Surviving South Street Spring Festival (or any Street Festival in Philly)

South Street’s Spring Festival is this Saturday, May 2nd from 11am-8pm. This, along with last Sunday’s Flavors of the Avenue and I think it’s safe to say that Street Festival season is upon us. Philly really flourishes as the weather gets warmer, and all everyone wants to do is be outside.

The only problem is that EVERYONE wants to be outside. These festivals are packed, and with good reason. Over 35,000 people have already RSVP’d to the 3rd Annual South Street Spring Festival and there are over 30 restaurants participating, musical performances, arts and crafts, and a genuine German Maifest at Brauhaus Schmitz. All the things you’d need for a killer Saturday. That said, festivals like this can be overwhelming, intense, and INSANE. Here are some tips and tricks from a seasoned pro (I seriously can’t get enough of giant outdoor eating parties) who ALSO got a little preview of the event last week.

Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

DO have a game plan

Like I said, there are a LOT of options. Check the list here. I’m not saying you need an itinerary… but know where you REALLY wanna go, and you won’t have to waste valuable time, money, energy, and stomach space on spots you either visit regularly or you’ve got no interest in.

Redwood Bistro: NO JOKE! Their sliders and Spanish fries are, as the kids say, "on fleek"

Redwood Bistro: NO JOKE! Their sliders and Spanish fries are, as the kids say, “on fleek”

DON’T go it alone

Round up a posse. Divide and conquer. Split up to minimize queuing time and maximize noshing time. You find your foodie friends, split up, and reconvene armed with tacos, cheese curds, popsicles, sliders, and daiquiris. Spread the wealth, and everyone wins!

Don't have to earn these beads, Fat Tuesday's will give them to you!

Don’t have to earn these beads, Fat Tuesday’s will give them to you!

DO pace yourself

There’s plenty of time. Trust me. But if you fill up within the first hour on booze and burgers, you’ll miss out because of your food baby fatiguing you. Consider it a marathon, not a sprint. Too many banana puddings can take out even the strongest contender.

I'll take three. Err... wait.

Sweet Life offers… I’ll take three.
Err… wait.

DON’T limit your experience to the food alone

The downtime between bites can be an excellent opportunity to check out the CONSTANT stream of music on three different stages. And if you’re not ever unsure of who to check out, might I recommend these rockstars in lederhosen?

unnamedDO try new things

Some spots will be offering things that you don’t normally see on the menu. I, personally, am a sucker for something exclusive. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for cocktails made with cream of coconut.

Maybe it’s both.

The Staycation: A Tattooed Moms Festival EXCLUSIVE!

The Staycation: A Tattooed Moms Festival EXCLUSIVE!

DON’T skip dessert

Three words. Cracker Jack Sundae. Bridget Foy’s has the tastiest ice cream treat I can recall in recent history.

Popcorn and peanut butter ice creams/caramel popcorn/caramel peanuts/chantilly

Popcorn and peanut butter ice creams/caramel popcorn/caramel peanuts/chantilly

I seriously can’t speak highly enough about this sweet delight. That said, there’s seemingly endless options to satisfy any sweet tooth, so if Cracker Jacks aren’t your style a) you’re a lunatic b) you’ll be able to find something to enjoy, I promise.

My final tip actually isn’t mine. But I think it’s valid, so I’ll leave you with the wise words of the folks at Sweet Life.

You've got it.

You’ve got it.

Cheers, and I’ll see you on the streets.

Bottoms up!

Bottoms up! Watermelon cooler from Bistro Romano!

I’ll be the tall blond with a drink, and probably a taco, in hand.

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Blindfolds and Brown Butter: Cooking with Campbell’s

I love the cooking process. The chop of vegetables, the sear of meat, the sizzle of oil, and the aromas filling the kitchen. Unfortunately, my “kitchen” is actually just a stove in a hallway and bumping into hanging pots and pans when I turn to grab the salt makes the whole experience a lot less pleasurable. When I was presented a chance to try my hand in something a little spacier, I jumped at the chance.

When can I move?

When can I move?

Sure, the folks at Campbell’s aren’t technically in Philadelphia, but just a quick trip over the bridge in Camden, you’ll find the Campbell’s Campus complete with kitchens, cafeterias, and kettlebells (well, I’m not sure about the last one, but they do have a gym for the employees). Their kitchens are where the magic happens, and thanks to a partnership with Camp Campbell’s last year, I was able to visit this cave of wonders with the wizards themselves. Certified Master Chef Tom Griffiths, Executive Chef Maria Gamble, and Chef Carrie Welt brought the heat (get it?! kitchen humor!) teaching us about how and why the chefs at Campbell’s “Own the Flavor”.

The Master at work!

The Master at work!

We started out discussing the importance of the entire sensory experience, and there was even a little sniff-off.

Half of us were blindfolded, and the other half administered “the test”. Guess who didn’t miss one?!

50 Shades of... Smell?

50 Shades of… Smell?

Wanna know my secret? Every single ingredient has been in a cocktail I’ve enjoyed lately. Finally, being a part-time cocktail queen pays off!

Thank you, Volver, Sassafras, and 1 Tippling Place for all the help.

Thank you, Volver, Sassafras, and 1 Tippling Place for all the help. Ginger, lemongrass, limes (“This smells like shots!”) and lemons!

My prize was yet to come, but I did get a hint…

I see you, baby.

I see you, baby.

Before we got too sweet, though, we had to get a little savory. And, for savory, we went to the sea. Namely: Scallops.

My buddy KT making fast work of these little suckers. And there were a lot of them.

My buddy KT making fast work of these little suckers. And there were a lot of them.

We learned how to yank the muscle out of the scallop and we prepared these bad boys for cooking two ways:

  1. Poached in green tea
  2. Sautéed in brown butter

I know.

Poaching is something that I typically only equate with eggs, but Chef Tom let us know that it can create a clean, fresh take on seafood. Green tea poaching was something I’d never considered, and the scallops came out of a brief bath with a hint of earthy lightness (think the suggestion of grass).

So fresh and so clean

So fresh and so clean

We were momentarily sated.

And then the butter came out to play. Sorry, green tea, but you really didn’t stand a chance.

What's that you say? You need to be tastier?

What’s that you say? You need to look tastier?

You got it.

You got it.

I ate more scallops this evening than I may have ever consumed in my life, total. And I thought I couldn’t eat any more. But when Chefs Marie and Carrie let us know things were about to get sweet, I somehow found some room.

After discussing the differences between dark chocolates, and how well they pair with Port (spoiler alert, very well), Chef Marie got to serious business. The business of honey tuile cups and macerated fruit, of homemade ricotta (and the subsequent homemade ricotta ice cream), and of washing it all down with sweet, rich Port.

(I had some trouble telling them apart. I had to try a lot of each one...)

(I had some trouble telling them apart. I had to try a lot of each one…)

Take me to this Dessert Island

Take me to this Dessert Island (notice the Port glass has magically refilled itself)

The trip was, to say the least, incredible. Eye-opening. Decadent. We saw the kitchens where products I’ve eaten my whole life were tested (I practically grew up putting way too much Prego in my pasta!) We met the folks who eat, sleep, and breathe food innovation and creation.

These aren’t the chefs that are touted in magazines for using molecular gastronomy to create the most sublime tasting menu (for a paltry $300 [$450 with wine pairing]). These are the men and women who are striving to make flavorful and nutritious accessible to everyday men and women cooking for their families. Sure, they served us scallops. But they demonstrated how the same techniques could make a piece of cod sing with flavor. Chef Tom proved that cooking time and proper seasoning makes the difference between green beans that taste like they’re from a can and those that are crisp and zippy.

Real food that matters for life’s moments. Doesn’t get much clearer than that.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 9.29.06 AMThanks, Camp Campbell, and here’s to many happy returns.

And brown butter.

Win a Chance to Spartan Up with a Spartan Race GIVEAWAY!

If you know me at all, you probably know I hate a few things.

Mushrooms. Miniature golf. Cookie cakes (OMG DECIDE ARE YOU A CAKE OR A COOKIE YOU CAN’T BE BOTH!!)

Oh, and running.

So many of my best buddies have incredible pictures of them completing races. And I’ve scoured my photo archives. I think this may be the only one of me running:

ya like this face of misery?

ya like this face of misery? Yup, that was in 2012.

But with a spring thaw slowly and surely taking place in Philadelphia, I had a thought.

Maybe I should run a little bit. It’s time for a new challenge.

I just needed the right incentive to train myself. To pound the pavement, if you will….

Be Well Philly’s Underground Growler Run gave me my first chance to get some miles in with a 2.25 run ending in…. BEER!

unnamed-2

Alas, that was just a one time affair… I still needed something to get my butt in sneakers and hit the ground running (literally). And then, like gritty, muddy, hardcore angels, the folks from the Spartan Race reached out with an opportunity. An opportunity to try one of their races. So in a mere 32 weeks (and two days, but who’s counting?) I’m going to head to the Citizen’s Bank Park Sprint to Spartan Up in Philadelphia!! It’s a sprint, which means 3+ miles and 15+ obstacles throughout the course. And for most folks I know, that would be chump change. But for me, it’s something to work for, and I can’t wait to see how it goes. I’ve been rocking out to the Spartan Up podcast to get hyped up. But I think I’d feel even more hype with a buddy.

Less scary with a friend

Less scary with a friend

SO the folks at the Spartan Race ALSO gave me a code for one of my readers! If you’d like a chance to win an entry in ANY Spartan Race’s open heat (non-confirmed start time) in the continental US, enter in the comments belwo. The only mandatory entry is:

Tell me one challenge you’re tackling this year!

For bonus entries, follow Spartan Race on Facebook, follow @foodsweatnbeers on Twitter, or subscribe to the Spartan Up Podcast and leave separate comments for each.

Again, you don’t have to be in Philly to win this. You’ve got a week to enter, and I’ll select a winner April 9th at noon!

Let’s Spartan Up!

(PS: For 10% off any race, enter the code SPARTANBLOGGER in case contests aren’t your bag.)

UPDATE: CONGRATULATIONS TO JANE, COMMENT NUMBER FOUR! She’s training for her second marathon, hopefully this race will help!!

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