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A Beginner’s Guide to Philly Beer Week

26 May 2014

While I am by no means an expert, I have been through a few Philly Beer Weeks at this point, and have learned a few lessons along the way.  And while some of these items may seem obvious to the seasoned drinker—or to anyone else—keep in mind that sometimes this stuff goes out the window when you’re on your fourth event in one day during the week.  Try to keep all of this in the back of your mind during the greatest 10 days of the year in Philadelphia, and you’ll do a lot better than I did on multiple occasions.

Photo by Stephen Lyford

Photo by Stephen Lyford

Budget: Definitely set aside a budget for the week, and try to stick to it as much as possible.  It’s very easy to lose track of things and end up event-hopping and spending $200 in a day.  The best way to do this is to use cash, so you can physically see your supplies dwindling.  Also, don’t underestimate what you’ll need.  One year, I thought $80 was going to be enough to get me through the week for an event here and there. I ended up spending it all the first Saturday. Whoops! It also helps to plan a few ticketed events—you spend the money in advance, and you don’t have to spend any more once you’re there.

Pace Yourself: Once again, this is Drinking 101.  There are going to be amazing events every hour of every day, and you’re not going to want to miss any of them. Well, miss some.  Some days will be fuller than others, but try to plan a few days with only one—or maybe even none.  Give your body a chance to recoup in between bouts of intense drinking.  This goes hand-in-hand with the next piece of advice.

Drink Lots of Water and Eat Plenty of Food: Here’s another one seasoned drinkers will think is probably too obvious, but it’s easy to get carried away during PBW, especially if you’re going from place to place or trying to get as many beers in that rare tap takeover as possible. You’ve got time for three or four, and no time for water.  Make time.  And be sure to eat plenty of food to keep your stomach full and help stave off wobbly drunkenness.  There are awesome food events every day of Beer Week, so there’s no reason not to eat your fill while you drink.

Mix Up Events: The events of Beer Week are myriad, so there’s no reason not to get the most of them.  Check out a tap takeover, a beer dinner, meet a brewer, the London Grill dunk tank, Dunkel Dare—the possibilities are endless.  While we all have our favorite local bar, don’t just sit there and wait for events to come to you.  Get out and experience what you can while you can.  Make the most of it.

Pay Attention While Walking: This one may be the most important.  Case in point, this text I sent my wife two years ago:

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Be safe, have fun, and drink lots of beer.  But do it intelligently and you’ll have the best 10 days of the year.

Get Your Fill of Great Sandwiches on May 28

16 May 2014

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Almost every culture, in one form or another, has a sandwich.  Some kind of bread, some kind of meat, and some kind of veg slapped together in an easily transportable package.  And while all the sandwiches and fillings differ, one thing these cultures have in common is they all have their favorite, and they’ll all argue over which is better.  Even here in Philadelphia, the battle between roast pork and cheesesteak rages on—but luckily for you, you won’t have to argue, because on May 28 at Union Transfer from 6:00pm – 9:00pm, all the sandwiches will be great.

So goes the Great Sandwiches Event, hosted by City Paper as the inaugural release party for their yearly Meal Ticket Magazine.  The event is a mere $35, and will pack over 25 sandwiches from area restaurants, as well as a variety of snacks, desserts, and (of course) alcohol.  In addition to stuffing yourself full of bread and meat, Chopped-style showdown between Scott Schroeder (American Sardine Bar & South Philadelphia Tap Room), Brad Spence (Amis), and Eli Kulp (Fork, High Street on Market, a.kitchen). Judging the sandwiches will be food writer Drew Lazor, Meal Ticket editor Caroline Russock, and local illustrator Hawk Krall.

Some of the sandwich samplers to be in attendance are American Sardine Bar, Garces Trading Company, Hot Diggity, Pub & Kitchen, Rotisseur, Schlesinger’s, Shank’s, Taqueria Feliz, the Avenue Delicatessen, and Winnie’s LeBus amongst others.  Snacks and sweets will be provided by the likes of Insomnia Cookies, Kind Snacks, Sweet Salvation Truffles, and Termini Brothers.  Most importantly, though, is the booze, which will be brought by Art in the Age, Coronado Brewing, Dad’s Hat, Lancaster Brewing, Philly Brewing, Tito’s Vodka, and Yards. Check out the official page for the event for a full list of participants.

If all this still isn’t enough for you, DJ Holly Sue Allen will be spinning for the night, you’ll be able to vote for your favorite sandwiches, and take pictures in a photo booth with food-themed props.  Prizes can be won for best picture, as well as a raffle being held with tickets given to anyone who brings a non-perishable food item for donation.  $35 for all of this is a bargain, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Philabundance—so not only will you be having a great time, stuffing yourself and drinking as much as you want, but you’ll be helping out a good cause.

I’m not sure how you could possibly justify not going, so be sure to get your ticket as soon as possible, because space is limited and tickets are sure to go fast.  Tickets can be purchased here, and there is no excuse not to go.  They’ve even teamed up with Uber to give first-time riders a free ride up to $20 if you use the code GREATSANDWICHES for you ride—so you can either use it to get to the event more quickly, or get home when you eat so much you can’t move.  Either way, you’ll have made it to the Great Sandwiches Event, which is the important part.  I’ll see you there, but don’t expect much chit-chat as my mouth will be full the entire time.

Beer Camp Across America to Stop in Philly August 2

7 May 2014

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Sierra Nevada Brewing Company will be embarking on an epic traveling beer festival this summer, Beer Camp Across America, which will hit seven American cities with thriving craft beer cultures—so of course Philadelphia will be included.  The brewery is inviting ever craft brewery in the country to chip in and pour their beer at one of the seven stops, so attendees should get quite the selection if they go to every stop.  The important one, though, will be at Penn Treaty Park on Saturday, August 2 from noon to 5pm.

To accompany the Beer Camp adventure, Sierra Nevada has collaborated with 12 breweries to put out a special 12-pack to honor the festival.  The pack will feature 10 bottles and two cans, and will have collaboration beers from Sierra Nevada partnered with Allagash, Ballast Point, Bell’s, Cigar City, Firestone Walker, New Glarus, Ninkasi, Oskar Blues, Russian River, 3 Floyds, Victory, and a beer from the Asheville Brewers Alliance.  Each of the brewers and their beers will join selective legs of the tour, and we would hazard that Allagash and Victory, at the very least, will be in Philadelphia.

Each city’s event will only sell 5,000 tickets, which will go for $65 (available at sierranevada.com/beercamp) and include a tasting glass to sample two beers from each brewery in attendance.  In addition to the beer, there will be food vendors and live music.  Designated driver tickets can be purchased for $30.  If all the beer available wasn’t enough to whet your appetite for a ticket, know also that proceeds will go to state brewers guilds in the festival host states, as well as hop and barley research to foster the development of new hop varieties and barley crops.

While the mixed 12-pack will be a great way to experience some of the festival, be sure to buy a ticket and stop by your local iteration.  There will be plenty more breweries in attendance in addition to the ones featured in the pack, and hopefully Sierra Nevada will have the pull to bring in some that you maybe haven’t tried before.  A growing list of breweries slated to attend can be found here, and we’re happy to see our friends at 2nd Story Brewing on the list.

August 2nd is sure to be a beautiful day ripe for drinking beer at Penn Treaty.  We’ll bring you more information as it comes in, but until then check the Beer Camp website for updates (and explanations of the collaborative brews) and secure your ticket before they sell out—any beer fan in the country won’t want to miss this epic sudsy road trip. And if you can’t make it to the Philadelphia date, check out one of the other stops on the tour: Chico, CA on July 19; San Diego, CA on July 20; Denver, CO on July 25; Chicago, IL on July 27; Portland, ME on August 1; and Mills River, NC on August 3.

Philadelphia Vendy’s Drive into Penn Treaty on June 14

5 May 2014

© Clay Williams / http://claywilliamsphoto.com

It’s time again for Philadelphia to support its favorite mobile food producers by way of the Philadelphia Vendy Awards, the annual festival held to promote and reward the city’s best food trucks. Now in its fourth year, the event will feature over 20 trucks and carts sampling their wares, as well as an array of alcoholic beverages.  The Vendy’s take place on Saturday, June 14 (thankfully after Beer Week this year) at Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown from 2pm-6pm and tickets are a scant $45 for early-birds.

For the first year, there will be an all-female judging panel made up of some of the area’s brightest food writers and industry stars.  The panel will include Felicia D’Ambrosio, founding partner of Federal Donuts and Communications Chief for CookNSolo Restaurants; Lily Fischer, Food Network Cupcake Wars winner and co-founder of Café Life Bake Shop opening in Fishtown this fall; Danya Henninger, local editor for Zagat and contributor to a variety of Philly-area publications; Ann Karlen, Founding Director of Fair Food; and Nicole Woon, blog editor for Penn Appetit, the University of Pennsylvania’s premier food publication.  Clearly, if anyone is going to be able to accurately judge food, it will be these five.

And who will they be judging?  That’s up to you.  Nominations are open until May 12, and the top-voted trucks will all be invited to the party, so make sure you nominate your favorite truck in the city.  Attendees will also be able to take part in the final voting, as in addition to the Vendy Cup, a Peoples’ Choice award will be given to the crowd’s favorite truck.  Last year, King of Falafel won the Cup and Cow and the Curd won Peoples’ Choice, and Best Dessert went to Lil’ Pop Shop.

In Philadelphia, the Vendy’s serve as a fundraiser for the Food Trust, so be sure to get your ticket and support a great cause (all while getting unlimited excellent food and drink for four hours).  Early bird tickets (act now!) are $45, but will go up to $55 soon.  Children can get in for $30.  Having gone two years ago, we can attest that it’s a great time, and well worth the price of admission. Tickets can be found here, and vendor nominations are here.  If you’re unfamiliar with the food truck scene in Philly, now is the time to try it out, so come hungry so you can eat as much as possible. Not to mention this would make an excellent tailgate before the DMB show in Camden later that night!

Unlimited Flavors Highlight Taste of the Nation

30 April 2014

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Taste of the Nation, the fundraiser for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, had a lot of potential disappointments: it is a high-priced event, there is a lot of hype behind the restaurants in attendance, and the idea of a fundraiser at Hotel Monaco could bring to mind a snooty, upper-crusty crowd that wouldn’t be much fun to hang out with. Luckily, though, all those potential disappointments proved not to be disappointing at all. The crowd was great, the multiple rooms of the event were used perfectly, and the restaurants really put their best foot forward, making the ticket well worth the cost.

While there wasn’t much beer (Cisco Brewers from Nantucket had the monopoly on offerings with four from their lineup), the cocktails more than made up for it—especially the Laxness, made with Tito’s Vodka, cucumber dill shrub, Lillet Blanc, orange bitters, and club soda, served by Jesse Cornell of Sbraga and the brainchild of Christian Gaal of Emmanuelle. The slight sourness of the shrub made the cocktail non-stop drinkable, and I went back for it more times than I care to admit. Other mixologists—including Vincent Stipo of Vernick and Phoebe Esmon of Emmanuelle—served up delicious concoctions featuring Hendrick’s Gin, Dad’s Hat Rye, and Buffalo Trace bourbon.

The food, however, was the real highlight of the event. And while not everything was amazing, it was hard to find anything to really complain about—not surprising, as the list of chefs in attendance read like a Who’s Who of Philly dining. Local stalwarts like Scott Schroeder, Christopher Kearse, Eli Kulp, and Nick Macri shared space with relative newcomers like Peter Serpico, Townsend Wentz, Justin Bogle, and Mike Sultan.

20140430-082520.jpgThe standout dishes were myriad, but a few rose above the rest to really wow. High Street on Market—where my wife and I had previously had a just okay dinner—had a shaved pork belly in a tehina sauce with rye crumbles that has us considering going back immediately. The pork was shaved to mimic noodled and the rich, thick sauce was perfectly paired with the crunchy little rye crumbles. The Taco Mondo food truck, as well, had a brilliant little taco that we went back for seconds (to get good pictures, of course) made of smoked pork cheek, house-made kimchi, ginger cabbage slaw, and crispy shallots—the tender pork and crispy shallots played off of each other well while the kimchi and slaw added a wonderful zip to the dish.

The only minor complaint I had would be with the Celebrity Cruises “relaxation lounge.” It had all the makings of a relaxing spot—soft lights, two stations for drink making, and nice comfy couches—but the music was more dance club than lounge, so I think the message was a bit confused. Otherwise, the spaces were laid out well and never felt overcrowded, even when the VIP hour ended and general admission came in. And other than Jesse Cornell running out of his cocktail near the end of the night and Cisco running out of beer, almost every table was still pushing their wares at the end of the night – an impressive feat for having such great food. Not to mention the plethora of great silent auction items, all donated to raise money for No Kid Hungry.

If you have the opportunity, make it a priority to go next year. Not only does it help a great cause, but it puts on display the best of the best in Philly food. If you want to get a sneak preview of a restaurant before you go, the ticket price of Taste of the Nation will allow you to see the talent and flavors of most of the area’s best chefs, and that is well worth the $95 admission. While you may not be technically getting a full taste of our nation, you’ll definitely be getting a robust and comprehensive taste of Philadelphia.

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Sancho Pistola’s

14 April 2014

sanchoAwning

1stars19 W. Girard Ave. | 267.324.3530 | Fishtown | $$ | 10 Taps
@sancho_pistolas | facebook.com/RealSanchoPistolas | sanchopistolas.com

To say that we were excited when the Jose Pistola’s crew decided to open their second location in Fishtown is an understatement.  The original has been in the top three of our Center City go-tos for quite a while thanks to the beer selection and food quality, and from the looks of things Sancho Pistola’s wasn’t going to be any different.  And on those two fronts, they absolutely deliver.

Everything about Sancho Pistola’s points to the place being an elevated version of Jose Pistola’s: it’s not as divey (the space is much more new and clean), the food is more refined, and the cocktails are interesting and delicious. The team behind the two places has always known the importance of having a great beer list, and that has not changed at the second location—and neither has the humor put into the menus.  The bottle list is far-reaching, and the tap selection always has something worth ordering.

The only downfall, however, is a big one—and the reason Sancho Pistola’s only received one star instead of a possible two stars.  The music, while often good, is way too loud for the small space, and makes conversation nearly impossible.  The first time we went—the second day they were open—we chalked it up to inexperience with the space and let it slide, even though there were three of us at the bar and the person on either end couldn’t hear the other.  The second time—two months later—and we still couldn’t hear each other speak.  There were six of us, and everyone being in on the conversation was a non-option.

That being said, if you’re a party of one or two and don’t mind yelling, the food and drinks make the place well worth checking out.  Hopefully brunch, which we haven’t been to (yet), is a bit more subdued.

ISOB Top Three:

Mole Meatball Steamed Buns: Dense little meatballs dripping with mole sauce inside perfectly puffy Korean-style steamed buns, served with a touch a pickled jalapenos, chipotle aioli, and guac.  As an appetizer, the tray of two buns is perfect, but as a meal, three or four orders would be even more perfect.  They can be slightly messy, but you’ll be glad to have some of the extra mole sauce to mop up with some steamed bun, or to wipe up with your finger, or to lick directly off the plate. A must-order.

Sancho Burger: A large patty piled with poblanos, onion, pickle, bacon, and chipotle aioli.  The pickles add a nice crunch and tang to the savory burger, and the poblanos and bacon make it similar to Royal Tavern’s, though not as spicy.  It might be nice to minus the bacon and put some of their awesome taco protein on there, but then again you can’t argue with bacon.  It comes with a pile of Pistola’s fries, which are excellent, and some extra aioli to dip them in.  When we ordered it, it was cooked a perfect medium rare.

Spicy Pork: You can get the spicy pork in a taco (with tomato, red onion, cilantro, and lime), or atop Pistola’s pile of nachos (with crema, tomato, refried beans, cilantro, jalapeno, onion, and “really expensive cheese”)—but the point is, you should get it.  The pork is succulent and the sauce is not only spicy, but tasty.  And the spice level is perfect: enough so you know the spice is there, but not so much that you have to pound water after each bite.  Even people who aren’t necessarily into spicy things will find the pork perfect, regardless of what it’s put atop.

Impressive Lineup for Taste of The Nation

11 April 2014

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If you’re reading a blog about food and beer, it’s a pretty sure bet that you enjoy one or both of those things. There’s also a good chance that, unless you like torturing yourself reading about things you can’t have, you’d have a relatively easy time tracking down and affording the food you enjoy. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works for nearly 560,000 kids in Pennsylvania, which is where Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign comes in. Taste of the Nation serves as an annual fundraiser to help end childhood hunger in America and to benefit the one in two children in Philadelphia who have been to a food pantry.

The fundraiser will take place on Sunday, April 27 from 6-9pm at Hotel Monaco, or 5-9pm if you go in for the VIP ticket—which you should, as some of the best chefs in the city will be donating their time and food to help support the cause, and an extra hour will only help sampling everything there is to sample. The VIP ticket will also let you sample from the Beef Tartare Smackdown sponsored by Creekstone Farms, as well as an invitation to and two drink tickets for the chef after party. Tickets are $95 for general admission and $145 for VIP.

The lineup of restaurants at the event, which is serious business, includes: Alla Spina, Avance, The Avenue Deli, Bar Ferdinand, Bistrot La Minette, Border Springs Lamb, Brauhaus Schmitz, Buddakan, Charcoal, Cherry Bomb Bus, Creekstone Farms, Devil’s Den, Fond, High Street on Market, Izumi, Lacroix, MilkBoy, Paradiso, Pennsylvania 6, Red Owl Tavern, Russet, Serpico, Serrano, Shake Shack, South Philadelphia Tap Room, Square 1682, Sweet Box, Taco Mondo, Townsend, The Twisted Tail, Valanni, Varga Bar, Vernick Food + Drink, and Will BYOB. Whew.

As you can see, there’s not much more that needs to be said to convince anyone to buy a ticket. But, in case you do need more convincing, there will also be silent auctions to benefit the cause, which will include an overnight stay at Hotel Monaco; a Philadelphia sports package with Sixers box seats, Union sideline tickets and signed Eagles photographs; an Uber gift card; a wine tasting for four at Penns Woods Winery; and restaurant dinners and gift cards.

In 2013, Taste of the Nation in Philadelphia alone raised $50,000 to help end childhood hunger, which can translate into up to 500,000 meals. Help them out once again this year, and help yourself to a great time while doing it. We hope to see you there. Get your tickets here.

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