I’m always hungry in Philadelphia…and I didn’t stop eating for 3 days.

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.
IMG_8672 IMG_8673They 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.
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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. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetNo justification necessary, I guess. We hit up Federal Donuts right across the street. Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetWe ordered the aptly named “Hot & Fresh” with a dusting of vanilla sugar.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset 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.Processed with VSCOcam with b1 preset

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. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset 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. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetThe 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.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset We then rushed home—mindless movies and warm blankets awaited.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

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:

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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.

Starting the meal with an amuse bouche of potato soup and a cheesy gougere felt very right.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

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.IMG_8726 We were all suckers for the chicken liver toast which tasted as artful as it looked, topped with red onion chutney.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetAn 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.Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

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.IMG_8731 IMG_8729 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.Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

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…

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Dizengoff
1625 Sansom St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 867-0088
http://www.dizengoffphilly.com

Federal Donuts
3 Locations Throughout Philadelphia
http://www.federaldonuts.com/

Garces Trading Company
1111 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
215-574-1099
http://philadelphia.garcestradingcompany.com/

Cheu Noodle Bar
255 South 10th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
267.639.4136
http://cheunoodlebar.com/

The Four Seasons
1 Logan Square, Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 963-1500
http://www.fourseasons.com/Philadelphia‎

Vernick Food & Drink
2031 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 1
267-639-6644
http://www.vernickphilly.com/

Summer Eats on the Shore

DSC_0115When I’m with my friend Rachael, food is never far from the equation, whether we’re trying out a new restaurant in Philadelphia where she lives, cooking ourselves a quick dinner or just talking endlessly about what we’ve been eating. I recently spent a few days with her in Philly and then in Margate, on the Jersey shore, and we had some fabulous food as always. A dinner at Amis was terrific, with the stars being swordfish meatballs, pasta with bass and an outrageous Nutella-covered waffle for dessert. We also hit up Khmer Kitchen, a super-authentic Cambodian joint where I found mussels that made me question my previous ambivalence to the species, and dove head first into some fantastic flavors. After a quick Banh Mi from Nam Som and some baked goods from the newly opened Kermit’s Bake Shop, we headed for the Shore for some much needed beach time. Our first evening, we made a summery feast heavy on the excellent Jersey produce we bought:

Shrimp in BBQ & Garlic Marinade:DSC_0070Summery Salad with the sweetest Jersey tomatoes!:DSC_0084Stone fruit getting honeyed before the grill:DSC_0093Fodder for the grill!DSC_0100

Aesthetically pleasing arrangementDSC_0105A few crabcakes were in order…DSC_0106 (thanks to Rachael)