Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Off the Map: Here We Come A'Wassailing

West Indies Pepperpot Soup -- City Tavern, Philadelphia, PA
City Tavern

By this point, our "Win, Fail, Win, Fail" pattern has ceased to exist, and we feel we have encountered too many Fails in a row.  Not helping the situation is the fact that we now have to walk from South Street to Olde City, a journey that is not that far but inevitably will now be completely desolate and dark and thus, creepy.  This desolation is our main issue with Philadelphia, generally speaking: we don't like to feel isolated, and in Philly, particularly after nightfall, one almost always feels alone.  It's not that we pass such unsavory characters on our walk from Creperie Beau Monde to City Tavern; it's that we don't pass anyone until we reach Walnut Street.  And this phenomenon never ceases to feel eery.

For this reason, Vodka is walking at her normal brisk clip, to which Ginger, who is now seriously regretting the Parc bread basket, has to trot to keep up (especially ridiculous because Ginger is at least four inches taller).  Relieved when we reach City Tavern, we are eager for our first experience of the admittedly tourist destination.  While this dinner is West Indies pepperpot soup-specific, as per Adam Gertler's choice on the OLD SCHOOL episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate, we are looking forward to encountering Ben Franklin and Friends in the meantime.
We the People of Manhattan Have Come to Philly In Pursuit of Soup and Street Lamps
Unfortunately, it looks like everyone who works at City Tavern is authentic to the 1700s in costume only.
They Also Clearly Skipped the John Hancock School of Neat Penmanship
We are expecting the waitstaff to speak to us in what we're calling "foreign tongue," to at least feign lack of knowledge of anything that has happened past the eighteenth century.  Instead, we encounter worker after worker that could very well be working at the Cheesecake Factory, were it not for their chaps and petticoats.  We naturally ask if we can sit at the bar, and we are lead to the "Dispensary" (which Vodka keeps accidentally calling the "Dysentery," a la Oregon Trail).

On the drink menu, we are ecstatic to find "wassail," as we love any and all references to a Christmas carol.  Some type of red wine spiced with cloves, cinnamon, and the like (including a real cinnamon stick), it is served warm and we fall instantly in love.
Love and Joy Come to You, and To You Your Wassail, Too
As we wait for the arrival of our pepperpot soup, Vodka comments that the large group of college students at the next bench looks bored.  "Egh, so do we," Ginger answers, shedding light on the fact that our blog behavior makes us seem completely disengaged with one another for large portions of our "meals."  There is just so much to contend with, what with the picture snapping, the note taking, and the Googling of "wassail."

Plus, there's the little fact that we have already been in each other's company for no less than 14 hours.
And There Are Only So Many Christmas Carol-Based Beverages One Can Drink in a Day
Thankfully, Vodka's reaction to Ginger's first taste of the soup reveals that we are not yet sick of each other.  Upon scooping the first spoonful of this mysterious pepperpot substance into her mouth, Ginger makes some incomprehensible noise of satisfaction that sends Vodka into a raging fit of the giggles.  Practically lying down on our entirely-too-large-for-our-party-size booth, Vodka is ravaged by laughter for so long that the soup is practically chilled before she manages to take her first taste.  At which point, she understands Ginger's reaction.
Ye Olde Spoon O' Soup
The soup, which features hunks of potato and beef, taro root, and leafy greens that remind of us kale, is entirely likable (and entirely salty, which obviously thrills Vodka).  Much like the wassail, it has a distinct kick of spice at the end of each taste, and we find the whole thing fairly scrumptious.  While we later learn that pepperpot soup usually features tripe, we do not find any stomach pieces floating among the broth, so City Tavern either does not include it or does a fine job of hiding this particular component from the tourists.
And By "Tourists," We Mean "Us"
"I've taken a liking to soup this week," Vodka repeats to Ginger no less than five times, causing Ginger to contemplate a nap on our booth bench.  Indeed, despite the fact that yes, we are nursing our glasses of delicious wassail, we are at City Tavern an exceptionally long time, because we cannot get our non-Olde English-speaking waitress to bring us our check (why is this always our issue?  Don't people want us to pay them?!).
Or Is City Tavern a Soup Kitchen?
Finally emerging from City Tavern, we decide that we probably could have lived in revolutionary times, as long as we managed to keep straight the difference between "dispensary" and "dysentery".

City Tavern's West Indies Pepperpot Soup: 4 stars

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