Any college student will tell you, the best way to keep cash in your pocket and still eat well is to go ethnic. Authentic ethnic eateries are the tastiest of bargains, like New Delhi where a daily lunch ($8.95) and dinner ($12.95) buffet groans with real deal chicken tikka masala, tandoori, dal makhni and other Indian specialties. For Southeast Asian delights, try Le Viet, a stylish year-old newcomer not far from the Italian market. Fill up on a bowl of hearty Pho noodle soup and an order of fresh spring rolls and you’ll still get change back from your $10. Near the convention center, Dim Sum Garden may look nondescript on the outside, but inside, it’s a dumpling lover’s dream. Try an order (or two) of authentic Shanghai soup dumplings, tricky to eat because the soup is on the inside, but once mastered, positively addictive. The family owned Kebab House is a cozy Ottoman oasis specializing in Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine. Besides kebabs of every stripe (the organic lamb doner is a house specialty), there’s sautéed and baked vegetarian options and an especially creamy hummus for dipping.
Instead of ordering an impersonal gourmet basket from a national outfit like Harry and David, why not patronize a local business and customize a basket to the tastes of your client, neighbor, office mate or friend? Here are three Philly-area locally owned businesses that do mouth-watering jobs at packaging a gourmet gift basket sure to please.
At the Pennsylvania General Store in the Reading Terminal Market, owners Michael and Julie Holahan showcase some of the best food products in the region, available individually or in gift baskets. Treats include Uncle Jerry’s pretzels, Bucks County Coffee, Sweetzel’s spiced wafers, Asher’s chocolates, Lancaster County saffron and homemade jams and Philly born and raised Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews. There’s even a basket designed with the Philly sports fan in mind. For $47.97, your pal can cheer on the Eagles while munching on the likes of Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpets, Utz Potato Chips, Rosie’s Butter Cookies, Asher’s Keystone Crunch, Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, Uncle Jerry’s Hard Pretzels and Mama Lou’s Dipping Mustard. You even get an Eagles’ bumper sticker as a bonus.
A basket from Chaddsford Winery puts the spotlight on Eric and Lee Miller’s award winning wine. Oenophiles will love the $58.99 Craft Cuvee Collection, 2009 vintages made in small lots of 200 cases or less.
At Carlino’s in Ardmore, three generations of the Carlino family purvey all kinds of imported Italian goodies. Prices start around $50 for customized gift basket, with the Italian feast one of the most popular combos, at $60-$125. Savor olive oil from the family’s hometown in Abruzzi, fresh mozzarella, aged provolone, olives, fresh baked bread and assorted other goodies, including something for the sweet tooth, like Italian biscotti, chocolate or cookies.