Good bites in Philly!

Ten days in Philadelphia, what to do, what to do?  Well in fact I didn’t have that much free time in between attending and presenting papers at both the International Boys’ Schools Coalition Annual Conference and the American Association of Teachers of French Annual Conference but in the little time I did have, I made the most of, seeking out uniquely Philly foodie experiences, like the Reading Terminal Market.

I also had the great fortune to connect with a few bloggers – Jen from My Kitchen Addiction helped me make my Kitchen Bootcamp entry for this month and both Casey from Tastestopping and Amy from EssEppis agreed to meet up for a meal with me at either end of my trip.  The food blogging community is truly a wonderfully warm and welcoming one and I cannot believe that in the space of just over a year, I have made so many good friends, some of whom I have had the pleasure of meeting in real life!

I was thrilled to meet Casey on Day 3 of my trip at Zahav.  Having only eaten conference-type food for the 2 days prior, I was ready for a real meal.  “Zahav” meaning “gold” in Hebrew, is a modern Israeli restaurant, established in May 2008, aiming to showcase the authentic flavours of Israeli cuisine.  Offering a “small plates” menu, Zahav allows diners to experience the wide variety of flavours that influence in Israeli cuisine – Eastern European, North African, Persian and Eastern Mediterranean.

We ordered the TA’ YIM – a Taste of Zahav – which included the Salatim (daily selection of 8 salads) & Hummus and then got to choose three plates (meat, dairy and grill items) each and a dessert for $36 per person.  I also started with a Midas Touch Beer from Dogfish Head Brewery.  A sweet beer with notes of honey and saffron, this definitely did not taste like it was 9% alcohol. Wish we could get this in Canada…

Of the eight miniature salad bowls, Casey and I really enjoyed the fennel salad:

Crunchy and not *too* overpowering (as fennel can sometimes be), this was a great palate cleanser and a lovely bite of freshness on a hot day.

From the “main” dishes we picked, my personal favourites were (from top left, clockwise): Lamb moussaka, “Monsier Merguez”, Crispy Halloumi (uh, fried cheese? Yes Please!) and Duck Two Ways.

The portions were tiny and allowed us to taste a maximum of flavours, even though there were only two of us.  The dessert that stood out to me most was probably the Almond SemiFreddo:

Creamy and light after the myriad of flavours mingling already on our tastebuds, this was the perfect end to the meal.

237 Saint James Place,
Philadelphia, PA,
United States‎
(215) 625-8800‎

Zahav on Urbanspoon

After my foray into the Reading Terminal Market, I headed to Garces Trading Company to meet Amy.  I was excited to try this place out after taking a look at their menu online. It’s a beautiful space, both inside and out:

The website states that Chef Garces wants this to be a multi-purpose space, “perfect for a quick in and out or a casual sit-down meal at any time of the day, from breakfast until night.”  The eclectic menu reflects this philosophy, with the brunch menu featuring soups, salads, sandwiches, pizzas or the more formal $25 menu featuring two small plates and a dessert of the chef’s choice.

We chose two simple sandwiches which both proved excellent choices.  A Jardinière, featuring grilled radicchio, shaved marinated zucchini,membrillo, fontina val d’aosta  ($6):

And a Morrocan featuring roasted lamb loin, roasted pepper, eggplant, bacon, harissa aioli, comté ($11):

Fabulous bread – just like the sandwiches you get in  Paris – and innovative, tasty fillings!

For dessert we couldn’t go past these:

They were  just *ok* to my disappointment. Their little domes were not shiny, which I kind of like, and the buttercream fillings were way too sweet and overpowering. Oh well… They looked pretty though!

This is a great place for a light meal at any time of the day and the bonus?  There is a wine store built-in to the restaurant so you can BYO!  Perfect!

Garces Trading Company
1111 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107-5890,
United States
(215) 574-1099

Garces Trading Company on Urbanspoon

On Independence Day, my friend (who had joined me from Toronto for the second conference) and I headed down to the waterfront eager for some fresh air after a day in hotel air conditioning.  We stumbled upon the gorgeous Moshulu boat (read about its fascinating history here) featuring an upscale restaurant a little out of our league and then we spied this:

Ok that looked more our speed (and budget!). With the lure of $3 Coronas, we were there!  The view was gorgeous in the early evening:

And we sat enjoying that and three appetizers split between us: Calamari, Sliders and Shrimp Cocktail:

A tasty meal, some cold beers = a perfect end to a long day conferencing.  By the time we left, the sky was dark:

If you can’t afford the restaurant, the Bongo Bar is a perfect way to enjoy the waterfront view without breaking the bank.

Bongo Bar (above the Moshulu Restaurant)

401 South Columbus Boulevard,
Philadelphia, PA,
United States‎
(215) 923-2500‎

Of course a trip to Philadelphia cannot be complete without a cheese steak, right?  Fairly dubious about this legendary food, I was fully expecting to dislike this, even though the basic ingredients (cheese, beef, bread) are all things I like.  My friend and I were both extremely pleasantly surprised at our first experience which we had at Jim’s Steaks.

After all, these steaks have been eaten by famous people:

And gone to the South Pole:

So, I mean, who are we to argue with that?  Plus, they have neat neon signage:

Did we like it?

You bet we did!

We each ordered an “American with mushrooms and onions” – basically really lean chopped beef with cheese, mushrooms and fried onions. Heavenly.

Jim’s Steaks
400 South St,
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
(215) 928-1911
Jim's Steaks on Urbanspoon

After that dinner, we SO didn’t need anything else. That is, until we spied this:

Not wanting to miss out on the fun (there was a HUGE queue – those people must have known what’s good), we ordered a “kiddie size” frozen custard each, mine chocolate/vanilla swirl with sprinkles:

And Edie ordered a plain vanilla one:

Just. So. Good.

235 South Street,
(215) 629-3910

Rita's Water Ice on Urbanspoon

34 Responses to Good bites in Philly!

  1. Belinda @zomppa July 9, 2010 at 07:39 #

    How fun that you got to meet up with some other foodies! That burger…that ice cream with the jimmies! Yes, where we come from, we call them jimmies!

  2. penny aka jeroxie July 9, 2010 at 10:00 #

    So much fun between work and fun and catching up with food bloggers. I wish I could do the same soon!

  3. Cajun Chef Ryan July 9, 2010 at 13:44 #

    Great culinary tour of Philly! Appreciate your sharing all these wonderful eating spots, we were in Philly back in May and only ate around the Reading Terminal Market area since it was so close to our hotel.
    Check out my post: “In the City of Brotherly Love:

    Bon appetit!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 11, 2010 at 09:27 #

      Looks like you stayed at the Mariott also – I loved that hotel and it was definitely well placed for the Market.

  4. Wolf July 9, 2010 at 18:19 #

    Ahh, South Street. Love that area.}:P

    Next time you go, try to go tour Eastern State Penitentiary. It’s a gorgeous piece of Philly history.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 11, 2010 at 09:25 #

      Yup – that was on my list but because we were there over the holiday weekend we couldn’t fit in a visit around our conference hours and their hours… Next time!

  5. Casey July 9, 2010 at 21:14 #

    I can’t believe you made it to Jim’s! That is definitely THE best place to get a Philly cheesesteak (when you’re sober, anyway). And you’ve turned me on to a few new places with this post as well. Your photos from our dinner at Zahav turned out so beautifully! Nicely done. I had such a great time hanging out with you, not to mention the wonderful meal. Hope we can do it again sometime!


    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 11, 2010 at 09:24 #

      Yes it was kind of an accident that we ended up there – I was wandering around in search of Pretzel M&Ms one afternoon during a break and ended up on South St and saw a HUGE queue at Jim’s and figured that might be the place to be later that day! Great choice! It was wonderful meeting you also and I hope we get to do it sooner rather than later!

  6. Magic of Spice July 9, 2010 at 22:29 #

    What a fun time…and great photos:)

  7. The Housewife July 10, 2010 at 05:14 #

    The almond semi freddo and the frozen custard look amazing! Its always nice to get a peek at different cities and see what they offer… so thanks for sharing!

  8. Shea M. July 10, 2010 at 11:52 #

    I see you got some cheesesteak – good call! And man, I’m reading this on the hottest day we’ve had since I got to Germany, and you made me crave Rita’s something fierce (it’s actually a chain, but so good, and all the ice flavors are freshly made). If you ever go again, get a gelati (custard with their Italian ice); some family favorites are lemonade or blueberry ice with vanilla custard, or cherry ice with chocolate custard. Unbelievable!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 11, 2010 at 09:17 #

      Yes I didn’t realise that Ritas was a chain until after I got home and goolged it but it sure was popular!! Those combinations sound great!

  9. Lisa { AuthenticSuburbanGourmet } July 10, 2010 at 17:55 #

    What a great week for you! The food looks amazing and I have never been there, but now I feel like I have. Great photos – thank you for sharing your adventures.

  10. Tami July 11, 2010 at 18:06 #

    Aaaaah, Bongo’s………I soooooo enjoyed my Corona’s there as well!!

  11. cat July 11, 2010 at 22:58 #

    what a fun week – new friends, new restaurants, fun new foods to try – love it!

  12. Liana July 12, 2010 at 05:15 #

    everything looks sooo tasty but I must admitt Bongo’s waterfront spot caught my eye the most…my favorite thing to do in the summer is eat by the water! hope you had a great time:)

  13. JulieD July 12, 2010 at 11:01 #

    Oh my gosh, cheesesteaks. I would love to try one of those in Philly!

  14. Jason Phelps July 12, 2010 at 22:53 #

    Looks like an action packed trip! I haven’t had that selection of beer from Dogfish Head but the ones I have had are sneaky just like that one. Lot of alcohol and not seeming like it.


    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 13, 2010 at 20:28 #

      Well and it didn’t even affect me in the slightest – I love beer like that! Reminds me of when I lived in Belgium…

  15. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction July 13, 2010 at 15:10 #

    Great post about the restaurants you visited! I really need to make the trip to Philly and try out Garces Trading Company… Looks like a restaurant Darron and I would enjoy!

  16. theminx July 14, 2010 at 14:23 #

    I was tempted to try the macarons at Garces when I was there a couple of weeks ago, but now I’m glad I didn’t. I did have the Moroccan sandwich and while I thought the bread was wonderful, I thought the filling was really skimpy. Couldn’t really taste all of the various elements except the mayo.

  17. Conor @ HoldtheBeef July 20, 2010 at 03:25 #

    OK, I would like that wooden box of bread, to eat the bowl of hummus with. I would then like to have some of the calamari, and shake Mr T’s hand before devouring a couple of serves of frozen custard.
    Thank you.

  18. Brenna [fabuleuxdestin] February 15, 2011 at 16:02 #

    I am so proud you hit up so many good spots from my hometown!


  1. Tweets that mention Good bites in Philly! -- Topsy.com - July 9, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by eatlivetravelwrite, eatlivetravelwrite. eatlivetravelwrite said: Good eats in #Philadelphia, featuring @zahavrestaurant @ritasitalianice @garcesgroup Jim's Steaks, The Bongo Bar! http://bit.ly/99b8Fj #fbz […]

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