more fun in Philly

PhiladelphiaPhiladelphia is just close enough to NYC for a day visit, but I'm not such a fan of long drives. I had to make the trip for business, so I decided to stay in town for a long weekend to have some fun, and of course eat. It's my second visit in less than a year, so I did some asking around for eating suggestions. Special thanks go out to Shao from Fried Wontons for You for the great tips.Brown Betty cupcakesBut first, business. Yes, that's a photo of pretty cupcakes on my hotel desk. My main reason for the trip was to meet Norrinda Brown of the Brown Betty Dessert Boutique. Norrinda and her publicist, Nicole Paloux of Red Balloon Public Relations, gave me a little tour of the city to check out the three bakery locations, plus a sneak peak at the big new shop they're working on opening soon. They sent me off with a huge box of treats. As you may know, I'm a bit of a cupcake snob. I honestly don't know of a single cupcake shop in NYC that I would choose over the cupcakes I make at home myself. Brown Betty cupcakes, however, are on a whole different level. Besides being gorgeous in their own special, down-to-earth, unfussy way (except maybe that gorgeous rose-looking one), they're very rich and sophisticated in flavor. The red velvet is a revelation, and the lemony one... oh my god. I'll be dreaming about these until I visit Philly again.  Soon, I hope.ChifaNorrinda, Nicole and I grabbed a late lunch at Chifa. If you've been there, have you ever tried the Chicha Sangria? I'd go back again and again just for that -- like no sangria I've ever had.BarbuzzoExtra thanks to Shao for this dinner choice, and to Nicole too. I lucked out because I was alone and able to snag a seat at the counter at Barbuzzo, right in front of the chefs. Maybe that's not your thing, but I loved seeing the action in the kitchen up close. I went with the bone marrow, sardines, Brussels sprouts, and meatballs, with a local Philadelphia brew, and the meal was just about perfect. Everyone had insisted I save room for dessert and order the salted caramel budino. And everyone was right -- it's a revelation. If you make it to Philadelphia, even if you eat dinner somewhere else, you owe it to yourself to stop by Barbuzzo for dessert. I think I literally had a tear in my eye after tasting the luscious budino for the first time. Sorry about the lack of photos of my dinner, but this place is so dark and moody, you can't ruin the experience with a flash.Reading Terminal MarketDespite the feast the night before, I was up early to beat the crowds to the Reading Terminal Market.Amish breakfastFor me, it's all about the Amish breakfast counter. I don't even know what this place is called, but it's the one with the insane line. No, I didn't order the scrapple, but I loved every bite of my French toast. And of course I stocked up on sweets at the Amish candy shop across the aisle.PhiladelphiaI had to get in some walking and photography time before my second breakfast.  What a cute city.cheesesteakYes, this was my second breakfast, a cheesesteak from Jim's at about 10:30am.Capogiro gelatoThere was more snacking throughout the day, but this was an afternoon highlight -- gelato from Capogiro. I ordered all exotic fruit, non-dairy flavors because my stomach was already in overdrive but didn't feel like I was missing a thing. Great textures, bursting flavors, definitely worth the hype.Tinto web site logoOops, no photos of Tinto. I guess I got caught up in the moment. I didn't even remember to snap a photo outside when I was done. Like at Barbuzzo, I was lucky to be dining alone so I could get a spot at the bar where I ordered the tasting menu -- about 10 courses in all. Let me first say that restaurants in Philadelphia are a lot more generous with portions than New York City. I could have easily shared the meal with someone and still been satisfied. But we're more interested in quality than quantity, right? Amazing. It's all a blur now, but let's put it this way: If you read my post about foods I hate, then you know I can't stand green beans. Tinto changed my mind, it's that good. Moules Basquaise with chorizo, a short rib bocadillo, house-made garlic sausage... forget what you think you know about Spanish food and make a reservation here. If it's a special occasion, all the better, because it's a great looking space. And yes, I did briefly stop by Village Whiskey, another really cool spot next door.cheesesteakThe next day I drove to John's Roast Pork, which is totally out of the way, but apparently it's closed on weekends?! So I forced myself to have a Pat's King of Steaks cheesesteak lunch instead.pizzaThe weather was starting to turn gloomy, and I knew I had a long, rainy drive ahead of me, so I stopped by Pizzeria Stella for the pistachio, red onion and fontina pie. I love that charred and puffy crust. Sure, I can get great pizza at home anytime, but Stella is still a stand-out. What a nice way to end a great trip.

Philadelphia recap, in two parts

Reading Terminal MarketMy Philly cheesesteak post is coming soon, but first up, a bunch of everything else. Yes, this post is kind of random. By the way, thanks to everyone for the tips on where to eat in Philadelphia!PhiladelphiaFirst, could Philly be any cuter with its cobblestone streets and old-fashioned flags? I don't think so.Amada, PhiladelphiaNext, Jose Garce's awesome tapas restaurant, Amada. I don't talk a lot about fancier restaurants in my blog because I'm usually all about the cheap eats, but I splurged here for a sort-of birthday celebration for myself. So amazing -- I suggest you order a tasting menu, sit back and enjoy yourself (and don't miss out on the great cocktails before you're seated). Sorry for no pics of the food. I love the style of this place, and I didn't want to ruin the mood with my camera.Termini Bros., PhiladelphiaTermini Bros., PhiladelphiaNow onto the awesome Reading Terminal Market. Everyone told me to check out Termini. This banana thing was insane. It's a big slice of banana on some kind of cake/cookie, with a fruity layer, dunked in chocolate and I don't know what else. Yeow. You gotta try this once.Beiler's Bakery, PhiladelphiaSpeaking of bakeries, you have to stop by the Beiler's stand for sticky buns, cinnamon buns, pecan buns, every kind of bun. If I was driving straight home that day, I might have ordered one of everything.AJ's treats, Reading Terminal MarketCandy, Reading Terminal MarketSpeaking of sweets, let me just say that the Reading Terminal Market is like heaven. This post is just scratching the surface. Cookies, ice cream, candy, you name it!DiNic's, PhiladelphiaDiNic's, PhiladelphiaThanks to everyone for the tips about DiNic's. This is their roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe -- so simple, and so perfect. There is so much hype in NYC about roast pork sandwiches, but I think DiNic's wins. The best part is that after a little while, the juices soak into the bread, which then reminded me of Thanksgiving turkey stuffing. Maybe that sounds weird, but DiNic's rules. Period.Amish breakfastFor me, a trip to the Reading Terminal Market would not be complete without one of those crazy Amish breakfasts. I'd drive to Philly just for this French toast.Amish breakfastJen ordered her Amish pancakes with scrapple. It's pretty freakin' tasty, but trust me, if you don't already know what's in scrapple, you're probably better off.500 Degrees, Philadelphia500 Degrees, Philadelphia500 Degrees, PhiladelphiaWe stopped by 500 Degrees almost on a whim, because it was about a block from our hotel. What a lucky break. I'm sure someone will tell me I'm crazy, but I'd take this place over any burger joints in NYC, hands-down. I ordered a special of the day -- I think it had some guac on it. And this local batch birch beer tastes even better than it looks.Isgro, PhiladelphiaIsgro, PhiladelphaLast up, Isgro. It's over in that old Italian part of Philly. If you're from out of town, you'll definitely want to cab it or drive. Yes, it's a little pricey, but this is Italian dessert perfection. I don't really care for eclairs, but that treat on the right changed my mind pretty fast. And cannolis... well, I've had some weird ones in my life, and I thought I knew what a really good cannoli was. Apparently I was wrong, because Isgro takes cannolis to a whole new level. The filling is ridiculously light. Depending on where you're from, that may be considered sacrilegious. If you've got to have that super-dense ricotta filling with the little candied things in it, then skip Isgro. If you're open to experiencing what might just be the best cannoli ever, then Isgro is a must-try. Next up, the cheesesteak showdown.