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.