Are you a foodie? Do you believe that fine dining is an art form? Are some of your most treasured memories of being in a certain place at a certain time with your favorite people having that special meal? Well, I would answer a resounding yes to all three questions, and here I share with you some of my most memorable dining experiences eating my way through cities abroad and my own backyard of Philadelphia.
The Best Italian Restaurants…Where You Least Expect Them:
Il Piccolino – Paris, France (8th arrondissment). Ah, Paris, it truly is a movable feast. But who knew, on our last night in the city (in September of 2015) the month before our wedding (we honeymooned before, because that’s how we roll), desperate for something other than the overload of French food we had been eating, and upon the recommendation from the concierge at our hotel (who secured a last minute reservation), we would stumble into the best Italian restaurant we ever experienced? There were probably about ten tables inside (all reserved) and a kitchen in full view (that looked like a kitchen in somebody’s house). From the little old man who provided colorful service, to the fresh veggies they walked across the street to the market to procure as you ordered them, to the hand-made sage ravioli with truffle oil drizzle, to the cutesy-translated deserts “in their honey shirts” – this was quite possibly the best dining experience of our lives.
Zeppoli’s – Collingswood, New Jersey, USA. Less than a mile from our new house is this gem of “a hole in the wall” we indulged in just last week after a multitude of rave reviews from friends and coworkers. There’s maybe a dozen tables inside. Reservations must be made weeks in advance. Upon entering it’s all a bit gentrified-rustic-hipster-is-this-a-dump-or-is-this-chic and unassuming. But WOW! The food (which is Sicilian and far removed from the typical Italian fare you find In NJ-PA-NY) was out of this world and full of flavors my taste buds didn’t know existed. The service was both casual and spot-on where the highly competent wait staff tag-teams the tables and walks around as if they are serving family at their house – never missing a beat or a half-filled water-glass. The chef offers up complimentary after dinner drinks (while the place is otherwise BYOB).
Trattoria Toto da Lucia – Amsterdam, Netherlands (near Vondel Park). Was the food here really that good? I don’t know. It was my last night in the city (in October of 2013), this was right around the corner from my friend’s flat off the Overtoom. The atmosphere was comforting. The wine was flowing. The conversation was bountiful. The food was fresh and made from scratch. I think I had a risotto? It’s a place where I’ll never forget the feeling…of being happy where I was in life at that moment…wrapping up my first trip to Europe, sharing my experiences and my hopes for a travel-filled future with a good friend, and feeling like the world was now my oyster.
Look, it’s not like my name is Stan and there’s some Wendy Testaburger out there who I’m trying to impress by being all political and stuff. When I blog about politics, it normally leaves a bad taste in my mouth. You might learn something about me you didn’t care to know and I might learn something about you I didn’t care to know. And then it’s awkward talkin’ for awhile. I’ve tried to avoid taking a side in the recent Chick-fil-A debate. To be honest, I always liked their food and I didn’t understand what one lunatic exec’s political views had to do with that food and the locally owned franchises in my area. But I can’t stand idly by anymore…and here’s why.
Lemme tell you a little story about what happened to me last night. Driving home from a hard day’s work, I was cravin’ some Chick-fil-A as I often do. So I decided to stop on by, and I honestly thought all the recent boycott talk might’ve hurt business and I would be able to conveniently race through the drive-thru in record time. It was all about me, see? What I found was a line around the block and a long wait for some extra-lousy, fatty, greasy, poorly breaded nuggets and soggy waffle fries. Eating the nasty grub at home, I thought, “What the hell?” And then I saw it on the news – Yup! – I unwittingly participated in the hate-laced, Huckabee & Palin-endorsed “Support Chick-fil-A Day.” I became sick to my stomach for multiple reasons. Continue reading →
Paula Deen! Paula Deen! Get me some fried bird - stat!
We always discuss films and books and television. There’s the occasional politicking. Oh, and let’s not forget drinking – as in drinking games for watching political theater or your favorite cult film/TV show. So why the heck not put The Spin on one of my all-time favorite things?
I’ve been in love with it ever since that day when I was about ten years-old and I tasted the home-cooked fried chicken of Mrs. Cottingham in Willingboro, NJ.
On reruns of Seinfeld I’m often reminded by Newman that “Kenny Rogers makes a pretty mean bird,” but roasting is for suckers. My heart and cholesterol belong to fowl of the fried persuasion.
I covet it like Daniel Plainview covets oil.
So ladies and gentlemen…if I say I’m a fried chicken man you will agree.
And I am a man on a mission – in search of the world’s greatest fried chicken.