September 4, 2014

Food Diary: 9 Hours in Philly

With hotels and airlines jacking up their prices on holidays, Alan and I decided to take a day trip to Philadelphia on Labor Day weekend.  It's a quick 2 hour drive and we figured we'd get to see quite a few sights in one day and get a bit of that vacation feeling without spending a bunch of dough. 
I insisted that we start our day at Federal Donuts, Philly's home of the fried chicken and donut.  Their donuts were hot, dense and moist. I chose the lavender and strawberry sugar-coated variety while Alan went for the buttermilk ranch-dusted fried chicken.  "That skin didn't even have a chance," I said as I bit through an extra crispy chicken crust, coated in what I could only guess was dried buttermilk ranch mix, the kind you use to make dip.  Federal Donuts gets my thumbs up.  I can't wait to go back again.
After our fried breakfast, we made our way over to the Mutter Museum, which houses a lovely selection of real medical oddity specimens from the 1800s which I hesitate to describe in a food blog. The image of conjoined twins in jars and real shrunken heads is not appetizing. In fact, I felt a little queasy by the end of the museum tour. I was tempted to buy a conjoined twin gingerbread man cookie cutter for the holidays at the gift shop on my way out, or a soap replica of the mummified "soap lady". The Mutter Museum is a must see, but I probably don't need to go back there again.  You only need to see a 70 pound tumor once.

Moving right along.  To wash down that sick feeling, we stopped off at the multi-floor Dandelion Pub and sat in their carpeted, dog themed bar for a cocktail while we planned the next stop on our day trip.  We knew we wouldn't have time to tour the Eastern State Penitentiary or check out Philly's Magic Gardens.  We'd have to save those for another visit.  

But there's one thing we couldn't miss out on; you can't go to Philly and not try a Philly cheesesteak. So we took a 30 minute stroll to Old City where we shared a cheesesteak with cheese whiz at Sonny's Famous Cheesesteaks.  At the counter, I asked for some jalapeƱos on the side, but in true Philly cheesesteak fashion, my fussy request was ignored.  That didn't stop me from devouring my half of that melt-in-your-mouth, thin-sliced steak and gooey imitation cheese on a soft bun. We were desperate for another one, but we moved on.

After checking out a few, cool shops like Verde, Open House and the overwhelming food mecca, Reading Terminal Market, we needed to get off our feet and have another beverage.  Luckily, The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co. had just opened up for the evening.  I had read about this dimly-lit, underground cocktail bar and put it on my must-try list.  We sat at the bar and watched the well dressed bartenders carefully concoct our alcoholic elixirs. An impressive collection of fruit and herb infused syrups lined the bar and a crystal bowl of punch with a huge ball of ice was being prepared for a large group at one of the tables. As we sipped our cocktails, we tried to complete the difficult task of choosing from a heaping handful of great restaurants to hit for dinner while resisting the urge to just get another cheesesteak.
Fifteen Safari search windows later, we finally decided on Il Pittore, an Italian restaurant nearby.  We were waited on by a team of at least five staff members. At one point, I double-checked the prices on the menu to make sure we hadn't stumbled into the Per Se of Philly. Oddly, the prices were no different than our neighborhood Italian restaurant in Brooklyn, yet we were treated like Jay-Z and Beyonce. We didn't even have a reservation. We gorged ourselves on baked ricotta with stewed plums, fresh made papardelle and gnocchi and sides of brussels sprouts with burrata and a big plate of patate fritte. A man in a suit, possibly a manager or owner, asked us how we were enjoying Philly; he must have gotten the scoop on us from the hostesses. I hadn't seen a crumb sweeper in a very long time, but at Il Pittore, they crumb-sweep your table after your meal, old school style.

After dinner, it was time to head back to Brooklyn to feed our lonely cat.  So we hopped in the car and said farewell to the City of Brotherly Love. Don't worry Philly, we'll be back again... 'cause I need another cheesesteak.


  1. Sounds like a great way to spend a day...I love Philly. Its got that old town feel not unlike Brooklyn...I can see you're going to deconstruct a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich in a future blog using gourmet cheese!

    1. Yeah, it definitely had a Brooklyn-y feeling. A gourmet cheesesteak sounds like a great idea! This time I'll get those hot peppers on there.