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Preview: Inquirer Columnist - Craig LaBan

Dining Critic Craig LaBan

The Inquirer's Dining Critic

Published: Tue, 06 Dec 2016 19:43:13 GMT2016-12-06T19:43:13Z

Copyright: Philadelphia Media Network

Vegan-delphia: The city's growing meat-free scene

Tue, 06 Dec 2016 19:43:13 GMT2016-12-06T19:43:13Z

What a difference a decade makes. Ten years ago this week, Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby were still relatively unknown niche players in the wider Philadelphia dining scene when they moved Horizons Cafe, a vegan destination known for grilled seitan "wings" in a far-flung suburban strip mall, to an ambitious new location in Center City. The word vegan - and its animal-free promise of Vegenaise and copious fake meats - still struck fear in the hearts of many mainstream diners.

Craig LaBan's favorite gastropubs and beer bars

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 16:23:18 GMT2016-12-05T16:23:18Z

Here are 7 exceptional examples of Philadelphia-area pubs, excerpted from Craig LaBan’s Ultimate Dining guide.

A stunning sweet wine from the Canary Islands

Sun, 04 Dec 2016 14:14:32 GMT2016-12-04T14:14:32Z

The wines of the Canary Islands were once very big in Philadelphia, say, about 240 years ago, when ships docked from Tenerife and the Founders toasted their independence, according to some reports, with glasses of "Canary Madeira." Well, a new w

Biga brings pizza, beer, and more to Bryn Mawr

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:03:38 GMT2016-12-02T17:03:38Z

The best part of our pizza revolution has, of course, been the sudden riches of more great pizza than any one person really needs. No matter where you live, close proximity to a heat-blistered pie pulled fresh from a wood-fired oven is now your right as a Philadelphian, not a privilege.

Bolognese named for a missing ingredient

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 17:16:33 GMT2016-12-01T17:16:33Z

No 'Nduja required for spiciness The suddenly (and literally) hot Calabrian salume known as 'Nduja is one of the most unlikely product trends I'm happy to see take off this year. Aside from the fact that its spelling confounds easy pronunciation (say: &qu

Craig LaBan's favorite New American restaurants

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 11:32:13 GMT2016-11-29T11:32:13Z

Here are five exceptional examples of recommended restaurants, excerpted from Craig LaBan’s Ultimate Dining guide.

Lou Bird's: Eclectic menu, good ideas - too many flaws

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 04:43:27 GMT2016-11-28T04:43:27Z

Free will and good cooking should, in theory, allow any restaurant space to be reborn with a fresh personality under new operators without regard to the places that came before it. But there is something about the crossroads at 20th and Lombard Streets that suggests the character of its occupants is baked into the sidewalk.

Craig LaBan's favorite Philadelphia classic foods

Fri, 25 Nov 2016 04:24:51 GMT2016-11-25T04:24:51Z

Our passion for cheesesteaks, pork sandwiches, and other local delicacies is fueled by fierce neighborhood loyalties and spoken with a local dialect that always seems most pronounced when it’s time to eat.

Perla: A chef capturing the spirit of his Filipino immigrant mom's cooking

Fri, 25 Nov 2016 04:24:09 GMT2016-11-25T04:24:09Z

A mother's touch at the stove can be impossible to recapture. And for Lou Boquila, who lost his mom, Perla Boquila, five years ago, the initial efforts were discouraging.

A smoked fish chowder to fight the chill

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 07:40:58 GMT2016-11-23T07:40:58Z

When a chilly November gust swept down Lombard Street last weekend, it finally became chowder weather at Pub & Kitchen. That, and the unexpected delivery of more-than-expected pollack and parsnips. It's a good t

Craig LaBan tastes Beet booze: He likes it!

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 07:35:17 GMT2016-11-23T07:35:17Z

Just distilled beets I dipped my nose into a snifter of B, got an earthy blast of salad bar aromas, and knew immediately it was something different. Is this brandy-ish creation from Lansdale the world's first eau de beet? You bet it's beets (100 percent)

Drink: Try hard ciders with your turkey, says Craig LaBan

Sat, 19 Nov 2016 06:40:30 GMT2016-11-19T06:40:30Z

With its raucous banquet of diverse flavors, Thanksgiving is a tricky meal to pair with drinks. But a good case can be made that hard cider - early America's favorite beverage - is on point, both thematically and in matters of taste. Few drinks are as versatile as dry cider. And with the cider-glazed turkey recipe from the Hungry Pigeon published lsat Thursday in the Inquirer's Food section, there is no better match. Among the rising group of local cideries, Kurant from Perkasie is one to seek.

Craig LaBan's favorite restaurants in the Pa. and N.J. suburbs

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 06:26:01 GMT2016-11-18T06:26:01Z

Kanella Grill: Flavors, freshness, and value at a no-fuss Cypriot kebab house

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 06:24:50 GMT2016-11-18T06:24:50Z

The corner at 10th and Spruce Streets, it seems, was destined to rekindle its kebab magic. But even Konstantinos Pitsillides, a man so intense he's widely known among colleagues for his "Cypriot death stare," acknowledges he hemmed and hawed over what do with the vacant space for well more than a year.

A Thanksgiving feast for all palates, Pigeon style

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 06:23:52 GMT2016-11-18T06:23:52Z

No, there will be no pigeon on the Thanksgiving table this year at the Hungry Pigeon. But there will be a feast of thanks from the owners of this quirky all-day cafe, restaurant, and bar in Queen Village.

For Fork's Eli Kulp, Thanksgiving is a simple gift

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 04:03:08 GMT2016-11-18T04:03:08Z

'The Kulps kept Thanksgiving simple," says Eli Kulp. It's a hard thing to imagine, little Eli eagerly anticipating his childhood holiday table laden with boxed stuffing, green bean casserole topped with crunchy canned onions, and jellied cranberries jiggled out of a can. Even the sweet potatoes were canned.

Strong shawarma game from new Naf Naf Grill

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 15:38:24 GMT2016-11-16T15:38:24Z

The "fast-casual" model pioneered by Chipotle that's revamping America's concept of fast food has been applied to food groups ranging from salad to pizza and sushi burritos. But wrap-friendly Middle Eastern food is perhaps one of the most logica

An impressive young bourbon rises from Phoenixville

Sun, 13 Nov 2016 13:04:06 GMT2016-11-13T13:04:06Z

The region's craft distilling scene has continued to steam forward with ambitious new players, and many have been around long enough to begin producing spirits with the color of barrel age. But that doesn't mean these liquors are necessarily mature. Despi

Morimoto: From humble cook to superstar

Sat, 12 Nov 2016 11:48:33 GMT2016-11-12T11:48:33Z

In the flash of a long sushi knife, Philadelphia got its first Iron Chef 15 years ago today. That's when Masaharu Morimoto, already an international TV celebrity, teamed with Stephen Starr to open the Japanese chef's first signature restaurant, on Chestnu

Craig LaBan's favorite Italian BYOBs

Fri, 11 Nov 2016 02:26:00 GMT2016-11-11T02:26:00Z