Thursday 5 January
This afternoon we flew to Philadelphia for our annual professional meetings. Our kind friend Helene met us at the airport and swept us away to Northeast Philadelphia for an eating tour of her old, traditionally Jewish, neighborhood. Though famous landmarks like Abe's Appetizers (certified loxologists) are gone, the new Russian population is making the food scene flourish.
First we headed to Lipkin's bakery for lushly seeded rye bread, almond horns, assorted knishes and ruggelach, and sticky cinnamon buns. Helene had thoughtfully brought butter and a breadknife, and we sliced, buttered, and wolfed down the rye bread and knishes right in the car.
As if that weren't enough, we proceeded to Hesh's bakery, for their lavish almond rolls, cheese crescents, palmiers, and cheese danish. We weren't able to cope with their famous chocolate chip poundcake, which comes by the loaf.
Those are both old Jewish bakeries, but the Russians brought in a winner in the new Bell's Market. At first it looks like a local supermarket, with the usual produce in the front. But then you see the display of twelve types of kvass; you pass (if you can) the Pickle Bar, where a nice girl offers tastes; circle around the butcher's shop with the advertised special on Moskovskaya Ivanko salami; grab some porcini from the dried mushroom section; scan Smoked Fishworld, to which the whole end of the store is devoted; and end up at the in-store bakery display of elaborate layer cakes like the Korolevskiy and the Spartak.
The hardest job was deciding what to get at the Pickle Bar. For example, look at the picture above and note that there are three kinds of Odessa salad (homemade, Odesskiy, and Moldova), and that none looks remotely like the others. We ended up with Helene's favorite, the Abhazkiy salad, made of eggplant, red pepper, and walnuts; some artichoke salad with red pepper, onion, and olives; and four full-sour pickles. We fleshed it out with a cup of Acme whitefish salad, and as if we didn't have enough pastry, bars of spinach or cheese khachapury, the Georgian equivalent of spanakopita/tiropita, plus a couple of sour cream puffs for dessert.
That night at the hotel, we laid out our feast on the desk. With a bottle of chilled white wine from the nearby State Store, we ate like Russian royalty (before that awkward moment at Ekaterinaberg).