Monday, April 28, 2008

Day eight!

It was now Monday and time to bid the Big Apple farewell - well, for a few days anyhow. We loaded up our rental car with our many pieces of luggage, and headed for Philadelphia. On the way was a scheduled breakfast stop at The Brownstone Diner in Jersey City, New Jersey. This is a restaurant that we saw featured on Guy Fieri’s show, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. It was fun to drive through New York city and into New Jersey. We even passed my dad's birthplace of Elizabeth, NJ. For some reason, I get a kick out of driving across state lines. But for Rich the thrill was knowing he was on his way to one of Guy's diners.

Well, the restaurant was the bomb! Thirty or so different pancakes were on the menu, but my husband has to invent his own (he wanted chocolate chips and coconut – and they were happy to oblige.) It was tough, but I settled on the pecan-chocolate chip pancakes, while Emma indulged in the Black Forest pancakes (chocolate chips, cherry pie filling, whipped cream). Drew ordered plain old bacon and eggs (Why? Here was his big chance to get "white flour" pancakes, something not often served at home. Oh well.). We just loved this place and the food, but the only regret was that Emma, Rich and I just didn’t share ONE order of pancakes! Each person had three giant pancakes –just too much food!

We rolled into Philly in the early afternoon. It is about a 2-3 hour drive from NYC. We dropped off our luggage (our room wasn’t ready yet) and embarked on foot to the historical part of town. There we saw the Liberty Bell and gathered some information for some more time in town Wednesday. Seeing the Liberty Bell in person was way cool!

The Liberty Bell - not the prettiest thing!

We also meandered wide-eyed through Reading Terminal Market. Inside an old train terminal is this public market, which was established in Philly in 1892. When William Penn designed Philadelphia in the 17th century, one of the first actions he took was to herd farmers, fishers, hunters, etc. together into an outdoor market. In the 1800’s these markets grew quite large and later thought to be “health hazards and nuisances,” and were moved indoors. When created, Reading Terminal Market was 78,000 square feet in size, with 800 merchant spaces of 6 feet each. After many years of reconstruction, the market today is home to about 80 merchants, most of them various culinary delights. 100,000 people pass through the market each week! It is such a fascinating place with jewelry/crafts, a produce market, fresh flowers, lots of amazing baked goods, candy galore, super quality fresh meat and fish for sale, gift-y items, every ethnic food you can imagine, Philadelphia cheese steaks, ice cream, crepes, beeswax products, and much more. And on certain days of the week, the Mennonite people come from Lancaster county and sell their amazing food and goods. Today we stopped in for a late afternoon snack and I had a fresh squeezed strawberry-pineapple juice, (another time, we came for breakfast I enjoyed a Mennonite Apple Dumpling which was pretty much one of the best things I have ever tasted.) Rich and the kids tasted their first cheesesteaks, but since I’m not much of a “cheez-whiz” fan, they weren’t of much interest to me! “Wit-Wiz” was Rich’s little catchphrase while we were in Philly. That is how you order your cheesesteak, wit wiz! Enjoy some of the photos of the market below, it was pure eye candy for me and I just kept snapping away!

Emma getting one of her favorites: strawberry and Nutella crepes!

Beautiful fresh flowers!

Mennonite merchants

Cute gift shop

Famous Philly soft pretzels - but we prefer Auntie Anne's!

This picture cracks me up! I personally don't think the word "fly" should be in any food item, but I'm not about to suggest that to this woman.

Got some potholders, pear butter, and amazing "burnt" hard pretzels here.

Drew cruising the market.

Emma and Drew enjoying breakfast (yes, Drew is having a cheesesteak!)

Mass Apple Dumplings for sale. I wish I could have packed them in my suitcase.

Mennonite man at juice stand

After walking around town we returned to our room for a little down time before heading out to yet another one of Guy’s finds (#2 of three we visited). We hopped in the car and drove to another part of town for a late dinner at Silk City Diner. It was a real diner car –very cool. Inside, it felt more like a swanky, hip lounge. The lights were very dim and there was a building attached which was a bar, so it didn’t feel so much like a typical diner. Their menu is very different than what you would expect from a diner (click above link to see it). The salad I had was not on the menu – it was mixed weeds (you know, mixed baby greens) with seared sushi grade tuna that had been encrusted with black sesame seeds. It had an Asian dressing and was really tasty. Rich had the fried chicken, Emma had the macaroni and cheese, and Drew had a burger. The food was pretty good, but the appetizers there really shine. It was fun to go and check it out.

By the way, the hotel we stayed in was a historical landmark and was really beautiful and elegant, though it was just a Marriott Courtyard. We had a wonderful view from our hotel window of the city and stunning City Hall, which is a grand, elegant building. It took over 20 years to build it and the detail is just amazing. Well, that pretty much completed our first day in Philly!

Front of hotel

Front lobby

Room off of lobby - shoe shine in back.

Hallway off lobby

This shot was taken from our hotel room window!

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