Aldine

We were on our way to our annual beach trip in Margate and had some time in Philadelphia in between our Amtrak and NJ Transit trains. That meant that there was no better time to check out a new-to-us restaurant. We made the 0.5 mile walk from 30th Street Station to Aldine, located just outside of Rittenhouse Square in Center City.

Aldine, from owners George and Jennifer Sabatino, is creatively wedged into a second floor space between two storefronts. The front door leads to a staircase that takes you practically straight up into the restaurant. Inside, the space is airy, full of dark wood and surrounded by windows on almost all sides. From our perch, we were able to look out onto the bustling street life below.

Aldine restaurant interior in Philadelphia

When we first entered the restaurant, we noticed a plaque hanging outside the door. The plaque was from Philadelphia Magazine and it was the award for “Best Non-Vegetable Restaurant for Vegetarians”. I don’t know if we have eaten at enough Philadelphia-area restaurants to have an opinion on this, but I feel comfortable saying that Aldine is a good spot for vegetarians and pescetarians.

The restaurant was empty when we arrived, possibly a result of it being a summer Friday. In spite of the calm, Marnay and I got the party started with glass of Spanish rose and a truly interesting housemade cream soda. The sweet but not too sweet soda had vanilla beans floating on top and the server instructed me to stir them for maximum flavor.

Aldine Spanish rose and a truly interesting housemade cream soda

Aldine is a small plates restaurant and we want to thank them for flawlessly coursing out our meal without us having to say a word. The pace of the meal felt more fine-dining than small plates. There were two plates that we were most excited about ordering: the poached shrimp crudo and the corn custard. Neither disappointed. The custard was savory in the sense that there were no added sugars, but the fresh corn gave plenty of natural sweetness. The dish is topped off with crunchy hazelnuts and tart pickled corn kernels and pickled mushrooms. The shrimp crudo, made with chilled poached shrimp, sat on top of a crisp bed of fennel salad and aioli and then was topped with everything spice, the spice of the moment right now.

apps

The braised purple cabbage with black-garlic glaze was an example of how Aldine can make vegetables the star of a dish and was as good as any dish at Vedge. The thick slices of cabbage were layered in a broth that tasted like soy, mirin, sugar, plus a few other ingredients.

cabbage

We rounded everything out with a culotte steak. The steak came with grilled peaches, cucumbers and black garlic chips, and really, the non-steak components were the best parts of the dish. The steak was fine, just a little chewy. We are not against ordering steak at restaurants, but often times steak feels like a throwaway item that restaurants put on a menu, intended for less-adventurous diners. For more on this, I recommend this article from former Washingtonian food critic Todd Kliman on how to read a menu like a food critic.

That being said, you really can’t go wrong with anything that Aldine serves.

meat

Best Bite
Paul: Corn Custard
Marnay: Shrimp Crudo

Address
Aldine: 1901 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19103

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5 Must Have Summer Cocktails in the Meyer Household

When summer comes around, we can’t help looking forward to sipping cocktails on our balcony. And when we think of cocktails, one word comes to mind: “Spritz”. Sure, we occasionally drink spritzes during the winter, but to us no drink feels more summery than the spritz. (As a side note, no cocktail book has been more influential than Spritz by Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau. I highly recommend this book as I am deeply indebted to it).

We’ve listed five essential cocktails for summer in our household. Not all of them are spritzes, but many of them are light cocktails that are low in alcohol. I love whiskey, but when it’s 90 degrees outside I really do not want a Manhattan. We have also included places in the DC area where we have had the drink or where we know it’s served. What are your essential summer cocktails? Let us know!

1. Venetian Spritz
The Venetian spritz is a spritz in its most classic form. It’s three parts prosecco, two parts bitter liquor and one part soda water. For the bitter liquor, the most popular and the sweetest is Aperol. However, our favorite is Select, an aperitvo that is very popular in Venice but which was just imported to the U.S. The only place we were able to find a bottle was Manhattan, actually. Feel free to use whichever bitter liquors you like.

Venetian Spritz cocktail

Ingredients:
3 oz. Prosecco
2 oz. Aperol, Select, Cappelletti, or Campari, or other bitter liquor
1 oz. soda water

Where to find it:
On the list at Acqua Al 2, 212 7th Street, SE Washington, DC 20003

2. Little Grey Lady
The Little Grey Lady cocktail features one of my favorite spirits, Cocchi Americano, an Italian fortified wine. This cocktail is on the sweeter side, although with a touch of bitterness from the Cocchi Americano. I found this cocktail in Wine Enthusiast magazine. Cocchi Americano is my favorite aperitivo, as it has a base of wine, some light sweetness and then it’s flavored with gentian root for bitterness. The powerhouse of this cocktail is the elderflower liquor.

Little Grey Lady cocktail

Ingredients:
¾ oz. gin
¾ oz. cocchi Americano
¾ oz. elderflower liquor
¾ oz. lemon juice
1 dash bitters

3. Rome with a View
Of all our of summer cocktails, this one looks the most like summer with it’s bright red color. While it contains Campari, the most bitter of the Italian bitter liquors, that robust bitterness is necessary to stand up to the tartness of the lime juice. It’s that combination of bitter and tart that makes this drink work.

Rome with a View cocktail

Ingredients:
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. dry vermouth
1 oz. lime juice
¾ oz. simple syrup
Soda water to top

4. The Rib Tickler
Close behind in the “looks like summer” category is the yellow-hued Rib Tickler. The rib tickler gets its color from Suze, a French bitter liquor made with gentian. To offset that bitterness, we bring sweet elderflower liquor in the mix, an essential ingredient in the Meyer household.

The Rib Tickler

Ingredients:
2 oz. dry vermouth
¼ oz. Suze
½ oz. elderflower liquor
¼ oz. lemon juice
½ oz simple syrup
Soda water to top

Where to find it:
This drink is very similar a white negroni, on the list at Dino’s Grotto, 1914 9th Street, NW Washington, DC 20001

5. The Last Word
The last cocktail on our list is aptly The Last Word, a great cocktail any time of year but particularly refreshing during summer. The Last Word is a classic pre-Prohibition cocktail, although the first time we had it was at The Gin Joint in Charleston, SC during our Charleston trip. We have been hooked ever since the first sip and we have turned many of our friends onto this drink.

The Last Word cocktail

Ingredients:
1 oz. gin
1 oz. lime juice
1 oz. maraschino liquor
1 oz. Green Chartreuse

Where to find it:
It’s not on the list, but we have had a good version at Whaley’s, 301 Water Street, SE Washington, DC 20003

Keep in mind that these are not the “five essential cocktails for summer”; they are the five essential cocktails in the Meyer household. Your experiences may differ. What drink would you add to this list?

Sally’s Middle Name

Many restaurants in Philadelphia have a “neighborhood” vibe – relaxed, intimate, unpretentious—possibly because of the low rents and less demand for older housing stock which can be used to create smaller restaurants. We are always on the lookout for restaurants with this vibe in DC, and were pleasantly surprised when we found Sally’s Middle Name.

Sally’s Middle Name restaurant

The restaurant has two levels: downstairs is decorated with white subway tiles and was bustling with the din of diners when we arrived. Upstairs, where we sat, was calmer and felt more like someone’s home. In fact, it is so much like a person’s home the upstairs bathroom even has a shower. The entire menu, including drinks and dessert, is written on a full-size chalk board on the wall. While I think this approach is cute, it is frustrating to have to keep getting up to check the board. We took a picture with our phones, but everyone may not recognize that as an option.

Sally’s Middle Name cocktails and menu chalk board

Sally’s Middle Name is a small plates restaurant. We have noticed that servers at small plates restaurants tend to recommend an absurd amount of food—a suggestion of three to four dishes per person is not uncommon. It was a breath of fresh air, then, when our server at Sally’s Middle Name recommended 3 to 4 dishes total, meant to be shared. That immediately endeared us to the place.

We ordered four dishes, and we ordered them all at the same time: the housemade bread and butter, the cucumber salad, the braised collard greens with Szechuan pork and the seared scallops. The result was that all four dishes came out at the same time. Not a good look, in my opinion. I would have been much more annoyed, though, if our server demanded that we order four dishes per person and then eight dishes came out at the same time. If that were the case, we would have needed to steal a neighboring table.

Sally’s Middle Name housemade bread and butter, the cucumber salad, the braised collard greens with Szechuan pork and the seared scallops

Anyway, the housemade white and wheat breads were delicious and a great start to the meal. They were even better with creamy housemade butter, although the white bread would have been fine on its own. For our remaining three dishes, we mixed and matched bites, not eating the dishes in any particular order. The collards appropriately got top billing, as this was a collard dish and not a pork dish—not that we minded. It was a play on traditional Southern collard greens, cooked with spicy Szechuan pork instead of a more traditional ham hock. We first got a major hit of ginger and then the lingering spice of Szechuan peppercorns.

Both of us were big fans of the buttery seared scallops served with a sauce of fermented turnips, lightly smeared on plate. The scallops were then topped with pea shoots, a nice taste of early summer. The cucumber salad, on the other hand, could have used some salt, even with a dressing of fermented carrots.

All of the portions at Sally’s Middle Name were reasonable in size, so we had room for dessert. We got an impressive Olive Oil cake with strawberry jam. The jam and the olive oil cake, which actually tasted like olive oil, were a perfect match.

Sally's Middle Name Olive Oil cake with strawberry jam

Based on atmosphere alone, we would go back to Sally’s Middle Name. We loved the lack of pretense, and oh yeah, the food wasn’t bad either.

Best Bite
Paul: Olive Oil Cake
Marnay: Scallops

Address
Sally’s Middle Name: 1320 H Street NE Washington, DC 20002
Clsoest metro: Union Station to H Street Streetcar