Thursday, June 25, 2009

I know, I know, I know...'re still my blog (sorry, Tegan and Sara, I couldn't resist the impulse).

I know its been a while. Its been an eventful--and sad--month since I last posted. I did some traveling--to Florida and Michigan--, been very busy at work, rediscovered a passion for broccoli and cheese soup, and broke up with the Dear GF. The last reason is really why I haven't been posting. Major upheavals in my life usually don't lead to interesting food or much of an appetite.

I'll be back in July and better than ever! i promise.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

2nd Annual Memorial Day Picnic

I love picnics--I believe I've mentioned them a time or two on this blog. I find them to be a singularly pleasant way to spend one's time. I don't have them as much as I'd like (though I'd like to change that this summer--picnics in Clark Park, Philly readers?). I did, however, hold my 2nd annual Memorial Day picnic in King of Prussia with my dear GF and 2 friends.

I restrained myself this year and tried to not make obscene quantities of food (I know, uncharacteristic, right. But there's a recession on, people). The dear GF contributed deviled eggs, which are really only devilish in taste--or heavenly, depending on your perspective. I love them. They are also the only things I didn't get a picture of.

I made the parmesan crisps, from Ted Allen's book, that I made last year, because they were such a hit. They really are the simplest, most flavorful cocktail cracker ever, even if they are a little dubious-looking.

I also continued my love affair with asparagus--into its 5th week, I think, and counting!--and roasted it. Some of it I roasted plain, because simplicity really is the best recipe, especially for something so divine as asparagus. But for the other half, I wanted something truly decadent. I slathered paper thin slices of prosciutto with chevre and then wrapped them around 2 or 3 asparagus stalks. Then I slid them into the oven to roast beside their brethren. The result was a salty creamy pleasure of the most hedonistic kind. They positively oozed luxury.

And, as my final dish, I made a dessert. That's something I don't often do!! I finally used the rhubarb that I purchased so long ago in a strawberry rhubarb crumble. Let me tell you, this crumble, with its flour and walnut topping, was 1,000 times simpler and more pleasing than a pie. Not only did I not worry about ruining a pie crust, but the fruit was really showcased in the dish. The brightness of the fresh strawberries and the tanginess of the rhubarb were both complemented by the addition of lemon zest. It was also delightfully oozy. It was possibly that most successful baked good I've ever made.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Well, there's not much to write about--I've recently been making uninspired meals. But the 2nd Annual Memorial Day Picnic is coming up, so there will be much to mention next week. To tide you over, I am going to write about something near and dear to my heart:

Breakfast. Namely, the breakfast above, which I eat almost every day of my life. I love it. The cheese is an addition of that day only. Otherwise, there is 1 fried egg, with the edges lacey and the yolk a little runny. 1 peice of toast, lightly toasted, with butter. 1 vegetarian breakfast sausage. And I usually eat it in this order: the whites of the egg on the toast, then the yolk on the sausage. All accompanied with a mug of strong, sweet black tea with milk. It brings me continuous joy.

Monday, May 11, 2009


I like simple things. Like....asparagus! It is asparagus season in Philadelphia, and thank goodness. I've missed it while it was gone.

I've been eating a lot of asparagus--at least a pound a week, which is a lot if you remember that i am only 1 person! I've steamed it and sauteed it. I toyed with roasting it, but I was lazy that night, so I steamed it again. There is something irresistable about asparagus, lemon, and a pat of butter. No amount of fancy preparations can compare.

Marinades are simple too. I'm amazed that I haven't put them to use before!! They are a blessing for a cook who is pretty scared of giving herself food poisoning--one of the reasons that I cook meat, at best, maybe once a week. Usually less. I marinaded two turkey breast cutlets in a prepared lemon marinade that I bought on a whim from the grocery story. The marinade was too sweet, but after resting overnight in it, the turkey was tender and delicious, especially when splashed with hot sauce.

Leftovers=also simple. I had 1 cutlet left over the next day. I put pasta on the stove to cook, and then turned my attention to other components. Queso para freir was cubed and fried in a hot fan. Asparagus, chopped into 1-2 inch section, followed sauteed with olive oil and a shake of garlic salt. Cubed turkey meat was added, warmed, and then the whole combined with the cheese and pasta. Simple, quick, delicious, and incorporating asparagus. What more did I need?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rhubarb Request

Hello, dear readers.

The other day at the farmer's market, I impulsively bought 4 beautiful, long, ruby stalks of rhubarb.

I have no idea what to do with it.

i know I could make pie, but I have neither enough rhubarb nor strawberries nor patience for pie crust right now. Anyway, pie is awfully obvious, isn't it?

Do you have any suggestions? I think it'd be interesting to make something savory, but I don't really know what. Please, please, please comment with ideas? Don't let the rhubarb go in vain!!!!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Weird Things

I eat weird things. At least, I think I do. This has recently come blatantly to my attention. I mean, I’ve always known I’m a little strange in my eating habits. But, recently, it has just been really obvious.

First of all, I have a new dairy love. My local grocery store carries some pretty exciting ethnic foods—if you’re interested in Central and South American cuisine, island cuisine (such as Jamaica), or even African cuisine, the Supreme Shop’n’Bag on 43rd and Walnut is the place for you. Gourmet, it is not. Awesome, however, is a good word for it (also affordable). I was looking at cheeses when the phrase “fry, without breading” caught my eye. The cheese is called, most descriptively, ‘queso para freir.’ This cheese is soft, fresh, and on the salty side. Like halloumi, its Middle-Eastern counterpart, you just throw it into a hot pan and fry it to a golden brown. The outside crisps and the inside runs soft and gooey. It is so delicious. I ate it 3 times last week.

And that is where the weirdness comes in. On Saturday, I bought my first fresh asparagus of the spring. On Sunday night, I wasn’t too terribly hungry and I had just had a revelation inducing acupuncture appointment. I casually tossed some asparagus into the steamer and then, because I thought that maybe asparagus by itself wasn’t enough, I cooked up some frozen pork and veggie gyoza that I had. Both delicious, but an odd combination. Monday night was the night of my fried cheese acquisition. So I naturally had to try it and I paired it with roasted asparagus in another pairing that made little sense.

To top all that off, my favorite snack food of late has been those roasted peas that I picked up in China Town. They are delicious. I enjoy coming home late from a night out and munching on them while I watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy before bed. Though, I’m sure, the crunching us a little bothersome to the cat.

What things do you eat together that you think are weird?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Passover 2009

I’ve been eating a lot of good food recently. I can’t lie—there’s been a lot of really good food. And, yet, I’m actually a little indecisive about what to write about. Unlike last year, I decided that I definitely wanted to be with my family for Passover this year. So my sister and I did a whirlwind, 20-hours-total-in-the-car road trip to see several different members of the family. And there was so much good food! I didn’t take very good mental notes however—I was mostly distracted by my crazy and loveable family.

Our first stop was at my mother’s house in Virginia, where we played scrabble and ate pine-nut hummus (the Sabra brand) on pepper slices. Then we ate roasted asparagus, potatoes with fresh parsley and butter, and a take on chicken picatta that my mother came up with. She marinated the chicken in olive oil, lemon, and ginger, and then sautéed it with garlic. She also coated it in matzo meal, since it is Passover, to keep in the moisture like flour would. For dessert, she made an angel food cake, topped with fresh strawberries. I ate the strawberries and about a million chocolate macaroons.

Then we headed further south to North Carolina, where we participated in a 21-person seder, complete with aunts, uncles, new family, cousins, second cousins, and close beloved friends. There were three…THREE…legs of lamb and a turkey! You all know how I feel about turkey. And I love lamb. And my uncle made his own chicken broth for the matzo ball soup (with matzo balls that were definitely sinkers, the way I prefer them). We had lovely mashed potatoes and tsimmus, a sweet potato and prune dish that provides wonderful sweetness to the festive meal. There was asparagus, which I sighed over. For dessert, there was flan and triple chocolate macaroons.

But, as I said above, I didn’t take good food notes. I was deliriously happy to be surrounded by my loud, strange family. I spent inordinate amounts of time in the car with my sister, which is probably the longest time we’ve spent together in…years, maybe. I saw a lot of people that I haven’t seen since 2007’s Thanksgiving or my graduation from college. My uncle, the one who makes soups and freezes them for later lunches and guests and who roasts legs of lamb and makes puns, is especially dear to me.

I jokingly said, in my last post, that my next Passover will be in Kalamazoo. But that’s most likely true. Which is why, for this one weekend, I took my focus off of the taste and texture of the delicious food stuffs and meals (except when I downed that spoonful of homemade horseradish—THAT was hard to ignore). I sat back, smiled, and soaked in the loving closeness of family.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Favorite Things

Here's a list of my current favorite things, food and philly related:

-Even though it seems to be inevitably chilly during the week, the weekends have been beautiful. Crocuses (the biggest ones I've EVER seen), daffodils, cherry trees, and other flowers that I can't identify have been blooming and being pretty on the 60-degree weekends we've been having.

-That means spring produce is not too far away (asparagus!). Which means we're 1 step closer to TOMATOES.

-There has been overflow of baked goods in my office this week. Delicious.

-Chinatown, the home of coconut cream buns (delicious), cheap produce, and my absolutly favorite snack food: roasted green peas. So addicting and wonderful--I would not have made it through my senior year of college without.

-Passover--this year with family and home cooking!! (Next year in...Kalamazoo??)

-Chicken Salad wraps with a lot of sweet and hot peppers.

-Sweet and hot peppers in general.


Not So Favorite Thing:

-Why am I still sick? Please cease.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Routine Lentils

It is a well established fact that I love soup. I write about it pretty often, it made my last meal list, and I really, really love my Williams-Sonoma soup book. I think one of the reasons I love soup so much is the routine. Not only does it insinuate itself deeply into a daily routine, it has a lovely routine all its own.

Almost every soup I've made starts with 1 onion, finely chopped; 1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced; 1 stalk of celery, thinly sliced. Now I know that these are aromatics and that they play an important role in the soups. But there is a difference between what I know and what I love (sometimes). And I love the familiar routine of starting a soup. They start the same--the same steps, the same ingredients--and they turn into things so deliciously different.

I made a lentil soup that was a really pleasant surprise--also a surprise that lasted for abour 4 or 5 days (I ate a lot of soup last week). It had curry powder, lemon slices, and spinach--ingredients that all really brightened the flavor. It was a hearty soup that didn't feel too hearty. I was full and satisfied after a bowl of it, but I didn't feel the drdgery that goes along with so many hearty and healhty dishes (I get this feeling when eating oatmeal. Its good but so often, what a bore!). It was a delight, not a duty, to spoon up those lentils.

(In other more prosaic news, I recently acquired a camera. So i hope that soon Cheese or Death will come with pictures!!!)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Eating Well; Within My Means

If I had a philosophy about food—which I’m not sure that I do—it would be that I aim to eat well, within my means. This means that I endeavor not to spend an entire week eating pizza and French fries, as that would neither be eating well or within my means. On the other hand, it means that I try to give my custom to the farmer’s markets because they have better produce and are nicer to my wallet. It also means that I’m not above splurging on a meal eaten out, or perhaps just picking up one of Fu Wah’s excellent Italian hoagies for dinner instead of cooking—eating well is not always synonymous with cooking for oneself.

Sometimes I get a little wrapped up in the mechanics of “eating well.” I stress out over how many fruits and vegetables I’m eating and what they are—are they in season? Locally produced? Am I eating enough protein? Too many carbs? Am I eating healthfully? Am I paying attention to my food or just treating it mechanically as just another part of my day? Whew. You can tell, that can get a little overwhelming and exhausting at times. Anyway, there are always the times, like last Saturday, in which eating healthily is just not the same as eating well—or eating good, as is said where I come from.

I have been walking past the Breadline Genuine Bread and Specialty Shop, in-between 45th and 46th on Springfield since I moved into my current apartment. So, about 6 months. And I never stopped, though I wondered what went on behind the steamy windows. On Saturday, I stopped. On Saturday, I found out.

I went in after a ramble around West Philadelphia with my roommate. We just stopped in because I wanted to see if it was a bakery or not; I was also following the barbecue smell hanging in the air to its source. I found a beautiful, magical of baked goods, cute décor, heart-throbbingly good home cookin’. The business was started by Doris Truluck and later joined by her daughter, Barbara Abe. In addition to rolls, cinnamon buns with real caramel on them (!!), cheese filled parker house rolls (!!!), French custard toast, pie, and other delectables, they also have a daily menu. You can choose from the assorted offerings, and about 20 minutes later you have a hot, home-cooked meal in your hands that only cost $6.50.

The meal options change from day to day. Each day of the week has a theme—I’m especially taken with Fish Friday, despite the fact that I don’t eat fish. They print a menu every month to let you know what’ll be happening when. I urge you to pick one up. This place is just too good to pass up!

I chose the fried chicken and my roommate chose barbecue ribs. As we sat down with the Styrofoam containers at the kitchen table, the only sounds were chewing and moans of culinary delight. That fried chicken was, hands down, the best I’ve EVER had—the outside was crispy and the inside was positively running with moisture. The mac’n’cheese was also sigh worthy—though, in the end, too rich for me to finish. The other side was my favorite—a tomato salad, with tomato slices, sweet red peppers (something like peppadews), and sweet onions in vinegar and oil and probably with a hefty dose of sugar thrown in. It was like being transported back to a picnic with each bite. I wished desperately for some sweet tea.

Breadline Genuine Bread and Specialty Shop
4529 Springfield Avenue
Tues-Fri 9-7
Sat 9-6

Monday, March 9, 2009


The first real strains of spring are being heard in Philadelphia right now. It is…marvelous. The air is warmer, the ground feels pleasant and, most of all, everyone looks as if they know what’s happening. I saw frolicing dogs, frolicing children, and more than a few summer dresses. That’s right—life is being breathed back into the air. It does hurt to inhale the sharp, cold air. I was even terribly lucky, this weekend, and got to smell spring (no small feat in a big city).

So what have I been eating? Oh, winter greens, of course.

I must have eaten almost a pound of kale last week. I just really love it. The first night I ate it, I braised it into submission. I’m not sure what I like more about braised kale: the way it soaks in the flavors of the garlic and the chicken broth or the way it makes my kitchen smell. Probably the former—it’s just so delicious! I served it, topped with a fried egg, alongside a serving of one of my favorite Trader Joe’s products, the Harvest Grain Blend. This blend has Israeli couscous, orzo, red quinoa, and baby garbanzos. I love the contrasting textures, especially the softness of the couscous against the baby garbanzo beans. I usually cook it in chicken broth, not water, for the added taste.

The next night, I just sautéed the kale with oil and garlic, exactly as my father has done numerous times before. I ate so much of it. I would have finished off the entire pan, had I not turned to discover my kitten standing half in, half out of the leftover kale. (He’s getting a little out of hand, don’t you think?)

As I said, I really, really love kale. But I don’t think I’ll be terribly sad to see its season recede (along with all those beautiful parsnips, apples, and Brussels sprouts!) into spring produce. The tang is in the air. I can smell it.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Winter Fare

Ah, it is the 2nd of March. And the Philadelphia area is getting slammed with snow. How foolish. I'm ready for spring (though, perhaps this is good practice for me, considering that I am contemplating a move to northern climes).

But maybe the snow is also a good thing--because it affords me more chance to consume roast sausages.

Now, I really hate the word sausage. I think it sounds strange--not at all something that I would like to eat. But I do love it. I adore sausages in most of their forms--right down to that stalwart staple of my daily breakfast, the veggie sausage.

But in its roasted form, sausage assuaged deep, deep cravings that I'd been having. All winter, I've been wanting hearty, rich foods--stews, beef dishes, things that stick to your ribs and warm you from the inside out. I mostly tried to assuage this desire with pizza and soups, but I knew that I could something else when I two small but beautiful parsnips called my name at the farm market last weekend. Sliced, joined by potatos, organic onion, and a gorgeous organic carrot, I roasted them in the oven until they were tender and their outsides were approaching crispy. In a separate dish, I placed 2 browned spicy italian sausages in olive oil and slid them into the oven.

I can't really describe why I like roasted sausages so much. They taste the same. But somehow they seemed heartier, more wholesome. Delicious, when accompanied by roasted vegetables. I even made a kind of a lunch casserole for the next day, slicing up the remaining sausage and mixing it with the leftover veggies and scattering a layer of parmesan and mozzerella cheese on top.

True. Winter. Fare.

Friday, February 20, 2009

5 questions

These questions from Court, over at By Product. It took me a couple of days to answer them. But here they are:

1. What is your greatest triumph in the kitchen?
Cooking at all! Or perhaps baking anything--the recent chocolate concoction, the pie during my senior year of college. Though, honestly, I tend to see any meal that I cook that comes out unruined as a triumph. I think it is a gift and--dare I say it--a blessing to be able to create my own tasty, healthful food. I am always immensely proud of myself--more proud if I did something new or tricky, generally proud of almost every meal I produce (except for the ones I ruin).

2. What is one dish you aspire to create that you feel is out of your realm?
i'm not sure there is one dish specifically that I feel is out of my realm. Maybe something grand and slightly ridiculous like osso bucco, but also perhaps something grand and entirely serious like cooking good steak without overcooking it because I'm frightened of food poisoning and trichinosis. I'm still smarting over that frittata debacle from over a year ago.

3. Discuss two travel destinations that you would choose purely for the gastronomic experience.
A) India. There are actually many reasons that I want to go to India, but food (and Angel) are probably the main ones. Indian food!
B) Its a tie between North Carolina, because I've been craving NC-style BBQ for about 6 months now, and Italy. I'd like to travel to all the different regions of Italy and really be able to immerse myself in the culinary experience. I'd like to learn and understand true Italian cooking--even though it changes from region to region! This all speaks to my ardent desire to be an Italian cook/grandmother.

4. Tell me about your family -- but you can only use food terms/references/stories.
This question actually stumped me for several days. Its hard! I was always a picky eater--I've gotten much better about it, except about cooked mushrooms and fish. Bleh. My earliest food related memory of my sister is when she became a vegetarian, somewhere in middle school or early high school. I, being a younger child (youngest child, actually) quickly followed suit. This actually coincided with the beginning of my dad's ongoing healthfood craze, so it all worked out. Until Sister and I stopped being vegetarians, not being able to continue our immunity to chicken, hamburgers, and lamb (in Indian food. God, I love lamb). Unfortunately, Dad didn't really catch on to the end of vegetarianism for several years. While she was in college, it seemed like my sister subsisted mostly on mashed potatoes and lentils, unless I was visiting and bought her groceries. She was a poor student. Dad, who works at home, did most of the daily cooking. He's quite talented. I also remember my dad growing his own sprouts in a jar, growing his own shitakes on a log, and trying to convince me that vanilla rice milk is good in coffee (no, its not). I view my mother as something of a culinary genius, and I'm pretty sure its true. She at least knows her way about thanksgiving dinners, creative salads, and chocolate mousse. We once made baked alaska. And she also used to flash freeze summer tomatoes and peach crumbles, so in the winter when my SAD got intense, she could pull them out and give the family a whiff of summer. She is also the one responsible for my love for a "mess" of fried tomatoes (green or otherwise), grits, dried beef gravy, biscuits, and parmesan cheese. She ate potatoe chips mixed with feta cheese and green olives when she was pregnant. We're essentially a family of eccentric tastes.

5. What would be served at your last meal?
Hmmmm, the following is assuming that I get everything my way. It would start with a really perfect dirty martini as a cocktail, followed by an arugula, tomato, and shaved parmesan salad, with pepper and salt, and a light and tangy vinaigrette. Then would come the soup course--probably split pea (really really good split pea) or perhaps a tomato and cheddar situation. Or New England clam chowder. Whatever--a creamy, flavorful, soup. I don't know for sure what the main course would be, but it would probably include shallots, butter, and pasta. And really nice steak, just for the decadence. So, perhaps it would look something like this: steak, medium rare with a butter and shallot sauce, with linguine in a white wine (?) sauce. All of this accompanied with a good, full bodied red. The last course would be cherries and cheese--cherries are my favorite fruit, so there would be both red and yellow. The cheeses--a good sharp cheddar, double or triple creme brie, and the Pata Cabra aged goat cheese that Tria doesn't carry anymore.


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* Leave me a comment saying: “interview me”
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sin and Chocolate

Well, who’s been neglectful? I have. I’ve actually been meaning to post a ‘favorite things’ list for some time now, but that has to be put off for a little while longer. Because, my friends, I have sinned; in fact, I made a sin.

As a caveat, I’d like to point out that I don’t usually have very much truck with Valentine’s Day. It is just not a big deal, and it is horribly commercialized. And the idea of putting a price on love is a little shudder provoking. That being said, my roommate and I DID plan a special meal for out ladyfriends on Saturday night. (The GF and I also purchased presents for each other, but as neither has arrived in the mail yet, they have not been exchanged. Oh, for February presents).

As another caveat, I beg you to remember that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. That’s what made this sin—I mean, cake—so remarkable.

My roommate and I planned a “dessert for dinner” shindig, complete with Asti to make us bubbly (a magnum of it!). She made cream stuffed strawberries—my goodness, I love sweet cream—and churros with cinnamon-scented chocolate dipping sauce. I made something I started calling a ‘truot’—a mix between a chocolate truffle and a tort with a chocolate cookie crumb crust. It comes from Molly Wizenberg’s Orangette recipe collection; she is, hands down, my favorite food writer, so I get a lot of recipes from her (and I can’t wait for her book to come out!).

I originally thought that the cake wouldn’t even work—I don’t bake, I had never used a spring form pan before, I actually hate baking, and I couldn’t find bittersweet baking chocolate at Trader Joe’s. With a little help from my GF and the good folk at Scharffen Berger, I found a conversion that magically turned my unsweetened baking chocolate into bittersweet goodness.

Why was this cake a sin? Because it had almost 2 sticks of butter in it and you could tell. It was creamy, smooth, satiny. Maybe silky. Deep chocolate with the right amount of sweetness. It was the richest thing I’ve eaten in months. It was inhumanly delicious. It was like I baked Gluttony, Pride, Lust, and Sloth into a cake. We wanted to eat it all. I lusted after it when I woke up the next morning; it was delicious cold. The sugar high’s exit induced quite a slothful afternoon. But most of all, I was proud—I baked a cake.

There may be pictures available. I'll post them if that is true.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Anniversary Split-Pea Soup

I love many things that are normal to love in this world. I love my family, my friends, my kitten (I really REALLY love my kitten). I love the first days of spring and the first flowers that I see. I love pizza and sunshine and really good bargains. I love it when people read this blog; I do seriously love reading other people’s blogs.

What do y’all love? I’m just wondering.

Anyway, there are two things that I love a whole lot—probably than is good for any of us. One of those is my girlfriend. I love her to the point of doting. The other is split pea soup. I dote on that too.

So I combined to two last week and made what I’m now calling an “Anniversary Split Pea Soup.” Tuesday was our 2 year anniversary, but we were both pretty busy with work and school, so we put off the major celebrating for the weekend and simply made sure to see each other on Tuesday evening. (I mean, Tuesday was a really exciting day, what with a new president and all). I cooked dinner—and by cooked, I mean made split pea soup and my roommate baked some (admittedly dense) bread.

The recipe for the split pea soup? Really good. It came from Williams Sonoma’s Soup Cookbook, which is full of really good recipes and is gorgeous to look at. The soup itself? Needs some work. It was entirely too salty, which I’m just going to fix by using low sodium broth next time. I had to add some extra broth at the end because it was simmering off a little too quickly, and I think that’s where the salt went wrong. But I really enjoyed the texture, which was just the right mix of smooth puree and chunky soup. It was also really good the next day when I brought it to work for lunch. My favorite part was the diced pancetta I used in place of the bacon—it made a pleasant addition, texture-wise and had an impact on the taste as well. I will definitely make it again in the near future, and hopefully will remember to update my progress here!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Out and About

Goodness! What a month it has been so far! What with traveling, being broke, hanging out with my parents, and now the inauguration AND my 2-year anniversary, things have been busy! I have a lot of posts that are waiting to be written—including another GF guest post—so I’ll probably be updating a little more often for a little while. Ideally.

My mother and her husband, J, came up to visit this weekend. We had a grand time, even though Philadelphia has been frigid. I can’t remember the last time it was so darn cold!! We did less walking than I had envisioned, but we still made it to the Rodin Museum, the Liberty Bell, and some other tourist sites. We also ate. And ate and ate and are some more.

We started at Gianna’s, on 6th and Lombard. This oft-spoke of hole in the wall is home of the best vegetarian Philly cheese steak I’ve ever had. I especially appreciate that they will make them to order, because my mother greatly appreciated the addition of banana peppers and lettuce to hers. J, my step-dad has the 1-pounder cheese steak and declared it one of the best sandwiches he’s ever had.

Dinner that night was quite an affair. Mom had requested somewhere nice that I hadn’t gone to before and that I normally couldn’t afford. Since almost everything falls in that category, I had a lot of room for decisions. I finally hit on the Caribou Café, a French bistro and venerable Philly institution. I was a little nervous, because I had read some sketchy reviews, but it was actually lovely. I had a Kir Royale as an aperitif—I haven’t had one since I was 16 and visiting Paris. I think they tasted better across the Atlantic. I had a mixed salad with beets for an appetizer, while Mom had pate and J. enjoyed escargot. I went classic with my entrée, choosing steak frites—and wow, was it good! Mom, who doesn’t eat red meat, got the duck medallions, while J. chose the scallops. I tried the duck and it was also lovely—Caribou gets 10 extra points for the cherry sauce! Dessert was, probably, the best part of the meal. J. got 2 mountainous profiteroles whose exuberant ice cream and chocolate sauce could barely be contained. Mom got some delightful chocolate concoction while I maintained my classic sensibilities and has crème brulee. Overall, the ambiance was pleasant, the service was excellent, and the food was tasty—especially those profiteroles.

We followed this spectacularness the next day with brunch at Rx, my favorite brunch spot a few blocks away from my apartment. I love everything about that place—the décor, the ceiling fans, the coffee, the coffee cups, the eggs, the eggs Florentine, the bacon, the potatoes, the bacon. There’s a lot to love. Go. Now. You’ll love it too.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Comfort food and colds

Well, Happy New Year, everyone. Aren’t you a little tired of hearing it? I am. Even though I am very, very excited about 2009. I hope it will be a time of great growth and change for me—fingers are crossed!!!

However, I seem to be starting the year out with an incipient cold. Now, I’m due in Connecticut for a long weekend with my darling GF on Thursday. She’s a Connecticut native and I love visiting her family. We’re going to sample the romantic and gastronomic (???) pleasures of that strange state. Which means, of course, that I can’t get sick. I’m pretty good at beating off colds, so hopefully I’ll prevail.

But I was feeling pretty pathetic last night by the time I got home and started thinking about dinner. I don’t have much on hand right now—since I’m leaving for 5 days, I didn’t want to buy too much fresh stuff. I wanted garlic to be the star ingredient, mostly because it is so good for immune systems and warding off illnesses. I’ve also been craving strongly flavored foods; I’ve been adding red pepper flakes to everything I make recently. They were also part of last night’s dinner, as was dried oregano.

So I put some penne onto the stove to cook and diced 2 cloves of garlic—a hefty amount for a 1-person sized portion. As I was heating up the olive oil, I realized that the meal was asking for some protein. So I dumped some chickpeas onto low heat with the garlic and sautéed them until they were warm with the slightest hint of crisp. Mixed with the penne and some parmesan cheese, the entire result was a hot, comforting dish. The garlic was barely cooked, so a lot of its good stuff remained; the chick peas, in turn, mellowed the garlic and provided a lot of nice texture. Kale braised in chicken broth would have been a nice side (alas, I had no kale) as well as an additional vehicle for garlic.