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.

 

 

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!

Summer Suds: BBQ Favorites with DuClaw Brewing

Disclosure: I received promotional consideration by DuClaw Brewing Company.

11537717_10102852820955758_8798687809808561519_n-1In life, sometimes stars align. And, in this case, those stars aligned in the most delicious fashion possible. DuClaw Brewing Company’s got two new summer brews, 4th of July is DAYS AWAY, AND they asked if I’d give them a try and pair these treats with some summer BBQ favorites.  The contenders:

Funk: A traditional American Wheat Ale serves as a solid baseline, but we couldn’t be content until we tore the roof off this sucker! Funk, our Blueberry Citrus Wheat Ale, sets the rhythm with a soulful fusion of American wheat and hops, before unleashing a stunning encore with big notes of blueberry and Meyer lemon. It’s no jive, you’ll just dig it!

And, of course, a wonderfully named blonde ale.

Morgazm: A refreshing, citrusy twist on one of our most popular brews of all time. The medium body, mild hop character, light fruity taste, and smooth drinkability of Bare Ass Blonde Ale is infused with grapefruit zest and dry hopped with Citra hops to add notes of lemon, grapefruit, and an overall tart character to the beer. The result is a highly drinkable, highly refreshing Blonde Ale with big citrus flavors and aromas that will leave your palate in ecstacy… but wanting more.

I thought, and I thought. A blueberry citrus wheat ale. A grapefruit zested blonde ale. And then my mind shifted.

See, the Game of Thrones finale was on that night, and I was a bit distracted. And then it hit me. I didn’t have to choose. I could have my beer, and eat stuff (related to Game of Thrones), too.

My buddies and I… We go hard when it comes to themes. So, when a Game of Thrones feast finale was proposed by some brilliant mind (COUGH me. COUGH), everyone jumped on it. So I won’t share every little bit, because we got nerdy and there’s some eats that would take far too long to understand. But let’s get to the beer pairings, eh.

Bread and Salt: Guest Right!

Bread and Salt: Guest Right!

Once guest right was invoked, we were ready to get to work.

In honor of Arya - Oysters Clams and Cockles (but just clams)

In honor of Arya – Oysters Clams and Cockles (but just clams)

Beer-steamed clams are not anything world-rocking. However, instead of a traditional lager to steam, we added a bottle of the Morgazm. With a beer-to-drink in one hand and about 50 clams on the table, we poured this zesty citrusy blonde over the little clams, thanking them for their contribution for the meal. And while some opt to boil these bad boys in a pot, we went for an oven-steam, since the oven was already on and our initial goals of outdoor grilling were squashed by an unwelcome guest.

Rain, rain, go away!

Rain, rain, go away!

And before we were ready to enjoy our clams, there were a few options to go with the blueberry citrus wheat. FIrst: Sansa’s favorite, lemon cake!

The Funk's on ME!

The Funk’s on ME!

Lemon desserts are ubiquitous in the summer, and this pairing of the tart lemon cake (featuring blueberries in the icing!) was outta this world. The aroma of the blueberries in the Funk was strong, but the taste was subtle, and this beer would pair nicely with any tart, bright flavored dessert.

While my buddy made the cake, some similar recipes are here:

The Funk, a blueberry citrus wheat, would also pair well with some seafood, and I may have enjoyed a few of these “dragon eggs” (sticky rice, avocado, and eel!) with the brewski.

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Khaleesi would be proud.

After a long time (maybe we SHOULD have boiled the clams, but we were in no hurry), our clams were ready!

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All of the sudden, that crusty bread makes a lot more sense, as it was the perfect way to soak up the juices from the lemon, the Morgazm, and all sorts of clammy goodness. For this one, there’s also not really a recipe for this one (add stuff into pot or pan, put over heat, wait for clams to open, gorge!) but if you’re jonesing for one, here ya go.

We also really liked the Morgazm with a marinated grilled chicken AND Theon’s favorite plaything (sorry, promise that’s all the nerding out).

10351393_10102852820766138_4234394620136596503_nThese beers would both make excellent additions to any summer celebration, but if you’ve already got the grill going…. why not just get them for this weekend’s 4th of July festivities?! While they wouldn’t be the FIRST beer I get at the store, they’re definitely beers for the beach, the BBQ, and the summer.

Thanks, DuClaw, for the opportunity.

Thanks, my GoT crew, for throwing down the gauntlet and grilling in the rain.

Thanks, George R.R. Martin, for HURRYING UP ON THE WINDS OF WINTER!

Off to dream of dragons…

Chicago in the Summer

Have you ever touched dry ice before? Suddenly, there’s a searing cold that borders the line between freezing and burning, and you’re not sure if you want to scream or curl into a ball and rock back and forth silently.  That’s the feeling that I associated with visits to Chicago before this weekend.

Yes, I could mostly thaw my bitter heart with the warmth of my friends and loved ones that I was staying with, but as a Carolina girl for seven years, my delicate sensibilities regarding temperature were finely tuned to mild winters and scorching summers. I could handle that. “Cold” in Chicago is a different beast entirely. There aren’t enough layers I could possibly wear to prepare me for outdoor adventures, and I become bear-like in my desire to hibernate in a cave (or near a fire place, if the opportunity presents itself).

I'll just be over here reading. Seeing the sights be damned.

I’ll just be over here reading. Seeing the sights be damned.

This weekend, I emerged from my Chicago cocoon, shedding puffy jackets and elbow-length gloves in favor of thigh-grazing jorts and sheer, gauzy tops that cling to your skin, giving the illusion of wearing nothing at all (I wore bandeaus and tank tops, though, because nip slips aren’t cute in any city). The blossom of the city of Chicago opened up and presented me with a fragrant, vibrant experience rich with sights and sounds. Dogs barking, birds chirping, children pushing the buttons of their handyman father who desperately wanted to use Sunday afternoon to fix that loose step on the deck.

The beautiful backyard at Bang Bang Pie Shop

The beautiful backyard at Bang Bang Pie Shop

Due to some leftover points from Southwest and a freebie I obtained earlier this summer from Spirit Airlines, I managed to visit four airports in an equal amount of days (Atlantic City to O’Hare, Midway to Philadelphia) in a super cheap trip to that old Windy City. True to form, the city continued to be delicious, but the escapes from the confines of Caitlin’s condo were more frequent, and far more enjoyable.

Mmm, pork.

Mmm, pork. 

Our weekend began the way most excellent weekends should: with a giant pile of meat. A trip to Lillie’s Q was in order to reconnect with the gals I met on my last visit as well as my inner cave-woman who likes her meat like she likes her men; served on a slab and accompanied by various sauces and gooey mac & cheese (and now you know what most of late-night fantasies revolve around.) Everything was delicious, and then acted like an edible lullaby as I knocked out the moment I hit the pillow.

Sing me to sleep, sweet potato fries.

Sing me to sleep, sweet potato fries.

The rest of the weekend was filled with delicious treats and lots of outdoor time (a concept that seemed novel in trips previous to this one).

A trip to Revolution Brewing‘s tasting room was inevitable.

Hardcore

Hardcore

Rosa (Hibiscus Ale), A Little Crazy (Belgian Pale Ale), Black Power (Stout, baby)

Rosa (Hibiscus Ale), A Little Crazy (Belgian Pale Ale), Black Power (Stout, baby)

Logan Square Farmer’s Market for tasty treats

Tacos... for BREAKFAST!

Tacos… for BREAKFAST!

Retro on Roscoe, a throwback-style street festival featuring cool jams from the 90s, and shenanigans from NOW!

Thanks, Instagram!

Thanks, Instagram!

I even got a textured football for impromptu back massages.

Looks like it feels good, right?

Looks like it feels good, right?

And we ended the weekend off in the best POSSIBLE way: a jaunt to Bang Bang Pie Shop for (what else) PIE! And a biscuit.

Want this. Stat.

Want this. Stat.

"Summer Pie" featuring a graham cracker crust, sage ice cream, lemon curd, macerated blackberries, and a little of my drool on top because of extreme salivation.

“Summer Pie” featuring a graham cracker crust, sage ice cream, lemon curd, macerated blackberries, and a little of my drool on top because of extreme salivation.

Now that I’ve been spoiled by a Chicago summer weekend, I’m not sure if I could bear to return in the dark hours of winter…. Though there’s one thing that always keeps me coming back.

True Love: Friends since Tockwogh!

True Love: Friends since Tockwogh!

Now, to go bask in the remaining days of my “summer” in Philly (is it summer? Because this weather feels very Autumnal…)

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Lovin’: Had me a blast!

Victory Summer Love Ale

My deepest apologies, as all future images of beers I drink will be of the actual beer that I drank (unless I get buzzed and forget to do that…) Honestly, when I purchased/drank this beer last night, I hadn’t even considered making this blog so woops, my bad.

ANYWHO, as a former Philly-area kid, I am more than familiar with the “With Love, Philadelphia XOXO” campaign, and it’s one of my favorite things about returning to the city of brotherly love. I love to see what they do with it every time.  For example, one classic:

Dear Jersey Shore: Ben Franklin was the original “Situation”. PS Come see him. With Love, Philadelphia XOXO

"Say WHAT?! Franklin had NONE of this..."

So when I spotted this beer, a collaboration with the campaign and one of my favorites, Victory Brewing Company, at the Southern Season sale, I jumped at the chance to try it all the way down here in NC.

I’ll admit, I’m normally a big fan of summer ales (and most seasonal beers in general, with winter being the exception) so I knew I was setting myself up for a winner. When I cracked that bottle open and took a whiff, though, I couldn’t resist grinning that doofy grin I get when I know I’m going to like it just from the scent. The smell reminded me of citrus and (shock shock) summer, like a refreshing lemonade, fresh squeezed. It was reasonably hoppy, which is right up my alley, with a nice amount of carbonation that reminded me a little bit of lemon seltzer, and as far as drinkability goes, I could DEFINITELY see this one by my side at the pool this summer.

We had red beans and rice with this, but I wish I’d had made a blackened mahi mahi or some other light fish dish to pair with this beer.