119 S 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Some years ago, back when Italy was adopting the euro and the exchange rate was 1.25€ to $1.00, I tasted real gelato. Creamy as all hell and every bit as delicious. It was one of those things you remember when and where it was you experienced it for the first time. For me it was a little shop on a corner near the King Emanuele II monument in Rome. It was at that shop that my search for gelato of the same quality in the US would begin. (The same goes for cappuccino, but I have yet to find it.)
I may not have found the perfect cup of Italian cappuccino, but I have found the American answer for premium grade gelato right in the heart of Center City. Capogiro is a shining beacon of how gelato is supposed to be done. Their first store, located around the corner from Jefferson Hospital, has fans that flock from near and far to experience their rich and creamy offerings. (I understand they've opened a new store near Rittenhouse Square, but I haven't been.)
The flavors are original but not simply for the sake of being original. Tastes such as Burnt Sugar (think Creme Brulee caramelized sugar), Bacio (like the hazelnut coated Italian candy), and Cioccolato Con Malt (the taste of Whoppers), can be found among many of the fruity flavors that are made from the local fruits grown in neighboring Lancaster County.
Simply put, this is by far my favorite gelateria in the US (better than Grom in NYC, La Gelateria in Cleveland, haven't been to il laboratorio del gelato in NYC but want to try). I'm always willing to try new things, but admittedly, Capogiro has set the bar extremely high.
This a must see (and eat) if you are in Philly.
262 S 19th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Metropolitan Bakery has always been a fascination of mine. Every time I go to Philly I buy pastry at the Metropolitan and then walk a block to Rittenhouse Square and enjoy it while soaking up one of the best outdoor spaces in the city. Rittenhouse is right up there with Washington Square and Bryant Park in terms of people watching.
So where was I?
Oh, yeah. Chock full of fresh baked goods, I always opt for the fruit danishes. These things are the most addictive danishes I think I've ever had in my life. There's a crispiness to them that is provided by a cinnamon edge that makes them very unique. The recipe is actually in the cookbook they put out a few years ago. *Check that out here, it's a good one. I always like it when famous places put a smattering of their most populars in a cookbook*
Their bagels are also a huge favorite of mine. If you're looking for a traditional New York style bagel you can look elsewhere. These aren't those. However, if there is such a thing as an artisinal bagel; this is it. I always buy a bunch and take them back to Cleveland. Quite dense and very filling. One will fill you up until lunch.
Aside from the bakery itself, Metropolitan carries a large assortment of locally produced dairy products. One product in particular has captured my wife's heart: Pequa Valley Yogurt. Made by an Amish woman in Ronks, PA, this yogurt is free of high fructose corn syrup and any other artificial sweeteners. While there's a little more fat in it than the lighter yogurts she says it tastes better those laced with artificial sweeteners. True story.
Metropolitan also has outlets in Reading Terminal Market (must see), Chestnut Hill (very cool), U of Penn (Go Bucks), and various vendors around Philly. I feel the bread is in the same league as Zingerman's. It's that good. This is another must see (and of course, eat) place.
La Colombe Torrefaction
130 S 19th Street
Philaldelphia, PA 19103
Let me start by saying that I love coffee. In fact, I love it so much I'll drink it on a 95 degree, 100% humidity, sweltering Philadelphia afternoon. And you know what? That's exactly what I did. Maybe that's what you'd do if you've ever had the coffee at La Colombe Torrefaction.
Don't ask me what "Torrefaction" is, I don't know. What I do know is that this is the best coffee I've ever tasted. With the exception of this coffee I get from a bed and breakfast we stayed at in Kona, this is the coffee I call my favorite, (at least in the lower 48). I will add, though, that the stuff I get from the place in Kona doesn't cost that much to ship and gets you absolutely geeked on caffeine. I wish had know about this stuff when I was up all night in landscape architecture studio.
What makes La Colombe so special? To start, it is smooth as hell. Typically when I drink coffee there's this sense in the back of your palate you get that says, "Don't breath on anyone!" You can taste that slight dose of bitterness back there, ready to unleash the stink bomb that is your slightest breath. Not so with this stuff. I normally get the Corsica blend, and it's absolutely smooth.
La Colombe has an outlet in Manayunk that actually serves some good sandwiches, (I just hate trying to find a place to park around there). The one near Rittenhouse is basically coffee drinks and a very small selection of pastry, I wouldn't bother. Go to Metropolitan.
My ritual is this:
Go to La Colombe and pick up a Corsica (the coffee not the car).
Walk across Rittenhouse Square to Metropolitan and buy das danish.
Go back to Rittenhouse.
Sip, eat, and watch. (All three are must do's when in Philly).