27 October 2010

Philly With the Phamily

A couple points before I begin.  First of all, I'm not going to bother censoring myself anymore.  If you don't want to read the words fuckballs and cockgobbler then there are plenty of other food blogs you can go read. I figured it would turn some people off, but take a look at the Chicago Gluttons.  Yeah, I'm pretty tame compared to those guys.  I love them, their most recent post was quite hilarious.

Secondly I just wanted to apologize for the huge alternating sections of text and photos.  As usual blogger is being a complete piece of shit and if I don't add every photo I upload then they disappear, and I'm just not in the mood to upload them all individually.  Blogger you suck!  Now that we have that cleared up, on to the show...

Our little family day-trip to Philly started off great. Some retard thought it would be a good idea to schedule roadwork on 95 North on a Saturday morning causing a 4 mile back up while our bus driver couldn’t decide if he wanted to roast our asses to a crisp by blasting the heat or give us all hypothermia by cranking the A/C. We arrived at 30th Street Station an hour and a half later than we’d planned, soaked in our own sweat and numb from the waist down. Let the eating begin.

My brother and I both co-planned this visit, so our first stop was another trip to Reading Terminal Market so we could all eat whatever the hell we wanted to start our day. On our way there we stopped by the Comcast building to marvel at their huge HD wall. Read more about it here.

The tallest building in Philly owned by the Devil, erm I mean Comcast

Look at them people up there
Why do I feel the sudden need for a Corona?
Pertaining to the RTM, I’d done a few quick searches online for a decent hoagie and found numerous recommendations for Salumeria, so I went with a small Italian sub with the works, house dressing, no tomato (that’s my personal preference, if it’s not August then I don’t want raw tomatoes on anything I eat) and added on a healthy scoop of chopped marinated artichoke hearts for a 35 cent upcharge. I also spotted some Hank’s bottled sodas by the register so I opted for a diet root beer.

The Mrs. expressed interest in wanting to try a genuine hand-sliced pastrami sandwich, so luckily in that same thread I saw much praise for the pastrami at Hershel’s. So while I was fighting for a table, she was ordering a pastrami sandwich with a side of house-made pickles. When they asked her how she wanted it, she just told them however people order it, that’s my wife for ya, so I’m assuming we got it fatty with spicy mustard and provolone. I have no idea who orders their pastrami with provolone, but apparently whoever was serving my wife felt the need to throw it on there. After putting an elderly woman in a sleeper and throat-punching her husband of 50+ years I managed to procure seating, so we plopped down and dug in.

Where NOT to go to order a sandwich...
Golly this shot sure is cheesy
E. V. Ohh, OOHHH

This is where you wanna be to get a sandwich
Disappointing 1
Disappointing 2
Disappointing 3
I want to start by saying that not a goddamned thing in front of us was worth my time or money. Whoever said these were some of the best sandwiches in Philly must be seriously deranged. The primary reason sandwiches in Philadelphia have received such national acclaim is the quality of their bread. Well, I guess Salumeria outsources their bread from Bumfuck, Nowhere because it was extremely tough, and if there’s one thing that ruins a sandwich for me, it’s tough bread. And, as I feared, biting through the bread caused the sandwiches contents to squirt out all over my face and hands. Ugh, what a disappointment. Also, there was an inexplicable gritty texture to one of the toppings. I assumed it was from lettuce that hadn’t been properly washed, but after a few bites I realized it was the onions. Gritty onions? That’s a new one. The one positive thing I have to say about it was the house made dressing (it was a creamy Italian) had a nice punch of vinegar to it that cut through the rest of the ingredients. Yep, that’s it. The root beer tasted fine, nothing spectacular. If someone told me it was A&W I wouldn’t’ve batted an eye.

Well it sure LOOKS like it would churn out some fine meats...
Proof that even though it looks awesome it might still taste like it was fished out of a dumpster
Read above
Read above, above
Maybe they trim off all the seasoned bits?
The pastrami at Hershel’s didn’t fare any better. I went for the pickle first, because, well I love pickles, and was immediately put off as I detected a flavor that I could only describe is something akin to dirty dishwater. I immediately tossed that aside and hefted my half of the sandwich. I’d never had an authentic hand-sliced pastrami sandwich either, so I was eagerly anticipating my first taste. And again, was pretty damn disappointing. As Homer Simpson inquired after his first bite of rice cakes: “Hello, taste? Where are you?” I’m not really sure how one achieves underseasoned pastrami since the very act of making pastrami involves very heavy seasoning. But, unfortunately for us, Hershel’s has found a way. The Mrs. even went so far as to say that the pastrami we get at the local Giant deli has more flavor. Ouch, that’s gotta hurt. My other complaint, and this might be the case for most pastrami sandwiches, was the same uniformly soft texture throughout the entire sandwich. Yes, the pastrami was in fact ridiculously tender, but I was hoping for some textural contrast from the bark, kind of like the bark on a pulled pork sandwich. And finally, while I know most people like it fatty, but I just don’t enjoy mouthfuls of gummy gelatinous fat. There’s good fat, and there’s bad fat, and this was most certainly bad fat--Properly cooked pork belly, now that’s good fat. MMmmmmm.

The Beer Garden and the backs of my family's heads
A nice cold beer and a surly bartender, the perfect recipe for a one night stand
After our disappointing meal we rounded everyone up and headed over to the beer garden. We nabbed seats at the bar and ordered a round of beers to sip on while our food digested. My brother, dad, and I all went for Sam Adam’s Oktoberfest, and I swear this beer tastes slightly different every time I order it. I guess it all depends on where I am and if its draft or bottle, this time around there was a very discernable sweetness to the back end. It was better than I remembered. Me being the lightweight that I am, one beer, even after eating all that food, had me good and happy. I more than made up for our disappointing meal at RTM by hauling a huge box of cookies from Famous Fourth Street Cookies with me as I left. I’m still polishing them off, my favorites being the oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, butter almond, and white chocolate macadamia. Hmm, now that I think about it I have an oatmeal raisin sitting in my desk drawer. Pardon me for just a moment… Ah, much better. Moving right along.

Our second non-food stop of the day was Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens the mosaic murals and street art brainchild of Isaiah Zagar. It was quite interesting and for the meager entrance fee of $5 I felt it was very well worth it. Both my brother and I were very camera happy here, but with such interesting and bizarre décor, how could we not be?

The front gate into the realm of pure insanity
A prime example of the nacho
Man, this guy is more obsessed with C&B than I am...
Hallway of interesting stuff and things
Outside wall with complimentary father head
A fitting family portrait
After spending close to an hour touring the museum we all felt that it was about time to get our drink on. So away to Café Tria we went. Tria was the perfect destination for our party as it had a wide range of wine for ladies and beers for the menfolk and cheese and finger foods to pair them with. I’d checked their menu online the week before and was very excited to see they offered Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, but alas the menu we were given didn’t list it. Twasn’t meant to be. Luckily, I had a few back-ups to choose from. Ultimately I decided to go with the Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen from Bamberg, Germany.

So. Many. BEERS.
Beef jerky in a bottle
I loved the smoked beers I tried at Max’s on Broadway’s Oktoberfest a few years back, and this beer was right up there with them. The smell was straight up beef jerky. I passed it around so the rest of the table could have a whiff and a sip and they all agreed. I told my brother and sister-in-law that they could try as much as they wanted since this was probably the next best thing to tearing open a bag of jerky(they’re vegetarian). My brother tried the Maredsous 8 which I almost tried, but was glad I didn’t as I didn’t really care for the taste he gave me. The womenfolk got a couple reds and my dad was quite happy sipping his Sixpoint Sehr Crisp Pilsner.

Small plates, bites, nibbles, tastes, or whatever other annoying name for overpriced below normal-sized portions

This beer wants to be on you
He's feeling it!
For our second round I couldn’t help but hone in on the words “black lager” so I opted for the Sprecher Black Bavarian from Glendale, WI. This turned out to be another successful choice as I enjoyed how it was dark in color and flavor, but still maintained a light drinkable body. The table also ordered a variety of cheeses to go with their beverages and the Mrs. ordered some olives, all very well done. I especially liked their house-made apricot mustard, two ingredients I’ve been apeshit about as of late. Overall everything we tried at Tria was very tasty, more than once did we entertain the idea of just staying there for dinner (in hindsight we should have as our chosen dinner destination proved to be not quite as delicious, as you will shortly see), but eventually we paid our tab and stumbled out the door. Ah yes, one other thing I wanted to mention was just how splendid our service was. When a team of 3 servers arrives with various glasses of wine and plates of cheese, pouring our beers for us and refilling our water glasses, we really did feel like we were VIPs or something. The service at Tria couldn’t’ve been better.

We meandered over to Chinatown and it was still a tad early for our dinner reservations so we wandered around looking for a souvenir for my niece. We went into one store called “Happy Gift Shop” or something along those lines and marveled at all of the interesting and unique J-Pop toys. A startling number of the figures were posed sitting on the toilet, not really sure what that fad is all about. After making a few purchases we headed over to Rangoon for our first taste of authentic Burmese (Myanmaran?) cuisine.

Yes, that's my older brother.  Surprised?  Looks like he's prepping for a Cleveland Steamer
1000 layers of roti canai
Firecrotch Lentil Fritters.  Wait, that's not right
I took the liberty of ordering appetizers for the table so I went with the Thousand Layer Bread with Curry Potato Dip and the Firecracker Lentil Fritters. The ladies ordered a bottle of merlot, dad went with a Sapporo, brother went with a Singha, and I went with a Kingfisher.

The bread was pretty much exactly like roti canai, albeit a bit greasier. The accompanying dip was addicting and even after all the sauce had been sopped up I grabbed a fork and skewered the chunks of potato nestled in the bottom of the cup. Tender and delicious. The fritters were one of the star dishes of the meal. They were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside visibly loaded with fresh green chiles. I don’t quite recall what the sauce tasted like exactly, after that many drinks my memory was a tad fuzzy, but I do recall that after my brother dumped the remaining sauce on the last fritter and gobbled it up that he said the tip of his tongue was numb. Me thinks it was spicy.

For entrees we had the Asian Tea Leaf Salad (me), two orders of Jungle Tofu (the ladies), the Chili Shrimp (my bro), and the Northern Burma Fried Noodle (Gap Daddy).

Asian Tea Leaf Salad

Jungle Tofu, the best plate on the table
Hands down without question my favorite dish on the table was the Jungle Tofu. It was subtly sweet and creamy from the coconut milk, the lime leaves providing the perfect amout of acidity to cut the sweetness to an appropriate level. The tofu chunks were light and tender, with a prominent backbone of green bell peppers, mushrooms, string beans, and onions. I was very surprised my wife ordered this since she doesn’t like bell peppers, mushrooms, or onions, but I think she was a tad overwhelmed by the vast scope of the menu and just went with whatever my sister-in-law ordered. The only thing I was surprised by was that this dish was labeled as hot on the menu, and even my wife felt it was relatively tame in the heat department.

A common theme to the rest of the dishes at the table was that they were too salty, the harshest of which was the chili shrimp. It basically tasted like an extremely salty version of General Tsao’s shrimp.

My Asian Tea Leaf salad was also a tad too salty, but I did enjoy it overall. The frizzled onions were slightly overpowered, throwing off a potentially wonderful balance of unique flavors. The flavors that did manage to shine through were peanut and sesame. The dish had a fantastic earthy backbone from the tea leaves that I felt was quite pleasant.

I took one bite of my dad’s fried noodles and tasted nothing that intrigued me enough to return for a second sample. Just your run of the mill fried noodle dish, nothing new or inventive.

Unfortunately, the table consensus was that we were too full for dessert, disappointing since they offer so many intriguing options. Not to mention that we still had half a bottle of wine to polish off. Damn women.

After doing what damage we could to the wine and settling up the check we once again stumbled out into the streets. I just pretended I was full, but in reality I was hoping we could make a slight detour on our way back to 30th Street Station to try Capogiro Gelato. And, since I was running the food portion of this show, that’s exactly what we did. Dad/bro/sis marveled at the Micro family stomach capacity, but I was just barely pleasantly full, which left more than enough room to be filled with semi-frozen delicious dairy items.

The fog may look cool, but it smelled of hot rancid sewage.  Mmmmmm, who wants gelato?!
Flava Flav
The wife and I darted inside as we were a little pressed for time. I quickly scanned the flavors and rattled off a few that I wanted to sample. I could’ve happily spent half the evening standing there trying flavors, there were so many delicious options. Although I really enjoyed the macadamia nut, eventually I decided to go with the seasonal offerings of Mascarpone and Heirloom Apple (imported mascarpone with Lancaster County heirloom apples) and Zucca (Lancaster County Long Necked Pumpkins) and oh man was I glad I did. It was like creamy, luscious autumn in a cup.

The best cup of anything I've had in a while
The Apple reminded me of the outstanding pear cider ice cream I had in Montreal as it had that slightly gritty texture from the finely ground apples. It registered just under the too sweet line, the mascarpone adding a silky creamy depth. The pumpkin was what I imagine giving a happy ending to a jack-o-lantern would taste like. Combine my love of gelato with my even more intense love of all things pumpkin and the result was one of my favorite gelatos to date. Why the hell can’t all of this seasonal pumpkin crap be available year round? It’s so damn GOOD.

After spending a bit too much time marveling at our frozen treats we had to hail a cab to make it back to catch the bus on time and as soon as it started rolling I passed out. Bonus: that night the Phillies got eliminated from the play-offs by the San Francisco Giants, and since the Giants were my favorite team growing up (my favorite baseball player was a giant, Will Clark) that was just icing on the cake.

Fin.  My post for day 6 of our road-trip is almost done, I swear.  Honest...  Maybe.

Reading Terminal Market on Urbanspoon
Tria on Urbanspoon
Rangoon Burma on Urbanspoon
Capogiro Gelateria on Urbanspoon

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theminx said...

That's a great family portrait!

On my one trip through the Reading Terminal Market, I wasn't impressed enough to try anything. But then I had just eaten at Garces Trading Company.

Mr. Micro said...

I was looking at some of the Garces options, but in the end I chose Rangoon simply for it's uniqueness. I don't regret it, but I don't think I'd go out of my way to dine at Rangoon again.

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