|Thanks for decorating the cafe for me, and "making it happen," Renee!|
Yes, I'm older.
I got to celebrate a birthday last week, and it was one of my best. Because I spent it an ocean away from my sweet husband, everyone was worried it would be terrible. Yet that meant so very many were thoughtful and helped me celebrate - friends in NYC threw a surprise party on the Thursday prior, friends from DC came up to see historic Philly with me the day-of, my dad and bonus mom in Utah sent flowers, a board member for the non-profit I head took me out to lunch during the week, a sister in another state sent two cards and two presents (because she doesn't have enough on her hands with nine children!), my mom sent me funny and beautiful gifts, a friend who sent me the most thoughtful package all the way from England, and a friend here took me to dinner this weekend. Essentially, it was a week-long celebration - a great way to start off this age (anyone guess what that might be?).
There were two surprise highlights in particular that I thought worth mentioning here.
To begin, on our tour of old Philly, I visited the Liberty Bell for the first time in 23 years. I had never learned the part of US history which explained why the bell was famous. I knew it had wrung in Independence Hall for a bit, then cracked, but that didn't seem like enough to make it as famous as it became. So I asked a ranger, and I'm so glad I did.
Now rangers are probably some of my favorite people in the world (including dear friend Frank Scaturro, now running for Congress on Long Island). For nearly nothing, they work long hours over many days and spend extra time learning the history of the site they service.
The rangers at Independence Park are no different, including the gentleman pictured below. He told me that the bell had been cast with a Biblical verse on it, found in Leviticus: "Proclaim Liberty throughout the Land, unto all the Inhabitants thereof." After 90 years in service ringing in the tower where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and signed, the bell cracked.
Because of its location and the Bible verse that adorned it, it became a powerful, unifying symbol after the Civil War, when it toured the country "proclaiming liberty to all the inhabitants" even while silent. Then it was adopted by the suffragettes in the early 20th Century, who cast their own version as the Women's Bell. Further, it has been adopted by those in other countries looking as a symbol of liberty. The crack in the bell was a reminder that liberty was fragile.
He shared all of this with such conviction and excitement, and I must say I was a bit touched - both by him and by the bell that meant so much to so many.
Then after getting amazing cheesesteaks at Pat's (yes, it's better than Geno's), a random bouncer suggested we head down the street to the Italian market, where we would find Rim's cafe. Not knowing quite what we were in for, we waded down the street to the colorful cafe that looked like it was straight out of the 1950's, and part Central American, part Italian, and part French.
There, we met Renee, who makes his own delectable chocolates and hot chocolates (that's heated chocolate over cream which erupts upon contact). The overpowering music, decor, and torch-flamed 90% dark chocolate "shot" with cranberry, pistachio, and macadamia chocolate plus salty caramel shaved/drizzled over it was a colorful way to end the birth-day (as the birth-week continued on).
|The round wooden plates covered in chocolate shavings spin 'round as Renee shaves his |
homemade chocolate cones, right, onto your drink and then
drizzles salty caramel and other deliciousness, left, onto and around your drink.