OK, so there's no food in the lead photo, but that doesn't mean there isn't food involved in this post. Stay with me, you'll see. This is a shot of Philadelphia taken last Friday, March 23, when the temperature reached 80 degrees and people were walking about wearing shorts and t-shirts. This isn't normal folks. It's typically about 55 degrees this time of year here. As much as I wanted to spend the day outdoors, I had tickets to see the Van Gogh exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Even with the nice weather, it was no sacrifice to stay indoors amid all the fabulous works of art here.
If you have a chance to get to the exhibit before it closes on May 6, don't miss it. After that, it goes to Ottawa, Canada. You'll see some stunning works of art, like this one (field with wheat stacks):
and this one (wheatfields at Auvers under clouded sky) :
If you go, make a reservation to eat lunch at the museum's restaurant, Granite Hill. It's quiet, elegant and the food is good too. After the exhibit, there was still time to enjoy the nice weather, so I headed down to 9th Street, the Italian neighborhood. You'll still find plenty of stores selling Italian food and wares, but it's nothing like what it used to be when I was a kid. Over the years, other ethnicities have moved in as the Italians improved their economic lot and moved to the suburbs.
I parked my car right next to a house whose facade looked like another work of art - all made from ceramic shards:
My first stop was Isgro Pasticceria on Christian Street, a business dating back to 1904. You can find all sorts of Italian pastries there, including these pesche alla crema, a confection you can make at home using this recipe.
I have a weakness for chocolate covered coconut-cream Easter eggs and the ones here, covered in dark chocolate ganache, were about the best I've ever eaten (next to this recipe).
These marzipan lambs were each made by hand by the shop's 92-year old matriarch.
Most of the shops are located around the corner from Isgro's on 9th Street. If you know Philadelphia, you know that murals are a big part of the city landscape. The Mural Arts Program was started in 1984 to eradicate graffiti and now there are more than 3,000 murals throughout the city. This one on 9th Street is a mural of Frank Rizzo, the city's mayor in the 1970s and police commissioner before that.
Fante's is a great kitchenware store that has everything a home cook could want or need - from espresso pots and gnocchi boards to the paper forms needed to make an Easter colomba you see here.
There are two cheese stores/delis almost next to each other - DiBruno Brothers (below) and Claudio's. Both have a large selection of great Italian products - cheeses, salumi, and other temptations.
I couldn't resist the burrata cheese from DiBruno's, wrapped in leek leaves.
Would you have been able to resist this creamy deliciousness?
Although each store had similar products and a similar look (this is Claudio's below), there were differences too.
Among the items I bought at Claudio's was this lemon ricotta cheese. A slice of this tasted just like ricotta cheesecake, although there were no eggs or flour at all. Back at home, I ate it straight from the store with some sliced strawberries.
That was after the burrata cheese and roasted tomatoes, the prosciutto di Parma, marinated artichokes and olives.
Do you have stories from your past you want to get down on paper? Have you thought about writing a memoir? What about doing it in Italy in a beautiful village and stimulating company, with great food each day and excursions to interesting places nearby? Then don't dally - sign up right now - there are a couple of spots left for "Italy in Other Words."