June 2017: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

It was a pretty good month in Philadelphia. At the beginning of the month we went and saw Wonder Woman, which was great. The weather was OK for the most part, so we took a few walks on the Schuylkill. We went to a nice garden party hosted by a couple we know who lives nearby. My place of work announced suddenly that they would be giving us half days on Friday all summer. I didn’t do anything too exciting my first Friday – I had sliced open my finger pretty bad on a blender blade the previous weekend, so I used that first half day going to the doctor to make sure it was healing OK. But after that I went to a threading salon, which I had been meaning to do for years, and the following Friday I checked out the new pop-up beer garden in University City, so that was fun. I’ll have to think of some more ideas for next month, both in terms of pampering as well as things like museums.

University City PHS pop-up garden
One Riverside
CHOP

Travel

We took our first-ever trip to New York City together since moving to Philadelphia. My friends David, Erika, and Ella were in NYC so that David could attend the SABR convention, and they invited us up to attend a Mets-Phillies game. We ended up having a free afternoon once we got there, and ended up at the Guggenheim, which was a special treat! I had no idea the museum had so many Kandinskys and all the expressionist art that I love. After that, we walked through Central Park and then found a place to cool off before taking the subway up to Flushing. The game itself was fun, and there were so many good food options to choose from at the ballpark, but we went with David Chang’s Fuku spicy chicken sandwiches. We stayed overnight and headed back to Philly the next morning. It was our first time taking the MegaBus, which was great on the way up and not-so-great on the way back; I’d do it again, but now with a little more info on which seats to reserve. We even got back to town in time for the farmers’ market!

Guggenheim
Central Park
Fuku spicy chicken sandwich at the Mets game

Farmers’ Markets

I am STILL dying for tomatoes; there was one week where we were lucky enough to snag a box of cherry tomatoes (the last one on the table), but for the most part June has still been tomato-free, which is super sad. However, we did get plenty of summer squash, peas, green beans, cherries, and cucumbers this month.

6/17/17
6/24/17

Dining In

A few of the fun things we made this month were of our own invention:

  • a Philly-style breakfast hash with provalone, broccoli rabe, and long hots
  • scallops and polenta with a king oyster “scallop” and fermented tomato sauce
Philly-style breakfast hash
sea scallops + mushroom “scallop”

For internet recipes, we enjoyed:

Brown butter scallops with burst tomato basil pasta

We also made a few recipes from The Indian Family Kitchen cookbook: a delightful green bean and roasted fennel salad, and a wet seafood rub that we used with Shore Catch cod from the farmers’ market.

green bean salad from The Indian Family Kitchen

Dining Out

We had a few fun date nights this month, including Pizzeria Vetri and bulgogi burgers at South Gate, and a few brunches out, including Sidecar and Marathon.

Pizzeria Vetri
Bulgogi burgers at South Gate

The highlight of the month was a special date night at Zahav, which we had reserved months in advance, in order to use an Open Table gift certificate. We splurged on the chef’s tasting menu, which included Zahav’s famous pomegranate-braised lamb shank, as well as salatim, hummus, and mezze. We could definitely make a meal just from the salatim and hummus, it was so much food! Everything was delicious, and the service was outstanding. We look forward to going back again sometime, as well as getting the cookbook to maybe make some of the salatim ourselves.

DIY 

I made a LOT of DIY food projects this month – it gives my brain something to do other than think about work.

  • I finished the fermented escabeche (carrot, onion, jalapeño) pickles I started last month – we ate them quickly, they were gone within a week! I would definitely make these again and again.
  • I made a lemon-coriander shrub, inspired by a drink at Friday Saturday Sunday. As with any shrub, I found it too sweet, despite the vinegar, but it seems more versatile than the strawberry shrub I made last month.
  • I started a batch of fermented soy sauce and miso, with recipes from DIY Fermentation, after buying some dried soy beans and koji starter. These will both take 1 year, so I’ve set them aside and try to leave them alone
  • I used the leftover pickle juice from the escabeche to make a pickled hard boiled egg – delicious!
  • I made a carrot & fennel agrodolce from Preserving Italy – a little too sweet, but still very tasty.
  • I made a couple half sours from DIY Fermentation, using some small Kirby cucumbers from the farmers’ market. They were spicy and crunchy, and although I used black tea for tannins rather than grape leaves, they weren’t at all discolored.
  • I made sour cherries in boozy syrup from Preserving Italy. – they’re good, but they’re not pitted, so one just has to be careful.
  • I sprouted some garbanzo beans to make sprouted hummus from DIY Fermentation. The week before I had tried sprouting some other grains that didn’t turn out very well, but the garbanzo beans sprouted really easily. The hummus is a bit more raw and gritty tasting than with cooked garbanzo beans, but it’s interesting. I’m just so spoiled with the Zahav hummus recipe, but I can see this version appealing to people on a raw diet.
  • For the Food in Jars mastery challenge (a bit late for the May cold pack preserving challenge), I made spicy pickled green beans, using fennel seed instead of dill seed – it tastes like pepperoni pizza! This recipe is a keeper.
  • I made David Lebowitz’s black currant jam (jam was the June Food in Jars challenge, so I’m mostly caught up). I haven’t actually tried it yet.
  • I made fermented ketchup from DIY Fermentation – it didn’t really get very bubbly, so I think using whey from store-bought yogurt wasn’t very effective, even though it is local yogurt. Either way, it’s still delicious, with delightful spices.
  • I made David Lebowitz’s tonic water – I tried making a gin & tonic with it, but it overwhelmingly grapefruity to the point of distraction. I don’t think I would do this again.
  • Finally, I made some granola, using a 5-ingredient recipe I saw on a morning flight home from Vegas many years ago
drying sour cherries
soy sauce day 5
carrots and fennel agrodolce
sprouted garbanzo beans
spicy pickled green beans

Books

I didn’t read too much this month, at least not anything too substantial. I started with v.7 of Saga, in which a whole lot of crazy stuff happened. After having read so much Old Man’s War last month, I read The B-Team, the first installment of The Human Division, the 5th book of the series, which was originally published as 12 serialized parts. I wasn’t particularly motivated to continue, though, so I lost some reading momentum. Lindy West had been making the interview rounds on several of the podcasts I listen to, so I finally read her book, Shrill, which I had won in a Goodreads giveaway earlier in the year. I am not a huge fan of the memoir genre, but this one got progressively better as it went along. I also read a short story by Wil Wheaton, Dead Trees Give No Shelter, as I’ve been enjoying the re-boot of his podcast as well. I was just thinking to myself, geez, when I first got my Kindle, I put some Free Library ebooks on hold and never heard anything, when I finally got a notification that my hold was available and checked out to me. Given my experience with academic library ebooks, I expected Overdrive to be a pain in the ass. But it was incredibly smooth and easy to get the library book on my Kindle, and it even showed up in my Shared library so that Tom could read it, too! I was very pleased with the experience and made sure to put some more books on hold so that I can save some Kindle $. The book in question, by the way, was Catalyst, a Star Wars novel that introduces the characters from Rogue One. I thought the book was really interesting and provided a lot of insight into the characters, making the events of Rogue One all the more heartbreaking. Tom had checked out the Rogue One novelization from his library, so that was a natural follow up to finish the month. I didn’t like the Rogue One novel as much as the movie, as I thought it actually made Jyn Erso seem weak and flighty instead of strong and bad-ass.

 

 

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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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June 2015: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

At the beginning of the month, Tom was off work for a week between jobs, so I took one day off as well so we could hang out. We walked all the way down to South Bowl, with stops at Royal TavernMoonshine Philly, and the S.S. United States along the way.

S.S. United States

It’s hard to believe it’s already summer. As usual, spring went by too quickly. Despite the heat, it doesn’t quite feel like summer yet. I’m waiting for local tomatoes at the farmers’ market (there have been a few, but not many). We did, however, pick up literally the very last bunch of asparagus at the market until next year. We are also enjoying cherry season.

Frecon Farms cherries

There have been a lot of summer thunderstorms, but some very nice days as well.

View from the Walnut Street Bridge

Travel

I took a quick trip to Washington, DC for business. I ate at a delightful Turkish restaurant, Ezmè, where I got a 5 course meal for $35, with some excellent selections of Turkish wine.

Ezmè Washington DC

Dining Out

We’ve revived a Friday night tradition of going out for “date night.” This month we went to Caffe Casta Diva, Audrey Claire, Zavino, and Abe Fisher. This was our second time at Audrey Claire recently, and we continue to really enjoy it. It was our first time at Abe Fisher, and wow, what a treat. The service was excellent, the food was delicious, and the drinks were incredible. We will definitely be returning.

Abe Fisher

We also went to brunch at Amis one weekend, which was a treat. It wasn’t crowded, and all the food and drinks were fantastic.

Baked pecorino with honey at Amis

Dining In

I made several good pappardelle recipes this month, including pappardelle with broccolini and crunchy gremolata, and creamy leek and pancetta pappardelle for two.

pappardelle with broccolini and crunchy gremolata

Inspired by a dish I used to have at La Parolaccia, I bought some cuttlefish-ink pasta, whipped up a simple lemon-cream sauce, and served it with seared scallops.

For awhile now I’ve had a growing list of ingredients I wanted to get next time I was at an Asian market, but one night I ended up just ordering them online. I used these newly acquired ingredients to make Spring Pad Thai with Asparagus and Peas, Sichuan Dry Fried Green BeansRed Curry Chicken with Snow Peas (pictured below), Kaitlin’s Special Noodles, and Kung Pao Fish. Several of the recipes use Szechuan peppercorns, so I’ve also been trying to get a feel for what my tolerance level is for those (the proportions in Kaitlin’s Special Noodles were just about right for me).

Red Curry Chicken with Snow Peas

I didn’t take a picture, but I also tried a great recipe for a Korean spinach side dish. I actually made it with kale, not spinach, but I think the recipe would work for any similar leafy green. I love gochujang with pretty much anything, and this recipe is really simple with great flavors.

Books

In my ongoing read of Ian Cameron Esslemont’s Malazan Empire series, I read Orb Sceptre Throne. It was my favorite Esslemont book so far. Though it’s still no Erikson, I thought it very much captured the same tone and feel of the city of Darujistan and its characters from Erikson’s Dust of Dreams. It helped that there were some familiar characters from Erikson’s series, but in this book I actually liked some of Esslemont’s new characters, especially the Seguleh.

I also read The Three Body Problem, which is book one of a Chinese science fiction series by Cixin Liu. The science of it is engaging and interesting, as is the setting, alternating between the Cultural Revolution and present day China. I will definitely be reading the other two books in the series when they become available in English.

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