Tuesday, May 27, 2014

#32: Meritage

As the gift cards are starting to diminish, Brendan and I decided to finally use one that we had been saving for the right night. Meritage was perfect for a rainy Friday since it is located 3 blocks from our house, on the corner of 20th and Lombard. This was the only gift certificate that I had located in Graduate Hospital so it was one I was looking forward to. Meritage is wine bar with a contemporary menu. We arrived for our 8pm reservation and were the only ones in the dining room, but that quickly changed and before we knew it the place was packed.Meritage had very dark lighting and portraits of women on the walls, which gave it an interesting twist. I enjoyed the atmosphere, it was struck a nice balance between romantic and social.

We started off with the Red Beet Deviled Eggs & the Mussels. The deviled eggs were delicious, and the color of the beet gave the dish a pop. The filling had a bit of a spicy kick to it as well. The mussels were also great. I have to say they were..huge. I pride myself on being somewhat of a mussels connoisseur in the city, we rarely go out without trying them if they're on the menu and I've never seen mussels so juicy and thick anywhere else. 

For my entree I got the Salmon with snap peas, fennel salad, caramelized fennel puree, gin beurre blanc (whatever all of that means). It was good, could have been cooked a little bit more but not enough to send back. Brendan got the Grilled Petite Sirloin with roasted potatoes, grilled scallion, grilled ramps, ramp chimichurri. By his thumbs up in this picture, I assume he enjoyed his meal.


And we couldn't not get dessert, so we ordered the Warm Bread Pudding with brown sugar,vanilla, cinnamon, brandy maple cream, which we devoured. We decided that we didn't leave the restaurant completely full, so that shows that the portions were on the smaller side for us. That being said, we do eat a lot. 

I enjoyed Meritage but felt that for the price, we should've gotten more. With the gift card we ended still paying close to $100 (tip included). We also didn't get a chance to really explore their wine menu or try any of their cheeses, which is something I would like to do in the future. Really convenient spot for us, but I don't see us making this our go-to Friday night restaurant. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

#30: Zama

Hello everyone who reads Ryan's blog, Regan aka Ryan's sister aka Maid of Honor here to guest blog our trip to Zama. The Tuesday night prior to Zama, I was sitting at home in my PJs waiting for my boyfriend to come over with leftovers for dinner. He called me to say he had arrived and to come let him in. When I got to the door, Ryan was there holding a Papa Johns pie with MOH spelled out in pepperoni on the pizza. To really understand the significance of this I should point out I have a pretty serious pizza addiction, particularly Papa. I was very excited to be officially asked to be Ry's Maid of Honor and devour some pizza and wine with her. I think my reaction was more confusion (..wait why are you here, Michael's not coming over?) than Ryan would have liked and in retrospect I wish I would cried or something, but I guess I am not good at surprises. Either way, it was pretty much the most amazing way I could have been asked to be her MOH. Ryan and I both had busy Wednesdays so we decided we would officially celebrate on Friday night using one of her gift cards.

Zama was walking distance from Ryan's which was great because it was a beautiful night, and who doesn't love walking through Rittenhouse Square on a beautiful night?! We found it without too much trouble (one day we'll get this city down) and had a reservation so sat right down.

The service really wasn't great. I feel like Ryan complains about this in a lot of her posts, and maybe we inherited the trait of being tough on restaurant staff from our Dad, but we had to wait for water and drinks and Jimmy has taught us this really just shouldn't happen.

Either way, we eventually did order our glasses of wine and edamame. I guess I learned to eat edamame while I was in college and when I moved back I remember teaching Ryan how to eat it- "No Ry, you pull the edamame of out the pod you don't eat the whole thing" and now it's pretty much our go to appetizer when we get sushi. Zama had an interesting twist, the "Edamame Sampler." You got to pick three different salts, we relied on the waitress for this one- I didn't even really know three types of salts existed and there were 5 to choose from. We went with sea salt, wasabi, and Yuzu. We were surprised by how spicy the Wasabi was but we probably shouldn't have been... Overall the sampler was enjoyable, which is good cause you really just shouldn't mess up edamame. We destroyed it, probably myself more than Ryan.

Before                                                                      After

I am the most boring sushi eater ever. I didn't eat any sushi up until recently and just haven't moved out of the phase where I only ever get California rolls and Shrimp Tempura roles. To make it worse I generally do not eat the end pieces of the Shrimp Tempura with the shrimp ends sticking out. On that note, I am probably the worst person to be critiquing a sushi place but I would give these two roles pretty high ratings.

Ryan got a Dragon role and a Spicy Crunchy Tuna role. I generally just try not to look at them or think about eating them, but Ryan seemed to enjoy.

We chatted a lot about the upcoming wedding and I had a lot of questions around what the heck a maid of honor is supposed to do. Ryan reassured me not a whole lot at this point, but I have a feeling it will come sooner rather than later!

Occasionally Ryan will say something like, "I am stressed out because.." and I like to finish her sentence with "You realize Brendan's not the one and you're not sure what to do? Good I was hoping you would finally realize." (We can joke about this because Ryan and Brendan are literally the perfect couple).

I couldn't be more excited for my big sister to be getting married. Even though I am pretty much clueless when it comes to weddings, Pinterest is a great tool and I am already learning a lot. I am lucky that Ryan knows what she wants anyway, so I just get to encourage and reassure her. And tell her every couple of days how amazing her ring is (nice work Brendan).

Anyway, overall positive experience from Zama. Again, I can't really say too much on the sushi, but the restaurant itself was nice, food seemed good, location was great (lots of options for post dinner drinks) and it wasn't super expensive. I think Ryan goes through how much we spent when she does these, but I honestly don't remember the total- which means it wasn't very much because if it was I would remember for sure.

Thanks Regan for giving me a break on my blogging- you're not too bad at this, either!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

#31: Oyster House

One of my blog followers emailed me a few days ago and said "Still following your dining (drinking) experiences...". And I have to say, he was right on the mark when it comes to my experience at Oyster House. We had been hearing about Oyster House's happy hour special from 9-11PM on Saturdays and thought it would be a good way to 'blow through' my gift card, which is honestly how I have been thinking about these suckers lately. After owing money on my taxes this year because of receiving a 'gift' of $2600, I feel a bit cheated. Don't get me wrong, this has been an amazing experience but I think it's safe to say I have lost more money than I gained.

Oyster Bar was pretty packed when we arrived at 8:30- all seats at the very, very small bar were taken, so that put a damper on our plans. However we made the best of it and got the corner of a side table to hang. The happy hour specials weren't as great as I was expecting, but still pretty worthwhile for a Saturday night in Center City. Their 'Buck-a-Shuck'  happy hour offered $1 oysters, one option of $3 draft beer, $3 signature shooter of the night, and a $5 signature cocktail.

At the beginning of the night I was perfectly content with just using my card for drinks, but then when I saw all of the oysters being passed around the restaurant, I quickly got FOMOOO (Fear of Missing Out On Oysters). So just had to order 4 of the $1 oysters on special. We also got an order of calamari for the guests who didn't like oysters- basically everyone else I was with.

So before we knew it, $50 was up and we moved on. Short and sweet trip to Oyster House- I would recommend if you are looking for good raw bar options in the city. If you want to take advantage of the happy hour- get there early!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

#29: Farmicia

Breakfast or Lunch? The age old brunch dilemma. If you like to go to brunch, you know the indecisiveness we struggled with a few weekends ago at Farmicia. I brought my sister, Regan, and my cousin, Leah, who were apartment hunting in the area, as well as our friend Kenny. It's safe to say that we each changed our minds 3 separate times before we ordered.

If you're looking for the perfect brunch spot in Society Hill or Old City, Farmicia is the place to be. I came in to Farmicia having been here before, about 3 years ago. Didn't really remember too much so I was excited to refresh my memory. Well, I shouldn't say excited because I had been just coming off a stomach flu and I wasn't sure how I would react to eating my first full meal in 2 days. Imagine being starved, but also trying to be conscious of what to put in your body, while staring at a comprehensive and delicious brunch menu. Not fun.

I felt that the best option for me was to order the BLT. Not what I would ever order when there is any sort of eggs benedict or hacienda eggs on the menu, but thought it might be the best option for my body. It was still a great choice, two layers of B, L, & T with a delicious side of fries.

Regan went with the grilled goat cheese on sourdough bread. It was basically a gloried grilled cheese with pesto. It looks a bit sad, but I assure you, it tasted delicious.

Leah, never having tried Hollandaise (how do you avoid Hollandaise for 24 years?!) was adventurous and ordered the Jumbo Lump Crab Omelette with fresh tomatoes, sauteed spinach, & mushrooms, topped with Hollandaise. Halfway through the meal she said "I don't think I like Hollandaise." At least she knows.

Finally, last but not least, Kenny ordered the basic two eggs, bread, and scrapple (boring). He had a major, major issue with his scrapple. We are still not sure if it was the shape that freaked him out or the slightly pink center, but either way he sent it back to be cooked longer.

I thoroughly enjoyed my second trip to Farmicia. My top 5 reasons to recommend Farmicia are:

  1. Reservations can be made for brunch via OpenTable
  2. A long list of menu options
  3. Happy Hour from 11AM-2PM
  4. The rustic, comfortable atmosphere (see cute apples & silverware on the table below.)
  5. Reasonably priced brunch- $89 for 4 people! And thanks to my handy gift card and nice friends, I didn't have to pay a cent and they only had to pay $13 each. 

And I will leave you with this face to remember my visit to Farmicia...

Friday, February 14, 2014

#28: Time

Yesterday was my 6th snow day of the year, and Brendan's 1st. Selling Flyers tickets apparently qualifies him as essential personnel- but not yesterday! So we decided to brave the city streets in the 8 inches of snow.

We were planning on going to Oyster House for their happy hour special, but they were closed, so we ended up at McGillans. I feel like we always somehow find ourselves there. We stayed for a few drinks (pitchers, maybe) and then headed to Time for dinner.

 For all of you who think Time is simply a late night spot to rage and dance in the sweaty upstairs bar room, you are wrong. This place is a hidden gem. The food was marvelous. And I can say with almost certainty that it was not just the PBR pitchers talking.

We just ordered off the bar menu, and started with the Mussels. Basic mussels sauce- white wine, tomatoes, garlic, but just simply amazing. I'm salivating right now as I type this and it is 10AM in the morning. This was Brendan's first time trying mussels, ever, and he said "why did you never make me eat mussels before?" Win!

Brendan got the Burger- bacon, jack cheese, onions fries. I got the Fried Chicken Sandwich with apple and cabbage slaw, chili mayo, fries. I can't say enough about this apple slaw. It made the sandwich. Ate the entire thing. I can say that that was probably a result of the PBR pitcher.

The best thing about Time last night had to be the atmosphere. It was slightly comical, actually. There was a drunk, drunk girl sitting on the other end of the bar with a guy who she made very clear was not her boyfriend. Something about something with her sister? Who knows, but she provided the entertainment for the night. In addition to that show, we also were serenaded by a one man band who turned Top 40 hits into a slow songs.. he reminded us of the wedding singer from The Hangover.

Great impression of Time last night, I enjoyed the bar scene as well as the food. Highly recommend if you are looking for a bar atmosphere type restaurant.  Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Monday, February 3, 2014

#27: Butcher & Singer

First of all, let me say that I apologize for my absence, it has been a busy couple of months, and frankly I am poor. I also would like to warn you that I took no pictures during my visit to Butcher and Singer so I hope that my beautiful, eloquent words can paint the picture for you. 

As most of you know, last week was Restaurant Week in Center City, so Brendan and I decided to take advantage of this and make reservations for one of Philadelphia's most loved steak houses, Butcher & Singer . I was really looking forward to this night out and all of the delicious food that comes so highly recommended. I was ready to eat, that's for sure. 

B&S has an old time steak house appeal to it. We walked into the front entrance through thick, velvet curtains. There was a small bar to the left when you first walked in, and then the rest of the floor was filled with tables. The high ceilings and the ornate fixtures really made this place come alive. The waiters were dressed very Gatsby-like and our waiter in particular was pretty amazing. He really took his time to explain the restaurant week menu and to orient us to B&S. Brendan and I hadn't been out in a while, so we decided to make the most of it. That being said, I decided to stray from my typical drink order of Merlot or Chardonnay and go with B&S's featured drink, the Brown Derby (honey infused bourbon, grapefruit juice, and agave- I mean how good does that sound?!) I've never been a big bourbon drinker, honestly that may have been the first bourbon I've ever ordered. After that drink, I know why. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I probably could've fallen asleep at the table and I lasted maybe 30 minutes when we got home before I headed to bed. Anyways less on my light-weightness and onto the food...We each ordered our 3 courses and we just had to add the Stuffed Hash Browns. We've heard from multiple people they were a definite must-have and the way our waiter explained them, it was a no brainer. The dish came out and it was as big as the plate. Picture a huge hash brown stuffed with cheese, sour cream, and more potatoes. Yup. 

My Meal:
  • Oysters Rockefeller : Oysters topped with spinach, parmesan cheese, and other greatness. I ate these in 7 seconds. I think I got anxious or I was just that hungry. Sometimes I forget restaurant etiquette. 
  • 8 oz Filet: Ugh. The center of my steak was cold. I never send my steak back, but this was cold and I was too excited for this meal not to have it be perfect. My thought was that since it was restaurant week they had all meals massed produced and sitting out under a light, which is why the center of my steak was cold. When I told the waiter, he said okay let me throw that back on the grille for you. I think he mistook my cold steak as me not knowing how I wanted my steak done. The steak was done perfectly, it was just cold. So he brought it back 5 minutes later and it was charred on the outside and more of a medium than a medium rare that I ordered. And this is why I typically avoid ordering steak. 
  • Creamed Spinach side: Very tiny, thank god we got the hash browns or we might have left hungry. But the side was great. 
  • Bread Pudding: Another Ugh. They got my order wrong and brought me out the Blood Orange Sorbet. Another issue to be solved.
Brendan's Meal:
  • Potato Leak Soup
  • 8 oz Fliet: His filet was cold too, but since the creamed spinach and the hash brown were so hot, he just topped this filet with those sides and called it a day.
  • Creamed Spinach side
  • Chocolate Caramel Tart

Overall, the meal left me wanting more. Again, I don't want to judge a restaurant too hard during restaurant week- but isn't that the point? To make patrons want to come back? 

Even though it a less expensive meal as a result of restaurant week, we still paid a pretty penny. Total bill was $114. Minus $50 + tip = $85. We were a bit surprised that we didn't get at least a drink taken off our bill because of the few mishaps, and they even overcharged us $2 for Brendan's drink. I am trying not to let this night ruin my perception of Butcher and Singer- would love to go back but know that it probably won't happen for a while. Final thoughts: Great hash brown.

Friday, December 13, 2013

#26: Zahav

Okay let’s get a few things out of the way first. This is Ryan’s cousin Kenny, guest blogging for our trip to Zahav. I was quite honored when two days before we went, Ryan asked me, or more so told me that I would be doing the write-up/review. Thanks for the heads up by the way, Ryan. To be honest, this should have been done over a week ago, but subconsciously I think I was procrastinating because of the following that 52 First Meals has developed, I did not want to disappoint. She was so annoyed at how long it took me to write this that she took to Facebook and publicly shamed me. 

Ryan invited me to go to Zahav with her because I am the more…adventurous of eaters and the menu offers some not-so-normal eats. She of course arrived before me because it took just about two hours to go 20 miles (man I do not miss driving 76 one bit), almost costing us our reservation. But Ryan adapted well and had herself a glass of wine at the bar (shocker) while waiting. Once we were seated, we both felt a bit overwhelmed by the menu and the options.

Our waitress was fantastic. She offered us a complimentary bottle of sparkling water, which we graciously accepted. Then we were asked if we had dined at Zahav before, which we had not, so she made a recommendation to do the Taymin – Salatim & Hummus, Two Mezze (small plates), One Al Ha’esh (grilled over coals) and One Dessert. It was ample amount of food for the two of us.

The Salatim and Hummus was outstanding. I had never tried hummus before, but Ryan assured me that I would enjoy, which I did. This course was served with House-Baked Laffa (basically an oversized tortilla). Pickled Beets, Cucumber and Dill, Eggplant, Asparagus, and an Israeli salad. Cannot rave enough about what a great starter this was, a good way to dip your toes in the water. Truth be told, we needed a second Laffa to finish off the Salatim & Hummus.


We each chose two Mezze. This is where we decided to be audacious, but ordered one “safe” Mezze’s…just in case. The Fried Potatoes were what you expected, a solid choice - Kashkaval Cheese, Crispy Okra, Shifka Peppers.

Our other safe choice was the House Smoked Sable which was fish and a fried egg served over Challah with poppy seeds. Loved how the yolk broke open as we ate this dish. The sable looked like and also tasted suspiciously like crab...

Next, Crispy Lamb’s Tongue, served with – Snap Peas, Smoked Grapes, Pistachio Tehina, Peaches. For me, the best Mezze we had. To put it simply, it was comparable to a jerky. I did not try it with the sides it was served with, but the Tongue had great flavor.
No picture, sorry kids! Use your imagination......

Finally, Grilled Duck Hearts, served with - Green Chickpeas, Falafel, Amba Tehina. Yes, duck hearts. This was brave and I give Ry all the credit for giving it a chance. The taste itself was great, with a nice smoke from the grill. Our only drawback was that you had to work through chewing it, because with each jaw movement you started to think about what exactly it was that you were chomping down on. 

Onto our Al Ha’esh. Ryan went with the Veal-stuffed Grape Leaves - Pine Nuts, Tomato, Snap Peas. I think I startled Ry a bit when I said that I had eaten grape leaves before and was not a fan. I of course waited until after she put her order in, so there was turning back. But she quickly found out on her own that she enjoyed it. 

I went with the Kofte - Ground Beef and Lamb, Cumin, Peppers, Carrots. Lamb again right? But this was tremendous. If you don’t like spicy, I would not recommend this dish. There were a lot of layers of heat to this plate, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The chickpeas provided a nice balance from the heat.

Somehow we were able to muster up the energy to order dessert as well. I decided on the Carrot Basboosa - Cream Cheese Mousse, Candied Hazelnuts. Basically a fancy carrot cake. A perfect ending to the meal for me.  

Ryan went with the White Chocolate Cake - Poached Pears, Vanilla, Cardamom. A little sweet tooth ending to an out-of-the-box meal.

Overall, I could not encourage you more to go and experience Zahav. The server was one of the best I’ve ever had. She knew she was dealing with a couple of rookies and she took her time when explaining everything and made sure we fully understood. There was perfect timing between each course, which I know Ry is a stickler for. We did not feel rushed one bit. We took our time and enjoyed the food to the full extent.

If you’re still reading, I give you credit. My apologies for being longwinded, it’s a nasty habit of mine. Finally, I know Ry gives a final price. All things included, the bill was $102. Thankfully she had that $50 gift card or I was leaving her there to wash dishes to pay off the rest of our bill.