This past weekend Will and I got to visit one of my oldest friends and her fiance in Philadelphia, PA. I’ve been to Philly once before, but I was working and didn’t get to fully experience it. Not at all the case with this trip. We spent two and a half days walking, eating, and drinking our way through the city. It was probably because we had such good tour guides, but I can’t remember a recent vacation when we had such consistently mind-blowing food. These dishes were the stand-outs that I’m going to have to recreate at home until I can head down again.
Bud & Marilyn’s. This is a lively and trendy spot in center city. The really memorable dish was the salad we ordered to balance the pu pu platter: “grilled heirloom carrots with red quinoa, shaved sunchokes, orange, pickled raisins, cumin yogurt.”All of the toppings were piled on a bed of the yogurt. The carrots were nicely charred, but not overcooked. The pickled raisins added a nice tang. The whole thing was not overly sweet, and I would return just to order this (though the sage derby smash cocktail was worth repeating too).
Federal Donuts. They do two things – donuts and fried chicken – and they more than excel at both. We started with a strawberry lavender donut off the hot menu (which they fry to order). It was exactly as I want a donut to be: cakey and just a bit sweet. Then we split the chicken sandwich (which only comes one way (perfect): with buttermilk ranch seasoning, American cheese, pickle, and rooster sauce on a potato roll) and the za’atar fried chicken (which you can also get with other dry seasonings or glazes). Oh my goodness. Both were crunchy, juicy, salty, and indulgent, but not heavy (likely a bad thing, because I want to eat this every day forever). The fried chicken comes with a honey donut, which was a delightful counterpart to the chicken (like a biscuit….but better because it is a donut).
Stock. This little southeast Asian eatery is the best kind – one that has a small menu but exceeds at every dish. Will and I shared the sausage bahn mi and the chicken pho which were both excellent. The really surprising new-to-me dish that I will be trying to recreate at home was a special on the night we were there. It was a salad made from a mix of different cold fruits, including mango, plum and pineapple, topped with Thai herbs and a coconut dressing. It is what I want to eat with all the summer fruit. This recipe looks like it could be a good jumping off point, and I’ll get back to you about the coconut dressing.
La Colombe Coffee Roasters. Using some kind of automagical process La Colombe serves draft lattes, which come out of the tap as a perfectly uniform, unbelievably light, milk and coffee wonder beverage. The draft latte is an experience all its own, but as a regular drink I think I would stick with the black and tan, which is cold brew topped with the draft latte. Lucky for us all there are locations outside of Philly, including one in Boston!
The Yachtsman. I don’t frequent tiki bars, but that is something to be fixed. I usually gravitate towards more sour or floral gin based cocktails, so that is what I ordered. Don’t make my mistake. I then had a sip of their piña colada, which is first on the menu for a reason. In my very limited piña coladas experiences they have been overly sweet because they are poured out of a box into a smoothie machine or taste too strongly of cheap rum. If only I’d known what they could be! This one was the most refreshing balance of coconut with just light sweetness from the pineapple. I have a feeling my journey to make one as good as this may be long…but I will persevere.
Hungry Pigeon. I didn’t know it until this weekend, but there was a void empty of breakfast salads in my life. The breakfast salad here (pictured at top) consists of “greens, bacon, cheddar cheese, warm lentils, hashbrowns, poached egg, & toast.” Not the most normal combination, eh? The greens were just lightly dressed in what I would guess was olive oil and wine vinegar. The bacon was extremely thick cut lardons and more generous than I expected. The cheddar and lentils were tossed throughout the salad . The hashbrown square had about a 1:10 soft to crisp texture ratio (so, perfect). And then there were two hearty pieces of toast to pile all these nice bits on to and eat.
On our next trip it will be very difficult to not just return to all these places…but first on the list of new spots is Dizengoff, a hummus restaurant by Michael Solomonov (who also owns Federal Donuts). We’ll also go back to Reading Terminal Market and actually pick a few things to eat there (instead just walking around in awe). And then of course whatever new spots our excellent tour guides discover in the meantime (we’ll let you know where!).