If you’ve ever fantasized about sipping cocktails at the home of a master mixologist or poking around the curing room of a charcuterie-centric chef, you’re in luck. SideTour, “an online marketplace for experiences that help you explore your city,” is gearing up to launch in Philly, and those are just the beginning of the food-and-drink options they’re offering.
I had a chance to preview SideTour last week, and I’ve got to say that it’s kind of a genius concept. The first night was a pork-heavy family-style dinner hosted by Russet chef Andrew Wood. And “hosted” is the operative word here. Like a dinner party in a private home, Wood graciously welcomed guests to his restaurant with a glass of house-made limoncello, creating a real sense of conviviality that you generally don’t get out of a restaurant meal. With shared bottles of wine and totally unstuffy vibes, the meal was punctuated by Wood’s warm and wise words about local produce and farmers — not to mention a guest appearance by a head-on suckling pig deboned, rubbed with herbs and fennel and roasted porchetta-style and rosey slices of salumi.
The following night, Mike Treffehn of Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. fame opened the doors of his Queen Village home to a handful of cocktail enthusiasts. The theme of the evening was Tiki culture, and along with Polynesian-recipe printouts and an expertly stocked demo bar (think Demarara simple syrup, Velvet Falernum and homemade grenadine), Treffehn went as far as to put together a dreamy, tropical ukulele soundtrack to accompany the cocktails. The evolution of daiquiris was discussed (while sipping daiquiris, of course), zombies were garnished with flaming lime cups of over-proof rum and orchids, and some serious mai tais rounded out the night.
These two SideTour experiences had a real intimacy about them, a much more hands-on feel than you’d get from simply dining out or ordering a few rounds of drinks. The passion that Wood and Treffehn have for their vocations was palpable in both their enthusiasm and hospitality. No one can complain about some personal attention from guys like that.