Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Village Whiskey, is post # 60!

The Philly Food Blog began five years ago as a simple enough concept... friends get together to eat somewhere new each month and talk about it. The trio started off at Philadelphia's Rittenhouse staple byo, Friday Saturday Sunday for its inaugural meal.

This month marks 60 posts to this blog. There have been a wide range of restaurants over the years, from Creole to Korean, from intimate byo's to celebrity chef mega-restaurants, and from cheap eats to break the budget bistros. Nearly 30 percent of the restaurants we've visited have closed up shop over these past five years.

Our tastes have changed over five years. Our appreciation of a good meal has been amplified, but we've also become more selective in handing out high blog scores. We've branched out from our early days when Jess regularly ordered scallops, Dave gravitated towards wild game and Wade was obsessed with duck. But some things have stayed the same... fine cheeses, chocolate and cured meats are still always our favorites.

The biggest lesson learned after five years? Making plans every month can be hard... schedules don't mesh, you're tired after work, budgets are tight at times. Committing to working past the noise of life for something you love, like good friends and fine food, is always worth the investment.

Village Whiskey

Wade's Take:

Jose Garces continues to make his Godzilla-like, delicious mark across the city with the opening of Village Whiskey. It's a high-end bar food joint with an extensive whiskey list. Village Whiskey gets automatic bonus points for sharing the kitchen with its neighbor (and Garces' family member) Tinto.

We had three starters. My favorite from the pickles menu was the herb cherry tomatoes. Out came finely toasted sourdough bread, whipped ricotta cheese (creme fraiche-like) and a black olive tapenade to accompany the pickled cherry tomatoes. The trio piled atop the bread was perfection. The tapenade is one of the best I've had with its harmonious sweet, tart and sour deep olive flavors. Highly recommended.

I went big for my entree and ordered the lobster roll. I should know by now that higher price does not equate to better taste. My celebratory mood overwhelmed common sense, however, and the giant $28 lobster roll soon sat before me. If Philly has taught me anything, it's that a good sandwich is all about the bread. This one failed. Yes, there was lobster and aioli and bacon. That trifecta is normally impossible to beat. The roll brought it down. Spongy and limp, it seemed more like something I'd pick up in the day old bread section at Genuardi's.

My favorite of our desserts was the classic hot fudge sundae. Served in a old-fashioned glass ice cream dish, it had throwback flavors with modern punch. A peanut butter brownie was broken up within vanilla ice cream, chocolate ganache and bananas. This formula was done just right.

Three out of four malt scotches.

Jess’ Take:
I officially LOVE Village Whiskey. Maybe it’s because I was on a “60th Blog Dinner” high, but whatever it was, the chef could do no wrong. My favorite of the starters was the tater tots. As a tots lover from the start, these were above and beyond any others I have had. The insides were whipped as opposed to the more traditional small dice and the Vidalia onion crème fresh dipping sauce was amazing. There was not a drop of this left when the waiter came to clear our plates.

Although I was really considering ordering the Whiskey King (or better known as the “10oz burger of death”), I decided to give my heart a chance and ordered the veggie burger. Good choice. It was delicious. Made of black beans and lentils and topped with guacamole and pickled red cabbage, it was the perfect consistency and very flavorful. It was served between the most perfect sesame bun.

We did both the strawberry shortcake and peanut butter brownie sundae for dessert and I can’t decide which was better. The shortcake had almost a corn bread consistency (though not taste) and was accompanied by a whiskey infused whipped cream. The sundae was very sweet, but complimented by the salty peanut butter bits.

I’ll definitely be back at Village Whiskey – and Whiskey King, I’m coming for you.

4 out of a possible 4 perfect tots.

Dave's Take:
I liked the idea of Village Whiskey from the beginning. The Doors-esque window, the casual atmosphere and the chance of some good Garces food. The atmosphere reminds me of some of the best Soho/West Village bars. Smaller, cozy and fun but Village Whiskey has better food. From my birthday dinner 2 weeks ago at Tinto, we got the skinny that the downstairs kitchen actually services both places. Some good business planning from Garces- more seats, more alcohol revenue and a simple menu so you can service a new restaurant while keeping overhead low by sharing a kitchen.

To start I must clarify, Village Whiskey is not the fine dining experience. It's simple, upscale bar food executed flawlessly. First up was the Tater Tots. At $3, this dish was the cheapest on the menu and one of the cheapest on any menu I have seen. They were great. Potato puree that was golden and crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. Certainly a step above the lunch-lady version. The star was the Vidalia onion crème fresh on the side. It was so good we kept it for dipping bread after the tots were gone. Other apps were pickles. These stole the show. Yellow and Red roasted beats in one jar and tomatoes in another. A sweet, tart and herb-intense pickle still let the natural flavors of the beets and tomatoes (respectively) shine through. These were no store bought dills.

On to the main course. I got the standard burger. It was fantastic. Now, I have always believed that Standard Tap and Rouge has the best burgers in town (I have not had the B&S burger yet but plan too soon). Those too have floated on the podium while the rest of the burgers in town fight for mediocrity. Now, a new player has made it a 3 way fight for superiority. Between Tap & Rouge, Rouge has been leading lately. I need to do some more scientific research but at first taste, Village Whiskey will give Rouge a run for it's money. Jess got the veggie burger. It was big, flavorful and full of cumin. It was good but after tasting my burger, it seemed wimpy. I'll need to try again on its own.

Wade unfortunately order the only expensive thing on the menu. He got the lobster roll. I'm not a fan of lobster rolls so I didn't taste it but at 3 times the price of my burger, it did not look impressive and Wade did not seem that happy with it.

Oh yeah, and the bar menu isn't bad either. Ton's of Bourbon, Rye and Scotch and plenty of signature drinks based on old-time cocktails. I was on good behavior this Tues night so I went with a imperial stout from a fairly extensive beer list of good quality. Our server was fun and attentive enough with the same casual feel that fit the place. He even had the chef de cuisine come up and visit us to celebrate our 60th dinner. My biggest complaint- It's not open for brunch. Jess & I tried last week only to find out it was closed. The format is perfect for brunch and would steal some of the Rittenhouse crowd if open. As proof, we went to Rouge for a burger as the back-up.

If I only rate my food, and I factor in the value equation, it's 4 out of 4 pickled livers. If I factor in Wade's disappointment, it s 3 out of 4. Either way you need to get to Village Whiskey. You should go for one of the following scenarios- 1)- To tie one on during an after work happy hour while eating the best bar munchies around. 2) For a dinner out where you just want to hang out and relax. 3) To join the protest to have them open for brunch

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