Full Complement

Marigold, Philadelphia: “Sometimes you have to just let art … flow … over you”

IN The Big Chill, a group of friends come together for the funeral of another friend.  While today’s brunch at Marigold did not have a somber air, it did have a  similar reunion-esque vibe.  Among our gang was Wee, who’s been MIA for ages due to med school hooplah; Nicole, ensconced in West Philly but who can be teased out with quizo and dim sum; Megan, who I’d heard lots about but had yet to sit down over coffee with; and Paige, passing through but stilling for long enough to eat and laugh and catch up.

We also bumped into three other college acquaintances over the course of the meal, which just goes to show that Philly is a city that holds its people.  Kind of like Paris, or Cairo.  Sit anywhere on the Champs Élysées or at Tahrir Square (preferably not in the square itself, but adjacent–say, at the Egyptian Museum) for long enough, and you’re sure to see a parade of faces from your past.  It’s comforting to know that Philly is growing into one of those cities.

Today was another one of the city’s beautiful days: we woke with the hint of snow on the ground and the promise of more to come; I woke to a reminder of a friend’s production of The Tempest.  The trolley came almost on time (a positive sign for Septa).  All good things, and they just contributed to the general air of satisfaction.

I met Wee and Nicole outside Marigold, and we proceeded into the cozy inner vestibule to warm ourselves and start the adventure with laughter and reminisces.  Megan and Paige showed up a few minutes later and Wee taught them how to make stars out of rubber bands; and then we were ushered inside the restaurant proper to our window-side table.  With my back to the street and surrounded by glass, I felt both part of the scenery and an on-looker onto the world outside.

Because Paige was catching a train, we had to order fast and eat quicker.  We made our selections contingent on each other’s selections — which sounds a bit balmy, but which meant that once the food came, it rotated.  Nicole’s brioche french toast made its way to each of us; Wee passed his salmon around; Paige and Megan split the mini pumpkin muffins; I passed around forkfuls of surry sausage and mushroom crepe; Paige handed off her sandwich to anyone who wanted a bite.  Family-style, and very easy.  Conversation, coffee, and food passed from person to person, punctuated by laughter, happy sighs, and “remember whens?”

At the end, as we sat contentedly in our star-shaped 5-person formation, the general consensus was clear.  “What’s for dessert?”  Wee was satisfied, but had enjoyed his meal so much he wanted more. 

Marigold provides perfectly proportioned dishes–not too much, but just enough that you know you’ll be back.  The walls are a delicate yellow, bearing bright paintings and, in the vestibule, copper-pipe light fixtures.  It feels like a house, but like no home you’d ever known.  Nicole and Megan mused for a moment on whether or not they could turn their West Philly address into a brunch kitchen; they certainly have enough chairs for it.  But the thought of coming “home” to dishes, or waking up knowing you have to put on your brightest face and bring out the fresh coffee…Well, it was all a bit much.  Maybe one day, when we’re a little more established, a little more settled.

As for me?  I bid my goodbyes and went to see The Tempest.  Talking about theater is not my forte, but this was a haunting performance that stripped the text down and rebuilt it around three faces, three sets of hands, and three voices — and what “rough magic” they could cull from their own artistry.  (Shout out to the lighting, sound design, and set, too–magic.  Magic!)  And from there, to home; and once at home, I settled in for a quiet evening, watching the new snow fall in the city and letting the scent of fresh blackberry muffins rise in the oven behind me.

At its heart, isn’t that what a Sunday is for?

-bisoux

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Full Complement · Lunch

Beau Monde, Philadelphia: An Affair To Remember

THE craving for crepes struck today, so I wandered down to 6th and Bainbridge to check out Beau Monde. I’ve been told of this place many times; the first time, Susanna couldn’t remember the name of the restaurant and I walked right past it and ate somewhere completely different before realizing what I’d done.

But this…this was worth the six-month wait. It seems as though Beau Monde and I have been in a strange, self-perpetuating sort of flirtation; we both know we exist, and we look coyly out of the corner of our eyes at each other, but we’re always waiting for the other to make the first move. So today, I decided to take the plunge and commit. I picked up my wingwoman (because every food venture is, at its heart, a romance), and made my move.

Beau Monde, the coquette, played hard to get. We were invited upstairs to the “waiting” bar, to chat and drink coffee until our table was free (by the by, Beau Monde makes its own Bloody Mary mix, which got 4 thumbs-up from those clustered around the bar). The wait wasn’t long–Beau Monde is not an unreasonable flirt–and we traipsed back down the carpeted stairs and deposited ourselves at a window table. A couple of conversation points later (“what’s the meal between lunch and dinner–dunch? lunner? lundinner?”), our two crepes were brought forth with great panache.

And here’s where the romance really kicked in. Beau Monde is a very appealing place. It’s dimly lit, with a fireplace and small candles stacked onto the table once the early evening sets in. Vines scale the walls against gold and green backdrops; the large windows invite a sort of pastoral reflection, even as you look out onto the skateboard shop across the street. Voices carry; conversations build and flow. Our “dunch or lunner” conversation made its way across the tables, and by the time we left, the people next to us were debating the same point. Beau Monde makes you feel wanted, welcome, and adored.

The menu itself is quite extensive, and open to interpretation. The house recommendations really do earn their title, and even so aren’t above a little preening. Ask a server for further recommendations. For instance, my wingwoman got the Mushroom, Swiss Cheese, and Roasted Almonds ($10.50) savory crepe and added grilled chicken. At the table beside us–the same one belaboring the differences between “lundinner” and “dinch”–they raved about the Creamed Spinach, Grilled Chicken, Tomatoes, and Swiss Cheese ($14.75). For me, Beau Monde proposed the Coq au Vin, Swiss Cheese and Herb Butter ($14.00) crepe.

Coq

Our love affair will gladden the hearts of statues. “Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories” and all that, but Beau Monde has gifted me with a treat that will warm my darkest, hungriest days. The buckwheat crepes are both healthy and light (as declared by our neighbors to the other side), delicious and tender. The crepe itself does not overwhelm its fillings; and the main ingredients, like a sneak preview (Oh, Beau Monde! You classy ecdysiast!), garnish the top of the crepe, tantalizing the senses before you even cut inside.

But Beau Monde does not restrict herself to the savory; she, like any mysterious femme fatale, has depths. She coyly offers soups, salads, appetizers, and fabulously indulgent dessert crepes. There are weekend brunch additions (mostly eggs, but bacon and avocado grace this menu option as well), a wine and drinks list, and two full bars. Milk for tea and coffee is served in a cow milk jug, just like the one my grandmother used to have. Beau Monde, beneath her worldly, cosmopolitan exterior, is the quirky girl-next-door with too-thick eyeliner and a book of scribbled poems in her back pocket.

Just my type of girl.

-bisoux