Tag Archives: Quelcadelphia

Cake & The Beanstalk!

May 2012

Having felt the fatiguing effects of a brunch bourbon (judge me not, it was brunch!), it was the perfect time to take a quick stroll and discover a whimsical little coffee shop called Cake and the Beanstalk.

Cake and the Beanstalk
1112 Locust St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Neighborhood: Washington Square West

The colors were bright and cheery, the sizes were silly, and the chairs provided a wee bit of entertainment.

Oh how happy was I to see Lucy the Margate elephant again…this time on a cute, little chair!

Of course there had to be a chair routing for the hometown team.

I was also partial to the Queen, not for any power issues, just the alliteration…I swear!

So if you’re looking to satisfy your adult need for caffeine and your inner child’s need for color and playfulness, Cake and the Beanstalk is the perfect place! And the drinks are good too (sorry we didn’t have room for cake after the beautiful garden brunch)!

Talula’s Garden

May 2012

When in Philly, two lovelies rank highly on my list of friends to visit, and brunch ranks highly on our collective list of what to do when we gather.  On this particularly pleasant Sunday, we found an enchanting garden offering delectables to suit our fancy.

Talula’s Garden
210 W Washington Sq
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Neighborhoods: Washington Square West, Market East

Those warm colors on that rustic wood, the iron and ivy blocking the city while offering glimpses into the magical garden…we had arrived, and I fell in love with Talula’s Garden almost immediately after stepping beyond the front gate. I didn’t know it again, but Philly Restaurant Emperor Steven Starr had lured me in again!

At first there were just colors, but there were so many more rustic charms to discover.

Ordering from the cocktail menu became a very delicious and tipsy game of “What Does Your Drink Say About You?”

Though not at all “outdoorsy,” Heather has been known to head to sunnier regions like Atlantic City (where the sun reflects off gamblin’ money) or Jamaica most recently.  She is most comfortable in a sundress, beams in bright colors, sees the sweeter side of scenarios and always welcomes a bit of bubbly.  If Heather were a cocktail in Talula’s Garden, she’d be…

The Suncatcher 
“Champagne” Cocktail…Bubbles, Strawberry, and Fresh Mint

Quelcy [yours truly] fell in love with the oak barrel, gun slingin’ flavors of bourbon while road tripping through the American south, en route to the outdoor musical festival known to Jesus-sandle-wearing free spirits as “Bonnaroo.”  Though free of her dreaded locks, this full timer is no suit.  Put on her a fast train to a big city, and she’ll be a happy urban hippy.    If Quelcy were a cocktail in Talula’s Garden, she’d be…

The Treehugger
Maple Manhattan… Rye Whiskey, Maple, and Black Walnut

Jess may be petite, but her personality packs a punch!  She’s spicy, feisty, and she’s all style.  She’s a little bit saucy and sassy, and she’s the cure for what ails you.  If Jess were growing behind the bar in Talula’s Garden, she’d be…

The Butcher [Jess]
Spicy Bloody… Tito’s Vodka and Fresh Horseradish

Little Sweet Ricotta Doughnuts, Apricot Jam, and Chocolate-Hazelnut Sauce

Even the waiter knew he was giving us something special as he offered the platter of donuts and its description.  There was pride and expectation in his voice. He was expecting us to be impressed by the flavorful and colorful contrasts at play, the dedication implied by “housemade nutella,” the burst of fresh blackberries and ultimately, the sweet doughy, slightly dense little donuts!  He was expecting a reaction, but more importantly, he deserved a reaction!  The baby donuts were, in fact, so delicious, the plate began to make a sad face as we finished them…

Maryland Crab “Benedict”, Poached Farm Fresh Eggs, Wilted Romaine, and Tomato-Chive Bearnaise

The toast round was nearly impossible to cut.  That was my only complaint, and it’s really difficult to complain when a mouth is savoring every aspect of an entree.  Even the potatoes were masterfully prepared- just lightly crisped.

Berkshire pork sausage patties with roasted apricot, garlic flowers and polenta

This was a special menu item for the morning.  I was quite sold at “Berkshire,” and then the beautiful garlic flowers and fruit accent arrived and dazzled my eye. The floral and fruit notes balanced with the extra spice of the sausage, and the polenta packed more cornmeal texture than the average heap o’ maize mush.

Whole Wheat Pancakes, Lancaster Maple, Sweet Cream Butter, Pecans, and Brûlée Banana

I kid you not when I posit these pancakes may have been the best pancakes I have eaten to date (don’t tell my mom because I really like her pancakes)!  To date!  The texture was so light and fluffy, especially for a whole-wheat pancake.  The inclusion of brûlée in the description was no misnomer.  The bananas and pecans had an extra sweet and crisp exterior, accented by the brown sugar crumble and sweet syrups served in adorably petite jam jars.

Crispy Truffle Scented Duck Confit and Potato Hash, Sunny Side Egg, Sweet Peas, and Duck Hollandaise

What a decadent way to start the morning- smoky, tender duck…I repeat… smoky, tender duck in drizzles of egg yolk accented by the crisp, fresh, sweet flavor of peas.

Apparently my Vietnamese companions were strictly raised to clean plates.  A national value? Jess whispered to me (so the waitress wouldn’t here?), “Quelcy, can you finish these pancakes? I literally can’t.”  Of course she couldn’t!  We had so much delicious food!  It just wasn’t necessary to eat every morsel.  Nor was I willing to be the sacrificial glutton, but I was obviously willing to flaunt their fullness.  Silly little friends.

The horse and carriage awaited should you desire a more romantic getaway after such a beautiful, bountiful brunch.

The Happy Show

May 2012

Am I happy?

It’s a question I ask myself constantly. I want to be part of a world changing organization, and yet, I find myself dreading the day-to-day route to contribution.  I want to spend more of my day being creative, but I want that creativity to count for something.

Am I unhappy?

If I am, am I choosing to be unhappy? Am I merely expecting too much? Am I complaining instead of trying to change?

These types of questions had me watching a lot of TED talks on the subject, and these investigations led me to Stefan Sagmeister, who was also questioning happiness through design and documentary.  When I learned Sagmeister was opening a show at the ICA in Philadelphia, I marked my calendar for the entire duration of the show in an effort not to miss this quirky, talented designer’s insights.  Memorial Day weekend proved to be the opportunity, and I highly recommend marking your own calendars and making a point of journeying to the show.

“I am usually rather bored with definitions.  Happiness, however, is just such a big subject that it might be worth a try to pin it down.” – Stefan Stagmeister

My card told me to do push ups, but listen Stefan, I didn’t feel like it, so I traded cards, and I was pretty happy with the trade.

EVERYBODY ALWAYS THINKS THEY ARE RIGHT.

This is true for all the little crap fights in my own life, as well as for all the BIG CONFLICTS in the WORLD.  I, and I suspect everybody else too, was born a giant egotist.  I have had all these experiences forming my reality, and very much by default, I am at the absolute center of every experience I’ve ever had. These experiences are completely immediate while everybody else’s feelings have to be communicated to me, so of course it’s difficult to truly understand someone else’s reality formed by different experiences.

-Stefan Sagmeister

To participate or not to participate?  The precarious question made popular by postmodernists who sought/seek to break the rules of museums and galleries. We took Sagmeister as the kind of guy who would want us to share his favorite ginger candy from Bali, so we did.

[so sad]

What is my symbol of happiness?

[It’s not inappropriate because… it’s ART..!]

Welllll….[menacing look]…

The Happy Show didn’t draw any final conclusions, for how could it? Can one man really define happiness for many, let alone himself? Maybe.  He is on the journey at least.  I will say, his exhibit was thought provoking, moving and inspiring.

What did I conclude?  What did I really submit as my symbol of happiness?

A beautiful outdoor dining experience for a few, which is why I’m sharing my wanderings through this exhibit on this, the corner of posterity and blogosphere. As the image came to mind, it affirmed my goals and where I’m going.  I want to bring people together and help create the magical moments they remember all of their lives.  If, in the process, I can contribute to a world changing company, all the better, but I have to focus my attention more resolutely. I also have to choose to be happier.

Sorry, fresh out of money.  Stop back later though.

:)

Header_kinfolk

Third Time’s A Charm: The Kinfolk Dinner Series

May 2012

Once upon an internet stroll, I happened upon a beautiful, blossoming endeavor entitled Kinfolk.  Beneath a video that admittedly moves my overly sentimental side to watery eyes, was a manifesto that spoke straight to my sensibilities:

Kinfolk is a growing community of artists with a shared interest in small gatherings. We recognize that there is something about a table shared by friends, not just a wedding or once-a-year holiday extravaganza, that anchors our relationships and energizes us…. Kinfolk is the marriage of our appreciation for art and design and our love for spending time with family and friends.

Thus, I made a habit of regularly visiting the pages of Kinfolk.  What impressed me beyond the refined design and the enviable places and products (and they are enviable!), was the way the site seemed to preserve  meaningful moments in time.  Reading Kinfolk feels like a quiet visit to a memory.  

Beyond the awe inspiring posts and publications, Kinfolk began a dinner series tour! When I noticed Philadelphia on the list of cities in the tour, at Terrain specifically, my mind began whirling. Before I knew it, my finger was clicking the option to enter the lottery for tickets. Fortunately, whimsy and practicality worked in a harmony entitled Memorial Day Weekend!

This harmony almost did not come to beautiful, burlap accented fruition. The lottery for dinner tickets did not favor me, but the Monday before the dinner, I received an uplifting email.  Due to a few cancellations, there was room for me and my guest should I still want to attend. Should I still want to attend?!?  Of course I did!

Beyond the excitement of taking part in a Kinfolk dinner, I was especially thrilled with the choice of location.  This marked my third attempt to eat at Terrain.  Please excuse what will surely sound like the “woe is me” ramblings of first world problems when I say my first attempt to visit Terrain (not just Terrain but a craft beer and local honey festival!!!) was thwarted by the heavy rains of a passing hurricane (on the up side, I prepared this meal for my friends, and they’re still talking about it!).  On the second attempt, I took my good old time meandering through the store then joined my place in line to be seated.  As my turn came, I looked at the hostess hopefully, and she announced my second failure- they were no longer taking names.  Hence, attempt number two was a beautiful fail. As I arrived at Terrain, yet again, the other two fails felt purposeful, as if they had led me to this third time, the beautiful, enchanting charm!

And oh, was it charming!

If you, like me, associated Pennsylvania wines with the taste of communion, then you, like me, will be thrilled to discover a wine that proves us wrong.  From what I gather, what distinguishes Galer wines is the intentional choice of which exceptional grapes are suited for PA soils versus existing PA grape varieties turned into wine. Dr. Galer also sought experts in the field of viticulture when he began his endeavor, which you can read about here.

To Start

Flower Pot Bread:  tarragon honey butter, smoked sea salt

Mixed Field Greens:  sliced radishes, wild strawberries, toasted almonds, micro basil, balsamic vinaigrette

Main

Rosemary Honey Mustard Leg of Lamb

Quinoa:  sugar snap peas, baby carrots, english peas, pea tendrils

Kennett Square Mushroom Skillet:  wild mushrooms, organic eggs

Sauteed Lancaster County Vegetables:  Fiddlehead ferns, garlic scapes, dwarf bok choy

Sweets

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Pecan Pie

To see the beautiful menu in its full glory, click here.  The design came all the way from a talented artist in the Netherlands named Anja Mulder.

Even the napkins added a clean and rustic touch, so I adorned my lap very proper like.

Do you spy the brilliant idea in the photo on the right?  I shall soon try my hand at gardening little pots of soft, fluffy and slightly sweet bread.  Beyond the brilliance of the idea, the bread was one of the most delicious breads I have ever sampled (and I have sampled quite an array of breads!).

One benefit of eating with foodies and photo fiends is the patience given to the documentation of beautiful meals.  These weren’t just any foodies either!  I’ve been a fan of Something’s Hiding in Here ever since I saw the tour of Shauna and Stephen’s Philadelphia loft, so meeting the incredibly enthusiastic and humble couple was much like a celebrity encounter for this dorky blog reader.

Sitting directly to my right was Sullivan Owen, who had adorned the Terrain barn with her floral designs.  Aside from being very friendly and talented, Sullivan offered me lots of business inspiration!  I hope to spend more time learning from Sullivan in the future, and if that time is accented by one of her stunning arrangements, all the better!

That wasn’t all!  Across the table were Andrew and Carissa, the lovely couple behind many a Kinfolk video, specifically the Manifesto video that drew me to Kinfolk in the first place!  I can’t wait to see what they culled from this dream dinner.

Quite the plate!  My favorite main was the Kennet Square Mushroom Skillet. The mushrooms were quite meaty!

One might expect the coffee to be prepared with utmost care at a dinner focused on bringing people together, and one would be right.  Two Rachels served coffee prepared specially for each and every coffee partaker.

They even sent us on our merry ways with a creatively packaged single brew sample.

Additionally, Sullivan offered her floral displays as a generous token of her talents, and the very stylish farmers of Happy Cat Farm bestowed organic tomato plants upon us and an extra pack of seeds in the little totes on a big mission from Nest.  The night just continued to impress!

It was a beautiful dream dinner, and I was so grateful to be a part of it!  My third attempt at Terrain was beyond a charm. Kinfolk shared their own account of the night through the multiple lenses of this talented and personable photographer. I love how dark and saturated Parker’s images are, and I was especially excited to see this photo made the cut.  ;)

Here’s hopin’ many of us cross paths again!

Brunching in Philadelphia: Cafe Estelle

May 2012

A friend sent me this list based on my predilection for brunching. When brainstorming my goals for Memorial Day weekend, three points earned Cafe Estelle a spot on my list:

1.  Cafe Estelle serves brunch on Saturdays.
2.  According to the cafe’s website, they were voted “Best of Philly: Best Brunch.” (Not that I live my life according to ratings and lists, but I do take them into consideration).
3.  The cafe focuses on local, sustainable and organic ingredients as much as possible.

Thus, we found ourselves outside a gated apartment building parking lot on a sunny Saturday in Philly. The locale and facade are not major selling forces for the cafe, nor was the interior brimming with style, but it did offer a few worthy accents.

Cafe Estelle
444 N 4th St
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Neighborhoods: Spring Garden, Northern Liberties

Cream Cheese Walnut Sticky Bun
Cream cheese, walnuts, brown sugar, warm cream cheese icing

We spied the remains of one of these monstrous rolls on another table, and those remains were enough to convince us to order our own.  This cinnamon roll was more like cake rolled around itself either because the roll was still very warm and hadn’t set yet or possibly because some woman named Estelle had a very different idea of what a cinnamon roll should be.  Either way, it was a pleasant enough sweet treat for an indulgent morning, but it wasn’t exactly what one would expect when ordering a “cinnamon roll” and therefore, slightly disappointing.

The perk of the self-serve coffee was the variety of options.  I chose a Costa Rican variety for my pretty floral mug.

Strawberry, Rhubarb and Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast
Rhubarb compote and Warm maple syrup

Colossal!  These stacks of French toast were impressively colossal, and the filling was so secretly piped into the center, it was almost magical.  I would have sacrificed some size in exchange for more rhubarb compote and a fresher filling.  The cream cheese filling tasted a bit too runny, as if it had been cut with a strawberry flavored yogurt.  This brunch entree was still worthy of repeated forkfuls, even excessive forkfuls, but again, it didn’t quite live up to the appeal of its description.

Eggs Juan
Poached eggs, salt cod brandade fritters, smoked paprika-tomato hollandaise with homefries and toast

These eggs were just as good as the description!  I’m not sure who Juan is, but I highly recommend his spicy, creamy eggs over fishy fritters!

Overall, I didn’t walk away disappointed, but I probably wouldn’t make a point of returning.

The Dandelion, An Empire & A Bit of London in Philly

May 2012

There were many motives for a Memorial Day Weekend in Philadelphia:  friends in need of a vistit, family, a variety of restaurants from which to choose, a cultural pull, the pulse of a bigger city and a bit of scheming that led me to a very special dinner. There’ll be more, much more, on that dinner later.  Once my special one agreed to support my Quelcadelphia whims, I began setting my food goals.

Hamburger research put The Dandelion high on my list of restaurant goals. Its metropolitan hommage reminded me of the very grand, inaugural adventure my special one and I made to London.  Consequently, the dapper and Dandy Lion introduced me to a well known name for Philly foodies, a name that is synonymous with “Philly food scene”- Stephen Starr.   At the young age of 21, Starr entered the restaurant business.  Fast forward a few decades, and his name is now behind several concept restaurants in Philly, a couple in New York and then some in Atlantic City and Florida (I have no goals for sampling from those last two locations).  After experiencing The Dandelion and a brunch spot, which I shall address in another post, I understood why the man had become an empire.

From street level, a tall, corner locale with a dim, warm glow from ornate bay windows caught my eye.  As I took in its stately elegance, my view shifted to the text on the streetlight style lamp above the door- The Dandelion!  We had arrived!

The Dandelion
18th and Sansom St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Neighborhoods: Rittenhouse Square, Penn Center

Scotch Honey Suckle
Dewar’s scotch, dry vermouth, honey, lemon, rose water

Smoky and floral all at once.  A solid choice for a slow sip.

Bourbon Ginger Fizz
Bulleit bourbon, ginger, lemon, bitters, egg white

Refreshing like a high quality soda.  I would have slurped this too quickly had it been my own rather than offered to me for a few sips.

Dandelion Salad
mixed greens & dandelion leaves, cucumber, avocado, lemon vinaigrette

This salad was the obvious choice based on its name, and for a simple salad with a few green accents, it packed a complexity of flavors stemming from the bitter (in a good way) greens and the extra buttery kick of the lemon vinaigrette.

Oysters Of The Day 
with shallot mignonette sauce

My special one is the oyster expert in our duo, and he said these were just the way he likes them- vinegary.  I can barely keep oysters and mussels straight (much to my special one’s disbelief), but oyster indifference aside, these shells even impressed me.

Berkshire Pork Paté
celeriac remoulade, shallot-pear chutney, wheat toast

The specificity of “Berkshire” in the name is what first drew me to this appetizer.  It’s a fitting choice of swine for a British inspired gastropub, since the Berkshire pigs originated on the fine soils of the Queen’s land.  It seems foolish to write, but what had me repeatedly dipping the knife into the paté was its meatier pork flavor versus the heavy notes of fat that often overpower a paté.  The shallot-pear chutney added the contrast of sweetness that pairs so well with pork, but I preferred the celeriac remoulade as a separate side dish (Pittsburghers would probably automatically use it as a sandwich topping due to its similarities with coleslaw).

House Blend Aged Beef Burger 
Vermont sharp cheddar, Brooklyn brine pickles, apple smoked bacon, special sauce

Our raison d’être- the burger that brought us to the table.  Jono took a big bite and then offered, “Don’t hate me for saying this, but it tastes like a Big Mac.” I couldn’t hate him for saying it (aside from being a rather minor reason to hate someone) because he was right. McDonalds hasn’t fed a nation on convenience alone.  The chain knows a thing or two about pleasing people.  I’m not throwing away all my food values.  I’m merely justifying an odd compliment because this burger tasted like a better Big Mac, and the thick french fries clearly had a stronger tie to the potato than the greasy lot of a Happy Meal.  Our burger search had not led us astray.

Lamb Shepherd’s Pie 
mashed potatoes, root vegetables

Succumbing to the tantalizing temptation of this shepherd’s pie results in a burned tongue. Beware!  However, when root vegetables and lamb are hidden under cheesy, mashed potatoes, a little burn is easily (or all too hastily?) ignored.

There was no room for dessert, but there was room for us at The Ranstead Room (which I documented here previously), located conveniently just a few blocks away!

Stephen Starr Addendum

Remember all the way to the top of this post when I used “Stephen Starr” and “empire” in the same sentence? I thought I was being hyperbolic, but when I looked for a Ranstead Room website, I found myself directed to none other than a Stephen Starr restaurant.  I felt deceived, dumbfounded and inspired all at once.  What I would describe as your hipster cousin’s attempts to redecorate your sleezy old uncle’s basement was a 100% intentional concept bar, and it had been fooling me this whole time!  I’ll still continue to go there when I’m in town, but now I know I should order the tacos too!

Stay tuned for more Quelcy in Philly adventures, or what I like to call… The Adventures of Quelcadelphia!