Over the weekend we took a last minute day trip up the Eastern Seaboard to Philadelphia, PA. We left DC at about 8:30 am on a cold and gray Saturday morning. There was not much traffic on the road, so after a stop to fill up the gas tank, and $13 in tolls, we were pulling up to our first stop by 11 am ...The centrally located Reading Terminal Market. For those of you that have been, you know that this place is a huge indoor market with food sellers of all sorts. From American BBQ and famous Philadelphia sub sandwiches, to gourmet local cheese producers and even an Amish diner serving up stacks of pancakes to the masses.
Brian decided to wait in a 20 minute line for a thinly sliced BBQ pork sub sandwich topped with roasted broccoli rabe and melted provolone. I did not really realize just how much of a "sub" city (as in submarine sandwich) Philly really is. They absolutely just love their french rolls and will just about put anything on them to make a sandwich. I have to say I did not mind watching those strong tattooed arms working to build each sandwich to perfection while we waited.
The bread was incredibly fresh and the meat perfectly moist. The broccoli rabe and the provolone just sealed the deal. Everyone was loving it!
Next we headed over to Valley Shepard Creamery, which is a fairly local farm just up the road in New Jersey. Again some very nice tattooed arms served us as a load of samples to help us understand their offering and choose some cheeses that we might like. The guys at Valley Shepard were so friendly and so knowledgeable. Below we tasted a Jersey Cows milk cheese with nettles.
But we ended up getting this aged goat's milk cheese below, and another smoky cave-aged sheep's milk cheese (smoked over applewood embers).
It was all amazing and I would go back in a second. I can not tell you how nice it is to have a cheese shop that really knows cheese, AND is willing to teach you and help you, so that you can enjoy it as much as they do. I love Whole Foods, but often times I end up getting more information from other customers than I can get from the staff.
After some further ramblings around the city, passing the freezing afternoon as the light snow began to fall, we decided it was time for a refill. We crammed ourselves into a very popular bar called Monk's Cafe. We sat at the back bar and were lucky enough to taste some really rare beers that we could not get down in DC. My favorite was Damnation by Russian River Brewery in California. (Philadelphia is the only city on the East Coast than has access to the Russian River Beers on a regular basis). Damnation is similar to a strong golden Belgium ale. It is medium-bodied, has a slightly fruity/banana aroma, and a dry, spicy finish.
After warming ourselves with those delicious libations, it was time for one last stop before hitting the road again. Iron Chef Morimoto's Japanese restaurant, serving some of the best Japanese food in the nation. Morimoto actually has a few restaurants in different cities, but this one in Philadelphia just seems to be particularly good. I also like how the menu is diverse, allowing you to really choose your own style. There is everything from exotic sashimi and elaborate lobster dishes to soba noodle bowls and sushi rolls.
We decided to have some small plates in the lounge, since the dining room was completely booked. The swanky little lounge was filling up fast, so we were lucky to even nab table.
On our drive back to DC, Brian slept. Sailing down the lowly lit highways, stopping only at the bright toll-booths to dole out another $7, I realized that even though Philly has a lot going for it, and many people absolutely love it (so don't get me wrong)... personally, it will never really be one of my favorite cities. It just feels a little too quintessentially North-eastern American city to me... Even though there are places like Monks Cafe and Morimoto's Japanese, this is a city that truly prides themselves on the foot-long sandwich piled high with meat and oozing with orange cheese.