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Philly Fridays: James Zeleniak of Punch Media

j-zI’ve been working with James for a few years now, and he never disappoints.  Whether his PR company Punch Media is promoting an awesome food event or just talking about his different accounts, he’s one of my favorite PR people in the city. And when you represent places like Devil’s Den, Square 1682, and Red Owl Tavern, you know your way around the city’s food scene – so listen up while he drops some excellent food knowledge for this week’s Philly Fridays.

How long have you been part of the food scene in Philadelphia, and what drew you to it?

I worked at The Rittenhouse House Hotel in college (Temple, Journalism, news/editorial) and that was sort of my first foray into more upscale or accomplished cuisine. Later I was editor at WHERE magazine and wrote a lot for various publications in and out of the city about F&B among other topics.  It afforded me opportunity to try so much. Great experiences. I was always way into food. I always liked to cook. I’m pretty good at it. Intuitively. Can’t bake though. But give me a refrigerator with a few ingredients and I’m good to come up with something decent. Also, growing up, both my parents had adventurous palettes and were/are talented cooks. And individually, they took me to a lot of great places, locally (I grew up in Northern New Jersey), in New York and even abroad. As a kid I was introduced to probably more than most. I’m continuing that tradition with my family now.

What is your perfect day of Philly food – breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

My perfect breakfast is something like this. I get a giant bag of spinach in the beginning of the week. 5 pounder from the junction. Most mornings I take a fist full of spinach, add blueberries, dried cranberries (Trader Joe’s!) almonds, lemon juice, salt pepper and whatever else is around. I eat this mess with chop sticks in my office while I’m working. Weird. But delicious. And takes me up to nearly lunchtime to finish. After coffee, my beverage is usually seltzer with carrot, orange and tart cranberry juice.

Lunch: I love the Super Foods Salad or Black Bean Burger at Square 1682. Tuesdays are Burger Day at Sassafras, so sometimes I’ll drop in for that with our crew. Ricci’s on 11th Street makes a killer hoagie like almost nowhere else in the city or planet. Falafel at Devil’s Den rocks.

Dinner: I like to be home for dinner but that rarely happens in reality. Home, I like to cook. So in warmer weather, that often includes grilling. I like to eat rather light most of the time. But about once a week I can cook a large steak and eat it all just standing at the counter. Rare to med/rare. Usually with a mound of spinach {sautéed with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, S/P}. Also, I’ve also been eating my way through the menu at Brick and Mortar lately. Tonight I had the Salmon/Oyster ceviche, which rocks. Also love the rotisserie there, especially the lamb. Killer burger. Also, the house-made pastas at Paradiso are really special.

If you only had $10 to spend on a single food item in Philadelphia, what would you get?

A hoagie at Ricci. And definitely Italian. You just think, ‘why can’t all sandwiches taste like this?’

What would you consider your “local” – the place you visit most often?

I stop into F&B clients frequently! So I’m at Red Owl Tavern, Paradiso, Square 1682, Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery, Brick and Mortar and others several times a week minimum, which is a lot. These all become my locals because I know the staffs and teams and I like to frequent to get inside the businesses and know what’s best about them. I’m also a fan of so many other places! Everything from McGlinchey’s to Volver!  Tuesdays at MilkBoy are supercool, especially in summer.  My buddy Tod at Townsend is killing it with his team. Everything is done with such care, but it just feels natural. Up in my neighborhood in Northwest PHL, I go to McMenamin’s for sports with friends and rarely pay much attention to sports but enjoy hanging out with friends. I like the fish tacos at Campbell’s in Chestnut Hill. Or I’ll go up to Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery, just outside city limits in Lafayette Hill, to see what head brewer David Wood Is brewing up.

Where would you take an out-of-towner to get a true taste of Philadelphia?

I think Philly’s iconic sammie should be roast pork with broccoli rabe. I love Reading Terminal Market and think that’s a great place to start. Later, end at a chef-driven restaurant that’s killing it.

What is your favorite food event in Philly?

Taste of the Nation of course! I can’t think of a better chef driven event that brings together top chefs to feed kids in need. You can’t do better than that.

You can find James on Twitter at @jameszeleniak or @PunchMedia.

Send us an e-mail if you would like to be featured on Philly Fridays.

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This entry was posted on July 10, 2015 by in Philly Fridays and tagged , , , , .
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