Christmastime Fun at Winterthur and Restaurant Review: Pagoda Noodle Cafe

One of Winterthur's many Christmas trees.

There are so many Christmas-y things to do in Philadelphia that it would be impossible to try to fit them all in each holiday season. Of course, there are some things that we try to do every year—the Light Show and Dicken’s Village at Macy’s—just because we’ve always done them. But, during the past couple of years, we’ve tried to visit some different places with holiday festivities taking place. This year, my mom, aunt, Chester headed to Delaware for the “Yuletide at Winterthur” tour.

Close up of the peony tree.

Winterthur is a sprawling estate that takes up nearly 1,000 acres of land and was the home of Henry Francis DuPont and his family.  Henry was quite the hoarder collector. Over his lifetime he accumulated, literally, thousands of objects—from glassware to books to building facades that he incorporated into the architecture of his estate. To store all of these treasures, he just kept adding rooms onto his house. During the holiday season, many of the 175 rooms are done up with festive décor that reflects Christmas traditions from colonial America through World War II.

Montmorenci Staircase. DuPont found this in a home in South Carolina and had it brought to Winterthur.

If you are planning to go, this year’s Yuletide runs through January 8th and reservations can be made in advance on the museum’s website. We had a really excellent guide for the hour-long tour, who knew so much about the history of the place, traditions, and the objects on display.

Dried flower tree. Smelled so good!

Afterwards, we headed over to King of Prussia Mall so that we could do some shopping. As expected, there were jerks in the parking lot (Chester was waiting patiently for a parking spot and someone swooped in and stole it!), it was crowded and lines were pretty long. Although we all got a few things checked off our lists, we didn’t want to brave the crowds for dinner around there. So, we headed back into the city for Chinese food at Pagoda Noodle Café in Old City.

We’ve been to Pagoda a bunch of times before because it’s right next door to one of the Ritz movie theaters. Chinese food is actually not my favorite thing in the world, but when I do have an odd craving for it, I don’t mind going to Pagoda. The dishes are not laden with salt and all of the other things that invariably make me feel a bit ill after eating Chinese food (I’ve never fully recovered from my experiences with the now closed Happy Dragon in South Philly’s Whitman plaza. Ugh).

We always order steamed dumplings at Pagoda. They include a generous helping of pork, vegetable or chicken and can also be ordered fried. On this visit, I ordered the pagoda noodle soup, which included an ample amount of shitake mushrooms and chicken. It was the perfect meal for such a chilly day. Some other dishes I’ve tried and liked include the Mango Chicken and Thai Style Grilled Salmon Filet. Chester’s favorite dish is General Tso’s Chicken, and he gives Pagoda’s version pretty high marks.

There are two floors in the restaurant, but it never seems really busy. It has been open for more than ten years though, so I’m guessing that they must do a decent business with take-out and deliveries. If you read some of the reviews online, you’ll probably notice that many people complain about poor service, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a problem. The servers do seem a little cold, but they are attentive to guests and the food comes out promptly.

The portions are really huge, so I had plenty to take to work with me for lunch on Monday. Most importantly, it was a much more enjoyable experience than if we had to wait for an hour or more for a table at a restaurant at the mall.

Do you have any favorite Christmas traditions and/or places to go after a long day of Christmas shopping that you’ll be hitting up this weekend?  Only ten days left until the big day (and three days left of work until 2012! Not that I’m counting).

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