I have a favorite holiday. It features warm weather, fireworks, grilled meats, cocktails on the beach…. and maybe my ideal color palette consists exclusively of red, white, and blue.
That said, and unfortunately for us all, Independence Day is just that…. a day. So while I have zero qualms chanting “U-S-A” in mid-February, the rest of the country may not be as prone to shout it back (this could mean they hate America, but that’s neither here nor there). Luckily, come autumn, while I mourn for the end of my favorite season, I can rejoice that another season is on the horizon.
A season that is the Holy Grail for every semi-professional theme partier. A chance to pull out all the stops. Where the cream based makeup flows like water…
Where visits to Joann Fabrics are not only frequent but fruitful.
The hair is molded like clay.
And just about any interpretation of a costume is tolerated… dare I say, embraced?
Halloween tends to last anywhere from 1-3 weeks, and this year should entail 3-4 costumes. Potential Halloweek(ish) plans range from Yelp Events to house parties to theme parties to handing out candy to sick children. And this is the kind of time that I train all year for…. Now the real question is, do I shake my tail feather while Making Time? Do I whiskey-a-go-go to Trestle Inn to viva Brazil? You KNOW I’ll be Zombie Crawling through Northern Liberties the night before Halloween… But the next night, should I geek out at Tattooed Mom’s while getting Emojional?
The world is my oyster. Or at least Philly is my clam rocking an oyster costume….
Time to get shucking.
I’m known for making a big deal out of things. My birthday tends to be more of a birth-week/month, I treat theme parties with the type of fanfare usually reserved for Halloween, and I treat Halloween with the type of reverence that is usually reserved for Bacchanalian feasts. But you know what I didn’t really make a fuss about?
The fact that I went to Australia for 9 days. Many of my friends didn’t even know I was going until SURPRISE I was already there. And perhaps I’ll share more about this epic journey later…. but I will say that my last meal on my 15.5 hour flight, while tasty, didn’t get any points for presentation.
Thanks, Qantas, but let’s leave it to the professionals. In this case, the Kitchen and Bar staff of one of my favorite spots in the city, Alla Spina. About a day after I returned from Oz, incredibly jet-lagged and totally unexpected, I stumbled (almost literally) into one of Alla Spina’s legendary Cage Matches. With limited seating (I think capped around 20) and reservations only, ranging from about $65-75, these epic meals pit cooks from different restaurants in the Vetri family, or different sections of the same resto, or brewers, or really…. anyone that’s been longing for a grudge match against each other. I’ve gathered there tends to be a theme (in this case, sort of an autumnal vibe) and some ingredients. Our meal focused on 4 ingredients: Apple, short rib, pumpkin, and brussels sprouts.
My kinda meal.
There was also a boozy beverage paired with each course, in this order: cocktail, beer, wine, and the “wild card”. This was an edible adventure, and every course was more delicious than the last. Well, until the end, when I felt about stuffed enough to just tip over and roll down the stairs.
From upper left corner clockwise: Savory goat cheese tart with bacon and brussels, Braised short rib (for some ungodly amount of time) with parsnip hazelnut puree, smoked pumpkin gnudi with beef broth, and pig head terrine with apple cider and duckfat, served with a radish apple salad.
Housemade pita stuffed with brussels sprout hummus, lamb merguez (OMG!) and yogurt dressing served with a brussels pistachio soup of some sort, pumpkin chocolate chip cookie with pumpkin ice cream and STUPID tasty hot buttered rum, short rib surf and turf tartare (served with an Asian pear bellini), and some absolutely unreal pudding that I sort of remember in a dreamlike sense, without detail, only sensations.
And if you’ve not been to a cage match, do yourself a solid and keep your eyes glued to the Twitter. I would absolutely describe this as a “must try” event for Philly foodies.
Speaking of Philly “musts”, if you’re a wine-o in this fair city, you’ve got a lot of options. As a beer-o (oh, nope, that’s a horrible term I’ll never use to describe myself with again), my experiences are limited, but when I was invited to Pinot Boutique to celebrate their 8th Anniversary, I couldn’t very well say no…. And thank goodness I didn’t! Though it was only about 18 hours before my Australia trip began, I rolled up with my dear friend Susan to sip vino at Pinot!
Located in Old City, conveniently by the 2nd Street MFL stop, this spot’s got every goodie that a wine-lover could want, from charms to decanters, glasses to kitschy napkins, bottle stoppers to this crazy pouring spinner thing that was like a Russian Roulette of Wine. I don’t know, again, I’m not an expert… But the folks at Pinot are, so I left things in their capable hands.
I’ll admit, I spent my fair share of time canoodling with the one beer table present (old habits die hard), but hands down the COOLEST aspect of the evening was pairing wine with two Philly favs: Cheesesteaks AND soft pretzels.
I won’t give away the secrets, but if you wanna check out a taste test like this on your own, they even have classes now and then…
While I can’t say that I’ve gone over to the dark side (would that be like…. a full bodied Malbec?), I have more than a few friends who prefer their fermented beverages to be of the grape variety. And since Pinot Boutique now also SELLS wine…. well, I’ll definitely know where to point them.
As long as I can remember, I’ve been a morning person. Sure, I rely heavily on naps, but when it comes to being up with the sun, I’m all about it. That said, when my buddies began raving about this workout “thing” they did on the steps of Philly’s Art Museum, I was initially intrigued and then immediately lost all interest upon finding out the start time was 6:25 in the morning on a Wednesday. See, it doesn’t really feel like “morning” when the sun’s not up. Don’t tell that to the Project November folks!
But if old dogs can learn new tricks, I certainly could wake up at (UGH) 5:30 to see what the fuss was about. I hopped on my bike, scooted up to the Art Museum, and was shocked to find not only a healthy mass of people BUT a feeling of excitement in my heart for this crack-of-dawn sweat sesh.
If you’ve never heard of the November Project, that’s probably because none of your friends are doing it. Because I can pretty much guarantee that, if they are, they’re talking about it. Probably all of the time. From their website:
November Project™ is a FREE fitness movement that was born in Boston as a way to stay in shape during cold New England months… Our members vary from Olympic medalists, professional athletes, marathoners, triathletes, current and former collegiate athletes all the way to complete fitness rookies and recent couch potatoes just looking to kickstart their healthy life choices. If you think that you’re not fit enough to join the group, stop thinking and come see what the fuss is all about.
So I did. Luckily, I wasn’t alone in this insanity, and managed to rope a few buddies in for the fun.
Part of the reason I was so excited to check out this November Project is because my friends that do it…. they’re like FANATICS. Seriously, I feel like the term “cult-like” has negative connotations but… you get it. They wear branded shirts, they call the entire group “The Tribe”, and there’s this genuine pride and love for the movement. That’s the kind of thing I love, so I couldn’t stay away forever.
After a little pump-up session with the group leaders, we did some a suicide run using the landings of the steps for “stops”. And the rest of the workout, I’ll let November Project Philly speak for themselves:
we threw a few decks at the bottom of the stairs, ran the stairs and flipped cards at the bottom. Face cards required finding a buddy, running up the steps and squat jumping to the Art Museum door, Aces required finding a buddy and sprinting the loop, all other cards were a standard push-up/squat deck workout followed by running the steps.
And the view wasn’t too bad, either.
It wasn’t easy. For this non-runner, running up and down steps, laps around the steps, and generally all running is…. less than ideal. But the energy was contagious and these fitness fanatics kept a smile on my face…. most of the time.
But then…. I felt great. I went into work sweaty and smiling, and though I didn’t rush back on Friday to join them again…. I kinda think I’ll be making a habit of setting that alarm for Wednesday mornings….
(Author’s note: Immediately after work, I rushed home and took a nap.)
I’ve been on a kick lately. Sometimes I get on kicks. Sometimes those kicks involve watching 4 episodes of Dating Naked followed by 4 episodes of Married at First Sight (Summer TV options got my like woe.)
Sometimes those kicks are actual kicks, courtesy of BodyCombat and Kickboxing.
Lately, it’s been…. a Nacho Kick.
I’ve inadvertently found myself on the hunt for Philly’s best nachos and, while that hunt hasn’t come to a close yet…. it’s had some pretty tasty (and a few meh) stops along the way.
Come along, folks. Join me on a crunchy, meaty, melty, cheesy journey.
Let’s just start with the meh and work our way up. Lucha Cartel.
The Lucha Nachos from this Old City staple are touted as “crispy corn tortilla chips, sliced jalapeños, monterey jack & chihuahua cheeses topped with pico de gallo, guacamole, and crema for $10. We tacked on refried beans for $2 and chicken for $4 for a total of $16.
Call me old fashioned, but a nacho order that doesn’t default with beans AIN’T A NACHO TO ME!!
Maybe it was a busy night, but the nachos came out room temperature, borderline cold. We complained and were given a second order, but my nacho steam was a little lost seeing lifeless lumps of frijoles and chunkless guac. Sure, we ate most of em…. but these aren’t the nachos of my dreams. I’ll leave it at that. Don’t worry, the next 3 were.
Enter Sancho Pistola’s. Because you can’t spell Nachos without Sancho. And their description is on-point:
really expensive cheese, crema, tomato, refried beans, cilantro, jalapeno, and onion.
Throw in a little chicken tinga (this is not a suggestion but an ORDER) and you’re in for the most delightful, wild, tinga-taste party. Even distribution of toppings, the onions were PICKLED Y’ALL!! This was my dream nacho. The little squirt bottle to the upper left contained, not ketchup, but a spicy creamy sauce. Oh baby. Do yourself a solid. Get here during happy hour for 1/2 priced nachos. But don’t worry, they’re full of flavor (that’s like a sentence my dad would write. I’m cool with it.)
Pardon the semi-lousy picture. Including the aggressive hand of my buddy Stephanie. This was taken during Philly Beer Week at one of my all-time favorite spots, Khyber Pass. Their nachos, clocking in at $14 for a large with added BBQ pulled pork come complete with tortilla chips, jack cheese, green tomato salsa, and sour cream.
I realize, now, they don’t have beans on them. But I’ve had them countless times and have never missed a bean. Must say something about the heavy attention paid to the rest of the toppings. The pork is really what shines, here. That, and the fact that they have enough incredible craft beers on hand to drown a horse.
(Sidenote: I don’t condone the drowning of horses. Save a horse, order nachos.)
But sometimes, I don’t wanna trek out to Old City or Northern Liberties. Sometimes, I just wanna stick close to home for some comfort food. Mostly on Sundays. And definitely from Sidecar Bar and Grille.
These nachos, though.
The deal of the century on Pork Me Sundays, for $7 ($10 normally) you get an epic portion of chips covered in braised pork (or chorizo…. but I go braised), queso caribe, chihuahua cheese (made with REAL chihuahua? Jury’s still out), black beans (PRAISE BE), jalapeños, and served with sour cream and pineapple-tomatillo salsa.
These were some of the first nachos I tried in the city, and I just can’t quit them. I will request these nachos in my final week of life, and continue to invite anyone I know here just so we can “split” nachos (don’t mind me greedily hoarding the beany-cheesy ones).
But really…. I’m still on the lookout for the nacho order to end all nachos.
So you tell me… what’s your dream nacho plate covered in? inquiring minds and all that….
Birthdays are a time for friends and phenomenal food, dancing and dresses, and, of course, tiaras and tequila.
Well, I guess some of those are optional, but when available, one should always jump on the opportunity to enjoy a boozy brunch with some of your favorite people (and ingredients). When the folks from Williams-Sonoma reached out to ask how I put my own spin on a traditional Bloody Mary, I had a quick flashback to the
last only time I’ve ever enjoyed tried the classic brunch beverage. It involved a premade, super salty mix that tasted like tomato soup and disguised any and all hint of alcohol. In other words: silent, spicy, and deadly.
It was time for a change. Time to make sure that, as I celebrated another year passing, I let my brunch drink grow up with me.
Enter: Juicers!! My hostess for the weekend and her partner are the proud owners of a Breville Juice Fountain Compact that we used each day of my visit. This power-house packs a punch, and our juicing was efficient and yielded excellent, juicy results. I also couldn’t help but notice that it was small enough that it COULD fit into even MY itty bitty apartment…. maybe I’ll treat myself for my NEXT birthday!!
Although we couldn’t find any Jamaican Jerk Paste, we used one of my favorite show’s Jamaican-Style Bloody Mary recipes, and subbed tequila for vodka (we were enjoying jalapeno cream cheese, seemed only fitting).
The ingredients were fresh, fun, and (most importantly) GREEN! It’s my favorite color. I like to stick with themes.
The pepperoncini replaced poached shrimp as a garnish and we rimmed our glasses with my new FAVORITE spicy spice, Saint Lucifer Habanero Blend. This Bloody Maria is NOT for the faint of heart (or tastebuds).
I got to juicing. And, JUST LIKE THAT, it was juiced!
Faster than a speeding bullet, and FAR fresher than any pre-packaged blend of tomato juice, this Bloody Maria was spicy, savory (thanks again, Worcestershire Sauce!), and super-sippable.
And not at all soupy.
I don’t think I’ve become a full on Bloody convert, I tend to prefer my brunch bevvies to be bubbly…. but throw some huevos rancheros on a plate, hit me with some chilaquiles, and I’d make this Bloody Maria part of any and all future brunches!
*Full Disclosure: A member of Williams-Sonoma’s social team reached out to ask if I could write a post featuring some juicers, which worked out really well since we’d already planned a boozy birthday brunch! That said, I received no compensation from them for this post.*
I don’t know if you’re aware of this but, when it comes to Philadelphia Beer Gardens… I’m kind of a local celebrity.
No big, that’s just me, Jordan Price, 26, relaxing in the PHS Pop-Up Beer Garden…. featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Apparently, I lounge so well that photographers just wanna snap shots. I get it.
If you’ve spent any time with me this summer, you’ll know that I suggest a beer garden pretty much every single night. Because when the sun (or moon) is shining, the temperatures are as comfortable as they’ve been, and Philly’s BGA (Beer Garden Abundance) Scale is off the charts, why WOULDN’T you want to bring a bunch of friends and nosh/sip in the great outdoors?
But you might be wondering: Which of the new Philly beer gardens is the right fit for me?
Wonder no longer. I got you girl (and guy. And puppy. And whatever.)
1. First up, the annual delight that is The PHS Pop-Up Garden
1438 South Street
Alcoholic drinks range from $6-7
Used to accept credit cards… now I think cash only!
Food: Jerk Chicken and rotating food trucks
Last year’s PHS Pop-Up Garden gave off this very rustic, autumnal vibe. You wanted to spend an entire Indian Summer there. This year, the vibe is much more Ikea wishes you a “Bienvenido a Miami” (Smith, 1997). Located between Broad and 15th on South Street, I’ve visited this spot a handful of times and each experience has been… mostly pleasant. They bring in tasty food trucks and are right next to the jerk chicken hut if you’re feeling peckish.
My only complaint would be the size, which lends itself to a major issue: the dreaded PPP (porta-potty-proximity). When the wind shifts, and it’s a little later in the evening, the area closest to the porta potties begins to smell more than a little ripe.
This Beer Garden is perfect for:
-Outdoor Dates (even if it’s just you and your puppy) or small groups
-A little hammock relaxation (mind you there are only a handful, so get em while they’re hot!)
-YOU! Especially if you’ve always been known by your friends as “that guy” or “that girl”. The one rocking the fedora year-round, who yearns to take their talents to South Beach. And if you dig something other than beer, while you can’t swim up to this bar, you can definitely nab a refreshing dark n’ stormy or vodka basil lemonade (which is…. so good) to beat the heat.
100 S. Independence Mall West (AKA Directly across 6th Street from the Liberty Bell)
NOT Dog friendly
Alcoholic drinks $6-7/18-21 (beer/pitchers); $7-9/24-31 (cocktails/pitchers)
Accepts credit cards!
Food: IT’S AMAZING! Every bite I’ve had has been great, and features everything from cheese curds, wings, and fries (FRIED EVERYTHING!) to salads, steak frites, and DIY S’mores.
So the Independence Beer Garden (or “IBG” as it’s affectionately known) is not (I repeat NOT) a pop-up. They REALLY want you to know this, and will immediately respond to any tweets with silly hashtags like #WeAreNotAPopUp, #WeAreSimplySeasonal, and #FullLiquorLicense. (If you’re unsure of why they’re so serious about this designation, check out the article on the Liquor Control Loophole that pop-ups utilize, and some of the comments/responses). That said, though, it’s true. On first glance, this may seem like a pop-up. Then you realize: they have a full wait-staff. Two bars running draft lines, making cocktails on the fly, and whipping out wine when requested. Also, their kitchen is pumping out some of Philly’s finest al fresco foods you can find.
We get it, @PHLBeerGarden. You’re not a pop-up. You’re so much more.
They’ve got ping pong, bocce courts, giant jenga, and tons of seating. The bathrooms are basic, but definitely not porta potties, and the space is kept immaculately clean. Needless to say, I love that this spot isn’t a pop-up because there’s the potential for continued presence. Time will tell….
This Beer Garden is perfect for:
-The beer lover! With ten draft lines and the option of getting beer by the pitcher, gone are the days of waiting in line every time you want a single beer. Just stock up on a pitcher and park it by the ping pong table.
-Large groups. Enormous picnic tables that can house 10-14 people (we get pretty cozy, my friends and I), a relatively open bar area, and a very communal vibe, swing by IBG when you’re rolling deep.
-Lunch AND dinner. Serving food from 11am-10pm, you could enjoy a wedge salad for lunch, an afternoon snack of pretzel bites, and end the night with a grilled mahi mahi sandwich (which is FANTASTIC, by the way.)
-Gamers. But maybe not like WoW/Halo… I’m talking people who wanna get competitive, throwing bocce balls and pinging some pong.
3. Spruce Street Harbor Park (SSHP or “The Harbor” for short)
Spruce and S Christopher Columbus Blvd
Open until August 31st
Alcoholic drinks $6-9 (beer)
Food: The Blue Anchor AND assorted “carnival” goodies like cotton candy and funnel cake. I’ve only tried the shoestring fries. And had to stop because they’re wonderful and my blood pressure asked me to.
This spot is easily my favorite place to be in Philly during the summer. And, to be honest, maybe just my favorite place in Philly. SSHP has literally everything I could ask for in a little garden oasis paradise:
- It’s puppy and child friendly, so I get to watch joyful small creatures scamper about.
- It’s on the water, and occasionally hosts events like SUP Yoga and little duck paddle boats, as well as a river breeze that refreshes the soul.
- SAND! It’s like we’re at the beach! On the sand, you’ll find picnic tables, mini circular tables, and adirondack chairs (some with their own pillows. SUCH LUXURY!)
- Hammocks, far as the eye can see. Like… over 55 hammocks.
- Oh yes… and at night…. magical fairy twinkle lights.
I’m not one to speak in hyperbole [yes, I am] but this place is THE BEST!! Whether going to read a book in the dwindling remnants of sunshine or enjoy a cold brewski on the scenic (kinda) Delaware River…. I am trying to spend all my time here.
This Beer Garden is perfect for:
-Literally any sized group. Singles, families, date night, giant posses. There is a spot for you.
-BABIES! More appropriately: The whole family! There are toys, occasionally live music, video game mini-arcades, giant chairs on which to take photos. It’s ideal.
-Instagrammers. I can’t tell you how picturesque it is, so just like…. search Instagram. Hammock foot photos (totally guilty), lit-up floating gardens (also guilty), adirondack selfies, that enormous chair I just mentioned, twinkle fairy paradise.
-Gamers AGAIN!: Giant Chess! Giant Jenga! I think I saw large Lego blocks. Definitely shuffleboard. And ALSO: those video games that TRUE gamers dig.
-Honestly? ANYONE! I can’t imagine the person who wouldn’t like this place. And if you’re that person…. well, I guess I’ll see you in the autumn. Because I’m Harbor Park-ing until the bitter end (August 31st).
Summer in Philadelphia is quickly becoming my favorite season. Last year, I was unable to fully partake with periodic traveling, two classes, working at Planned Parenthood, and panicking about my Capstone. But I’ve been able to take things a little slower this summer. I went ahead and got a bike (more on that soon, I’m sure), I’ve been photographed in multiple beer gardens (I’m trying to spend as much time enjoying craft beer outside as possible) and limiting my weekends at the shore to explore my city a little more. As much as summer is about getting outside and drinking excellent summer ales…. It’s also about hot dogs.
South Street Headhouse knows this fact quite well, and has commemorated this with an Annual Dog Days of Summer SHOWDOWN. 20 chefs from 20 different establishments whipping up their take on the American classic. There were spicy sausages, pork-ified puppies, beef brats, and every topping you could imagine. Creativity out the wazoo, and I gotta say, the chefs pulled out all the stops. My stomach reached its limit at 9 half-dogs…. but goodness, what a 9 they were.
I started the day off with the hometown hero Hot Diggity’s Corn Salsa Dog. My first dog was presented beautifully but, truly, all that stood out to me was the corn and bacon salsa. The hot dog, to me, was a little lost in the fray. Luckily, the fray was delicious. So good, in fact, that it earned 3rd Place!
A Korean Fried Hot Dog, eh? Ok, Taproom on 19th, I see where you’re going with this. Jalapeno mayo was the star of the show, in my humblest opinion, but, in a similar vein as Hot Diggity, the dog itself was relatively silent amidst the fresh flavors of the pickled relish and watermelon. There’s something to be said for creative toppings, but as this was a hot dog cook-off…. well I couldn’t hand my “People’s Choice” ticket over to this one.
Chef Adan from Sancho Pistola’s could be heard shouting about his bacon jam throughout Headhouse Square. This was a GREAT dog. A blend of bacon jam, jalapeno ketchup, and some solid crema mixed together with a crisp dog and an appropriately sized bun led to 4 wonderful bites. An early contender, my tastebuds were starting to get real excited….
Chicken Fried Chicken!? Color me drooling with anticipation. This was the first meat-mix-up as far as the content of the sausage went, and I couldn’t wait. There was consistently a line of folks waiting for these bad boys, and I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately… I think I might’ve gotten one from a bad batch. Or, more specifically, a burnt batch. While the meat inside was pretty tasty, the “fried” aspect was almost prohibitively crunchy. That said, I saw almost everyone else cheerily chowing down, so please…. don’t take my word.
Serrano’s Wild Board Hot Dog suffered a similar fate, simply didn’t stand up well to the format. The meat in this sausage was delicious, but my dog was borderline cold. The micro celery, however, was intriguing and I’d like to see it in more dishes in my life. Stat.
Bridget Foy’s served up, quite literally, the hot dog of my dreams. The night previous, I’d been having beautiful, vivid dreams of fountains full of pickled vegetables and what does she go and do? Serves them up on a weenie! Complete with pork belly. I was fairly full of bread at this point, but every topping and ingredient that was NOT bread in this was done perfectly. Bravo!
The People’s Choice went to this little looker: Bistro Romano‘s Scala Duck Ragu. Talk about having everything!! Beef wrapped in pancetta wrapped in romaine, topped with duck and Parmigiano Reggiano? Be still my heart. Were it not for the fact that this was my very last dog (and the fact that the next two won my heart), I would’ve contemplated stealing a number of these to stockpile for later. Consider yourself lucky, BR.
Twisted Tail: You did me dirty. You rifled around in my journal, checked out my fridge, asked friends and family…. and somehow managed to put all the things I love into one miniature, compact delight of a dog. Allegedly The World’s Best Chili Dog, I’m inclined to agree. Everything on this dog came together like a well-written symphony, with the brioche bun crunching in time with the brisket and short rib chili, which was not overpowered by the cheddar. All of this allowed the pork dog to sing like a canary… in my mouth.
Unfortunately, there was another competitor. And she was not to be outdone.
Ladies and gentleman: my vote went to Cherry Bomb Bus’ Broad Street Bulldog.
Imagine, if you will, a world where hot dogs are not standalone. No, they are…. within. This example, particular, held a snappy-cased beef frank within a blend of ground beef on a seeded roll. It was like…. a hot dog…. within a burger…. surrounded by some of the best roast pork toppings imaginable (read: provolone, long hots, and gravy!) It was like Inception…. only with hot dogs.
I had a single ticket left, but I couldn’t bare to look at another rod of meat (not even a euphemism, y’all.) Luckily, there was one last treat waiting for me…
All that heartburn really needed some cooling off. Luckily, mompops was there to send in reinforcements in the form of a strawberry-lemonade popsicle.
I promptly waddled home and fell into a 2 hour food coma.
Thanks a lot, Hot Diggity and the crew….
(no. really. that was amazing. Can’t wait until next year!)