Joan Shepp and the Rebirth of Chestnut Street

Joan Shepp and daughter Ellen in front of the outdoor garden in their new Chestnut Street digs. Photograph by Steven Laxton

Joan Shepp and daughter Ellen in front of the outdoor garden in their new Chestnut Street digs. Photograph by Steven Laxton

It’s a steamy evening on Chestnut Street, and not just because of the humidity. It’s the press opening for Joan Shepp’s new boutique, and the requisite champagne flutes and trays laden with hors d’oeuvres are present, as are the chic people who wouldn’t dream of taking a bite. (This is the fashion set, darlings.) PR maven Rakia Reynolds, wearing what appears to be a corset made of white wicker, gabs with Where Philadelphia publisher Laura Burkhardt, who will show up to the opening of an envelope. Nicole Paloux, another PR maven, though of the more mousy, elfin variety, peruses some jewelry near Nigel Richards, a fledgling fashion designer better known as the husband of the city’s brassy high priestess of PR, Nicole Cashman, whose absence is surely due to Ebola or some such catastrophe. Elizabeth Wellington, the Inquirer’s fashion writer, is here, channeling Audra McDonald chic, while in a corner flits Danuta Mieloch, the Polish beauty who has made Rescue Rittenhouse the place where Women of a Certain Station come to have their crinkly complexions turned to the texture of mayonnaise.

They’re here because Joan is here, and the style story line in town has been All About Joan since last fall, when her eponymous shop on Walnut Street suddenly shuttered and then turned up in the mall at Liberty Place (the mall! At Liberty Place!), and then she said she was going to open a new store on Chestnut (Chestnut!), and, well, kittens, it turned out she meant it. This has raised the fashion stakes considerably. Now the question isn’t whether Joan Shepp,who has been dressing the stylish Philadelphia woman for four decades, can make a success on Chestnut Street. It’s whether she can make a success of Chestnut Street.
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The Best Jersey Shore Boardwalks for 2014

The Great White coaster in Wildwood. Photography by Trevor Dixon

The Great White coaster in Wildwood. Photography by Trevor Dixon

Wildwood

Keep in mind it’s a carnival town. Its Boardwalk is sprawling, loud, tacky, a little bawdy and a little seedy. And, if you go with the right mind-set, a hell of a good time.

The Morey family runs three mammoth amusement piers, a collective riot of rides, arcades, water parks and coasters. In this latter category, Great White is one of the best wooden coasters in the nation. The Moreys continue to invest in blue-ribbon rides; new this season is a higher, glitzier Wave Swinger (a.k.a. the flying swings).

In recent years the Boardwalk has seen new restaurants with outdoor seating, complete with netting above your head to keep the seagulls at bay. (Our pick: Jumbo’s, which makes a decent chicken sandwich and stocks Dogfish Head.) On Mariner’s Landing, look for a new taco shack with on-trend fillings like Korean barbecue beef, or stick with the tried-and-true — an order of Curley’s Fries.

While the Mack’s Pizza “stop” sign is a Boardwalk fixture, for nostalgic boomers, Douglass Fudge, with its pine paneling and elegant tartan boxes, is one of the few old Wildwood landmarks left, and worthy of a visit.

Cape May

No one goes to Cape May for stimulation. So it’s no surprise its beachfront promenade is a quiet repository of a few stores, two arcades and not much else. Surf Side Delights is a small grill serving perhaps the best pork roll sandwich at the Shore (732 Beach Avenue); for a diner-style breakfast, try Oceanview Restaurant — it faces the water, a rarity for a Shore eatery.

Of the two aforementioned arcades, the northern one (at 732 Beach Avenue) is your standard-issue Tween Central, but the southernmost (at 406 Beach Avenue) boasts a beach volleyball court and shady seating for watching the games.

The real lure here? Bikes, bikes, bikes. Get up early (you can’t ride after 10 a.m.), rent wheels from the friendly folks at Cape Island Bike Rentals, take a spin, then squeeze in a round of mini golf across the street at Stockton Golf, which has hydrangeas throughout. There are worse ways to spend a day at the Shore.

Stone Harbor

Just briefly — yes, we know Stone Harbor doesn’t have a Boardwalk, or a promenade. But its 96th Street shopping district serves the same purpose. Our picks for best retail: the Bread and Cheese Cupboard (baked goods extraordinaire); Seashore ACE (the nicest hardware store you’ll ever visit); Island Art Stone Harbor (a bit tacky in spots, but some of the old photos and signage are awesome); Skirt (the down-the-Shore version of the stalwart Main Line boutique); and Shades (sunglasses galore, including Chanel; 261 96th Street).

Sea Isle

You need to know that the Sea Isle stretch is not — absolutely, positively not — a Boardwalk. The locals are sort of fanatical about this. It is a beachside promenade, a name they hope will conjure strolls rather than 20-somethings stumbling home from too many beers at the Springfield.

Because said promenade is made of concrete, bicycling and running are wonderful here. There’s also ample seating, including a shady octagonal pavilion at the mouth of John F. Kennedy Boulevard perfect for imbibing frozen treats. (Our pick: the “Skinny Minnie” from Goldie’s Dips Ahoy, a nonfat frozen yogurt topped with a scoop of sorbet.)

Shopping is mainly concentrated at the Spinnaker Seaside Shops, located on the ground floor of a massive condo building, where Sessoms’ Nautical Gifts sells authentic coconut heads worthy of Gilligan’s Island. The Book Nook is one of the last remaining independent bookstores at the Shore. Get there, because Kindle screens do not mix with sun and sand (3500 Boardwalk).

Ocean City

The draw of the Ocean City Boardwalk can be summed up in one word: constancy. And so the hit parade remains, year after year: Manco & Manco (now under a bit of duress with its owners indicted for tax evasion) for pizza, Ove’s for doughnuts, the Old Salt for tchotchkes, the Pirates of the Golden Galleon for mini golf, Shriver’s for candy, Johnson’s for popcorn, Henry’s for sweatshirts (and the best throw blankets at the Shore).

The venerable Music Pier serves as the walkway’s anchor, each year hosting events like the Miss New Jersey Pageant and doo-wop concerts by acts you thought were dead. The fact that the town is booze-free is reinforced by its amusement attractions: Gillian’s Wonderland Pier (owned by the mayor, the son of the former mayor) almost exclusively caters to the under-10 set; Adventure Island Waterpark (formerly Gillian’s Island Water Park), a few blocks north, has new owners who made a half-million-dollar investment in upgrades.

Shopping in Ocean City is more miss than hit, but one exception is Ocean Treasures, which sells some terrific retro signage perfect for gazing at during the long, hard winter as a reminder that the sun will eventually come out tomorrow (966 Boardwalk).

Atlantic City

While the A.C. Boardwalk may be the most famous along the entire Shore, it isn’t the reason people show up here. (That would be gambling.) That said, if you can embrace Atlantic City’s general gritty schizophrenia, there are a few worthwhile stops along the boards.

The Pier Shops at Caesars offer some of the Shore’s best high-end shopping (Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany), and some nice city restaurant branches to boot (Buddakan, Continental). The legendary Steel Pier is going through yet another overhaul trying to reclaim the old magic, but its centerpiece, the new, luxe observation Ferris wheel with climate-controlled cabins, won’t open till early 2015.

Down the boards a bit, the best show in town isn’t on a casino stage, but outside Boardwalk Hall, where Duality, the free nightly light show that celebrates the city’s architectural history, will leave you downright mesmerized.

As for the rest, a rolling chair ride ($5 for a short trip) is still a worthwhile throwback spin, but the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, while a fitting monument to absurdity, isn’t really worth the $17 price of admission. Parades are a constant, including the recently revived Miss America Parade, at which, each September, competing divas try to outdo one another in ridiculous footwear as the crowd roars “Show us your shoes!” (They do.)

Read more from our Summer 2014 Jersey Shore Guide.

Jersey Shore 2014: The Shore, Your Way

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Photography by Trevor Dixon

Going to the Shore is a ritual that almost all Philadelphians share. Together, we feel that rush each summer to get on the road, to wear the same shorts for a week, to start cocktail hour an hour earlier. Once we’re there, we all get a little happier, a little nicer, a little more relaxed.

Of course, there are also those experiences that make the Shore completely our own. Who you are determines how you vacation: Maybe you look forward most to the break-of-dawn bike ride to get doughnuts; maybe you take pride in knowing where to secure the best square of sand; maybe it’s showing your kids the fine art of pulling an extra ticket out of the Skeeball machine.

With that in mind, we’ve created a Shore guide that will give you more of what you want — whether you spent all winter dreaming about the seafood, the surf or walking the boards. Click on to make this your most special summer yet.

The Best Jersey Shore Boardwalks

The Best Food and Drink at the Jersey Shore

The Best Family Fun at the Jersey Shore

The Best Beaches at the Jersey Shore

The Best Gambling at the Jersey Shore

To see our picks for the best the Shore has to offer this year for food and drink, family fun, beach and water activities, and gambling, buy the June 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine, on newsstands now, or subscribe today.

The Pillsbury Bake-Off:
Ladies (and One Male Flight Attendant)… Start Your Ovens



KRISTEN ABBOTT IS KEEPING HER EYE ON THE PRIZE—

in her case, a plastic cafeteria tray laden with Boston Cream French Toast, a table d’hôte consisting of French loaf (Pillsbury, of course), condensed milk, egg yolks, vanilla and Jif hazelnut spread. It is very, very difficult to maneuver this through a crowd. Because really—when was the last time you tried to carry a gooey dessert through a maze of people with some loon in front of you yelling “Recipe coming!” like Paul Revere?

Like her fellow contestants, Kristen hopes hers will be the dish, out of 100 whipped up in this airplane-hangar-like ballroom at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, that will win the million-dollar grand prize at the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off. Kristen is one of six Philly-area finalists competing this year. Lean and taut, with shiny chestnut hair, at 33 years old she looks like an aerobics instructor on early-morning basic cable. But her disposition, up until now sunny and weather-girly, has sprung a leak.
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Where We’re Eating: Austrian Village

austrian-village-sign

German food ain’t exactly sexy (when’s the last time someone said to you, “I’m craving German”?), but Austrian Village on the outskirts of Northeast Philly is something better than sexy: It’s awesome. The German-social-club atmosphere (complete with oom-pah-pah band on most Saturdays) is old-school cool, but the authentic, hearty fare is the real star: succulent schnitzels; tangy sauerbraten; goulash smothered in paprika gravy; and founder Lotte Burits’s legendary German potato salad—the most addictive thing I’ve ever eaten. Then there are the prices: Entrées average $12, and a beer costs half of what you’d pay downtown. Oom-pah-pah indeed.

Austrian Village
321 Huntingdon Pike
Rockledge, PA
215-663-9902

First appeared in the November issue of Philadelphia magazine.

I Dined With Royalty: My Dinner With Grace Kelly’s Family at the Michener Museum

GraceKelly

That’s me, with Grace Kelly’s grand-niece, Ginna Le Vine.

If you are a magazine editor, as I am, you tend to get invited to lots of stuff. It’s a cool perk of the job. Much of what you are invited to, despite the pretty packaging of various invitations, is not that interesting. But sometimes you luck out, and end up at something where you feel very fancy and very special and very glad you got to go.

Such was the case this past Saturday, when I attended the black-tie gala dinner opening the new exhibit Grace Kelly: Beyond the Icon, at the James A. Michener Museum in Doylestown. The exhibit features more than 40 dresses and costumes from the Philadelphia movie star, princess and style icon, along with various other personal and starry ephemera, including her Oscar for 1954’s The Country Girl. (Tickets are selling briskly, so if you want to go, take my advice and buy now—we don’t get this kind of repository of glamour here often.)

Speaking of glamour…

Can USA250 Make Philly the Star of America’s 250th Birthday?

250th-940

I was 13 years old in 1976—not exactly a budding patriot, but a good enough student of American history by that point to understand that the bicentennial of the country was a big deal. And so it was that on the bright and beautiful morning of July 4th, I bounded in from church (it was Sunday) and tore up the stairs to my bedroom in Northeast Philly, changing into my own version of the Stars and Stripes (red shirt, blue shorts, white sneakers) for not just any day, but the day: the nation’s 200th birthday. Read more »

ALBUM REVIEW: The Honest Truth About Cher’s ‘Closer to the Truth’

Before I say anything else about Cher’s first album in more than a decade, a word about my bona fides: The very first album I bought (on vinyl, thank you) was Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves in (gulp) 1971. I was eight years old. How my parents did not have the faculty to pull me aside and say, “We have something to tell you,” I will never understand.  Read more »

ALBUM REVIEW: The Honest Truth About Cher’s ‘Closer to the Truth’

Before I say anything else about Cher’s first album in more than a decade, a word about my bona fides: The very first album I bought (on vinyl, thank you) was Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves in (gulp) 1971. I was eight years old. How my parents did not have the faculty to pull me aside and say, “We have something to tell you,” I will never understand.  Read more »

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