48 Hours in Philadelphia: Where to Eat, Drink and Lose Your Credit Card 

For a person who not only plans to visit every major US city in this lifetime, but also prides herself in this endeavor, it was a little embarrassing that I had never been to Philadelphia. A historic city just an hour and 15 minutes away from New York on the train. Turns out, my boyfriend had never been either. I hired a dog sitter and we decided to run away for a weekend at the end of September.
DAY 1 – Friday
This is was one of the last hot days we had on the East Coast, so I was able to wear shorts and a t-shirt for the day. We were sweating but it was a beautiful day. We were able to check into our hotel early, the Courtyard Philadelphia Downtown, and we were even upgraded to a bigger room, on a higher floor.
Pro Tip: Business travelers typically check out early on Fridays which means you have a better chance of checking in early. This applies to hotels like ours that are in a business heavy district. 
 
Reading Terminal Market: Absolutely our first stop was food related. Are you joking?! Had to be. We were absolutely overwhelmed by the early lunch crowd and amount of options but we settled on Franks A Lot because the BBQ chicken looked so good. (Not because Frank is my boyfriend’s name.) Food was solid but it was dessert that nearly made me cry.
He had a donut from Beiler’s Donuts (couldn’t help but notice the boxes all over town, people are obsessed!) I had Bassett’s ice cream. I chose coffee topped with melted marshmallow sauce. This ice cream was so freaking creamy and I admired how it was just ice cream scooped in a bowl. It was not made for Instagram… it was made for bellies. It was so delicious and really put me in a good head space to look at historical stuff.
Liberty Bell: Fully satiated we walked our way to the Liberty Bell. (We actually walked there twice because SOMEBODY had his pocket knife on him…) We passed a bunch of historical buildings on the way but these made me mostly sad. They were surrounded by a not so great part of town and looked lonely. But onward we went (twice). The museum was free and there wasn’t a long line. I’ll be honest when I say we skipped most of the history and zipped right on up to see the bell. It looked like you would imagine and we took pictures in front of it anyway.
Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
History.
Ben Franklin’s Grave: Since we did this trip without a set itinerary we sort of wandered around looking for what was cool and what had no lines. We saw a sign pointing toward Ben Franklin’s grave and so we followed it and wound up at a pretty old cemetery. We paid $2 to get in but had the same reaction as everyone else there: “It’s $2 to get in? What?” “I mean… I guess it’s only $2.” Walking this cemetery reminded me like walking Pere Lachaise in Paris… only I didn’t know who anyone was. Ben’s grave was covered in pennies, which made no sense, but he’s buried with his wife, which I found quite nice. In a creepy way.
img_4958
Random Deli: Right after the grave viewing we needed alcohol so we stopped at a random deli, had a wine and a beer on the patio, and watched a lady ride one of those city tour buses, while riding a Segway. Simultaneously. #idontdolegs
Rittenhouse Square: After our historical duty was served, we wandered around Rittenhouse Square for a bit just trying to get our bearings and see what good food was around. It was on this walk that I spotted two of our Saturday activities that I LOVED and will point out later. (Sweet Charlie’s & The Dandelion) We also discovered a Tiki Bar that we would visit later. I can not recommend getting lost enough. It pays off!
Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Rittenhouse Square
 
NAP INTERLUDE THIS WAS THE BEST. TAKE NAPS. I never take naps in my real life. I always take naps when I travel. I believe in not getting crabby while exploring.
Village Whiskey: We went here on the recommendation of an old high school friend of mine. We waited for about 5 seconds for a table, got to sit outside, and I had hands down one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. The Ginger Rogers (dry gin, ginger syrup, lemon, rhubarb bitters, sparkling rose). I do love a rose cocktail. Fries were pretty good (but I am a fry CONNOISSEUR, so it’s hard to impress me) and my cobb salad was really yummy.
Tiki Bar: Exactly what it says it is. Rum cocktails and a laid back vibe. I absolutely loved finding a rooftop in Philly. It wasn’t even crowded! It was a perfect night cap for a warm day.
 
DAY 2 – Saturday
We woke up eager for brunch. After a quick Google search of places that do boozy brunch we found Day By Day in Rittenhouse that was referred to as a Philadelphia staple no less than 5 times. I was thrilled. But first we made two stops along the way…
Fat Jack’s Comicrypt: We found this adorable shop on our walk to brunch and popped in. Amazing collection of comics and everyone working there was really nice. It’s such a pleasure to be able to go into a bookstore and not have it be loud and busy like most in NYC. So enjoyable!
Sophisticated Seconds: I had Googled good thrift stores the day before but all the returns, including this one, read like consignment shops with pricier stuff. When I went in however, I was super surprised, and pleased to find a whole range of stuff. I picked up an adorable red cashmere sweater dress here.
Day by Day: Ah, finally brunch! We messed up a little and didn’t realize that this place, like many others, was BYOB. But it was probably for the best as we had a long day ahead of us. Frank ate an INSANE stack of Challah French Toast and I had a yummy, healthier omelette. I really liked the atmosphere here and the food was as good as the reviews said.
Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Frank pre-Challah french toast coma
Philadelphia Museum of Art: We had originally intended on going to The Franklin Institute to look at the impressionists, but as we neared that building we couldn’t help but notice the GIANT, BEAUTIFUL building down the way. We guessed it had to be the PMoA, so we decided to walk toward it. (See how not having an itinerary can be so fun!?) As we neared it we noticed a Rocky statue, not realizing we were at the Rocky steps! We of course raced up them and snapped a ton of photos (of the steps, of this crazy sculpture out front, of each other) before entering the museum.

What an absolutely pleasurable experience. I am from New York so I am so used to being in an overcrowded museum just mushed in a mix of people. On a Saturday afternoon the Philly Museum of Art felt practically empty and we were able to amble about at our leisure and see some seriously cool art. I have never felt more relaxed in a museum! Ever. We had so much fun here and since it cooled down considerably and was cloudy– it was a good dark day activity.

Sweet Charlies: Frank paid for a cab to take me to Sweet Charlie’s so I could eat more ice cream. This was closer to what I am used to. A long line, Instagrammable treats, and a cult following. BUT WOW. This is the best, best, rolled ice cream I have had. It is so rich and creamy. Incredible.
Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
NAP TIME WHAT WHAT
 
McGillin’s Olde Ale House: After my rest (haha) we went out for happy hour drinks. College football beer bar. Standard fare, but loved that it was in an alley with a beer garden. People were able to gather in the street without getting run over.
Jamonera:  It turned out that some friends from NYC were also in town, who knew!? We met them at Jamonera, which had been consistently packed since we arrived. I was so excited. We even had an outside table! Here we had two pitchers of sangria, and I again, ordered some fries. These were yummy thick cut fries, almost like potato skins, and they paired nicely with the sangria.
Tinto: We still had some time before our 9pm reservation at The Dandelion, so we had a glass of sangria at Tinto, next door to Village Whiskey. This had also come recommended from my friend so we popped by. Service was excellent. Sangria was yummy. And I definitely wound up leaving my credit card here, but didn’t know it until I woke up the next morning… sorry Tinto crew.
The Dandelion: The cutest restaurant ever! It reminded me of One if by Land, Two if Sea in New York City. The restaurant is an entire townhouse and there is seating in different rooms on different floors. I got to sit in a little booth nook! I was thrilled. We split a bottle of red wine here (Cannonball, a favorite) and we both had the Crab Risotto after a few appetizers. I typically like my risotto softer but the ambiance, all the red wine my system, and the olive plate made up for it. Adorable date spot. My coworker also brought her parents here a week later and they enjoyed it as well.
img_5061
Look at me enjoying that nook!
DAY 3 – Sunday: Our train was at 10:30. We had somehow been given a free breakfast at the hotel with our upgrade but I was a little hungover to enjoy it. I did definitely have some eggs though, before dragging myself to Tinto. Thank god the team there is SO nice and accommodating. The card was locked in a safe, so I left my address and got on my train. In the end, I made my friends go pick it up. What a mess!
Visiting Philly for the weekend was perfect. It’s so close, so you have almost no travel time, and the food is really phenomenal. I would definitely recommend going if you’d like to do Major City Lite. All the perks, none of the crowds.
img_4959

Shakshuka for One & Getting Past Bad Days

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

I’m having one of those weeks where I feel bogged down but can’t find the source of the bogging. I am searching in every drawer but I can’t find what it is bringing me down. The grind of 9-5 job doesn’t help despite the love and support of coworkers and each day I find myself coming home depleted, worn out, and demotivated. Probably sounds familiar and despite my sadness, it makes me feel better knowing I am not alone.

I am fully capable of psyching myself up, repeating mantras, believing, and feeling inspired but I find very few outlets for that good energy. I have yet to find my gift to give and the process is endlessly draining, discouraging, and tiring. Hanging on to the belief that I’ll find my gift is not easy.

When I got home last night, unable to use my subway commute to determine what I should do with my life, I focused on dinner. I wanted to eat something that would taste like comfort food to take my mind off of the chaos for a bit. I wanted something to stick to my ribs but not weigh me down anymore than my own thoughts already do. So I decided to make shakshuka and make it for the first time. And of course, being as inwardly focused as I am, I recorded the process and wrote a little recipe.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

I started by surveying what kind of spices and vegetables I had on hand to build this yummy egg dish around. I did not use a recipe. I am happiest when I am just grabbing whatever I have on hand and experimenting.

I love cooking but don’t have strong feelings toward recipes. I am including one here today and yes, I read them all the time. I believe the true pleasure of cooking is not following rules but taking something and make it your own. I like to use recipes as guidelines.

From my fridge and cabinets I pulled and used the following:

3 cloves of garlic
1 stalk of green onion
1 handful of Picholine olives
Olive Oil
3/4 cups of tomato sauce
Pepper, parsley flakes, and turmeric
3 eggs
1 cup of arugula

I do love simple and minimal recipes and this one certainly falls into that category with a fairly short ingredient list and the use of a single pan.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Eating olives instead of cooking

To start I diced up the garlic while heating up a decent amount of olive oil in my pan. I kept the heat on low as I added the garlic. Next I rough chopped the green onion and tossed it in. And followed it up with some olives. The only olives I had on hand had pits so I spent a good amount of time both eating them and pitting them. Do yourself a favor and just go buy pitted olives and rough chop them as well. Toss them in with everything else and keep the heat low. Low heat requires patience but I usually use that time getting myself organized.

I let everything get tender but not mushy and poured in my tomato sauce. I used a Barilla pasta sauce that, while cheap, is pretty tasty. I stirred everything all together.

After that I sprinkled on some pepper, parsley flakes, and a tiny bit of turmeric because I like its anti-inflammatory properties and add it where I can. I did not stir these in, I left them on top to help season my eggs. Which I cracked right on top of the mixture. I wish all 3 eggs would have sunk in a little bit more from an aesthetic standpoint but in the end they all cooked nicely so it wasn’t a big deal.

After the eggs were cracked and plopped in, I covered the whole thing and turned up the heat to medium. I let them cook for about 10 minutes but should have done 7. The sauce cooked down just a touch too much. Full disclosure, I was texting my friends and making my lunch for the next day so I wasn’t paying as close attention as I should have!

I pulled everything off the heat and after a little photo shoot I dumped the mixture onto a bed of arugula.

And then I ate until I felt better. Which is perhaps not a healthy statement, but it is true.

Cooking is soothing and keeps me feeling level when days are long and difficult. Cooking dinner gives me a sense of purpose when I feel like I have none. I think perhaps that is why I cooked elaborate meals every single night when my former relationship was falling apart. It makes me feel needed and accomplished. It is the best escape.

Give the recipe a try and let me know what changes you make. There is a million things you can add to this! (Avocado, feta cheese, tomatoes, etc.) Also, what do you cook when you are feeling blue? Why does it make you feel better?

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

 

SHAKSHUKA FOR ONE
3 cloves of garlic
1 stalk of green onion
1 handful of Picholine olives
Olive Oil
3/4 cups of tomato sauce
Pepper, parsley flakes, and turmeric, to taste
3 eggs
1 cup of arugula

  1. In a small to medium pan, heat olive oil over a low heat and add diced garlic, green onion, and olives
  2. Once tender, pour in tomato sauce and stir
  3. Sprinkle with pepper, parsley, and turmeric, do not stir
  4. Crack eggs on top of sauce
  5. Cover and turn heat up to medium
  6. Cook for about 7 minutes or until eggs are baked through
  7. Remove from heat and lay on a bed of arugula
  8. Enjoy!

 

 

Blueberry Cobbler, Playlists, and Mid-August Feelings

Processed with VSCO with p5 preset

For my very first recipe post, I am sharing a recipe for Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Blueberry Cobbler. Blueberries always make me think of summertime in Massachusetts, where I grew up, and I often romanticize their fine balance of sweet and tart, purple and blue, fruit and dessert. There are few things more satisfying than popping a blueberry open with your teeth.
August is also my mother’s birth month and so I wanted to come up with a recipe that she and I could share that we’d both enjoy. You see, my mother hates anything too sweet and I love all things sugary.
Processed with VSCO with p5 preset
Lucky for her I tend to want to be healthy, which helps us balance. This recipe is succeeds because it can be served alone (for Mama) or with vanilla ice cream (for me and my sweet tooth). It’s also gluten, dairy, and added-sugar free so you can eat it for breakfast too! I did this and it was a fantastic experience.
Processed with VSCO with p5 preset
As some of you may remember, I just moved to a new place, so this Blueberry Cobbler was only my second time using my oven and my, can I say what a pleasure it is to use an oven with electric settings? I was so exited to preheat my oven!
My old oven was gas so I had to sit and wait for it to light and then had to guess when it was preheated. After 3 years I got used to it but it really was a pain. This thing preheats like a wizard and also has a built-in clock in timer. It feels magical, really.

Continue reading

Food for Healing

Lets JamA lot of old pain bubbled up this month, mostly stemming from my rent being raised and my scramble to find a new home. I’m still looking, but not as passionately as I should be. It is one of those rare moments that I am faced with decisions I’d rather avoid and hide from. It seems so much easier to pretend that it’s not happening and that I don’t have to make a decision that will so greatly impact my life. It’s hard living in a city where your home can be thrown into complete flux. It makes you feel imbalanced. And very alone.

Strangely, as a result, I find myself spending more time alone. I didn’t notice it until days passed and I hadn’t spoken to anyone but my dog. I wasn’t working on projects either. Just sitting, thinking, reading (maybe). I am what you would call listless and what for me is a rarity. I feel my fire put out and I am worried it isn’t just the apartment thing anymore but a host of other things, all simmering just below surface. What they are, I’m not sure, but my desire to do anything other than worry about where I will live, has been quelled. I do not, in any sense, feel like myself.

So where did I go?

More importantly, how do I come back?

Over this same course of time I’ve been thinking very hard about what I want to write. Have you ever seen a writer who doesn’t have a genre, a home, a comfortable place? It’s embarrassing, frankly. I’ve been trying to teach myself to listen and look for opportunities where I would normally ignore them. What I heard a couple of times was the same question, “Why don’t you ever write about food?” Which is funny since I spend 80% of my time thinking about food in one capacity or another. I am either hungry, researching restaurants, ordering groceries, reading about trends, or eating.

It had never once occurred to me to write about food in a serious way. I think in the back of my head I just assumed that food writing was for people that were chefs, or former chefs, or food critics with insane palates. I guess I never thought about letting just a simple passion manifest itself in such a way.

As I mulled this over I also considered how I stopped cooking (really cooking) this time last year. While I’ve been marinating in limbo I didn’t realize I had stopped cooking or baking. That a year had gone by without any attention paid to one of my favorite pastimes. I used to cook full, intricate, and delicious meal 3-4 nights a week. I’d bake. I’d scheme. I’d eat. A year has passed of so-so meals, tried and true recipes. Flavorless turkey burgers and bowls of cereal. I lost the thrill I had for cooking. It went away with the close of a long relationship.

I let it leave the baggage and take my cooking away. My heart breaks to even write this knowing that I drowned out an important part of me because someone else used to play a part in it. Here I was thinking that I was fine but I erased something important to me because it reminded me of something sad. I wasn’t that strong after all.

So here I am, a year later and prepared to face some weird food demons. But it will be interesting and (maybe exciting) to reconnect with a former version of myself. I also can not wait to share whatever fun things I find along the way with you. It’s been a challenging couple of weeks but I keep hearing that when things get tough is when the magic happens.

Comfort Food Means Lots of Wine, Carbs, and Butter (RISOTTO RECIPE!)

While the original intent behind interviewing my friends for the blog was to highlight their endeavors, I am finding that writing about them reminds me of why our lives converged and how important it is that I keep them near. As we grow older and pursue various relationships and careers, we don’t get to spend as much time together as we’d like, and this process has allowed me to reconnect with some amazing people.

With that said, my next interview was with my best friend, Kate Hayes. ‘Literally’ is so overused by now… but I have LITERALLY known Kate since she was born and have been through many phases of life with her. Something that she has always done for me, whether I am celebrating or I am deeply saddened, is feed me.

IMG_8184
Best friends like to wear matching clothes.

I popped by her Sutton Place apartment last week to have her teach me one of her original recipes. She’s actually never written it down before, so we had fun trying to put together measurements. The recipe in full appears at the end of this post.

We stand in her kitchen and she turns on the heat of her gas stove. She flips the heat to about medium and starts warming up two skillets and measuring out Arborio rice, what you use to make risotto.

“I’m making you my ‘Risotto Two Ways’. One is Pea and Prosciutto and one is Pesto.”

I ask her what she loves about risotto so much.

“It’s my number one comfort food,” she says.IMG_8128

If you don’t know, risotto is a creamy, often times wine-soaked, rice dish from Italy. It can be made in a multitude of ways, which is why when I met up with Kate, she focused on her two personal favorites. I ask her if it’s a comfort food because she ate it a lot as a kid or if she thought it was because of the nature of the dish.

“It’s the nature of the dish. I didn’t really grow up eating it. I did eat a lot of regular pastas like spaghetti and meatballs, penne and sausage, and lasagna.”

She started experimenting with risotto on her own about a year ago. She’s worked on perfecting her recipe ever since.

She starts sauteing the rice in frying pans. Since we’re making two kinds, she has two pans out. She warns that a lot of people undercook their rice at this stage and makes sure to get ours nice and brown before adding in the white wine, the first of many doses. The pans start to boil and she brings them down to a simmer.

“My great-grandmother was from Florence and she taught me how to cook in her kitchen,” she continues, “and from there I started cooking with my grandparents and parents.”

She remembers that pasta was the first thing she ever made on her own in the kitchen. I ask her what she thinks of the carb-cutting craze that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon.

IMG_8131“It’s crazy! Carbs are the spice of life,” she says. “Carbs are life. It’s scientifically proven that it’s the best way to convert energy. As is fat.” She laughs as she points down to her hand ladeling in some butter into our mixture.

“It’s all about balance.”

The wine is absorbing nicely so she heads into pouring in some chicken broth. She also pours me a glass of the wine saying, “The key to making this is drinking wine while you do it.”

I happily take the glass and she explains to me her other favorite risotto dish to make, “Drunken Risotto.” She tells me it’s about 80% wine and 20% chicken broth. Most recipes are the opposite but she tells me that it has no butter or cheese in it so, “It’s practically vegan.”

I laugh and sip my wine. We’re both gluten-free so I ask her if she found her way to risotto because she couldn’t eat pasta anymore.

“That’s pretty much it. Back when I found out I couldn’t have gluten, the options were pretty terrible. So risotto is what I would order in Italian restaurants.”

Her favorite restaurant risotto? “Basil Zucchini Risotto at Cafe Boulud. It’s perfection.”

IMG_8132By this time we have been standing over the hot stove for 15 minutes. Adding liquid as we go. This is the technique to making risotto. Little amounts of liquid over an extended period of time. It is not a Set-It-And-Forget-It meal. You have to stand over the stove constantly stirring and adding liquid. It’s a bit of a commitment but she tells me that, “Once I want it, I commit to it. It’s worth it.”

She also finds it relaxing because, “I have to concentrate on risotto, so it gets me out of my head.”

The Arborio rice she’s using does suggest boiling the rice for 30 minutes. She shudders and cringes when I ask her if she’d ever resort to that. I probably wouldn’t either. It sort of sounds like flavorless gruel.

We hang out in her kitchen like this, talking about cooking and living while she sprinkles Himalayan Salt and Truffle Oil in and we keep adding the liquid, to the dish and our glasses.

As we finish up and the dish truly becomes “Two Ways”, prosciutto and peas into one and pesto into the other, I ask her for advice for anyone who wants to start cooking but doesn’t have a clue what they’re doing.

“Pick a night you want to try it and clear your schedule.”

IIMG_8137 have to agree. I create the worst tasting food when I’m rushed.

She continues, “And use a cookbook for inspiration but don’t stress about the recipe. It’s about individual taste and what you like the most.”

It’s funny because she’s said the same thing to me countless times over the years from recipes to relationships, “Do and eat what you like the most.”

Screen shot 2015-07-04 at 12.14.26 PM
Right-Click to Save!