Welcome to the fifth 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!
Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia: What is your favorite spot to picnic in Philadelphia?
Eric Berley: Quite honestly, as an adult, I’ve not taken advantage of picnicking traditionally, save one time along The Schuykill River Trail with my wife and a friend. It was lovely.
Ryan Berley: Boathouse Row. There’s something beautiful and calming about watching the waterbirds and sculls at dusk skimming the river so gracefully while cars zip along the Schuylkill Expressway above. There are plenty of shady spots amongst the sculptures and rocks that line Lincoln Drive.
DEB PHL: What’s your perfect picnic beverage?
Eric: I would call for a Tart Lime Rickey. Carry the lime juice mixed with simple syrup separate than seltzer in two cups with lids. A few chilled ice cubes of champagne can make a fun splash! Add all together at your table.
Ryan: Chilled white wine, something juicy and refreshing. Just don’t forget the corkscrew…
DEB PHL: Who would be the most interesting person (famous or historical figure) you’d like to share a picnic with–living or dead?
Ryan: Although Abraham Lincoln would be my top choice for someone to meet from history, I can’t imagine tall old Abe sitting cross-legged on a picnic blanket. I’d have to say Elbert Hubbard, the early 20th century reformer and founder of the Roycroft colony in Western New York. His blend of craft artistry, progressive social politics and unabashed capitalist zeal make him a compelling figure and I’d love to pick his brain. Hubbard loved nature and a picnic would suit both of our temperaments.
Eric: I would choose to picnic with Leonardo DaVinci. His abilities to bridge both arts and sciences in one human make him a fascinating bard. I would love to see his genius hand drawing on a pad of vellum at the same time conversing on political and philosophical problems of today. I could imagine him wearing a bejeweled silver threaded royal frock coat and leggings.
DEB PHL: Do you have a favorite picnic memory?
Eric: Growing up, my best friend, named “Big Eric,” lived near the “Woods.” Two hoagies from Tiny “T”s, a bag of Cheesy Doritos, and a couple of Cokes was our sustenance while building forts and playing Capture the Flag, building rock bridges across Ridley Creek, fishing, or dirt biking. I am a person who loves to stay active, and picnicking usually revolves around some larger activity.
Ryan: I remember being stood up for a first date to picnic at Bartram’s Gardens. I was on the way with freshly-cut lilacs from my garden and then I got the devastating call. I laugh about it now because I was young and romantic and blind–still am!
DEB PHL: What will be on your Dîner en Blanc menu? Do you have a favorite recipe you’d like to share?
Ryan: We haven’t developed the menu yet, but I’m quite sure everything will have the word “white” in it. White Rabbit sounds colorful.
Eric: Now that I’m older, 31, I appreciate food more than I once did. Dessert always comes first to mind. I have suggested molding vanilla ice cream into shapes using our fun collection of metal molds. Washington and Lincoln busts seem classically appropriate to be part of our meal. Beyond fancy ice cream sculptures and dessert creations, our Berley holiday meals are inspired by historical recipes, usually with a country of origin theme for focus.
DEB PHL: If you needed to put together a picnic basket for two in less than 30 minutes, what would you make/buy?
Eric: I would grab a fresh baguette at Fork. I always stock at least three cheeses in my fridge (usually a hard, soft, and medium cheese), race to Claudio’s for some fine meats sliced thin, a bunch of red grapes at a produce stand on 9th Street, and a bottle of wine (whatever one was available) from my table, fridge or wine fridge.
Ryan: Chilled asparagus, cheese, cured meat, French bread, herbed butter. Fresh berries and sweet cream for dessert. Sparkling water. And wine, of course.
DEB PHL: What non-food items are always included in your picnic basket?
Ryan: Pipe tobacco or cigars. Unsurprisingly, I like a blend of Burley leaf tobaccos.
Eric: Napkins. Hand Sanitizer. Candle for mood and mosquitos.
DEB PHL: If you were planning the first Dîner en Blanc event in Philadelphia, what would be your outdoor public space of choice be?
Eric: I would like to be nearby either the old Inquirer Building (which is still White), City Hall (used to be White) or the Water Works Building behind the Art Museum.
Ryan: That’s a difficult question, with so many gorgeous public spaces in our city. I might choose West Fairmount Park, opposite Memorial Hall. It would be great if they opened up the Dentzel carousel for attendees to ride. I think the white palette with the colorful painted horses would be striking.
DEB PHL: What do you plan to wear and what will be the hardest part about putting together your Dîner en Blanc outfit?
Ryan: I’ll be going for a 1930s aesthete look, which will depend on the style of straw hat I find. I don’t own a pair of white shoes but have a pair of old black Stacey Adams I was thinking about sacrificing and painting white. We’ll see how that goes.
Eric: I will be donning a medical jacket, a skull cap, and summer white Navy trousers to be my traditional soda jerk/pharmacist self. The hardest part of my ensemble will be finding an appropriate white bowtie.
DEB PHL: How long have you lived in the Philadelphia area?
Ryan: Born and raised right here in Media, “Everybody’s Hometown.”
Eric: Born and Raised in Delaware County. Proud to be a resident and business owner in Philadelphia for the last eight years.
DEB PHL: What’s your favorite thing about Philadelphia?
Ryan: The small neighborhood scale paired with the burgeoning scene of amazing food, art, history and performance. It’s like a cultural pressure cooker without the stress and intensity of New York.
Eric: I really enjoy being upfront with people. Honesty and transparency are endearing and enduring qualities of many Philadelphians. The people are my favorite part and it’s our unique regional identity which makes it always feel like home.
DEB PHL: What is your favorite restaurant in Philadelphia?
Eric: Tough choice… But I’d return to my friends at Chloe BYOB on Arch Street. Dan and Mary Ann are an amazing team and true Philadelphia pride and joy shines in their place. I also appreciate an honest critic. When they refused my blueberry ice cream last year, I made it even better this year! Real friends don’t always tell you want you want to hear, especially in the food field. I respect them for that.
Ryan: I’m kind of European when it comes to my food preferences, as I love the sounds and energy of large-scale bistros. Brauhaus Schmitz and Parc are among my favorites for classic continental cuisine.
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?
Eric: I assume this day to be the only day our visitor can see Philadelphia, which means I would pack it with active sights and personal interactions with real Philadelphians, more than experiencing special exhibits at institutions. We would begin with a run along Boathouse Row and return into the city along Walnut Street. By 9 am, breakfast would be a short double latte and croissant at La Colombe on 19th and Walnut. After resting on a bench in Rittenhouse Square, we would cool down by walking past City Hall, the Masonic Lodge, and check out the restored Rose Window on the Methodist Church. Continue walking down Arch St. through Center Court at The Reading Terminal Market and into Chinatown, stepping into the Chinese Cookie Factory for free smells. Continuing into Old City, we would go past Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell along Chestnut Street. Getting Hungry again? Continue down Front Street, walking through Society Hill and Southwark, to John’s Roast Pork for the most amazing cheesesteak! I usually split one with my wife. A nap might be in order along the banks of the glorious Delaware, or a visit to a friendly butcher along 9th Street, or perhaps we could rent a sail boat from the Independence Seaport Museum. Otherwise, we would spend our afternoon learning important history lessons on the 18 hole miniature golf course at Franklin Square😉 For dinner, depending on our visitor, we would choose a restaurant in Old City because what matters most is saving room for a private ice cream dessert experience above The Franklin Fountain afterwards while watching a re-run of Rocky 1, 2, or 3, and munching a box of brandied cordial cherries from our sister business Shane Confectionery while sipping madeira until sleepiness sets in. (Editor’s note: Eric, can you please take me out for your perfect day? Minus the part where we start the day by running, this sounds lovely!)
Ryan: We would start with an early breakfast at Morning Glory Diner (the berry biscuit is ravishing) and a pass through the Italian Market on 9th Street. Then we would go over to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the balance of the morning. If they’re like me, I try and cram 2-3 museums in per day when traveling, so I’d suggest the Barnes Foundation or Pennsylvania Academy if they love art. Somewhere in there, lunch at the Reading Terminal Market. As the sun descends, check out the scene at Rittenhouse Square for its vibrant energy as day workers and students sprawl and scatter. Monk’s has great Belgian beers, so I’d go there for a brew and a burger (one of the best in town) and then stroll east across Broad St. after dinner. You can view the Liberty Bell at night through the lighted glass pavilion without battling crowds and take in the views of Independence Hall and the historic cobblestone streets of Old City. By then, the entertainment scene is heating up and a cocktail at Fork or Amada may be in your future. But whatever your vice, certainly, most definitely, you must end your evening with a dish of home-made ice cream at The Franklin Fountain–we’re open late!
Always sporting his iconic mustache, Eric Berley has always been the “Ice Cream Brother” while Ryan has conquered candy. The younger of the two brothers, Eric and his wife Kiersten live on the 3rd Floor of The Franklin Fountain, daily involved in the life of their small business ventures. Eric, who studied the liberal arts, settling on Philosophy at America’s 2nd oldest college, William and Mary in Virginia, began working in Philadelphia at Christ Church Philadelphia as a tour guide. While working across Market Street, and working retail for years with their mother’s antique stores, Eric gained an appreciation for customer service and salesmanship. His passions include historic architecture, business leadership and beginning to tackle projects on his new 1930 twin in Swarthmore. This year, he recently added beehives to the Shane Confectionery roof and hopes to be involved with the creative side of sweets menu planning for Franklin Fountain.
Ryan Berley was born and raised in Media, in suburban Philadelphia. He studied history and entrepreneurship at Washington & Jefferson College (Washington, PA) and upon graduation worked as an antiques specialist and appraiser at Samuel T. Freeman & Co., America’s oldest auction house. After a number of years in the antiques business, he started The Franklin Fountain, an early 1900s soda fountain & ice cream saloon, with his brother Eric in 2004. Six years later, they purchased Shane Candies and embarked on a full-scale restoration spanning over 18 months, re-opening as the Shane Confectionery in December 2011, celebrating the history of America’s Oldest Candy Store since 1863. Ryan lives in Lansdowne in a 1911 home furnished with arts and crafts antiques and plays 19th century baseball, among other pursuits.