Sunday, February 2, 2014

Phat in Philly

Last weekend I attended a weekend conference in Philadelphia. Meetings. Eating out. Eating out. Eating out. Oh, and eating out again. It was good. Zena got Phat in Philly. My cape is almost as snug as my tights. Good thing they only weigh my luggage when I fly using an airplane.

When I travel to a city I don't visit very often I love to explore restaurant offerings online - Zagats, Fodor's, Yelp, local papers for "Best Of" listings, area food blogs, and even Food Network episodes to see what's out there before I go. I always make reservations in advance, especially since the conference was held during City Center Restaurant Week. I LOVE booking my reservation with Open Table and they have also have reviews from diners who book for though their free service, but not the ones I posted. Maybe they sucked.

Anyway, here's a summary of my foodie adventures:

Night (1): 104 pounds. Pennsylvania 6. I arrived a bit early and ordered a Gentleman Jack on the rocks. Or should I say rock. One large 2" cube in my highball glass. Lovely because the ice didn't melt as fast as with smaller cubes. We were seated by 7 o'clock and our waitress kindly offered to let us order wine specials for happy hour, ending in just minutes, which was very sweet of her. She also let me order from the raw bar with the happy hour special of $1.00/oyster, so I enjoyed six Malpeque oysters from Prince Edward Island, where, I might add, my dining company own a beautiful summer home. The best part was the cocktail sauce topped with freshly grated horseradish. OOOH right up the nose. At the table were the Lancaster Chicken, and the Spice Crusted Monkfish. Feeling especially bouncy I decided to try the Rabbit Bolognese. It was interesting, not too spicy, served with bucatini noodles. The meat was tender but stringy, which sort of clumped up in the dish, but it was good. Maybe a tad bit weird, but I ate every bite.


Night (2): 105 pounds. White Dog Cafe. This thirty-year old landmark restaurant boasts environmentally sustainable ingredients, which I value, along with quality tights and a good warm cape on a cold winter night. Our waiter told us it started as take-out muffin joint that blossomed over the years to one of the most popular bar and restaurants in the area (see this nice review - It is still a cornerstone of the local food movement in Philadelphia.The bar was jammed when we arrived, probably due to its proximity to the University of Pennsylvania. The restaurant in the back, however, was quiet at 6:30 on a Friday night. That didn't last long because we were noisy.  Don't think for a second that librarians (I am a librarian by day) are a quiet bunch by ANY means. Especially because happy hour didn't apply to the dining room. Gotta hate that.

I enjoyed the Kennett Square Mushroom Soup as an appetizer, with the Lamb Sliders and Brussels Sprouts with bacon on the side (why is "brussels" plural???) Anyway, also at our table of four were the Green Meadow Double Cheddar Burger, the Tortellini with house made pancetta, and a red snapper special. Everything was amazing. I ate everything, including sharing a pair of desserts - the Chocolate Tart and the White Chocolate and Peppermint Custard.

Dinner was a bit pricey, as was Penn6, but worth every penny. The only down side of our evening was it was literally zero degrees out and the bus never came, but we finally flagged down a taxi to get us back to City Center. I'd definitely return to the White Dog Cafe. Everything was excellent!

Night (3): 106 pounds. Del Freso's Double Eagle Steak House. The interior of this huge old building (once the First Philadelphia Bank) has big phat pillars soaring three stories above you. The place drips class, but I guess people with money don't have to look the part, because it had its share of guys in sweats, sneakers and ball caps. Excellent service from the skinniest waitress that ever recommended you eat anything on the menu, but she didn't steer us wrong.

This image is from their web site. Mine wasn't as pretty.
I shared a wedge salad with several of my friends (the serving was huge! and very rich), four of us ordered a steak, one had a salmon dish, and we enjoyed several potato sides that were served "family style". I ate everything in sight, but especially enjoyed my prime steak - a perfectly cooked 8 oz filet mignon. We had a lot of fun but I was sorry to skip dessert. Everyone ELSE was too full. The weirdest part was the Ladies Room. Women hanging out, the sink counters loaded with candy and perfumes and hairclips and you name it. I went looking for soap and a lady squirted some in my hands for me. I rinsed. She handed me a cloth towel to dry my hands. She expected a tip. I didn't have my wallet. I smiled and wanted to give her a TIP but I digress. This was a great place to eat but I suggest you go with your favorite vendor and his AmEx.....

Night (4). 107 pounds. Maggiano's Little Italy. Silly in Philly. We arrived on a Sunday night at 6:00 pm and the holding pen/bar was jammed. They gave us one of those buzzy lighty things while we waited for our table. There was nothing much worth taking pictures of, besides I'm short and I couldn't see over the sea of coats and bellies, and I needed a drink, or two, or was it two bottles to the table? So I played it cool and we talked shop for hours, leaving my mobile phone camera tucked away for a change. The way to enjoy Maggiano's is to order from their Family Style menu. There were five of us, and the "light" option included three appetizers or salads, two pastas, and a dessert of lemon cookies. We enjoyed the calamari - a classic, with a side of marinara, an Italian tossed salad, and the Spinach and Artichoke al forno (the latter being extremely rich and decadent). Then a platter of their Mom's Lasagna and the Lobster Carbonara (there was an up-charge on the lobster dish but again, dinner with your other favorite vendor is highly recommended when you eat out in classy joints). Get this: if you want more of anything just ask and they'll bring you another platter! What is "LIGHT" about that??? We ordered more cookies. The food was good, not fab, but very good. The dining room was tight and noisy but still friendly.

Kris, Becky, Jeannie and Janice are all smiles after dinner

Night (5). 108 pounds. Tommy Dinic's. I actually was home on Night 5, but not before I raced over to the Reading Terminal Market to share a pulled pork sub with provolone and sauteed broccoli rabe for lunch before heading to the airport. We actually got to order without waiting on line, which, two minutes later would not have been the case. A couple of fat guys on the Food Network gave Dinic's First Prize in their program "Best Sandwich in America". The photo below is from the web site on the prize. Ours, however, wasn't pretty, all sloppy and rolled in newsprint with liquid everywhere, along with about 20 napkins, but it was tender and greasy and absolutely phat heaven. I burped garlic for the rest of the day.

I've been trying to work off those phive all week phighting the phorces of evil by night, and chasing my own butt on a treadmill at the Y every morning. The effort is worth every morsel.

Zena, Goddess of Fire

Break out the sweatpants! At least they still fit.

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