Friday, November 20, 2015

Birthday Trip to Philly

Up until this past weekend, Sean and I hadn't been on a trip together — just us — in more than a year! So for my birthday, I declared all I wanted to do was go out of town, and I'd had it in my mind for a while that I wanted to go to Philadelphia and explore. I hadn't been since high school, and only to see the touristy stuff like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. As a grown-up, I wanted to go eat good food, explore and see world-class art.

We drove up on Friday night, listening to the Hamilton soundtrack all the way. 

On Saturday morning, we started the day off right with breakfast at Sabrina's Cafe and Spencer's Too on Callowhill Street, about two blocks from the Barnes Foundation Museum. I had the special from the day's horror-themed menu: Rosemary's Babycakes, featuring pumpkin pancakes filled with jalapeno-pepper jack cornbread crumbles and diced papaya, topped with smoky blueberry syrup and lime basil butter. It was as good and weird as that sounds. I ate until I was stuffed, but these were big enough to feed two people!

From there, we ventured to The Barnes Foundation, now in its new downtown home. The museum houses the unmatched collection of Albert Barnes, an early patron and champion of artists like Renoir, Cezanne, Picasso and Modigliani. He liked to arrange his works in "ensembles," symmetrical hangings designed to create conversations between the art pieces, whether they share shapes, colors, references or nothing at all. 

It's like no other museum I've ever visited, but I will note: buy the guided tour tickets (we didn't feel like waiting and certainly paid a premium for the privilege of not having a tour). Because the museum is meant to mimic Barnes' house museum (formerly located in Merion, Pa.), none of the artworks are identified by wall copy, so a tour might be helpful for anyone unfamiliar with the Barnes collection.

We exhausted ourselves at the Barnes, but I was determined to see more art on my special birthday weekend, so we carried on. We didn't make a stop at the Rodin Museum, except to take the required "Thinker" picture.

For lunch, we wandered into Philly's Fairmount neighborhood, which reminded me a bit of Georgetown with its lovely rowhouses. We stopped at rybread, a highly recommended and adorable sandwich shop.

I had the Tucson panini — roasted turkey breast, swiss, sliced red onion and chipotle mayo on the most delicious ciabatta bread ever.

After lunch, we bounded up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art like Rocky and, alongside our closest 50 friends, all posed for Rocky-themed pictures.

In honor of the Pope's recent visit, the museum has a special adaptation of Robert Indiana's famous "Love" sculpture.

We didn't have much time, but we breezed through the European and contemporary art sections, seeing great friends like Van Gogh's "Sunflowers," collages by Kurt Schwitters and Robert Rauschenberg, and my new favorite irreverent and wild piece by Marcel DuChamp (here's a great article about it).

For dinner, we uber'd up to the Fishtown neighborhood (hipster-y and artsy) to Pizza Brain, one of the most ironically funny 90s-kid places I've ever been. Billing itself as a "pizza museum," the pizzeria is stuffed with pizza memorabilia, much of it from my childhood. I was dying over the tributes to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Home Alone and Domino's former mascot, The Noid.

Thankfully, the pizza is just as legit as the decor. We each ordered slices, which were gigantic. I had a slice of Wendy Wedgeworth, topped with sun-dried tomatoes, arugula and delicious honey goat cheese. It seems like a great place to hang out. Funny thing we learned about Philly: a LOT of the restaurants are BYOB for alcoholic drinks, so if you want to drank, bring your own beer, wine, etc. 

We uber'd again to a great arthouse movie theater called Ritz East that reminded me of all the times you see someone go to the movies on "Seinfeld" or in Woody Allen movies. It was us and a sea of senior citizens and I didn't even care. We saw "Spotlight," which was a superb movie about real reporting work for the greater good. 

After the movie, we walked up Market Street to Revolution House, a super chic restaurant/bar packed with yuppies. No cocktail menu at the bar here, but if you invite the bartender to get creative, you might be rewarded! I was curious to see how they'd use the hometown favorite Art of the Age Sage spirit, so I asked the bartender to use it and she whipped up a delicious cocktail of Vodka, Sage, St. Germain and a splash of soda.

I was digging on the mix of old and new in the decor, especially this little spot.

On Sunday morning, we walked down to the lovely Rittenhouse Square area, which is surrounded with posh boutiques, upscale and creative eateries and pretty Victorian buildings.

I'm a sucker for shoestring fries and Belgian beer, so I decided to have my birthday meal at a Belgian bar called Monk's Cafe. I had a burger topped with boursin cheese and sprouts, but the real showstopper here are the fries. I think I ate every last one, dipped in the incredible bourbon mayonnaise. Happy Birthday to me!

Last but not least, we popped into Omoi Zakka, a beautifully curated shop chock full of adorable Japanese office supplies, small batch beauty goods, stationary and art pieces. I picked up a Brainstorm Prints garden poster and awesome First Lady wrapping paper that is now hanging in my office. 

It was a great trip and I have enough food recommendations from friends to merit a series of return visits! 

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