Party at Reading Terminal Market
Reading Terminal Market is a magical place full of spectacular foods, a delicious meeting point where different cultures interact within steps from one another. Can you think of anywhere else where you can pick up a piping hot Amish-made donut after wolfing down a crispy plate of Peking duck?
But with such variety comes a fundamental problem: it’s impossible to try all of the things you want. Before your curiosity is satisfied, odds are high that your stomach will be full or your wallet will be empty.
The easiest cure for the dreaded Reading Terminal indecision sickness? Party at the Market— an annual fundraiser for the Reading Terminal Market and an opportunity for vendors to show off their best products to a bunch of snazzily-clad middle-aged foodies (plus two awkward college students), this year to a backdrop of live jazz and paper umbrellas.
Although not all of the vendors were present, we were able to sample a large fraction of the market’s most popular items– everything from Dinic’s famous roast pork sandwiches to Torrisi Brothers’ cannoli.
Our first stop was Shanghai Gourmet. Their pork and chicken potstickers were succulent and perfectly doughy–just what we needed after stepping in from the cold.
We decided to scope out the other options before eating more, but before we could begin to strategize, we stumbled upon a taco shop that required our immediate attention (Chase loves tacos). I (Elena) did not get a taco because I wanted to conserve space, but Chase loaded up a steak taco in a corn tortilla with many toppings from their offerings, which included guac, various salsas, queso, pico de gallo, and a crunchy cabbage slaw.
After the taco stop we reached the center of the market and of the action. Guests mingled and enjoyed bites and drinks under a rainbow of paper umbrellas, and strings of white lights that mimicked chandeliers hung from the ceiling, giving the space a festive atmosphere.
It was time to begin sampling! Dinic’s roast pork sandwich’s reputation preceded itself. The rich pile of shredded pork shrouded in sheets of sharp provolone and pungent broccoli rabe was everything we thought it would be. South Street can keep their greasy cheesesteaks– as far as we’re concerned, the roast pork sandwich is Philly’s true claim to fame.
We admired, but did not taste, the tiny sliders coming out of Hunger Burger, a newcomer to the market. We wanted to save room for the other items before taking on a whole slider, so we didn’t actually end up trying these.
We also stopped by a little Mediterranean place near the entrance for some spanakopita and moussaka. The spanakopita was average, however, and we elected not to finish the whole thing.
Salumeria, the Italian specialty shop selling top-notch cheeses and cured meats, was offering delicious amarene (sour cherries, pictured above) in syrup with whipped goat cheese, along with cubed pieces of their other cheeses, vegetable kebabs, and a chicken dish. We really enjoyed the cherry and goat cheese combination, which reminded us of cheesecake.
Torrisi Brothers was offering half-cannoli. I (Elena) was handed one by a server with a platter, and I had to restrain myself from eating the whole thing immediately before I had gone through the savory offerings. While it definitely was not on par with the real deal from Sicily, any cannolo is better than no cannolo.
Then there was also some pizza being offered by a vendor that we don’t remember the name of, but it was disappointingly cold. I can’t imagine who thought it was a good idea to serve refrigerator-chilled pizza to a crowd of people you are trying to impress. The sauce wasn’t bad though, featuring a bright, tart tomato flavor.
We stumbled upon a whole pig inexplicably hidden in a dark corner of the market. In our opinion it should have been a centerpiece.
Halfway through the night, the party-throwers decided to hold a “celebrity” pretzel-rolling contest. We use quotes because the celebrities in question were not the most exciting of famous people, but they were all entertainingly inept at making pretzels, so we watched them for a bit while our stomachs made room for more food.
There were also hoola-hoop girls to add to the festivity with mesmerizing twirling lights.
The Fair Food Farmstand was offering watermelon radishes, a beautiful and refreshing change of pace from all the meaty and fried products on display. We made sure to eat a few to cleanse out the grease in preparation for more sampling. Also, they looked like tiny watermelon slices and were too adorable to resist.
We sampled two seafood-themed mac and cheeses, one with lobster and one with oysters. I preferred the lobster mac, because lobster is pretty great and because by the time I got to the oyster place the pasta was pretty cold.
We sampled mini reubens, fried cheese wontons, and many strange flavors of balsamic vinegar (coconut! ginger!), and by the end of the night, we were stuffed. While not all of the food was amazing, we did have a great time exploring the market and discovering vendors we had never tried before.
We can’t wait to go back for more!
-Elena Crouch and Chase Matecun
PC: Elena Crouch