As I’m currently focusing on freelance projects, I’m a fairly free agent—visiting friends and family and eating my way through the Eastern seaboard. This past weekend I went to the most underrated food town out there—Philadelphia, for some much needed time with Rachael, one of my closest friends, and the best food guide a girl could have. A born and bred Philadelphian, Rachael keeps tabs on the city’s great restaurant scene, while maintaining an impressive legal career and a very active social life!
Unsurprisingly, we had a marathon culinary weekend, starting with a lovely home cooked meal on Friday. After some green smoothies filled with mindfulness, and a Saturday morning yoga class, we rushed through the snow to Dizengoff, a “hummusiya” owned by one of Philly’s most acclaimed chefs, Michael Solomonov.
They don’t do much, but what they do—fresh baked pita and hummus—is done expertly. I ordered the humus bowl with cucumber, which was stuffed with a spicy smoky paste. Each bowl is served with pickles, Israeli salad, and the perfect pita—crisp and mildly singed on the outside and soft, fluffy and sauce-absorbent on the inside.
It only seemed right to follow up a somewhat virtuous meal (hummus is just vegetables right?) with a doughnut, because also it was snowing outside and plus I love doughnuts. No justification necessary, I guess. We hit up Federal Donuts right across the street. We ordered the aptly named “Hot & Fresh” with a dusting of vanilla sugar. I’m always more a proponent of the squishy Krispy Kreme-esque yeast-raised donuts, but these cakey creations were pretty delicious as well. They were, well, hot and fresh, not to mention crumblingly decadent and not too sweet. Federal also serves fried chicken with myriad glazes and toppings, and I plan on trying it on my next visit.
Seemingly endless snow and treacherous icy streets seemed reason enough to stay close to home, and luckily Rachael’s neighborhood offers a wealth of excellent eatery options in a close radius. We assumed the sub zero temps and constant threat of limb breaking would keep people inside their homes, but the restaurants and bars turned out to be hopping with people hoping to imbibe and consume themselves into warmth.
A long wait at Cheu Noodle Bar almost set us on our way towards the awesome Garces Trading Co (conveniently located below Rachael’s building) but we decided to wait it out, and thank god we did. This tiny hipster-y spot turns out some of the best Asian fusion (a category that usually gives me the creeps) I’ve ever had. The nightly dumpling special was Beef & Broccoli, so of course that was a must—as was the broccoli and Vietnamese sausage appetizer which Rachael, swami of excellent appetizers, insisted we order. The vinaigrette on the broccoli was sweet with a hint of spice, and the chunks of sausage kept me coming back for more. Crunchy peanuts added texture, and…well…I could eat this every single day. We shared a yaki soba with chorizo which didn’t have the depth of the other dishes, in addition to a glorious coconut curry noodle soup which was hearty, pungent and warming, but with freshness from crunchy beansprouts and herbs. We then rushed home—mindless movies and warm blankets awaited.
When someone invites you to the buffet brunch at the Four Seasons, you go. When that someone is Rachael’s wonderful mother Vera, you go in even higher spirits. What followed was many courses of brunch cocktails, seafood in many incarnations, beef wellington, lamb, blueberry-chocolate chip pancakes…..You get the idea. I was too busy stuffing my face to take any photos, so this is a more adequate portrayal:
Feeling like beached whales, we returned home on Sunday afternoon and remained horizontal for much of the day, until a brief sojourn to the gym in an effort to regain hunger for dinner. Yes, dinner. And not just any dinner—but a meal at Vernick Food & Drink, one of Philly’s finest. And it didn’t disappoint, not even a little bit.
Two raw fish dishes opened our meal—one an Asian inspired poke—with succulent cubed tuna and a sublime soy-based sauce. The arctic char crudo was more subtle but also terrific—particularly the crispy crunchy fish skin on top. We were all suckers for the chicken liver toast which tasted as artful as it looked, topped with red onion chutney.
An otherwordly parmesan custard laid below red wine braised artichokes—you can’t make this stuff up—which sat beside two expertly charred octopus tentacles made perky by little cubes of pickled fennel.
Did we stop there? Of course not! A nightly special of housemade spaghetti with spicy tomato sauce and bottarga delivered as did peppery toasted cauliflower. Midway through the meal, the sounds of live jazz wafted up to us, perfectly complementing our dinner, and making us even more at home in this laid back temple to exquisite dining.
On the recommendation of our lovely waiter, we ordered the roasted date cake with orange cardamom toffee sauce and coconut ice cream. Think sticky toffee pudding…gooey, bready with a caramelized flavor. A scoop of chocolate-crunch ice cream and a little glass of Madeira rounded out this fantastic close to my Philly weekend. Until the next time! I’ll just have to wait for my arteries to recover…
1625 Sansom St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
3 Locations Throughout Philadelphia
Garces Trading Company
1111 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Cheu Noodle Bar
255 South 10th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
The Four Seasons
1 Logan Square, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Vernick Food & Drink
2031 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 1