To everyone in Northeast Philly/Eastern Montgomery County who has suffered through years of mediocre Jewish deli food - cold, stuck-together sliced corned beef, greasy latkes, and matzo ball soup so salty, it tastes as if Lot's wife had bathed in it - you have to try Schmooze in Jenkintown.
First off, its contemporary, vaguely industrial motif looks nothing like the glaring-lit, drop-ceiling delis of yore, including Murray's, its predecessor in the shopping center on the Fairway next to the Whole Foods.
Second, it's clear that care is taken in the food from chef Mark Harris, who like his business partner Jeff Kalinsky, is a veteran of Betty the Caterer. (Betty is kosher; Schmooze is not.) They also sell Junior's Cheesecake.
Besides the signature matzo ball soup, try the open-faced Reuben "sliders" of corned beef, pastrami and turkey, where potato pancakes serve as the bread.
Schmooze, 1595 The Fairway, Jenkintown, 215-885-2600.
Side notes: Brown Betty Dessert Boutique (locations in Liberty Place and Northern Liberties) are now carrying Taharka Bros. Ice Cream, the vaunted Baltimore creamery. (I dunno. In terms of hometown faves, Philly's Bassetts does it for me.) ... Today's chuckle is a drink called the Hot Sicilian Widow (aged rum, amaro Averna, honey, falernum and boiling water); it's mixed and served by Phoebe Esmon and Christian Gaal at Emmanuelle at the Piazza at Schmidt's in Northern Liberties.
Romantic BYOBs: Valentine's Day has passed, so we can't talk about romance anymore? I think not. White tablecloths and original artwork from owner Felice Saldutti set a peaceful vibe at da Ludovica, a sweet 30-seater in an ever-changing restaurant location on Limekiln Pike off Mount Carmel Avenue in Glenside. Chef Chris Molitor (ex-Trinacria) is proudest of his caramelle (savory ravioli that look like wrapped candies) as an app; he hits the basics in his six entrees (chicken, chicken for $16, veal, veal for $19, filet for $32, branzino for $26. It's cash only.
Da Ludovica, 15 Limekiln Pike, Glenside, 215-886-1715. Dinner only.
Folks in the exurbs need to eat well, and the Bucks County burg of Perkasie has much to recommend. Maize, a BYOB on Walnut Street, is a mom-and-pop from Matthew and Janice McPhelin. He's the chef who spent time downtown at Lacroix at the Rittenhouse fand on the Main Line at Savona. Aside from a la carte, the $30, three-course tasting menu offered Tuesday to Thursday and the $50, five-course tasting menus offered Tuesday to Saturday are great values. Expect a leisurely pace.
Maize, 519 W. Walnut St.., Perkasie, 215-257-2264. Dinner, Tuesday-Saturday.