Monday, July 02, 2012

Adventures in mildly less provincial Mid-Atlantic-ness

Third trip to Philadelphia since the move, first with the "new" car. The best visit thus far. We started out at the Headhouse Farmers' Market, which turned out to be this, basically. Gorgeous displays of vegetables, and arranged like a Paris market, down a street rather than in a square. But not (too) pseudo-French. One "biologique" vegetable stand, and some cannelés, but mostly the usual. Outdoors, but covered, a plus given the heat.

No market is complete without a fine array of breads and a fluffy lap dog.

Green garlic! (And yes, a "graduate school of arts and sciences" tote bag at a farmers' market.)

Then we had pizza next to the market, at Pizzeria Stella. It was not only the finest pizza we'd had in Philadelphia, but also quite good in its own right. 

After that's a bit of a blur, what with the heat. Potentially violent areas, definitively historic areas, the house where soda was invented, or where the guy who invented soda lived, a bakery very concerned with soda theft (selling the variety they have to open for you, so that you pay first), and losing my sunglasses in a parking lot as we were about to leave the city. (What is it I'm always saying about "investing" in quality items? What I got for not following my own advice.) 

All in all, though, it felt as if we'd all of a sudden discovered that Chicago were a 45 minute (I exaggerate, but slightly) drive from the woods. Not as big or busy a city as New York, but there's much to be said for places where every last street isn't one you've been on at all, or thousands of times as the case may be. (The drawback of going to grad school where you hung out in high school. Astor Place, I know you too well.) Much like the car, it's new to me.


Petey said...

If you're ever down at Headhouse Square again, it's pretty much mandatory to head over the couple of blocks to Jim's Steaks, which is where you get to try an excellent example of the mythical 'philly cheese steak'.

(Avoid the Cheez Whiz, and go with the provolone. Onions should be mandatory, pizza sauce and hot peppers are less mandatory but still recommended options.)

Philly native cuisine is generally weak, but the cheese steaks and soft pretzels with mustard are actually worth sampling.

Phoebe said...

Is this *the* Petey?

May have to take that advice - I'd been holding off on cheese steaks precisely because of what I assumed was the Cheez Whiz requirement. And I do like soft pretzels with mustard, but the only pretzels I'd seen there were being sold by some incredibly deranged men, from what looked like garbage containers. All in due time.

Petey said...

"Is this *the* Petey?"

Yup. I still read yr blog.

And given that I cut my teeth running around the Society Hill / Historical District area of Philly, I've got good out-of-date knowledge for daytrippers and weekenders. (I actually used to play in Headhouse Square after school.)

Philly: a nice place to leave.

"And I do like soft pretzels with mustard"

The Philly version is dramatically different than the NYC version, and much better. It's the local version of the croissant.

Philly has this odd sweet spot of tasty fresh baked goods, which pretty much starts and ends with soft pretzels and hoagie/steak sandwich rolls. Legend has it that it's about a couple of good local industrial bakeries and weird local water.

"the only pretzels I'd seen there were being sold by some incredibly deranged men, from what looked like garbage containers"

You generally get 'em from hot dog cart vendors on the street.

"I'd been holding off on cheese steaks precisely because of what I assumed was the Cheez Whiz requirement"

Jim's will serve 'em with provolone, swiss, or whiz. And while I prefer provolone, the whiz is actually far less disgusting in practice than one might imagine. It's kinda like the NYT piece about chefs who like Kraft Singles. Plus, between the good bread, meat, and onions, it's hard to screw up a Jim's steak no matter what you do to it.

Petey said...

Two more Philly notes.

- Regarding deranged men selling pretzels out of garbage bags:

I had a well-travelled friend who moved to Philly as an adult for a job, and his summary comment was that the city had more deranged people out on the streets than any other city he'd ever been in by an order of magnitude.

- David Lynch, recently described his time in Philly as his "greatest inspiration":

"The mood of the place, the architecture, what I saw and heard and felt. It was very magical, but laced with a deep tormenting fear and sickness. And, I ate many steak sandwiches there."