I know it's been a while since I last posted, but I've been pretty busy with work, moving and forgetting people's birthdays (sorry mom, dad and everyone else). Fret not, I'm back and mixing things up a bit. I'd like to share with you my Memorial Day weekend spent visiting some foodie friends and doing field research (i.e., eating my way through Wilmington, DE, Philly and South Jersey).
Staying true to myself and my style, I took off work on Friday and made it an epic four-day weekend. I headed up to Hockessin, DE on Thursday evening to visit a close friend from graduate school. It was good times as usual as we broke bread (literally) and ate several homemade meals. For Friday dinner, we went to Le Shio, an Asian Fusion Restaurant in Wilmington, DE. It's located in a strip mall with a rather unassuming storefront, which belies the modern and chic environs inside. The menu is quite extensive, which seems to encourage indecisiveness, but we had plenty of time to deliberate while we were waiting for a table. As a sweet potato addict, I decided to try the sweet potato tempura rolls along with several pieces of sashimi. I even went out on a limb and tried squid sashimi for the first time. It actually wasn't bad and I loved the sweet potato tempura rolls so much that I decided to bite the bullet and order a side of sweet potato tempura. After dinner, we headed downtown to the riverfront for drinks at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant. Ironically, no one ordered beer as we were all in the mood for cocktails. I had a dark 'n' stormy with quite the gingery bite, followed by a coffee cocktail. Afterwards, we decided to call it a night and headed home to surprise my friend's friend (who was visiting from NYC during the same time I was there) with a cake for her recent birthday.
On Saturday, I headed into Philly and met up with a good friend in the area. It was around lunchtime so I decided to revisit my Philly to do list and we agreed on Memphis Taproom as the lunch option. I once saw this place featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives and knew I had to try the smoked coconut club (which has quite the bacony flavor). We arrived to find their beer garden open and decided to split a veggie hot dog topped with grilled cherries and mangos (that was surprisingly good) from the food truck in the beer garden. Then, we walked next door to the restaurant and ordered food and brews. There were lots of exciting options on the menu, but I decided to stick to my guns and order the coconut club. My friend ordered the fried green tomato po'boy so we could split the sandwiches. Final verdict: The smoked coconut itself was delicious, but I found the sandwich as a whole to be somewhat bland and unexciting. The flavors simply weren't assertive enough for me. I actually preferred the fried green tomato po'boy, but it wasn't phenomenal either. You know, I am from the Deep South after all, and I LOVE fried green tomatoes so maybe my standards are just exceptionally high for this regional staple.
Next stop, South Philly! I love South Philly's character and vitality and there's no better place to experience it than the East Passyunk Avenue Corridor. First, we hit up Capogiro (an old favorite) for gelato (Pistachio and Nutella) and then we went to Stateside for artisanal, handcrafted cocktails made with American spirits. I was good times as usual. Then, we made a quick pit stop in my old neighborhood, Point Breeze (interesting article on gentrification and development in the neighborhood), at American Sardine Bar. I noshed a $2 sardine sandwich and we were out.
Then, on to Fairmount where we picked up my friend's girlfriend, had Campari cocktails and checked out the sweet rooftop deck at her house. For dinner, we traversed town once more, heading west to Kilimandjaro, a Senegalese restaurant in West Philly. The decor was pretty basic, which allowed the delicious food to shine like a star. We began our meal by sharing an appetizing house salad loaded with veggies, hard boiled eggs, and shrimp tossed in a house dressing. My dining companions split an order of beef patties. For the main course, we shared yasa fish, a traditional Senegalese onion sauce with fried fish accompanied by a side of white rice, and grilled fish with a side of plantains. It was plenty food for three people to share and we were plenty full as we left West Philly and headed to Northern Liberties to experience the whimsy and refined cocktails at Emmanuuelle. As I looked their impressive cocktail list, I noticed the 'Tubarao...Tubarao' cocktail. It combined so many great flavors (i.e., cachaca, campari, fresh grapefruit, lemon peel oleo-saccharum, egg white, and rosewater) so I decided to give it a try and it did not disappoint. It was super light and the rosewater and egg white really helped to round out the drink. Everything about this place was perfect except our server was slightly overbearing and would refill our water glasses every time we took a few slips and ask if we were doing okay. Really??? After leaving Emmanuuelle, we made one final stop in Midtown for drinks and dancing before calling it a night.
Sunday was my final day in the Philly Metro area and I decided it was the perfect time to go hunting for panzarottis in South Jersey. See you, long ago, I saw an episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate on The Food Network where Aaron McCargo Jr. described Camden's panzarottis as the best thing he ever ate with his hands. I'd been dying to try one for years so I rolled up my sleeves and convinced my friend that we should head to Camden (a place where I had long been advised not to go by college mates and Jersey natives) for a doggone panzarotti. Turns out, Camden is indeed rough and ramshackle, but I didn't see how it was all that different from other places like Northeast Philadelphia and West Baltimore where I've worked and done research. We did a quick windshield tour of Camden and then headed over to Panzarotti Pizza King, which turned out to be closed. Fortunately, there's tons of places to get a Tarantini Panzarotti. We ended up at The Famous King of Pizza in Cherry Hill, NJ where they offer both the original Tarantini Panzarotti and their very own version made in house. I decided to order the version made in house and it was divine! I could seriously go for one right now. The outside was crispy with a slight crunch. The inside was airy and light and the cheese and marinara filling on the inside was delicious and perfectly seasoned. Mission accomplished! Afterwards, we drove through Collinswood, NJ and headed back to Philly where I packed up, ended my adventurous weekend and headed back to Baltimore.