Montreal view


October 2018: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

As usual these past few years, it seemed to skip from summer to winter, skipping fall. It was difficult to transition so quickly to cold weather without more of a gradual buffer. There have definitely been a few crisp, fall days, though – basically the weather’s all over the place. Only toward the end of the month did we start to see some fall color.

I’ve continued to progress in my Duolingo Spanish lessons, and toward the end of the month I started reviewing French and Chinese as well. For French I tested out of the first 10 lessons and for Chinese the first 12, so I remember both fairly well.  I took a placement test for Norwegian that I utterly failed, which is sad but confirms that I learned very little in my 1998 immersion course.


I went to Henderson, NV and Las Vegas for a work conference. I really enjoyed myself and the weather – it’s the perfect time of year to be there. I didn’t rent a car so I was nervous about getting around, but I ended up using public transportation quite a bit. From my hotel (south of the Strip), I was able to take the RTC bus to my favorite places in Henderson (Eastern Ave) and also Town Square (luckily I did not need nor want to go to the Strip). The mobile app was super easy to use and a 24 hour residential pass was only $5; I was able to buy it on my credit card using the app and then scan a QR code on the bus. I only needed a Lyft twice, and people were super friendly. Despite obviously not being a pedestrian town and giant roads with people driving 60+, unlike Philly I felt like people waited for me to cross, looked for pedestrians, and did not actively try to hit me when I crossed the street. I hit some sentimental favorites for food, including Original Sunrise Cafe, BJs, Del Taco, In-n-Out, and El Pollo Loco, plus I had lunch at Shinya Maru Ramen with a colleague. I had never visited UNLV’s Lied Library before and was really impressed with the building.

Original Sunrise Cafe

El Pollo Loco


My work trip to Vegas bled right into our planned staycation, which, as with past years, coincided with the Philadelphia Film Festival (PFF27).

  • Day 1: we had breakfast at On Point Bistro, where I had breakfast nachos and Tom had a yogurt parfait. I worked during the day and Tom went to 3 movies. We met up for dinner at Noord, where I had a lovely endive & apple salad and a braised rabbit leg, while Tom had a spicy lamb casserole and fried fish over split peas.
    On Point Bistro

  • Day 2: we started the day with brunch at Suraya. We both had pastries, then Tom got tehina yogurt and I got labneh with veggies. We had a little time before our movie, so we explored Cherry Street Pier. We saw the movie All About Lily Chou Chou, which was very thought-provoking. Afterwards we had cider flights at Hale & True, and then cooked dinner at home. We made arctic char marinated with yogurt & garam masala, red lentil dhal, and roasted broccoli.

    Hale & True
  • Day 3: we went to brunch at Aksum Cafe, where I had fava beans & eggs, and Tom had chicken & waffles. It was really greet to see West Philly & Baltimore Ave, as we hadn’t really hung out in that neighborhood before. We saw one movie together (Studio 54), and then Tom saw another movie on his own (Cold War). We had dinner at Spice Finch, which was excellent. We shared charred carrot hummus, broccoli tabouleh, peri-peri shrimp, and baked cheese. We finished with a lovely dessert cocktail with armagnac, pineau des charentes, st germain reduction, montenegro, and angostura.

    Aksum Cafe
  • Day 4: we had breakfast at Sandler’s on 9th and both got the “train wreck” sandwich. Overall it was a really nice space with intriguing food, and we would be interested in going there again. We saw the movie Foreboding,  which I thought was quite good. We had an early dinner at Panorama, which is one of our sentimental favorite restaurants though we hadn’t been there in years. We enjoyed roasted hen of the woods mushrooms, pasta (tortellini & crespelle) & more pasta (rigatoni & pappardelle). After dinner we went to another movie, Non-Fiction, which was great.

  • Day 5: Unfortunately we both had to work, so that broke up vacation a bit. We met up for dinner at Oloroso, where we had charcuterie & cheese, grilled octopus, roasted cauliflower, wood oven brussels sprouts, clams, and bacalao croquetas.

  • Day 6: We started the day with breakfast at Queen Village Ants Pants, then we went to two movies: Ramen Shop and Asako I & II. We really enjoyed the former movie and were really disappointed by the latter. After the movies, we had beer & banchan at SouthGate, followed by dinner at Helm Rittenhouse. Our dishes at Helm included: okinawa potato, kale, chicken rillette; fig, blue cheese custard, prosciutto; cassoulet, veal, pear; sweet potato gnudi, goat cheese, roasted onion; corzetti, chestnut, matsutake; sunchoke latka, poblano, sunflower sour cream). The highlight of the meal was the sweet potato gnudi, but we enjoyed everything. Overall the food and experience was a lot  like Pumpkin, except without having to BYOB. We would definitely go again.
  • Day 7: We had breakfast at Knead Bagels, but it was a bit unsatisfying. We had some time, so we went to the Rail Park and revisited Cherry Street Pier (with much better weather). I liked getting a better sense of the artists’ community in the neighborhood near Fringe Arts and Painted Bride. Our afternoon movie was Ash is Purest White, which we followed with drinks & snacks at Royal Boucherie. We returned to Suraya for dinner and enjoyed fattouch, muhammara, whole grilled poussin with toum, and knafeh.
    Rail Park

    Cherry Street Pier
  • Day 8: we started the day with breakfast at Cafe Ynez. Tom went to several movies, while I stayed home and got a haircut & pedicure. We met up for beer at Sancho Pistolas, and then had dinner at Nunu. We enjoyed the yakitori tasting (chicken breast, chicken thigh w/scallion, scallops, milk toast w/cheese, chicken liver, potatoes) as well as dan dan squash salad, and more yakitori: mushrooms, brussels, chicken meatballs w/egg yolk, and hangar steak. We finished everything off with a sake flight, which was lovely.

  • Day 9: We were glad to get back to the farmers’ markets to stock up for vegetables for the coming week. We kept things simple by getting brunch at Marathon, where we both had whole wheat banana pancakes. Our afternoon  movie was  Long Day’s Journey into Night, and ended up being our last move of the film festival. We cooked dinner at home, including scallops, green beans, and leftovers from Helm.
  • Day 10: Tom’s back was hurting, so we skipped the movies and relaxed for the day. Our last dinner of staycation was a very special one, as it was our 9 year anniversary of meeting each other, and we decided to splurge with  a visit to Vetri. Our first meal there had been earlier this year for Tom’s birthday, and we had been looking forward to going again, especially in a different season.

It was probably the best staycation yet!

Farmers’ Markets

  • I thought I was done with tomatoes & peppers, but then I got the book Preservation Pantry and had to try a few things. I got green & red tomatoes, and sweet & hot peppers.
  • I saw fresh aleppo and urfa biber peppers at Z Food Farm and had to get them. Since I had no immediate plans for them, though, I decided to finally buy an immersion circulator so I could pickle these whole.
  • We missed a couple Saturdays between Las Vegas and Staycation, but we picked back up at the end of the month. I was actually glad to still be able to get peppers, though of course tomatoes are basically over. We did get our first few fall things, including some apples, persimmons, and a spaghetti squash.


I got wine shipments this month from Tablas Creek, The Tasting Room, and Plonk, but really the only thing worth mentioning is Plonk. As usual, the wines were very interesting, including an Auxerrois from Baden, a Passerina from Le Marche, a Greek blend of Malagousia, Assyrtiko and Roditis, and a Greek Moschofilero-Sauvignon Blanc blend.

Bean Club!

My bean club arrived while I was in Vegas, but Tom was kind enough to unbox it for me. I had joined a spoilers group so I knew which beans were coming, but still, it’s exciting when the box shows up. It was a rather polarizing shipment, at least on social media. There was a strong contingent of people who like things to be simple and uncomplicated who really seemed to gravitate toward the shipment, and there are people who are more experimental who found it boring. I lean closer to the latter camp, BUT, I recognize that the longer I am in the bean club, the more things will cease to seem new and interesting if I’ve had them before. Still, I think I’d rather buy the “basics” on my own and have the club shipment contain a few more special beans. That said, there were several new and special things in this shipment, including black-eyed peas for New Year’s (!), black (beluga) lentils, and Mexican stoneground chocolate. I’m excited about all of these things. Repeats for me included Midnight Black (one of my favorite beans, so it is always good to have it around), Marcella (again, a classic white bean, so wonderful to have around), Vacquero (I bought this a few months ago and really like it, but it was a little too soon to see it again. Nonetheless it is a tasty and versatile bean), and Garbanzo (I used garbanzos all the time for hummus, but the Rancho Gordo beans seem wasted in that context; I’d rather use these for recipes that call for whole garbanzos).

Dining In

  • Toward the beginning of the month, we made Jerusalem hummus from Zahav, with Spicy carrot salad from Jerusalem, and homemade pita bread. It was certainly tasty but I’m not sure I would make this at home again. It was a bit too much meat for us, and I think this is the sort of thing I would rather have out at a restaurant rather than at home. The spicy carrot salad, though, was of course lovely.
  • The first weekend of the month, we did some outdoor grilling with Dennis, with sausages from Rieker’s.
  • Sichuan mahi mahi – this was excellent, we should certainly make this again
  • Japchae from Koreatown cookbook – I’ve been cycling through a few different japchae recipes – you wouldn’t think it would be complicated, and it isn’t, but it’s interesting to see how different the recipes can be
  • Red lentil dhal from Dinner cookbook – you guys, this was a really good recipe. It was so much more convenient to use red lentils rather than yellow dal, and the tadka was really easy, the only whole spices were cumin and cardamom. While I happen to keep lots of spices around, this recipe would be totally doable without an Indian market or Amazon at one’s disposal.
  • Clams with fettucine & red sauce – Tom made this once while I was away and then we had it again toward the end of the month, and it was delightful.
  • Spaghetti squash with black beans and cheese – this was our first spaghetti squash of the season! We served it with corn tortillas, scallions, and homemade salsas (fermented red tomato salsa, salsa verde, and corn salsa)
Sausages from Rieker’s. Photo by Tom Ipri

Dining Out

Obviously our main Dining Out this month was for Staycation. Other than that, our most notable outings were brunch at TALK, where we had a fabulous meal, and Second District Brewing, where we went for a date night of Szechuan hot dogs.

Carrot beignets at TALK. Photo by Tom Ipri
Second District Brewing. Photo by Tom Ipri



  • green tomato enchilada sauce from Preservation Pantry – I’ve never made a salsa verde from green tomatoes rather than tomatillos, so this should be interesting. Luckily I was still able to find some green tomatoes at the market.
  • cherry bomb pepper “hot sauce” from Preservation Pantry – this seems more like a salsa; I’m not sure if it’s some kind of PNW regional thing to call this “hot sauce” but I would not call it that myself. Z Food Farm still had cherry bomb peppers so I took advantage of that.
  • I bought an immersion circulator!!! I started by making Low Temperature Pasteurization pickled peppers for aleppo and urfa biber red peppers. I was excited to see both types of peppers at the market but wasn’t sure how to use them right away, so I figured I’d pickle whole them for later. I only used garlic and vinegar so I hope they can be used in a variety of applications. Now that I have the immersion circulator, I’m super excited for other possibilities. It was really easy to use and I was impressed with its precision.
  • pear mostarda from Preserving Italy – this had been on my list for awhile but I hadn’t made it because it’s a 4+ day process. It’s pretty interesting, but it’s hard to find a use case for it. The pears got quite dense, almost more like dried apples. I used mustard oil since I didn’t have mustard essence, and I added some mustard seeds as well.
  • persimmon chutney from Preserving by the Pint – I wasn’t intending to make this, but I was inspired by the presence of persimmons at the market. It’s quite similar to a mango chutney recipe – I hadn’t thought of using persimmons that way, but it’s a good idea. I changed a few of the spices to add flavors from my favorite mango chutney recipe, as well as a little bourbon.
  • After staycation, we were well overdue for a fresh batch of hummus. To save time, I made the garbanzo beans in the pressure cooker.
photo by Tom Ipri


  • The matbucha and peperoncino cream were a hit with grilled vegetables – we finished bottles of both.
  • I had to toss jars of chili jam & cowboy candy from last year – the former lost all flavor, and the latter’s jelly liquified. Oh well.
  • We opened some more salsa verde & corn salsa – I’m so glad we have plenty of these to last through the winter.


  • Preservation Pantry – this was recommended on Food in Jars, and when I checked Amazon, I found that the Kindle version was on sale, so I jumped on it. This was one of my favorite preservation books in recent memory, and right away I made a few of the recipes. I really liked the way the author included practical recipes for using the preserves, and the way she approached each ingredient from a perspective of using all of the parts to avoid food waste.
  • Koreatown – I’d had this cookbook for awhile but hadn’t read it. I really liked it, especially since it had a lot of Los Angeles references. I’ve got so many recipes to try!
  • I started reading The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner, which is a collection of Terry Pratchett short stories, but frankly I got really bored, as a lot of these are pretty repetitive and not very good. Apparently he wrote these stories when he was quite young, in his late teens.
  • I was lucky to be able to finish There There, which through some Overdrive glitch I got to keep reading on my Kindle even though Tom’s copy had expired. It was excellent, and I’m glad to see it has been getting such acclaim.
  • New Persian Kitchen – this had been on my list for a few years, so I was thrilled when it went on sale. This book has so many amazing recipes, I feel like I bookmarked the whole thing.
  • The Spice Companion – Heather at Rex had recommended this to me several years ago, and I’m so glad I finally read it. I feel like I learned so much about spices, and I look forward to trying some new ideas.
  • I started reading The Art of Simple Food
  • The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax -I had been meaning to re-read this for years, and since I was in a bit of a fiction rut, I checked this out from the library. Except for some appalling orientalism, I thought the story held up pretty well.
  • I re-read Strange the Dreamer, which was one of my favorite books from last years, as the sequel had recently been released. I still love it.
  • Muse of Nightmares – this is the sequel to Strange the Dreamer, and I am thrilled that the author made this a duology rather than dragging it out into a longer series. This was wonderful, and the two books together make a delightful pair.
  • The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax – since they’re so easy to read, I thought I’d try another Mrs. Pollifax book. The formula gets old after awhile; I can’t see reading more than three of these. But it’s still entertaining.

Last Month’s Update