Hyperlocal, ethical eating without the pretense.

By Brian Freedman
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Aug. 17, 2010

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Photo by Michael Persico

Ethics, glamour and serenity rarely co-exist as well as they do at Tweed—but here they are, deeply felt and fully developed.

The former is evident in the menu, which leans heavily toward the organic, the seasonal and the locally grown. The latter two are subtly implied the second you walk in. The atmosphere has clearly been carefully considered, from the tactile nature of the surfaces (custom zinc bar, velvet seat backs, white linen tablecloths, tweed banquettes upstairs and down) to music that ran the gamut from South America to Sinatra.

Thankfully, Tweed is about much more than the immediate appeal of its aesthetics. The food is what matters above all else, and it’s being conceived and executed with enough creativity and care by Chef David Cunningham to warrant a cheer in this city.

French bean salad is a handy example of the ethic at work here. Farm-to-table is more than a buzzphrase at Tweed—it’s an actionable, necessary aspect of the food. In this case, those petite, softly blanched beans were fresh enough that they let out a barely audible squeak when penetrated by the teeth. Chopped heirloom tomatoes lent a note of hot-summer sweetness, and the shallots in the sherry vinaigrette and the red verjus buttressed balsamic drizzle a bright spark.

Grass-fed cheesesteak croquettes should have been far less elegant than they were, but carried a perfectly balanced interior of artery-clogging goodness. And while the caramelized onion and tomato compote was perhaps a touch sweet on its own, it was exceptional on one of those earthy croquettes.

Sauteed pork chop was Chef Cunningham’s riff on the barbecue of the season, and it hit all the right notes. A Fred Flintstone-worthy bone-in chop was plated atop a mound of rainbow Swiss chard and covered in a comforting blanket of cheddar-reinforced creamed corn. And despite the drama of that hunk of pork, it was the toppings that were most remarkable. Star anise, cinnamon and vanilla brought an exotic perfume to all- American corn. And the barbecue sauce (spicy, tangy and complex from Boylans birch beer, smoked garlic, hickory, coffee, chiles, vinegar and more) enhanced the pork’s own flavor without dominating it.

Tweed’s is a hyperseasonal menu, and this time of year, corn has an understandably big role. It certainly helped lift a lovely risotto with mushroom fricassee and chervil from the trenches of earthy familiarity: The snap of the occasional kernel here provided much-needed textural differentiation and a lingering nuttiness.

The wine list is wide-ranging and reasonably priced, and the cocktails (happily, all $9) are creative and food-friendly. The ‘Bombay’ bellini in particular is an aromatic miracle in a Champagne flute; the freshness of white peach puree is imbued with mysterious depth by cardamom, and the two flavors are tied together by gin and Prosecco.

Perhaps most indicative of Tweed’s M.O. are the desserts, which walk the razor’s edge between cheeky and earnest. A birch-beer float with locally made honey-lavender gelato brought a sense of excitement that this childhood treat rarely attains.

Milk and cookies, while not terribly novel, were done better than Mom’s: Dark chocolate with white chocolate chips, peanut butter, classic milk- chocolate chip and oatmeal-raisin-shredded-carrot were dunked in an accompanying cappuccino mug of milk from grass-fed cows.

There were, of course, a handful of less-than-stellar moments. The local beer selection could offer more range and pairing options. Smoked salmon deviled eggs groaned under the weight of too many competing flavors—the green apple, the smoked salmon roe and the dill theoretically should have played well together, but the flavors ended up canceling each other out, and the mustard-sharp egg yolk struggled to be noticed. And zucchini gratin left me flat, the chunks of delicate-flavored rainbow, globe, yellow and green zucchini smothered by an unnecessarily thick pillow of Parmesan.

But these are easily rectifiable and far from fatal. On the whole, Tweed is one of the more exciting restaurants I’ve visited in months. Tweed is ethical eating shorn of its pretense and preciousness, and instead given the hefty dollop of glamour it always deserved—a welcome addition to the Philly food scene.

114 S. 12th St.

Cuisine: Contemporary American and highly seasonal.
Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 5-10pm; Fri.-Sat., 5-11pm.
Price range: $5-$29.
Atmosphere: Sophisticated but not pretentious.
Food: Contemporary American farm-to-table.
Service: Well-trained, versed in the menu and exceptionally helpful.

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