I had high hopes of listing five reasons to Amtrak to Philadelphia right now, but the weeks Twittered by and now the phenomenal Bill Viola at the Barnes Foundation has closed and the great “Souls Grown Deep” at the art museum is gone, too. So here are three: The Constitution’s Center’s new permanent exhibition on Reconstruction is vaut le voyage, not least for the potholder reading “any holder but slave holder.” As James Baldwin said, not every problem that’s confronted can be solved, but no problem can be solved unless it’s confronted, and this is a huge step forward toward understanding how American slid back into its bad old ways after the Civil War. It actually equates “Gone With the Wind” with “Birth of a Nation” in messing up people’s heads.) Then there’s High Street on Market, right nearby, where we had another excellent lunch (gazpacho and a good and gooey grilled cheese). And I’m looking forward to our inevitable next trip so we can eat again at Alimentari, the sleek, airy cafe Di Bruno Bros. just opened upstairs from the outstanding food shop that’s one of our regular stops on every trip, just to gawk and maybe buy a bottle of Italian wine you won’t find even in the best state store. We ducked in for a quick lunch on the way to 30th Street Station for avocado and smoked salmon tartines with Calabrian chilies on Lost Bread Co.’s finest; asparagus and zucchini pizza, and the one underwhelming dish, “The House of (Grilled) Cheese),” a skillet of raclette and taleggio teamed with San Marzano tomato dip. Call it Italian queso fundido and wish it hadn’t been roasted to rubber. Cucumber-watermelon hard seltzer from Two Robbers was the talk of the table, though.
This trip we also indulged in dinner at Big Fish, at our hosts’ recommendation, and it put the din in dinner. (The server was not amused when one friend asked if she went home with a headache.) The place is cute and tiny, and the food was good if overwrought to the point where the main ingredient on every plate felt peripheral to all the frou-frous. Because it’s BYOB, entree prices were in the high $30s. And I was glad the H&J innkeepers admitted they were also underwhelmed by SpiceFinch, where they had had a spectacular meal. The server was overwhelmed, for starters (this being a hotel resto). And the food was just adequate. Suraya was a dinner disappointment on our previous trip, so maybe the message is we should get ourselves to Zahav?