Dine (and of course, shop!) The Street

GraduationThe month of May has been quite a ride, filled with celebration, teary goodbyes, new beginnings and very little time for blogging. It wasn’t easy to leave Hawk Hill, the beautiful campus I’ve called home for the last 4 years, or The City of Brotherly Love where I fell in love with soft pretzels and cheesesteaks, ‘wiz witout’. After 4 years of learning everything there is to know about communications and marketing (ok maybe not everything) and a semester filled with final projects, Skype interviews and post-grad panic, I’m very proud to announce that I am now an alumna of Saint Joseph’s University. I’m even more proud to announce that I have accepted a full-time job offer from W/S Development to become the Marketing and Operations Coordinator at The Street in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. This of course means that I will no longer be spending my summers babysitting, serving tables and making sure that the license plate number on every Town of Eastham beach parking sticker matches that of the vehicle it’s attached to…a reality I am slowly beginning to come to terms with. Despite my few apprehensions, I am overjoyed to make this transition from Hawk Hill to Chestnut Hill and to begin writing this next chapter of my life.

As Mareting and Operations Coordinator at The Street I’ll be joining a team of 2 and working on a little bit of everything, from developing social media content to developing contract agreements and relationships with potential tenants and current merchants on The Street. In addition to the incredible shopping destinations found at The Street, like Portobello Road, Pottery Barn, Lululemon, Intermix and Bluemercury, The Street, of course, offers a variety of exquisite restaurants, that quite frankly, I can’t wait to try. Among them Legal Seafoods, The Cottage, Del Frisco’s Grille, Davio’s Cucina, Bernard’s and my favorite (by default) Shake Shack. It was at The
Cottage that I met with my future boss for the first time and talked Boston and business over a California Caesar salad, grilled chicken sandwich and warm ciabatta rolls. Its fresh menu and bright, inviting decor was a great escape from city life to seaside, a place I will certainly be revisiting! Knowing there’s a Shake Shake, Pinkberry, and Treat Cupcake Bar just steps away from my office, might make dieting a little more challenging this summer but I’m certainly not complaining.

While I know it’s not exactly included in my job description to shop and dine at The Street, it’s certainly important that I’m knowledgable about all that is has it offer. Whether with new friends or old, my parents or brothers, coworkers or roommates, I look forward to eating my way down The Street, menu to menu, fro-yo to milkshake, surf to turf.

I’m staring to think every new beginning has a new menu to take a look at as well, which is fine by me.

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The Dandelion

On the corner of 18th and Sansom, along the outskirts of Rittenhouse Square, Ryan and I approached the Dandelion Pub, hand in hand. We had spent the previous night reading countless reviews and drooling over the menus of every Stephen Starr restaurant in Philadelphia. Personally, I could have closed my eyes, pinned my finger on any restaurant on the list and been on my way. Unfortunately for me, Ryan isn’t as adventurous when it comes to his next meal. “London’s culinary revolution comes to Philadelphia with this unique gastropub…” the Dandelion’s website began. We knew nothing about London’s culinary revolution and had never before heard the word “gastropub” but there were steak and chips on the menu and with that, Ryan was sold.

I recognized the building from the Instagram research I had conducted the night before. Vibrant red, yellow, orange and purple pansies sat in high window boxes against the tall brick building, intricately outlined with charcoal and off-white designs. Beneath the blooming flower boxes, large open windows gave us a glimpse of the inside; older couples sharing dinner, younger couples sharing drinks. I imagined there were friends meeting up after a long work week, co-workers celebrating the completion of a big project, or the addition of a new client, two strangers on their first date.

Beneath the windows sat large black picnic tables, each with four table settings and a small candle. Some were occupied by brave souls, unconcerned about the low gray clouds above, some were left vacant. Along the opposite side, the restaurant was lined with fat, wooden barrels each filled with a cluster of different colored pansies with leaves spilling over the sides.

Ryan and I stepped into a small doorway, above it hung an even smaller lantern indicating we had reached our destination. There was no sign on the building, just a faded number “124” and the lantern. A small image of a lion in a top hat, fully dressed with a monocle and cane was etched into the face of the lantern. Inside the pub was dark, but far from gloomy. It was as alive as I had imagined it be while peering into the windows just minutes before. The cozy, old-timey bar was filled with people and with laughter. Ryan and I were lead up a carpeted stair case to the second floor. Exactly where I had hoped we’d be sitting. The dining room upstairs was empty and much better lit than the downstairs bar. It was early, just 5:35. We sat to the left of a beautiful 3 fold window looking out over Rittenhouse Square, at a small, intimate table next to a beautiful fireplace. Our chairs looked like antiques, the same red and yellow pansies were peaking out from inside their boxes beneath the windows.

Menu“Would you like flat or fizzy?” the waitress asked. We looked at her in confusion. “Flat is fine,” I replied sheepishly, unsure if adding fizz to our water would result in an additional charge. We were out of our element, for sure. Standing on Passyunk Ave. in front of a Pat’s cheesesteak window, impatient chef waiting for our order, ‘wiz wit’ or ‘wiz wit out’? Not a problem. Flat a fizzy? A whole new world.

We ordered drinks, a red sangria for me, a Brooklyn Lager for Ryan and house-made ricotta cheese served with toasted sourdough bread. I’ve eaten my fair share of bread and cheese, but I can tell you confidently, this was the best cheese, topped with extra virgin olive oil and dried herbs, I have ever tasted.

There was plenty to celebrate, but not a lot we wanted to talk about. Two and a half years together. Four years of college complete. A future filled with opportunity, uncertainty, excitement and apprehension. Ryan is moving to Arizona to spend the next six months working for the Irish Dairy Board,  far away from the only home he’s ever known, Philadelphia. My next move after graduation has yet to be determined. A new job in Boston, another summer baby-sitting on Cape Cod? I wasn’t quite sure. What we both knew, and what neither of us wanted to admit, was that our lives were changing quickly, faster than we had ever thought possible.  And so we raised our glasses in a toast to ‘life’, a broad topic that seemed to sum up everything we couldn’t quite put into words. A toast to love and happiness and new beginnings.

After looking over Salmon and Steakthe menu for what seemed like the 100th time since the previous night, Ryan ordered the steak and chips, as expected, and I opted for the herb crusted salmon served with lemon pure, olive tapenade and haricot verts. Both entrees highly recommended. Ryan had no interest in the watercress salad served along side his steak and triple-cooked french fries, as it wasn’t a pile of romaine with creamy caesar dressing, so I helped him finish it up. With a little (ok, a lot) of convincing, he even tried a bite of my salmon.

The sun set behind the tall buildings of Center City as we finished our meals and headed back downstairs with full stomachs and happy hearts. Downstairs was even more alive than it had been when we first arrived. By candle light, through crowds of people I noticed a cluster of words displayed boldly above another fireplace. “Fear knocked at the door, Faith answered and no one was there.”

It was a beautiful reminder of the next chapter to come. To be strong and fearless and confident and brave. I smiled, reached for Ryan’s hand and headed back out into the big city towards a bright, bright future.

*A special thank you to my number one guy, Ryan for putting up with me as I photographed every morsel of food placed on our table. To see all of our plates from the Dandelion Pub, head over to the photo gallery.

Cinco Margaritas Mejores

Lately I’ve been celebrating most, if not all, Mondays in “Cinco de Mayo” style. By this of course I mean with a margarita. On St. Patrick’s Day (Monday, March 17th), it wasn’t Guinness or green beer that I was after, it was a lime green margarita with salt on the rim. Whether there’s something to celebrate, like a graduate school acceptance or a successful job interview, or something to forget, like a less than perfect exam grade or a less than perfect boy, a margarita seems to always do the trick. And since Monday is the only day of the week starting with the letter “M”, it’s only right that the start of every week or the end of every weekend (depending on how you look at it) should be deemed “Marg Monday”.

While there may be one exam and one presentation standing in my way this afternoon, this evening I’ll be celebrating the 5th of May (and ringing in a birthday!) with good friends and a big pitcher of that salty-sweet tequila goodness! If you’re a tequila lover like myself (or even if you’re not) give these margs a try…because the only thing better than one margarita…is two margaritas.

Margs
Photo cred. to Victoria Brandimarte, one of my Marg-Monday-loving friends.

1. El Vez: This original Stephen Starr restaurant located on South 13th Street in the City of Brotherly Love offers a fun atmosphere, excellent guacamole and the best margaritas in Philadelphia. Made with hand-squeezed lime juice, lime puree and your choice of additional flavors (all fresh, never syrup), these margaritas will have you falling head over heels in love with Jose…Cuervo, that is. El Vez certainly a little pricey so save this hot-spot for an extra-special celebration like a birthday or graduation. Enjoy outdoor seating but don’t miss the photo booth inside!

2. Taqueria Feliz: One of my favorite new restaurants and frequently featured on Once Upon a Plate, if you haven’t taken my advice yet, now’s the perfect time to check it out. As I’ve said before, these margaritas are truly some of the best.

3. Cactus: It’s hard to find a deal better than $10 pitchers of margarita, and it’s even harder to pass on such a deal. Cactus, another Main Street Mexican go-to, is great for a low key meal, or birthday celebration that all of your friends can not only enjoy but also afford. Regardless of what you’re coming in for, make sure you ask for Tony, there may be a free t-shirt laying around or even a round of shots on the house.

4. Chili’s: A few friends, a nice big bowl of bottomless chips and salsa, a couple frozen margaritas is just about all you need. No explanation necessary, these frozen treats are like sherbet with a shot of tequila.

5. Landmark Americana: Last but certainly not least, if your bank account is a little low and no one is particularly interested in taking on the role of designated driver, there’s always Landmark! The $2 margarita special on Monday nights is well worth every penny but you might want to order two at a time; the service is often far from speedy.