Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bloggers' Bites: Reading Terminal Market

Bloggers' Bites is a series of posts chronicling the foodie adventures of Penn Appetit's blog staff. Last Saturday we visited Reading Terminal Market for lunch. Each blogger reviewed what she ate--everything from guacamole to falafel, from pancakes to cookies and apple dumplings. Read the recommendations and check out the accompanying photos of the meals.

12th Street Cantina: grilled vegetable salad

Ignoring the dismal service, I thoroughly enjoyed the Grilled Vegetable Salad from 12th Street Cantina, a Mexican restaurant that serves a variety of fare with south-of-the-border flavors. With a side of guacamole, my salad cost $10.21—fairly pricey compared to other offerings at the terminal. However, once it was handed to me—albeit, after an unreasonably long wait due to the slow pace of the work staff—I understood why. Served in a boat of a dish, the salad starts with a base of tortilla chips which is then layered with a hefty spoonful of refried beans, romaine lettuce, grilled vegetables, and corn salsa. (I opted out of the cheese and sour cream that normally come with the dish, but they weren't missed.)

After topping it off with some of the Cantina's hot sauce and my side of guac, I dug in. The tortilla chips were pretty standard as they weren’t homemade, but the refrieds were creamy and delicious. Next, the grilled vegetables, a mix of fresh zucchini, mushrooms, and yellow squash, were flavorful and had a great grilled texture. The colorful corn salsa was a chunky and had a cooler temperature that paired nicely with the warm refrieds and vegetables. For my personal tastes, the salsa lacked a little heat, but that was rectified by the added hot sauce. Lastly, the guacamole was tasty but not mind-blowing. Overall, I was satisfied with the salad and was pleased with the fresh ingredients and generous portion size. –Krystal Bonner

Dutch Eating Place: blueberry pancakes

With the countless options at Reading Terminal, it’s hard to select just one thing to eat—which is just encouragement to visit this phenomenal market countless times! This particular Saturday, I decided to try the Dutch Eating Place. Since the place is known for their breakfast/brunch fare, I selected their blueberry pancakes. Each pancake is huge—the size of a dinner plate—and generously packed with sweet blueberries. The pancakes are cooked to order and come off the griddle with a delicious golden-brown crust and fluffy texture. Slathered with a mountain of farm-fresh butter and accompanied by rich maple syrup, it is quality comfort food at its best. Even better is the refreshingly low price: a stack of two costs a mere $4.27 (including tax).

The quality of food is only matched by the quality of service; the staff is friendly and efficient, taking care to give you the best experience whether you’re eating at the counter or taking food to go. Whenever I walk past this stall, there are always huge lines for both the sit-down area and the take-out section. Needless to say, the Dutch Eating Place deserves such popularity. Make sure to stop by the Pennsylvania Dutch stalls towards the end of the week, as the merchants only open their stalls from Wednesday to Saturday. I definitely plan to return in the future (I want to try their cinnamon apple French toast!) –Nicole Woon

Hope’s Cookies: chocolate chip cookie with butterscotch chips

I may have been mistaken: 4th Street Cookie Co. may not make the very best cookies after all. I went to Reading Terminal Market with my fellow bloggers and I was raving about how delicious 4th Street Cookie Co.’s cookies are. They politely let me finish, but none of them looked very moved by my praise. Instead, they vouched for Hope’s cookies and suggested I try one to compare. I was shocked! I didn’t think anyone could top 4th Street Cookie Co. I couldn’t resist checking out Hope’s though since I am always open to finding new and delicious sweets. So I made my way through the crowds and found the place nestled across the way from Metropolitan Bakery. The cookies didn’t look that impressive to me, but like I’ve said before, I’m rarely impressed by mere cookies. So I decided to try one anyways because how could I compare if I never tasted one? I bought the chocolate chip cookie covered in butterscotch chips.
I rejoined the bloggers and tasted it. It was so indulgent! It was even denser than 4th Street Cookie Co.’s—definitely more buttery. The texture of the cookie was closer to a cookie dough consistency, moist, but not raw. The smoothness was contrasted by the chunky chocolate and butterscotch chips. And the cookie was unique. It mixed flavors of rich milk chocolate with sweet butterscotch, instead of just focusing on one. I have to say that compared to the peanut butter chocolate chip cookie I bought that day from 4th Street Cookie Co., the chocolate chip butterscotch from Hope’s was better! The dough was richer and gooier and the flavors really popped, whereas I couldn’t really taste the peanut butter in the dough of 4th Street Cookie Co’s and it was a little dry overall and crunchy on the edges. I’m not going to say that every one of Hope’s cookies is better, however, in comparison to 4th Street Cookie Co’s because I would still vouch for the chocolate covered chocolate chip cookie at 4th Street. I guess it also depends on your preferences. However, Hope’s is definitely in the running for making some of the best cookies I’ve had. –Jessica Chung

Pizza & Pasta by George: euro sandwich and Flying Monkey: macaroon

I chose the Euro sandwich from Pizza & Pasta by George. The sesame roll came loaded with fresh mozzarella, sliced portobello mushroom, eggplant, tomato, roasted peppers, basil and broccoli rabe. I added on a side of mixed olives - five or six varieties of meaty, flavorful olives lightly herbed and coated in oil. The sandwich was perfectly juicy, but the roll stood up to the challenge and remained light and crispy on the outside. At George's, they heat the pizzas and sandwiches in a brick oven, but my Euro didn't stay in long enough to be warmed through. The middle was disappointingly cold and the cheese resisted melting (though when I heated the other half up in my home oven later, it was delicious!). The flavors of the vegetables came together nicely, but I would have liked the broccoli rabe and mushrooms cooked a bit longer -- the rabe was so fresh and chewy that I couldn't bite through it, making for a messy meal. I also would have liked a little more seasoning to bring out the flavors, and more cheese; my sandwich only had a few little half-moons of mozzarella. At $7.60, I would probably buy this again, but would take it home to heat it up and add some salt and pepper.

For dessert, I chose a cup of fair-trade organic coffee and a macaroon from Flying Monkey. The outside of the macaroon was wonderful, crisp and chewy, not too sweet. The flavor inside was right on point, simple coconut deliciousness, but the texture in the middle was just a bit too greasy and soggy. Still, overall, it was a really tasty way to end my meal. –Molly O’Neill

Dutch Eating Place: apple dumpling

I’d heard about the Dutch Eating Place’s apple dumpling from a friend. She claimed they were so rich that no one could finish them by themselves. One, I love apple desserts. Two, I was determined to prove her wrong. The Dutch Eating Place’s
homemade food looked delicious, but I cut straight to dessert and ordered the ‘hot apple dumpling with heavy cream’. Shortly after ordering from the friendly teenage boy working the cash register, I was handed a warm box with a little container of cream on the side. Inside was an apple that had been sautéed with butter, sugar and cinnamon and then baked in a delicious flaky crust. The most delicious part of the sweet was that it was obviously freshly made and from all natural ingredients. –Shannon Ridge

Kamal's Middle Eastern Specialties: falafel sandwich and Bassett's Ice Cream: eggnog

I arrived at Reading Terminal with a stomach ache and left with two scoops of ice cream. If anything, this is a testament to Bassett's hold on my heart. I have early memories of sitting at the counter with a cone of peanut butter swirl in hand, utterly content. The eggnog was creamy, smooth and delicious, and I ate it happily despite the cold weather and a long walk. On the other hand, the falafel sandwich I ordered from Kamal's did not quite live up to expectations. It was mediocre at best: the pita was too dry, the lettuce slightly wilted, the sauce too heavy. It hadn't been folded into a pocket so it fell apart whenever I tried to take a bite. I wouldn't buy the sandwich again, but I will always buy an ice cream cone from Bassett's when I'm in the vicinity. No matter how intense the wind chill is or how far I have to walk. -Kiley Bense

Basset's Ice Cream: green tea

Green tea ice cream, one of the most popular ice cream flavors in Asia, can not be too sweet... which sort of goes against the American concept of ice cream. I was therefore skeptical about trying the green tea ice cream at Bassett's, an all-American ice cream maker dating back to 1861. I realized my skepticism had been for naught with after first lick. The perfectly creamy ice cream had the unmistakable taste of green tea with, lo and behold, just a hint of sweetness! The ideal pick-me-up when you want something decadent, without the typical sugar rush. -Elliott Brooks

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