For the past couple weeks, I have been livin’ large by the foodie definition and dining at restaurants for a majority of my meals. To highlight some of the best from the past 2 weeks:
–It all began with some pulled pork tacos, pork belly in a green mole sauce, chicken enchiladas, and “Huarache” from Distrito–definitely a new favorite restaurant, right down the block from my house, featuring eclectic, yet expensive, takes on various tapas, mixing Mexican and Spanish cuisine throughout. Not only is the food “to die for” at this place, but the decor is colorful, bright, and two lucky diners have the option of sitting in an old fashioned car-turned-table
“Huarache” was a term that was new to me, but upon my waiter’s description of a “pizza type dish with a corn masa crust,” I knew I had to try it. Distrito offers two types, Huarache de los Hongos (mushroom) and another with duck confit and cherry tequila preserves. Lucky enough to try both, I’d definitely rate the duck and cherry one as the better of the two
Huarache de los Hongos
Following this dinner, I had a great meal out on Valentine’s Day at La Scala. All the way by Penn’s landing, and not a BYO, this place has never been considered in our typical search of Italian BYO restaurants in the area. Big mistake it was to overlook such great cuisine, and I had a pappardelle with mushrooms, prosciutto, and peas…first time having pappardelle…as a big fan of thick “chow-fun” noodles, I savored every bite.
In honor of the Italian BYOs that I hold so near and dear to my heart, I visited three most recently that are local favorites amongst Penn kids.
First up, La Fontana della Cita (I don’t think many people know it by more than La Fontana, but for advertising purposes I suppose I will extend with the full nome Italiano) This place is always one of the first picks when my house is choosing a BYO to dine at, and it’s fine by me if we never go anywhere else because they have a risotto that is the bomb. dot. com. (SPM shoutout!) Risotto agli Scampi features grilled jumbo shrimp mixed amongst a bed of perfectly cooked, creamy risotto, all bathed in a pink cognac sauce. Though I’ve never had risotto in a pink cream sauce, I didn’t doubt for one second it would be as tasty and rich as it actually was…
Not me in the yellow shirt...but I'd like it to be, right now...
Next on the BYOs came Salento–a very cool place, very close to Penn campus, with a very creepy waiter (a la Emilio in Mr. Deeds, anyone?)–this guy showed up here, there, and everywhere, answering questions that you didn’t even know he heard…as well as playing some jokes that you didn’t even think were meant to be jokes. BUT it didn’t take away from the phenomenal fresh bread, mussels in red sauce to start, and gnocchi with pink sauce as an entree; ahh gnocchi, little pillows of heavenly dough to feed my carbohydrate obsession
LAST of the BYOs was a farewell to my best friend, Katie, who left for a semester at U. Queensland in Brisbane, Australia last Friday. To send her off well, a bunch of us went to Bistro la Baia with a few key boxes of Franzia. The best part of this meal? With a 9 o’clock reservation, it was 9:30 before we heard the specials, and we were all getting a little antsy for bread. Finally, someone took one for the team to ask when the bread would be delivered, since the pots of oil and vinegar placed 20 minutes prior were starting to make our stomachs scream in hunger. When the reply: “It’s in the oven,” came, I thought to myself, NFW, they are slicing a baguette from yesterday morning and “toasting it” in the broiler…but boy was I wrong. This bread was so soft, slightly underbaked but with a crisp outer shell encasing this hot goo of carbohydrate chaos. I definitely filled up on 4-5 pieces before attempting my Orecchiette with Sundried Tomatoes and Shrimp; unbuttoning the pants on the way home=necessary.
Though I made it to Friday hoping to get a kickstart on some healthy eating and working out, this was not the case when Raquel came to stay with me. Friday evening, despite making a delicious, but too healthy for the munchies, Kashi pizza with Megan, we decided a proper imbibing and noshing had to occur once Raquel’s bus arrived at 9:30.
For this, we went to the City Tap House, a fairly new restaurant on campus with 60 taps of various craft and international beers accompanied by slightly upscale food. While my favorites on the menu include the mussels in white wine/butter broth with grilled focaccia slices, we decided to split a flatbread Parma pizza with sweet potato fries, enjoyed alongside some Original Sin Hard Apple Cider and Rodenbach Grand Cru.
Pizza with more lettuce than cheese is questionable...but still phenomenal
Saturday night was Jen’s 21st birthday celebration at Charles Plaza, a Chinese BYO in the China Town section of Philadelphia that allows you to bring kegs as your “BYO”. You can only imagine the scene on a Saturday night in this small, family-owned restaurant that had one room of dining–enough only for our party of 50 and some Penn frat in the back. Keg stands were done, all with the gracious approval of Charles (his name really is Charles-and he’s awesome), and after we sang to Jen, Charles hung a pearl necklace around her neck. The 8-course meal served your Chinese food essentials–wonton soup, hot and sour soup, shrimp and beef dumplings, spring rolls, General Tso’s, fried rice, and lo mein, but they were exceptionally prepared and served family style, a great way to share around the table. Such a hilarious experience combined with extraordinary Chinese food and a great 21st birthday for Jen
On Sunday morning, we showed Raquel one of the best (and only) brunch spots in University City, Marathon Grill. I always get the same thing there, but as my good pal Megan pointed out, I am never less than 100% satisfied with my decision…it’s called simply, “Croissant sandwich,” but it is actually so much more…it is a huge croissant stuffed with egg, goat cheese, sliced granny apples, and applewood bacon. Since I was indulging this weekend, I got a banana and granola smoothie on the side…it’s exquisite the way they blend the granola in, turns out to be like a banana milkshake
Picture doesn't even do this justice (or match up, but you get the point and I didn't have my camera)
After the plenty of hours that we spent on the couch digesting that one, Raquel and I finally got off our butts around 7 and headed to Bobby’s Burger Palace, because that place can never do you wrong. We each got a Bobby Blue burger and a side of sweet potato fries. Though messy, the Blue is top in my burger ratings nationwide
I’d like to say that was the end of my eating for the day, but it didn’t/couldn’t stop there with our plans to see a movie (No Strings Attached) later that evening. Milk Duds, per usual, were my pick for that situation :)
If you’ve read through all of this, thanks for baring with me on one of the longest posts I have ever written. It was fun to relive this eats, and though they aren’t necessarily “healthy,” it’s always important to indulge. I’ll continue to feature some of my favorite eats as I continue to experience Philly primarily via my taste buds.
When my bank account hit dangerously close to cero most recently, this piece serves as my answer to the question, “Where’s all your money going, anyway? Are you doing drugs or something?!?!?” If by drugs you mean luscious, gourmet food…then yes, consider me a full-fledged junkie.