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Preview: Inquirer Columnist - Craig LaBan

Dining Critic Craig LaBan

The Inquirer's Dining Critic

Published: Thu, 22 Jun 2017 14:55:11 GMT2017-06-22T14:55:11Z

Copyright: Philadelphia Media Network

Mica gets fresh start under talented new owner-chef in Chestnut Hill

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 14:55:11 GMT2017-06-22T14:55:11Z

The best restaurant in Chestnut Hill has gotten even better thanks to an ownership change that through seemingly small modifications - going BYOB, improving food value, adding the spontaneity of weekly themed tasting menus - has transformed Mica from a special occasion destination into a more neighborhood-oriented gem. Most importantly, it's a showcase for one of the city's brightest new culinary talents in owner-chef Yianni Arhontoulis.

Enjoying a Zep, the South Philly hoagie’s Norristown cousin

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 20:53:47 GMT2017-06-20T20:53:47Z

As the jury entered their final excruciating hours of deliberations in the Cosby sexual assault trial last week, the mood among my colleagues in the press was decidedly tense. And then I arrived with two giant bags of Zeps, Norristown's signature hoagie cousin: "the best part of the entire two weeks."


Fri, 16 Jun 2017 13:00:55 GMT2017-06-16T13:00:55Z

Mica 8609 Germantown Ave., 267-335-3912; The best restaurant in Chestnut Hill has gotten even better, thanks to an ownership change with seemingly subtle modifications. Going BYOB, improving food value, adding the spontaneity of weekly themed tasting menus has transformed Mica from a special-occ

Cutlet lovers rejoice: this stack at Cotoletta is for you

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 15:44:26 GMT2017-06-15T15:44:26Z

The cutlet stack - part chicken, part eggplant, part sausage-stuffed long hot pepper - is essentially a Double Down for the red gravy set. Gimmicky? Yes. Deliciously irresistible? That, too.

At members-only Palizzi Social Club, South Philly's Italian American food history thrives again

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 15:42:02 GMT2017-06-15T15:42:02Z

From the art deco bar in front to the vintage cigarette machine and signed black-and-white photos of boxer Rocky Marciano, Palizzi looks and feels like a South Philly time capsule that's come alive again. "A lot of restaurateurs come up with concepts like this," said chef owner Joey Baldino. "But this isn't a concept - this is the real thing."

Uncork a Rock Wall zin and light the grill

Mon, 12 Jun 2017 23:02:13 GMT2017-06-12T23:02:13Z

Not only does this zinfandel gain a century-plus worth of complexity from hanging on 126 years old, it was farmed by an 96-year-old farmer in Contra Costa County. Add the experience of the Rosenblums' Rock Wall Wine Co., and this red delivers a powerful depth paired with freshness and balance. Perfect for grilling season.

Nature's lunch box: a banana leaf holds spicy Indonesian feast

Wed, 07 Jun 2017 15:22:14 GMT2017-06-07T15:22:14Z

Nasi bungkus is an entire meal of rice, vegetables and curried meat stews wrapped to-go inside a banana leaf bundle. At $8, it's a flavorful bargain, and a perfect reason to rediscover Sky Cafe, an Indonesian restaurant that relocated after its first location burned down in 2015.

New faces give fresh life to Philly's veteran gastropubs

Tue, 06 Jun 2017 17:42:16 GMT2017-06-06T17:42:16Z

A trio of Philly's best gastropubs have seen changes in the kitchen and continued to evolve in a good way.

Mistral's high-minded concept is deliciously translated to King of Prussia Mall

Mon, 05 Jun 2017 16:04:17 GMT2017-06-05T16:04:17Z

Scott Anderson, the "New Jersey naturalist" chef who at various times has served his food draped over logs and bird nests, was exactly where I expected him to be when I called recently to talk about the "why" of his latest venture.

The wild ales have begun emerging from La Cabra's Berwyn cellar

Thu, 01 Jun 2017 21:38:42 GMT2017-06-01T21:38:42Z

After biding their time maturing in barrels in La Cabra's Berwyn cellar, some of the sour and funky creatures known as the brewery's Aleatory Series have finally started to appear. And they are worth the wait.

Feta St. John: made by Greek nuns the ancient whey

Tue, 30 May 2017 18:44:23 GMT2017-05-30T18:44:23Z

This exceptional feta made by nuns at a monastery in Southern Greece is packed in its own whey, rather than a salty brine, resulting in the milder, fresh taste of sheep's milk.

Korean classics served without shortcuts

Fri, 26 May 2017 16:03:00 GMT2017-05-26T16:03:00Z

A proper bowl of soondubu arrives at the table looking like a volcano, a roiling red stew that also holds cloudlike scoops of silken tofu inside the mini-cauldron of its blazing-hot stone bowl.

Frumpy Golden Russet apples make for a gorgeous cider at Big Hill

Fri, 26 May 2017 15:53:19 GMT2017-05-26T15:53:19Z

At La Maison, meals based on the chef's mood

Thu, 25 May 2017 17:24:13 GMT2017-05-25T17:24:13Z

There were chickens clucking in the backyard of La Maison when I arrived at this 300-year-old stone auberge in bucolic Coventryville. A woman on her way to dinner paused outside the front door to inhale the aroma of a pot of herbs.

Clam chowder for Camden charity is worth the detour

Thu, 25 May 2017 16:01:12 GMT2017-05-25T16:01:12Z

When I passed the unexpected vision of the crisp yellow awnings and cheery flower boxes in front of tidy CK Cafe, I promptly did a U-turn to check it out.

Time to say a fond farewell to Little Pete's

Thu, 25 May 2017 03:40:06 GMT2017-05-25T03:40:06Z

In sign-of-our-time news, this is the final week for Little Pete's near Rittenhouse Square, that 24/7 diner institution on 17th Street that's going to be razed for a new hotel. I just went for my last Little Pete's meal, and the folks there were nostalgic

Di Bruno Bros.' Abruzze cheese spread takes a powder

Tue, 23 May 2017 13:12:41 GMT2017-05-23T13:12:41Z

With the richness of powdered cheddar, a vinegary tang, and the surprisingly punchy heat of garlic and habaneros - the flavor resemblance to the spread is uncanny.

Meet the 2017 Brewvitational's expert judges

Fri, 19 May 2017 21:01:17 GMT2017-05-19T21:01:17Z

With nearly 80 beers on the table for blind tasting at Brewvitational VIII, 12 experts were assembled for the panel from across the region's beer world.

Elegant, earthy Gilles Gelin Fleurie proves Beaujolais is for drinking all year

Fri, 19 May 2017 05:11:52 GMT2017-05-19T05:11:52Z

This wine, made from vines that average 45 years in age, has a deep ruby hue, aromas of stony earth, ripe berries, and an almost lush burst of dark cherry fruit that has a sparkle of cracked pepper on the finish.