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These Are The People In Your Neighborhood: Albert Yee

December 8, 2013

In this day and age where everyone seems to be a photographer (including us – shameless Instagram link here), those with really pro chops can sometimes find themselves underexposed. With that in mind, we are super psyched to offer a snapshot into the world of Albert Yee, a true professional photographer and food connoisseur who makes his home in South Philly. Albert crushes it on the regular, so be sure to check out his work. Take it away Albert…

Hog Island Press, Albert Yee

Who are you?
I’m Albert Yee, a freelance photographer, friend to many, brother to two, husband to one. Originally from Flushing, NY (grew up in Westchester County), I’ve been living in Philly since 2004 and have slowly inched further south (started at 16/Pine and now in Passyunk Square) with each move. I spend a good deal of time photographing the region’s beautiful family-run farms and have made some wonderful friends along the way. I’m also 1/5 of Gravy Gallery & Studio, a photo gallery in Fishtown/Kenzo. Each month, we show the work of some of Philly’s rising photographic stars during Frankford First Friday. My wife and I founded what was the first non-pro food blog in town: Messy and Picky. It’s very infrequently updated these days, but we’ve met so many wonderful people through it and so many great meals as a result of it.

What’s your favorite Philly sandwich?
DiNic’s Italian style roast pork with sharp provolone and horseradish; I’m 50/50 on ordering broccoli rabe depending on my mood. It’s a mountain of house-marinated and cooked-overnight pork. So tender, so good. While the line can be daunting at lunch time, it’s worth it. Best thing is that you’re in Reading Terminal Market, which means you can go across the main seating area and get a Flying Monkey Bakery treat for dessert afterwards.

What’s your favorite thing to eat in Philly, non-sandwich?
These days, I love heading to Artisan Boulanger Patissier just east of Passyunk Ave. on Mifflin St. I fell in love with the place soon after moving to the neighborhood. Andre and Amanda are putting out the best French pastries I’ve had in town; it’s very hard to make a proper croissant and they really do it right. They make lots of other very great things: creme-filled beignets, cronuts and almond toasts among them, but I really love the simple brilliance of their croissants.

Can you share your favorite Philly hidden gem?
Right in the Italian Market is a little shop specializing in a single thing: a 100% corn tortilla. All there is in Tortilleria y San Roman (9/Carpenter) is a giant tortilla maker, sinks and a deep fryer – along with a shelf of staples and a mini-fridge with cold sodas and Mexican cheeses. For $2.25, you can walk away with a kilo of fresh, pillow-soft corn tortillas. How many are in a kilo? About 4″ worth. They make for easy tacos for lunch or dinner or just snacked on throughout the day. They also make fresh tortilla chips and stuff them into bags so devoid of the protective air that you get in a super market bag of chips that you can bring a big bag of it to a party and only put a dent in the densely packed goodness.

Describe your perfect day in Philadelphia.
Wake up and head on over to Artisan Boulanger Patissier for a breakfast croissant. Bike aimlessly through town, maybe discover a new (to me) neighborhood. Grab lunch along the way – if it’s cold, some noodles from Nan Zhou in Chinatown or Pho 75 (bonus: futbol on the TV all the time) on Washington Ave would hit the spot. If it’s Wednesday, head over to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for free entry after 5p. Meet my lady at 1/2 priced happy hour at Devil’s Den with their amazing rotating tap list. Head home to cook dinner with ingredients from our friends’ farms we’ve picked up at market or if we’ve got some extra dough, head on over to Southwark for a delicious locally-sourced meal with delicious drinks poured by my favorite barman, Kip. Relax and watch whatever series we’re obsessed with, currently it’s West Wing and Homeland. If it’s warm out, take a late night bike ride with loops on Oregon Ave (it’s a 3 mile loop from river to river) and through Center City when the streets are empty. Fall asleep while plowing through whichever book I’m currently reading.

Who are some of your favorite current Philly artists and photographers?
Philly’s got some great photographers that I’m lucky enough to call friends. Right in my neighborhood is the superstar ambassador of all things Philly Zoe Strauss who has been killing it for over a decade now. Also in the hood are Colin Lenton and Matt Stanley (who also share studio space up in Kenzo/Fishtown) and they’re making great portraits out in the field. Longtime friend Laura Kicey has traveled across the country and to Iceland producing wonderful landscapes and portraits. So many more, but I’ll stop there for now.

What are some of your favorite regional road trip destinations?
The farmlands within a 3 hour drive of Philly are stunning: the beautiful rolling hills up past Scranton, the apple orchards north of Gettysburg in Adams County, the dairies mixed into over developed Chester County. Most of the farms are happy to have visitors with a bit of notice. You can learn so much by spending some time on the land and talking a bit with the farmers. Why no cherries this year? Why does the cheese taste grassy? How does kohlrabi grow? I also love, love, love Pittsburgh.

On this road trip, you can take 3 Philly-related albums. What are they?
1. Boyz II Men: Cooleyhighharmony
2. Melody Gardot: Worrisome Heart
3. Nicole Atkins: Neptune City (South Jerz counts as Philly, right?). [Ed. Note: Sometimes, though it usually depends on why you’re asking.]

What’s the first thing you’d do if you were mayor of this town?
Mayor Yee would do his best to take from the rich and give to the poor, but first, I’d have to take a polar bear plunge into one of the rivers to officially baptize myself as a Philadelphian. Being from NY, I don’t think I’d be accepted as a “Philadelphian” until I was actually mayor of this town.

Got a favorite HIP design?
Love that golden Park Space t-shirt. Parking in South Philly is a special task. There are no rules except for [not] moving somebody’s lawn chair or cones. Park in the median of Broad St, double park, triple park. It’s madness.

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Thanks Albert! Next time we meet I need you to explain to me just how kohlrabi grows – maybe we can discuss it over a roast pork at Reading Terminal. In the meantime, Hog Island Press would like to wish you all a very merry holiday season. Until then…

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