Monday, February 28, 2011

Blanched Asparagus-Heavy Salad with Champagne Truffle Vinaigrette

I became momentarily obsessed with having quickly blanched/steamed asparagus with poached egg and champagne/truffle vinaigrette a few weeks back. This was my third variation, this time with a bit of green lettuce and half an avocado as well. The vinaigrette was pretty simple. Champagne vinegar, truffle oil, a little cracked black pepper, salt and lemon juice. But mix it all together and you're putting straight up magic directly into your body.

Candyland, Cheese and Venison c/o J. and J.

So, in the earlier part of February I went over to J. and J.'s for dinner. S. and I played Candyland for a bit and then N. joined us. Though N. was far less interested in the process than S. or myself. I didn't win. N. did.

He-J. put together another lovely cheese plate. I enjoyed the meat, I should have asked him what it was. Same goes for the cheese. I think one had moon in the title because that was the one S. seemed to like. And then the dragon cheese was back, which is always nice in an offbeat kind of way.
For dinner He-J. prepared venison, couscous, greens of some sort (?) and a tasty artichoke concoction.

It was another enjoyable night with the J/J family. Fine food. Fine company. Kids in costumes. Kids in baskets.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pho and Pork Rolls c/o Ha Saigon

So I read the City Paper's food blog pretty regularly, as I'm always looking to know where all the hip happening food action is going down. Last month I read about how the management, cooking and wait staff of Pho Ha had all, a long while back, jumped ship and moved elsewhere and then moved elsewhere again to Ha Saigon. This made perfect sense to me because the first time I had pho from Pho Ha, my parents and I agreed that it was some sort of magic, above average pho. On my subsequent visits my hankering for pho was certainly met, but something was missing. And now I know what it was. So, after reading the article, I was determined to try Ha Saigon and enlisted L. in this pursuit. The new location is on Oregon Avenue in another Asian shopping complex I didn't know existed. I went with the rare steak/brisket combo, a hot French coffee and the barbeque pork rolls. The pho was delicious. Unlike Pho Ha, however, the menu doesn't give you as much permission to specialize how you want it (more broth, less noodles, more meat, more fat etc etc), but when we both asked for more broth, less noodles, it seemed like that was generally respected.

I had thought that the French-style Vietnamese coffee always came with condensed milk, so I was a little surprised to be milk free in this cup. This coffee was so strong that without the overwhelming sweetness of the milk, drinking it was a little daunting.
Ok. These rolls. These rolls were good. Well, the pork in the rolls was good. More than good. Really good. Like, surprisingly and tantalizingly good. Sweet and fatty but smoky and tender. I don't know. Just amazing.
It's a big space and it wasn't completely packed when we went, but there was a steady stream of Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese customers throughout our meal. At the end a lady manager (maybe owner?) came up and talked to us. She asked how we had heard of the place and we enthusiastically complimented her on the whole thing. Sometimes when I'm writing about a meal that pleased me I start really, really wanting to eat it again. Luckily for me, that is already the plan for later on this afternoon.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Oysters and Veal Shortribs c/o Noble

A while back I purchased a Groupon for Noble. My first visit there had been inconclusive as to whether I was a huge fan or, well, meh. Earlier this month I finally got around to using it. At first I thought I'd go with a friend or something, but then I realized I'd have more spending power if I went by myself. I'm selfish. And not afraid to dine alone. It's a winning combination; one of my best traits, really. So, finally I went and took advantage of the thing. I sat at the bar and the bar tender was very personable. I started with the oyster appetizer and a glass of Ca' del Solo Estate Vineyard Alberino. The oysters included cucumber 'pearls' and a miso kind of dressing. The texture of the cucumber balls was a nice touch and the miso was a whole different thing from the typical mignonette, but in a really natural way. It worked.
I chose to go with the veal short rib with okinawa sweet potato, bluefoot mushrooms, red wine miso. While I was a fan of how tender the meat was, and flavorable, I was less impressed by the potato and mushroom elements. Somehow I didn't feel like they were doing the veal any favors and weren't, independently, all that exciting. I had a glass of Ray Station Cabernet with the main course. They have a nice intimate bar set up, and a few happy hour deals that I might try at some point.

Happy Hour c/o Positano Coast, Movie c/o the Ritz

I returned from Brooklyn full of warm feelings for all the people I saw there. A few days later L. and I met up at Positano Coast for a little Happy Hour chat time before going to see a movie across the street at the Ritz. I wanted to try their crudo, as it seems the restaurant is best known for its seafood dishes, but that particular happy hour deal had gone away. So instead I went with the gnocchi.
L. is having seriously awful issues with her taste buds. Mainly that they have disappeared, leaving her unable to truly enjoy the subtlety (or non-subtlety) of anything she consumes. This makes me sad for her. She ordered the meatballs nonetheless. I wasn't blown away by either dish to be honest, but I liked the bar set up and would go back for a crack at their seafood.
So then we went and saw Blue Valentine. This movie is good. And sad. And real. Putting aside the merits of the actors and the filmmakers, I was personally affected by just watching the beginnings of a relationship. In one scene they're just laughing and dancing on a sidewalk, making jokes, glorying in each other's company and I couldn't help but be all 'I really would like a little of that in my life.' Even though you flash forward and things aren't quite as rosy. Also, again kind of besides the point in terms of the actual value of the film, Ryan Gosling is just too good an actor. While most of my angst was of the general sort, I also kind of just wanted to marry Ryan Gosling's character. Or at least form a domestic partnership with him or something.

Breakfast c/o Mile End

Sunday morning L. and I walked over to Mile End Delicatessen to try what they had going on. L. was surprised that I wasn't familiar with the concept of a 'Montreal bagel' and so I was too. It's a really small space, so we had to wait for a bit before we were seated. I went with the 'Mont Royal,' which consisted of lox, potato and chive lattke and crème fraiche while L. had the bacon and egg bagel.
The food was good in my belly.

My So Called Prom Featuring The Bayside Tigers c/o The Bell House

So the big event of the night was going to be 'My So Called Prom' at The Bell House. As I already mentioned, we made some modicum of an attempt to dress for the event (re: look like we were 20 somethings from the '90s) and went to the venue before dinner to buy our tickets. Unfortunately we underestimated the popularity of such an event, and there were no tickets left. We, however, persevered. By that I mean, after dinner we went back because while we couldn't get into the back concert space there was still to be a '90s DJ in the bar area. C. and J. met up with us and because we were pretty much the first people in the joint, we got the very nifty corner sofa area. It was ideal. The three of us ladies sat on one sofa and talked about lady things; you know, how much we want babies, how hard it is to get men to take out the trash and our favorite lipsticks. Meanwhile J. and Fat T., who hadn't met before, talked about man things; you know, hammers, meat, and their undying love of Nickelback. A bit later on T. and J. arrived and at the same time we were kicked out of the sofa area because, apparently, it was "reserved." But because there hadn't been any sign or proof of the corner's status, the Bell House staff member who kicked us out comped us all tickets into the show. Except there was some confusion, and we lost C. and J. too quickly.
So, the conceit of the event was pretty simple: it's a prom, from the '90s, with a band playing all the latest hits. This band, The Bayside Tigers, was really quite good. They played the gamut of alternative rock, which included Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Eve 6, Rage Against the Machine and a ton more. L. and I were serious.
Then we were happy.
Then Fat T. and L. were cute.
Then J. and T. were from 1997.
Then, because it was hard to carry around a bag of Chinese food at a concert, L. and I went outside and skated across an expanse of pure ice (no lie) to gently place the Chinese food in some snow so we could pick it up later. Yes, really.
At one point I lost T. and J. and L. and Fat T. It was a troubling time. Actually I think it happened twice or three times. In this instance I found L. and Fat T. having a little relatively quiet time near the coat check.
I liked how excited this guitar player/singer was. They'd start a new song, the crowd would roar, and he'd get this really happy smile on his face. Like he couldn't quite believe how excited everyone was but that it made him feel really good.
Then I insisted that T. and I take a photograph and I put on my crazy face.
I have a few photos where L. and I look awful, but the people in the background are really, really amped about whatever song is currently playing. Note, for example, the man in the top right corner of this photograph.

Then it was time for their encore and a good number of folks, J. included, got up on the stage and danced. I think maybe to Killing in the Name of...but maybe not.
J. made a new friend.

You might have noticed that in the photographs above, I only had one earring. This is because, on the walk over, I realized that one of the earrings I had most certainly left the house wearing, was no longer attached to my lobe. This made me sad. L. bet me that we would find the earring on our walk home, and I doubted her. A lesson to everyone: do not doubt L. And indeed, we found the earring a few yards away from where I first felt its absence. It was a '90s miracle.
That was a really, really fun night. It was great to see C. and J. and also great to see T. and J. Seriously. It was just a lot of fun. Better photographs that display a wide range of the outfits one could find that night can be seen here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Beef Satay, Scallion Pancakes and More c/o Michael and Ping's

After returning from our Shopsins adventure L. and I took naps. It was very peaceful. Once we were up again all three of us put on our finest '90s duds (that's a lie, I didn't have any '90s duds) for a thing that I'll get to later. But! Before we did that thing, we had dinner at Michael and Ping's. It's a very environmentally aware business. But that wouldn't really matter if the food wasn't good, which it was. I ordered beef satay expecting the typical dried out and thin amalgamation of beef that you get at most not too fancy Chinese restaurants (you order at the counter and they call out your name). These were succulent, still a little bit rare in a good way, chunks of really well marinated beef. I admitted surprise to L. I hadn't expected it to be so good. The scallion pancakes were also above par.

My eggplant and tofu dish was a little less exciting, but I am very particular about how I like my tofu.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Meal With No Proof

So at some point in January, I watched I Like Killing Flies on Netflix Insta. Mr. Ass and his family have long praised Shopsins (the subject of the film) as an interesting eating experience, and seeing the movie I finally had a better sense of why that might be. So, when my New York weekend was shaping up, I expressed a firm interest in going there. L. is excellent at humoring me; it's one of the things I like about her. So even though the idea of standing in line for an hour wasn't overly pleasing to her, and she didn't exactly understand why I was so nervous about the whole thing (the restaurant's proprietor is a notorious grump who won't hesitate to kick out a customer if he feels they are rude or overly entitled) L. gamely accompanied me to Essex Street Market for brunch. After a quick tour around the market, which is a pretty nice looking one -- though I actually think Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market has it beat hands down -- we took our place in line. The thing about the spot is it's small. There are tables for a combined total of about 20 people, and the restaurant has a firm rule that you can be a party of no more than four (which I kind of find funny, because the family that runs it is a family of 6 ... so they wouldn't be served at their own spot). Anyways. The line wasn't too long, but because of the number of tables, the wait was (long). Eventually we were seated. And it turned out we were seated right next to Kenny Shopsin, the top dog and chef of the place. This made me even more nervous. In the end I ordered the poutine with three poached eggs, fried pickles and a horchata. Seriously, look at the menu and try to decide what you would do. My brain almost exploded.

Long story short. I was too intimidated to take photographs, because I wasn't sure if that would be accepted or frowned upon and I didn't want to be thrown out before I had the opportunity to dig in. The pickles were fried as slices, not spears, and were nice and hot. Very dilly. The poutine was a mess of gravy, french fries and cheese. I don't think I really needed three eggs, but that was how it was served (no substitutions or changes are allowed for any menu item) and so that's how it arrived. The horchata was good. L. took a sip and decided she wanted one for herself, but when she asked our server about it, he said she was too late, that she should have asked when she first ordered. L. had a lamb curry sandwich with something magical and weird. The prices are decent for the amount of food you get. I would definitely go back and try any number of things. Though I probably would remain uneasy about documenting the experience.

Assorted Pastries c/o Mazzola Bakery

After dinner L. and I returned to her home where we hung out and enjoyed each other's company until Fat T. came home and ruined everything. That is a joke. I like Fat T. and express it by constantly giving him a hard time. I think we all turned in at some time after 3. That didn't stop Miss Crazy Pants Me from getting up around 8:30 and feeling the need to do something slightly New Yorky, which, to me, means walking somewhere for coffee. That, and I needed to get cash from an ATM for the many plans we had for the day. So I walked over to Mazzola Bakery and bought a sampling of some of their pastries. I wish they had had a proper raspberry tart. But they didn't, so I went with a swan, a raspberry mousse thing, a blueberry tart and a lemon square. Really I just like being able to contribute something to my hosts' lives by bringing food into their house while they're still sleeping, and making coffee for them that I make extra special by adding a little cinnamon to the grounds. I ate the swan. It was good. I also had a latte from the bakery and liked it.

Mojito, Ceviche and Elote c/o Who Knows

I went up to New York the first weekend in February to hang with L. I arrived Friday night and after some dilly dallying and wine drinking, she, N. and I walked along Union Street before deciding on a Latin American restaurant for dinner. I wish I could tell you what the restaurant was called, but after some research on googlemaps, I'm not entirely convinced that it exists. Like, maybe it was a group delusion. Of course that's not true, I have proof of the meal. Point being is I would give the restaurant props, if I could figure out what it was called. Anyways. It was a small space and when we first walked in there wasn't a table for us. So we sat at the bar and ate complimentary fried plantain things with a great chimmichurri kind of dipping sauce, there was another sauce too...spicier. After L. subtly adjusted her body in front of the bartender (that's a joke just for L.) we were soon seated. I ordered a mojito and it was lovely.
For my meal I went with the ceviche appetizer followed by the elote appetizer. The ceviche was a nice plate and its offering of citrusy seafood was to my liking.
The elote was a little disappointing. All the ingredients were there, but it lacked salt or pizazz. In the summer when I make my white person's version of the dish, I think I add more lemon juice and may use a slightly different kind of mayo. Not all that exciting. I believe L. and N. both liked their meals.
A wonderful beginning to a good weekend. Rain notwithstanding.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


So. I've been sick. I guess it's just a cold. But it's the kind of cold that made it hard for me to breathe, think or enjoy life. This was a great inspiration for me to finally put the patch on my body after having had the box in my life for more than a week. Yesterday was my first day. Last night I had way crazy dreams. Here are the fragmented highlights as I wrote them down in the morning. It was one of those dreams where you would wake up glad that that version of reality and sleep wouldn't come again ... just to find yourself back there when you finally got back to sleep:

high school reunion
the beach
roofied, but no one believing me
dog shit plastic bags around my neck upon awaking
trying to clean off in a stream on a pavement
lemon squares
burger king tacos
losing my tastebuds and my water glass

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fancy Pasta

I've sort of become obsessed with making this one dish a lot. Well, not too often, but often enough that I've meant to take a photograph of it in order to prove to the world that I sometimes make my own food, and that it is sometimes delicious. I'm not sure this photograph is actually appealing. The green of C.'s bowl isn't helping the situation either. Anyways. The basic gist of this dish is as follows: fettucini, wood smoked salmon, sauteed mushrooms and capers...finished with a dollop of half and half, a liberal sprinkling of lemon juice and a nice amount of Parmesan cheese. Really. It is so good. I want to eat it right now.
So, this particular round of the dish was made when I went over to C. and R.'s to do laundry. We still weren't really into ordering pizza, so I thought this would be a nice change of pace.

Annual Work Retreat, Happy Hour and Etcetera

In late January my office had its annual retreat. This was held off-site at The Hub. This was the third time that we've gathered at the spot to talk about the business and have a little face time with those who work remotely. Last year I had really favorable things to say about their breakfast and lunch spreads, and this year was generally the same. Though I only had a yogurt and lots of coffee for breakfast. The sandwich choices were good, and the Caesar salad above average.
It was a cold, slightly snowy, day with low visibility and plenty of clouds. You can't even see the top of the Comcast building in this photograph. If I'm right that it's the Comcast building, which I may not be. Three years in Philadelphia and I know nothing.
Afterwards the majority of us went to happy hour at the conveniently located JG Domestic. This made me happy because I like all things Jose Garces. I took advantage of the happy hour wines, but I can't remember anything about them other than the fact that it was great to have a drink after a long day.
C. also enjoyed herself a glass of wine. S. and I split their potted foie gras with cornichons and other little treats, but the photographs I took were bad so I'm not bothering with posting them. The food itself, however, is worth mentioning ... because it was good. Also, one of our waiters was really funny.
After the happy hour C., M., S., J. and I went to Bar. It was actually called that. I can't find a website for it, but that may be because it's hard to find. Or something. They served giant pint glasses of mixed drinks. Though M. wasn't drinking and J. reached her limit quickly, it was a jovial get-together.
After that I went and met up with L. for another drink. This is what I saw as I walked in her general direction.
And then this happened. My hair looks greasy, but actually it's just really, really shiny. That is not a joke. I took a shower that morning. It's really shiny hair. I just want to make sure everyone's on the same page about this.

Snow Fire

At some point soon after one of the bigger snowfalls, one of my coworkers mentioned that they had seen a house on fire as they had walked to work. I decided to go check it out. From the back you could see that all the windows had been broken, but not a trace of smoke remained.
I wonder whether the fire was entirely contained to the rowhouse in which it started.