Hi folks - so I was thrilled to come here and get some advice before a long weekend trip to Philly at the beginning of May, and I wanted to share my awesome food adventure, partially thanks to all of the wonderful suggestions of all of you kind folks.
I arrived on Thursday, April 30, of course just as the protests were happening in Center City and causing gridlock. Luckily had no problems getting a taxi from 30th St. Station to my AirB&B home in the Italian Market area. I walked to my first dinner stop of Fond, which I know people didn't seem too 'fond' of (I had to do it). But it was a gorgeous evening, the windows of the restaurant were wide open to let in the breeze, and it was a super cute little spot. The tasting menu was quite good overall - it included a fantastic chicken liver mousse paired with a lovely slightly sweet riesling, perfectly crispy skate, and a pork belly with skin so crispy it was amazing. And the dessert, which included a lemon component and some chocolate, was flawless. Service was a bit cold, and some of the wine pairings were not fantastic, but overall a great start to the trip.
Friday started with a morning stroll through the Italian Market - loved the energy of the place, had some great samples at DiBruno and bought expensive cheese that I shouldn't have, along with those awesome tortillas (but they don't keep that well of course) and had lunch at Paesano's. The Daddy Wad was delicious, but I probably should have done the beef or pork - the bread though was incredible and the meats so yummy.
After a stroll to the historical district, visit to the Liberty Bell, and the do it yourself tour at the US Mint (that was amazing, if you've never done it), went back to the house to get ready for the big meal at Vetri. After stopping off for a yummy margarita (can't remember the name), I walked into Vetri perhaps a little tipsy, but that was just the start. The meal was just as good as any tasting menu I've had in NYC (perhaps with the exception of Per Se or EMP) - I don't have a listing of all of the courses, but I did the whole she-bang with the wine pairings. The pastas were mind-blowingly good, but the onion was just off the charts - I actually said to my wonderful waiter "I just want to be alone with my onion right now". It was like the greatest onion cheese mix ever, it was roasted for some obscene amount of hours. The wines were perfect, dessert was a bit of a let down, but the service was flawless. Then I made the mistake of walking to Franklin Mortgage Company and having 2 cocktails that I don't know what was in them, and that would prove to be my downfall for the next day. :)
Saturday began with the hangover to end all hangovers, and of all things, I had a 10:00 Reading Terminal Market tour. The tour was wonderful, I just couldn't eat anything. My own dumb fault, huh? I did manage to get the delicious pretzel from the Amish ladies down by 12:30. After an Independence Hall tour that took me back to my childhood field trip days and an ice cream at Franklin Fountain with a former student that is now attending Temple, it was time to get ready for Zahav.
Walking into Zahav, you could tell it was the 'cool' place to be. The service was warm and inviting (my waiter and I had both lived in Pittsburgh for a time). Had 2 glasses of a wonderful Middle Eastern white wine, and then the food just kept coming. I could have dined happily on the hummus and salads alone, so unusual and delicious. Appetizers were not bad, cauliflower and smoked trout, but the lamb merguez and the bread pudding dessert were incredible. I had been chatting off and on with the staff all night, and at one point the chef came out to introduce himself to me, and then the manager as well, as I talked to him about being a foodie who loved to travel by myself for these food adventures. And when the bill was brought by that manager, he said that they were only charging me for the drinks, the dinner was on them. I couldn't believe it, such a lovely gesture - it was a perfect dinner experience, complete with a huge bag of leftovers.
The trip ended with an absolutely gorgeous brunch at Amada, that started with me alone in the dining room, and ended with a parade of dishes because their very reasonably priced 3 course brunch included about 12 courses, along with lovely wines. More leftovers to take on the train so the trip could continue as I returned home to rural central PA.
So Philadelphians, your city is full of so much exquisite food. I had a wonderful time and I will certainly be back, there are many more places I didn't get to try. Thanks again for all of your help, and happy eating to all!