Philadelphia in a Short Weekend

When we talk about weekend getaways, we often talk about them in terms of the “long weekend” (three to four days of pause + refuge from work). That whole notion changes for me come October when I start working six-day weeks. That said, I’m doing what I love while striving to practice self-care, which makes it more than okay. So, the weekends when I have a full two days off become my own version of a “long-short weekend” (happiness is inversely proportional to expectations, right?!).

The first weekend in October, my guy and I took a short weekend trip to Philadelphia. It. Was. So. Much. Fun. While I grew up on the East Coast (he didn’t), I have never spent any real time in Philly; I’ve only passed through the city. So much of it felt like Portland…this could have been because we were there on a rainy day and ate donuts – two very Portland-y things. It was an utterly chill way to spend 36 hours. Here’s what we did…I recommend all of it.

Food Tour: Michael Solomonov
Upon entering Philly, we needed food and knew that we wanted to check out Michael Solomonov’s amazing restaurants. Solomonov, most commonly known for Zahav (and the drop-dead gorgeous Zahav cookbook), has a network of restaurants with all different – and yet the same essential – vibes.
Dizzengoff

Our first stop was Dizzengoff, which is the name of a street in Tel Aviv. It has a basic menu of hummus plates with a small variety of toppings, as well as Sunday shakshuka brunch. In short, you can say we tried everything during the trip – that’s the beauty of short menus. That, and the fact that with a minimalist menu, they utterly master their offerings. Highlights included skillet shakshuka straight out of the oven and the pita made right in front of us.
Abe Fisher
Abe Fisher was the destination. I believe we made a reservation there before we made a reservation at a hotel. The entire time we ate this MIND-BLOWING meal there, we were also in shock that no one has come up with Jewish comfort food fusion cuisine to this scale before. It was so, so incredible. Each of our many courses, as well as the complimentary tasting bites they brought out along the way was a highlight, but here’s what I will likely always remember:
  • Matzo Ball Gratin
  • Latkes topped with Beef Tartare
  • Mini Rugelach with Bacon Date Filling
Federal Donuts
Unbeknownst to me until our car ride back into the city, Solomov is also responsible for the famed Federal Donuts. While we did not try the zaatar fried chicken, the donuts were excellent (and I am most definitely not usually a donut person). I brought back a box for the roommates and the churro and tres leches donuts seemed like the biggest hits.
Museums
Mutter
Right after we ate at Dizzengoff, we headed over to the Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians. Overall, I’m really glad that we went, though to be honest I don’t think I was able to handle the bottom floor. The bottom floor contained all the reasons why I did not go into the medical profession. The gore, anomalies that could not get figured out, and cadavers creeped me out, even though I wish they didn’t. That said, the top floor was insanely cool. The Civil War exhibit contained a whole part of history – the medical component – that does not get told as often as it needs to. It made me realize how recent most of our medical technology is (Mutter, a doctor from Philly, was the first one to use general anaesthesia as we know it today in the United States). The top floor also had a special Brothers Grimm exhibit with models of what the fictionalized medical anomalies in many of the Brothers Grimm stories would look like in real life.
The Barnes Foundation
The premise of the Barnes Foundation musuem is incredible. From the website:
The Barnes Foundation was established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” The Barnes holds one of the finest collections of post-impressionist and early modern paintings, with extensive works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine, and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as American masters Charles Demuth, William Glackens, Horace Pippin, and Maurice Prendergast, old master paintings, African sculpture, American paintings and decorative arts, antiquities from the Mediterranean region and Asia, and Native American ceramics, jewelry, and textiles.
Because the foundation is a displacement of art from Barnes’ original home / house into a more museum-like setting, it felt crucial to keep in mind that the layout and pairing of the art work was all his individual intention. Albert Barnes was a prestigious doctor with, clearly, a sizeable amount of money, who arranged his art in peculiar ways. While I was on sensory overload, I was also reminded of my deep love of Renoir and Degas. Seeing them almost in concert with one another and the more Fauvist art of Matisse was, to say the least, inspiring.
Architecture
Beth Sholom Frank Lloyd Wright
We went on quite a lengthy tour of Beth Sholom, a synagogue designed by Frank Lloyd Wright located just outside Philadelphia. The exterior was, to say the least, bizarre. It legit looks like the synagogue from outer space. The inside was elegant and modern, yet imposing because of the architecture itself and Frank Lloyd Wright-ness of it all. I highly recommend taking this tour if you’re in the area. We got a lot of bang for our buck in terms of history, all that we were able to see, and context for it all. The coolest part was that the synagogue saved every single hilarious and meaningful correspondence between Frank Lloyd Wright and the rabbi who instigated this project, Mortimer Cohen.
Houses
Because I was traveling with an architect, we also stopped by some very interesting houses on our way out of town: the Vanna Venturi House in Chestnut Hill and the Escherick House.

Recalibrating

That night, I was sad to have this short vacation be over. Upon returning, I realized how much I value – and on a deep level – mini vacations squeezed in amidst the busy-ness of everyday (school year) life. Within an hour of getting home and dropping off some donuts for the roommates, I was off to SoulCycle to get my sweat on. It felt necessary and cathartic to do something intentional after so much fun.
What are some weekend trips you’ve been on recently? Any you’re excited to embark on?
written from bed

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