As part of Beer Week in Philly, many local restaurants are teaming up with breweries and putting on really fun events, such as the Magic Hat Dinner at National Mechanics. We actually won tickets to attend in a Quizzo trivia game…my boyfriend’s smart like that! If you know me and read this blog, you’ll know that I never talk about beer. That’s cause I don’t drink it. However, after hearing about Matt Cohen’s (brewer at Magic Hat) passion for creating new beers I do have a better appreciation for beer drinkers.

Matt Cohen Talks Beer

This event was a great introduction to beer for me, especially because of the food pairings.  So here’s what we had:

Course #1: Magic Hat #9 paired with Guacamole, Salsa Fresco, and Plantain Chips

The first plate of food was demolished by our table so I didn’t get to snap much of a picture. It was a yummy starter as I am a huge fan of guac and plaintain chips. The Magic Hat #9 turned out to be my favorite beer of the night. I’m sure many of you have had it but I was surprised that beer is even described as having hints of apricot…kind of like how wine has fruity characteristics. I guess I need to give small brewers some more credit. The pairing of beer and food was great, nice light beer with fresh flavors of tomatoes and avocados.

Course #2: Wacko paired with Jumbo Lump Crabcake served on top of spinach salad with orange-lime vinaigrette

Course #2

Magic Hat's Wacko

The Wacko gets its pretty pink hue from beets, and the sugar from the beets actually does some of the fermenting (or something like that). Because of the color I kept expecting to taste raspberries so it just created some mind – taste confusion. We were all surprised at how much crab was in the crabcake. I’m used to seeing places use mayo and other stuff as filler and I always stay away from ordering, but National Mechanics did not deprive us of lump crab. They have a crab sandwich on the regular menu that I will give a try during the next Quizzo.

Course #3: Summer Odd Notion with Turkey Lasagna

Course #3

When I initially saw the menu, I thought I would skip eating this course. When I tasted this, I couldn’t stop eating. I didn’t grow up in a family that made lasagna and I’ve always thought it was a heavy, fattening dish, so I think there might be a possibility that I have never had a true lasagna. WOW – it is heavy, and fattening, but so good. The beer, Summer Odd Notion,  is ginger flavored. It paired wonderfully with the hot lasagna. However, this was the first controversial beer where people either said I can’t drink this or I like this.

Course #4: Notion paired with Lamb Crusted Peppercorn and Vegetable Couscous

Course #4

Sadly, I don’t remember a thing about this beer or to be completely honest, the next one. I’d had 4 or 5 drinks by then and was stuffed and it kind of gets blurry. I will say the lamb was delicious.

#5: Magic Hot Sorbet

Course #5

I tried a bite and there were real chunks of peach. But, after that I had to throw in the towel. Too much of a good thing leads to a big buzz and fuzzy memories.

I should also mention that throughout the night there were performances by Olde City Sideshow. Body contortions, sticking swords down throats, really weird stuff!

Great night.

Audrey Claire makes me want to be there. Something about the light green facade, large windows, outside street seating, and a granny smith apple on each table to pull it all together, pulls me in every time.

Entrance to Audrey Claire

Outside Seating at Audrey Claire

Although I ride past the restaurant almost daily, I didn’t even know the cuisine served. When I stumbled across another blogger’s post title “the best (philly)”, Audrey Claire, in their view was not only best BYO, but also Best Place for Date. And to to top it all of us, it was Mediterranean (nothing exceeds my love for hummus).  That sealed the deal, and a few days later my boyfriend and I were sitting outside.

On whats turning to be normal Philly day, the 85 degree sticky weather, made sitting outside a little uncomfortable. Sitting inside, unfortunately, felt like the same 85 degrees but cramped and with loud talking.  We were quickly offered water outside and the water was replenished constantly. That is appreciated, but perhaps the highlight of our visit.

After  cooling down with water and getting started on our rose, the bread and oil were brought. The bread was crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, but when its humid, bread for us, is too heavy.

Crusty Bread with Oil

This logic does not apply to pita bread. We decided to start by sharing the 3 dips and pita, choosing: Sundried Tomato and Garlic, Pumpkin Hummus, and Babaganoush.

Mediterrenean Dips

The sharing turned into just for me because my boyfriend didn’t like a single one. Yes, he usually like hummus and dips. Personally, I liked the pumpkin. It had a smooth texture, and none of the rawness of pureed pumpkin. The sundried tomato and garlic was not a spread but chunks and I’m glad we still had the crusty bread around because it didn’t belong on the pita. The babaganoush was gross. It had the bitter taste that you get when you don’t remove parts of eggplant.

For our next course, we decided to share the special salad of the day with watermelon, feta, and mint. This at least was refreshing, but lacked the finesse of a pulled together dish. I can slide feta and watermelon at home too…at a restaurant I would expect some sort of light dressing to pull it together. The bites with all 3 ingredients were delicious but with only 2 mint leaves, those weren’t too many bites.

Again, for our main, we decided to share, and ordered the  feta and garlic crusted baby rack of lamb with fresh mint and dill labne.

Rack of Lamb?

We had both interpreted the feta and garlic to be a coating…similar to black sesame seeds on tuna. I was shocked when we received, basically fried lamb. It was a think coat of breading, greasy, and turned the lamb meat into a flavorless lump. We received 3 lollipops like the one pictured above and I left my boyfriend have at them. I tried one and decided to pick at the crusty bread from the beginning of the meal instead. My boyfriend was none to happy with the dish but after ignoring the dips and salad, he was hungry enough to eat fried lamb.

In short, the outside is cute, its the worst dinner I’ve had in Philly so far, and the service leaves a bit to be desired.

Oh Bibou – I heart you. I’ve been moaning about how its been so long since I had something truly amazing to eat. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the apples and yogurt and bread that I consume on a daily. I just mean I wanted something from a chef that really made me appreciate the culinary profession. Thank you Bibou for finally giving that to me.

Bibou is a small, intimate but not stuffy, cash-only, bring your own wine kind of place. My friend and I were the youngest people there, which is just fine with me. The owners are a married French born couple (adorable) and Bibou is their first restaurant (also adorable). She runs the front, he runs the back. The chef has worked in the kitchens of Daniel and Le Bec Fin so experience is not lacking.

The menu is made up of 5 appetizers and 5 entrees. If you have a great dinner companion, like I did, you can try almost 50% of the menu.

For the appetizers:

  • Escargot – Snail ragout, fava beans and mushroom
  • Foie Gras – Pan seared, sautéed red grapes, banyuls vinegar sauce

both appsIf you read my blog than you know, I can go a very long time without meat protein. Its not something I notice – I’m just naturally drawn to vegetables and most of my protein needs are met by beans and yogurt. However, I am a foodie at heart and believe that even controversial foods like foie gras deserved to be enjoyed, with rarity. This foie was flawless. It was the perfect consistency, the inside was still warm, and the sauce had to be sopped up with the bread until none remained.  For the escargot, the snails were weak in comparison to the perfectly seasoned wine-based sauce they were presented in.  They were good, I just want to stress the perfection of the sauce. The bread below was used as the vehicle for consuming every last drop of both sauces as well as to try the butter imported from France. The butter was creamy and rich (obviously) but lacked salt.

butterFor the main course:

  • Seared Halibut, artichoke fricassee, carrot julienne, barigoule sauce

halibutThe fish was cooked perfectly. But the real star was the artichokes. I’d give anything to know how to make an artichoke taste so chewy and full of sage.

  • Veal medallions, Brussels sprouts and orzo, sage veal jus

vealThe actual veal was the most uneventful part of our dinner. The miniature brussels sprouts were quite tasty though. A solid dish with again a perfect sauce.

The NY Times and I were pretty aligned on this one. Take a quick read for more info about Bibou. Next time you find yourself in Philadelphia, I say give Bibou a try. Plan ahead though, they’re pretty sought out on Open Table.

  • Healthy Options: 2 out of 5. Other than the small portion sizes there is nothing healthy here.
  • Food: 4.5 out of 5. Superb. Would be a 5 out of 5 if the dinners were as good as the apps.
  • Service: 5 out of 5. Not a single complaint. Perfect service.
  • Seating: 5 out of 5. No wait. Perfect timing.
  • Ambiance: 4 out of 5. Cozy, romantic, intimate.
  • Price: 4 out of 5. Expensive, for app, dinner, tip $50 per person. Saving grace is that you bring your own wine.