Playing the blues; anticipated openings
Here is an excerpt of Craig LaBan's online chat:
Craig LaBan: I know summer is pretty much over when we take our annual end-of-August pilgrimage to Cape Cod to visit our good friend Jen. We packed a lot into one long weekend, including a visit to Arnold's Lobster and Clam Bar in Eastham for my ultimate lobster roll and onion ring lunch . . . . Even better was the chartered boat we took Sunday morning into Cape Cod Bay. The adventure provided some tough fishing but we did land enough bluefish for dinner. I created a marinade that worked like a charm - lots of chopped fresh oregano, the juice of three lemons, half-cup of olive oil, and a teaspoon of ground cumin - perfect for five big fillets. Bluefish fresh is a wonderful thing.
Reader: With a wave a openings coming soon from a bunch of heavy hitters in the industry (Little Nonna's, Pizzeria Vetri, Avance, and the Cuban concept from Garces), which are you anticiapting the most? I am very interested to see what Avance has going on as far as menu and decor.
C.L.: We've got a great fall ahead of us with these openings - all of which I'm looking forward to. I think you're right though - Avance, Justin Bogle's remake of the old Le Bec space, is probably the most intriguing, if only because it holds the most mystery. What can possibly work in this glam Walnut Street space? And follow the Le Bec tradition? With Bogle's noted avant-garde style, and the emergence of Serpico, we could finally be seeing a push with the modern cooking many Philadelphia foodies claim we're lacking.
Reader: Speaking of lobster rolls, I wonder if anyone in the area makes a good lobster pizza - Chickie & Pete's apparently advertises one - has anyone out there tried it? The shoreside restaurant in Maine I visited had the lobster tank along with the oven - no mistake about the freshness of the lobster used. Cheese was optional, and the green peppers & onions were an excellent match with the fresh lobster. It would be nice to see more of these pizzas in Philly (hint. . .)
C.L.: I agree with you that a lobster pizza sounds great - but I haven't seen one in town recently. This would be the season, though: lobster prices are supposedly lower than usual this year due to a glut. Cooking it right, though, will remain a challenge. Too many local chefs, unfortunately, just don't know how to do it. Nothing worse than rubbery, overcooked lobster.
Reader: Do you ever anticipate any restaurant concepts on the Grays Ferry end of Graduate Hospital? Love the bar/casual restaurant and pizza selection (Kermit's, Sidecar, Grace Tavern, Resurrection, Honey's), but it would be nice to have some other choices.
C.L.: That neighborhood has really grown quite a bit in the past year (Honey's and Kermit's are new; SoWe is a year old). I have heard that a big-name chef is aiming for a project around 25th and South in the new development there. Not sure if that's public, so I'll let my food news colleaugues report that when it's ready.
Reader: Your blues look great, but if you could have smoked them they would have been better.
C.L.: Agree in theory, but not enough time! Cooking at a friend's house, closest I could have gotten was cedar-planking them. But, when the blues are that fresh, I think it's a real treat not to obscure the flesh with too strong an added flavor. Smoking would be perfect by day 2 or 3!