Philadelphia and Boston, USA

The US, it goes without saying, is huge –  so for this trip we’ve just picked a few corners to explore. The first (although it was not meant to be the first ) is the North East: for the history, the forests, the coastline, the seafood, it’s disproportionate literary output and for an excuse to revisit New York. It is one of the few destinations on the trip that we knew in advance when we wanted to be here: the “fall” and autumn is definitely beginning here now.

Philadelphia and Boston are, in many ways, quite similar: pleasant cities, laden with reminders of the founding fathers and their lofty deeds. Both are very well set up for tourists and I liked both cities very much, and rather more than I like DC which also fits this mould.

For Boston of course, the universities are central to the city’s raison d’etre. The result is a youthful, energetic buzz, set amongst beautifully maintained ivy clad (yes, we get it) buildings supported, one suspects, by bucketloads of alumni money. We mingled with the student crowd for burgers and raspberry lime rickeys* and then spent an hour lost in a fabulous bookshop near Harvard Square – a Tuesday night doesn’t get much better.

Philadelphia is a city built on a grid and its vibe is a little less college-town, but not as serious as I would have expected. Casual eateries spill out onto the sidewalks and licencing laws create a complex relationship with alcohol with lots of restaurants unable to serve alcohol, such as the Mexican place which serves margarita mix to patrons who bring their own tequila – sounds like a dangerous combination to me…

In Philadelphia the Philly Cheesesteak is a compulsory item on the itinerary – I was a little underwhelmed. In Boston the Boston cream pie is the thing and this was overpriced but tasty – I’m sure they would have been a real favourite with Paul Revere and John Hancock. I have more trouble imagining Ben Franklin chowing down on a Philly Cheesesteak, but I guess you never know.

Big thanks to Karen, Silas and Puzzle (Philly) and Caroline and her housemates (Boston) for their kind hospitality.

*Raspberry Lime Rickeys

A perfect summer drink, consider reducing the sugar from what’s suggested here if your palate wasn’t raised in the US

 3 Cups frozen raspberries
2 Cups sugar
1/2 Cup water
4 teaspoons grated lime zest and 1/ Cup lime juice
Seltzer or club soda

Heat raspberries, sugar, and water about 5 minutes
Mash them up and add juice and zest, simmer about 5 more minutes.
Strain it and discard solids, refrigerate syrup until cool.
To serve:
3/4 cup selzer and 2 Tablespoons syrup over ice.

With thanks to Cook’s Country magazine via Chowhound.


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