The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2017

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28  /  the tasting panel  /  june 2017 WHERE WE'RE EATING Osteria's menu is prepared in an open kitchen that runs to spit-roasted porchetta with tonnato, chicken liver rigatoni with cipollini onions and skate wing Milanese with brown butter. WHAT TO EAT IN PHILADELPHIA by Merrill Shindler A sk a native Philadelphian where to get a good Philly cheesesteak, and the options will quickly go logarithmic. The City of Brotherly Love, Birthplace of America (unless you're from Boston) and home to this monster sandwich of sautéed ribeye and fried onions, oozing Cheez Whiz, served on a crusty roll, has many claimants to the ne plus ultra of this tasty belly bomb. The names that appear most often are Pat's King of Steaks and Geno's Steaks, situated directly opposite each other, both open 24 hours—and both packed 24 hours a day. But also mentioned, often, are local favorites like John's Roast Pork, Tony Luke's, Jim's—and too many more to count. Philly does love its cheesesteaks. But it also loves so much more. Which is why while you try (perhaps des- perately) to digest your cheesesteak, a stroll through the fabled Reading Terminal Market is called for—an exceptional food hall that dates back to 1893, and still functions as a working market, as well as a destination for those beginning to feel a bit peckish after all that beef and cheese finally passes through the gullet. Though, of course, there are more cheesesteaks to be found at the Market—just in case. But there's also Cajun food, Middle Eastern food, Greek food, Thai food, Chinese food, German food, salads— and perhaps most appealing to the culinary traveler, a raft of Pennsylvania Dutch purveyors, serving the distinc- tive dishes of the Amish, which is what you'll find at Beiler's Bakery, the Dutch Eating Place, Kauffman's Lancaster Country Produce, L. Haltman Family Country Food, the Lancaster County Dairy and more. The Amish do love their pastries and their jams—and scrapple is an experience that, argu- ably, makes a cheesesteak seem like a diet dish. This is not a dish for the faint of palate. Eventually, one must settle down for a proper meal, perhaps at one of the numerous restaurants operated as part of the Vetri chain, which has become the standard for Italian dining that can easily transport you to Firenze with a bite and a glass of vino. Thus, we have the dramatically sprawling Osteria, with a menu prepared in an open kitchen that runs to spit-roasted porchetta with tonnato, chicken liver rigatoni with cipollini onions, skate wing Milanese with brown butter, lamb leg with Lancaster yogurt (Amish-Italian?) and pizzas topped with octopus, cotechino sausage, Sicilian pistachio pesto and more. If you feel the need for Italian rotis- serie chow, head for Philly's Navy Yard, where Alla Spina offers a gastropub setting and Italian beer- and wine- friendly food like pig's head bruschetta, a carbonara mac 'n cheese made with guanciale and fried egg, a pork ragu pot pie, a bucket o' chicken with biscuits and, look at this, a North Philly cheesesteak made with black pepper sausage and spicy beer cheese on a pretzel roll. And while Vetri dominates Italian cooking in Philly, ubiquitous restaura- teur Stephen Starr dominates pretty much every other cuisine—Cuban at Alma de Cuba, steak at Barclay Prime and Butcher & Singer, Pan Asian at Buddokan, Mexican at El Vez, barbecue at Fette Sau, German at Frankford Hall, French at Parc, British at Dandelion Pub and more. Between meals, aside from seeing the Liberty Bell, do pay a visit to the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, immortalized by Sly Stallone in Rocky—72 steps that are easy to run up early on in the trip, not so easy later on. That Cheez Whiz does tend to hang around in the blood stream and the liver, slowing you down for days. Provolone and American are offered as an alterna- tive. John Kerry famously ate his with Swiss. It's generally believed to have cost him the election. Where America and the Cheesesteak Were Born PHOTO: JOSIE DAVIS PHOTO COURTESY OF ALLA SPINA Alla Spina offers a gastropub setting, Italian beer and wine friendly food.

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