A Love Letter to You (Philadelphia)
There’s always a reason to go to Philadelphia. Usually it’s food. But the food invites you to make a day of it, to explore other things. Then, the duration of exploration makes you hungry again. (So yes, it’s mostly about food.) But Philadelphia is only two hours away, has deep historic roots, and a lot of beautiful things to look at. So let’s look. After breakfast…
“V Street is a street food bar by Vedge Chefs Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby.” This is from the V Street website’s About section. And that is really all you need to know. Vedge is a wonderful, highly accoladed all-vegan restaurant in Philly. Vedge, along with New York City’s Dirt Candy, was early to this now long-standing and very buzzed about dining niche–upscale, innovative all-vegetable. So obviously, V Street would make it to the top of my Philadelphia list. We caught brunch first thing… and, as the day progressed, we barely recovered from how much flavor was packed into the meal.
The Langos Brunch Bun: smoked golden beets, fried capers, cucumber, tomato, and a sauerkraut remoulade. The dish is rooted in Hungary. The Hungarian eat is a fried simple dough topped with dairy and salty stuff. So this rendition was spot-on. Most memorable were the fried capers and the remoulade, both wonderfully assertive and pairing well with the fresh tomato and cucumber.
We got the Peruvian Home Fries: potatoes topped with aji amarillo (a chile popular in Peruvian cuisine), cilantro, olive, and peanut garnish. They were delicious as potatoes always are.
And our last shared plate, The Waffles: two Belgian waffles topped with blackberries, sesame butter, grapefruit, ponzu.
Ok, so we also needed to taste the soft serve of the day: Campfire with marshmallow soft serve, chocolate sauce, and cookie crumbles. Unfortunately, the description makes some promises that the real thing didn’t really deliver.
So onward to the beautiful things. I was intrigued by the mural art project A Love Letter to You. In the poverty-stricken area of Market Street, between 45th to 63rd streets, there are 50 rooftop murals created by West Philadelphia resident Steve Powers in honor of his love and in the path of her train ride to work every morning.
The murals are most visible from the Market/Frankford elevated train, but many are viewable at street level.
We explored a bit, but the neighborhood was pretty unwelcoming… and the frivolity of admiring the cheery and lovely murals in a community that seems to lack basic needs left a bad taste in our mouth.
I remarked that the bright colors and sentiments reminded me of a shop that I passed on my morning walk down 4th Avenue in Brooklyn to my old job. The wall of the corner shop has a collage of bright with messages of love that always made me smile. In the afternoon, with the metal grate up, I admired the shop’s displayed prints.
Back at home looking into the artist, I learned that he is now a Brooklyn resident! And the shop that I admired is his! As the exclamation points note, this got me very excited. I discovered the mural project in Philadelphia by chance as I attempted to bulk up the day trip’s itinerary… and I stumbled upon his art in Brooklyn by chance and in person. And being a romantic, I will read into the duality of my exposure to this artist as being more than chance.
I also learned that artist Steve Powers has some murals up in Brooklyn around Fulton street, which I will now hunt down.
Update 8/6/17: Unfortunately the murals once on Fulton street in Brooklyn have been gone since January 2016. Clearly I am not up on things in the street art world. But they are well documented through the artist’s tumblr and Instagram accounts. The gallery, work space, and store front I noticed everyday, ICY SIGNS, is still there and open daily. I’ll go there; yes, I’ll do that.Though… there’s his Vol. 8… and Vol. 9 possibly “What I Was Gonna Do.”
Arriving late in the day, they only had basic donuts left unfortunately.
We got cinnamon sugar and Thai tea. They were pretty huge! And delicious! But perhaps they’d be even more delicious if there was less of it to eat?
We also visited Mount Moriah Cemetery which I read about in an outdated post on my fave Atlas Obscura. Arriving we saw the extent of recent efforts to restore the once abandoned cemetery that was overgrown and visited by mostly by derelicts. The story of the cemetery is a fascinating one.
Reading back through the News archives on the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery site I learned that volunteers have been on the mission of identifying all of those interred in the cemetery whose headstones had been moved, brush has overtaken or time had weathered stones illegible. They’ve since identified 718 once nameless veterans who were buried in Mount Moriah. The research began in 2012 when the Medal of Honor Historical Society of the United States was seeking the burial ground of a Civil War soldier.
Though the cemetery hadn’t had consistent upkeep for many, many years, the grounds were only officially abandoned in 2011 when the widow of the last owner of the property passed away. The records were then put into the hands of a Preservation Corp who discovered that the grounds contained a large Naval Plot with 2,120 Marines and 400 Army veterans. Volunteers have been at work since then. (Source and further reading here and here.)
I was struck with how large the site was. Many graves are still obscured by nature and time. But those that are cleared show signs of recent visits–flowers, flags for the Veterans. How sad to think that the remains of those who gave their lives for our country lay lost, unnamed. But there are many who will not let that be the case forever.
Thank you, Philadelphia, for a great day.