Summer at Opa: Cheese Pies & Blue Skies

Summertime in Philly…

The temperatures are sweltering, the weekend trips to the shore test our patience, and Center City Sips has filled the streets every Wednesday with drunken 20-somethings rocking suit jackets and teetering on heels.

But there’s a distinct joy that comes with some of the sweat – Summer Menus are hitting the Philly Restaurant Scene. Seasonal produce and ingredients, seafood, and creativity galore. And Opa, known for contemporary Greek plates in Center City, is bringing out the big guns. Or, in this case, the small plates.

The highlights?

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Dakos – Barley toast with sour cherry marmalade, fresh chevre, and fennel.

I may be on a toast kick lately (check out my latest post from Fitt for the Top 9 Spots Artisan Toasts in Philly!) and Opa’s take on the dish features a tart cherry marmalade that I want in all food and drink in the future.

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Aritchokes stuffed with crab, fresh herbs, Meyer lemon, & squid ink romesco. Then topped with cheese. Whoah.

Anything stuffed with crab is a-okay in my book, but this artichoke dish had us scraping the plate clean.

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Beet Cured Salmon – carpaccio style, melon, vidalia, arugula, pickled pepper

Lox comes to dinner with Opa’s beet-cured salmon. The little melon cubes add a hint of sweetness, though the pickled peppers are ENTIRELY too hot to eat.

So, ya know, don’t make the same mistake I did.

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Spaghettini – lobster, spicy tomato, olive oil crumbs

That spicy tomato is NOT A DRILL. But neither are the chunks of juicy lobster scattered throughout this dish. A small enough portion to not weigh you down, but large enough to satisfy for a summer dinner.

And now my FAVORITE two dishes:

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Lamb Loin – filo, lamb demi, charred spring onion, potato purée

Beef Wellington goes Greek! The filo is crispy, flakey, and buttery. The onion is perfectly charred, and the lamb is juicy AF. For only $10, this dish is the star of the new menu offerings.

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Tiropita Kataifi – kefalograviera & robiola, filo, orange, honey

Cheese. Pie.

Typically speaking, that’d be enough for me. BUT for your sake – I’ll hit you with some thoughts. Crunchy pastry strings surround a core of kefalograviera (a hard Greek table cheese typically made with sheep milk) & robiola (y’know – more cheese). The whole mess is drizzled with honey and tastes of bright citrusy orange.

Dessert has arrived. It’s unexpected and whimsical and delights the tongue.  Try not to fight over the last bite.

Chef Bobby Saritsoglou and his team are making a serious name for themselves in Midtown Village, and I can’t wait to see what fall brings. Just try to keep your visits limited to Thursday through Tuesday – those Wednesday SIPs crowds are an unforgiving lot.

 

 

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GIVEAWAY! Spring Has Sprung: Run (& EAT!) with Blossom – WINNERS!

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UPDATE: CONGRATULATIONS to Meghan and Bridget! The random number generator chose YOU!

The salmon-colored shorts are out in full force. The parks are full of picnics. The Rosé is flowing like water, and the sweetgreen Spring Caesar made it’s way to the app.

Yup, spring has sprung in Philadelphia.

If you’re anything like me, some of the best parts of the city thawing is the ability to both eat and exercise outdoors. Long time readers know of my obsession with springtime food festivals, and lately I’ve even been voluntarily running outside. Must be the fresh air…

Lucky for all of us, there’s a way to celebrate both of these in one perfect night!

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The Blossom Philadelphia 5k Night Race is the only weeknight race grandfathered in by the City of Philadelphia. The course meets at the Art Museum takes place on West River Drive on Thursday May 25, 2017 at 7pm. Immediately following the race is an epic After Party featuring some of my FAVORITE food trucks! Baby Blues BBQ, Sweet Box Cupcakes, Taco Mondo, The Cow and The Curd, The Tot Cart and Undrgrnd Donuts will be bringing the heat (and, in some cases, the meat. Or the sweet.)

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The Tot Cart with some extra melty goodness….

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THE COW AND THE CURD slinging those sweet cheese curds!

You can register for the 5k (comes with a t-shirt), the after-party (comes with four tickets, valid for a drink, appetizer, a main course, AND a dessert!), OR get the best of both worlds with a 5k + After Party COMBO (Yup, that’s all of the above)

Oh yes, that drink I mentioned: Victory Brewing is going to be hosting a beer garden all night long! (Don’t worry, there will be heaps of root beer for the kids, this is an incredibly family-friendly event!)

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All this can be yours for the early bird price (before April 13th, 11:59 p.m.)!

Register HERE

All proceeds from the race help Blossom achieve their mission: to change the lives of children and adults with disabilities (cerebral palsy, autism, down syndrome, head trauma, and any condition that limits a person’s ability to function independently) in the Philadelphia area.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

But, hey, if you’re feeling lucky, you could enter to win one of TWO free registrations for the Race + After Party Combo (Up to a $60 value!)

That means, you could be joining me May 25th in running + eating our way right into Memorial Day weekend!!

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Feel free to lay right next to me in blissful post-run food coma!

All you need to do to enter to win is check out the Blossom Philadelphia site and tell me one cool / fun / interesting fact you learned in the comments!

You have until Friday, April 28th at noon to enter!

GOOD LUCK and I’ll see you at the Art Museum!

Townsend does East Passyunk Restaurant Week…. perfectly.

Fun Facts about Chef Townsend Wentz:

  • He goes by Tod.
  • He’s a pro at deboning entire pigs (check it out!) and posting it on Instagram
  • Homeboy KNOWS how to do Restaurant Week right.

I’ve always been a little wary of restaurant week. My inner cheapskate breaks down the numbers of the restaurants offering everything from special dishes to old favorites to one-off dessert experiments, and weighs this with my typical levels of hunger. Most often, the result is a decisive Nahh, I’ll just wait for the crowds to die down and order the exact amount of food I want for the price I expect/am willing to pay. 

That said, when I saw that East Passyunk Avenue, Philly’s hottest nook of up-and-coming dining spots, was hosting their own neighborhood restaurant week, I immediately raced over to OpenTable to make a reservation for my two girlfriends and I. I gotta say that, while I was A-OK with the mandatory phone-in reservation at Zahav a few weeks ago, there’s a remarkable ease and convenience to being able to filter using number of diners, date, and time when we were looking for a Monday night out on the town. We spotted space at Townsend and booked it post-haste.

We made the right choice.

You can look at the EPRW menu here if you’d like, OR you can check out this difficult-to-read but beautifully lit photograph below.

Elegant and simple

Elegant and simple

Since there were three of us, we figured we’d try one of each course. Then we saw that one of the first courses was a foie gras butternut squash terrine. And since I’d just binged on terrines last week…. looks like we’re doubling up on Brandades!

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Course one (served shortly after a DIVINE bread basket [that may have been divine or may have merely been ‘good’, we were pretty hungry]) included a creamy parsnip veloute with brown butter chestnuts, a hint of black truffle, and just enough brussels sprout leaves to leave us wanting more (hee hee). The brandade, a dish I’d never had before, was a crunchy brioche topped with a quail egg, shellfish bouillabaisse, and pernod. How such a tiny little toasty brioche could be so full of flavor…. well I don’t (per)nod, but it was incredible. The veloute was rich and creamy, a nice complement to the light fluff and crunch of the other appetizer. But the best was yet to come…

Enter: the mother lode

Enter: the mother lode

I’ll shoot you straight, the saffron malloreddus, pictured top right, was a little cold by the time it got to us. Flavor-wise, it was fairly unremarkable, and the tastes of caramelized onions and fennel, while there, were hints. If you were only getting this dish, I would not consider your experience worthwhile. BUT if you’re lucky enough to have some dining pals, perhaps they’ll slip you bites of the glorious speck-wrapped cod (bottom right) atop Tarbais bean garbure with tiny cockles (that came with their own fork!) This fish fell apart the moment your fork touched it, delicate… dare I say exquisite?

Oh, if I dared, I’ll repeat that word for the venison en crepinette (different from the online menu, description here). Exquisite. We nearly came to (fork) blows over these half-dollar sized medallions, each soaking up the jus and pairing perfectly with the parsnip pureé. This dish would bring me back again and again.

Somehow, we had room for dessert. Luckily, it was both light and a delight.

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The crème brûlée, flawless. Visible vanilla bean is my jam. The blue cheese plate was a nice tangy option for those without a sweet tooth. And for those WITH a sweet tooth: enter pavlova. No, she’s not your exotic, sexy neighbor (maybe she is, I don’t know where you live). She is actually an it, specifically a crunchy meringue dish topped with mixed berries and strawberry coulis, speckled with fresh mint.

Yup. Imagine the finest cotton candy you can even fathom. And then make it fancy, and French, and bury it in berries. We couldn’t get enough.

Take your dates, your dads, your dudes, your dames, yourself, take them all to Townsend. I’ll be back soon to try out their take on rabbit…. I’ve only heard (read* since I practically live on Yelp) the best things.

Thanks, Tod and team, for the tasty treats.

Juno: No Match for Meat Week at Percy Street

There was this one time that every meteorologist in Philadelphia predicted the storm of the century. Her name was Juno, and she was supposed to be a beast. And so we watched, and we waited, and we bought an outrageous amount of milk, bread, and eggs (as is tradition). It was briefly beautiful.Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 6.40.16 PMThe weather outside was frightful. But not REALLY that frightful. So I made my way to Flywheel, like a winner.

Lemme tell you what could happen when you DESTROY a Flywheel class: you MIGHT hit a PR (I know I did). Your heart rate will DEFINITELY be up. Your blood will almost certainly be pumping. And, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll feel like you belong at the top of the food chain.

Enter: Percy Street Barbecue. Namely, their Meat Week. For $20, the Meathearts (like sweethearts, but meatier) at Percy Street are offering family style Brisket (MOO), Chicken (cluck), and pulled pork (OINK!), pinto beans with brisket burnt ends, german potato salad with a warm bacon vinaigrette, collard greens with smoked ham hocks, coleslaw, extra sharp cheddar mac & cheese, and buttermilk chive skillet cornbread.

Do yourself a solid and reread that. And then, ogle the goodies.

Housemade Pimento Cheese!

Housemade Pimento Cheese!

I had to take a separate picture of the mac & cheese because it disappeared so fast

I had to take a separate picture of the mac & cheese because it disappeared so fast

The cornbread, unfortunately, was too quickly consumed for my phone to take a photo. Sorry, folks. But it was delicious…

And then, the money shot:

MEAT'S ON!

MEAT’S ON!

Yup. A little bite of every beast you could want, savory sides, Texas toast. The hits seemingly kept coming, and by the end of the meal, the five of us were left with bellies teeming with protein (proteeming?) AND leftovers. All for $20 per person! Can’t be beat.

If you’re gunning for meat week you’ve got until January 30th (that’s TWO MORE NIGHTS!!) but here’s some pretty good scoop:

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Percy Street’s Lockhart can be purchased ANY DAY OF THE YEAR! Sure, you miss out on mac & cheese and cornbread, but pretend you’re going low-carb and you’ll never miss them.

(You might miss the mac & cheese, but for $6 it could [and should] be yours.)

If you’ve got any other meaty meals in Philly that are must-tries PLEASE share. Because I’ve realized that the only thing I want after a hard workout is to remind myself of the Viking Woman Amazon Warrior within.

And she’s hungry.

Philadelphia’s Christmas Village: Eats n’ Sweets!

If you’ve been reading for a little while, you may know a little about my belief in pockets of magic, hidden throughout Philadelphia. Maybe it’s a monochrome pop-up picnic. Maybe it’s a giant garden made up of found items, mosaic, and art. Maybe it’s one of those incredible nights where you look around and realize you know more people at the bar than you don’t, and you’re all singing along to the same jukebox. Moments like that where you look around and just fall in love with the city all over again.

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Philadelphia’s Christmas Village, modeled in the style of German Christmas villages, is one of those awesome annual traditions that is easy to overlook with the holidays being as jam-packed as they always are. Every year, my parents take a trip to the city to visit this spot, and I normally meet them afterwards. But, this year, I got the chance to tour through (when the weather was oh-so-frightful) and sample some of the goodies and, I’m telling you this, “Make Philly’s Christmas Village a destination this year, not an afterthought!”

Come for the photo-opps, stay for the baked cheese?

I don’t know, something like that.

We first got to try the meats.

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Wurst?

More like…. best. (Is that the most played out German food-based joke? Good.)

I think the Germans just like…. “get it” when it comes to sausages. Every single bite was tastier and snappier than the last. And then, the icing on the cake (or… the sugar on the streudel).

Look at this REAL LIVE GERMAN DUDE who brought dessert out for us!

gute Nacht, herr streudel-meister

gute Nacht, herr streudel-meister

But sometimes, your loved ones can’t make it out to the village with you. Here’s where the shopping aspect comes in…. only shopping’s much better when you can taste some of the goods before you buy them (I wouldn’t recommend this with like… scarves. But definitely with: bacon jam!)

Spreadable bacon: for the one who has it all!

Spreadable bacon: for the one who has it all!

This stand has bacon everything. You see that bacon caramel popcorn?

Yup, for the one who has it all!

Other folks prefer the sweet to the savory. Don’t worry, they’ve got you covered:

It's like a tiny Willy Wonka stand!!

It’s like a tiny Willy Wonka stand!!

German treats, gingerbread hearts, marzipan fruit. There’s also a macaron stand in the back that I had to fight every urge not to rob purchase heavily from. But I’ll give you a serious tip: if you just get ONE edible treat for someone important to you, give the gift that keeps giving (good feelings… and maybe a stomach ache if you overdo it).

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Yeah. That’s just like… baked cheese full of bacon.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?

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I tried Original, Bacon, AND Garlic. And I did it for you all. Although the bacon was pretty world rocking, the absolute tastiest was definitely the GARLIC CHEESE. Imagine halloumi. And then, imagine it being even better.

Stocking stuffer? Mouth stuffer? Why choose just one?

I mean, I won’t pretend that there’s not a TON of great shopping to be had at the Christmas Village. Everything from jewelry to decorations to handmade scarves to doner kebabs [oh sorry, those are food too. One track mind.] It’s picturesque. It’s festive. AND, if you buy a cup of mulled wine, you get a pretty cute mug to take home. I’ve already got plans to crash my parents’ date night this year and get some full-sized snacks of my own.

Ok, I did get ONE full size snack.

Ok, I did get ONE full size snack.

Bring your family. Bring a date. Bring your appetite.

#CampCampbell: Tasty Traditions

Two PhDs, a yarn expert, a circus performer, blogger, and a lawyer walk into an apartment….

Nope. Not the beginning of a hilarious joke (YET! Accepting any takers.) But it was the beginning of a night filled with some of the most interesting and inspiring ladies that I know (well, at least those that live in Philly. Maybe I’ll try to scoop some more distant buddies next time).

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it before, but I’m a member of a lovely network of women organized by Campbell Soup called Camp Campbell. It’s made up of women 18-34 who are passionate about food. Change makers and tasters and movers and shakers. Apparently, I qualify as one of those, so when they reached out to see if I wanted to host a fall dinner, I jumped on the opportunity. I invited a handful of inspirational women in my life, and we went back and forth with what to eat from the ingredients sent over. Although I received a generous box of Campbell family products, when I described them to the ladies, one option came out as clear.

Taylor ogles the spread

Taylor ogles the spread

PIZZA PARTY!

Prego Pizza Sauce, unknown to me before delivery, is part of the family often known only for their soups (and like…. a bunch of other brands. Learn something every day, right?)

PREGO: Not just for pasta anymore!

PREGO: Not just for pasta anymore!

Almost all the other stuff was brought and supplied by my buddies. And we were fully loaded. Prego, pesto, two crust types, sausage, salami, roasted vegetables, cheese far as the eye can see, spinach, pine nuts. SUCH GOURMET, am I right?? Not only are we inspirational. We keep it classy. Since my dear friend Susan let me bogart her home for the evening, I played cook.

Chef BoyarJay

Chef BoyarJay

Pizza a plenty

Pizza a plenty

And Ame brought the treats.

Ame's got dessert covered (she also brought the snickerdoodles)

Ame’s got dessert covered (she also brought the Snickerdoodles)

Despite most of the photos, though, the night was not only about pizza…

Dinner is served!

I mean, it was a lot about pizza.

Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner and kicking off the holiday season, we decided to share some of our favorite traditions. From singing with wine to rotating hosts of Thanksgiving dinner to choosing who brings the novelty butter (you guys haven’t LIVED until you try some turkey-shaped butter) to putting together Thanksgiving hoagies the next day with all the leftovers, it wasn’t surprising that some of our best holiday memories revolve around food.

Since two 'zas is never enough

Since two ‘zas is never enough

But here’s the thing. Although I was provided some choice ingredients courtesy of Campbell’s, and I deeply appreciate that, the best thing that came from the night was not the food (despite the fact that the brussels sprouts pizza was off the chain).

The MVP(izza)

The MVP(izza)

The best part was the promise of a new tradition. These are women that I know from different walks of life. School, work, friends of friends. And they all came together, by my invitation, to dine. To dish. To gossip and reflect. And then, at the end, we were like “Wait. This was great. Let’s do it again around Hanukkah!”

So we will.

Sure, anyone can be a girl who grubs… but we’re going to be ladies who latke. And that can be our new tradition.

Nacho Average Blog Post (Get it?)

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.

Meh, I say.

Meh, I say.

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.

Hello there, lovahhhh

Hello there, lovahhhh

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.)

Khyber Pass... Don't pass on the nachos! (more dad jokes)

Khyber Pass… Don’t pass on the nachos! (more dad jokes)

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.

Oh. Yeah.

Oh. Yeah.

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….

 

Di Bruno Brothers After Hours: MINE, ALLLLL MINE

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.

Hey, kid. quit throwing balls at my photo subject!

Hey, kid. quit throwing balls at my photo subject!

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.

Hello, adult beverages

Hello, adult beverages

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.

Clearly, I was not excited at all.

Clearly, I was not excited at all.

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.

Glorious

Glorious

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?

Pour some SUGAH (er... salt) on me!

Pour some SUGAH (er… salt) on me!

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.

Come at me, bro.

Come at me, bro.

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.

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And then, the mistresses of mongers laid out my favorite platter: The beer and cheese pairing party!

Dreams coming true

Dreams coming true

I brought to the table:

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.

And dessert?

S’mores.

Dreamy

Dreamy

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.

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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 You’re Moving to Philadelphia…

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.

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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..

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Because we can’t just eat and drink ourselves into a stupor all day, every day. Right?

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.

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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?)

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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.

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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)

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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.

 

Philly Beer Week 2013 from a Phirst-Timer

This time last year, I was JUST getting geared up to move from NC. I ogled Philly Beer Week 2012 from afar, following Twitter and Facebook like a stalker. Fast-forward to 2013 and I was ready for what was touted as “The Biggest Beer Week in the Nation”. With over 1,000 events during the course of 10 days (because 7-day weeks are for suckers and saps), I had to curate my week carefully (and, you know, continue to attend class, do homework, work at my internship, and maintain some semblance of responsibility). Luckily, I’m Type-A to a T and had lists on lists of beers I wanted to try, events I wanted to hit up, food pairings I was interested in, and a careful spreadsheet of my REM cycles to maintain appropriate homeostasis to sustain life (Fine, I didn’t track my REM cycles. But I DID fully engage in several naps to make up for lost night-sleep).

My first sight of PBW2013!

My first sight of PBW2013!

Friday, I had a whole schedule planned. I’d mapped out where I was going, had a time-frame, and a buddy to escort me from place to place. But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men, so after a quick bite to eat, my beer buddy got a bit of tummy troubles and I was on my own.

One is the loneliest number (though Sixty-One by Dogfish Head does help the loneliness a bit)

One is the loneliest number (though Sixty-One by Dogfish Head does help the loneliness a bit)

Luckily, this was not an issue. Because during Philly Beer Week, if you’re a fan of beer, you’re NEVER alone.

Varga Gals and The Hammer of Glory make great buddies

Varga Gals and The Hammer of Glory make great buddies

And over the course of the next ten days (only 6 of which I partook in any beer shenanigans, a girl’s gotta rest sometimes) I basked in the glory of Philly Beer Week and all that it had to offer.

Let’s try this by the numbers (well, a few numbers)

Number of New-to-Me Beers Consumed: 27

Best Beer I Tried: Allagash FV13 Tart, rich in flavor and body, beautiful copper color, can’t beat it.

Worst Beer I Tried: Evil Twin Blind Eye PA Belgian IPA? I don’t think so. This was a mistake to order with dinner, and a bigger mistake to drink the whole thing. Some things just don’t go together. This is one of them (IMHO).

Number of Times I Visited Varga Bar: 4. I think I’ve established my new favorite bar in Philadelphia for beer, ambience, and cheese fries (that I need to try according to the internet)

Coolest Event: BBQ (Broads, Brews, and Queens) at Smokin’ Betty’s

Oh hell yes.

Oh hell yes.

Nothing goes better with beer than drag queens

Nothing goes better with beer than drag queens

Ultimate End of Beer Week Event: Bathed in Victory Beer and Cheese Pairing at Dibruno Brothers

Talk about some Summer Love.

Talk about some Summer Love.

And here's your cheese pr0n for the day.

And here’s your cheese p0rn for the day.

And this is how I felt at the end of the week:

WIPED City, USA!

WIPED City, USA!

Full Disclosure: It was an INTENSE week, and I didn’t even participate in all the days I could’ve… Looks like I’ll need to train a little harder for next year. But I don’t think I’d rather train for anything else.

Cheers to everyone who made PBW2013 incredible, to my new friends, to my new favorite bars and my new favorite beers, and to a year to prepare for PBW2014. That’s right, the dates are set and starting May 30th, we’ll do it all over again.