Sunday, August 29, 2010

Supper and Garces Trading Company, Philadelphia PA

Described as “upscale modern American” I had it on good word that the setting and food at Supper were worth the trip at any time of day, but especially at brunch. Browsing the online space and the menu I had to admit I liked the sound of it, but I’d be torn as to what to orders as there were so many divine options. Per usual I figured it never hurts to ask if half orders could be accommodated and I e-mailed the restaurant… surprisingly Mitch Prensky answers his own e-mails…he allows half orders…and he also makes an excellent brunch in his own kitchen…dinner too, I’d gather.

Arriving shortly after my 11:00am reservation and a morning wandering around the Italian Market and Philadelphia’s Magic Garden I was greeted pleasantly by a hostess who noted my reservation and led me promptly to a nice seat directly next to the kitchen – a quick glance over my shoulder gave me full view of the chef’s and action. Minimally crowded at the early hour I smiled at the minimalist exposed brick and wood design, playful overhead music, and folks sitting at the bar with their daily libations.

Water filled I assented to coffee – a smooth and mild morning brew and was asked if I needed to see a menu since Chef Prensky had already noted the item’s I’d inquired about. Figuring it never hurts to look I again browsed the menu and although the Lamb French Dip, Supper Dog, and Johnny Cakes sounded tempting I stuck to my original order and added a side dish. Stating I’d made a “great choice” my server left me to coffee and the tunes overhead. As the place was empty aside from two other tables the service was predictably spot on and my server stopped by to chat a couple of times – mostly about the collapsing Phillies.

Waiting and watching as the chefs prepared my items the kitchen was spotless and calm – quite large as well. After approximately 15 minutes my server would appear with my first course – the side dish of Cornbread Hush Puppies. Steaming hot – too hot to eat at first, actually, I allowed the little orbs to cool before taking a bite. Perfectly described by the golf-ball sized pieces were crisp outside and moist inside with plenty of corn flavor and hints of what I believe were honey and bacon renderings. Nicely done and enough to share if dining with a group.

Shortly following the hush puppies – actually, arriving after I’d only eaten one due to the temperature – would be my two half-mains. Beginning with the “good,” and then moving to the “amazing,” the first item was Red Velvet Waffles with sweet cream cheese mousse, toasted pecans and bourbon cherries. A small square, mildly crisp outside and fluffy within, the waffle was tasty with hints of cocoa. What made the dish shine, however, was the whipped and airy cream cheese mousse and boozy bourbon cherries.

While the waffles were good, the Key Lime French Toast with graham cracker crust, key lime cream, warm blueberries and coconut marshmallow were amongst the top 5 breakfast concoctions I’ve had in 2010. Dainty but custard laden within the French Toast itself was good, especially coated with a crisp and crunchy layer of Graham crackers. Pairing the toast with torch bruleed marshmallows topped with shredded coconut, sour key lime mousse/cream, and sweetened fresh blueberries provided a nearly tropical experience and a dish that is entirely too time consuming to be prepared at home – and an excellent reason to visit Supper.

Settling the extremely modest tab and thanking the chef as well as my servers I made my way to the street, past the “old school cereal bar” and toward the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul. Invariably impressive from the customer service to the space to the food I wholeheartedly recommend everyone check out Supper’s brunch for a change-up to the long lines at other Philly “institutes,” it was the best breakfast I’ve had since May in Baltimore.

En route to the Cathedral I made a point of stopping by Garces Trading Company to pick up a few pounds of coffee and snacks to enjoy while awaiting my plane at the airport. Arriving early in their brunch hour the place was crowded and loud – so much so that it took me nearly 20 minutes to purchase two pounds of coffee, a cannele, and two Macarons.

While I will say that the coffee was excellent (I’m actually drinking some of the mildly cinnamon kissed GTC Reserva while writing this) the pastries did not fare as well…and although I cannot be sure, I’d venture to say that they were baked in advance and refrigerated – or at least the canele was as it lacked any crunch or nuance, instead almost marshmallow in texture and far too sweet. While the Macarons fared better – particularly the Caramel Butter cream, the shell lacked the characteristic crackle.


All in all I’d give the Trading Co another shot – the cured meats selection and cheeses looked fantastic and the people enjoying their brunch seemed happy and boisterous – but I really don’t like when traditional French pastries come out soggy, limp, and overly sweet...but perhaps I shouldn’t expect traditional French from a man whose history is Spanish and Latino fusion? Too bad really, better pastries would make an excellent pairing for the outstanding coffee.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

La Colombe and Zahav, Philadelphia PA

Surviving my trip to Camden despite a chance encounter with the wrong bus and some rather insistent homeless persons along my walk to and from the Adventure Aquarium, I arrived back in Philadelphia via bus safely and quickly. Thirsty and low on caffeine I decided to pay a visit to the roasters who had wowed my palate during three great meals via Vetri – La Colombe. Entering the small shop to the predicable aroma of coffee and the sounds of cappuccino machines I was surprised (but not really) to find a line of approximately ten at 5:30pm.

Browsing the small and well cultivated collection I inquired of the barista which blend was used at Vetri and he was surprisingly unaware that they used La Colombe products. No matter, my next question was about flavor profiles and noting my preference for chocolate, caramel, fig, honey, and wood over citrus he directed me to two blends – I bought a pound of each. As an added bonus, a second sales person was in the midst of re-filling their bakery case with fresh scones and canele. Selecting two canele the barista spotted me a free 12 ounce coffee, I settled the tab, and took a seat.

Lacking Wi-Fi I sat and browsed my map to see if there was anything fun I could see before my dinner reservations while I sipped my coffee. Deciding to taste the canele while fresh I will note that they were an excellent example – perhaps the second best I’ve had outside of Laurent Gras mignardise at L2o. Crunchy exterior, flawless eggy custard within, sweet without being overwhelming.


Having now consumed half of my first pound of Nizza I’m rather certain that is the version served at Vetri – but quite frankly, the cup of Monaco I had at the café was also quite excellent. All said, La Colombe’s limited lineup seems to allow them to focus on blends that work very well and the staff, shop, and sourcing are all top notch.

Making my way from La Colombe I began the slow walk across Philadelphia en route to the final dinner of my gastronomic tour – according to Phillymag I’d be visiting the city’s best restaurant a mere two hours later. Having never really been a fan of Middle Eastern food in the past I have to admit that my visit to Washington DC had done a lot to place Zahav on my list of “must eat” places for the trip – both Zaytinya and more so Komi had impressed my palate and dining sensibilities. Calling and e-mailing the restaurant a month in advance I will say that Jilian was the most helpful concierge in the city outside the folks at Bibou (unfortunately on vacation during my trip.)

Schlepping across town and visiting the tomb of the unknown en route I have to admit I was a bit taken back when I arrived at Zahav - I don’t know what I expected, but a strip mall style appearing restaurant on the second floor of a flavorless building in the middle of residential East Philadelphia was not it. Entering the space it was surprisingly large – the bar to the right, kitchen to the left, high ceilings and well spaced tables. Decorated darkly and sparsely in sandstone and splotches of stained glass with acceptable kitchen noise and what I can only assume to be “Middle Eastern” music playing overhead the restaurant definitely conveyed a cohesive theme and the bar was packed.

Greeted by the host (who actually remembered calling me the day before as “the guy who couldn’t hear a thing because you were at the Phillies game”) I was greeted and my bag stored before being led to my table, a cozy wooden two top near the windows in back. Seated I would next be greeted by my server and the Maitre D’ who introduced himself and said “So, you’re the guy who wants to try the lamb shoulder solo? No one has ever ordered it alone before, y’know?” Chuckling I did indeed confirm that I was the guy who’d asked Jilian if this was allowable – the rave reviews just seemed too good to ignore.

At this point I feel the need to divert my review for a moment in explanation. When I originally contacted Jilian I explained to her that I wanted to try the lamb, but if that prevented me from getting multiple rounds of mezze then I’d prefer go the small plates route, especially in the setting of the new seasonal tasting menu. I specifically told her the sweetbreads, crispy haloumi, and “The Hungarian” were dished I’d be interested in trying. Additionally, when I spoke to the Maitre D’ I again expressed my desire to taste “as many different things as I could” to which I received the response “I think you’ll be tasting about 90% of what we do this evening.” With a chef as talented as Michael Solomonov and a front of house trained under Danny Meyer I was thrilled.

With the Mesibah confirmed it would be only moments before my primary server, a delightful and pleasant young female, would arrive with a plate of spices and a bowl of pickled vegetables. Tasty and crisp the pickled cornichons, radishes, and olives were a nice opening taste but the spices – ranging from quite mild to scorching – were a bit lost on me since each dish was teaming with unique spicing blends at presentation.

Arriving next on the table and sharing space with the pickles and spices would be the oft raved Hummus-tehina with sesame paste, garlic, lemon, olive oil, cumin, parsley and house made laffa bread. Teaming with spice, most notably cumin, and smooth as silk save for the occasional chunky chick pea the hummus was fantastic. Crispy and mildly charred the laffa was a solid example, but not in the same ballpark as the light-as-air version at Komi.

The next dish, costing $24 on the standard menu, yet included in the $42 Mesibah would be the “sampling of Salatim.” A daily rotating selection of eight salads my selections seemed similar to those mentioned by previous friends and gourmands with a few unique items; smoked eggplant, stewed okra, beets with tahini, pickled wax beans, shredded carrots and jalapeño, Israeli salad, spiced fennel, and tabouleh. While no option was bad, the shredded carrots were quite unique and the stewed okra and smoked eggplant were both fantastic.

With the tiered tray cleared my proper mezze would begin first with the watermelon salad topped with Bulgarian feta, black olive paste, and crispy parsley. Not generally a fan of watermelon I have to say I was a bit disappointed when I saw the dish arrive but I quickly warmed up to it after taking a taste. Nicely picked and prepared the watermelon was surprisingly tame for such a potent fruit while the earthy olive paste, pungent feta, and intriguingly textured parsley added another dimension of flavor and depth. Very well thought out and not overly filling I was left excited for what would come next.

Following the Watermelon rather quickly (perhaps less than ten minutes) would be my second mezze - Fish kofte or “fish balls” made of halibut and served over spicy chickpeas and boiled English peas. Light and laden with herbs (cumin, cinnamon, cilantro) the packets were intense with flavor and the admixture of chickpeas and English peas was bright and bold.

Finishing the three small fish bits rather quickly I was next brought a pair of tongs and a large serving plate – the server stating “your lamb will be out soon.” Finding this weird having communicated my preferences and having been told “90%” only 30 minutes earlier I sat puzzled…for 45 minutes. While the water man would pass frequently and refill my beverage my server would not return again during the delay – as a matter of fact, the next time I would see her was when dessert was delivered as the Maitre d’ himself would present The Whole- roasted lamb shoulder with pomegranate and chickpeas.

I will have to admit I was surprised when the shoulder arrived – not just because I hadn’t gotten any of the other mezze I desired, but because I figured they’d scale the course down for one person – they did not. Perched atop a bed of Egyptian rice and sweet, savory, and crunchy chickpeas the shoulder was enormous, flawlessly executed, and decadent. Crisp skin - salty and savory - yielded a thick layer of fat and unctuous supple flesh that literally melted in the mouth. Eating slowly and pairing the protein with the saffron perfumed rice and chunky chick peas there was not a doubt in my mind that the lamb trumped Amada’s pig in terms of skilled preparation and flavor. Setting aside fat and bone and focusing on protein over carbs I actually managed the whole shoulder with ease – seemingly to the amusement and shock of the diners around me and the maitre d’. So shocking, apparently, was my accomplishment that the Maitre D’ brought Chef Solomonov over to my table to introduce us and after a long chat about the Philadelphia dining scene, his former employer Marc Vetri, and the film “The Great Outdoors” he said “You know, you’re the first person to ever eat that solo – with the blond hair and an appetite like that you’re like a Viking!”

Viking tendencies aside I declined to have the fat, bone, and small amount of rice packed up to go – I instead sat and enjoyed a cup of dark and nutty coffee while I awaited my dessert, the house special Halvah mousse with blueberry puree and chickpea praline. Similar in texture to the sublime budino at Osteria the day before the “parfait” was served in a glass with layers of texturally complex custardy mousse intermingling with New Jersey blueberry puree and topped with a chickpea praline that bordered between corn-nut and pop rocks in texture; a fantastic dessert with plenty of character and balance.

When the meal was completed, after a second cup of coffee, I was presented with the bill and plenty of thanks from the staff. Full, but not uncomfortably so I settled the tab and made my way to the street for a pleasant walk back to the Italian Village – my first night out “late” on a weekend I was treated to Philly’s impressively lively “scene” as I wandered. Impressed by the food I tried but overall somewhat disappointed that my tastes were not accounted for I filled out my opentable survey (as I always do) on my return to Ohio and for the first time in my life actually received a response from the restaurant – Jilian stating that she was sorry to hear that things hadn’t been perfect – that there had apparently been a miscommunication – or more specifically “Because you were our first brave guest to order the Mesibah dinner for one, I know our staff was trying to ensure that you were able to enjoy as many items as possible without becoming overwhelmed with the quantity of food (especially with the signature lamb shoulder as the final savory course.)"

Overall a good meal that could have been great – from now on I guess I’ll have to make restaurants aware they are dealing with a Viking. If I ever have the chance to go back I’m ordering the tasting and supplementing substantially - $48 for five courses of Solomonov quality food is a steal…or perhaps a pillage or plunder?

Le Bec Fin, Philadelphia PA

Amongst the primary reasons for visiting Philadelphia – research, museums, sports, dining, and culture – dining at Le Bec Fin was decidedly one of the more significant. Once considered by many the best restaurant in the United States I’d recently heard that Georges Perrier’s vaunted Le Bec Fin was to close its doors forever within the coming year…the rent was too expensive, American’s no longer fancied formal French, the chef was planning to use the money for myriad new projects – the reason did not really matter, I only knew I needed to enjoy the experience before it disappeared forever.

Housed in a bank-like vaulted building along Walnut Street I rather wished I could have seen Le Bec Fin in its hay day instead of under its current circumstances (housed next to an Urban Outfitters, for instance,) but having heard mixed reviews over the previous years I had it on good advice that the kitchen and service were on the up and up. With the mandatory jacket policy and fancy “Please Ring for Admittance – Merci” button replaced by business casual, lunch and prix-fixe options instead of the traditional tasting menu it seems as though Perrier realized the pretense was not packing the house. After a long walk from breakfast to a morning tour of the Eastern State Penitentiary I would make my seminal visit to Le Bec Fin for their Saturday Lunch.

Entering the small (think a medium size elevator) lobby I was greeted by a pleasant male/female hosting combination and upon checking in the female took my bag to a storage room while the man led me to a fine seat in the center of the elaborate dining room. With the room more than half full I was glad to see most everyone dressed appropriately – I wore a jacket because it felt right and most of the crowd, 50+ year olds in general, did the same. Browsing around the multiple chandeliered room with large twenty foot high pale yellow walls and floor to ceiling mirrors everything felt very fine – even a spot pretentious, but not overwhelmingly so.

Settling into what may be the most comfortable chairs in dining history and placing the thick linen napkin on my lap I was greeted by a young man who inquired as to whether I preferred tap or bottled water – selecting tap my glass was filled and remained well above half-full throughout the meal’s two hour duration. Three knives, three forks – all silver, a potted plant, and salt and pepper shakers decorated the well padded table and I’d shortly be greeted by my server, a pleasant and jovial man who admitted to being new to the Perrier family, but never failed to have the (right) answer to any question or request. Presented with the menu it was explained that there was an a la carte, a 3-course business lunch, or the tasting menu – I was also told of three specials and given suggestions as to the restaurant’s signatures.

Left for a few moments to decide on my choices I browsed the room and fellow diners – most if not all seemed to be celebrating events and it seemed as though there was a 2-server to 1-table ratio throughout. Tables were well spaced while the music was somewhat cheesy-classic and low enough that it was ignorable but loud enough to drown the din of other tables conversations. Returning my server asked if I was ready to order, indeed I was. “I’ll have the tasting menu and I’d like to add a couple of courses.” “Sir, I must warn you that will be a lot of food.” “I’m sure I’ll be fine.” After a few jokes I inquired about the cheese and dessert cart and was informed they are not operated during lunch, but that any/all selections from either could be done as a composed plate.

Water refilled and silverware doled out for the first course the bread man would next arrive. Along with a surprisingly sweet butter there were three forms of warm bread at Le Bec Fin on the day of my lunch – a French miche naturally leavened with house-stock wild yeast, a traditional sliced white baguette, and sweet and dense potato bread. Sampling each I’ll ended up sticking with the miche – almost “sourdough” but somewhat smoky.

My first course of the afternoon would be course one of the tasting. Served in a small sauté dish which was uncapped tableside the Escargots Cassolette with Hazelnut, Champagne, Garlic Butter smelled like a dream come true – a very pungent dream. Featuring shelled and plump snails, at least ten to my tongue, plus tiny bits of chopped nuts in an aromatic broth with the bite of champagne but the base of pure butter and finely pressed garlic the dish wowed. While perhaps not something you’d want to order on a date night, the contrasting textures and rich aromatics were profound and well balanced…I soaked up every drop with a slice of baguette – my server agreed this was “the only way to do it.”

Course number two would be another successful dish and it would arrive with excellent timing, approximately ten minutes after I finished the Escargot. Titled Diver Sea Scallop, Charred Watermelon, Tomato, Rosewater Emulsion the dish did not really look all that interesting with a single scallop sitting in a cloud of foam, but looks are often time deceiving. Regarding the scallop – it was perfect, fresh, nearly brulee crisp on the exterior and practically raw within. More interesting than the scallop, however, was its bed – a texture I can only describe as finely chopped salsa with hints of smoke, sweetness, and acid all nicely balanced. The foam - tasteless, but with the nose of rosewater and melon – was a distinctive touch.

My third course would be one of my supplement courses – it would also be the best dish of the afternoon and every bit worth the title “signature.” Described in French as a Galette the Signature Crab Cake with French Green Beans and Whole Grain Mustard Sauce sat tall, proud, and without a bit of filler. More a crab burger than cake in shape/size and more a sweet crab omelet than cake in flavor the dish was topped tableside with a pour of buttery mustard speckled béarnaise that did not overpower but instead served to enhance – knowing that the recipe is readily available on the internet I only wish crab were more readily available in Ohio…not normally one to order a crab cake this is one I’d order at every visit.

Course four would be a return to the tasting menu - Mushroom Cappuccino of Wild Mushroom Veloute, Steamed Milk, White Pepper. Served in a coffee cup the dish was not fanciful to the eye, but more so to the tongue. Served piping hot the soup tasted the very essence of earthy aromatic mushrooms without detectable infusion of butter or enhancement. Topping the soup with creamy steamed milk and just a shake of salt and pepper served to bring out more subtle notes. Overall the weakest of the day’s courses, but certainly not a bad dish – good mushroom soup is never a bad thing.

Hitting a nice pace with a dish arriving every 15 minutes my next course would be the other supplement – 3 ounces of Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Port poached cherries, and French toast in a maple foie gras reduction. Flawlessly seared, perfectly clean, a little sweet, a lot savory – not a novel presentation, but a classic done classically.

For my main course there was the option of a black bass dish and lamb – I’d thought about asking if I could substitute in the Duck Margaret but decided to go with the lamb…a wise choice in retrospect. Described as Domestic Lamb Loin with Purple Cauliflower, Crunchy Oats, Marcona Almond, and Golden Raisin Reduction the dish was remarkable. Served medium rare and so tender that they opted against presenting it with a knife the lamb itself was a fine piece, slightly gamey as expected but well met with the sweet raisin reduction. Presented beautifully with the pureed purple cauliflower as a base and topped with a granola textured compote of oats and almonds the dish was a sight and flavor to behold.

Returning to find yet another empty plate my server seemed surprised stating “wow, I guess you weren’t kidding about having an appetite…but did you save room for dessert?” The answer was obvious and – and coffee sounded like a grand idea as well. Presented quickly in a sterling French Press along with the dessert menu the coffee was largely unmemorable, but it remained full and certainly wasn’t subpar. Looking at the dessert menu I was told I could order the Crème Brulee, a single cake from the dessert carte, or a few different slices of cake to try. “How about a little of each” I asked? Wide eyed the response was “of course.”

Waiting approximately 20 minutes while the desserts were plated in the kitchen the restaurant was now bustling – nearly every table full nearing 2:00pm. Enjoying my coffee and its subsequent refills the plates that would arrive yet were unfortunately not from a trolley or carte, but they certainly were beautiful. Arriving with ample description, two plates and easily a pound in weight – all nine of Le Bec Fin’s signature desserts – to the shock of my server I would clean these plates as well.

On the first plate, Gateau Le Bec Fin with Rum-Soaked Chocolate Génoise and Chocolate Butter Cream, Costa Rica with Praline Crunch and Baily’s Cremeux and Coffee Marscarpone Mousse, Seasonal Lemon Tarte, and Wendy with Milk Chocolate Mousse and Vanilla-Bean Crème Brulée on Vanilla- Soaked Chocolate Sponge. Each expertly prepared and none lacking in quality for their respective ingredients I must stand in awe of the Gateau – an absolute masterpiece that melted into boozy puddles of chocolate in the mouth and the Costa Rica – like Tiramisu but more dense, more coffee, and less alcoholic.

The second plate would feature five options, the Mathilde with Soft Vanilla Macaroon and Lime Mousse with Raspberry Gelée , The St. Nizier Flourless Chocolate Cake, Mahogany of Coconut Dacquoise and Caramel Mousse with Mango Lychee Gelee, a Frozen Grand Marnier “Soufflé” with Candied Orange Peel, and Pecan-Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Cinnamon Streusel. While I’d have personally plated differently and placed the St. Nizier on the other plate with the lemon tarte here, the highlight of this plate was definitely the Mahogany with its airy cake, caramel filling, and lovely sour Gelee.

Clearing my plates the server asked me if there was anything else I’d like and jokingly I said “how about some cheese” which brought about much laughter – I have to admit I was quite full. With the bill presented I settled the tab and requested a copy of the menu that was presented without hesitation. Bid farewell by my server and with my bag already waiting at the door I stopped by Le Bar Lyonnais to see the Lautrec before making my way to the street.


Stuffed and happy I reflected on the meal as I made my way to the Bus Station to catch the bus to New Jersey’s Adventure Aquarium. While some may call Le Bec Fin’s style dated and the food boring, I personally found the word’s classy and classic much more applicable. No stranger to hyper-modern cooking (Alinea) or loud uncomfortable seating in jeans and a T-shirt (Ko) for greater than $150pp I found Le Bec Fin to be a flashback to the way fine dining used to be. Sure, there will still be refined and high quality service, sourcing, seating, and food once Le Bec Fin closes its doors for good, but even then I’ll be glad to have experienced Chef Perrier’s gem while I had the chance.

Dutch Eating Place and Flying Monkey Patisserie, Philadelphia PA

For those who know me it should be obvious that my dining style leans toward the finer side – and for breakfast to the eclectic or kitsch. With that noted, my fourth day in Philadelphia would be something different – a trip to the Reading Terminal Market to experience the oft raved about Dutch Eating Place. Having eaten Amish food only twice (and in the distant past) I remembered it to be buttery and filling, down home and unpretentious, but overall natural and quite good.

Having already seen the location on my daily walks through the Market I found the Dutch Eating place without difficulty after a healthy walk from the Italian Village. Arriving only 20 minutes after opening I found a cozy counter spot next to a couple of Pittsburgh natives already indulging on scrapple and pancakes – for those who’ve never been, the seating is entirely counter-facing stools with a “take out” area located to the right. Greeted almost immediately by a polite young girl dressed in traditional Amish attire I was offered coffee which I declined, water was filled, and I was presented with a menu. Throughout the meal my service would be proficient and polite despite the gathering throng of awaiting diners.

Sipping my water and admittedly a little uncomfortable with being elbow to elbow with fellow diners and a line of persons waiting for a seat behind me it did not take long before my order was placed and my first dish would arrive. Never one to shy away from sweets before savories (or no savories at all) my Apple Dumpling would arrive at nearly the size of a softball and when asked whether I fancied whipped cream or heavy cream I went with tradition. Dousing the buttery cinnamon laden orb with sweet cream and taking a bite I was admittedly impressed as the buttery pie shell held up nicely to the steaming apple and cream. I always contest that I don’t eat at “down home” restaurants because I can do better at home, but in this case I’m not sure that is the case.

My second dish from the Amish would be a short stack of the blueberry pancakes. With fresh blueberries from Jersey already in the batter I watched the elder cooks ladle a huge scoop of batter from a large bucket onto the butter laden grill before turning my attention back to the dumpling. Moments later, almost too fast to have been expected, the plate would arrive with two large circumference but somewhat flat cakes topped with a mountain of fresh butter. While lacking fluffiness, the flavor of the cakes was everything I’d hoped and after a heavy pour of rich maple syrup the flavors all melded together nicely. Certainly not the best pancakes I’ve ever had – but probably the best I’ve ever had for less than $4.

Finishing up a solid breakfast and leaving a $10 including a ~40% tip I must admit that The Dutch Eating Place is a bargain to behold – quality fare, quality service, and a clever concept in such an urban environment…certainly better than New York’s attempts at a similar feel (Good Enough To Eat) and, admittedly, down home food that is probably better than I’ve made for breakfast at home in quite some time.

Making my way from The Dutch Eating Place with plans for a walk to (and around, and through) The Eastern State Penitentiary I made an additional mandatory stop – a vacation without a cupcake is frowned upon by my friends and family as it has become a sort of tradition. Having heard mixed things I stopped into Flying Monkey Patisserie where I would be greeted by a friendly young woman. Asking her what cupcake she would suggest (already planning to order the Red Velvet plus whatever she said) she stated the Red Velvet and as such I only ordered one. Paying the $3.00 with tip I have to admit I felt a little strange about the price of cupcakes these days – you could eat a whole breakfast at Dutch Eating Place for that much.

Taking a seat by the Reading Market pig for a traditional “Mike eating a Cupcake” picture I unwrapped the box and noted the cupcake was chilled – being before 9:00am in the morning I’m assuming this also meant it was made the day before. Taking a bite I was mildly impressed by the frosting – cream cheese and expectedly sweet with a tinge of sour. With a good frosting to cake ratio the cake itself just did not live up to its end of the bargain; cocoa and moist to be sure, but more dense then I’d have preferred – and cold.

When it was all said and done this would be my last visit to the Reading Terminal Market (for this trip) and all I can say is that it is without a doubt the best market of its kind that I’ve yet to visit. While not as eclectic as the San Francisco Ferry Market and not as large as Baltimore’s Lexington Market it is the kind of place where there is something for everyone – down home, organic, simple, artisan, vegetarian, carnivore, local, or tourist.