Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pennypack Park

Another weekend, another hike.  This time I headed to northeast Philadelphia, in the Rhawnhurst neighborhood, to Pennypack Park.

Also, my hiking reports are going all metric!  It is part of my own private war against the US customary system.

Pennypack Park
Location: Philadelphia, PA (Rhawnhurst)
Description: An easy hike along the Pennypack Creek.
Distance: 12.1 km
Net Elevation Change: 52 m
Duration: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Technical Difficulty: Easy
Physical Difficulty: Easy
Rating (out of 5): 2.5

Much like Wissahickon Valley Park, Pennypack Park is part of the Fairmount Park System and is nestled within the city of Philadelphia.  Unlike Wissahickon, this particular trail is less traveled.  The hike itself follows the Pennypack Creek -- going out I followed the horse trail, which is higher and dirt, and coming back I walked along the multiuse trail, which is paved and usually right beside the creek.

After the fall colors and variety of Wissahickon Valley Park, I was expecting more from Pennypack.  The hike is very flat, and the fall colors were very muted.  Is this the effects of being just one week later, or maybe the lesser variety of tree species here (it seemed that way, to my untrained eye).  Being an out-and-back hike, I was worried that the return trip would be boring, but the difference in eye level between the horse trail and multiuse path made it rather pleasant.  Overall, an average hike, but certainly a decent option for being in the city limits.

Check out the path on Google Maps, created using my Droid X and the My Tracks app.

As an aside, I stopped at a Brazilian buffet place in Rhawnhurst called Cantinho Brasileiro Restaurante, based on that Yelp review.  It was really good!  Everyone was, surprise, Brazilian, and seemed only to speak Portuguese.  The food included several excellent braised meat dishes, an odd salad, a variety of potatoes, and something that looked and tasted like the Brazilian version of pico de gallo.  Add a guarana soda, and it was a neat and tasty experience.  If you happen to be out in Rhawnhurst, give this place a try!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Heart Burgers

All the American ex-pats (and former ex-pats) will agree with me -- burgers in continental Europe are suckface.  Since returning to the US, I've found myself eating far more burgers than I ever did before, even when I was living in beef-loving Texas.  Since this blog is rapidly evolving into a "what has Adrian eaten recently" deal, I thought I would drop some more of my mad gastronomical stylings on you.

Here are the best burgers I've had in the Philadelphia area.  I don't claim they are the best in Philly, since I still have a long way to go to try them all.  These burgers share one thing in common -- being juicy, fatty, and actually cooked medium-rare -- and I can't understate how important that is.  Well-done burgers are for chumps.

Belgian Cafe -- I mentioned this one in a previous blog post.  I had the Bruegl, which comes with a really nice sharp cheddar.  The sharp cheddar made this one stand out, along with the fantastic selection of beer to go along with it.
Bobby's Burger Palace -- This Bobby Flay joint cooks a mean burger.  I've tried several, but my favorite on their menu so far is the LA Burger (though November's Burger of the Month is topped with a fried egg...mmm, fried egg).
Village Whiskey -- In addition to a very nice selection of bourbon, Jose Garces's whiskey bar also boasts a nice burger.  The straight up Village Burger can be topped with all sorts of things, or you can opt for the $26 Whiskey King, topped with bleu cheese, bacon, and FOIE GRAS.  I was there for lunch, so I had the regular burger, but I am definitely going to return to ruin my cardiovascular system.  The burger was flavorful and given a heavy (and appreciated) dose of salt.  To top it all off, they have fries fried in duck fat, basically a new twist on the French classic pommes de terre sarladaise.

I recommend all three burgers, both on their own and with the various sides and beverages that make each place stand out.  And I will continue to eat burgers until I make up for my four year burger exile.

Monday, November 15, 2010

These Boots are Made for Walking

I went on my first hike in Philadelphia yesterday, and what a perfect day for it: the morning was just a bit on the chilly side, but within an hour it is sunny with highs in the 60s.

Those that know me from Lausanne know that I have a passion for hiking.  I only discovered this passion when I moved to Switzerland -- Houston, surprisingly, did not awake any yearnings to go hiking.  As much as Philadelphia is better than Switzerland in terms of the food scene (especially the sandwiches), so is Switzerland that much better than Philadelphia and its environs for hiking.  Nevertheless, I decided I would give it my best try, and purchased AMC's Best Day Hikes Near Philadelphia to guide my explorations of the hiking possibilities within driving distance of the city.  My first hike was through Wissahickon Valley Park, a beautiful section of Fairmount Park near Chestnut Hill.  I wish now I had gone earlier, as the fall foliage was still wonderful, but clearly a mere shadow of what must have been a striking display in October.  So, without further ado, my first hiking report!

Wissahickon Valley Park
Location: Philadelphia, PA (Chestnut Hill)
Description: A hike along and through the forested Wissahickon Valley gorge.
Distance (approximate): 7 miles
Elevation Change (approximate): 250 feet
Duration: 3 hours, 10 minutes
Technical Difficulty: Easy to medium (a few steep sections, could be tricky in wet or icy conditions)
Physical Difficulty: Easy
Rating (out of 5): 3.5

I enjoyed this hike a lot, partly because of the weather, partly because it had been too long since I had gotten outdoors like this, and partly because Wissahickon Valley is a beautiful sanctuary of forests and water that sits within the city of Philadelphia.  I saw many people with dogs, all off leashes, but the good news the dogs were very well behaved, and either having too much fun running about to bother with you, or were very friendly.

The first third of the hike heads south from the trail head (just off Germantown Avenue), and is probably the most beautiful and quiet portion of the hike.  The last two thirds is more taxing, and passes near and even through settled areas, so the sounds of people, cars, and chainsaws interrupt the idyllic surroundings.  I will definitely go back and check it out in other seasons.  Go here to see more pictures from my hike.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fall is Upon Us!

No duh.  According to Wikipedia, the autumnal (or September) equinox occurred on September 23 at 3:09 UTC.  So 'upon us' is a bit of an understatement.  Strangely, however, because of living in the city, being so absorbed with work, and warm weather (until just recently), I hadn't noticed.

I finally noticed on Saturday, when I drove out to the suburbs to see my dad.  Because I left the urban confines of Philadelphia and drove along the river, then through Fairmount Park, and finally out into the suburbs along Montgomery Avenue, I finally got my first memorable eyeful of fall foliage.  Combined with the crispness of the air this weekend, and it finally felt like fall.

This is a big deal, for me, mainly because I haven't experienced what I consider to be autumn for, oh, ten years now.  Six autumnal equinoxes in Houston, where there is no real change of season, beyond going from "ass hot" to "not hot", and four in Switzerland, where the change is, at least according to me, so far less dramatic that it practically goes by unnoticed (at least until I think back and reflect on it).  To end my little ramble, fall is my favorite season, and I am glad that (a) I finally noticed it happening, and (b) that there was something beautiful to notice.