Famiglia Italia - 8th Avenue, New York City, 2 a.m.After a full day of travel and fine dining on Southwest's peanut and Cheez-It packs, we arrived in the city ready to eat. This pizza was fantastic, especially when seasoned by terrific hunger. We got it to go, and practically ran across the street to our hotel, kicked off our shoes, and feasted on a buffalo chicken pie on top of the bedspread while an episode of Law & Order played in the background. Bliss.
Tick Tock Cafe, 8th Avenue, New York City, 9 a.m.
I went for the bowl of fruit, already feeling that my arteries were clogged. It was basically a chopped up grapefruit with a few bruised grapes. Yummo!
Street Vender, 5th Aveue, New York City, 1 p.m.We took a walk down Madison Avenue and eventually ended up in the Reading Room at the New York Public Library (yes, the Ghostbusters room, as one of us recognized). Then we hit the streets again and oh, the humidity. Needing a refreshment, we bought drinks. Will scarfed down a dirty water hot dog and I bit into the hardest pretzel of my life. It literally needed to be submerged in my Diet Pepsi to be palatable, and once submerged, it was disgusting. I date my raging toothache to this horrible brick.
Somewhere near the post office and Madison Square Garden, New York City, 8 p.m.
Cheese pizza = a thin crust, a swirl of sauce, and easily two pounds of cheese. A teensy-tiny bathroom. Once I was enclosed in it, someone immediately began pounding on the door. "You'll have to wait!" I called, contorting my body to reach behind me for the toilet paper. Pounding persists throughout the flushing, zipping, washing, and drying. "Sorry," a twenty-something girl says when I step out. "I just really couldn't wait." Pizza grease gets me, too.
Cooper's Tavern, 8th Avenue, New York City, late
We decided to stop here for a nightcap, since we were approximately 10 feet from our hotel and thus would not have to worry about stumbling down the street afterwards. Will ordered a margarita that was heavy on the triple sec and tequila, and I went for a Midori sour that came not in a tumbler, but in something more like a pint glass. I couldn't let it go to waste! Besides, I was fine to walk through the lobby to the elevator bank! Life was good! And it wasn't until the next morning that I realized I'd left a hand-scribbled outline of my novel at the bar.
Beck's Cajun Cafe - Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia, 8 a.m.
Beignets! Heaven dusted with confectioner's sugar. De-lite!
Muffuletta! This for Will, who kept tempting me with bites. Would you like a little olive with that sandwich?
Chinese Restaurant, Arch Street, Philadelphia, 8 p.m.The sign in the window boasted that this was the 8th best Chinese restaurant in the US, and as we appeared to be the only white people (read: authentic cuisine), we went inside. We ordered two iced teas. "In a can?" the waitress said. I grimaced: "How about brewed?" We were then served two massive tubs of tea; the sort of large take-out containers that usually hold a quart of soup, except pierced through with a straw. Every other person in the restaurant was drinking out of a glass, and I tried to figure out where my ordering had gone wrong. Paige arrived when I had picked out all the chicken from my kung pao plate, and demanded to know why we were drinking tea out of a tub.
Will ordered the sweet and sour chicken, which arrived as tiny bites of chicken minus any sauce. A few minutes later, he got the waitress's attention and asked if his order included any sauce. "Yes," she said, confirmed in her belief that we were mentally challenged. She seemed in no hurry to rectify this situation.
Capogiro Gelato Artisans, various locations around Philadelphia, various times of night.Yum. My favorite combination: Sea Salt and Nutella. Will, always braver, went for the Avocado.
El Vez, 13th Street, Philadelphia
Fried plantains (not for the bananaphobic), corn on the cob slathered with chipotle, mayonnaise and fresca queso, guacamole that could convert the avocadophobic, red chile and chicken enchiladas with crema fresca and cotija cheese, more than my share of a pitcher of margaritas which left me feeling I could pronounce any of the terms on the Dia de los Muertos montage on the wall. El Mercado! Amor Eterna! Excellet company: Paige, Beth, Rick and Will.
Portofino, Walnut Street, Philadelphia
Bottle or two of pinot grigio, fried calamari, spinach salad with walnuts and gorgonzola, fettucine alfredo (toothache persisting with some urgency...), 17 glasses of water.
Dunkin Donuts, Market Street, Philadelphia, 8ish a.m.Large iced coffee with cream and sugar, vanilla creme donut, loads of guilt.
CVS Pharmacy, Market Street, Philadelphia20 Vicadin tablets for the low low price of $4.95! I haven't cured my toothache, but I've forgotten to care.
Vending Machine, Downtown Marriott, Philadelphia, 2 p.m.
After a day of the Constitution Center and wandering downtown, I'm parched. A Diet Pepsi at the vending machine will cost me $2, but I decide the expense can't be avoided. Exiting the elevator, I head left to the machine. "Excuse me!" called a hotel maid. "Excuse me, but you're going the wrong way! Room 1915 is to the right!" I explain about my urge for overpriced cancer-in-a-can, but the conversation stays with me throughout the trip. 23 floors in this hotel and thousands of guests, but somehow this person knew exactly who I was and where I should be.
Le Cestagne, Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 6:30 p.m.Sarah's pick, which ended up having just the menu for a girl who was suddenly subsisting on a mooshy-foods-only diet: flan di Parmigiano con crosta di pistacchio and gnocci di patate alla Sorrentina, which translates to high levels of food coma deliciousness.
Home, Modesto, CA, 6 p.m.
Will and I realize we have no food in the house. Lamely, I offer to call for a pizza, but it's the wrong choice by a mile. Finally, Will heads to the grocery store for what sounds like heaven: cereal and milk.
Paula Treick DeBoard