Friday, June 29, 2012

Tis the Softshell Season

I believe I may have mentioned the fact that in addition to stopping for a few plants, I also stopped at the last seafood joint before Wilmington and picked up four soft shell crabs. It was father's day, and the place was bumping. Service was a little brusque, but hey I was only there for ten minutes, so who cares. The following day, Monday, I came home from work and went about the process of turning two of the crabs into my dinner. I coated them in an egg/flour/old bay/salt/pepper kind of batter and then shallow fried them in vegetable oil.
I also made a quick green bean, radish, yellow pepper and garlic salad, which turned out quite nicely. Then I went about devouring it all in record time while sitting on my deck.
Unpictured is that evening's later visit with E. and B. who were in town because they're very smart and lots of people want them to be smart in Philly. And then a sponataneous from Mr. Ass to boot. I insisted that E. and B.'s presence be a surprise, but what would have really been neat is if I had a big enough box in which  to put E. and B. Because Mr. Ass wouldn't be at all suspicious if I suggested he take a long look into a weird box on my deck. Hm.
In any case, I knew it was a little gluttonous to buy more crabs after such a seafood-heavy weekend. But I am glad I did, because they were delicious.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Parting Scenes in Cape Henlopen State Park and Crab Cake c/o Surfing Crab

The last day of a camping weekend is always a sad thing for me. My feet are inevitably very filthy, sand can be found in my hair and all my clothes smell like smoke, but my emotional balance is better than it often is in the city. I think one of the reasons I find myself happier when alone in pretty places is that the pressure is off. Cities remind me that there are so many folks out and about, living their lives...sharing similar interests, falling in love, eating, drinking, holding hands while walking the streets, having compelling conversations about things I've never heard of, dancing well or poorly, watching movies in parks on blankets, gathering together in kitchens to bake bread. All that stuff. And sometimes I feel like I'm not really doing any of that in my own life ... even if this blog might try to convince you otherwise.

So when I'm camping by myself, or spending a long weekend in the country by myself, I usually don't have that same falling sense of emptiness or loneliness that sometimes overwhelms me in the city. Though technically more alone in these environments,  I am not as concerned with the ways my current life doesn't quite match up with the life I might have imagined for myself five or ten years ago. I am not as caught up with the sense that I'm treading water while most of those around me - friends and strangers alike - are streaking by me with purpose and intention.  I am contented with a warm spot to sit with a good book. Or I am more contented than when I'm reading a book in my room, with the sounds of the city right outside my window. No place or scene can completely sooth the less positive thoughts in my head. On this camping trip I encountered at least a few moments of longing. That I was at a point in my life where the kids riding bikes in circles around the campgrounds were mine, or that I was one half of one of the couples taking twilight strolls with flashlights in their back pockets. But that was not the main tone of the weekend, which was one of independence and peacefulness.

So the last day of camping is a sad one because this sense of solace - this sense of worrying a little less about the things I feel are absent from my life - it starts to slip away. There is the business of striking the tent, taking trash to the dump and shaking the sand out of the towels. There is the decision process of whether to walk to the beach one last time in swim suit, or whether to forgo that particular activity in favor of sitting in the shade reading a book (it may not surprise you that I chose the book). Eventually there is the bittersweet driving away from the campgrounds and the greater Cape Henlopen State Park, and with every mile between me and the campsite, reality seeps in: three weeks of laundry to do, four months of bills and credit card offers to shred, a kitchen floor in need of a good scrubbing.

On this particular trip I learned a few things about the park that I hadn't know previously. These things included: there is a place where you can go and pet sea creatures (I imagine mainly horse shoe crabs), one can rent a bike for free (this state park is one of the few environments where riding a bike seems like a really appealing option to me), and there is also a 'frisbee golf' course. I ended up driving around the park a little before leaving, and found this second beach area, which seemed to be the go-to spot for trucks and fishermen.
It was a little cloudy and blustery on this last day, which made my choice not to suit up a little less fraught.
I decided that I would stop at the Surfing Crab after I departed Cape Henlopen. All the friendly ribbing about how I'd regret not trying their crab cake had gotten to me...I don't like to miss out on tasty things. No. No I do not. So very soon after they opened I rolled on into their gravel parking lot. I was greeted by a friendly and rather cute young man (does it make me creepy to note that this kid was attractive? I imagine he was in college, not, like, high school). The youngster then ushered me into the empty dining space and allowed that I could sit wherever I liked. I took a seat at the end of one of the large and long tables and took a quick look at the menu. I was interested in trying a half and half of their Maryland crab soup and their cream of crab soup, but they were out of the one and somehow I didn't want all of the other. After getting a lager I placed my order: the crab cake sandwich with vegetable side. The vegetables on this day were asparagus and were serviceable if not very memorable. But let me tell you what. This crab cake lived up to the hype. I didn't bother with eating it like a sandwich, which would have ruined some of the crabbiness with bread filler, and just ate the cake with a fork. It was nice and crispy on the outside, and creamy crabby on the inside. Scarcely any filler. Well flavored. Lovely large morsels of lump crab meat.

Comparing this meal's simplicity and friendly server with Claw's far less satisfying dinner of the night before is perhaps unfair. Having already had one good meal at the Surfing Crab I was predisposed to expect good things. Though, actually, I was predisposed to think the Claws' association with Fin's was going to be lead to good things. And I really do know that it's not fair to compare the manner of two 20-something young men as servers when one was dealing with multiple tables during a busy time of day while the other was faced with only two tables in the middle of the afternoon. And yet. I wonder. For many people serving tables at restaurants is a summer gig or only a temporary state of being; something you do while you're getting your college education, or something you do while supporting an artistic pursuit of some kind. I don't know where I was going with that. That both servers were young men, but that one referred to me as 'friend' at the end of the meal and encouraged me to sit and read my book even when my plate was cleared...while the other gave me my check without asking if I wanted another beer or anything else. Shrug. Friendliness counts for something. But then I feel bad because I have worked in the food service industry. I know how hard it can be to give a shit about your patrons when the kitchen and you are completely in the weeds. I know what that's like too. Yeah, I've lost my point. To conclude: Surfing Crab, you do a good job of making a girl feel welcome and your food is good.
Then I got back on the road. The remaining pit stops I made included this farm stand, where I bought two things of flowers (one geranium, one mystery), which I planted in a bigger pot and haven't yet died after a week or two (I imagine they'll die any day now, a green thumb is not one of my qualities/appendages).

I also bought three ears of corn. And then finally, unpictured, I stopped at the last fish market on Route 1 before going inland and picked up a few soft shell crabs to make my future meals a little more interesting.
And that concludes my Delaware/Cape Henlopen/Rehoboth Beach camping and eating adventure. And some stray thoughts on service and loneliness.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Middling Bisque and Rockfish c/o Claw's

I should preface this whole thing, perhaps, by first laying out some of my basic thoughts about what a dining experience should be. I believe that when I go out to eat I usually have expectations, but that those expectations must function on a sliding scale determined by price point, past experience, excitement over menu options, word of mouth, more formal reviews and a basic awareness of my own preferences and attitudes. So when I go to Applebees and order a burger (I'm not actually sure I've ever been to Applebee's and eaten anything but that's not the point) I would expect that I would enjoy it, but that it wouldn't be particularly special or lovingly prepared. It would be chain-restaurant designed food prepared by a mainly indifferent kitchen staff and delivered by competent if not overly friendly front of house servers. Whereas if I went to an establishment where the entrees' average price was closer to $30 than $14, well I'd expect that every bite of that meal would be above average if not stupendously delicious and brain wowing. I'd expect servers to be knowledgeable and friendly (though at that price range, maybe I'd actually expect them to be slightly haughty) and to care about the food they were serving. I'd hope that the back of house staff were as passionate about the ingredients in their food as I try to be. In the end a surprisingly tasty $10 burger and genuine server at Applebees could get a better overall response from me than a $75 tasting menu where the server was rude/condescending and the food didn't live up to the hype or price tag. Usually I come into a meal with a good overall understanding of what to expect. And sometimes those expectations are surpassed so entirely that a favorite restaurant is born, or a often lusted after restaurant proves to be a let down. My point being, I generally have the ability to have reasonable expectations as far as what I'm going to get from a meal and it's very rare that they're so out of whack with reality that I get a little annoyed or feel the need to write at length about the faults or flaws in a dining experience.

This brings us to Claw's Seafood Restaurant. Unless I'm just making things up, this is at least partially owned and operated by the same folks as Fin's. When I decided to return to Rehoboth for my last dinner in Delaware I decided I'd either return to Fin's or try Claw's. I planned on determining the restaurant by taking a look at both of their fish boards (I had a hankering for rockfish) upon my arrival in town. As I passed Fin's, I saw no mention of rockfish on their chalkboard outside, so I made my way closer to the beach and Claw's, where rockfish was, in fact, an option. Because I was accustomed to Fin's no reservation policy and the fact it was an early Saturday evening, I knew that I'd probably have to wait some amount of time before being seated; this expectation was met. I sat on a bench just behind the hostess stand (reading Storm of Swords) and contentedly waited about 10 or 15 minutes in the shade before  my funny coaster buzzer doo-dad began vibrating. I was quickly escorted inside by a teenage girl and seated at a two-top. As I said, my expectations about the busy-ness of the place were met. As was the general make-up of the serving staff: looks like local kids back from college for the summer, average age not much more than 22 I wouldn't think. The remainder of my expectations were not quite as well met. I expected above average food and friendly service. I expected the rockfish to be as transcendentally simple but delicious as it had been at Fin's last summer. I didn't expect to become best friends with my server, but I did expect a little personalized attention and enthusiasm.

A young dude came over, looking a little harried. He didn't make much eye contact, and when I tried to sort of ask him about beers or whether I'd be happier with the rockfish or the lobster special (1/14 lb lobster for $16.99), he had no patience or interest in helping me along or providing me any opinion of his own. I don't expect a server to become my friend or magically know my tastes and preferences, but this guy's attitude was one of 'I literally will only take your order and don't really care much about any of this.' And that sets a kind of shitty tone for a meal, especially when you're dining alone. Dining alone is fine. It's something I do with some regularity. And as long as I have a book, notebook and paper, glass of beer or wine, and some tasty morsels to look forward to, I'm cool. I don't need to have 20 minute conversations with serving staff to somehow bolster myself through the meal that I'm eating solo. But seriously, spend an extra minute with me and engage. This is actually just true regardless of the number of folks in a party. Just a little eye contact and willingness to pause a moment and consider a question. That's really all I ask (and a promptly delivered check). And on the whole this guy didn't do it. Was he actively rude? No. Did he leave me stranded without beverage or meal for any inordinately long amount of time? No. But did he in any way improve the meal or dining experience? No.

This brings us to the red pepper and crab bisque special soup of the day. I liked the sound of it, but didn't feel like the waiter was going to give me any real guidance, so I ordered it without asking more about it. Perhaps the  success of this meal really was hinged upon this bisque, and not the rather hands-off, inattentive service. Perhaps my expectation of what a bisque should be is incorrect. I was always under the impression that bisque shouldn't have the consistency of a movie theater's pump nacho cheese. But maybe I really am just a philistine in foodie's clothing. This stuff was thick in a way that just confused me. It lacked any sort of ability to move or swirl. Was this a matter of a corn starch-mad back of house? It was the sort of thing that I could take a spoon, dip it in, turn the spoon upside down and a good portion of that spoonful would not slip easily back into the bowl, but would instead sort of hang there, coating the spoon until it ungracefully plopped back into the bowl like a rock in a bucket. Now I won't complain too much, I made the choice to order  the dish and I have a very hard time actually expressing dislike of a food to a server or chef. So I didn't say anything. I didn't push it away after two bites. I took more bites, wondering if the taste at least would grow on me even as the texture and consistency made me a little queasy. And I won't lie, I basically ate the whole bowl in this fashion, trying to figure out if I was just missing something, or if this dish as as mediocre/poorly executed as I had thought on the first bite. Here are the positives I can say for this 'bisque': it was not terribly skimpy on including  pieces of crab and a few shrimp in the bowl ... and it didn't need salt.
For the main meal I ordered rockfish, which came with the choice of sauce and two sides. I chose the "Key West Ber Blanc," which I'm not wholly convinced is a real thing. For sides I went with the mac n' cheese and steamed broccoli. Paradoxically the mac n' cheese's sauce/cheese ratio could have been thicker. It's like all the thickness went to the bisque. The broccoli was perfectly steamed - still vibrant green, not overcooked grean. The rockfish was cooked just fine and was good with just the juice of a lemon, though it wasn't quite as memorable or amazing as the rockfish I enjoyed last August at Fin's.Though I wonder if I didn't enjoy it as much because I was already a little bummed by the service and bisque.
So, on the whole, this last meal left me feeling a little disappointed. The atmosphere of Claw's was lively, families and young folk alike digging into crabs, fish and what have you. Service wasn't overly friendly, but it was quick and efficient, which I know makes sense for a busy Saturday evening. But the bisque and the brusqueness, nonetheless, tainted the overall experience. I wouldn't go back, honestly. Fin's has pretty much the same menu, but with a larger oyster selection, a slightly better configured dining and bar space, and servers who bother to look you in the eye. I don't know, maybe Fin's was also serving the bisque at their place, and I would have been just as let down. We'll never know now, that's for sure.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Soft Shell Crabs and Lager c/o Surfing Crab

On my first full day in Delaware I decided it was time to branch out and try a different restaurant. I had a few visions of myself sitting down in front of a pile of blue crabs and eating them all by myself, but somehow determined that from some angles that would be awesome, it might also be a little on the sad side. Even with that image/purpose banished, I still was crab-focused and read good things about the Surfing Crab so decided to give it a try. When you walk into the Surfing Crab's relatively low-key, non-descript cinder block building, you're immediately facing an area for take-out. To the left is a big screened in room with cement floors and long picnic tables for proper crab picking. Up and a little to the right is the bar, and through another door yet another seating area. I was, as I often am, alone and the hostess suggested I might like to sit at the bar. I didn't argue, though sometimes I think sitting at the bar alone is actually a more worrisome state than at a table. In any case, the bartender was friendly and quickly asked me what I'd like to drink. I said lager. He then told me about their specials in honor of 'lobster day/weekend.' But I already had my heart set on soft shell crabs and quickly said as much. He placed the order but then came back to say that the crabs were still scuttling their way from where they had been picked up to the restaurant and might take half an hour to arrive. Waiting half an hour for soft shell crabs is not, in my opinion, the worst thing to do...but I did consult the menu again to see if anything else would satiate my specific desires. The bartender strongly suggested that I might enjoy the crabcake, but I gave him my usual refrain: I don't order crabcakes at restaurants because I feel like I always make them better myself. While he was respectful, he didn't think this was an accurate statement. He pointed out they had very little filler, were fresh lump not pasteurized or otherwise first contained (if I understood him right). The only other person at the bar - a 40-something dude eating all you can eat crabs by himself - turned and told me that anything I ordered here would be very good. I didn't succumb to the pressure. The bartender gave a quick call to the man in the truck who was driving the crabs to their final destination to check how long it'd be, and came back with an ETA of about 15 minutes. I said I would be happy to wait, and contented myself with my lager and my continued devouring of the Game of Thrones books.
Soon enough the crabs' arrival was announced  and no more than eight or ten minutes passed before these fried sweetlings were on a plate in front of me.  I chose the slaw and veggie of the day as my sides. Some places, the veggie side dish is a rather sad thing. Watery. Overly salty. Not salty enough. Somehow not loved or given much respect. Filler.  I've got to say that the corn/zucchini veggie side was not relegated to such a bland state of affairs. The corn's sweetness was lovely and the zucchini weren't overly cooked into mush.And there were actual flavors going on! The slaw was a little too sweet for my taste, but nothing to complain about.
The crabs were also successful. I disapprove of those who drown the crab in thick batter with little flavor, and this is not what I greeted when the plate was put in front of me. Crisp, the crabs had only the thinnest layer of breading. And even that was well spiced with old bay and maybe pepper? I was quite pleased about the whole thing. I gobbled the crabs and veggies down in rather record time and enjoyed a second beer before vacating.
Throughout the meal you could hear the staff call out numbers and types for eat-in and take-out customers with hard shell blue crabs on their minds. Just as I was leaving, this little area was set of for what looks like two people were were intent on enjoying a few dozen at the bar.
Really a great spot. Friendly service. Bustling. Simple food done well without a lot of pretension on any side.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bagels and Beach Scenes

Friday morning I awoke with the warmth. While the days were entirely lovely - not too hot, not too cool - the nights got a wee bit cooler than I had anticipated and the one sheet I brought coupled with jeans and a sweatshirt left to slight shiverings in the night hours, which caused me to close up the tent's inner and outer 'doors' to prevent additional breezes. This, in turn, led to quite a warm wake up once the sun got in the air and began to make its presence known on my nylon fortress. So. In any case. I awoke and was soon off to forage a little breakfast on Route 1. On the way down I had noticed Surf Bagel's large sign and thought that it seemed like a promising place to seek out my first meal of the day. I wasn't wrong. I enjoyed the everything bagel, toasted with scallion cream cheese. It was not revolutionary. It was not the best bagel of my life. But it was beyond serviceable. Or should I say surfbagelable? Ugh.
After breakfast and a little reading in the tent, which I had reopened for better cross ventilation, I began the .75 mile walk to the beach. On the way I noted this cactus flower in full bloom and this wasp-ish thing enjoying its pollen center.
By about the same time the next day this flower had shriveled to nothing. I'm glad I took the time to photograph it while it was in its prime. A sentiment I have about myself from time to time when looking at photos from my college days.
The beach. It was nicely uncrowded and a fair breeze kept me not too terribly hot even with the sun beating down. I must admit that I didn't see others swimming and the waves looked rough, so I did no more than get thigh-high in the waters a few times. In fact, even on the next day when the waves were less ominous I didn't go all the way in. I'm a decent swimmer with a pragmatic view towards the likelihood of shark death, but being alone I had to worry that no one would really be looking out for me in the unlikely event that I began to drown or get carried away in a rip tide (go with the tide, swim parallel to the beach til you get out...right?). This sense of caution prevented me from fully enjoying the swimming element of the beach, but the crisp coldness of the water balanced with long stretches in the sun and breeze...well that wasn't so bad. 
Far, far down you can make out the main bath house where the majority of day visitors pitch their various beach encampments. I was glad to be away from so many throngs of folks.
Unfortunately I can report zero dolphin sightings. Hopefully if I get to return in August they'll be in better moods to entertain me with their existence.

Happy Hour c/o Fin's, Night Times c/o Cape Henlopen State Park

As is my wont, last week marked my first camping excursion to Delaware. I took Thursday and Friday off, which allowed me to get down there without too much terrible beach traffic. I arrived a little after 1 on Thursday, put together my tent, blew up the air mattress, got ice to keep my strange collection of snacks and drinks cool, and then headed on out to try Fin's Happy Hour. I read that sometimes there is a line to get in the door at 4. And I hate lines, so I got there at 3:45 and wouldn't you know it other folks had the same idea and when the door opened exactly at four, it took about six minutes for all the bar stools to be full in the bar area. When it was my turn to order I immediately went with a dozen of the happy hour oysters - six of the Hog Island variety and six of the Chincoteague. This worked out to $5.75 a half dozen. I found the Hog Islands to have that super salty with a touch of fish pucker, while the Chincoteagues were a wee bit mellower with a nice sweet finish. I went with a Troeg's Pale Ale, which was refreshing and not too hoppy.

I I also took advantage of the 1/2 pound of shrimp for something like $5. Nicely steamed and seasoned, I was well satisfied and full within 45 minutes of sitting down. The bar is run well. Bartenders and shuckers communicating effectively, doing the dance of moving around one another without the clatter of a fallen tray or shatter of a breaking glass.
Though I knew I would be hungry again before the night was done, I did feel like I couldn't possibly eat any more so after about an hour or so at Fin's I paid my bill (which came to just a little less than $25 (the bartender comped me one of my two beers, which was a nice thing) and made my way back to the camp. This year I chose a site on one of the outer rings, which meant that I only had neighbors to the left and right of me, and across the road....but that in one direction it was just woods and sand. This allowed me a little more sense of privacy and lovely sky views.
I spent the rest of my evening sipping on beers and reading the third Game of Thrones book. My goodness, once you get sucked in, you're in.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Happy Hour Micheladas and Margaritas, Plus Snacks c/o La Calaca Feliz

Last week I met up with BC and AS at La Calaca Feliz for happy hour chats and snacks. Earlier in the day I had become quite taken with a photograph of their special for the evening, a Pork Belly Gordita, that the restaurant had posted on Twitter. I was also quite interested in trying their rendition of a michelada, having enjoyed R.'s version at my barbeque a few weeks prior. The michelada, unpictured, was delicious. A savory tomato beer treat. Refreshing. If you haven't given this particular drink a try, I'd suggest you consider it. As weird as beer, tomato juice, lime, salt etc may sound, it's kind of like a carbonated bloody Mary. In addition to drinks, we also enjoyed the albondigas, which were delightfully skewered, tender as all get out and with a secret center of molten cheese. Could have been maybe five degrees hotter as far as temperature, but I had no complaints with the taste.
The gordita was served on a puree of squash I think. Was it squash? Maybe not. The slivers of radish and water cress were a nice touch. The pork belly was a little tougher/crispier than I might have expected, but still satisfying in the flavor department.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Snacks c/o McCrossen's & Cocktail c/o Lemon Hill

On a recent Monday you could find me and LW enjoying an especially prompt happy hour at McCrossen's. This involved pork tacos, wine and a few rounds of darts with T.
The tacos were a nice balance. The pork savory, but with a touch of sweet that was in turn met with just a hint of kimchi spice (I wouldn't have minded a slightly bigger kick, actually). A nice little crunch from slaw kept it interesting and a gentle spritz of lime juice brought it all together. We each ordered two.
After darts with T. and the proper devouring of our tacos, we headed over to Lemon Hill. There I tried one of their new cocktails: A Well Deserved Punch, which was Wray & Nephew Rum, Barbencourt 4, lime, house made strawberry basil syrup, pineapple, and white cacao. You want to know what else it was? Tasty. It reminded me of a slightly classier version of a Rum Bubba.
A nice evening.

A Late Night Stop at Morgan's Pier

Aswe were finishing up our meal and determining our next move (which really should have been saying goodnight to one another and going home), LW texted me to tell me that she JMac and some other dudes were near Modo Mio, so she had given them my phone number in case we wanted to play darts. Soon thereafter I received a text from JMac. So AS and I strolled in the direction that he and his group were to be found. By that time they (TDoc, MC, JMac, G and T?) were on the way to Morgan's Pier. While I'm pretty sure neither AS nor I really needed further opportunities to imbibe alcohol at that point, I had been long curious about the new beer garden/river spot and AS seemed down as well. So that's what happened. This part of the evening is a bit of a blur. We sat at a table near the bridge.
Pretty nice view. And the moon was doing that orange/yellow thing it does sometimes.

AS got her dance on.
This is the blurry part. Who these guys are, and why I took three photographs of them is beyond me.
But it seems like everyone was happy so no harm, no blur.
And that concluded quite the adventurous and slightly debaucherous of evenings. Thanks to the dart dudes for giving us rides and extending our evenings, and for their company of course. I would certainly like to go back to Morgan's Pier and actually try some of the Katz/Meme sponsored/designed food. Also, they're doing a series of free concerts throughout the summer. If you go this Saturday you can see a band, one of the members of which is a guy with whom I went on one date four years ago.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Crab, Spaghetti and Veal Cheek c/o Modo Mio

After our beers at Frankford Hall, we made our way to Modo Mio for dinner. This was something I was quite looking forward to and - as usual - it didn't disappoint. I didn't recognize most of the servers on this particular night, but no matter; things still ran smoothly among the hustle and bustle busy-ness of the joint. When I asked our server whether she would choose the crab cake or - she cut me off before the second option and strongly recommended the ricotta and lump crab cake, which came with a fennel and green apple slaw as well as a drizzle truffle oil and black pepper. I've forgotten what I had been considering instead, but this did not disappoint. The cake was a tender pile of crab with not a lot of filler and the crunch of the fennel and apple really balanced it all out. Mmm. Good.
I forget exactly what this was, but it was akin to their Amatriciana dish, only with a little more kick as far spice...but I think pancetta was also involved? Some of Modo Mio's pasta dishes are so exceptionally rich and indulgent (re: the gnocchi or rabbit ravioli) but their lighter tomato-based sauces generally aren't quite as heavy. I think AS had the special pasta of the evening, which was beef cheek ravioli. I was happy to take a bite.
For my main course I chose the veal cheek, which of course I can't tell you much about because it's not on the online menu and I forgot to photograph the paper one. I did this in part because I had earlier 'tweeted at' the executive chef, Peter McAndrews, and asked him what he'd recommend from the newest Modo Mio menu and he/whomever is in charge of his twitter feed laid out one potential meal, which included the new escargot dish and perhaps the lasagna. In the end I went my own way for the appetizer and pasta, but figured I should take at least one of the recommendations. Otherwise, why even ask? But I believe it was breaded and on a bed of cabbage with maybe raisins in addition to a tomato element? Gorgonzola on top? AS and I were both definitely boozed up thanks to our consumption of a bottle of prosecco and our steady progress through a second bottle of white, and I can't deny that my focus on the food wandered slightly.
I think this is a pretty great photo of AS. I believe this is her happy face with a plate of pork loin below her.
After finishing our meals it was decided that espresso wouldn't be the worst thing, so we went ahead and had it. Or maybe AS had a cappucino and I had an espresso. Either way we both consumed straight up caffeine after10 PM or so. Risky.
I completed my meal with tirimisu, which had some sort of nice ice cream/custard element to it that I cannot recall. This sort of lack or recollection is so going to be a thing of the past now that I have my new little notebook!
This was another great meal and I'm so glad that it worked out for us (there was a little snafu with the reservation earlier in the day). Truly one of my favorite spots in the city.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cheese and Beer from McCrossen's and Frankford Hall

Earlier this month Philadelphia celebrated yet another Beer Week, a time when the city is overrun with brewers from pretty much every corner of the US and from a number of corners of the greater world. I generally don't get too excited about this event. While beer is a staple of my life (especially on dart nights) I'm just not as interested in beer as I am in a host of other foodstuffs. So my Beer Week was spent mostly ignoring it. LW, on the other hand, is a big Beer Week fan and went to far more events than I did (and the only events I went to, I went to with her). So in this instance we went to McCrossen's to check out the Rogue Brewery beers on tap and the Rogue cheeses that were also on the menu for a short time. I believe I ordered a Hazelnut beer that had been aged in rum soaked oak, or some such thing. I didn't love it. The cheeses were interesting as well, though I thought the cut up grapes were actually pickled radishes and found myself quite disappointed upon the realization that they were not. Of the three of these blues, only one was unsmoked and that was the one I preferred. If I recall correctly. I've finally bought a little notebook, so my memory should be better in future posts.
After a beer and cheese, I had bigger plans with AS, which began with regular sized beers at Frankford Hall. I went with the Kolsch because I will almost always go with the Kolsch if it's on tap.
And on our way to our next destination, we saw this van. I really was quite taken with it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Barbeque Summer Fun Time

On the first weekend of June I threw a barbeque. The first in quite some time, as I somehow missed throwing one for the entirety of the summer of 2011. I invited pretty much everyone in the world, or at least everyone in the world of my social network. As is usually the case, I did very little prepping before the day of the barbeque. This prepping began at around 7 AM when I drove to north Philly to buy kielbasa from Czerw's Kielbasy. This was my first time at this meat establishment, and I had expected lines of Polish ladies, but I guess even the old ladies like to sleep in on Saturdays, so it was just me. Then I did any number of additional errands and grocery runs before returning home and getting down to the business of making an epic amount of coleslaw and dips, as well as making the deck a little more presentable. Here is a iPhone photo of the chipotle, lime, cilantro hummus/dip I created.
Here is a photo of the large amount of slaw I created. It was sort of Asian inspired, or at least had sesame oil and rice vinegar in it.
I perhaps slightly underestimated the amount of time it takes to make three dips, prep a bunch of veggie skewers and do other tasks, like showering and doing my hair. So it was good that my childhood friend arrived earlier than the barbeque's start time. She got to see me running around without my head, and generally talking nonsense and making a mess. I think she was entertained. She also helped by chopping veggies. 
The early set up. So pristine. Olives. Chips. Dip. As the day progressed into evening the table's aesthetic suffered.
Another view of the hummus, which wasn't quite as popular as....
This dip I made up is pretty much just amazing. And I am bragging, because it is that tasty. Tomato basil creamy goodness.
AS was kind enough to make that green bean salad I was so taken with at the lake and guacamole. This is in addition to the extra chairs that were desperately needed and willingly lent by AS.
CP was another great help in as far as lending me so many things (tables, chairs, stereo systems, buns!). And on top of all that she also said that she had all the ingredients for Sangria, and would whip up a batch. Here she is doing just that. I had a glass and a half. Tasty, sweet magical sangria. I abstained from further dipping into that particular beverage because I knew it packed a larger alcoholic punch than you might first think.
So the meat was a mix of an Omaha Steak Package I purchased at a discount (four pork chops, 2 filet mignons, 2 other steaks, four burgers, potato croquettes, cheesecakes). So on this plate is one of each steak, all four burgers and one of the pork chops.
AS and K. were in attendance.
A series of me with childhood friend.
She kept saying she was going to leave, but we kept hugging her.
And making her laugh.
See? More hugs.
And photos.
At some point L. and BM went to Wawa and returned with 44 ounce beverages. Well, L. did. Do it while you still can!
Childhood Friend brought delicious cupcakes. I was smart to hide one early on in the evening, which I was then able to enjoy the next day. These things went like hot cakes...or should I say they went like hot cup cakes? Moving on.
CP and R. really were great suppliers for the bbq. Three chairs, an extra table I was in dire need of procuring, the sound system. Oh man. And then later Brutus too!
MMc made his way to the bbq from Jersey. We are friends on Facebook, and I invited most all of them, but I didn't really expect anyone to come very far, so it was a pleasant surprise when he actually showed up (he said he was going to, but I didn't really believe it). And with him he brought Brooklyn Lager, here I am after not making a proper spectacle of popping the cork.
Brutus! CP! Look at all the heads and body parts! I worried that no one would come, but plenty of people came. I was pretty pleased.
This is me looking pretty pleased. LW was the event photographer. At some point I handed her the camera and she pretty much documented the entire evening. I am so thankful to her.
The high school contingent was strong at the bbq: Mr. Ass, AS, Childhood Friend, BC, BM, MMc, LB and LS all made appearances, and maybe that's it? Am I forgetting someone?
One of the two coolers of booze.
LW and me.
Again, after we instructed MC to focus less on the wall behind us and more on our actual faces.
I guess LW needed  a refill.
Again, quite pleased with myself and all the people.
I was glad that B. was able to come from Jersey.
The kielsbasa, some of the skewers (which I marinated in a mix of soy sauce, rice vinegar and a touch of sugar and lemon juice). I went with the fresh kielbasa and the 'jalepeno poppers'...which were brats/kielbasa stuffed with jalepeno and cheddar cheese. I also made additional burgers, which of course included green olives.
Mr. Ass came bearing chopsticks.
I also made a bastardized chimmichurri sauce, which was heavy heavy heavy on the garlic. The potato croquettes weren't a huge hit, perhaps because I didn't advertise them enough. They were kind of like huge tater tots. Or a tater tot/mashed potato hybrid. Which I guess is the definition of a croquette.
TDoc took pity on me after I noted that I had made a whole heck of a lot of skewers, and that no one was eating them.
The night, it comes.
MMc and CP look into the secret deck door and are amused by what they find.
Then MMc punched LS in the face. Not really.
I'm not sure why or how this happened, but I was amused.
Just for the fun of comparison. This is MMc and me at my junior prom. Neither of us remember my asking him to come with me, but we both remember that I wouldn't dance. 
And now.
The evening went wonderfully late. As the crowd thinned, those of who remained played some Apples to Apples until 1 or 2 in the AM. I didn't get any nasty letters in the mail from neighbors, so I'm hoping that we weren't too unruly or noisy. Though this is the first time we could be anything close to unruly or noisy since S. moved out (he threw some loud and noisy parties and had a tendency of bringing people home and out on the deck at all kinds of crazy hours). Look at what a great photo LW took. The card has left my hand, but hasn't quite hit the pile. I forget who won...but it wasn't me.
And that concludes my documentation of the bbq. I'm so glad that so many people were able to make it and all seemed to enjoy themselves. I felt a really warm feeling in my heart. Sometimes I worry that my social circles are too limited, or that somehow I don't have enough friends in Philly. And maybe sometimes that is true, but on this particular night I felt really glad about the different folks I know and how they can come together and overlap. A great thanks goes out to all who brought anything (I'm still working on finishing all the leftover beer) and helped out. It really made me think about having another one. Maybe in September. Ha.