I was recently in Philadelphia for the first time and had a day to explore. Naturally, I sought out what the city had to offer in terms of food and drink.
The early afternoon found the boy on wine and I sitting at the bar of Tria, an establishment billed as “wine cheese beer café.” They have more than one location; we went to the one in Rittenhouse Square. A very cute spot, with an approachable, helpfully subtitled (i.e. zippy whites, lighthearted reds, funky reds) wine by the glass list. They also had a huge selection of beer.
I tried a glass of rosé txakolina, the Getariako “Rubentis” Ameztoi 2011. (A mouthful, that one.) Txakolina (a.k.a. Txakoli) is a high acid, low alcohol, slightly fizzy, and extremely dry wine from the Basque region that I first encountered in tapas bars in Spain. Txakoli from Getaria (Getariako Txakolina in Basque) is the main appellation and was the first to receive DO certification, in 1989.
Txakoli is normally white, so I was curious about this rosé. A pretty pink colour, it was light and spritzy, smelled of raspberries and tasted of yeasty strawberries. So refreshing that my small glass was gone before I knew it.
The food at Tria also deserves mention, because I seriously relished every bite of my oak-roasted salmon salad with baby spinach, fregola sarda, feta, fennel and lemon-dill vinaigrette.
Later that day, we decided to check out another wine bar for a pre-dinner drink. The wine bar at Ristorante Panorama had an entirely different vibe: a dark, old world, classy ambiance. They also apparently hold the Guinness World Record for the largest wine preservation and dispensing system in the world. They have up to 120 bottles open at a time, pressurized under inert nitrogen gas, which means that each bottle can be preserved for up to three weeks. They have a huge number of flights on the wine list that get you a small pour (1.5 ounces) of five different wines.
I’ll be honest: after trying the wines, I’m not sure I entirely buy the concept. I ordered a flight of whites called “aromatic alternatives to Chardonnay.” Each one tasted suspiciously similar: lacking acidity, high in alcohol, unbalanced, and strangely dull. It’s possible I just ordered the wrong flight, one that wasn’t to my taste, but I couldn’t help but wonder if, sitting open under gas in the system, the wine had lost some of its character. I guess I would have to return and try another flight to find out for sure.
There was something so precise about their temperature and portion-controlled pours, and I couldn’t help but wish we were back at Tria, drinking something funky at the bar. It started raining, and we taxied our way out of there.
I didn’t know this before I went, but Philadelphia has a strong BYOW (bring your own wine) culture, partially because of Pennsylvania’s strict alcohol laws. (There was an interesting piece about U.S. BYOB culture on Eater recently.) We ended up at one such place, Pumpkin, a small, farm-to-table style restaurant with a focus on local food.
The food was delicious: the chilled watermelon soup with crab, thai basil, avocado, and yoghurt was my favourte. Our Benjamin and David Duclaux “La Germine” Côte-Rôtie was likely a little too young still (2008), but complex and quite amazing nonetheless. It was full of spicy, rich fruit, with a softer earthy, floral, herbal undertone. It kept developing until the last sip. We left happy.
In short, Philly: a city where you can eat and drink well! Would I go back? Definitely.