Saturday, November 30, 2013

Wedding Rehearsal and Dinner

Before most weddings, there is the rehearsal. We had just such an event. Here are some photos of the rehearsal and of the party/dinner that took place afterwards. Somehow I took zero photos of food, but food was actually part of the evening.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Seoul Dog c/o Dirty Franks

The last few times I saw Cuz K. and A., A. mentioned his enduring love for  Columbus' Dirty Franks and assured me that I would love it too. So it's just was well I didn't really eat the chicken mess from the airport, because when Cuz K. and A. picked me up from the airport we headed straight to the hot dog establishment. Their menu is extensive and gives you a lot of different options for how to dress up a dog. I was tempted by any number of topping combinations, but ultimately I chose the Seoul Dog, a Korean inspired approach that featured kim chi, sriracha and mayo. It lived up to the hype. If I hadn't had a first round of dinner I definitely would have tried another one. Next time I'm in Columbus I'll need to check out their Nicola and Puff the Magic Popper variations.

Airport Dinner c/o Chickie's and Pete's

I flew out to Ohio last week for Cuz K. and A.'s wedding. I arrived to the airport earlier than I actually planned and had plenty of time to kill before my flight, so I decided that I'd take a seat at Chickie's and Pete's and grab some grub. This was my first experience with the chain. I ordered their crab fries, which were certainly copious though I might had preferred them slightly crispier. The processed cheese sauce or dip or whatever came with it was dangerously tasty in a kind of forgettable way.
I made a rather huge mistake when it came to ordering a second part of my meal. I don't think I had really eaten much during the day so by the time I was at the airport my decision making abilities were a bit lacking. I chose to get a chicken cheese steak. I don't know what I was thinking. Maybe if I had opted for a buffalo chicken cheese steak, this wouldn't have been the worst decision ever, but I did not take that option. This was just really bland and lacked anything special. Even the cheese wasn't that exciting. I'm sure Chickie's and Pete's is better than this sandwich.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bonfire Times

 A weekend or two back I drove up to Bucks County to hang out with Mr. Ass, P., E., B. and L., as well as - at least briefly - E. and L.'s father. I brought out the fire gloves. Potatoes were baked. A nice evening with good folks and a nice amount of fire tending? My kind of night.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Food and Drink c/o Moonshine and Late Night Randomness with Midnight Magic and Holy Ghost!

Sometimes when I don't go to the country I feel like my Philly weekends are wasted...I stay in instead of going out, seeing very few people and not having many new experiences. This is just how it is sometimes, but there are moments when I'd very much like it to be otherwise. Such a sentiment was in full effect a few weeks back, when I knew I was going to be in Philly but had no social plans. This was unacceptable to me so I reached out to the folks I do know in the city to see if some kind of fun time thing could be arranged. CPM reached out, saying that she and her hubby R.'s friend J. had invited them to a "Friends and Family" restaurant opening night, and that I was welcome to jump on in. I happily accepted and on a Saturday evening we went to Moonshine. It was totally packed with South Philly folks who knew the family behind this new venue. At first we stood awkwardly by one of the water stations, generally getting in the way of customer and server alike, but the mood was convivial - even when we bumped, no one was angry or perturbed. Eventually J.'s friend or another family member set us up at a proper table to better allow us to enjoy the free beverages and samples of a variety of dishes. I think before getting seated we got to try the lasagna, which was a nice change from overly cheesed and was, I believe, vegetarian. They also had housemade pineapple infused vodka that they then were willing to serve with seltzer. Here is me holding two cups, though I think only one was alcoholic.
I believe this was kind of a Latin styled pulled pork with plantain, also tasty.
The pineapple drink was lovely, but most of us stuck mainly to bottle beers. At some point we decided it was time to depart. J. and his GF had to make sure that their overnight guests could get into their house out in the suburbs, and R. and CPM had some kind of early morning I decided that I might as well try to swing by the TLA to catch the tail end of a concert I had learned was going on that very evening. In previous years I've always tried to swing by when either Holy Ghost! or Midnight Magic is in town because I tangentially knew a member or two of their respective groups back in my college days. CPM and AS came with me to see Holy Ghost! and Chromeo a few years back, and the dancing portion of my birthday night last year came c/o Midnight Magic. So even as my phone died and there would be no way for me to actually say hello to the guys, I figured I'd give it a good college try.  
I arrived so late into the show that the girl at the front door let me in without buying a ticket, which was nice of her because I basically caught one and a half songs before Holy Ghost! was done. Then I awkwardly stood at the front of the stage to see if I could catch a glimpse of either of the two dudes that I would want to say hello to/would recognize my face. I was not alone in this endeavor, which made me feel even funnier. After not too long one of the other members of HG made eye contact with me and I said 'Could you just tell Alex or Andrew that Caroline from Bard says hello?' and he seemed willing to do this like he did not think it strange, though it looked like he was disappointing some other dude who was standing next to me and wanted to talk about music. The surprising turn of events here is that neither Alex nor Andrew came out. Instead it was B., who was part of the main crew of folks I 'ran with' my freshmen year of college and was the conduit through which I ever knew the other two dudes. We have easily not seen each other in about 10 years so it was like, really neat, but also kind of awkward...any time when you try to have a conversation about what your life has been like over a whole decade, and to ask questions of any import in regards to another's decade of life, well it just makes the fact that you're basically strangers come into wider relief. Though I still reminisced a bit, for better or worse, and was glad to see B. after so many years. We then went backstage where folks really just wanted to pack up and haul stuff and I kept getting in the way because I wanted to be useful. I was also wearing ridiculously tall shoes so I think the whole thing was kind of wacky, but I stuck around nonetheless. And because I am myself, I wanted photographic evidence of the whole thing...but my phone had died, so I ended up asking Alex to take a phone with his phone and then send me a photo. Demanding I was, but the photo came out pretty good.
Then they really were getting into 'load the bus' mode, so I made my exit...but not before getting a snap with B. too. Ugh, I look round all over, but that's just what it is.
A blurry view of them packing up as I left.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

New Jersey Pho

About two weekends ago I went to New Jersey to seek out shoes for Cuz K.'s wedding. I meant to go to a DSW not so terribly far from Philly on the Jersey side but my phone got a bit confused and told me to drive to a completely different location. In the end I found myself shoes indeed I did. Then I decided that I was hungry and that I might as well go on a mini pho adventure. There were about five different pho restaurants within five miles of the shoe place and so I decided rather randomly to check out Pho Eden, which was located in an incredibly non-descript strip mall at not the busiest of intersections. Inside it was cute, if spare. Fewer tables than some of the pho spots in Philly. I got a booth to myself and quickly ordered a hot coffee with condensed milk, which came in a different format than I am accustomed to seeing: already brewed and with no need to pour your own hot water over the grounds. Still good, but I liked that hot water element because you can keep your drink hotter for longer. While sipping my coffee I continued to get into Margaret Atwood's newest nove. 
For my meal I chose to try their grilled pork rolls in addition to pho with steak and fatty brisket.
The rolls were okay, not not transformative or mind melting like those I've enjoyed in South Philly.
The pho was equally good in meeting my basic desire for a rich and hot beef noodle soup, though not quite as special as the South Philly spot I've been going to the most over time. I was glad to check it out and if you happen to be in that area of New Jersey, it's worth stopping by, but I wouldn't say it would be worth going out of your way to visit.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Cocktail and Lobster Two Ways c/o Route 6

When you've got a good thing going on, it's not insensible to really commit to it. In this instance, LW and I had a good thing going on as far as going to Route 6 on Thursdays to take advantage of their October Lobster Month. A week after our first visit, we returned with the best of intentions and a bit of a menu game plan. I hadn't determined the cocktail I would enjoy, but once seated I was drawn to the Ward 8, which is Bulleit Rye with orange, lime and house made grenadine, as well as preserved cherry magic times. It wasn't too sweet, though you might think it would be.
We had determined before our arrival that we'd check out the fried mini lobster tails with green tabasco aioli. I think we were both rather surprised by how mega the mini tails were. Far more meat than expected. Also, they somehow lightly breaded and fried both the tail meat and the tail shell, which actually made the shells themselves edible, which I enjoyed. I learned from my father the habit of occasionally eating a shrimp - tail and all - at some point in my life, so I was at first unsure whether it could be done, but found that it was. My only complaint was that the aioli didn't have much of a green tabasco major note for me. The sauce is certainly milder than original, but it still has a wee bit of heat in its original form, which was lacking in the dipping sauce.
LW decided to try the buttery lobster roll, while I decided to try the 2 pound lobster, but wood grilled instead of steamed. While this lobster was apparently larger than the last, the grilling technique somehow made it seem like there wasn't as much meat. Also, the smaller legs, which when steamed give a certain pleasure when sucked, were far less satisfying. That sounded rather dirty. My point is that the steamed lobster from the week before, I was able to suck a little lobster juice and the occasional teeny bit of actual meat from the legs. In the grilled form the legs were liquid free and not especially compelling. And because it was split, I also found the tail meat not to be as succulent. In fact, the most apt adjective I think would fit would be 'mushy,' which, you know, isn't really what anyone wants in a lobster tail, half off or not. So my conclusion from this experience was to never order a lobster wood grilled again. While there were a few minor 'misses' here as far as how my preparation choices led to a less moist and delicious lobster, the deal was still good and I was glad for the meal out.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Fall Mini-Scenes

Among the sprawling conversations L. and I had, there was a bit of fierce debate about the number of times she has joined me in the country. My memory was two, both with Fatty. Hers was three, the first time without him. The blog was surprisingly unhelpful in this regard, at least in part because if there was a first visit sans Fat T. there was no photographic evidence of it. So I really meant to take at least one good photo of L. while she was around. The perfect time to do so would have been when we took a lovely fall walk. Unfortunately I took literally two photographs, both of which were totally not working in terms of focus or composition, and I'm simply not going to post them. The point is that I SWEAR L. was in fact around for this weekend. God. And if I'm lying I'm the person who makes up a friend to eat cheese and tacos with. I am not that person but I can only hope you understand that to be true.
While no photos of L. or me are available, we did see some pretty things on our walk.
UGH. HOW DARE YOU BE SO PRETTY?! At one point we were walking kind of in rhythm, and the sound of our feet sloughing through the fallen leaves was so loud that we could barely carry on a conversation because of the racket. Nature can be quiet, but not always!

Lamb Tacos

We had a properly late dinner as a result of our delicious afternoon cheese plate and the fact that it takes a more than a minute to put together taco fixin's from scratch (or at least mostly from scratch). The meat portion of the tacos was predominantly lamb with a little bit of beef thrown in for good measure. I must admit that while I did add a little salt into the meat, most of the flavor work was done by Rick Bayless's chipotle lime skillet packet.  I was also unable to find already ripe avocados, so I bought the grocery store's relatively fresh guacamole instead.
The pico de gallo, however, was entirely of my own making. I seeded the tomatoes and chopped them. Then chopped red onion and cilantro to add into the mix before adding lime juice, a smidge of olive oil and a tad pinch of salt. Let that marinate for a minute and you get magic man. Magic, man.
I also cooked rice and heated up some black beans.
Oh yes and also some fajita like peppers and onions for good measure.
I'd say a pretty satisfying eating experience. The leftovers of which made quite a number of additional meals for me in the days that would follow.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Country Cheese Plate

About two weekends back I once again made my way to the country, this time with my cat, Zul, in tow. I must say I always feel a mix of accomplishment and guilt any time I manage to trick him into a false security and hustle him into his carrying case without his first hiding underneath the bed and my grabbing repeatedly for him at an odd angle. The day I drove up was such a day of accomplishment and guilt. Cat knows how to wail, but I do understand. Cats in general are not big carrying case fans, and Zul has a particularly good reason not to associate the case, or driving, with anything good. Well, in any case, we arrived safely. I then went on a grocery run to get the necessaries for the dinner I planned on cooking for myself and L. I had suggested that L. and Fat T. drive on over from Brooklyn to join me, but it was rather last minute and I didn't entirely think that they'd be able to. And in one sense I was right, as Fat T. did not come. But that just meant quality girl talk with L. without worrying about boring Fatty. After my shopping run I gathered my gear and went back out to the field to read. I've taken a break from the young adult fiction series I've been reading to start Margaret Atwood's newest book, the third in the Oryx and Crake series. It wasn't quite strapless dress weather anymore, but with a few layers and the sun staying mainly in place, it was still lovely. L. eventually joined me, but not before arriving without my noticing. I had texted her to tell her to come to the field upon her arrival, but her trickster phone did not allow her to see that message so there was a moment's gap between her arrival to the house and her arrival to the field. In any case. A lovely time was had in the field. We debated the merits of haunted houses (she, pro. Me, con) and generally enjoyed the slightly brisk, but still good day. Eventually we made it back to the house and got to snacking. L. had brought a few cheeses with her, as well as a baguette. Delicious cheeses. The names of which I'll need to ask her about. There was an Idiazabal that we both thought wasn't quite as nutty as some we'd had, a particularly nice goat with an ash component, and the third cheese's name entirely escapes me. I also had a bit of truffle paté to contribute. I started a fire and we sat by it while eating cheese. L. remains one of my favorite people and it's always nice to get to spend some quality time with her.

Monday, November 04, 2013


Today marks the third anniversary of my mother's death. I don't really have any new thoughts that I'm interested in sharing at this particular moment, other than the fact that I continue to miss her. But here's what I wrote at the time.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Martini and Lobster c/o Route 6

When LW and I went to Alla Spina a few weeks back, it was because I foolishly had said that we could enjoy a meal at Route 6 without a reservation. We wanted to have a meal at Route 6 because in the world of arbitrary/promotional calendars, it was "Lobster Month." For Route 6 this meant that pretty much every menu item that included lobster was half off the original price. A pretty sweet deal. Unfortunately, when we showed up it became quite apparent that walk-ins weren't really going to get anywhere, and so we went to Alla Spina and determined that we would try the lobster festivities the next week. And this time with a reservation. So about two weeks ago that's just what we did. Though we arrived on time, things were a little behind, so we sat in the bar area for a small amount of time. I ordered a dirty martini, which was delightful, though I would have enjoyed it even a tad dirtier.
I rationalized getting the shrimp cocktail by thinking of all the money I was saving on the lobster, and I'm glad I did. These were some succulent and tasty shrimp, perfectly chilled but still tender. You know how some shrimp can become rubbery or strangely listless? Neither was the case here. Just well prepared shrimp with a bit of cocktail sauce.

LW and I both ordered the steamed 1.5 pound lobsters. We were given the option of them being broken down for us or doing the dirty work ourselves, we both chose to get our hands properly lobster-y. Of course I was so excited that I completely forgot to take a photograph before I started separating the lobster into its main components, but you can get a basic sense of the presentation even though it is in mangled form as opposed to its pristine arrival format (lobsters have formats, don't doubt me). We wore bibs and took slight advantage of the crackers (what's the proper term for that device you use to crack open the claws?) and mallets, but even when 'doing the work' the restaurant kind of cheats and pre-breaks the main parts so it's not nearly as labor intensive as it would otherwise be. This was especially the case with the tail.
A good and satisfying lobster it was. LW seemed to enjoy the lobster but expressed a desire for a heavier one in the future; she said she was still a little hungry even after finishing the meal. I was more generally pleased with the amount of meat I got for my buck, but I also had the shrimp as an extra component of my meal.
As far as made up special months go, lobster month at Route 6 was definitely a success. The place was packed, but service was quite good, as was the food and overall ambience. Definitely a place to return for future meals. And my goodness, lobster is always such a treat!

Friday, November 01, 2013

Eggs with Caramelized Onions and Sauteed Chanterelles

One morning I decided to try my hand at caramelizing some onions. It's something I've never really done before, but a culinary act I did feel I could master with the aid of a fair amount of butter. That assessment was pretty spot on. Butter and patience and not too high a heat resulted in some nicely browned and buttery onions, to which I added chanterelle mushrooms for a little bit more of a cook time before finally adding eggs into the equation. I also thought that a smattering of parmesan cheese wouldn't hurt anything. Pretty tasty on the whole, though I think I could have done without the, that may be the first time I've ever suggested not wanting more cheese in my life. First time for everything I guess!