“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” – Mark Twain.
Twain was a gifted man, perfectly expressing why travel was not only necessary but also a liberation from our current state of mind. Hence, my mission of the month; to travel, to eat, to drink, to learn and be educated by friends, strangers and other lands. To experience the charitable views of strangers and friends while gathering knowledge that cannot be acquired by vegetating in my little corner of the world!
My first journey was to the great city of Philadelphia: The city of brotherly love, Benjamin Franklin, cheesesteaks and Fresh Princes. I was accompanied by Lon Lane, Jennifer DiCaro, and Zelda Johnson on this fantastic food voyage also known as the “Art of Catered Foods” Conference. This catering conference attracted a culinary powerhouse of nearly 400 chefs, and business owners, together for 4 days of food sessions, seminars and demos.
An afternoon walking tour, that included the Rocky Balboa steps and the LOVE statue, ended with a wonderful experience at Supper. This vintage kitchen chic restaurant was bathed in the warm light of vintage light bulbs and the antique cookery chandelier commanding the dining room. We let the chef guide and he delighted us with his personal favorites; deviled eggs (truffle, beet and lemon, goat cheese and ham, sesame carrot), grilled squash layered with fresh goats cheese and thyme paired perfectly with a faro risotto, blue cheese grits with crispy chicken skins tossed in homemade buffalo sauce, and PB&J cake. Each course was simple, yet bold and exciting.
On to the conference. We attended seminars and Chef demos by day, but by night the city became our gustatorial playground. Each morning started with a tour of the famous Redding Terminal Market for fresh doughnuts straight from the fryer, shaved roast beef sandwiches, steaming bowls of ramen, homemade biscuits, cheeses and farm fresh eggs.
After classes we ventured into the city to dine in some of Phillies best restaurants.
Jose Garces seems to run this town with his 17 different food service operations and restaurants, but the passion and care provided in each of his establishments makes it seem like you are in his one and only. We dined like most chefs do, with a large group of inquisitive friends, plenty of good wine and spirits, and on and on unceasing wave of delicious culinary delights. Our tasting menu was a touch misleading, our server informed us there would be 3-4 courses then dessert, 15 dishes later our knives and forks finally came to a permanent rest on the table. Spanish Jamon Salad, braised octopus rounds dusted with smoked paprika, seared sea scallops, sautéed wild mushrooms, and the 28 ounce dry aged rib eye were just a few of the highlights. Each course brought out cameras, ooohs and ahhs, and immediate dissection of every dish for inspirations to bring home to our operations.
As our conference came to a close a close crew of family friends and I decided to push our Philly adventure, and our stomachs, for one last meal. After an overflow of positive reviews we set our sights on Kevin Spraga’s namesake restaurant for our final hoorah. The menu was bold, daring and exciting. We ordered one of everything and set in for an amazing journey.
Pork belly shaved so thin it only had one side drizzled with chili oil, sea lettuce and cucumber presented a bold and spicy flavors melting on your tongue with the sweet pork fat. Foie Gras Soup with a Rose Petal Relish was beyond words, even the memory of each spoonful spiced with hints of kafir lime and rich foie. The rest of the meal was a symphony of beautiful dishes, laughter, stories of past successes and lessons learned.
Food drunk and wine happy, the spirit of the evening lightened our feet and carried us back to the hotel. Cheers to our good fortune, for being able to spend amazing quality time with
such close family and friends and sweet
anticipation for the next opportunity to all be together again.
On the next Culinary R and D we recap our Culinary Adventure through Vancouver Canada.