Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best of 2008, Meal Edition

I usually abstain from looking back on things (ha, biggest joke ever). Okay, so I look back pretty much constantly, but I don't generally compile lists of things that I have liked over a span of time. But I thought I would do so today (well, I started this yesterday, but whatever), as New Years is fast approaching and that's what people do. So for your enjoyment, my 17 most memorable meals (due to perfection of the dish, and/or fun of the company).

It's surprising how good a toasted slice of Pepperidge Farm thin white bread can be when spread with a bit of my cheesy artichoke dip and drizzled with truffle oil. Simply amazing.
The escoveitched fish c/o Greensboro, North Carolina's Da Reggae Cafe was so surprisingly tangy and yet refreshing. I have been meaning to go to Philly's best known Jamaican restaurant to take another try of the dish, but haven't. No matter, this was great (though I could have done without the plantains; a prejudice I am unlikely to conquer).
The power of a good everything bagel, with lox cream cheese, should not be underestimated. Ever.
I still love sushi, but don't partake of it as much now that I am single and poor-er. This plate of sashimi is, by far, the thickest cut and yet buttery/quality sushi I have had in my life...or, since I can't remember everything I've ever eaten (though it often feels like I can...ask me about a meal I had with you and there's a 60/40 chance that I'll be able to tell you what you had and what I had), at least this year.
This would be a perfect example of the glory of the tastes of a meal being seriously enhanced by the company (and liberal amounts of sake). My multi-course meal at Zenkichi with M., A., S. and C. was just a great time. I have long appreciated (re: since high school) the company of M. and S. and A. won a place in my heart a few years back when he convinced M. that they should continue to hang out with me in Tennessee for two days after their original departure date...and C., well I had read her (now defunct?) blog for so long it made sense to actually meet her. The drinks we had a little later on were also great (no food was had however). Good work everybody!
Pork shoulder has become one of my stand-by impress-people-with-my-cooking-prowess dishes over the last two years. This particular pork shoulder was made during my time as guest/freeloader/housewife to C. and T. in Indiana and was quite moist and delicious (if I do say so myself).
My last night in Indiana is another prime example of how good food and good people are complementary to an overall 'best' meal experience. C., T. and I went to Farm and it was a lovely ending to a special couple of months.
My first Bubby's burrito in nearly four years. Three? Whatever. It was really wonderful.
The breakfast (and poached egg) by which all others are judged. 'Nuff said.
Coming back to the east coast was a move I made that I thought would have a number of positive outcomes (work being a big one); soft shell crabs, marinated in ginger milk, lightly breaded, fried and served with fresh corn was certainly another big draw.
Going out to see A (aka Mr. Ass). and E. in Newtown, even if a flat tire factored heavily into the day, and sitting in A.'s well provisioned (their stove, oh I would die for their stove) but entirely welcome and homey kitchen while watching A. and E. construct a pesto made (if I remember correctly) from basil from Mr. Ass' garden and just catching up and eating together with a lovely view makes the list.
The first batch of the macaroni and cheese I made for the rooftop barbeque I hosted while K. and J. visited was quite good--especially with a sliver of truffle cheese and a Philadelphia view-- (thanks again to K.).
Concord grapes in all their true grape flavor glory made a big impression during the fall months of the Fairmount Farmers' Market.
The Primo's sandwich (technically a sub, but whatever) that arguably started my recent infatuation with all things sandwich. The salami, the sharp provolone, the peppers, the pickles; the fine, fine sandwich that I dream about.
It would be a sad 'best of' if my birthday dinner didn't manage to find a spot on the list. My latest birthday meal did not disappoint--from the tower of tasty Lyonnaise Salad to the gluttonous fois gras topped burger--a heaping hearty thank you goes out to the parents for making it possible.
While my most recent trip to Pho Ha may have resulted in my pondering the meaning of coincidence in this modern world, my first trip to the Washington Avenue shopfront restaurant proved to be exactly what the doctor ordered: fatty, beefy, brothy, noodley goodness (aka the best pho, ever).
And what would a year be without a good dose of dim sum. Each time I've dim summed since moving to Philadelphia has been great. This specific outing, with my parents, was especially useful for tastographic pictures.
And thus concludes my 2008 meals in review. Having reviewed the past year I am tempted to include other 'best roundups'. Like, best pretty-ness, or best hanging out with children, or best getting drunk somewhere...but I think that will have to wait for another year (or forever, whichever comes first).

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Last Friday there was a work-themed holiday party. Or a holiday-themed work party. One could probably also refer to it as a 'pizza party' or a 'hand-shaking party' or the long lost There were appletinis of various shades. And an exchanging of secret santa gifts. The following photographs are just some of these moments. I am too lazy to upload any more at the current time. So stay tuned to The Hand Pizza Santa Secret Shaking Work Party, Part Two. Coming soon.
S. had to verbalize her present of tasty olive oil to B., having forgotten her gift as a result of working too hard. Mmmm, olive oil. I need to start buying better quality olive oil and expand my vinegar collection.
L. gave S. gelato. Mmm, gelato. Actually, I haven't really had a lot of gelato in my time. But it seems to be some great stuff.
I stole this photograph from L. I'm not sure that L. really has her heart in the jackaling of the photograph. Do you see doubt in her eyes? Maybe she's just jackaling. What? I don't know.
L. was my Santa and she gave me lovely set of gifts. First off, there were these kick-ass awesome magnets. They are on my refrigerator now, and when I see them I smile. Because, you know, I'm a jackal....and I like sandwiches. Many thanks to L.
I was C.'s secret santa. I gave her Julia Glass' Three Junes and some chocolate covered espresso beans.
C. gave L. something that looked like a box of spaghetti...but was so much more. C. won the award for best packaging/wrapping.
M. was M.'s secret santa.
M.'s cupcake recipe book really blew her mind (and she wasn't alone). So. Many.Different.Cupcakes.
H. now lives in Virginia, but she had been working out of the office again for the week leading up to the shin dig.
I believe they're either dancing along with Britney Spears' Womanizer, or Beyonce's All The Single Ladies.

Uninspired and Not Very Good Food c/o Golden Chopsticks

Last Friday, we ordered Chinese for lunch (not because it was the busy season but because I expressed my, albeit temporary, sandwich overload/lack of food for lunch). I ordered hot and sour soup and chicken teriyaki. Neither was good, at all.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Oh Tied House, Sigh

So I've gone to Tied House a few times. Sometimes with coworkers, in which case it is more about having a beer than eating the food...and once with my parents, then it was about dinner. And I just don't know what to say. The meal my parents and I shared was decent (lovely olives, decently fried fish and chips/my parents liked their lamb and short ribs) but other tastes of the establishment's food has been decidedly unimpressive. Take the above 'Tandoori' chicken wings L. and I split last week. Um, they tasted like nothing really. They were dry, not sauced, which I wouldn't have minded if there was any true flavor going on...but there was not. I also tried my coworker A.'s abondingas (little spiced meatballs), which tasted okay but were especially small for their price. Sigh. I think that, regardless of the one dinner, I would now say that this place is only good for its beer....and really, you should go so it stays open and I can have their beer. Just don't get too excited by the food, it always sounds better than it is.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Material Improvements

I returned from my Ikea and pho trip and had to start building my dresser. My coworker B. came over and ended up being absolutely integral to the putting together of the piece of furniture spread out between two giant boxes. Oh man, there were so many pieces. Ikea's wordless directions are minorly intuitive, for me anyways. B. saved me many a mistake and frustration and I thank her, I surely do. I did the drawers myself and found that level of complexity to my liking. I could make drawers for days. Well, not for days. Maybe for an hour, here and there. I also finally framed and hung this print of a chicken that I got at an arts fair, months ago.

I like this blue and red thing. And images of chickens makes me think of Bailey White's book, Quite a A Year For Plums, which has a character who paints chickens and brings them to some sort of snooty 'Audobon Society Art Contest', images of soaring eagles and more exotic tropical water birds the accepted standard. Her peers' collective reaction her chicken images was so appalled. White makes it entirely comical. Chickens!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pho and The Lack of Narrative

On Saturday I went to Ikea in order to finally get myself a dresser so that I wouldn't be living out of suitcases and a shitty set of plastic drawers. I also planned on going to Pho Ha to have another round of their fantastic pho. And this is what happened:
I came into the restaurant and saw that it was pretty crowded, I was not overly surprised by this fact, having walked in knowing there was a chance that I would have to share a table with strangers (against one wall they have a lot of two person tables pushed together so that parties of six or eight can sit together...or people can attempt to space themselves out while still sharing the centrally located spoon/chopsticks/napkins/sauce dispenser centers). I came prepared with a pen and piece of paper for writing real thoughts I had, or to appear like I was writing thoughts I had. The young dude in charge of seating immediately asked me if I was a party of two, I corrected him, he looked around and sort of seemed like he was sorry. I then told him it was fine, I could sit at a table with other people. He asked me if I was sure. I said I was. He walked to a table that had seating for eight. Up against the wall there was a couple, then there were four empty seats, and then a guy on the end. The seater seemed to ask the guy at the end if it was alright for someone else to sit there, he responded positively, as did the couple. So I went and sat down, nodding to the couple (a middle aged white couple) and saying hello to the guy on the end (a late 20-something guy with a certain handsome look to him...I didn't look closely). Once seated I pulled out my paper, pen and phone and then opened the menu. I also took another glance at the guy, as he was seated diagonally across from me, while there was a full row of seats between me and the couple. As I looked, I was struck by the fact that he seemed kind of familiar. But I didn't want to get caught staring, so I went back to the menu, placed my order and began writing nonsense...nonsense because I couldn't help but look at the guy again.
I couldn't place it but I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd somehow had contact with him before, he had dark hair, and long arms that suggested that if he stood, he'd be rather tall. It began to dawn on me that I had, in fact seen this guy, or a very convincing doppleganger. His pho arrived and it seemed kind of rude to ask him about it while he was eating, plus it would be a little embarassing if I was wrong. My soup arrived and as I began to dig in (honestly it wasn't quite as revolutionarily good as my first bowl), I realized that it would be silly not to ask because the chances really were in my favor. So....I said to him, I said:

"Are you a Mambo mover?"

He, looking up with a certain look of 'man I wish Mambo Movers weren't such local celebrities and hadn't collectively been voted 'sexiest man in Philadelphia', replied that yes, he was. I nodded awkwardly and then said, 'you dropped my futon bar down an elevator shaft!', omitting the fact that, in my recounting of this event, I found him charming and extremely cute (even if he suckered me into thinking that he would actually find a futon bar just lying around Philly). We exchanged a few more words on the subject, he said he had heard that, in the end, his boss-type guy had managed to gain entry to the elevator shaft and retrieve the missing part and I asked if he really even looked for a bar and congratulated him on his sexy status (in a good natured non-harpy-crazy-person kind of way). We lapsed back into soup eating silence. A few additional half conversations took place after that point, mostly about the soup and the establishment's choice of aggressive techno music on the speakers. Having been served his soup first, and, it seems, having a bigger appetite to boot, the guy stood up and apologized for the delay in my futon bar arrival. I, having just finished slurping, responded with an appropriately stupid 'have a nice day', as if I were a a greeter at the Gap or Walmart. He went to pay, I continued eating while thinking about how slim the chances were that a)two people with such a tangential connection to one another would end up eating at the same restaurant at the same time (I seriously considered eating pho before Ikea but decided against it), and b)would both be eating alone thus seated at the same table together. I mean, seriously, what are the odds? As he walked by, he nodded and said goodbye.

I finished as much of the food as I could (it wasn't as good, I'm wondering if it's because I didn't request extra fatty broth or the fact that I was completely distracted) and went up to pay. The man at the register looked at my ticket and then looked at me and almost started to punch something into the machine before he shook his head, telling me that the man before me had paid for my meal. What a nice gesture.

This story has made me think about a topic (or perhaps it's an offshoot of the subject) I often think and write about. As does this article that Josh linked to in the last week. You see, the fact that this happened, if my life was a book, television show or movie, really would have some meaning. I would be destined to see this guy again, maybe multiple times and, in the end, we'd kiss or something. And it's a shame that I can't simply be happy with the story as-is, that the futon debacle ended with an awkward but friendly interaction and a free bowl of soup. No, I can't help but feel a little cheated. I'm probably going to live in Philadelphia for some time and I will probably not see this guy again (unless I start going to their art shows, but that would be rather manipulative and I'm not into that), and even if I do, it does not mean that hey, third time's the charm, we'll strike up a really compelling conversation and, I don't know, kiss or something. It would just be a third random event.

Am I ruined? Does understanding that this sort of magic doesn't exist, and still kind of wishing it did, make me just as bad as the people who really think that a relationship's viability can be determined within seconds?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Live Music

Last Friday, as we sat and had lunch together, my coworker A. asked if anyone was interested in seeing Wilco later that night....for free...I raised my hand, as did L. and M. (and B. too but she backed out). A day's work later L, M, and I took the train to the Spectrum and met up with A., her friend, her brother and his girlfriend. We were kind of late and, though I had understood that it was Wilco and Neil young, I didn't realize that Wilco was the opening act. So, we got there in time for their last two, maybe three songs, and man, those dudes are, cough, 'tight'. It's quite impressive really. Though it couldn't be helped, I sincerely wish I could have seen more of them. But, hey, the tickets were free so I ain't complaining.
I took a bunch of Neil Young photographs but I wasn't overly excited about it. I mean, I actually, on occasion, enjoy listening to a little of Young's music (though I can't actually tell you the last time I did so, I know I have a cd of his somewhere) but Neil Young live is an entirely different beast/kettle of beast. Each song lasts a very long time, and a majority of its length is due to his inordinately long guitar solos. I guess he's entitled to play whatever he wants for as long as he wants, and I won't say it didn't sound good...it just got a little tedious. Maybe if I had been stoned or drunk, as many of the audience members clearly were, I would have been more into it. Actually, I'm sure if I had been either of those things I would have been happy to sit back and let the soaring rocking hardness of Young's stylings wash over me. Instead I sat there, impatient, exchanging the occasional barb with A.'s friend, who was equally over it. We left after about four songs (which took about an hour). Oh, and I peed in the men's bathroom because the women's line was too long and the women behind me started a revolution. I did not, however, use a urinal nor look in the general direction of the urinals...that would have been ridiculous.

Wraptastic and My Last Vernors

Another day last week I made myself a sandwich...except it was a wrap...using a tortilla. In it was the usual cast of sandwich characters: salami, turkey, tomato, mayo 2.0, butter lettuce and Brie left over from my parents' visit.

Sandwiches Are Next To Godliness

Another day, another sandwich. This time with hard salami, tomato, red pepper, smoked turkey and some of the lime cilantro mayonnaise I had left over.

My Love Affair With Sandwiches Continues

Last week I mixed up some mayonnaise...well, no, I didn't make the mayonnaise itself...but I added cilantro and lime juice to mayonnaise and blended it to form my own, superior, version of mayonnaise. Some of this mayo 2.0 was put to use in an egg salad I made...and then put onto bread with red onion and a slice of cheese. The dragon was in an amorous state over my pickle and didn't give a good goddamn about the sandwich, its loss.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Salud Salad

Last weekend I went to a terrible place. It was called New Jersey. Specifically, the Cherry Hill Mall in New Jersey. I had a little birthday spending money and I figured the time was as close as I would ever come to my own 'What Not To Wear' shopping spree. I imagined new jeans, myriad shirts and bras and sweaters and accessories. In the end, I bought two shirts (that pretty much look like the sort of shirt I've been buying for years), one pair of pants (that I like, I think, but I sort of wonder if they're not actually awful), five pairs of earrings and an eyeliner pencil. Fail. I also got cheap gas and went grocery shopping. With the spoils of the grocery trip I made a salad.
There was red leaf lettuce, a boiled egg, black olives, roasted beets, parsley and a little vinagrette I made for myself. Oh, and cucumbers.

Cat Quilt Knit

So, Zul still exists. Here he is on my bed. I have encouraged him to sleep on the crocheted blanket that a lady made for my mother when she was pregnant with me (or after I was born). When they were in town for my birthday/Thanksgiving my mother gave me a quilt that her grandmother had made. I like this quilt very much.
You can see more of it here...and the cat.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chinese Food c/o Long River

After all the Thomas fun, I hung out with J., S. and N. for a while at their home before heading home. It's funny to think that I first met J. when I was, sheesh, 19 and she 22ish. I guess we've both grown up a fair amount since working at a second-rate (in my mind, I think our customers thought it was great) coffee shop. Eventually, however, I did need to get home. I forget why. Oh yes, so I could order Chinese food and watch Iron Man. Speaking of which....way to nail it/keep it real Salon, I totally agree! I had the sweet and sour soup, vegetable dumplings and roast pork ho fun noodles. For a grand total of $14 (plus delivery tip) and many additional meals (well, not for the soup, that was gone after two meals).
I was not overly fond of the veggie version of their steamed dumplings. They were crowded in their container and their filling was pretty moist, which resulted in a bit of a mess on subsequent eating experiences.
There wasn't enough pork with my noodles, sorry to say. But, whatever, Robert Downey Junior is sexy.