more fun in Philly

Philadelphia

Philadelphia 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 cupcakes

But 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.

Chifa

Norrinda, 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.

Barbuzzo

Extra 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 Market

Despite the feast the night before, I was up early to beat the crowds to the Reading Terminal Market.

Amish breakfast

For 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.

Philadelphia

I had to get in some walking and photography time before my second breakfast.  What a cute city.

cheesesteak

Yes, this was my second breakfast, a cheesesteak from Jim’s at about 10:30am.

Capogiro gelato

There 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 logo

Oops, 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.

cheesesteak

The 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.

pizza

The 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.


23 thoughts on “more fun in Philly

  1. Thanks for the Philly-culinary-tour. I love it that you forgot to take pix at Tinto because the food was so good! Touche! I just took a peek at their web site. No wonder you forgot. I’m headed to to my kitchen-my stomach thanks you and I’m sure my husband will be thanking you too for motivating me to get cooking!

  2. Glad you enjoyed your time in Philly. I love that you squeezed in so many wonderful places while you were here. The budino is something everyone must experience and anything by Jose Garces is always tops on my list.

  3. oh good good! i’m glad someone told you about Jims’ or you went there on your own. Hubby rec that one.
    and i love that you have 2nd breakfasts. that makes you really cool in my book. 🙂

  4. Sounds like a fun and tasty trip. I love Philly, tons to see and do. The Electric Factory is a cool place to see a concert as well if you ever get the chance.

  5. It was great hanging with you and I’m glad you got to sample a few highlights of Philly’s best food! Next time you come, hopefully I’ll have some extra free time to take you to a few more exceptional spots! I see more red velvet and lemon filled Brown Betty cupcakes in your future.

  6. I meant to tell you this earlier but your blog post reminded me that based on your rec, I took my brother and his family to Brown Betty desserts for cupcakes last weekend and let me just say YUM! Totally worth it, I’m so glad we went. The red velvet cucpakes rock. So do the lemon ones.

  7. So glad to see you had a good and delicious time in Philly! Make sure to check out the other places on the list next time you are here 🙂

  8. Now that’s a tour of Philadelphia! I haven’t yet tried Barbuzzo, it looks great.. I used to be a big fan of Garces’ restaurants (Amada, Tinto, Chifa, Distrito). I thought the prices were steep for the quality. I don’t know, what do you think?

    1. Barbuzzo is definitely a must-try. I’ve been to Amada and Tinto now, and compared to NYC restaurants, those seem like a pretty fair deal to me, in all honesty. But I assume they’re on the pricey side for Philly. I’m not saying they’re cheap, but they seem reasonable for that kind of quality, great dining experience, etc.

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