Tuesday I met my friend Leslie at La Colombe in Rittenhouse Square to study French. Of course, considering that Rittenhouse Square is smack-dab in the middle of Center City's shopping district, the French was merely an excuse. After the study session, we hit up Anthropologie, where I finally spent 1/3 of the gift card I got for my birthday last October. What can I say, I'm a hoarder.
I was also excited to be able to make my way to Trader Joe's, which is just a little Northeast of the park. I had a very specific mission: to buy dates. I'm planning on making an appetizer that uses them (thanks for the recipe, Mom!) and figured TJs was a good place to start. The recipe also calls for pecans, and TJs is a great place for nuts. However, I was disappointed because the only dates they sold were really gourmet and expensive, and I'm working with a budget here.
Later that night I did some internet research (OK, I googled "Mediterranean grocery" and "Philadelphia") and the first item that appeared was a place right next to Pat's and Geno's! For you non-natives, those are the most celebrated cheesesteak establishments in Philly, and they are less than a mile from our house. Alas, Bitar's also only sold really expensive dates. I kept going to the Italian market, and after poking my head into several establishments, found dates at a significantly reduced price. Lesson learned: start close to home!
Later that day, Greg and I poked our head in the Italian specialty store at the end of our street. It opened a few months ago, and we hadn't looked in yet. Boy, we were missing out. Sitting at the cash register was a large man with a gold chain and his shirt unbuttoned down to his belly button. He chatted us up, informed us that everything in the store was straight from Italy, and then made us some espresso free of charge. I'm convinced it's a mafia front, but the espresso was good, so I'm not complaining.