June 2016: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

We spent the first part of June away from Philly, and when we returned, a lot of stuff was going on. One of our friends was in town for a library conference, and another was in town for a leadership residency, so we had a few nice weeknights out on the town, which is unusual for us.

The first day of summer brought a heat wave along with it, just when our building decided to do maintenance on the air conditioning, which was about for about 36 hours. Luckily, we had a plan to get out of the apartment for most of that time, and ended up trying 3 new places in one night!

Continuing on our theme of being way more social than usual this month, we went with a friend to a Philadelphia Orchestra concert at The Mann Center, featuring an all-Tchaikovsky program, with fireworks afterward. We also went to a gathering of librarians & lawyers on a friend-of-a-friend’s South Philly rooftop, which was quite enjoyable.

View from the Mann Center
Fireworks at the Mann Center
South Philly rooftop view

Finally, we went to another BYO night at the PFS Roxy Theater, this time watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It was fun as always, but it was a bit of a bummer that there weren’t more people there.

Travel

We spent the first week of June in my hometown of Long Beach, California! It was a wonderful vacation. We stayed in the heart of my old neighborhood and walked just about everywhere. One day we broke our walking record and walked nearly 35,000 steps, over 13 miles! We had a nice mix of visiting friends and family and peaceful time on our own (though we probably could have used more of the latter!).

Day 0: After a long drive to Long Beach from LAX, we had a simple dinner of pizza & salad at La Parolaccia Osteria with our friend Sarah and my brother Mike. I was hoping to reconnect with chef/owner Stefano, but alas, he wasn’t there that night.

Broadway & Junipero, Long Beach, CA

Day 1: We started the day with a nice walk on the beach (and some crispy sunburns), then had brunch at Starling Diner. Afterwards, I had a haircut with Robert at Spa Sidney. On my way, I had walked by The Attic, and wow, what an upgrade from when it was Lasher’s! We ended up hanging out at their outdoor bar and having a beer & happy hour snacks in the afternoon. Then it was off to Old Vine Cafe for a truly amazing meal courtesy of chef Marc McDonald. I had a burrata caprese with flash-fried arugula, and rabbit mole, each with superb wine pairings. We had wonderful company with a lot of laughter over dinner.

Starling Diner
breakfast bruschetta and eggs benjamin at Starling Diner
Old Vine Cafe
caprese and rabbit mole at Old Vine Cafe

Day 2: We ended up accidentally walking all the way to downtown Long Beach on our morning beach walk, so had breakfast at The Breakfast Bar, before I returned to Spa Sidney, this time for a facial. Afterwards to we wandered down to Second Street to try Saint & Second for happy hour, and that was quite a transformation from the old Hof’s Hut! Really great space with excellent food & drinks. My other brother, Erik, arrived from Seattle, and we met up for dinner. We tried heading to Los Compadres, but it was too crowded, so we ended up back at Holé Molé, where I had my much-dreamed of bean & cheese burrito, along with an excellent Ensendada style fish taco and a crunchy potato taco.

Long Beach Day 2
Long Beach Day 2

Day 3: We had brunch at The Attic, then met up with my dad at The Wine Country for their Saturday wine tasting, which featured rosés from the south of France. Next we stopped by La Española, a Spanish market in Harbor City, so we could stock up on ingredients for Mike’s paella the next day. Then we went up to Redondo Beach to spend the night at my dad’s. We walked to the pier for dinner and ended up having an unexpected meal at a Basque restaurant, A Basq Kitchen.

FGT benedict at The Attic; The Wine Country; Redondo Beach Pier
FGT benedict at The Attic; The Wine Country; Redondo Beach Pier

Day 4: Still in Redondo Beach, we went to Polly’s on the Pier for breakfast, and I had some quite good huevos rancheros. We went to Quality Seafood so that Mike could pick up all the seafood he needed for the paella. Then we headed back to my dad’s place to prep the paella and other dishes we were preparing for the potluck. As guests arrived, we had a nice time visiting with friends and family. Afterwards, we were exhausted and glad to get back to Long Beach, where we cuddled up and watched Game of Thrones on Tom’s iPad.

Huevos rancheros at Polly's on the Pier; Quality Seafood
Huevos rancheros at Polly’s on the Pier; Quality Seafood
friends & family
friends & family

Day 5: We had breakfast at Hole Mole so I could get my breakfast burrito fix, and Tom had the huevos rancheros. Later we ended up at Restauration for some afternoon drinks and snacks. That’s another place that had transformed for the better, with space and food/drinks much nicer than its predecessor (Bistro 212). That was a truly pleasant surprise, and we loved the food, including savory churros! Later that evening we returned to Saint and Second for dinner and drinks, then met up with our friend Sarah again.

Restauration LB
Restauration LB
Saint and Second
Saint and Second

Day 6: We met my friend Lynn for breakfast and coffee at The Brass Lamp in downtown Long Beach, then headed over to Seal Beach for lunch at Beachwood BBQ. The Seal Beach pier had recently been burned to a crisp so that was a bummer. Our last meal in Long Beach turned out to be one the best, at Panxa Cocina, yet another place that is much better than the restaurant that used to be at that location (Christy’s). Panxa features New Mexico food, which is hard to find outside New Mexico. This was a more gourmet spin – I had pork adovada with burrata, which was exquisite.

Seal Beach pier
Beachwood BBQ
Panxa Cocina
Panxa Cocina

Day 7: We had to leave early so we could spend an hour in LA traffic, then had breakfast at the Border Grill “food truck” at LAX. I’m glad we got to spend as much time in Long Beach as we did, but I wanted more!

Dining Out 

Besides all our meals in Long Beach, a highlight of this month was being invited to dinner at the exclusive Union League in Philadelphia (fortunately, our friends treated!). Photos were prohibited, so we just have to do our best to remember the experience. I had a foie gras tart as my starter, a wonderful bacon-wrapped rabbit loin for my entree, and a cheese plate for dessert. We had two wonderful bottles of wine, and excellent company.

On the night that our air conditioning was out, we had a fairly epic night out. We started with wine & snacks at Tredici; it was a great experience, especially the saffron arancini, and we were glad it wasn’t too crowded. Next, we went to Bud & Marilyn’s for dinner. Everything was very good, but so heavy; I’m glad we went there, but I don’t think I would be in a big rush to return. Afterward we went to Double Knot for cocktails, which was fantastic. I really want to go back there for dinner! Also, props to our building for trying to make things more comfortable and providing complimentary Hub Bub iced coffee that morning.

Hub Bub iced coffee, wine at Tredici, dinner at Bud & Marilyn's, cocktails at Double Knot
Hub Bub iced coffee, wine at Tredici, dinner at Bud & Marilyn’s, cocktails at Double Knot

On another hot summer night when we were headed to a friend’s place in South Philly, we made a detour to Brigantessa to try their frozen negronis, which hit the spot.

frozen Negronis at Brigantessa
frozen Negronis at Brigantessa

Finally, toward the end of the month, we once again went to a BYO night at Cafe Lutecia. It was amazing! We started with an assortment of tapas, including vegetable terrine, an adorable mini-croque-madame with quail egg, and a mini-paella, in cute little cast iron skillets. For larger dishes, we got some garlic shrimp and a duck confit salad. For “dessert” we had more tapas, brie & cherry jam on toast.

BYO night at Cafe Lutecia
BYO night at Cafe Lutecia

Dining In

We tried several recipes this month that turned out very well:

Springtime carbonara

We also bought some Huy Fong Chili Garlic sauce that we have been using on everything from veggies to chicken to eggs to fish.

Farmers Markets

We were sure that by the time we got back to Philly, spring would be over, and asparagus would be gone from the market, but we were wrong! We continued to have asparagus and loaded up on peas for the rest of the month, and we started to get berries and cherries. Still no tomatoes, though!

Farmers’ market haul 6/11/16

DIY

I pickled some snap peas, which turned out pretty well. I also made two more attempts at kvass and am officially done with kvass. First, I tried a recipe for Sunny Herb Kvass, which was a massive fail. It started off promising, but the herbs went bad before the fermentation time was up. I decided to follow my instincts more the next time (fill the bottle to the top, stop when colors start changing no matter what the fermentation time says, use pickle pipe to monitor the aroma). With that in mind, I started a batch of cucumber fennel kvass. I stopped the fermentation when it felt right (after about 3-4 days) and bottled it. I tried it a few days later, and… there’s nothing wrong with it, I just realized, I really don’t want to drink kvass! I was hoping it was going to be a magical beverage that would replace diet soda, but I just don’t find it at all tasty or delicious. So that’s that.

snappy pea pickles

I also tried my first infused salt (with rosemary), since I like using flavored salts on my homemade crackers but they can get pretty expensive. It’s not complicated, but I did learn that putting the salt in the coffee grinder is a delicate matter. My salt got pulverized into a powder, which makes it more difficult to use. It also isn’t very intense as far as flavor, so I’ll keep that in mind for next time.

Books

While traveling, I re-read Terry Pratchett’s Wee Free Men. It was just as enjoyable as I remembered it (last time I read it was at least 10 years ago, when I worked at a public library and read a lot of YA). I do want to read the rest of the Tiffany Aching series since it was once of the last things Terry Pratchett wrote before he died.

Before our trip, I had started re-reading Fall of Light (Book 2 of the Kharkanas series), but since it is hardcover I didn’t want to bring it on my plane, so instead I brought Forge of Darkness (Book 1 of the Karhakanas series), which I quite enjoyed re-reading.

Still in the Malazan world, while on the plane I started reading some of the free chapters from Dancer’s Lament posted on Tor.com. I enjoyed the excerpts so much that I decided to buy the book when I got home, and am still in the process of reading it. So far I really like it. I wasn’t sure if I was going to buy it since I didn’t really like most of Ian Cameron Esslemont’s Malazan books, but this book seems to be a great improvement and it takes place during a very interesting timeline with some familiar characters.

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