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


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


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

First appeared in the November issue of Philadelphia magazine.

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


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?


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 »

Brewster: The Quintessential Cape Cod Weekend Getaway

Ocea Edge Resort and Golf Club in Cape Cod, Massachutsetts appearing in the July 2013 issue of Philadelphia Magazine

How to Get to Brewster from Phiadelphia: You can drive (seven hours) to Brewster, or Amtrak (six hours) or fly (an hour and change) to Boston, then rent a car for the 90-minute drive to Brewster.

Where to Stay in Brewster: The fittingly titled Ocean Edge, which offers some of the most spectacular water views on the Cape, is a sprawling 429-acre (!) resort with every amenity imaginable—along with a sp ectacular Jack Nicklaus-designed, PGA-worthy golf course. Choose between sumptuous Pottery Barn-y guest rooms or one of the recently opened multi-bedroom, two-story villas. But luxury isn’t cheap: A three-bedroom villa with water views will set you back $2,600 a night in high summer season. (Regular rooms cost around $310.)

What to Eat and Drink in Brewster: On the property, the Ocean Terrace serves up fab alfresco dining overlooking the bay, while Bayzo’s Pub (you’ve got to love a place named for alcoholics) is a clubby enclave with great beers and better burgers. The Brewster Fish House, a hop-skip from the resort, is a must for those who appreciate just-caught fare, expertly prepared in a quaint cottage. (Eat at the bar.) And there’s a reason folks line up for the lobster rolls at clam shacks Cobie’s and JT’s Seafood.

What to Do When You’re in Brewster: The scenic 22-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail is a biker’s paradise that winds through 1,900-acre Nickerson State Park, which boasts more than 400 campsites and some of the Cape’s best fishing. Ocean Edge rents bikes in two spots on the property, and the staff will point you in the right direction, ensuring a memorable ride. Cosmopolitan Provincetown, with its restaurants, shopping and iconic lighthouses, is an hour’s drive away. If you’d rather stay closer to home, Ocean Edge is a seaside playground. Besides hitting up the links, there are four pools (one indoors), a buzzing fitness center, spa treatments and tennis courts galore. For kids there are sports camps, ocean adventures, movie nights, and more.

Where to Shop in Brewster: There’s no traditional cutesy “down-town” in Brewster, so its several galleries and shops are spread about. Don’t miss the Brewster Scoop.

Where to Relax in Brewster: Cape Cod beaches are small and often rocky, but are some of the most beautiful in the country. Ocean Edge can provide an all-access beach pass, so you can check out the varied options, including the beloved Brewster Flats, which is fun during both low and high tides. Inhale deeply. Repeat.

View Cape Cod: The Quintessential New England Weekend Getaway in a larger map

The Best Ice Cream in Philadelphia

The ice cream of your youth was of indiscriminate variety—a carton pulled from a supermarket freezer belching frosty smoke, a cone you reached up on tippy-toe to retrieve from the man in the white truck with the bells. Didn’t matter which. It was ice cream.

Later you discovered exotic flavors sold in flashy pints, and didn’t blink at shelling out what amounted to $16 a gallon. You devoured swirly organic varieties that sat like mounds of cake frosting in small-batch silver tins, or gorged on vaguely Italian-sounding derivatives that you ate at sidewalk cafes and made you feel all Continental.

It didn’t matter. It was ice cream.

Philadelphia may not be its birthplace (legend gives that honor to somewhere in the Persian Empire circa 400 B.C.), but an argument can be made—and should—that ice cream was perfected here. By the late 19th century, Abbott’s, Breyers and Bassetts were the city’s true dairy queens, churning out creamy butterfat-laden fare until those premium pints elbowed in during the 1970s. Abbott’s closed; Breyers was sold, moved, changed. Bassetts remains with us, its signature navy blue cartons with the floating white-and-yellow script still a reassuring talisman.

Water ice is tart and lovely. But Philadelphia is a city of ice cream. Quixotic renditions are sold in fancy restaurants and parlours (note the “u”), atop desserts with names that sound like the titles of romance novels. The staples are still plopped into sugar cones and plastic bowls, then glooped with syrups and candies.

Which to choose? It doesn’t matter. It’s ice cream.

>>From simple peanut butter swirl to fancy fior de latte, click here to see the best ice cream flavors Philly has to offer.

>>Man cannot live by scoops alone. Click here for the best ice cream dishes in Philly.

Introducing G Philly’s Queer 6-Word Memoir Project

Several years ago, my great friend Larry Smith asked me to contribute to a book he was compiling, which eventually became Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure (Harper Perennial). The book kicked off what became known as the Six-Word Memoir Project®, now a cornerstone of the online Smith Magazine, where personal storytelling is truly an art form. My six-word memoir was thus: “Years in the closet. Why? Why?Read more »

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