Palomar Hotel Philadelphia: Luxury Living on a budget

30 10 2009

The Palomar in Philadelphia is luxurious without being obnoxiously over-the-top. Matt’s exact words were: “Now we get to see what it’s like to live in a fancy Rittenhouse Square condo for a night.” The staff is friendly and efficient, the decor is cool and simple, and there is an eco-conscious theme that permeates everything. This hotel makes me want to move away from Philadelphia just so I could visit and stay here more often.

Cool and helpful reception:

date night oct. 29 001

Clean room and comfy bed:
date night oct. 29 005

Relaxing and deep Fuji tub:
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Nice and high view:
date night oct. 29 009

Fast and fancy elevators:
date night oct. 29 021

All for $129. Special deal. Loved it.

I loved the art deco in the lobby. I loved the clean designs and eco-friendly atmosphere. I loved the ofuro-style tub that melted away all of the stress I had accumulated in my body. I loved the animal print robes in the closet. I loved the central location close to Rittenhouse Square.

I want to live here forever and ever.


The (new) Stone Balloon

28 10 2009

The Stone Balloon. Ten years ago these words would immediately pop into my head when I heard this phrase: dirty, cheap, mug night. Everything an undergrad could want. You could go in and order a beer for $1 in your pre-purchased mug (I still have one of the old original glass mugs) at one of the seven bars strategically placed throughout the dark and winding space. You could hang out in the front to people watch or join the bouncing bodies at the stage as Burnt Sienna  or The Zone sang covers.

A few years ago I heard The Balloon was closing, and I was sad, but I was mature enough to realize that it was the end of an era, and it was probably violating hundreds of safety codes anyway. (See? Maturity.)  I was shocked to find out that it had been re-opened, with the same name, as a schwanky wine bar that has a decent wine list and good food. As my friend Hilary and I took the train down to Delaware last weekend, I was excited to see how the establishment could pull off schwanky, especially knowing the years (about 165 years, to be exact) of dirt and grime and smoke (and vomit) it would have to erase to make it at all enjoyable and palatable. Then Katie told me they had razed the building to build the wine bar and I had a moment of clarity.

When you walk in, you see a cute sitting area with wine available for purchase:

The bar is fun with light streaming in from the large front windows (notice Katie with her modernized, plastic version of the mug):

The wine list is extensive–about 14 pages long with over 60 wines by the glass (price range $2-$15) and reasonable 2 oz. flights.

Since we were really just going for a pre-drinking and eating celebration, we each limited ourselves to one drink and a shared appetizer:

We ordered the seasonal fruit (apricots) and fresh goat cheese with fresh local Honey Comb, Grilled Bread, and Back Yard Parsley. For $7 it was delicious, but we were ready to move on to more substantial (and cheaper) grub (see my Deer Park post).

The Stone Balloon used to invoke images of sticky floors and a smoky haze, but the new wine bar is classy and cozy with an admirable attempt at upscale dining in small-town Newark. Nice job. I’ll be back.

Breakfast…with turkey franks

26 10 2009

Matt went shopping recently, which means that he bought me some turkey franks because they were on sale. So this past weekend I made a hearty breakfast using the franks, some CSA asparagus and potatoes, onions, mushrooms, and eggs.  It turned out mighty tasty:



I’ve got to say that grilled up and slightly blackened, the turkey franks really made this dish. It was really easy, and could be simplified to just eggs and franks if you didn’t want to bother with any veggies.

I cut three small potatoes into small pieces and started to sautee them with the diced onion (one whole). After about 10-15 minutes, I lowered the heat so they could get nice and soft.

Cut the franks into bite-sized pieces and brown them in olive oil on medium heat in a second pan. Add the asparagus and cook until tender. At the same time you add the eggs to the pan, turn up the heat a little on the potatoes/onion and add some chopped mushrooms. Everything should be finished cooking at the same time. Should be! Serve all together and chow down.

Deer Park Tavern

24 10 2009

Today I ventured down to Newark, DE to visit friends. This was where I spent four years at the University of Delaware and it was fun to revisit some of my old haunts, including the Deer Park Tavern.  The Deer Park is a historical tavern known for being cursed by Edgar Allan Poe, but the food sure isn’t cursed. It’s really, really good. Surprisingly good for a beer hall that isn’t that nice on the inside.

We shared two appetizers between the three of us, which were more than enough for a late lunch. The first:


Eastern Shore Pretzels: 3 hot pretzels topped with crab dip, melted Montery Jack cheese and green onions for $9.95. They were warm and crusty with loads of crab dip and perfectly melted cheese. Everything tasted fresh and was very filling.

The second:

IMG_4001Fried Calamari: Lightly dusted & deep fried served with warm marinara sauce & red pepper aioli for 9.95.

What the menu failed to mention was the fried spinach. Yes, delicious fried spinach. I don’t know about you, but I’d never had fried spinach before, and I’d like to have it again. And again. And again. The whole dish was perfect, but the spinach was a surprise and we at it all up leaf by leaf. They were light and crunchy with the tender calamari balancing the flavors and textures. Fun, refreshing, yum.

It’s too bad that SEPTA doesn’t offer train service to Newark on weekends (we went into Wilmington and drove about 20 minutes down I-95) because it’s a fun little town that has more to offer than pizza and beer. I’d like to go back more often, especially to try more of these delicious dishes from the Deer Park.

Crowne Plaza Silver Spring

19 10 2009

Matt and I went to a wedding in Silver Spring, Maryland on Saturday and stayed over night in a hotel, which is very out of character for us.  Usually we save and save and plan and plan for one or two vacations each year so hotel stays seem quite special.  Well, this was a special wedding so we kept the reservation, and it was a nice retreat from our house that has been under construction for over a month.

The Crowne Plaza in down town Silver Spring ended up being luxurious after a rocky start at check in. We arrived at 3:08, eight minutes after the official check in time, and there was already a line of about five people with only one staff person behind the desk. Right away I said to Matt, “Virginie [my very good friend who has worked for Marriott for 10 years] would never let this happen at one of her hotels.” The line moved as quickly as it could with only one person handling the check-ins and she did apologize for the wait. We walked into our room at 3:30.


I loved our room. Loved it so much. It was decadent and bigger than any bedroom I could ever imaging having. There were lights everywhere, and they all worked independently of each other.  I turned them all on and loved it. A comfy chair, ottoman, and desk fit with no problem. And I just wanted to lie on, or in, the bed all day and night.  It was such a short stay that we didn’t even see what channels we got. I am dreaming of this soft bed with crisp sheets and perfectly firm pillows.

The bathroom left much to be desired. It was clean enough but about as big as a small coat closet. Enough room for one sink and one person. If we had been staying there for more than 20 hours it would have been a much bigger problem but for a place to get ready once, it was sufficient.

If only the bathroom could be extended into the room a few feet.  The room wouldn’t have minded, or even noticed, and the bathroom would have been much more appealing.

I am still dreaming of this bed.

Montgomery County Moms

15 10 2009

You don’t have to be a mom to find great information on the Montgomery County Moms website.  Check it out for upcoming local events, recipes, and reviews–and me, as guest poster!  Thanks, ladies!

Homemade Lentil Stew

11 10 2009

Avoidance.  That’s what led to, dare I say, a very delicious and improvised lentil stew today.  I was avoiding lesson plans, scraping paint, gardening, cleaning, and packing for a wedding this weekend when I made this:


First I sauteed some spicy Italian sausage (5 links) until it browned.  Then, I sauteed some chopped onion (1 small), fennel (half of a large bulb), and garlic (2 cloves) until it was soft.  I added the sausage and cooked it with the onion, fennel, and garlic for a few minutes and then poured 4 cups of vegetable broth into the pot with about 3 cups of lentils and some chopped collard greens (you could also use kale or spinach).  After the lentils simmered for a while I had to add about 3 cups of water to cut the saltiness and give it a more stew-like consistency.  The final product was delicious.