Good Food In Big Yankee Cities: Part Two

As promised, Philadelphia.

Two words: Cheese steaks. That's how our co-foodies on the trip prefaced our Philly trip. It was our ultimate goal, the Holy Grail of Good Eats, if you will. Drive an hour and a half for a sandwich? Oh hell, why not?

Turns out, there's MUCH more to the City of Brotherly Love than just tasty beef smothered in cheese. Let me just spell it out for you below.

First, yes, the cheese steaks.

Scott's dad, a fan of the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, found a place, Cosmi's, in South Philly on 8th that he thought we should try. It seemed like a great idea, as we'd heard the big boys of Pat's and Geno's on dueling corners at Ninth Street and Passyunk Avenue are overrated. Those joints are strictly for tourists.

Just by looking at the Cosmi's exterior, it seemed like a solid choice. No fancy lights, signs, or huge crowds extending out the door - just two long tables with chairs for "dine-out" seating. We entered and the friendly man took our orders for four sandwiches. I chose the Verde with broccoli rabe, Scott's sis Molly had the Trio (mushrooms, peppers and onions), and I can't recall what Scott or his dad ordered.

In less than 10 minutes, we received our hot and HUGE sandwiches, and they were gone in about the same length of time. SO SO good. Tender beef steak and melt-y provolone cheese, no processed orange Cheez Whiz to be had. We were off to a tremendous start!

The Italian Market on South 9th disappointed, as it's not so much Italian anymore as it is primarily Hispanic and Asian. One storefront, Di Bruno Bros., was on my list to visit, as a friend introduced me to their "crack cheese" Gorgonzola spread. However the line was INSANE and my claustrophobia prevented me from getting in the foodie fray.

Putting a pause on the food (for now - it's always on our minds, of course), on we went for a historical tour, hitting the highlights - Constitutional Hall, a peep at the Liberty Bell (line was waaaaaaay longer than our patience would allow), and the city planner in our midst wanted to see the majestic City Hall.

No tour of Philly would be complete without the obligatory Rocky stance on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Nevermind the artwork...we just wanted to mock the Rocky.

All that posing and posturing made us a little peckish, so off we went to park the car and hunt down a recommendation from a savvy friend - Branzino on South 17th near Rittenhouse Square.

I took an excellent unplanned tour of the Square, as nearly all restaurants in Philly are BYOB and though our savvy friend told us this, we promptly ignored the fact. Molly and I hightailed it about five blocks and through the Square to find a well-hidden wine store and brought back two BIG bottles of Chardonnay and Shiraz. With Scott serving as DD, the wine freely flowed (to put it mildly) and we set about ordering a flurry of food.

Salads...marinated Artichoke hearts with red pepper and olive oil...bread, oh the bread...followed by entrees of spicy-sauced Squid Ink Tagliatelle with shrimp, scallops and roasted peppers (mine), Squash ravioli in a sage butter sauce (Scott's), and my memory fails me on what Rob and Molly ordered.

I loved mine - plenty of seafood when normally that's where restaurants will skimp, and just the right amount of spicy heat. Scott's was fair, but small portioned, which is a slight to Scott's appetite, as those who know him can attest.

Do you think we were stuffed by then? Perhaps. Now, I left one part out of the day that you should know about. Just a block or so down from our cheese steak joint, the Termini Bros. bakery called to us. Any place that's been around since 1921 must be doing something right, yes?

Attendants in white gloves are there to take you down the huge counter that runs in the middle of the store, handpicking your items as you request them and putting them into boxes or plastic containers. You are NOT to touch the biscotti, cookies, and whatnots, capisce?

I found about four types of biscotti I had to have - cranberry and pistachio, a chocolate espresso, hazelnut and cherry, and one other. Rob loaded up on sfogliatelle (clamshell filo-esque pastry filled with custard) and two kinds of cannolli - one with ricotta and chocolate chips and another with vanilla cream.

So back to post-dinner, as we left to head home, bellies stretched and heads woozy from wine. Molly and I passed out in the back seat, only to revive an hour or so later to make a curious discovery -- Scott and his dad pulled over into a rest stop somewhere in the state of Delaware and proceed to dig into the box of Termini Bros. cannoli, and stand around, sipping on coffee. I spill out of the car, join them to grab a cannoli, take a few bites, and then shove it under Molly's nose for her to take a taste or two.

One of the most random and yet awesome moments I've had with his family - noshing on tasty pastry in a parking lot late at night.

That pretty much sums up the trip - we came, we saw, we consumed. I can't wait to go back!