While we already had plans for that evening (to come in the next post), we had about 4 hours to kill wandering down Chinatown, grabbing a bite, then exploring the famous Reading Terminal Market. I never realized 2 things about Philadelphia prior to my visit; 1.) It is full of the arts, 2.) The architecture is gorgeous. One spot, in particular, the Philadelphia Friendship Gate, marks the beginning of almost 8 blocks of the Chinatown district. This unique, and stunning, structure is one of the first of it's kind in the United States; and represents the unity of all walks of life, supporting one another in Philly. Talented architect Sabrina Soong designed this work of wonders as a unique stacked structure that actually balances within itself, lacking traditional nails or bolts; through a unique Chinese practice of stacking interlocking pieces. Ironically enough, Philadelphia is also home to the first 'skyscraper' designed by a woman in the US- a piece of architecture known for it's functionality of even lighting, rather than it's visual appeal.
For lunch we chose a well reviewed little Chinese restaurant on the corner, at the end of the Friendship Gate. I ordered my traditional Orange Chicken, shown above, which seemed just as authentic as my favorite locale back home. Momma can be seen in the edge of this photo, likely grilling the (new to her) boyfriend of mine. From there we walked about 3 blocks, around the Reading Terminal Mall to the Reading Terminal Marketplace, featured in countless films and on numerous Foodie favorite TV shows. Inside the overwhelming marketplace are hundreds of unique vendors selling specialty, fresh, foods, ingredients, and gifts. I have to say I am officially jealous of the locals who live there! We happened to discover a wonderful Amish Cheese vendor, the candy shop where Bizarre Foods featured Chocolate Covered Onions, and By George's Famous Cheesesteaks and Brick Oven Pizza. I daresay I could spend a year eating there every day and never duplicate a meal!
I'm surprised I walked out with my pocketbook in tact- I had to pick up some Wasabi Coated Peanuts and Soybeans for Pop, and some Strawberry Champagne Cheese for moi, though. And that Amish cheese- well, outside of enjoying it with a glass of champagne, it was delectable. Slightly sweet, and candied bits of real strawberries in this soft, creamy cheese, brick. Luckily, we were still stuffed from our Chinese lunch, or I'd been buying everything in sight. I can only imagine what it would be like to travel into town and stock up on ingredients to cook with. My amateur chef's heart flutters at the thought, and my doctor shudders, equally.