Philadelphia Freedom, Food-dom and the City of Brotherly Love

Skipping all the boring travel bits from LHR to JFK including being searched 3 times between check-in to boarding at LHR. I had NO hand luggage. Just a little handbag. Convinced it was due to my old yellow RL sweatshirt, it’ll be the last time this old favourite sees the inside of a plane.

The super uncomfortable jet packed like a sardine can with tomato sauce (“hint” – it’s a British airline) actually and thankfully arrived early. Boasting that it was a brand new airplane, this acciughe tin only had 4 toilets to service over 250 passengers in coach class!!! The aisles were so narrow even the food and drink trolleys had problems getting through. Wine was poured out of  750ml PLASTIC bottles into plastic cups. Food was served in plastic containers with the cellophane film still attached. Noted that the contents looked like ‘plops’ of coloured baby food. Needless to say, tasting was not an option. I stuck to my bag of home roasted unsalted cashews that I carry with me on trips and the bottle of fizzy water I bought at WH Smiths before boarding. Thank goodness for the ginger shortbread and a decent glass of Sangiovese at the lounge before boarding the tin can.

No waiting at Immigration. Having just been to NYC a few weeks before, my immigration records were still fresh on the system. Only had to place the right 4 fingers on the scanner and was told to proceed.

Queues of tourists with big bags were now snaking inside the cool air conditioned terminal building waiting patiently for on coming taxis. Our crazy cabbie (guessing, from Jaipur) hurled us from side to side as he meandered his way through the small thoroughfares around Queens into NYC’s Penn Station. After a quick pitstop to watch the first half of the footie, we boarded the Acela Express train. Cleaner, certainly more comfortable and free WIFI that worked. Nerdy Geek watched the rest of the game on his iPad. One hour and twenty minutes later we arrived at Philly’s ornate 30th st Station, a far cry from any British Rail terminus. Clean, spacious and cool. No crowds and no smoking within 25ft of any door.

A quick taxi ride to the Hilton for check in and I was off to Jim’s Steaks to savour an authentic Philly Cheese Steak (with Whiz).


“It’s the cutting of the steak and the quality of the hoagie”, boasted the chef to me.

Shabu-Shabu style thinly shaved beef is sizzled on the hotplate. Using a spatula, the meat is chopped and turned till almost mince like and cooked through. The hoagie, a soft, long white bread roll, is then brushed with original 1950’s whiz cheese sauce out of a gigantic tin. The hoagie is then placed over the portion of beef which is shaped to fit it’s width and length. A spatula is used to upturn the meat onto the bread. Fried onions is then slabbed on the minced steak. Mushroom, peppers, lettuce, tomato and roasted hot chilli peppers piled on top. The sandwich is then wrapped tightly with parchment paper. Weighing a ton, this humongous Zeppelin is bagged, ready for consumption.

Too embarrassed to eat at the diner, I walked 2 miles back to the hotel as penance to alleviate the guilt prior to attacking this monster in solitude.

 Along the way, I ventured into Blue Mountain Wines at the Reading Terminal Market to check out their local wine from the Lehigh region of Eastern Pennsylvania.


Last premium bottle of the 2002 Chambourcin was on offer. Left unsold from a cancelled wedding order. Hmmm…. light strawberry and cherry tones aged in French oak. I was sold.

A French-American hybrid, this grape produces a deep red wine. Planted widely in the NorthEast USA, it produces Germanic style reds.  This delightful number certainly held its own with half of “that” sandwich and even better, as I found, with my smuggled bar of Lindt 70% dark chocolate which I had for pudding.

The state of Pennsylvania has tough restrictive alcohol laws.

There are about 110 vineyards and wineries in PA. Many wineries buy in the juice. Mainly sweeter wines are made. Sangria style liquor seems to be the favoured style of Pennsylvania wineries.

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