What would Easter be without pound cake and candy? This week, we get sweet on those treats. Read on as Craig LaBan shares word of a new Lebanese BYOB and chats up a Palestinian cookbook author, and I’ll tell you what’s up at the rooftop Bok Bar.
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Get some Easter sweetness
“It has to be dense, there shouldn’t be any holes, and most importantly, it can’t be dry,” says Kristine Stock-DeCarles, fourth-generation owner of Stock’s Bakery in Port Richmond — one of 10 outlets for pound cake that reporter Grace Dickinson offers as some of the best in the region.
With Easter and Passover falling at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, reporter Jenn Ladd chatted up local bakery and deli owners for their reflections on the year’s business climate. Louis Barson at Hymie’s, the landmark deli in Lower Merion, is feeling optimistic as his customers are returning after getting vaccinated. Barson tells Jenn that he managed to make lemonade out of lemons, but we all know that he made sour pickles out of cucumbers.
On the sweet side, colleague Pat Madej uses the new Peeps-flavored Pepsi — yes, marshmallow cola — as a launching point for an Easter look at local candy stores. Example: the Smash Egg at The Candy Jar by 1892 in Collingswood, which comes with a tiny hammer to crack open a chocolate shell that reveals edible grass, a gummy fried egg, and jelly beans.
Levantine cooking and culture
Tragedy in her homeland of Lebanon touched Patricia Massoud, who with her husband, Antoine, owned Porch & Proper in Collingswood. She decided to change the restaurant BYOB’s concept and name to Li Beirut, and critic Craig LaBan dives into her menu, which is fully focused on traditional cooking, from kibbeh to the shish taouk she grew up cooking alongside her grandmother.
Craig also heads, in spirit, to East Jerusalem, where author Reem Kassis draws inspiration for her Palestinian cooking. Kassis, who lives in Bryn Mawr, has a new cookbook coming out April 7. The Arabesque Table takes a broad look at contemporary cooking from across the Arab world.
And if you’re looking for solid Palestinian takeout, Craig recommends Bishos in Fox Chase, part of his recent guide to takeout food in Northeast Philadelphia.
More of Bok Bar this year
Bok Bar, the outdoor rooftop on the eighth floor of the former South Philly vo-tech school, has created a 30-week season for 2021, starting April 15 and running through October. The calendar of programming is filling up.
Bok will host pop-ups and menu takeovers with local chefs; hands-on events and workshops with makers and artists; classes and panels; and activities such as DJ sets, fitness, and dancing.
There will be a guest chef per week, starting with Ange Branca of Sate Kampar (April 15-18); Ari Miller of Musi (April 21-25); Michael Lynch of Miles Table (April 28-May 2); and Chris Paul of Lakay (May 5-9). All season, chef Michael Vincent Ferreri, formerly of Res Ipsa Cafe, will operate Irwin’s, the restaurant on the other side of Bok’s roof, with an Italian menu. He is targeting an April 9 opening.
Days of operation are Wednesday-Sunday.
The Main Line is bouncing back with restaurant openings. Avram Hornik’s splashy Lola’s Garden is a few weeks away in Suburban Square in Ardmore; the new DanDan location next door is now targeting May. Lark, from Nicholas Elmi and Fia Berisha, is looking at an April-something opening upstairs from their Landing Kitchen in Bala Cynwyd.
Let’s head two stops west along the ol’ R5 line to Bryn Mawr, where what promises to be a lively bar-restaurant is coming this summer to fill the shuttered Tango at the train station. Across the way, in a former bank at at 52 N. Bryn Mawr Ave., the elegant, Old World Otto by Polpo just joined the local Italian BYOB contingent (e.g. Fraschetta, Fratelli, Sontuosa). Specialties: octopus, branzino, assorted pastas, veal chop. Most entrees are in the $20s, with gusts into the $30s. This is the 610 debut of brothers Bujar and Gani Daku, whose collection includes La Fontana Della Citta in Center City, as well as a list of Jersey Shore establishments such as the La Fontanas in Sea Isle and Strathmere, Polpo in Avalon, Fratelli’s Wood-Fired Pizzeria in Avalon and Sea Isle, and La Vecchia in Avalon. Outdoor dining is on its way. Open 4-10 p.m. daily.
Also in Bryn Mawr: Bodega by La Cabra will change its name to La Cabra Brewing Smokehouse, effective April 6. The idea is to put “La Cabra Brewing” front and center, as it is at the flagship La Cabra brewpub in Berwyn.
Fried chicken and champagne: In late April, Jon Myerow and Dave Kwass will convert the former Tria Taproom (2005 Walnut St.) into Bar Poulet, what they call the “world’s fanciest fried chicken joint.” Menu will focus on buckets of organic fried chicken, served alongside a French drink list. Vegetarian version: fried portobello and maitake mushrooms. New Franco decor.
Comebacks from closure: Melograno, in Rittenhouse; P.J. Clarke’s, across from Washington Square; and Day By Day, in Rittenhouse (effective soon).
RIP to the Blue Comet in Glenside, whose 27-year run ended March 21. Founder Scott Acker and his more recent business partner, Scott Esterly, had put the rockabilly roadhouse on the market before the pandemic, said Erin Croke, who had worked there for seven years, the last five as manager. “It’s bittersweet,” said Croke, a native Glensider who said the first time she walked in and took a seat at the second booth, “I was overwhelmed with a feeling of home, like being in my grandparents’ kitchen.” A new bar supposedly is on its way. And you can get a piece of the Comet: Croke set up an Etsy store with prints and other remembrances.
Susanna Foo, the doyenne of Chinese cuisine, has created a YouTube channel to showcase her home cooking recipes. Sample demos: mapo tofu, kung pow chicken, goat cheese wontons, and her signature pork dumplings.
Is it safe to dine indoors after you’re vaccinated? The experts are divided, as Grace reports. I’m no expert, but I’ve decided to resume dining in, cautiously. I’m following my own safety guidelines, particularly seeking out high ceilings and wide table spacing. I’m also masking when I’m not eating or drinking, mainly out of respect for the servers. And speaking of which: Be grateful to be out now. Bump up your tipping.