Saturday, December 27, 2014

LaBan's 2012 food adventures

Inquirer critic Craig LaBan enjoyed food-related travels in 2012, venturing to such spots as Belgium to watch the brewing of a special beer, to New York's Outer Boroughs for a look at ethnic dining, and closer to home, to the Pine Barrens, for soulful Mexican cuisine.

LaBan's 2012 food adventures

Inquirer critic Craig LaBan enjoyed food-related travels in 2012, venturing to such spots as  Belgium to watch the brewing of a special beer, to New York's Outer Boroughs for a look at ethnic dining, and closer to home, to the Pine Barrens, for soulful Mexican cuisine.

Here's a look back:

Long touted as "the blueberry capital of the world," Hammonton is rapidly gaining another distinction: taco capital of South Jersey. With no fewer than half a dozen restaurants and trucks, the town has become a destination for those craving everything from soul-food menudo stew to crispy tostadas de tinga or unapologetic Tex-Mex.

Blueberries to tacos: South Jersey town's shift de cuisine

More coverage
 
Craig LaBan's Year in Bells, 2012
 
The 2013 Philly restaurant forecast

Quaint Hammonton, N.J., is brimming with the flavors and sounds of Mexico

 

 

 

In August, LaBan published a two-parter on New York - but not Manhattan. Brooklyn and Queens have their own charms. The Brooklyn buzz - built over the last decade on affordable real estate and a youth culture obsessed with local ingredients, fedora-topped hipster-chic, and DIY foodcraft - has reached a crescendo that's impossible to ignore. And while Queens' touristic charms are not immediately obvious, the food scene is most cosmopolitan.

A Brooklyn Buffet

Cosmopolitan Queens

 

 

 

LaBan's family visit to Hershey, Pa., included craft beer, artisanal charcuterie, and genuine country cooking. But no chocolate! "Never would I have guessed such a thing possible from our last visit eight years ago, when we found little more than a soulless gallery of national chains," he wrote in November. He saved a rave for Tröegs' beer hall, where at least 15 house-brews are on draft and the "Snack Bar" run by chef Christian DeLutis goes well beyond the usual brewpub nibbles.

More than chocolate in Hershey, Pa.

 

 

 

 

A rite of summertime is LaBan's Shore restaurant round-up. This year, his two-parter explored the restaurants at the new Revel in Atlantic City. "After visiting ... Revel's restaurants, several of them did, indeed, deliver on their promise, adding stellar flavors, unparalleled views and unique concepts to the A.C. dining scene. But there were also a few expensive meals I wish I could have back." He ventured elsewhere for another article.

Jersey Shore dining: The Revel in Atlantic City

Jersey Shore dining: The rest of the Shore

 

 

 

 

LaBan assembles major beer heads to judge the annual Inquirer Brew-vitational, a local beer competition set to grapple with some of the most important questions of our time: What are the greatest beers made in the Philadelphia region today? Who would take home the title of the region’s most exciting "new" beer? Who would be crowned this year’s "Philly Classic"? The third annual Brew-vitational was held in the Inquirer's photo studio.

The 2012 Inquirer Brew-vitational: The top local beers 

 

 

 

 

If it's brews-day, it must be Belgium. LaBan ventured to Belgium in February with a contingent of brewers and bar owners representing Philly Beer Week to watch as Brasserie Dupont created a special brew that was poured over the summer at Beer Week. It was the first collaboration in the brewery's 166-year history. And while LaBan was there, he did indeed get his chocolate fix.

Drinking up the best of Belgium with the Philly Beer Week crew

Blogging Belgium

Chocolate central: Belgium

About this blog

Craig LaBan 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," he says.

"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."

This chat is intended to delve into the finer points of the local restaurant scene, from what’s new and exciting, to digressions on everything from dim-sum to date restaurants.

We will also review highlights from my previous week’s menu with the Crumb Tracker Quiz. Please, let’s not get bogged down in concierge-like - “Where should I take my girlfriend for dinner this weekend?” - queries.

Feel free to share your own dining experiences, but no anonymous bashing. If you have something critical to say, you must sign the comment with your own name. I do!

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