My trip to London is finally upon me and I won’t be blogging during that time. So, you better savor this one for the next two weeks, because this Persian light in your lives will be out for a little while. I’d say I’m going to miss you all, but frankly, I’ll probably be too busy searching for good fish and chips and keeping an ear out for Irish accents to think about it. In order to give you all a proper goodbye, I am posting this piece about the best meal I’ve ever had in Philly. Vernick Food + Drink is one place that I have been jonesing to go to for the longest time, and I finally had the chance to experience it a few days ago. To celebrate the last day of my internship, I decided to finally stop by Vernick and visit this darling of the critics, and this decision was probably the best one I’ve made in my entire life.
As I sat down at the minimalist, sleek bar, I was promptly handed a drink menu by a young, hip bartender with an earring who immediately gave off the air of knowing his way around a cocktail. After giving me a few minutes to explore the menu, he came back and I ordered the Corpse Reviver #2, a drink I’d heard a lot about before, but had never actually been able to try. The bartenders at Vernick definitely seemed to like a bit of a show, but thankfully the cocktails were just as great as their tricks with orange peels were. This blend of gin, absinthe, curacao, lemon, and cocchi was light, satisfying, and perfect for a hot day. It was so good that I downed half of it before remembering to snap a quick picture!
If I have one good drink, I’m bound to try another. I left my next order in the capable hands of my bartender and was presented with a tall spritzy drink made with Green Chartreuse that had distinct notes of lime and black cherry. This one was just as perfectly made and had a great tartness to it, but I did prefer the more concentrated flavors of my first. Although I was pretty content at two, I was convinced to go for one more…and I won’t even pretend to lie and act like the bartender’s good looks and friendly disposition weren’t the reason why I ordered more than I planned to.
Though the cocktails at Vernick are highly praised by others, and now by me, I knew that unless I wanted to roll home and wake up with a hangover the next day, I needed to get some food in me. After perusing the menu, my heart was set on an octopus dish, but the bartender came over to tell me the specials and I completely changed my mind. The small plate that I ended up ordering was the Tagliatelle with Tripe. All I can say is this: oh. my. gosh. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a pasta dish so phenomenal in my life. This light, flavorful dish came with homemade tagliatelle pasta, honeycomb tripe, tomatoes, and breadcrumbs. The tripe was incredibly tender and clearly had been stewed for a long time, the tomatoes were bright and had a great acidity to them, and the breadcrumbs added just a nice hint of texture to bring the whole plate together. Every little detail on that plate was thought out so well and the result was a perfect dish that practically melted in my mouth and left me salivating for more. As the bartender later told me, my eyes “sparked” when I heard about the dish, but I think if I knew how great it would be when he first mentioned it, they would have let out an optic blast as if I was a female Cyclops.
Now that I’ve gushed over the absolute best part of my evening, I can tell you about the amuse that came out before my pasta. As I sat sipping on a cocktail, a waiter came by with a little shot of Carrot Soup and a dime-sized piece of bread. I think I’ve distrusted carrots ever since I ended up with big spectacles on my face, but any lingering resentment towards this orange veggie was wiped away with the amuse bouche. It was smooth and really highlighted the fresh carrots. The bread was also a great choice because when it was dunked into the soup, there were some more complex, herby flavors going on in the cup. It’s something that I would be happy actually ordering off the menu all year round, and I hope I get to experience it again.
I was still just a bit hungry after all this, so I decided to go back to the plate I was eyeing up earlier and order the Chili Glazed Octopus. This small plate of tentacles was served over a Granny Smith apple and endive shredded like a slaw. This octopus packed a lot of spicy punch, but the apple and endive were perfect accompaniments to undercut the intense heat. Even with the ‘slaw’, my mouth was completely on fire, so if things like peppers, chilis, and Indian food scare you, I will tell you now to either step away or bring a fire extinguisher with you. Although this dish isn’t for those who don’t like spice or have heart conditions, it was a really well balanced plate that was perfect for sharing.
Rarely, if ever, do I have zero complaints about a restaurant, but Vernick was one of the most exquisite food and drink experiences I have ever had. I will be having dreams about that tripe dish and I can still vividly recall the power of the octopus, which should be the goal of any restaurant that strives to please its customers. I’m already anticipating many trips back to explore other dishes on the menu, and I’m hoping they will be just as wowing. This place blew all my other Philly favorites out of the water and firmly established itself as my new number one. I know now that if I do have to leave the city once my lease is up, I will definitely be saying goodbye from a bar stool in Vernick.