Philly Beer Week 2017 – 10 Events You Can’t Miss!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year….

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Philly Beer Week – There’s nothing quite like it. And, with ten days (or less, who knows when you’re reading this) until Opening Tap, the city’s beer bars, reps, and drinkers alike are gearing up for Christmas in June.

2017 marks the 10th Year of this 10 Day Beer Bonanza (“week” is a relative term, right?) and I’m pretty sure that folks are pulling out all the stops to make it the most memorable year to-date. As I did before in 2015 (missed most of last year due to a poorly timed Whole 30), I spent an unreasonable amount of time poring over the lineup of events. I recognize that not all the events are released yet, but I think enough are out that I’ve crafted a pretty dynamite list.

I wouldn’t recommend attending all 10 of them. But, if you do, best of luck to you and your liver.

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May the odds be ever in your favor…

  1. For the person who takes Thursday off… The Hammer of Glory Relay – June 1st, ALL DAY
    For $10, you can hop a seat on a double decker bus and follow the iconic HoG (Hammer of Glory) throughout the city, watching as it passes from spot to spot using themed vehicles, roller derby gals, weird man-powered machines, and ridiculous costumes. Most of the stops, coincidentally, are bars, so if day-drinking is your thing, you can’t start the “week” off any better.
  2. For the one that likes to run for fun… Red Owl Tavern / Founders Brewing Almost 3k – June 3rd, 10am18527242_1358343947548692_3634553842382043062_o.jpg

    Y’all. 3k… that’s not even 2 miles, so no excuses. $30 gets you your first beer, your last beer, a glass, and a t-shirt. PLUS FITNESS! The run is around Independence Mall, and you’ll be hanging before (and hopefully after) at Red Owl Tavern sipping on tasty Founders brews. The ideal way to start your PBW Weekend!

  3. For the one who loves Sunday Funday… Poppin’ Wheelies and Doing the Hula June 4th, 12pm-7pm 

    Two parter – Part 1 – Noon, get some hair of the dog whilst at Drury Beer Garden for some epic Big Wheel Races in the back. Or just laugh and laugh while sipping Evil Genius offerings.
    51PQ9835YGL.jpgPart 2 – 3pm Head just a few feet over to Tiki for an all-male hula contest. Just try to keep your 2SP beers down as these hairy, bearded brutes shake their groove things…

  4. For the nerds who love brews and views… Raven Society Rooftop Biergarten with Sam from Dogfish Head, June 6th, 6-9pmScreen Shot 2017-05-23 at 2.25.05 PM.png

    The Dogfish Head will be flowing, Sam Calagione (founder and owner of Dogfish Head and recent James Beard Award recipient) will be speaking, and the sun will be setting. This will likely be one of the most Instagrammable events… Just saying.

  5. For the one who never wakes up early enough for brunch… Breakfast for Dinner with Rob from Allagash – Jose Pistola’s, 9pm-midnight 

    If you’re like me, you might prefer your eggs served alongside kegs. And if you’re NOT like me, you’re not really a morning person. Head over to Jose Pistola’s to have your (pan)cake and drink beer, too.

  6. For the karaoke all-star… LIVE-Band Karaoke at Johnny Brenda’s with Yards! June 8th, 8:30pm
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    Yeah, I’m sure you’ve done karaoke. But have you ever done karaoke with a live full band?! Let the Yards brews give you the liquid courage you need.
  7. For the Mrs. Doubtfire fan… Left Hand Brewing’s PBW Drag Show Taproom on 19th, June 8th – 8-11pm
    Taproom on 19th is known for their burgers and beer year-round, so you can be sure that the draft list is going to be incredible when they’re highlighting Left Hand Brewing. But, let’s be honest, you’re not just coming for the drinks.18274940_1368095863272820_3503969321176695260_n.jpg
  8. For the one that still can’t stop singing “I’m on a Boat“… Beers & Boats at Bartram’s Garden June 8th, 4-8pm
    This is always a crowd pleaser AND has been known to sell-out, so get your tickets fast! $15 gets you a 30-minute kayak rental & your first beer. PLUS, on the Schuylkill, you can sing as loudly as you want (important if you’ve already indulged in a beer or two…) Don’t worry, lifejackets are mandatory!
  9. For the Picasso of Pilsners, or the Kahlo of Kolsch… PBW: The Art of Beer at Frankford Hall, June 6th, 7-9pm
    A picture’s worth a thousand words, but that art on bottles and cans… that’s priceless. This event is a panel discussion on beer label design featuring the artists behind Tröegs Independent Brewing Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company, Hill Farmstead Brewery, MikkellerForest & Main Brewing Company and Highway Manor Brewing! Edutainment at it’s finest.
  10. For the grand finale… Tailgate Olympics at Devil’s Den, June 10th, 12pm-6pm
    No better way to kick off the last weekend of PBW 2017 than with games galore. Giant Beer Pong, Washers, Huge Jenga, & Cornhole to name a few… Bring out your inner jock and soak up the Saturday sunshine with your friends from Free Will, Yards, Evil Genius, 2SP, and Weyerbacher!

There are TONS of events this year, really with something for everyone. Whether you’re a foodie, in it for the games (keep your eyes out for the goldfish and turtle races), a sweet-tooth, or looking for super rare brews… You’ll have a harder time not having fun during the first 10 days of June than you will finding a beer-focused way to spend your days!

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Philly’s #NOSHHH: Snapchat Style

(TLDR; Play along with this silly #NOSHHH Philly Snap Story)

Look, I’ve sung the praises of Snapchat before, and I’ll sing them again and again. But there’s perhaps no circumstance more awesome for this incredible, mostly evanescent social media app than a night out exploring something that most of your friends may not know or have access to.

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Like a sexy party featuring bites and sips !

I’m talking Snap Stories, and, this weekend, I was talking #NOSHHH. According to the fine folks that put this bad boy together (Home Brewed Events and Spirit Forward):

Noshhh is a collaboration project between Home Brewed Events and Spirit Froward to help promote Philadelphia’s local handcrafted industry.

What better way to do so than with a killer speakeasy-themed party featuring local vendors doling out everything from (The) Bacon Jam(s) to beer from Saint Benjamin, spicy Cheng’s Chicken from Wokworks to coffee and desserts from United by Blue. I toted along my buddy, Samaya, and we had a wild ride eating and drinking everything we could to some killer tuneskies from .

LUCKILY, I saved this little story which you can watch HERE.

If you refuse to watch that INCREDIBLE YOUTUBE VIDEO, first of all, you’re missing out.

Second of all, you might miss the prep for us eating our way through all these sauces…

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Rock the Roll Sauces are INCREDIBLE, especially the Ginger Sesame Barbecue sauce. I’d never imagine I would wanna put BBQ sauce on fish… and yet here I am, wishing for some salmon for all that sauce.

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Major props to Two Brother Hummus for getting me hype enough about chickpeas to make a hummus pun (SEE VIDEO FOR PROOF). Also, for making buffalo chicken hummus that belongs on every respectable crudite platter in the country.

Don’t worry. I drank some things, too. You’ll have to see the video for the craziest one (Spoiler Alert: three words – cookie shot glasses). BUT, as a self-proclaimed brown liquor abstainer, I was terribly pleased with the offerings from New Liberty Distilling. A Pennsylvania Whiskey had both my date (who’s spent her fair share of time in Kentucky) and my self boggled… until we tasted it.

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Whiskey and Punch. Delightful combo…

I’m not saying I’m gonna run off to grab bottles off the shelf at the liquor store (at least not right away). But Kinsey’s given me hope to hang with the badasses putting away whiskey like it’s water (ya know, as long as mine’s diluted with a lot of water. Or punch.)

I could yammer on about #NOSHHH until the cows come home. But really, just watch the video. And maybe, one day, when I decide to not be a cheapskate, I’ll post videos like this on the actual blog!

HUGE thanks to Home Brewed Events and Spirit Forward for the invite, keeping my eyes on what y’all have coming up next (spoiler alert: Coffee and Beer after hour event next week….)

The Perks of Yelping and Optimism: Han Dynasty Dumpling Class

I’ll start this post with a few caveats. First of all, I’m a Yelp Elite. They explain it better than I do, but basically it means that I “Yelp” often, and I Yelp “well” enough that some group decided my reviews are pretty legit. About once a month, this also means I get to go to some cool party or event with free food, or booze, or mini-facials. I’ve written almost 300 reviews, so what this really means is I’m a total geek. And the Elite events…. They’re full of total Yelp geeks, too. It’s okay, it’s all in good fun. But the other night, I was invited to an event not because of how often I Yelp (too often), but because of a glowing 5-star review I gave to one of my favorite spots in the city.

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Spoiler alert: this was the final product

Han Dynasty has several locations around the city, but I’ve been to the one in Old City more times than I can count. From a quick happy hour drink and snack to a dinner for 72, to a bottle share with Philly Beer Scene, Han’s team always delivers. And I reflected this in my review. Apparently, Han and his squad are digging around on Yelp, inviting folks that left 5-star Reviews for some in-house experiences. A little “Behind the Scenes at the Dynasty”. In our case, it was dumpling creation.

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We made dough (well, we kneaded dough that he mixed for us.)

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We rolled out tiny dumpling skins.

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We mixed up chicken, pork, and vegetarian fillings.

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We stuffed and folded about a ZILLION dumplings. Some looked great (see below).

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Some looked awful (nope, deleted all photos of that. Shame.)

We took a break for some chit and some chat while the dumplings were being served. It was AWESOME to see Han in his natural habitat. He explained how, when he was growing up, his grandmother would do full days of dumpling prep while the kids would be stuffing and folding dumplings.

He also explained how he’s got a parody in the pipeline for all those awful one-star reviews (think “Celebrities reading mean tweets” gone dramatic), but I’ll let him share that with y’all closer to the release date.

He also explained how dumplings don’t always have to be perfect.

As long as it’s sealed up, it tastes the f***ing same.

Wisdom from the master.

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Roomie and I posed (as we often do), and then… I ate dumplings we’d created in a style that winded me.

That’s right.

I crammed dumplings into my mouth so fast and so furiously that I was winded.

Needless to say, despite some of them looking a little less than professionally made…. they were delish.

If you’re ALSO trying to get some lessons from the master, I’d recommend heading over to HD and living an experience worth rating 5-stars. But trust me, that won’t be too difficult. Might I suggest the dumplings?

I promise, I didn’t make them.

Philly’s Own Jazz Age on the Delaware

You don’t have to know much about me to know that I love one thing about most others.

That thing?

Dapper Dames

Dapper Dames

THEME PARTIES.

It’s no wonder that events like Dîner en Blanc light a fire inside of me that used to be reserved for college fêtes like “Paranormal Formal” and “Anything But Clothes”. I love watching folks get creative and costumey. It’s no surprise, then, that when I heard that Philly was bringing Jazz Age on the Delaware, a 1920s-era theme party on the River featuring thematically appropriate tunes, bites, and activities…. I leapt at the opportunity to check it out.

This was the moment that I CRUSHED the game of croquet

This was the moment that I CRUSHED the game of croquet

This incredible event is going to be hosted on Saturday August 1st from 11am-5pm on the beautiful grounds of the Glen Foerd Mansion, Philadelphia’s last remaining Gilded Age mansion along the Delaware River. And while my amateur photos certainly don’t do it justice, if I captured even a fraction of the elegance and beauty, you’ll see you’re in for a treat. We arrived hungry and ready for a little nosh and libations.

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Toasted almond cake served in a martini glass?  Sure.

Toasted almond cake served in a martini glass? Sure.

The Glen Foerd mansion’s exclusive caterer is Jamie Hollander Catering and Events, and he brought his a-game with desserts, appetizing hors d’oeuvres, and a buncha goodies served in mini martini glasses. All paired well with cocktails full of Art in the Age spirits.

These drinks were the Bee's Knees!

These drinks were the Bee’s Knees!

Put on those dancing shoes and cut a rug!

Put on those dancing shoes and cut a rug!

Getting to Glen Foerd is a quick train or bus ride from Center City, and tickets are $45 for an afternoon of play, picnics, dancing, and delicacies. There’s a pie-baking competition for the bakers of the bunch, and children under 12 are free so you can bring the whole family.

Bonus: this event couldn’t be any more Instagram-able.

IMG_1445I unfortunately won’t be on the East Coast for the big day, but if you’re in need of a few strands of pearls… you know how to get a hold of me.

Tickets here!

Spring Fling with Bing Bing (Dim Sum)

If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Unfortunately, I think Philadelphia has a case of the opposite. We, as a city of foodie folks, expect the very best from our chefs. The new ones. The veterans. The young ones. The oldies (but goodies). And then, if they don’t deliver to every single expectation…. Philly people get ticked. I feel like there’s a general air of disappointment that surrounds eaters in this city when they enter a restaurant that’s been hyped up.

Like those overly aggressive dudes that go into every bar, party, or pub ready for a fight, they, too, are looking for someone (or something) with whom they can take issue. I say this because I finally had a chance to mosey down to Bing Bing Dim Sum, East Passyunk’s new contemporary dim sum spot opened by the fellows that brought you Cheu Noodle Bar. Everyone that I’ve talked to has given this place the typical “Oh yes, it was decent BUT __________.” I’m here to tell you it was delicious.

Pac Man Bun: scrapple, quail egg, and pickles

Pac Man Bun: scrapple, quail egg, and pickles

Admittedly, my last dim sum experience was what I like to call my “brush with death” at Joy Tsin Lau, a mere few days before one of Philly’s biggest food poisoning outbreaks. So maybe all there was to go was up…. but I think it’s more than that. I think it’s perfectly cooked quail eggs and savory scrapple. I think it’s an outdoor seating and happy hour that, though newly launched, brought joy to my tastebuds (and wallet).

$5 bites, $3-5 bevvies

Cumin lamb rolls ON FLEEK. Truly, these were ethereal. Crunchy and filled with a tangy, stringy lamb. Oh, yes.

Sure, it’s not “bargain dim sum”. But I don’t think you’d want it to be. You pay a bit of a premium for something new, something different. And with dumplings like these, you get what you pay for:

Jade dumplings full of shrimp and leeks

Jade dumplings full of shrimp and leeks

My pal from grad school was in town and, though I love her, it’s hard to admit…. she’s gluten free. Yup, one of my best friends…. she can’t enjoy a normal beer, pizza, or bagel with me.

The struggle’s never been more real.

Luckily, Bing Bing gets it. Beyond our Pac-man Buns, scallion pancakes, and the lamb rolls, we enjoyed a variety of gluten free options that tasted anything but.

Green beans with fermented garlic and crunchy fried quinoa

Green beans with fermented garlic and crunchy fried quinoa

Fried cauliflower with shrimp salt, lemon, and scallion

Fried cauliflower with shrimp salt, lemon, and scallion

The vegetables, our first two dishes of the night, were filling and delicious enough to make an affordable, tasty meal for one. But dim sum is all about MORE.

Scallion pancakes with black bean hummus

Scallion pancakes with black bean hummus

Un-pictured: a delightful set of (gluten free) ruby red beet dumplings full of tofu and crispy garlic, and a bowl of (also gluten free) ginger scallion rice, chicken, furikake, long hots, and a pickled egg that had me playing the fun game where you see if you can pluck single grains of rice using your chopsticks.

If your food tastes that good, you’ll find a whole new set of skills.

Rice noodle rolls with garlic sausage, peanuts, and herbs

Rice noodle rolls with garlic sausage, peanuts, and herbs

These rice noodle rolls came out last, after I thought I couldn’t fit any more food in my belly. I was (luckily) mistaken. This nutty sauce, complimented by the hot chili oil Bing Bing has on each table, were full of garlicky sausage that both sated any leftover appetite, and guaranteed I wouldn’t be smooching any vampires that night. Not that I’m into that kinda thing #teamJacob.

Sure, we went during Happy Hour so the prices on some of the items were a little cheaper. But between the four of us, each getting at least one (DELICIOUS) alcoholic beverage, we came out paying $100 before tip. I’m more than cool with that. Throw in a wacky, dumpling themed decor (they’re everywhere. Even in the bathrooms) and you’re in for a unique night, to say the least. And while I rarely encourage anyone to follow the advice of Sylvia Plath (for assorted reasons), I think she’d make a hell of a food critic.

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.

Cinder-eat-a: A Night Out at #PhillyCooks

As far as princesses go, I’ve never identified much with CInderella. Sure, I’m blond and my whistling skills have been known to call woodland critters to my side (though, in Philly, it’s mostly pigeons and Rittenhouse rats. Gross.) But I can’t stand house cleaning, I get along famously with my siblings and mother, and I’m rubbish on heels, glass or otherwise.

Last night, however, I think I had my Cinderella moment. Instead of a fairy godmother, I had the team from Philadelphia Magazine as my benefactor. My pumpkin coach was an UberX, and my gown was a hastily thrown together number sourced from Athleta and Nordstrom. Most importantly, instead of seeking out a dance with the handsome prince, I was here for one reason.

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Philly Cooks.

One of the city’s premier dining and drinking experiences, this soirée is put on every year by Foobooz, my go-to for all Food and Booze news in Philly. Tickets range from $85 for the early birds to $100. This plucky princess managed to win a pair, due to some sort of pixie dust I’m sure. And so I grabbed my date (read: my mom) and headed to the castle Marriott.

Imagine an enormous room with vaulted ceilings, complete with warm lighting and the dull roar of live music, chock full of Philly foodies, sprinkled with some of the top chefs in every genre of edibles from neighborhoods far and wide.

Yup, I was in paradise.

Yup, I was in paradise.

From ceviche and smoked salmon to pork, pizza, and potatoes to more terrine than you could shake a stick at (seriously…. what’s with all the terrine, chefs?) With a gauzy, tent-like speakeasy stationed in the middle of the vast space pouring cocktails from Franky Bradley’s, Olde Bar, and Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co. (my personal favorite was a Reverse Valencia from Olde Bar – Tanqueray, Oloroso Sherry, Manzanilla Sherry, and apple bitters), the party was in full swing by the time we arrived around 7pm.

Cocktail line-up looking so fly

Cocktail line-up looking so fly

After we obtained our beverages of choice, we began to loop around. Laurel’s Nicholas Elmi (who all Top Chef fans know as a winnnnnerrrr and all Philly folks know as proprietor of restaurant you can’t get reservations to) started off my night the right way with duck confit and foam, and the party kept going strong from there.

I’ll shoot you straight, when you’re surrounded by ravenous hoards of hungry folks all queueing up for tiny plates, whipping out your phone for photos becomes low on the priority list. In fact, I kinda forgot about it for some standouts. Like, sure I can’t recall EXACTLY where I consumed the most divine lobster (maybe) grilled cheese and tomato soup, when my mother thrust it in my hands (Maybe… The Hunt Room?). But I guess when I went back for my 2nd 3rd, let’s be honest here, slow roasted boar and foccaccia panino with pickled red onion, I deemed it worth for a photo (SERIOUSLY SOMEONE TAKE ME TO CAPOFITTO POST HASTE!)

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I want to fall asleep on this soft focaccia next to a pile of that boar. Is that an appropriate way to describe food?

Probably.

Weirdly enough, though I rarely have much of a sweet tooth, the dessert area was my dream-come-true last night. Wonder why….

Sweet Box glory

Sweet Box glory

Goat cheese ANGLAISE?

Goat cheese ANGLAISE?

Huge up to The Master’s Baker, who have given a new lease on my concept of goat cheese’s LIFE.

But then, I reached the mecca.

Oh, what's that? JUST A S'MORES BAR!

Oh, what’s that? JUST A S’MORES BAR!

Yup, 10 Arts brought the HEAT quite literally. Because, in case you didn’t know, s’mores are my favorite dessert. Want proof?

YOU GOT YOUR PROOF

YOU GOT YOUR PROOF

That’s unbridled joy at the thought of consuming a s’more consisting of graham cracker, housemade marshmallow, AND A REESES CUP.

The rest of the night was a blur of snacking, sipping, spinning around in awe, and sadly seeing some spots sans sustenance. By 8pm, a TON of vendors were fresh out. Made me wish we’d come early, but no one wants to be THAT Cinderella. Princesses need to make an entrance. And as my stomach swelled happily, and the clock struck midnight (JK it ended at 9pm but all that eating tuckers a gal out), my mother and I raced down the escalators, pausing only for one farewell photo.

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Foobooz and Philly, you know how to feed a gal. And you just let me know if you spot any glass slippers in a women’s size 12. I’m not saying they’re mine or anything…. but you wouldn’t believe the blisters those puppies give ya!

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.

DSCN8032

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.

Big Apple Eats

I love being back in the North. The drivers are crazier, the rolls are pork-ier, and the proximity to my friends is at an all time high.  So, instead of planning a huge weekend that involves flights and taking off work, I can just hop in a car, then onto a train, and VOILA I’m in the city!  Since I saved all that money on flights, I figured that I’d spend it all on food.

Priorities, right?

Luckily, there’s no shortage of tasty treats in the Big Apple, and I take big bites.

First up, Flea Food Under the Archway from the folks that brought you Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg.

Yeahhhh buddy!

First up, Landhaus. Farm to Sandwich, this spot’s steak sandwich with cheddar sauce was flavorful and juicy, with a nice salty mouthfeel. I’ll admit, the potato chips were a little soggy, but the star of the show was the sandwich, and that’s what I was in it for, so I wasn’t disappointed. Next time, I think I’d like to enjoy their Bacon on a Stick. That just sounds orgasmic.

Up next: Brooklyn Oyster Party!

No party like an oyster party, right?

There’s the La-la-la-lovely Laura in the top left, nabbing us a fried oyster plate.

And then, on the bottom right, the oyster plate itself, complete with pickled onions and Old bay Aioli.  While I normally go for the raw oysters, these were practically bursting with tasty brine and the pickled onions added a fresh acidity to the mix. And you can’t really go wrong with aioli, right?

Right.

Later that night, inspired by one of my very favorite bloggers, Lauren of Sugar Coated Sisters, I made a rez for my brother and I at Mesa Grill.  Though her post is SERIOUSLY detailed and delicious, here’s a fun collage of my Restaurant Week Meal!

In no real order. Because this photo collage thing does crazy things to my pictures.

The appetizer (bottom right?): Fresh Tomato Tortilla soup with Avocado + Queso

The OTHER appetizer (NOT from the restaurant week Menu, but we HAD to get it!) (bottom left): Cremini Mushroom Quesadilla with Fontina, Ricotta, Fried Egg + Salsa Verde

The entree (Upper left): Cornmeal Crusted Chile Relleno filled with Roasted Eggplant, Manchego Cheese with Sweet Red Pepper Sauce + Balsamic Vinegar

Dessert (top right): Vanilla Bean Custard with Summery Berry Salad

Though I know that Lauren RAVED about the soup, I will have dreams about that Quesadilla and the Chile Relleno. Seriously, maybe I’m just a cheese fiend, but fontina, ricotta, manchego OH GOODNESS!! And topping a quesadilla with a fried egg?

BRILLIANT!!

My beverage of choice

I’ve already raved about the Chipotle Ale, but seriously, it was that good.

Birreria did me dirty

I have only see La Birreria completely swamped every time I’ve gone. Admittedly, I’ve only been twice, but both were in the middle of a weekday before work lets out, so I was surprised at the crowds (maybe everyone else is enjoying some funemployment like me?) When we asked for a seat for two for lunch, we were told that we could wait for 30-45 minutes OR check out the bar upstairs, which was standing room only. We opted for the bar, to at least grab a drink before lunch time.

When we reached the rooftop, it was hot, sweaty, and crowded, but a beautiful day. After spotting a small family getting ready to leave, we obtained a seat without hardly waiting at all. We ordered our beers, of which they had an excellent selection of Dogfish Head and house-brewed brews, and were offered some homemade bread made from the spent grain from their brewery (Upper Left). We didn’t try any cask beers this time, but next time I’ll be sure to.

Despite getting the text to let us know a table had opened up, we opted to keep our seat at the bar for the bonus of people watching and proximity to the bartender. I’ll say that the Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold was nothing to write home about, but all the other beers I tried were thoroughly enjoyed. For lunch, my partner and I ordered a cheese plate with gorgonzola, taleggio, and robiola bosina (Upper Right) which was served with a sort of honey hazelnut thing (Bottom Left). Along with the spent grain bread, this was the ideal dish before our “main course” the ProBusto sausage platter with coriander potato and mustard greens. While it seemed a little pricey initially, the sausage was more than enough for the two of us, and was plump and juicy (Bottom Left). Not usually a fan of mustard, this was especially fantastic to enjoy and the potatoes were so well seasoned and well mashed.

And now, I’m on an all salad and omelet diet.

Well, until Happy Hour tonight…

 

Triangle Bucket List: Crook’s Corner’s Honeysuckle Sorbet

My Triangle Bucket List is coming together nicely. And deliciously.

This weekend, I had the pleasure of engaging in a two-fer.  As in I hit one spot (Crook’s Corner) twiced and enjoyed the most delicious, mouth-watering, and memory inducing dessert of all time.

Pardon the dim image. The dimage?

Crook’s Corner is a Chapel Hill staple, touted by The New York Times as “Sacred ground for Southern foodies.”  The head chef and mastermind behind this slice of heaven, Bill Smith, has been in the final four for Best Chef Southeast by the James Beard Awards. And I’m lucky enough that a solid chunk of my buddies work at this establishment (Sunday brunch, it was all I could do to stop saying “HI!” to friends).

The ambiance outside is all pigs and hubcaps, and a kitschy hodge podge of piggies decorates the inside.

Oink!

I’m not sure if it’s the decorations or the food, but the restaurant definitely makes me wanna pig out!

Thursday night, after dining on the tasty mudbugs at the Rockfish Crawfish Boil, I was alerted (via Twitter)  that the limited engagement honeysuckle sorbet (the feature on my Bucket List) was featured on the Thursday night menu (their menu changes regularly, I love it, always a surprise.)

After calling to be certain they still had some of the sweet treat (it’s a hot ticket item that goes fast), I dragged Amanda along with me for dessert.

Sweet backlighting courtesy of Amanda's iPhone

Served in a tiny chalice, this nectar was presented with a sprig of mint leaves and two spoons.  Talk about romantic….

Anticipation is killing me

I couldn’t wait for the first bite…

Pure joy

Oh sweet mother of all things tasty.

I don’t know how one bite could convey so many tastes…  It was sweet, it was fresh, it melted the moment it hit your tongue… it reminded me of sunshine, of bike rides, of summer and the shore. Swing sets in each scoop, my brothers and sister running over to the one bush on my grandparents’ street that always provided ample honeysuckle.

I got the inside scoop on how it’s made from one of my buddies/waiters.  Apparently, Bill Smith rides his bike around at night time (the best time to pluck the blooming blossoms) with a beer and a bucket, emptying one and filling the other with tiny flowers.  He puts the flowers in cold water and lets them soak for 24 hours, turning the water into a virtual essence of honeysuckle.  Then (I assume) he pours the mixture (sans actual blossoms, which have been strained out) into an ice cream maker and VOILA! Heaven.

Cook and Most Popular Student at UNC? I think Bill and I make a good pair.

I Amanda spotted Bill himself, and I made sure to thank him for all he does for the Chapel Hill food scene, as well as for creating numerous meals I’ve enjoyed over my past 7 years in the area.

I loved it so much that I came back on Sunday for brunch, and enjoyed a teensy bit more, due to my secret sneaky hookups in the back (they didn’t have it on the menu that day… but I know a guy, or four). Brunch should ALWAYS come with dessert.

Triangle Bucket List, you are one of my best (and tastiest) ideas ever.