This day in Philly was really the reason for my trip, and the title of this post is a play on words between a classic Mary J song, the celebration I was here for and THIS (link to city of brotherly love explanation). I’ve got a few things to say about the wedding of one of the best guys I’ve met in my adult life…but first there was food…
The day started with a trip to Pearl’s Oyster Bar. We were going to hit a popular Amish spot in Reading Terminal Market, but it was super crowded and we were on a time crunch. So instead, we went big, ordered three things, and hunkered down
I ordered up the Po boy breakfast sandy: it was made with fried shrimp and fluffy scrambled eggs. I couldn’t swear to it, but seemed like there was a sweet cheese mixed in. The shrimp was good, but I wasn’t in love with the sandwich so ate a little less than half. The bread was just too much. By the way, this place was also crowded. I should say, as a general matter, that the RTM is more of a utilitarian food experience than a real food treat. I’m glad we went, but this is definitely more geared towards people living their lives than food people chasing the next really great flavor.
Next up, wife got the Eggs Benedict: really solid ham from Dutch country, eggs were perfectly poached but the bread was a little too thick, well really a lot too thick. Apparently this place has a thing about bread.
Last on our list – but according to my wife easily the best thing we had – was the bacon banana French toast.
This was enormous, and really sweet, but in a really good way. Mascarpone-filled and then a sweet caramel or maple sauce that really set the dish up nicely. Not much bacon to speak of, but didn’t really need it.
Taste of Philly Food Tour
First, they really need to change the name of this tour. Sorry, I’ve been to the Taste of Chicago, Taste of DC, Taste of countless neighborhoods, and they all shared at least one thing—meaningful amounts of actual tasting. In the Philly crew’s defense, the tour was like $15 each. But still, if you are gonna advertise something as a “taste of” you need to come way more correct than a piece of pretzel, some fried scrapple chunks, a chocolate bit and spoonfuls of snapping turtle soup and vanilla with butterscotch ice cream (though Bassett’s was pretty damn good).
Don’t get me wrong, as a lover of all manner of random trivia and history, I was quite pleased with the information we DID get, but most of it wasn’t about food and if I’m being honest, the tour guide was less than stellar. And by less than stellar I mean he had a herky jerky delivery, laughed uncomfortably a lot, didn’t gauge the pace of his group and generally was not strong. And here’s the thing, the guy knew his stuff, so when he wasn’t using his notes as a crutch and just allowing himself to tell us about the food of the city he loved, he was actually pretty good. It was like he let stage fright or something get in the way of his passion for food. Also, having done a similarly underwhelming food tour from the tenement museum in June in NYC, I am starting to wonder if the tour companies don’t do any customer feedback surveys. I’ll save the rest of that rant for another day. But this is a food tour you can skip. Just find a friend in Philly and spend a couple hours in the Redding Terminal Market. You’d probably have just as much fun and you could try more food I bet. The one good thing is he turned us on to this cheese place that we’d ultimately end up getting a decent grilled cheese (in duck fat) later that day. The other cool thing to come out of that tour was the history like the photo above.
We saw this
Lunch at DiNic’s
We split a roast pork with provolone and broccoli raab sandwich that had been billed by somebody my wife looked up as the best sandwich in the world. The trouble with that praise is that it is virtually impossible to live up to.
Turns out this sandwich wasn’t merely two halves of the same whole, it was as if they’d cut the sandwich and pulled a David Blaine-esque trick by sliding in a completely new half. Wife ate her half and I was watching this delightful pork jus run out of her sandwich onto the wrap. She had that look food people get when something is just that good. That slow wine look. And I bite into mine…no drip. In fact no moisture to speak of in the first two bites. What the heck!?! I was set to give up and on my last half-hearted nibble–I REALLY wanted to like this sandwich–I got a little spurt of jus and then got a sense of what the roast pork could have been (and what my wife must have actually gotten). I put it down, leaving over half my half a sandwich and my wife, having polished hers off, looks at me a little crazy. Nope, I tell her with my resigned eyes, I won’t be finishing that. Wasting nary a beat, she scoops it up, chomps down, and…*side eye down at the sandwich*…she exclaims after a moment to let it all sink in “I’m so sorry, baby. That’s a totally different sandwich.” I trust my wife’s tastes, so I’m going to do something I never do, recommend something I didn’t try. Because although I did technically have a sandwich from there, I don’t believe it was the real one.
Second lunch at Melt Kraft
Don’t judge me for my second lunch. Having hoped for magic at DiNic’s and been let down, we decided to snag a grilled cheese. Not much to say here, either. I thought the grilling in duck fat was going to alter this experience in some meaningful way. It did not. Best thing about the sandwich was the server behind the counter, who was really fun. We chatted about her boyfriend and his hopes for gluten free beer, about the cheese options, and the joys of duck fat.
Quick aside. One of the things I found in the room where we ate the duck fat grilled cheese was this
I like to include things like this photo because they tell more of the story about the places we visit. This shot gave a window into the history of the market and how it endured. Most really cool things in any city are the byproduct of hard work and vision by alot of people. Saving the Reading Terminal Market was pretty likely one such affair and I like to take note.
Dinner at Tendenza
It’s important for me to say this wasn’t just any meal. It was the most important night of a good friend’s life. So I can’t really talk about the food as if it was a regular dinner, it certainly wasn’t. But I assume since the reception was here that the place did the catering. And this, friends, is where regular wedding receptions stop and “Wow, this is awesome” begins.
I didn’t eat everything available – there was a pasta bar and a sushi bar and a cheese station and a charcuterie station and a pizza bar and tray-passed beef Wellington and tray passed duck spring rolls and melon shooters and probably a few things I left out…and this was all during the cocktail hour! It was followed by a salad, options of sea bass and crispy fried chicken breast and filet mignon and an entire dessert bar of crepes and waffles and chocolate lava cake and funnel cake…and then a separate dessert station of baked goods and mousses on the other side of the dance floor.
The food was dramatically better than hotel wedding food, the service was outstanding (even caught a server teaching one of the guests how to Wobble-Hahaha). That last link was basic instruction here’s a better one – and a father daughter wedding dance worth seeing. This restaurant is in the NoLibs (“Northern Liberties”) section of Philly and if you are looking for a place for a wedding reception or really just a good dinner, I have to say this place really showed itself well.
The food adventure on our second day in Philly was a good one. Even though all our choices didn’t deliver, there were so many options and so much to learn that I did feel like Philly gave us our money’s worth. And I have to say that the wedding reception venue capped things off perfectly. Although I’m sure the experience was made even more special by sharing a special evening with a dear friend, I can say without question the restaurant is one I’d go back to if dropping back by Philadelphia for an extended stay.
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