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eG Foodblog: MarketStEl - Today in History


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Whew! Don't know how I've missed this all week and now I'm so far behind I don't know where to begin.

Happy belated birthday from a semi-Scorp. It was great meeting you in June and you haven't aged a day since then, so whatever you're doing seems to be working :wink: Seems we were both listening to Dr. Demento, same bat time, same bat channel. My first Weird Al memory was "My Balogna" which, needless to say, appealed to my food-centricity. But naturally, of the entire blog, it was the coffee cup that got to me. Rock, chalk, Jayhawk!

Here's to a great 49th year!

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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I guess that's my cue, Chris.

So last night, after I return home in a meat stupor, Chris decides he's going to take a short walk.

About a half hour later, I get a call from a slightly inebriated Chris, telling me that he is up by Rittenhouse Square, and could I make him half a cheesesteak when he gets back? "Sure. Just get your drunk [expletive] on home," I reply.

Around midnight, he calls again. He's now clearly inebriated (I guess the chill metabolizes the alcohol faster, for the only drink he had was a stiff one before he headed out), says he is at the Art Museum -- The Art Museum? That's a hell of a walk -- no, sorry, the Franklin Institute, and could I make him a half cheesesteak for him to eat when he gets back?

I'll approximate the time I spent talking him back to City Hall before going into the kitchen by giving you:

The History of the Cheesesteak, As Best I Know

Actually, the origin of the cheesesteak is pretty much settled. First, there was the steak sandwich.

That was invented by Pat Oliveri, a South Philly hot dog vendor, in 1932.

As the story goes, Pat was getting bored with selling (and eating) hot dogs day in and day out, so one day, he finds some thinly sliced steak and tosses it on the grill to make himself a sandwich. A passerby finds the smell so enticing that he stops to ask what's cooking, and when he finds out, asks Pat to make him one, which he does, putting the meat in a long roll. The steak sandwich is born.

Some twenty years later, Oliveri creates an instant classic by adding cheese and serving the first cheesesteak.

There is much debate over what kind of cheese to use on a cheesesteak. If the story I have heard about the first cheesesteak is correct, the only authentic, true-to-the-original cheesesteak must have Cheez Whiz on it. This is because (or so the story has it) Pat wanted a cheese that he could use without ruining the grill for his Jewish customers. I don't know whether he just had some of the recently introduced process cheese spread on hand or had been approached by a Kraft salesperson, but it really doesn't matter. The point is, Cheez Whiz can be heated to melting in the can or in a saucepan without ever touching the grill.

This story may well be apocryphal, for people since then have put cheeses other than Whiz on their steaks without incident. In fact, I suspect that of the three most popular cheeses to use in cheesesteaks -- provolone, American, and Whiz -- the majority of cheesesteak purveyors in Philly use American now. What they do not ever use, as John Kerry found out to his embarrassment during the last presidential campaign, is Swiss.

As everyone knows, Pat's King of Steaks is now a Philadelphia institution, run by the grandchildren of Pat's brother Herb Oliveri. In finest Philadelphia fashion, the next generation of the family didn't see eye to eye on how to run the place -- Pat's son Rick wanted to franchise -- and the two branches went their separate ways. Rick's son Rick runs a cheesesteak stand at the Reading Terminal Market under the name "Rick's Philly Steaks" -- he had originally opened it as "Oliveri Prince of Steaks," but the "Prince" title was already Steve's trademark. Currently, Herb's descendants, who run the original Pat's, are suing Rick for trademark infringement.

Everyone who knows also knows that while decent, Pat's is far from the best cheesesteak in town. That honor may well belong to Steve's Prince of Steaks in the Northeats, which was featured on Chris Cognac's The Hungry Detective on the Food Network. Steve's, like many but not all of the city's best, is a Whiz shop first and foremost. (Oh, they'll serve you American or provolone if you want, but you will have to ask for it.) Tony Luke's, another of the city's best, shies away from it. So, I'm afraid, does the Smith household.

Here's the mise en place for the home version I made around 12:30 this morning:

gallery_28660_3771_47463.jpg

As you can see, I am about to use the last little bit of two packages of sandwich steak: some sliced sirloin tips and some "Philly Gourmet" sandwich steaks, which, like most sandwich steaks sold in boxes in your grocer's frozen meat case, are made from chopped beef that has been formed into thin slices.

The difference between the two in quality should be evident from the pan shot.

gallery_28660_3771_9053.jpg

And it's even more evident after they've cooked:

gallery_28660_3771_98601.jpg

At this point -- about a minute after they were put in the heated pan -- they are ready for topping with cheese. I used American.

gallery_28660_3771_32756.jpg

I had already split and dressed the roll before cooking the steak. I'm a ketchup-and-mustard man myself, but Chris prefers mayonnaise.

gallery_28660_3771_37893.jpg

Yes, I've started making my own from time to time. This batch was a little on the lemony side and had chipotle powder mixed in as well.

And ketchup, as it turns out, for he poured it on as soon as he got back.

gallery_28660_3771_110668.jpg

This version is a plain and simple cheesesteak -- no onions, no mushrooms, no peppers, no broccoli rabe, no spinach, no nothing but meat and cheese -- but I guess it met with Chris' approval.

gallery_28660_3771_75881.jpg

Then I went back to posting the item about lunch yesterday. FWIW, that meal wasn't bad. I especially liked the hint of heat that had been added to the chicken noodle soup.

I have two more Phillyphood History Lessons I plan to offer. The one on the hoagie will probably have to wait until tomorrow. The other will be offered later tonight.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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I can't get over the sheer amount of....meat. Was all that...for just your table? Or did they walk those skewers from table to table, carving as needed?

Those meats were portioned for our party of five, more or less. And if they weren't, we behaved as if they were.

Some of the more loaded skewers made their way to other tables. (Not that we weren't offered as much as we wanted.) It wasn't very crowded last night, so the roasts were refinished over the fire rather than moving directly from our table to another. I appreciated that almost every cut was an end cut.

Charlie, the Main Line Mummer

We must eat; we should eat well.

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This version is a plain and simple cheesesteak -- no onions, no mushrooms, no peppers, no broccoli rabe, no spinach, no nothing but meat and cheese -- but I guess it met with Chris' approval.

gallery_28660_3771_75881.jpg

It certainly looks like Chris enjoyed that sandwich! Mmmm....cheesesteak.

I'm looking forward to your thoughts and findings on hoagies. What's your favorite filling? (genoa salami and provelone here)

Kathy

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne

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Why did this come to be the case? Canada never had Prohibition, if I'm not mistaken.

Actually, Canada did have prohibition (sort of)

From Wikipedia:

An official, but non-binding, federal referendum was held in 1898 on prohibition, receiving 51.3% for and 48.7% against prohibition on a voter turnout of 44%. Prohibition had a majority in all provinces, except for Quebec, where a strong 81.10% voted against [1]. Despite the majority, Wilfrid Laurier's government chose not to introduce a federal bill on prohibition, perhaps mindful of the strong antipathy in Quebec.

As a result, Canadian prohibition was instead enacted through laws passed by the provinces during the first twenty years of the 20th century. Prince Edward Island was the first to bring in prohibition in 1900. Alberta and Ontario passed a prohibition law in 1916. Quebec passed legislation in 1918 that would prohibit alcohol in 1919 for the duration of World War I. However, since the war ended in 1918, prohibition was never implemented in the province. The provinces then repealed their prohibition laws, mostly during the 1920s. Quebec was first to repeal in 1920, giving it the shortest amount of time with prohibition enforced; Prince Edward Island was last in 1948. Alberta repealed in 1924, along with Saskatchewan, upon realizing that the laws were unenforceable.

For reasons I don't quite understand, liquor was fairly strictly regulated even after prohibition was lifted. In Ontario you can only buy alcohol from the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) or from The Beer Store (which represents Ontario breweries, and mostly only sells Canadian beers).

At least now you can walk into an LCBO and browse the shelves. Back in the 70s (or maybe 60s), apparently the system was that you walked into an LCBO, went up to a wicket and wrote down what you wanted to buy, and handed the slip to a worker who fetched your order.

And nakji: as far as I know, the system you describe is still the same in NS. I was there in August, and as far as I could tell it was pretty well the same system as in Ontario.

Cutting the lemon/the knife/leaves a little cathedral:/alcoves unguessed by the eye/that open acidulous glass/to the light; topazes/riding the droplets,/altars,/aromatic facades. - Ode to a Lemon, Pablo Neruda

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Why did this come to be the case? Canada never had Prohibition, if I'm not mistaken.

Actually, Canada did have prohibition (sort of)

From Wikipedia:

An official, but non-binding, federal referendum was held in 1898 on prohibition, receiving 51.3% for and 48.7% against prohibition on a voter turnout of 44%. Prohibition had a majority in all provinces, except for Quebec, where a strong 81.10% voted against [1]. Despite the majority, Wilfrid Laurier's government chose not to introduce a federal bill on prohibition, perhaps mindful of the strong antipathy in Quebec.

As a result, Canadian prohibition was instead enacted through laws passed by the provinces during the first twenty years of the 20th century. Prince Edward Island was the first to bring in prohibition in 1900. Alberta and Ontario passed a prohibition law in 1916. Quebec passed legislation in 1918 that would prohibit alcohol in 1919 for the duration of World War I. However, since the war ended in 1918, prohibition was never implemented in the province. The provinces then repealed their prohibition laws, mostly during the 1920s. Quebec was first to repeal in 1920, giving it the shortest amount of time with prohibition enforced; Prince Edward Island was last in 1948. Alberta repealed in 1924, along with Saskatchewan, upon realizing that the laws were unenforceable.

For reasons I don't quite understand, liquor was fairly strictly regulated even after prohibition was lifted. In Ontario you can only buy alcohol from the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) or from The Beer Store (which represents Ontario breweries, and mostly only sells Canadian beers).

At least now you can walk into an LCBO and browse the shelves. Back in the 70s (or maybe 60s), apparently the system was that you walked into an LCBO, went up to a wicket and wrote down what you wanted to buy, and handed the slip to a worker who fetched your order.

And nakji: as far as I know, the system you describe is still the same in NS. I was there in August, and as far as I could tell it was pretty well the same system as in Ontario.

Thank you for adding to my store of knowledge on the subject of alcohol regulation, and it also confirms something I have long suspected:

Those jurisdictions (IIRC, 12 US states; Montgomery County, Maryland; and at least six of Canada's 10 provinces) that still have a state monopoly on the sale of alcoholic beverages and/or severe restrictions on where and how alcohol may be served in public are also those where prohibitionist sentiment ran strongest during the late 19th century. I believe I've already shown you where Pennsylvania came down on the subject earlier in this blog and in my first foodblog.

Oddly enough, Kansas -- one of the centers of the temperance movement and home of saloon-buster Carrie Nation -- now has a fairly liberal alcohol regime after decades of severe restrictions on its sale and public consumption. The state never retained a monopoly on its sale, but liquor stores were small and could not advertise their wares, and alcohol could legally be served only in private clubs. Here was how you joined a typical private club in Kansas City, Kansas' black neighborhoods in the 1970s: Show up at the door. Pay a relatively stiff membership fee. Wait about 5 minutes or so. Enter the club as a member. Hotels and motels in the state included club membership for their guests in their room rates.

Edited to add: None of the above explains New Hampshire's state liquor monopoly. The following two facts do:

--New England's most populous metropolis, Boston, bumps up against its southern border and spills over into its southernmost county, Rockingham.

--The state prides itself on its status as the only US state without either a state income tax or a state sales tax, and any politician who suggests instituting either commits career suicide, with the Manchester Union Leader gleefully sticking in the knife to help the process along. This means that the state must resort to all sorts of creative means to raise revenue -- today's state lotteries in just about all 50 states trace their origins to the New Hampshire Sweepstakes, created in 1964; New Hampshire exacts tribute from everyone headed to or from Maine by means of a toll on its 14-mile stretch of I-95; and most of all, there are those state liquor stores, 2/3 of which are clustered near the Massachusetts border and four of which can be found on the state's turnpikes where you would find service plazas elsewhere. "Welcome to New Hampshire! There's a state liquor store 1 mile ahead on the right. Remember, don't drink and drive!"

Edited by MarketStEl (log)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Anyone know how I can fix my browser so that the backspace key doesn't map to the browser "Back" button if I press it twice? (I'm using Verizon Yahoo! Browser, based on MSIE.) Otherwise, you may never find out why I was up at 4 in the morning...

Today, Saturday, October 28, the 301st day of 2006. There are 64 days left in the year.

Today's Philadelphia forecast: Rain ending this morning, some sunshine this afternoon, and windy all day; high wind advisory in effect through Sunday. Forecast high 63F (current temp 65F), forecast low 45F.

On this day:

In 312, Constantine defeated his rival Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge, becoming undisputed Emperor of Rome. Legend has it that before the battle, Constantine had a vision in which he saw a cross with the legend In hoc signo vinces ("By this sign you will conquer"); he converted to Christianity soon after this battle, becoming the first Christian emperor of Rome.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed in Cuba.

In 1538, the first university in the Western Hemisphere, the Universidad Santo Tomás de Aquino, was founded; known today as the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, it is located in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

In 1636, the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony authorized the establishment of a college at Newtown, which the assembly renamed Cambridge the following year. This college, the oldest in what is now the United States, is known today as Harvard University.

In 1886, the statue Liberty Enlightening the World, a gift from France, was dedicated in New York Harbor by President Grover Cleveland.

In 1914, the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered the single biggest one-day percentage loss in the recorded history of the New York stock market.

In 1922, Benito Mussolini's Fascists staged their March on Rome, taking over the Italian government with help from the Catholic Church.

In 1942, the Alaska (Alcan) Highway was completed from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Fairbanks, Alaska, via Whitehorse, Yukon.

In 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev announced that he had ordered Soviet missiles removed from Cuba, ending the Cuban missile crisis.

In 1965, Pope Paul VI issued the "Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions," drafted by the Second Vatican Council. Among other things, the declaration absolves the Jews of collective guilt for their alleged killing of Jesus Christ, an edict issued by Pope Innocent III 760 years earlier.

Also in 1965, the Gateway Arch -- Eero Saarinen's final architectural masterpiece -- was completed in St. Louis.

Famous people born on this day include:

Eliphalet Remington, American rifle maker, in 1793 in Herkimer County, New York -- which is also home to the Herkimer County Cheese Company, makers of Heluva Good cheese.

Georges Auguste Escoffier, celebrated French chef ("the king of chefs and the chef of kings"), in 1846 in Villeneuve-Lobet, near Nice.

Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, American geographer, editor of the National Geographic Magazine from 1903 to 1954 and president of the National Geographic Society from 1920 to 1954, in 1875 in Constantinople, Ottoman Empire (now Istanbul, Turkey).

Evelyn Waugh, English author, in 1903 in London.

Jonas Salk, American medical researcher and inventor of the first polio vaccine, in 1914 in New York City.

Dame Cleo Laine, Lady Dankworth DBE, British jazz vocalist, born Clementina Dinah Campbell in 1927 in Middlesex.

Bill Gates (William Henry Gates III), American software pioneer, in 1955 in Seattle, Washington.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, in 1956 in Aradan, Iran.

Finally made it through! Now to work on another resume and get you all caught up with yesterday.

Edited by MarketStEl (log)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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That yogurt/oatmeal combo was a favorite of my college roomies. It ..... encourages movement.  Phew, was that delicate enough?

Does it encourage anything else? I've been having gas of late...

The soluble fiber in oatmeal does tend to promote gas in some people--ironically, it's that same soluble fiber that is supposed to be responsible for its cholesterol-lowering qualities. If you've just recently added it to your routine, your system may just need a few weeks to adjust to the change.

A little late, but one way to make this mixture a bit easier to digest (and a more pleasant texture in my opinion) is to mix the oatmeal and the yogurt the night before and let it sit in the fridge (you may want to add a bit of water as well, it depends how runny your yogurt is) it's basically a Swiss Birchermuesli only with yogurt instead of cream. I eat this for breakfast all summer, and love it!

Edited by SMW (log)
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But first, Phillyfood History Lesson Number Two -- an occasion to celebrate one of the great agricultural contributions of our next-door neighbor to the east:

The Jersey Tomato

<img src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1161803453/gallery_28660_3771_26905.jpg" align=left> It's not at all certain that at the time New Jersey became the third state to ratify the Constitution, its farmers were growing tomatoes in abundance, as depicted on this commemorative postage stamp from 1987, but it is certain that they were being grown there.

In the 18th century, tomatoes were grown more for ornamental purposes than as food. This gradually changed as the century progressed and ways to use the tomato in foods spread.

While many educated Americans of the time knew that tomatoes were edible -- Jefferson used them in his cooking -- many others, especially the uneducated, did not. Indeed, they were widely believed to be poisonous -- and thereby hangs a tale.

According to legend (reenacted in 1949 on the CBS TV program You Are There), in 1820, one Robert Gibbon Johnson, a wealthy resident of Salem, N.J. who had imported some tomato seeds from South America to grow in his garden, announced that he would eat a tomato in public on the steps of the Salem County courthouse. People traveled from hundreds of miles around -- as far away as Salem, Mass. -- to witness the event, which reportedly took place in September of that year.

Whether or not this actually happened, this much is true: New Jersey is one of the nation's leading producers of tomatoes, and the "Jersey tomato" has a reputation for quality and flavor unmatched anywhere. (The state legislature in 2005 attempted to declare the tomato the official state vegetable, ignoring the inconvenient fact that tomatoes are actually fruit. They relied on a 19th-century U.S. Supreme Court decision applying a vegetable tariff to imported tomatoes for their argument.) Unfortunately, the effort failed, and New Jersey still has no state vegetable. It was passed over as official state fruit in favor of the blueberry.

Tomatoes also figure prominently in the history of one of New Jersey's leading food manufacturers, the Campbell Soup Company of Camden. The company began as a maker of canned tomatoes, preserves, jellies and the like, but its fortunes changed in 1897 when a young chemist named John T. Dorrance joined the company and invented a process for condensing soup. Condensed soup made the Dorrances fabulously wealthy, the company a huge success -- so much so that it changed its name -- and the Jersey tomato crop needed to produce those millions of cans of tomato soup a huge commodity.

I'd go on some more, but I'm being paged for a run to the State Store. More later.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Interesting (to me, anyway) to note the several StL / Missouri references creeping into your blog, particularly in light of last night's Cardinal victory. :biggrin:

I too noticed those ceiling lights in the Criminal Courts bldg as reminiscent of 30th St Station, not from your previous blog, but from having been through the station a few times. "Take me to the station, put me on a train...."

I am considering a weekend trip to Philly to see the legendary Blue Cheer at Khyber 11/11. Do you know the club at all? Any worthy dining establishments in the area?

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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I am considering a weekend trip to Philly to see the legendary Blue Cheer at Khyber 11/11.  Do you know the club at all?  Any worthy dining establishments in the area?

Blue Cheer, who taught the Summertime Blues to a few people too young to remember Eddie Cochran. Then came Live at Leeds and, you know.

The Khyber, only about the music that they've done for years, is around the corner from great dining at Amada and Mandoline on Chestnut. There are many other local options including the twenty seven Steven Starr joints that dot the area like the pimples on the underage kids trying to get into the club.

If you want a good hoagie or cheesesteak, try Campo's at 2nd and Market.

Charlie, the Main Line Mummer

We must eat; we should eat well.

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What he said, better than I could.

(Love the pimply metaphor, Charlie) :biggrin:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Interesting (to me, anyway) to note the several StL / Missouri references creeping into your blog, particularly in light of last night's Cardinal victory.  :biggrin:

Read my bio? I think I'm the only eGullet Society member who bothered putting one up. However, don't read too much into the St. Louis references. For me to admit anything of worth existing in St. Louis would be tantamount to a Pittsburgher saying, "Well, Philadelphia isn't that depraved after all." :biggrin::wink:

Charlie adequately answered you on your question about dining, but let me just add that you will probably be just fine at any of the scores of restaurants in Old City. There's one sure to suit your craving, whatever it may be.

--Sandy, forever Kansas Citian in a corner of his heart

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Hoagies, hoagies, HOAGIES!  (Please.)

You will find out later today the lengths I went to satisfy you, my readers and fellow food lovers.

For now, let me just say that it's been an extraordinary day and night, topped off by the opportunity to experience Joan Rivers up close and personal. I'm so bushed, I can't even get you caught up with Friday right now. I'm going to catch some Zs right now and get back to business bright and early Sunday morning, Eastern Standard Time.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Before I do, however, I will leave you with one footnote to my Jersey tomato history lesson.

IMO, one of the main reasons Jersey tomatoes have their well deserved reputation is because the growers in the Garden State continue to breed for flavor rather than for appearance or the ability to survive long-distance travel. Although there are many disturbing signs that the looksists have gained the upper hand of late -- supermarkets now carry highly uniform Jerseys in season -- the emphasis on growing for the local markets remains, and that alone means that even those uniformly gorgeous tomatoes are more likely than not bursting with flavor too.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Hope you have a I forgot to mention to the rest of the crew that work is proceeding apace on a Philadelphia branch of Fogo de Chao, a national chain of Brazilian churriascurias, in the grand Chestnut Street space that used to house the jewelers J.E. Caldwell & Co.  (Preservationists are a bit up in arms about the defacing of this high-ceilinged space).  Whatever FdeC may have in style, however, it will no doubt lack in authenticity, unless they can stock the place with gorgeous, friendly Brazilians like those who served us at Picanha.  This restaurant is definitely worth the trek to the Northeast (about 40 minutes from Center City via SEPTA, and faster if you drive) to experience.

Picanha Brazilian Grill

6501 Castor Avenue (at Hellerman)

215-743-4647

Churriascurias is very popular here in Israel because we have a large Argentinian and Brazilian community here. One of the restaurants is called Papagaio (Parrot) and it is a Kosher restaurant. I have been there a couple of times and it is very good. I am surprised how inexpensive the restaurant is in Philly. It is about the same as we pay here. We pay $30.00 for all-you-can-eat.

I went to a wedding a couple of weeks ago that was catered by Papagaio.

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So we've made it to Sunday and the end of another blog. It's been a great week and a great start to my 49th year. Of course, there are always loose ends to tie up, and I'm going to tie them all up in a marathon session today. If Susan in FL -- who, it turns out, was in PHL yesterday (sorry I missed you) would be so kind, I'd like to have the chance to answer any last-minute questions arising from this barrage of posts later tonight before the blog is closed.

But since it's still open, and it's a new day, it's time for one last "Today in History" installment:

Today is Sunday, October 29, the 302d day of 2006. There are 63 days left in the year.

Today's Philadelphia forecast: Mix of sun and clouds, with strong gusty winds continuing; high wind advisory remains in effect. Forecast high 55F, forecast low 39F.

On this day:

In 539 BCE, Babylon fell to Cyrus the Great of Persia.

In 1787, Mozart's opera Don Giovanni premiered at the Estates Theatre in Prague.

In 1862, African-American troops fought for the Union as an organized unit for the first time in a skirmish at Island Mound, Missouri.

In 1863, the International Red Cross was established by representatives of 16 countries meeting in Geneva.

In 1886, the first-ever ticker tape parade took place when office workers in lower Manhattan spontaneously threw ticker tape out their windows during a celebration of the dedication of the Statue of Liberty (see Oct. 28).

In 1923, the Ottoman Empire was dissolved and the Republic of Turkey proclaimed by its first president, Mustafa Kemal, later and better known as Kemal Atatürk.

In 1929, stock prices on the New York Stock Exchange collapsed completely on "Black Tuesday," the great stock market crash that is considered the start of the Great Depression. (Anyone notice a pattern here? Methinks that if you're an investor, October is a lousy month to put your money into stocks.)

In 1956, Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula, pushing Egyptian forces back towards the Suez Canal, triggering the Suez crisis.

In 1960, young Cassius Clay -- who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali -- won his first professional fight in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

In 1969, the first-ever computer-to-computer link was established over the ARPANET, the Defense Department-funded network that is the precursor to today's Internet.

In 1998, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa issued its final report, which condemns both sides for atrocities committed during the era of apartheid.

In 2004, the Treaty and Final Act establishing the first European Constitution was signed by European heads of state meeting in Rome.

Famous people born on this day include:

Edmond Halley, English astronomer, in 1656 (on the Julian calendar) in Haggerston, London.

Pierre Francois Xavier de Charlevoix, first historian of New France, in 1682 in St Quentin, France.

James Boswell, 9th Laird of Auchinleck, diarist and biographer of Samuel Johnson, in 1740 in Edinburgh.

Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda in the Nazi government, in 1897 in Reydt, Germany.

William Henry "Bill" Mauldin, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, in 1921 in Mountain Park, New Mexico.

Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy (Connie Mack) III, U.S. Senator from Florida and grandson of longtime Philadelphia Athletics owner Connie Mack, in 1940 in Philadelphia.

Winona Ryder, American actress, born Winona Laura Horowitz in 1971 in Olmsted County, Minnesota.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Sandy, I've very much enjoyed your blog this week. Looking forward to the hoggies.

I have noticed a recurring interest of yours related to alcohol and the law. I think it's time you took on the lawmakers and got those archaic laws changed. Might be a good project for your next half century.

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Sandy, I've very much enjoyed your blog this week.  Looking forward to the hoggies.

I have noticed a recurring interest of yours related to alcohol and the law.  I think it's time you took on the lawmakers and got those archaic laws changed.  Might be a good project for your next half century.

It will take at least that long. Between lack of dissatisfaction with the current system in the state's more culturally conservative interior, the unionized employees' interest in preserving the status quo and the legislature's disinclination to kill what is seen as a steady source of guaranteed revenue, getting a more liberal liquor regime in Pennsylvania will be an uphill fight--and that's on a good day with the wind at our backs.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Now it's time to rewind to Friday.

On the way to the El -- the Market-Frankford Line is always called "the El," even when it's underground -- I encountered yet another reminder of Philly's increasing cosmopolitanism:

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and on the way from the El to the Route 109 bus to Chester, I bumped into a man who was shaking hands with this person.

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This is Lynn Swann, former Pittsburgh Steelers star and Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania. If he gets elected -- a highly unlikely event, as he is running against the state's most formidable fundraiser, former Philadelphia Mayor and incumbent Governor Ed Rendell -- he would be the first black governor in Pennsylvania history. I didn't realize that it was him until I had passed him, at which point I doubled back to get this photo.

I spent what would ordinarily be my lunch hour and/or workout time watching this:

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This is not a Coneheads convention. These are freshmen enrolled in Widener's introductory engineering class. Each fall, they compete to launch bottle rockets across the recreational field behind Old Main. This was my first time shepherding the media -- well, a Daily Times reporter -- through the event. It was fun.

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I did eventually get my workout in. I also finally ate the salad I had packed on Wednesday. Yes, the croutons were all soggy. I didn't really care.

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The newspaper under my container is The Chester Spotlight, a new community weekly launched this past summer. The publisher/editor/staff reporter -- a former ad sales rep for the Delaware County (nee Chester) Daily Times -- and I have become fairly chummy. When he told me about shepherding the Chester High School girls' tennis team around one afternoon without their coach, who couldn't make it out of the school, I urged him to write a suitably outraged article in the paper. You see that article in this picture. He told me he has gotten several supportive e-mails and phone messages in response.

After work, I went to my usual Friday happy hour hangout: Bump, the "gay luxe lounge" at 13th and Locust, in the heart of the "gayborhood."

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As I may or may not have remarked earlier, this city's gay bars tend to self-segregate along racial, age, class and gender lines. This may not be all that unusual, but I certainly noticed that more here than I did in Boston. Bump, at least at Friday happy hour, is refreshingly different in that it draws a mixed crowd in just about every respect except perhaps social class, for just about everyone here is middle class and up.

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These are two of the bartenders who serve us thirsty folk with a smile:

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Joe on the left, Danny on the right.

and this is what I usually ask Danny to serve me -- a chocolate martini, which runs only $3 at happy hour:

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And here's Joe's take on the same cocktail. You tell me, which of these bartenders deserves his QueerCard more?

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From here, I met Chris, and we both headed to Lula to meet Gary. There Chris ran into a former neighbor on 10th Street who also knows us -- did I tell you that this is really a small town? -- and we all consumed several glasses of wine, which got me to the point where I had to retire myself from Pure later that night lest I become the subject of another humorous photo montage for falling asleep.

Instead, I fell asleep at home, and Chris went back out. Which sets the stage for the adventure I referred to yesterday morning. That's the subject of the next post.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Saturday morning, 3:30 a.m.

Chris walks into the room, awakening me from dreams of nothing in particular. "I'm hungry," he announces. "I want a cheesesteak."

And with that, he heads back out to the 13th Street Pizzeria. A few minutes later, he returns empty-handed, for the 13th Street Pizzeria got rid of its grill when it remodeled and thus no longer serves steaks.

As I had neither the ingredients nor the inclination to fix a cheesesteak at home, that left us with only one other option.

A short cab ride later, we found ourselves at Cheesesteak Corner.

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Since 1966 -- when Geno's was established -- the two heavyweights in the cheesesteak pantheon have duked it out 24/7 where Passyunk Avenue crosses 9th Street.

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We chose to go with the original. Besides, we weren't sure that our English was good enough to order from Geno's.

Pat's helpfully provides instructions on how to order a cheesesteak for the uninitiated.

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Having absorbed this knowledge many, many years ago, I was fully prepared when I went up to the window. "Whiz wit," I said, and stepped aside for Chris to order.

"Fried onions...mushrooms...provolone...salt and pepper," he said. Despite this grave breach of protocol, the counterguy dutifully took his order and translated it into steakspeak. "Provolone wit, mushrooms," he told the cook, then said to Chris, "Salt and pepper are over there"--pointing to the condiment stand on the sidewalk.

We waited until we got home to dress our sandwiches.

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Folks, others have said this before me, but: Both Pat's and Geno's are resting on their laurels. Their steaks may have been great once upon a time -- and indeed Philadelphia magazine permanently retired Pat's from eligibility for the Best Cheesesteak prize in the mid-1990s, as it had won it so many times before -- but they are merely good now. The meat was chewy and tasted as much of connecting tissue as it did of beef. Contrast the shot Chris took of me with my cheesteak to that of him eating my homemade number upthread:

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Of course, some of this may be attributable to my slightly cranky state at having been awakened for a cheesesteak run.

I did manage to get back to sleep. When I woke up, I set about posting to the blog while munching on these:

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Philadelphians' overwhelming preference for Herr's potato chips has mystified me ever since I bought my first bag of Utz potato chips more than a decade ago. Frankly, Utz chips are the best tasting of all the major brands (as the country's fourth-largest-selling brand, I think Utz qualifies as "major") -- their regular chips have as much sodium as most other brands' "low salt" versions, and I agree with the legend printed on the back of every Utz bag explaining why: "Bill and Salie Utz...believed that while a little salt enhanced the flavor of a chip, a lot of salt would destroy it." I buy Herr's mainly for Gary, who much prefers them; however, I will allow that I prefer Herr's barbecue flavored chips to Utz. Those two varieties are comparable in sodium content.

Afterwards, I went to work on a resume. As I wrapped that job up, my friend Rick called me to ask what I was doing. I told him I had to go on a mission, and asked if he would like to join me.

To be continued next post.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Saturday, 3:10 p.m.: The Mission

I had promised all of you hoagies, and this time, I wasn't going to let you down. It's time, then, for our third and final history lesson.

The Other Sandwich That Defines Philadelphia: The Hoagie

A few weeks back, I was watching an episode of the short-lived sitcom It's All Relative on Logo. In this clever, underappreciated series adapted from the 1920s Broadway hit play Abie's Irish Rose, a young woman whose parents are a well-off, liberal gay male couple marries the bartender son of a conservative, Archie Bunkerish owner of a Boston pub. The show gleefully showed how both sides of this mixed family harbored unfounded prejudices of the other.

In the course of this episode, the bartender announced that he was going to get sandwiches for his co-workers: "I'm going out to pick up some hoagies. What do you want?"

My response upon hearing this line was, "What Philadelphian wrote the script for this show?"

In Boston, there are no hoagies. Subs they've got, along with grinders, their oven-toasted cousins. But no hoagies, for the hoagie is as specific to the area around Philadelphia as the po'boy, another well-known sandwich in this general family, is to New Orleans.

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Hog Island Shipyard workers reading the Hog Island News, 1918. Library of Congress collection.

The origins of the hoagie are not as clear-cut as the origins of the cheesesteak are. The most common creation legend traces the sandwich to Italian immigrants to Philadelphia, who carried "Italian sandwiches" stuffed full of cold cuts, provolone cheese, lettuce and tomatoes to work with them.

Many of these men -- and their sandwiches -- went to work at the Hog Island Shipyard, the world's largest shipyard at the time, hastily erected in 1917-18 to build ships for America's World War I effort. While no ship produced at the yard would see action in World War I -- the yard's first ship was completed in November 1918, just after the signing of the armistice ending the war -- the yard would produce hundreds of vessels for the U.S. Navy from 1918 to 1922. Philadelphia International Airport now occupies the shipyard site.

There are two versions of the legend that traces the hoagie to this shipyard. One is that the sandwiches themselves got the moniker "hoggie" because of the shipyard where so many of them were consumed at lunchtime. Another, related on the corporate Web site of Wawa, Inc., perhaps the largest maker of hoagies in the Philadelphia region, an out-of-work Philadelphian named Al DePalma, who had gone to the yard in search of a job, saw the men wolfing down these giant sandwiches and said, "These guys look like a bunch of hogs!" He then decided to set up a shop that would sell these overstuffed cold cut sandwiches, which he listed on his menu as "hoggies."

And yet even the Hog Island origins of the hoagie are disputed. According to Delaware County Daily Times columnist Ed Gebhardt, the hoagie is yet another of the Things Chester Made That Made Chester.

Regardless what version of the creation story you subscribe to, all can agree that a well made hoagie is a truly transcendent sandwich. To revive the analogy between music and food made back at the start of this blog, a good hoagie is a symphony of tastes and textures, the various meats, cheese, veggies, seasonings and condiments -- and, of course, the bread -- blending with and playing off one another to produce a unified composition.

It was with this in mind that Rick and I set out to find the right hoagies to include in this blog. I started with Primo Hoagies on 11th Street above Walnut.

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Primo is one of the best hoagie shop chains in the Philadelphia area, known for its unusual specialty combinations. Unfortunately, their Center City East location closes at 3 p.m. on Saturdays, and it was 3:10 when we showed up at their door.

So we continued on to the Reading Terminal Market, where one finds Salumeria, the cheese and prepared-foods emporium that also makes award-winning hoagies.

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Arriving there at 3:30, we were dismayed to see that they too had shut down their sandwich operation for the day.

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This, however, would turn out to be a blessing in disguise, as it led us to another first-rate hoagie maker in the RTM, Carmen's Famous Italian Hoagies.

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They don't lack for specialty sandwiches either:

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but I came here in search of the classic -- the Italian hoagie. Carmen offers two versions of this sandwich.

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That's Carmen himself holding up the menu.

I immediately settled on the "Super Italian," which combines cappacola, salami, pepperoni, prosciutto, soppresatta and sharp Provolone. Rick was ready to request the regular Italian hoagie (no sopressatta), but was persuaded to upgrade to the Super, which is only 50 cents more.

Carmen's has an efficient assembly-line operation going.

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Which is a good thing, for otherwise, the 10-sandwich order the person two ahead of us in line made would have kept us waiting for a while. But by the time I had finished my business at the order counter, the sandwich builders had already completed three of the sandwiches.

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Ours soon made their way down the line.

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Aren't these wonderful food porn shots? Trust me, they tasted as delicious as they looked. The only slip-up was that I couldn't locate the mustard I had asked for on mine, and thus ended up adding it when I got home.

On the way home from the RTM, I noticed another bit of Philly food history come back to life.

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This neon sign, which sat over the bay window of the corner office of the president of the Reading Railroad from the 1940s to the 1990s, is being restored in a new location next to the main entrance. (Its original location has been upstaged by a huge rotating neon guitar over the entrance to the Hard Rock Cafe.) A formal relighting ceremony is scheduled for next month.

This brings us to the afternoon. I need to head up to the RTM to pick up some groceries. When I get back: An evening with Joan Rivers, with food, beer and friendship on the side.

Edited to replace incorrect image.

Edited by MarketStEl (log)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Philadelphians' overwhelming preference for Herr's potato chips has mystified me ever since I bought my first bag of Utz potato chips more than a decade ago.

The attraction to Herr's over Utz chips never made any sense to me, either.

Folks, others have said this before me, but: Both Pat's and Geno's are resting on their laurels. Their steaks may have been great once upon a time -- and indeed Philadelphia magazine permanently retired Pat's from eligibility for the Best Cheesesteak prize in the mid-1990s, as it had won it so many times before -- but they are merely good now. The meat was chewy and tasted as much of connecting tissue as it did of beef.

I'm loving the pictures of Philly, especially the last few sets. So much is exactly the same as when I lived there over a decade ago - it's interesting to see what has stayed the same and what has changed since then. It's sad that Pat's has gone downhill since then. Sounds like they're cutting corners on the meat, which is essential to a good cheesesteak.

Beautiful hoagies. It's amazing how much they can press together into a sandwich with a well placed turn of the wrapping, isn't it? That bit of compression is lacking in a lot of "hoagies" I've seen made elsewhere.

Edited by tejon (log)

Kathy

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne

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