Bourdain, Bites, and the City of Brotherly Love

Several posts ago, I alluded to the portion of our vacation spent at home in Philadelphia. Our trip to Thailand was flanked on either end by several days in Philly, and we took the opportunity to visit some old favorites as well as venture out to try completely new restaurants. Not having lived there in three years, much has changed! For some ideas on good eats that we have not tried yet, my husband and I turned to one of our favorite television chefs, Anthony Bourdain.

Cooking with Bourdain ("Parts Unknown")
Cooking with Bourdain (“Parts Unknown”)

My husband introduced me to “No Reservations,” and since then I have been hooked on Bourdain’s experience and literary expression of the joy of food. Unlike any other person (famous or otherwise), it seems that he has surpassed all hesitancies about traveling just about anywhere and eating just about anything. I consider myself a fairly liberal eater, but even I cannot bring myself to openly try certain foods the way Bourdain does. Nonetheless, I enjoy watching his travels and listening to his spoken prose. I have yet to read one of his books, but don’t worry, they are on the (quite lengthy) list of books to read for leisure after I take the boards.

Another Bourdain series is “The Layover.” In these episodes, Bourdain tries the cuisine in various cities during a 1-2 day layover between flights. Before our trip to Philly, we watched his episode there, and I feel ashamed to say I had not been to any of the places he visited or mentioned! Needless to say, we kept a list of restaurants that sounded most appealing to us and were able to visit two of them: Han Dynasty in Old City and Kanella: Greek Cypriot Kitchen in Washington Square. Both are among the 50 Best Restaurants of Philadelphia in 2013.

Han Dynasty offered some fiery, authentic, delicious Chinese food and a lengthy menu:

Photo from Philadelphia Magazine
Han Dynasty (photo: Philadelphia Magazine)
Mapo tofu with minced pork
Dry pot style with chicken (spice level 10/10!)
Photo: kanellarestaurant.com
Photo: kanellarestaurant.com

Kanella, which means “cinnamon” in Greek, was painted the bright blue and white of its flag. There was also a bunch of cinnamon hanging above the entrance, an ancient method of protecting one’s home from evil spirits. This was the best Greek food I have had yet! I couldn’t even snap a shot of the appetizer platter of grape leaves, tabouleh, falafel, and fried eggplant because we devoured it so quickly.

Falafel sandwich
Roasted lamb sandwich
Falafel sandwich
Falafel sandwich
Filo stuffed with greens, leeks, dill, and feta cheese
Filo stuffed with greens, leeks, dill, and feta cheese
Chef's mother's coconut, date and hazelnut cake with orange & date syrup
Chef’s mother’s coconut, date and hazelnut cake with orange & date syrup

We also made it to Art After 5 on a Friday evening at the Philadelphia Art Museum, with a pre-requisite Rocky-style run up the stairs.

Art After Five at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia Museum of Art

A savory and sweet brunch at Sabrina’s Cafe in the Fairmount/Art Museum neighborhood was definitely a return to a loved restaurant which I first experienced in medical school.

Buttermilk short stack
Buttermilk short stack
Sabrina's sweet potato fries - love!
Sabrina’s sweet potato fries – love!

Finally, we indulged in my favorite Italian gelato place in Philly, Capogiro Gelato Artisans in Market East.

Capogiro flavors (clockwise from left): cappuccino, pistacchio siciliano/cioccolato, fico d'india/fior di latte
Clockwise from left: cappuccino, pistacchio siciliano/cioccolato, fico d’india/fior di latte

We have a long list of new places to visit the next time we make it home!

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