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Philadelphia Fevre Steak and Hoagie Shop, Seattle, WA, tasted on February 28, 2004 The steak sub (for anyone confused by "subs" please substitute heros, hoagies, submarine sandwiches, or cheesesteaks) is one of my favorite all time foods. In high school my friend Roee and I used to plot the apartment we would share after we moved out of our homes. The centerpiece would be a sub-making station complete with frying surface for the steak, mushroom, and onions (not to mention melting the cheese), as well as bins of vegetables and other toppings. We would eat subs three times a day. (Yes, I know this is weird, but be sensitive as I'm baring my soul and my adolescent silliness.) I still love these beautiful creations, but alas I have to travel back to Boston to get the perfect combination of toasted roll, chunky pieces of steak, cheese, and veggies.

And yes, I do know that Philadelphia prides itself on its own cheese, steak, and bread combination. I'm still on the fence however about whether they are any good. I have traveled to Philadelphia and partaken of the famous cheesesteaks (with). But we didn't eat at a top cheesesteak spot so it hardly seems fair. But I've eaten other cheesesteaks since that claim to be authentic and they all shared certain qualities that I wasn't sure about (more on this later). Anyway, I do crave a good steak sub, and right near where I live is the Philadelphia Fevre Steak and Hoagie Shop. I would have preferred it was the Boston Steak, Cheese, Mushroom, Onion, Sub Shop but beggars can't be choosers.

Look, writing about food is not something that can be done objectively. And I freely admit that the memories associated with the perfect combination of toasted roll, cheese, and steak overwhelm me with warmth and positivity. It's simply hard to compete with that. And any similar combination of ingredients is inevitably going to be held to that standard. I'll write more about objectivity at a later date, but I wanted to be up front about my biases.

Back to Philadelphia Fevre. The atmosphere there is great. Homey. Comfortable. Self-effacing. Focused on cheesesteaks. And with free wireless access. Cool. Definitely a place you'd want to hang out. The cheesesteaks are filled to the brim with cheese and steak. They do a good job. And here's where I can't tell whether my hesitation is about the quality of the dish or my bias. I'll let you be the judge. First things first. The roll was not toasted. I think if you're going to put a huge bomb of juicy steak and cheese in a bun, it's critical to toast the bun. You need it to maintain some structure as you eat your way through it. I asked for toasting, but they said they couldn't toast, and could only grill and the roll would get a bit charred. I talked to the owner a little later and he said in fact he could have grilled it properly for me. Ok. No biggie.

Now to the other two main ingredients. First the steak. I'll admit it, the steak in cheesesteaks that I've had has a shredded texture. This may sound silly, but it can almost feel gritty to me. I also think they stuff too much of this shredded steak into the roll making the ingredient balance a little bit off of what I consider perfection. The second issue is the cheese. The appropriate topping is whiz as in Cheese-Whiz. I have no problem with processed foods. They have a uniformity that I often find comforting. But I just don't think it does justice to the steak. It just ends up being gloppy. I prefer provolone. (Authentic Philly Cheesesteak fans feel free to flame away starting... now.) Philadelphia Fevre did accommodate me on this front.

Did the cheesesteaks at Philadelphia Fevre meet my deep emotional need for the steak and cheese subs I grew up with? No. Were they decent in their own way? Defnitely. I think they might be even better next time if I get some toasting/grilling of the roll. And time moves on.











Tastingmenu is focused on superlative restaurant experiences from two perspectives: behind the plate and behind the stove. Tastingmenu is written by Hillel (professional eater) and Dana (up-and-coming professional chef) in Seattle, Washington.

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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