The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company: Speakeasy and Mezcal!

If you are a fan of speakeasy bars, The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company is a place you need to check out. The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company was a front for America’s largest alcohol running ring during prohibition. Alcohol is alive and well here, and the cocktails are among the most creative and delicious you will find anywhere in the city.

This place is a personal favorite of ours. The low lighting, candlelit tables, excellent service, and amazing cocktails are reason enough to love this place. We were here last week because they were launching a pretty big event. The speakeasy bar in located on the lower level the building. The upper level used to be a tiki bar but it’s now a mezcal bar!

If you have never tasted mezcal, you don’t know what you are missing. It’s different from  tequila in many ways. Most noticeable is the taste. It has a much more smokey taste. But more on this later. We arrived about an hour before the mezcal bar opened, so we had to wait at the speakeasy bar. I know. Poor us. Seriously though, this place is now the best of both worlds!

Eric commented that he felt that he died and went to heaven. We love speakeasy’s, and now there is a mezcal bar as well. I see what he meant! I started by ordering a drink similar to the Minutiae, but with the flavor of lemon meringue. It is a particular favorite of our bartender Chris. This drink was absolutely delicious and light. Eric ordered, “Ain’t Even Olde Timey”, which is made with calvados, cognac, amaro abate, allspice, lemon, ginger, and a whole egg. It was wonderful and was the perfect cocktail to order on a chilly night. The cognac, allspice and ginger reminded us of the holidays.

We still had time to kill, so we ordered another round of drinks. I got “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”, which was made with Nutella washed Rittenhouse rye, averna and Grand Marnier. Eric ordered “Daddy’s Medicine”, which was made with angostura, rye, benedictine, lemon and ginger. Once again, both drinks were fantastic. Who would have ever thought to wash rye with Nutella? The creativity level of the cocktails at the Franklin Bar is really amazing. Well, it was finally a little past six o’clock, so it was time to head up to the mezcal bar!

Their mezcal bar is still a work in progress, but it’s progressing nicely. The space is much smaller than the speakeasy but it’s still cozy and quaint. There were still tiki decorations throughout but the staff assured us that they were coming down in the next week. While remnants of a tiki bar remained in the decor, the menu was anything but. It was all mezcal and it was beautiful. At the time we were there, they had around 30 or so mezcals available, but they were hoping to increase that to round 70 over the next few weeks.

We started off by ordering the “Sadaukar”, which was made with Espadin mezcal, abano, averna and Jamaican jerk bitters, and “Whispers of the Old Gods”, made with Espadin mezcal, green chartreuse, Dolin blanc, lime and egg white. Both drinks were delicious. We just loved the smoky flavor of both. They were well balanced and so full of spice and flavor.

During the Franklin Bar’s mezcal bar launch, they were offering free food that paired perfectly with the drinks. We ordered the street style fruit plate, that consisted of watermelon, mango, papaya, cucumber with salt, lime and chili. We also tried their guacamole, that was made with avocado, chicharron, lime, salt and salsas on a fresh tortilla. Finally, we tried the Mexican street corn, made with fresh corn, Mexican crema, lime, cojita cheese and chili. All the food we tried was delicious. We really loved the street corn! The sweetness of the corn, mixed with the crema, lime and chili was so good. I have a feeling that this dish will be their most popular one.

We decided to order one more round of drinks before calling it a night. We got the “Oaxacan Old Fashioned”, and the “Mexican Firing Squad”. The old fashioned was made with Espadin mezcal, blanco tequila, demerara and mole. It was smooth and smoky, and the mole just elevated the flavor. The firing squad, was made with Espadin mezcal, blanco tequila, lime, pomegranate and molasses. It was fantastic. The sweetness of the pomegranate and molasses just balanced the smoky flavor of the mezcal and tequila perfectly. I loved it!

If you love mezcal and tequila like we do, you have to visit the Franklin Bar and give them a try. Just like the cocktails downstairs in the speakeasy, the mezcal drinks are just as creative, and just as delicious. We now have the best of both worlds in one place. Thank you Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company!

Giuseppe and Sons: Authentic Italy on a plate!

It’s always exciting to try a new restaurant. We have heard so many good things about Giuseppe and Sons, so we were happy to finally be going. It was a visit long overdue. The restaurant has two floors. The top floor, which is at street level, is where you can go have a casual lunch, and buy a cannoli or two. But not just any cannoli. A world famous Termini Brothers cannoli. More about that later.

We went downstairs to their stunning, more formal dining room. The downstairs restaurant is big and roomy, but has that speakeasy flair to it. The low lighting and decor just add to the charm. It’s cozy and relaxing. We easily spent about two hours eating dinner, and we didn’t want to leave.

The dinner menu is fantastic. The pasta, cheeses and breads are made fresh daily, and it shows when you taste them. We decided to order the chef’s tasting, which consisted of several plates. You may come here hungry, but you won’t leave hungry! We started with the arancini and buffalo mozzarella for our appetizers. Both were delicious! The arancini was lightly breaded and fried, and cooked perfectly. The tomato sauce was to die for. It was amazing. The buffalo mozzarella was so smooth and creamy. It just melted in your mouth.

Our next course was their caesar salad. It was simple, classic, and perfect. It had just the right amount of dressing and croutons. We also ordered a side dish of roasted peppers. It was fantastic. It was served with olive oil, lemon, and roasted garlic. The roasted garlic was cooked to perfection and acted like a paste that we smoothed over the peppers. It was awesome!

Next up was pasta! We ordered the linguine and clams in a red sauce. It was served with garlic and parsley. It was so good! The pasta was cooked perfectly. The clams were steamed perfectly. This was one of the best pasta dishes we’ve ever had. The flavor of the clams and clam juice, mixed with the red sauce and pasta was delicious. It was old world Italy on a plate. It made me feel like I was eating at a seaside resort. To compliment our wonderful food, we decided to get a full carafe of wine. The wine was delicious. It went perfectly will all our food, and it was offered at a great price.

Our two entrees were the chicken milanese and the veal cheeks saltimbocca. Once again, both dishes were simply amazing. The chicken was pounded thin, and topped with chopped tomatoes, basil, and red onion. The combination of flavor was wonderful. The veal cheeks were wrapped in prosciutto, and served with veal jus. Folks, let me tell you. This was absolutely delicious! The cheeks were so rich in flavor, and the prosciutto added a little bit of salt to balance the taste. It was stunning.

Last, but certainly not least, was dessert. We split a wonderful Termini Brothers cannoli. If you are from Philadelphia, you know what I’m talking about. If you are not, let me just say that the Termini Brothers are an institution. They have been around since 1921, and their desserts, pastries, and cannoli’s are the best in town. Giuseppe and Sons restaurant is a collaboration between Termini Brothers, Michael Schulson and his wife, Nina Tinari. Schulson and Tinari also own several other restaurants in Philadelphia.

I am fully convinced that it is impossible to have a bad meal here, and that’s just after one visit. The food was fantastic. It was fresh, homemade, authentic Italian cuisine. The staff were super friendly, and our server, Selena, made us feel so welcome. Giuseppe and Sons is definitely on our “Best of Philadelphia” list. I highly recommend you give them a try. We will definitely be back!

 

 

 

Art in the Age: Bartender takeover with Nathan Weigert

Art in the Age is a wonderful home bar supply shop, that also has a tasting room in the back of the store. When you walk in, it is a feast for the senses. There are unique spirits and bitters everywhere. If they don’t have what you are looking for, it probably doesn’t exist. They also provide educational workshops, tastings, and home mixology training.

Speaking of tastings, just a few days ago, Art in the Age opened their doors, and bar, to one of the best mixologists in the city, Nathan Weigert. It was part of their January wellness drink focus. Nowadays, there are so many pre-made mixes for cocktails to make our lives easier and simpler. But honestly, you’re really not saving that much time and money. It isn’t that difficult to use all natural ingredients when mixing cocktails. Trust me when I say, you will taste the difference. Nathan showed us this evening, how easy it was to use real flavors, and what nutriments came with these flavors. Who could turn down healthy cocktails?

The event was free, all you needed to do was RSVP. You paid for whatever you had to drink. There were four delicious cocktails on the menu, all created by Nathan. We tried all of them and they were fantastic. My favorite was the Antioxmo, or Antioxidant Cosmopolitan. It was made with goji-infused Powderhorn Vodka, Von Humboldt’s Tamarind Cordial, lime, pomegranate (sweetened with pomegranate molasses), and macerated goji berry garnish. It was so good! It takes the cosmo to another level. The goji berries and pomegranate just intensified the flavors. It will be hard to drink a regular cosmo again.

Eric started with the Stonefruit Sour. It was made with Kinsey Bourbon, AITA Apricot Rye Whiskey, lemon, peach, almond milk, honey syrup, and dried apricot garnish. This was his favorite. The bourbon and apricot rye whiskey kept the drink perfectly balanced. It was delicious. You see the ingredient list? It’s not that difficult to make, and it’s good for you!

The other two cocktails were equally delicious, and were packed with nutrients that are good for you. There was the Snappy Gin Fizz that was made with Tamworth Garden Gin, a pea/arugula/mint puree, lemon, ripple pea milk, aquafaba, soda, and a snap pea garnish. It was so good. Never hear of ripple pea milk? Neither had we. Nathan told us you can find it at Whole Foods, and you could use it in a variety of cocktails, like a milk punch for instance.

For you Kentucky Derby fans, he also created a Green Julep. It was made with rye, green apple, celery, lemon, honey syrup, cinnamon, and a celery green garnish. This really spoiled us when it comes to julep’s. We would love to be drinking these come derby day! And you know what, why can’t we? Again, the ingredients are simple and can be found at any grocery store. We’ll give it a shot and let you know how they turned out.

Simple, nutritious, and flavor were the themes of the evening, and Nathan hit it out of the park. All his drinks were amazing. He truly loves what he does, and it shows in his cocktails. He is also super friendly! No matter how busy it got, he was always checking on the patrons, asking how they liked their drinks.

We care so much today about the food we eat, we should also care about the cocktails we drink. If you’re one of those that purchases pre-made mixes and powders, please stop! Yes, they are quick and easy, but full of chemicals and preservatives. Take another look at the ingredients Nathan used in his cocktails. They are not that hard to get, and the cocktails are not that hard to make. Don’t be intimidated when making cocktails. Experiment, but most of all, have fun. It might take you a few minutes longer to make a drink with all natural ingredients, but your body, tastebuds, and friends will thank you for it.

 

 

Porta: Hello and goodbye

It had been awhile since we had dined at one of our favorite restaurants in Center City, Porta. They are known for their Neopolitian pizzas, and they are delicious. The pizza ovens were built and imported from Naples, and trust me when I say, you can taste the difference. The ovens cook at a much higher temperature so the pizzas cook much faster.

I highly suggest you go during their happy hour, which starts at 4pm, if you are sitting at one of the bars. Yes, they have two wonderful bars. We like sitting at the smaller bar that you will see when you first walk in. It just seems cozier, and more quant to us. They always have four featured cocktails on the happy hour menu, and wonderful food specials. They include, a meatball slider, fried polenta, fried mozzarella, and a “Many Thanks” slider. All of the happy hour food specials are delicious. You will absolutely fall in love with their mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, which are home-made everyday.

I started with one of the cocktail specials, the “Song of Solomon”. It is made with Bulleit rye, vanilla syrup, lemon juice, fig puree, black pepper, and a lemon twist. It was fantastic. Such a complex, yet wonderful compliment of flavors that just worked so well together. Eric ordered the “Family Orchard”. It was made with Sailor Jerry spiced rum, Applejack, mulled syrup, apple butter, and black walnut bitters. It was so good! The perfect cocktail for a chilly winter evening.

Our good friend and general manager, Taylor, told us of a new appetizer item that we had to try. It was their acorn squash, which was fire roasted, and served with house made ricotta, Calabrian chile honey, extra virgin olive oil, and ciabatta. Folks, this was beyond amazing! It was absolutely delicious. We ate the entire squash, skin and all. The honey and ricotta tasted so good with the acorn squash. When you go to Porta, this is a must. Thank you Taylor for treating us to this wonderful appetizer!

We decided to try something new that we hadn’t had before, the filet mignon carpaccio. The dish consists of thinly sliced filet mignon, arugula, Piave, and cracked black pepper. It’s simple, light, and fantastic. The filet mignon is placed on top of the arugula. You get the the bitterness of the arugula, the wonderful texture of the filet, and the taste of the Piave cheese all together. It is delicious.

When at Porta, you have to order a pizza. We got our favorite, the “Italian Stallion”. It’s made with San Marzano tomatoes, house-made mozzarella, gorgonzola, house-made Italian sausage, and long hots. Do you see why it’s one of our favorites? It has the right amount of heat and flavor. It’s a pizza you definitely have to try.

Along with our wonderful pizza, we ordered two more cocktails. I got the “Queen Nadine”, which is made with Bulleit rye or Bombay Sapphire gin, Fernet Branca, blood orange juice, and powdered sugar. Eric ordered “What Time Is It Now”, which was made with Hudson Baby bourbon, ginger liqueur, pear puree, agave, thyme, and candied ginger. Both drinks were amazing. We love how creative the cocktails are at Porta. They put a lot of time and effort into them and it really shows.

Unknowingly, this was a bittersweet visit to Porta. We learned from Taylor that she was transferring to Porta’s North New Jersey restaurant in a couple of weeks. We were so sad to hear she was leaving but also very happy for her. She’s from that area and was looking forward to going home. She has done an incredible job at the Philadelphia location, and we have no doubt that she will be just as successful, if not more, in her new endeavor. We promised that we’d take a trip up there and see her. Good luck Taylor! We’ll miss you!

 

 

Criollo-Leaving New Orleans with a bang!

The day we dreaded was finally here. It was time to go home. But, we were determined to have one more incredible breakfast before leaving. It was recommended to us to try Criollo, located inside the Hotel Monteleone, which also houses the Carousel Bar. The breakfast’s that we have had so far have been nothing short of hearty and filling. This one was no different. It was excellent.

The restaurant is beautiful. When you walk in, it’s open and spacious. We were warmly greeted, and seated right away. Eric ordered a mimosa and I ordered the Bloody Mary. Both were delicious. My Bloody Mary was spicy and very flavorful. We’ve noticed that in New Orleans, Bloody Mary cocktails come with fried okra. It’s something you don’t see here in Philadelphia.

For our entrees, I ordered the Criollo omelet, which had andouille sausage, asparagus, and provolone. Eric ordered the same omelet but with wild mushrooms, manchego, and andouille sausage. When the plates came out, we were amazed how big the portions were. They don’t skimp on food here! Both were absolutely delicious. They also came with a croissant and a side of breakfast potatoes. Neither of us could finish our plates! Our server, Edna, was so nice. She has been working at the restaurant for 30 years. Actually, everyone on staff here were extremely nice. That’s one thing we miss about New Orleans, how pleasant, friendly, and outgoing everyone we met were.

Breakfast was wonderful, but it was time to head back to our hotel, collect our bags, and head to the airport. This was one of the best trips we have ever taken. The food, cocktails, shops, and people, especially the people, were amazing. If you want a great vacation that is inexpensive, has perfect weather, great food, great drinks, and the people are the nicest you will ever meet, then go to the French Quarter. We can’t wait to go back!

Arnaud’s-Timeless and Magical!

It was a bittersweet walk to our next destination, knowing this was our last night in the French Quarter. But, we were ending on a very high note. We were heading to Arnaud’s and their French 75 Bar. It’s another historic restaurant in New Orleans, and one you have to go to when visiting.

When we walked into the bar, we were speechless. It was gorgeous! There was a beautiful, dark wood bar on one side, and separate cozy seating on the other. It was breathtaking. We sat in a cozy corner in the back of the bar, and were promptly greeted by the head of the bar staff, Christoph. Eric, of course, ordered the French 75, which was made with Courvoisier VS, sugar, lemon juice, and Moet and Chandon. It was fantastic! Trust me when I say, Arnaud’s only uses top shelf ingredients. I ordered a champagne cocktail which was wonderful. It was so light, smooth and flavorful.

We told Christoph that we had just come from Antoine’s, and that they told us we had to order the soufflé potatoes. He was so nice, and he put the order in for us on the house. Southern hospitality folks! It’s everywhere in New Orleans. When the potatoes came out, we were again speechless. They were beautiful. They looked like little pillows, filled inside with air. The secret to this is that the potatoes have to be constantly agitated while frying. The dish came with a Béarnaise sauce for dipping, and it was delicious. We understood why the folks at Antoine’s recommended this.

After a couple of more cocktails, we asked to be seated in their dining room because there was one drink we absolutely had to try, the Café Brulot. When you are in the French Quarter, you have to order this. Please promise me you will? Café Brulot means burnt brandy. Its Arnaud’s famous after dinner drink that is made table side only. They set brandy and Curacao on fire, then ladle the flaming liquid over a peeled orange that had been covered with cloves. Coffee is then added, along with other spices. It is quite a show, and certainly captured the attention of all the other patrons. When the people sitting at the table next to us asked what we ordered, we coyly said, coffee! This was the best coffee we’ve ever had. It was delicious, and served in a beautiful sugar-rimmed glass.

What a way to end the evening. The drinks and staff at Arnaud’s were fantastic. There are so many places that we have to go back to when we return to New Orleans, but Arnaud’s is on the absolute must list. We can’t wait to stay longer and have, what will be no doubt, a fantastic meal. I would like to extend a special shout-out to Christoph and Aaron for a wonderful experience! We cannot wait to come back again.

 

Antoine’s: Great food and great people!

When you’re in New Orleans, there are certain restaurants you have to visit. Antoine’s is one of them. They have been in existence since 1840. The history of this restaurant is amazing. Make sure you visit their website and read about them. We decided stop in their bar, the Hermes Bar, for a few drinks and snacks. It was one of the best decisions we made on this trip.

The Hermes Bar is beautiful. There are glass cases throughout with past Mardi Gras memorabilia. They also have a fireplace! There are plenty of seats at the bar and quite a few tables in the room as well. I’m glad we got there when we did. Within 30 minutes, the place was almost packed.

Our bartender, Stephen, was so nice. Even when it got really busy, he always had time to answer any questions we had about the menu. We decided to start with a couple of cocktails. Eric ordered the French 75 with brandy. They use the original recipe from Maxim’s of Paris. It’s made with brandy or gin, triple sec, fresh lemon juice, and champagne. It’s one of his favorite cocktails, and it was fantastic. I ordered the St. Germaine cocktail, which is made with St. Germaine elderflower liqueur from France, champagne, a splash of soda, and a twist. This was just what I wanted. Stephen knows how to make great drinks! We had a feeling that we would be here for quite a while.

As luck would have it, today was National Oysters Rockefeller Day! Antoine’s was having a special on their oysters so we decided to try them all. They were without question, some of the best oysters we have ever tasted. We got a half dozen of the Oysters Rockefeller, which are baked on the half shell, and served with the original Rockefeller sauce created by Antoine’s in 1889. They were cooked perfectly, and the sauce was simply delicious.

Antoine’s special was the “Oysters 2-2-2”. It was a sampler of their other oysters which included Oysters Thermidor, Oysters Bienville, and Charbroiled Oysters. Oysters Thermidor are baked on the half shell with a bacon and tomato sauce. Oysters Bienville are baked on the half shell with a white wine sauce, seasoned with onions, pimento, and fresh pepper. The Charbroiled Oysters were seasoned with garlic, herbs, butter, olive oil, and topped with Romano cheese. We were in oyster heaven! Oh, and all their oysters are from Louisiana and super fresh. They were all amazing. As luck wold have it, the chef that makes all the sauces for the restaurant came out and we got to meet him! Executive Saucier Chef Ernest Jack is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. He’s worked at Antoine’s for over 40 years! He loves his job and it certainly shows.

We were having such a wonderful time, so we decided to stay longer and order more cocktails. Our first cocktails were so good that we just decided to stick with them. Eric tried the French 75 with gin this time instead of brandy. It was really good, and it was a tough decision, but he gave a slight nod to the brandy version of the French 75. I stuck with my St. Germain cocktail.

So we had been in New Orleans for over two days, and I had yet to try a proper Po Boy. It was time, and I was in the perfect restaurant to try the iconic sandwich. A Po Boy is a traditional sandwich from Louisiana. It almost always consists of meat or fried seafood, often shrimp, crawfish, fish, oysters or crab. There were a couple to choose from but I knew right away that I wanted to try the Wagyu Beef Po Boy. It came with lettuce and tomato, and had a wonderful Marchand de Vin sauce for dipping. Marchand de Vin is a French classic red wine reduction sauce. My Po Boy was out of this world. The beef just melted in your mouth, and the bread was perfect. It wasn’t too thick or thin, and the crust had a perfect crunch to it. The dipping sauce was so good that I could have eaten a bowl of it alone.

During our trip, Eric had been trying quite a few New Orleans classic cuisines, and he didn’t stop here. He ordered a cup of alligator soup with sherry. Yes, alligator soup. It was delicious. It had a wonderful smokey flavor, and the sherry smoothed everything out. The food and drinks at Antoine’s were some of the best we have had so far in the French Quarter.

As were were sitting at the bar and making new friends, we didn’t realize that two of the people that we were talking with were employees of the restaurant. Derrick was their private dining manager, and Wendy was their marketing manager. They were so nice! They saw how much fun we were having, so Wendy volunteered to take us on a private tour and show us parts of the restaurant that the public usually don’t see. She showed us several private dining rooms used for VIP’s, or for carnival VIP dinners. In a glass case in one of the rooms, they had one of Thomas Edison’s original light bulbs. How cool is that!

We saw their incredible wine cellar that houses 25,000 bottles daily. Yes, 25,000! Eric said being in-charge of that would be a dream job. I totally agree. Wendy was so nice to show us around. It was incredible to see the history of the restaurant up close. I’ve said on previous posts how friendly everyone in New Orleans had been so far on our trip. The entire staff at Antoine’s treated us like family. They love what they do and are proud to be working here.

As we were getting ready to head out to our last stop for the evening, Derrick and Wendy introduced us to Antoine’s CFO/COO, Charles Daroca. He was so nice and such a pleasure to talk with, even if it was just for a few minutes. I admired a wonderful pin he was wearing on his lapel, and he saw how much I liked it, he gave it to me. When I say the people of New Orleans are friendly, I’m not kidding! We were really sad to leave, but we wanted to try one more famous restaurant on our last night.

I have to give a special shout out to everyone at Antoine’s. You made us feel so welcome and treated us so well. We loved everything about the restaurant, the decor, history, drinks, and the food. We will be back. Promise!