Friday, November 22, 2013

#23 Audrey Claire

I just.. don't know where to start. I could start with the location, the amazing wait staff, the bill, the food, the atmosphere, how Audrey Claire met all of my expectations and more. I guess I'll start with the beginning.

Coll and I were looking for a BYOB spot to go to on a Thursday night and we both simultaneously suggested Audrey Claire. I have heard nothing but good things about Audrey Claire, other than that it is hard as hell to get a table on the weekend since they don't take reservations. Luckily, they do take them Sunday- Thursday, and making one 24 hours in advance was sufficient to get a table for 2 at 7:30. We sat down right away. The place was packed for a Thursday night, so I was happy we decided to make that reservation. The seating area was very small, we were basically sitting at a table for 4 with 2 other girls. Honestly, didn't even care. The reason for that could've been our amazing waiter. It just makes such a difference when you have good wait staff. He really took care of us. We ordered 4 small dishes instead of getting entrees and he asked if we wanted them in any particular order or if we were in a rush. We said no to both- and he timed the dishes out perfectly. We never felt hurried, even when there were people waiting for a table. After going to 23 different restaurants in the past 6 months, I realized how important it is to not have a waiter on your back the whole time. Coll made a good point last night- sometimes  you go into a restaurant and they push the food at you and you leave not even knowing what you ate or if you liked it. Audrey Claire- you've perfect the art of timing, and for that, I love you.

We started our meal with wine, obviously. They had the tiniest little wine glasses, but we decided it made us drink less, which is always a good thing for us.

Then we ordered the bosc pear and gorgonzola w/ toasted sunflower seeds flatbread. So that was amazing. I love the fruit & gorgonzola cheese combo and they nailed it.
Then came out our baby arugula salad w/ candied figs, fresh berries, french lentils and warm goat cheese. Another delicious dish, I don't think I've ever had candied figs, but I loved them. The warm goat cheese really made the dish.
Then, our most exciting order, butternut squash risotto w/ sweet mascarpone. Just, just, no words. Not too heavy or too sweet, just perfect.
Finally (by the way at this point I could barely breathe I was so full, but we marched on), the hummus platter. We originally had to choose 3 of the 5 types of hummus, but the waiter said we could choose 4 (adding to my love for him). We went with the spicy hummus, tzatziki,. pumpkin hummus, & sun-dried tomato and basil hummus. I felt a little bit more informed about these from my trip to Estia (see post #4). I wish we could've dug into this a bit more but we were pretty stuffed at this point.

Then the bill came, and it was $47. We only had to pay tip. Now this is the kind of place I am looking to spend my gift cards! No extra cost to me. People- go here and begin your love affair with Audrey Claire (wait does that rhyme?)






Wednesday, November 6, 2013

#22 Xochitl

Everyone  keeps asking me "Ryan, how many gift cards do you have left?!" After I sigh and complain about how much work they are I usually respond with "like 30-ish". So to clear that up, as of today, I officially have 30 gift cards left to use. Crap.

I love Mexican restaurants. I love gauc and margs and the atmosphere that comes with an authentic Mexican restaurant. I've actually eaten Mexican one night a week for the past 3 weeks (overkill?). Unfortunately, I only have 4 on my list, which is just not enough. So I have been strategically trying to space them out. Good thing Lolita is closed for renovation until January, so that buys me some time to use my last Mexican gift card.

Xochitl, pronounced " So-Cheet" (I was pronouncing it like Zoc-a-til- not even close) is a cozy bar/restaurant located at 2nd and Pine. Beautiful part of the city that I definitely want to venture back to. Every time one of these gift cards brings me to a new neighborhood of Philadelphia I immediately picture my life there and decide that I want to move. Not only have these gift cards expanded my palate, but they have also enhanced my love of the city. Okay- I'll stop!

The seating area in Xochitl was pretty small, but there was a large bar. There was a good amount of people sitting at the bar watching a game on TV. I could definitely see myself going back there to enjoy the bar room instead of the formal dining area.

The first great thing I noticed about Xochitl was their "Make your Own Guacamole" option. Like, yes. My dream.

The second thing I noticed was that their margs were strong. Holy cow. I think its funny how every Mexican restaurant "specializes in tequila". The waiters always go into so much detail about "their favorite margarita" and rave about the specialty tequila. I also know that the waiter's "favorite margarita" is going to be the most expensive drink on the menu. I've been around the block enough times to know their trick and I never buy in. After their long winded, detailed spiel about the $15 special margarita, I always go with the basic $9 margarita. Better luck next time, guys.

The third thing that I noticed about Xochitl was that the wait staff was on the pushy side. It was a Friday night at 8:30 and I was out with my roommates, Regan and Mal. I was in absolutely no rush to scarf my food down. We ordered the margaritas and guacamole and were enjoying the night. The waitress asked if we were ready to order and we told her we wanted a few more minutes. Then about 5 minutes later, the head chef comes to our table and asks us if had any questions about the menu and if we were ready to order. The waitress sent out the big guns. I felt slightly intimidated, so we started to order. We all got tacos, Regan got the chicken and Mal and I got the fish. The chef asked if wanted sides, well maybe I shouldn't say asked, he basically told us we needed sides. "The tacos don't come with side dishes and they aren't very big so we would definitely need something else." We weren't even that hungry, but he bullied us into ordering two sides for the table. The tacos came out and they were huge. We definitely did not need the sides. I'll say it again, we got bullied.

Lucky for us, the sides were hands down the best part of the meal. We got the Rice & Manchego (cheesy rice goodness) & the Esquites (Mexican street corn). If you ever go to Xochitl, please get these. Mal & I weren't fans of our tacos. The fish tacos were surprisingly spicy and had more slaw then fish. Mal said hers had an overly fishy taste. Regan said her tacos were "amaze". Guess I will go with the chicken tacos next time.

I was pleasantly surprised that with tip and my $50 gift card we each only paid $34. For 2 margaritas each, guacamole, an entrée, and sides, this isn't too shabby. One of my very, very few posts that I don't complain about the check!


I am excited to go back to Xochitl to sit at the bar and avoid any pushy wait staff. On Sundays- Thursdays they have a $28 Molajete Dinner for 2, which is right up my alley!