thoughts on food, culture, and community

Archive for the month “August, 2011”

Foodie Goodie: Grilled Caesar Showcases Surprising Star, Susquehanna Twp.

While dressing up a Caesar salad is usually synonymous with adding something grilled, such as shrimp or chicken, celebrate the end of this grilling season with a grilled Caesar salad at Gabriella’s Italian Ristorante in Susquehanna Twp.

In this salad, what’s grilled is the lettuce.

If you’re imagining a plateful of wilted lettuce leaves, hold on. Grilling lettuce is a technique that combines that flame of summer with the rich flavors of fall, produced by “ kissing” the lettuce with just enough fire to coat it (think seconds) with the same char that so complements asparagus or string beans.

Top the toasted leaves with fresh Caesar dressing and thick slices of aurrichio (provolone) cheese, and you have Gabriella’s Caesar.

“I tried a similar salad for the first time at a restaurant about two years ago,” owner Pietro Carcioppolo says. “I said to my wife, ‘ I can do that.'”

This article was first published on page B4 in The Patriot-News on Wednesday, August 31.  Read the complete version here.

A salad of contrasts: crunchy, cool, and creamy

Foodie Goodie: Chris’s Crepes and Coffee Co., Harrisburg, Embraces Flavor, Family

Chris Kiley and Creations, Broad Street Market, Harrisburg

Think French cuisine is defined by moldy cheese, snails, and bottles of wine with unintelligible names?  Think again.  Chris’s Crepes and Coffee Co. at the Broad Street Market, Harrisburg, is rethinking one classic French concept: the ultra-thin French pancake known as a crepe.

In France, crepes are traditionally made while you wait, folded with simple ingredients, and sold in small shops called creperies. Recent trends have pushed these soft golden disks onto menus in Europe and abroad, where the crepes act as canvases for sweet ingredients like Nutella, powdered sugar, or fruit; or savory ingredients like scallops, asparagus, and cream.

However, at Chris’s Crepes and Coffee Co.—opened in June 2011—the crepes are all-American: stuffed like breakfast burritos, smothered in peanut butter for a dessert, or folded with chicken and bacon as a lunch wrap.

“A crepe is basically a French tortilla, just 100 calories less,” owner Chris Kiley explains.  “It’s incredible versatile and customizable.”

Hearty, elegant, and accessible, the fillings of Kiley’s crepes range from yogurt, seasonal fruit, and granola for breakfast to melted ham and Swiss for lunch.  When wrapped in a still-warm, slightly springy crepe, even ho-hum fillings get new life: the cool lettuce of Kiley’s chicken Caesar crepe seems crisper.  The textures of his Chocolate King crepe—a crepe folded with peanut butter, banana, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream—feel richer, like a molten peanut butter cup.

“We wanted to make a food that could either work as a snack or a meal, something that you could eat while walking,” Kiley explains.

Kiley’s cooking experience began in Central Pennsylvania when he was in high school.  He worked first in the kitchens of local eateries, such as the former Giagantes on St. John’s Church Road, Camp Hill; Kosta’s Fine Cuisine, Camp Hill; and T. Jimmy’s Place, Mt. Holly Springs.  Then, after earning his degree at Shippensburg University, Kiley moved to Maui, Hawaii, where he worked for six years as head chef at the Basil Tomatoes Italian Grille on the Kaanapali Resort.

“I’ve just always enjoyed cooking,” Kiley explains.  “I like the creativity.”

Kiley and his family became familiar with crepes when his older brother, Mike, worked in Paris from 2001-2003.  “My parents would visit me in the winter and Mike in the summer,” Kiley explains. “It was my dad’s idea to start a crepe stand in Pennsylvania.”

Kiley returned to the mainland in 2006 when Mike was diagnosed with cancer and needed a bone marrow transplant.  Kiley was found to be a match.  “It was time to return to my roots,” he says.

Today, Kiley now runs Chris’s Crepes and Coffee Co. with his mother, Mary Ellen, and his father, Pat. His brother Mike now works in Washington, D.C.

The stand serves breakfast, lunch, and dessert crepes as well as bottled drinks, iced tea, lemonade, and 100% Hawaiian-grown coffee.  Kiley hopes to expand his business by offering daily specials and catering options.

“Once you try a crepe, you’ll love it,” Kiley says.

Chris’s Crepes and Coffee Co.
Broad Street Market
Brick Market Building
1233 North Third Street
Harrisburg, PA 17102
(717) 695-7970

Thursday-Friday, 7am-5pm
Saturday, 7am-4pm

First published in TheBurg, September 2011.  Click here to visit TheBurg’s website and download the latest issue. 

Friday Photo: Grilled Lettuce

In honor of a grilled Caesar salad that will feature in The Patriot-News next Wednesday, here’s another version: grilled romaine served with bleu cheese and an orange-shallot vinaigrette.  It’s a great, hearty salad (mostly because you’re eating half a head of romaine, wayyy more than you’d eat ordinarily) that’s defined by the grill’s smoky char, the creamy earthiness of the bleu cheese, and orange’s bright citrus.  Find this summer-y recipe from the Food Network here and mangez-vous bien to keep Hurricane Irene at bay…

Summer Sunshine, 2011

Adverb Questions

In teaching an eighth grade English grammar class today, we discussed the questions that adverbs answer: when (dance now!), where (sit down!), how (sing merrily!), how often (sneeze frequently!), and to what extent (abandon completely!).  I had a student trace stencils and put these questions on a poster that I hung above my whiteboard, right in plain sight of the students when they doze off in the middle of a grammar lesson, as I expect they do.  (Grammar is hardly stimulating.)  But the poster also mentions a final question that adverbs sometimes answer: “Why.”

The grammatical reasons why adverbs provide this answer are complicated, but the use of adverbs that answer this question is not.  It’s the questions most frequently asked by toddlers: Why is the sky blue?  Why are boys different the girls?  Why (as I once asked myself), if everyone likes pizza, don’t we just eat chicken and pizza every day?  The process of asking “why” diminishes as we age, but I, like Michel Faure, who asked in the Spring 2011 column of France Magazine, questioned today the reason why we stop questioning.

“All children are philosophers.  They aren’t aware of it,” Faure writes.  He explains that, like most intellectuals, children are simply looking for the Truth of what the world is and how they fit into it.  However, for most of us, philosophy stops at school, that institution that helps condition us to fit into society.  Students are taught to measure margins, type properly, and write papers to the hundrenth word.  That helps people become good, productive, and organized citizens, but that particular adverb “why” can become lost.

As an English teacher, I’ve often felt confined by the grammar-centric portion of my curriculum.  However, beneath the structure of the words that we speak, the words and their meanings still remain.  Getting a student to understand “what” is the focus of his essay is hard enough; being dedicated to him the “why” behind his writing is even harder.

Ninth Grade 2010

Jumping with Grammar Joy, 2010

Friday Photo: Summer Fruit Tetris

Fruit Tetris, Broad Street Market, Harrisburg, PA

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