May 2017: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

Spring has not been behaving. It’s been mostly cold, then hot, then cold, and it’s been raining on and off. Where are the nice days in the 70s?!

View from the Walnut St bridge on a nice day

Overall, though, despite the weather, we’ve had a nice month in Philly. We took a South Street West walking tour via Jane’s Walk, led by our friend Marcus. We learned a few new things and enjoyed the company of our neighbors. We also went to our local neighborhood street festival, Plazapalooza. We even made it to our local beer garden twice this month!

Gray’s Ferry Triangles on the South Street walking tour
PHS South Street beer garden
Demolition begins at The Royal

Farmers’ Markets

It’s been a great month at the farmers’ markets, with asparagus and strawberries just about every weekend. We had to go 2 weekends without the Rittenhouse farmers’ market, which was a great excuse to go to Headhouse and get all the extra goodies there.

Headhouse farmers’ market bounty

Dining In

We’ve been able to keep up with a lot of home cooking this month. Here were some of our favorite new recipes:

No-fry Italian fried chicken
Apple cider chicken marsala
Beef asparagus stir fry
Shaved asparagus pizza
Roasted salmon from The Indian Family Kitchen
Spanish-inspired scallops

We’ve continued to try recipes from my friend’s food blog, A Good Carrot, though no longer in official recipe testing capacity. These were all delicious:

Cumin roasted carrots, Selva’s summer pilaf, salmon with za’atar salsa verde

Dining Out

We’ve been out a few times this month, mostly local favorites in the neighborhood, not much in the way of new places.

At the beginning of the month, we had a fun time at a Basque wine class at Jet Wine Bar.

We got out for a few brunches, which we hadn’t done in awhile – once at SouthGate, and once at Rex 1516.

Brunch at SouthGate

We went out for drinks and snacks after work a few times, both at Friday Saturday Sunday and at Tria Fitler Square.

Friday Saturday Sunday

We had an enjoyable date night one night at Sawatdee.

Curry pad thai at Sawatdee

At Plazapalooza, we finally tried Phoebe’s BBQ food cart, and at Headhouse Farmers’ Market we finally got to try Mom Mom’s Polish Food Cart.

Phoebe’s BBQ
Pierogis from Mom Mom’s Polish Food Cart

Finally, on Memorial Day, since we had the day off, we tried Butcher Bar for the first time, thinking we were in the mood for some meat in lieu of BBQing ourselves. Afterwards we treated ourselves to a drink at Village Whiskey.

Memorial Day lunch at Butcher Bar and Village Whiskey

DIY

We made a few things this month, starting with a new batch of homemade mustard. I tried a recipe for asparagus preserved in oil from Preserving Italy; it came out pretty well (though still not photogenic) compared to other preserved asparagus recipes I’ve tried, so I might try making another batch before asparagus season is over.

homemade mustard

I haven’t really been keeping up with the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge, but a few months late I did finally make a shrub for the first time, with strawberries and black pepper. It came out very nice, but I’m not sure how much I’ll use it.

Strawberry shrub -> gin cocktail

Tom got back into bread-making, this time with homemade biscuits. We enjoyed them with some fresh strawberries & cream.

Tom’s biscuits

Toward the end of the month I was itching to start fermenting again, so I got some early tomatoes from the farmers’ market to make some salsa, and I also started a batch of fermented escabeche (Mexican-style pickled carrots, onion & jalepeño).

Books

I started the month by finishing Midnight Taxi Tango, the second book in Daniel Jose Older’s Bone Street Rumba series. It was fine, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first book. I don’t remember what inspired me to do so, but I decided to re-read John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, which I had first read in 2009. It was as good as I remembered it, and I continued with the second book in that series, The Ghost Brigades, which I had never read before and also enjoyed. Then, finally (!), Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Fate came out, which is the last book of the Fitz and the Fool series and which I had been waiting for for a long time. It was a very satisfying end to a series that I was very invested in, and neatly wrapped up many storylines. However, I would have to say that it was a bit too obvious; it has less emotional impact because nothing was particularly unexpected, and I basically predicted the ending 2 years ago on a Robin Hobb forum. Anyway, that didn’t prevent me from re-reading it right away. Once I got through that, I picked back up with Old Man’s War and re-read The Last Colony and Zoe’s Tale (both tell the same story but from different POVs). Tom had told me about a cheap book on Kindle, DIY Fermentation, from which I got some interesting ideas for future projects.

Stitch Fix

I got a Stitch Fix for the first time in awhile. It was a good feeling, I definitely missed it (too bad I can’t afford to do it more often). I kept a beautiful skirt and a red top, and sent back a red purse, a white top, and a blue cardigan. We didn’t get a chance to take pictures, but I’ll try to take some next month. In the meantime here are some screenshots:

 

 

Last Month’s Update

May 2016: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

We don’t go to a lot of street festivals in Philly, due to our aversion to crowds, but we do love our neighborhood’s annual Plazapalooza. This year, we stopped by for a beer as well as some carnitas tacos from our favorite taco truck, Tacos Don Memo.

Plazapalooza 2016

Later in the month, we took a couple days off and visited this year’s Spruce Street Harbor Park. The themed park gets better each year, in my opinion. Since we went on a weekday when it wasn’t too busy, we were able to snag a hammock and relax a bit, play a round of skeeball and a game of Ms. PacMan at the arcade, before getting a beer and enjoying the beach chairs.

SSHP 2016
SSHP 2016

Farmers’ Markets

In addition to tons of asparagus, this month saw the return of strawberries:

Strawberries. Photo by Tom Ipri.

Dining In

We definitely took advantage of asparagus this month, buying around 5 bunches per week at the farmers’ markets. We did our usual asparagus things (asparagus + eggs, asparagus + pasta, asparagus as a side dish), but we also tried some new recipes this year.

Some of the new asparagus recipes that were keepers included a Spring Egg Puff, Asparagus Orzotte Verde, Sichuan Spring Vegetables, and an improvised dish with asparagus, peas, and clams, over farro.

spring clams with farro

I bought some fresh lemongrass stalks from the Fitler Square farmers’ market, which turned into some fun treats. I improvised a recipe in which I marinated fish (one week it was mahi mahi, another week it was tilefish) in chopped lemongrass, chili peppers, garlic, ginger, makrut lime leaves, lime juice, olive oil, and fish sauce. We also made a bacon & egg ramen recipe which uses lemongrass in the base.

Bacon & egg ramen

Other fun things we made this month included:

Garlic scallops

Dining Out

We took ourselves out to Buckminster’s for brunch again, and it was delicious. We each had the fried eggs with mole, beans, and sour cream.

Brunch at Buckminster’s

We also did a Friday night Date Night at SouthGate, which was delightful. We each had bibimbap, and we shared an appetizer of octopus with English peas, string bean kimchi, sweet potato puree, and squid ink crackers.

Date night at SouthGate

One on of our days off, we finally made it to Hungry Pigeon for breakfast. I had the breakfast sandwich, and Tom had biscuits and gravy. The atmosphere was open and comfortable. We like it there!

Hungry Pigeon

DIY

After last month’s failure, I made a second try at carrot kvass, this time with a different recipe. While it didn’t utterly fail, I can’t say I really like the results, unfortunately. I mean, I’ll drink it, I guess. But I’ve found that the leftover pickle juice from my pickled carrots was actually much more tasty than my intentional attempt at kvass.

My favorite thing I made this month had nothing to do with fermentation. One of my co-workers is from Saint Vincent island in the Caribbean, and she told me about Mauby drink and gave me some mauby bark to try. Since I am into bitters, this bitter drink sounded interesting and refreshing. I made a batch, and I like it – sort of like bitter iced tea, and I love the way it froths.

Mauby bark & Mauby drink

Toward the end of the month I pickled some asparagus and strawberries so that we can enjoy them when they’re no longer in season. I’m not sure how they turned out, but we’ll find out.

Books

Finally, Steven Erikson’s Fall of Light arrived! I had been waiting for this for awhile, the second book in the Kharkanas Trilogy. It was very intense and dense. Especially following Leckie’s Imperial Radch series (which some people think is complicated, but it’s nothing compared to this), this was quite a change of pace. It never quite occurred to me how Shakespearean Erikson can be. I definitely liked it overall but it needs many more re-reads to digest. In addition to some really interesting reveals about the origin of various elemental forces that make up this world, as well as just trying to keep up with the complicated plotlines, there’s a lot going on at a larger thematic level about the nature of “civilization,” religion, war, etc.

I also checked out Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper via interlibrary loan, and quite enjoyed it. It’s been labeled as YA urban fantasy, but to me this was straight up magical realism. I liked how the main character was able to both honor her culture and respect her elders when appropriate, but also buck its machismo and stand up to her elders when they are wrong. She’s a kickass character and I’m glad any teens reading this can have her as a role model. The book had been on my list for awhile, but I was motivated to request it since lately I’ve been following the author on Twitter and like what he has to say about culture, politics, etc.

Stitch Fix

I wanted more spring clothes, so I ordered another Stitch Fix for May. This time, I got 2 skirts, a top, a lightweight cardigan, and a pair of black flats. I kept everything and have been especially enjoying the new skirts.

Holly2 2016_05_28
41Hawthorn Abbie Reversible Skirt, MIA Amari Scallop Trim Flats
Holly4 2016_05_28
Mo:Vint Chania Cardigan, Gilli Shelley Printed Aline Skirt, MIA Amari Scallop Trim Flats
Holly6 2016_05_28
Laila Jayde Bowie Solid Dolman Sleeve Top, Amari Scallop Trim Flats

Last Month’s Update

May 2015: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

The big news for this month is that Tom has a new job! Since the weather’s been mostly pleasant, we’ve been going out more, which is a nice change of pace. For Mother’s Day, we went up to Fox Chase to help Tom’s mom plant this year’s vegetable garden.

Mother’s Day gardening

May is the month for Plazapalooza, the only local festival we like going to because it’s small and mellow and not too crowded. We enjoyed a couple pulled pork grilled cheese sandwiches from Vernalicious, as well as some beers, and listened to some music before heading back home.

Plazapalooza 2015
pulled pork grilled cheese from Vernalicious

Farmers Markets

May is one of our favorite months for farmers’ markets, mostly because it’s the month of asparagus! It also marks the return of Headhouse Market, which is one of the better markets in town. We had occasion to go to Headhouse a few times this month when our regular farmers’ markets were canceled, so that was a treat.

Headhouse Farmers’ Market take

Dining In

We did a log of great cooking this month, much of it inspired by all that asparagus. It also helps that I bought a whole bunch of rosé.

One of the highlights was ricotta gnocchi with asparagus and prosciutto:

We had a lot of fun asparagus-related breakfasts, too, including duck eggs over asparagus and bacon on toast:

Dining Out

Tom was out of town at the beginning of May, so I took myself to Rival Bros and tried some of their new cold brewed coffee served on a nitro tap:

nitro cold brewed coffee and toast at Rival Bros

I also had some lovely shakshuka hummus from Dizengoff:

shakshuka hummus from Dizengoff

We also hit up brunch at Jet Wine Bar for some chilaquiles:

chilaquiles at Jet Wine Bar

We got lucky on Tom’s last day of work: SpotBurgers was on campus, and serving lobster rolls!

lobster roll at SpotBurgers

After work on Tom’s last day, we had a date night at Audrey Claire. Despite the fact that we live nearby, it was our first time eating there. It certainly won’t be the last! Everything was delicious, and it was way cheaper than we expected.

Audrey Claire photo by Tom Ipri

Books

I finished reading Stonewielder, book 3 of Ian Cameron Esselmont’s Malazan Empire series. It’s the first Esselmont book I actually liked; there are big improvements in his writing over Night of Knives and Return of the Crimson Guard. It still doesn’t come close to Erikson, but it’s a good addition to the Malazan world. I’m actually looking forward to the next book, which has taken weeks to ship, so I won’t start it until June.

I also read If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth, which is a young adult book about a Tuscarora boy attending an off-reservation junior high school. Wow. If you liked Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, you should read this book. If you hated True Diary, you should read this book (I think it’s better than True Diary). Anyway, comparisons aside, If I Ever Get Out of Here was a great story, and I especially enjoyed all the music references.

Another book I read this month was This One Summer, a graphic novel by Mariko Tamaki. The art was great, but the story didn’t do it for me.

Finally, I read Nocturnes, a short story collection by Kazuo Isghiguro. It was a quick, easy read, and quite enjoyable. Each of the 5 stories is somehow tied to music, which was the main reason why I picked this out from the used bookstore.

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