The trip to Philly began like any other – gym first thing in the morning, a drive to the airport, a quick 6am flight, and getting checked in at my “hotel” – this time a B+B on south 8th street, a mere block from Termini Brother’s famous Pastries. Despite having an aggressive site seeing and eating agenda I couldn’t pass up such an opportunity and decided to start my vacation with a visit. Entering the small pastry shop I was greeted by two pleasant females and a stern sign telling me “Please do not handle pastries.” Amused I browsed with my eyes while helping myself to some of the samples at the register – a pair of delectable fig and apricot cookies and some chocolate biscotti.
After browsing all the available choices I went with the obvious – two canolli, one with chocolate cream and chopped walnuts and the other with sweet ricotta, chocolate chips, and pistachio. Paying the modest $6 fee I watched the bakers fill the pastries before the store clerk boxed and tied them with a bow and presented me with a delectable sample of warm cinnamon coffee cake from the kitchen.
Making my way to the street I quickly dispatched with the bow and after a short debate decided to start with the chocolate canolli. Featuring a buttery and crisp shell that gave way with an appropriate crunch I was greeted by a light cocoa cream and subtle notes of toasted nuts, light and smooth yet substantial and flavorful. Impressed I moved on to the ricotta option – the clear cut winner and an absolute must order for any visitor to Philadelphia. With an equally crispy shell the mildly lemon accented and texturally heterogeneous cheese speckled with nuts and chocolate chips was delightful, albeit significantly heavier than the chocolate cream. While I cannot say I am a cannoli expert I have had a number in my life and the versions at Termini Brothers were every bit as good as the prior best.
Turning northward the next stop on my agenda would be a proper breakfast at Sabrina’s Café. Arriving shortly after 9am on a Wednesday I was spared the famous excessive line and was given the option of seating outdoors or inside – with 70 degree weather, a nice breeze, and the active Italian Market just to my East I decided to sit outdoors in the shade. Greeted by an impressively attentive young female server I ordered coffee (a rather standard blend which was filled instantly and repeatedly) and browsed the menu for a few moments – identifying two items that sounded excellent I inquired if half orders were acceptable and when I was assured it was I opted for a half order of each.
Seated, sipping my coffee, and browsing my maps I waited for approximately 20 minutes before my options would arrive – and arrive they did, excessive in both size and presentation. Long winded in words and ingredients, my first selection would be the Killer Quasar Stuffed French Toast with Challah, Stuffed with Mascarpone, Blueberry and Vanilla Crunch, Topped with Peach-Vanilla Syrup and Seasonal Berries…and to be honest, it was Killer. Almost a bread pudding in consistency the buttery Challah was crispy outside and custard like within while the mascarpone lent its characteristic flavor and texture. Breaking up the smoothness were fresh strawberries and crunchy bits of blueberry granola and the whole dish was topped with a “syrup” that was more akin to a compote of pureed peaches.
The second choice, Magnificent Magnetar Pancakes with Buttermilk Cakes Topped with Polenta-Orange Cake Crumble, Dried Apricots, Orange-Honey Berry Compote, and Walnut-Orange B utter was good, but certainly not as great as the French Toast. Again using an amalgam of summer textures and flavors I will definitely note that the flavors were outstanding and well thought out despite the multitude of ingredients. What was lacking in these cakes, however, was the pancakes themselves – doughy, thick, and uninspiring on their own – I actually left the lower pancake on the plate after consuming the entirety of the top pancake and all its toppings.
Paying the modest tab and leaving a sizable tip (the service was much better than it needed to be, something uncommon for a “hip” restaurant) I made my way back to the market for more browsing before turning north en route for the Mutter museum. An excellent start to a trip that would be full of great sites, people, and food.