinner at a new to us restaurant. It was a great night to sit outside, and we really enjoyed it. I love the fact that it's BYO, but just in case you don't have anything, you can stop in the PALCB store inside, which has a nice selection, and good storage conditions in their climate controlled room. Next I'm looking forward to checking out Chef Garces other restaurant that intrigues me: Village Whiskey! Stay tuned!

Garces Trading Co – Philadelphia, PA
1111 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Phone: (215)574-1099


Frank Nerney said...

F Scott & Zelda

Just wanted to show you that I am paying attention. Thanks for finally posting this review. I can't wait until Christmas so I will be able to read your reviews on the places you are going this week. :)

Keep up the good work!!

NJFoodies said...

LOL Frank! Very funny! I have been trying to keep up, but definitely been a tad busy. Getting close to caught up though! Hope you are well, and look forward to seeing you again soon! Cheers!

porthos said...

I'm a huge fan of Amada. His food is pretty darn good.

And talk about Lavender Honey. Is there anything better? I usually enjoy my Lavender Honey with Fage Greek Yogurt. It's pretty much fromage blanc but yogurt and with a generous dollop of unfiltered lavender honey, it's pure heaven.

Rock on Dudes!

NJFoodies said...

Lavender honey does indeed rock, and how can you not love truffle anything? Yum! We actually source local lacender honey from The Busy Bee Farm that is pretty awesome as well! Great stuff! Looking forward to trying Amada in the future, but first we have to hit Whiskey Village to see just how good these burgers are that we hear people ranting and raving about!

Thanks for the note, and thanks for stopping by our blog! Cheers!