Morning Glory and Magic

December 2011

“If you guys are early risers, I’d love to get brunch at Morning Glory at 10th and Fitzwater,” was the text my friend Mike sent me during my holiday stint in Philadelphia!  Brunch is my favorite meal, and Mike is really good people. Beyond that, Mike has explored farms both near and far and really latched onto Philly’s responsible food scenes, so I trusted his judgment in a brunch locale.  He did not disappoint!  Mike’s invite led to Morning Glory AND Magic!

Sam’s Morning Glory Diner“A Finer Diner”
735 S 10th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Neighborhood: Bella Vista

Sam’s Morning Glory is a “Finer Diner” indeed!  There was a friendly frenzy in the cobalt air, as diners enjoyed what Sam (?) claims are fresh takes on old classics.

Fresh takes on old classics are what we do best, and we pride ourselves on creating innovative menu items from the best of our local bounty. The Italian Market and the Reading Terminal are two local treasures we are proud to support.

Not only does the coffee come in shiny cup (reminiscent of a good cup o’ joe around a campfire, perhaps?), it comes with a Morning mantra-

Life is too short to drink bad coffee…  Life is too short in general…so at the Morning Glory we’re all about prolonging the simple pleasures…like a perfect cup of coffee, a memorable meal…and a buttery biscuit topped with homemade jam. Simple. Good. Delicious.

And it was!  It was Simple.  Good.  Delicious.

Bearded gents,  flannel, good food, the regaling of an unbelievable, yet true, tale fit for a mafia film… there’s nothing quite like coming together for brunch!

If I had to pick one food symbol for this holiday season, it was the waffle.  Mom fulfilled my request in an inventive and collaborative way when we gathered around the old kitchen table.  Chronologically speaking, the Morning Glory plate you see was round two.  Rounds three and four occurred over the course of a peaceful and relaxing New Year’s hiatus.

Pecan Waffle
served with whipped peach butter

What looks innocently enough like a recycled wine bottle nearly melted my foodie heart!  It contained homemade ketchup!  This is how you know I’m not a Pittsburgh native.  I will forgo the iconic 57 any day of the week for the pursuit of homemade ketchup.  I’ll even forgo the iconic 57 any day of the week without the availability of an alternative condiment.  I am a purist.  I may be irrational.  However, there is no reason ketchup should contain corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup.  Rant aside, I fell in deep, deep love with Morning Glory for their attention to detail and whole ingredients.

Gardenkeeper Frittata
wild greens, potatoes & smoked ham

I can’t go to brunch without sharing at this point in my life.  Fortunately, Jono is the same way, so I was eagerly jumping from plate to plate.  Both the waffles and the frittata were exactly what they claimed to be- fresh takes on classics!

The biscuits!  The fresh jam!  One of those silver containers on the table contained fresh jam, to top my slathering of butter, on the very cakey biscuits.  Might I also recommend a dollop of that there waffle’s whipped topping make its way to the biscuit?

As we enjoyed the last sips of coffee and the contentment that comes from good company and good food, we played with a new camera pal.

As we started to leave, Mike said, “Have you been to the Magic Gardens?”  I had been once before, somewhat by accident.  You can’t help but appease your curiosity when you walk by a facade completely adorned with mosaics and an open door.  Jono had never heard of the folk wonder, so as Mike departed for the Finger Lakes, Jono and I walked a few blocks for a bit of morning magic and a very promising sign!

You’ll know when you have arrived…

(From the Magic Gardens website)

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is a folk art environment, gallery space, and nonprofit organization that showcases the work of mosaicist [!] Isaiah Zagar. Located at the site of Zagar’s largest public mosaic installation, the Magic Gardens includes a fully mosaicked indoor gallery and a massive outdoor labyrinthine mosaic sculpture. The installation, primarily consisting of found objects and contributions from the community, covers half a city block with myriads of tile, texture, and color. A walk through the labyrinth will reveal sculptures from Latin America and Asia, bicycle wheels from local South Street shop Via Bicycles, Zagar’s hand-made tiles, and mirrors of every shape and size.

The first time I visited, I happened to catch the artist as he worked on an area of the garage.  He was chatting in Spanish, adorned in an Andean winter hat and worked at a calm and casual pace.  I was freshly returned from Argentina, so I was eager to chime into the Spanish conversation and to chat with such an interesting man.  On this grayer, winter day, the only artist sitings were the clay likenesses.

More of the history…

Zagar has devoted himself to beautifying the South Street neighborhood since the late 1960s, when he moved to the area with his wife Julia. The couple helped spur the revitalization of the area by purchasing and renovating derelict buildings, often adding colorful mosaics on both their private and public walls. The first such project was Julia’s still-thriving folk art store, the Eyes Gallery at 402 South Street.

Zagar started working on the Magic Gardens in 1994 in the vacant lot nearby his studio. He began by constructing a massive fence to protect the area from harm and then spent the next fourteen years excavating tunnels and grottos, sculpting multi-layered walls, and tiling and grouting the 3,000 square foot space. The installation pays tribute to Zagar’s many artistic influences, as well as the events and experiences of his life. Enveloped in visual anecdotes, the mosaicked walls refer to his wife Julia and sons Ezekiel and Jeremiah through playful images and words, but also reference important elements of the wider world — Las Pozas and Day of the Dead, the dance community of Philadelphia, and even the airplanes of the nationwide 9/11 tragedy.

Staring into the Magic Gardens is like taking in a view at the Grand Canyon.  It’s impossible to take in every detail, but the thought of returning over and over again, to find something new or something missed in a previous viewing, is inspiring.

We discovered something epic… Jono is Batman!

There were gray clouds in the sky, a few raindrops on our faces and more adventures to be had in other places, but all in all, it was a morning filled with glory and magic!

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