LaBan chat: Brown bread and whiskey; define 'gastropub'


Here is an excerpt from Craig LaBan's online chat:

Craig LaBan: I hope you avoided drinking green beer during the St. Paddy's Day debauchery. If you were partying at a bar with a porta-potty parked outside, that wasn't a good sign. I celebrated with a snifter of Redbreast and my annual brown-bread bake-day - thanks to this Ballymaloe recipe I got from Simon Pearce many years ago. (Find recipe here.)

Reader: Enjoyed your article about Anne Willan and her husband who have a large cookbook collection. I have about 1,000 down from 1,500, my wife issued an ultimatum to downsize. Anyone in the area you know of with a large collection? How many?

C.L.: I haven't counted my collection, though it's certainly in the several hundreds. As long as I use them, I'm reluctant to get rid of any - and yet, I have many more than I need. This is especially true given that so many people look to the Internet for a recipe instead of browsing their library . . . . A collection like Willan's antiquarian books - about 200 ranging from late 1400s to the early 1800s - holds real value for an academic library. Most of the books in all our personal libraries, though, are not of much value to the rest of the world, My best advice: garage-sale special. Your neighbors, at least, will love you!

Reader: Read the Stateside review and while the menu looks awesome do you really think it fits the "gastropub?" When I think of a the great gastropubs here I think of elevated pub classics (i.e. Khyber Pass, North 3rd, Standard Tap, etc.) Do you think small plates is a little outside the box - and will that concept take off in the East Passyunk location?

C.L.: Good question that I think I began to discuss in the review, and it remains to be answered, I think, by the people. Does a gastropub have to be a beer-centric restaurant? Or just a bar-focused restaurant? The food format can really range . . . . I don't think it has to offer only tweaks to the known bar canon (burgers, wings, etc.) We're at a point where I think the modern taprooms of Philly are beginning to redefine what neighborhood dining is about in this town - and with Stateside's serious drink program and labor-intensive seasonal small plates, I think it's one of the ones to watch.

Reader: The food format can really range . . . . I don't think it has to offer only "tweaks to the known bar canon" - I agree with this totally and it is nice to see something different in the gastro scene that has started to become a little over saturated. However in a area like East Passyunk I think you miss out on a lot of your target audience by serving small plates as the majority of the menu. I think a lot of the young professionals that will frequent Stateside are looking for a sandwich and beer on a nice weeknight at a neighborhood joint - and save the small plates for their weekend restaurant visits more toward Center City.

C.L.: I'm not so sure, in part because I think it is the younger audience that has grown most accustomed to the small-plate vibe. They can do as much or as little as they desire (a concept not unlike's, I might add, though with a bit different vibe - pickles, charcuterie, etc.) I personally think E'Punk has plenty of sandwich places, so I applaud Stateside for trying to do something different, and perhaps a little more ambitious. Fond fits that category, too, of course.

Reader: Stateside is full nightly. You can keep your burgers and wings.

C.L.: I think that was pretty evident during my visits, too - Stateside has found its audience. That diversity of choices, though, is what marks East Passyunk as an avenue that has arrived.

Reader: I was surprised to see Delilah's (not the Den but the soul food stands at the RTM and 30th St.) closing given the huge following she had including Oprah (and no I'm not calling Oprah huge).

C.L.: Me, too . . . Michael Klein reported on this. Bankruptcy proceedings are mentioned, but there is probably more to this story . . . .