Dishes 220-231: Pork Paprikash and spaetzle at the Yardley Inn, Yardley
Deluxe Pig-Out at Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse, 7500 State Road, Palmyra
Thai Curry Mussels at Grey Lodge Pub, 6235 Frankford Ave
Hot wings at Curran’s Irish Inn, 6900 State Road, Palmyra
Provence baguette sandwich at Café Lutecia, 23rd and Lombard
Miso Soup at Izumi, 1601 E. Passyunk Ave
Calamari and arugala at Paradiso, 1627 E. Passyunk Ave
Lemon tart at Mr. Martino’s. 1646 E. Passyunk Ave
Baked clams at the Clam Tavern, Clifton Heights
Dosas at Rajbhog, Cherry Hill
Gnocchi at Blackbird, Collingswood
Unagi Tobiko Roll at Sagami, Collingswood
PT. 1- THE MAD MEN PARTY
On the route home from New Hope, we made several stops for takeout to cater the Mad Men party. Pork paprikash at the cozy Yardley Inn, nestled in scenic Yardley… “did we just drive into an [expletive deleted] Norman Rockwell painting? What is this?” commented Gustav as we trolled into the Christmas light-frosted town center. Then we traced 95 down the back zipper of Pennsylvania and New Jersey to Sweet Lucy’s in Palmyra—where I grossly underestimated the gluttony of a Deluxe Pig-Out. The girl taking my order asked, “for 4 or 6?” “Four or six people?!” “Yes.” “Four?” “Okay. You’re aware that you get a full rack of ribs, half a chicken, and a pound of meat? What kind of meat would you like?” “Geez. Pulled pork?” “Alright. Four sides?” “Four sides?! What’s popular?” “The mashed potatoes are good, you want those. The mac and cheese, and probably a vegetable, the cucumber tomato salad is great.” “That sounds good. And maybe cornbread?” “Oh, that’s included. How about the baked beans instead?”
And there were still two stops left to go! Curran’s and Grey Lodge were populated primarily by the type of large, intimidating men that I imagine to be lifelong fans of regular Bud in cans. So that was good. We typically get along well. I do try to keep abreast of sweeping trends in professional football, the failproof topic of conversation.
By the time we reached the city, Gustav’s car, Sylvia, smelt deliciously of barbecued, buffalo’ed, and paprikash’ed meat. A scent made only more delicious by the social insensitivity of stuffing a vegetarian’s car (and then apartment) chock full of meat. Mmmmm.
In the foreground left, pork paprikash and spaetzle. Behind it, the tomato and cucumber salad (white bowl) and ribs and half a chicken (green bowl). Behind that, the hot wings from Curran’s, some indescript side dishes, and the mussels from Grey Lodge. All spectacular and fully worth the voyage to the Northeast!
PT. 2- LUNCH at LUTECIA and DINNER on EAST PASSYUNK
Café Lutecia was all out of provencal sandwiches, so I had to substitute.
Okay, that was a lie. But provencal sammies are the most repellent dish I can think of, save for meat jellies, which are inarguably offensive.
Hence the scrumptious goat cheese and roasted red pepper sandwich at Café Lutecia, located in my new favorite neighborhood, Graduate Hospital. The floor is linoleum, the chairs are mismatched, and the atmosphere is cluttered and charming. The pace of the meal was perfect, lingering but not slow, time to catch up with MM before braving the crowds for last-minute Christmas shopping, and a marathon dinner plan.
MM and I reconvened several hours later with Heather and Todd, a lovely pair who attended the restaurant crawl several weeks ago. We sat down at Izumi with an ambitious agenda: 1. Miso soup at Izumi. 2. Calamari and arugala at Paradiso. 3. Lemon tart at Mr. Martino’s. (We must be crazy.)
Have to say, this setup would make a great first date! Heather and Todd’s awesomeness and easygoing natures aside, it was fun to change scenery every 45 minutes or so. There was always something to talk about- whether the great value that Izumi provides on sushi platters, the impossible-to-decide-upon menu at Paradiso (though you must sample the chestnut pasta with wild boar ragu), or the alluring creepiness of Mr. Martino’s.
**GREATEST HITS ALERT**
Mr. Martino’s was the runaway favorite of the evening and my favorite experience so far. Heather and Todd live in the neighborhood, and “I’ve walked past this place dozens of times, and I swear I’ve never seen it before,” said Todd. At one point, I scootched in to allow the owner to pass behind me, and when I looked up, he had disappeared under the stairs. The place is decorated with old photos, eerie tchotkes, and smells vaguely of a haunted attic. Oh, and the lemon tart is unbelievable: rich, tart, and sweet but not consciously so. Make reservations, the restaurant is only open for dinner Friday, Saturday, and Sunday- the rest of the time it sinks silently into the brownstone that houses it, a la Grimwauld Place.
PT. 3- BAKED CLAMS + COLD BEER inspires POETRY
“There once was a tavern for clams
The ‘hood was sleepy & far from sand
The scent was mouthwatering
By the man who’d put the clams in your hands.”
The Clam Tavern sits on a quiet, residential street lined with neat square homes outlined in colored Christmas lights. The church down the block waits patiently, lawn manicured, nativity scene lit, for its parishioners to wake up and come to mass. Less than one car passes each minute as I stride towards the neon lights of the Clam Tavern. The door is heavy and the bar sleepy on this Monday night, though the minute I enter, I can picture what it’s like on a Thursday night. The regulars sit at the bar, glued to the Eagles game, with clumps of friends clustered around the tall tables, chowing down on the savory baked clams whose addictive aroma fills the air; the garlicky fragrance and buttery broth begs to be eaten and refuses to be ignored, even when competing with Vick for attention. Pair them with a cold draft, and you may never want to leave.
PT. 4- I LOSE ALL HOPE IN EVER MAINTAINING MY GIRLISH FIGURE
Guys- I’m stuffed. For the second day in a row, it’s midmorning and I’m still in a food coma from last night. Thank God this is finishing in a week. God bless foodies, I give them credit for appreciating every last detail of a dish—but I think water is good for now. And then maybe a salad and some dry toast.
Simone and I went out two nights ago under the innocent guise of introducing him to Indian food via the dosas at Rajbhog. Which are unreal, by the way. It’s a two foot wide crunchy crepe stuffed with potatoes laced with masala spice and served with a spicy soup/dip and a coconut-y chutney. Naively, we ordered two. I’m going to pass out just thinking about this.
We planned to dine at Blackbird and get takeout from Sagami to finish up the remaining South Jersey establishments, until… “Lauren! There’s this place I have to take you to! What is it called? Starts with an A. We’ll take out from Blackbird; we absolutely have to go to this place.” When have I ever turned down the promise of an fabulous meal? After several misadventures trying to find the two restaurants on the list, we were off to Caffe by Aldo Lamberti.
Reminder: we’ve already had dosas, which are two foot wide pancakes filled with potatoes. We just got takeout from Blackbird and Sagami, and we’ve been sneaking bites. And now we’re off to Caffe. Just making sure we’re all on the same page. Good.
Caffe is a classy be-carpeted, potted palm-tree studded, white tableclothed affair with the necessary South Jerz touches, like the truck-driver accent on the adorably tiny hostess and the exquisite glass façade that overlooks the adjacent strip mall. The staff is refined and the other patrons wear fur.
“The pizza bread- oh, just wait.” Simone glances at me excitedly. It arrives, wide slices, thick like Sicilian but with less cheese. And the crust—just like Mario’s Sicilian at home.
We opt for the gnocchi, he the sweet potato and me the Sorrento. The sauce is fresh and light, loaded up with basil and sweet, fresh mozzarella; a kiss of summer from a heap of doughy morsels. He raises a glass. “To… to…” “To Everything!” “Cheers!”