“We’ve Got Cheese Shops”

In July of 2010, Paul and I spent our honeymoon in Sorrento, Italy.  Our hotel sat high upon a cliff overlooking the magnificent Bay of Naples, and everyday after relaxing at the pool, we would walk to town down a long, dusty, quiet, lemon-tree lined path.  Occasionally, a scooter would pass us by, motor off, using only the natural force of gravity to make its way down to the bustling streets of Sorrento.  It was picturesque and perfect, everything you’d wish a honeymoon to be.  But the most amazing part of the entire trip was the food.  It was divine.

On this trip we followed a very strict schedule: sit by the pool, walk the path down to town, indulge in southern Italian cuisine, take the shuttle bus back up, repeat.  Since walking back up the path wasn’t quite as enjoyable as walking down, we always opted to take the air-conditioned bus, a faster method of getting ourselves back to our lounge chairs as quickly as possible.

One particular day after enjoying what was quite possibly the most delicious pizza we’ve ever had, Paul and I made our way to our assigned street corner to meet a crowd of people impatiently waiting in the mid-day sweltering sun for the much-anticipated air-conditioned bus.

It is amazing the things you remember; the stories you bring back from traveling that make you laugh over and over again.  For the past five years, this moment has been etched in our memories, a story to be told and retold for years to come…

Since it was taking an awful long time for the bus to arrive, we struck up a conversation with an older gentleman and his wife.  Maybe it was because the bus was late and they spotted our newly wedded bliss, or maybe it was because it is not everyday you expect to be standing next to a man wearing a red hat with an iconic white P in a foreign country.  But here we were, just a couple of newly married Met’s fans sweating on an Italian street corner in the company of two Philly fanatics.

Of course, I was going on and on about the food and how delectable everything was, when the female Philly fanatic just shrugged and said, “Oh this is nothing.  I cook like this at home.  We have cheese shops in Philadelphia.”

Excuse me?  Come again?  Did you just say you flew all the way to Italy to get something you claim you could have gotten in Pennsylvania?  Did you just come here for the views?

As you can imagine, I missed the rest of the conversation, including the obligatory marriage advice, just trying to comprehend and make sense of it all.  I couldn’t possibly fathom how this Mediterranean mecca of fresh food could be easily compared to a land oozing with Cheez Whiz.  It didn’t make sense, but it made me wonder.

Is Philadelphia more than just cheese steaks?

Exploring Philadelphia


Getting my New York City guy to agree to roam the streets of Philadelphia was not an easy task, but in an effort to do something different this winter, we planned a weekend getaway to explore a city we knew little to nothing about.  I mean, we’ve seen the bell, Independence Hall, and the Franklin Institute, but that was pretty much the extent of our Philly knowledge.  Oh, and, of course, we’ve heard they have cheese shops.

So we packed our bags and drove down to Philly on one of the coldest weekends in February.  It snowed, heavily, but we explored as much as we could.  Did we find Italy?  Not quite.  But what we did find was a new appreciation for a city that seems to have shed its cheese steak and whiz image for a far healthier alternative: vegetables.


If anything can work up an appetite, it is walking the aisles of the Reading Terminal Market.  On the morning of our arrival, Paul and I gawked at the plethora of food, including cheese, that was available for sale in this massive culinary warehouse.  While we love to take in the smells and sights of these kinds of places, we’re not much for eating on the go.  In our opinion, a meal should be savored slowly over good conversation.  Therefore, we resisted the temptation to eat at the market and, after quite a bit of walking, found ourselves at Strangeloves for lunch.

We fell in love with this adorable little place after one bite.  We started with an appetizer of beer boiled peanuts which were the best boiled peanuts we’ve ever had.  That’s saying a lot when one of us consumed more than plenty of boiled peanuts in his college days at the University of South Carolina.

Next, we both inhaled the smoked tempeh muffuletta.  This sandwich was phenomenal and would have immediately fooled any carnivore into thinking it couldn’t possibly be missing the meat.  But yes, my friends, this sandwich was completely vegan and utterly delicious.

We enjoyed this cozy meal while watching the snow fall rapidly onto the streets and sidewalks of Philadelphia.  We found this the perfect opportunity to try out Uber, and within a few minutes, a black car arrived to conveniently and carefully navigate us through the snow back to the warmth of our hotel.

Where We Stayed-Le Meridien Philadelphia


As Gold Starwood Preferred Guests, we are eager to explore all that the SPG Brand has to offer.  We especially love when we find hotels with character, and Le Meridien Philadelphia is one of those places with a beauty all its own.  A former YMCA transformed into SPG luxury, Le Meridien Philadelphia is warm and inviting and particularly charming.  Situated just steps from city hall, the building is timeless, complete with roaring fireplaces in the lobby.  It was the perfect base for our weekend getaway  and we highly recommend staying here if you are looking for something more luxurious and unique than the typical modern hotel room.  It can be inexpensive too.  We nabbed a two night stay here using our AAA discount for a very low price.  Do your research and you can find some amazing deals.

Dinner at V Street


Paul always laughs at me because, most of the time, if I’m looking at my phone, chances are I’m reading something about food.  I like to know my options when I travel, and I’m well read when it comes to where to eat.  One of the places I’ve read a lot about is a Philadelphia restaurant called Vedge.  I’ve been stalking Vedge on Facebook for almost a year now, maybe longer.  I never knew when I was ever going to get a chance to eat there, but it didn’t stop me from drooling over their Facebook photos here and there.  Right before our trip to Philly, I was keeping tabs on Vedge’s new restaurant, a venue featuring vegan street food called V Street.  After much hemming and hawing over whether we would eat at Vedge or V Street, Paul and I decided to give V Street a try and save Vedge for another time.

Paul and I landed two seats at the bar of this tiny, bustling yet totally charming restaurant.  We watched the snowflakes fall while people trudged down the sidewalks under umbrellas.  We shared well prepared small plates of Peruvian fries and a small pizza of smoked beets and sauerkraut remoulade.  If ever there was a duo who could influence the world to eat their veggies, it is the husband and wife team responsible for Vedge and V Street.  What they are doing with vegetables is beyond anything I’ve ever imagined and most likely, taste far better than any vegetables your parents made you eat.


We’ll Be Back…

One weekend in Philly is not nearly enough time to explore everything the city has to offer.  It is even less time when your trip is hindered by a snowstorm.  We made the most of it, and while we never quite found the Italy the Philly fanatic spoke of, we didn’t really care to find it nor were we looking.  Our new-found fondness of Philadelphia has intrigued us to return during the warmer months.  We look forward to checking out some of the parks and tasting some of the other amazing food that’s coming out of this city.  We will keep you updated.


Until then, we urge you…no we plead with you… to look beyond the cheese steak and explore more than just Pat and Geno’s.  You never know just what you’ll find…

© Paul and Michelle Shappirio and Bringing Down the White Picket Fence, 2007-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul and Michelle Shappirio and Bringing Down the White Picket Fence with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

2 Comments on “Philadelphia

  1. The opening image of City Hall is really well done. It captures the feeling of the structure. It is so sharp and shows so little vertical distortion that I could believe you if you told me you made it with a view camera using tilts.
    We lived in downtown Philadelphia for a year and thoroughly enjoyed the city. Rittenhouse Square is very Parisian in nature and good food is not hard to find.

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