House of Skip

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Philadelphia Pub Crawl

Friends of ours, let's call them Captain and Tennille, are huge fans of a show all about adult beverages, Drinking Made Easy starring Zane Lamprey and Steve McKenna. In the show, the two go out on the town and discover what and where to drink in different cities. Prior to Drinking Made Easy, Lamprey had a different show called Three Sheets, which was similar except he was without McKenna and was mostly international. 

So, after watching many episodes and living vicariously through Lamprey, who states it is his job to drink,  we decided we needed to conquer a nearby city and do the same tour as the Drinking Made Easy team. Philly is close and so we figured it was doable.

We grabbed our pal Pleepleus and hit the streets of Philadelphia. We had a big agenda and set out with the goal of hitting as many as possible. Our game plan was to have one or two drinks only at each bar, drink water and eat something at at least every other place.

We started our journey at a place called McGillins Old Ale House. We parked (love the pay stations, swipe your card, chose the amount of money to put in based on how long you'll be there and go).  A short walk, past some dumpsters in an alley, from where we parked we found the first pub. Seemed like a big college hangout, lots of young guys with popped collars and flip flops.  Not exactly our scene but they had beers, yum. Well, the rules were broken right off the bat as Captain and Tennille opted to share a "tasting" of beers rather than just get one drink each. The place was packed and after standing and looking confused for a minute, we were able to find a couple seats at the bar. Sports were on all the TVs lining the wood paneled walls at McGillin's.  There were quite a few beers so the logic of getting the tasting does make sense. I started with the McGillins Ale and my companion started with the McGillins lager. Captain and Tennille were unable to really know what beer was what in their tasting because the bartender, who was very sweet, could not remember what order he poured them in. While talking to our bartender and another who was also working that end of the bar, we got to talking about stouts (some of my favorite beers) and so in addition to my ale, I also got to taste two stouts they had on draft (see photo). Oh boy.
Sly Fox O'Reilly Stout, O'Hara's Irish Stout and McGillins Ale

Next my companion decided we could walk to the next place and come back for our car. The walk was a little longer than he expected, I asked "are we there yet?' at least twice. Feeling bad for underestimating the walk my companion suggested he go get the car and come back to get me, Captain and Tennille to go to the place after that. Our long walk got us to one of the most unique places I have ever been. Eulogy Belgian Tavern is a narrow building with a bar and dining area both downstairs and upstairs. Seeing that the downstairs bar was quite full, we headed up stairs. On the steep, narrow staircase, I felt like I had been transported back to the row home I grew up in. The upstairs bar was cool, hip with an aura of secrecy. And you soon realize why they refer to this as beer heaven, the menu has more than 300 international beers. Our bartender, also super hip, must be used to the bewildered faces staring back at him, because he quickly offered that if we tell him what we like he'll pick us something. Still at a loss as to what we wanted, he started to name characteristics of beer, we stopped him at bacon. Yes, bacon. You know Skip and her companion love bacon, but Captain and Tennille (in addition to drinking buddies, are also fellow foodies) love bacon too. So, Tennille and I get them smokey delicious bacon beers, pictured above. And my companion and the Captain get lighter, fruity and yes even floral brews. All were very tasty. Also tasty was the food we had at Eulogy. We ordered two things to share. We got a dozen steamed shrimp, seasoned with old bay (great with the bacon beer by the by) and a duck confit strudel, which was yummy, juicy duck meat wrapped in buttery, flaky pastry dough, yum. We enjoyed our snacks and the atmosphere at Eulogy, the bartender was fantastic, really a great place to hang if you like beer and like to try new things. While my companion walked to get the car, Captain, Tennille and I shared one last beer. The next stop ended up being a closer walk than the our last walk, so my companion parked and we met him out front of City Tavern.

If you are a history buff, you'll love City Tavern, it is ripe with Philadelphia history. Given that, it is much less of a "hang out" type pub like the places we'd just come from. In this historic restaurant and bar, there was more formal seating for a meal, but we opted to sit on the back veranda and enjoy a couple drinks. My companion and I drank the same thing Zane did when he was there, the City Tavern Cooler, which is whiskey, rum, peach brandy and apple cider. It was really yummy and something that could easily sneak up on you because it is so sweet and refreshing you might forget there is alcohol in it. Again, Captain and Tennille ordered a beer sampler, but also shared a City Tavern Cooler so they could have the full experience. We stayed there long enough to have our drinks and chat and relax a little after our last adventure. It was a lovely day to sit outdoors with an adult beverage. Then it was time to move on again.

Dueling Pianos at Jollys
Next up on our itinerary was place I had heard about on local radio stations for years, always announcing shows that were happening there. So, we were not all that shocked when we arrived at the Blockley Pourhouse and were told they were only open for shows and you could not just go in and sit at the bar. So, we were directed to their neighbor, Jolly's. It happened to be a piano bar with dueling pianos. Given the time of day (at this point and time I am completely unaware of what time it was, but it was still light out) there was no one else in Jolly's but the four of us. By this time we were all feeling pretty good and so our memories from this point on are a little fuzzy. There was a cute, young, female bartender working who was very friendly and we harassed her for quite awhile. I remember having a watermelon beer by 21st Amendment. They have a great beer selection, including quite a few local beers on tap. I think Captain might have had the Lancaster Strawberry Wheat because he likes fruit beers. I have no recollection of what my companion or Tennille drank or how many we had. I know, I know, but we were having so much fun! So to keep things going we decided to move on to the next destination where we planned to eat.

On next stop is a Philadelphia legend, Monk's Cafe is a great bar and restaurant with an extensive beer list and awesome pub food. By this time we'd picked up a 5th, as we'd been joined by a friend of Captain's. We sat at a large round table and enjoyed food, drinks and laughs. The specifics are fuzzy, but I know that Tennille and I both had the pulled pork sandwich. It is possible that someone had the chicken apple sausage, I had it once on a prior visit and it is delish. The pulled pork was awesome the BBQ sauce was sweet and tangy and the pork was really tender and they really piled it on the sandwich, good for soaking up all the beer we'd had. My companion insists he had fish, he thinks it was tilapia, but there is only salmon and trout on the menu, so I am not sure what to tell you about that one.

We decided to trek to one last destination. As we arrived at the Ugly American, the power went out. It was only momentarily but it was interesting that it happened right as we arrived at the door. I recall feeling confused and a little unbalanced at this point. I think I had one beer and then some water. To be completely honest, I did not even remember the name of this place, I had to ask my companion prior to writing this. Upon consulting Tennille about this, she said, "we went somewhere after Monks?". So, beware, pub crawls are dangerous. Lucky for us, my companion had been drinking a lot less than everyone else and so after dropping off our 5th, he got us home safe and sound as the rest of us slept off our day.

Any of the places mentioned here are worth a visit. And Drinking Made Easy is worth a watch. So, check it out at


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Alps Bistro, Allentown, NJ

Good German food. Not something we often hear a lot about in the restaurant world. French, Italian, Asian and Latin seem to rule the roost. But every once in awhile you want the comfort of Spätzle. So, grab your favorite Riesling and head to Alps Bistro in quaint Allentown, NJ, right on Main St.

It really feels like you are walking into some one's living room when you walk in to Alps Bistro. The place is small and narrow, there are probably about 8 tables in the whole place. The decor is cute and very homey. The tables have nice cloth place mats and instead of plain cloth napkins there's are plaid. A couple Eastern European knick knacks and mostly country style art line the walls. The waitress dressed in German attire, is the owner/chef's wife. She is very sweet. My companion and I started with a pate platter as an appetizer. There were two types of pate, we weren't told what they were (we also did not ask) but they were both wonderful, we are guessing one was chicken liver and one goose liver, as one was definitely more gamey than the other. The platter also had crackers, various cheeses, dried apricots and an awesome honey mustard dip. Oh I almost forgot!! Before our appetizer came out we were presented with an adorable little cloth lined basket that contained magical little pretzel rolls. They were crusty on the outside, soft and warm on the inside, just like a pretzel, but round like a dinner roll, they were fantastic. Okay, so back to the pate, we ate as much of it as we could, it was a lot of cheese for two people, but it was yummy. Our waitress brought over our salads (all entrees come with a salad) and took away what remained of our cheese and pate. The salads were a typical house salad except they had beets on them, yum! My companion gave me all his beets, double yum!

The menu at Alps Bistro is chock full of all the classic German style comfort foods, pierogi, kielbasa, Sauerbraten and more. My companion got the Rouladen, which is bacon, onion and peppers wrapped up in thin sliced beef and served with Spätzle. He said it was very good. It looked awesome. Of course they have schnitzel and it changes daily with the specials, the night we were there it was pork schnitzel, covered in a pretzel breading, guess what I got? Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding! You win. I got the pork. And it was awesome, truly awesome. The breading was not thick, but you could definitely tell it was pretzel, gave it a unique flavor and crunch. The pork was pounded thin and cooked perfectly. The Spätzle was great too, we both couldn't get over how tender they were, sometimes they are too chewy. The other side was red cabbage, it was sour and soft and oh so delish. I am a cabbage fan, so I always like it, but my companion who can usually take it or leave it said it was really yummy.

We were so full from all the pate, cheese and meat that we hadn't even thought of the idea of dessert and so just asked the waitress for our check. Right after we brought it the chef came out to our table with a gorgeous looking piece of cake and said it was on the house. We had seen him sitting in the back talking to other guests and he had come over once before to ask us how everything was. I love that about small mom and pop restaurants. While he was there he explained that this little chocolate cake he was giving us was an Austrian dessert known as Sachetorte and traditionally has an apricot filling but this one had a raspberry filling. It was great, chocolate and raspberry always go well together, the cake was sweet, tart, and delicate. We devoured it. And then rolled home.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Francisco's on the River, Washington Crossing

My companion and I had been wanting to try Francisco's for a long time, but once got turned away because we did not have a reservation. So, when our friends, Mr. and Mrs. Tabata agreed to join us for dinner, I quickly made a reservation there. That was no easy task either since they don't open until 5 pm, there is no lunch served at Francisco's. But I managed to get us in!

Now the question was, will it be worth it? Francisco's on the River, in not technically "on the river" the Delaware River is across the street, but let's be real, that's not "on the river". Their parking lot is all gravel and can be tricky to walk in the dark if you like to wear 4" heels like I do, if not you'll be fine. On the plus side, it is BYOB, so we waltzed in with 4 bottles of wine, we figured one each would work! Oh, I'm so funny, actually we only drank 3 of them and rumor has it Mrs. Tabata was not feeling so good the next day.

But you really want to hear about the food right? In addition to a menu full of Italian specialities, they also had a nice specials menu. Mr. Tabata and I both had a mushroom soup from the special menu, it was soft and creamy, without being heavy. If you love mushrooms, you'll love the soup, much like Mr. Tabata and I did. My companion got the mussels in red sauce as an appetizer and as usual I conned him in to giving me a couple, delish. Salty, seafood should taste like the ocean and the sauce was awesome. Mrs. Tabata had a house salad.

 So far the four of us were enjoying the evening, wine, good food and laughs. On to entrees, my companion went with something from the special menu that should come as no surprise to regular reader, Ahi Tuna. It was a nice piece of tuna and he enjoyed it. Mr. Tabata and I had ordered the exact same thing, a special featuring Turbot, a white, mild fish that was topped with lump crab meat and a white wine sauce. Several minutes after ordering the waiter came back to tell us that there was only one turbot left, being a gentleman, Mr. Tabata left me have the turbot and told the waiter he'd have the other fish special, the tilapia. The waiter, whom was great to us all night, offered to ask the chef to make the same dish as the turbot, just with the tilapia instead. Both came out and looked great. There was a good amount of crab meat and all was delicious. As for Mrs. T she had the Linguine al Frutti di Mare Fradiavolo, which as some of you know, linguine with seafood in a spicy tomato sauce. The seafood was fresh, the sauce tasty and the linguine must have been great because there was none left when she was done. 

We were having so much fun and still had more wine to drink so we decided to stick around for dessert. Alright, the waiter had a tray of desserts and despite our intentions to say no, you cannot look at amazing desserts and turn them down. All restaurants should bring you the tray without asking, they'd sell so much more dessert that way. My companion and I shared a flourless chocolate cake. It was awesome. Rich, chocolaty and divine. The Tabatas shared the cheesecake, it had a fruit topping, could have been blueberry or maybe blackberry? Hopefully one of them is reading and can correct me. I do remember that they enjoyed it and it looked amazing.

It is always fun to spend time with Mr. and Mrs. Tabata and Francisco's on the River was a good setting for this evening. The staff was friendly (and put up with us being the last table to leave!) and the food was top notch. Just watch out for that gravel parking lot and make sure you have a reservation.