Summertime chatter


Summer has officially arrived, and the ghastly heat and high humidity came with it.

New restaurants will be popping up all over South Philly. Chefs will be creating dishes using local summer ingredients.

Kanella, the marvelous Greek/Cypriot BYOB, is moving into a larger space at 757 S. Front St. with a liquor license. Kanella, which is Greek for cinnamon, gained a loyal following when it opened a number of years ago in Center City.

Whetstone Tavern, which will specialize in American fare, is slated for a July opening at 700 S. Fifth St.

I am counting the days until chef Scott Schroeder and Pastry Chef Pat O’Malley open the Hungry Pigeon, 743 S. Fourth St. I have eaten pigeon in London and guarantee these talented chefs will not serve customers anything that resembles the birds flying around City Hall. The restaurant, located at Fourth and Fitzwater streets, will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Schroeder’s signature pot pie is expected to be on the menu.

Unfortunately, we may have to wait until September for chef Joncarl Lachman’s Restaurant Neuf to open its doors at 943 S. Ninth St. The French/North African-inspired menu, with a nod to Morocco, will be a welcome addition to the Bella Vista neighborhood.

Summer ingredients inspire chefs to keep appetizers, soups, salads, entrees and desserts simple.

I recently purchased the first Lancaster County tomatoes of the season, and they were red, ripe, luscious and bursting with flavor. The classic tomato, basil and mozzarella salad should be a staple on restaurants during the summer months. Chilled tomato soup and a watermelon, tomato and basil appetizer are tasty ways to begin a summer meal.

Jersey blueberries are here, as I found them at the Reading Terminal Market. Chilled blueberry soup and desserts created with my favorite berry should take pride of place on many menus. Blueberry shortcake, lemon and blueberry pound cake topped with coffee ice cream is a favorite dessert this time of year.

Pennsylvania strawberries should also be an inspiration for pastry chefs. They are small, deep red in color and very sweet. I do not know anyone who would turn down classic strawberry shortcake with whipped cream. Homemade strawberry ice cream or sorbet is a fine way to beat the heat.

Hopefully the rich heavy dishes of winter, such as short ribs and lamb stew, are behind us. Lighter fare is the key whether one is dining at an outdoor beer garden or indoors in air-conditioned splendor.

Fluke flounder, blue fish and striped bass — freshly caught off the Jersey Shore — will hopefully make their way into restaurant kitchens. Wild salmon from the Pacific Northwest is in season until early September. It is one of my favorite fishes.

I am thinking of how the talented chef Luke Palladino will incorporate summer ingredients onto the Palladino’s on Passyunk, 1934 E. Passyunk Ave., menu. Although I reviewed the restaurant, I will make a return visit just to see what he is up to. Chef Lee Styer of Fond, 1537 S. 11th St., never disappoints. He has an instinctive way with fish and shellfish. So does Lachman of Noord, 1046 Tasker St.

Soft shell crabs are no longer the bargain they once were, but they, too, are inspiring chefs to pull out their sauté pans and simply sauté them in a brown butter white wine sauce.

My friend Thom Motta, who is a lifelong South Philadelphian, recently told me that the chefs at Birra, 1700 E. Passyunk Ave., are creating calamari tempura style. I enjoy the pizza and salads there, but this is a dish I must try.

I am waiting for Grace & Pat’s, 1533 S. 11th St., to include pasta on their menu before I review the restaurant. I loved their pizza, but want to wait until the full menu is on offer.

It is going to be a long, hot summer, but South Philly chefs will keep us cool with their creativity and lighter, fresh and local ingredients. 

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