I'm writing this as I sit in my poorly air conditioned apartment, reminiscing about the hotel room that was my home base this past weekend. It was more comfortable.
How much more comfortable? I actually took a hot shower. Contrast that to today where I raced up my steps after biking home and barely had time to remove the sweat soaked shirt from my back before stepping into the nice cool water pumping from a broken spigot.
There was more than awesome climate control this weekend. In an effort to get away from New York City, the Significant Other (SO) and I resolved to make use of Obi-Wan (my '01 Civic) and do some day trips. July 5th we went to Rye Beach with some friends and the resulting Batman shaped sunburn is just now resembling normal skin again. The weekend of July 12th was supposed to be two hours down I-95 to the city where it is always sunny: Philadelphia.
Two hours is never two hours when you're dealing with Staten Island and New Jersey. A mere three hours after we left Brooklyn, we pulled up to our hotel, only to pull right out after check in to make our first dinner reservation at Osteria.
You see, my SO loves food and has instilled a similar appreciation in me. Until things got serious, I was not what you would call an adventurous eater, or even one with a normal repertoire of food I readily consumed. I was not mono-chicken fingers, but it was pretty bad. SO no sirred that and my diet now includes many things that people construe as normal, and my life is much better for it.
Osteria is a spacious and airy Italian restaurant. Wood finishes and visible cooking station give it a cabin feel and the high ceilings add to this ambiance. I remarked more than once that Osteria could not exist in New York, but alas, the food probably could.
After sitting at the bar for a moment where my date partook of a lemon mojito (excellent) and I sipped Yard's Summer Ale (fine if a little hoppy for my taste), we were seated and ordered a nice meal. Summer vegetable salad, meatball and spinach pizza, and spinach and Parmesan ravioli. The food was good but nothing stood out as spectacular. This is not a knock on Osteria, but NYC is home to some amazing Italian food, and well, we partake of it a lot. The best thing was the summer vegetable salad plate. With brussel sprouts, salt roasted beats, and others around an arugula salad, it scream salad. It would have been perfect if we were not mildly damp from the rain.
We made it back to the hotel room for some much needed sleep. The next morning we started the day off right: with a trip to the Reading Terminal Market. I am a veteran of the Market at this point, with two trips for work and two more for Magic, I knew my favorite spots. Our friend works for James Beard and recommended a few stalls as well. I lined up for one of the Amish turkey sausage sandwiches while my better half went to Dinnics for the roast pork hoagie with provolone and broccoli rabe (seeing as we sat down to eat at around 11am, this is perfectly acceptable). My sandwich was good - her's was better. I had tried rabe a few times but never found a vehicle where it worked. This sandwich sold me on the bitter herb.
Next stop: Yard's Brewery. A mere two miles away, we decide to walk. The SO's iPhone gave us good walking directions but did not account for the level of sketchy we encountered.
There might have been a guy riding a bike carrying a garbage can over his shoulder yelling about Miss Jesus.
Regardless, we made it to the brewery in time for a tour. We walked in and had a shot of Brawler's ale, which was delicious without being too heavy. On the tour we were treated to a pale ale (not to my liking) and the extra special (which was). At the end of the tour, we got a beer flight of their Revolution ales, as well as a taste of a beer aged in a rye barrel. Well, that rye aged beer was the best and sadly we couldn't even buy a growler - the keg kicked moments after we finished it. It was like drinking alcoholic candy. The Washington Tavern Porter was robust and smokey with all the good porter flavors; the Love Stout was heady and tasted of chocolate, but lacked the heavy Guinness mouth feel. The Jefferson Tavern ale was light and flavorful, but the Franklin Tavern Spruce had a heavy rosemary taste. We ended up buying a large bottle of the Love Stout and a make your own six pack with two Extra Specials, two Porters, a Brawler, and a Jefferson Tavern.
After making it back to the hotel, we decided that our 8:45pm dinner reservation was too far away. We ran it back to the Terminal Market for a snack (pretzel for me, ice cream for her) before turning back to our room for a nap in the cool hotel air.
Eventually the time comes for us to leave. After a mild adventure in parking, we make our way to Zahav for dinner and find that even though we are early, the table is ready for us. Israeli and Lebanese cuisine, Zahav had a wonderful atmosphere, again, aided by a cooking area in view. After our midday drinking, we both opted for non-alcoholic drinks: I had the ginger drink which was fantastic, she sipped a sour cherry iced tea, which was too sour for my taste.
Our meal was extremely flavorful. Our appetizer was six salatims (cold prepared vegetables) and Turkish Hummus (no tahina, but mixed with butter). The hummus was fantastic, but got heavy towards the end (because butter). The veggies included a wonderful smokey eggplant, marinated beets, and spicy pickled fennel. The tabbouleh and green beans were not for me, but my opposite enjoyed them immensely. We ended up with a side of fried cauliflower, served with a yogurt/mint/dill sauce (very refreshing) and main dishes of spiced merguez and grilled egg plant. Everything was wonderful and the merguez spice danced on my tongue. Another excellent meal.
Sunday was our last day and we resolved to do something touristy. We walked to the Independence District in an attempt to see the Liberty Bell. The line was so long, we opted to find brunch instead. After being reminded that we had passed a great restaurant in this area yesterday (whilst searching for parking) we found our way to Amada for brunch tapas. We were seated quickly and ordered four dishes - a perfect size amount of food. The chorizo biscuits on serrano ham biscuits were savory and full of flavor, but it was hard to finish more than one (and there were three in the order). The steak was cooked exceptionally well, but after the fact we both wished we had gotten a seafood dish (either scallops or crab stuffed peppers). The baked goat cheese and tomato basil sauce was the best tiny pizza ever. However, the best thing we had was the Garrotxa cheese plate. A mild cheese served with apple slices and garlic dulce de leche.
Garlic dulce de leche.
The flavor of the spread is so difficult to describe. Silky smooth and sweet without being too sweet with a potent garlic flavor that did not over power the other notes. It was probably the best thing we had all weekend. The flavor is everything you imagine from the name and yet transcends it somehow.
So now we're back in NY, tolerating the weather and marveling at the wonderful things we ate. And really, all I'm doing is trying to figure out how to make the garlic dulce de lecher, because I need my fix.