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.