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The Weekend Retreat: Philadelphia

IT IS a well-known fact that when a friend comes to your town, it is your express duty to make sure they see the best parts of said town.  When they are coming in for a quick weekend–a retreat, if you will, from the day-to-day and the hard work of being alive–it is doubly more important for them to see the benefits of your city.  Especially if they might be coming back.

So when Lisa came down to Philly for the weekend, I decided to take her on a tour of the standards in brunch.  We had plans to meet up with college friends; we had plans to get absolutely toasted; we had plans to sit and talk and catch up and get to the meat of our own existential crises.  But more importantly, we had plans to eat.  And a weekend retreat equals two prime opportunities for brunching à la wherever you are.  The decisions we made were based as much on walkability (we wanted a minor trek) as on stomach (we both decided against heaviness; hangovers and weight aren’t a good match).  But I also wanted Lisa to see a bit of Philly, and so we ended up walking quite a bit and checking out some of Philly’s cute(r?) neighborhoods.

It’s one thing to be a college student at the outskirts of a major city: you go into “town” maybe once or twice a month, push that to three in birthday months.  You know the city is there but you don’t utilize it unless you have an assignment or a specific purpose (art history classes that direct you to the PMA; women’s studies courses with an internship component).  So you graduate, and you’ve spent, what? a total of 36 afternoons in a city that has an incredible amount of things to offer?

Tsk, tsk.  Obviously, the way to remedy that is to come back once the demands of paper-writing, club-running, thesis-drafting, etc are behind you.  When you can give time to the city that was there for you, even if you didn’t remember to visit all that often.  So Lisa’s visit was as much a glorification in Philadelphia as it was a reunion.  Making the most of her time was, therefore, a guilty necessity.

We decided on a sampling of Philly’s best.  Some may disagree with me here; that’s fine.  But in a quest for comfort foods, familiar faces, and places representative of the Philadelphia entrepreneurial spirit, I think Lisa and I hit all the right places.  On Friday night, we opted for a range of places: Raw sushi and sake lounge, Cuba Libre, Sugar Mom’s and Apothecary.  The food at Raw was exquisite; our waitress was eager with helpful suggestions and we waddled out, nicely full and ready for some exploring.  Cuba Libre granted us a pair of very sweet mojitos; Sugar Mom’s turned out not to be quite what we wanted at the time, but will be a place I return to.  (Though, truth be told, I prefer Tattooed Mom’s.  I’m just putting that out there.)  But we struck gold at Apothecary.

I’m always excited to see friends doing what they love.  Be that creating a show for the Philly Fringe and Live Arts Festival or building crazy new artworks, I like seeing people enjoy themselves in a way that supports them.  Maybe it’s because I’m still seeking out that perfect melding of passion and salary; whatever it is, walking into Apothecary and realizing the bartenders were college comrades was certainly an experience I was not expecting but one that I’ll treasure.  On the practical side, of course, was the fact that they knew their drinks inside and out and could tailor them to Lisa and my specification (don’t want ginger in a ginger-infused beverage? try elderflower instead).  So big props there.

Saturday was the Big Day.  Not only was there a party in Jersey–send-off celebrations in this age group inevitably turn into reunions; that’s the other reason people go to them–but Saturday was the day of Lisa’s first Philly brunch.  Heavy from dinner and drinks the night before (and recovering from a 5-week Brazilian getaway), Lisa wanted something light on the eggs.  Not easy to do when you’re talking brunch.  A walk was also determined as a “must” for the event, and so we bustled off in search of Beau Monde’s amazing crepes.  Lisa picked the Smoked Trout, Leek and Spinach crepe; I opted for the Mushroom, Bacon and Goat Cheese.  I cannot say this enough: I am addicted to Beau Monde’s crepes.  In fact, I would be there right now if, well, if a bajillion things weren’t waiting for me to do today.  Sigh.

From Beau Monde (where we enjoyed an Elvis medley) we wandered in the Italian Market a little bit; I bought plums and Lisa bought loose-leaf tea.  (Lisa also ended up with a new pair of mustard colored flats, too, for those of you seeking new ideas in footwear.)  From there, we made our way to Capogiro.  The idea was to get coffee, but I was quickly distracted by the luscious flavors of gelato.  Lisa tried a few but ultimately returned to her coffee needs; I, instead, went with a melding of the basil lemon and the kiwi gelatos.  Yum!

After that, the party In Jersey (which was suprisingly close; I sometimes forget how not far parts of Jersey are).  Which led to dinner at Good Dog.  Something about Good Dog is so fascinatingly comforting that I have a hard time remembering it’s a bar.  It’s become the place to go after an event–a happy hour, a party, a good conversation you/I don’t want to end.  It’s loud, certainly, but it’s homey and the food is surprisingly good.  What more do you need?

Sunday morning dawned, lush and lovely.  Lisa was heading out in the early afternoon but wanted to have a star Philly brunch before she left.  So what was I to do?  One thing, and one thing only: take the girl to Sabrina’s.  While the Buggles played in the background, Lisa had the Apple Cheddar Omelet and I the Eggs Benedict Florentine.  Though the cheddar wasn’t as sharp as she’d have preferred, the omelet nonetheless hit the spot.  As for me, this was my first foray into the Eggs Benedict realm.  With an avocado-tomato topping, the dish hit the spot.  Now I know: Hollandaise is not merely for D, who still gushes about her eggs benedict at Honey’s.

And that, it seems, is how to do Philly when you’re in for a satisfying, homey, retreat from responsibility.   Most of the weekend was spent on foot, and so Lisa got a tour of the Philadephia she’d missed in college and reacquainted herself with the parts of the city she had known.  I’ve always thought Philly was sort of like a childhood memory: it is present for you in some form, but not until you’re actually thinking about it or confronted by it does it seem real and true.



One thought on “The Weekend Retreat: Philadelphia

  1. Tattooed Mom’s! That place was a staple of my Philly experience the summer after I graduated – how could you ever stray from a place that offers 25cent pierogies every Wednesday night?

    Did you actually like the basil + lemon gelato? I tried that once while in Italy, reasoning being that since I liked every dish I’d ever tried that included basil, I would equally fall for the gelato version…. but alas, I was mistaken. I’d take nocciola + cioccolato scuro over basil/lemon any day!

    It may be a treacherous thing to read your blog on Sundays – Sundays mean first day of the work week here (as you well know) but reading this makes me feel only more justified in secretly believing that Sundays are truly and only meant for brunch!

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