Last Thursday, my mother and I jetted out to Philadelphia to peruse the idyllic campus at Bryn Mawr College. Our journey, though quite enjoyable, reinforced my deep desire to attend Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY, simply because it proved that not even the most gorgeous campus, strongest-willed female student body, or unique amalgamation of courses can, in my eyes, exceed the perfection of Vassar.
However, one cannot spend an entire two days touring a college campus, no matter how picturesque. Thus, my mother and I partook in a number of vegan eating adventures around the city, all superbly yummy. I plan for this series of Philly posts to span three parts, the first of which, today’s, focuses on Friday morning and afternoon.
By the time our air travel ceased on Thursday night and we had finally trudged up to our hotel room, the clock had struck an ungodly 1:00 am, three-and-a-half excruciating hours past my usual bedtime. Needless to say, I tumbled into dreamland immediately upon contact with my pillow, awakening fairly late in the morning. In no rush, I headed to the hotel workout room before preparing for an active day in Philadelphia, finally venturing into the downtown area with my mother by 11:30.
I hadn’t mapped out a breakfast/brunch restaurant prior to arriving in Philly (shocker, I know! Usually I plan in detail my “restaurant schedule,” if you will, when traveling), but a quick search for “juice bar” on HappyCow.net returned The Basic 4 Vegetarian Snack Bar at the Reading Terminal Market, deep in the heart of downtown. Strolling through the indoor market’s wide array of international eateries, herb and soap shops, and handmade jewelry stands, my mother and I regarded our unintended visit as an extremely lucky one and marveled at the market’s slew of cultures. After exploring a bit, we stumbled upon our vegan merchant, where I ordered a large juice of carrot, apple, and celery. The snack bar also featured a deli case full of create-your-own salad fixings, meatless “hoagies”, and veggie patties, but none of the fare appealed to me at 11:30 in the morning.
Further wandering through the market, we happened upon yet another juicy stand called the Four Seasons Juice Bar. Ravenous that morning, being the juice fiend I am, and craving my morning leafy greens, I partook in another juice of carrot, kale, and spinach with a shot of wheatgrass. This blend satisfied me intensely more than the first, most likely due to its richness in greens and its refreshingly cold temperature.
Sufficiently full of delicious liquid nutrition but craving more fibrous, solid fare, I proposed walking down the main drag in downtown Philly to stop by Sweet Freedom Bakery, the city’s gem of a vegan, gluten-free, refined-sugar-free bakery—my kind of place! For all you Cupcake Wars fans out there, the bakery also battled it out on the Food Network competition, holding its own against the mainstream animal-and-gluten-based bakeries. At first glimpse of the bakery’s sunny baby blue exterior, I felt immediately at home—a sense which only intensified as I entered to discover a glass case full of tantalizing baked goodies, a small refrigerator boasting both coconut water and kombucha, and this joyful sign:
After sufficiently fawning over the mouthwatering array of wholesome sweets and seriously contemplating our choices, I opted for two fruit-filled bars—one blueberry-oat crumble and one lemon-raspberry drizzled in a lemon-coconut glaze—while my mother settled on a fat slice of carrot-raisin bread with a vanilla glaze. Reveling in both the gorgeously sunny day and our positively delectable treats, we happily munched at a table in front of the bakery.
Both of my bars’ crusts offered a pleasingly crumbly texture, contrasted with the smooth, not-overly-sweet fruit filling. The oats sprinkled on top imparted a nice crunch, though I half wished that the blueberry bar had featured walnuts in the topping. While I verily enjoyed both of my treats, I willingly admitted that my mother’s choice proved the most delicious. Unbelievably moist, densely textured, studded with gems of plump raisins, and superbly spiced, the thick slab of carrot-raisin loaf fulfilled every requirement of a perfect baked good—and without the use of animal secretions, gluten, or white sugar (the bakery relies upon coconut sugar for their sweetening needs)!
Our tummies contentedly full of impeccably tasty, healthy baked goods, my mother and I hopped in the car to journey to the Bryn Mawr campus for our college tour and eagerly awaited our dinner reservations at the acclaimed Vedge restaurant later that night…but I’ll have to save that for my next post.
Until next time, Ali.