Here is an excerpt from Craig LaBan's online chat of Dec. 1, 2015:
Philly looked fabulous in Creed, the excellent new Rocky spin-off, with lots of details familiar to local foodies, from the scenes at Johnny Brenda's to Rocky's restaurant, Adrian's (Victor Cafe, featured in the previous film, too). But I was especially impressed that they chose to feature a cheesesteak spot far less known than the usual South Philly gang. I went yesterday and can assure you the tourists have yet to find Max's at Broad and Erie (actually on Germantown Avenue at Erie) What I found was a classic North Philly tavern with a simple, utilitarian cheesesteak grill room up front, fringed with white tile and the appropriate neon, of course. The sandwiches were good, not earth-shatteringly great, but very solid, respectable steaks. Good-quality meat, cooked to order, served in ample portions on a soft Liscio's roll. I took my hot 'n' sweet peppers cue from the movie, and liked the acidity they brought to the usual mix. Also, the addition of white American (vs. my usual provolone) was a smart choice; this steak benefited from a bit of the cheese's added sweetness. Overall, I give the filmmakers credit for highlighting a real place with real Philly flavor. Max's did not set a new standard for me but should definitely be in the discussion of cheesesteakeries any serious Philly eater should know.
And now I'm curious to hear your T-day reports. Any successful new sides or revolutionary bird techniques?
Reader: I dry-brined and spatchcocked a turkey we picked up from Kensington Quarters. Fantastic.
C.L.: Spatchcocking a turkey - basically scissoring out the backbone and butterflying - sounds reasonable from a culinary perspective, since it offers more even, and faster cooking. But from an aesthetic point of view, I'm not sure a spread-eagle turkey will suit most people's nostalgic vision of what Thanksgiving should look like. I'm eager to try it myself one day, probably on a chicken.
Reader: I tried to order a Big Green Egg from Kitchen Kapers downtown - was told they couldn't deliver and assemble until spring (we live 5-10 minutes away)! Really? So much for selling any over the holidays.
Craig LaBan: I bought mine many years ago from Halco, close to West Chester, long before it was a mainstream item. I think Halco is still one of the area's biggest BGE providers. Give them a call to see if one is available sooner. They delivered ours to Center City. Perfect big-boy toy for the holidays.
Reader: Any thoughts on Justino Jimenez selling off his taqueria after only a few months and moving up to Logan Square? Mexican pizza, à la Rosario's, is an interesting niche.
C.L.: Like a lot of young chefs inexperienced as restaurateurs, I think Justino realized belatedly that he started too small and too far off the grid (at Sixth and Oregon) for his place to grow. There were hints of this when I wrote about his excellent tacos al pastor in April. I'm not sure South Philly will miss him, with so many great authentic Mexicans there. Lots more room to grow at his new place near the museums, where there are far fewer competitors. I'm totally intrigued by the Mexican pizza genre, which already has a few players.