Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Posted by Cocina Savant
Our food odyssey begins with an overnight rendezvous at Dawn's grandparents who warmly greeted us with chocolate cake despite our arrival at midnight and filled us with a blueberry crumble cake and fresh cantaloupe in the morning. We toured their thriving box garden of squash, hanging tomatoes, cabbages, onions, and a rainbow of decorative flowers. Every time we visit the food is delicious and the company is comforting and occasionally competitive when the Wii bowling gets going.
Around 5:30, we walked the two and a half miles from our hotel to the University District to partake in Jose Garces' Mexico City tapas style restaurant, Distrito. From the moment I walked in, I couldn't stop thinking that the decor reminded me of a a mixture of Nacho Libre and Alice in Wonderland. The whimsical hot pinks, the luchadore wall, the gold specked tables, and the lime green taxi car tables provided an oddly outstanding backdrop for his interpretation of Mexican and Spanish cuisine. First, Dawn ordered the fresh watermelon margarita (12), and I ordered a glass of Tecate (2) to accompany the chips and Mexicana salsa (5). The Los Hongos Hurache (12) was by far the best item we had all night. From the shaved truffle specks and truffle oil, the dish was mushroom heaven with a hint of microgreen herbage.
Dessert was truly an homage to Spanish cuisine in the shape of churros (7), or starfish as my dad refers to them because of their shape. They were crisp, chewy, and mesmerizing. The effect was like sinking your teeth into the perfect pomme frites, fries, or chips, yet these churros included a lovely thick cajeta sauce, a spicy chocolate sauce, and of course a perfect scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Overall the whacky themed restaurant prepares picturesque food, that was for the most part an exciting trip for the palette, ample service although at times too much, and great drinks and atmosphere. It is well worth a try if you are in the area.
After a rewarding breakfast provided by the hotel, we spent the morning out and about visiting the historic sights of Philadelphia. For lunch, we stopped at a little hole in the wall in Chinatown called Chung King. We rarely go on a trip without eating somewhere we stumble upon and this is the restaurant. Unfortunately the pictures inside didn't turn out at all, but as we sat down and looked over the menu, we were surprised at the astounding selection of delicacies they offered. Generally I am more adventurous when it comes to ordering strange dishes at restaurants, but Dawn went above and beyond when I ordered the twice cooked pork, and selected spicy pig ears. The waiter looked at her oddly and asked if she liked pig ears, and she responded, "we'll see," after which he brought us a complimentary pot of green tea. Although the pig ears had a unique flavor and were served over a delicious chili broth, they were served cold and were texturally a little much for her to handle. The more I ate them, the less the texture seemed to bother me. The double cooked pork I ordered consisted of thin slices of pork belly along with a rich sauce produced by the fat in the pork, onions and currants. For a meal where you're thinking about your wallet and feeling a little adventurous, this was a nice place to stop for around $20.
Back to to the pizza. The decor inside Pietro's was homey and inviting with tables adorned in green and jugs of herb infused olive oil. After we were seated the warm complimentary foccacia rolls were simply delicious. Dawn ordered a "small" salad for us to split before the pizza arrived, and their definition of small is certainly relative. The arugula salad with sun-dried tomatoes and pecorino with a honey olive oil vinaigrette was easily enough for three. But, we were starving and finished it before moving on to the pizza. The pizza we ordered was a piccante pizza consisting of spicy ham, aged provolone, crushed red hot peppers, and Italian tomatoes for a change of pace from what we normally order. The crust was crisp and lightly charred in spots with a really nice crumb. The spiciness of the ham went well with the lightly fruity dry edge of the sangiovese.
All the amazing food and drinks we enjoyed in Philly can't compare to the extraordinary fare and drinks we enjoyed at Taste of that Nations though, held at the Loews Hotel. Sorry for the lengthy description of our endeavors so far, but while we finish sorting through pictures you'll have to wait a few days for the big event! Stay tuned for more about the event, including a meet up with Emily Malloy of Cleanliness is Next to Godliness, and even a surprise run in with a Food Network star!