I've spent the last several days on a road trip with my Mom (hence the week that has passed since I published a new post). One leg of our journey brought us to Philadelphia to visit my best friend who lives in the area. We spent a good portion of one afternoon wandering through the Reading Terminal Market, and I must confess, I could spend days there and never get bored! It would probably take a few visits to feel like you got a good look at everything, but we did pretty well at seeing as much as possible, thanks to my friend/tour guide.
A brief history: Reading Terminal Market opened in its current location on February 22, 1892. (We happened to be there on February 22, 2014, the Market's 122nd anniversary.) Open-air markets were common in the area, dating back to the late 1600's. When the Reading Railroad was proposing to acquire the site where the Franklin & Farmer's Market open-air markets were located as its location for their new terminal, they negotiated with the market vendors to build them an indoor facility at the train terminal. The new indoor market became a hub for food distribution in the city. Cold storage was built below the market's floors, and shipping could be done easily by train. The market thrived, and continued to do so until after Word War II. The market struggled from the boom in fast food, the move of many to suburban areas, the growing popularity of mass-production, and the fact that a lot of shipping was being done via truck routes instead of trains. It wasn't until the 1980's when a new general manager took the initiative to visit many Amish and Mennonite farms in Lancaster County and persuaded them to open stalls at the market to sell their goods. Those stalls, the Pennsylvania Dutch section, are a huge part of the popularity of the market today.
There were so many great things to see, I wish I could have eaten and taken pictures of everything! Their meat and seafood vendors were amazing. If only I would've had a way to keep things fresh until I got home, I would have stocked up!
And the bakeries, oh the bakeries... I could sit and stare at their gorgeous pastry cases all day every day.
What I ate:
Philadelphia Cheesesteak from By George! (We chose this place because they make their own cheese sauce, and they chop the meat instead of leaving it whole. Personal preference, and subject of many heated debates.)
Red Velvet Whoopie Pie and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Whoopie from The Flying Monkey (In a word....splendid.)
Cannoli from Termini Brothers: Speechless...Can't wait to try making cannoli at home! If you can't make it to their bakery, you can order cannoli from them and they'll send them to you! They package the shells and the cream seperately, because they recommend filling them immediately before enjoying. They do it that way at their bakery also. They fill each cannoli shell to order from a giant pastry bag suspended from the ceiling. It's awesome.
I just couldn't leave Reading Terminal Market without getting my ritual cookbook souvenirs:
I also purchased "Philadelphia Chef's Table" by April White from the most adorable little cookbook shop at the market, The Cookbook Stall. In my dream world I would get to work at the cookbook shop in the market and be around all that amazing food all the time. Not planning a trip to Philly soon? Visit The Cookbook Stall's website here.