Flavors of the Avenue (East Passyunk Avenue, to be exact).

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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And, since we’re ballers, a few oysters (Cape May Salts) on the halfshell. Some folks were wary… but they came around.

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(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.

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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.

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And the inside of the restaurant…. stunning space. Take me back.

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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.

ImageConfession: before last night, I’d never tried anything rollatini.

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).

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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.

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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.

Big ups to the folks at Aversa PR, especially the media mogul Kory himself, for the invite. You’ve brought me out of blog-hibernation in the most delicious way possible….

 

 

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