Thursday, February 28, 2013

Philadelphia Cloud 9 Living Experience Gourmet Food Tour

What do you get for the person who has everything?

Or what if you're trying to give a truly meaningful gift instead of just more stuff?

Cloud 9 Living Experiences is the answer with a huge catalog of experiences, organized by city, that can be gifted or purchased for oneself.

Experiences include driving a stock car, riding in a hot air balloon, fly fishing, having a private chef for the evening, a guided tour of a city, etc.

Looking over the offerings at Cloud 9 living, there were so many things that I wanted to try!Cloud 9 treated me and my husband to a Gourmet food tour of Philadelphia. What a great way for us to get a closer, unique look at Philadelphia! First of all, information on our tour was mailed to us in a lovely fold-out package that makes this a perfect gift option. (Information is also sent over email, of course.)

I was so pleased with our choice of the Philadelphia Gourmet Food Tour! Our gourmet food tour began with our friendly guide handing out water bottles before showing us the old train station and leading us to our first stop: The Reading Terminal Market, a bustling, crowded market filled with different food booths and farmers' stands.

At the Reading Terminal Market we stopped first at the Fair Food Farmstand--a stand with only foods from sustainable farms, chefs, and bakers in southeast Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, including urban farms within the city of Philadelphia itself -  We sampled an adaptation of a French pastry that was simultaneously buttery, custardy, and pastry-ey. We also heard the story of its creation and invention from our tour guide.

Right nearby we stepped to the food bar of Kamal's Middle Eastern Specialties. We each received a plate of food including hummus, baba ghanoush, grape leaves, and pita bread. We are familiar with this type and genre of food. We loved it and it was delicious!

Across the market, we visited the Flying Monkey Bakery and each received one of their famous cake truffles (a moist cake ball mixed with frosting and coated with chocolate). Heaven! My only complaint about the market was that we didn't have time to buy products from the vendors where we sampled food. I would have liked to support them and the wonderful market by buying some of their goods.

Leaving the market, we walked a few blocks while our tour guide pointed out architectural sights such as the CVS with stained glass and a bank that has been renovated into a fancy restaurant. You can even eat in the vault! We didn't try anything here, but we were allowed to go inside the vault and look around!

We also stopped at the Macy's where they have an hourly Christmas light show and they also have one of the largest organs in the world--the Wanamaker organ. We arrived about two minutes before the light show was to begin and, unfortunately, our tour guide rushed us out of there before the show started. My husband and I came back after the tour and watched the light show and we were even able to go up behind the organ! (My husband really loves organ music, so this was a huge surprise find for us!)

After Macy's, we made a quick stop in a mall for an exhibit of very professional gingerbread houses that were modeled on historic structures in the Philadelphia area. What a fun stop! As you can see, the tour was really set up to highlight unique sites and features of Philadelphia in addition to all of our gourmet food stops. Because of these extras, the tour was really filled out and we were able to learn about the history and culture of the buildings and areas we were walking. As someone who has never been to Philadelphia before, I can definitely say that I felt like I got an insider look at Philly and that this tour went above and beyond the typical tourist stops. I love finding places that locals love and experiencing something off the beaten path.

Our visit to Di Bruno Brothers was probably our favorite stop. The Di Bruno Brothers store contained a market as well as cheese stand. We were treated to our own cheese tasting and cheese-making lesson upstairs where we were seated and got to take a break from our walking. We enjoyed learning about the different cheeses that we were eating and talking about the different flavors and subtle tastes in the cheeses. My husband and I both love cheeses and we ate up all of our cheese. We discovered there our newest favorite cheese: bucheron, which is a goat's cheese that is crumbly in the middle and creamy on the outside. We were given time to shop and purchase some of our own cheese, bread, and German chocolate. Hooray!

Finally after a short walk we arrived at Capogiro, a  gelato cafe where they only use in-season, local produce in their gelato and ice cream. We shared a tray of surprise flavors with another couple and each took a spoonful (clean spoons each time!) and guessed each flavor. I believe we tried coconut, jalapeno, maple, almond, strawberry, pineapple. We had fun guessing and sampling the flavors and after the sampling we divided up the cups and each ate a cup of the gelato.

There ended our 2 hour tour and we were left to explore the city on our own. As I said, we returned to the Macy's and the Wanamaker organ. Overall, we definitely enjoyed the tour and discovered things about Philadelphia that we never would have found on our own. It was certainly an amazing use of our tourist time in Philly. In addition to delicious food, we learned about the growing local-food culture in Philly and we also learned about some of the architecture and seasonal features in downtown Philadelphia. Cloud 9 Living Experiences did an excellent job finding and offering the tour as a part of their many experiences available on their site. I can definitely recommend Cloud 9 Experiences as a superior way to get something extra special out of your vacation or as an experience gift.

Thank you for reading my Cloud 9 Experiences Review! You can visit them at the Cloud 9 Living website and also on the Cloud 9 Facebook page!

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