Archive for December, 2012

December 20, 2012

Tinto & Jim’s in Philly


We enjoyed a relaxing last-minute overnight in Philadelphia last weekend. I love living in Bucks County, PA. We live less than an hour from Center City Philly and less than 90 minutes from NYC. Fantastic! In need of a little getaway, we stayed at the Hotel Sofitel on 17th Street. The Sofitel is always a pleasure. Great service, friendly staff and the rooms are really nice. The room was a bargain at $156 for the night. The best rate we could find in New York for the same night in a comparable hotel was over $300. The Sofitel is located in Rittenhouse Square, so you can walk to lots of shops and restaurants.

Saturday night dinner at Tinto, a Chef Jose Garces restaurant, was excellent. This is our favorite kind of eating, small plates. I’d always prefer to eat a little bit of everything, rather than just one entrée.  Tinto’s menu offers delicious Spanish cuisine from the Basque Country. We shared at least 8 dishes (I lost count), heavy on the meat. Alan couldn’t resist ordering the Jambón Imbérico. This is the fancy ham… kind of like a Spanish version of prosciutto. We were told by our server that the pigs are fed a diet of acorns and the meat is cured for more than 2 years. The market price for Imbérico was $35.00. It was our splurge and well worth it.

We also ordered the mixed cheese plate that included two of my favorites, Petit Basque and Manchego. There was a decadent rice dish with white asparagus and manchego, lamb skewers with bacon and sherry, a canapé of duck confit with serrano ham and cherry, and the two small plates below. It might seem like a lot of food, but it was perfect. I loved tasting all the flavors, like a trip through Spain.

Albóndigos served with a poached egg…

Tinto's Albondigas

My favorite of the night, a canapé with berkshire pork belly, honey lacquer and shaved apples…

Tinto's Pork Belly Canape


Chef Garces owns several well-regarded restaurants around Philly. Next door to Tinto is Village Whiskey, also owned by Garces. We were told they have the best burger in town. We’ll have to try that next time.


What would a trip to Philly be without a cheese steak? Sunday lunch at Jim’s Steaks on South Street was in order. After trying most of the well-known cheese steak joints in the city, we’ve decided Jim’s is our favorite. People from the Philadelphia area take their cheese steaks very seriously. If someone has a different opinion, I’d love to hear it. We were trying to figure out why the cheese steaks in Philly are so much better than anywhere else in the country. Alan has even had one at a place in Los Angeles that is owned by a guy from Philadelphia, but they’re just not the same. If you know the secret, please share.


It warrants mentioning that in my humble opinion a proper Philly cheese steak should have “whiz,” not provolone or American cheese, and fried onions. That’s it!


December 4, 2012

Lentils with Veggies & Spanish Chorizo



I’ve read somewhere that we can retrain ourselves to eat healthier, resulting in cravings for more good for you treats rather than junk. Not sure if it’s true, but I can tell you over the last couple of years we’ve made a concerted effort to reduce the amount of pasta, white flour and sugar we eat in this house. I’ve even tried, when possible, to cut out white rice and white potatoes. I say when possible because honestly, there are times when dinner screams for roasted potatoes, and a little basmati rice never killed anyone, right? Now I find myself craving things like butternut squash, lentils, beans and oddly enough, eggplant.

This lentil dish fulfills one of my healthy cravings. Lentils and spinach, two super foods! Obviously, the chorizo adds a bit of sin and fat, but it packs serious flavor. You can certainly make these lentils without it, which I have, and they’re equally delicious. This also makes a perfect side dish. If you want to use chorizo, I recommend the brand above. For my Bucks County locals, you can find it at Jamie Hollander Gourmet Foods in New Hope, PA or None Such Farms in Buckingham, PA. If you can’t find sherry vinegar, you can substitute red wine vinegar.


  • 2 cups green lentils
  • 4 cloves garlic, divided (2 smashed and 2 minced)
  • 1 large onion, divided (1 quarter left whole, remaining 3/4 diced)
  • 2 stalks celery, divided (1 whole, 1 small dice)
  • 3 carrots, divided (1/2 left whole, 2 1/2 small dice)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Fresh thyme sprigs (about 10 single sprigs, divided, remove leaves from half)
  • Small drizzle of olive oil
  • 8oz smoked Spanish chorizo, diced
  • 1 – 14oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 7oz baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 tsp hot paprika
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

* Leaving the vegetables whole in the pot with the lentils will make it easy to remove them when they are finished cooking.

* The vegetables should be diced in similar size pieces for even cooking.

Rinse the lentils and pick through. In a medium (4qt) saucepan place the lentils, 2 smashed garlic cloves, 1/4 onion, 1 stalk of celery, 1/2 carrot, bay leaf, a few whole sprigs fresh thyme. Fill the pot halfway with water, ensuring the vegetables are completely covered. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for about 20-30 minutes until lentils are tender but still a little firm. Taste them halfway through to make sure, you don’t want to over cook them. Drain the lentils through a mesh strainer, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Pick out the vegetables, bay leaf, garlic cloves and thyme sprigs. Set the lentils aside.

Heat a large (5-6 qt) sauté pan on medium-high and add a little olive oil and the diced chorizo. Saute the chorizo until it begins to render its color, about 2 minutes. Remove chorizo from the pan using a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate, set aside.

Discard all but 1 tbsp of fat remaining in the pan. Set pan to medium heat and add the diced carrot, celery, onion and minced garlic, season with salt and pepper and sauté until they become tender. Add the tomatoes, spices, thyme leaves, cooked lentils and chorizo back into the pan. Pour in the vinegar and 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking liquid, combine and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add additional cooking liquid as needed. You want the lentils to be slightly saucy.  Stir in the fresh spinach. You may need to add it in batches as it wilts. Taste one more time for reseasoning and serve.

Enjoy with some rustic bread and cheese. We love it with manchego or even brie.

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