Thursday, July 30, 2015

Craig LaBan

Email claban@phillynews.com   Follow on Twitter

I joined the Inquirer as its restaurant critic in 1998, after a stint covering the food beat for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans. Having eaten about 500 restaurant meals a year here ever since, I never cease to be amazed by the diversity and sophistication of Philadelphia's kitchens. To travel from its many authentic ethnic neighborhoods to the gastronomic temples of Walnut Street to its beery gastropubs, cozy BYOBs and multitude of greasy-but-great steak joints, is to know this town delivers satisfaction at every level of the food chain. Including online dish.

Live chat: Join Craig at 2 p.m. on Tuesdays in the chatroom.

Book: The Philadelphia Inquirer Restaurant Guide is available through our online store.

4 Bells: According to Craig, the best restaurants in the Philadelphia area.

 
There is something magical about a cauldron of bubbling broth when it's brought to the table. Heads turn in the dining room to gawk. Crowds of friends huddle around its aromatic warmth. Platters of pristine raw ingredients arrive beside the flame, piled majestically high like offerings to the hot pot gods. And the pace of dinner slows to a leisure
'Culinary cocktail" has become one of those dubious catchphrases, often bandied about despite shaky proof that a "bar chef" actually did much cooking. Squeezing their own limes or paddling ice cubes with a thyme sprig doesn't count.
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