Lots to cover this week, including great holiday-theme takeout meals, cooking classes you can take from home, Craig LaBan’s favorite whiskeys, and plenty of restaurant news, including the key to your smoked-fish fantasies and a few new restaurants.
It’s been another horrendous week on the restaurant front, as the Wolf administration banned indoor dining in Pennsylvania through Jan. 4, 2021, in a bid to tame the coronavirus pandemic. Philadelphia has been without indoor dining for about a month, leading to a rash of temporary closings. New Jersey restaurants are still allowed to seat indoors, at 25% occupancy.
Which means many people will eat at home for the holidays — of course remaining in their existing bubble — instead of dining in restaurants. Reporter Jenn Ladd has found 35 options for delicious takeout for Hanukkah, Christmas Day, the Seven Fishes, and New Year’s Eve.
Instagram and Facebook are full of ideas. A few I’ve seen in recent days: The South Philly gem Bibou, now morphing from fancy BYOB into a French prepared-foods boutique, has put up a Christmas menu. Chef Jose Garces has revived his Garces Trading Company as a hub where customers can order dishes from his restaurant destinations Amada, The Olde Bar, and Village Whiskey. Stephen Starr has umbrellaed (is that a word?) the ordering for The Dandelion, Barclay Prime, Parc, Fette Sau, Butcher & Singer, and Talula’s Daily under StarrHolidays.com.
Here’s a safe idea: Allow chefs to come to your house, virtually. Reporter Grace Dickinson has the 411 on Chefstream, which is about to begin a series of Philly cooking classes with Kalaya’s Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon, Food & Wine 2020 Best New Chef Camille Cogswell, Noord/Winkle’s Joncarl Lachman, and Bing Bing Dim Sum/Cheu’s Ben Puchowitz. Classes are paced so guests can cook along in real time, and questions can be asked through Zoom. (P.S. Cogswell has some good news: The Zahav and K’Far alumna and her chef-fiancee Drew DiTomo just announced that they’re moving to North Carolina.)
After the “historic awfulness” of 2020, critic Craig LaBan says he’d appreciate “a great whiskey wrapped up in a bow” as a holiday gift. (I say: Forget the bow.) For his annual whiskey tasting, he and his socially distant band of tasters sniffed and sipped their way through 30-plus candidates to land on a final list of 16.
Like to mix it up a little? Columnist Elizabeth Wellington found some nifty cocktail kits from local restaurants and specialty gift stores — some with booze, some without.
Food editor Jamila Robinson is the first to say that she is no expert at baking or even Instagram-worthy cookie decorating, but she does enjoy adding curls, braids, twists, and updos to make her cookies seem more familiar. It’s a lesson her mother taught her.
Craig says that eating hummus in a tent may not really sound like a big deal. But he’s sold on the private yurts set up outside of Zahav in Society Hill. Mike Solomonov and chef de cuisine Chelsey Conrad are offering a lavish five-course tasting menu that Craig calls “one of the peak experiences of outdoor dining in Philly 2020.” And one of the most exclusive. You must be an Amex cardholder for the $90-a-head experience.
The lights are bright at 12th and Sansom Streets as Tinsel, the Christmas-theme pop-up bar, has returned to Washington Square West for the holidays. The pop-up has a 2020 twist, naturally. Outside, it’s a heated streetery. Inside is the barroom, festooned with 30,000 lights and a riot of decorations, though you can’t hang out, however. It’s a walk-through experience: You may order food and drink outside, head into the front door, pick up your drink, ooh and ahh, take a selfie at the alley door, and off you go to sit down.
Lauren Biederman is reviving the concept of the “appetizing shop” — an old-time retailer specializing in smoked fish, cream cheeses, and other accompaniments to bagels. Sunday, Dec. 20 — in advance of her January opening — she will host a pop-up at Biederman’s Specialty Foods (824 Christian St., just off the Italian Market). For Sunday, she is selling “brunch boards” for pickup loaded with smoked salmon, bagels, and pastries ($60 and $95, by preorder). There are a few left. Stay tuned for more details.
Bridget Foy’s, the easygoing landmark at Second and South Streets, is finally returning from a fall 2017 fire. New from the ground up, it is reopening this week as a pop-up called East Philly Cafe — which was the restaurant’s original name when Foy’s parents, John and Bernadette Foy, opened in 1978. (The Foys renamed it after Bridget’s birth in 1982, and now she runs it with her husband, Paul Rodriguez.) The Bridget Foy’s name will resume in 2021 when indoor dining is allowed. It’s offering outdoor dining on South Street, plus delivery and takeout from a window (4-9 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday.) Special on Thursday, Dec. 17: $5 vegetarian and short-rib chili and $5 hot toddies.
Chris Fetfatzes and Heather Annechiarico are opening Pivot Coffee & Soupery at 738 S. 11th St., next to Hawthornes, at 7 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 17. It’s part coffee shop (spiked coffee, too), part soup shop, part wine bottle shop and part bake shop (baked goods by Dan Tang of Sugar Philly). Hours are 7 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. The couple also owns Wine Dive, Tio Flores, Quick Sip, and The Cambridge, all on South Street.
Friday, Dec. 18 is the ribbon-cutting of the second Nick Filet, a fast-casual Main Line eatery that specializes in filet mignon sandwiches. Doors will open at 11 a.m. at 313 E. Lancaster Ave. in Wayne. The first 25 people in line will receive a free quarter-pound filet mignon sandwich. Additionally, customers get 15% off their orders the entire weekend, and the first 100 students from Villanova, Cabrini, Eastern, or Rosemont will receive a free sandwich with their student IDs.
The first 50 people in line at 9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 18 at Pennsport’s new Cake & Joe (1401 E. Moyamensing Ave.) will get free cake. Cake & Joe, a dessert cafe that will add a brunchery concept in 2021, is the collaboration of Sarah Qi (the manager) and Trista Tang (the baker), who met while attending high school near Beijing. Coffee beverages and grab-and-go sandwiches will be available for purchase.