Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Belgian Delight

I've never been to Belgium, and I am ashamed to say that the name "Bruges" reminds me only of Austin Powers movies (think Dr. Evil's inconsequential childhood), tasty wheat beers and mussels. But now I have a new vision of life in the land of waffles and chocolate thanks to Bruges Home in Olde City.

Located in a gorgeous, light-filled open-floor plan historic building at 3rd & Race, finding Bruges was a lucky side affect of having to search for a parking space on a busy Saturday afternoon. The staff were friendly and knowledgable, and happy to answer any questions about their eclectic offerings. Many products there are organic, such as ornaments made from materials only found in nature and soy candles. And while I can't possibly fit anything else into my current apartment, here's hoping that this 4-month old infant store stays around long enough for me to go back and outfit my future home with their elegant, modern, european-style furniture.

Anyone still looking for some last minute gift ideas should definitely make the trip down to Bruges, as they have a great sale going on right now and with their wide selection of unique home accessories, coffee table books, jewelry, and tableware, there's no risk of showing up with the same present for Aunt Mildred as your cousin did.

Bruges Home, 323 Race St., 215.922.6041

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Calling All Pet Lovers

Clear your schedules for next Sunday, December 17th, to bring your precious pups, cuddly kittens, beautiful birds and lovely lizards to confess their every desire to his highness, Santa Paws. Your favorite furball might be in desperate need for new squeaky toys, giant rawhides or a cozy bed, and this is just the place for them to whisper their wishes into the open ears of Old St. Nick.

Santa Paws will be making his appearance from 12pm - 5pm at none other than the Rotunda at the Ritz-Carlton, a venue that few four-legged creatures ever have the pleasure of entering (although I am sure there are a few miniature yorkies out there that have snuck in by way of a Birkin bag). Your treasured pets will get their photo taken on Santa's lap for a very reasonable $10.

If watching your furry friends bark and yelp their holiday wishes to someone who we hope is a very tolerant jolly ol' elf isn't satisfaction enough, you'll be pleased to know that your $10 is a donation to the Morris Animal Rescue. Those of you who are familiar with Morris know that it needs a lot of financial help to keep up its 120-year old tradition of serving Philadelphia's neglected animals. So give your pet the memory that will last as long as pet memories last - approximately 3 minutes, for a good cause.

Morris Animal Refuge, 1242 Lombard St., 215-735-9570

Ritz-Carlton Hotel, 10 Avenue of the Arts

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Far East Feeding Frenzy

Like in most major US cities, Philly's Chinatown is like stepping into another world. It has its own pulse, a heartbeat that seems to race faster than the rest of the city. Maybe it's the MSG.

China-town probably isn't an accurate description of the area, as the influences span the entire Far East, from Chinese, to Thai, to Indonesian and my most recent food exploration, Malaysian. But I guess the Chinese get the recognition, maybe because they were first to arrive on US soil? I'll have to research that one.
Choosing a restaurant in Chinatown can be intimidating, as there are so many that look alike and offer similar menus. But on a friend's recommendation we discovered Penang, a pearl of the east right here in our little corner of the western world. Penang offers an exploration of the culinary delights of Southeast Asia, which incorporates a diverse variety of flavors, spices, meats, veggies, and seafood. There are even a few items that are so unusual and authentic that they note on the menu for patrons to please "ask advice" before ordering.

Penang has locations in other cities, and I got the impression from my fellow diner who had been to the DC outpost that Philly's disappointed a bit in the atmosphere department. But upon second glance we all decided we quite liked the rustic decor, which was designed to invoke the traditional street-side vendors of the restaurant's namesake Malaysian state. And as a cash-only operation, it didn't hurt that the prices were not that much higher than one would find in the street stalls either!

Penang, 117 N. 10th St., 215-413-2531

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Get Crafty for Christmas

I just found out something that has made my day. Nay. Made my whole Holiday season.

I am going to be here for the craft/art sale at the Standard Tap this year.

I am leaving on a trip to Paris this Saturday and will be gone until the week before Christmas when shopping opportunities are going to be slim. Why not buy all my presents in Paris, you ask? Because I’m not made of money, that’s why. I’m praying there will be fun little places to buy unusual and unexpected goodies for my loved ones, but I’m not willing to bank on it. This is why I am giddy in the knowledge that I will be able to squeeze in a trip up to the Standard Tap on Saturday before I jet off.

Last year I went up there, my first time wandering up to NoLibs without the intent to booze, the week before Christmas in the hopes that the arty types of Philadelphia would be there to help me get unusual gifts. And sure enough, I got something for everyone there. I finished up with a few other things down the road at P.A.D, but got all shopping done in two hours flat.

I like buying gifts from local people because not only to you give something beautiful and didn’t come from a catalog, but you can actually give their business card too and tell people a little bit about the artist.

I will warn you that you must pay cash, so come with your wallet fat. Mind you, nothing there is going to break the bank so don’t fret too much. I am also glad that things are inexpensive enough that should I find something else on my travels, I won’t have gone over budget.

So head up to the Standard Tap on Saturday from 11am – 3pm and should you sneak in a beer while your there it’ll only help you feel more jolly for the holidays.

Standard Tap, 901 N 2nd Street, (215) 238-0630,
Standard Craft Sale, December 9th, 11 am to 3 pm