Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 10:25 AM

While attending the University of Pennsylvania, Stephanie Chan lived on campus.

Now a lawyer and married, she has come back to campus with her husband, Penn alum Edmund Lee, by opening Carina Tea & Waffles, inside the International House (3701 Chestnut St., 215-895-6551).

"We love Philly and want to bring in tea culture," said Chan, who grew up in England and Hong Kong and worked in Brussels, where the Liege waffle bug bit.

POSTED: Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 9:00 AM
In the kitchen-slash-dining room at Volver are (from left) chef de cuisine Natalie Maronski, chef Jose Garces and designer Marguerite Rodgers. (MICHAEL KLEIN / Philly.com)

Given the triple-digit price tags and the anticipation, the menu at Jose Garces' Volver has to be a Big Deal.

And now, hours before the restaurant's opening night at the Kimmel Center, we can get a look at our town's priciest restaurant.  

Volvér - where Garces himself will cook with a kitchen team under chef de cuisine Natalie Maronski - offers two ticketed-only tasting-menu experiences: "pre-theater" ($75 a head, plus wine, tax and tip, served at 5 and 5:30 p.m.) and "performance" ($175 a head, plus wine, tax and tip, at 7:30, 8 and 8:30 p.m.).

POSTED: Monday, April 14, 2014, 10:21 AM

Monday, April 14 is the launch date of The Treemont - the bilevel bistro in the Aria Condos (231 S. 15th St., 267-687-2237) from chef Chip Roman (Blackfish, Mica, Ela, Tradestone Cafe and Tradestone Confections).

Roman and business partner Victor Fellus revamped Fellus' short-lived Tietra, moving the staircase from the storefront's southern wall to its northern wall. This created better seating on the first floor, which is dominated by a bar at the entrance. The mezzanine level has been pumped up with better lighting, cool subway tiles and a bar-topped railing that allows patrons to watch the action below; the overall effect is like the Plough & the Stars.

The food, executed by chef de cuisine Rob Sidor, is reminiscent of the seafood-centric, modern American style of Blackfish and Mica but as Roman calls it "price-conscious."

POSTED: Friday, April 11, 2014, 11:07 AM
Alex Guarnaschelli with her "America's Best Cook" foursome (from left): Myles Powell, Hannah Gruber, Christina Verrelli and Brenda Jackson. (FOOD NETWORK)

Christina Verrelli, the Devon substitute teacher and food blogger who won $1 million in the Pillsbury Bake-Off in 2012, goes national once more.

She is one of 16 home cooks competing in Food Network's new six-week competition series, America's Best Cook, premiering at 9 p.m. Sunday, April 13. Top prize is 50 grand.

The cooks - who are expected to turn out restaurant-quality grub - are divided geographically into teams of four mentored by Cat Cora (South), Tyler Florence (West), Alex Guarnaschelli (East) and Michael Symon (North), and must face the requisite elimination challenges. Ted Allen hosts.

POSTED: Friday, April 11, 2014, 1:48 AM
Bar Volver at the Kimmel Center. The wall-sized tapestry at rear was created by Conrad Booker. (MICHAEL KLEIN / Philly.com)

Much is being made about Jose Garces' go-for-broke dining experience that will be Volver, which opens April 16* at the Kimmel Center.

While patrons must buy tickets for their Volver experience, there's a drop-in alternative next door: Bar Volver, the comfy champagne and caviar lounge, which opened Wednesday night. It's not a dinner spot, by any means. Nor is it necessarily a cheap date.

The menu, presented here, is studded with an oyster platter, tartares, brochettes, cheese plates, charcuterie, three kinds of caviar (served with brioche toast, crème fraîche, chives and chopped egg), and petits fours to wrap it up.

POSTED: Friday, April 11, 2014, 12:44 AM
Chefs Michael Solomonov (left) and Kevin Sbraga at the 2013 Taste of the Nation. (MICHAEL KLEIN / Philly.com)

"There are plenty of chefs that may have earned a bit of local renown, either by talent, a good publicist, or some combination of the two," writes Dan Myers, an editor of The Daily Meal.

"But I think there’s a good rule of thumb in here: if you feel the need to call yourself a celebrity chef, you aren’t one."

Myers seems both bemused and amused with the practice.

POSTED: Thursday, April 10, 2014, 2:36 PM
Union Trust (Michael Klein/Philly.com)

Union Trust - the white-elephant steakhouse that filed for bankruptcy two years after its 2009 opening and later foreclosed - will become a catering venue.

Finley Catering Co. last week signed a lease for the building at 715-717 Chestnut St., which for many years was Kellmer Jewelers.

Finley now books the Crystal Tea Room near City Hall, the nearby Ballroom at the Ben, and the Clothier Room in Wynnewood.

POSTED: Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 10:56 AM
New bar at what will become Avalon, 116 E. Gay St., West Chester.

To co-opt a hoary West Chester one-liner, you might say that restaurateur John Brandt-Lee is going out High and coming in Gay.

Brandt-Lee is closing his Avalon BYOB at 312 S. High St. in the borough, as he takes over what he is currently operating as Nonna's, a few blocks away at 116 E. Gay St.

Avalon's new location will have a full bar, twice as many seats, sidewalk dining and live music on weekends. Plans call for a mozzarella/antipasti bar and wood-burning pizza to be added soon.

About this blog
Michael Klein, the editor/producer of philly.com/Food, writes about the local restaurant scene in his Inquirer column "Table Talk." Have a question? Email it! See his Inquirer work here. Reach Michael at mklein@philly.com.

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