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Sounds gross, tastes good? November 15, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Sweet potato soup swirled with coffee caramel. Duck magret with pretzel spaetzle. Popcorn panna cotta with caviar.

Silence Dogood here. Today’s DailyCandy Philadelphia e-mail (today@dailycandy.com, “Dressed Down”) is attempting to entice us into visiting Philadelphia’s newly opened Ela restaurant to sample Chefs Jason Cichonski and Chip Roman’s fare with dishes like these. (Or a cocktail combining toasted cedarwood and Lillet blanc, or a dessert of hot-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookie dough draped over vanilla semifreddo.)  Ready to call and make a reservation?

I didn’t think so. But you might just be missing out. The chefs’ combinations might not sound appetizing, but we’re not talking about the gross junk deliberately given to the aspiring competitors on “Chopped,” who are then expected to make a main course out of some disgusting combination like live sea urchins, cotton candy, peanut hulls, and dandelion roots. Far from it.

Looked at more closely, these combinations sound promising. Sweet potato’s rich flavor invites strong complementary flavors like coffee and caramel. (Similarly, I use curry spices, sweet onion, Sambuca, and just a hint of bourbon to bring out the pumpkin’s best aspects in my own famed Curried Pumpkin Soup.)

I can’t comment on the duck, but as for the popcorn panna cotta with caviar, I’d think a corn-flavored custard with caviar would be delicious. Imagine a corn pudding, rich, sweet, and succulent, with the salty kick of caviar. Good thought, chefs! I make a luscious corn pudding for Thanksgiving, and now feel challenged to come up with a vegetarian accent that would act like caviar to spice up the dish. Perhaps a little tapenade, this one made from minced savory olives, minced crushed garlic, shredded Parmesan, and crushed Szechuan pepper, aged to greatness and served alongside?  

As for the cocktail, I’ve not tried Lillet and thus can’t judge the effect of combining it with toasted cedarwood. Those who have, please give us your opinions!

But I can see the dessert. I prefer cookie dough to cookies, and soft ice cream to hard. Warm cookie dough on soft vanilla ice cream sounds yummy to me, assuming the ice cream doesn’t melt away under the hot, heavy dough. Given the chefs’ expertise, I suspect that wouldn’t happen, and they’d make sure the coating of hot dough was as thin as melted chocolate.

In case you’re wondering if our friend Ben and I will be heading down to Philly to dine at Ela anytime soon, the answer is obviously no. Curious as I am, we simply can’t afford it. But thank you, chefs, for reminding me that seemingly strange combinations can be delicious if you’re not afraid to innovate and are intimately familiar with the foods you’re working with. I’m planning to make Greek pasta and salad tonight for our supper, and I’ll definitely add a few ingredients that wouldn’t have occurred to me before reading the DailyCandy piece. How about you?

                 ‘Til next time,




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