Friday, December 30, 2011

THE PERFECT ROAST (and a nod to Frank & Mary)

It was hectic week and weekend leading up to Christmas. A positively enormous Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner at the home of our friends, the Attanasis in Cranford, NJ (more on that soon, with pictures!), the last-minute rush to wrap presents, the annual Xmas Beer Mix get-together at the Grey Lodge (more on that also with pics) and new physical therapy for my leg and knee woes thrown in for good measure.

Ben and Sophie came down with godawful, stay-in-bed kinds of colds on Christmas day, so it was a quieter-than-usual morning opening presents, having breakfast and trying top keep spirits light. It made for a slow moving, lazy day kind of Christmas. Dinner was a simple affair, a beautiful eye round roast, some mashed potatoes and some fresh string beans. But the reason for my post is to tell you about the new way I found to roast the eye round.

Normally, I rub the eye round with a mixture of sea salt, ground pepper and dried herbs and roast the beef at a high temperature, 425 degrees for 20 min. a pound. It has always produced a dark crust and pink interior, depending on the diameter of the roast.

On Christmas Day, as the kids napped, I surfed the web and Googled "eye round roast recipes" just to find variations on my method. The top result recipe was "High Temperature Eye-of_Round Roast" and came with a sub-paragraph that boldly proclaimed it to be "the easiest roast you'll ever cook!" OK, they had me.

Pretty simple stuff, really. This is the recipe, from


1 (3 pound) beef eye of round roast
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F (260 degrees C). Season the roast with salt and pepper and place in a roasting pan or baking dish. Do not cover or add water.
Place the roast in the preheated oven. Reduce the temperature to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C). Roast for 21 minutes (seven minutes per pound) then turn off the oven and let the roast sit in the hot oven for 2 1/2 hours. Do not open the door at all during this time!
Remove the roast from the oven, the internal temperature should have reached at least 145 degrees F (65 degrees C). Carve into thin slices to serve.

With all due respect to and Lyn B., who posted the actual recipe, I remember Mary Jelinek, who for years hosted a food talk show with her husband Frank over the Philadelphia airwaves (WWDB,WCAU and WPEN), frequently suggesting this type of high temperature roasting for beef to callers of the show, with a stern warning: "Do NOT open that oven door for any reason until the timer goes off!" It was a popular recipe on the show over the years, and the Jelineks regularly received calls about how perfect a recipe it was. I add myself to the chorus of praise.

It sliced beautifully into gorgeous, rosy slices, just a bit pinker than the photo above. Made a simple red wine reduction sauce from the drippings, but the meat was so juicy and flavorful, it didn't need it. Force of habit with the gravy thing, I think.

This would make an elegant presentation at a dinner party, arrayed on a platter on a buffet, or peeking out of a baguette or kaiser roll with some mustard and horseradish.

Now I have a recipe to remind me of Frank and Mary Jelinek, whom I got to know well in the late 80s and early 90s, first through the popularity of my original Dangerous Dining Club (they attended a couple of the dinners and always promoted the club every month when they received their invites to the next dinner), and later when I was doing the PR for the Adam's Mark Hotel and later The Bellevue. Such sweet and gracious people. I miss them dearly.

But now I have a way to remember them.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Oh my, it's that time again already. This year has passed so quickly, and it's just a few days to Christmas. And that also means a Christmas Eve Feast of The Seven Fishes. I'm noticing more restaurants than ever creating Seven Fishes menus for the days preceding Christmas. A few have already begun serving that special menu, and many begin tomorrow night. If you haven't made Christmas Eve plans, and want to experience a special holiday culinary tradition, here are a few places to visit:

Avalon, West Chester, PA:

AntiPasti (Served family style)
Fried Smelts, White Anchovies, Preserved Tuna and Fried Calamari

Black Linguini with Shrimp, Mussels and Crab in San Marzano Red Sauce

Secondi (choice of)
Skate Wing with Brown Butter Sauce and Crab Apple Mostarda
White Fish Picatta with Capers, Lemon and White Wine
*both served with Risotto Style Toasted Orzo

Insalta Digestivo
Organic Mixed Greens with Honey Broken Balsamic Vinaigrette

Dolce (Served family style)
Fresh Fruit and Cheese
(or sweet dessert from regular dessert menu may be substituted).

This feast, which is designed to be ordered by the entire party, is $45 per person; $15 for children under 12. Child-friendly options will be available. Available on Thursday, December 22; Friday, December 23and Saturday, December 24. Reservations necessary at 610/436-4100. For those who prefer, a limited a la carte menu will be available on Thursday, December 22 and Friday, December 23. On December 24, they'ere serving 7 Fishes menu exclusively.

Trax Cafe, Ambler, PA

1st course
House Smoked Salmon Mousse Topped with Caviar or Butternut Squash Shrimp Bisque

2nd course
Caesar Salad with White Anchovy

3rd course
Bouillabaisse with Cod, Mussels, Calamari & Shrimp

4th course
Chocolate Mousse with Cognac or
Poached Pear with Candied Wine Sauce

The dinner is $45 per person, plus tax and gratuity. The restaurant will also serve its regular a la carte menu from December 20 - 24. The menu may change slightly due to availability of fresh seafood. Reservations are necessary at 215/591-9777 or on Open Table. The restaurant will be closed on December 25.

The website has an amazing roundup of Philly spots doing the Feast:

Center City

• Route 6: 600 N. Broad Street. On Christmas Eve, Saturday, December 24, $50 will get you a delicious meal from Chef Anthony DiRienzo, including Cape Codder Oyster with cranberry granite, Smoked Bluefish Dip with horseradish crème fraiche and bagel chips, Lobster Boudain with watercress salad and spicy chili aioli, Wood Oven Roasted Atlantic Salmon with honey crisp apple relish and more. Call (215)391-4600 to reserve your spot.

• Amis: 412 S. 13th Street. The Vetri Family welcomes you to share in this festive Italian-American celebration on December 23 from 5-11 p.m. On this evening a four-course meal featuring the seven fishes will be served family style. It is $65 per person and does not include tax, gratuity, or alcohol. For reservations call (215) 732-2647.

• Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse: 111 S. 17th Street. Davio’s will offer the Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner as a prix-fixe menu of uniquely selected seafood by Executive Chef David Boyle. The menu is $75 per person and features items such as grilled branzino with crab risotto and spinach and citrus nage. It will be available on Saturday, December 24 from 5-11 p.m. Reservations are recommended; call (215) 563-4810.

• Ristorante Panorama: 14 N. Front Street. Ristorante Panorama will be serving the Festa dei Sette Pesci now through Thursday, December 30th. For $45 enjoy a four-course menu featuring sea scallops, smelts, calamari, lobster ravioli, branzino and more. A 3-oz. taste of the Sommelier’s Mediterranean wine pairings will be available with each course for an additional $25. For more information call (215) 922-7800.

South Philly

• Chiarella’s: 11th & Tasker Streets. Hard to believe, but this is the first time Chiarella’s is hosting a seven fishes dinner. It takes place on December 24. The four courses will include New England clam chowder, clams casino, mussels, pasta and sauteed Branzino and creamy polenta. It is $50 per person and BYOB; call (215) 334-6404 for reservations.

• Da Vinci Ristorante: 1533 S. 11th Street. On December 24, Da Vinci’s will serve a set menu in three course. There will be seven traditional items like fried smelts, stuffed calamari, linguine with mussels, cod with olives, capers and tomatoes and rock fish with mushrooms in a lemon white wine sauce. It’s $50 per person and BYOB; call (215) 336-3636 for reservations.

• Le Virtu: 1927 E. Passyunk Avenue. Le Virtù will offer a four-course pre-fixe menu for $65 per person.Items include: Fritto Misto di Pesce, assorted fried calamari, fish and shrimp; Timballo, layered crepes with pork sausage ragu; Agnello al Forno, roasted leg of lamb with rosemary potatoes; and Torcinelli, fried anise-and-raisin dough tossed in sugar with eggnog sauce. Call (215) 271-5626 for reservations.

• Mamma Maria Ristorante: 1637 E. Passyunk Avenue. Various seatings at 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on December 24 will include antipasto of fish and seafood, chestnut soup, seven fishes (including baccala, shrimp, stuffed squid and smelts), dessert, espresso or cappuccino, and complimentary wine and after-dinner cordials. This meal is $70 per person. Call (215) 463-6884 for reservations.

• Paradiso: 1627 E. Passyunk Avenue. This four-course dinner served December 24 will include fritto misto with smelts, calamari, cod cakes and oysters, seafood risotto, spaghetti with white anchovies, golden raisins, garlic and tomatoes, baccala with onions, olives and fresh tomato, tilapia with jumbo lump crab meat and lobster cream, broccoli rabe, and a variety of Italian cookies for dessert. It’s $65 per person with a full bar. Call (215) 271-2066 for reservations.

• Monsu: 901 Christian Street. Executive Chef and Owner Peter McAndrews will be hosting the Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner on Saturday, December 24. Expect a special five course dinner from 4-8 p.m., $50 per person. Diners will have the first course served for the entire table and then will choose from a selection of Antipasti, Pasta, Secondi and Dolci. And don’t forget a couple bottles of your favorite vino; the restaurant is BYOB. Make your reservations today by calling (215) 440-0495.


• Gemelli: 4161 Main Street: Celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes every night from Thursday, December 20 through Christmas Eve, Saturday, December 24. Items include arancini, smoked salmon, fried calamari, linguini and clams, scallops, shrimp and lobster cannelloni and more. This meal is $45 per person. An a la carte menu will also be available. Call (215) 487-1230 for more info.


• Pepperoncini: Conshohocken (72 Poplar Street) and Phoenixville (184 Bridge Street). This feast will be offered as take-out only on Christmas Eve. Pick up items like baccala, fried smelts, lobster ravioli or crab cakes starting at 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. Call ahead to place your order in Phoenixville at (484) 924-8429 or Conshohocken at (610) 941-7783.

Eat it up, folks. It's a great tradition to savor with friends and family.

And if I don't see you before Sunday: MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Monday, December 12, 2011


You've seen the video. It's beyond disturbing. Two high-powered college basketball teams, two nationally-known programs, crosstown rivals in Cincinnati, Ohio, exploding into a senseless brutal brawl in the concluding moments of an emotional game.

Afterwards, Mick Cronin, the coach for Cincinnati, gave an incredible speech in his press conference, professing profound embarrassment at his team's conduct and detailing how he stripped off each player's jersey and would only return them when those players "earned their way back on the team." He then berated his players for how lucky they were to even be in a college program, and attending on scholarship. It was coaching bravura at its finest. His counterpart at Xavier, Chris Mack, showed little embarrassment in his comments, stating that he "was not in a position to be a decision maker." No, not you, you're just a coach, right. Weak.

But to me the most disturbing aspect of this street brawl was the unapologetic comments from Xavier player Tu Holloway:

"That's what you're going to see from Xavier and Cincinnati," Holloway said. "We got disrespected a little bit before the game, guys calling us out. We're a tougher team. We're grown men over here. We've got a whole bunch of gangsters in the locker room -- not thugs, but tough guys on the court. And we went out there and zipped them up at the end of the game."

Who is running that Xavier program? Sounds like the gangsters on the team.

I went to a Jesuit high school of which I am immensely proud, Scranton Prep in Scranton, PA. The school motto is "Ad Altiora Natus" - "Born to Higher Things" and that was impressed upon us as students on an almost daily basis. Xavier is Jesuit college. Its motto is "Vidit Mirabilia Magna" --"He Has Seen Great Wonders". Jesuit institutions are renowned for their high academic, community and athletic standards. But I don't know what they're doing at Xavier in Cincinnati.

The actions--and words--of Xavier's most prominent players and the hand-off comments of their coach, are more than enough proof that the wrong people are running the basketball program there. No great wonders to be seen. We have seen great hypocracy. Shame on all of them.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


I've lived in the greater Trenton area for over 14 years now, and despite its shockingly inept, nakedly corrupt current mayor and his cadre of cronies, the town has grown on me. I'm crazy for the city's tomato pie (don't say pizza). Waterfront Park is a jewel of a ballpark, hugging the Delaware River. Cadwallader Heights and Mill Hill are two gorgeous neighborhoods that proudly survive despite the crumbling elsewhere in the city. The Art All Night festival in June is an unexpectedly, wacky, intensely creative 24 hours of fun. And the city has a great, hard-nosed newspaper, The Trentonian, to which I've become addicted. Terrific sportswriting and provocative columnists--Jeff Edelstein is flat out hilarious, even when he's making a serious point--and some of the best headline writers in the country.

Well, a few days ago, I---actually The Omnivore---was invited to be part of the paper's Blog Center, and yesterday a link to this blog appeared on the paper's website. You can find us in the Blog Center's LIFE section, alongside some really cool fellow bloggers. Now I have some more jewels of Trenton to explore: the minds and hearts and opinions of other bloggers like me.

So WELCOME to all of you new visitors to this space! I'll try to make the posts here as interesting, timely and compelling as possible. Lotsa food and beer and wine and life stuff. Just read below a little bit and you'll get the idea of where I'm coming from. And let me know what you think. We're all going to be part of a very exciting newspaper adventure. Hang on for a while.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


It is here, accompanied by some serious hype from its most famous producer, Georges Debeouf. The 2011 Beajolais Nouveau has landed everywhere (officially on November 17 this year), with some splashy debut events in New York, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles, but almost nary a mention in the Philadelphia area, with the exception of the city's Midtown Village neighborhood marshalling its retailers and bars to offer the wine along its main 13th Street corridor. There has been barely a whisper about it here in central NJ. That saddens me a bit. I can remember when Nouveau's arrival was a lighthearted day of celebration.

This year Debeouf has proclaimed the wine to be "bursting with berries", so it's time to find out and taste this year's vintage.

HUGE blackberry and strawberry in the nose. It practically leaps out of the glass! Mouth feel is thin, but full of strawberries, blackberries and raspberries at the very first taste, with plenty of earth at the end, some dryness, too, and a noticeable absence of the usual green/vine notes of previous years. This is still a good light quaff, with just enough dryness to pair beautifully with buttery mashed potatoes, gravy topped turkey, herby stuffing, even that green bean casserole. I actually think that this year's wine will enhance the Thanksgiving meal and amplify the traditional flavors. Debeouf is accurate: it is indeed "bursting with berries," especially when your first inhale its aromas in the glass, but it definitely has enough backbone to carry through the entire Turkey Day feast, from snacks and munchies before dinner (think mild cheese and crackers, salumi, almonds, pumpkin or butternut squash soup, bruschetta, stuffed breads, focaccia, radishes) to every savory bite of the meal.

Even though I didn't get to sample a glass until now, the wait was worth it, and this year's Beaujolais Nouveau portends a great year for 2011 vintage Beaujolais wines. And a very tasty Thanksgiving Day wine pairing. Buy enough Nouveau for the weekend; it ought to taste just as good with a weekend of leftovers, sandwiches and turkey salad!



Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I've made no secret of the fact that I'm a huge Lew Bryson fan. For those of you who DON'T know who Bryson is, he is one of the finest writers with whom I've had the privilege to work, a beverage journalist who specializes in beer and spirits, but really, just a terrific writer. Lew was always my special guest/John Madden for all of the Golden Age of Beer in Philadelphia Tours I conducted during the halcyon days of Philadelphia's The Book and The Cook food festival

Well, it looks like Lew has what it takes for TV, too.

Bryson and producer Rudy Vegliante are shopping a pilot for American Beer Blogger, which Vegliante describes thusly:

AMERICAN BEER BLOGGER is a half hour television series dedicated to all
facets of the ever growing craft beer market. From home brewing, to micro
beer; viewers will experience the very best of the craft beer culture. In each
episode, Lew will visit a different brewer, each of which has their own sets of
quirks and ways of doing things. Lew will talk to these brewers, get to know
them, will show us first hand the various methods and techniques used in
creating a craft beer. From the tiniest bottler to the largest manufacturer, Lew
will get his hands dirty. Topics such as bottling, food pairing, manufacturing,
distribution, history, technique (and so much more) will all be touched upon

as Lew spends a day with these brewers. Some doing well in the business, others not so well. Thankfully, the DIY nature of this business can lead to some pretty unforseeable results as Lew lends a hand and helps out in any way he can. Lew will show us all the kinds of micro-breweries currently out there. From the smallest, hippest label to large manufacturers.

AMERICAN BEER BLOGGER sets out to entertain the viewer as well as educate on this rapidly growing industry. Through humor and a charming, hands-on host, our show will not only be entertaining for the microbeer enthusiast, but also enjoyable for the average viewer as well.

Top Gear with beer... Top Beer if you will.

They've partnered with Kickstarter, an company that helps small businesses raise capital, to raise money to produce the show. I'm a backer, and you should be, too. One look at the trailer for this show, and you'll be hooked. Great production values, as they say in the trade. And Bryson is a natural. Here's what he told me about the filming in a recent e-mail:

We met up at Stoudt's [Brewery in Adamstown, PA ]at about 8 AM on a morning in late May with NOTHING planned or scripted. We knew we were going to tape...something about the brewery. Everything was done seat of the pants, and most of it was done in one take. I hadn't ever done much interviewing on camera before, but it felt pretty natural. Ed Stoudt has a ton of camera time, and has been doing the tours at the brewery for years; he was completely at ease. The stuff in the bar and on the sidewalk (when I'm in the other shirt) was done at Devil's Den during my Philly Beer Week event there, and if anything, that was even less scripted. I walked down the street, greeted some people I knew at an outside table, and on the spur of the moment, stole a sip of their beer. Felt right, did it. That's probably what the whole thing's going to be. Real reality.

So here's a project we can all get a thirst for. I think we may have found our next TV star.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


When I first arrived at the University of Pennsylvania in 1975 as a freshman, I was struck by the sheer beauty of the campus, the sheer numbers of students converging on the campus and milling about, and the endless displays of Penn clothing and logo-stamped merchandise for sale all around campus. But my first swag purchase was a light grey t-shirt emblazoned with huge block letters that read: "NOT PENN STATE". It never struck me that there could be such confusion between the school I was about to attend in Philadelphia and the larger state college located in the center of the state. But I though the t-shirt was pretty funny.

But I was soon to learn that many fellow students were quite sensitive to the confusion. "Half my family thinks I'm going to Penn State," said one of my roommates, who hailed from Staten Island, "I don't think they know the difference."

It only took me a few weeks to experience that confusion. On one of my first visits home for a weekend, I had one of my dad's friends ask me if I had bumped into Joe Paterno on campus yet. "Nope, not yet, " I smirked. My dad didn't think it was so funny. "He's going to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia," he quickly retorted. "Didn't know they had a Philadelphia campus," said his friend. I thought my father was going to slug him.

"Don't worry," I said, "we know the difference."

Later that weekend, one of my uncles (I won't say which one) asked me a similar question and asked me if I could get tickets to the next Penn State football game. This time, my father looked at me with a smile and shook his head. "No, that's almost impossible for me," I answered.

Eventually all of my family understood what university I was attending, and didn't ask me about Joe Paterno or the Nittany Lions or anything like that anymore. Several cousins did in fact eventually attend the school in State College, and are proud alumni.

After a week like this one, I am certainly glad that I'm an alumni of the place with the t-shirts---still for sale to this day---that say "Not Penn State."

Monday, October 24, 2011


(Clockwise from upper left: baby lettuce mix; arugula; "spicy mix"; wild romaine, green leaf and red leaf lettuces. Center: striped radishes)

Some Sundays I feel like I've hit the veggie lottery.

Sunday is the day we pick up our weekly share from the Honey Brook Organic Farm in Pennington, NJ, about which I've posted a lot here. This Sunday was perhaps the salad greens lottery, but it was impressive nonetheless.

The photo above shows just a small portion of the total haul this Sunday. I plated handfuls of the most impressive stuff, and, while trying to channel my inner Eric Menscher (a former Philadelphia Inquirer photog who had just taught a workshop I attended on Saturday at the Philadelphia Food & Drink Writers Meet-Up at Daniel Stern's fabulous R2L restaurant, 37 stories above center city Philly), tried to display the inner beauty of some of these greens.
I obtained 2 POUNDS of a baby lettuce mix, so bright and glistening and colorful, the photo doesn't do it justice; a half pound of arugula (which is a lot of arugula); a half pound of "spicy mix", which seems to include baby chicory and mache and mustard greens among other zippy leaves; and 4 heads of fall lettuce, including wild romaine, with its finger-like leaves, red leaf and green leaf lettuce. There were also gorgeous pink and red and white radishes, field tomatoes, among other veggies, but the greens just stood out so much, I had to post this.

Salad days are here. Oh baby.

Monday, October 3, 2011

"Did You Ever Wonder...."

Andy Rooney broadcast his final regular segment for 60 Minutes last night, and it was a classic. In case you missed it, you can view it above here.

I met Rooney once, we shared a laugh, and it was a memorable 30 seconds of my life.

I was working at the Adam's Mark Hotel at the time, as the hotel's advertising and public relations manager. Philadelphia's The Book and The Cook food festival was at the peak of its popularity and in full swing, and the hotel was asked to put up some of the celebrity chefs that were in town that year. One of those chefs was David Burke, Executive Chef at the Park Avenue Cafe in New York City. He was a big headliner that year, very popular and very in demand around town. He was a great guest, very affable and gracious, and I drove him to a couple of appearances, as well as back and forth to the annual chef-media party at Jack's Firehouse restaurant in Fairmount. As I drove him to the train back to NYC after his time in Philly was done, he gave me his business card, and said, "If you're ever in New York, gimme a call and come in for dinner."

About 6 months later, I had to be in the Big Apple and took him up on his offer. When we got to the restaurant, Burke had set us up at an "A" table, dead center in the main dining room, and, after schmoozing with us for a bit, served us a brilliant tasting menu of many of his greatest hits, from an amuse' of truffled wild mushrooms in an egg shell, right down to his signature cheesecake lollipops. It was a perfect meal in every way. He was chatting with us at one point, explaining one of the dishes he was about to bring out, when he pointed to the entrance, and said, "Look you just walked in!". It was Walter Cronkite and his wife, Betsey, and Andy Rooney and his wife, Margie. Burke left our table, and went to help whisk the famous foursome to another dining room in the restaurant.

About a half hour later, I went to the mens room and a moment later, Rooney walked in and took his place at the urinal next to mine. "Hello, Mr. Rooney," I said. "Hello, " he replied, and added, "You'll excuse me if I don't shake hands." We both laughed out loud. I washed my hands, he remained in place, and I walked out without a handshake.

You know, despite all of the imitations done of Andy Rooney, Joe Piscopo's being the most famous, he never once uttered the phrase "Did you ever wonder..." on one of his 60 Minutes segments. Just a little trivia.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


We remember so much about that day now. The perfect blue sky, the bright sunshine, the balmy temperature. And where we were when it happened.

I was getting ready to head out the door for my commute to Philly and my office at The Bellevue, where I was the PR-Marketing Director for the landmark property. "Imus in the Morning" was on WFAN in New York, and on the radio in my kitchen, part of my morning ritual. Imus was asking his crew if it was true that something crashed into the World Trade Center. I quickly flipped on the TV in the den and saw the image we all remember now, the hole, the smoke, the strangeness of it. And the talking heads on every channel were calmly speculating on how a small plane could possibly ever hit a building so large. Sun glare, said one, pilot collapse or heart attack, said another.

And then the second plane hit. And I remember being frozen, unable to move, standing in my den.

We all remember what follows. The Pentagon. Shanksville. The collapsing buildings. The thousands who perished. The chaos.

And for weeks after we all remember how every siren made us stop and wonder what was happening. How every chopping helicopter above made us rush to a window and look outside.

But remember these things instead: The flags everywhere. The courtesies to strangers. The ceremonies honoring proud but humble police officers and firefighters in every town. The national anthem and "God Bless America."

Remember all of these things. But just remember.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


I remember listening to Howard Eskin in 1983 on talk radio station WWDB-FM in Philadelphia when he did a ground-breaking (for Philly) sports talk show in the early evening. It was riveting radio. Eskin was opinionated, passionate and argumentative. He interviewed sports guests with a combination of child-like awe and reporter zeal.

I also remember when he moved his show to the multi-faceted Philly radio icon WIP-AM in 1986 which had been veering to an all-talk format back then, launching what would eventually become one of the country's first sports talk radio stations.

He did his style of brash, in-your-face, sports talk for 25 years at WIP, dominating the afternoon drive time ratings for most of that time. He was also famously paired with a rogues gallery of partners in an attempt to perhaps soften his sarcasm or lessen his polarizing personality, but all of those attempts (including an embarassing morning drive stint with Morning Zoo-famous John DeBella at sister station WMMR-FM) fell flat, even his most recent pairing with ex-Eagle linebacker Ike Reese.

In the end, the best Eskin is the solo, unfiltered, full-strength Eskin, and maybe that was part of the motivation for his emotional announcement a few weeks back that he would give up his regular time slot in favor of other opportunities. He remains at WIP for several spot roles, and seems to be leaning toward some kind of national show, either on satellite or terrestrial radio.

Yesterday Eskin did his last regularly scheduled show in his time slot, as WIP-AM moved to simulcast itself on the frequency held for decades by hard rock WYSP-FM. The show was filled with celebrity phone calls, well-wishing callers, and Charles Barkley in studio along with Eskin's son, Brett, who ironically lost his job at WYSP in the foremat/simulcast change. It was, of course compelling radio, full of emotion, laughs, inside jokes and forced reflection.

It is still amazing and very impressive that Howard Eskin lasted (survived?) for 25 years at one radio station, in virtually the same time slot, a concept virtually unheard of in the current climate of homogeneous radio, right-wing talkmongers and dumbed down sports talk, corporate rock radio and scattershot pop programming.

Part investigative reporter, part oddsmakers, part insider, part true sports fan, there is not, nor never was, anyone like Howard Eskin. He made the mold, broke the mold and re-invented the mold.

Forever The King.

Monday, August 8, 2011


I think I'm going to agree with Tim and Nina Zagat, publishers of the ubiquitous guides to restaurants, resorts and other things that give the dining and travelling public their own say about the places they choose to praise and boo for dining and lodging. Today the Zagats wrote an incisive screed on the state of declining service in our favorite and not-so-favorite restaurants across the country.

It reminded me why I haven't been enjoying many of the restaurants I've been visiting lately. With few exceptions (places where we're regulars and know the staff and management), restaurant wait staffs have been exceeding even my low expectations. Service timing is a real pet peeve of mine, and although most waitrons blame the kitchen for bringing out your next course before you're done with the previous course, they're just displaying their complete indifference to your dining experience and their lack of training. Even I was a waiter and manager long enough to know how to time a customer's meal to make sure it flowed smoothly. Value-priced restaurants, and even expensive ones, just don't seem to care anymore.

My mom worked in several restaurants over a 40 year career, and she genuinely cared about her customers, treated them with care and good humor and had a large cadre of regulars who made a point of requesting her when they dined at her establishments.

I know of no higher praise that any restaurant or its staff can receive than to 1) HAVE regulars who frequently dine at your place and 2) have regulars who specifically ask for YOU to serve their table.

That's why my mom HAD a 40-year career in the restaurant business. I doubt that any servers I've encountered in the past few years will ever approach that milestone or that distinction.

But what do you think? I'd love to hear your good and bad restaurant service experiences.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I have the privilege during this transition in my life to be the Managing Editor of a newsletter produced by the Professional Service Group (PSG) of Mercer County, which is a free resource for professional networking, training, coaching, support and education for professionals in transition. Its mission statement says that it's a "voluntary, self-managing and mutual support network affiliated with the Mercer County One-Stop Career Center, for professionals who are seeking new employment and contracting opportunities throughout the region."

Next to my extended family, it's the finest group of people with which I've ever been associated.

The facilitator of this group, Craig Jez, is himself a great resource for brainstorming, career counselling, and no-nonsense advice, especially about networking and resume writing. He pens a column for the PSG Newsletter and he calls it The Last Word, and it's always a terrific read. What I like about the column is that Craig writes it in his own voice, and it actually reads like he talks, a mix of salesman/bartender/next-door neighbor that is a delight to experience.

I've had the good fortune of working with many talented and compelling writers as an editor over the years (Lew Bryson, Ken Alan, Jim Tarantino and Katie Loeb among them), but I am particularly enjoying reading Craig's columns from the past 3 years' worth of newsletters, which you can peruse at the PSG website,

Read them all.

For the July-August issue of the PSG Newsletter, Craig wrote about karma. Here are some highlights, but I encourage you to read the whole article:

"Patience is an attribute you all exercise every day. Patience is responding to the woes of bills due and still smiling at the job interview. Patience is replacing unemployment depression with acts of volunteer kindness. We had a member who recently landed who defined patience as “the positive energy required daily during a 17 month transition period.” Patience is doing for others as a PSG Committee member despite you yourself needing to find a job yesterday."

"Planning your time should include active networking. Persistent and effective networking is important because you never know who the person you are networking with knows. It is like an adult game of whisper-down-the-lane. PSG has experienced a growing history of happy coincidences where spontaneous networking conversations developed a contact that led to an interview that culminated in a hire. The Karma part is the ebb and flow of relationships evolved from networking. PSG members are constantly surprised by who steps up to help them land at the bleakest moment."

"Another concept surfacing in the market is 'relationship recruiting.' Sounds like a cousin to networking, but let me explain. Say you interview with an employer but it does not work. There is no fit, you are not a match for their corporate culture or otherwise it is not going to happen with that company. To keep the corporate contact, you of course thank the company for spending time to meet you and that you greatly enjoyed learning about them. The extra step is connecting them with a candidate from your networking pool. The employer might appreciate the gesture. Perhaps they might be inclined to return the favor by connecting you with others in the same professional network. The maximum response would be if they referred you to other hiring managers as future unadvertised positions open up."

"Whether you call it Karma or making your own good luck, positive things will happen when you get out of the house, get active and help somebody every once in awhile. If you do it now, do it more.

If you do not do it, get out and try it."

Good stuff, universal appeal, endless uses in anyone's daily life, employed or unemployed. I've seen it work in my life and it's hard to deny the power of karma. But Carig Jez said it better. He always does.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


I delight in the art my children create. I can't explain it, but it fascinates me.

After collecting their artwork from the last two years of their schooling, I am continually amazed at their creative energy, and at the skill of their teachers to inspire them. Their preschool art teacher, Mr. Colavita, walked me into their school last spring for the student art show and showed me their self-portraits, which he mounted on a kiosk at the school's entrance, and pointing to their art, said, "Watch those two, they have something, they really do."

And ever since I have paid particular attention to the artwork they bring home from school. This year, their kindergarten year, under the guidance of their art teacher, Mrs. Skorupa, it seems like both Ben and Sophie have exploded with artistic energy, creativity and awareness. Their kindergarten self-portraits (above and below) are whimsically revealing, from Sophie's eyelashes and big smile to Ben's persuasive smirk. That will probably be my last attempt at any kind of critique of their work. The rest of this post will just be a display of their best stuff. I think you'll agree that their creative energy and verve are fun to experience.

Ben's "Squares" one of several takes on the art of Piet Mondrian, believe it or not. yes, Mrs. Skorupa was teaching them about Mondrian.

"Under The Sea" by Sophie

Ben's version of "Under The Sea"

Sophie's "t-shirt"

Ben's "t-shirt"

Dr. Suess hats by Sophie

Ben's take on the Dr. Suess hat

Pastel shadings from Ben

Sophie's pastel shadings

"Rainbow Fish" by Ben

Sophie's "Rainbow Fish"

Father's Day "neckties" from Sophie (l.) and Ben (r.)

Sophie's American flag

Ben's Spring Flower

Sophie's Sprin g Flower

Ben's water color "circles", so large a piece, this photo really doesn't do it justice. The visual power of it just blew me away.

Sophie's water color "circles". Again, these particular pieces are so big, they really are a knockout to see in person. Everything you see here I have displayed around the house, on doors to the basement, garage, laundry room and powder room. And it's starting to take over the walls of the den. Beats anything else we've hung in that room.

And this is just a small sampling of their enormous output of art over the school year. I'm trying to catalog it all, and I hope I'll be able to display more of it as I go through it all over the summer.

Biased parental pride? You bet. But I hope you enjoy the beauty and raw energy of Ben and Sophie's creative side.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Beyond The Golden Age Of Beer

It seems like just a few weeks ago that I was savoring an impressive sampler of pilsners with my friend Scott at Triumph Brewpub's Old City location during their "Klash of the Kaisers" event for Philly Beer Week. In fact, it's been almost a year and Philly Beer Week is joyfully upon in just 2 days, and the schedule for this year's extended (10 day!) "week" is very impressive. Stretching across the great expanse of the city itself and deep into the suburbs, this year's celebration is the pure embodiment of its slogan, "America's Best Beer Drinking City."

Beginning with the Hammer of Glory Relay Race to the Opening Tap at the Constitution Center on the evening of June 3 to the Ladies Beer Tea (!) at the Belgian Cafe on Sunday June 12, all the way to a "Scraps and Leftovers" event at Rembrandt's restaurant in Fairmount and a "Kick The Kegs" party in Blue Bell, the "week" if chock full of beery fun. You can even download a Philly Beer Week app for your Android or iPhone.

When I ran annual beer tours of the city for The Book and the Cook festival beginning in the late 90's, I printed up a Tour booklet for each participant that proclaimed that time frame as "The Golden Age of Beer in Philadelphia" and Philadelphia as the "Best Beer City in America." It was probably true even back then, but it is emphatically and dramatically and deliciously true now.

Philly Beer Week shines a huge spotlight on the rich, diverse and welcoming beer culture of the Delaware Valley, and even living an hour away from the city, makes me proud to a Philadelphian, even at a distance. I haven't begun to select the events I'm planning to attend, though I'm sure I'll make to at least one Grey Lodge event and make my way to Kraftwork and Memphis Taproom and the new With Love Beer Garden at the Four Season hotel.

Hope I get to raise a pint or two with you!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Farm Time

I've been waiting to write this sentence for weeks: The Honey Brook Organic Farm's season has begun!

Yesterday was our first farm share day of the season, and it was a small but rich bounty: 2 lbs of almost flawless arugula, 4 lbs of beautiful baby spinach, two big bunches of scarlet radishes. And, ankle deep in mud, the kids picked three quarts of intensely red ripe strawberries. Big, juicy strawberries. Yes, a strawberry-spinach salad with sliced almonds and an onion-poppy vinaigrette is in our future.

Also snagged some fresh oregano and tall, flat chives from the herb fields at the farm. Some of the oregano was tossed with grape tomatoes, garbanzos and olive oil for a quick salad for last night's dinner. Some of the chives were tossed with sliced potatoes and onions and olive oil and stir-grilled for dinner as well.

And this is just the beginning. The farm share season has begun!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Grilling In The Time of Rapture

This is not really a food post. Well, not completely.

But the End Is Near, or so they say, and well, I'm going to be prepared. I plan to be grilling some chicken when the Fateful Hour arrives on the west coast, bone-in chicken marinated in some of Wegman's excellent BBQ Chicken marinade. Maybe some grilled Yukon golds, tossed in olive oil and garlic, alongside, and some grilled New Jersey asparagus. The grill's plenty big enough, I think.

So if this Harold Camping fellow out in Oakland, CA is correct, things should get under way at about 6PM, prime grilling time at Casa Lawrenceville. I'm going to miss seeing my kids grow up and make me proud. Oh heck, I already am proud of them! I'll be missing those weekly beer chats in the "No Bull Inn" on that I've been a part of on Friday nights (and now Saturday nights, too!) for almost 15 years. Good times, guys, good times. Heck, I'm going to miss beer. And Delorenzo's tomato pies. And the annual NJ Hot Dog Tour in September. The Grey Lodge. And Friday The Firkinteenth, for that matter. And of course, watching the Phillies win an other World Series. And maybe even (should I dare hope?) the Eagles winning a Super Bowl. Unless both of those teams are saved and swooped into the heavens too, of course.

I would include my family among the things I'll miss, but, frankly, if I make the cut and get whisked away in The Rapture, I fully expect to see almost all of them up there with me, or wherever that there place is. It could turn into one giant Salamido Family Reunion (my mom's big, loud Italian family, all of whom are priceless to me) for all eternity.

I better plan on grilling a LOT more chicken.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mirrors, Ladders, Umbrellas and Ale

I'm not the superstitious type. That's why I love when Friday the 13th rolls around every year, even when it occurs as much as three times in one year. But this year, it rolls in only once, and it rolls this week. That makes for an extra special FRIDAY THE FIRKINTEENTH at the Grey Lodge Pub in Northeast Philly.

The only beer festival dictated by the calendar, FTF is, to my mind, the greatest of all American beer festivals for the sheer simple democracy of it: arrive, wade through the amazingly friendly mob of cask ale lovers, order a beer from one of the seven or so firkins atop the bar, and savor some pure heaven in a glass. Beer as it was meant to be, fresh from a small keg, poured by gravity as its propellant, amid the cameraderie of old and new-found friends. And beer folk are the best new-found friends in the world.

There will be about 30 firkins of fresh, cask ale served throughout the day at the Grey Lodge, beginning at noon on the 13th. They will be served 7 at a time, and the sheer variety of them all is impressive. Here is the most up-to-date list of offerings, from the Grey Lodge's own website:

Cigar City Humidor IPA
Cricket Hill Reserve Series Brown
Dock Street TBA
Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA
Flying Fish Farmhouse
Fullers London Pride
Lancaster Milk Stout
Manayunk Brewerytown Brown Ale
Manayunk Hop Phanatic
Nodding Head Marauder
Philadelphia Brewing Fleur de Lehigh
Prism Bitto Honey
Sixpoint Modern Rye
Sly Fox 113 IPA
Sly Fox Chester County Bitter
Stoudts Pils
Stoudts Special Bourbon Barrel Aged Scarlet Lady ESB
Troegs Hopback Amber
Troegs Javahead Stout
Victory Headwaters Pale Ale
Wells Banana Bread
Wells Bombadier
Weyerbacher Verboten with Camomille Tea
Yards ESA

Feeling lucky? I'll see you there. Bring an umbrella. Or a ladder. Or a mirror. Oh, never mind.

Monday, May 2, 2011

To The Sea, To The Sea.

Is there really anything left to say about this? Probably, or why else would there be blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and all those news channels?

In a move that likely solidifies his presidency for four more years, Barack Obama gave the order to proceed with a cover of darkness raid on a compound in northwest Pakistan. And there, unthinkably brave Navy SEALs found their target, Osama Bin Laden, and shot him dead, and took the body with them. They verified through DNA analysis that the body was indeed the loathesome terrorist. And then, keeping with the precepts of Isalm with regard to burial of the dead within 24 hours of death, they dumped Bin Laden's corpse in an ocean. Thankfully, we know not where.

Just 24 hours earlier, Obama joined members of the Washington press corps and their guests for the annual Correspondents Dinner at the Washington Hilton. There he did 20 minutes of standup, skewering rivals, opponents and even his own Vice President. He also gamely laughed at jokes from Saturday Night Live's Seth Myers poking fun at him, Donald Trump, MSNBC, C-SPAN, and even Bin Laden. On that night, Saturday night, he already knew what plans were underway. He had, earlier that day, given the order to proceed with the Bin Laden operation. Now that is one, cool, calm President.

So much for all that talk branding Obama as weak on terror.

God Bless America.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


From my earliest days in the hotel business, I was made aware of the work that Philabundance does in feeding the hungry in the Philadelphia region (including New Jersey and Delaware), collecting leftover food from restaurants, hotels, colleges, universities and school districts and processing it into cooked meals for a network of over 500 shelters, soup kitchens and other charitable organizations that minster to the poor, homeless and hungry that live among us. Bill Clark and the staff of Philabundance are the closest thing we have to living saints in our midst, and over a million people are able to stave off hunger for another day because of their selfless efforts 365 days a year.

Back around the turn of the century (we can actually use that phrase these days, weird), 11 years ago this month actually, the sporadically active Dangerous Dining Club that I restarted in 2000 collectively decided to pass a basket after each of our monthly dinners and gatherings and donate what we collected to Philabundance. We gave $5000 that year to Philabundance, partly owing to a member's pharma company employer matching what we raised. With less frequent dinners and gatherings there have been smaller donations, but my heart still has a huge soft spot for the work and people of Philabundance.

Now comes word of Glenside. PA's Keswick Theatre and a much-needed fundraiser for Philabundance, during the theatre's run of Jesus Christ Superstar, April 14-23. God bless the good people of the Keswick.

To quote the Montgomery Newspapers' Glenside Times article on Monday:

Those interested in participating in the food drive can drop off non-perishable and non-glass goods during the show or in the lobby during regular business hours. The Keswick Theatre is located at 291 N. Keswick Ave., Glenside [PA]. [Suggestions include] canned foods like tuna, beef stew, chili, pasta, beef ravioli, peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, canned fruit cocktail, green beans, corn, and breakfast or hot cereal in plastic containers or boxes.

So, let's all do a good deed today. Use your blog, your Twitter, Facebook, About-Me and Tumblr accounts. Let's get the word out.

And bring some food over to the Keswick, too.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The First Day.

I have nothing to say. I am speechless.

Monday, March 21, 2011


My brackets are in ruins. All 9 of them. The Big East collapsed, claiming St. John's, Villanova, Notre Dame, Louisville, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Penn State, even Syracuse. The underdogs were not dogged enough. Temple showed spunk but just ran out of luck. Two of my Final Four selections are gone. Only Duke and BYU remain and may still not disappoint me.

And I was doing so well, too. After Saturday, I was in the 92nd percentile of the Bracket Challenge, by far the most populated bracket game, with well over 5 million participants. As of last night I am in the middle of the 47th percentile, some 3.019 million back in the pack. According to ESPN last night, no participant has a perfect score after 3 rounds, so at least all of this year's players have tasted some defeat.

Yeah, a saving grace. That's what I'm telling myself. But when you're this far back in the pack, the view stays the same. Yech.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Yup, it's that time of year again, and I have gone bracket crazy. At this moment I think I've filled out 9 brackets for the Men's 2011 version of March Madness, the world's best tournament.

And the prizes are bigger than ever, from smartphones to iPads and other tablets to 55" Samsung HDTVs to a cool million of those American dollars . Here's where you, too, can test your skill at bracketology:



The Sporting News

Yahoo Sports

AOL Sports/Fanhouse

Slack's Hoagie Shack

The Trentonian

P.C. Richard & Sons


This year, as you may have by now heard, it's 68 teams in the mix, and play begins tomorrow night (Tuesday), so get your picks in, pigeons!

I love this time of year.
How do you think you'll do?
Post your brackets, if you dare.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Rick Nichols Story (sort of)

On the eve of his final official column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, I offer this warm memory of his Inquirer Magazine column, and its incredible impact.

I was the Public Relations Director for The Bellevue at the time, and had spent a considerable amount of my efforts promoting the landmark's Downstairs at The Bellevue food court, which at the time had an incredible collection of food vendors producing some really terrific food. After a year of flashy newsletters, press releases, e-mail blasts and promotions of every stripe (elaborate sand sculptures in the summer, a soup naming competition, naked hoagies--don't ask--rush-hour takeout, and more), I heard from one of the vendors that Rick Nichols had been poking around and asking questions of almost everyone there, eatinge and taking food back to his office. For his part, Nichols was non-commital and cryptic in his e-mail responses to my queries. Then I heard that an Inquirer photographer was shooting dishes from various vendors downstairs, always a good sign. Nichols was still mum on what he would write about.

Then one Sunday I opened my Inquirer and there on the last page of the Inquirer Magazine was his article, a generous and glowing profile of almost all of the food vendors in the food court, complete with mouth-watering descriptions of pastas, hoagies, tortas and soups, even the deli sandwiches from Bain's.

The following day I was in my office at The Bellevue when property manager Andy Speizman poked his head into my doorway and asked me to help him out with some crowd control issue in the food court. It was 11:30 in the morning, and I wasn't thinking about lunch or even Nichols' article at the time. When we arrived in the lobby, Andy and I were greeted by a flood of humanity pouring into the main doors of the building and down the escalator and stairwell to the Food Court. Neither of us were aware of any large conventions in town at the time, and crowds of this size were very rare at The Bellevue. Then we noticed it. People clutching copies of the Inquirer Magazine.

I'll never doubt the influence of a popular--and compelling--food writer ever again. Thanks, Rick, you made my year, and great memory in my career.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Giant Shoes.......

Uploaded by Six Stair on March 10, 2009
© All rights reserved

Impossibly sad news via Michael Klein's INSIDER blog today that veteran food columnist Rick Nichols is leaving the Philadelphia Inquirer. According to Klein, Nichols will be teaching journalism at Penn, contributing occasional pieces to the Inky, and spending more time with his wife, Nancy.

Like the late beer writer Michael Jackson, Rick Nichols has always been able to find that one detail no one else notices and craft a point of view around it with brilliant, compelling writing. Truly compelling food writing is a dying art, and Rick is one of its finest practitioners. It is an understatement that he will be missed.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


(photo courtesy of the NFL)

With apologies to Lew Bryson, who selects a favorite beer from each of the breweries and brewpubs he visits for his beer travel books, Pennsylvania Breweries (now in its 4th edition!), New York Breweries, etc. , here is my take for this year's Bowl of Supe.

I like the swagger of the Green Bay Packers, who played all of their playoff games on the road, and did a convincing job in each one of them, even beating the Eagles. A Birds fan could take some comfort in the fact that they were shoved out of the playoffs by the eventual SB XLV champion.

And yet the Pittsburgh Steelers have the confident cool that perennial champions have. And they are just plain flat out tough, starting with the quarterback of questionable morals, right down to the Head & Shoulders Defensive Player of the Year.

But I think it's the Pack's year.

Cheeseheads by 6. Have a brat on me.