Jeff and I recently returned from a five day trip to Philadelphia to eat all the food and do a little sight seeing. We also took a day to visit Amish country in Lancaster.
We arrived on Friday afternoon just in time for our food tour which we always try to schedule during our first day or so in a new city. We chose the Flavors of Philly tour offered by City Food Tours. We arrived to meet our guide, Judy, and an assortment of 11 other guests from all over the world. Judy gave us a bit of overall history of Philadelphia and then we headed out to start eating!
Our first stop was Joe's Pizza for tomato pie. This particular establishment's claim to fame is its tomato sauce. According to our guide, the owner has never shared the recipe with anyone and he only makes one pot per day. If they run out, the shop closes for the day. Now, on to the pie. Since they call it tomato pie, I wasn't sure if I should expect a traditional pie crust with tomatoes in it or something else. It turns out tomato pie is basically a pizza crust with sauce, but no cheese or other toppings. This particular tomato pie had a focaccia-like crust with a nice crisp bottom that was still soft and chewy. The tomato sauce on top was indeed very flavorful It was a great start to our tour.
Our next stop was the Philly Pretzel Factory for one of Philadelphia's famous soft pretzels. The owner of this business started selling pretzels at age 11 and eventually opened the shop so anyone could get a fresh soft pretzel any time of day. The pretzels were indeed quite tasty and we were encouraged to try them with mustard. Mustard is not a favorite of mine, so it was just ok. I would like to go back and try it with cheese, though.
Our third stop was Pandora's for a cheese steak and cheese fries. Judy gave us some history on how the sandwich originated and proper terminology for ordering before we received our bites. I was surprised that we each received half of a huge sandwich in addition to a really large basket of fries to split at a table of three people. The cheese steak had american cheese with onions and was every bit as delicious as it looked. The fries were topped with tasty cheese whiz and I enjoyed them immensely (in fact, they were so good it made me sad that many restaurants not in Philly use gross nacho cheese sauce that completely ruins cheese fries for me).
Next, we walked on to the Reading Terminal Market to taste the cookies at the Famous 4th Street Cookie stand. We each received a milk chocolate chip cookie, which I don't think you can go wrong with.
As a final bonus, we moseyed over to Beiler's Donuts where they're serving up Amish donuts. I admit that I didn't know much about this stop, but the fact that the line was about 30 people long at 3:30pm on a Friday told me this place must be something special. Judy passed a plain glazed donut to each of us and I immediately understood why people were willing to wait so long. This donut's internal texture was like nothing I'd ever had... some delicious combination of yeast risen that borders on cakey.
This was the final stop of our tour and I wanted more of these amazing donuts, but I was too full to wait in line. Luckily, our hotel was about 2 blocks away, so we went over to check in and have a pre-dinner lounge session.
When we finally had enough stomach space to accommodate dinner, we walked over to Luke's Lobster for some very tasty crab and lobster rolls that were made awesome by buttery, soft, yet slightly toasted bread. We also enjoyed some stone crab claws, clam chowder and a blueberry soda from Maine Root (which we first discovered was awesome during our Austin trip).
Next, we wandered over to Insomnia Cookies since our tour guide had briefly touched on the chain's development in the area and history earlier in the day. We had an Insomnia when we went to U of I, so we felt it was necessary to stop in for a cookie to reminisce. I had a chocolate chunk cookie with salted caramel pretzel ice cream while Jeff had just the cookie. Just as tasty as I remember.
Finally, we stopped in at Snap Pizza. We had walked past it earlier while on the tour and heard that it was relatively new. Upon further investigation, we discovered it's a design your own pizza place similar to the Seattle area's Mod chain. Even though we were pretty full, we had to try this place so Jeff designed a pizza. We found the crust to be thin with an airy and springy crumb while also being nicely crisp. Additionally, the toppings were flavorful and caramelized to our liking. Overall, this was a very well put together pizza.
We returned to the hotel happy and full.
We walked all over Philly on Saturday. Our day started with a trip to Reading Terminal Market to do some exploring and eating. Upon arrival, we giggled at this sign on the door since it talked about no grumpy people.
Our first food destination was DiNic's for a roast pork sandwich with provolone and greens. This sandwich was huge and every bit as tasty as it looked on Man vs. Food on tv. I'm so glad we split it and didn't try to order one each!
Next, I wanted to see the pumpple cake (a two layer cake - the bottom layer is a pumpkin pie baked into a chocolate cake and the top layer is an apple pie baked into a vanilla cake and it's all covered in vanilla buttercream) that I've seen all over the news and tv in recent years. It was invented by Flying Monkey Bakery which is conveniently located across the way from DiNic's. Unfortunately, the pumpple cake is a seasonal item, so I chose this delicious looking butter cake instead. It was heavenly.
Jeff chose the next stop: Sang Kee Peking Duck. He ordered fried potstickers and roast pork lo-mein. I didn't eat much since I was approaching a dangerous level of full, but the potstickers were pretty good and Jeff said he enjoyed the lo-mein.
We had just enough room left for an iced coffee from the Old City Coffee stand right across the way. Jeff was beyond pleased that it had 3 shots of espresso and I liked that it had a great coffee flavor without being too strong or bitter.
From here, we set out to do some sight seeing. As we walked back past our hotel, we took a picture of this painted donkey that stands right out front. He's part of the Donkeys Around Town program where artists painted a donkey for every state and US territory and placed them on display around the city for the DNC. Not all the donkeys were still around, but we saw several and I thought they were neat.
Our first sight seeing stop was the Mutter Museum of medical history. They had all sorts of interesting displays like the soap lady, Civil War medicine, and Grimm's anatomy, but a strict no pictures policy. We enjoyed our time here, but I wish I could've brought home something in addition to memories that only live in my brain.
We got to learn all about how Pixar brings their stories to life and "meet" some characters along the way. Here I am with Buzz Lightyear, Sulley and Mike Wazowski, and Dorey!
There were clay models that were part of the character development process.
We also got to pose in a Buzz Lightyear box. Jeff and I clearly took different approaches to this.
I really enjoyed the character art. Here I am with Anger from Inside Out.
One final picture of Jeff with Edna from the Incredibles.
By this point, we were ready for a rest and decided to head back to the hotel. I wanted to pick up a snack on the way there, so we got a vanilla spice donut from Federal Donuts. It was hot, fresh, and very flavorful.
After lounging a bit, we headed to Chinatown for dinner. Our first stop was Dim Sum Garden for pan fried pork and chive dumplings and fried pumpkin cakes. The pumpkin cakes were quite tasty, but the pan fried dumplings were where it's at. They received exceptionally high marks from Jeff who said they almost exactly what he looks for in this kind of dumpling.
Next we popped next door to Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House for roast pork lo-mein. The noodles were every bit as tasty as we'd hoped they'd be.
Jeff stopped by the Mayflower Bakery to pick up some snacks for later including an egg tart and bun.
We concluded our dinner "tour" by stopping into Teassert. It's a relatively new place that serves something I'd never heard of: rolled ice cream. When we walked in, we saw they were making bumpy looking waffles, so we ordered one with thai tea ice cream. Unfortunately, the waffles don't work out with rolled ice cream, so it was just scooped in. We still got to watch them make it on an anti-griddle and it was really neat! The flavor and texture of the ice cream went well with the warm and easily rippable waffle. I probably would've gone back a few more times if time and tummy space permitted.
After a day full of walking, we were quite tired and went back to the hotel to enjoy some Olympic coverage. There's more to our trip, but this post is quite long already. Stay tuned for recap part two!