I cannot believe it’s Saturday already. I’ve been wanting to write this post all week, but I’ve had a busy one so I’m just getting around to telling you about the trip Jeff and I took to Philly last weekend. We went to celebrate my birthday (happy birthday to me – several days late) and to visit our still-really-new niece and nephew (congratulations to Vanessa & Justin on the birth of Tyson & Dylan).
Our journey began on Sunday morning after I finished making a lovely French country pate. We hit the road at about 10 am and were making our first stop in Philly for lunch. Jeff has been wanting to try a restaurant called South Philly Barbacoa and, since he never steers me wrong when it comes to food, I happily agreed to go. Jeff read about South Philly Barbacoa in the May 2016 issue of Bon Appetit. Adam Rapoport wrote about his recent trip to Philadelphia in an article entitled 32 Hours in Philly.
We were pretty lucky finding a parking place only 1 block from the restaurant. The restaurant is located in an area with all on-street parking so finding a space can be hit or miss. The address for South Philly Barbacoa is 1703 S 11th Street, Philadelphia. As we walked up to the restaurant, I knew from the whimsical exterior that I’d love it.
And I wasn’t wrong. The restaurant is bright and cheery, but doesn’t have enough tables for the demand so we had to wait. I’m not sure if ordering is always done at the counter or if we ordered that way because we happened to be waiting by the counter; but either way, standing near the counter built great anticipation for our taste buds and allowed us to peek at what was going on in the back. Orders were being filled, tortillas were being made and there was much bustling of the staff.
We each ordered two small pork & lamb tacos and we added some condiments at the counter before proceeding to a finally-available table. When we sat down, we got a glass of delicious a pineapple juice to share. After snapping a few photos, we dug into our tacos. As I was eating the first one, I was thinking that if I could only use one word to describe them, it would be delicious…no, it would be heavenly…..no, it would be comforting…..Clearly, they cannot be described with just one word.
As I took the first bite of the second taco, I realized that there is a single word that could describe them……and that word it……..”holycrapthat’sspicy!” I believe it was the pickled onion/pepper condiment that was the culprit. I had just a bit of the condiment on the first taco and significantly more on the second one. After just one bite of that second taco I was sweating, trying to catch my breath and, to quote Cam from Modern Family after he tells Gloria he can spice her under the table any day, “I feel like I ate the sun!” Even though it took a considerable amount of time for my tongue to return to normal size and to stop throbbing, I really did love the food at South Philly Barbacoa and will definitely give it another try! I barely tasted the sweet tamale that Jeff ordered, so next time I’ll eat that before I burn off all my taste buds!
After lunch we wandered through the Italian Market – stopping at some of our favorite shops and enjoying one another’s company. From there we headed to the hotel for check-in, which we were disappointed to learn would be delayed by at least an hour. So we ran (ok, walked) a few errands – Jeff wanted to stop at The Art of Shaving to get some shaving cream and I needed to do an exchange of MAC lipstick at Macy’s. Then we went for a drink at the hotel bar. Finally, after Jeff calling the front desk twice, we were able to check into our room with just enough time to shower and get dressed for dinner.
Since it was technically my birthday celebration I was able to choose the restaurant. (This is not a complaint, simply a fact – it usually has to be my birthday for me to get to choose the restaurant) Initially I picked Barbuzzo (my favorite in Philly); but then I decided to really branch out and try one of their sister restaurants – Jamonera. Being a Sunday evening, we were able to select their Sunday Tapas Tasting Menu.
If I’m being honest, after the first two dishes arrived, both Jeff and I were skeptical about whether the tapas tasting would fill us; however by the sixth dish we were slowing down and still expecting 4 more dishes. The following is a list of what was offered for Tapas Tasting on our visit:
- Charcuteria – cantimpalo chorizo, pickles, baguette
- Grilled Ramps – salboxtada, spring onions, grilled bread
- Manchego & Marconas – membrillo, marinated sheep’s milk cheese, pimenton
- Scallop Crudo – pickled rhubarb, orange, Thai chilies, baby fennel, housemade lavash cracker
- Cherry & Jamon Ensalada – housemade maraschino cherries, jamon Serrano, arugula, basil miticrema, marcona almonds
- Papas Fritas – smoked garlic aioli, brava salt, housemade sherry vinegar hot sauce
- Cantimpalo Tortilla – potato and egg omelet, mustard aioli mesclun greens
- Crispy Calasparra Rice – sugar snap peas, manchego cheese, pickled mushrooms
- Almejas – grilled Manilla clams, chistorra chorizo, saffon broth, local greens, parsley-almond picada, pickled ramps, grilled bread
- Grilled Gulf Shrimp – gallega spice, castelvetrano olive puree, grilled plums, haricot vert, lemon
Wow! What a menu. The flavor combinations were unexpected, interesting and delicious. In my opinion, the best dish of the night was the Crispy Calasparra Rice with pickled mushrooms – true comfort food.
The service was attentive, but not intrusive. And a special thanks to our server for running across the street in the rain for my favorite dessert – it’s a birthday tradition. The cocktails hit the spot. But the company – oh, the company was the best part!!!
Monday morning we got up early for room service coffee followed by a steamy walk in the city – can you say humid? We persevered through the sticky streets, got a little exercise, snapped a few photos and found a cute spot for take-out breakfast. I still cannot believe I was able to convince Jeff to order food from P.S.&Co., a vegan and gluten-free coffee-house/bakery. P.S.&Co.’s website explains that they “aim to provide the cleanest, most delicious food that helps you feel incredible. Our chef-driven menu is healthy in blueprint and decadent in taste. No multisyllabic additives or peculiar preservatives. We hope you’ll find our delicious, plant-strong food and beverages as a gateway to feeling and living your best life.”
My first priority was a coffee – cold-brewed with filbert nut milk. Then we got down to selecting breakfast. I ordered coconut yogurt and a nut & seed bar. Jeff ordered a breakfast sandwich and a brownie. We walked back to the hotel to enjoy our breakfast and shower before driving to West Chester to see Vanessa, Justin and the babies.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you that I put sugar in my coffee (insert gasp here!). I tried to go without, but that’s a habit that will be VERY hard (if not impossible) for me to break. Other than the coffee needing sugar, the rest of our purchases were delicious. The coconut yogurt was not actually yogurt but a fauxgurt made from coconut and it was really yummy. The seed and nut bar was quite tasty, if a little crumbly. Jeff’s breakfast sandwich (on gluten-free bread) was really yummy and I have to admit that even the bread was good. And the brownie – although not quite the texture of a typical brownie – hit the chocolate spot!
Shortly after breakfast, Jeff posted the following to his Facebook page – “Breaking news……I just ate a gluten free, vegan breakfast AND I actually lived to tell about it. I don’t see this being a trend, but baby steps are important. Now, onward to find a steak for lunch.” He did not, in fact, have a steak for lunch!
After a quick shower and repack, we were excited to get on the road to see the twinies. There is truly something soothing about holding babies! And with twins it’s “two babies, no waiting!” After ooh’ing and ahh’ing over Dylan & Tyson and switching who held whom, Justin returned from a morning of golf and we were all out the door for ‘dunch,’ or was it ‘linner?’
Jeff and I offered to bring food to the Pak pack, but they were all ready to get out of the house. So we loaded into two cars and drove the short distance to Iron Hill Brewery. We had a nice, quiet meal and then took a drive to see the not-too-distant-future home of the Pak pack.
Finally, with full bellies and temporarily satisfied baby-holding-desires, we began the journey home. All in all it was a wonderful, if short, trip to Philadelphia. We ate some wonderful food, got our city-fix and spent time with one another and the Philly-pham. Less than 36 hours later we were back at home!