Pokémon GO? More like Pokémon STOP. Philly Free Streets 2017

(Oh, hey there. You might be wondering “Why hasn’t Jordan written anything since August?” Feel free to scroll down to the end of this post for the answer to that.)

But maybe you’re just here because you wanna know about Philly Free Streets this year. In that case, read on.

I was pumped for this year’s event. I even wrote a feature about this year’s Philly Free Streets over on Fitt Philly. I’d checked my bike tires, woke up early (well, for a Saturday), suited up, and rode over with my pal Sammy. We were hype to take a power walk with Mayor Jim Kenney before riding our bikes along the 3.5 mile route.

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The kickoff schedule

Best laid plans, amirite?

The hour of 9 came and went, and then so did 9:30. We actually stuck it out until 9:40 before deciding it was time to get busy living, but this was an inauspicious start…

Let’s break it down a little bit:

THE GOOD

Free Streets – not much can be bad about that, right? The weather was crisp and wonderful, there were different city groups and services out doing demos, offering goodies, and beautifying spaces.

I really loved the Pedestrian Plaza by the Al Aqsa Islamic Society, Parks & Rec, and Mural Arts Philadelphia – adirondack chairs, chalk, lots of conversations and connections.

People brought their A-game for riding (loved this skeleton from the Kidical Mass ride, and penny-farthing in blue – snaps to this guy for balance!)

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There was an area at the end of the route, El Centro de Oro in the Fairhill neighborhood that I can almost guarantee I never would’ve explored otherwise. I jumped into a Zumba dance class with strangers. I helped paint a mural. It was wonderful.

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Shoutout to Mural Arts!

 

THE BAD

Two words:

Pokémon

GO.

This app was released in summer 2016. I vaguely remember some friends and peers getting obsessed, and then losing steam & interest, and then never discussing it again. Flash in the pan, right?

Wrong.

Pokémon GO’s creators, Niantic, Inc., partnered with Philly Free Streets for an epic Pokémon GO integration along the route. And, up until about two weeks before the event, this was the ONLY information available on the PFS “Program Details” Page. Neverthless, I was shocked at the sheer volume of Pokémon GO players, teams, swag, etc that clogged the event. People were walking around armed with maps, portable chargers, wearing Pokémon swag, and meeting up with their “teammates” from around the country. The event was listed on the Niantic, Inc. website, and considering the game still has about 65 million active monthly users, that brought folks from far and wide.

Being on a bike during the 3 hours that I was out at the event was incredibly challenging, as clusters of players would stop in the middle of the streets, intently staring at their phones, enjoying this augmented reality. They wouldn’t look up, they rarely reacted to calls of “on your left” and it felt dangerous.

 

 

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Thanks to @joey4017 for this shot of folks glued to their phones, catching them all.

I don’t know if there was some sort of benefit the city got from this Pokémon partnership, but as someone trying to enjoy the event without the app, it was painful. I almost think I would’ve been supportive of cutting my “free streets” time down by an hour and giving these Poké-people an hour all to themselves, if it meant they weren’t clustering in the streets for the other 4 hours.

THE UGLY

Trash trucks – not vehicles that I spend much time around on a regular basis, but I respect the hell out of them. They keep our streets cleaner than several other cities I have visited.

Unfortunately, they served as the barrier between the (mostly) free streets. The new route was not TRULY a car-free 3.5 miles, as the north-south path crossed several major intersections that were not shut down. Good for traffic, but also challenging as a rider, a walker, and for anyone with strollers. The space they left on the road was about 2 people wide on either side, so there was a lot of stop and go along the way.

They were smelly, which I guess is the nature of trash cans, but it’s worth noting the aroma of garbage is what my mind recalls when thinking of sensory experiences at Free Streets.

Final thoughts

Did I have fun? Sure.

Could it be improved? Well, what event couldn’t.

Full disclosure: I am on the planning team for Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia and we spend at least a month following each event reviewing what went wrong, right, and what we could do better, and several months leading up to the next one reviewing those same issues.

But this Pokémon thing REALLY tainted the vibe of Philly Free Streets to me. I thought this year was supposed to be all about connecting neighborhoods (last year’s was mostly along South Street, connecting pretty much the same folks that go to all the summer festivals already). And, to an extent, I felt some of that. But mostly I felt like I was imposing on a Pokémon GO convention with the occasional table for IndeGo or the Philly Water Department.

Here’s hoping that some good times this year turn into better ones next year.

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****UPDATE: I have actually been writing more than ever. Someone just decided that I could make a part-time gig out of it…. I’ve been channeling many of my words and social time to Fitt Philadelphia, so if you’re ever wondering what fitness events you should do each month, or when the new megaformer studio is opening, or where to find the most innovative workout spots in the city, I’d recommend hopping over there. ****

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Date Night in Philly: Cake Life Pastry Pairings

Philadelphia is affectionately known as the City of Brotherly Love. And, though we do have a history littered with a few not-so-brotherly moments (cough Santa cough), at the end of the day, if you love Philly, it’ll love you right back.

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Promise, we can be nice, too.

There’s nowhere this is more evident than in the numerous collaborations our chefs, restaurateurs, and purveyors of adult beverages put together on a regular basis. I’ve noshed on lamb Barbacoa dumplings from Han Chiang of Han Dynasty & the gang from South Philly Barbacoa, nibbled Sweetgreen’s salad designed by Zahav’s Mike Solomonov, and, most recently, got to enjoy a pastry and drink pairing courtesy of two of Fishtown’s sweethearts (and neighbors!) – Cake Life and Kensington Quarters.

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Last week, the team from Cake Life and Tim Kweeder of Kensington Quarters, along with Jason Malumed of MFW Wine, banded together for an epic guided pastry & beverage pairing. While the wines were sourced from the region of Southwest France, the pastries were the brain-children of the brilliant minds of Lily & Nima, Cake Life’s co-owners.

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This was the fifth in a Summer Series the shop hosted highlighting either wines or spirits, and was one of the most fun nights I’ve had all summer. From 7:30-10(ish… five courses and wines in, and time was a loose concept), Jason and Tim led us through South by Southwest France – using tunes from the notorious music festival as a soundtrack.

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This tray is what dreams are made of…

We enjoyed savory and sweet treats highlighting seasonal ingredients like melon, tomato, and peaches. We salivated over syrupy sausage rolls and SOME of us may have even licked our plates after a particularly mouthwatering almond-plum cake, our final course of the night.

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Oh, that’s just a prosciutto crisp topping that Melon Tartlet

The time and consideration that went into the wine pairing was evident with each sip, and Jason and Tim brought us on a whirlwind tour through Southwest France that had me checking Google flights and vineyard tours.

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Sauvignon Blanc & goat cheese / tomato jam Croisstini – think the most elevated take on pizza & wine 

While the Summer Pairing Series is done for the season, Cake Life has a lot more up their sleeves… Keep your eyes peeled for similar, seasonally appropriate pastry-pairings to go down monthly. PLUS if you wanna get an amazing taste-tour through Cake Life’s goodies, try one of their Second Saturday Tastings, where duos can eat their way through the shop’s pie, tart, or cake flavors and fillings (BYOB at night – making this the ULTIMATE date night activity!)

Thanks Cake Life for making Philly (and Fishtown) a little sweeter and to Tim and Jason for livening the mood and making us look at Sauvignon Blanc in a way we never had before.

Zahav x Momofuku: Isreali Breakfast

“Oh, you write about food? What’s your favorite restaurant?”

It’s a question I field regularly, from travelers coming to Philly for the weekend to casual acquaintances at networking events; from friends and family to total strangers that ALSO wanna gab about food. And, to be honest, there’s an easy answer, but it hurts to share.

Zahav hits every checkbox in my dream resto:

  • Diverse array of tastes served in one meal
  • Impeccable service, from the hosts to the folks tidying up the table between courses
  • Killer soundtrack (seriously, who’s curating the Zahav Spotify playlist, and can I get your info?)
  • Masterful presentation (from the open kitchen to plating of individual dishes)

This is unfortunate because, in addition to being one of the most wonderful places to dine, it’s also one of the toughest reservations to get in Philly, so I try not to boast too much when I do manage to get a meal on my calendar. But this… this was something special.

Zahav collaborated with the team from Momofuku’s Ssäm Bar (known for some killer Korean-style meat and Asian fusion dishes) for a one-time Israeli breakfast for the ages.

When I saw the tickets go up live Thursday, May 18 I’d purchased a table for 4 before 7:30am. When an opportunity like this occurs, you pay first, ask questions later. I had no trouble finding three willing dining companions and, Saturday at noon, we were seated with no idea what we’d be eating (but a certainty that it would be delicious).

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I’m going to do that thing that some people love and others hate, which is rehash the menu, so if you don’t care for that kinda thing, feel free to scroll through the photos.

First Course:

  • Israeli Breakfast Breads – we’re talking Kubaneh (linking to David Chang’s Lucky Peach article, keep it in the family) and a sweet Rugelach (perhaps date flavored, I must admit that detail was hazy)
  • An insane rose(?) and strawberry jam that I wanted to drown in (yes, we ordered extra)
  • Bentons Bacon Salad – frisée, poached egg, and smoked / cured egg yolk
  • Country ham – sliced paper thin, served with red-eye coffee gravy
  • Beef tartare – made with Yuzu Kosho (an incredible citrus chile condiment you should put on all dishes) and MORE egg yolk
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That beef tartare, though…

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Making frisée fun again…

Second Course

  • Short Ribs Al H’aesh – this was an incredible dish that was (I believe accidentally) brought to us three times. I apologize, Zahav, for not mentioning our second and third portions, but if you bring me short ribs on a skewer, I will eat them all without question.
  • Shakshuka – with smashed English peas, tomato, Saffronella, and an egg. I wish Zahav offered this for dinner, too.
  • Spicy pork sausage with rice cakes – easily my favorite dish, this dish had texture, heat, and an egg. What more could a girl ask for?!
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Shakshuka & banchan (Korean side dishes like kimchi and ginger scallions, that went with EVERYTHING!)

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Added bonus to spicy sausage dish – when your friends can’t take the heat, you get extra.

We were promptly rolled out of Zahav and into the street, where we blissfully walked the 20 blocks home on cloud nine, stuffed with the best foods around.

Zahav – you dog. You got me again. I’m unabashedly enamored with the entire CookNSolo restaurant group (and like to maintain a healthy obsession with Federal Donuts), so just keep doing what you’re doing, and I’ll keep blindly throwing my money your way.

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Gratuitous food pics

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!

Freehouse Fitness FAQs

In early 2016, South Street got a brand new exercise studio, Freehouse Fitness. Nestled dangerously close to Sweet Freedom Bakery and the summer favorite PHS Popup Garden, this bright space houses some of Philly’s most challenging (and fun!) classes. Seven days a week, Dana and her team lead fitness junkies on the trampoline, the reformer, the mat, and at the barre. I’m certainly no expert, but with ClassPass bringing new guests daily, who couldn’t use a little more scoop before your visit?

What to Wear/Bring

  • Leggings or crops – I love wearing shorts, but NOT during these workouts
  • Tank top – You want your arms and shoulders free to move
  • Water bottle
  • Grippy socks – IF you choose to wear socks (I think a few classes suggest/request that you do), you’re not slipping. Most folks I see go barefoot

That’s it! You don’t have to bring a mat, or a lock. They have lockers with keys you can use during classes. They also have towels AND free Rival Bros. coffee for those 6:10am classes!

What Types of Classes Can You Take?

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Looks confusing? Yeah, I thought so too. BUT here are some key words:

  • Rebounder – This is a small, personal trampoline that, when combined with killer cardio, torches serious calories. Lower impact than just jumping on hardwood, rebounders at Freehouse are used to light up cardio classes.
  • Reformer – This thing might look like a torture device… and that’s probably because, depending on the instructor, it can feel like one, too! Using adjustable resistance bands, a pulley system, and physics, these things allow for a super low-impact, incredibly difficult workout when used correctly.

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    The Reformer is a double-edged sword: Incredible workout BUT doesn’t let you coast. At all.

  • Jumpboard – Like a foot plate they put on the reformer, this allows you to “jump” from a horizontal position. Any reformer class that mentions cardio will probably use this to get you sweating.
  • Bands – A little more user-friendly than those resistance bands you got in physical therapy, these bands have handles and allow you to “lift” in a dynamic fashion not available with your classic barbells or dumbbells

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    Bands high and low

How much does it cost?

Well, much like any fitness studio, that depends on how often you go and what type of classes you purchase.

Reformer classes, at $26 for a drop-in  or $120 for five classes, cost more than the rest of the classes. Consistent with most reformer-based studios, this is because the equipment is expensive and the room only has a few reformers. You’re getting the benefit of very personal attention when there are only 6-8 students in the class.

Fitness classes on the rebounders or with the bands are $18 for a drop-in or $80 for a five-pack. You’ll have more students in the class, too, but you’ll still get lots of attention as all the instructors at Freehouse really know their stuff.

There are also some $14 yoga sculpt classes AND if you’re lucky (and follow the FreehouseFitness Instagram page, you might be able to take advantage of one of their free classes they throw every now and then!

What’s the Vibe?

When it comes to fitness studios or gyms, they can give you the best workout of your life but, if you’re not “feeling it”, you’re not going to come back. BUT the vibe at Freehouse is a fun, fit, and enthusiastic one. PLUS Dana is always throwing special events like vegetarian/vegan brunch or mimosas with fresh-pressed juice in the studio. In the summer, she even had pop-up classes on the Schuylkill River banks. The showers are clean, the amenities are luxurious, and the lighting and windows keep the mood light and bright.

Whether you’re on a “New Year, New You” kick, or just looking for a way to change up your fitness regime, Freehouse could be the spot for you! Plus, just think of all the incredible photo opps…. Just saying.

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Flying High!

 

honeygrow, hgAthletics, and YIP!

A little while back, a group of road warriors banded together, as they do every month, for the YIP (Young Involved Philadelphia) Running Club. The only difference that month: I joined them. That’s right, this  self-proclaimed “non-runner” decided to lace up her sneakers and sweat-wicking tank top and bring new meaning to “fast-casual”.  Lured by the guarantee of wholesome treats and an insider’s look at Honeygrow HQ, 20 of us knocked out 3.5 miles from Center City to Fishtown before reaching the Promised Land at Front and Oxford.

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Photo Credit: Matt Wargo, Inquirer

YIP, an organization full of civically minded young professionals in the City of Brotherly Love, puts together these 2-5 mile runs every month. Each run begins at Philadelphia Runner’s Center City location and ends at an interesting spot in the city where the gang can explore and mingle with some new and like-minded Philadelphians. It’s no coincidence that I chose September as my first running club. What can I say? I’m a sucker for post-run snacks, especially if they’re from Philly’s own Honeygrow.

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See, Honeygrow.and I, we go way back. Or, at least 4 years back. In June of 2012, Justin Rosenberg, the founder of Honeygrow, opened his first location at 16th and Sansom. And a few months later, I moved to town, following the migration patterns of approximately 100,000 other 20-34 year olds since 2006 seeking an urban center teeming with creativity and potential. Justin, who chatted with us briefly when we arrived, explained that despite a rocky first few months, the idea soon caught fire.

Like many health-conscious millennials, I chose Philly for the affordable rent, thriving job market, and, of course, the 24/7 accessibility to soft pretzels. The idea of an affordable, healthy, and customizable fast-casual dining experience is appealing to the young professional – none more so than Philadelphia’s own Honeygrow. Honestly, I don’t know a 20-something in the city that hasn’t waited, salivating, for their stir-fry or salad at one of Honeygrow’s Philadelphia locations. From my own experience as a graduate student at Penn and a frequenter of many of Center City’s boutique fitness studios, their West Philly and Rittenhouse locations have saved me from mid-study session starvation or post-sweat stove-top slumming more times than I can count.

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Dinner a la Five Spice stir fry!

Speaking of which, we only could explore Honeygrow’s inner sanctum for so long before our stomachs began to rumble. Luckily, the team had us covered and quickly doled out their signature Honeybars and something a bit more savory. In between shoveling stir fry into our mouths, we were able to have a revealing Q&A with David Katz, the culinary director and palate powerhouse of Honeygrow. He spoke to the focus on regional styles and recipe popularity, Honeygrow’s plans for expansion over the next year (spoiler alert: it’s gonna be fast & furious, with over 15 locations by 2017) and, of course, how his Jersey Shore and Philly roots influenced the menu.

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Love this message right in the heart of their HQ!

In a swirling sea of fast-casual options, Honeygrow stands out for the hungry and healthy, who are often in a hurry. Their founder, a former financial analyst himself, knows the grind well, and saw opportunity in Philly like so many of us did . We’ve got some of the most passionate eaters around and, with YIP being just one of DOZENS of run clubs, I can almost guarantee there’s always going to be someone down to carbo load.

ALSO, Honeygrow’s new hgAthletics program has opportunities for fitness of all kinds. From testing out PLUSgives new yoga mats

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…to a BOOtcamp with an Olympian, check out the hgAthletics Facebook page to stay in the know and get involved!

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I’m a GOLD RUSH. Get it? Don’t worry, no one else did, either. (Photo cred to Kyle Huff, Honeygrow’s social media master)

Check out Honeygrow’s monthly run club if you wanna get in on the “dash & dine” action on the fourth Tuesday of every month. After your 3-5 mile run, you’ll get 25% off your Honeygrow order! How’s that for instant gratification?

ALSO, word on the street is that the next hgAthletics event is going feature a partnership with PLUSgives AND Reading Terminal Market. Stay tuned!

Scarpetta Comes to Philadelphia

As you stroll out of the picturesque Rittenhouse Square and through the revolving doors of Scarpetta, the ultra-modern Italian restaurant and bar that recently opened in The Rittenhouse, the feeling is almost instantaneous.

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

From the warm and sexy lighting to the bumping bass, the bustling staff and the attentive hostesses, Scarpetta feels like you’ve been transported to a hip Manhattan joint. Everyone we saw, from dates to businessmen, girls groups and buddies, was dressed to impress. The wine flowed like water and the bread baskets flowed like slightly-doughier water.  Scarpetta is a place to see and be seen, a place to bring your boss, a place to show-off to your parents, and a place to woo. I’ve gotta confess:

I loved it.

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So sleek. So sexy.

But I’ll also admit, if you wanna hear about the scene, the square footage, Uwishunu and Foobooz have done a much better job than I ever could.

I’m here to tell you, instead, about one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever eaten.

Remember that bread basket I mentioned? Yeah, that bad boy is filled with some flawless, airy and crunchy foccaccia AND house-made stromboli.

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Heaven in a basket

Served alongside mascarpone butter, citrus infused olive oil, and an eggplant spread that wouldn’t quit, we definitely had them refill this basket (….twice).

Scarpetta’s menu is divided into four parts.

  • Crudo (raw!)
  • Primi Piatti
  • Pasta
  • Proteins (including fish, meat, and poultry)

The folks at Scarpetta were generous enough to give my date and I a little bit of everything, and I’d definitely recommend going that route if you have the opportunity.

The options for the crudo were honestly the biggest challenge we had as every dish looked better than the last. In the end, we had three of four options (don’t worry tuna, we’ll be back for you!)

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Scarpetta manages to elevate each dish in a way that not only let’s the quality of the fish shine but accentuates the natural flavor with expertly chosen garnishes. Our favorite was the  scallops. The pea and aleppo purée brought a zip to the smoothness of the scallop flavor I’d never experienced before.

The primi piatti that spoke to my date and I was something we’d tried at their preview party: Braised short ribs of beef with vegetable & farro risotto.

As expected, it didn’t disappoint. It merely melted in our mouths.

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Up next: the pasta!

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Scarpetta’s signature dish is their spaghetti, a flawless example of the classic dish. But I suggest you get at least one more pasta dish: the duck & foie gras ravioli. Velvety, rich, and drizzled with a marsala reduction, this is easily the most delicious pasta I’ve ever tasted. Each pocket was stuffed with a perfect blend of tender duck and creamy foie gras.

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Dry-aged ribeye, featuring trumpet mushroom, cipollini onion, fingerling potato & truffled spinach. Our “Carne” choice, cooked medium rare and served pink and juicy.

Full to the brim, I assumed we were done.

I assumed wrong.

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I’m so sorry that these photos don’t do the food an ounce of justice. I’m sorry I didn’t feel comfortable enough to bring my bulky DSLR to a gorgeous resto.

I’m also sorry I don’t have a vat of “unknown crunchy bits” to pour over all future desserts.

Scarpetta is a place to be spoiled, and to spoil someone. It’s a place I could easily write a thousand words about, but I’ll let these photos try and make up for about 400 of them.

Just go. Eat here. Be happy.

 

CorePower Yoga in Philly: A Review!

When we last met (digitally), I was talking fitness. Specifically about how Philly is lighting up as far as fitness goes. I’m not the first to notice this (Be Well Philly even put together a list of all the new studios coming to town).

As I mentioned before, I’m definitely not the first to experience most of these. But hey, maybe some of y’all are on the fence about some of them. Maybe you’re not sure what the workouts are like, maybe you wanna know what to wear, maybe you’re just narrowing down your list of which fitness to focus on this week / month / year. So I’ve been checking some of them out. Since we went ahead and got RIPPED, let’s focus on our cores, eh?

CorePower Yoga has come to town.

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They offer new members one free week (click the link for your own!) so, being the budget babe that I am, I jumped on the opportunity. One week (ok, maybe two weeks, I had my buddy’s wedding to attend!) later, I’m ready to write about the 4-5 classes I took (one was outside of the week).

CPY is a HUGE company, it seems. They’re also not that new to the city, opening in December. But I hibernated until the weather was a little closer to the temps of their signature hot yoga classes. I tried three of their four types offered at the Philly studio, descriptions here (didn’t manage to make it to Hot Power Fusion, but the candlelit ones sound terrific!)

CorePower Yoga 1 was nice and easy, a fast moving flow but not so challenging (OR so hot) that I felt out of my league.

CorePower Yoga 2: hotter (like, over 95 degrees), harder, and uncut. The class moved fast, the poses were challenging, and I was definitely pushing the outer limits of “my league”. But I survived, and felt strong (though maybe not as strong as that yogi easing into Eka Pada Bakasana like it ain’t no thing. 

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Dang Julie Wilcox. Show me how it’s done (click photo for source)

Yoga Sculpt, though, was my favorite. By far. This class keeps things sweaty to begin with at 94 degrees, PLUS you use hand weights for things like push-ups, tricep extensions, etc. There’s even a cardio break built in that reminds me a bit of Lithe Method.

This was the most I’ve ever sweat in ANY fitness class. That includes Bikram’s 104 degree temps, and brutal bootcamps in the middle of the summer. Seriously, my workout gear needed to be wrung out before I put it in the laundry basket.

It was all very gross (and weirdly satisfying).

The PROS:

  • Insane workout catered to your skills
  • Lots of classes offered daily (like, 10-12)
  • Beautiful studio, lots of space
  • Variety from your standard yoga class (loved mixing in cardio and weights, even though it was hard as hell)

The CONS:

  • No mat storage
  • Corporate feel
  • Crowded locker rooms for some of the bigger classes
  • (I hate to sound like a cheapskate BUT) The price

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However, with prices of Classpass skyrocketing across the country, maybe this is the cost of boutique fitness now. Scary thought for a gal in pediatric research… However, I will note they have a discount through a “work-study” program if you help clean 3ish hours a week. Worth looking into, if you’ve got the time.

Thank goodness for all the Free Fitness in Philly.

ONTO THE NEXT WORKOUT!

Shake Shack Shake Up: Beer AND Chicken!

I first learned about Shake Shack several years ago, while I was still in North Carolina, when my buddy dated some sort of manager or something. I don’t really remember his exact role, and I refuse to check LinkedIn for that kind of thing, but it was a very gentle introduction to the concept of what was already a staple in New York for nearly a decade.

Coincidentally, about 3 years ago, Shake Shack must’ve heard I was moving north, because they decided to open up their first Philadelphia location just about a month before I became a permanent resident of this fair city. Me and “The Shack”, we’ve had some good times together. Almost all were burger related, and I’m more than okay with that. And, when they decided to collaborate with Yards Brewery and La Colombe to brew a very special Coffee Stout, well, I had to make a stop to check out the brew!

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Philly, burgers, AND beer?! Speaking my language.

As Shake Shack, Yards, AND La Colombe are all about community, $2 from every pint sold was donated to City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. And, instead of the typical Yards Love Stout, this Coffee Stout is a dark ale brewed with roasted malt to create a smooth, creamy brew. La Colombe coffee beans infuse the beer with lavender, orange and caramel. It was a blend of typical CO2 pour and nitro, making it a realllllly smooth mouthfeel and experience.

 

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If you’re near a Shake Shack and you see it around, FIND IT!! And drink it.

However, as the team for Shake Shack is insanely generous, they didn’t stop there. They wanted me to try something new.

Something…. chicken.

That’s right, Shake Shack is going BEYOND THE BURGER! And straight to Clucktown with their Chick’n Shack. This sammy is a crispy 100% all-natural and antibiotic-free chicken breast with lettuce, pickles and buttermilk herb mayo.

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I promise, I only ate most of this

Y’all: It’s so good. There’s been a lot of comparisons made to other chicken sandwiches, some local, some less local. But I beseech of you: go in with a clear mind. Order a Chick’n Shack. Get this beer (or the classic Shackmeister Ale). Get a side of cheese fries (do NOT skip the cheese.)

Pro-Tip: Order a side of cherry peppers (traditionally reserved for their SmokeShack). Take a bite of the sandwich, untainted. THEN, doctor the hell out of it by slathering on some cheese sauce and cherry peppers.

I don’t even know how to put into words that bliss. Heat, melted cheese, chicken, PICKLES! Rapture.

The fellows at Shake Shack Center City, Tom and ESPECIALLY Derek, took SUCH good care of us. In fact, they wouldn’t let us leave until  without a boozy adult dessert.

Yup, vanilla custard in a grown-up beer float.

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Talk about a sweet ending!

What I SHOULD have done after this meal: Take a long run with the Shack Track and Field group.

What I DID do: promptly waddled home and laid in bed, drifting to a full-bellied half food-coma, half-regular sleep.

SO MUCH THANKS to the entire team at Shake Shack for treating me to the tastiest pre-blizzard meal possible. Perfect prelude to a long weekend hibernating… If you have the ability to hit up the Shack in Center City OR University City, do yourself a solid, Chick’n up, and meet me when the snow melts in the spring for some Shack Track runs!

SweatX Launch (or Why I Can’t Date a Crossfitter)

We’re gonna start out with a tale. It’s brief, I promise. It’s called “Why I Can’t EVEN with Crossfit.”

Once upon a time, I dated a fellow. He was charming and handsome and had quads for days. There was also a laundry list of reasons we were rubbish for each other, but I’m a sucker for a strong vocabulary and a tight end. But then, it happened. Or rather, I noticed it was happening. He evolved from casual enthusiast to full-blown “Crossfitter.”

You know the type.

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Suddenly, those quads were gains. The term “Thruster” was not sexy at all. And paleo living made for really lame dates (this coming from the woman who eats her way through every city she visits.) And all he ever talked about was the gang at the box. What meat they were eating… Cool.

We didn’t last, and I vowed that I forever would give the Crossfit Cult a side eye.

Damn shame since, beyond the typical reasons everyone else gives it a side-eye, Crossfit sounds right up my alley. Competitive, team vibe. Hype AF. Unfortunately, also super expensive. Oh well.

Only this week, something magical occurred. I think I found the perfect combination of all that to a lighter degree, at a gym I already know and love, without the cave people (no offense to you avid Crossfitters out there, I’m sure you’re lovely).

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SweatX classes are taught by SWEAT Fitness’ top instructors and are customized for each participant’s fitness level and ability. Translation: Whether you’re used to working with 50 pound kettlebells or you’re a newb to weights entirely, they’re here to help you have a killer workout at YOUR skill level. You’ll use weights, ropes, kettlebells, box jumps, interval training, and more to lift your fitness game to new heights.

What ALSO sets this program apart is that the classes are capped at ten participants allowing SWEATX Instructor and Director of Personal Training (Oh, and total babe), Chris Harris and his team to oversee each class member’s progress.

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Here’s Chris warming the team up.

Is there a slight competitive nature? Yup. Is there that hyper-crazy GOTTA BEAT EVERYONE vibe? Nah. Maybe it’s like… Crossfit Lite.

Was I a little bummed out when women 9″ shorter than me were squatting literally double my weights?

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Maybe.

But I’ve gotta say, having Chris and the team right behind me, as someone who’s never used a squat rack before, coaching me on form and telling me to just push a little harder was more motivation than I would’ve been able to muster up alone in the gym.

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Ample Opportunity to Tighten my Own End

ALSO: Gotta appreciate any opportunity to get a photo of my tush looking like that….

We warmed up as a team and with partners, we did dead lifts, we squatted our asses off (just kidding, it’s still there. A little sore, but it’s there), and we even rocked some kettlebells.

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Far too high energy to be caught by modern technology

Clearly, this wasn’t a time to be looking terribly photogenic. But it was a time to break a NON-STOP SWEAT. We ended with five sets of 25 squats and these terrible nightmares called Ramp Runs that I hope you never have to experience (just kidding, come join us, they’re a total joy).

Even though I never felt like I was ENTIRELY unable to push myself anymore, I was drenched. That was a hell of a workout, and the numbers don’t lie. Sub-hour workout, 718 calories burned. You really can’t beat it.

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Whoah.

I just may have something in the works to see what SweatX can do beyond the first workout. But I’ve gotta say, if that first round was any indication, this style of class can take you from a Jelly-legged Jordan to an elite athlete if you put your mind to it. For $149 per month, you get unlimited SWEATX classes PLUS a full SWEAT Fitness membership and access to all 8 of their locations. Luckily, I’m already a member of Sweat, so I’m feeling this price point for something that has the potential to be transformative.

Wanna know more about SweatX, or sign up? Head to Sweat’s Queen Village location at 700 East Passyunk Ave