Ireland native Fergus “Fergie” Carey has been a fixture in the Philadelphia beer scene for two decades now, first as a bartender and more recently, as an owner and partner in various beer-related entities around town - he has an interest in Monk’s Cafe, The Belgian Café, Grace Tavern and of course, Fergie’s Pub, which just celebrated its 15th anniversary. He’s often seen peddling around town - silvery locks blowing in the wind - on a Sears beater bike, shuttling between his various ventures. In honor of Philly Beer Weekend, we present the Fergie edition of The Philadelphia Diet, wherein a local food fanatic documents his dining experiences for a week. In this installment, Fergie details a busy week tending to his many beer-centric establishments, learning to love green tea and singing Elton John at Yakitori Boy. This is all, of course, after his two weeks of experimenting with the Master Cleanse.
Wednesday, March 3
I should tell you that a few weeks before this, I did the whole Master Cleanse. I did 14 days without eating - I just drank lemonade. You do organic lemons, maple syrup and a bit of cayenne pepper. The maple syrup is your calories and your energy. If you want to lose weight, you cut down on the maple syrup. But you do that and you’re cranky.
I eat and drink in restaurants every day and I drink coffee and liquor. So I did none of that and I did have headaches for the first few days, but after that I just got into this roll and by the end of the day I didn’t even want the lemonade, I was just drinking water. You get into the routine of it, and after three days it was easy.
After the 14 days, I went sort of veggie/vegan-y and I was staying off the coffee, but it’s hard to get excited about green tea. After all that, I want to eat healthier. I would do it again. I lost 12 pounds but gained five back, which is a healthy thing to do - you’re supposed to gain it back immediately after you start eating. I felt better and I’m still lighter than when I started. There’s more of a spring in my step afterwards.
When I started [The Philadelphia Diet], in a way I was learning to eat again. I’m going to go to the Restaurant School to learn to eat! Is it possible that they teach a class? [laughs].
So for breakfast, I have “Back To Nature” Cranberry Pecan granola with Brown Cow low-fat vanilla yogurt. It’s super tasty. I want to have a healthy breakfast, but it also has to be filling. When you have an unhealthy breakfast, at least it’s filling and you don’t eat for the next four or five hours. If I do a little bit of oatmeal, then I’m starving and then I go into work and I have a burger immediately.
I also had a small glass of pomegranate lemonade. I have two kids - they’re three and five, a little girl aged three, a little boy will be six in May and they drink it.
Lunch was a Monk’s Burger at The Belgian Cafe with a salad and I split an order of fries with my friend Andrew Lipke. He’s a singer-songwriter musician and he books the bands for me at Fergie’s. We were having a little meeting. The Monk’s burger is my favorite burger. It has caramelized leeks and blue cheese and we put a bit of the bourbon mayo on it. Tom Peters, my business partner, when we opened Monks, he was like, “We’ll do this burger with caramelized leeks and blue cheese,” and I was like, “You’re mad!” And then I tasted it and I was like “Oh my god! What flavor!” It’s my favorite. Tom has an amazing palate, for food for beer, for tequila, whiskey. He’s just way above me.
Back at home, I had a few bites of Annie’s Mac & Cheese that I was making for the kids. A few slices of apples and a few spoonfuls of Whole foods tuna salad to hold me off till dinner. A lot of the little things you eat are from feeding the kids.
My wife Christine and I had dinner at Zavino. We had a very earthy salad - I think they called it roots and greens. The pizza was delicious… sausage and a béchamel sauce. Tasty. Two glasses of Malbec.
Then we popped into Fergie’s to meet Jason [Evanchik] from Vintage and Time, and Bryan Dilworth and Justin, a bartender at Bar. I had two pints of light beer - Guinness that is. Here’s the thing with Guinness: Guinness on tap is four percent alcohol - that’s lighter than anything else. It’s light in calories and carbs. If you have a few pints of Guinness you’re lighter and you’re not drunk. I tell people that all the time and they start laughing and they’re like, “You’re joking, it’s dark, so it has to be big!” Dark is not a flavor!
Thursday, March 4
Granola and yogurt. Cup of green tea.
Over to Monk’s. Tom, my business partner at Monk’s, he was in Belgium. The manager of the Belgian Cafe was in Switzerland. And I was doing my regular share of responsibilities at Fergie’s, so I was working a lot more than usual last week. I was in the Belgian and Monk’s every day doing the ordering and paperwork and payroll. All the fun stuff. I had the Brussels Chicken sandwich and green salad with water. It has cheddar and bacon and a spread of secret mayonnaise.
Two tiny slices of duck prosciutto from Di Brunos. One of the waitresses at Monk’s bought way too much for some reason, so she laid out a tray and I ate some.
Then back to Fergies to do the orders for the weekend. Had a bowl of chicken and rice soup.
Back over to the Belgian. I was hungry and I said to Evan, the chef, “What’ve you got?” And he says, “I’m thinking of taking the chicken roulade off the menu and putting this on instead.” It’s sauteed chicken and asparagus in a herb studded beurre blanc with leek mashed potatoes. I thought it was a little small so I wanted to throw another breast on there and a little sauce. It will definitely make it on the menu. It was delicious. Half glass of Val Dieu Grand Cru.
I drive more now. I prefer not to drive, but The Belgian Café throws me for a curve. It’s out of the way and I’m always picking up extra stuff, going to the liquor store or bringing a case of sausages from Monk’s up there. My bicycle, it weighs so much it’s like a bus, so it’s great for coming down the hill but bad for coming up.
Around 10p.m., I headed back to Fergie’s for two half pints of Cricket Hill Paymaster Porter. I was just finishing up and checking in on Quizo. You can have a team of PhD’s, but it’s not good - the questions are so mixed up. You need a Simpsons stoner head, too. You need the right combination.
Friday, March 5
Granola and yogurt and a banana to beef it up a little. Cup of Green Tea.
I had the chicken and apple sausage - It comes from Martin’s in the Reading Terminal Market - at Monk’s with salad. Water
We had dinner from
Little Italy Pizza. I shouldn’t tell you about it! It’s on 9th street between South and Rodman - one of the owners owns Spasso in Old City, it’s a little little pizza shop and you get your takeout, but the pasta is great. It’s easy for us - we live right around the corner - and there’s something for everybody. We always bring a beer for ourselves and we always bring a beer for the guys at the counter. The managing partner, John, he’s there, we always give him something interesting to drink. The food is great.
I had the penne alla vodka with chicken and it’s like a $25 entrée at Spasso and it’s like $9 or $11 there and a Caesar salad. Tasted some of my wife’s gnocchi with meat sauce. Helped eat some chicken fingers with fries. Split a bottle of 1809 Berliner Weisse with Christine. It’s a 5 percent. We used to have this other Berliner Weisse - we can’t get anymore - what was it? - I don’t remember the name, but it was two and a half percent and it was just a great treat to have a nice flavored beer with low alcohol. Especially in the summer, it’s great. I like the session beers - these really strong, really hoppy beers - it’s just too much. It’s like drinking sherry.
After dinner, I came back to Fergie’s to check on a few things and had a half pint of Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale just tapped for the first time. Then we went to her friend’s birthday party at Yakitori Boy. We were there like a year ago for the same friend’s birthday.
First we were out in the main lounge and I was going to sing something, but our table had been reserved for somebody else and then we had to move from the table and they gave us a room instead. I had three pints of Hoegaarden - the best beer they had - and some steak chunks and pieces of broccoli and then sang “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.’ Elton John!
Saturday, March 6
Christine ate all the granola and before I could go to the store - we live across the road from Whole Foods - our next door neighbor Bonnie popped in with some home made breakfast bread pudding. Rich, dense, eggy, cheesy, bready with marmalade. Delicious. Really heavy and filling. Omygosh. She made us something like this right before Thanksgiving - we had her do this as a side for Thanksgiving. My joke is there’s two pounds of lard in it, but there’s a ton of butter and cheese in it. Bonnie and her husband are two gourmands and they have a great wine cellar and they always bring something nice over. She’ll call up and say, “Oh I made these turnovers.” And then you know, my totally healthy granola and yogurt thing is thrown off. But then I don’t have to eat for hours and hours because it’s delicious. Wow! It was phenomenal.
A latte from Capogiro on my way to Fergie’s.
Bowl of French onion soup at Fergie’s. Pint of water.
My wife made dinner at home - chicken in a chick pea, curry sauce over rice.
Did you hear the one about the garbanzo bean that went into the men’s room? Everyone turned around to look and she said, “What’s the matter, you’ve never seen a chick pea before?”
Back to the Belgian, I split a a 12-ounce bottle of Oer Beer Special Reserve 2006 with some of the staff at The Belgian Cafe - bartender Felicia’s choice. It was quite delicious.
Sunday, March 7
Yogurt, granola, banana. Cup of green tea.
It was a lovely day. I was with the kids in the playground and then would head back and was snacking. And before I went to work I was snacking again. Slices of honey roasted turkey wrapped around almonds. I was just hungry and looking there and I wrapped the almonds in a slice. Cold chicken finger leftovers from Friday. Green Tea/ Apple. Handful of blueberries.
Dinner was shepherd’s pie at Fergie’s with salad with Russian dressing. Pint of water.
Shepherd’s pie is very similar basically to one of my mother’s dishes that I liked the best that was basically just a minced beef over potatoes. That was it. And a shepherd’s pie is basically that upside down. It’s a very comforting food for me. At home, I can tell you the amount of times we went out to eat in a restaurant was exactly zero. When you were driving across on your summer holidays you would stop and have a sandwich; but basically we never went out. One of my first jobs was working in a fast food restaurant and that’s was a restaurant was to us. It was a foreign thing and you were sort of afraid of it in a way. You definitely tucked the napkin into your collar.
My mother and father come over occasionally, but my mother was saying the thing she didn’t like about America was the questions. As in: when you go to a restaurant in Ireland and you want a ham sandwich, you’re given a ham sandwich. And here it’s like “What type of bread do you want? What type of ham would you like? What type of mayo and what would you like with that, we have a choice of three sides?” And my mother’s like “Just stop and give me a piece of chicken!”
I went home and put Eamonn to bed and then went out with James. He’s one of my oldest friends here in Philly. He grew up in Ireland and he’s also my business partner at Grace. We went to Lucky 13 in South Philly - they had Yards ESA on the beer engine and I said, “yeah!”
Then I sparked up big fat doobie to start the monitoring for High Times magazine’s “Hippie Diet.”
Read More: The Philadelphia Diet Archive