Booze Banter

48 Hours of Eating and Drinking in Philadelphia, East Coast / West Coast Style


When one travels the majestic New Jersey and Pennsylvania highways and byways (now pothole free!) with G-LO (also now pothole free!), the sights are never-ending. The Great Rust Belt is now but a skinny tie, but many of the skeletons still sit, waiting to be turned into hipster coffeehouses and record stores. Some are already boring monolithic warehouse/fulfillment centers for the Amazons and Walmarts of the world, no doubt filled with robots that turn into middle managers when not packing a pair of Bombas socks surrounded by an army of packing air pillows in a 16″ x 16″ x 16″ box. We call this progress, by God!

A Google Maps Aerial View of the Meadowlands / American Dream Sports/Shopping/Entertainment Complex

As we headed south from New York City on a recent site visit to The Home Office, something called American Dream rose up from the swamplands to our right; a massive edifice to retail entertainment alongside the turnpike. Supposedly, if you can believe anything on the world wide web, inside those massive walls there was a waterpark, an ice rink, a ski and snow resort, an amusement park, and…hold your breath, Kids, a candy department store (GASP!). And 500 retail stores OPENING SOON! WOW! Just WOW! Who knew New Jersey was so breathtaking?

G-LO’s Trusty Silver Chariot

Once in the grand old city of Philadelphia, G-LO drove down a street (THE Broad Street of Broad Street Bullies fame) that was entirely populated by mortuaries. “The Walking Dead: South Philly” seems like a no-brainer in a streaming world looking for content, content, and more content. I made note of a few of the businesses for future reference as The G-LO Tour Bus moved on. It was Day 1 of a weekend with the Home Office, and our fearless leader would not disappoint in his scheduled activities for us…

First stop, lunch and cocktails, of course, at American Sardine Bar on Federal Street. A corner location in an older mixed-use neighborhood with narrow streets, this was an excellent place to rest our darkened souls after a long drive. Saddling up at the end of the bar, we ordered a bit of everything including every version of sardine on the chalkboard. Grilled, sautéed, plancha, and fried. We devoured them all. We were more than pleasantly surprised by the quality of the chow. Harissa glazed carrots, roasted Brussels sprouts, and fries all hit the spot with a craft beer for G-LO and an Old Fashioned for me. Well-fed and well-quenched, we motored on.

G-LO scheduled us a visit to Art in the Age in Old City, not far away from lunch and but a stone’s throw from Betsy Ross’s home (she made a fortune with her home sewing business, Google her). Art in the Age is a quirky little retail spot in a building that once was a store for medicines and liquors. What goes around comes around. Part tasting room, part home bar supply store, it’s a fun mix of most anything you need at home to fashion your cocktails. Glassware, muddlers, juicers, spoons, shakers, doodads and widgets galore all nicely set in displays reminiscent of a bygone era when craftsmanship was the rule, not the exception. And there is an array of bitters of various brands to help the budding cocktail maker. It would be easy to go a little crazy with a credit card in there.

But we weren’t there to shop, no, we were not. Our goal was the back end of the shop where the Tasting Room was. It wasn’t really a room so much; it is a nice L-shaped bar, our favorite shape. We saddled up – see a trend? – where we were delightfully led through a tasting of AITA’s spirits. Their lineup, all made at New Liberty Distilling in Philly and Tamworth Distilling in New Hampshire, ranges from whisky and rye to flavored cordials and other spirits. We ran through a flavor-forward list of Maple Jack (maple syrup flavored apple brandy), Cherry Bounce (a brandy recipe based on Martha Washington’s very own), Black Walnut Damson Plum cordial, and Mountain Berry cordial made from New Hampshire raspberries and Aronia berries. The flavors were all over the board. Sweet to tart, savory to dry. There were others as well that come and go with the seasons, all seemingly perfect for the pro and amateur cocktailer wanting flavor in their recipes.

On our departure, G-LO took me by Ms. Ross’s home. Bit of a fixer-upper and maybe a good project as a home renovation on one of those HGTV shows. Betsy must have some “flag” dough socked away at this point, right? Then it was a stroll down Elfreth’s Alley – the nation’s oldest residential street. So quaint. Could use sidewalks with curbs and maybe a Starbucks, but what do I know?

Day 2 added another Musketeer to our entourage as Limpd drove us back into the heart of historical Philadelphia. The Boozedancing Trio (available for weddings, bar AND bat mitzvahs, and quinceaneras) had a spirited lunch at Red Owl Tavern which is right across from the grassy mall of Independence National Historical Park, Independence Hall, Independence, MO, Independence Coffee, Independence Dry Cleaners, and the Liberty Bell. At this stop, we built an important base for our next stop.

The enormous Bourse building on 5th Street was the world’s first to be home to a stock exchange, maritime exchange, and grain-trading exchange at the same time back in 1891. Today, it’s…a food hall. Now that’s not a bad thing at all. We like food. And we like choices. We also like whisky, which is perfect since Bluebird Distilling has a bar inside the Bourse smackdab in the center of the first floor without any walls surrounding it.

Bluebird Distilling is located in Phoenixville, which is about 30 miles northeast of the bar at the Bourse. The distillery is a “grain-to-glass” operation (no sourcing we’re told) and makes everything from vodka and gin to aged spirits of bourbon, rye, single malt, and rum. This day we were lucky enough to saddle up [NOTE: TREND] and run through about 10 spirits including a couple of one-offs that our bartender pulled from under the bar. It was an odd feeling sitting in the middle of a 19th century building, circled by food kiosks that ran the gamut from pizza to poke, Mexican to Filipino. All the while we sat back and sampled through Bluebird’s extensive list. We each picked our own flights. My list was Sugarcane Rum, Dark Rum, Rye, Wheat Whiskey, Rye finished in a Madeira cask, Single Malt, “Phoenixville” – a 60% Bourbon-30% Rye-10% Oat spirit, and a single malt finished in a Pedro Ximénez sherry cask. Thankfully, the pours were small, so we were able to walk out instead of pass out. It was an excellent tasting of young craft spirits from the Philadelphia area.

Our drive home included a stop at Central Taco & Tequila for…TACOS! Limpd and G-LO obviously knew I was homesick for Los Angeles, and the stop was a great end to our afternoon.

Two days of yammering, eating, and spirit tasting in Philadelphia. A wholly successful trip!

The West Coast Office gives The Home Office 4.5 Stars!

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Many thanks to Kylie Flett of Punch Media PR for setting us up at Art in the Age & Buebird Distilling!

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