Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis will know that both Neil and I are planners. Especially when it comes to travel and holidays. So it’s very unlike me to head off to a city I have never visited with no plans. Unless it’s for work, like my recent trip to Philadelphia to present at both the International Boys’ Schools Coalition and the American Association of Teachers of French Annual Conferences. I knew that most of my time would be taken up with conference activities and when that’s the case, any extra activities are a bonus. So I had not planned anything except a couple of meals with blogging buddies that they had suggested.
On the first night in my hotel room I was reading the pamphlets about Philly and saw that the city is home to 10 Arts by Eric Ripert and that one of my favourite contestants (and finalist) from Top Chef Las Veges (Jennifer Carroll) is the Chef de Cuisine.
According to the website, Jennifer returned to her hometown of Philadelphia after working as Sous Chef at New York’s Le Bernardin, under the tutelage of Michelin 3-Star Chef and 10 Arts Culinary Director Eric Ripert. She uses only the finest and freshest ingredients locally sourced from independent farmers and fishermen who support sustainable harvests. 10 Arts’ precise menus, including our popular chef tasting menus and the inventive specials, are cleverly inspired by her Philadelphia ties and exceptional talents. Fine dining has never felt so comfortable or tasted so exquisitely fresh.
This sounded wonderful to me so I immediately emailed my friend who was going to be in town the following weekend to say we were dining there. I made a booking and spent the next few days eagerly anticipating my meal there. The menu looked mouthwateringly tempting (especially after conference food overload!)
Now, even though it clearly states on the website that this restaurant is located in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton “under the majestic marble dome”, this detail escaped my frazzled brain so it was quite a surprise to both Edie and me when we rocked up there last Saturday night. Entering the lobby, it’s like being transported to another world:
The website sugests that “sumptuous fabrics, warm tones, and modern touches throughout the restaurant offer an inviting atmosphere where genuine hospitality is shared amidst the hotel’s grand, historic architecture.” Indeed.
Though as soon as I was coming to terms with the beauty of the lobby area and the restaurant in general, I realised how ridiculous the “special request” note I had added to the reservation was. Full disclosure here: For the first time ever in my blogging career, I was upfront about taking photos and suggested I wanted a table with good light to be as unobtrusive as possible. Ummm… in this gorgeous space, there was no “good light” (at least for food photography).
I would like to think that the super attentive and friendly service we received was because it’s always like that – I mean, why would people go out of their way for a little old blogger like me? In any case, from start to finish, everything about this meal was impressive and I would have no hesitation recommending it to anyone looking for a higher end yet casual dining experience in sumptuous surroundings.
(all this to say – apologies for the less than stellar photo quality!)
I started with a Watermelon Daiquiri. It was that kind of day.
Edie and I were kind of melting in the heat of Philadelphia so weren’t terribly hungry and decided to order an entrée (that’s a main course for everyone who lives outside the United States) and save a little room for dessert.
I started with the Lobster & Shrimp Ravioli served with fennel and mushroom cream ($28).
I loved that the “cream” was not at all creamy and the fennel and mushroom components were deconstructed and separate entities so you could take a little bite of the ravioli along with some mushroom and fennel. Very fresh and crisp flavours – perfect for the hot weather.
Edie chose one of the daily specials of scallops and mussels.
Excited that we had left room for dessert, we couldn’t go past these:
Passion Fruit Parfait – sprayed in white chocolate with caramelized pistachios, white chocolate and orange sorbet ($10)
Again, we both loved the “deconstructed” style of this dish so you can can take little bites of everything and experience all the flavours either separately or together…
Banana Crème Brûlée with chocolate and salted peanut sorbet ($10). Oh my goodness gracious. The “crème” – I am not sure there was any cream involved – it tastes like rich banana purée, rendering the dish much lighter than I was expecting it to be. The salted peanut sorbet was out of this world. It was white so you tasted it not expecting that flavour at all. The perfect circle of chocolate, the salted caramel and peanuts. Just fabulous.
Edie and I were finishing up our glasses of prosecco and praising Chef Jennifer and Pastry Chef Monica Glass when all of a sudden our server informed us not to go anywhere as a special dessert was making its way out to us. A third dessert? Well, if you insist… On the house? Why thank you very much!
Normally I am not a huge fried dough fan but these were exquisite. Little puffs of light chocolately goodness served with the “shot” of de-alcoholized liqueur, this was actually very refreshing, not at all like your typical beignet experience that leaves you feeling like you need to go for a long run! We’re not sure why we got these but we ate them all up (they were just bite sized…). Thank you.
After dinner, instead of going for a run (we were not at all full but had had many bites of amazing flavours – very sated indeed), we wandered around the lobby of the Ritz a bit more, wondering what it might be like to stay there (on peut toujours rêver!).
This was an amazing dining experience. Haute cuisine without the haute prices. When we were there, there were families with little kids (they have upscale mac and cheese on the menu!), people in jeans relaxing after a day’s sightseeing, just normal people. So often ritzy (no pun intended) places make you feel awkward or out of place if you look like you don’t have the wallet to match the dining experience but this was not one of them. Bravo Eric Ripert for creating this welcoming haven where the normal folks can try your food. And thanks to Chefs Jennifer and Monica for an exceptional dining experience and one that we will remember fondly for a long time.
10 Arts (in the Ritz-Carlton)
10 Avenue of the Arts
Philadelphia, PA 19102-2500,