Friday, April 29, 2011

Rock Shrimp Tempura and Shredded Duck and Udon c/o Sang Kee Asian Bistro

So, on that Saturday I did a few things with my day before heading out into the suburbs during a particularly rainy night. Like, really, really rainy. Why, you might ask, was I going out to the suburbs? Well, my new-ish friend G. was performing at a bar mitzvah and asked me to video tape him and his cohort doing their belly dancing thing. When I agreed to do it, G. wasn't sure exactly when they would be performing. He only knew that they had to be there at 7. I wasn't all that interested in sitting in a backroom for an undetermined amount of time, so we agreed that I would come separately, have dinner nearby, and he'd let me know the details when he knew the details. And lo' a plan was made. I then got down to the very important task of determining where I would eat. After sussing out my preference for Asian cuisine, I considered a few different spots within the synagogue's immediate vicinity. It didn't take me long to narrow it down to Sang Kee Asian Bistro. I had heard good things about their Philly location, and figured that I might as well take advantage of this strange jaunt into suburbia to try their fare. It was relatively packed - even for a rainy evening - but since I was just one person, I was quickly seated at the bar that runs along the back of the space and faces the kitchen/prep area. There was some delay in actually being served, due mainly to the fact that my server thought I was waiting for someone. That is, I guess, one of the risks of eating alone; people have a hard time believing that you're eating alone. In any case, the delay gave me a good amount of time to look over their menu, and at the food others were eating. An older couple to the left of me struck up a conversation and told me that basically nothing I ordered wouldn't be phenomenal. I was drawn to their special rock shrimp appetizer and their shredded duck udon, though I also considered their big bowl broth noodle soup, as well as the special shrimp stuffed relleno peppers. I went with the udon and rock shrimp, but the man to the right of me had the peppers and my god did they look incredible. Their incredible-ness was confirmed by the many exhortations the man made to his wife and the waiter about the dish. I began having order remorse, but soldiered on. They start the meal with a little pickled veggie bowl. It doesn't look like much but it was a nice palate cleansing beginning.
The rock shrimp tempura weren't quite as typically tempura-like as I expected. Less panko, more standard crispy breading. But not overly breaded, and still quite good. I liked the creamy spicy sauce drizzled over it and the addition of blueberries really added something to the tastes and textures.
The duck udon was described as Shredded duck, Napa, scallion, carrot in XO spicy sauce. I liked it very much, but I wouldn't say that it was all that spicy at all. Later on I made friends with the couple to the right of me, and they also agreed that you really can't go wrong with Sang Kee. I look forward to going to the Philly location and trying more of what they're selling.
After I finished my meal I got lost for a while. Then I finally figured out which direction I had to go in to get un-lost. I arrived in plenty of time for the dancing. This was my first time getting anywhere near a bar or bat mitzvah. I imagine I would have found it more fun had I been 13 ... now I simply find scores of teenage boys running around thinking they're the shit terrifying. It's been so long since I've taken photographs of people that I don't know that I forgot that you really do need to direct and cajole them, while also putting them at ease. I took a few photos of the group, and this was the best of the bunch ... and it's not very good. Sigh. Photography fail.
Their dancing was entertaining and it seemed like the crowd enjoyed it. One woman in the group danced with a sword on her head ... and then did the splits with the sword on her head. I found it quite impressive. Afterwards I bid the dancers adieu and began the drive back home. It wasn't as torrentially raining, but the steady fall over the hours before had caused many a road to start flooding. I chose not to go on 76 and to take Kelly Drive instead, which definitely had some serious pools of water overflowing to the road. I'm always a little afraid of hydroplaning. Even though I don't really know what that means. I just know that a cool older neighbor of mine hydroplaned once when I was younger, and that has stuck in my mind as something I wouldn't want. Not taking 76 was a really smart move. G. and his crew ended up stuck on it for hours because of a mudslide.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Burger, Story Slam and Pants

That Friday I met up with L. for a little talk time at PYT. I had long heard of PYT and the Piazza at Schmidt's but hadn't ventured into the piazza proper nor PYT, so i t was nice to meet up somewhere new. L. and I often end up getting coffee at Starbucks and then walking or sitting somewhere, which is definitely enjoyable ... but I kind of wanted a beer. So we met up. I ordered the Baby PYT Burgers, which only came cooked medium. I guess this made sense? The waitress explained that because they were so small they cooked really quickly. But using that argument/point, wouldn't it be relatively easy to cook them medium rare? Maybe I'm missing the fine art of burger cooking. Anyways, they were delicious. I didn't so much dig the healthy-ish chips that came in lieu of fries. They have fries. Why chips? The pickle, on the other hand, was to my liking.
After talking a few things out with L. I met up with G. and went to the First Person Arts Story Slam (Philly vs Boston) at the Free Library of Philadelphia. I have long wanted to go to First Person Arts events, as I think that they may be a potential venue for my own penchant for telling stories from my own life, so I was glad to finally make this latent desire a reality. The event started with a guest storyteller who was also one of the judges for the event: Mary Roach. She told a funny story about having sex with her husband while being observed by a doctor. I enjoyed the event. Some storytellers weren't as engaging or compelling as others, but on the whole it was all good.
And then we saw this pair of pants.

Spring, Tacos and Ceviche

On a Thursday or so ago I took a few photographs of my neighborhood. It's really quite striking in the spring. Plenty of blossoms in trees, plenty of warmth on my shoulders, plenty of smiles on people's faces. This is my tree, I see it every morning. There's a nest in there, but I can't tell if it's a nest from this year or last year.
Happy sun. So after taking these photos I walked to the subway and went to South Philly to meet up with E., her boyfriend K. and two of her friends for dinner and drinks at Cantina Los Caballitos.
That restaurant has the worst possible lighting for food photography. Also, I am incompetent. But really, the last time I was there I had just as hard a time. Nonetheless, I will tell you a little about what I had. I ordered the shrimp ceviche, which was really delicious - though the photograph doesn't really demonstrate that whatsoever.
I was torn between their cheese enchilada special and their barbequed pork tacos, so I asked our server what I should do. He gave me this 'well, duh, I can't believe you're even asking me this question' stern stare, and then stated that the tacos were clearly the way to go. I trusted his opinion/was intimidated so I did as he suggested. They were quite good. During the meal I had two margaritas. The first was a garden variety, while the second was pineapple flavored. Sweet, but not too intoxicating.
It was nice to see E. again so soon after our Modo Mio dinner with L. It was also nice to get out on a beautiful evening and remember that the world is bigger than my five block comfort zone. The internet situation in my house has not been resolved, but I took advantage of a coffee shop's wireless to upload a bunch of photos from the past two weeks. So be prepared for a slew of posts.

Coffee Family

After my walk and a few other things I drove over to J. and J.'s. They recently took over a coffee shop and wanted to update its website to include photographs of their family, and they were nice enough to ask me if I would take them. Since I feel far more comfortable with them than I did with the belly dancers or G. I felt moderately confident that I could get some shots that would work for them. One key part of getting good photographs really is just taking a lot of them, and if someone actually wants you to do this then it's easier not to feel bad about doing it. Does that make sense. Anyways. Here are some photos I took. He-J. gave me a beer before we began.
J.D. is getting very old. He is still a very good dog. But a slightly incontinent one. That's not entirely fair to him actually. Moving on.

The J.'s had one clear vision in mind: Myrtle seemingly drinking from an espresso cup. I'm not sure if you know this, but dogs don't really like coffee on the whole. Here is what their website said (each photograph had a caption): Myrtle is a dog. She barks too much. One angry neighbor recently called her "cute but obnoxious." She will drink from an espresso cup if you fill it with roast beef pan drippings.
In subsequent captions I'll have changed or omitted some content for the sake of faux anonymity for the family.
The real theme for the photographs will come as no surprise: coffee. Yet I still took a few non-coffee photos. Mainly because that's just how I do.
This was a nice series with S., in which at first he's not all that interested in having his photograph taken, but warms up to it.
I encouraged him to use the car like it was a phone ... thus making it a car phone. S. actually said a few lines. I forget what they were, but I know they were entertaining.
Then he went into martial arts mode.
Soon after this photo he started dancing a little bit before asking me to take a photograph of him 'sliding' into first base. It was actually not a bad photo, but I'm trying to edit myself just a little.
She-J. channeling her inner circa-Weeds Mary Stuart Masterson. Wait. Wrong Mary.
They chose a different photo for She-J., but I liked these better. Her caption was: She-J. likes feathers, animal skulls, and bones. She is a mixed-media artist whose particular kind of found object artwork involves the artifacts she discovers while walking the dogs ... She restores dignity to the forgotten spirits of magical forest creatures. She manages the day-to-day operations of [their coffee shop], and at night she's working towards finally getting her Bachelor's Degree (after 15 years and 12 schools).

He-J. was committed, in many a photograph, to a sort of wild scientist crazy face. I told him that he was making it, but that didn't really change things.
This photo was the one that made it (less crazy face). Here is what the caption said: He-J. is a self-proclaimed priest of Dionysus. He is not only passionate about coffee and tea, but also good wine and good food. He says, "Dionysus lubricates transitions with libations and inebriants!" You can often find him sipping a featured single origin coffee at [their new coffee shop] ... He-J. is working toward a PhD in Jungian/Archetypal psychology, phenomenology, and philosophy. He teaches yoga, eats smoked whitefish salad & capered cream cheese on toasted bagels, and likes his coffee black. coffee black.

N.'s caption read: N. is three years old. He goes to preschool [where he goes to preschool]. He also enjoys Saturday Ballet classes at [where he takes the classes]. He likes yogurst, robots, rhyming words, drawing and fruit leather. He likes Lassis. He orders these drinks by asking for "yogurt juice."

This photograph is one of my favorites, but not the one they went with. Actually the whole series of him holding the coffee was pretty darn precious. Somehow the word consternation comes to mind. Here is what S.'s caption said: S. is five years old. He likes penguins, baseball, Busytown and Star Wars. He is beginning to discover video games. He likes peanut butter, banana and honey sandwiches.
N. got into a bit of a snit about his pants being dirty after playing in the sandbox.
Old man N.
Full of rage N. Two seconds after this he was smiling. Five seconds after he was raging. That is an exaggeration. In the end we figured it out.
I stayed for dinner and will hopefully have another block of time in a wireless internet environment to get those photos up in the near future.

Spring Walkabout and Cupcake

Two Sundays ago, I think, I went on a walk around the neighborhood. As I think you already know, it's spring, and it's pretty. So I thought I'd take photographs of the spring prettiness so that in the depths of winter I can remember the eventual relief we will have. Frankly, I just want to move somewhere warm all the time. And no, I wouldn't miss the seasons or get used to it; I would be happier all the time.
The tulips and these flowers are all in one yard. I like the gardener who put the time in. I'm thinking about having a tomato plant or two on the deck this year. But we'll see if I actually get myself together enough to make that a reality.
I walked up and around the penitentiary.
Philadelphia, like many a metropolitan area in the United States, has recently become literally brimming with fancy food trucks. This weekend day there was an 'arts crawl' in the Fairmount neighborhood. I envisioned this meaning that there would be lots of vendors and stalls around the prison, or along one or two streets, but I was mistaken. What it really meant was that a lot of local businesses were hanging art in their establishments. On such a beautiful day I wasn't interested in insides of buildings, nor in tight spaces. Or something. Anyways. What's my point? Oh, that as I turned the corner and headed along the north side of the wall I saw cupcake truck. I decided on a chocolate cake, peanut butter icing pairing. It was quite a modest cupcake in size, and to be frank it didn't entirely wow me in terms of taste or texture. The icing was good, don't get me wrong, but the cake was a little dry. I walked and ate it.
And took photos of buildings and trees and things.

I love blossom shadows and spring light.
And just blossoms.

I keep meaning to buy a new lens for my camera. The kind where I can get way up close. A macro lens? Something that would be good for flowers and food. This is my way of suggesting someone tell me the lens I need.
More shadows.
I've been asked a few times over the last few weeks if my thoughts on Philly have changed of late. And it may just be that the warmer weather is making me feel a bit more charitable. Or it may be that I have made a little progress in working to make a life in this city that better addresses my particular social and emotional needs. Or who knows. The point is that, as I may have already said, this walk, and a few others that I have taken in the last month, have given me a burgeoning sense of appreciation for Philadelphia and what it has to offer. We'll see how long that lasts.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Problems With the Air

I have so many posts that I would like to write up, but my router (ie: my wireless internet) has gone on the fritz and I haven't had time to fix the problem. Please stick with it; the issue will be resolved eventually.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cured Meats, Pasta, Meatballs and Pizza c/o Barbuzzo

At some point lately Mr. Ass let me know that he was going to be in the city, and asked if I might like to meet up with him for a meal. We decided that Barbuzzo would be our destination, as I had long wanted to try the place, and he had recently gone and enjoyed himself. So after work I caught a bus and wended my way down to Barbuzzo where Mr. Ass awaited. We had a very nice server who looked a lot like Natalie Portman, except not pregnant. I abstained from pointing this out to her because I was pretty sure I wouldn't have been the first to say it. We split the cured meat plate, which included chorizo, prosciutto and a few other things. I liked it and its accoutrements well enough, but James' plate is the golden standard.
Next up was the casarecce, which came with olive oil, wood fired Hen of the Woods mushrooms, arugula, preserved lemon-walnut pesto and ricotta. There was a lot going on and all of it was to my liking. I believe Mr. Ass was also taken with this dish.
We also ordered the caciocavallo stuffed meatballs made of house ground shortrib, pork, oregano and calabrian chile. I hadn't really understood that there was going to be cheese on the INSIDE of the balls...but once I comprehended the reality of the situation, I was quite pleased. The tomato sauce accompanying it was simple but not necessarily in a bad way.
We completed our dining experience with the uovo pizza, which was topped with brussel leaves, barbuzzo guanicale, secret white sauce, house-stretched fior de latte, truffle and a farm egg. Though already pretty full, I managed to consume my two slices with little difficulty. I mean. Really. Anything with truffle oil and an egg? With cheese? What's not to love? Nothing. That's what.
I also tried their 'little Italian redhead' cocktail, which consisted of vodka, aperol and housemade lemonade. I liked it but decided on a glass of wine for my next beverage. I couldn't tell you which wine. Either the barbera or the montepulciano. I liked it too.
So the cured meat was a bit of a 'miss,' but that's really just due to my high standards for cured meat/charcuterie. The pasta was delightful, rich and nutty. The meatballs were hearty and the cheese in the middle was a wonderful surprise. The pizza was also above par and delicious. I will definitely go back and try more of their dishes.