Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Night Market Chinatown, Round II

After the thrilling adventure I had at last year's Night Market Chinatown, I was more than ready to tackle the spectacle this year. On Thursday, October 4, Penn Appétit bloggers and Penn Gastronomy foodies experienced the 2nd Annual Night Market Chinatown, Philly's last Night Market of the 2012 season. The festival featured over 50 different vendors from around the city and shut down 10th Street between Arch and Vine Streets, and Race Street between 9th and 11th Streets.

I was quite pleased with the way the festival was organized spatially this year. While foot traffic was plenty busy in all directions, the food trucks and stands located on the side street stretch were now on Race Street, an enormous improvement over last year's cramped Cherry Street. With such a vast variety of places and cuisines to choose from, there was no doubt in my mind that I'd leave the festival pleasantly full.

After giving the various booths a once-over, I selected Local 215 as my dinner of choice. The newly launched food truck, which first hit the streets in August, is committed to sourcing all ingredients locally and acting as sustainably as possible. A quick glance of the menu and I instantly knew that pork belly over creamy polenta was on my hit list. I forked over $7 and was pleasantly surprised at the heft of the box when the woman at the truck window handed me my order; it was at least a pound, if not more. Needless to say, the satisfyingly-portioned entrée lasted me two meals. The pork belly was flavorful and as unctuous as it could be, the golden-yellow polenta coarsely-ground yet still relatively smooth. While the smattering of dressed microgreens bonneting the dish added color, they did little else.

My companion elected for Street Food Philly, located just down the street. The truck is headed by individuals with impressive kitchen cred (i.e. Susanna Foo's, Russet, Parc) and focuses on seasonal ingredients. Along with a core menu, offers a continually rotating list of tantalizing regional dishes (think "South of the Border" chicken tacos and Southern BBQ Brisket). From the variety of equally-delicious-sounding items offered, my friend chose a takeout box of butternut squash gnocchi. Sweet and hearty, it was the perfect comfort food for the evening.

I was thrilled to see Zsa's Gourmet Ice Cream again; I had first tried their awe-inspiring scoops at last year's Night Market and was ready to continue the tradition. I was delighted to find a new ice cream sandwich option I hadn't seen on their menu before: vanilla ice cream between salted toffee almond grahams. Just the name made my mouth water, and I quickly exchanged $4 for a neatly-packaged homemade sandwich. In short, it was a revelation. The salted toffee almond grahams were out of this world: sweet and salty, perfectly crisp, nuances of caramel tones. I could have simply eaten these and been a happy camper. The creamy artisanal ice cream added a lovely taste and texture contrast. As my colleague exclaimed, “The first bite is fantastic—and it just gets better!”

A stop at my beloved Sugar Philly was in order before we left. The fabulous dessert truck based in University City was debuting a new macaron flavor: pumpkin pie! With the classic French treats in tow, we left with full stomachs and the hopes that the 3rd Annual Night Market Chinatown in 2013 will be bigger and better than ever.


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