Friday, May 25, 2012

Cheesecake in Philadelphia

the leafy grounds of Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park, visitors admire some of the most venerable buildings in America. Shoppers fill the bustling Market Street shopping district, while culture-seekers browse the city’s fine art museums. When they need to recharge their batteries, only one thing will do: a cup of coffee and a slice of creamy Philadelphia cheesecake.

Philadelphia is one of the oldest cities in the United States. Its Quaker founder William Penn named it after a Greek word meaning “brotherly love,” and from 1682 it became a refuge for those seeking religious and political freedom. Less than a century later, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence here.
From Chinatown to Little Italy, Philadelphia’s neighborhood enclaves have given America some of its favorite foods, but creamy, dreamy Philadelphia cheesecake is the dish most likely to induce a feeling of brotherly love. Like the city’s name, cheesecake has Greek origins, and it was baked for athletes at the first Olympic Games in 776 BC. Centuries later, Europeans brought their recipes to America, and it was here that cream cheese first became a key ingredient.
William Lawrence, a dairyman in New York’s Hudson Valley, developed the process for making cream cheese by accident in 1872 while trying to make Neufchâtel, a soft French cheese. As his new cheese grew in popularity, he started selling it under the name of “Philadelphia,” trading on the city’s reputation for quality food. He later sold it to a larger company, and the cheese became a global phenomenon.
Philadelphia-style cheesecake has a rich, creamy texture but is lighter than other variations. More cheese than cake, its basic ingredients are simple – cream cheese, sugar, and eggs – but from there the sky’s the limit. Chefs may add sweet almonds, tangy key lime, luscious chocolate, or syrupy liqueurs to the batter, which is poured over a crunchy crust made of vanilla wafers or gingersnaps, possibly mixed with nuts. A simple cheesecake is heavenly on its own, but a topping of fat juicy cherries, fresh blueberries, or other seasonal fruits turns it into a work of art.

One of the largest museums in the US, the Philadelphia Museum of Art (foreground) sits beside the Schuylkill River
Fortunately, Philadelphia is a perfect city to build up your appetite for cheesecake. Its historic neighborhoods are packed with attractions – from the Liberty Bell to the renowned Philadelphia Museum of Art – and refreshed by sweeping green spaces. There’s much to admire in the home of the Declaration that so famously stated a person’s inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The Liberty Bell, cast in 1751, is a traditional symbol of US freedom - PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA USA

The Best Places to Eat Cheesecake

Darling’s Café and Famous Cheesecakes
Darling’s Café is the home of the original Philly cheesecake and makes the best cheesecakes in the city. It now has two branches, and both are unpretentious, charming little cafés with candles on the tables and some courtyard seating. They serve simple but hearty breakfasts such as bagels, oatmeal, or French toast, and lunches including a range of salads and Philadelphia sandwiches. But it’s the cheesecakes, of course, that keep people coming back for more, and there’s a range of tasty choices.
There are usually about ten cheesecakes available at any one time, at a modest few dollars a slice. You might want to start with the Philly Classic before going on to indulgences like the Perfect Pumpkin, the Peanut Butter Silk, the Key Lime Pie, the wicked Belgium Chocolate, or even a Grand Marnier Cheesecake.
2100 Spring Street and 404 South 20th; open 7 AM–7 PM Mon–Fri, 8 AM–7 PM Sat, 9 AM–5 PM Sun;

Cheesecake straddles the line between dessert and cheese, especially when topped with a heap of fruit in syrup

Also in Philadelphia
You might not think of going to a Mexican restaurant to sample Philly cheesecake, but local aficionados rate the pecan cheesecake at Lolita (; expensive) as one of the best desserts in the city. It’s served with a goat-milk caramel sauce and has a crust of dark chocolate with a hint of ancho chili, adding some decidedly different flavors.
Also in the US
New York takes its own cheesecakes every bit as seriously as Philadelphia, and a recent panel of food experts voted the cheesecakes at the Mona Lisa Pastry Shoppe and Café (; inexpensive) in Brooklyn the best in the city. Their “marble swirl” cheesecake, using chocolate imported from Switzerland, is especially heavenly. You can dine at sidewalk tables or get a slice of cheesecake to go, and even order online if you live in the US.
Around the World
A Dublin café run by two sisters who trained as pastry chefs in New York has received all kinds of accolades, from the Dubliner magazine to the New York Times. The Queen of Tarts (; inexpensive) has an old-world charm and serves a delicious New York-style cheesecake along with other exceptional desserts, Irish treats, and pastries such as chocolate scones.
New York Cheesecake
Thick, smooth New York cheesecake is one of the most popular styles of cheesecake in the United States. While it is also made with cream cheese, it is denser and richer due to the addition of egg yolks in the recipe, and sometimes lemon or cottage cheese is used to give it a sharper taste.
New York cheesecake is baked in a pan standing 5–6 inches (13–15 cm) high, so its slices stand impressively tall. Although some chefs dribble a dash of strawberry or chocolate sauce into the batter, New York cheesecake is traditionally served plain without any toppings. Arnold Reuben, a German immigrant and creator of the Reuben sandwich (a delicious mix of cheese, beef, and sauerkraut on rye), is also credited with developing the first New York cheesecake in 1929. He served it at his Turf Restaurant on Broadway, where it became an instant hit.
A Day in Philadelphia
Philadelphia is an easy city to navigate. To get your bearings, remember that the enormous City Hall sits on a square at the intersection of the two main thoroughfares, Market Street and Broad Street.
MORNING : Explore the cobbled alleys of Independence National Historical Park. Don’t miss the Liberty Bell on Market Street, or Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed. There are some fascinating exhibits in Franklin Court, a museum devoted to Benjamin Franklin. Nearby is elegant Christ Church and tiny Elfreth’s Alley with its early colonial houses.
AFTERNOON : Grab a snack at Reading Terminal Market. Then immerse yourself in the impressive collections at the Philadelphia Museum of Art or the Rodin Museum, which holds the largest collection of the sculptor’s work outside France.
EVENING : Catch a Broadway show or a performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Opera Company, or the Pennsylvania Ballet at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.
Getting to Philadelphia
The Airport Rail Line is the quickest and cheapest way to get downtown from Philadelphia International Airport. There are subways, trains, and buses in the city.
Where to stay in Philadelphia
The Gables (inexpensive) is an award-winning B&B in an 1889 mansion; it has comfortable rooms in Victorian decor.
Penn’s View Hotel (moderate) is a traditional hotel in the Old City, close to most main attractions.
Four Seasons Philadelphia (expensive) is an award-winning 5-star hotel whose Fountain Restaurant is one of the city’s best.
6th and Market Streets;

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