I realize that I have been completely absent in my blogging activities for most of 2013... hell, for the past couple of years. Let's not mince words here. What else is new? Well, as it turns out, a lot is new. Between starting a new job, visiting three states that I never previously visited, and continuing to work on my MBA, 2013 was quite an eventful, if not decent, year. Since it has been sufficiently long enough since I posted anything worth reading, I’ll share the who, what, where, and when -- and, of course, the food -- of the past year with you now. Sadly, you won't get the tour du monde with this post, as I didn't travel and eat my way across the world this past year (I'll promise not to cry about that alone in my room in a few minutes from now... tears are welling as we speak... no they are n-- ok, yes, they are.) Expect this post to be mostly local-regional, with a few other places thrown in for good measure based on where I had the pleasure of visiting (namely SoCal, Vegas, San Antonio, Boston, and Baltimore.) Even with the limited geography, I am going to have a hard time recounting my “adventures” in a short number of words, hence why I will break this story into parts, posted incrementally over the next week. With that said, enjoy, and hopefully this makes up for a long lapse in posting. I entered 2013 by transitioning jobs and visiting New York for my birthday. We stayed in Midtown, walked around the touristy-but-beautiful Rockefeller Center, and saw the Christmas tree, among other activities that a non-local would normally do while in the city for a long weekend. A highlight for me was when
I drug Steve, kicking and screaming Steve and I ate at Pure Food and Wine, a raw vegan restaurant in Gramercy. I had a delicious Asian-inspired salad (the "spicy sesame" salad, for those currently drooling over the menu) that quickly turned out to be one of best things that I ate in a while, so much so that I went back for it when we took another trip in May for the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. (More on that soon – with pictures!) I still can’t figure out how they make the crunchies that go on top of the salad or the rich wasabi aioli, although I suspect that a dehydrator and avocados are involved. I’ll need to go back and eat there a few more times to figure it out...
We also took a trip to nearby One Lucky Duck, just around the corner and sharing part of a kitchen with the restaurant, where I got some goodies to take home. Coconut macaroons, rosemary “quackers”, and chocolate chip cookies, all made with raw ingredients, filled my shopping bag. The store also has take-away juice and small meals, but we passed on these, since we just ate.
A trip to NY wouldn't be complete now without a visit to Bouchon Bakery for some macrons to take home. Oh, Bouchon Bakery... in an interesting juxtaposition to the last two places mentioned, this place is definitely not vegan. It is a small-chain, with five locations across the U.S., owned by the amazing Thomas Keller of French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon Bistro, etc. fame. Ugh. You should only know how much I love Bouchon Bakery. I can’t even begin to talk about the place without wanting to stuff a half dozen macrons down my gullet. And the Rockefeller Center location is just so. perfect. around the holidays. Even a Grinch like me feels in the spirit, coming out of there with a coffee in one hand and a pastry in the other to admire the tree, shoppers, and ice skaters nearby.
Needless to say, all three places would be frequent – nay, daily – stops for me, if I lived or worked in the city. *heavy sigh* If only... I could go on and on about how much I love the city, how many things I have yet to see and do there, and how many different eateries I would go to, had I the money and time, so let's move on. There's a lot to cover, and I'm only just touching on January.
By February, and into my second month at work, Steve and I went to Philly for the Home Show at the Convention Center. The sole motivation was discount tickets via Groupon, and quite frankly the show sucked; I wouldn’t even bother going again when it comes around in future years. Eating at Parc and making an obligatory visit to the Reading Terminal Market made the trip worth it, though.
Parc is an upscale French place in Rittenhouse Square with old school decor -- think dark wood paneling, a tiled floor (small, old, tightly clustered tiles), and filigree details on the ceiling. The food was delicious, but it would be remiss of me if I didn't point out that it wasn't cheap. Fair warning, everyone! Parc is definitely a once-a-year or special occasion type of place -- unless you have deep pockets, in which case I would suggest eating there every weekend. Scallops with white bean ragout was amazing. Tuna tartare was so fresh and clean. And, of all things, the bread -- especially the good raisin-walnut bread, with its super chewy, crispy crust -- could have been a meal its self.
Fortunately, a place like Parc (although not a complete substitute for Parc) opened nearby this year: Maxim's 22 in downtown Easton. For anyone that is local, you might be thinking, A French bistro-type restaurant... in Easton, of all places!?, and no, you aren't crazy. In fact, I shared the same disbelief when this restaurant, and others like it, opened this past year. The local area is definitely expanding its culinary options! The food at Maxim's 22 is good and comes without the trek to Philly and the couple hundred dollar dinner bill. Great selection of beers, too, for anyone with a taste that goes beyond the familiar domestics and imports (read: anything Anheuser Busch). Old Rasputin was on tap for a while, which is not easy to find in most places that I have been to, and for dessert they serve up "adult" floats made with vanilla ice cream dunked in raspberry lambic, chocolate stout, and the like. Yum.
Keeping with the Philly theme for a second – and before we wrap up for this post, since I could go on and on and I haven't even covered my bigger trips of the year! – City Tavern was a place I got to visit for the first time while at a work-related tradeshow in March. It is a restaurant near Penn's Landing with a rich history. The atmpsphere can best be described as a step back to the founding first years of America, with costumed waiters and traditional decor. It is definitely a tasteful, old timey atmosphere, though; very quaint, nothing hokey about it. City Tavern is good for groups, if booked in advance, and has a few lots down the street for parking. The menu is not too vegetarian-friendly, though; I spotted only a few non-meat offerings, but I wasn't impacted by this too much since I eat fish.
Stay tuned for part 2, covering my trip to Baltimore and the Manhattan Cocktail Classic in May!
Places mentioned in this article: