Travel Food // Maine to Philly

I’ve neglected my travel posts lately as I’ve been focussing on sharing some great recipes and improving my food photography. But I need to get back to it to round off our US trip before moving onto some of the other exciting culinary experiences we’ve had elsewhere in the world.

So – where were we? The last post I did included some great recommendations in Cape Cod. From there our trip took us up the coast to Kennebunkport in Maine, where my husband treated me to a birthday dinner at Mabel’s Lobster Claw which has been around since the 1950’s serving up traditional Maine fare. If you ever find yourself in this quaint seaside town be sure to stop in at Mabel’s for a quintessential lobster meal.

From there our trip took us through the White Mountain National Forest to Stowe in Vermont. Vermont is well known for its production of Maple Syrup, cheese and craft breweries, all of which we sampled while we were there. Two of the highlights on this part of the trip were the Harvest Market, a specialist food store selling great fresh produce from the area and prepared options to take along on your hiking and swimming trips, and Idlethyme Brewing Company for some locally crafted brews and delicious eats.

From Stowe we had originally planned to take a slow meander back to New York via Connecticut, however we decided that with a little determination and an early morning wake-up we could easily fit in one more exciting city before our trip ended. So off we went on a 400-mile road trip from Stowe to Philadelphia via the Green Mountains. And am I glad we did.

Philadelphia is a really great city and is the perfect size to explore on foot without ever really needing transport. We were lucky enough to be there over 4th of July and as it is where the bill of independence was officially signed and read for the first time, the festivities were pretty spectacular!

When it comes to food there were some real highlights. The first was Audrey Claire. This tiny, yet airy restaurant near Rittenhouse Square was an absolute delight and I had to restrain myself from going back there for all of our meals while in Philly. My husband and I kicked off our dinner with a fresh tomato salad to share. I absolutely love tomatoes but often find that the flavour is lacking. Not in this case! This salad included a number of varietals all with their own distinct flavour and sweetness. For our main course we shared mussels and the pappardelle with portabella mushrooms, rocket pesto and toasted sunflower seeds. The mussels were delicious and so quickly consumed by my husband that I was lucky that I got any at all. The pappardelle was perfectly al dente and the pesto gave it a wonderful freshness perfectly complimented by the crunch of toasted sunflower seeds. The desserts looked amazing, however we were so full by this stage and starting to feel a little squishy after two weeks of holiday that we decided to give them a skip! As if the great atmosphere and fantastic food weren’t enough to give Audrey Claire the highest recommendation, another great perk for the Rand-spender is that this restaurant is strictly BYOB! There is a corner store over the road which has an excellent variety of beers, but unfortunately no wine.

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Audrey Claire restaurant (photo by Jason Varney)

Another great food destination while in Philly is the Di Bruno Bros Specialty Food store. The original store was opened in 1939 in the Italian Market area of Philly and is still there today. We visited the flagship store in Rittenhouse Square, which in my mind is a bigger and better version of our local Giovannis. The store is packed floor to ceiling with the most incredible treats, from cheese to charcuterie, antipasti, prepared foods and pastries. We popped in for an early morning coffee and pastry to fuel up for a day of serious sightseeing. I’d highly recommend sticking your nose in here for some delightful morsels to enjoy straightaway or even to take home.

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Finally – how can one go to Philly and not have a cheese steak? It would be sacrilege. So off we missioned to the South of Philly to find Geno’s famous cheese steaks. Geno’s is less of a restaurant and more a window in a building where the walls are plastered with photos of all the famous people who’ve eaten there and with a couple of tables on the pavement (or ‘sidewalk’ since we’re in America). You know you’re in the right place as you see the queue winding down the road from a distance. This place only does two dishes – cheese steak and fries and they turn them out in the most incredibly efficient production line. My husband and I shared a cheese steak with provolone (as they are huge!). To be honest, the actual food was a bit of let down as it was pretty flavourless, but the whole experience made it a worthwhile visit.

Philly ended up being an incredibly successful spontaneous detour to end off our trip. I’d highly recommend spending a day or two exploring this city which is only an hour from New York.

Audrey Nicole: 276 S 20th St, Philadelphia, Budget: $$

Di Bruno Brothers: 730 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, Budget: $- $$

Geno’s Steaks: 1219 S 9th St, Philadelphia, Budget $

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