November 2017: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

This was my last month working in University City(!), so I did my best to savor the walk to work on the Schuylkill as well as all the food on the way. I made sure to sample all the breakfast pastries and sandwiches at Walnut Street Cafe, Res Ipsa, and Rival Bros (though I live near the latter, I probably won’t go there as often since it won’t be on the way to work anymore). I was fortunate to get to have lots of lunches and parties with work people, including at COOP, Zavino, Sabrina’s, Lemon Grass, and Sang Kee.

Farewell gifts from work

Finally, I had Thanksgiving Break and about a week off to finish the month. It’s finally feeling autumnal, though there wasn’t much in the way of fall color in the city. While my time off between jobs was far too short, it was a nice combination of relaxing and running errands that I normally don’t have time for when I’m working, plus a bit of personal care. I took my Kindle to the patio as well as to some parks and cafés. It’s hard to imagine you’re on the beach when you’re not, but that’s the mindset I tried to evoke.

Farmers’ Markets

We’re fully into Fall, and have embraced all the squash and apples that that entails. I always especially love our farmers’ market bounty the weekend before Thanksgiving and all the extra goodies we get for the festivities.

Wine

We went to a Thankgiving-themed wine class at Jet Wine Bar, which was enjoyable as always. Our favorites were the Domaine Plageoles Gallac Mauzac Nature 2015 and the Domaine de Botheland Laurence et Remi Dufaitre, Beaujolais-Villages L’Air de Rien 2013. The Tenuta la Favola Nero d’Avola Sicilia 2015 was also quite nice, not nearly as fruity as most Nero d’Avolas.

This month’s State Store wine club was another disappointment. The theme was South Africa, and I got a so-so sauvignon blanc and a pinotage. If this mediocrity keeps up I’m going to have to cancel.

Thanksgiving

We had two Thanksgiving meals, one for the two of us and one with Tom’s mother and brother. This year, we got all of our recipes from The Apple Lover’s Cookbook. We also got some fantastic hard ciders from Ploughman Farm Cider.

Thursday:

  • Tennessee Cornbread Dressing with Sausage and Apple
  • Cider-glazed Root Vegetables
  • Braised Brisket with Apples and Hard Cider
  • green beans
  • desserts from The Baker’s Jar

Friday

  • We brought Squash Apple Gratin and an Apple Walnut Salad with gorgonzola and radicchio
  • Tom’s brother and mother made turkey, gravy, savory bread pudding, cranberry sauce, green beans, pumpkin pie, and coconut cream pie

Between both meals, the leftovers kept us going for most of the next week!

Dining In

We got exhausted with hunting down new recipes, so instead we revisited some past “recipe success”

Scallops with apple cider glaze

One new recipe we tried was the pasta e fagioli soup from Preserving Italy, which was absolutely fantastic. We will definitely have to make it again soon! Part of what made it so excellent was the “pesto abruzzeze” that was also in the book – as well as some really fantastic 1732 meats pancetta.

Dining Out

We got out to a few regular places as well as some other places where we hadn’t been in awhile:

Luke’s Lobster

We also got to try a few new places, which was exciting:

  • Keen is finally open! We’ve been waiting for this for years. We had some snacks and beers and really enjoyed the vibe at the bar. We look forward to going back soon.
  • We went to Second District Brewing on one of my days off and both the food and the beer were delicious. We will definitely be getting back there during winter break.
  • I tried the Turducken sandwich from Jake’s Sandwich Board, which was great. I definitely need to try more sandwiches from there.
  • I got takeout from Mama’s Vegetarian, and the falafel, hummus, and pita, were all deserving of the high praise.
  • I tried the new(ish) Rival Bros on Spruce Street – the food and coffee weren’t different from the one on Lombard, but it was nice to experience it in a somewhat bigger space.
KEEN
Second District Brewing
Rival Bros
Mama’s Vegetarian

DIY

The canning season is officially over, so I didn’t do much in the way of preservation or other DIY projects this month. The Food In Jars Mastery Challenge was fermentation this month, but since I’ve been fermenting for over a year I didn’t feel obligated to participate. I did make:

  • pesto abruzzeze from Preserving Italy
  • healing bitters
  • fermented mustard greens
  • cranberry fruit paste – I used this recipe to use up some leftover cranberries. It didn’t set as well as my apple-pear paste last month – I think it may have needed to cook longer in the saucepan before I transferred it to the oven, as it just didn’t seem to want to lose all its liquid and was still kind of jam-like.
  • quark – I made this to use some extra buttermilk. It’s somewhere between yogurt and cheese, like sour cream but made with milk instead of cream. It was way easier to make than yogurt, so I can see making this as an alternative.

We didn’t open many of the preserves from previous months, but we did finally try my blueberry chutney with roasted chicken, which was very good.

Books

  • Akata Warrior – this was amazing, I loved it. Tom helped me find my print copy of Akata Witch, which I plan to read (re-read?) soon.
  • Strange the Dreamer – wow! I am blown away by the imagination of Laini Taylor. Toward the end I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a standalone book or the first in a series, and… of course it turns out to be the first in a series, so I’ll have to patiently wait to see what happens next!
  • Provenance – this was also quite enjoyable. I didn’t realize it was going to touch so much on the events of the Ancillary Justice series. The main character had a serious case of imposter syndrome that was realistically portrayed to the point where it was giving me anxiety, which I have mixed feelings about, but overall, a great new installation in this universe.
  • Gemina – the second book in the Illuminae Files series. I got this in print from the library since the first book of the series was so frustrating to read on the Kindle. That was definitely the right choice as there are so many powerful scenes conveyed through the art rather than with words. This certainly encouraged me to continue this series whenever the 3rd book comes out, as well as to check out Illuminae in print to re-read it in its native format.
  • A Conjuring of Light – the third book and conclusion to the Shades of Magic series. It was a satisfying ending, but for some reason I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first and second books.
  • Oathbringer – the 3rd book in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive. Despite being a 1200+ page book, I found it to be not very substantial – kind of like the later Wheel of Time books. I might feel differently on a re-read, but I overall just feel like this entry didn’t move the series forward significantly. I also probably was less interested since the primary character this time around was Dalinar, whom I find to be a bit of a yawn.
  • Borne – Tom had checked this out from the library and recommended it – a very thoughtful and imaginative tale.

Stitch Fix

I got a great Stitch Fix and kept all 5 pieces:

Current Air Ghita Mini Pleat Bell Sleeve Blouse, Brixon Ivy Cyndi Lace Pencil Skirt
Leota Seraphina Cotton Blend Textured Knit Dress
Octavia Joyce Infinity Check Skarf, 41 Hawthorn Rayma Blazer

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October 2017: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

Most of the interesting things that happened this month in Philadelphia were during our staycation, which I’ll discuss more below. Other than that, the highlight was going to our friend Emily’s for a “Tea & Kittens” party, in which she served an English afternoon tea and we got to meet her new kittens. I brought over some black currant jam I had made earlier in the summer, and Tom made scones. Emily made a delicious spread of tea sandwiches and even more scones with clotted cream.

Tea & Kittens

New York

My childhood friend Heather was in New York for a few weeks for work/school, and she invited me up for a get-together with another childhood friend, Melissa, who lives in NYC. I took a bus up and back the same day, and the three of us got together for lunch and a walk on the High Line. It was great to see them, and all in all, a nice little trip.

Friends

Staycation

At the end of the month, at long last, it was our week long staycation in Philadelphia! We’ll blog about it in more depth at SuperPlus Eats, but in the meantime here’s a rundown:

Day 0: We got off to an unofficial kickoff after work on Thursday, with cocktails at Friday Saturday Sunday and Rosario’s pizza delivery at home.

Cocktails at Friday Saturday Sunday; Rosario’s pizza at home

Day 1: I still had to work on Friday, but Tom had the day off and went to 3 movies! Afterwards we met at a South Philly classic Italian-American place, Dante & Luigi’s. We shared appetizers of roasted peppers and broccoli rabe. I got the perciatelli bolognese, their specialty, which was a veal ragu with bucatini noodles.

Dante & Luigi’s

Day 2: We started the day with a trip to the farmers’ market, followed by brunch at Cuba Libre. We enjoyed the chips & dips and some brunchy cocktails. I had the brunch paella for my entree, and we shared some churros for dessert. It was OK but I wouldn’t be in a big hurry to return. After that, Tom went to a movie, and we had dinner at home.

Brunch at Cuba Libre

Day 3: This was a pretty special day, in which we were joined by Tom’s brother Dennis. We started with brunch at Walnut Street Cafe, which was delicious. Afterwards, we visited Cira Green, then went down to the Walnut Street dock to catch a boat tour to Bartram’s Garden. As with our last Schuylkill River boat tour, we really enjoyed the trip and the very informative guide. We had 2 hours at Bartram’s Garden before we had to catch the boat back, which included a 1 hour guided tour and 1 hour on our own to explore. None of us had been to Bartram’s Garden before, and we all loved it. After the boat tour, we were able to grab a beer at 24 Cafe before Dennis headed home, and we went home and cooked up some scallops.  We finished the evening with a movie at the film festival, Lady Bird.

Bartram’s Garden

Day 4: This was another fun day. We started the day with breakfast at Sam’s Morning Glory Diner, where I got the neighborhood frittata (provalone, spinach, red peppers). Afterwards, we visited the new Museum of the American Revolution, followed by a beer at Twisted Tail. Tom went to the movies, and then later we met up for dinner at Barcelona Wine Bar. We shared cheese, charred tomatoes, shishito peppers, octopus, and meatballs, along with some lovely glasses of wine. Afterwards we checked out ITV for a cocktail.

Zagar in South Philly on Day 4

Day 5: This was a bit of a lazy day. We had originally set this day aside, without any movies, thinking we would go on more of a day trip outside the city. However, we both got a little sick, and it turned out to be raining most of the day, so instead it was just a nice peaceful day at home to relax. We went out for lunch at Dan Dan to get some spicy noodle soup, and then for dinner we went to a new place in the neighborhood, Trattoria Carina, for some Italian comfort food. Both outings were wonderful.

Lunch at Dan Dan
Dinner at Trattoria Carina

Day 6: This was another fun day. We had breakfast at On Point Bistro, where I got a proper huevos rancheros. We went to a movie together, the Norwegian movie Thelma. Afterwards we headed up to Fishtown for dinner at Root wine bar. It was happy hour, so we enjoyed some of their innovative gin & tonics, as well as a bunch of appetizers and wines by the glass. The fennel zeppoli and mushroom croquetas were real standouts, as were the mushroom toast, tomato toast, and cheese plate.

Huevos Rancheros at On Point Bistro
Gin & Tonic at Root

Day 7: This day was a little hit or miss. We had wanted to go to Porto, a Portuguese restaurant, for breakfast, but found out it was permanently closed. We went to Hawthorne’s instead, which was OK; the breakfast was nothing special, but overall we did like the vibe. Tom went to the movies, then we met up for drinks at Bar One and then dinner at Monsu. We both got the menu turista at Monsu, which is a total steal for $40. In fact it was far too much food and we both stuffed ourselves and felt super bloated afterwards. I would definitely go back, though, just pace it differently and try to mix in more vegetables. I got calamari, rabbit agnolotti, beef cheek, and panna cotta.

Spicy Negroni at Bar One

Day 8: The day got off to a special start with lunch at El Compadre. As with last year’s visit to South Philly Barbacoa, we were treated to outstanding food and hospitality. The cafe de olla alone is worth the visit, but we also really enjoyed the chicken mole tortas. Chef Cristina treated us to some complimentary apple bread as well as some pumpkin atole. We definitely need to make it back here more often. After lunch, Tom went to the movies, and then we met up for dinner at Melograno, an Italian BYOB not far from where we live that we had been meaning to get to for 6 years. The food and service were excellent, and we look forward to going back there as well. I had a chestnut pasta with vegetables, as well as a smoked tuna appetizer with cannellini beans.

El Compadre

Day 9: We started the day with our weekly trip to the farmers’ markets, this time having to stock up on more food since staycation was almost over. After that we went to brunch at Blue Duck on Broad, which might have been the biggest disappointment of staycation. The food was actually OK (I got the duck benedict, which was most memorable due to the use of potato rolls and not so much for the duck), but the vibe sucked – no draft beer, too many TVs, too many bros. We went to a movie together, 11/8/16, which turned out to be our last movie of the film festival. Afterwards we got a drink and some calamari at Whetstone, then went home and cooked dinner.

Duck Benedict at Blue Duck on Broad

Day 10: Last day of staycation! A big rainstorm came in so we didn’t go to any movies, though we had originally planned to see at least the animated shorts and possibly also the live action shorts. Our original brunch plans didn’t work out, either, but we made up for it by visiting Sweet Lou at Rex 1516 and had a delightful brunch there. I got the chipped brisket, which was excellent, and Tom got the fried chicken & waffles. We went home and relaxed the rest of the afternoon, then finished staycation at Pumpkin. Our courses included butternut squash soup, purple sweet potato, sunflower seed risotto, sausage for Tom and salmon for me, chocolate cake for Tom and panna cotta for me.

It was all over too soon. I want another week!

Farmers’ Markets

Tomatoes are definitely winding down – I still bought a few large tomatoes as well as some green tomatoes, but cherry tomatoes are done – they’re still at the farmers’ market but they don’t last more than a day. No more corn, zucchini, or peaches. We’re still buying plenty of peppers, but we’re not quite ready for winter squash. We did buy a lot of apples, so it appears that’s the easiest way to ease into fall!

colorful tomatoes

We made a special trip to Headhouse farmers’ market one week, where we got pink oyster mushroom from Queen’s Farm, a delightful radicchio, and some amazing Anadama bread from High Street on Market.

Headhouse Farmers’ Market

Wine

I got my biannual wine club shipment from Tablas Creek. We enjoyed all three of the whites, but the three reds all need to age some more before we open them. I made an extra order of a new wine they offered for the first time this year, a picardin, but it was way too fruity for our tastes; we can’t drink it, so we’ll save it for cooking.

The state store wine club this month was nothing to write home about. There wasn’t really a theme other than “new releases.” The red was a Ribera del Duero, which was fine. The white was a Napa chardonnay, which was unsurprisingly too oaky and fruit for us.

Dining In

We didn’t cook much this month due to Staycation. However, earlier in the month we did have some very nice home cooking successes:

Scallops with pea puree – photo by Tom Ipri

Dining Out

Most of this month’s dining out is described above in Staycation, however before that we did have a few other lovely outings. When my dad was still in town, we had brunch at Noord, which was probably my favorite brunch of the month and perhaps even the whole year. The hospitality was excellent; I felt like I was dining with family. The food was amazing: fresh hot rustic bread, bottomless French press coffee, and seasonal vegetables including some wonderful heirloom tomatoes. I can’t wait to go back! We also took my dad to Pumpkin, which meant we actually went there twice this month. Turned out we hadn’t been for 3 years, so we’re making up for lost time.

Brunch at Noord

I had a day off for the holiday that shall not be named, and we had a delightful lunch at Cheu Noodle Bar.

Cheu Noodle Bar

DIY

This month’s Food in Jars Mastery Challenge was a choice between pressure canning or dehydration. Well, pressure canning definitely wasn’t happening due to equipment, and anything interesting with dehydration would involve a dedicated dehydrator, so that didn’t happen either. Yeah, I accidentally dehydrated some herbs by leaving them out, but that doesn’t count. So, I didn’t participate in this month’s challenge, but finished up the last of the projects I had previously bookmarked in Preserving Italy and Saving the Season.

First off, I wanted to make stuff with green tomatoes:

  • green tomato preserves from Preserving Italy
  • green tomato chutney from Saving the Season
  • pickled green tomatoes from Saving the Season

I also wanted to finish up an idea I had last month to make crushed tomatoes with all different colors of heirloom tomatoes. I just like the idea in winter that I could make a “red” sauce that is actually green, yellow, or orange.

Multi-colored crushed heirloom tomatoes. Photo by Tom Ipri

I made one more batch each of peach butter and apple butter, primarily for gifts. I really loved how the color turned out on my apple butter, which involved 1 honeycrisp, 1 mutsu, 1 stayman winesap, and 1 crimson crisp. The crimson crisp added a lovely pink hue to everything.

The last few things I wanted to make included:

  • roasted red pepper escabeche from Saving the Season – I used esplette, cherry bomb, and red serrano peppers, in lieu of red jalapeño
  • pickled green beans from Saving the Season (cold pack)
  • fennel relish from Saving the Season

When we went to Headhouse farmers’ market they had some Anaheim green chilies, so I just couldn’t resist making another batch of salsa verde.

Finally, though this is ahead of schedule for the FIJ mastery challenge, I decided to make a fruit paste, the apple-pear paste from Preserving Italy. It looks great!

Apples and pears for fruit paste

We opened a few jars from previous months’ preserves:

  • small batch tomato sauce from Preserving Italy – this turned out well
  • first batch of crushed tomatoes from Saving the Season – a bit unremarkable, but this was my first try, so we’ll see how the others turn out
  • hot sauce – I’m still so pleased with how this turned out
  • apple butter and peach butter – these are just leftover bits that didn’t get canned, but they’re fun nonetheless
  • green tomato preserves – this was also a leftover bit, but man, this is definitely one of my favorites of the entire year – green tomatoes + vanilla is such a lovely sweet & savory combination
  • black currant jam – we opened this to bring to a tea party, and it was just lovely with scones. I like how the tartness balances out the sweetness
  • spiced tomato jam from Preserving Italy – this was more like a marmalade in texture – it must have been lemon zest + chili peppers that created the effect. It’s very different from the Sean Brock version that was more ketchup-like in texture.

Books

  • I started the month reading Illuminae, which is a bit hard to explain, but sort of a space opera. It was definitely not a good experience on the Kindle due to its elaborate, artistic layout; the Kindle did not allow for zooming appropriately, so many pages were just lost to me. I’m sure it’s much more immersive in print. Either way I was not into the epistolary style with the story being told via documents, chat messages, etc. It reminded me of not-so-good teen novels I read when I was focusing on YA lit in library school. But despite my dislike of the format, by the end I did get into the story and wanted to find out what happens next. I’ll just have to read the sequels in print.
  • Next up I read a Star Wars canon novel, Rebel Rising, Jyn Erso’s story from the time Galen was abducted and her mother died, to the beginning of Rogue One. Unlike the Rogue One novelization, Jyn’s voice felt authentic and believable. She had quite the rough life, and it worked for me to have her reach her nadir and completely give up on hope just prior to the events of Rogue One, making the movie all the more impactful.
  • We got a few cookbooks on sale from Amazon. Tom got the Apple Lover’s Cookbook, which is really fun both for the recipes as well as apple nerdery. So far we’ve made apple risotto and an apple walnut radicchio salad. I also got Fermented Vegetables, which was a good addition to my fermentation collection, but much more focused on large batch crock fermentation, which means I’ll be unlikely to try most of the recipes anytime soon.
  • A Gathering of Shadows – I finally got this from my hold list; it’s the second book of the Shades of Magic series. I read it really quickly because it’s so engaging; I love this series and can’t wait to get the next one!
  • Akata Warrior – I started this toward the end of the month but did not finish; it’s really good so far!

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