March 2017: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

After an unseasonably warm February, it got cold again in March, culminating in a NorEaster storm, which we were fortunate enough to miss most of because we were in California! After our return, we still had to trudge through snow and ice on un-shoveled sidewalks for another few days.

Yuck

I had my oral surgery to remove a benign cyst, which had been postponed from last month. I’ve never been one to fear or even dislike the dentist’s office, but this ranked up there as one of the most unpleasant procedures I’ve had. My mouth was a mess for a good few weeks, and it’s possible that I may experience side effects in the future, including loss of feeling in the roof of my mouth, as well as potential loss of my two front teeth, due to the fact that the surgery disrupted a nerve as well as my roots. Hopefully not. In the meantime, I won’t be able to bite into anything with my front teeth for a few more months.

California!

The highlight of the month was a somewhat last minute trip to California for my cousin’s wedding. The wedding was in Goleta, so we spent two nights in Carpinteria and one one night in Buellton. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. We enjoyed the small-town beachiness of Carpinteria and enjoyed food and drinks at Jack’s Bistro, Corktree Cellars Wine Bar, and Island Brewing. The wedding was lovely, and it was great to spend a little bit of time with my family. The day after the wedding, we drove to a few wineries, including Cambria and Zaca Mesa, then came back through Solvang. For dinner, we went to the Hitching Post, which was excellent. We had a couple bottles of local wine, and shared appetizers of hot quail legs and poblano pepper stuffed with cheese and shrimp. I had smoked duck, Tom had baby back ribs, and Mike had a pork chop, all of us taking advantage of the Santa Maria style BBQ. We finished up with some smoky negronis, which was a nice way to close out our trip. We got up ass-early the next morning to drive down to LAX…

…and then all flights to the east coast got canceled due to the storm. Luckily we made due by taking the light rail down to Long Beach, where we drank some beers at Congregation Ale House (Beachwood BBQ is closed on Mondays else we’d have been there), found a hotel, did some laundry, walked on the beach, and had another dinner with my brother Mike at Padre, a place we that had been on our Long Beach list from last year. So while it was a little stressful dealing with the travel delay, it wasn’t bad to have another day in California, even if it did mean missing out on a snow day off from work.

My California album:

Jack's Bistro

 

Tom’s California album:

Randy's Donuts

 

Baltimore

Toward the end of the month, I accompanied Tom on a trip to Baltimore for a few days, where he attended the ACRL conference. It was a quick and easy train trip down, and we enjoyed a few days of eating lots of crab and biscuits, as well as visiting with some friends who live there and/or were also there for the conference.

My Baltimore album:

Inner Harbor

 

Tom’s Baltimore album:

Stained Glass at Baltimore Pennsylvania Station

 

Farmers’ Markets

Nothing exciting this month, but I did get a beautiful cabbage – half was used for recipe testing, the other half was turned into sauerkraut!

Dining In

Most of the cooking I did this month was recipe testing for A Good Carrot, a food blog which will officially launch in April. Those recipes included:

Of these, my favorites were the chicken and pinto bean stew, from which we enjoyed leftovers for awhile, the zucchini hummus, which was quicker and easier than traditional hummus, and the broccoli basil pesto, which we used three times, once with salmon, once with shrimp, and once with chicken. I also really liked the soothing thyme honey tea, which really helped with my lingering cough.

Shaved Zucchini Salad with Garbanzo Beans & Herbs + Shrimp with Broccoli-Basil Pesto and Farro. Photo by Tom Ipri
Chicken and Pinto Bean Stew. Photo by Tom Ipri

In addition to recipe testing, I cooked some special meals for the weekend after Tom’s birthday (described more below!), and I also finally got some 1732 meats guanciale and made pasta alla gricia. Toward the end of the month, after being disrupted by travel several times, we finally got back on track with home cooking and made tandoori-spiced salmon with cucumber-pomegranate raita, tagliatelle with yogurt & onions, coq au riesling, and baked pasta with merguez and harissa.

Coq au Riesling. Photo by Tom Ipri

Dining Out

Other than Tom’s birthday and our travels out of town, we didn’t eat out at all in Philadelphia this month! The closest we came was breakfast before work one day at La Va Cafe.

Burekas at La Va Cafe

Tom’s Birthday, Part 2

As mentioned last month, Tom’s birthday fell in the middle of the week, so our celebrations were mostly the weekend before (in February) and the weekend after (in March).

Our dining out excursion was to one of Tom’s favorite Philadelphia restaurants, Victor Cafe, where we had a wonderful dinner. Earlier in the day we went to a movie, and since we got to the restaurant a little early, we enjoyed some pre-dinner drinks in the lounge.

Victor Cafe

Since the previous week’s birthday brunch recipe had gone awry, we did a do-over, this time with a Croque Monseieur breakfast casserole, which turned out great.

Baked croque monsieur casserole

I also made us a snack of queso fundido alla tequila, and a dinner of chicken enchiladas.

Queso fundido alla tequila
chicken enchiladas

DIY

My garlic honey, started in January, is just hanging out, in month two. It will be ready near the end of April.

garlic honey in progress

I started a batch of New World Rye Kraut from Ferment Your Vegetables, since I had some extra cabbage. It’s a simple sauerkraut with caraway seeds. It won’t be ready until mid-April, but it already smells wonderful.

Books

This month is probably a new reading record for me, thanks to the Kindle, which makes it easier to impulse buy books when you’re still on a high from the last one, especially books in a series.

I started the month by finishing Daniel Jose Older’s Half Resurrection Blues, which I really enjoyed. It was the first in a series, so I’ll probably read the next book sometime soon. Next up, I read Ahsoka, a Star Wars book I had been wanting to read since it came out last fall, but hadn’t wanted to buy it hardcover. I have a friend who didn’t think much of it, but I liked it quite a bit. Next, I read Binti, which I had bought but not read some time ago, and its sequel, Binti : Home. These are fantastic; I really like Nnedi Okarafor’s sci-fi. On our trip to California, I read Dune for the first time. It was nothing like what I thought it would be, in a good way. According to reviews, Herbert kind of peaked with Dune and each sequel gets successively worse, but I do want to at least read the 2nd book and maybe the 3rd. In the meantime, I read Daughter of Smoke & Bone, which I had bought for Kindle years ago and hadn’t read. In fact it had been so long since I bought it, I didn’t remember anything about it, not even its genre (turns out, it’s young adult fantasy) or what had inspired me to buy it in the first place, so it was interesting going in cold. It turned out to be the first book of a trilogy, and completely addictive, so I bought books 2 and 3 as well. I enjoyed them all so much that I re-read the whole trilogy again the following week. That left me with a bit of a post-series crash where I wasn’t sure what to read next. I ended up reading Bloodline, a Star Wars novel about Princess Leia; it got off to a slow start, so much so that I got bored and gave up for a few days, but I did eventually finish it by the end of the month, and by the end I enjoyed it and wanted to know what was going to happen next.

Last Month’s Update