05 June 2010

Pickelodeon: Positano Coast

Welcome to Pickelodeon, a little feature where we review all that is reviewable in the world. Pickelodeon is your one stop shop for the inside scoop on the best restaurants, bars, movies, music, events, and anything else you want to hear someone else's opinion on before you try it. Drop us a line in the comment box for any suggestions on what we should review next!

Positano Coast
Positano Coast, located on the second floor of 212 Walnut Street in Old City, is the best restaurant in the city. A lofty statement, yes, but true nonetheless. As a part of Aldo Lamberti's family of restaurants, this restaurant and wine bar has been providing primo Italian cuisine to the area for years.

I first discovered this gem about eight years ago when it was simply known as Lamberti's. At the time I was a poor college freshman stunned by my ability to set foot in such a classy establishment after years of dining at Ruby Tuesday's. Since then, the restaurant somehow managed to notch the class up a bit more and improve on the food that I found flawless. To this day each time I visit this establishment I am impressed by the relaxed Mediterranean atmosphere, exquisite menu selections, and impeccable service.

The atmosphere of Positano Coast is aided by the fact it sits on the second floor. Upon entering the restaurant you are instantly on another level, rising above the sights and sounds of being on the street. Everywhere you look in the dining room you see blue, whether it be giant photographs of the actual Positano coast in Italy or the rich, blue colors of the floors and accent walls. The overall tone presented in the room has a relaxing effect and prepares you for your culinary experience before you even take your seat.

Once you are seated, you are presented with a clean, easy to read menu with a tremendous variety of plates to choose from. Before too long, your server arrives with a friendly greeting and the customary "Have you dined with us before?" Though many establishments insist on their staff asking that, it is actually relevant inquiry in this place. Positano's menu was created in "the tradition of the Amalfi coast," which is to say they serve smaller portions and encourage sharing. Feel free to chat with your server about this, and anything else for that matter. The staff at Positano Coast is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to recommending a meal based on your taste or suggesting the proper wine to accompany your dinner.

Alimento e Vino
Your server will leave you with some water and a fresh, fantastic crusty bread complete with dipping oil to dabble in as you choose your plates. Each time I go to Positano Coast, I tend to order a selection from the Let's Go On portion of the menu complimented with something from the On The Side section. Again, feel free to ask your server what side would best compliment your meal. My favorite is the Scottish Salmon Limoncello with the Capellini and Clams, both of which when paired with a white wine will send your taste buds into a frenzy of delight.

On the subject of wine, be prepared to have a bit more than the typical glass. The majority of the wines selected personally by general manager Marianna Coppola are served in a quartino. A quartino is a carafe of sorts, and at nine ounces translates to roughly one and a half glasses of wine. This, like the smaller portions of food, is to encourage sharing and tasting with your table mates.

Once your meal is in full swing, a dining experience unlike any other is to follow. Whether with a group or on a date, the conversation will flow freely as you sample different plates and glasses. Your fellow diners will be impressed by your selection and very pleased with their meals. This is the ideal restaurant for a serious date, especially with the Ritz theater situated directly across cobblestoned Dock Street. It also would serve well for a business dinner or just a nice way to cap off a day in the city. In the warm weather, Positano Coast has the benefit of outdoor dining without the worry of cars parallel parking next to your table.

On a typical dinner date for two, the bill usually comes to about $130 including dinner, drinks, an appetizer, and a generous tip. I assure you that every penny is worth it, Positano Coast does not disappoint. And don't be afraid to try something new. Even foods I haven't liked elsewhere are delicious when prepared by the phenomenal chefs at Positano Coast.

For more information, you can call Positano Coast at 215-238-0499 or visit their website. Do yourself a favor and swing by for a meal this summer, you can thank me later.

  • Scottish Salmon Limoncello, Capellini and Clams, and a white wine recommended by your server
  • Eggplant Napoleon, Homemade Gnocchi Gorgonzola, and a red wine recommended by your server

Salsa Fresca

Everyone loves chips and salsa, it's one of the simple facts of life like the sky is blue and elephants are nosy. But too many people go through life getting their salsa from jars, and that's just sad. The proper way to dress your tortilla chip is with a generous heap of salsa fresca (rough translation: fresh sauce). This is another recipe coming from dear ol' Dad, and it is truly a case of father knows best.

3 tbsp finely chopped onion
2 small cloves garlic, minced
3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
3 tbsp minced cilantro
2 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 bell pepper, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Chop all your veggies (not counting the tomatoes here, because they are fruits, remember?) Please note that the size of the jalapeno pieces will alter the spiciness factor of the finished product. Bigger chunks=spicier scoops.
  2. Put the garlic and onions in a strainer and set aside for a bit.
  3. Fill a saucepan with enough water to cover all three tomatoes (but don't put them in yet) and bring to a boil. Turn off heat.
  4. Ladle a few scoops of the boiled water over the onions and garlic for about a minute, this will "cook" them sufficiently.
  5. Cut out the stem of the tomatoes and cut an X on the bottom of each tomato. Drop them in the hot water for about a minute. This is going to loosen them up a bit and allow you to easily peel them. After they look wrinkly enough, you should be able to take them out of the water and wipe the skins off.
  6. Slice your now-naked tomatoes along their equator (picture the globe) and squeeze out the excess juice and seeds before dicing.
  7. Now you can combine all of your ingredients in a bowl. Mix well until it looks like a decent salsa (see photo).
  8. Add a splash or two (or seven) of the SECRET INGREDIENT. Let the salsa sit in the fridge for a few hours so all of your ingredients become really close friends before serving.
The bigger the batch with this recipe, the better. Salsa is versatile and can be used as a dip as well as in a variety of recipes. Like Dad's Guacamole, this would go well with Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas or Fajita Burritos, and should be enjoyed with a Corona or a margarita! Buen provecho!

04 June 2010

Six reasons to check out the Xponential Music Festival

Summer is here and the time is right for dancing in the street. Leave it to WXPN to bring the perfect opportunity to do just that. Each year they promote their Xponential Music Festival at Wiggins Park on the Camden waterfront. The concert is three days of music combined with a little bit of art to give off a vibe of Woodstock on a small scale. If you haven't checked out this fest in the past few years, here are six reasons to give it a go this year.

#1 - The price is right
In the late 1990's and early 2000's, a summer tradition was going to see the Y100 Feztival which was promoted as being a concert that featured twenty bands for twenty dollars. With WMMR's recent MMRBQ featuring six bands for nearly sixty dollars, it seems those days of affordable festivals are gone. This is not the case with the Xponential Festival. Prices range from as low as $15 for an XPN Member one day pass to $50 for a three-day, non-member pass. Kids are five bucks any day, regardless of membership.

#2 - More bang for your buck
Whereas many local festivals feature less than ten bands, XPN will offer you much, much more. Thus far there have been 26 acts lined up for the 2010 fest, with more to be added in the next six weeks. There is a decent variety with bands such as the Cowboy Junkies, known for their cover of the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane," and local favorites Dr. Dog, among many more.

#3 - The starting lineup
On Friday, the first night of the fest, expect to see it headlined by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, whose raucous, rocking set tore the house down at the 2007 Xponential Festival. Saturday could be headlined by either indie faves Yo La Tengo or Roseanne Cash, daughter of the man in black himself. Sunday's expected headliner could be Robert Randolph and the Family Band, a group whose live performances are like a revival tent on speed and steroids, or Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros whose hit "Home" has received ample airplay on XPN in recent months.

#4 - It's a family affair
This concert is very laid back and rarely overcrowded. It's a safe venue to bring along the kids, who even have their own stage with a variety of family-friendly acts performing each day. Furthermore, if you are a member, there is an area set aside where you can pick up some free lemonade and cool off in the shade while still being within earshot of the music. This area also plays host to meet and greets with the various artists playing that day, but if you time it right you can get in and out before a line forms.

#5- Get your grub on
You're not going to pay ten dollars for a cheeseburger that makes McDonald's look appetizing at this event. One of the bonuses of being in a park and not in a normal venue is that XPN can hire outside vendors who prepare better foods, like delicious BBQ viddles, and sell it at a price that won't make you cry. This isn't to say the food is cheap, but definitely more affordable than standard concert fare and it is certainly tastier.

#6- Easy access
Don't let the festival's Camden address scare you off. If you can get to Center City, you can get to this show. One option is to take the PATCO line from Center City to the City Hall stop in Camden, and walk a few blocks from there. Another option is to take the ferry from Penn's Landing (near Dock St.) across the Delaware that drops you off directly next to Wiggins Park. Either way is quick, easy, and saves you from tolls and parking fees.

The Xponential Music Festival comes your way from 16 July through 18 July in Camden, NJ at Wiggins Park. For more information, check out XPN's website where more details will be released in the upcoming weeks.

Mixtape Madness #1: The What's 2010 Summer Party Mix

According to the novel High Fidelity the making of a good mix tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. Furthermore, a good mix is never finished. You never know when you will come across a song that changes the dynamic of the mix you just completed. There is a litany of intricacies to crafting the ideal mix no matter what the mix’s intended purpose should be. This feature is merely a guide on the cosmic highway of mix making, and while experienced, the writer does not claim to be an expert.

2010 Soundtrack of Summer
Each year toward the end of April/beginning of May I find myself yearning for summer weather and its associated activities. It is at about that time that I begin work on the 120 minutes of music that will define the season. Following is the track list for this year’s soundtrack of summer, an ideal mix to play at your summer kick-off bash.
1- “Rastaman Chant” by Bob Marley and the Wailers
This song is the opening track off of a live Wailers CD I picked up at a Starbucks. A British gent introduces the band, and after some applause, the drums bring you into a perfectly chill groove. This song is ideal for summer activities such as drinking a rum-based drink near a body of water or driving nice and slow down the street hoping to catch the eye of the cute guy or gal sitting on their front stoop.
2- “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” by Crosby, Stills and Nash
I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that after years of enjoying CSN (even seeing them live once) that I never noticed the final part of this suite was in Spanish. For those who are not aware, a suite is a piece of music broken into several smaller parts. This four part song details the break up of Stephen Stills and his girlfriend at the time. The acoustic guitar and classic CSN harmonies make this a great song to play at a BBQ, especially when followed by this next song.
3- “Armada Latina” by Cypress Hill featuring Marc Anthony, Pitbull, and Stephen Stills
After the previous song builds towards its Spanish finale for six and a half minutes, this song continues where it left off. With Stephen Stills playing guitar and providing backing vocals, Marc Anthony singing the chorus, and Pitbull adding a verse, Cypress Hill may have created the perfect summer song. The percussion really adds to the summertime feel of the tune and Anthony is doing what he does best, singing in Spanish. If you can picture yourself poolside downing Coronas and/or tequila when this song comes on, you must be a winter person.
4- “Stunned Out” by Paula DeAnda featuring Young Joc
While I am not a big fan of people trying to bring back the eighties, I do really enjoy this song, which practically samples the entire decade. This is the type of summer jam that conjures images of a bunch of people dancing on a deck somewhere. It’s a fantastic party song that is sure to be enjoyed openly by the ladies at your fete, and secretly by the lads.
5- “Bedrock” by Lil Wayne and Young Money
Guys, before you pass judgment on this song you need to realize it combines two things you probably love: sex and video games. The lyrics are all about promising the lady in your life an evening she’ll never forget. Now, listen to the beat and tell me it wasn’t made with Mario Paint! This song was made to play toward the end of a party so you can remind your significant other what they’re in for once the party’s over.
6- “I Want You” by Savage Garden
I promise you that if you play this mix at your party this summer, the party will be remembered as epic and a lot of the reason for that is this song. This mix has been constantly spinning in my car for over a month now and every passenger falls in love with this song. The song delivers a simple message in a complex way, which is to say the singer pretty much rattles off a bunch of nonsense, including something about Cherry Cola, all to say that he wants you. This is a fantastic tune for any summer dance party.
7- “Little Secrets” by Passion Pit
This song has a fantastic beat and high-pitched singing, what else could you need? Besides being a great dance song, this song will help bring your party together. Your party-hardy friends are already on the floor at this point, and this song will keep them there as your hipster friends join in. This is the song that throws your party into full swing.
8- “Ambling Alp” by Yeasayer
The bubbly noises that kick this song off will remind everyone to rehydrate, and then thirty seconds later the synths and drums show up and reinvigorate the dance floor. Aside from keeping your party going, this song has a good message about looking out for number one and is the perfect catalyst to shedding those cold-weather blues away.
9- “Audience” by Cold War Kids
I must admit that the dance party will wane a bit when this song comes on, but don’t worry, it’ll pick up again in about three minutes. In the meantime, this awesome song will allow for some conversation, giving people a chance to get to know each other a bit more. So while this doesn’t necessarily fit the mold of a summer dance party, it’s a catchy song that will have people trying to sing along by the time it fades to the end.
10- “The Opposite of Adults” by Chiddy Bang
With a sample of MGMT’s “Kids,” this tune is going to send your party into the next gear. Pay careful attention to the lyrics when these two Philly boys slam suburban schlub Asher Roth and his terrible song about college. The kicking beat and fantastic rhymes in this song will make it a winner amongst your friends, who will all be amazed by your ability to find the best songs ever. For the record, this is another great song to rock out to while driving slowly and showing off your indie cred.
11- “Bullet Proof” by La Roux
Once this song plays, you will have a full-fledged dancing party that will not end. This is a fantastic dance groove guaranteed to get your guests singing and dancing their butts off, and really, isn’t that the goal of this party?
12- “California Girls” by Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg
Like “Bullet Proof,” this is a hot club song right now that will serve as the musical fuel to power the fire that is your party. Seriously, take a listen and close your eyes, I know you can picture people in swimsuits dancing and singing along to this. Unless of course you are the aforementioned winter person, and should that be the case, I’ll have plenty of those mixes for you in about six months.
13- “Giving Up the Gun” by Vampire Weekend
I realize that not everyone is into the type of music in the last two songs, so this should appease them. It’s another great tune that will bridge the gap between your guests’ varied tastes in music. The echoey vocals conjure up visions of summers past, and in the future when this song comes on, your guests will think of you and your awesome party.
14- “Lollipop” by Mika
Flamboyant vocalist? Check. References to candy? Check. Thinly veiled sexual innuendo? Check. Sing-along chorus and a booty-shaking beat? Check. I really don’t know what else needs to be said about this song.
15- “Kiss, Boy” by Kate Nash
Every dance party needs a song with a decent brass section, and here’s yours. At this point, you’re an hour into the party and people are having so much fun, that you just may get the kiss that Kate sings about wanting.
16- “Lay Me Down” by the Dirty Heads featuring Rome
Normally, this song wouldn’t really be one for dancing. But at this point in your fiesta, it will do the trick. Besides, no summer mix is complete without Sublime, or in this case, a Sublimesque song featuring their new singer. Also, if you’re talented like that, this wouldn’t be a bad song to play on the boardwalk with an acoustic guitar and your stoner friend playing his djembe.
17- “Sweet Dogs” by Trolle//Siebenhaar
This sweet, relaxing song is a carried by a simple, yet kicking drum beat. Likewise, it’ll carry your party along nicely, allowing your guests to slow down and dance a little closer without a vibe-killing slow jam being brought into the mix. Plus, it will add another point to your indie cred scoreboard, if that’s your thing.
18- “Story of My Life” by Social Distortion
I heard recently that people either love or hate Social D with little middle ground. Despite that, the guitar riffs in this song have the summery vibe necessary to carry this mix onto its coda.
19- “Only the Good Die Young” by Billy Joel
This could be a regional thing, but I’m pretty sure everyone loves Billy Joel. This tune is all about a guy convincing a girl to get frisky with him, and let’s face it, half of your guests are doing the same thing. Impure intentions aside, this song is a fun way to cap off the summer mix.
Now that the mix is over, pop on any local radio station that broadcasts a DJ set from a club, and that will carry your party well into the night. Feel free to leave suggestions for other themed mixes in the comment box. Until next time, that’s your Mixtape Madness.