Philadelphia Freedom

It feels good to get away from the burdens of work and home for a few days. An overall feeling of freedom comes over me, and I can see things differently, open to everything that the world holds, instead of steely-eyed and focused. Discovery, adventure, and a few good meals are to be found in…Philadelphia.

1) Finding a couch
In my year old apartment, I have not thought about getting a couch until my renovations were done. Like the saying goes, you find love when you least expect it, and I found a couch where I least expected – Anthropologie. Small enough for my twee apartment, yet long enough to take a nap, it has a vintage look without the woes. Don’t get me wrong, I love vintage and fervently seek it out, I just can’t throw a couch into the washing machine. Oddly enough, I do go to Anthropologie quite often, and probably have seen this couch a million times, it just didn’t register until taken out of my usual environs.

This happened while trying to kill time before meeting friends at Lolita for dinner. An haute Mexican restaurant in Center City, it’s spare and modern environment provides a plain backdrop to the complex and richly flavored food that ensued. Simple guacamole has bits of jicama, and served with a variety of corn, plantain, and batata chips, along with a chiptotle salsa and Indian-like cilantro sauce. The mahi mahi was a layered tower of tastiness with a hominy stew, chorizo, and shaved fennel – a harmonious leveraging of flavors. The short ribs were meltingly good. Surprisingly for a culinarily ambitious restaurant, it’s BYOB, not that it’s a bad thing – they make the fruity margarita mix, you provide the quality and quantity of tequila. A selling point, really.

2) Finding Brooklyn
Expressing a desire to check out the Northern Liberties, our local friend described it as the “Brooklyn of Philly”. Seeing that I live in Brooklyn, it almost seems redundant. But I like Brooklyn, and the Brooklyn-ness of other cities – the creative community and early adopters. Northern Liberties, essentially N. 2nd Street between Girard and Spring Gardens, has all the up and coming components – a revived downtrodden area where the galleries sell clothes (Art Star), the clothes stores sell art (Conspiracy Showroom), the food is good (A Full Plate Cafe), and nary a big box store in sight.

Stopping in at A Full Plate for a midday meal, it’s a homey place that doesn’t seem to belong in the new minimall complex where it resides. For that matter, neither does the rock ‘n roll corset shop or the retro candy store that are there. A Full Plate serves comfort food with a southern bend, much more comprehensive than expected from its casual coffee shop appearance. Fried food is an art with deep fried pickles, fried green tomato salad, and fried chicken and waffles. Crisp and greaseless, it leads to an overindulgence that didn’t hit me until later, feeling stuffed for hours. Their tangy macaroni and cheese must have also had its effect.

3) Finding Surprises
Walking through the South side to get to the Antiquarian Market on 6th Street, we were struck by all the mirrored mosaics scattered onto the sides of random buildings. The work of local artist, Isaiah Zagar, who outfitted his own building and garden, transforming it into “The Magic Gardens”. A folk art visionary, Zagar can be seen at the garden, toiling away at his mosaics made from mirrors, tiles, broken plates, bottles, and whatever interests him. Truly a magical place, it’s hard to believe that it’s in the middle of a formerly rough hewn area, now with a Whole Foods across the street.

And, a great little bouge restaurant up the street, Supper. At first, I was annoyed with its small plate, tapas-like brunch, but I was quickly won over, giving in to trying almost everything. Banana beignets, baked eggs in a creamy mushroom sauce sopped up with their homemade ciabatta, eggs benedict with swiss chard and Serrano ham on a potato pancake, and sweet corn pancakes with huckleberry sauce, all excelled and topped my expectations. Maybe this bite-y brunch is the way to go, less likely to start off the day in a food coma.

It seemed sort of irresponsible to make a getaway during the crucial countdown to renovations, but I feel refreshed with a renewed sense of optimism. I may even go to Home Depot again.

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