Saturday, February 28, 2015

Craig LaBan

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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.

A fresh Princeton breeze wafted through the open patio doors into the bleached-wood rafters of Mistral's airy dining room on Witherspoon Street. As I spooned through the exquisite little dishes before me - a silky chawanmushi "chowder" custard scattered with tender razor clams and crunchy potatoes, and a smoked garganelli pasta dotted with hazelnuts and vivid egg yolks - my mind could not help drifting back in time.
Video: Mistral
Gallery: Mistral
Authentic Indian flavors and fusion at Indeblue
Any trace of terroir - flavor that reflects an origin of place - is invisible in many current wines, whose big fruit and commercial-friendly consistency is closer to Juicy Juice than something created by the vagaries of climate, the wisdom of tradition, and a winemaker's knowing hand.

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