My family has this ongoing problem. We love to travel and experience new things but we often lack the impetus to get and go. We have plenty of grand ideas that we always intend to follow through on and end up stuck behind the never-ending litany of household chores and complacency. The holidays are no exception. We get stuck in our rut and waffle on how to spend them. We want to travel and visit family but we don’t want to battle the holiday traffic.
That’s when I came up with this great idea to travel before the holidays. A sort of pre-holiday celebration. We were going to travel, but not far. And we weren’t going to visit family. We were simply going to spend time as a family taking in all the things we love about the holidays but never seem to take the time to enjoy.
After an email from Kimpton Hotels offering a discount to help them celebrate their 5th anniversary in Philadelphia, I decide to pull the trigger. I asked no one in the family. I just simply told them we were going away for the weekend.
I was met with nonchalance, apprehension, and, shortly before the trip, anxiety. But we got on the road at a reasonable hour and arrived a little over two hours later to the Hotel Monaco, a two years young Kimpton hotel that “mixes the pomp of a bygone era with modern appeal.”
Our hotel stay was amazing in ways I can’t even describe here. From the moment Sean, the valet/doorman/bellman/jack-of-all-trades, greeted us, the service was so friendly and welcoming and what a bonus that it’s a pet-friendly hotel (I made lots of doggy friends).
We enjoyed a Sunday morning brunch in the Red Owl Tavern on the property and I was totally taken in by the architecture. Luckily, the manager obliged and offered me a quick tour to the nether regions. The tavern was once a bank and the vault now serves as the wine cellar. I also got to see the chef’s table and one of the other private dining rooms. I’m already trying to think of an event I can’t plan in Philly just to use their facilities.
And while I took no pictures of our breakfast (I settled for a bagel with cream cheese and amazing chicken apple sausage), I feel like most of the trip was about food. And we got off to a great start when we arrived Friday night and the hotel recommended a kid-friendly restaurant, Jones, full of comfort foods.
Yes, you do see deviled eggs and grilled cheese and tomato soup. And this was all the first night! The next morning was all about my husband and one thing… sausage.
We had no idea what to expect when we headed to a little place known as Czerw’s Polish Kielbasa. Housed in a former stable, this meat shop often has a line out the door, especially during the holidays. After learning this was a cash-only operation, I headed around the corner to a little convenience store and on the way, made the acquaintance of a woman who was just carrying her order home. She told me how her late husband used to deliver the highest quality meat to Czerw’s (pronounced Chev – I asked) and it’s the best around. I’m not Polish but according to everyone in line (who were all extremely friendly and festive), the kielbasy and homemade pierogies are simply the best. We’ll find out when we eat it on Christmas Eve!
Since this was a cash and carry shop, we were still hungry at this point and headed to my old standby, Pat’s King of Steaks. I have a long (meaning 4 years) history with Pat’s and was excited to share it with my husband. We all liked it but it wasn’t fantastic. I think I might finally be ready to venture out and try other cheesesteaks (Geno’s? Tony Luke’s? Jim’s?).
After shoving a cheesesteak down my throat, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to eat for the rest of the day. But by the end of the day festivities, we were just ready to sit and eat even if we didn’t really want to eat. At the recommendation of a co-worker, we tracked down Nomad Roman for what I had read was “the best pizza in Philadelphia.” While I’m sure that notion is hotly contested, I did fall in love with the thin crust pizza with shiitake mushrooms, three kinds of cheeses, an egg, and truffle oil.
Bonus: there wasn’t a table immediately available so they sat us at the pizza counter. I called it “dinner and a show.” Sean called it “the chef’s table.” Evan simply called it fun.
And although I never planned to write an entire post about our food experience in Philadelphia, there’s no denying that it’s hard to find a bad meal. After a quick stop at the German-themed Christmas Village, we ended our culinary journey with authentic Austrian apple and cherry strudels (which were heavenly). But the highlight for me, as a cheese lover, was finding the cheese booth and experiencing the joy of grilled Raclette cheese.
Thus ends our Philadelphia culinary journey but we did do more than eat, I promise (although that wouldn’t be such a bad thing). We truly experienced beautiful holiday displays and more brotherly love than we thought possible. I’ll end here and be sure to bring you our Philly holiday joy tomorrow!