Picnic Basket Banter: Michelle Cassidy and Art Etchells

Welcome to the third installment of Picnic Basket Banter, a weekly series profiling Philadelphians who are participating in Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia. This series puts volunteers and attendees of Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia into the spotlight, asking a series of questions about their ideal picnic, favorite places in our amazing city and, of course, what they will be packing in their picnic baskets. Follow along here on the blog, Twitter, and Facebook as we highlight someone new each week to gather some ideas and learn more about your Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia dining companions!

Our third Picnic Basket Banter profiles Philly’s best food and drink maestro and maven, social media gurus Michelle Cassidy of Yelp and Art Etchells of Foobooz.

Michelle and Art stroll down Cherry Street. Photo by Sean Corbett Photography.

Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia: What is your favorite spot to picnic in Philadelphia? 
Michelle Cassidy: Fitler Square; it’s the most peaceful park and never too crowded! 
Art Etchells: Rittenhouse Square.

DEB PHL: What’s your perfect picnic beverage?
MC: A crisp white wine or boozy lemonade.
AE: Stillwater Stateside Saison.

DEB PHL: Who would be the most interesting person (famous or historical figure) you’d like to share a picnic with- living or dead?
AE: Architect Frank Gehry.
MC: Keith Richards.

DEB PHL: Do you have a favorite picnic memory?
MC: Art and I vacationed in wine country earlier this year. Our hotel had bicycles available so we rode to a grocery store and stocked up on cheese, bread and olives. Then we bicycled a few miles to a winery, purchased a bottle of red and enjoyed a picnic on their deck which overlooked a vineyard. It was a little chilly, but a perfect day nonetheless.
AE: Hanging out in Rittenhouse Square with a good group of friends while Black Landlord played a concert.

DEB PHL: What will be on your Diner en Blanc menu?  Do you have a favorite recipe you’d like to share?
AE: It will be more assembled than cooked. I’m thinking cheeses from DiBruno, bread from Parc, maybe hit up some chefs for some charcuterie. Budino from Barbuzzo for dessert.
MC: I’m not really much of a home chef; chances are high that I’ll purchase some prepared foods from DiBruno Bros.!

DEB PHL: If you needed to put together a picnic basket for two in less than 30 minutes, what would you make/buy?
MC: Cheese, bread and wine. The staples of any good picnic basket!
AE: A couple of hoagies from Paesano’s.

DEB PHL: What non-food items are always included in your picnic basket? 
MC: Wine, candles, napkins.
AE: A knife and a bottle opener.

DEB PHL: If you were planning the first Diner en Blanc event in Philadelphia what would be your outdoor public space of choice be?
AE: Outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art, overlooking the city.
MC: Washington Square. It’s gorgeous, would fit a ton of people and is centrally located.

DEB PHL: How long have you lived in the Philadelphia area?
MC: I’m a born and raised Jersey girl but I’ve always lived just outside of the city. I moved to Philly a year and a half ago when Art and I decided to get an apartment together.
AE: My whole life!

DEB PHL: What’s your favorite thing about Philadelphia?
AE: The camaraderie I find among chefs, brewers, and the whole hospitality industry.
MC: Hands down, the restaurant scene. It’s the absolute best. From our many talented chefs to the wide range of options for every appetite and budget, no city does it better.

DEB PHL: What is your favorite restaurant in Philadelphia?
MC: Working for Yelp, I get asked this question all the time but I’ve yet to narrow it down to only one final answer. Favorites include Mercato, Pub & Kitchen, Barclay Prime, Han Dynasty, Amis… it depends on the day!
AE: It’s impossible to narrow it down to just one. Pub & Kitchen, Percy Street Barbecue and Fond are three I’ve been to recently that I really enjoyed.

DEB PHL: If you were to plan “the perfect day” of things to do for someone who was visiting Philadelphia for the first time, what would their day look like from start to finish?
AE: It would be a food filled day. Start the day with breakfast at Honey’s Sit N Eat. See the historic sites before hitting up Reading Terminal Market for a lunchtime feast. It’s hard to beat DiNic’s and and an Amish pretzel. Then head up to the Parkway for a museum or two. The Barnes and recently reopened Rodin Museum are must hits. Then a local beer at Kite & Key in Fairmount to rest the feet before shooting across town to Stateside on East Passyunk for  dinner. It’s a great peek into our gastropub scene. Then finish the day with more drinks at Hop Sing Laundromat. Wherever they’re from, they don’t have a spot like Hop Sing.
MC: Coffee and a pastry at La Colombe followed by shopping on 3rd Street in Old City to start the day. Next, grab sandwiches at Fork Etc. and enjoy a picnic at Race Street Pier. In the afternoon, drinks at Kite & Key followed by some culture at the Barnes Foundation. Dinner and people watching al fresco at Parc on Rittenhouse Square, followed by drinks at Tria or Hop Sing Laundromat.

Art and Michelle shop for white clothing at Franklin Square Boutique. Photo by Sean Corbett Photography.

Special thanks to Franklin Square Boutique owner, Liz Burt, for letting us come into her store for photos! 

Michelle Cassidy is a Senior Community Manager for Yelp.com in Philadelphia. In addition to planning marketing promotions and special events for Yelp, she also enjoys exploring the city’s restaurant scene, traveling, cheering on Philly’s sports teams and staying active with running, spinning and yoga.

Arthur Etchells is the founder and editor of the popular Philadelphia food blog Foobooz. Foobooz is your guide to eating and drinking in Philadelphia. Foobooz will keep you up to date on the latest restaurant and bar openings as well as culinary events. Equal parts events calendar and weblog, Foobooz aims to be your favorite place for Philadelphia, food, drink, and deals.

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