Posted by: lisetta | May 5, 2009

Circles

Last night, Carlo, Luca and I found ourselves at Standard Tap, a bar whose kitchen has once again been ranked by Philly Magazine as one of the top 50 in the city. Each time I eat there, I wonder how it is that the place gets such high acclaim. Nothing at all on the menu is noteworthy, and nothing but the french fries are executed well. The octopus is chewy yet slimy, the desserts are cloyingly sweet, the salads banal … there seems to be a frenzy in this town over mediocre bar food. I just don’t get it.

What I ate last night, a chicken pie, reminded me of a dish I used to make when I was a struggling grad student: chicken bundles. These require absolutely no cooking skills whatsoever to prepare: cook chicken, mix it up with some flavor, wrap it up into a bundle with some pre-made dough, and bake it. I used to flavor mine with onion, peas and Philadelphia cream cheese, wrapping it with Pillsbury crescent roll dough straight from the pop-open can. I served it to my first Italian boyfriend and he didn’t let me cook for months. LOL. Seriously. I was so offended at the time; had no idea why he wouldn’t eat what I thought was tasty and what was one of only a handful of ‘American’ dishes I knew how to cook. 

So there I found myself at Standard Tap, reaching full circle, facing an even duller version of what was long ago a favorite. Their bundle included chicken cooked down to a ropa vieja, all stringy and chewy, yet with none of the signature flavors of a Cuban favorite. Wrapped in puff pastry, the mound of chicken included nothing of interest in either texture nor flavor. Sigh. 

Though eating with a chef and a fellow foodie grants license to rant with no social consequence, I really saw no reason to. Eating Carlo’s french fries and teasing Luca were all I needed. It really wasn’t about the food. Whew! Big breakthrough here. 

Still, I think a mediocre bar menu any line cook could execute hardly merits a position in the top 50. Can’t help but wonder which political forces are swirling around Philly Mag’s choices …

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