LaBan chat: Good fall beers, pulled pork, and Halloween

Michelle Shlomo's Israeli-style chicken couscous. A recipe for this can be found online.
Michelle Shlomo's Israeli-style chicken couscous. A recipe for this can be found online. (CRAIG LaBAN)
Posted: October 18, 2012

Here is an excerpt from Craig LaBan's online chat:

Craig LaBan: First off, I have the recipe for that fantastic Israeli couscous I was bragging about last week. It comes from my good friend Michelle Shlomo, who shares it with our family every year under their sukkah. Here it is: www.philly.com/couscous.

Reader: Favorite fall beers (pumpkin and/or Octoberfest) this season?

C.L: For pumpkin, I've always loved the Dogfish's Punk the best - don't like my beer to taste like pie. Though I haven't done an extensive survey, I feel pumpkin ales have become like the molten chocolate cake . . . Drank those, pretty much done with 'em. For 'fest, I'm always partial to the brews of Ayinger, one of my favorite German breweries, period. Though Spaten, of course, is a fest classic. For something different, check out Ommegang's Scythe & Sickle, a Belgian ale approach to a four-grain brew.

Reader: What was your favorite candy to get when you were trick-or-treating? What do you give out now?

C.L.: Easy. I remind myself of this every year as I "supervise" the kids on their tour of the neighborhood: Butterfingers and 100 Grand bars are my personal faves, followed closely by Almond Joys, as long as they're fresh. Which isn't always a given.

Reader: The most recent PA Bar exam results came out last week. Any suggestions for a celebratory dinner in Center City? This is a big deal so we need a nice fancy spot for dinner.

C.L.: Congrats! Where to celebrate depends on what you like to eat - steak or Italian or a whiskey bar, or a well-prepared heirloom carrot? Philly has a splurge for all those crowds. Check out my top-of-the-charts 4-bell list from this year (with plenty of side links for other ideas), www.philly.com/4bell. I'd start the evening with a pour of awesome whiskey (Village Whiskey anyone?) or a great craft cocktail (Franklin Mortgage), then head out on the town, finishing in Chinatown for late-night hot pots and salt-baked triple at Shiao Lan Kung, then more cocktails at Hop Sing Laundromat. Sounds like a celebration!

Reader: Had a chance yet to make it up to Brian's in Lambertville, N.J.? You had 3-belled the chef's previous spot a few years back at the now-closed Rouget in Newtown. If you haven't, have you heard anything?

C.L.: No, not yet, but I'd like to get there. Chef Brian Held is quite talented, though I think this concept is a little different (less French, more Italian) than Rouget, which I did like a lot in Newtown.

Reader: What are your thoughts on best pulled pork sandwich in the city? I've yet to have one that is authentic and transcendent here.

C.L.: At the moment, I think Sweet Lucy's is still my favorite for the Carolina vinegar style. Percy St. is OK. Henri's Hotts, the BBQ joint off the Black Horse Pike in Jersey, is better than both of those. I'm really looking forward, though, to exploring our boom of BBQ newcomers, from Blue Belly to Fette Sau and Bubba's. (See Michael Klein's preview story on the front of Thursday's Food section.)

Mike Geno: I've started a new series with sushi as my subject. I've enjoyed some good rolls at a couple places in Center City so far, and had a great meal at Sagami, in Collingswood. Any advice on a good city hit-list for places to sample good sushi?

C.L.: Hey, it's the now world-renowned food painter Mike Geno - the Caravaggio of Cheese! How exciting to hear you are taking your oil paints to the world of sushi. A few that make especially beautiful rolls worth considering: Umai Umai and Zama, some others, like Morimoto, Fuji and Sagami, make very nice sushi, but trend more traditional. You will get beautiful textures and colors of high-grade fish at these places, less flash, though, and inventive composition.

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