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Category Archives: “Around Town”

Topgolf – Mount Laurel, NJ

Topgolf – Mount Laurel, NJ

(The following is a special series on Bluejeanfood.com written by guest contributing writer and correspondent for “Small Bites Radio” William Knowles. He highlights his passions of trying something new whenever the opportunity presents itself, or possibly something old, but new again since it has been a while. I hope you enjoy his very special perspective that I am sure many of you can relate to. Follow him on his exciting journey “Around Town”)

Topgolf has recently taken the country, and world, by storm. With a number of locations sprouting up all over the land, this concept of dining, entertainment and driving range-style play has become a popular alternative to traditional sports outings and gatherings. A new location, the 48th in all, is opening in our area on Friday, October 5th, in Mount Laurel, NJ. I had the opportunity to tour the beautiful facility at a gathering held this past week…

The mission of Topgolf is to provide fun entertainment for your family, for your business gatherings, and just the everyday person who is looking to sharpen their skills. Through technology that has been developed using microchipped balls, golfers hitting in the range can keep track of their accuracy and distance via TV screens set up in their bay. Whether you’re a novice or expert, adult or child, the spirit of Topgolf is have to fun, and hopefully sharpen your skills all the while.

To amplify the enjoyment of your outing, a large and varied menu offers dining selections specially created by a chef, along with several fully stocked bars with top shelf beverages. The bays can be privately enclosed for you and your group, and big screen TV’s are present throughout so you can catch all the big game action. Other leisure offerings are available, such as a billiard room and table soccer. Simulator lounges allow you to experience all that technology has to offer to improve your game. And if you’re looking for a unique spot for your business needs, Topgolf offers private conference rooms that are fully modernized for your meeting requirements.

The gorgeous, three floor, 65,000 foot facility (located right off exit 40B on Interstate 295) is quite an achievement. The site has more than 500 full and part time employees, all working to make your experience special. I had the chance to meet many of the folks, who were warm and accommodating; resident experts are there to also help you grow your golf game (something I need lots of help on!). It’s a facility and concept that most everyone should be proud to be associated with, and will without question receive a rave reception once it opens its doors this Friday.

Whether you’re out for business, personal pleasure, or to party with your friends, Topgolf will be a top go to spot once you’ve had the chance to experience it. I will see you on the driving range, and again “around town”…

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Quaker City Shrubs – Assembly Rooftop Lounge – Philadelphia, PA

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Quaker City Shrubs – Assembly Rooftop Lounge – Philadelphia, PA

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(The following is a special series on Bluejeanfood.com written by guest contributing writer and correspondent for “Small Bites Radio” William Knowles. He highlights his passions of trying something new whenever the opportunity presents itself, or possibly something old, but new again since it has been a while. I hope you enjoy his very special perspective that I am sure many of you can relate to. Follow him on his exciting journey “Around Town”)

Happy Summer everyone!  It’s been a while since I’ve joined you “Around Town”, but I’ve returned to take part in a special event that occurred on Wednesday evening, June 27th at Assembly Rooftop Lounge. This modern outdoor hotspot is located atop the Logan Hotel, looking down on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Logan Square for a fantastic panoramic view of this part of Philadelphia. Quaker City Shrubs is a new line of sparkling adult beverages, all featuring apple cider vinegar as the most prominent ingredient. Diageo, the international beverage manufacturer, partnered with the folks at Quaker City Mercantile to create this fresh concept and brand, and I had the pleasure of sampling the wares… There are three main flavors of the Quaker City Shrubs – grapefruit, blackberry and apple. Mercantile founder Steven Grasse was searching for the perfect summer drink, that also was a healthier alternative to the similar refreshments that have higher calorie and sugar content. The drinks contain just 90 calories with a 4% ABV, and three grams of sugar. While perfectly refreshing and enjoyable on their own, they also serve as great additions to any cocktail, as we sampled during the event. Quaker City Shrubs are available at your local grocers such as Wegman’s and Whole Foods, as well as at Total Wine and More stores throughout the region.  Enjoy, stay cool, and I’ll see you again “around town”…

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Bowlero – Feasterville, PA

(The following is a special series on Bluejeanfood.com written by guest contributing writer and correspondent for “Small Bites Radio” William Knowles. He highlights his passions of trying something new whenever the opportunity presents itself, or possibly something old, but new again since it has been a while. I hope you enjoy his very special perspective that I am sure many of you can relate to. Follow him on his exciting journey “Around Town”)

Bowlero, the newly rebranded entertainment center (previously Brunswick Zone) had a grand re-opening at their Feasterville, PA location on Saturday, October 21st.  Around Town was there to cover the event, which included an appearance by Philadelphia Eagles legend Brian Westbrook.

Bowlero Feasterville offers a fresh take on the traditional bowling experience, combining 48 blacklight lanes, a high-tech laser tag arena, state-of-the-art arcade, billiards, and interesting new food and drink items.  The sprawling, beautiful facility underwent a major remodeling and transition to make it the premier recreation stop in Bucks County.

Around Town was treated to a wonderful day by the Bowlero’s friendly staff, and we had the good fortune of sampling some of the new menu items that will be featured.  The Super Cheesy sliders were my personal favorite, but the regular sized burgers like the Cravin’ Bacon and The Monster were also out of this world.  The Chi-Town Mega Dog brings the classic Windy City taste to the area.  Huge portions are the theme, and the giant 5 lb. burger, the five layer pizza cake (and cupcakes), and 2-foot long dog were just the tip of the iceberg.  The dessert menu is heaven for any sweets lover, with the Monster Cookie Melt, Sweet Belgian Waffle Fries, and Sprinkled Ice Cream sandwiches all made fresh and delicious.

An added bonus to our day was the presence of NFL great Brian Westbrook, who was on hand to award prizes, meet with an Eagles frenzied crowd, and throw a few games himself.  The genial Westbrook brought out a large following to the Bowlero, a great opening day festivity to show off the fresh new center, and for the opportunity to meet one of our team’s all-time best players as well.

Many new locally owned gaming centers have been sprouting up in the area, and Bowlero takes some of the ideas those places have tried out to the next level.  The days of your traditional bowling alley have seemingly gone by the wayside, and as Bowlero continues to grow their brand and renovate their existing centers, their popularity is sure to grow.  Technology has played a key role in these ideas and growth, with the popularity of virtual video games and laser tag soaring.  The convenience of having these amenities, along with your traditional bowling alley, billiard tables, and great food and drink, all in one neatly designed building, is a plus for their business and for communities seeking fun and recreation.


I had a blast at the Bowlero, and you should check it out to see a glimpse of the future in entertainment and gaming centers NOW.  See you soon, around town!

Wylder and Joy Ike at Bourbon and Branch – Philadelphia, PA

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(The following is a special series on Bluejeanfood.com written by guest contributing writer and correspondent for “Small Bites Radio” William Knowles. He highlights his passions of trying something new whenever the opportunity presents itself, or possibly something old, but new again since it has been a while. I hope you enjoy his very special perspective that I am sure many of you can relate to. Follow him on his exciting journey “Around Town”)

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Bourbon and Branch is a neighborhood watering hole in the Northern Liberties section off 2nd Street and Fairmount Avenue in Philly.  On Thursday, June 15th, I enjoyed some good food, drink, and music there in another one of my stops around town…

Wylder, an Indie-rock group based out of Washington, DC, headlined the venue’s upstairs rock club on that evening.  Blending a mix of rock, pop and folk, the band was in fine sound that is illuminated by their harmonies and melodic hooks.  Their new single, “Save a Way”, has just been released and is available at their website wyldermusic.com, along with all of their prior work.  The guys in the band were all a pleasure to meet, and take great pride and joy in performing their energetic set.

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Opening up for Wylder was local artist Joy Ike, a very talented singer-songwriter who performed a set of her recent work.  Accompanied by her sister Peace on percussion, Joy played keyboards and sang some beautifully crafted pieces to kick the evening off.  She is in the midst of recording a new album, and has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help her reach her dream.  You can visit her website joyike.com to contribute, and listen to her in action…

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Bourbon and Branch was a great setting for both artists to perform, as well as having a menu full of unique American fare food offerings.  Their specialty, of course, is a long list of bourbon drink offerings to sample and choose from.  The vibe was perfect for both musical acts, whom I enjoyed and highly recommend you check out for yourself.

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Until next time, “around town”…

Quark Expedition Interview of Bluejeanfood.com

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Quark Expedition interviewed me about the Antarctic expedition I was a part of and my thoughts about the food. Click link below to read all the interview.

http://quarkexpeditions.uberflip.com/blog/how-s-the-food-a-popular-critic-weighs-in-on-antarctic-expedition-fare

Philly Gringos visit La Habana

Philly Gringos visit La Habana

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Philly Gringos visit La Habana

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A lot can happen in sixty years. A man walked on the moon. People started to watch television in color. Doctors stopped recommending smoking. There have been inventions from Atari, Apple, and Microsoft. The internet was invented. We have driverless cars. And can you believe it, businesses and citizens from the United States (under certain regulations) are allowed to visit and do business in Cuba again?

Everything I mentioned certainly happened in the United States and many other places around the world, but for better or worse Cuba is a touch like visiting what it was like to live sixty years ago. This is not to say that Cuba is not modern, as they certainly are, just not at the level most Americans are used to. The majority of cars are classic cars, many houses are well “worn” and patchworked in order to be livable. The internet is not easy to access. If and when you do find access, it is not reliable. Finding information of where someplace is or where to eat is not a “Google” or “Yelp” search. Everyone recommends that you ask a taxi driver. Many people respond, “Taxi should know, they know everywhere.” These were just a few minor adjustments and I actually enjoyed them. What I saw and loved that was really different was the absolute lack of visual and audible garbage advertisements and constant grab for attention from some sort of marketing, while walking and driving. It was a relief. You could view the world as is, without trying to be sold something. You would see many kids running around playing, not staring at screens of one sort or another, with nothing but pure joy on their faces. Nature is embraced. Food was fresh and delicious, and the lack of junk food was welcomed instead of having it pushed in your face at every convenience store. The people were extremely warm and hospitable especially when they found out we were from the United States. They assumed we were Dutch (which I took as I compliment, since it meant that I did not stand out as a typical American tourist). When we said we were from the United States, a millisecond of shock registered on their faces, but immediately afterward most would respond, “We are so happy you came to see our home for yourself. Please tell your friends to visit as well.”

Our main base during our stay was the Starwood Hotels and Resorts brand “Four Points by Sheraton” the first American hotel and leisure company, headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut to offer hospitality on the island. The resort is situated in the affluent Miramar district of Havana. The pool area was beautiful, the staff extremely friendly, the room spacious, and the breakfast buffet was varied and tasty. By Cuban standards these were very high end accommodations. For the rack room rate of $800 a night (around $500 a night online), one certainly expects more though. This may change over time as it is evident Starwoods is working hard to improve the conditions and services offered at the resort, but certain aspects of the stay just do not make the grade yet. They may be better suited to offer concessions of some sort for booking Four Points Havana that you can use at another resort worldwide or Starwoods points credit to be used at a later date.

I am happy I was able to visit Cuba now. You can tell Cuba is changing and it will look a lot different in the near future. In Miramar there are signs showing that a sandy beach is going to be built where a beautiful natural reef exists now. In Old and Central Havana, China is building hotels, rebuilding the markets, docks, and train stations in several locations around the city. The agreement, as we were told, is that China is going to completely own these properties which was previously unheard of in Cuba. They have been permitted to use Chinese workers and bring in Chinese products and produce. This could be a deal with the devil as the United States knows all too well. I checked the labels of everything we were consuming and purchasing, it was comforting to see that at least eighty percent of everything we were using or buying was directly grown, produced, or made in Cuba. When dealing with China, this will change rapidly and probably not for the better, when it comes to the quality of products or economic gain for the people of Cuba.

To be able to walk, talk, eat, and be entertained in a mostly socialist style economic system was a priceless and educational experience. There are no easy answers to which lifestyle is better or worse. It is not possible to weigh which is right and which is wrong. Even after traveling the world, visiting all seven continents, the solutions to obtain peace, decent wages, and standards or rules for fair housing are still elusive. Whether it be democracy, republic, autocracy, dictatorship, or communism one would have to assume there must be a middle ground somewhere that could make utopia on earth possible. Information is power, and hopefully with more people connected to each other, this dream, this compromise, could one day become a reality.

Even with the proliferation of cell phones, it was surprising that at some locations, it was not recommended or forbidden to take pictures. The answer was not given as to why, nor did I ask. I would assume it is because they do not want anything that could be construed as negative to spread or be seen by others. I experienced this before in China and certain parts of Africa where quite frequently you were told cameras had to be put down or turned off, but everything I saw in Cuba was positive and nowhere near the atrocities that we hear about in parts of Philadelphia or Camden on a daily basis. Yes, certain areas were more economically distressed than others and some unsavory characters were present, but at no time did I feel threatened or unsafe in any manner during our visit.

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What is Cuba?

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Cuba is beautiful and Cuba is rough

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Cuba is old yet Cuba is refined

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Cuba is forbidden but Cuba is welcoming

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Cuba is plain while Cuba is a kaleidoscope

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Cuba is loud until Cuba whispers to you

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Cuba is Cuba and for that I am thankful

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We came to Cuba for food exploration, but we left with so much more. Below are some pictures of the places and food we enjoyed during our stay that I would recommend if you ever have the chance to visit Cuba. There are many people and services that made our stay in Cuba possible that we are forever indebted to, but first, I would like to give a special mention to the following:

Spirit Airlines – https://www.spirit.com/

Airline Brokers Co. – https://www.airlinebrokers.net/

U.S. Department of State – https://www.state.gov/

Four Points Havana – http://www.starwoodhotels.com/fourpoints/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=4531&language=en_US

Kerstin Sachl – Director, Public Relations and Social Media – Caribbean & Latin America for Marriott International

Madaly Tun – Director of Marketing – Four Points by Sheraton La Habana

Alain L. Gutiérrez Almeida – www.alaingutierrezphotography.com and https://atasteofcuba.org/

Yudith Vargas Riveron – Art Historian/Agent – yvriveron@gmail.comhttp://oncubamagazine.com/author/yudith-vargas/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CUBA – La Habana

I-CE-NY at Chinatown Square Food Hall

I-CE-NY at Chinatown Square Food Hall

I-CE-NY at Chinatown Square Food Hall

(The following is a special series on Bluejeanfood.com written by guest contributing writer and correspondent for “Small Bites Radio” William Knowles. He highlights his passions of trying something new whenever the opportunity presents itself, or possibly something old, but new again since it has been a while. I hope you enjoy his very special perspective that I am sure many of you can relate to. Follow him on his exciting journey “Around Town”)


I-CE-NY, a new dessert establishment located in the heart of Philadelphia’s Chinatown, held a tasting event on Wednesday, March 15th. I was invited to enjoy their offerings; some of which I have heard of, but have never had the opportunity to try before…

“Rolled ice cream” is something that has taken off recently in the States. The operators of I-CE-NY claim origination of the process and treat in Thailand. The preparation is interesting in itself to watch. The expert staff begin by using flavored milks which they pour onto a frigid circular dish (temperature well below zero). As the milk freezes up, it is crafted using spatulas and small knives, ultimately leading to the “rolls”. Additional toppings are added as requested, as they are in any great ice cream bar.

We tried the St. Patty’s Day special, with mint ice cream and Lucky Charms. The result is unique and more gratifying then your normal every day scoop. Strawberry and banana was next on the list, and the flavor was bold and fresh. The combinations are endless, with many different ice cream bases and toppings to choose from.

I-CE-NY takes the experience to added heights with a friendly, outgoing staff. Their bright, clean shop is located in the new Chinatown Square Food Hall, which is home to numerous new eateries specializing in Thai, Korean, Middle Eastern and Cambodian cuisine, among others. I was impressed by the wide variety of offerings, as well as the set up of the court. This will surely become a destination for those looking to try new and varied offerings for lunch and dinner in the coming months, especially with warm weather approaching…

Visit our friends at I-CE-NY soon, and I will see you there and elsewhere “Around Town”…