Some call me the connoisseur of comfort.
Especially in culinary crevices.
For sometimes, even the food transforms and evolves from a perishable role into one of more promise when placed in an apt ambiance. And in a former home and enchanting city of Philadelphia, a place of many firsts, finding comfort was never a task.
South Philly is almost like Philadelphia’s answer to Brooklyn. Only it exudes a lot more genuine character. Lacking pretentiousness, it stands openly for what it is. Far from the gilded bridges and reflective waters of the river, the streets are quiet but calm, the restaurants are dimly lit and inviting, and the people are always hospitable and smiling.
One such dimly lit restaurant was Supper, with a wooden exterior and a gigantic metal chandelier made of discarded utensils and crockery. That alone was a testament to its inspiration from the farmlands culture. For it served seasonal farm-direct American cuisine, which was approachable, fresh, and – as my favorite meals have it – with a twist. Touted as an urban farmhouse, reminiscent of a Chicago West Loop neighborhood excursion, the construction was evidently very inspired. Wooden walls, granite bars on floors, walls decked with wines, wooden beams angled on ceilings and straw place mats for hungry eaters. With a luminescent light shining from an open kitchen.
The menu was divided into various farm constituents: larder, mill, and market to name a few. With a penchant for barns, the coziness of the rustic ambiance made me sit back and lazily relax in a city that had once been my home.
While pouring over the farm style menu, I got a Tribeca Manhattan with bourbon, Cynar, Luxardo and a maraschino cherry. A juxtaposition of strong and sweet flavors, this one felt more like the end of a meal than a start, but foreshadowed me ordering double of everything for the evening.
The Tea-Rex was comparatively more sober, looking rather deceivingly like root beer, but complete with sweet tea vodka and limoncello. The sweetness of the latter was a tad overpowering, making me wish this drink had a bitter coffee bean or a spicy ginger root to offset the Italian sweetness.
I started with Chef Mitch Prensky’s modern interpretations of Deviled eggs, which apparently were distinct each day! In bright fashionable colors of yellow, red, green and white, these were more traffic lights than traditional Southern Deviled Eggs. The saltiness of the goat cheese whip was a succulent pairing with the tartness of the beet which gave one of them a red hue. The whiter egg was its natural hue owing to the stronger truffle and tamale taste which reminded me of a sumptuous bite in Chicago. Then there was a yellow sriracha dyed sunshine egg with pickled daikon, ending with a horseradish and pistachio deviled egg where the flavor juxtaposition was a favorite. The whipped texture left no trace of fibrous nuttiness that was expected, allowing me to swallow the flavors whole.
As a hearty accompaniment to a chilly fall day, I got a sweet corn soup with pickled vegetables and coriander oil sauce. As a reminder of the origins of the green sliver on the soup, fresh coriander added freshness to both the palette and the visual. A creamy, hearty and sweet soup, this one made me momentarily fear that I would not be able to eat dessert. However, the comforting warmth of the soup and the slight spicy kick of the coriander and pickle brought this safely back into preparatory mode for a luscious meal to come.
With a newfound love for heart healthy quinoa, I could not resist the red quinoa cakes. Less cakes and more hush puppy looking, these thankfully came with well cooked spicy kale, another superfood. The vinegary corn relish offset the fried and fresh flavors well, while the almond milk salsa verde and pistachio crema acted as contrasting but complementary accompaniments. The sweetness of the salsa was an unexpected taste, both spicy and sweet, but disparate frmo Chinese sweet and sour.
The next entree was equally hearty, aptly named toasted farro risotto. Paying homage to the mills with luscious grains, the farro grains were whole, glimmering in brown butter yet slightly al dente as I liked them. Summer squash was sliced into long ratatouille style layers, interlaced with homemade ricotta and topped with fresh mint leaves. The heavy buttery dish desperately needed the freshness, both from the mint and the raw ricotta snow flakes, which made for a salivating bite when eating in unison.
With a noticeable addiction to dessert, I tried two contrasting desserts. For nothing is more comforting to me than ending on a double dose of somewhat sweet morsels.
Keeping with the homey theme was the My Mom’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake. Sliced into three skeletal morsels like a recent Michelin outpost, it was interlaced with blood hued cherry and rhubarb sauce, becoming an apparent take on a Halloween dessert dissection. The mint jelly droplets had a strong aroma and flavor of a palette cleansing mint. Thus far, it was a fairly savory dessert, much to my anti-saccharine pleasure, for the bitter coffee and tart sauce was sliced icily by the mint flavor. The dollop of buttermilk ice cream however reminded me that this was in fact a Southern style sweet, complete with whole (hearted) milk and sticks upon sticks of butter. A salivating bite, down to the last crumb.
Given the success of the daily eggs special, I tried the Pie of the Week a la mode. To my surprise, it was a fairly simple brownie pie, dense and chocolatey with a nutty crust, topped with sour cream ice cream. Thankfully, this one too was low on the sugar quotient, with a dark chocolate fudge-like brownie pie, a touch of salt in the crust, and a very sour ice cream that could almost be an ingredient swap with the almond milk salsa of the entree. While not incredibly inventive, it was a filling, satisfying dish, cementing my love for chocolate.
Evidently full from a hearty meal straight from a cozy barn in a farm, I wandered off to explore the quaintness of the neighborhood, before being whisked away into the other form of comforts known to man – those of security, luxury and opulence.
But as Austin once said, there is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.