Ok. I know I haven’t written in a while. I haven’t made time since I went on vacation… which was in early May. Yikes! I got a kick in the pants from my friend KSL, so I’m refocusing and trying to bring you good people a dose of Fatty Bombli for your reading pleasure. Now – what to write about?
Should I tell you about my trip to Paris… clue you in to the delicious nibbles and also the disappointments that I experienced? Should I give you my verdict on Annisa, Anita Lo’s spot in the West Village? Should I tell you about the Bacon Jam I made? Or of Bobby Flay’s Gato? All of the above? None of the above? Bueller?
I have to start somewhere, so I will tell you about my trip Philadelphia, with a promise to revisit the topics mentioned above. Yes friends, earlier this month the family and I went to Philadelphia for a weekend. It was a nice way to kick off the summer season and left me feeling very patriotic indeed, which was great since July 4th was approaching.
We kicked it off with dinner at Buddakan on Friday night. I’ve been to the NYC Buddakan in Chelsea, which is also very good, but we stopped at the Philly location for one specific thing – the cilantro martini. I know all you cilantro haters are cringing, but I am a vociferous cilantro lover and this verdant cocktail (named “Strength”) is one of my favorites. It’s unique, and it’s delicious. *Tear* that they don’t have this on the NY menu. We started out with a few apps. Spotlight on the Tuna Pizza. I’ve had versions of this dish before at other restaurants, but this one was my favorite. It was tuna carpaccio, spicy aioli, pickled jalapenos and ponzu sauce on naan bread. All the ingredients worked so well together… even my parents who don’t usually dig the “raw” thing loved it. Our entrees were the Sizzling Short Rib, Korean Beef Fried Rice, and the winner of the three — the Miso Black Cod. Since its creation at Nobu, this dish has popped up everywhere, but it’s not always done well. Though Nobu has the edge, Buddakan definitely does it well. I was full after dinner, but N insisted on sharing the Dip Sum Doughnuts, and I have to say… I regret Nothing. They came to the table warm and covered in Chinese Five Spice sugar. The dipping sauces of chocolate, blackberry jam and gingered cream cheese were delicious by themselves but incredible when piled together. They were even listed as one of the “Best Things I Ever Ate” on the Food Network show of the same name. Seriously… don’t skip them.
I’m embarrassed to tell you that for breakfast the next day… we had donuts! It’s funny, because donuts are not my breakfast of choice, but when traveling, I try to experience the best of what a place has to offer. Philly has Federal Donuts. This chain proudly serves up a unique offering of coffee, donuts, and chicken. Yes, chicken. It being about 10am we did not sample the chicken, though this dish was also listed as one of “The Best Things I Ever Ate” on the Food Network show. Instead we tried their “fancy” donuts and their “hot & fresh” donuts with coffee. The hot & fresh were the victors. They were not cloying, even though they were covered in sugar. The cute donut guy behind the counter threw in a salted tahini donut for us to try. It was a little weird, but oddly good. P.S. I loved the cute donut guy because he was super friendly and liked my “Clizby” t-shirt. 5 points and a high five to you if you know about Clizby.
From there we started our sightseeing for the day. We hit the usual landmarks… the Liberty Bell, Carpenter’s Hall, the President’s House, and the Museum of Art. Of course I ran the stairs there a la Rocky Balboa – theme song pumping in my head. In the afternoon we incorporated sightseeing and lunch into one scrumptious item. When I walked through the doors of the Reading Terminal Market my eyes widened and I heard a distant chorus of angels singing. Markets like these, in all their delicious neon chaos, are my happy place.
The market itself was N’s choice, but I wanted to go there to sample what Adam Richman (of Man vs. Food fame) crowned the “Best Sandwich in America” – Tommy DiNic’s Roast Pork sandwich. I shall tell you right off the bat that N did not like this sandwich. She hated the broccoli rabe. I’m usually not a big fan myself, but I totally “got” what they were going for and I loved this sandwich. They offer a few options, but I went with the classic pork/rabe/sharp provolone combo. Everything was in perfect balance for me. The juicy pork bathed in an herb rub, the very sharp cheese, the fresh and slight bitter edge to the rabe soaked up by the soft Italian sub roll…. Whoa. I would do it again. And again. And again. I don’t have pictures for you dear friends. N usually gives me a disapproving look when I bust out my phone to take a pic. Yeah, yeah, the flash is distracting… but still. Next time I will just ignore her and you shall have photo goodness to revel in.
More sightseeing ensued, with a side trip to Mac’s Tavern of “It’s Always Sunny…” fame for some beery refreshments. For dinner we didn’t have set plans, and so we wandered aimlessly around downtown for a while. N didn’t want the pressure of making all the plans, nevertheless she found a good review of the Nodding Head Brewery & Restaurant which we settled on. Good call N! The place was a dive in appearance, and I was a little concerned that it wouldn’t be appropriate for the parents… but looks were deceiving in this case. This is a little gem of a place with a surprisingly interesting menu. I actually tried their special – a Caribbean burger – after our friendly server gushed about the Jamaican hot sauce that was on it. Side note: if you’re going to Jamaica any time soon, please let me know. There’s a bottle of hot sauce that I would like you to pick up for me.
The next morning we visited the Barnes Museum followed by a tour of Independence Hall. Independence Hall is a must-see if you visit Philly. It thrills me to stand in the same room where the founding fathers of our country signed the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. I wonder if they could fathom that more than 200 years later their beautiful and inspiring words would mean so much to the millions in this country. My secret thrill is that the movie musical of “1776” built a replica of Independence Hall to film in, and I vividly remember each scene when walking through the original, with the soundtrack running on loop in my head. “I say vote yes! Vote yes! Vote for independency!”
We closed out our weekend with lunch at National Mechanics, so named for the building’s original incarnation as Mechanics National Bank. Built in 1837, the structure itself is very stately and walking through the ancient doors curtained with red velvet sweeps you right back in time. The food was decent (I ordered the corn dog, which was fine, but not comparable to the golden goodness I’d sampled at the Houston Rodeo earlier this year.) but I was impressed with the service. There was a big delay on N’s fried chicken dish (due to a mishap, we guessed, based on the loud clatter from just behind the door to the kitchen that sounded like a piping hot plate of chicken crashing to the floor), and so our server kept checking in to apologize and give us an ETA. At the end of the meal, she removed the dish from the bill without us asking. Despite the error I felt very well taken care of and so wanted to share my experience.
Thus ended our trip to the city of brotherly love… minus cheesesteak, and no poorer for it. I don’t know when the next visit will be, but I know that I’ll want to try some new things, and will have some old favorites to hit.