Spaghetti Rusticana at The Victor Cafe

Tom’s Birthday Week 2019

Dining In, Dining Out, Drinks, Food, Photography

We have a tradition of spreading our birthday celebration out over the course of a week. It started out as going out to dinner one night and then having the other person cook something special another night, but it evolved from there.

At the end of February, I celebrated my birthday, and we took advantage of the occasion to do a bit of cooking and some eating out. Since my birthday is in the winter, we really need something to look forward to in order to survive the cold, dark winter.

My birthday was on a Thursday and the celebration started the weekend before with brunch at Rex 1516 which has been one of our go-to places ever since it opened shortly after we moved to Philadelphia. Holly had a new dish, Green Eggs (baked eggs, creamed collars, herbs, Swiss chard, and ricotta). I had the decadent Chicken & Waffles Benedict. It is a bit over-the-top since it’s fried chicken AND waffles AND eggs AND Hollandaise, but it was my birthday.

(click on any image to open the gallery)

The next night, Holly made quite an impressive spread for my birthday dinner:

  • falafel from Rose Water and Orange Blossoms
  • toum from Rose Water and Orange Blossoms
  • yogurt-marinated chicken breasts from Rose Water and Orange Blossoms
  • yogurt tahini sauce from Rose Water and Orange Blossoms
  • schug/zhoug from Tori Avey
  • pickled turnips (already made)
  • sumac onions from Zahav
  • harissa (tube)
  • pita from The Bread Bible
  • tabbouleh from Zahav
  • warm dates w/almonds from Rose Water and Orange Blossoms

Birthday celebrations are somewhat like Staycation except we have to go to work most days. After a couple of special treats that first weekend, we had a typical week until Thursday night when we went to The Victor Cafe which has become somewhat of a tradition for my birthday. Something about winter makes us want pasta, meats, red sauce, wine, and cannoli. Not only do we love the food, but we thoroughly enjoy that the waitstaff are all also opera singers who break into song throughout the evening.

We began dinner with a couple of Negronis and then shared an order of Clams Casino. We both ordered the Spaghetti Rusticana which is spaghetti with meatballs, sausage, and braciola. Of course, we shared a bottle of wine and then finished things off with some Sambuca and cannoli.

Saturday was the more official dinner out. Knowing we had big dinner plans, Holly and I went to Spice Finch for a light brunch: Blistered Shishito Peppers, Fattoush, and Sourdough flatbread with Fattoush and Lemon Yogurt. Light but special nonetheless.

My brother came down to center city to join us for dinner at Parc. Because of the train schedule, he arrived a little early so we met him for a pre-dinner drink at a.kitchen. Holly and I had been to Parc a few times but only for breakfast. We have made a minor tradition of going to Parc for Christmas (or Christmas Eve) breakfast but had yet to get there for dinner.

Dinner did not disappoint. We started off with some nice appetizers. I got the Oeufs Durs Mayonnaise, Holly the Onion Soup Gratinée, and my brother the Mushroom Soup. For our entrees, my brother and I both ordered the Beef Bourguignon and Holly ordered the Steak Frites. We haven’t been eating much beef these days, but I couldn’t resist the Beef Bourguignon which is on the short list of beef I will still eat. It’s a dish we have also successfully made at home. As typical, we skipped desserts and finished with some after dinner drinks.

Sunday was a quiet day at home, but Holly and I took off Monday to have one more day of fun.

We started the day with breakfast at the new Vernick Coffee Bar. We each got the delightful Stone-Ground Oatmeal Souffle and pour-over coffees.

During our time in Philadelphia, Holly had never been to the Philadelphia Flower Show, and I had been only once many, many years ago so we decided that that was how we wanted to spend the day off. Overall, we enjoyed it but were put off by the big crowd. Since it’s in the Convention Center, the setting felt a bit industrial and the lighting was spotty and overly white which seemed to dull some of the presentations. I brought my good camera and was able to get some decent shots.

After a couple hours at the Flower Show, we were ready for lunch. Since we were near Chinatown, we headed to Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House where I had the Spicy and Sour Chicken Noodle and Holly had the Tomato and Egg on Noodles. Everything was tasty and the hand drawn noodles were fantastic. All things considered, we don’t live all that far from Chinatown so it’s a disappointment we don’t get there more often.

I had an exceptionally fun birthday week and am very thankful for Holly’s effort to always make it special. 

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