Lifestyle: Philadelphia

I forgot which foodie show I was watching when they proclaimed Philadelphia to be one of the revered cities to seek luxury. I am not quite so sure about luxury related to today’s standards, but this underrated city certainly became my favorite city outside of my beloved coastal cities. I easily fall in love with international cities because of their uniqueness, but with US cities, I usually find myself bored with the run-of-the-mill surroundings and conservative American food.

However, Philly brings the exuberant ideals of the “American Dream” to the forefront for any traveler to experience. Just the embedded history as the nation’s originating capital should bring in tourists even from its own backyard. Add to that, the charm of the well-preserved architecture, the culturally diversified abundance of really good food, friendly locals, and, get this, no sales tax on sartorial needs which should make this city the ultimate destination to explore within the parameters of the contiguous United States.

Alright, I will admit that although I love to glorify the fuzzy feelings of cities I have frequented, what is most important to me is the memorable food. You can take photos of everything that is stagnant and have hazy recollections whilst viewing them, but nothing spikes the memory than food which lingers in your taste buds light-years after that initial visit.

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My first stop in my month-long, recurring layovers to Philadelphia was the Monk’s Cafe. With all Belgian watering holes, what is a must with the famed bier is its mussels in varying broths and chips.

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The Reading Terminal Market boasts almost everything under the sun. If I had more time, I would have visited here every single day, just to taste all of its vendors. A big part of this market was the far left side of the building dominated by the Pennsylvania Dutch, a.k.a Amish. At the mercy of the Amish were puffy and sweet baked goods, quintessential breakfast foods mostly consisting of scrapple and creamed chicken and waffles, and cheese galore. What is scrapple, you ask? I never knew until I tried it. The name is quite synonymous to what it sounds to be. It is scraps of some sort of meat; specifically pork (by the urbandictionary.com: snouts, tails, hooves, hearts, lips, ears, assholes, eyeballs, livers, spleens, and tongues) combined with cornmeal and spices cooked to a mush. WTF did I just eat? I must love Philly that much to stomach such an atrocity. Aside from my astonishing discovery, there was freshly made Indian, Thai, Southern, cookies, honey, you-name-it-you-got-it food.

   

During my last layover to this extraordinarily underestimated city, I incessantly announced to my crew that I craved raw oysters. My coworker was surely ambivalent as she was uncomfortable with the notion of raw shellfish especially from a non-oceanic city. Well, whatever. At least I purposefully avoided the “case of the Monday’s” associated with restaurateurs’ Chef’s Specials for week-old, land-grazing meats, and especially flesh from the sea. Surprisingly, I found that Philadelphia had the most fresh and plentiful seafood from God knows where? That Reading Terminal Market I mentioned before also had seriously crazy seafood. There were Amazonian-sized shrimp, glorious fish seemingly from around the world, and famed lobster and crab from Maine. I had my fix of oysters from the Oyster House near Rittenhouse Square. It was a buck per oyster during happy hour, so what would an oyster-fiend do? Order a dozen, just for myself. The oysters were local. I expected a murky taste as most Atlantic oysters perpetuate. However, they were neither here nor there. They were quite refreshing, yet not crisp as Pacific oysters. Interesting. I believe they were from the river. Not realizing how large American clams could grow and not knowing Americans would eat these badboys raw, I thought ordering only a half-dozen of clams would just wet the palate with itsy-bitsy clams. Gee, was I wrong. These clams were super-meaty. A bit too filling and gargantuan to me.

I did though, as my last resort to my ode to the historic Philadelphia, scarf down my last local oyster and NJ clam, and downed the inklings of the Pinot Grigio from the carafe and called it a wondrous night.

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Eats: NYC

“Grand Sichuan,” is my answer when asked what I would like to do first when I get to NYC.
A fairly unrealized gem in this great city of superb dining, this is my favorite restaurant in the city and probably one of my favorite restaurants in most of the world that I have traveled to yet. There are only a handful of restaurants that have ever spiked my tastebuds to the point of exuberant literary exhilaration and this is one of them.
Commonly known as Szechuan style Chinese food in the greater part of the U.S., this Americanized version has never inflamed my senses let alone my intestines as this restaurant. “Szechuan” food has usually lead me to a disappointingly mild version and has mislead most Americans of its true Sichuan province pronunciation. Authentic Sichuan food and its spices could very well be illegal in the U.S. for its, as politely put, metabolizing properties, and impolitely put, ass-burning qualities but is the way I would particularly want to experience it outside of its unbelievably picturesque landscape of central China.
My most go-to dish is the beef tendon saturated in numbing chili sauce with spring onions although it is considered an appetizer. To me, it is my kimchi dish where it pairs well with any other entree throughout the whole meal, or could be consumed just by itself with rice.

Another dish that is unforgettable is the soft-shell crab with peppers and celery. The celery complements the spices like an obsessive, opposite attraction. This is my most favorite way to enjoy soft-shell crab.

An unfamiliar dish, and a very addictive one that I was introduced to this time was beef literally swimming in the famed sichuan chili-oil but was ridiculously taken up fifty or more notches with almost a quarter cup of black pepper that circled around the casserole-like dish. I can do most chili-oil based dishes without enormous amounts of white rice on the side, but I had to try and avoid the black pepper just so I could enjoy the dish without coughing. The black pepper seemed to be an aesthetic proposition from the chef, or a test to prove how much spiciness you could consume. It was grand in spite of the black peppering.


Go there: Grand Sichuan, 227 Lexington Avenue, between 33rd and 34th.
Tel: 212-679-9770


Eats: Seoul

I have a love/hate relationship with Seoul as I do with many things in my life such as the men that I date but the sentiment is more like the feelings I have with New York City. The blisteringly cold winters and the sticky hot summers make me never want to actually partake in their kind of life no matter how grand the city may be. Plus, if I lived in Seoul, I certainly couldn’t maintain my 112lb. frame (which is considered voluptuous?!?! by Seoul standards) I’ve carried since the end of high school up until now. The only thing that is reasonably cheap in Seoul is the delectable food and the not so delicious, paralyzing hangovers.

Talking about food, the main reason why I love and visit Seoul, I always discover new eats, something more addictive than before that makes me dream of it and pine over it until I get another fix of it. I think these food infatuations are worse than any infatuation I have had for a man because with the food in Seoul, I lust over it for a lifetime and grieve over it like a knife to my heart if I can never have it again.


This time around, I found a new undying love for a Korean-Chinese restaurant I fell upon after feet-hurting, shoulder-hurting, psychologically-draining shopping. Korean-Chinese food is a dime a dozen in Korea and is the most delivered food like mediocre pizza delivery in the U.S. This type of food, don’t quote me on this, was created by Chinese immigrants who needed to make a living in Korea. Mainly, these dishes are jjajjangmyun and jjambbong. Anyhow, so much about the historical details, these noodle dishes made me hurt with love. The moment I took a bite, I wished, I kind of dreamt that I was Anthony Bourdain with a camera following my every facial expression, comment, and invocation. I wanted to be so educated in food like him that I could be cool enough to curse my words of delight. I cursed in my head and verbally instead, summoned the owner and told him that this was “unbelievable” and that this was the “best meal I have ever had in my life compared to even the priciest meals I have had.”


With all carb-ish food, the thicker the better. I guess my affinity towards bread, pasta, and noodles made me overly injected with mind-clouding, and stomach-swelling happiness. The owner told me the chef was the most famously known noodle maker. The restaurant was bursting with pride of being showcased in many t.v. shows in Korea. The chef basically takes a block of dough and shaves it with a knife to make those extra thick noodles instead of making the usual hand-stretched noodles. XXX brilliant!

The images you see above is what I ordered. I had the stir-fried seafood noodles (superb) and the ultra-Korean dish, kalgooksu (the broth, noodles, and the amount of clams were amazing). Next time, I’m going to order the whole menu just for myself, just out of gluttony because I don’t want to look over my shoulder and become jealous of what my neighbors ordered. I think it’s totally worth it.
Go there. Rahnjoo kahlmyun.
1F, 25-9, Chungmuro-1ga, joong-ku, Seoul.
Phone: 02.779.4800

Style: SF

Loved his pink and white checkered tie combo with a white shirt and grey cardigan and everything else dark (mind you, dark pieces that complimented the ensemble not just because it is too easy to pair things with outdated black). Not only did he know his style, he knew his food, telling me this restaurant in the Mission was good only until too many people found out about it. Cheers to a diamond in the rough as with style and food in San Francisco.