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A Pork Story: Philly, Jersey & Italy

May 19, 2014

Weekends are made for food adventures. These kinds of escapades can take all kinds of forms. They can involve travel, fancy restaurants, lengthy home cooking projects, explorations of ethnic foods, and more.

I think I may have checked every single box on that list this weekend, and to top it off I finally bought an electric guitar. As far as midlife crises go, I think Mrs. Fussy is getting off easy. And don’t worry, I’m not actually having any kind of crisis. I’ve been in the market for a used electric for a long time. My plan is to play it unplugged late at night when everyone is sleeping. Electric guitars can be super quiet, and a lot more satisfying than obsessing at all of the people who are wrong (about food) on the Internet.

The few things I’ll leave out today are the pieces about the Indian market and the big Indian cooking projects. They’ll get their own space, maybe later this week. But since they are decidedly non-pork centric, those stories will have to wait.

Even excluding my South Asian adventure, the story still goes around the world while staying within a stone’s throw of the Delaware Valley.

Friday I played hookey and took Little Miss Fussy out of school to come on a little field trip. An old friend of mine who lives in LA was going to be in Philadelphia. I hadn’t seen her in probably ten years, and I couldn’t resist sneaking in a visit when she was going to be just an hour away.

There were so many places I would have loved to go for lunch, it was almost impossible to choose. Fortunately, the weather helped make the decision. Given the downpour, we opted for Reading Terminal Market where I could wrap my mouth around one of DiNic’s famous Italian Pork Sandwiches.

It had been a while since I was last there, and over that time DiNic’s had gotten even more famous. I’ve heard tales about the impossibly long lines, but I think the nasty day must have kept more people at bay because we were able to grab seats almost right away.

Actually, LMF and I were a few minutes early, so we were able to grab a warm Boston cream donut from Beiler’s Hand Rolled Donuts around the corner within the market. It was still warm. Holy cow, that was good. And LMF loved watching the crew roll out the dough, form the donuts, fry them, and shower them with a cascade of thick white glaze.

But this has nothing to do with pork.

The pork sandwich was great. I still can’t figure out why there are any Italian pork sandwich purveyors who don’t put the shards of sharp provolone on the bottom like they do at DiNic’s. Not only does the cheese get a bit melty under the heat and juices of the sliced pork, but it helps maintain the structural integrity of the roll. And as always, the piquant and garlicky broccoli rabe is fantastic. Naturally, that is the crowning glory of this sandwich and DiNic’s places it on top where it gives you the full impact of its vibrant color and assertive aroma.

It was great seeing E too. We even showed her the donut stand on the way out, where I grabbed a half dozen to bring back to the family (and just one extra to share with LMF on the spot).

But that wasn’t the only thing we brought back from Philly. On the way out of town, just because it was around the corner from Reading Terminal Market, I got a zongzi filled with more pork (with peanuts and mushrooms) from Heung Fa Chun Sweet House. I was able to get LMF to brave the rain with the promise of a tofu pudding with red bean. That girl loves her sweetened red bean.

Saturday it was Young Master Fussy’s turn to go out eating with Daddy.

Actually, the real errand was to take our guitars to Hy-Way Music Mart in East Brunswick. But since John’s shop doesn’t open until one o’clock on Saturday, it just made sense to stop into Sunny Palace for dim sum. They’ve got carts.

“Carts” actually doesn’t do this gorgeous restaurant justice. I’ve been to a lot of dim sum places, but I have yet to encounter one with a griddle built into a push cart. Without a doubt, the best thing that I had were its griddle fried rice noodles with peanut and soy sauces. Although YMF thought their baked BBQ pork buns were among the tastiest he’s ever had. And even after he was totally full, that boy was still able to cram three pieces of siu mai into his dim sum hole.

That said, I’d steer away from the har gow and the steamed scallop dumplings in the future. But everything we ate made from pork was delicious.

Sunday was pork in the comfort of our own home. I had gone out and picked up some very thinly sliced Speck Alto Adige. It’s no La Quercia, but it’s a mighty fine cured meat. It’s cured very much like prosciutto, but unlike its more expensive and popular cousin, this ham is also smoked.

We just ate the slices out of hand as an accompaniment to our simple supper of aglio e olio. And the promise of second helpings of meat inspired both children to eat all of their broccoli. Man, you know it has to be great stuff if it can get fussy kids to eat broccoli.

Little Miss Fussy loved the speck so much that after realizing her hands smelled like smoked pork, she confessed to licking them as soon as she was out of sight from the dinner table. Even Mrs. Fussy found her love for food rekindled by these thin silky slices of smoked meat.

I guess we’ll be getting that stuff again. It’s just too bad that Speck doesn’t pair better with Indian food, because we have a lot of that lined up for the days (and weeks) to come.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 19, 2014 12:33 pm

    I plan on going to the Reading Terminal Market next weekend! Was it really the best sandwich in America? Those donuts sound like a must too.

  2. May 23, 2014 12:44 am

    Best sandwich in America? Man. This is a big country. It’s a mighty fine sandwich to be sure. If you are there, you should certainly get one. Really, what you should do is find someone to split a sandwich with you. They are huge.

    Still, as good as it is, it’s not the best sandwich in America.
    Well, except to maybe the dude who thought it was.

    But he’s wrong.

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