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January, 2014

ABOUT US…2014 has arrived and it’s going to be a great year in Philadelphia. Here is some advice to make you feel even better! “All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry - all forms of fear - are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past and not enough presence.” Happy New Year!

OUR 2014 Wishes… On the following pages, we have included our top three New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 in Philadelphia. Please be advised that none of the three will actually happen, but we will continue to hope and pray for the impossible. Thank you, and allow us to suffer together…

1. A CRUISE to NOWHERE… 2. BOOZE! 3. HOSPITALITY? Dreams Can Come True…

#1. The SS United States

They dumped this incredible ship on Delaware Avenue. It’s been there for 17 years! It’s now 2014 and it still sits there. It’s an International disgrace, and the time is way overdue to make something happen. Let’s get it done – one way or another!

#2. The PLCB. It’s just us (PA) and Utah, and they don’t drink in Utah, so there is no need to privatize. With this in mind, Pennsylvania is really the only State in the Union with State Stores. And even if a few people in Utah enjoy a drink once in a while, why can’t we be like our neighbors in New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland? And why do so many people from PA purchase their alcoholic beverages in these other States? The answer, of course, is the Johnstown Flood. It happened about 100 years ago, but apparently PA is still paying for the damages. Even the Russians are laughing at us. Will we see a privatized system anytime soon? NO! The State is making too much money.

#3. Our Convention Center

We spent the money to make it even better (a $786 million-dollar expansion) and we have one of the best facilities in America. The only thing lacking is something called “Hospitality” and it’s quickly putting us out of business. The folks from SMG have been hired to fix the problem. Our wish for 2014 is that they make the necessary changes to infuse the concept of Hospitality in everything and everybody at our potentially great Convention Center. Hopefully, it’s not too late.

The Restaurant Report by Bob Bickell

Phillip Silverstone; Ocean Prime and Craig LaBan; Mr. Alton Brown; Chef Jean-Louie Palladin; The Chatterbox; The New Avance; The Oyster House; Del Frisco’s; Rouge; Fond; and Barbuzzo.

A comment from Phillip Silverstone (a serious wine-guy who doesn’t take his wine all that seriously).

“I read your interview with Jon Toffer of Bar Rescue. He suggested that 95% of the public has no idea when it comes to the subject of wine. He might be right, but I say so what? What is the percentage of people who really understand what chefs do? Must you be a connoisseur of food to actually understand what’s on your plate? I don’t think you have to be an expert to enjoy food or wine. I believe it’s more important to just enjoy the experience, and leave the real details to the experts (the other five percent).”


Ocean Prime in Tampa, Florida is a big winner. The folks love it. When I heard they were coming to Philadelphia, I was surprised. Philadelphia and Tampa are very different in so many ways. I knew in advance there were going to be problems. When I read the Craig LaBan review, the problems were far worse than I could have expected.

It didn’t take Craig Laban long to place his stamp of disapproval (also known as zero bells) on our new Ocean Prime. It was not good news for the Cameron Mitchell people. The Inquire review was devastating, and we will see what happens. Back in the day (1996), Mr. LaBan arrived in Philadelphia from New Orleans, and became the major restaurant critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer. I remember his first shot and it wasn’t all that different than his Ocean Prime review. Le Colonial on Walnut Street was a popular spot with what appeared to be very good Vietnamese cuisine. I could only assume that his review helped cause their closing within a few months. I took the negative review to be the Inquirer’s moment to introduce “the new sheriff in town”. For many months (years) I was not a fan of Craig LaBan. I spoke with so many owners in Philadelphia that were fearful that he would choose to visit their restaurant. A photo of the critic in question made

its way through the restaurant community and there are many kitchens that still include the photo after all these years. It took me a while to appreciate Craig LaBan, and my opinion today is that the man knows food and all aspects of the restaurant business. In spite of the Le Colonial thing (along with a few others) I see him as one of the top restaurant critics in America. This leads me to the Ocean Prime review. They made a gigantic investment (somewhere between four and five million dollars, and the place is knocked-out beautiful. Of course, “knocked-out beautiful” unto itself is not enough to get it done, and I’m not prepared to question the words of Craig LaBan when it comes to the subject of food. I see Ocean Prime as basically a steakhouse. Downtown Philadelphia has a number of outstanding steakhouses, and that will be at least part of their problem. We shall see what happens.

Mr. Brown (and it’s still good advice!) October 16, 2007 by Bob Bickell‌

I happen to believe that a chef/owner is the absolute key to this business. Show me a restaurant owned and operated by the chef and invariably, it's a very good restaurant. Having said that, show me a restaurant with an owner present (chef or otherwise) and chances are that it's going to be a positive experience. The Food Network people get tons of press, which is just one of the perks of being involved at this level. I caught something that Alton Brown said in a recent interview and in my mind, it's worth repeating. Here is what Mr. Brown had to say... "The rules of hospitality have not changed. In the end, you go into a restaurant or any place where the owner is there, and that is going to be a different kind of experience.

You are going to be fed differently—better— by people who own the place, who have invested of themselves in a place. I have found that to be true absolutely across the board." "I can walk into just about any restaurant in America and know 'the owner is here' or 'the owner is not here.' There is no way to replace that in a corporate restaurant in any way, fashion or form. And I don't care if it's a hot dog stand or a three-Michelin-star restaurant. If the owner is there, it's going to be a different experience, and I would say it's going to be a better experience, and that's what hospitality is all about.

Mr. Alton Brown

Chef Jean-Louie Palladin

It was November of 2001 that I had the honor of interviewing one of the greatest chefs of alltime. It was only two weeks before he died of cancer at the young age of 55. He told me something that day that I have never forgotten – I asked him about his incredible passion for the restaurant business, and he said something absolutely amazing‌

“To be successful, the restaurant has to be number one in your life”. I remember saying “you mean more important than God and your family?” He looked at me and without hesitation said “Yes, Absolutely, the restaurant always has to be number One”. The man came to America from a small town in France, and he opened one of the finest restaurants in restaurant history – Jean-Louis at the Watergate in Washington, DC. It lasted 17 great years with the Chef in the kitchen. BB.

The Chatterbox, Ocean City

For those who still miss Tony Mart’s and the equally famous Bayshore’s, the Chatterbox has been sitting on 9th Street almost forever. It was the place to meet, and everybody went there. The family that owned it (almost forever) has put it up for sale and you have to worry that the new owner might not be looking for a restaurant. Worse than that, they might rename it. Hopefully, it will be The Chatterbox - forever!

Chef Justin Bogel – Avance

Avance is up and running and this is a big one. The expectations are enormous, and when it happens, the Craig LaBan revue will be extremely interesting. You know where it is – 1523 Walnut Street (the former Le Bec-Fin).

The Oyster House

The Mink family has been doing seafood for years and years. This is the modern version, and it’s better than ever. Bookbinder’s (both) are long gone, but this is the spot that we needed...... 1516 Sansom Street

Del Frisco’s

Philadelphia has a host of outstanding Steakhouses, and this one is not to be missed. A great bar; an amazing ambiance; and most importantly, excellent food. Not surprisingly, the folks come for their USDA Prime-aged steaks and their cold-water Australian lobster tails. The place is happening, and conveniently located at 1426 Chestnut Street.


Rouge belongs in any discussion on great Philadelphia restaurants. Rouge on Rittenhouse Square is the place to be (indoors or outdoors). It became a classic many years ago, and it’s still the place to go. Rob Wasserman (owner) said it best… “It’s like walking into a French Parlor from the 1920’s”. 205 South 18th Street

Fond – Chef Lee Styer

Fond is yet another magnificent BYOB in the new South Philadelphia destination (Passyunk Ave). Contemporary American cuisine at its best; full bar; and a BYOB program ‌ 1537 South 11th Street

Barbuzzo – Chef Marcie Turney

This one is really about Chef Turney, Valerie Safran, and 13th Street. The street used to be a disaster. Along came the ladies, and along came El Vez, Barbuzzo, Capogiro, Sampan (and a host of Turney and Safran concepts). 13th Street today is totally happening, and it has become an amazing restaurant and shopping destination. 13th Street, Philadelphia.

Barbara's Kitchen… Barbara loves to cook, and she most definitely has the capability of opening her own restaurant, but prefers to just cook for family and friends. She keeps it simple, and also keeps it as healthy as possible. She uses heavy cream and rarely milk; real butter (and never margarine); and will never use an ingredient that has more than five grams of sugar. She shuns the use of rosemary, and is always looking for more creative ways to use bacon, cheese, and

definitely garlic. Barbara’s food is not meant to be fancy – it’s meant to be good.

PASTA & BRIE (Serves six to eight) The Ingredients: 1 Pound of Mini bow-tie pasta. 1Tbs. of Olive Oil and 2- Cloves of garlic (minced). 2- 35 oz. cans of imported Italian tomatoes (I prefer Cento) and crush by hand. Salt & pepper to taste, and Âź cup of Fresh Basil, and Âź cup of Fresh Parsley. 1 Tbs. Granulated garlic (garlic powder) and 2 wedges of Brie cheese.

NOTE: At this time cook about a pound of sausage, chicken or whatever happens to be your favorite meat.

Begin by cutting the white crust around the Brie and discard. Cut the cheese into 2 or 3 inch wedges, and set aside for later use. The brie should be room temperature, and cook the pasta according to the package instructions. In a large pan, heat the oil and add the garlic (approximately 1 minute) until tender. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil, parsley and garlic powder. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the Brie and do NOT stir. Let it simmer until the cheese melts into the sauce. Then gently stir. When the pasta is ready add a small amount of the sauce into the pasta. Put the remaining sauce into a gravy cup and serve with the meat as a side dish. ENJOY!


The City‌ Fernand LÊger


The Philadelphia Museum of Art is among the largest art museums in the United States. It has collections of more than 227,000 objects that include "world-class holdings of European and American paintings, prints, drawings, and decorative arts.

The World is an Apple ‌ Paul CÊzanne

Discover the legendary collection of the Barnes Foundation, one of the world's finest holdings of impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modern paintings, African sculpture, metalwork, and more. 2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy 19130 (215) 278-7000

Prime Travel

A friend is getting married and looking for a honeymoon on a tropical beach. I asked a neighbor (a travel expert) to make some suggestions. With the weather being as it is, this “tropical� advice might be very interesting, even if marriage is the last thing on your mind.

Jennifer Byrne runs a company called The Tropical Travelers and she shared this with me… “Let me start by listing our top 10 tropical honeymoon destinations (in no particular order)”… 1.Antigua 2.Bahamas 3.Turks & Caicos 4.Mayan Riviera 5.Hawaii 6.Jamaica 7.St. Martin 8.St. Lucia 9.Cancun 10.Anguilla Each location offers its own unique touch of tropical paradise, and we’ve got the pulse on all ten. Nothing kindles romance like warm ocean breezes, palm trees and tropical surf.

The honeymoon is for the special couple and the special couple only. Here’s where it truly is just about the two of them. The ceremony and celebrating with others is officially over and love is ready to blossom. It’s time to refresh and renew the energy that went into the arduous undertaking of wedding planning. Now you and your spouse can reminisce about the details of your special event poolside, surfside or ocean view. There are so many options to choose from! When it comes to tropical destinations, we would love to tell your friend about all of the tropical beaches and resorts that our planet has to offer, but if we had to pick just a few, I highly recommend one from the top ten list. Put me in touch and I will help to make it happen.

“He that would live in peace and at ease, must not speak all he knows or all he sees”…the New & the Young Ben Franklin


Philadelphia's Finest - Restaurants, People, The Arts, Travel, etc., etc.


Philadelphia's Finest - Restaurants, People, The Arts, Travel, etc., etc.