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Canadians in Philly: Good eats had by all! Trip Report

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Well we are back from our trip to Philadelphia and I must say that we had a blast! The food, the people, the history and the shopping made for a great time. Here is the breakdown of our eating experiences:

Sunday night we arrived late so decided to head out and find a cheesesteak. We were exhausted from the 10 hour drive so we didn't want to stray too far from old city. We ended up at Sonny's and had a traditional "whiz wit". Good greasy food to fill some empty stomachs and good enough to satisfy our need to try a cheesesteak. On the way back from the hotel we noticed Franklin Fountain (and the line out the door). Decided to share a Stock Market Crunch sundae and that was actually the only miss of our whole trip. It was just meh and not worth the small fortune they charged. Headed back to the Penns View and crashed.

Monday we did some touristy things and ended up at the Reading Terminal Market for Lunch. We ended up sharing a Reuben and it was probably the best sandwich either of us had ever had. The meat seemed to melt in your mouth, it was amazing. We also shared an order of Latkes that were good but really filling. Hit Millers Twist for a soft pretzel that was also pretty freaking amazing (so much so we went back twice more on our trip). Took some white chocolate and PB chocolate pretzels from Muellers and some double chocolate chip cookies from 4th street with us back to the hotel. Both pretty good indeed and lived up to the hype.

Monday night we went to the Ritz Five to see "I AM" and then across the parking lot to Zahav. This meal was the highlight of our whole trip. The food, the service and the amazing surprise that occured while we were there made for a magical evening. So first, the surprise. While we were there a big cheer erupted and we found out that the chef had just won a James Beard award!! We were so happy for everyone and you could tell the staff were all so proud and excited. Very cool to be part of that. Then came the food ( and the booze, oh the booze). So we decided to do the TAY'IM tasting and were very happy we did, also ordered a pitcher of Lemonna to wash it all down. Everything was amazing, here is what we had:
Turkish Hummous: warm and buttery, I loved it. My hubby was not so keen but I would have bathed in it if I could. He was expecting traditional hummous and this is far from it. Delicious, more for me!

Crispy Halloumi: Salty and loved the texture, these were little fried pieces of heaven.

Fried Kibbe: My husband's favorite and definately a treat. The seasoning was amazing. Either these or the Tuna Bastura came with cilantro microgreens that I just loved, need to find those in Toronto.

Tuna Bastura: Ordered this for the fiddleheads (a personal favorite) but it came with asparagus instead. Fiddleheads have a very short season so that is most likely why. It was delicious none the less although we may have ordered a veggie Mezze instead since we chose all protein dishes.

Lamb Tongue: DELICIOUS! Loved this, it was my fave for sure. The texture was divine and again, the spices were lovely. Very gamey tasting, which I love, but not really chewy like beef tongue. Glad we tried it.

For Al Ha'esh we chose Beef cheeks and Lamb Kebab, both of which were awesome. I prefered the rice dish that came with the lamb to beef's pumpkin rice but the proteins were both cooked perfectly. All of the presentations were beautiful as well. It was as much a feast for the eyes as it was for the mouth.
Then came the dessert which I didn't think we could possibly eat but decided to give it the old college effort and are so glad we did! I had the Rugelach which was rich and buttery. The winner though was my husband's, Cardamon Vanilla Custard. Like a deconstructed creme brulee, this dessert was among the best I have ever eaten. It was so flavourful and decadent yet still remained light. The dessert portion sizes were perfect as well after such a large meal. Perfect with coffee.

The management was beyond friendly and generous providing the restaurant with free champagne to celebrate the James Beard win. At the end of the meal, they also comped my husband and I a traditional anise flavoured liquor that was to die for (we swear that this review is not tainted by the ample flowing of alcohol!). Overall we had a blast and it was a meal that will be remembered.

Tuesday it was back to the Reading Terminal for lunch at Dinics and the roast pork was everything I had expected. Delicious. We also grabbed some coffee from Old City coffee and Cannolis from Terminis for dessert and they were divine. Sweet but not too sweet and oh so rich. Tuesday dinner was take out in our hotel room because I had buggered up my knee. My husband wanted italian and so he visited Gnocchi for two very good orders of gnocchi and homemade tiramisu. One of the better meals I have had in bed in my lifetime. Simple and hit the spot for under $30.00.

Wednesday was another great food day. We decided to go to Green Eggs Cafe in Northern Liberties for brunch. Hubby had the Kitchen Sink and I had the special Blueberry cheesecake stuffed french toast. Both were amazing and the portions were huge. The only complaint was how dry the biscuits were in the Kitchen Sink (and we learned how really GOOD biscuits should taste once we hit Amish country). But you smother anything in sausage gravy and it becomes pretty damn good.

For dinner we ended up with a 8 pm reservation at Matyson and so glad we did. Loved the energy of this little BYOB. Everyone seemed so happy to be there, staff and patrons alike. We decided to do the Kennett Square Mushroom tasting menu. Each course came out looking beautiful and tasting even better. My favorite was the soup with the fois gras toast and my husband loved the truffle stuffed beef tenderloin. Service was a little slow but very pleasant and my only wish was that we had brought a second bottle of wine.

Thursday we headed out of Philly and into Amish country (Lancaster area) before hitting the road back to Canada on friday. Again, just wanted to say how much we loved Philadelphia and I wanted to thank everyone for all their suggestions which made our trip even better.

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  1. Sounds like a wonderful three days of food. Glad you enjoyed your visit.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gaffk

      Great write up - really fun to read. And it sounds like you experienced a real cross section of lots of wonderful food our city (and region) have to offer. I've had lots of those items too, although still have not been to Zahav - and now I REALLY want to! Glad you had a great time.

    2. Very considerate of you to give us the details of your trip. Zahav has been one of our favorites and it appears that we are in good company with your group and James Beard. As we have had many good times in your country we are most pleased that you enjoyed Philadelphia.

      1. Sounds great, thanks for reporting back! The anise liqueur you had at Zahav was Arak.

        1. Thanks so much for reporting back. It was a delicious report!

          1. My buds from Barrie, Ontario are coming down from the Great White North in June. We'll need to retrace some of your steps. My last post on the London Grill on Fairmount mentioned out-of-town guests and how I was embarrassed into hiding my head in the sand over the crappola food. Well, them be they, and they be coming back. iIll provide a print out of your endorsements. Many thanks.
            CP

            1 Reply
            1. re: Chefpaulo

              Thanks for reporting back...makes me hungry!