Life in Philly
The month started out really cold, but we had some nice 40s-ish weather toward the end of the month. We checked out Christmas Village and City Hall a couple times, but we didn’t manage to see the new Dilworth Park light show.
Toward the end of the month, since we had the week off, we had a bit of a mini-staycation. We finally saw Shoplifters, which we had intended to see during the Philadelphia Film Festival, and I enjoyed that very much. We stopped in to see the new food hall at the Bourse, which was very impressive!
During the holiday break, I also started using Eat Your Books, a site that indexes print cookbooks as well as magazines and selected food blogs. As a librarian and cataloger, naturally I love me an index. The idea is that it makes it easier to use and cross-search recipes in the cookbooks you already own. It took a good bit of time to set up the cookbooks I own and bookmark the recipes I already knew I wanted to try or had cooked already; going back to Pinterest and adding my online recipes will be a whole other challenge. However, I do hope this can be a better alternative to managing recipes, as Pinterest gets more disappointing by the year, and it lacks the precision necessary to effectively search recipes by ingredient.
I’ve kept up with my streak in Duolingo and am still studying Spanish, French, and Chinese.
We went to Washington, DC this month for a work trip, which happened to take place on my birthday. I was busy at the conference most of the time, but Tom was able to do some DC sightseeing and take some wonderful pictures around town. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon, and celebrated my birthday one day early with dinner at Tail Up Goat, which lived up to its accolades. The food was delicious, but I was especially impressed with the wines. On Monday, my actual birthday, after the conference we went to Mama Ayeshas for dinner, which was a very good Syrian restaurant. We were near the zoo, so we checked out Zoo Lights, and then stopped for drinks at The Gin Joint. On Tuesday, I wrapped up my conference and we headed home. Though it was a short trip and I was busy with work, I really had a lovely time and look forward to our next DC visit.
Since we knew we would be out of town for my birthday, which fell on a Monday, we celebrated at home the weekend before, starting with brunch at Spice Finch. We shared a large order of shakshuka, which was really good, and also had a fattoush salad. For a home cooked meal, since we had been out of town for Thanksgiving, I asked Tom to make me a Thanksgiving dinner for my birthday. We got a turkey leg from Reading Terminal Market, on which we did a dry rub with Rancho Gordo New Mexico chile powder. Tom also made cranberry chutney, wild rice and corn souffle, apple-stuffed squash, and green beans with almonds. Of course, everything was delicious!
The week before Christmas, I made a bunch of cookies to bring to work. I brought two batches of vegan + gluten-free cookies (chickpea peanut butter, oatmeal date tahini), and two batches of cookies that included butter & eggs (buckwheat chocolate chip, thumbprint with homemade jams). Though I knew there were people that would eat the vegan & gluten free cookies, I was surprised at how popular they were. Even people without dietary restrictions asked for the peanut butter chickpea recipe, and one person was moved nearly to tears after not having been able to eat sweets all year due to health issues. I was able to bring leftover thumbprint cookies home to Tom, but since he missed out on the buckwheat chocolate chip, we made some more on Christmas.
We started our Christmas meals on the 23rd, which made it easier to enjoy fresh seafood from the farmers’ markets. That day, for brunch we made cheesy breakfast egg and polenta casserole, and for dinner we had fish posole stew with cod, clams, and shrimp. On the 24th, we went to breakfast at Parc, and spent all day making cassoulet from My Paris Kitchen. We’ve made cassoulet several times now, but this time was definitely the best, as it was the first time we finally had all the ingredients in place, including Rancho Gordo cassoulet beans and duck confit legs. We had a heck of a time finding a ham hock, but luckily everything came together. On Christmas Day, we made Spanish breakfast casserole – we had previously made this on Tom’s birthday and it got burned, so this was a bit of a do-over. We confirmed that the recipe is terribly flawed, though, so it wasn’t really our fault that it got burned the first time. It still got a little crispy, but it was much better this time. In the afternoon, we went to a movie, Mary Poppins Returns, and then we had an early dinner at SuGa.
As usual we exchanged gifts with each other and it was lovely. Tom got me the Rose Water & Orange Blossoms cookbook, which I’m excited to cook from, as well as a large mortar & pestle and DVDs of the Star Wars movies we didn’t own yet.
On New Year’s Eve, I cooked up half a batch of Rancho Gordo Lucky 2019 Black-Eyed Peas, using a recipe for Red Red (which also helped use up the end of my red palm oil). I had hoped to cook a side of collards, but none were to be found at the farmers’ markets. I had bought a batch of kale the previous week, but on the night of, alas, we found that that had slimed over. Luckily we had a tiny amount of spinach left and were able to make a salad, so we did have a smidge of greens. I also roasted up a purple sweet potato and served it simply with garlic yogurt. It was a very satisfying meal despite the mishaps. Earlier in the day, we enjoyed lunch at Cheu Noodle Bar.
For New Year’s Day, we had more of a BBQ theme for dinner. I made a batch of Santa Maria Pinquito beans, which though it was cooked on the stovetop, tasted better than any baked beans I’ve made to date. We roasted some chicken legs with a homemade BBQ sauce made from apple butter & peach butter, and Tom made a batch of corn muffins. We enjoyed this meal with a bottle of Paso Robles cab that I had gotten from Plonk. This, too, was a wonderful meal. Earlier in the day, we enjoyed lunch at Tio Flores.
There isn’t too much to say about the farmers’ markets this month, but my favorite thing was getting more dried pepper from Z Food Farm, including aleppo, urfa biber, and fatali, as we have been really loving their dried espelette pepper.
I got another uninspiring box from Tasting Room this month. It was fine, but nothing to get excited about. I’m not sure why I haven’t quit yet, I just keep thinking maybe something will get better; and in the meantime, even if it’s not great, it is wine that shows up at my doorstep.
This month’s Plonk white wine club was wonderful as always. It included a Grechetto from Lazio, a Godello from Spain, an Albariño from Spain, and a Vermentino from Corsica. I felt like some more wine for the holidays, so I ordered a “dinner party 6-pack” for the first time. I got a mixed pack that included three reds, a rosé, and two whites: Fableist cabernet sauvignon, Enkidu petite sirah, a rosso piceno from Le Marche (montepulciano & sangiovese blend), an Aligote Bourgogne, a Portuguese white, and a cab franc rosé from Bordeaux. I could actually see getting one of these every month.
Here were some of our other favorite recipes this month:
- Pasta & lentils – this sauce came out really “meaty”, almost like a bolognese
- Minestrone – this was delicious, and used up the last of my Marcella beans
- Sweet & spicy chicken – this was a repeat of a recipe we really liked, and it held up well
- Slow-roasted chicken over mushrooms – Tom read something about this using a whole chicken, but we just made up our own version, with two chicken legs nestled over maitake and cremini mushrooms at 325 for about 90 minutes.
- Spaghetti squash & Rambling Roots “comeback” sauce – we love this because it is so simple and satisfying
- Seafood stew from Koreatown cookbook – not as good as what we could get at a restaurant, but still a pretty good homemade version. I made a stock from anchovies and kombu per the recipe that was pretty fishy; in the future I might stick with a chicken broth.
- I heard an Ottolenghi interview on Good Food where he talked about melted butter with chile flakes as a simple Turkish-inspired sauce to drizzle over anything; we tried it over scallops and chard and it was delicious.
- Pistachio-crusted flounder, inspired by Rose Water & Orange Blossoms.
- Sweet rice with carrots & nuts from The New Persian Kitchen.
Other than our traveling and holidays, here’s where we ate out this month:
- date night and brunch at Rex
- dinner at SouthGate
- brunch at Twenty Manning – I really enjoyed my chilaquiles
- date night at Spice Finch bar – we enjoyed just getting some dips, crudite, and flatbread.
- dinner at Giussepe & Sons – this started off promising but was disappointing overall. The food was actually really good for the most part, and we enjoyed the good quality of house wine available by the carafe. Service was reasonably friendly, but the pacing was so terrible we have no interest in returning.
- lunch at Mike’s BBQ – I’m really glad we tried it, since it’s so popular, but I just can’t handle eating that much meat anymore. It was delicious, but afterwards we both felt awful and had to take a nap.
- coffee at Good Karma Cafe – we hadn’t been here in 6 years, since we first moved to the city. We really enjoyed getting coffee and bagels on a rainy day and just sitting by the window with our books.
- drinks at Friday Saturday Sunday – we hadn’t been in awhile, it’s always nice to go where they know us by name.
- lunch at Caffe Vienna – this is a relatively new place that opened up nearby, and we really enjoyed our sandwiches.
- I made carrot & daikon pickles from Naturally Sweet Food in Jars – they came out well, but I think this particular recipe would be better for sandwiches than snacking on by themselves.
- classic giardiniera from Preserving Italy (with romanesco instead of cauliflower) – I look forward to trying this!
- opened last year’s peach jam to put on chicken – this was good but chunkier than I expected
- opened peach saffron jam for cookies – this was unsurprisingly delicious
- opened apricot anise jam for cookies – this was unsurprisingly delicious
- opened apple jam for cookies – I’m not too excited about this, I don’t think I’d make it again
- opened carrot cake conserve for cookies – this is weird and delicious all at once
- opened LTP whole red hot peppers to add to Spanish breakfast casserole – I’m so glad to have these around! Next year I want to make more, but separate jars for each kind of pepper.
- opened last year’s apple butter & peach butter for BBQ sauce – really can’t go wrong with having apple or peach butter around!
- I re-read all three books in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series.
- I read Thrawn Alliances, which had a really intriguing premise, though I didn’t always enjoy the execution.
- My hold for A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax came up on Overdrive at a really inconvenient time when I was busy with work, but I managed to finish it in the last 2 days before it expired. It was fine.
- I finally finished Catch 22 (!), which I had started back in July when we were on vacation. It still remains one of my favorite books.
I got a Stitch Fix toward the beginning of the month that I didn’t care too much for, but I kept a jean jacket, and a silver-striped button-down shirt.
Last Month’s Update