A Morning at the Rittenhouse Farmers’ Market

Even though I am a city girl, I love getting the chance to experience rural life every once in a while. Since I am a busy student, these opportunities don’t come up all that often, so I try to find some slice of rural life in Philly. The easiest way to do this is to check out some of the areas and markets where fresh produce and goods are sold a few times a week. At this point, I have been going to the Rittenhouse Farmers’ Market for a few years now, and I am consistently happy with my experiences there.


While it may not exactly be quite the country experience I desire, this market offers up everything from flowers to chicken breasts every Saturday in the block surrounding Rittenhouse Square Park. I haven’t tried every stand yet, but I do have a few solid favorites that I check out each time I stop by.


My favorite stand is by far the FreshaPeel Hummus one which has some of the best prepackaged hummus I’ve ever had. One thing I love about the company is that they make both the traditional savory and more revolutionary sweet hummus. I almost always get the Lemon Kale Hummus when I stop by, especially in the summertime, since it has a nice light flavor.


I also recently tried the sweet Chocolate Cherry Hummus. Although I was initially wary of how a sweet hummus would turn out, this one was phenomenal and tastes great with fresh fruit or sugar cookies. If you’re also hesitant to try some of the odder hummus flavors, this stand is a great place to check out because they let you try the hummus before you buy!


Another stand I’m a fan of is the Cranberry Creek Farm table which has a number of goat cheeses to try and buy. My two favorites are the 1903 and the St. Juni. No matter your preference, there’s bound to be a cheese here that you will love. They even throw in some seasonal specialties like a soft Pumpkin Chevre. I haven’t tried this one yet, but I’m sure the next time I stop by I’ll pick some up since I have yet to try a cheese I dislike.


For anyone with a sweet-tooth, the John and Kira’s stand should definitely be visited. The people that run this stand make some quality chocolate, and many of the assortments they put out during the Farmers’ Market make great gifts. This company doesn’t just know what makes up great chocolate, but they also create some beautiful pieces.


Last week was the first time I indulged myself in their offerings, so I picked up a random assortment of six that included everything from dark chocolate to salty caramel pieces. I didn’t come across one combination I didn’t like, so I will probably be stopping by again to pick up some Christmas gifts.


While I love the food aspects of the Farmers’ Market, I also love the Blue Mountain Vineyards table. This stand is great for anyone who loves wine to check out. I stopped by for the first time after I turned 21 this past weekend, and I’m glad I did. They offer a wide array of wines which include everything from a 2008 Chardonnay Reserve to a 2011 Shiraz.


The best part of this company having a table is that they provide samples of almost all of their wines. Personally, I was a fan of the 2008 Merlot, but I’m sure that any wine lover could find a blend they like here. My one recommendation would be that this stand tends to generate a lot of activity, so if you notice a lull while you’re walking around, I would pounce of this table first. Even if you are vying for the attention of the man behind the table, it’s worth wading through the crowd to try it out.


If you enjoy going to a nice Farmers’ Market, the one in Rittenhouse every Saturday is definitely a great one to check out. There is a great range of various stands that each offer different products for potential buyers. In addition to having a lot of options, almost all of the stands provide samples, so you don’t have to tie yourself down to something you might not like. I would recommend this market to fellow Philadelphians, especially ones who love pretty views while they shop for their groceries for the week.


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Dinner at FARMiCiA (Philadelphia, USA)

It seems as though new diners to FARMiCiA fall into one of two categories: they either love this Old City restaurant and want to come back every week, or they hate it and don’t understand what the buzz is about. I happen to fall into the former category, and I’m thrilled that my most recent Thurs-date happened here.


When we first arrived, we were immediately seated by one of the front windows, which gave us an opportunity to spend some of our time people-watching. It’s a good thing we had this view because our waiter was a bit too hands-off, and we quickly learned that we wouldn’t be seeing much of him throughout the evening. Since we weren’t impressed with our waiter, I thought we’d be falling into the category of people that didn’t like FARMiCiA, but I was proved wrong by the time our first courses came out.


My vegan friend started with the Capellini and Sauteed Tofu. Her appetizer was a hearty plate that came with roasted tomatoes, mint, pine nuts, and red chili. While she said it was incredibly spicy, she loved it and mentioned that it was some of the best vegan food she’s ever had.


I opted for the French Lentils and they were also delicious, although my favorite part of the dish was definitely the huge serving of baked goat cheese that came on top. The salad was one of the most filling ones I’ve had due to the cheese and the amount of lentils that came over the lettuce, but it was so nice and savory that I finished every last bite. I didn’t know how I was going to eat the rest of my dinner, however, I felt like I could try and power through.


After our appetizers, our entrees came out pretty quickly. I ordered the Duck Breast and my love for FARMiCiA was further cemented by my first bite of this. The duck had a nice crispy skin to it and was cooked perfectly. The sweet sun-dried cherry glaze that came with it was a perfect accompaniment to the tender meat. The simplicity of it all was something that I definitely appreciated.

008The sugar snap peas on the plate were also really satisfying. In fact, throughout the whole meal, the only thing I could critique was my wild rice. As a Persian girl, I probably judge rice much more harshly than any other aspect of a meal, and this rice was just not up to par. While it wasn’t great, I was so full from all of the other things on the plate, that I hardly even cared that the rice missed the mark.


The other main course we tried was the Fresh Corn Risotto Croquettes. These two croquettes were large and were tough for my friend to finish because her first course was also filling, but she had only fantastic things to say about it. She couldn’t stop raving about the sweet potato crisps that adorned the plate and said that it was the her favorite part.

For dessert, I got the Orchard Fruit Crisp that came with apples and pears. It was a delicious, warm way to kick off the Fall season and end our meal. While FARMiCiA could use a little face lift in the waitstaff, the food outweighs the bumps they have in serving. I’m already anticipating coming back and can’t wait to try out some of the other phenomenal, farm fresh food they have on their menu.

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Lunch at Zama (Philadelphia, USA)

Now that Restaurant Week is upon us, all of my friends are dying to check out some of the many restaurants in the city. While my schedule is already pretty booked up for the next week, I kicked off this past week at Zama. Since there are so many sushi places in Philly, each new one I want to try really has to stand out in order to leave an impression.


One of the first things I noticed when I walked into the restaurant was that, unlike so many of the other sushi places in Philly, Zama doesn’t have that sterile, mod feel with white walls and chairs. Although it may seem less hip than some other restaurants, the atmosphere was much more warm and inviting.

Even if I feel like I’ve been going out for sushi a lot these past few weeks, I excitedly reread the options for the Restaurant Week menu and quickly decided to opt for the Sashimi Lunch Set which included several courses for lunch.

The first thing to come out was Edamame, and was soon followed by Udon Noodle Soup. After the soup came out, I waited a few minutes before starting since I could see the steam rolling off of it. This turned out to be a bad decision, because by the time I picked up my chopsticks to attack the tempura shrimp and vegetables, they were so soggy that the breading fell right off.

I’m not quite sure what the point of putting crispy tempura into hot soup is, but I wasn’t all that impressed. That being said, not all of my shrimp was submerged in the soup, and the crispy tempura that I did try was very satisfying. It had a nice crunch to it, but I could still taste the fresh shrimp inside. Before I even had time to finish my soup, my entree came out with a side House Salad.The salad was a bit overdressed for my taste, but I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to salad dressing, and my friends thought it was fine.

What I was even more excited to try was the Mixed Sashimi and Tuna Maki Roll that I had ordered. The sashimi was fantastic, and I was especially drawn to the salmon slices as I thought they were the most flavorful. I was, however, not crazy about my maki roll. The tuna was great, and I particularly enjoyed the spicy mayo inside the roll, but the rice way too hard.


After we finished our lunch, we still had dessert left. At this point, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away, but this turned out to be my favorite course. Our table ended up ordering the Chocolate Bread Pudding and Green Tea Mochi. While it wasn’t the prettiest dessert, the bread pudding was delicious and a great, sweet end to a meal. Although I preferred that dessert, the mochi was also phenomenal and was a lighter way to satisfy my sweet tooth.


Even though I left Zama full, I don’t think that I’ll be back for the sushi. I’ve been to a number of better sushi restaurants in the city and besides dessert nothing really jumped out at me and convinced me that I should come back. While I went into my lunch hoping for something that would wow me, I ultimately left Zama unsatisfied. Next up  for Restaurant Week is FARMiCia, the only restaurant I could find on the list of participating places that offers up vegan options for every course.

Zama Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Dinner at Khyber Pass Pub (Philadelphia, PA)

Since I am still relatively new to being of legal drinking age in the U.S. and most of my friends are broke college students, we usually go out to eat at bars in the city. One of my good friends and I have decided to implement Thurs-dates for the foreseeable future in order to try out some new places.


The biggest problem with our plan is that she’s a vegan, but thankfully Philly has a fairly large vegan population, so we haven’t had too much trouble finding places that both of us like. This past Thursday, we kicked off our dates at the Khyber Pass Pub, a bar with an emphasis on beer and New Orleans-style food that seems to fit right in with the Old City atmosphere that surrounds it.


For drinks, we had a large draft list to choose from, but since it was still happy hour and they had $5 Mint Juleps, my friend and I wanted to try that. Unfortunately, I should have done my research beforehand. Here I was expecting some minty, sweet cocktail, and instead, a couple of shots of whiskey on the rocks came out. The only minty part of my Mint Julep was the one mint leaf in my drink. Luckily, my friend is a whiskey girl, so she finished off mine, and I quickly switched to a much more appetizing, refreshing pint of Ballast Point Yellowtail Pale Ale.


Although I failed a bit on my first drink choice, I was excited to try my dinner. I opted for the Fried Green Tomato BLT, and I was really happy with my choice. The fried green tomatoes on this sandwich were fantastic as the breading on the tomatoes was just enough to make it crispy without being soggy or overpowering the tomato.


However, my favorite part of the sandwich was the tabasco peppers remoulade that it came with. This remoulade was full of flavor and packed a hot punch. It took the classic BLT to another, more complex level. I just wish they bottled the stuff so I could go back and buy some to add to my own sandwiches.


My friend enjoyed her Vegan BBQ Pulled Pork as well, but she wasn’t as impressed with her sandwich as I was with mine. Even though some of the finer points of veganism are lost on me, I’m pretty sure this didn’t include any pork. It did, however, come topped with a big spoonful of creamy coleslaw to balance out the smokey BBQ flavors of the sandwich. While she claimed that the sandwich wasn’t bad, she did feel that some other bars in Philly offer better vegan options.


Overall, we weren’t disappointed with the Khyber Pass Pub, although we did agree that we like it’s sister bar, Royal Tavern, better. That being said, if we’re in Old City and looking for a quick, reliable bite, I’m sure we’ll end up at this bar and we won’t be leaving disappointed. This spot is definitely not to be missed by those who enjoy bar food, especially if they are beer enthusiasts since there is a wide-range of beers on tap to choose from. I’m glad that our first Thurs-date took place here, and I hope that they will only get better as they go on!

Khyber Pass Pub on Urbanspoon

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Happy Hour at Yakitori Boy (Philadelphia, USA)

As some of you probably know by now, I love sushi. It’s the one food that I can never get enough of, and I’m constantly excited about the possibilities it offers up to people. So, when I heard about the Luau Happy Hour event that Yakitori Boy was throwing the other week, my friend, Betty, and I jumped at the chance to go. The opportunity to try some of their food, in addition to getting to sing karaoke there was something I couldn’t say no to.


The event consisted of drinks, hot appetizers, and an array of sushi that all made me drool as I watched them go by on trays held by waiters wearing leis. One of the drinks that I tried that evening was their Cucumber Martini. It was easily one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had and was great for a hot summer night since it was so crisp and refreshing. If I hadn’t already tried a few other drinks at the bar, I probably would have gotten a second one.

GoyzaAlthough the drinks definitely impressed me, I’m always more interested in the food anywhere I go. Luckily, Yakitori Boy made an impression with that as well. We had the opportunity to try a handful of their hot appetizers including the GyozaShrimp Tempura, Pork Sausage, and Chicken Meatballs. The Gyoza Dumplings were crunchy on the outside, but had a lot of tender meat on the inside. I definitely grabbed at least one every time the waiter walked by and by the end of the evening, I’m sure he knew they were my favorite.


While I loved the hot appetizers, I couldn’t leave without trying some of their sushi. The roll that made the biggest impact on my opinion of this restaurant was the California Roll. California Rolls are usually the last thing I want to get at any sushi restaurant, but this roll at Yakitori Boy has changed my mind. The roll was surprising because it didn’t taste like the boring, bland California Rolls I usually try, but rather included very fresh ingredients that showed me how a simple roll can still be sensational.


Yakitori Boy is definitely going on my list as one of my favorite sushi restaurants in Philly after this experience. In addition to having quality food, the atmosphere is a lot of fun and the people are friendly. They also run tons of great specials from Sunday to Thursday that are great for my college budget. I imagine I’ll be going back to Yakitori Boy soon, even if it is just to grab another one of those Cucumber Martinis and sing some karaoke.

Yakitori Boy on Urbanspoon

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Brunch at Café La Maude (Philadelphia, PA)

This past Sunday, a friend and I decided to get brunch at Café La Maude. I hadn’t heard of it before, but when I learned that it was a French-Lebanese fusion restaurant, I was definitely intrigued. I resisted looking at the menu beforehand though, so I could be surprised about how they achieved this combination.


We ended up stopping in around noon, and while it was busy, we were seated almost immediately.This café in Northern Liberties has a distinctly French feel to it, but the brunch menu includes options for both French and Mediterranean food lovers. Although it took a few minutes for the waitress to get our orders, water was promptly brought to our table, and when our waitress did arrive, we received apologies for the delay.


After ordering a latte that was offered with either one or two shots, we decided to try out two dishes that morning, the Eggs Benedict and the Croque Vert. My Eggs Benedict were some of the best I’ve had in ages. The eggs were poached perfectly as they were firmer on the outside and runny on the inside. Besides the eggs, the other elements of this meal were spot on.


These eggs came with a choice of two options, you could either get a more traditional dish with Canadian bacon and brie, or you could get your eggs with smoked salmon and cream cheese. I opted for the latter, and while the cream cheese added an extra richness to the dish, the salmon is what really took it to the next level. The smoked salmon created deeper, smokier flavors than what the Canadian bacon usually adds to the meal. I found myself wishing I could order a second helping once I was done.


My meal also came with a simple petite salad, fruit, and a potato croquet. The fruits and vegetables were crisp and tasted like they were picked at the height of the season. Although I didn’t think there was anything spectacular about the croquet on my plate, it was the only thing I could complain about, and I would say  these Eggs Benedict are something I would gladly get again.


The Croque Vert was also fantastic, and great for anyone who enjoys the sweet and savory combination. Coming on a French Toast bun, this dish is topped with two poached eggs, zucchini, avocado, tomato, and spinach. Although all of these flavors all work well with each other, the best part for me was the béchamel sauce that topped it. The sauce was phenomenal and managed to bring all of the elements of the dish together.


Overall, this was a flavorful meal with really fresh ingredients. If it had been appropriate to do so, I probably would have licked my plate. In addition to the phenomenal food, the waitstaff was friendly, which makes any meal better in my opinion. My friend was so pleased with here meal, she decided to take home some of the macarons they had. She only got two, but her options included vanilla, coffee, and lemon flavored treats!


Even though I have had great brunches at places like Parc and Le Pain Quotidien, I will say that the brunch offered here is fun, delicious, and something I will be thinking about for a long time to come. If you’re looking for a new brunch option in Philly, I wouldn’t recommend any place more highly than Café La Maude.


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Philly’s Best Italian Restaurants (Philadelphia, USA)

Italian food is something that just about everyone is familiar with, especially in Philadelphia. Since the city does have such a big Italian population, there is no shortage of Italian restaurants around the city. That being said, some are more satisfying than others and really go above and beyond to provide a delicious meal for foodies.


1. Modo Mio

Modo Mio, located in Northern Liberties, is definitely one Italian place that is not to be missed. This BYOB restaurant has both A La Carte and Turistica menus in order to satisfy all customers. The Menu Turistica is a prixe fix menu that provides diners with a four course meal. This is a great option for people who want to try a variety of things and have are having a hard time deciding which tasty meal they want to order.


If you want to opt for the A La Carte menu instead, some of the offerings include Risotto Fritti, which is a crispy fried risotto cake, and Zuppe di Pesce, a seafood stew.


If you are a lover of Italian food, you’ll undoubtedly be able to find something you like here.  Modo Mio offers up everything from lamb to veal to the even more adventurous calves tongue, so you can be sure that if you like trying new things, you’ll be able to do it here.

DSC_0443Dessert is another part of the meal that shouldn’t be skipped at Modo Mio. Some of the desserts you can get are a Flourless Chocolate Cake or the more traditional Tiramisu. If you like Italian desserts, get the latter of these two because this tiramisu is both light and fluffy.

DSC_0460With a menu that changes to accommodate the change in seasons, you’re guaranteed to get a fresh, phenomenal meal at Modo Mio. I’m willing to check out any Italian restaurant that includes the Italian specialty meat, rabbit, on the menu, but if that doesn’t sway you, there are tons of other things on the menu to fulfill you.

Modo Mio on Urbanspoon

2. Osteria

This restaurant is one that certainly deserves all of the buzz it generates. Osteria’s Chef won the 2010 James Beard Foundation Award which should speak for itself. I’ve only eaten here once, but it was one of the most phenomenal dining experiences I have had in Philly.

DSC_0095The dinner menu here is pretty extensive, and all of the dishes I tried on it were fantastic. Some great meals to check out are the Slow Roasted Pork Belly, the Wood Grilled Octopus, the Chicken Liver Rigatoni, and the East Coast Halibut. All of these dishes have a lot of layers to them, but still manage to capture the difficult simplicity of Italian cuisine.


Although I’ve only tried the rigatoni, I’m sure any pasta dish here would be amazing. The pasta at Osteria is hand-made, something which really makes any dish superior since so many Italian restaurants opt for pre-made pasta to save time.


If you’re not in the mood for pasta, Osteria also has a wide selection of pizzas to choose from. The pizza options begin with the traditional, light Magherita pizza and end with pizzas like the Lombarda which comes with a baked egg, bitto cheese, mozzarella, and cotechino sausage. With options like these, any thin-crust pizza lover can find at least one pizza on the menu to try.


If you haven’t been to Osteria, it’s time to check it out. If you have, it may be time to return. This inviting, hip restaurant appeals to a wide audience, so if you do decide to go, the best thing to do would be to make a reservation. Once you do this, you’ll be ready to experience one of Philly’s best Italian restaurants.

Osteria on Urbanspoon


3. La Viola

Although La Viola is a non-Italian family owned business, this restaurant provides diners with some fantastic Italian food. In fact, La Viola is such a busy spot that the family ended up opening La Viola West right across the street from the original BYOB location. The West location is open seven days a week while East location is closed on Mondays. However, each location differs slightly in hours, so in order to keep from getting confused, it’s best to make a reservation beforehand.


Some review-worthy appetizers are the Insalata Caesar and the Zuppetta di Cozze. The zuppetta is a bowl of mussels that you can either get with a white wine sauce or a red tomato sauce. I’ve tried both, and while they are good, the plum tomato sauce has a lot of flavor and a hint of spice to it, so it’s definitely the winner of the two.


Another featured dish is the Vitello alla Viola, a dish consisting of veal medallions, seasonal fruit, and prosciutto di parma. There is also another plate called Ravioli alla Viola which is a rich lobster ravioli meal served with a creamy rose sauce. No matter what you get though, La Viola is guaranteed to satisfy any diner looking for Italian food in the Rittenhouse Square area.

La Viola on Urbanspoon



4. Amis

Right in Washington Square, Amis is a Marc Vetri owned Italian restaurant. If you’re not near Osteria, but you’re craving Italian food, Amis is a great restaurant to visit. The menu is large enough so that everyone can find something to eat, but still focused.


The menu is split up into sections like Bruschetta and Antipasti di Pesce that make it easy for diners to jump right to the type of food that they want for that night. While there isn’t a laundry list of options for sections like Bruschetta, the options that Amis offers up are great.


Another thing that makes Amis stand out from the hordes of Italian restaurants in the city is that they make all their Salumi in house. When you order the Salami del Giorno or the Mixed Salumi Plate, you know you’re going to get some of the highest quality food out there.


With creamy polenta, salty pecorino, and tender meats, Amis hits each dish out of the ballpark. While this may seem like enough to make any restaurant a hot spot, Amis also has several inventive pasta dishes to keep customers coming back for more.


Dishes like the Roman classic, Cacio e Pepe, and Paccheri with Swordfish and Eggplant Fries are only a few of the pasta options on the menu. Amis is able to keep diners interested and it’s not surprising that it has a dedicated following. If you’re on the search for fantastic Italian food in the city, Amis is one restaurant that should definitely be on your list.

Vetri on Urbanspoon




I’ve never met anyone that downright dislikes Italian food, but if they did, I’m sure that if I took them to any of these restaurants, they would change their mind. With homemade pasta, fresh ingredients, and creative dishes, all of these places are some of Philly’s brightest stars in the restaurant scene.


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Philly’s Top Pizza Places (Philadelphia, USA)

If there is one food that everyone has a strong opinion about, it’s pizza. This debate includes everything from the appropriate thickness of pizza crust to the right cheese to sauce ratio. Having spent most of my life in the pizza place that a family friend owns and four months in Rome, I have developed my own strong opinions about this popular pie, and have come to scrutinize pizza places in America much more harshly than before. That being said, there are a few places in Philadelphia that I enjoy going to when I am craving a big slice of pizza.


1. Pizzeria Stella

It shouldn’t come as a shock at this point that I am a fan of Stephen Starr restaurants, and Pizzeria Stella is no exception. While there are appetizer and salad options, the emphasis of this restaurant is on pizza. When I tried this place out, I really enjoyed the Zucchini Pizza. This wood oven pizza came with tomato, zucchini, and ricotta. I particularly enjoyed the ricotta because it added a richness to the dish that made it more filling than your average veggie pizza.


The San Daniele is also a great option because it packs a flavorful punch with each bite. This pie comes topped with prosciutto, mozzarella, and arugula, which are all flavors that have been universally recognized as complimentary. Depending on your taste, one of these pizzas may seem more appealing to you than the other, but on the off chance that neither jump out at you, there are a dozen more options on the menu to satisfy all kinds of people. If you’re a pizza fan and enjoy Starr restaurants, Pizzeria Stella is a fantastic place to check out, especially since you can watch people rolling out dough right in front of you!

Pizzeria Stella on Urbanspoon


2. Angelinos Restaurant and Pizza

I have several friends that live in the Fairmount area, so when I visit them and I’m in the mood for pizza, I like to go to Angelino’s. With more options on the menu than Pizzeria Stella, this restaurant appeals to people who like a wide range of classic Italian-American dishes, including hoagies, strombolis, and Italian paninis.

However, since this is a post about pizza, I’ll stick to the stars on that list. My two favorite pizzas here were the West Coast and Angelino’s Mediterranean Special. The West Coast pizza is a white pizza that comes with sundried tomatoes and ricotta. I think sundried tomatoes are incredibly flavorful, and the ones here are delicious. They add another layer of flavor to the dish. I also enjoy the Mediterranean style pizza because I love the combo of spinach and feta. I think that the two flavors are very different in strength, so they go well together. If you’re in the area and want some good pizza this is a great kid-friendly restaurant to check out.

Angelinos Restaurant & Pizza on Urbanspoon


3. Pietro’s Coal Oven Pizza

If you’re in the mood for gourmet pizza, but don’t want to go to another Stephen Starr restaurant, this is a great place to check out. I always get the Roma here. Although I doubt the validity of this name considering I never saw a pizza in Rome that included chicken, artichokes, and bacon, this pizza is Pietro’s most satisfying one. There is just enough of each of those three ingredients to add flavor to the pizza without being overwhelming. The chicken was tender and the bacon was crispy both times I’ve gotten this, so I was pretty happy with my order. I would suggest trying to get one of the pizzas on their pre-made list though because if you like a lot of toppings, the build your own pie option can get pricey very quickly. If you’re spending a day in the Rittenhouse area and are craving some pizza, Pietro’s should be a place you consider going.

Pietro's Coal Oven Pizzeria on Urbanspoon


4. Rustica Pizza

I’ve only been to Rustica once, so I can only attest to the flavor of the one pizza I have had here, but it was so good that I felt compelled to add it to my list. The pizza I did get was called Bistecca del Tartufo and was phenomenal. This white pizza was topped with juicy truffled steak and caramelized onions. I enjoyed the flavors and felt like I was getting everything that I love wrapped up in one dish: pizza and steak. There wasn’t a thing that I would change about this pizza and I’m really glad that I got it. I don’t spend a lot of time in the Northern Liberties area, but if I did, I’m sure I would visit Rustica more!

Rustica Pizza on Urbanspoon


5. Birra

I think that Birra is a fun and satisfying way to fulfill your pizza craving and is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area. The pizza isn’t the best in the city, but this restaurant certainly has the most character when compared to the other places on this list. The best pizzas that I have had at this place are the classic Margherita and the Pear & Gruyere White Pizza.


The Margherita is fantastic for those who like the clean, crisp taste of cheese pizza, but want to add a little pizzazz to it, which is accomplished by the basil. However, if you’re the more adventurous eater, the Pear and Gruyere Pizza is the way to go. This pizza is fantastic for any lover of the sweet and salty combo. The creamy Gruyere cheese balances the sweet pear well, while the arugula adds a hint of pepper to it. For people who love to pair a beer with a pie, this place is especially great because they have an extensive beer list, including Strongbow hard cider and various Italian beers.While this place probably appeals to the younger crowds and is usually busy, I would suggest stopping in one day to get the Birra experience.

Birra on Urbanspoon


I have had some truly awful pizza before, but never at any of the places on this list. While I’m still waiting for that magical bite that reminds me of Rome, I don’t mind grabbing a pizza from one of the places above. The next place I want to try is definitely In Riva since I’ve heard amazing things about it. However, even more than that, I’m hoping that a great pizza place will open up in the Temple area. Pizza is a controversial yet universally loved food, and now that I’m back in Philly, I’m sure I’ll try a ton more pizza places in the upcoming months.

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Philly’s Best Ethnic Treasures (Philadelphia, USA)

I love just about every type of food out there and one great thing about Philly is that it provides people with a lot of options. In some parts of the city you’re within walking distance to Moroccan, Greek, and Lebanese cuisine. I’m still on the search for a great Iranian restaurant, but I have found several other truly nice ethnic restaurants here. These places are restaurants that don’t Americanize their food and offer up more than just a great meal. If you’re looking for a more authentic food experience outside of your comfort zone any of the places on this list are great ones to check out.


1. Leziz Turkish Cuisine

I first heard about Leziz Turkish Cuisine from Tala’s review of the restaurant a few months ago and decided to try it with some friends one night. This place was ideal considering most of us are in college and want to eat at restaurants that are affordable yet still good. Since we were starving that night, we split some appetizers. We ordered the Babaganush and the Hummus. Both of the light spreads had great flavor to them, and I really loved the babaganush since I adore just about any dish that includes eggplant in it.

After our appetizers, we decided to order a few things for dinner and split them as well. The dishes we ended up getting included the Lamb Shish Kebab and the Skewer Chicken Kebab with Yogurt. I enjoyed the lamb dish and found that it was juicy and succulent. I love lamb, but for people who often shy away from the meat because they think it has a gamey taste to it, this may not be the dish for them. However, a good alternative is the chicken kebab skewer that we also tried that night. It offers up all the delicious flavors that kebab normally has, but is done with a meat that has a milder flavor to it. Both dishes were filling and all of the meat we had that night was very tender, which is always the most important thing for me with any meat dish I get. I hope to try this restaurant out again, especially since we got to end our meal with a nice, relaxing hookah, something I always enjoy!

Leziz Turkish Cuisine on Urbanspoon


2. Uzbekistan

Although this cozy BYOB restaurant isn’t right in the center of Philadelphia, the food is worth the drive you have to make. With a pretty extensive menu, this Russian/Uzbek cuisine is flavorful and will please many palates. I like to think of this place as a great winter restaurant because they have food that will warm you up on a chilly night. One dish that does this  is the Chuchvara which is a soup that has tender dumplings in it. A lot of the menu is dedicated to various dumplings, so even if you decide to skip this soup, you should try at least one dish that has this specialty in it. After a soup or a salad, one good main course to get is the Beef Stroganoff. This meal consists of sliced beef, mushrooms, and sour cream, and is packed with flavor while also having a homey feel to it. This dish comes with potatoes and salad, so after a meal at this place you’ll feel pretty full. If you’re looking to try something new, but also want food that is mild, Uzbekistan is a great restaurant to go to on a cold evening out.

Uzbekistan on Urbanspoon

3. Marrakesh

I adore Marrakesh because your entire experience at the restaurant is always fantastic and fun. This is a restaurant you’ll want to come to hungry. You start your experience by knocking on an unassuming door where you’re greeted and led to your seats. You’ll walk past some oriental rugs hanging on the wall before you sit down and really begin the Marrakesh experience. Before you eat, you’ll wash off your hands because this restaurant strives to really provide an authentic experience, so all the food is either picked up with your hands or with slices of warm pita bread.

While you don’t have tons of options on what kind of food you’ll get since it is a prix fixe-style restaurant, you will get a gluttonous portion of food. My absolute favorite thing here is the Spicy Chicken in Cumin Sauce. I rarely choose chicken as a main course because I think there are so many more exciting meats out there, but this chicken is a must have. It is incredibly tender and comes served falling off of the bone. This chicken makes my mouth water the second I smell it and practically melts in my mouth every time I eat it. The great thing about it is that it has a nice amount of spice to it without being too spicy. After you gorge yourself on the chicken, Lamb with Almonds and Honey, and Couscous Grand Atlas, you’ll be provided dessert. Here, dessert consists of Fruit, Baklava, and Hot Mint Tea. I have never been a fan of baklava because honeyed desserts don’t really do anything for me, but my friends love the baklava here, so I’m sure it’s great for anyone who likes this Middle Eastern treat. I really enjoy the fruit and hot mint tea though because I always need something sweet to end a meal, and these two things fulfill that desire without making me feel even more stuffed.

Marrakesh is a great restaurant for a group of friends or for a date, although you may want to skip it as a first date spot since eating with your hands can get a bit awkward. It’s especially nice to come by on the weekends when they have belly dancers!

Marrakesh on Urbanspoon


4.  Abyssinia Ethiopian

This restaurant is another place where you’re getting a quality meal for a low cost. I had my first experience with Ethiopian food here and I thought it was fantastic! I probably pronounced just about everything I ordered the wrong way, but my embarrassment was gone with the first bite of food. My favorite dish here is the Gored Gored which is a plate that comes with cubes of beef in berbere sauce and mixed in butter. If you really want to appreciate the beef, it should be ordered rare or medium rare, and the Ethiopian spices only enhance the taste. The berbere sauce is undoubtedly hot since it has sun-dried jalapenos in it, but if you can take the heat, this shouldn’t be skipped over. This place is also great for vegetarians since so much of the Ethiopian diet consists of beans and lentils. The one vegetarian dish that I tried here was the Ye’misir Alicha. This thick stew is filling and comes with green lentils, onions, and ginger. If you’ve never tried Ethiopian food before, but want to experience it, Abyssinia Ethiopian is the place to try.

Abyssinia Ethiopian on Urbanspoon


5. Zahav 

Anthony Bourdain made the right choice when he went to Zahav during his trip to Philly last year. This restaurant deserves all the praise it receives, and while I’ve only had the joy of eating here once, I fully plan on eating at this restaurant again. My favorite thing to start with here is the Asparagus Salad. This salad comes with a tuna confit, egg yolk, and black olives, and is satisfying on so many flavor levels. I also adore the Yemenite Soup that includes brisket, onions, and chickpeas. The soup is so good that I honestly can say that I wouldn’t mind bathing in it. If neither of these dishes sound like your cup of tea, there are enough other options for starters for every kind of palate.

After a few of their delicious small plates, I hardly had room for a main course, but I knew I’d regret skipping out on a main meal at a restaurant like Zahav, so I tried the Duck Kebab. Duck is by far my favorite type of meat, and these kebabs only made me love it more. The meat was juicy, and the pistachios and saffron that accompanied the duck helped to enhance the flavor of the bird. Duck is a great type of meat for all kinds of people because it is more exciting than chicken, but doesn’t have that overwhelmingly gamey taste that venison or lamb has for some people. Out of all of the restaurants on this list, Zahav is the one I hope to go back to the soonest because I have only been able to dine here once, so there are tons of things on the menu I still want to try.

Zahav on Urbanspoon

While this list is compiled of some of my favorite restaurants in Philly that are a bit different from the usual burger joints and bars, I still have dozens of ethnic restaurants to try out. I haven’t been to any Lebanese or Indian places, and as I stated above, I’m still on the search for a fantastic Iranian restaurant, but out of the restaurants I’ve tried, these are some of the best. I have always loved eating out, but even more than that, I have always loved being introduced to new cuisine, so these places all hold a special place in my foodie heart for providing me with some unique and unforgettable meals.

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A Chocolate Lover’s Guide to Philadelphia

If you’re anything like me, chocolate is something you never say no to. This can range from anything like a basic dark chocolate bar to a molten chocolate cake with whipped cream. In either situation, your looking to get your chocolate fix, but there are definitely times when the chocolate bar just wont meet it and you need something special. There are dozens of places in Philadelphia that satisfy those times, and here’s my list of some of the really fantastic ones in the city.


1. Rim Café

I have been going to Rim Café for a few years now, and I can honestly say there is no place I would rather go for a hot chocolate. If you’re passionate about all things chocolate, this is one place you shouldn’t miss. This little café on 9th and Federal is full of character and most people who enter end up leaving with new friends. The shop is owned by Rene Kobeitri and if there is one phrase you should remember before trying this place out it’s “Make it happen!.” This is the phrase he will frequently say, sing, and shout out in his French accent while he makes your hot chocolate right in front of you. He will probably also play the bongos when a Gipsy Kings song comes on, greet a few regulars, and pull out the blow torch for various hot chocolates during your visit.


These certainly aren’t your usual hot chocolates. Rene makes all of his own chocolate and puts the same amount of effort and love into each drink he makes. Some of my favorites are the Tiramisu Hot Chocolate and the Nutty Peanut Butter. He’s recently started making Iced Hot Chocolate for those muggy summer days too. If chocolate drinks aren’t your thing, he also has several chocolate treats, such as his Parmesan Covered Truffle and Cannoli.


I can attest to the fact that anything Rene makes is gold, and you’ll want to bring your camera so you can document it all. If you do forget it, don’t worry because he always has his camera on hand as well and will undoubtedly snap several pictures of you with your creation. This is definitely not a place to go if you’re just looking for a quick to-go coffee, but rather a place to go if you want to watch a show, savor a delicious hot chocolate, and leave with memories you’ll never forget.

Rim Cafe on Urbanspoon


2. Capogiro Gelato Artisans

Capogiro is one place in Philly that almost everyone has heard of. This has been especially true in recent years due to National Geographic naming it the best gelato in the world. I do have to say that as much as I do love the gelato here, my favorite place in the world to get this cool treat is in Rome and is called Frigidarium. However, based on my experiences, I am willing to concede that Capogiro is the best ice cream in the United States.


The flavor I always get without fail is the Cioccolato Scuro. This chocolate gelato will satisfy just about anyone, especially those who live for a great tasting dark chocolate. If you’re not a fan of dark chocolate, there are normally a few other chocolate flavors that may catch your eye, including the Bacio which is a hazelnut, chocolate mixture. I personally like mixing the dark chocolate with a fruity flavor like Lampone (Raspberry) or Fragola (Strawberry). No matter what your chocolate preference, if you’re in the mood for something cold and revel in both chocolate and ice cream, Capogiro is the place to visit.

Capogiro Gelateria on Urbanspoon


3. Max Brenner 

I have to admit that the only thing I have had at Max Brenner is the Chocolate Fondue. I will plead my case by saying that it’s just so good I don’t have the heart to turn away from it and that I fully intend to branch out the next time I go. The fondue comes with both fruit and marshmallows to dip into the chocolate. You can even roast your marshmallows before you dip them if you want.


The chocolate they give you is rich and the fruit is fresh, so you’ll walk away from this fondue feeling like you’ve gotten your money’s worth. If you aren’t a fondue lover, there are dozens of other chocolate goodies you can get, including cocktails like the Classic Chocolate Martini and the Berry Lovely. No matter what your desire, Max Brenner is able to fulfill any lover of chocolate in Philadelphia.

Max Brenner on Urbanspoon

DSC_0484 4. Insomnia Cookies

As a college student, Insomnia Cookies is able to meet my cookie, chocolate, and late night studying needs. The cookies are always warm and gooey, and there are some nice classic chocolate flavors like Chocolate Chip, as well as some more unique flavors, such as Mint Chocolate Chip. This is one food truck that I love to visit and when I do go I try to go during happy hour to get more cookies for a better deal. These are cookies just about everyone will enjoy, although if you aren’t a cookie lover, the truck on Temple’s campus also offers up brownies. Of course, both of these treats taste even better with some cold milk, and you can get that here too! Even if you’re not a college student in the area, these cookies are worth a try and there are two locations in Center City, so you don’t have to trek over to University City or Temple to get your cookie fix.

Insomnia Cookies on Urbanspoon


5. Philly Chocolate

I came across Philly Chocolate one day after I mistakenly went searching for Naked Chocolate. I had heard great things about Naked Chocolate and has finally decided to check it out. Unfortunately their website didn’t mention that they had closed down, but it didn’t matter all that much because Philly Chocolate had taken over the space. I haven’t been here since they’ve moved to South Street, but I did have some favorites at the previous location.

One of my favorite chocolates was the chocolate shaped like Buddha. The flavors were spot-on, but I do have to say what really sold me was the cute shape! They have dozens of truffles and chocolates to choose from, so there’s something for everyone. They also serve cupcakes and drinks here. If you’re stopping by on a chilly day, get the European Hot Chocolate which is a thick, rich, dark hot chocolate that is served with a bit of whipped cream and a spoon. On the other hand, if you’re in the mood to drink something chilly, the Elvis is the way to go. It’s a huge frozen drink made up of chocolate and banana.


For people who enjoy the chocolate and bacon combo, they also have slices of that here. I personally wasn’t crazy about the Chocolate Covered Bacon. I thought I would love it since I enjoy both chocolate and bacon, but I didn’t like the fatty bacon with a chocolate coating. My friends and I couldn’t finish the slice we got that day. I haven’t tried it anywhere else, so I’m not sure if I would enjoy it if prepared differently, but I’m not rushing to find out.

While I wouldn’t get this dessert again, I do know there are tons of people out there who talk up bacon covered in chocolate, so you might enjoy it too. This has been the only thing I’ve had here that I wasn’t crazy about, and so I would still recommend this chocolate shop to any fellow chocolate lover out there!

Philly Chocolate on Urbanspoon

IMG_4172Next time you have a hankering for some chocolate, go to one of the places above. I don’t think that any of them disappoint and they all have a wide-range of chocolates and chocolate flavored goodies for each individual. I’m always on the search for new chocolate places in the city, but so far, these have been my favorite. Of course, I’ll never stop trying new restaurants, so in time, my go-to places may change a bit. Either way, I don’t think I’ll mind the continued search for great chocolate stores since it involves eating some of my favorite things!

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