2015 in Review

I haven’t done a year in review on this blog before, but now that I’ve been doing monthly updates for more than a year it seems like an easier task.

Photos

Here are my 9 most-liked photos on Instagram – surprisingly not all food!

hollyphl_2015bestnine

Here is a set I put together on Flickr of my best photos of 2015:

https://www.flickr.com/gp/htomren/JC3N3V

Life in Philly

I think most of the story is best told in the above pictures, but let’s see. It was another ridiculously cold winter as far as I’m concerned, especially with the Polar Vortex. Spring seemed like it took forever to come, but luckily, the rest of the year was pretty pleasant.

Eww

This year, we saw the opening of Cira Green, a new rooftop park in University City. We had a friend move to the neighborhood, so that has made for more social outings. Tom started a new job, which means a change of scenery for him as well as no more walking to work together.

Cira Green

Philly’s major event this year was the Pope visit, for which we got some time off work due to all the transportation closures. Tom and I had a very enjoyable “Popecation”, as detailed in our blog post.

Portapotties for the Pope visit

Travel

Despite the fact the neither Tom nor I went to ALA Midwinter or Annual conferences, we did still manage to get out of town a few times. We each took a few brief, short work trips on our own – me to Austin and DC, Tom to the Denver area. We took a far-too-short trip in August to New Haven, CT for a friend’s engagement party; we look forward to going up that way again and having a longer visit (hopefully this time without the train breaking down!). Finally, we also took a short trip to the Pocono Mountains part of PA for my cousin’s wedding. Not only was it a nice change of scenery, it was good to find out that I have some local family.

Austin, TX
New Haven, CT
Shawnee-on-Delaware, PA

Dining In

It was another good year of making delicious foods at home. We continue to actively use Pinterest to curate recipes and try new things. Some highlights of our home cooking this year include:

  • After watching lots of Mind of a Chef with Sean Brock and reading Sean Brock’s cookbook, Heritage, we ordered a bunch of grains from Anson Mills. The quality was amazing, and we especially enjoyed the Carolina gold rice.
  • I had some sichuan pepper that I didn’t know what to do with, so I looked up a bunch of Sichuan recipes, acquired some additional ingredients, and made quite a few different dishes. Spicy and delicious!
  • I finally made chilaquiles from scratch, including baking tortilla chips. If I had known making chips was that easy in college (without deep frying) I could have saved a lot of money!
  • Thanks to a great ricotta gnocchi recipe, I got over my fear of making gnocchi from scratch.
  • As usual, everything is better with an egg on it. This year, Tom figured out how to perfectly poach eggs!
  • We had some great experiences with French boxed wine from the state store. However, sadly, my local wine ship in CA stopped shipping to PA. 😦
Clams in black bean sauce – a favorite recipe from this year

Dining Out

We had lots of fun eating out this year. Besides new openings, I’d say there was somewhat of a theme of FINALLY trying places that have been in our neighborhood all along.

  • We finally went to Audrey Claire and loved it! Tom had been wanting to go for 20-some-odd years. Not only is it delicious, but it always ends up seeming ridiculously cheap.
  • We finally tried both NY pizza places near our apartment! So far, we like Randazzo’s best.
  • We finally had food at South Philadelphia Tap Room. Man, have we been missing out.
  • Despite having been many times for dinner, we finally had brunch at Standard Tap and Amis, both pretty incredible.
Brunch at Standard Tap

New openings:

  • We were excited for Tria Fitler Square to finally open, after Dmitri’s closed. It is our new favorite Tria, especially since it has brunch.
  • We really enjoy Southgate, the new Korean place across the street from us, but we wish they were open during the day for some day drinking, as well as on Mondays.
  • Toward the end of the year we were able to make it to Buckminster’s, one of our new favorite places.
  • We tried Kanella‘s new incarnation in the former Village Belle space, and it holds its place as one of the best restaurants in the city, but even better with a liquor license.
Tria Fitler Square

New to us:

  • We went to Zeppoli for Tom’s birthday, which also included navigating Patco for the first time. Delicious!
  • We found out that Dizengoff hummus makes for a great lunch on the go, or quick takeout when we’re home sick.
  • We tried the deliciousness that is Brigantessa, including their amaro program. We wish we could go there all the time.
  • Abe Fisher was an unexpected treat. On paper, it seems a little intimidating, but we expanded our horizons by trying new things.
  • I was glad to finally get to Petruce, which was every bit as good as I hoped, though too expensive for regular visits. I don’t know how much longer it will be around, but it was nice while it lasted.
  • We finally made it to Bing Bing Dim Sum and loved it. Much like Brigantessa, if we lived closer to EPX, we’d be there all the time.
burrata at Zeppoli

Places we loved on our Staycation:

  • We were blown away by Victor Cafe – not only was the opera top notch, but the food was some of the best Italian-American we’ve ever had
  • Similarly, we loved the hospitality and the food at Modo Mio‘s Sugo Sunday
  • The Mexican food at Mole Poblano & Blue Corn was excellent
  • We fell in love with the “new” Northern Liberties places Heritage & Bardot

Last but not least, a highlight of 2015 was being asked to curate a guest burger at Rex 1516!

rexburger-instagram

DIY

The last few years for me have been all about making bitters. That tapered off a bit this year, though I still created a new carrot bitters recipe that was well received. My other alcohol-related project was an attempt at nocino, in which I special ordered green walnut months in advance. In the latter half of the year, I tried fermenting my first kimchi and quite liked it. Finally, on a non-food related note, at the end of the year I re-taught myself how to sew and made Tom a Christmas stocking!

Books

This year I set a goal of reading 15 books and read 42. You can see all the books on my Goodreads 2015 reading challenge. I really do need to set my goal higher for next year, but I always have it in my head that I probably won’t read more than 1 book per month.

Toward the beginning of the year I was pretty good about getting some library books to diversify my reading, especially after the ALA book award winners were announced. My favorites of these were Brown Girl Dreaming and My Name is Not Easy.

I spent a good chunk of the year re-reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson, and following that with a read of the Malazan Empire series by Ian Cameron Esslemont. I was glad to see how everything finally ended, but overall felt pretty “meh” about the Esslemont books. The Erikson books as as wonderful as ever, and I’m looking forward to next year’s release of the second book in his Kharkanas trilogy.

In August Robin Hobb’s latest installment in the Fitz and the Fool series (Fool’s Quest) came out, and I read it (as well as the previous book in the series, Fool’s Assassin) over and over again. At first I was mad because I thought Fitz was going to live relatively happily ever after at the end of Fool’s Fate, but I’m thrilled to be back in his world.

Other

  • This year I tried Stitch Fix as a way to get some new clothes, without having to pick them out myself, and so far I really love it. I hate shopping, so having a personal stylist is just what I need.
  • Since Tom got a new job part way through the year, we no longer walk to work together, so I started listening to some podcasts. My regular podcasts include Undisclosed, Truth & Justice, Local Mouthful, Fresh Air, WTF with Marc Maron, and Writing Excuses.
  • We did get to see some live music this year, including a Philadelphia Orchestra concert in the park, Friday night jazz at the art museum, and live jazz at Heritage.

2016

So, what’s in store for 2016? Our only planned conference travel is to ALA Midwinter in Boston in January. The other conference I’m planning on attending is in Philadelphia this year. Neither of us have any desire to go to Orlando, so ALA Annual is off the table. Who knows if anything else will come up. Other than work travel, we hope this is the year we make it back to Long Beach, CA for a visit!

I certainly want to keep up with all the food adventures, both dining in and out. Getting up to Northern Liberties and down to South Philly more often would be wonderful. My cousin got me a fermentation book for Christmas so I hope to make more homemade things such as bread and cheese. I hope to read a few books each month and continue to use the library to check out things outside the fantasy genre. Stitch Fix has been great, so I look forward to continuing that through each season. I also look forward to getting another sewing kit to make some more Christmas decorations.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I do have some loose ideas for 2016, in addition to what I’ve mentioned above, which I’ll discuss further in another post.

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