Archive for the ‘Philadelphia’ Category

Happy Birthday, Maurice Sendak!

June 10, 2012

June 10th would have been Maurice Sendak’s 84th birthday. One of the best places to celebrate this great writer and artist is Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum, home to the most comprehensive collection of Sendak’s drawings, photographs, sketches and manuscript materials (10,000 and counting). Stand in front of Sendak’s final drawings for “Where the Wild Things Are” and be awed all over again by one of the best picture books of all time. The Rosenbach is kicking off a year-long exhibit dedicated to Sendak starting today and expanding on its permanent collection with new drawings and materials.

And don’t stop there: the rest of the Rittenhouse Square townhouse is also a window into Sendak’s personality. His long-time relationship with the museum started when he visited in 1966 to check out Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach’s collection on Herman Melville, his favorite author. He also reveled in the materials on Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson, William Blake and other writers who defined his literary and artistic tastes. It’s a jewel of a museum and should be on every visitor’s list of sights to see in Philly.

Continue your Sendak tour with a stop at the Night Kitchen bakery in Chestnut Hill. The original owner, Marie Tramontina, named it after Sendak and his story, “In the Night Kitchen,” about a boy who fashions an airplane out of bread dough. Like the artist himself, the bakery has the highest of standards. Its award-winning brownies have been featured on Rachael Ray, and don’t even get me started on the walnut tarts.

5 Ways to Celebrate the Pretzel

May 31, 2012

Philadelphians eat about twelve times as many pretzels as the average consumer does. It’s not surprising — soft pretzels are one of Pennsylvania’s greatest products, though they often get overshadowed by the glitzier cheesesteak and Italian hoagie.
Pretzels (scandalously) didn’t make Parade magazine’s recent Memorial Day list of all-American classic foods, but I miss them desperately when I am out of the area (those mall kiosks just aren’t the same). Here are some favorite stops along the state’s unique pretzel network. I’ll save the sublime ice cream and pretzel cone combo for another post.

• The Sturgis empire. Julius’ side runs America’s first commercial pretzel bakery in Lititz, where visitors can check out the original 19th-century ovens and learn how to twist dough. Brother Tom’s side operates the factory and outlet store about 25 miles away in Shillington. Here, you can sample all types of pretzels, from cinnamon-dusted to spicy jalapeno and buy huge tins at a discount (but there are no tours).

Philly Soft Pretzel Factory. This 14-year-old franchise has won a slew of awards, and its storefronts are everywhere from Chalfont to Reading. Plus, it had the audacity to invent the cheesesteak pretzel. So wrong, but so good.

• Hanover, Pa. The factory tour of Snyder’s of Hanover is a must – a front-row look at the conveyor belts and mammoth machines needed to mass-produce salty snack foods — but the smaller, more personal Revonah (Hanover spelled backwards) is also worth a stop.

• Don’t let the humble name fool you. Gettysburg’s lively Pub on the Square sells a terrific appetizer simply called Pretzel Twists. Served hot with marinara sauce and dusted with garlic, it’s a perfect way to carb-load after a day of biking or walking the battlefields.

• Sweet pretzels in Amish country. Pretzel purists may object to this one, but there’s something about the butter/sugar combo they slather on the dough that is heavenly. I don’t even know the name of the small shop that sells them, but it’s next to one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area: Plain & Fancy Farm.


May 7, 2012


For several years, I was a Los Angeles-based contributor to the arts and entertainment section of the Philadelphia Daily News. That meant interviewing actors and directors about their work and lives. If they had ever spent any time in Philly, I also would ask about their best memories of the city. Sarah Jessica Parker remembered a mime who performed near her dad’s place at the old Headhouse Square, Nicolas Cage liked the pizza at Tacconelli’s, and Elizabeth Banks has fond memories of catching a show at the Theatre of Living Arts after a dinner date with her future husband in South Philly. All good stories, but my favorite answer came from Rick Yune, who played a villain in the James Bond film Die Another Day. As a Penn student in the 1990s, he recalled his favorite running route: beginning at 40th and Chestnut in West Philly, east to the Delaware Avenue waterfront, then back. Whether you run, walk or stroll it, it’s a fantastic way to experience the city—32 blocks that take you by historic sites, beautiful old churches, unexpected murals, top restaurants, brick homes, and gates that lead to secret gardens or alleys. Take Walnut one way and follow Chestnut back past Independence Hall,Washington Square, and City Hall, or zigzag between them and other parallel streets such as Spruce or Pine. The grid layout means you’ll never get lost, and you’ll end with a heightened sense of the city’s eclectic mix of academia, history, and blue-collar pride.