We had a great time with last night’s guest hosts Suzy Woods and Drew lazor. Suzy handled the notoriously tough Vous crowd like a champ, and the round Drew wrote about food was damn good (I’ll post it a little later.)
Tonight, we welcome Felicia D’Ambrosio. She is managing editor at Grid Philly, writes for the City Paper, and is partnering with Michael Solomonov, among others, to open the highly anticipated Federal Doughnuts this summer. Here she talks about her best night of bartending, the most underrated bar in the city, and teaches us something we didn’t know about beer.
JGT: You took the bartender to food writer path. Give us one of your favorite bartending memories.
FELICIA: One of my best bartending nights was when the Phillies won the World Series. I had been tending bar for much of the playoffs at the Belgian Cafe, and a huge groups of regulars had coalesced around the one TV. When the end of the last game seemed imminent, and our victory close at hand, I began closing checks as fast as possible ’cause I knew everyone was going to go berserk. They did indeed, and Chef Evan popped open tons of cheap champagne and we sprayed the crowd and screamed ourselves stupid. Kisses all around. Then I rode my bike home through the debris of the Broad Street mayhem. Best night ever.
JGT: You know a lot about beer, having both written extensively about it and served it. Tell us something about beer we don’t know.
FELICIA: There’s much debate about how beer came about in the first place, as it was almost certainly an accident. There’s “wet grain” theory, and my favorite, “magic stick” theory. As in, prehistoric people would stir the pot of grain gruel with the magic stick, which was inoculated with yeasts, and would start the conversion from porridge into sweet intoxicant. Dr. Ernie Schuyler of the Academy of Natural Sciences has some great research on the topic.
JGT: What’s the most underrated bar in the city?
FELICIA: Jose Pistolas is awesome, especially the upstairs. It’s sort of an employee lounge for the Monk’s crew (Joe Gunn is one of ours from back in the day) — great bartenders, huge beer selection, and shots of Jameson big enough to kill you.
JGT: What’s your prediction for the “Next Big Thing” on the Philadelphia bar and dining scene?
FELICIA: I’m still waiting for ramen, but the Royal Izakaya should be open soon, so we’ll see if that spawns imitators. Since I’m opening a fried chicken-and-donuts place with CookNSolo and the Bodhi Coffee guys, I’ll say gourmet donuts and fried chicken.
JGT: Ok, same question I closed with on Lazor. It’s 8 p.m. You’re being executed at midnight (needless to say, for a crime you didn’t commit). What’s your last meal?
FELICIA: My mom-mom’s manicotti and my great-grandmother’s Thanksgiving stuffing. A magnum of vintage Dom and a bottle of Cantillon Fou’ Foune. A giant pile of strawberries in season with DiBruno Bros. burrata and the best olive oil money can buy. The lobster custard served in an egg from Talula’s Table, then some king crab legs and butter. I’ll finish off with more from my mom-mom: her cream puffs, then some of Mr. Martino’s chocolate pudding. This is exactly how I plan to die, anyway.
Here’s another great interview with Felicia on Grub Street a couple of years ago.