Fall flavors in Philly: Brussels sprouts and a call for fennel

If you think they’ve lost their luster, think again.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re here to stay. And why not? Cabbages fare especially well on fall and winter menus for a reason. They’re in season!

Long gone are the days of mushy boiled Brussels sprouts. Either halved, seared and roasted or completely deconstructed and fried or sautéed, these sprouts are more than just their side dish debut. They’ve proved their worth as a mainstay. And the chefs … they sure haven’t shied away.

Increasingly, going out to eat involves dietary restrictions. And not just mine or yours, but your friends and family. Ordering something everyone can enjoy and equally appreciate, sans meat, is becoming easier to do here in Philadelphia.

Over in Fishtown at Sancho Pistola’s, Adan Trinidad’s Brussels sprout tacos are the perfect example of seasonal creativity, while keeping the dining options inclusive.

Me? I’m a carnivore. But that doesn’t mean I’m opposed to a dish crafted around some delicious veggies. My dining partner? A gluten-free vegetarian. The solution? Brussels sprout tacos.

The Brussels are skillfully opened, revealing each cabbage leaf to the elements and flavors of the dish. They are deep fried, giving them a crisp char on the edges, but leaving their stems with a toothsome substance. 

Trinidad fries the sprouts with both pickled Fresno chilies and pickled jalapenos peppers, giving them some spice and bite. The caramelized shallot adds another layer of flavor and texture, and the fresh radish slices impart a crisp crunch and undeniable eye appeal, making this dish a total win.

It’s exciting to see fresh, fun ideas on the menu. Especially something with replicable value.

Speaking of which, I’m looking for some fennel recipes to pique my interest. At my house, we slice the bulb in eighths, soak in water, and eat it raw, with a little salt with our salad course. But I’m always eager to see it used differently.

Tonight, I’m looking forward to checking out Neuf, Chef Joncarl Lachman’s new Mediterranean/North African restaurant on Ninth Street in the Italian Market. He’s got a dish of fennel three ways that’s calling my name. I’ll be sure to report back, ASAP!

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