when in philly…

do as the philadelphians do and eat a cheesesteak!  this past week i spent a couple days up in the city of brotherly love for work and decided to, of course, make the most of it.  although the weather wasn’t too welcoming upon my arrival, thankfully the friendly faces at geno’s steaks were.  i’d been to the rival pat’s several years ago and decided it’d only be fair to give the competition a try as well.  plus, a friend of a friend had recommended it, so i was happy to oblige.

i hopped out of the uber and tried not to look too much like a tourist.  well, that approach didn’t work really at all in my favor because there aren’t any instructions anywhere on where to order or how.  i didn’t want to rustle the feathers of any locals by taking an absurd amount of time, so i fessed up and told the employee i was from out-of-town.  he smiled when i shared the news and was happy to make a recommendation that would be sure to please.  he even gave me a pen as a souvenir!  awww.

i plopped myself down at a nearby table and, upon unrolling the sandwich, realized i may have made a mistake by ordering the sandwich and cheese fries.  that cheesesteak was huge and probably enough on its own!  i would never myself eat a sandwich that big with that much filling, much less with a heap of cheese-smothered french fries, but i was sitting right next to the order counter and felt the employees’ eyes peering through the glass, eager to know if i liked their famous sandwich.

i could do nothing else but roll up my sleeves, grab a mountain of napkins, and get to work.  the first thought i had as a bit into the cheesesteak was that the bread was insanely fresh; that i could not deny.  i also couldn’t deny that the rib-eye was sliced perfectly thin.  however, i have to confess that among the fresh bread, savory steak, onions, and cheese, i wasn’t getting the flavor punch i had hoped i would get.  perhaps instead of the grilled onions i should have gone for fresh onions, if that is even an option?  i don’t know, but i eventually powered through messy bites of cheesesteak and slathered french fries to the near end as best i could.

as i finally admitted defeat with a hunk of bread and a few fries remaining, i relaxed a moment to take in the atmosphere of this well-loved (and long-loved) philly establishment.  it’s clear that locals and non-locals alike have a special place in their hearts for the beloved cheesesteak.  open 24 hours a day, geno’s has earned its place as a traditional icon of the city, satisfying hungry wayfarers’ tastebuds no matter the time of day.

february 14th – nyc

sunday morning started much like saturday morning, three lazy almost late-twentysomethings bumming around indoors because the outdoors were still harsh.  it should come as no surprise that we proceeded to order more hot & crusty from their lexington location, except this time we opted for bagels with cream cheese and butter.  mm, how new york!  there really wasn’t anything on the to-do list this valentine’s day except a late lunch/early dinner, so we napped on and off until the early afternoon.

now, on our trek up to new york last friday phillip and i both agreed that he needed a new suitcase.  his old rollerboard was a bit beat up and the handle was stuck inside the suitcase, meaning that phillip had to literally carry his carry-on wherever he went.  we all know what that meant:  it was time to go shopping!

natalie, phillip, and i finally peeled ourselves out of bed, petted wyatt goodbye, and quickly grabbed a cab uptown to the local harlem marshall’s.  we figured this place would be a good bet for some new luggage and we were right.  phillip found himself a very stylish black samsonite, four-wheel suitcase.  it looks smart and sharp and expertly suited to him – it’s like it was made just for phillip!  he rolled that bad boy out of the store with a grin on his face.  nothing makes a day great like the perfect find!

we had just enough time to drop off the suitcase and then get back in a big yellow taxi to make our 4:30 reservation at the smith over in the east village.  the hostess took our name, grabbed some menus, and promptly showed us to our table.  this restaurant is, without question, a quintessential new york bistro and, if i do say so myself, quite spacious!  they have a long bar where you can rub elbows with other locals and travelers, large tables for family gatherings, and two- and three-seaters for intimate meals.  we were cozied up with one another at a smaller round table, right in the middle of it all.  although there weren’t many folks around us at the start of the meal, it wasn’t too long before the restaurant filled up with the early dinner crowd.

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now, we were originally under the impression that we’d be doing a late brunch together, especially considering that the table right inside the door was covered with plates full of french toast and egg scrambles.  unfortunately, though, we somehow hit a strange half hour of time between sunday brunch and actual dinner.  the waitress informed us we’d be dining off the twilight menu, so we just had to roll with it.  i’ll say, though, that the people around us who ordered dinner looked spoiled with their huge bowls overflowing with pasta and chicken pot pie.  although we ended up enjoying what we ordered (which i’ll describe next), i’d be lying if i said we weren’t slightly disappointed.  i guess we’ll just have to come back!

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we each put in a drink order and then natalie insisted we have a mound of the hot potato chips, homemade potato chips slathered in bleu cheese fondue.  oh my gosh, you guys, i’m not joking when i say i could have eaten the entire order of them and died happy right then and there.  this starter is a massive portion and can easily satisfy a group of three to five people.  the deep bowl means there are a lot of layers, but the kitchen does right by you to dress nearly every single chip with the fondue.  i don’t doubt that i could write a whole blog about just these chips.  mm!

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