Saturday, April 27, 2013

Pho c/o Pho Ha Saigon

It had been a while since LW and I had gone to get pho together at Pho Ha Saigon. We remedied this a few weekends back. I went with the steak/brisket pho combo and also ordered the grilled pork rolls, which remain extremely tasty. Service as always was fast. Pho as always was rich and beefy. Coffee was just as crazily eye opening and thick with condensed milk as always.

Bisque and Boquerones c/o McCrossen's

LW and I got together at McCrossen's soon after my return to Philly to discuss our respective lives. I tried the roasted red pepper bisque and happily ordered the boquerones, which I always enjoy. The bisque was almost frothy in its textural composition. Delicious and delicate.
And the the boquerones were as citrusy/herby tender as they ever are. And I do so love these mellow olives.

Dinner c/o Two Boots

I left Ohio early Monday morning with a destination other than Philly. I had a job interview possibility in Massachusetts so I was headed towards Martha's Vineyard, which was a pretty long haul. So long that I needed to find a place to break up my trip. I turned to my Facebook network for suggestions of a stopping point that might be economical as well as interesting, and M. the Baker suggested I stop in the Red Hook/Bard area and stay with him and my former photo history professor, L. After deducing that it wasn't totally out of my way, and thinking that it would be nice to see the both of them, I took M. and L. up on their offer. I arrived around 6 or so and, as I always do, felt waves of nostalgia and memory as I drove familiar roads and saw familiar landmarks from my college days. L. had an academic dinner commitment, so M. and I did dinner on our own at a place that hadn't existed when I was a student at Bard: Two Boots. In my day the building where Two Boots now resides, which is just across the road from one of Bard College's campus entrances, was a seafood/Italian type joint that I don't think many students ever checked out. I only went once with my mother and former roommate S. I think we at least considered eating lobster, though my memory fails me a bit when it comes to our exact meals. The thing I do remember about that evening was that I was in my full 'life is performance art, we are never real' stage of my life, which I tried to explain during that dinner. Meh. Anyways. We ordered the meatball sliders on garlic knots. The knots were tender and the meatballs decent. I think they were really three slices of the same meatball, as opposed to three mini ones. I think I may have commented to M. that a pretzel type breading would be an even more interesting choice for the dish. 
 We also shared the Cleopatra Jones pizza, which was a thin crust pizza with sweet Italian sausage, roasted peppers and onions and garlic, with a good smattering of mozzarella thrown in. Pretty good. I saw a few familiar faces and a few faces that seemed familiar but were, in fact, people whom I did not know.
After we finished up our meal, we returned to L. and M.'s house and talked about this and that. L. returned and we conversed for a bit as well. While I would have wanted to hang out a bit more, the plan for the next day involved my having to wake up and get out of the house by 6. Closer to 5 really. So to bed I went. It was lovely to have even such a brief visit in the area and with L. and M. They're good people. It's a beautiful and special place. I wish I could tell you that the treacherous drive through blinding snow in the Berkshires and the ferry ride to Martha's Vineyard resulted in a new direction for me, but alas it wasn't quite to be. If, however, you're reading this and you know of people in the cheesemaking game looking for motivated and passionate apprentices, please holler at me because that was basically what the gig would have been and I was very sad to miss out on it. After the ferry and interview and then another ferry back to the mainland, and then a shuttle to the parking lot, I got back on the road and headed south. It was a long drive, mostly taking place after the sun set. I conquered my fear of driving on the George Washington Bridge and tried a crappy chipotle chicken sandwich from Burger King and was home around midnight. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Easter Sunday in Ohio

Easter Sunday for me started with prepping the macaroni and cheese I'd be contributing to my family's Sunday dinner. For most of the rest of the family, it began with church. Different strokes, different folks. Once K. and A. returned from church, we got ourselves together (they took off their fancy church clothes while I put on something other than my pajamas) and headed over to my aunt and uncle's house. A. went and picked up his kids, W. and K. and thus this photograph was possible.
And this one.
And this one, where it almost looks like W. doesn't have a head and is only a body carrying K. around.
M. and A. took control over the marinating and grilling of a number of veggies, which included asparagus, carrots and peppers.

A salad and a lot of fresh fruit were also available.
Not to mention a crock pot roasted turkey breast.
And a ham. And lactose-free potatoes and lactose-full macaroni and cheese (in this version there's a mix of cheddar, fontina, mozzarella, gouda, colby jack and that may be it).
As the family expands so do the tables L. and E. have to pull out so that we can all fit. But we do all fit!
Baby R. with some treat in her mouth I think.
This year was definitely chillier than last year. Fewer flowers had bloomed and jackets were definitely needed to fight off a chill in the air. While that's all true, it wasn't so cold or gloomy that kids couldn't make quick work finding the 64 plastic eggs I hid around the backyard.

And of course there were about a million different tasty sweet treats to choose from for dessert.
Brownies. Sweet potato cookies. Etc.

Another good Easter. We then watched more March madness, including that sad moment for the player with the leg from Louisville.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Baby R. and Pizza Times in Grove City

After a diverting few hours, we packed up the van and headed back to Grove City. I insisted on one photograph with K. though next time she and I are going to have to do more than just one. I take so many pictures of the kids, but I need to be a bit more diligent about photographs of the adults. And of angles that make me look less overweight than I tend to be on any given day.
Baby R. stayed home and we found her and her Dad and my uncle all out in the court, hanging out and playing with bikes and such. She's a cute one. Doesn't say much so far, but definitely is looking around and taking it all in.
For dinner we split three pizzas a myriad of ways. This one was sausage/pepperoni/green pepper. There was a plain for the kids, and maybe a half pineapple half olive in the mix as well.
The kids' table.
The main activity of the evening was watching some of the March madness basketball games. I think this might have been the evening that officially took the Buckeyes out of the running, which was a little sad. I kept referring to myself as a 'fairweather die-hard Buckeyes fan,' and I believe this is actually a good way to describe my ability to get cheer and get excited about the players in one particular game while generally having ignored the entire team for the season that led up to it. Still, it's fun to be in a room of people who care and it makes you care too. Though I think they may have been more disappointed by the loss than I was. R. was rather indifferent.
Until her mother took away her lager, then all hell broke loose.
And she became slightly eery.
And that wraps up that Saturday.

Afternoon Outing at Audobon Center in Columbus

After our lunch and ice cream, we headed over to my aunt and uncle's in order to pick up a few of the newest generation of cousins for an outing to the Grange Insurance Audobon Center and nearby playgrounds and rock climbing sites. It's a bit hard to imagine what was once on this tract of land, or how it was used, but now it's got some state of the art play structures, two small wildlife ponds and a huge rock climbing structure. Pretty neat. We didn't actually go inside the center, but the outside was designed nicely and fit the overall lay of the land quite well. The kids played. I, at some point, after noting how they had the protective flooring that bounces a little, recalled some of the playgrounds I had enjoyed as a youth and just how terribly unsafe much of it was...and said something along the lines of "When we fell, it hurt." But I., the youngest of the three kids, had clear markings on her face that even with the more giving surface, damage could still be done (this was done not on our outing but on one a few days prior).
We saw a range of parenting techniques at play throughout our time on the playground. From wild children wearing no shoes and seemingly under no supervision, to hesitant children with parents basically telling them to man up. The world is a multifaceted place, let me tell you.
Between the three of us, none of our charges were lost or hurt, so that's good.

I also had the opportunity to give the kids a basic duck lesson. Pretty ducks = boys. Dowdy ducks = girls.

In addition to the large rock climbing structure that necessitated ropes and the like, there were some lower little 'rocks' that the kids all took a swing at. They exhibited some monkey-like qualities when it came to going up...but some more recognizable child-like elements when it came to coming down. First A. got a bit on the fringe of weepiness while being helped down by A.
Then K., having just witnessed his sister's ultimate success getting down, also had a bit of a momentary panic. A. did a good job of getting them to do what needed to be done with their feet while also basically acting as a human elevator.
I even climbed up one...but got down without anyone's help, thank goodness. Good times.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Adventures in Columbus' North Market

A. is way into food and was enthusiastic about showing me some spots in Columbus that I had heretofore not known about it. I know this is true because he had made a note on his iPad of potential places to take me. Warms my heart. In any case, K., A. and I got ourselves together after a lovely breakfast home and made our way to North Market. It's very similar in vibe and feel to Reading Terminal Market, but slightly brighter and a little smaller. We went in order to enjoy a lunch but also so I could potentially pick up a few above average cheeses for the mac n' cheese the family requested I prepare for Easter. There were so many interesting options as far as food was concerned. At first I thought I'd try some barbeque. Then I almost got waylaid by some truly delectable looking sub-style sandwiches. But in the end I chose to try out a han/pate banh mi sandwich from Lan Viet Market. Their pho was also quite tempting, but I decided it was far too crowded a day to try maneuvering myself and a big bowl of broth up to the seating area above the market's floor. The bread was nicely crunchy on the outside and yet soft on the inside. Could have had a bit more flavor on the whole, but a good meal nonetheless.
K. and A. were very interested in getting themselves some Jeni's Splendid ice cream, the line was just so ridiculously long they decided it made more sense to drive to the well populous location of the small ice cream chain. After trying a few different varieties, I ultimately chose a cup with a scoop of lavender berry and a scoop of lemon frozen yogurt, the combination of which was quite satisfying and palate pleasing.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dinner c/o Jury Room, Darts and Drinks c/o Beck Tavern

As I believed I mentioned in the preceding post, I made especially good time getting to my cousin K. and her bf A.'s house outside Columbus despite my rather debauched night. After unwinding for a bit we then headed into the city with my uncle E. to meet up with my aunt L. at the Jury Room. This was a relatively new spot in town, and new to all of us as far as eating. K. suggested we split the loaded fries appetizer, which came out with a very generous glob of sour cream and a solid portion of fries. The cheese we pictured would have been more of the nacho variety, so the shredded reality was a bit of a let down. I personally would have preferred crispier fries all around.
I gravitated to the blue cheese stuffed olive appetizer, which was fried of course. While they were certainly piping hot, the olives themselves were so salty that I didn't fall in love with the dish and didn't make that much of a dent in them. Good thing they had a really solid happy hour deal with a significant discount (half off) for appetizers. Well, really these things would only have been $4 so it wasn't a complete splurge to try one way or the other.
I tried their artichoke chicken "hoagie." When I was trying to remember what I had by looking at the menu I was quite confused because I had forgotten the hoagie element of the description. This was no Philadelphian's hoagie that's for sure. More sandwich. Or un-pressed panini. Not bad but not spectacular. K. totally loved her brisket sandwich though, so I'm not hating on the place, just saying that I didn't order anything that wowed me. What did wow me were the establishment's decor and general vibe, the friendliness of the servers and the really solid beer list. Given my overindulgence the night before, I wasn't going crazy with beers on this evening, but I did thoroughly enjoy the chocolate-ish stout I ordered...they had a nice selection of craft and local beers on tap that seem to turnaround quickly enough that they don't have it posted on their website. 

After dinner we made our way to German Village to enjoy additional time together at Beck Tavern, which by no coincidence in planning also had a few dart boards. Though I had the presence of mind to bring my darts to Ohio with me, I had somehow forgotten to bring my darts out on this particular evening. Good thing bar darts are always plentiful at spots like this. We played a few rounds of cricket and variations of 01 games with great enjoyment. I think I was trying a little hard to show my relatives how good I was, which in turn made me less adept, but fun was had. Above you can see my uncle showing me his stance. Solid. After some serious taking-over of the jukebox by K. and me, and a few more games and drinks, we called it a relatively early evening. A nice start to my holiday weekend in the 'Bus (no one calls it that, but they should consider it).

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Whisky, Beer, Treats and Champagne c/o Lemon Hill

The Thursday before Easter weekend I thought it might be nice to enjoy a happy hour at Lemon Hill. I thought it would be doubly nice because I knew I was taking Friday off in order to drive to Ohio to spend time with my assorted relatives in the Columbus area. LW agreed with this basic idea, or may have suggested it? In either case, I arrived first and enjoyed a glass of wine and a perusal of the menu before LW joined me. Their happy hour cocktail of the evening was one I knew better than to tangle with, so the evening for me began with wine. When LW arrived she went in a slightly different direction, requesting bartender's choice as far as a good whisky on which to sip. A ten year Tullamore Dew fit the bill quite well. I have no idea what LW's doing with her face in this photo, but it makes me chuckle so I'm including it.
We also decided to share a few snacks. Their fried cheese curds remain delicate and oozy, and the long hot vinaigrette a nice alternative to some tomato-based dipping sauce.
We also tried a few new things, which began with the Dove Song goat's milk ricotta with walnut and strawberry conserve, miner's lettuce (whatever that means) and sourdough bread. The ricotta was markedly different from what I imagine could be considered the more typical cow's milk variety. Its consistency just a bit thicker, but its taste a little more complex than a more 'white bread' ricotta you might come across. The strawberry accent was a nice contrast and while I don't generally care for sourdough, the slight pinch of the palate it creates in my mouth worked  in this combination.
LW continued on a journey of Scotch...this time with Johnny Drum.
We also decided to try out the beef fat kim chi. And good god. I've been working on perfecting my own soondubu jigae (Korean tofu stew, often with a kimchi element to it) and have tried a few different kimchis over the last few weeks....and man alive, this kimchi put them to shame in terms of sheer spice level. I believe LW at one point said she couldn't feel her face. It was legitimately spicy. Good, but not for the faint of heart. We couldn't finish it between the two of us...but I would definitely order it again.
This photograph is out of order but I'm leaving it as-is.
We also tried out the smoked trout croquettes with black garlic aioli, pickled horseradish and dill. Now I never really warm up to dill, but I will say that its inclusion on this plate didn't turn me off. I favored the garlic aioli and horseradish elements, but the dill wasn't an issue. The croquettes themselves were nice and crispy on the outside and positively bursting with hot trouty potato creaminess on the inside. Perhaps not my favorite dish of the night, they were still not without their charm. 
While I had every intention of having a relatively early night, I also knew I didn't have any early morning obligations. LW also seemed to be laid back about her responsibilities the next day. This led to champagne. And photographs taken by an angel-ic (heh) bartender. We also ran into my roommate and a few other neighborhood folks that I knew tangentially so it was altogether a longer and more sociable night than I had expected. I still managed to be up and out of the apartment at a pretty decent time the next day, arriving in Columbus just a little before 5 PM.
Lemon Hill isn't a spot I go to more than once a month or so, but every time I go I enjoy the atmosphere, clientele, staff and vibe. Just writing this up may inspire another visit in the next few weeks.