Cheesesteaks & Dinosaurs

One of the things I love most about living on the East Coast is the proximity to big cities. From our cozy home in the suburbs of northern Maryland we are 30 minutes from Baltimore and 90 minutes from Washington, DC to the south, and 60 minutes to Philadelphia and another 2.5 hours to New York in the north. This is ideal, decadent, and positively laden with food and cultural options.

That said, last Saturday we hopped in the car in the late afternoon and headed north to cash in on a Christmas present: Tickets to the Jurassic World exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philly. One of my favorite museum perks is discounted tickets for a certain time of day. In this case, adult evening admission for the exhibit was $19.95 for entry after 5 p.m. and through 9 p.m. That said, you can’t access the rest of the FI’s permanent exhibits if you enter after hours. You may also run into hordes of Scouts lined up to camp-out, and families lining up for the IMAX theatre which closes at 7 p.m. So, choose your own adventure. Dinosaurs are on through April 23, so don’t miss it!

 

Say what you want about Philadelphia sports fans but be advised that some of the best food on this coast is in the city. One of our favorite all-time pitstops when in Philly is the Reading Terminal Market. It has grown over the years, and we’ve grown smarter in scheduling our shopping there, too. Never show up without a re-usable bag, and avoid Saturday like the plague.

Although we were mired in the Saturday crowd this time, we were ready to rock with a cooler, and bags. What the hell are we buying, you ask? Oh, everything. RTM has chocolate, coffee, seafood, burgers, produce, baked goods .. you get the point. Here are some of our personal favorites in the market:

  • Miller’s Twist – Hand-rolled pretzels. A must have sweet or savory snack while shopping.
  • Mueller Chocolates – Purchase your chocolates by the pound, and look for oddballs like the chocolate covered onion that was featured on Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.
  • Martin’s – Our favorite sausage stop, although the butcher has many other options. From turkey chorizo to chicken feta spinach sausage, always look to see what’s on the board for the 3 lbs for $9 special. Go all out, and freeze it at home to enjoy later.
  • OK Produce – Absurdly cheap vegetables. Think 3 avocados (ready to use asap) for $1, three medium red peppers for $1, bundles of potatoes for the same. Your bags will be heavy if you stop here, make it your last stop.
  • Beiler’s – With two locations in the market: Beiler’s Bakery, Beiler’s Donuts & Salads. We aim for the Salads (surprising, I know) for the giant vats of pickles (less surprising now, right?)
  • Hatville Deli – New for us on this trip, and yielded thick cut pepper encrusted bacon that barely lasted a day at home.
  • The Head Nut – Tucked in the back corner of the market (by the restrooms) you will find a little haven of bulk nuts, seeds, flours, spices, and every other thing. Prices are right and the staff does a nice job of navigating the very tiny shop to serve their customers.

After intense shopping and running from dinosaurs we made our way to Sonny’s Cheesesteaks in Old City. This is the fourth stop on our recent Tour de Cheesesteaks, and the results were mixed. Sonny’s ranked highly in several food critic romps through the city, so our hopes were high. Sadly the steak was lukewarm (literally and figuratively) and the whiz was without. Sonny’s lands the third spot on our list while Pat’s remains strong at #1 with Geno’s at #2, and Campo’s dead last at #4.

All that, and home before midnight. Thank you, Philadelphia! #seeyousoon

Dining & Dunks in DC

It started with snow and sleet but ended in blue skies, as most winter days are prone to do in Maryland. We took a quick weekend in Washington, DC to celebrate our two year anniversary. An interesting time to be in town, just a few days before the inauguration of Donald Trump. Every souvenir shop stacked full of the face of the President Elect, and this morning found soldiers lined up in the street practicing for the Presidential parade.

But we weren’t there for the President, we were there to eat. We were also there for my first NBA game – Wizards vs. 76ers at the Verizon Center. Jahlil Okafor had a slow night and John Wall was ablaze in attitude and points – entertaining to say the least. Almost as entertaining as the college kids sharing our row who spilled beer on the people in front of us, and spent the next 3 quarters apologizing at top volume. While that didn’t make it on #SCTop10, two other ridiculous moves did.

Before the game we made our way to hot spot Founding Farmers in Foggy Bottom. True to form, the menu boasts a farm to table commitment and did not disappoint. So thanks to the farmer that raised the pig that made the bacon that wrapped this date stuffed with blue cheese, a highlight of the meal. Gold star to the FF take on Southern shrimp & grits with slices of spicy andouille sausage that stole the show.

Our love for the TV show Master Chef took us to Christina Tosi’s late night Milk bar for a post game snack where we tried the vanilla soft serve with Cereal Milk (Captain Crunch esque) crunch. The truth? I could have passed. If there’s a next time I’ll aim for the crack pie instead. Compost cookie gets an honorable mention.

We enjoyed two prime museum galleries this weekend. First, George Washington University’s Textile museum that boasted brightly colored kimonos from Okinawa, campaign kerchiefs from elections past and an onslaught of Washingtonian stuff. Next, Ford’s Theatre, known for the Lincoln assassination. The theatre itself was our favorite part of the four-part tour, complete with brief talk from a National Park Service ranger. Word to the wise: the theater can only be viewed at certain times when a play is running, so choose your timed ticket online and watch for which of the four inclusions is highlighted.

Before we left the city we wound our way to B Too to satisfy J’s craving for waffles. The donut waffle was curious, the cornbread & pulled pork waffle was wet, and the egg in a hole waffle was a thin French toast. Our fault for not keeping the waffle in its pure form? You decide.

Washington Marriott Metro Center gets a shout out for a centrally located, inexpensive, comfortable stay.