Today’s adventure included an old-school falafel joint, monster books, and a 19th century row house on one of Philly’s prettiest streets.
Trendy falafel restaurants are all over the city, but today we went old school – to the Israeli-owned (closed Friday evenings and Saturdays) – Mama’s Vegetarian. Great (cheap) falafel with a small, but delicious, pickle bar.
Just a few blocks away, on one of the prettiest streets in the city (Delancey Place), is the Rosenbach Museum & Library. Owned by one of the most famous rare book dealers of the 20th century, the museum houses an incredible collection of manuscripts, first editions, letters, a royal proclamation, and even the entire Greenwich Village living room of modernist poet Marianne Moore – all visible on the house tour offered hourly.
The current exhibition (through February 11, 2018), “Frankenstein & Dracula: Gothic Monsters, Modern Science,” explores the influence and evolution of literary monsters. In addition to handwritten pages of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s personal notes for Dracula, the exhibit also has interactives and scientific & medical works from the 19th century to the present.
P.S. Philly is a great town for book lovers:
The Best Museum In Philly That No One Knows
The Advantages of Wandering: A Medieval Herbal And The Best $10 Lunch In Philadelphia
Like many cities, Philadelphia is working to improve access to its waterfront, and the Schuylkill Trail is now extends far enough for a nice, traffic free walk (although it can get crowded with joggers and bikers). These photos are from our latest explorations – from the skate park by the Art Museum down to South Street, where the path goes out into the river.
As a reminder of its industrial past, the railroad tracks run next to the trail, which is fun for those of us who enjoy watching trains.
I’m a planner, so most of our adventures are planned out – after all, we usually have only 4 hours to explore, but sometimes we let fate guide us. Today was one of those days.Find #1: The Philadelphia Horticultural Society Library. Who can resist an poster for “Two Herbals: Picturing Nature from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance”? Not me (although Tobey says that she can… easily). Currently on display at the library are two of their oldest books – a Medieval Herbal (from 1517 – the oldest book in their collection) and a Renaissance Herbal (from 1542). In addition to these, they have a computer showing artwork from other herbals of the period. As Harry Potter fans, we enjoyed the images of the mandrake plant:
Find #2: The Octopus Food Truck. The long line and delicious smell led us to this unique culinary adventure. During our 45 minute wait, we had plenty of time to learn the proper protocol (leading to many comparisons on the Yelp site to the “Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld):
*No ordering. Gus prepares one meal and that’s what you get.
*No napkins or utensils or bag. Bring your own or stop by the Starbucks on the corner.
*One meal per person. No exceptions.
*No chit-chat. Unless Gus initiates the conversation.
*Serving starts at 12:00 and continues until mid-afternoon when the food runs out.
There is a reason people come from all over the city and use up their entire lunch hour waiting in line – the food is fantastic. All prepared (using wood charcoal) while you wait, using the freshest ingredients, each meal usually includes a few falafels and grilled chicken – after that, the menu changes daily. Our lunch included: char-grilled brussel sprouts, greens, blueberries, honey dew/mint, rice, sauce and a spicy grilled pepper. We have now been initiated into the club and will join the rest of the fans who happily spend their lunch hour waiting in line for the best $10 lunch in the city. Yum. Yum. Yum!
The Wissahickon Creek runs through Philadelphia, with many areas for a great hike or mountain bike ride. For a one stop hike and dose of culture, we visited the Schuylkill Environmental Center. With several miles of trails and indoor/outdoor art exhibits, it was a great place to take advantage of a gorgeous fall day. Starting with a viewing of their latest indoor art exhibit “Anthrobotanical” (exploring the connections between people and nature – you’ll have to guess what question we asked our weed – and if it responded…):
Followed by a hike and picnic:
Plus, it’s free!
Although Tobey and I enjoy cooking, we REALLY enjoy eating. When we eat a yummy restaurant meal, we sometimes set ourselves up with the challenge of re-creating it at home. We tried this successfully with Bubble Tea (Making Bubble Tea) and this week, we tried it with a favorite meal from Philly’s Capofitto.
We started with the arancini – which required pre-planning, since we had to let the risotto sit overnight (not a sacrifice, since we got to have risotto for dinner the first night and arancini the next day). Easy ingredients – just rice, chicken broth, onions and Parmesan cheese).
The following day, we shaped the balls, rolled them in breadcrumbs (we used panko, but will use a finer crumb next time) and deep fried them for 2 minutes (thanks to our friend, Bill, for his loan of the deep fryer). Not as dense or crispy as the original, but not bad for our first attempt (our first attempt at deep frying also!).
We knew the pizza wouldn’t be as good as the Capofitto original (since we cheated with a premade crust), but the homemade tomato sauce, CSA arugula and grocery store prosciutto and Parmesan worked together to make a very tasty pizza. Easy enough that we have re-created it several times since.
It’s like a museum – every display is a work of art. The selection of prepared foods is amazing, the quality is great, and it’s fun to just walk around and look.
Philly’s only Victorian museum and garden, the lavishly decorated interiors (the subject of an upcoming post) at the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion are an atmospheric setting for Victorian Theater. In addition to full length productions, the museum also hosts Victorian inspired murder mysteries – like the Sweeney Todd inspired version we participated in last week – one of us actually correctly identified the murderer (it was the understudy who was having an affair with the leading man!)
For a city walk with great views and no traffic, the pedestrian path on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge is a great option. Opened in 1926 (with Art Deco architectural details), a round trip walk is almost 3 miles – with views of the Camden and Philadelphia waterfronts and Philadelphia skyline.
Since we burned off all those calories hiking the bridge – and since the bridge walk ends in Old City, we headed to one of our favorite restaurants, Capofitto, for a favorite Philly meal: arancini (fried risotto balls) and pizza with arugula and prosciutto:
Next, we are going to attempt to recreate this delicious meal at home… (Recreating a Restaurant (Capofitto) Meal At Home: Arancini & Pizza With Prosciutto)
What better way to experience the Victorian’s fascination with death than to tour Laurel Hill Cemetery at night?
Built in 1836 (and still active), Laurel Hill was the second landscape garden cemetery built in the United States. Filled with interesting funerary architecture and fascinating stories, the cemetery offers themed tours, theater, hearse shows, photography walks, ghost tours AND evening explorations. Although there are fees to attend events, visiting the cemetery is free.
Challenging ourselves with new foods is part of the deal. We’ve seen the ducks hanging in windows throughout Chinatown and this was our week to try. Along with a bowl of beef chow fun and BBQ pork/soy sauce chicken over noodles, we ordered a side of duck – which arrived chopped on a plate – skin, meat, bones and all. Although everything was tasty, we decided that Hong Kong-style/Cantonese was too bland and sweet for our taste – and, now we can cross duck off the list.
Ting Wong (138 N. 10t Street)