Monday, January 17, 2011
Philly Restaurant Week: Cooperage
When Jeff realized that he had today off (this only happened yesterday afternoon, believe it or not), we decided it might be nice to spend the day in Philly. We've been compiling a list of nearby restaurants we've seen on various Food Network shows, and thought this would be a good time to try one out. But when I started looking at Philly tourism sites for things to do with the rest of the afternoon, I discovered that it's Center City Restaurant Week (Jan 16-21 and 23-28, if you're interested in checking it out).
Initially we had crazy plans involving both lunch and dinner at participating restaurants. Perhaps fortunately, the place we really wanted to try for dinner, Meritage, is closed Mondays, so we decided to limit ourselves to a single three-course meal today. This worked well, because the place we chose for lunch, Cooperage Wine and Whiskey Bar, was quite delicious, and I'm still pretty full.
Cooperage offered a three-course prix fixe menu for lunch: appetizer, entree and dessert. We deliberately chose different items so as to get a nice sampling of the menu. I think we made great choices, and even with six items there are still things I'd be interested in going back to try.
My BBQ Pork Nachos were the hit of the day. Sweet barbecue pork on a crispy tortilla with sour cream, a bit of Sriracha, fresh herbs, and grapefruit wedges. The grapefruit totally made it. I am actually not a huge fan of grapefruit on its own, but its acidity provided a beautiful (and quite unexpected!) compliment to the sweetness of the pork. And Jeff pointed out that the tortilla chip held together really well down to the last bite or two - which is good, because this was hardly a one-bite deal. I think you could make a light lunch out of this appetizer alone. The presentation was gorgeous as well, as you can see.
Jeff's appetizer was the Chipotle-Bourbon BBQ Wing basket. The sauce on the wings was very delicate - I definitely got a bit of sweetness and a bit of smokiness, but it let the perfectly-cooked chicken be the real star. The skin was nice and crisp (I don't usually eat skin, but I enjoyed it on these). It came with a buttermilk blue cheese dipping sauce. I can't comment much on this - I hate blue cheese and didn't enjoy the bit I tasted - but I think (and Jeff agrees) that the buttermilk does provide a nice twist on the usual blue cheese dressing.
My entree was the Pulled Pork Sandwich. I was a little disappointed that it was the same lightly sweet pulled pork from my appetizer, but honestly, who would expect them to make two entirely different batches of pulled pork? It's my fault I didn't like any other entree on the menu (I'm a very picky eater). But there were some differences. The brioche roll was delicious. I love a sandwich on a soft, squishy roll. The slaw was ok - I'm not a fan of mayonnaise and it was more mayo-tasting than any slaw I'd had in Memphis. The best part was the blackberry mostarda that was hiding underneath the pork. It lent a delicious fruity sweetness to the dish - I think fruit complements pork nicely, but I'd never tried it with blackberries. My criticism is that by the time I got to the end, the sweetness of the sauce and the fruit became a bit overpowering. I think it needed some heat to balance it out. The sandwich came with a pile of homemade chips sprinkled with salt, pepper and a little cayenne powder.
Dessert was the crowning glory of the meal. Jeff got the "Coopwich" - their version of a chipwich, but with absolutely wonderful oatmeal raisin cookies. The cookies were nice and hearty, with plenty of raisins and a LOT of cinnamon (and as everyone knows, cinnamon makes everything super-awesome). The ice cream was to die for. I inquired and learned that they get it from the Franklin Fountain on Market St. We're obviously going to have to hit them up sometime soon.
Sadly, I took a horribly blurry picture of my dessert, so you don't get to see it in its glory. Believe me - it was glorious. I had the Deep Fried Oreos. The menu said they were dipped in a homemade biscuit batter, but it definitely didn't taste like a biscuit - it reminded me of a waffle or funnel cake, although quite tender and delicate (not at all rubbery, like some funnel cakes can get). My brain didn't recognize it as an Oreo cookie - I think the batter was the star, though the cookie provided just enough chocolatey crunch at the end. The three cookies came with a scoop of ice cream. The menu said it would be chocolate, but I'm pretty sure it was mocha with a butterscotch ripple. It had delicious buttery notes and a subtle chocolate flavor, and by the time I finished it my mouth tasted subtly of coffee. It was a beautiful smooth and creamy ice cream with great flavor.
To top it off, this place is only a block and a half from Independence Hall and the other tourist sites, where we spent the rest of our day. If you're ever in the area doing touristy things, I would definitely recommend checking this place out. Creative, delicious food in a stylish but casual atmosphere: what's not to love?