Mummers: A Philadelphia New Year’s Tradition

by Rebecca Rhoades
( December 17th, 2014 )

Fancy Brigade Performance

For many Americans, New Year’s morning means one thing: the Tournament of Roses parade. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to Pasadena, California, to line the parade route, while millions more tune in to watch the spectacle on their TVs. But in Philadelphia, another New Year’s Day parade holds sway, one filled with sequins and plumes instead of petals: the MUMMERS PARADE. This annual celebration, one of the longest-running traditions in the country, is a true Philadelphia institution, one full of costumes, ragtime music, and flamboyant pageantry as only the City of Brotherly Love can provide.

Mummers parade costumes

So what is a Mummer? Mummers are men and women of all ages who belong to one of the more than 40 social clubs that function mainly to stage colorful performances on New Year’s Day. While Mummery dates back to ancient Rome, locally, Swedish settlers to Philadelphia dressed up to honor Christmas and entertained their neighbors in exchange for ale and cake. The tradition eventually moved to New Year’s Day and evolved into a series of neighborhood parades. Over the years, immigrants from Ireland and Italy moved into the area, bringing with them their own form of Mummery. In 1901, the first recognized and judged Mummers Parade was organized by the City of Philadelphia. The term “Mummer” is German and means “to costume or masquerade.”

Born to be Wild

There are five divisions of Mummers.

Comics: These are the clowns who like to parody current events through political satire. They typically wear colorful costumes with multilevel umbrellas and strut up the street to “Oh, Dem Golden Slippers,” which has become the theme for the parade.

Red Umbrellas

Wench Brigades: No, this division isn’t just women—it’s men in dresses. An offshoot of the Comic Division, the Wench Brigades combine live bands with traditional Mummery and can be as large as 100 members. Each Wench Brigade portrays a centralized theme.

Comics

Fancies: The Fancy divisions are often considered the beauty highlight of the parade. They’re known for their elaborate capes and framed suits that have to be pushed or pulled by another person.

Alice in Wonderland

String Bands: The musical highlight of the parade. Bands usually perform period-style music, reminiscent of ragtime, and no brass is allowed. The combination of reed, string, and percussion instruments has defined the Mummers’ sound for more than 100 years.

String Band

Fancy Brigades: The Fancy Brigades emerged in 1978. They’re known for their elaborate props, precision drilling, and Broadway-style choreography. The Fancy Brigades also perform competitively in the Convention Center each New Year’s Day.

Fancy Brigade Tigers

2015 marks the 115th annual Mummers Parade, and with this milestone comes some changes, including a new route that heads south on Broad Street instead of north.

The parade begins at 10 a.m. at City Hall, with judging taking place at 15th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard. Then, more than 10,000 men, women, and children will twirl, sashay, and strut down Broad Street to Washington Avenue, where parade-goers can view all of the action on Jumbo-trons. Finally, after the party winds down on Broad Street, it heads back to the South Philly neighborhoods, especially along 2nd Street (affectionately known as Two Street), where many of the Mummers clubhouses are located.

And this year (or, technically, next year), the Fancy Brigades will strut along the entire parade route before heading to the Philadelphia Convention Center for their spell-binding theatrical performance competitions. There are two ticketed competitions, one at noon and the finale at 5 p.m.

For more information on the Mummers Parade, including how to get tickets for the Fancy Brigade competitions, and general information on where to stay and what to do while in town, visit visitphilly.com/events/philadelphia/the-mummers-parade/ and PhillyMummers.com.

Mummers Captain

Looking for a place to keep warm during the parade? Most of the bars and restaurants along Broad Street will be open before, during, and after the parade. And at the end of the day, 2nd Street comes alive as the festivities take to the street and its bars with impromptu performances, drinking, and…well…more drinking until the early morning hours. It’s like Mardi Gras meets South Philly. Here are just a few ideas of where to go for the ultimate Mummers experience.

KIMMEL CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS: Located directly along the parade route at Broad and Spruce Streets, the Kimmel Center will open its doors from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for parade viewers to warm up and grab a bite to eat. Its Peco Café will feature a tasty menu of Philly fare including cheesesteaks, hot dogs, soft pretzels, and an assortment of Philly-brewed beer.
300 South Broad Street, kimmelcenter.org

PERCH PUB: With floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Broad Street at Locust, Perch Pub is the perfect spot for parade-viewing. And with 14 craft beers on tap, a bottle list of 104 selections, and a bar full of bourbons, whiskeys, and Scotches (included house-infusions), the festivities don’t stop at the door.
1345 Locust Street, perchpub.com

DIRTY FRANKS: This South Philly institution opens its doors at 10 a.m. for its annual Mummers Parade Celebration, or as its website calls it, an “all-day hurdle event, which involves leaping over walls of parade-goers, Mummers, Fancies, and clowns in various states of revelry and disrepair.”
347 South 13th Street, dirtyfranksbar.com

SUGARHOUSE CASINO: The parade’s sponsor offers revelers both an escape from and easy access to the action. It all starts at 10 a.m. with the Mummers Brunch, featuring live music and Bloody Mary Shrimp Shooters. From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., parade-goers can park for free in the casino’s parking lot and take its free Mummers party bus to and from the parade.
1001 North Delaware Avenue, sugarhousecasino.com

 

Born to be Wild

Fancy Brigade Batman

 

 

Veni, Vidi, Bibi!


—Rebecca


 

 All photos by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia.

 

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A Wanderlush Chat With Zane Lamprey, host of TV’s Chug

by Rebecca Rhoades
( December 15th, 2014 )

About five years ago, following a trip to Lithuania, I was at home relaxing on the couch and flipping through the TV channels when an image of a guy standing in the Town Hall Square of Lithuania’s capital city, Vilnius, flashed on my screen. Just who was this crazy man who went on to arm-wrestle a local strongman and down beers with the colorful owner of a popular drinking hole in the city’s Uzupis neighborhood? Of course, I had to watch! Turns out I had come across a travel show called Three Sheets, and unlike the wildly popular No Reservations and Bizarre Foods, this show dealt not with food but with its popular liquid complement: alcohol. The boozy subject matter, made even more interesting by its fun-loving, funny, and downright entertaining host Zane Lamprey, had me instantly hooked.

Zane Lamprey headshot

Three Sheets ran for four seasons, after which from 2010 to 2012, Lamprey hosted Drinking Made Easy, which focused on U.S. and Canadian drinking destinations. Now he’s back as the host of a new drink-travel show, Chug, which premiered on the National Geographic Channel on November 24.

According to Chug’s press kit, the show “takes viewers on a bar crawl around the world. Motivated by his thirst to try local customs, food, and alcohol, Lamprey travels by train to an array of exotic and boozy locations and along the way interacts with the local culture and befriends new drinking buddies.” So far, Lamprey and Chug have visited Kuala Lumpur, Syndey, and Fiji, three amazing destinations.

What’s even more amazing is the fact that Chug was funded through a Kickstarter campaign. Wanderlush Diary recently had the chance to interview Lamprey about this unique form of fan financing, Chug, and traveling the world in search of the perfect potable, as well as his newest Kickstarter project. Keep reading.

Chug poster

Wanderlush Diary: After success with Three Sheets and Drinking Made Easy, what made you decide to develop Chug?
Zane Lamprey
: What else what I going to do? I have no other marketable skills! I filled out an application at Blockbuster, but they haven’t returned my calls. Actually, I think the number is disconnected.

WD: Why did you raise funds through Kickstarter?
Lamprey:
I pitched Chug as a TV show around Hollywood, and [all of the networks] passed. All of them! So, at the suggestion of my mother, I launched the Kickstarter campaign. She convinced me that if it could work for Veronica Mars (a cancelled television show that was made into a movie), it could work for me. She was right. We didn’t have an easy campaign like Veronica Mars had, hitting its goal in the first day. We hit our goal on one of the last days. Just when others would have lost hope, we (the fans, my crew, and me) prevailed.

Zane Lamprey Rome Trains

WD: How did it feel when the National Geographic Channel picked up the series?
Lamprey: Fantastic! I love National Geographic. We had a choice of several networks when the series was ready to sell. NatGeo convinced us that they were the most excited about airing it.

Zane Lamprey and monkey

WD: What makes Chug different from your other series?
Lamprey: It’s the natural evolution from my other TV endeavors. So, it’s the same, but (hopefully) better! I’m not the wide-eyed neophyte that I was back then. As a rum company owner [Note: Lamprey is also the owner of Zane Lamprey’s Monkey Rum], author, and host of many shows about drinking, I’m a veritable expert. But, that doesn’t make it any less fun for the viewer.

WD: How did you become an expert?
Lamprey
: Prior to Three Sheets, all I knew about alcohol was what it did to me. I knew nothing of what went into making it. But, as with anything that I love doing, I embrace it and learn as much as I can about it.

Zane Lamprey in Rome

WD: Now that you’ve imbibed around the world, it is true that travelers can get a better feel for a destination by sampling the local libations?
Lamprey
: Having a drink, or drinks in moderation, is an amazing way to learn about local cultures and customs as you’re traveling. Alcohol is a social lubricant that warms people’s hearts and gets them to open up and be more quick to welcome in strangers. I’ve made so many great friends while shooting the show. To me, that’s what it’s all about.

Zane Lamprey Sydney winery

WD: Have you had any drinks or drink experiences that really amazed you?
Lamprey
: I’m constantly amazed… although I’m consistently amazed when people put dead things in alcohol—with the intention of drinking it—like snakes, geckos, bugs, and an armadillo. Yeah, I know. Gross!

WD: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in learning more about local beverages while traveling?
Lamprey
: Walk into a watering hole and start talking. It’ll all happen from there. It just needs a small spark to get it started. People are so eager to talk about their country/city/region. You just need to give them a gentle nudge, and they’ll tell you anything you want. And that gentle nudge, by the way, is a drink. Spend a few bucks to by someone a drink, and you’ll have made a friend for life!

Zane Lamprey Sydney beach

WD: In addition to Chug, you’re also promoting The Drinking Jacking, which you’re crowdfunding through Kickstarter. Tell me about that.
Lamprey
: A few years ago, I wanted to see if I could make a bottle-opener zipper to add to the hoodies I was selling. Then I figured that it wouldn’t be too much more effort to add a neoprene-lined beer koozie pocket. Then I added drinking mitts. Then a hidden flask pocket.  I then realized that it was no longer any ordinary hoodie—although I never wanted it to look like anything but a nice hoodie—so I needed to name it. It was no longer a hoodie for drinking. It became The Drinking Jacket.
Then a few months ago, I was wearing it while taking a tour of the Kickstarter headquarters in Brooklyn. The people there were admiring it and asked where they could buy one. I told them I didn’t have any more. So they asked if I would Kickstart it so they could get jackets for themselves. The rest is history.
For the version I have on Kickstarter, I made a bunch of enhancements, like deeper pockets, bigger sizes, and a sunglass holder. I’ve lost so many sunglasses when day drinking turned into night drinking, and outside drinking turned into inside drinking!

The Drinking Jacket

WD: So far, the campaign, which ends on December 22, been a great success. Are you surprised at the reaction of your fans?
Lamprey
: I’m never surprised with the generosity of the fans. I am incredibly pleased and touched, but not surprised. They’ve been there for me, and the shows, from day one. I am very lucky.

WD: Any last thoughts?
Lamprey
: You never asked the cliché “What’s your favorite drink question”! Well done! But, I actually have an answer for that. I’d love everyone to try my rum: Monkey Rum. It’s my favorite drink!

Zane Lamprey in Sydney

Are you thirsty for more? Well, if you haven’t yet seen Chug, there’s still time. Three more episodes remain. On December 15, Lamprey visits Vienna. On December 22, he takes on Rome, and on December 29, he drinks his way through Budapest. Don’t miss it!

Chug airs Monday nights at 7:30 p.m. EST on the National Geographic Channel.

 

Veni, Vidi, Bibi!


—Rebecca


 

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Rum Rules at Richard Sandoval’s Toro Latin Restaurant in Scottsdale

by Rebecca Rhoades
( December 11th, 2014 )

Rum Lockers

Travelers to Phoenix, Arizona, typically want one thing when it comes to dining: tacos and tequila. And the city doesn’t disappoint, with dozens of Mexican joints ranging from small holes in the wall to James Beard-nominated establishments. But according to acclaimed chef Richard Sandoval, “you can’t eat Mexican all the time” (although I might have to disagree with him).

That’s why Sandoval, when asked by the folks at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess to collaborate on a new restaurant, decided to go for a more international flavor. The end result: Toro Latin Restaurant & Rum Bar, located in the newly renovated clubhouse of the Princess’s championship golf course, TPC Scottsdale.

I recently had the opportunity to dine at Toro and meet with Chef Sandoval. It was a flavorful journey throughout Latin America, washed down with creative cocktails, a rum sampling, and a fiery tableside rum presentation.

Chef Richard Sandoval

For those who might not know, Sandoval is not just one of the world’s top Latin chefs, he’s one of its top chefs, period. Known as the “father of modern Mexican cuisine,” his restaurant groups owns and operates 35 establishments around the globe featuring such flavors as Mexican, Latin-Asian, Peruvian, and Pan-Latin. He’s been nominated for a James Beard award, and he’s been awarded Mexico’s National Toque d’Oro 2003, Bon Appetit Restaurateur of the Year 2006, and Cordon d’Or Restaurateur of the Year 2012.

Phoenix-area residents might best know Sandoval from his first collaboration with the Scottsdale Princess, La Hacienda. Voted the top Mexican restaurant in Arizona, La Hacienda’s Tequila Bar offers more than 200 varieties of the exalted Mexican spirit. Now, with his newest collaboration, he’s bringing flavors from rest of Latin America to Scottsdale.

“I think when you say ‘Latin,’ people immediately think Tex-Mex or Mexican, but there’s a huge world out there in Central and South American that people know nothing about,” says Sandoval in an exclusive interview with Wanderlush. “It’s amazing food, so it was important for us to showcase that. In this one restaurant, there are no borders. We have drinks from Brazil. We have flavors from Colombia, Venezuela, even Argentina with its chimichurris. For me it was important to showcase all of Central and South America, not just Mexico. And there’s nothing like this restaurant in Scottsdale.”

Chef Kai Torcuato

Suviche samplingsToro’s Pan-Latin menu focuses on small plates as well as Sandoval’s signature Suviche (sushi and ceviche) bar. Choose from a selection of ceviches, Peruvian tiraditos, and traditional sushi rolls, expertly prepared by Chef Tournant Kai Torcuato (seen above) and spiced with such local flavors as mango-papaya salsa, chipotle rouille, and habanero broth. The meant-to-be-shared Chifa-style Fried Rice and Lomo Sataldo were two of my favorites, freshly prepared and bursting with flavor. Tasting them brought me right back to Peru, where these dishes originated.

The Parmesan Crusted Sea Scallops, Spanish Ham Croquettes, and Short Rib Cocas-style Flatbread were also some of Toro’s many dishes that I tried, and while they’re designed to be shared, I wanted to keep them all to myself. Also, in keeping with the feel of a traditional Brazilian churrascaria, Toro also offers a selection of steaks, ranging from an 8 oz. filet mignon to a 30 oz. Tomahawk ribeye. From salads to seafood to empanadas, Toro’s full-range menu offers something for every diner, whether you just want to sample a tiny taste from below the border or you want to go on a full Latin culinary expedition.

“If people love Mexican, then they’ll love this flavor profile,” says Sandoval. “They’ll also get to experience something new. People are out here during the winter, they’re on vacation, and they eat out five or six days a week. So I think they’re looking for different things, to experience different things, and this gives them another option.”

Those other options also carry over to beverages. Toro’s Rum Bar offers 111 rums, the largest selection in Arizona.

“Rum is kind of the forgotten spirit,” says Sandoval. “It was huge, and then tequila kind of took over, then scotch and vodka. But I want to bring [rum] back.”

Presiding over the restaurant’s sweet spirits is Rum Princesa Sarah Spear (seen below pouring Torres Spanish orange liqueur).

Rum Princesa Sarah Spear

“I like that the rum is a staple here,” says Spear. “It’s not just about the food, but it’s about having some drinks on the side.”

The fact that Toro specializes in rum is evident immediately upon entering the restaurant. Twenty-four lockers, filled with various island tipples that are available at the bar, line a wall in the lounge. As business progresses, the lockers will be used to store clients’ personal bottles.

Toro’s selection includes numerous hard-to-find premium rums, such as Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Jamaica Rum. Only 800 bottles of this limited-edition spirit were made.

“Not a lot of people have it,” says Spear. “I think only four restaurants have it. It’s a very expensive bottle. Right now we’re selling it for $250 a shot, and that’s still kind of low because we want people to try it.

Toro Toro“Some of our other premiums, like Goslings Family Reserve Old Rum, which is one of my favorites, you can’t really find in stores. And our Rhum Cléments are very good, too,” she adds. “I haven’t been able to find the Cuvée Homere in a store, either. That’s a sugar cane one, so it’s sweeter. I’ve had a lot of people try that one.”

Also on the bar’s list of “must try” potions are its signature cocktails. The Toro Toro (pictured right) is made with Smith & Cross, lime juice, simple syrup, cilantro, pineapple, and ginger puree, and is garnished with a sugar cane stick; while the Running with the Bull features Sammy Hagar’s Beach Rum, lime juice, and a float of Torres Spanish orange liqueur, which is available on draught.

“We have a really fun cocktail list,” says Spear. “We obviously have the caipirinha, which is from Brazil. We also have a Dark and Stormy, but we call it a Monsoon Season here.”

Finally, rum fans shouldn’t miss Spear’s Ti’Punch tableside presentation. This rhum agricole cocktail is popular in Barbados and Martinique, but at Toro, Spear adds some extra pizzazz: A fire ceremony cleanses the glass of evil spirits, after which the drink is muddled with a swizzle stick.

So the next time you’re in Phoenix and you’re looking for a great place to dine or to simply sit outside and enjoy some live music and delicious drinks, make sure to stop by Toro Latin Restaurant & Rum Bar. Salud!

For more information, visit scottsdaleprincess.com/dining/toro.

 

Veni, Vidi, Bibi!


—Rebecca


 

All photos by Rebecca L. Rhoades

 

 

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