Soft Pretzels 2: The Saga Ends

I promised more pretzels, and more pretzels you’ll get. At many an auspicious mall kiosk can one find the other sort of soft pretzel, those that hearken back to the clasped praying hands we discussed back in Pretzels 1. This time, I didn’t have to hunt too far at all to get my buttery bounty — the Reading Terminal Market offers it in spades. Miller’s Twist, located in the unofficial ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’ corner of the market, offers beautiful, buttery pretzels for a convenient price. It’s difficult not to hand over five dollars and a quarter for not only a pretzel, but a milkshake, too.

It’s soft, it’s buttery, it’s salty, and it complements the chocolate milkshake in my other hand perfectly.  There’s just enough pretzel there that eating most of it feels like enough, and then, inevitably, two minutes later when you’re hungry again, the remaining pretzel has you covered.

millers

Sometimes, you gotta plate your pretzel.

Of the two soft pretzel varieties, I think this is my favorite. I can’t eat it as often as I could eat the figure-eight variety, but the quality of the Miller’s Twist product more than measures up with the quantity of the Man With A Shopping Cart product.

 

 

 

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Reading Terminal Market

So it’s the late 1800’s, and you’re a merchant along High Street, maybe a descendant of one of the many vendors who have been coming to this section of Philadelphia since 1680. You learn, much to your chagrin, that the Philadelphia & Reading company has purchased a swathe of land, the very same swathe where you sell your doodads and geegaws, to build a railroad. Well, you won’t have any of that, and eventually, you, the other merchants, and P&R work out a deal that relocates the merchants below the station, and thus, the Reading Terminal  / Market was born.

You probably won’t be vindicated in your lifetime, having died of blood-letting or something, but you might be gratified to know that the Market will outlive the Reading Terminal around it. Coal supplies ran low, and the uptick in prices drove away train riders, but farmers and merchants stuck around.  These days, in conjunction with the convention center just next door, the Reading Terminal Market (no slash, this time) is booming, boasting over 70 merchants offering everything from Amish specialities to roast duck to wine.

I have a soft spot for the Market. Almost anything I want, I can find there. Usually, what I want is fresh mozzarella from the Valley Shepherd Creamery and Meltkraft, but sometimes, I want some donuts from Beiler’s, or a sandwich from — well, almost anywhere. There’s no better microcosm of Philadelphian food than at the Market — Thai food next to a burger place next to an Amish diner and bakery. Always something new to taste, or to try, and if all else fails, you can always people watch, or listen to one of the musicians in the seating areas.

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One of the busier thoroughfares (at a less-than-busy-time).

My recommendations: the Red, White, and Green sandwich (a hearty, delicious twits on the classic grilled cheese) from Meltkraft, as well as their fresh mozzarella. The milkshake-and-pretzel combo from Miller’s Twist (’cause the price-to-quality ratio can’t be beat, for five dollars). A half-dozen donuts from Beiler’s Donuts, if the line isn’t too long (do some laps while you wait to justify the calories you’ll eat!). Ice cream from Bassetts Ice Cream (ice cream!).  Hope’s Cookies from the Pennsylvania General Store (come near closing, and they’re a dollar each). Fresh juice from Lancaster County Dairy (try the blueberry lemonade). Fried chicken from Kevin Parker’s Soul Food Cafe (the next best thing to actual ambrosia from the gods). Cannoli from Termini Brothers Bakery… 

Honestly, I could name something that I like from almost every store at the Market. Try it sometime!

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Scrapple; Or, the Pork Problem, Part 1

Aside from their rugged independence and long beards, another Pennsylvania Dutch contribution to Philly is scrapple, otherwise known as pan rabbit or Pannhaas. Broadly, one might consider it a meatloaf. Described kindly by Wikipedia as “…a mush of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal and wheat flour, and spices. The mush is formed into a semi-solid congealed loaf, and slices of the scrapple are then pan-fried before serving.”

Fried meatloaf. It’s a terrifying premise and a terrifying foodstuff. If you were to google scrapple, and I don’t recommend it, you would be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally let your mind wander and had googled ‘brick,’ instead. One could generously call it unappetizing. But it’s somehow become a staple breakfast food across unknowing Philadelphian diners far and wide, thanks to the hardworking spectre of the Pennsylvania Dutch.

I think I’ve made it abundantly clear — scrapple scares me. But don’t let it be said that I don’t try new things for the sake of this blog. I am the Bizarre Foods of the internet, except not bald and with an extremely limited budget. After steeling myself, saying farewell to my loved ones, and asking for extensions on all of my papers, I took to the Dutch Eating Place in the venerable Reading Terminal Market to face my destiny.

Sidebar: I love the unofficial Pennsylvania Dutch / Amish corner to the Market. Their prices are always reasonable, and the employees, while perhaps occasionally a bit stiff, are always kindly and quick to refill. Nothing but love for those folks. Leftover pancakes from the Dutch Eating Place has gotten me through many a study session.

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A lucky star.

It came with a side of toast, perhaps to mop up my tears for being such a baby. I had depleted my orange juice. There was nothing else to be done.

Breaking off a corner of the loaf with my fork, I put it in my mouth and chewed it. I didn’t really swallow it, so much as it sort of just disappeared. It was like eating a ghost. Longing for the blueberry pancakes just delivered to my neighbor on the right, I continued on in my dark task. This second bite did not disappear so easily, and I was able to gauge a  measurably more pork-ish taste. Not necessarily a good thing — I was forced to compare it to the Jake’s pork sandwich I had had just a few days previous — but again, I am an internet professional, and continued on.

A crispy exterior, an almost creamy interior, and well-seasoned with spices that I couldn’t really place. They weren’t particularly in-your-face, more spicy, umami, to round out the tastes of sweet bread and savory pork. I ate it, finished it, wolfed down my toast, paid, and left. It was a Phyrric victory — though I had eaten the scrapple, it was at the cost of eating the scrapple.

I would not have scrapple again. Not because I hated it, but because of the competition — toast, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, quiche, and omelettes, just to scratch the surface. There’s a wide world of breakfast foods that one might put in their mouth and I prefer most of them over scrapple.

Pros: It was about five bucks for the scrapple platter. I was full afterwards.

Cons: All those lil’ pigs had families. And I’d eaten them! I was empty on the inside.  

(The Whizzard is always empty on the inside. —Ed.)

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