Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Close to my house, only a twenty minute drive from these battle scarred blocks, I discovered a very different type of nature. The area around the Art Museum astounded me as I walked/jogged around it at sunset. Gazebos overlooking the river, the city, or latticed, raised, criss-crossing highways provide a lovely nook to have a romantic moment, or an opportunity to simply take in beauty while in a city. The paths for bikers and joggers are surrounded by green grass and greener waterways covered in algae. I was taken a aback by how beautiful the skyline is, and how foreign it was to the nature I had experienced previously in the same day.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
To begin with, they won major points with our table when they comped our pitcher of sangria (that I couldn't really afford anyway) to make up for our wait and for an incident in which a little bit of dessert was spilled on Josh's pants. A good manager is key to any smooth dining experience, and this guy knew what he was doing.
Then, our waiter was really patient with us, our many questions, and, well, with us in general. In typical tapas fashion, he kept the dishes coming and we were very infrequently without some sort of tasty morsel. He even brought Sam a spicy dipping sauce upon request while we waiting for the cascade of taste to begin.
What we loved:
We went crazy for the Chorizo Pamplona. I've had my fair share of chorizo in my day, but this was by far the tastiest one. It was literally bursting with flavor. We all decided that we would come back just for this juicy item. The assorted cheeses were good and served with honey. Even better though, were the various charcuterie. The jamon serrano was everything Josh could have hoped for, and the saucisson sec was perfect when piled on a crunchy piece of bread with honey and blue cheese.
The Duck was intense, topped with a black cherry that played nicely with the richness of the duck. The Pulpo (octopus) a bit rubbery for me, but this was made up for by the crisp salad of arugula, jamon serrano, mission figs, and fried goat cheese. After all this flavor packed food the bomba rice seemed a bit plain in comparison but it had a lovely texture and plenty of yummy morel mushrooms.
Dessert was a little disappointing, but the coffee and tea we ordered was all I really had room for at this point. The chocolate cake was delicious but so rich I could only eat a few morsels, and the second cake was dry and forgettable.
Would I go back? Yes! However, I would order far less that we were allowed for our $35 fixed menu next time. The food is so rich that a only few dishes would really have sufficed. Anyway, less food leaves more room for the sangria, right?
Monday, September 20, 2010
‘Cause people still be getting sassy on the SEPTA.
I preface this story by saying that I am a case manager and that part of my job is to go to my client’s homes. Most people drive to their cars to home visits, but I had run out of gas the day before and had decided to take the bus instead of putting money into the tank. As I left someone’s home at 5:15 I immediately regretted this decision as the rain turned into torrential downpour. I ran to the closest 33 bus stop and asked a woman already waiting there if I could share her umbrella. Finally the bus came, and soaking wet I stepped up and took a seat in the front. Turns out it was kind of raining in the bus as well and I switched sides to get away from a leak. A woman got on a few stops later, reeking of homelessness. She had the grey hood of her sweatshirt up and beady little eyes. She explained to the bus driver that she didn’t have any money but that she had got beat up in an alley and needed to get away from there. No matter, the bus driver told her she couldn’t ride the bus for free. The 33 starts in North Philly and has a different crowd that the 49 bus. No one on this bus was paying her fare. She sat down and the bus driver said, “Fine, we can wait until you get off.” People started shouting at her that she didn’t even want to take this bus, that she should take a different bus, and she shouted, ”What bus should I take?” “They said you should take the 68,” I replied and every one quickly yelled at me not to talk to her. Oops…trying to blend in while being the only white person on the bus FAIL. “What bus should I take?” she kept shouting at different people. Fortunately, for my soaking wet and blushing self, this bus driver was bluffing and in about 30 seconds said, “Fine, but as soon as we run into a police officer you gettin’ off this bus.” At this point the homeless woman changed her tune. Literally. She was silent for a second, looked around, and then started to fake cry at the top of her lungs like a three year old. “Whahhhhhh” she cried. The bus driver broke the tension as he broke out into a loud guffaw. Everyone else started laughing as her wails grew louder, eyes dry as the Sahara. The bus driver said, “Anyone got a camera? Someone should be taping this!! We have got to put this on Youtube!” She kept it up for a good while and the bus driver repeated his disbelief that no one was taping this, and eventually she stopped and moved to the back. I remarked to the bus driver that I was new to Philly but that I kept having these crazy experiences on the bus. “That’s the 33!” he replied.
When I eat out I like to get something I can’t make, and swanky Japanese seemed way outside the limits of my kitchen. We were not disappointed.
It may or may not be a requirement to sport tattoos if you work at Zama, but almost everyone seemed to have a few of them peeking out of their black uniforms if not crawling all the way down their arms. The vaulted ceiling in the middle of the restaurant was decorated with a pattern of white dots that formed circles and an absence of white dots left the images of koi fish playfully hiding among the dotted design. Light colored wooden bars lined the walls and the atmosphere was swanky but not pretentious.
Jennifer, our waitress, was very helpful with my many questions even after working a double. My miso was one of the best I’ve ever had. It had mtzsuba (a Japanese parsley) instead of the normal Kame seaweed. Josh’s salad was fresh to the max and tasted like greens should taste, not genetically engineered rabbit food. The ginger dressing was tasty too.
My spicy salmon roll was the perfect proportion of spicy, crunch, and fresh salmon, and although Josh had to wait a long time for his pork dumplings he enjoyed them. They tasted spicy and fried to me and not much else.
This lapse in timing was explained to us with apologies. The restaurant has a cold and a hot kitchen, so plates come out staggered, but still tasty and my annoyance changed quickly to delight as my black cod Saikyoyaki came out. It was garnished with a pink pickled scallion (I loooove anything pickled). It was buttery and the perfect balance of fish to ginger soy glaze. Josh’s sushi plate was about as delicious as nagiri and maki rolls can be. He’ll have to tell you about it though; it was so good he was only willing to share one piece.
not actually Josh's plate (thanks Google images while my camera charger remains incognito) but you get the idea
Oh, and then there was dessert. And did I mention that this was all for only 35 dollars? I had the peach bread pudding and Josh had the banana bomb. Yes, it was an explosion of banana, and my peach bread pudding was so soft and delectable that I resolved to find a recipe and attempt a remake at home.
All in all it was a lovely evening, and with the right cash flow I would return in the click of a chop stick! If you get the chance stop by before the end of next week cause these prices won’t last much longer…
Sunday, September 19, 2010
People be getting sassy on the SEPTA.
It started in my second week in Philly. I had taken the bus to Redding Terminal Market for some super fresh produce at super low prices. After navigating some construction I finally got on the 49 bus on Arch St and settled in to my seat in the front next to a couple of tired looking commuters. As we turned onto 22nd and headed north we pulled over to a stop and two young men got on. They explained in sassy tones with a stereotypically gay sounding inflection that they had just been robbed so they didn’t have their fare. The bus driver told them they could not ride the bus for free, and could they please step down? No, they informed him, they could not. The bus driver sat back and announced, “Fine, then we goin’ to sit here until you do.” A groan erupted from the already irritable passengers. Someone stepped up and paid one kid’s fare but no one else was willing to spare two dollars for sassy punk numero dos.
Great, I had to get on the one damn bus where the bus driver had decided to take a stand. My first SEPTA Mexican standoff. Being as shy as I am, I was the first of the passengers to pipe up. “Can you guys please just take a different bus?” It was all another young woman sitting across from me needed. “Yea,” she joined in. “Everyone else had their two dollars, why don’t you?” The guy that had taken a seat after someone paid his fair stood up and got in this woman’s face. “Um, because we got robbed!!” he sassed back. “We just came from the police station!” Stone faced she replied, “You know, I really don’t believe you.” And then all hell broke loose. “You don’t know anything bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch!” was all I really heard as he wagged his finger in front of her face. Then the kid in the front started to yell at the bus driver. “You so stupid! You letting all these people sit here for two dollars. You so stupid. You know why? Because you work for SEPTA. That’s right. You didn’t’ get your degree. I did, I went to Temple…blah blah blah.”
Wow, I think silently to myself, that just proved how meaningless a bachelor’s degree has become.
This was too much for most people. They started to get off the bus, walking seeming a better alternative to sitting and listen to some punk berate an honest SEPTA employee. As the crowd pushed their way off the bus a tall man followed. I thought he was getting off but instead he pushed them off with the crowd. “Who the fuck are you?” Shouted one of the punks?” “You don’t want to know,” replied the tall man.
As we started moving again a halfhearted cheer went up from the remaining passengers and we headed up 22nd. Whew, I thought, that was crazy. And then it got crazier. The guys started sprinting, uphill, after the bus, in flip flops. And these were some athletic fellows. The ran after us all the way to Fairmont, as we passed poor old ladies who didn’t understand why the bus driver stopped at the stop sign they stood in front of, but refused to open the door for them. They didn’t notice the grinning fools behind them. When we reached the traffic light at the Penitentiary they ran in front of the bus like they had been every time we stopped, but this time there was a loud bang. And a circular crack on the windshield in front of the bus driver’s face. The punks ran east and all that was left in their wake was a brick in the middle of the intersection.
“Oh hell no, I am not getting physically assaulted today!” Said that woman across from me as though today had been a tougher day than most and on other days this would have been totally ok. She got on her phone with 911, and the next thing I knew there were cop cars, and the bus driver was getting talked down by his supervisor. Even more people started to get off but the bus driver ushered them back on and we started back on our route fairly quickly. When I pulled the yellow rope at Girard I thought about what I would say to the bus driver as I got off. “Thank you sir,” I said. “I’m really sorry about all that,” he replied. “No, I’m sorry, those guys were jerks,” I said as I stepped down.
Stay tuned for more SEPTA sagas.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
After a botched attempt to get into the Grounds for Sculpture on free admission day, my friend Lana suggested that we head to Northern Liberties. It was a beautiful day, I was with a great friend, and headed to a neighborhood I had never been to. Does it get any better than that? Oh yes it does! Because Northern Liberties was having an outdoor market!
There were maybe twenty tables set up. There was the standard older women selling crazy costumes and vintage stuff that looks like costumes, some tacky jewelry, some original and beautiful jewelry, some girls my friend knew were selling some of their old clothes and decorations, and then there was our featured stall for the day.
Main Line Crêpe Co.
Location: Northern Liberties Main Plaza
Product: Sweet Crêpes
Price: $5 for one crêpe, $7 for two crêpes
The man behind the magic at Main Line Crêpe Co. is Matt. He stands at the ready behind his flat circular hot plate looking aloof in his stained white chef’s coat and black pants. He’s been making crêpes for eleven years, and with a practiced hand he pours the batter, uses the wooden crêpe spatula to spread the batter into a perfect circle, and flips it with an experienced flick of his wrist and his metal spatula. He’s got a lot of customers.
I’ve eaten crêpes many a times in the US and the batter is never so perfectly turned into a perfectly folded crêpe sans holes. So why does this guy who looks to be in his late twenties know how to so expertly work his crêpe magic? It’s an interesting story. Matt started making crêpes at the Renaissance Fair in Lancaster, PA. “How did you have to dress for that?” I asked. “Like a peasant” he responds as if that were perfectly normal. He eats but one crêpe per year and without hesitation he tells me that it’s a pumpkin pie crêpe. Ummm…I think…why aren’t you serving those today?
But Today he’s only making sweet crêpes out of strawberries, Nutella, chocolate, marshmallows, and a few other dessert items. As we chat he liberally doles out chocolate chips to a little boy. I go for strawberry and chocolate. The batter he uses is a little more exciting than the average French street crêpe. It’s got cinnamon and other wintery spices in it. It smells a little like the month of November.
He cooks the batter until it is crispy and light and then he is liberal with the filling. The finished product is covered in powdered sugar and I opt out of some whip cream thinking to myself that the French would sigh and shake their heads to see whipped cream on top of a street crêpe. While it is very different from a Parisian crêpe it is delicious. This one is folded over twice with either end open. In Paris they are much larger and folded four times into a triangle that is deposited into a triangular paper at eaten in your hands. Matt puts his on a paper plate and my friend Lana struggles with a fork as I pick it up and get pretty messy in the process. The ingredients are fresh though, and it tastes amazing.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
The First Unitarian Church is old, and made of stone that is peppered with beautiful windows of stained glass. Parts are covered in ivy. The railings are covered in bicycles and the steps draped with young people. A passerby comments on how odd it is that a bunch of kids are standing outside a church at this hour. As we sip our beers from the steps of a church across the street I note that it is quite funny to see this mixed crown of flannel and tye dye milling around outside of a church on a Friday night but soon we all head in to see Junk Culture take the stage leaving the bikes to their own devices.
our new friend: Deepak
Junk Culture is usually a guy named Deepak with his brother on the drums, but for this tour he's brought along Harrison instead and his tour manager, Will. They are a diverse bunch of guys from Mississippi who come together to play "cosmic r&b." They played a short set and caught my attention when they not even sampled but just straight up played Mily Cyrus' "Party In the USA" We were maybe three of five people who were into it but it showed a definite sense of humor.
Turns out they not only have a sense of humor but some guts. Over breakfast they told us about their beginings and how they left whatever school or work they were doing to pursue their passion for music. One Jetta, three Mississippians, and a killer road trip = one awesome tour. Check out their website for future tour dates in your area.
And back to the show...
What makes this venue so cool is that you can bring in your own alcohol. As we wait for Tobacco to come on we make friends with the people around us after one young Temple student gets yelled at by this awesome chick who is working the event for throwing his empty bottle against the wall. “Do you know who has to clean this up?” She shouts? “You?” the kid guesses.
Knowing absolutely nothing about music and less about the two bands we are here to see, I ask my new friend Evan (a more respectful Temple student) how he discovered Tobacco. This is the first time I hear the name Black Moth Super Rainbow and I make a note to look it up. Evan tells me that he likes the band because he likes dancing. A grin spreads across his face. It’s got a beat he tells me.
And the next thing I know we are all dancing to that beat and…Pterodactyl Porn? Naïve me didn’t even know this stuff existed, but the crowd does and the gives up a shout as this very specific porn video begins behind the band and front man Tom Fec wraps his mouth around a voice modulating device (a vocoder) attached to his mic. In his black and white trucker hat his eyes aren’t visible and this adds an air of mystery to the whole thing as he rocks it on his electric guitar. A girl in a black tank top and a low ponytail is to his left and plays what I imagine to be a key board and some other electronic devices. A crazy giant basketball with a face on it sits on one of the amps.
The video is crazy to the point of distraction. After the censored pterodactyl porn there’s a non-censored penis coming out of a hole in the middle of a table, eighties work out videos with women in crazy metallic high cut leotards, some wrestling , more porn that consists only of women’s faces as they orgasm and then some over the top video of a female ET like creature giving a blow job and then performing other acts of sex with various people.
But back to the music. On Wikipedia it says “their music contains elements of psychedelia, folk, electronica and pop. My new buddy Jim Smith put it so much better. Wen I ask Jim how he would describe the music he replies without hesitation. “Animal from the muppets with 5000 distorters mixed with robot vocals from another planet,” seems descriptive enough for me so I forget about trying to describe it and dance.
Two more members of the band come on stage. A drummer with a mustache and an FBI shirt and a guitarist with a ponytail totally change the sound to a harder, less electronic type of rock music as the modulated voice wails on. And then Sam starts a mosh pit.
The next thing I know our friend Sam (who brought us to this event) gives me a shove. And I shove back. Our new friend Evan is DTF and then so is everyone else. After one song I edge my way to the outside of the fray to enjoy the rest of the show.
After the show we hang around and talk to some people who have bought the album at the show.
Friday, September 3, 2010
Ah, a new blog. Its sort of what I imagine a white Christmas morning to be like. Since I've never had a Christmas morning, I'll have to assume that this crisp, unadulterated web space is just like waking up on Christmas morning to a fresh snow fall. So much anticipation!!! So many presents to open, bars and clubs to explore. Oh wait, we aren't in BA anymore, so not sure about the club scene...but I know there are museums, parks, and parties galore to explore here in my new home: Philly.
Philly welcomed us with open, sweltering hot and sweaty arms. Our two bedroom is still sans AC unit since every time I go to buy one they are sold out, but our view of center city, and nice kitchen and very large living room are already feeling a lot like home with the help and decorating skills of Aunt Ellen. I've got a new job that I start on Tuesday, and I'm itching to start exploring as soon as I can manage to stay in Philly for a full weekend!! We'll start with the free stuff until I get my first pay check, but I hope you will come for the ride with me! The blog will be mostly exploring Philly and will be a little more (hopefully) organized than http://juliasabroadblog.blogspot.com/. I look forward to comments!!!!! and suggestions. See you in Philly.