If you’re wondering where I’ve been, I have no excuse. Except one:
So, this one time, grad school happened.
Hopefully that’s enough for y’all.
But last night, something incredible happened. Something so delicious, so inspiring, so exciting…. I just had to come out of temporary retirement to share with the gang. I was invited to be part of a lucky group of bloggers, journalists, Twitter-heads, Instagrammers, and general men-and-women-about-town to get a little taste of one of the most delicious spots in Philadelphia. East Passyunk Avenue! Named a Top 10 Foodie Street in America by Food & Wine Magazine and the Top Food Neighborhood in Philly by Zagat, East Passyunk is a bit out of the way of my standard Center City fare, so I haven’t been out terribly often. MY MISTAKE!
We started at POPE (aka the Pub on Passyunk East). Admittedly, I’d only been here for beers before, so I wasn’t sure what was in store, edibly. Luckily, they eased me in with a familiar friend.
Ah, beer. Opened with a genuine East Passyunk Avenue bottle opener of my own! Lagunitas IPA, to be exact, a personal favorite.
On the menu: Thai spiced wings, habanero mole, and a chipotle tomato soup with a parmesan tuile. This ain’t your mama’s pub fare.
The thai wings rocked my mouth with heat (I blame the IPA, probably my bad… I couldn’t resist). The mole wings were much more chocolatey than expected, making me wonder if I should rethink my feelings about cooking dishes with chocolate…. But my favorite was probably the soup. Maybe because I’m a firm believer that adding the word (and ingredient) “Chipotle” to anything immediately improves it at least threefold.
Up next, Ippolito’s Seafood Market.
At first glance, one might wonder “Wait… this isn’t on East Passyunk… why was it included?” I’ll respond to that by saying DON’T QUESTION WHEN SOMEONE OFFERS TO FEED YOU SEAFOOD and also, apparently they provide a lot of the seafood to the businesses that are on the Avenue, so there’s a healthy relationship. Speaking of healthy relationships, I made a very healthy one with this very photogenic tuna tostada (though it sort of looked more like a taco to me…) with spicy mayo and a squirt o’ lime.
And, since we’re ballers, a few oysters (Cape May Salts) on the halfshell. Some folks were wary… but they came around.
(And there you have JP’s first homemade GIF in a post!)
Next stop, to keep things fancy, was Fond, contemporary American cuisine and one of the cutest spots I’ve seen. Starting today, they’ll start offering outdoor seating, too, so go forth and develop your own fond feelings for Fond. Oh, and try the chicken liver mousse with pickled red onions.
If you could also do yourself a solid and grab a glass of prosecco, ideally consumed after a happy toast with Tory Keomanivong, the dining manager…. well, consider yourself blessed. We also had a few folks that were wary of chicken liver, but I was less aggressive in my urging of them to dig into the crostinis. Selfishly, of course. TWO FOR ME! And none for Gretchen Wieners.
One word. Four syllables. Get ready to wanna say this all the time: Bitterballen. Literal translation: fried pork meatballs made with nutmeg, served with mustard. Pronounced “bYitter-ballen”. Best served al fresco from the arms of Chef Joncarl Lachman of Noord. My first foray into Scandinavian/Dutch cuisine, I couldn’t have asked for a better guide.
And the inside of the restaurant…. stunning space. Take me back.
You might be thinking, that’s a solid four restos. You probably had enough, right JP?
This isn’t amateur hour, we’ve only just begun.
Chiarella’s Ristorante, a cozy old-school Italian spot, has tables great for large parties, recently was featured on Kitchen Nightmares and, according to Philadelphia magazine, survived and has benefited from Gordon Ramsay’s criticism. If their eggplant rollatini is any indication…. they’re not just surviving, but thriving.
What was I thinking?
Breaded eggplant stuffed with goodness? Get your head in the game, Jordan.
Izumi was our next stop, featuring trays of pork gyoza with Pickled Cucumber (which, IMHO, made this dish).
Pardon the crummy photo, gyoza gobbling happened so fast I hardly had time to snatch my camera out!
At this point, I was stuffed so full of food, complimentary wine, and Instagramming that I’ll be honest, strolled over to Marra’s in a bit of a daze. I’m pretty SURE it was Marra’s. However, I struggled to fit more foods into my body. But I mean… just look at it.
Please, gnocch-me that gnocchi. I couldn’t resist a few small bites….
The after party was at a not-so-secret soon-to-be Townsend, featuring some cupcakes I sadly had to pass up (40 days of no sweets has turned into quite the test of my will)… But hopefully y’all are sated enough by the mounds of food pr0n I’ve offered up that you won’t hold it against me. And if this hasn’t made your salivary glands (and the rest of you) yearn for the goods on East Passyunk, I’m clearly rusty.
The Year of Cheese is in full swing over here in Philly. And, though I’ve been writing somewhat less (grad school coupled with a DSLR in dire need of repair is a lethal combination for blogging), it’s not for lack of eating delicious things and drinking incredible beers. However, I did round up an old point n’ shoot (is that what the kids still call these non-fancy cameras?) because in honor of my 26th birthday (and, of course, the Year of Cheese), I decided to celebrate with eight close friends at none other than Di Bruno Brothers’ Italian Market location for our very own After Hours party.
In case you aren’t aware, Di Bruno Brothers is basically a mecca for cheese lovers (or food lovers, wine lovers, Italian lovers, and even just a pair of actual lovers who want a set of romantic treats to eat). It’s been my go-to spot for exploring new cheese and the cheese mongers KNOW THEIR STUFF. And, if you’re a foodie who has at least 7 friends (or can find 7 strangers who have some dollars to spend on a culinary adventures), you can hit up DB’s Italian Market location for a most incredible evening.
Here are the deets: For two hours, from 7pm-9pm, after the store has closed, you and your 7 buddies (you can add more if you’d like, though it’s a small store so I wouldn’t push it too far) can grab any beverages you want (we went with wine and beer) and are invited on a cheese and cured meats tour de force presented by the mongers. You can sample cheeses that aren’t on the prescribed cheese journey, but pace yourself because the samples may seem small, but the richness is big, and the flavors go hard on the tongue.
The epicurean excursion begins with a cheese spread (a very spicy one initially) while your guests arrive. You can explore the diverse racks of ingredients and items and think of what you’re going to buy (and I say this because you’re definitely going to buy something. You get a 10% discount on everything you purchase that night, so choose wisely.) And the best part is, other people will try to enter the store.
But they can’t.
For that night, the store is ALL YOURS!
After the spread, you face another spread. That spread is any and every olive imaginable. Stuffed with everything from gorgonzola to feta to peppers to prosciutto. I wouldn’t call myself an olive fan…. that was before my night at DB Brothers.
My personal favorites were the gorgonzola stuffed and the peppers stuffed with provolone and prosciutto. But honestly, it all was incredible. And then, the formal tasting began.
What could be more formal than a ball of burrata?
Oh, just a ball of burrata drizzled with the fanciest olive oil known to mankind and sprinkled with this insane red (lava?) salt. I may have had my fair share (and two other people’s share) of this. Incredible.
This evening made me a little greedy.
Next, our mongers jammed some peppadew peppers with Capricho de Cabra, an unreal goat cheese, then drizzled the whole thing with chestnut honey and sprinkled with DB’s infamous Black Lava Cashews. That may sound like an aggressive description for an appetizer.
Well, it was an aggressive flavor explosion.
Ever imagine what it’s like to have someone present you with not one, not two, not three, BUT FOUR different prosciutto options?
Imagine no longer.
And then, the mistresses of mongers laid out my favorite platter: The beer and cheese pairing party!
I brought to the table:
- Stone and Rip Current’s Coconut IPA paired with an awesome cheddar that the monger failed to write down for me, RATS!
- New Belgium’s Heavenly Feijoa Tripel paired with Willoughby
- New Belgium and The Lost Abbey’s Brett Beer paired with Bloomsday
The IPA, though not at ALL coconutty, cut nicely through the cheddar. I wish I could tell you what it was, but the mystery remains. All I know is that the mouthful of curried cauliflower, cheddar, and IPA was on POINT. I don’t think I loved this beer alone, but with the mixture of flavors…. I’m into it.
I will lead the next one with the a recognition that I do not like Belgian Trippels, as a general rule. But paired with the washed rind, semi-soft butteriness of the Willoughby, and my mind was changed. I shall submit to future trippels as long as there’s a spreadable cheese nearby.
Unfortunately, the Brett Beer was underwhelming and I ended up liking the cheese far more than the beer. Nutty and dry, with a little sharpness, this cheese was easily accessible and DELISH. The beer…. was forgettable.
The combination of two of my favorite edibles on the planet: s’mores and CHEESE! Namely, Scharf Maxx 364, a tangy, sharp swiss, paired with dark chocolate and Italian Torrone.
Yes, we went there.
Obviously, I hated every second and had a terrible time.
But, real talk, I would do this again in a heartbeat. It worked out to be about $50 per person, and we each came away with a Di Bruno reusable tote, full bellies, a take-home treat (each person’s was different) and 10% discount on all the goodies we picked up that night. That, to me, feels like a deal.
Yes, the Year of Cheese continues strong.
So, it’s official, Philly. I’ve been a resident for the past 13 months. That means a sweltering summer, a freezing fall, an unbearably cold (relative to Carolina) winter. Whole athletic seasons (which I’ve paid little to no attention to) have come and gone. I’ve seen the Mummers (and danced with a few), eaten dollar dogs, brunched at Honey’s, and spent many an afternoon in the sunshine at Rittenhouse Square. I feel confident that I could find something fun to do basically any hour of any day, and whether it’s a festival, a pop-up restaurant collaboration, a beer pairing, or a performance, I’ve enjoyed a TON of what Philly has to offer. Don’t worry, I’m still hungry for more.
That being said, one question that many of my buddies who’ve been living here for years on years have asked me is “How do you find all these cool things to do?” Well, it’s time to reveal my secret:
I outsource it.
That’s right, I just let OTHER PEOPLE find the fun for me, and follow their leads. But, I guess, since we’re all sharing today, I can let you know who those people are and take some of the credit for their legwork. So, if you’re moving to Philly and trying to figure out how to have some fun, eat some good foods, experience some incredible things, and feel generally “in the know” about Philly happenings, read on:
First up, Foobooz.
An easy way to remember this site is it’s Food and Booze News in Philly. It tends to be my go-to for most of the events I’ve enjoyed the most, but that’s because eating and drinking is my favorite way to spend my “fun money”. New restaurant openings, food truck festivals, drink recommendations, and free stuff. That’s right, FREE STUFF Y’ALL! Keep that college student mentality going for LIFE!
Be Well Philly for when you’ve stuffed yourself with all that food and booze..
Because we can’t just eat and drink ourselves into a stupor all day, every day. Right?
Outdoor yoga festivals, deals on spin class, master group fitness classes, the best places to get gluten-free desserts (luckily, I don’t need or want that. but someone might.), interesting running events throughout the city, and new gyms that are opening in your neighborhood!
Yelp Philly. Duh.
If you’re a fan of crowd-sourcing judgment on all of the places to eat, drink, and be merry (as well as who gives the best haircuts, who is the most responsive property management group, and where to find late night groceries), Yelp is the obvious answer for any and all cities. But I’ll go ahead and say that Philly not only has an incredibly active Yelp community (check out the “talk” for laughs and insight alike), but our Community Manager, Michelle, is the queen of Philly Phun. Follow her on Twitter for all things Philadelphia. You won’t regret it.
Uwishunu (but don’t you?)
Philly from the inside out? I can get behind that. They sometimes organize posts by neighborhood, which is always appreciated as someone who’s very loyal to a few particular locales (especially those reachable by the MFL). Upcoming events for young and old, this is a super family-friendly site with something for everyone. Their weekend lineups are probably the most comprehensive ones I’ve found, and a great way to find something to do every single day of your respite from work.
Thrillist Philly: Much less family-friendly.
Because sometimes, you don’t wanna know where to bring your nephew for an Easter Egg hunt. You wanna know where to find burlesque and bourbon, tequila and tacos, naked bike rides and the best water slides.
Thrillist is basically a grownup playground in a website.
Finally: Drink Philly (that’s an order)
Food is fun, festivals too. But sometimes, you just wanna drink. Luckily, there’s a site for that. Drink Philly has pulled together all the city’s best happy hours and drink specials in a matrix that is both searchable and filter-able. Search by neighborhood, time of day, type of special, whatever. Get the best deals on your booze all day long!! And they also regularly post about Brew and Chews, beer fests, First Friday specials, and other interesting alcohol-related tidbits.
I guess this one also isn’t very good for kids.
ANYWAY, feel free to check out my Twitter List if you’d like to follow each and every one of these folks on twitter. This has proved the fastest, easiest way to stay abreast of Philly Fun, at least for this chick.
AND, if you have any suggestions, lemme know! I’m always down to check out a new blog/site to stay in the loop.
Growing up, I used to spend hours in a particular section of Barnes & Noble (or Borders, R.I.P.) While my buddies would shuffle over to the magazine section or the Young Adult part of the store, I would park it in front of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy rows for hours on end. And I wasn’t there for space exploration or alien invaders. I came for the wizards and the dragons, the supernatural and the fairies.
I was in it for the magic.
And while most of the books on my shelf are now either textbooks or cookbooks, I still spend a lot of my free time trying to find the magic in everyday life. I have this idea that Philadelphia is basically a treasure trove of these little pockets of magic. Thursday, August 23rd, 2013, I found the biggest one yet.
Getting to that point was a little tougher, though. I was a true first-timer and everything that COULD go wrong did go wrong.
- I realized JUST HOW LONG it takes to curl my hair, and why I only do it once every two years or so.
- I bugged my mom all day that we needed to hurry up, and that she couldn’t forget anything. And then… I forgot my dress. My little brother, thank goodness, immediately got in a car and toted it up to Philly. And then dragged us to our drop off spot at 30th Street Station.
- I cut my hand on our table and had to be careful so as not to host my own bloody Dîner en Rouge. (Next year, pack bandaids.)
But we got to our meeting point at 30th Street Station. And, apparently, so did everyone else. Before we knew it, it was time to leave for Dîner. And unlike the folks who had to drag their accoutrements across town, we just had to walk through the train station, where we were greeted with the most incredible sight…
We shut down ten blocks of JFK Boulevard for the biggest pop-up dinner Philadelphia has ever seen.
My tiny miniature mother was my plus one, and looked beautiful en Blanc. And, I’ve gotta admit, the summer’s been pretty good to me. I cleaned up pretty nicely myself. (Spoiler alert: you’ve gotta allow me some vanity here, these are some of my favorite pictures I’ve ever seen of me.)
We went with a beach theme for our table (surprise surprise) and opted out of the catering options, instead choosing to put together our own picnic complete with salmon, lemon orzo salad, broccoli rabe, and macaroons/salt water taffy from Shriver’s.
After dinner was my favorite part. Traipsing around and seeing all the other Dîners, ogling incredible centerpieces, elegant outfits, and decadent dishes.
And also, a giant white cock.
As the sparklers lit up the night, and the DJ spun us well into the evening, I felt my heart swell with this enormous love for my city. The people who joined us at our section for dinner conversation and roll-sharing, the organizers who made the magic happen, the musicians who kept toes tapping, and the strangers who shared in this incredible experience.
I left with an extra twinkle in my eye, and a newfound dedication to discovering future pockets of magic in Philadelphia.
If you’ve got any you want to share, please don’t hesitate to invite me. I’m an excellent plus one, and I make a mean salmon picnic.
Paris Hilton said,
The way I see it, you should live everyday like its your birthday.
If that’s the case, how do you spend your ACTUAL birthday?!
Thanks, internet, for telling me how to spend this momentous weekend.
Throw down like Dumbledore.
Feel so many feelings.
Shake it like the long necks.
And get SUPER weird, a la my one true love, Jason Segel.
26 will be full of donuts, white water rafting, tiaras, snacks, dancing, and sunshine. And that’s just the first day.
Here’s to another rotation around that sun. Thanks for sticking along for the ride, y’all.
Have you ever touched dry ice before? Suddenly, there’s a searing cold that borders the line between freezing and burning, and you’re not sure if you want to scream or curl into a ball and rock back and forth silently. That’s the feeling that I associated with visits to Chicago before this weekend.
Yes, I could mostly thaw my bitter heart with the warmth of my friends and loved ones that I was staying with, but as a Carolina girl for seven years, my delicate sensibilities regarding temperature were finely tuned to mild winters and scorching summers. I could handle that. “Cold” in Chicago is a different beast entirely. There aren’t enough layers I could possibly wear to prepare me for outdoor adventures, and I become bear-like in my desire to hibernate in a cave (or near a fire place, if the opportunity presents itself).
This weekend, I emerged from my Chicago cocoon, shedding puffy jackets and elbow-length gloves in favor of thigh-grazing jorts and sheer, gauzy tops that cling to your skin, giving the illusion of wearing nothing at all (I wore bandeaus and tank tops, though, because nip slips aren’t cute in any city). The blossom of the city of Chicago opened up and presented me with a fragrant, vibrant experience rich with sights and sounds. Dogs barking, birds chirping, children pushing the buttons of their handyman father who desperately wanted to use Sunday afternoon to fix that loose step on the deck.
Due to some leftover points from Southwest and a freebie I obtained earlier this summer from Spirit Airlines, I managed to visit four airports in an equal amount of days (Atlantic City to O’Hare, Midway to Philadelphia) in a super cheap trip to that old Windy City. True to form, the city continued to be delicious, but the escapes from the confines of Caitlin’s condo were more frequent, and far more enjoyable.
Our weekend began the way most excellent weekends should: with a giant pile of meat. A trip to Lillie’s Q was in order to reconnect with the gals I met on my last visit as well as my inner cave-woman who likes her meat like she likes her men; served on a slab and accompanied by various sauces and gooey mac & cheese (and now you know what most of late-night fantasies revolve around.) Everything was delicious, and then acted like an edible lullaby as I knocked out the moment I hit the pillow.
The rest of the weekend was filled with delicious treats and lots of outdoor time (a concept that seemed novel in trips previous to this one).
A trip to Revolution Brewing‘s tasting room was inevitable.
Logan Square Farmer’s Market for tasty treats
Retro on Roscoe, a throwback-style street festival featuring cool jams from the 90s, and shenanigans from NOW!
I even got a textured football for impromptu back massages.
And we ended the weekend off in the best POSSIBLE way: a jaunt to Bang Bang Pie Shop for (what else) PIE! And a biscuit.
Now that I’ve been spoiled by a Chicago summer weekend, I’m not sure if I could bear to return in the dark hours of winter…. Though there’s one thing that always keeps me coming back.
Now, to go bask in the remaining days of my “summer” in Philly (is it summer? Because this weather feels very Autumnal…)
UPDATE: Giveaway winner is…
SETH! Sending you your code now!
I’m pretty sure anyone who knows me for more than a few days is aware that I’m not much for running. Sure. I can do it for like… a mile. Maybe a little more. But I get bored. I feel like my body is rejecting the motion. There’s never enough shimmying (said like a true Zumba fan). Where am I going? What’s the point?
I’m sure there is a point. Something about fitness and heart and lung health and stress reduction and endorphins and not shooting your husband or something (at least that’s what Elle Woods taught me). But to me, it seems like a lot of silliness.
Yeah, I mean, I’m doing a 5k in a week (WHAT?! how? Why?) and I did run that portion of the Doughman (yes, that IS the coolest relay known to mankind). But mostly I liked it because mid-run, I got to eat a cupcake.
That being said, I kinda wish I liked it for one reason.
I’ve always wanted to be a Spartan. Ever since 8th Grade when we had an in-school “Olympics” and my friends and I choreographed a dance to the tune of Space Jam only all the lyrics had to do with Athens and Sparta and Trojan Horses (thus began a lifetime of being awesome).
Did you know that women in Sparta were known for being the most badass chicks in ancient Greece? They truly followed the passage “Anything you can do, I can do better”, working their butts off in physical training along with the boys. They could also divorce their hubbies without worrying about losing all their personal wealth, but that’s got nothing to do with this.
See, the Spartan Race is this super intense-looking obstacle race. You run. You go through obstacles like:
- Fire Jump
- Barbed Wire Crawl
- Wall Climb
- Tyrolean Traverse (single rope over a body of water. If you can’t walk across the rope, you fall in the water and SWIM!)
- Slippery wall (a wall covered in soap or GREASE!! whattt?!)
- Log Jumps
- Rope Climbs
- Object Carry (maybe the object is a tire, maybe it’s a bucket full of ropes, maybe it’s a PERSON! [It's not a person])
Dude, I don’t even know. This thing looks badass.
And with everyone getting into the swing of Obstacle Races lately, I figured why not share my love of Spartan ideals with someone who DOES want to try the Spartan Race (or the Spartan Sprint) for themselves!
I’ve got one freebie code to give to a reader (which is a pretty big deal since these events are NOT cheap, ranging from $115-200!!) So why not a contest??
Entering is easy and I’ll choose one person August 17, 2013 at like… 5pm to get a code good for any Spartan Race in the 2013-2014 season in the continental US! (There’s actually one at Citizens Bank Park in September for you Philly readers…)
Click here to see if there’s an event taking place near you!
HOW TO ENTER:
All you do to enter is tell me in a comment WHY you’d like to win an entry! That’s it.
So if you’ve been thinking about it…. well, give it a try. You’ve got nothing to lose.
GOOD LUCK, SPARTANS!!
(If you DON’T want to bother trying to win, but want 15% off of an entry, go to this site!!)