Disclaimer – this was written back in 2012/2013 when I planned on starting a blog and then only wrote two posts.
My boyfriend and I have become quite the foodies in the past year or so. This is crazy to most of my family and close friends because I used to be a picky eater, a really picky eater. I grew up eating bagels with cream cheese, chicken fingers, french fries, pizza, and steak. Those were basically my main food groups. Oh and ice cream. Sometimes I eat ice cream for dinner and that is one thing that has not changed with my new-found foodie status.
I suppose my change in diet can somewhat be attributed to my boyfriend and friends, but mostly to the city of Philadelphia. I fell in love with the city and moved here after college and started to become more and more interested in Philly’s dining scene. I wanted to go to all the great restaurants, but there was a bit of an issue – ordering steak or chicken at an amazing restaurant began to seem wrong to me. So I started to just eat – no questions, just eat.
Here and there when we went out I would try something new… knowing that my boyfriend could finish whatever I don’t like. Then we attempted to go to as many of Philly Mag’s Top 50 restaurants as we could and my taste bud expansion really took off.
Some of our top 50 experiences:
Amis – I had been here once before a couple years before my eating adventure and I ordered the most simple pasta on the menu – cacio e pepe. It was amazing and I quickly fell in love with Amis so this was one place I really couldn’t wait to go back to and order as much as possible. And we did. It was my boyfriend’s first visit, I took him for his birthday and we feasted. A few things we ate were lamb shanks, sweetbreads, duck ragu with chestnut fettuccine, rigatoni with pork shoulder bolognese… and a bunch more, all amazing.
If you don’t know what sweetbreads are, do NOT google them, just eat them. Amis is now my favorite restaurant in Philly and I have been there many times since. We usually over order because everything is so good. It is really hard for me not to order the baked pecorino with almond honey and bucatini with jalapeno and almond pesto (right) every time I go.
Zahav – The menu terrified me. I didn’t know what most of it was and therefore knew I hadn’t tried most of it. We ordered a TON. What I remember most and to this day tell everyone I’ve eaten to impress them are the duck hearts.
Stateside – I gave my boyfriend full reign and he ordered a LOT (recurring theme) and I tried it all. I think this is the first place I ever ate brussels sprouts – who knew that a gross looking green vegetable thing could be SO tasty (most people, but not me at the time). I also tried scallops and pork belly and once again shocked myself by liking them.
Sbraga – We did a Southern Tasting menu here. Almost everything had pork products (bacon, prosciutto, etc.) which I don’t normally like and I still ate it all and enjoyed it. You probably think I’m crazy for not liking bacon. I guess I don’t mind it in small doses but it is just one of those things I don’t want to eat by itself.
Osteria – The polpo pizza – octopus, tomato, red chili flakes and smoked mozzarella. Octopus… enough said.
Now that I was trying all these amazing new foods I could finally attend some fun foodie events without being embarrassed. Thanks to my obsession with Philly Mag, I was able to get us tickets to their Philly Cooks Tasting Tour. The “tour” consisted of going to three different restaurants in a certain neighborhood and getting to taste food from each one and meet the chef in an intimate small group setting. I picked the East Passyunk tour since I thought it had the best restaurants – Laurel, Will BYO and Le Virtu. I definitely made a good decision. The week before our tour was the season finale of Top Chef and Nick Elmi, owner and chef at Laurel was crowned the winner. It quickly became nearly impossible to get a reservation at Laurel.
We ate citrus fluke and tuna crudo at Laurel (remember when I didn’t eat seafood?) and heard some fun stories about being on a TV show cooking contest. Chef Chris Kearse gave us an entire demo on modern cooking techniques, including sous vide and then we dined on rohan duck a l’orange. We ended the night at Le Virtu where chef Joe Cicala gave us a quick demo and served his maccheroni alla magnaia, a hand-pulled super long single-strand of pasta that you use scissors to cut up and serve. It was a night that I (and my taste buds) will never forget.