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🎉Our favorite party trays | Let’s Eat

Also: Afternoon tea recipes inspired by Somalia, a pizzeria that's a pain to order from, and restaurant news.

Empanadas and a slice of tortilla de patatas at Jezabel's Cafe.
Empanadas and a slice of tortilla de patatas at Jezabel's Cafe.Read moreMichael Klein

We’re into party season, and you may be asking yourself “Where to order from?” This week, we offer 15 party-platter ideas. Read on for word about relaxing afternoon tea recipes from Somalia, the revival of two restaurants, a look at the making of a butter cake, and a report on a pizzeria that’s an absolute pain to order from (but totally worth it).

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15 party platters worth sharing with a crowd

It’s party time and the Philly area has lots of choices for trays, platters, and a la carte items appropriate for a crowd. From traditional Italian fare and charcuterie to truly delicious Indian, Middle Eastern, and Japanese party food, we’re spoiled for options. Staff writer Nick Vadala came up with 15 party-tray options from all over.

5 Advent calendars for the food lovers in your life

What better way to count down till Christmas than with 24 days of tiny indulgences? Sometimes, finding a gift for our fiery and funny aunties or sweet grandparents can be a bit of head-scratcher, but contributor Carolyn Desalu suggests Advent calendars stuffed with tiny treats that are as thoughtful as they are a pleasure to unwrap.

Take an afternoon tea break

In Somalia and throughout the diaspora, there is the tradition of casariyo, an afternoon tea or coffee break that follows lunch and the Asr Islamic prayer. Ifrah F. Ahmed offers a look at the tradition, as well as recipes for bur, which are beignets scented with cardamom and cinnamon, and the spiced tea shaah.

Watch: Elizabeth Halen of Flying Monkey Bakery makes butter cake

When Elizabeth Halen had butter cake for the first time, she knew she had to make her own. Now, she serves the dessert with Pennsylvania Dutch origins at Reading Terminal Market, where she owns and operates Flying Monkey Bakery. Watch this behind-the-scenes video by The Inquirer’s Kristen Balderas. There is a lot of butter involved.

You really have to work to get this pizza. But what a pizza.

Speer Madanat is drawing cognoscenti to his little pizzeria in downtown West Chester. You need patience. The hours are goofy, there’s no phone, email, or website, it’s walk-in only, and cash is the only form of payment. You’ll be rewarded for your persistence: the thinnest of bottom crusts, fantastic cheese, and a very well-done outer crust.

Restaurant report

Rittenhouse’s Twenty Manning is back, now sporting a moody elegance and a tasty Middle Eastern menu from chef John Taus, who shuttles across the street to the busy Charley Dove BYOB. These are the final changes from the days of founder Audrey Claire Taichman, who sold the restaurants to Rouge owner Rob Wasserman nearly four years ago. (She still owns Cork, the bottle shop up the block that previously was the demo kitchen Cook.) Twenty Manning’s menu is starting small, with appetizers including skewers, two hummuses (hummusi?), and a daily crudo. There are but three entrees, intended for sharing, including grilled dorade with sweet figs, za’atar chicken, and lamb shank tagine. Full bar, as before, adding a new Middle Eastern-inspired cocktail list — with an espresso martini thrown in because what would a nightspot in 2021 be without an espresso martini?

Twenty Manning, 261 S. 20th St. Hours: 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Proof of vaccination required.

Briefly noted

Chef Townsend Wentz (Oloroso, A Mano) has picked Friday, Dec. 3 to reopen his French bistro Townsend EPX (1623 E. Passyunk Ave.) for the first time since the pandemic. Wentz will go with a six-course, $100 tasting menu Wednesday to Saturday, from 5-9 p.m. (There will be a limited bar-snack menu on Sunday, starting Dec. 12.) Menu: beef tenderloin tartare, seared sea scallop, New Jersey fluke, foie gras-stuffed pheasant, roasted venison loin, and Valrhona chocolate souffle. They can accommodate gluten, nut, and dairy aversions, but for the first weekend, there is no vegan/vegetarian/pescatarian option. Reservations through Resy require a $25 deposit and a 48-hour cancellation. Wentz’s next reopening is expected to be the Townsend location at 2121 Walnut St.

Sugar Factory has delayed its opening at 1216 Chestnut St. OpenTable now says it goes live on Dec. 10.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams’ opening at 1322 Frankford Ave., across from La Colombe, is on track for 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2. First 50 people in line get a swag bag.

Dec. 3 is the projected opening of the massive Wilson’s Restaurant & Live Music Lounge, a 350-seat New Orleans-style restaurant and live music venue near Sterling High School in Hi-Nella, N.J., from Mame and Mark Wilson. The couple — he’s a chemical engineer, and she owns an art gallery — put $2 million into the building, which previously housed such venues as Duke’s, Hi-Nella Inn, and Balloons. Elijah Milligan (ex-Stateside, Taproom on 19th) is chef. Stay tuned for a report.

Cajun-style seafood chain Crab Du Jour has penciled in Tuesday, Dec. 7 for its opening at 104 Route 70 East in Cherry Hill, a former Famous Dave’s BBQ.

Kensington brewpub Human Robot is expanding by taking over a shuttered brewpub at 208 York Rd. in downtown Jenkintown, and is planning a Feb. 22, 2022, opening. The space — a Horace Trumbauer-designed onetime Rolls-Royce showroom next to the Hiway Theater — previously was Neshaminy Creek Brewing’s Borough Brewhouse following an ill-starred four-month run in 2015 as Guild Hall.

Barstool Sports, the media company run by the controversial David Portnoy (who is the subject of some recent allegations), is fixing to open a sports bar in Center City Philadelphia. Based on public documents, I suspect that it’s destined for 1213 Sansom St., though the timeline is a secret.

What you’ve been eating this week

From my inbox, it appears that steamed halibut was an “it” dish among readers this week. Heirloom Kitchen, the pop-up at 931 Spring Garden St., offered it with Brussels sprouts, chanterelles, almond crumble, ajo blanco, and soy lime emulsion, while Randy Rucker at River Twice (1601 E. Passyunk Ave.) included it on his tasting menu with badger flame beets, longneck pumpkin mole, and brown butter.

(And speaking of River Twice, it’s reviving its “Hidden in Plain Sight” dinner series with one-night guest chefs from Dec. 19-Dec. 23. They’re calling it Cheftivus: Diego Moya of The Oberon Group in Brooklyn (Dec. 19), Evan Hennessey of Stages in Dover, N.H. (Dec. 20), Alex Yoon of Little Fish in Philadelphia (Dec. 21), Alex Talbot of Ideas in Food/Curiosity Donuts of Doylestown (Dec. 22), and Shola Olunloyo of StudioKitchen in Philadelphia (Dec. 23). Looking ahead, Ange Branca of Sate Kampar is booked for Jan. 11. They’re $150 per person, or $175 at the chef’s counter. Details here.)

Great dishes sampled by readers this week include chicken meatballs with mushroom stroganoff from Sally at 2229 Spruce St. (enjoyed by @phillygiuls); the spicy seafood noodle dish jjampong from Jeong’s Noodle inside the H Mart in Olney at 6201 N. Front St. (@young7283); creamy butternut squash carbonara from Bar Sera at 382 E. Elm St. in Conshohocken (@unsalty), and a takeout/delivery order of boneless wings from DJ Khaled’s new Another Wing ghost kitchen in South Philadelphia (@stephanieross).

Eat something tasty? Pictures, or it didn’t happen. Send them my way on Instagram: @phillyinsider.

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