Monday, January 30, 2012

Rampin' Up the Darts

So after a holiday hiatus, darts started back up last week. Our team has been put into a different (better) division, which may or may not work out in our favor (I'm thinking it may not). Our first match was at McCrossen's. Almost the entire team showed up early to practice and sit, which warmed LW's heart if I recall correctly.
The match itself didn't go too terribly well. At least in terms of who won and who lost.
I, however, had a nice time.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Roasted Chicken

D. was nice enough to leave a chicken in the fridge for me to roast to my heart's content. I spent a part of that Saturday morning brining the chicken a little and then after a few hours, stuck it into the oven. I managed to find more patience than I sometimes do, which led to a bird that browned nicely in less time than it sometimes takes when I'm constantly opening the oven to check the internal temp of the meat. The skin was especially crispy/crunchy.

Also, the geese kept flying around in droves.

Country Snow

I woke up pretty early for my Saturday morning in Bucks. I can't say I was surprised to find that it was snowing, because I had actually checked the weather. That said, I still found it quite pretty. I took a photograph with my iPhone I will have to track down for my next iPhone photo round up. Here is Yma. She looks more worried than I think she actually was.
This is Pipo. Pipo sometimes seems confused by what she wants. Or perhaps more accurately she doesn't know how to communicate her feelings in a productive manner. In other words, she's a growler. But she is also a lover of stuffed hedgehogs. We played some keepaway with the hedgehog, where I pretended that I really wanted the hedgehog, and she growled and ran in circles...I know this was actually fun to her because when I stopped chasing her, she'd look behind her with a expression of 'I wasn't done growling and running away from you, please continue.' When I was done with the game, she would lie down in a comfy pile and just keep the hedgehog in her mouth. It was funny.
It eventually stopped snowing. I don't think the accumulation was more than three inches. I noticed a definite uptick in geese flying around the big field that runs up to some woods, which is then bordered by a creek. There were so many of them that you could hear the honking from inside the house. I decided to investigate, as I had a suspicion that some kind of congregation of mass proportions was happening in the creek.
I was right. But what I was wrong about was forgetting my zoom lens at home, so the photographs of the hundreds of geese I saw are just not all that impressive. Apologies to myself.
Snow and cut corn stalks.
Geese taking flight as they clue in to my presence by the creek.
Flippity, flappity, flippity, honk.

Very pretty.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Country Sun

Last weekend I went to a different section of Bucks County and spent another weekend in the country watching dogs...but not the same dogs as the preceding weekend. Totally different dogs. I arrived on Friday afternoon and got to see this beautiful light as the sun began its way down.
It was lovely.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Soup and Tuna Tartar c/o Hickory Lane

Over the last couple of weeks I've really been trying to actually start going to some of the restaurants on my resolution list. I have also begun to make dates months in advance for such establishments. It makes me feel productive. On this particular night I met up with C., formerly of pizza,puppy and laundry nights. We don't see as much of one another now that she's commuting to Baltimore for her Master's degree, and this makes me sad. So a few weeks ago we made a plan that we would enjoy a dinner together during her school break. And we did. At Hickory Lane. It's BYO, so I brought my own bottle of Chateau Caroline, courtesy of my father. This is a relatively new place, just open for a month or so. On a Sunday night it wasn't too terribly busy. I walked in just moments after a larger party, or that's what it seemed like, as they were milling around the relatively small entry way. They were all men, so I was confused as to whether any of them was actually the host. That makes no sense. In any case, I was seated right next to that large party, though there were other tables available. I am fascinated by how restaurants choose to seat people. C. arrived and we both decided on what we wanted for our meals. I went with the French Onion soup and tuna tartar with ponzu sauce, wasabi lime ailoi and grilled lavash flatbread. C. ordered the mussels, and I can't remember what else.
The soup came out hot, but wasn't terribly remarkable. My personal preference for the actual soup is always slightly more savory than sweet, but this particular broth had more sweet notes to it. I liked the mountainous slab of cheese coating the whole thing, but struggled to actually consume it all (C. ended up helping in that regard). The tuna tartar was also a little underwhelming. The wasabi lime aioli didn't have as much or any kick as I might have expected. The tuna itself was nicely chopped (cubed?) and had the beginnings of an interesting sauce, but perhaps just needed a tad bit more in my opinion.
So, on the whole, this place seems solid but not all that special. Our waiter was friendly, the place had a dark walled, dimly lit, date kind of vibe to the place. But I guess I was not all that impressed with the quality of the food for the price it was. This seems to be a running theme lately. Have I lost my ability to actually love anything, I wonder?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Soup and Scallops c/o Black Bass Hotel

The Sunday of my dog watching weekend was a quiet one. I cleaned up the house a bit, watched some Vampire Diaries and putzed. M. and A. came back in the late afternoon and we hung out for a bit. It was A.'s birthday so we went out to celebrate it. They also wanted to thank me for hanging out with the dogs, which was unnecessary as hanging out with two dogs in the country isn't really something I consider a burden. In any case, M. suggested the Black Bass Hotel because she had always been curious about it. We took a twisty, turny Bucks County drive to get to the establishment, which is right along the Delaware River. It's one of those set ups where the main building is on one side of a narrow road and then parking and perhaps additional rooms are across the street. A very river-country set up. We were seated in the main dining room, which had what I'm sure was quite a spectacular view of the river. It was dark, so it was hard to get the full effect, but the light reflecting on the dark water below was pretty neat. M. and I had cocktails to start, I went with a dirty martini. M. was a bit more adventurous and went with the 'Basstini," which was Earl Grey tea infused Beefeater Gin, simple syrup and lemon juice. I actually thought it had a few other things in it, but that's what the menu says so...Her cocktail was a real surprise. Definitely had Earl Grey and citrus notes. Different, but successful. She and I also decided to try the crab chowder. The menu described it as spicy, but I don't think that was really true of this bowl. I guess my own preference for cream-based chowders made this a bit of a let-down. I didn't ask the question, made the assumption, etc. Still good, but not magical.
For my main course I was drawn to the Seared Sea Scallops with House-Cured Pork Belly with caramelized fennel, potato pave and brandied apricot glaze.
I had no idea what potato pave was, and when I first saw my plate, I thought that the potato pave was actually some extremely fatty form of pork belly. Once I established that wasn't the case, the dish made a little more sense. I would actually preferred more pork over the potato portion. The scallops were nicely seared but still tender. The sauce was interesting.
M. went with the mushroom risotto appetizer as her main course, while A. went with the Coffee Lacquered Duck served with pear ginger chutney and coffee sauce. I think I tried a bite and liked it, but that somehow there was a slight disconnect between what I expected from the menu's description and the actual taste profile of the 'lacquer.' I think that A. felt similarly, but I could be remembering incorrectly.
This was a lovely meal, and I enjoyed having a nice dinner with M. and A. The issue with the establishment itself, I think, was that the prices for the food are definitely a bit high for what you actually get. It's not bad food, but it's not transcendent either. And for $28 (the price of the scallops), I hope for a really special experience - even if I'm not actually footing the bill. Our server was friendly and nice on the whole, though at some point in the meal she became perhaps a little too familiar for the environment. In a diner or greasy spoon I think waitresses can call you honey or sweetie with impunity, but in what is selling itself as a 'fine dining' establishment, calling first time guests by this kind of endearment strikes me as a bit odd. But, again, it was a lovely night and I thank M. and A. for their company and for the meal!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chicken Legs, Brussels Sprouts and Leeks

Last weekend I went out to the country to hang out with M. and A.'s dogs Panda and Ella while they were in New York. I knew I wanted to cook myself some food, but I struggled to think of anything all that great. In the end I breaded and baked more chicken drumsticks than I could eat because I couldn't be bothered with dealing with left over raw meat.
The chicken turned out meh, which is what happens when you don't really have a good feeling or excitement about what you're doing. The side dish I made, on the other hand, was quite satisfying: brussels sprouts, leeks, a little bacon and mmmm, tasty time.
Panda and I lay by the fire for most of my stay. It was nice and warm and lovely. Even if I made crappy chicken.

Chicken Liver Paté c/o McCorssen's

With the dart league on break, I haven't been playing so much of the darts. But at some point in the last few weeks, LW and I met up at McCrossen's. I tried their chicken liver pate with pear jelly, which surprisingly came in this jar. The jelly was on top. The dish was rich, but tasty.
Later on we played darts for a bit.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sushi and Sandwich

Another week, more meals. I'm not sharing the curry from King of Tandoor because it really isn't that much to look at, but I enjoyed it at the time. Another meal was from Kansai. I believe I went with the spicy/crunchy crab roll, eel and avocado, and smoked salmon with cream cheese. Very authentic sushi, no doubt. Satisfying though.
And then a turkey, pickle etc sandwich from Rybread. Their definition of a brioche is kind of off the mark.

Breakfast Sandwich c/o One Shot Coffee

A few weekends back I drove over to L.'s neighborhood, picked her up, then we drove on to the main Northern Liberties strip for coffee at One Shot Coffee. Except I ordered a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on a house made cheddar cheese and chive biscuit as a meal, and an earl grey latte as my drink. So no coffee for me. Coffee for L. though. It was nice to catch up. L. has had a number of quite big life things happen over the last month or two, and between our schedules we haven't had much time to actually see each other and talk about all the big things.
The sandwich was good, though I wondered how they made their eggs. I still, from time to time, remember how we made egg sandwiches at the coffee house I worked at during college, and shudder (it involved plastic and a microwave).
A good catch-up and meal, I particularly enjoyed the earl grey latte.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Korean and Hoagie Lunches

The lunches kept coming. The dragon, however, isn't as young as it used to be and finds the whole thing more of a challenge. Another bad landing and wing loss in the Kim Chi stew from Koja Grill.
The dragon was able to enjoy the rice with no problem.
And on another day, another Primo's hoagie. I think this was the Sicilian.

Roast Beef Sandwich c/o Rybread

Another subsidized lunch meal at work. This time from Rybread. I believe this was roast beef, cheddar cheese and horseradish mayo grilled paninni-style. The beef didn't really have a lot of goodness to it, which meant the whole thing was a little flat; not Rybread's best, I didn't think.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chinese c/o Hunan Szehuan

At some point we ordered Chinese. I ordered the chicken noodle soup, which wasn't all that great. Then I thought I'd try a new form of tofu without fully knowing what it would be. In this case I believe it was "Tofu Home Style." It turned out to be pretty great, thick and crunchy tofu with snowpeas and really meaty mushrooms in a kind of spicy sauce. I really dug it.

Charcuterie and Pickles c/o Farmer's Cabinet

On the first while I was hanging out with M. and A. et al, Mr. Ass gave me a ring and inquired as to whether I might like to grab a dinner-type meal in Philly later on. I thought that was a good idea and then we spent far longer than necessary deciding where we might go. In the end we met up at Farmer's Cabinet. The drunken dredges of the Mummers' Parade were still hanging about that area of the city; Mr. Ass mentioned that while he was waiting for me a man, standing outside just like him, asked Mr. Ass whether it was raining. It was. In any case, Farmer's Cabinet's interior really is pleasing to the eye with high ceilings, the walls of which are punctuated by what seems to be real lit candles. The bar starts with what seems to be the cheese station before morphing into quite an impressive number of drafts. We were seated at the long communal table in the back of what appeared to be the main space.
On Sundays they continue their brunch menu into the evening, which was quite a temptation, but in the end I made choices independently of the breakfast offers. I am a sucker for pickled things, so I jumped at the chance to order their Kirby Cucumber Quarters. Good, but maybe a tad too sweet for me. I like my pickles to have a bite.
Then I ordered the tasting menu of their house cured meats, which included duck prosciutto, salami gentil, pate de campagne, toscana and finocchiona. As is often the case, I should have written down my thoughts to really give any true direction as to what stood out the most. I believe the pate was a clear winner, as was the salami. The whole grain mustard was good as well. Mr. Ass ordered the Lancaster Roasted Chicken with Yukon gold puree, caramelized pearl onions and turnips, black kale, and blood orange bitter jus. He was kind enough to let me have a bit, and it was quite good. Mr. Ass made the observation that sometimes the chicken on a restaurant's menu is the secret start, but we're all too bothered chasing down foie gras or rabbit to realize it. I added the foie and rabbit references. I often try, when going to a restaurant, to think of what I cannot or do not make for myself, and order accordingly. And while I can make a decent chicken, I may have to give it a better shot when I'm order to further inspire my own chicken making abilities.
There was a little weirdness with the bill. On the menu I had looked at, the tasting plate was $17, but the bill made it $19, and Mr. Ass had ordered the smaller sized beer but was charged for the larger one. When we pointed out these inconsistencies to our server, she was quick to bring a different menu over to show me that I was wrong...but I pointed out that that wasn't the menu I looked at so... And then she basically told Mr. Ass that he had ordered a large one, and that's why he was charged the large price...though I had clearly heard him ask for the smaller size. I know that being a server can suck, and that people complaining about things is annoying. But I guess I still felt like her response, which was to sort of blame us and then reluctantly go talk to her manager without ever once apologizing for the confusion, could have been more diplomatic or something. It's not a cheap place, but I'd probably go back for drinks and snacks.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pulled Pork, Slaw and Cornbread to Start 2012

On the first I had to complete a bit of work in the morning, but helped with the lunch for the day. A.'s mother, M., shredded the remaining pork shoulder and then I made my version of pulled pork, which is definitely some amalgamation of a few different styles and totally inauthentic. T. whipped up some slaw, which I enjoyed mightily, and gluten-free cornbread to boot. A good final meal with this crew.
Then we played one more game of Catan before I headed back to Philly. Pretty sure I didn't win this game either, though I did have a pretty long road until I was whom I can't quite remember. A. or C. probably.
I do like when the same thing happens in consecutive years; the sense of at least a fleeting tradition. I'm sure that as A. and M. and their respective families grow and change New Year's won't be at this location or include me, but for this year and last, it was a wonderful and relaxing time...except for the work, of course. By that I mean: thanks to S. for hosting us all and to the whole crew for their contributions to broadening my palate's experience with Italian wines and Wegman cheeses.

Well Hello 2012

Ours was a relatively subdued New Years Eve night. I think M., A., C. and I played a game of Catan while S. and M. went to bed. Then M. made a yule log while A., C., T. and I played a second game as the minutes of 2011 dwindled. We cheered to the new year first with sparkling Italian wine that was found to be a bit lacking, and then switched to the better stuff while finishing up our second game.
Here you can see the process of rolling up the yule log.
Once it was rolled up, it was covered in icing and then we all contributed a few marzipan (marzipan?) mushrooms to make it have more of a log-look. And yet no photographs of that truth are available to me.
I don't think I won a single game of Catan over the course of our three days of playing, but did I mind? Not too terribly; I just like getting to play.

New Year's Dinner

On New Years Eve Day, I woke up early and did some work. Then S. and I went to the grocery store to get what was needed for the evening's dinner. And what was that, you ask? It was pork shoulder as the main protein, with artichokes and additional veggies. I was in charge of the pork. I made my standard garlic, tomato, cider vinegar etc wet sauce. I also did my standard 'stabbing of the pork' and put lots of bits of garlic in those consequent tears in the shoulder.
Cooked for about 8 hours at a low temp, this came out quite well. Actually, I was a little surprised by just how moist it was. Tender for sure, but not quite in the same way that the dish usually works. I think this may have been partially because it was a better quality of meat than I sometimes use, and that it wasn't as fat-ridden as some of the shoulders I've played around with. Or neither of those things, I surely am not sure.
The dogs knew something was going on.
A. diligently scooped the thistle-y part of the artichokes out before steaming them, which meant that when it came to eating them, you could go straight to the heart without all that untasty fluff.
I cooked the pork with the sauce and a fair number of onions, carrots, mushrooms and potatoes. These veggies soaked and soaked in the tomato/fatty wonder that was the combined result of the pork's fatty juices and the sauce I added into the mix.
I believe we had a salad course and then a cheese course. The triple cream was especially tasty.
And for dessert, homemade gingerbread and M.'s hand whipped cream.
A wonderful way to spend the last night of 2011.