Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Night Market: Chinatown Edition

Chinatown is usually a busy neighborhood during the year, but this past Thursday it exploded with food, friends, firecrackers, and fun at the latest installment of Night Market. Organized by The Food Trust back in 2010, this pop-up festival has experienced humongous crowds and fantastic success in East Passyunk, University City, Mount Airy, and now Chinatown. Philadelphia's Night Markets consist of several blocks lined with food trucks and tables offering a wide variety of ethnic foods. Because it draws vendors from throughout the Philadelphia region, it’s the perfect opportunity to sample dishes from businesses you normally wouldn’t get to try.

After recovering from our initial shock at the crowds and endless lines, my friend and I dove into the chaos. We scanned aisles packed with grocers, arts and crafts merchants, and lion/dragon dancers. Of course, the real draw was the food vendors. We first made a stop at Zsa's Gourmet Ice Cream, a food truck specializing in locally made ice cream. The creamy scoops of deliciousness are served in cups or sandwiched between two just-as-satisfying cookies. I went with an ice cream sandwich: Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Double Chocolate Cookies ($4). The sandwich was just the right portion (about the size of my palm), especially with all the other awaiting Night Market delicacies. The ice cream’s peanut butter taste was subtle, but nicely balanced the decadence of the cookies. If I had more room in my stomach, I would have loved to try their Toasted Coconut (coconut ice cream with golden brown coconut flakes) or Pumpkin Gingersnap (pumpkin ice cream packed with their own gingersnap cookie pieces).

Momentarily detered from continuing up 10th Street because of the huge crowds, we branched off to the side onto Spring Street. My friend headed off to the stall manned by Avenida, a food vendor specializing in Latin cuisine. He ultimately selected a Chicken Tostada ($5). He later told me that it was "tasty" and "pretty good overall"; he "especially savored the sauce/marinade." However, the amount he received was "small compared to the price."

For me, on the other hand, it was time to cupcake-party! I knew there were a couple cupcake vendors stationed here and was excited to participate in a taste test. Right next to Avenida was Sweet Box Cupcakes, the truck that took the cake (no pun intended) at this past summer’s Philadelphia Vendy Awards. I purchased a Love Park (“classic southern red velvet cupcake topped with a vanilla cream cheese frosting”) and a Chocolate Ganache (“Ghirardelli chocolate cupcake topped with chocolate ganache”) ($3 each). Back on the main drag was Jimmies Cupcakes. All their menu items have unique monikers based on famous James/Jims/Jimmies; I got a James Bond (“classic, moist red velvet cake topped with smooth, buttery cream cheese icing”) and a Jimmy Neutron (“dark, rich sour cream chocolate cake topped with Oreo cookie buttercream icing”) ($2 each).

My verdict? Both companies make scrumptious cupcakes! All had a good ratio of cake to frosting and the flavors of both cake and frosting came through well. Jimmies’ frosting is slightly sweeter than Sweet Box, so it truly depends on your tastes. In terms of appearance, Sweet Box adorns their cupcakes with cute decorations; for instance, my red velvet was topped with a fortune cookie containing a sweet fortune: “I don’t drown my sorrows; I suffocate them with chocolate!” (Don’t worry, I didn’t eat four cupcakes in one sitting.)

So far, I had only bought desserts, so I craved something with a little more sustenance. I had been looking forward to Say Cheese, a gourmet grilled cheese food truck normally stationed at Temple, but their truck looked dark; they unfortunately seemed to be out of power at the time I was there. Instead, we concluded our Night Market experience with a visit to Nomad Pizza. I was certainly impressed by their efficient made-to-order assembly line approach in preparing the pies. In a matter of seconds, they transformed hunks of puffy pizza dough into thin yet substantial crusts, painted scarlet San Marzano tomato sauce across the surfaces, and liberally sprinkled fresh mozzarella on top. However, when I saw the wood fired brick oven built directly into their custom REO Speedwagon, I was stunned. Amazing! The line was long, but moved quickly for the quantity of people waiting; we got our pizza a few minutes after we ordered, toasty hot from the oven. We chose the Pepperoni Pizza ($12 for a whole pie). A pizza’s foundation is its crust, with everything else dependent on its quality. Nomad did not disappoint: the dough was yeasty and chewy, its rustic aromatic taste permeating my mouth for the rest of the night. The mozzarella was top quality and delightfully gooey, the sauce fragrant and flavorful, and the pepperoni crisp and subtly spicy (my friend noted it was “almost like bacon”). It’s one of the best pizzas I’ve had in Philadelphia. I can’t wait until their second location has their grand opening this fall near South and 7th.

Night Market can be an overwhelming experience for a first-timer, but it is definitely a must-see. When the next Night Market is announced, trek out there and take the rows one at a time. Where else do you have the chance to indulge in a diverse selection of mouthwatering international foods, all in one place? It’s absolutely worth the trip!

1 comment:

  1. It's great to hear that Nomad Pizza are opening up a location in Philly! I've had their pizza in Hopewell, NJ and it was scrumptious.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...