It does seem appropriate that the endpoint of yesterday's experiment in seeing if I can drive on the highway for extended periods of time (as opposed to spending ten seconds on Route 1 panicking) culminated at a place called Suburban Square. This is a real upscale mall, not a derogatory description of the shoppers.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
While I may be suburban and square, that mall was not our initial plan. (Of course my husband was present for this - did you think I was going to learn how to merge onto the I-95 unattended?) We were going to go to Narberth (unpronounceable!), a town in a place called Main Line Philadelphia. I'd long been intrigued by this "Main Line," whatever it was, and somehow refused to accept that it would just be wealthy suburbs. I'd read on Wikipedia about Jewish towns that to this day exist because Then (and maybe Now) the neighboring towns were too old-money for such riff-raff. That, and we're already quite far along in our list of possible excursions. How snooty would it be? Would it be like Passy/the 16th in Paris?
Effectively, yes, it would be a great deal like that. Narberth, despite being tiny, has two French bakeries, a consignment shop, a wine store and a cheese store. We saw not one but two bichon-type lap dogs. Paris, Pennsylvania, depending one's plans for the day, how integral the Louvre was to one's checklist...
The real goal yesterday, however, had been to visit Maido, the Japanese supermarket of the greater Philadelphia region. Not that it's so inconvenient to bring back groceries (and superior hair-care products) from lower Manhattan, but yes, it is incredibly inconvenient to do this. And I liked the idea of driving to some big-box store full of frozen tofu-skin and all my other favorites. There's a Korean version of this in Edison (?), H-Mart, which has some Japanese groceries as well, but this was going to be like Sunrise Mart in Target form. I was so excited. If this was it for the Philadelphia area, it would surely be immense. No doubt it was outside the city center because it was just that huge, zoning laws wouldn't permit it in central Philadelphia. I'd built it up in my mind to basically being Tokyo (as I imagine it) somehow housed in a Mid-Atlantic strip-mall.
And... it was a small grocery store in the center of a small town. No strip-mall, no outskirts. Japanese, yes, but with about the same selection in that area, or not quite, as H-Mart. A great place to have nearby if you live in Narberth, and one I'd welcome with immense enthusiasm should it open anywhere near where I live, but maybe not a destination for those who live an hour away. The bakeries had been more impressive, if also not worth the drive for those already capable of highway maneuvering.
So we did have to go further down the destination list, bringing us to Suburban Square in nearby Ardmore. It sounded intriguing - an old-timey suburban town square-mall-thing, as opposed to the utilitarian strip-malls where we do our grocery shopping.
The highlight of Suburban Square, in the end, was its grocery-shopping. (Confession: I like grocery-shopping.) The Ardmore Farmers' Market doesn't have anything to do with a farmers' market as in local farm involvement (at least not in this season, from what I could tell), but is instead an indoor food market like the food halls in Montreal or D.C., or, for a more local reference, a bigger version of the Stockton Farm Market. (Or, fine, the Reading Street Market, which everyone loves but me.) A fish store that looked great (and I can vouch for the gravlax), a branch of a high-end Italian cheese-and-more shop from Philadelphia, DiBruno's, which, well, cheese. A vegetable store with baby artichokes. Expensive? Posh? Yes and yes, but so is Princeton, and we don't have a food hall, so it still made for a change of pace.
Other than that, it was a mall with whichever stores presumably spring up at the income threshold in Princeton and this part of Pennsylvania: J.Crew, Lululemon, etc. While I am not a stuff-rejecting saint, this I could give or take. There was also a Barbour store, which had particular relevance in light of this article.