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Romantic Birthday in Philadelphia


garriga
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My SO has kindly offered to treat me to the restaurant of my choice to celebrate my impending 30th birthday. We don't see each other much these days, since we're in school in different cities, so I'd like to make the occasion a romantic one. :wub:

We're big wine lovers, so a good wine list (or a BYO) would be nice. I'd like to avoid a Starr restaurant because, with the exception of Barclay Prime, I've been to all of them already. And if we can find a place that takes reservations, it would make life a bit easier.

I’d love any suggestions.

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My SO has kindly offered to treat me to the restaurant of my choice to celebrate my impending 30th birthday. We don't see each other much these days, since we're in school in different cities, so I'd like to make the occasion a romantic one.  :wub:

We're big wine lovers, so a good wine list (or a BYO) would be nice. I'd like to avoid a Starr restaurant because, with the exception of Barclay Prime, I've been to all of them already.  And if we can find a place that takes reservations, it would make life a bit easier.

I’d love any suggestions.

I would suggest PANORAMA for both the 120 bottle cruvinet and the very good food and drop dead romantic setting.

Rich Pawlak

 

Reporter, The Trentonian

Feature Writer, INSIDE Magazine
Food Writer At Large

MY BLOG: THE OMNIVORE

"In Cerveza et Pizza Veritas"

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Rich's suggestion of Panorama is an excellent one. If you want BYO and romantic, search no further than Overtures. Great food, nice service, pretty room and BYO to boot.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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My SO has kindly offered to treat me to the restaurant of my choice to celebrate my impending 30th birthday. We don't see each other much these days, since we're in school in different cities, so I'd like to make the occasion a romantic one.  :wub:

We're big wine lovers, so a good wine list (or a BYO) would be nice. I'd like to avoid a Starr restaurant because, with the exception of Barclay Prime, I've been to all of them already.  And if we can find a place that takes reservations, it would make life a bit easier.

I’d love any suggestions.

My favorite restaurant for a special occassion is Vetri. It's cozy and romantic. You can request the round table for two in the back. It does't get much better than that, in my opinion ;)

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While I think Vetri is an excellent choice because of the small rooms (romantic) and superb wine list (AFAIK), I'd lean towards Rich's choice of Panorama because of the cruvinet and setting as well, but that's also my own preferences in that situation; you may differ.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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Thanks everyone for these great suggestions! I'm going to try to make it to all of them at some point. But for the birthday dinner, I'd like to be dressy. I never get a chance to dress up these days.

Which of these is the most elegant in terms of attire?

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Not to be all negative, but Panorama? I've had company dinners there and liked it for that, but it still retains the...atmosphere of hotel-dining-room. Those tile floors and the non-view of Front Street are not romantic. And I feel that it's overpriced for what it is. The food is very nice, but not amazing, and I think the bill reflects the upkeep of the fancy wine system overmuch. It's a nice place for pure wine geekery, though.

Vetri is one of the most lauded restaurants in Philly. (And has been lauded nationally, as well.) It's small, romantic, expensive, and distinctive. And yes, worth dressing up for.

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I'd second Vetri ... and if you'd like to head out of town, Nectar in Berwyn. Ask for a table next to the Dalai Lama's reserved table ... gives you more privacy.

Happy Birthday, BTW ...

JasonZ

Philadelphia, PA, USA and Sandwich, Kent, UK

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Overtures, which Katie recommended, is also quite suited to more formal dress: it has the whole velour-banquette vibe that suggests Old World dining.

If you want a meal for which real formal attire might be appropriate, there are a few venues in Philadelphia that work. Of those, I'd recommend Deux Cheminees - which also happens to be (in my seldom humble oppinion) the most romantic venue in the city. Particularly if you go on a wintry day and get a table by one of the fireplaces. Guarantees all kinds of post-prandial snuggling.

Oh, and the food is delicious!

In fact, I'm surprised the place doesn't get more mentions, now that I think of it.

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In fact, I'm surprised the place doesn't get more mentions, now that I think of it.

Agreed! Way too far under the radar for the quality of food, service and ambiance. An excellent suggestion!

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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If you don't mind going out of the city, Alison at Blue Bell is an outstanding BYO. The food is exceptional. And if you tell them it's your birthday, they'll write a message in chocolate on your dessert dish.

It's a really special restaurant.

Edited by etalanian (log)

Eileen Talanian

HowThe Cookie Crumbles.com

HomemadeGourmetMarshmallows.com

As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. ~Joan Gussow

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If you want a meal for which real formal attire might be appropriate, there are a few venues in Philadelphia that work. Of those, I'd recommend Deux Cheminees - which also happens to be (in my seldom humble oppinion) the most romantic venue in the city. Particularly if you go on a wintry day and get a table by one of the fireplaces. Guarantees all kinds of post-prandial snuggling.

Oh, and the food is delicious!

In fact, I'm surprised the place doesn't get more mentions, now that I think of it.

i've been thinking about deux cheminees a lot recently. because it's still there, as far as i know it's still good, but no one i know has been there in ages, and no one talks about it much.

and it's not THAT expensive--according to their website it's $85 a person... which is i think what it was when i last went there, which i'm kind of sorry to admit was probably eight years ago.

i'ma try to get back over there one of these days.

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Deux Cheminees is indeed still around, but not for long. There was an article in the Penn Student paper this week about Chef Blank's impending retirement (It made Penn news because he's donating his 17,000 volume library of cookbooks etc. to Penn's library). The chef, who recently turned 65, is planning a move to Thailand to write cookbooks because, to paraphrase, he doesn't want to die at the stove.

I also had the good fortune to dine at Deux Cheminees recently on someone else's dime. Everything was excellent and I was very impressed with the service, ambience, etc. I would suggest paying a visit before it closes.

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The tables at Vetri were a little too close together for me to be considered romantic, as were the ones at La Famiglia.

I think Deux Cheminees was the most romantic and seemed to me the most dressy. It was also my favorite meal of the three. The library is amazing too.

Karen C.

"Oh, suddenly life’s fun, suddenly there’s a reason to get up in the morning – it’s called bacon!" - Sookie St. James

Travelogue: Ten days in Tuscany

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Thanks everyone for the suggestions. We don’t have a car, so we want to stick to places in CC. It could have been a tough choice. But as it stands I wasn’t able to get reservations at Vetri or Panorama, so that narrowed the field. :hmmm:

I plan to pop in to the bar at Panorama for a drink soon to check out the famed cruvinet in person in any case.

I was able to get a res at Deux Cheminees, which sounds like it fits the bill of what were looking for perfectly. I’m really looking forward to it and I’ll report back on our meal. Do any of the folks who’ve been there have favorite menu items?

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Please do report back! It's been quite awhile since I've been to Deux Cheminees (I should be embarassed to say that), but Chef Fritz Blank changes his menus seasonally, so I'm certain that nothing I had would still be on the menu.

DO NOT FAIL to ask for a tour of the library. It's the most impressive cookbook collection known to man, as well as housing the most gorgeous dining table I've ever seen. Apparently a friend of the chef had built the dining table out of wooden wine crates that bear the names of various wineries from all over the world. Apparently the friend also passed on soon after completing the table. It is truly one of the most beautiful handcrafted items I've ever had the pleasure of viewing, and made that much more dear by the story attached to it. I covet that table with every fiber of my being.

The couple of times that I've been there, I've always asked to see the library, and on one occasion surprised the chef sitting peacefully with his cat, watching TV in his bathrobe. :shock: He seemed less bothered than I was by it. He's a really fascinating man and someone I could talk to for hours.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Slightly (well more than slightly) off-topic, but the Fritz Blank discussion leads to one of my fav oft-told tales of this microbiologist turned chef (and I say microbiologist for a reason):

Early in the history of the now defunct Saturday Morning Breakfast Club at the Reading Terminal Market about nine or ten years ago we scheduled a program where Blank's pastry chef would do a pre-Valentine's Day discussion and demonstration on how to make truffles. About two dozen women descended on the meeting (we usually only had eight or nine people show up), presumably because the discussion was centered on CHOCOLATE. Even She Who Must Be Obeyed attended because of the subject matter.

As it turned out Fritz's pastry chef had emergency dental surgery and could not appear. Michael Holahan, proprietor of the Pennsylvania General Store and instigator of the Saturday Morning Breakfast Club, pleaded with Fritz in a panic to come instead and do the truffle-making demonstration.

Fritz agreed and brought along a friend: Harold Mcgee, author of On Food and Cooking. McGee just happened to be in town attending a science convention. And he just happened to have samples of cacoa beans in various stages of fermentation and processing. It was one of the most fascinating food discussions it was ever my privilege to hear. Oh, and Fritz did tell everyone how to make truffles.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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So garriga...has your birthday dinner passed, and if so, how was it? If it's still upcoming, have you decided on a reservation yet?

We nosey folks want answers to these pressing questions. :raz:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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So garriga...has your birthday dinner passed, and if so, how was it?  If it's still upcoming, have you decided on a reservation yet?

We nosey folks want answers to these pressing questions.  :raz:

lol! It's next week, but we're celebrating this Saturday.

I'm still vacillating on the final destination, but leaning towards Deux Cheminees. Just sent him a link to their website. I've got my digi cam charged and ready. So expect a full report next week. I've got to say, I'm really excited for the big 3-0. :biggrin:

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Happy Birthday in advance then! Have a lovely time and great dinner, wherever you end up.

A full report is now de rigeur...

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just wanted to give the lowdown on the birthday dinner at Deux Cheminees that eGulleters so kindly helped me choose. We went on Saturday night and had a lovely dinner. The room was lovely and romantic, the service was charming, but the food was a bit uneven. We had a minor snafu when my SO realized that he didn’t have a dinner jacket at my house. When I called the restaurant to check if it was ok, the host seemed a bit disconcerted that he wouldn’t be wearing one. But my SO looked great regardless and though we were easily the youngest diners in the place, we were comfortable and treated well.

After being seated, we both started with a kir royale as an aperitif. While we looked over the wine list and menu offerings, our server brought out an amuse bouche of duck liver pate with onions and cornichons. It was served with garlic toast. I don’t love pate, but my SO really enjoyed this. The restaurant offers a fixed price meal with four courses—soup, salad, main and dessert. There are several options for each course. You can substitute a heavier appetizer for the soup or salad for a supplement. Or you can add an additional appetizer course for a larger supplement.

We were in the mood for a red Burgundy with dinner. The wine we chose for the evening was a 2002 Joseph Drouhin Côte de Beaune-Villages. We really enjoyed this wine. It had a beautiful pale ruby color, a smoky cherry nose and a silky mouthfeel. We loved the long finish and it was a great match for our food.

We both started with soups. He had a Hungarian lamb stew. I had the crab veloute with scotch. I had a taste of his and found it pedestrian. I was much happier with my dish. It had plenty of lump crab meat. And the addition of scotch just upon serving really made the dish sing.

For our second course, he had escargot. He loves escargot and always orders them when he can. I tasted one, and though the texture was perfect I found them bland. I had poached asparagus with savory whipped cream. I wanted something lighter after my delicious, but very rich first course. The asparagus dish had a number of components—spelt, bibb lettuce, hardboiled egg. Not sure if this is a classic preparation, but I didn’t love it. It just didn’t hang together well.

We decided to share a rack of lamb with Perigord sauce for our main. Can you tell that he loves lamb? This, to me, was the most disappointing dish of the evening. The presentation was sloppy with sauce all over the edge of the plate. We ordered it medium rare and it came out tough and overcooked on the ends. The sauce lacked richness and the truffle flavor didn’t come across well. My SO ate most of mine.

For dessert, we decided to order something simple. We both had homemade ice cream with fruit. We had egg nog and french vanilla flavors. Both flavors were rich and creamy and a nice end to the meal. Our server was also kind enough to bring out two complimentary glasses of champagne for a birthday toast. Always a nice touch.

After dinner, we took a tour of the restaurant and were able to spend time perusing the chef’s cookbook library. It’s in the process of being boxed up for shipment to UPenn. But it’s still really impressive. If I can figure out how, I’ll post a picture. Btw, the restaurant isn't closing when the chef retires.

All in all, it was a lovely evening with my honey. We had great service in a lovely environment and some good food. I thought there should have been more care put into preparation and more thought given to presentation. But it was still a great way to spend a birthday.

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garriga:

Sorry to hear about the glitches in what should have been a perfect dinner. Hopefully the ambiance, the wine and the company made up for it.

Really glad to hear that the restaurant won't be closing when Chef Fritz retires, but I can't imagine it being the same without him. I was just talking about the place earlier this evening with a few fellow PhilleGullets and we were bemoaning the fact that such a landmark restaurant is closing. I hope the chef has hand picked and trained his replacement.

Was that gorgeous wine table still in the library?? Or has that been packed and shipped off to Thailand already? (read: is it too late for me to stage a late night break in and steal it... :raz:)

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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