Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day Memories

We did our annual pilgrimage to Philadelphia this weekend, both for sightseeing and Bud's kung fu tournament.  But it wasn't our usual trip--we didn't go to Ben Franklin's print shop or even the Visitor's Center.  And we never go to the Liberty Bell because the lines are too long.

Upon arrival, we did go to our favorite NPS Independence gift shop, which has moved but still has the soap I pick up every year.  Then we headed to our all-time favorite Philly eatery, and one of our favorites anywhere:  City Tavern, the real colonial American restaurant in the historic building run by Taste of History host Chef Walter Staib.  As usual, we loved it--raspberry shrub, sweet potato biscuits, anadama bread, Sally Lunn bread, pepperpot soup, salmagundi platter, chicken pot pie, lobster pot pie, mushroom toast.  YUM!!  And this year, our waitress was an historian and shared extra information about how the lobster pot pie was the most authentic period dish and was even served after the defeat of the Hessians at Trenton!

Better yet, we shared the meal and much of our afternoon with some longtime friends of ours from Philadelphia, whom we don't get to see often.  They met us at City Tavern and then strolled around downtown with us for awhile.  We visited two new-to-us locations--Shane Confectionery and Franklin Fountain, which I'd read about in the recent American Spirit magazine (thanks, Gommie!)  One is an old-fashioned candy store, with shelves of glistening, colored confections and jars of tasty offerings.  We chose chocolates, caramels, cherry sourballs, lychee candies, lavender lollipops, violet "mints," and teaberry gum.  Next door, and owned by the same people, is the old-fashioned soda fountain.  No ordinary historical remake of plain old milkshakes and sundaes, this place has homemade sodas syrups plus real phosphates and citric acids dispensed from droppers--you see the pharmacy connection right away.  We had black raspberry ice cream and then four fancy sodas:  a Ladies' Choice, with peach ice cream in raspberry soda, with cream; a War Admiral, with ginger, milk, and rose-flavorings (my favorite); the Japanese thirst killer, with Orgeat Almond syrup, grape soda, and angostura bitters (Bud and Mama's favorite); and finally, a fizzy Roman Punch, with lemon, orange, grapefruit, and bergamot.  Delicious!!  I know these will become permanent fixtures on our Philly tour.

After saying goodbye to our friends, we headed for a self-guided tour of the US Mint, at Sis's request.  She has been increasingly interested in coins but only seemed mildly interested in how they were made; it didn't help that the factory wasn't in production, it being a holiday and weekend.  Still, she got some official sleeves for her coins and was happy about that.

Then we went to play putt-putt.  Yep, it's becoming a family thing.  This one was the course at Franklin Square, complete with mini-symbols of Philadelphia, including the Liberty Bell, Elfret's Alley, Independence Hall, the Ben Franklin Bridge, various sports teams, the art museum, the LOVE sculpture, and the Chinatown gate.  So cute.  The course itself was pretty predictable, with no moving parts, and VERY crowded.  Still, a nice time.  And we liked riding the carousel, too.

That evening we had Philly cheesesteaks from Tony Luke's, which several people recommended.  I'm not a huge cheesesteak fan, unsurprisingly, but it was a good bite of local color.  We finished the evening with a swim in the hotel pool.

The next day was kung fu competition, Bud' fourth, I believe.  He competed in three forms--staff, broadsword, and tong bei, a kind of hand form (we previously called it "slappy form" because he slaps his legs repeatedly.)  And he won gold in all three!  We were very proud of him, but it was a long day.  He waited almost five hours for his first event, which was supposed to be in the morning, and then it was at the exact same time as his afternoon event.  Literally, as he stepped on to the mat for his hand form, they called him up for his staff form.  He did two forms in five minutes, running in between!  I don't know how he did it, pure adrenaline.  A very exciting five minutes, after a very long wait.  He's broadsword was an hour or so later, icing on the cake at that point.

We all celebrated with dinner at Iron Hill brewery, our traditional post-competition dinner.  (Can you tell we are creatures of habit?)  French fries with garlic-rosemary mayonnaise, mushroom soup, Caesar salad, fish and chips, more French fries, mussels, seafood stew, hamburgers, chicken pot pie with mashed potatoes,  apple crisp, maple pecan bourbon ice cream, and oatmeal cake.  WHEW!  We left well-fortified for the long drive home, choosing to wake up in our own beds the next morning.  We made good time, saw a beautiful sunset over the rest area near the Meadowlands, and were greeted noisily by some happy cats.

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