August 2017: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

It was a lovely August – the weather was nice just about all month, and I got to enjoy the last month of my Friday half-days at work. There were some days I was busy with work-related stuff or doctor appointments or was just too tired to do anything, but on the other days I did some pampering, including a facial, manicure, and haircut. I didn’t take myself out to eat as much as I’d like, but I did try Wiz Kid, the new vegan fast food place by the folks at Vedge and V street. It was one of the better vegan cheesesteaks I’ve had (complete with rutabaga wiz), and I especially like the okonomiyaki fries.

Wiz Kid

I forgot to mention last month that I started a project to transcribe some of the musical themes from Game of Thrones, both to try and learn the motifs better so that I can catch the plot-related musical cues in the show, as well as the get my ear back into shape. I bought some blank sheet music paper and used an online keyboard to bang out the Stark and Baratheon themes and write them down. It was slow going at first, but after awhile I didn’t need the keyboard anymore and could just rely on my ear, just using the keyboard afterward to verify. It was definitely a lot like trying to re-learn a language in which you used to be pretty fluent but haven’t spoken in years. I didn’t get any farther on the project this month, but I do hope to pick it back up and finish the rest of the major themes.

Washington, DC

At the beginning of August, we took a nice trip down to Washington, DC, where I attended a work-related conference. The location of the conference hotel was great – very close to lots of restaurants and museums, sort of on the edge of Penn Quarter, near the convention center. We took the MegaBus both ways, which as with our trip to New York, was great on the way there and miserable on the way back.

Palmer Alley, Washington, DC

We had several good meals, including:

  • Momofuku CCDC, once for dinner and once for lunch. I liked that it was pretty casual and affordable considering it’s a David Chang place. The service was excellent, as was the food.
  • Zaytinya – we went here for lunch and got the fixed price mezze, which was delightful, as well as a flight of Greek rosés.
  • Acadiana, two times just getting some bar snacks. My cousin David had recommended this place ages ago. We really enjoyed the deviled eggs and catfish sliders.
  • Farmers & Distillers, three times – Tom had scoped this place out, and in turned out to be delightful for breakfast, but a bit of a letdown for dinner and drinks
Momofuku CCDC
Zaytinya
English breakfast at Farmers & Distillers

While I was conferencing, Tom had time to go to museums and take lots of pictures. On our last day, I joined him to go to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, which was excellent.

“Eggs” at NMWA

Farmers’ Markets

Sadly, I didn’t take many pictures of our farmers’ markets hauls this month, even though this is the best time of year for produce, simply because there is just so much to unpack that taking it out and photographing it is kind of a hassle. But trust that it was full of tomatoes, corn, summer squash, and peppers!

Wine

This was our second month of the State Store wine club, and I was pleased that it turned out to be Rhone-focused (after last month I worried that everything would just be California). We got a Marsanne and a Vacqueyras, both of which were enjoyable.

August 2017 state store wine club

Dining In

Early in the month I made my first try at homemade canned tomato sauce (see DIY section below), and it wasn’t long before we broke into the first can and tried it out with pasta. It was seriously the one of the best tomato sauces I’d ever had – definitely an incentive to make more!

We also made several meals using my homemade tomato jam from last month, including mahi mahi, chicken, and scallops. That tomato jam (from Sean Brock’s Heritage) is addictive and more like a ketchup or BBQ sauce, excellent with every kind of meat. We also made chicken with my homemade nectarine murabba from last month, but that wasn’t worth writing home about.

In the spirit of keeping with seasonal ingredients, we enjoyed these summer-y recipes:

Braised chicken w/tomatillos
Scallops w/yellow beets & cucumbers
peach pizza
corn pasta
chicken pepper stew – photo by Tom Ipri
summer garden pasta
chicken & peaches – photo by Tom Ipri

Other home cooking highlights from this month include:

  • eggs with pinto beans
  • cornmeal-crusted tilefish w/tarragon butter
  • clams & spaghetti in parchment from Marc Vetri’s Rustic Italian Food
Eggs with pinto beans
cornmeal-crusted tilefish
clams & spaghetti in parchment – photo by Tom Ipri

Dining Out

We’ve been trying to spend more time at SouthGate and had a great meal there early in the month. We also had an excellent after-work meet up at Friday Saturday Sunday.

Friday Saturday Sunday – photos by Tom Ipri

We’ve been trying to make it to Jet Wine Bar every Sunday to hang out with Amanda, and we’ve had the fortune of having some brunch and snacks as well.

Jet Wine Bar

We finally made it to Los Camarades for brunch – we had been burned years ago where their hours weren’t as posted, but it was certainly worth the wait.

chilaquiles at Los Camarades

Another place we had wanted to go for ages was Giwa – we finally got delivery and it was excellent. Sure, I wasn’t sure how dolsot bibimbap was going to travel (no they did not deliver it in a stone pot!), but overall it was great, plus I was able to get a couple of bottles of Giwa’s housemade hot sauces as part of the delivery as well.

DIY

This was another very productive month for homemade preserves, mostly from Preserving Italy and Saving the Season. This month’s Food in Jars Mastery Challenge was for low temperature pasteurization (or steam canning as an alternative), which I wasn’t particularly interested in, so I continued to try to build my skills with hot pack canning. So far I can say every recipe I’ve made from Saving the Season has been exceptional; while other sources seem to vary both in terms of quality and quantity, the Saving the Season recipes have been extremely reliable.

A few follow up notes from last month:

  • the fermented green beans from last month were delicious – they’re spicy and punchy, great for snacking
  • the tomato jam from Heritage was fantastic! I used it in several recipes mentioned above. It’s more like a butter than a jam, which makes it interchangeable with ketchup or BBQ sauce in many instances.
  • the nectarine murabba was unremarkable – the cardamom and rose water didn’t really come through
  • I finished the raspberry vinegar but haven’t tried it yet
tomato jam

New things I made this month:

  • Small batch tomato sauce from Preserving Italy – I already opened some, and wow this was great! However I did have some issues with yield. The first time I made this recipe, 2 lbs of tomatoes yielded 8 oz of sauce. The second time, I planned for a similar yield, but I guess it didn’t reduce as much (?) because 3 lbs yielded 24 oz, basically 2x what I expected. I’ll have to keep practicing to see if it has to do with the tomatoes themselves or what.
  • Chinese pickled cucumbers – these were pretty tasty for refrigerator pickles, but I didn’t finish all of them. I would like to try them with congee as the authors suggest.
  • hot and sweet pickled peppers from Preserving Italy
  • pickled zucchini from Preserving Italy
  • more wine-soaked carrots from Preserving Italy
  • fermented shallots – this was basically improvised, with a salt brine, an allspice berry and some black pepper. I let it ferment at room temperature for 2 weeks before putting it in the fridge. I haven’t tried it yet, but my thinking is this would be a way for keeping some shallots around for those odd scenarios when you find yourself needing them but don’t have any, like for a vinaigrette or whatnot.
  • salsa verde from Saving the Season – I was intrigued by this recipe due to its use of tequila and basically followed it as is, but subbing poblano peppers for New Mexico green chiles (I did look into prices for shipping NM green chiles but don’t really have the freezer space to make that a reality). I opened it right away, and it was great! I will definitely need to make more of this.
  • roasted tomatillo salsa from Food in Jars – I halved the recipe, omitted the cilantro, and added 1 tbsp tequila as inspired by the Saving the Season recipe above. I can’t wait to try it!
  • corn relish from Saving the Season – I made this twice, starting with a small batch, and after trying it, making some more. It’s not quite spicy enough, but this will be a good corn salsa in winter when we’re missing summer flavors.
  • roasted pepper relish from Saving the Season
  • passata from Preserving Italy – it smelled amazing, I can’t wait to try it
  • zucchini relish – I used a combination of the confetti relish recipe from Saving the Season and this recipe online – we’ll see how it turns out, though it did lose quite a bit of liquid while processing
  • cornichons from Saving the Season – this is a refrigerator pickle recipe, for which I used Mexican gherkins from the farmers’ market. They’re not as dense as typical cornichons – they’re juicy and have a pop in the mouth –  but the flavor is great.
  • tomato salsa from National Center for Home Food Preservation – this was my first “official” canning recipe from NCHFP, but frankly it was boring as shit. We’ll see how it turns out, but based on tasting before canning, my hopes are low.
  • Canadian ketchup from Saving the Season – I went with the smooth versus chunky version, but it looked awesome. This recipe appealed to me due to the mix of tomatoes, peaches, apples, and pears.
  • fire-roasted tomatoes –  I love the way the skins just pop off using this method. I will definitely try the sauce version of this recipe.
  • cocktail onions from Saving the Season – I started this in August but it will take a few weeks and will finish in September. This one is fun because it starts as a ferment in a salt water brine but finishes with a vinegar brine and water bath canning.
  • fermented pimenta moida – a few months ago there was some Portuguese recipe that needed pimenta moida that I’ve since forgotten. But at the time, I found that the pepper paste was hard to find on Amazon, and I’d be better off making it myself. There are vinegar-based and fermented versions out there, but of course, I go for the fermented version. I had to wait until late summer when hot red peppers were available, and ended up choosing the esplettes from Z Food Farm as the closest I’d likely be able to find to the Portuguese shepherd peppers. Unfortunately my batch was small enough that it was still difficult to blend, both with an immersion blender and with a food mill. So I ended up giving up and leaving it chunky. Like I said I can no longer remember why I wanted/needed pimenta moida in the first place, but I hope I can use it.
Chinese pickled cucumbers
salsa verde

Books

This month’s reading update is brought to you by the Free Library of Philadelphia! Everything I read was either via FLP Overdrive or physical library books.

I started the month with Children of Dune, which I enjoyed nearly as much as the first Dune book and much more than the 2nd book. This was contrary to what I had heard, which was that each Dune book got progressively worse. But I’m going to stop here for sure.

Next, I finally read the 3 books published so far in Brandon Sanderson’s second Mistborn series (aka the Wax & Wayne, including Alloy of Law, Shadows of Self, and Bands of Mourning), which takes place several generations after the original Mistborn and has sort of late 19th/early20th century level technology. I had put this off for awhile, because 1) I don’t love the original Mistborn series that much and 2) I am not at all into steampunk. However I found myself proven wrong on all fronts. While I feel like the original Mistborn tries too hard in terms of its fascinating yet complicated magic system(s), I don’t find that it gets in the way of the story in the second series the way it does in the first (perhaps because most of the explanatory groundwork is already out of the way). The characters in Wax & Wayne I also find infinitely more compelling – not that I don’t like Vin, Sazed, and Kelsier, but the original trilogy was so dark and depressing, and this one is lighter and more fun, while still dangerous. It’s also fun to find the original characters and storyline now far enough removed that they’ve taken on legendary status, while you as the reader know how the actual story panned out. Finally, I enjoyed this series because it’s not often that you get a follow up fantasy series in which you see how technology in that world evolves hundreds of years later. There will be 1 more book in the series, so I will look forward to it.

Finally, I checked out Land of Plenty of Every Grain of Rice after hearing a podcast interview with Fuchsia Dunlop. Mostly these were test drives to see if I wanted to buy either cookbook, but I didn’t get a chance to make anything. I would definitely buy Every Grain of Rice. There were a few recipes from Land of Plenty that I’d want to make, but for the most part most of the recipes I was interested in were repeated in Every Grain of Rice, anyway.

Stitch Fix

I got a Stitch Fix toward the beginning of the month and kept everything: a blue flutter sleeve blouse, a black top, a black & white striped top, a plaid skirt, and a necklace. I think the neckline on the black & white top is weird, but it wasn’t worth the trouble to return it since I liked everything else.

Napean Sea RD Ralie Flutter Sleeve Blouse
WS Yancey Raglan Eyelet Lattice Knit Top
41Hawthorn Jordanne A-line Plaid Skirt
41Hawthorn Lawford Knit Top
Bancroft Anderson Filigree Necklace

Last Month’s Update

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July 2017: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

This wasn’t a bad July, all things considered. Despite being hot most of the month, it wasn’t intolerable, and some days were even nice out. We were able to spend a nice evening on a friend’s rooftop, and also take a nice walk on the Schuylkill in the evening, topped off with some ice cream enjoyed outside at the Gray’s Ferry Triangles. I still have had half days on Fridays this month, some of which I’ve spent on errands like doctor appointments and going to the SEPTA office to deal with my lost key card, but I still squeezed in a bit of pampering (threading and a pedicure) as well as a nice quiet lunch by myself at Walnut St Cafe.

Demolition at The Royal
South Philly rooftop view
Schuylkill walk
Ice cream at Igloo

Farmers’ Markets

The month started auspiciously, as we made it back from New York in time to still go to the Saturday farmers’ market and get our Shore Catch seafood. Still, we didn’t get any tomatoes until the second weekend of the month, and we weren’t able to get into full tomato bounty until the very last farmers’ market of the month. We’ve really been enjoying all the other summer fruit and vegetables, though, and I’ve been doing lots of preserving (see DIY below).

July 8
July 15
July 22
July 29

Wine

I decided to make a separate section for wine since I started up a monthly wine club subscription from the state store. Not that I want to support the state store, but I figured I may as well try to see what they have to offer. I got the “Aficionado” level subscription, which is medium-priced – a little more than what I typically pay for state store wines, but still very reasonable for the type of quality that would make a subscription worthwhile. I hope it results in us trying (and enjoying) some slightly higher level wines that I wouldn’t have ordinarily splurged for. The cheaper “Discovery” level just looked like crap wines, which I can get anytime. Anyway, the first month was all California, which I might have rolled my eyes at if it were all Napa & Sonoma, but at least one was Central Coast. We got a very nice Rhone blend from Paso, and a Napa chardonnay that was surprisingly not over-oaked. I liked them both and look forward to seeing what we get next month, though I do hope they mix in some imported wines and that it doesn’t always end up being domestic.

July wine club

As long as I’m talking about wine, it’s also worth mentioning that I ordered a few wines from Tablas Creek, one of the few wineries I like who ship to PA: their Picpoul Blanc, which I had been wanting to try for years, and their Vermentino, which is so perfect for summer. The picpoul was very good; much more substantial and full-bodied than French versions, but not mind-blowing enough that I would have to get it again right away. While I was at it, I ordered some of Tablas’s olive oil, which is my latest favorite EVOO.

Dining In

We made a lot of fun things this month, including:

soaked buttermilk pancakes, topped with duck egg
brats from Rieker’s, homemade sauerkraut
Roast chicken with plums and sprouted lentil salad (Photo by Tom Ipri)
Caprese
corn fritters

Dining Out

After returning from our trip to New York at the end of June, we spent most of 4th of July weekend indoors to stay out of the heat, but we did make it out a few times, including drinks & snacks at Tria Fitler Square, breakfast at Hungry Pigeon, and dinner at Audrey Claire.

Early in the month, we got delivery from Philadelphia Chutney Co for the first time. We’ve been wanting to go there for years and I only recently figured out that they deliver. I was having a hankering for dosas – it turns out dosas don’t transport that well, but they were still good, and the other dishes we ordered (lamb tikka masala and veggie korma) were delicious.

We went up to the Northeast a few times, and had a delicious meal as usual at Moonstruck. I also met a friend for happy hour at Root in Northern Liberties, which was great.

Finally, we got back into regular visits to Jet Wine Bar on Sundays, where we love hanging out with Amanda, and we’ve enjoyed the food from Chef Yasi.

Audrey Claire
Amaro tasting at Plenty
Delivery from Philadelphia Chutney Co
Moonstruck
Jet Wine Bar

DIY

This was another busy month of DIY food projects, both fermenting and canning. Unless stated otherwise, recipes are from Saving the Season, Ferment Your Vegetables, or DIY Fermentation.

  • fermented slow pickled red onion – this looked cool, as it involve spiking a red onion with whole cloves, like I used to do with oranges when I was a kid, making air fresheners for Christmas. But it was WAY too clove-y and I ended up tossing it.
  • fermented carrots with garlic, onion, za’atar, & Aleppo pepper – this was a made-up fermented pickle that turned out pretty well, but it bubbled like crazy, and the carrots got too soft, even though it was only a week before I put it in the fridge.
  • cultured buttermilk from DIY Fermentation – for this I had to buy buttermilk culture, and I learned about clabbering! I was worried that my apartment would be too cool (thanks to air conditioning) but it clabbered perfectly fine, and the result was marvelous. We made buttermilk pancakes, buttermilk chicken, and buttermilk biscuits, plus I had a little buttermilk leftover to culture some cream for cultured butter. I would definitely make my own buttermilk again rather than buying store bought.
  • fermented raspberry vinegar from DIY Fermentation – this is a 6 week ferment, so I started it, but it won’t be done until next month. So far so good, and it smells great. The only problem is it attracts fruit flies!
  • fermented tomato salsa from Ferment Your Vegetables – I love this so much, and now that tomatoes are back in season, I had to make more.
  • fermented tomato sauce from Ferment Your Vegetables – ditto.
  • fermented peach chutney from DIY Fermentation – sorry, but this was terrible. I think I will steer clear of fermented fruit (other than wine/vinegar and tomato stuff) – I don’t really care for the taste or texture, plus using whey as a starter is a pain in the ass and I’m too lazy at this point to try water kefir.
  • sprouted lentils – I followed some basic sprouting instructions online in order to make the sprouted lentil salad from The Indian Family Kitchen. I’m glad I looked it up – turns out that 1/2 cup lentils easily yielded 4 cups of sprouts after about 3-4 days. I did buy some sprouting lids but otherwise no special equipment, just a quart jar tipped upside down into a bowl, moved into a colander for the last day.
  • peaches in grappa syrup (cold pack) from Preserving Italy – had to buy grappa from the state store, oh darn, hope it won’t go to waste…
  • four pepper jelly – this was a belated follow-up on the Food In Jars Mastery Challenge from March – I was just waiting for peppers to be in season. I haven’t tried the jar that I processed, but I had some leftover that went straight to the fridge and it’s marvelous. My first jelly success!
  • pickled melon (cold pack) from Preserving Italy – this was inspired by a visit to Tria Fitler Square in which we had pickled melon & prosciutto crostini. I got a very ripe cantaloupe from the Fitler Square farmers’ market and made 1 pint – it’s very spicy and the melon is super soft. I’d do this again but would prefer honeydew melon, slightly less ripe.
  • blueberry chutney – I wanted to make a chutney, and this was inspired by a blueberry chutney I loved from the Pike Place Market in Seattle back in the day. I wasn’t sure if this recipe was safe for canning so I just put it in the fridge (haven’t tried it yet)
  • fermented green beans – I was thumbing through Saving the Season and saw that the author recommended making fermented green bean pickles over canned green bean pickles. Other than a green bean kimchi, I don’t think I had fermented green beans before, so I was intrigued. Since I’m fairly comfortable with vegetable fermentation at this point, I didn’t feel the need to follow a recipe very closely, so I used some flavors that worked really well in a canned green bean recipe I had made last month, including red pepper flakes and fennel seeds. Normally I only ferment vegetables for about 1 week but this one I’m letting go for 2 weeks so I’ll have to report back next month.
  • blueberry gin jam from Saving the Season – I wanted to do more with blueberries and this recipe called out to me due to the gin. I haven’t tried it yet but I hope it’s awesome. Also, this recipe required a food mill, which I had wanted to buy in order to make tomato sauce, but this pushed me over the edge to actually make the purchase.
  • Asian plum sauce – I had some leftover plums and so this was very small batch, but enough to can 1/4 pint. I haven’t opened it yet but I’m actually kind of excited for it.
  • cultured butter from DIY Fermentation – I’ve been making homemade butter for years, but I had never cultured it before. I took advantage of my homemade buttermilk in order to culture some cream and then make butter. It takes an extra day, but I love the richness.
  • Peach marsala almond conserve from Preserving Italy  – there’s so many things I want to make from peaches, but this one stood out due to the marsala. This is another batch that I haven’t tried but look forward to enjoying later.
  • bread & butter pickles – first and foremost, I still don’t understand why these are called bread & butter. I’ve fermented cucumber pickles several times, which have turned out well, but I was intrigued by the idea of a canned pickle that would last longer. We’ll see how these taste in winter!
  • crushed tomatoes from Saving the Season – I want to try a lot more preserved tomato recipes over the next few months, but this was my first attempt. I figure we use crushed tomatoes on a pretty much weekly basis, so this was a logical place to start. I followed the instructions but still got big time separation between solids and liquids after the water bath. I’m sure it will still taste fine, but this needs more practice.
  • peaches in syrup (hot pack) from Saving the Season – again, I want to do all the peach recipes, but this was particularly appealing due to 1) the addition of Earl Grey tea,  2) the option to add brandy (I used bourbon), and 3) this month’s Food in Jars Mastery Challenge was hot pack, and so I wanted to get more practice with hot pack preserves.
  • peach chutney from Saving the Season – see above, I want to preserve ALL THE PEACHES. I mostly followed the recipe from Saving the Season, but I also took some inspiration from the mango chutney recipe in The Indian Family Kitchen. As with some of the other preserves from this month, I haven’t tried it yet, so I’ll have to report back later.
  • nectarine murraba – this was another lovely sounding recipe, but it didn’t say it was safe for canning, so it’s in the fridge. I look forward to having it with some chicken or fish or cheese snackies.
homemade cultured buttermilk
homemade fermented raspberry vinegar in progress
July preserves (photo by Tom Ipri)

Books

If you look at last year, before we got our Kindles, there were plenty of months where I didn’t read (or finish) a single book, so it’s a reflection of the Kindle that I now feel bad about “only” reading 4 books this month. All of this month’s books were acquired via the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Overdrive service, which I am loving.

  • Tarkin – not bad as far as Star Wars novels go, but also not that memorable. It was good context for the character, especially after reading Catalyst and Rogue One last month.
  • Half a War – I wasn’t prepared to shell out the money for this, but thanks to the library, I was able to finish the final book of this series. As with the second book, this book introduces a new strong female POV character, so I liked that. It provided some awkward closure for the main characters from Books 1 and 2, so in a way it was satisfying, but in a way, meh.
  • A Confederacy of Dunces – oh my goodness. I had heard of this book but honestly had no idea what it was about. I’m so glad Tom borrowed it from the library and was able to share it with me via our shared Kindle library. This is certainly the best example of American literature I have read in a very long time. Just hilarious and genius. READ IT.
  • Adnan’s Story – as an Undisclosed podcast listener, this was mandatory reading, but again, it wasn’t something I had really wanted to shell out for so I was glad to get it via the library. By the end, I was totally underwhelmed. The writing was fine, and I enjoyed learning more about Rabia’s personal life. I liked the specifically Muslim perspective she was able to provide to some events of the case, which were illuminating. But overall, if you’ve listened to Undisclosed, there wasn’t that much new information. And unfortunately I just find it really difficult to engage with non-fiction.

Last Month’s Update

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.

 

 

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

April 2017: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

We started the month by going to a few movies in the Philadelphia Film Society XPN Music Film Festival, Stop Making Sense and Singles. I had never seen Stop Making Sense before – it was really well done and gave me a much better appreciation of the Talking Heads. Singles is one of my favorite movies, but I’m not sure I had ever seen it on the big screen. I think it holds up wonderfully, and it’s still such a great soundtrack.

It’s finally spring, I guess. It’s a huge bummer that the unnatural warm weather in February followed by the cold weather in March messed up most of the blooming flowers. Some of the white flowers had come out early in February and then all withered up without coming back. The cherry blossoms were super sad looking, and the tulip trees didn’t bloom at all. The redbuds seem to be blooming normally, but a lot of the other trees have gone straight to leaf. Nonetheless I still got some nice flower photos this month, even if it they weren’t as plentiful as in years past.

I switched out my wardrobe for warmer weather, and though we have had some beautiful days where we were able to enjoy the outdoor patio, there have also been gloomy days where I’ve had to get the long sleeved shirts and jackets back out from the closet.

Negronis on the patio

Since Tom had the day off for Good Friday, I took the day off as well and we went to see the Frogs: A Chorus of Colors exhibit at the Academy of Natural Sciences, and took a nice long walk afterwards.

Farmers’ Markets

Given how this spring was so messed up, weather-wise, I was extremely grateful that 1) we didn’t have to miss out on asparagus and 2) we didn’t have to wait until May! We finally got some asparagus the third week of the month and I’m sure we’ll be eating as much of it as we can until it’s gone.

Dining In

Since the official launch of A Good Carrot, the first big round of recipe testing is over, but I did get to test a few more recipes this month:

Other than that, here are some highlights of the recipes we tried this month that turned out really well:

Middle Eastern garlic & herb chicken
Pappardelle with chicken ragu
Roast cod with garlic butter, bulgur pilaf with broccoli

Dining Out

We went out a lot more this month, which was nice. We started the month by trying Tio Flores for brunch, which was a pleasant surprise; the food was great and it was not at all crowded.

huevos rancheros at Tio Flores

We had a fun day off mid-month, where we went to Sp0tburgers for lunch, followed by drinks at a few places not worth mentioning, but ending up at Friday Saturday Sunday.

Sp0tburgers
Friday Saturday Sunday

I had jury duty, which meant a couple fun lunches near the courthouse, including The Rib Stand at Reading Terminal Market, and Rooster Soup Company. I really enjoyed my bacon, latke & tomato sandwich at Rooster Soup Co, and the service was super friendly as well.

rib sandwich combo at The Rib Stand
Bacon/Latke/Tomato sandwich at Rooster Soup Company

We re-booted Date Night toward the end of the month and had a lovely night at Brigantessa, including a fennel citrus salad, Stella pizza, and dessert. The following week for date night we ordered tacos from Quetzally, which was a fun treat. We also had a pie date mid-week at Magpie.

Brigantessa

Tom’s brother Dennis came to town one night and we had a wonderful dinner at Friday Saturday Sunday, including carrot confit, maitake toast, brown butter gnocchi, lobster bucatini, roast chicken, and a steak. The chicken is my new favorite restaurant chicken since Meritage closed.

Carrot confit at Friday Saturday Sunday

We found ourselves at Plenty a few times in the evening and wondered why we aren’t there more often. Once was to meet a friend who was passing through on a road trip, and the other was for some after-dinner drinks. They supposedly have an amaro float that we keep meaning to try but haven’t gotten to it yet.

We ended the month by trying brunch at Lou Bird’s, which was quite good. I had a croque madame on challah, and Tom had vanilla pancakes.

DIY

I finished the New World Rye sauerkraut from Ferment Your Vegetables that I started last month – it came out very tasty, and we enjoyed it as a condiment with hot dogs.

I made a batch of wine-spiked carrots from Preserving Italy, which came out great – they’re slightly sweet and vinegar-y, but not too much so. They also have some black peppercorns that give them a nice spice.

wine-spiked carrots

My fermented garlic honey was FINALLY supposed to be done at the end of the month, after 3 months. I had gotten some pH strips to test it and it seemed not quite acidic enough yet so I decided to continue to leave it out and test again in a few weeks.

As mentioned above, I fermented some horseradish from the farmers’ market that we ended up serving with brisket. It smelled really bad while fermenting and I thought it had spoiled, but once I took off the airlock and discarded some of the brine above the weight, it turned out everything under the weight was fine. Phew!

Oh, and I finally tried the pumpkin spice kimchi I made a few months ago. I didn’t really care for it, so I tossed the rest. But I also tried the green bean kimchi I made last year and it was still great!

Books

Thanks to the Kindle (and $2.99 sales!), I’m about to meet my reading challenge of 25 books for the year, and we’re not even halfway through the year. I read 10 books this month, including:

  • The White Mountains – one of my childhood favorites
  • The White Queen – not really my style, but I was entertained, and it did inspire me to read up a bit more on the history of the English royalty, which I missed out on by taking Ancient Medieval instead of AP Euro for my world history requirement in high school.
  • Night of Cake & Puppets – at first it looked cheesy, but I was completely charmed and loved it. Ridiculously sweet, and I loved being immersed back in the Prague setting of Daughter of Smoke & Bone.
  • Dune Messiah – huge disappointment as a follow-up to Dune
  • A Taste of Honey – starts off seeming a bit conventional but jumps around in time in a way that is really intriguing, giving the story a twist at the end
  • Outlander – a reminder why I do not like either romance or historical fiction; a teeny bit of druid time travel is not enough to make this sci-fi/fantasy. It kept my interest enough to finish it, but I felt gross afterwards.
  • Anansi Boys – I enjoyed this quite a bit. I had forgotten it was related to American Gods, but between reading this and seeing good things about the American Gods TV series, it makes me interested in trying to read American Gods again.
  • Half a King – I’ve read Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series, which was good but a bit too violent for my taste. This new series, Shattered Sea, is apparently marketed toward young adults; I wouldn’t have been able to tell, but while it’s still gritty, it wasn’t quite so graphic. The main character is smart and a pleasure to get to know. I liked the book a lot, enough to want to keep reading and get the next book in the series.
  • Half the World – this continues Half a King, but while the main character from Half a King is still important, he is no longer a POV character; the POV characters are two new characters, a young man and a young woman, both of whom defy gender stereotypes in different ways. By the end I was really starting to like the way women subtly wield power in this very male-centric tough guy sort of world. I want to continue the series, but the Kindle pricing really gets you with series, where they make the first book really cheap to draw you in, the second book reasonable to keep you going, but the last book is above my self-imposed price limit for now.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – I started this in February with a print copy, but it filled me with too much despair to finish, though I did skip around enough to know what happened. Tom bought it on Kindle this month, and between him reading it and the TV series coming out, I was motivated to pick up where I left off, this time on Kindle, and finally finished. I’m glad I did. We’ve seen the first few episodes of the TV series so far, and I think it’s amazing.
  • Midnight Taxi Tango – I started this toward the end of the month but am only about 25% through. This is a continuation of Half Resurrection Blues, which I read in March. So far it’s not growing on me yet, but I really like a new bad-ass female character, Reza.
April 2017 books read

Last Month’s Update

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

February 2017: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

At the beginning of the month, we attended Philadelphia’s March for Humanity.

We saw a few movies in the theater, including LaLa Land and a 25th anniversary screening of Wayne’s World. Both were kind of disappointing. Luckily we redeemed this by seeing Hidden Figures at the end of the month, which was wonderful.

Due to my dentist’s referral after an oddity in my x-ray, I saw an oral surgeon, who diagnosed me with a benign cyst, which I’ll need to get removed. I had scheduled the removal but came down with nasty flu and had to cancel. Being sick again so soon after the rotten cold I had over the holidays was a drag.

The weather is crazy. We had a NorEaster, giving us the first snow day (only a delayed opening for me, I still had to go to work at 11am) of the season. The snow didn’t last long, though, and by the end of the month we basically had an early spring, with weather in the 70s, and daffodils blooming.

snowy Penn, February 9
daffodils in Fitler Square, February 25
daffodils in Fitler Square, February 25

Farmers’ Markets

I didn’t end up taking any pictures this month, but this time of year the markets aren’t too exciting. Here’s a squash, which ended up becoming soup:

Dining In

I continue to do recipe testing for a friend of mine who is starting a food blog. This month’s recipes included:

Sliced eggs with garlic & parsley
Sliced eggs with garlic & parsley
Roasted beet salad with garlic cumin vinaigrette
Roasted beet salad with garlic cumin vinaigrette
fruit tart in a nut crust
fruit tart in a nut crust

Other than that, highlights from dining in this month included:

dan dan noodles. Photo by Tom Ipri
dan dan noodles. Photo by Tom Ipri
roasted chicken with clementines
roasted chicken with clementines
mushroom ragu
mushroom ragu
charmoula-spiced salmon with za'atar vegetables
charmoula-spiced salmon with za’atar vegetables

Dining Out

We barely went out this month, except for Tom’s birthday (below). All we really did was go out for drinks a few times at Tria Fitler Square and Friday Saturday Sunday. One Friday night we intended to go out for date night but just ended up ordering Rosario’s Pizza for delivery instead.

beers at Tria Fitler Square
beers at Tria Fitler Square
Carrot Confit at Friday Saturday Sunday
Carrot Confit at Friday Saturday Sunday
cocktails at Friday Saturday Sunday
cocktails at Friday Saturday Sunday

Tom’s Birthday, Part 1

Since Tom’s birthday fell in the middle of the week toward the end of the month, Part 1 was in February and Part 2 will be in March. To kick off his birthday celebrations, we went to an “old world vs. new world” tasting at Jet Wine Bar, followed by beers at Rex 1516.

new lamps at Jet Wine Bar. Photo by Tom Ipri
new lamps at Jet Wine Bar. Photo by Tom Ipri

The weekend before Tom’s birthday, we celebrated with family at Radice. I also tried to make a special birthday brunch dish of Spanish breakfast casserole, but since it got burnt to a crisp, Tom will get a second birthday brunch next weekend!

Spanish breakfast casserole
Spanish breakfast casserole

Tom’s actual birthday fell on a Tuesday night, which was nice because it was a good reason to go to Cafe Lutecia‘s BYOB night. It was also Mardi Gras so Cafe Lutecia had some themed decor and food.

Cafe Lutecia
Cafe Lutecia

To be continued in March!

DIY

I continued fermenting the batch of garlic honey that I started in January. It was still really bubbly and frothy at the beginning of the month, but mid-month it calmed down. 2 more months to go!

garlic honey, day 5
garlic honey, day 5
garlic honey, day 20 or so
garlic honey, day 20 or so

I also made a batch of butternut squash kimchi:

Tom made a few more successful attempts at bread, including rosemary focaccia and pita bread!

rosemary focaccia
rosemary focaccia
pita! Photo by Tom Ipri
pita! Photo by Tom Ipri

Books

In the beginning of the month I finished Octavia Butler’s Dawn and then read the rest of Lilith’s Brood, which was really great. I skimmed through Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist and was too bored to finish. I started The Handmaid’s Tale, which is so disturbing and scary and hits way too close to home. So I’m still working on that.

About midway through the month, Tom and I both bought Kindles! We had been meaning to do so for a long time. I was particularly curious as to whether it would help me with 1) getting more comfortable with e-reading and 2) encourage me to read more. It’s still new, but so far I have found both to be the case. In the future, I think I’d like to upgrade to a fancier Kindle so that I can read color comic books, but in the meantime, even the low-end Kindle is really great.

With the Kindle, I read a few Star Wars novels that were next on my list, including Lost Stars and Ahsoka. Toward the end of the month I started Half Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older.

Last Month’s Update