A cool July night beneath the Headhouse Square Shambles...what better way to pass the time than a food & beer event for charity? Don't let the 'Do Not Enter sign fool you, there were quite a few interesting bites to be had here...local restaurants were presenting some delicious dishes and the beer, also provided by local brewers, was all-you-could drink.
I won't delve into the details about the beer...suffice it to say that you had a good representation of all the Philly locals (PBC, Yards, Sly Fox, Earth Bread Brewery, Dock Street) as well as regionals were on hand to help wash down the small-plates being served up by local kitchens.
We bought our tasting tickets and dove into the shambles. the event started at 6PM and by 7:30, when we arrived, several stations were already on their last-gasp. Here you've got a grilled peach and summer corn salad. The peaches were somewhat meaty and had a great char-taste. The corn also had a nice grilled flavor and rested on a peach sauce that had a bit of tang.
Here we had a quinoa & veggies salad, prepared by none other than Philly's own Next Food Network Star contestant Katie Cavuto. The salad was studded with little bites of flavor...earthy black beans, tangy cherry tomatoes, crunchy veggies. The only time we cooked with quinoa we botched it completely, so it's nice to be reintroduced to a summer rice-alternative.
Southwark had the most interesting of all the dishes we saw...a plump grilled shrimp, touched with a creamy orange-tinged sauce, resting atop a salad of green tomato and a paper-thin tostada. The shrimp was plump and flavorful (seemed like a gulf pink?), the green tomato salad was tangy and well-seasoned, like a salsa verde of sorts, and the tostada was super thin and crispy...almost like an Indian crispy cracker (paratha?poori?) that we've enjoyed...this one had a tinge of cinnamon which was very interesting...almost like a giant cereal flake.
Le Virtu was packing up as we approached their table...we nabbed some of the last squares of what seemed to be a veggies lasagna of sorts...it had a 'chicken-stock' flavor to it, kind of like a chicken pot-pie and a lasagna mixed together. The one thing that was obvious was that Le Virtu hand-rolls their pasta...the supple & thin, yet pliable and toothy layers of pasta were silky smooth and delightful. We are definitely headed down to East Passyunk for the authentic pasta that Le Virtu is rolling out.
We had two tasting tickets left, so we splurged and threw them both down on the table at the Rx stand. Living on the east side of Center City, I hadn't heard of Rx, a West Philly/ University City joint...they seemed to be serving up some great down-home classics though and we were sold on the spread. Here you've got a nod to southern slow/comfort food...slow-cooked brisket, corn-bread and slaw. Descended from a long line of Texans, an appreciation for good brisket is genetic. Rx's brisket didn't seem to go for those smoky notes and seemed to lean more towards a saucy/tangy BBQ taste family. The cornbread was simply good-eatin' and I used it to sop up the bits of brisket juice on the plate.
The real star of the show foodwise (again, this was a beer-forward event) was the blueberry cobbler from Rx. I saw these little pie-tins floating all around the shambles and we were lucky enough to cash in our last tasting ticket for a scoop. This dessert was not cloyingly sweet, which I appreciated, but had enough thickness and fruity filling to still deliver a tasty end to the evening's meals. The topping was halfway between a biscuit-top and a crumble...there were even bits of the dough mixed into the blueberry treat itself, providing a toothy chew to the fruity dessert.
All in all, I'd advise showing up a little earlier next year so you can get a first-shot at the offerings, but this was a great way to soak up some beer while experiencing local samples.