Not just the birthplace of the nation, Philadelphia has a dynamic food culture, a booming arts scene and cool to spare. Philly native Nell McShane Wulfhart shares her insider guide.
Home-grown style and sips
Photo by stokpic on Pixabay
Shopping in Philly runs the gamut from classic (at Macy’s in the historic Wanamaker building) to cutting-edge, with local fashionistas producing one-of-a-kind lewks. Bonus: clothes and shoes aren’t taxed! Check out Fishtown for boutiques like Toile, which sells clothes by up-and-coming Philly designers. And it’s not just about fashion – the neighbourhood is home to remarkable local distilleries. Skip the duty free; instead pick up award-winning Bluecoat Gin at Philadelphia Distilling and micro-batch herbal liqueurs at Rowhouse Spirits.
Fairmount Park, a sprawling series of woods and hiking trails, is one of the largest urban parks in the nation, and makes a fabulous afternoon nature excursion for the whole family. There are gorgeous smaller green spaces too. Rittenhouse Square (known in summer as ‘Rittenhouse Beach’, thanks to the hordes who sun themselves on the grass) is right in the centre of town and hosts farmers’ markets and art fairs. Tiny ‘parklets’, stocked with just a few chairs and tables, are hidden all over town.
Photo by PublicCo on Pixabay
Philly’s food scene is booming, with over 2500 restaurants to choose from and the likes of high-profile chefs such as Jose Garces building restaurant empires here. Head to his Amada restaurant for exquisite Andalusian tapas paired with adventurous Spanish wines, or try sophisticated modern Israeli food by Michael Solomonov at Zahav. Also look out for the city’s dozens of tiny BYOBs with sophisticated menus and affordable prices – book a table at Will, where chef Christopher Kearse sends out French-inspired seasonal plates including scallops with garlic flower buds and monkfish tail in a lobster bouillon.
Go hard or go home
Photo by jneiheiser on Pixabay
Philly fans are infamously passionate, and the city’s nine professional sports teams keep emotions keyed up year-round. Tailgating in the parking lot of Citizens Bank Park or Lincoln Financial Field (the two South Philly stadiums) with portable barbecues and coolers crammed with beers before a big game is an unmissable part of the local sports experience, though cheering on the Eagles (American football) or the Phillies (baseball) with hyper-enthusiastic crowds isn’t bad either.
Rocky is the quintessential Philly movie, but Trading Places, The Sixth Sense and many others were filmed here – not to mention National Treasure, which sees Nicholas Cage running around from City Hall to Reading Terminal Market. Check out the spots that made it onscreen with Philadelphia Movie Sites Tour, or stick with the hometown hero on a self-guided Rocky journey. The imposing and historic Eastern State Penitentiary offers tours, too – it was the asylum featured in Brad Pitt hit Twelve Monkeys.
Photo by skeeze on Pixabay
An extraordinary 3600 murals and counting (including tributes to city history and beloved local groups like The Roots) have turned the city into an enormous, bright open-air gallery. More traditional work can be found in the two world-renowned museums on the Parkway: the Barnes Foundation and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (snap a photo with the Rocky statue while you’re there), which give New York and Washington DC, just one and two hours by train, respectively, a run for their money. History buffs must make time to visit one of the city’s newest attractions, the Museum of the American Revolution which brings the past to life with immersive galleries, astonishing historical works of art and Revolutionary-era weapons.
Bed down at the fresh-from-a-redesign Logan hotel, which has its own art collection and is just a 15-minute ride from the airport, with direct flights from London Heathrow with British Airways. The LEED-certified Courtyard Philadelphia South at the Navy Yard has a cool futuristic vibe; plus, it’s walking distance to the stadiums. And, there’s old-school glamour in abundance at the chic Warwick which is surrounded by the city’s most luxurious shops.
A Vega Sicilia tasting. One of those wines that I have been wanting to try for as long as I remember. It did not disappoint. Still, as they say in Spain, what comes last is best; I will leave the Unico comments for last then and start off with the Tokaji.
Tokaji Furming Dry Mandulus / Bodegas Orems 2010. Fruity n the mouth with a disticnct taste of grape fruits or clementines. On the nose it showed those typical characteristic of Tokaji (a honey-like aroma with nuances of almonds and other nuts) that I extremely enjoy. The acidity was present in the mouth, but it was not overpowering. With medium length it showed a good structure.
Macan / Benjamin Rothschild & Bodegas Vega Sicilia 2010: On the nose this first impression was of powerful red fruits such as boiled plums, dried cranberries, etc. There was also a clear smokiness, as well as spicy aromas of pepper, vanilla, etc.; together with oak aromas of wet leaves. Pn the mouth the main flavour was of raisins and liquorice, with an aftertaste of roasted meat. It had medium rounded tannins, acidity and length.
Valbuena 5ano / Bodegas Vega Sicilia 2004 This I classified as Very Good. A blend of Tempranillo, Merlot and Malbec it showed a complexity that was lacking in the previous two. Although having clear aromas of red fresh fruits, the spicy and ageing components were also very present. I always enjoy wines that show this freshness together with ageing, like someone who ages elegantly and does not let go. The spicy aromas were of vanilla or nutmeg. Ageing components where mainly smoked meat and mushrooms. It had beautiful elegant tannins that gave the wine a rounded feeling, as well as showing flavours of roast beef, berries and nutmeg that complemented the nose traits.
Unico / Bodegas Vega Sicilia 2003. Words cannot describe this wine. I’ve tasted many french premium wines in the last couple of years, and expected Unico to be a variation of these. It is not. Even if I could compare it to vintage fine Bordeaux in it’s body, colour and strong presence, the bouquet and palate is different to the point that it renders the comparison completely invalid. My advice to those who taste this is to do so without trying to find it’s french equivalent; it is a different thing.
On the nose it showed mostly aromas of age and oak with an underlayer of fruit; such as blueberries or blackberries. As you rose your glass towards your nose you will soon appreciate aromas of wet leaves, forest, mushtooms, red meat, but also cloves or sweet spices. On the mouth the oak aromas become more prominent than the fruit or spices, showing vanillas, balsamics that are very pleasing. Roasted nuts, blackberries and sweet spices (clove) constitute the main primary aromas, with roasted meat being the prominent tertiary aroma. It has plenty of tannins but these are very soft and elegant, with good acidity and extreme length. Overall I would say it is a juicy full bodied elegant wine that I would drink non-stop if I could afford it
If this is wrong than I really do not want to be right. We’re sampling a plethora of Priorat for an upcoming tasting next month and if this is an average example we can’t wait until we get to the good stuff. 70% Grenache and 30% Cariñena, it shimmers with transcendence and possesses a feminine quality like the best burgundies. Easy fruit and a little morning forest floor.
HAVE YOU BEEN INVITED TO A FANCY-ASS DINNER PARTY? DO YOU THINK WINE TASTES SHITTY AND YOU CAN’T SEE WHY PEOPLE THINK SIPPING NASTY-ASS CRAP IS CLASSY?
WELL PULL UP YOUR BRITCHES, BECAUSE IT’S TIME TO EDUCATE YOUR PEASANT ASS.
HERE ARE SOME WINES THAT EVEN WINE-HATERS CAN EASILY LEARN TO LOVE!
THEY’RE MORE FRUITY, LESS FULL OF TANNINS AND ARE PERFECT FOR EITHER PEOPLE WANTING TO GET INTO NICE WINES, OR WHO HAD BAD EXPERIENCE WITH SHITTY WINE.
TANNINS: Bitter, and make your mouth feel dry
ACIDS: Sour, and make you salivate
SWEETNESS: Obviously sweet. These three traits are generally determined by the type of grape and how long it was allowed to ripen on the vine before harvesting.
ALCOHOL: Also makes a wine sweeter. Alcohol content for wine usually falls between 5% and 20%
(NOTE: Actual Champagne is a super-specific type of sparkling wine made from the special grapes grown in the Champagne region of France, and underwent a second fermentation to get bubbly as well as adhered to France’s crazy strict regulations. Many people I know will call any sparkling white wine ‘Champagne’ - It has acheived 'Generic Trademark’ statues, meaning people will use that type of product with the specific brand interchangeably, like 'Kleenex’ and facial tissues. Unless each bottle costs close to 100$, I highly doubt you’re drinking real Champagne. )
Moscato: "Barefoot" brand Pink Moscato is fucking delicious. Tastes a bit like grape, strawberry, peach and red apple had a strange, mildly alcoholic baby. Usually around 5-10% alcohol content. Works terrific as a Dessert wine, and accents anything 'Creamy’ really well. Slightly bubbly. #1 recommended wine for newbies.
Normal Moscato is also delicious as hell, a bit more citrus-y.
Zinfandel: White Zinfandel especially is super mild in taste, mildly sweet, fruity. (Don’t let the name fool you - it’s colored pink!) It’s the kind of wine that you accidentally gulp down like juice, because it doesn’t kick you in the throat with a strong taste or immediate alcoholic burn. Around 15% alcohol.
I shit you not, I buy it by the huge-ass jug. As long as you get a good top to reseal it, it’ll last a hella long time after opening.
Normal Zinfadel is also delicious, but White is definitely an introductory wine.
Cava: Spanish Sparkling Wine. Vaguely bubbly, light, Kinda lemony and pear-ish and a little bitter. Don’t expect sweetness. 'Asda’ brand is excellent, I like it for winter holiday dinners.
Prosecco: Basically a poor-man’s Champagne. It is a wine for any occasion; Dinner, Chillaxing, Sharing with friends, whatever. ~12% alcohol. Mild fruit flavors (Like pear and apricot), and you can also choose whether you want fully-sparkling or partial-sparkling (How much you want it to bubble)
Italians love this shit enough to sell it in cans.
Because nothing says 'Love’ like aluminum containers.
Unfortunately, it grows stale in the bottle after 2 years or so. Gotta drink it right after buying~
Asti: Sweet!…and sour? Interesting flavor. Not sweet like candy, but…like well-ripened fruit. Good dessert wine. Often has a flowery, nutty kind of smell and a hint of that in the flavor as well. Best served chilled, and NOT AGED. If left in the bottle for more than two years, it deteriorates quickly and loses the nice fruity flavors. Blech.
Reisling: This wine is fruity, but highly acidic. It goes well with strongly-spiced and aromatic dishes, like Thai or things with Allspice/Cinnamon. Excellent taste, but some Aged versions have a faint smell like gasoline, which may turn newbies off. 8-10% Alcohol.
Muscat: HELLA FUCKING SWEET. Like, kicks you in the throat with sweetness. Definitely a dessert wine. Not something I would drink a glass of, without something to eat between sips. ~15% alcohol. Alternately, you could pour a bit of Muscat into a stronger, more bitter glass of wine to make a balanced flavor.
If you do not have access to Mango Languages and are interested in using it as a tool, please message me (@polyglotaspirations) and I will hook you up with an account! Mango is a fantastic resource, one I want everyone to have the chance to try.