Herban Quality Eats Comes to University City!

Back in October, I scuttled over to Drexel’s Center for Hospitality and Sports Management to get school’d by restaurant professionals from throughout Philly. We learned from distillers and burger slingers alike, but I was most interested in a new-to-town restaurant opening down the street from where I worked. Herban Quality Eats, opening TODAY at 3601 Market Street, is a welcome newbie to the neighborhood of University City which hosts students and employees of Penn and Drexel, employees and patients from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and CHOP (The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) alike.

And, while we do have Subway, Wawa, and food trucks nearby, sometimes you want something fast, something healthy, and something delicious. OR something to fuel a good workout.

Enter: The Bros from Herban.

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Snacketizers. Nice portmanteau.

This fine establishment was founded by two 2013 graduates from Wharton, the Penn MBA program. And if I know one thing about the graduates from Wharton, it’s that they’re savvy. If I know another thing, it’s that they appreciate the finer things. This is reflected in the quality of ingredients on Herban’s menu.

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Mini Menu

Monday, December 14th, 2015 some lucky locals (myself included) were invited to try out the goods at their exclusive preview lunch, a day before the grand opening. The mood was excited, the smells intoxicating, and the employees rocking like a well-oiled machine.

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Check out Amir Fardshisheh, one of the founders, prepping the squad!

We waited patiently, salivating as the goods started rolling out. The open kitchen allowed guests to watch the process, and I’ll admit, I eat with my eyes. It was no surprise, then that my tummy began growling watching the lean steak flavored with a house spice rub being sliced on the table.

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That quinoa and cheese is looking pretty fly

In an area where the only “healthy eats” are salads and…. mostly salads, it was awesome to see a hearty and healthy plate loaded with delicious ingredients that didn’t feel like bunny fodder.

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LOOK! There’s even some Vegan Jawn (also gluten free)

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My platter (plus Perrier)

I went for the Himalayan red rice as a base, the backyard steak, and sides of Brussels sprouts (roasted in coconut oil and tossed with dried cranberries and onions) and the quinoa and cheese (a high protein/fiber substitute for the often indulgent mac and cheese).

The Verdict?

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Moment of Truth

GOSH this was good. The steak was fantastic, still pink inside and super juicy. I loved the base of the red rice, full of antioxidants and fiber. Their hot sauce wasn’t quite to my tastes, but I’d put the walnut coriander (the green) sauce on EVERYTHING. Happily. I tried bites of the plantain chips and guac (nice deal for $3.70 when you need a quick snack) and the salmon, which was tasty, but the portion was a bit on the small side.

Taste-wise, this place is off the charts. And I think I could probably see myself grabbing lunch from here once every week or two. I’ll also admit that, truth be told, the prices are a pinch steep for what I typically budget for lunch. Luckily, they’re located in the heart of an area full of doctors, MBA students, and college kids LOADED with disposable income. I’m certain the gang from Herban is going to do very well for themselves.

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I see you, baby.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Herban. I still may not know exactly how to pronounce your name, but I’m so happy you’re here.

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MBFW: Rustic New Jersey Engagement Party

My Best Friend’s Wedding” – The 1997 hit featuring a young Julia Roberts pining for Cameron D’s man just moments before their wedding. It’s a whole thing.

My best friend’s wedding (MBFW): the upcoming 2016 production wedding featuring my boon companion Claire (you might remember Claire from a buncha times) and her fiancé, Theo, a strapping young Brit who’s taken a shining to my favorite Brooklyn babe.

Both, I am certain, will be classics. One, I imagine (**spoiler alert**) will feature slightly less heartbreak for Ms. Roberts.

BUT I DIGRESS. This is not a post about rom-coms. This is a post about the most beautiful engagement party thrown  to celebrate these two lovebirds. Set in the charming home of another one of Claire’s best pals, this party had it all, nestled in a quaint Jersey shore town on a brisk November afternoon.

Picturesque noshes.

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Biscuits for days, tarts for hours. Goat cheese and tomato and onion tarts featured.

Warm flannel blankets clustered around a fire pit….

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Oh, and a cornhole set

HAND-CARVED WOODEN LETTERS for the names of the couple-of-honor and simple, bright yet subtle flower arrangements (Pinterest, eat your heart out).

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Precious moments.

A rugged Englishman to tend to ALL THOSE FIRES!

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Theo does chimineas. Everyone benefits.

And a TON of frittatas.

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Hello, lover.

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I know….

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EGG-BASED CASSEROLES FOR THE WIN!

Apparently, Claire, the blushing-bride-to-be, agreed. She is (expertly) pictured below, in a stunning almond-colored, embroidered Free People frock, her face crammed with homemade Vietnamese spring rolls just dripping with fish sauce.

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She loves this photo and, because of it, has hired me to be her wedding photographer.

And while the food and the decor were divine, the part of this engagement party that made it so magical were the people. The couple’s friends and family from near and far (luckily, mostly near, England is a hike) gathered together over the most amazing, homemade eats (shoutout to Katherine and her family, the hosts for the day, who probably have more tart pans than I have fingers) to eat, drink, and be merry (ALMOST made the married pun, but I’m better than that).

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Grandmothers gabbing

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The firepit served as primo real estate on this chilly November day

They say “It takes a village to raise a child.” And I’m pretty sure that it also takes a village to throw a quality engagement party. From a signature cocktail speaking to the couple’s favs (it was a Pimm’s Cup, British roots are strong!) to crowdsourcing main dishes and desserts, from understated decorations to perfect placement of seating areas, the flow of this soirée allowed everyone to mingle, munch, and merrymake in the most natural way possible. It takes a village to throw a party.

But, don’t worry, we didn’t forget about that child.

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This little man tried hard to make this photo NSFW by yanking on this dress.

As is tradition, the party couldn’t be called official until the Cermonial Crying of the Mom. Kathleen, Claire’s mama, delivered.

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No, I just have some smoke in my eye.

To Claire and Theo, I raise my (virtual) glass to you both. You have one of the most loving support systems I’ve ever witnessed. Your family and friends loves you more than you can ever know, and I’m elated at the opportunity to chronicle this whole process.

By Claire’s request.

 

 

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Papa Brandow toasts. Everyone tries not to cry.

Thank god for that smoke, made for the perfect excuse.

Could someone pass the tissues?

 

 

The Hunt for ThanksgivWiches #2: Nick’s Old City

Ok, to recap:

It’s time to look into something a bit more permanent…. Enter: Nick’s Roast Beef Bar and Grille in Old City!

I’ll shoot you straight: I’ve never actually been past the front bar area of Nick’s. I actually didn’t even know more of the establishment existed…. But if you walk past the bar, full of regulars watching the game (which game? THE GAME!) or a handful of bros loading up on cheap drinks during happy hour, you’ll reach a handful of tables just waiting for some hungry patrons.

And if you look closely at your menu, hearing the whisper of a gobble in your subconscious, you’ll spot this:

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Come to mama.

Thanksgiving All Year Long? It’s like they heard my prayers. This ThanksgivWich is offered… well…. all year long. And, thus far, it tastes closest to what I imagine from a genuine leftovers sandwich made by your dad on Black Friday while you’re sitting on the couch and ask for something to eat.

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Thanks, Dad. Err… I mean… Nick’s.

This turkey is moist as hell. And that’s saying something, mostly because I (much like many of my peers) don’t like the word moist. The cranberry sauce wasn’t any of that fancy schmancy stuff. Nope. I imagine it was from a can. It probably came out in the shape of the can.

DOESN’T MATTER, STILL GOOD.

The stuffing was a pinch on the dryer side, but that’s where the kicker came in….

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Cup of gravy the size of your sandwich? Sure.

Yup, that black little cuppa was chock full of gravy. I dipped. I poured. It got messy (just as any good Thanksgiving meal would [wait, what?])

Sure, the gravy could’ve been a bit thicker, the stuffing a bit less dry, and the kaiser roll, while doughy and delicious, resulted in a messy consumption experience. BUT served with a side of Nick’s infamous curly fries (Side Notewhy aren’t these offered EVERYWHERE?!), I gotta say this tasted the most like something put together at home. And, during the rest of the year when ThanksgivWiches aren’t popping up all over the city, it’s good to know Nick’s will offer this staple all year long!