To me, some of the best culinary experiences transpose me to a different time and place. I like to think that I’m sitting in a café amongst the vineyards of France or Italy outside in the sunshine and warmth. That’s hard to recreate on a hot and humid street in downtown Philadelphia, but somehow Jose Garces accomplished it.
Jose Garces is most famous for his win on The Next Iron Chef, but he has been operating Garces Trading Company on Locust Street in Philadelphia since 2009. The café not only contains a list of unique and fresh ingredients on their menu, but also a boutique wine and cheese shop. You can sit inside among the shoppers of the store or outdoors on the sidewalk – all with full waiter service. You can order a sample platter of the freshest cheeses brought in daily and buy a bottle of wine from the shop to drink with your meal (or order one off the menu).
We stopped by for brunch on the last day of our visit to Philly (although my husband also went the day previous to that by myself). Brunch was a three course menu with a number of intriguing dishes. I started with a Cured Salmon Tartare made with crème fraîche, toasted pumpernickel, plum mustard, pickled red onion salad. Second course was Speck-Wrapped Pheasant Sausage with oat risotto, sun-dried cherry, fried egg. Finally I finished my full meal with a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and fresh apricot jam. Everything lived up to its reputation and then some. I have to say the Tartare was probably my favorite dish, although that is the type of cuisine I prefer (light and fresh). For Al? He ordered the Paleta Iberico Pizza with cured ibérico pork shoulder, agrodolce figs, idiazabal. The best part…the crust was made with duck fat! You don’t get much more indulgent than that.
We topped off our brunch with an interesting white blend (Chardonnay/Viognier) from the Kermit Lynch portfolio that for us is even a rarity. I was extremely impressed with the wine list features – mostly Italian and Spanish small production finds – and mostly under $50/bottle!