Philadelphia Uppers and Delicious Downers

December 2011

Finally venturing home for the holidays also meant time to play and explore in Philadelphia!  This installment of Quelcadelphia is all about the drinking- both the uppers and delicious downers.

UPPERS

We drove through Philadelphia in search of a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop which ended up being closed (the story of my life that day).  As luck and the caffeine cravings in my system would have it, this brightly lit facade caught my eye, and we made a new discovery!  These places somehow seem to beckon the caffeine still coursing through my bloodstream.  By “these places,” I mean coffee shops featuring responsible beans, interesting interiors and barristas with unique styles.  Coffee elitism must be magnetic!   

Chapterhouse Coffee
20 S. 9th St., Philadelphia, PA 19147
Neighborhood:  Washington Square West

I was fortunate to be spending the day with one of my longtime friends, Heather.

Look at those New Years nails!  Heather and I had just come from bonding over mani/pedis (not my typical afternoon, but every girl needs some glamour sometime).  Heather was showing off some festive glitter while I was gripping my mug with a more gothic shade of black.

A coffeeshop dog!  What a concept!  That dog had a really darn good spot too!  Oh to lounge around brick, rustic wood and the warmth of a fireplace with the scent of really good coffee wafting through the air!  Mind you, I don’t want to be the dog, but I do want to own one and have it accompany me on java adventures, and I did want that dog’s prime real estate.

My beverage of choice for the night was a spicy mocha made just right!  If I recall correctly, there were fresh peppers involved in their process at some point, which I find truly impressive.  The only thing I don’t find impressive about this place is their web presence.  Myspace?!?  Really?!?

DELICIOUS DOWNERS

As the Mega Bus rolled into the City of Brotherly [and Quelcy] Love and I sought urban entertainment, I sent a text to my good friend Phil.  Where can I sip a Prohibition style cocktail beside The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co (knowing full well I’d be sipping something there at a previously arranged time)?  Phil really pulled through in recommending the Ranstead Room.

The Ranstead Room
2013 Ranstead St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Neighborhoods: Rittenhouse Square, Penn Center

The vibe is that of a speakeasy, heightened by the obscure but not impossible to locate entrance.  Unlike my other experiences rooted in Temperance tantrums, the Ranstead’s speakeasy vibe adds more mischief in the form of a promiscuous energy.  The vibrant reds under dim lights and the framed art of naked or nearly naked ladies imbue the secret drinking atmosphere with more of a sexual undertone.  The bar area is straight up class with bronze and brass reflecting off fancy glass, tinctures and perfume style misters.  The bartenders wear the appropriate uniform and know the craft well enough to veer from the featured menu.  I’d recommend testing your mixologist, otherwise, why not go to any other bar?!?

I nearly burned the bridge of joviality forming across the bar when I said my drink tasted like a Thai restaurant smelled.  Upon seeing the defensiveness forming on his face, I quickly added, “in the best possible way,” which led to an aroma test of the added bitters.  The source of the Thai scent was the orange bitters!  Cheers to interactive palate challenges!

Last time I was in Philly, I had an agenda!  I had researched some new places, some new-to-me places and some all around dream places.  Then a hurricane hit…well, sort of hit.  Irene came storming up the coast, and having learned a lesson or two in the past, a lot of cities closed up shop.  In Philly, the precautionary efforts were mostly unnecessary- preemptively canceling transportation and adding an extra bit of hassle while Irene literally rained on my parade.  Part of my intended pomp and circumstance was a libation from the much acclaimed Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company.  DO NOT GET ME WRONG:  I am in no way spinning this as a woe-is-me tale.  I am merely saying [in long form], my trip to sip at the Franklin was a long time in coming.

The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co.
112 S 18th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Neighborhoods: Rittenhouse Square, Penn Center

A man in a dark cape lingered near the opening in a black facade.  We approached him. In a friendly manner, he led us down the steps into a narrow room with murals of merriment, chandeliers, cocktails glowing in candlelight and the occasional noteworthy mustache.  My Franklin moment had finally arrived!

Coal Cracker Cocktail– that was me!  We were a little confused at first by the term “on a rock” (singular), but when the giant core of ice arrived, the terminology made sense.  Heather sipped ever so slightly on a drink called “Ego Maniac” as I recall (the online menu is not confirming what may be a hazy memory).  It was lemony and smooth and probably too much for our baby bird drinker.

On visit number two, I found myself trapped in a steel cage of indecision.  There are so many enticing options, I’m not yet familiar enough with the plethora of liquors and mixers, and at ~$13/cocktail, there isn’t much room for mistakes.  In those ordering scenarios, I utterly fear a failure, knowing the other 50 options would have been better.  I imagine I fully annoyed my waiter (who, to be fair, annoyingly added “cheers” before and after EVERY sentence exchange).

I finally settled on an Arizona Bay (Aalborg Aquavit, Pimms 1, Aperol, Galliano*, Fresh Lemon Juice, Demerara, House Orange Bitters, Served Tall on Crushed Ice).  I may have asked the waiter if the drink had a *splash of racial slurs or resulted in anti-semetic remarks.  Too soon?  Too obscure?

While I did enjoy my drink (and my own joke), the real star of that round was Jono’s Appalachian Flip, an off menu request which inspired part of our New Year’s weekend.  The milkshake like beverage was even better than we had imagined it to be, and once again proved our affinity for Root.

There you have it, general drink snobbery in the midst of Philadelphia journeying.

Fin.

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