4/25/2012 03:33:00 PM

The Best Thing We Ate Last Night in Philly: Baked Brie at Valanni

As the strip along 13th Street has morphed from simply “the Gayborhood” into restaurant-focused Midtown Village, Mediterranean Valanni has stayed consistently popular, thanks in large part to the variety of creative tapas selections on the menu. The choices are varied and always changing, but last night we hit on our new favorite for spring. Whether the weather is balmy or nippy (and who knows, these days?), the baked brie is a mini-crockpot of happiness.

Soft and warm but not oozing beyond recognition, the cheese is covered in Grand Marnier-soaked cranberries, pieces of ripe pear and chopped hazelnuts, for a winning sweet-and-savory combo. Additional bonus: the grilled baguette that comes on the side is not overly crisp (hate when it cuts the roof of your mouth) nor too limp, and servers will readily bring a few extra pieces - which you may wish for, thanks to the healthy amount of fromage in the dish.

Pair it with a ginger margarita (topped with sticks of fresh ginger) for a flavor journey that can kick-start any evening on the town.

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