Philly Restaurants – Rave Reviews

Although I don’t love the word “foodie,” Luke and I do love to try new restaurants, order unusual dishes, and try to recreate them at home. Since we’ve been in Philly, we have been cooking most of our own meals, but on special occasions, we’ll venture out to try new-to-us places. Recently, we’ve enjoyed two incredible meals within walking distance of our house.

Little Fish

Little Fish is a charming BYOB seafood restaurant that specializes in using fresh ingredients in inventive new ways. There are only ten tables in the place, and the tiny kitchen is a two-man-band of awesomeness.

Little Fish – a lot of magic happens in their small kitchen

We started our meal with a sampling of East and West coast oysters alongside homemade bread with chimichurri sauce. Our starter plates consisted of a red snapper ceviche and (heavenly) seared scallops in a corn chowder with pistachios. Our entrees were halibut served with a fish cake, tomatoes, and olives, and shelled lobster served with seared duck (!) and rice. Just as we were about to shy away from dessert (so full!), we learned that the pie selection for the evening was huckleberry served with fresh cream. So, yup, we made room for that, too.

I captured each dish with my camera, but the dark atmosphere of the restaurant (which I enjoyed!) didn’t make for great photos. So you’ll have to use your other senses to imagine the loveliness of this meal.

Zahav

We went to Zahav Monday night for our anniversary dinner (yes, we like to celebrate!). Our friend Veronica recommended it after reading good reviews, and we received generous gift cards from family and friends to help us plan a perfect meal out. The restaurant recently received a James Beard Award, and I must say, it was nothing short of spectacular.

The tasting menu ($39/person) met all of our needs and then some. We started with salatim (8 small salads) and hummus-foul, brought deliciously to life with fava beans. For our mezzes, we enjoyed watermelon salad with feta and pistachios, crispy haloumi served over dates and walnuts, sweetbread schnitzel, and roasted zucchini with cheese, hazelnuts, and white anchovy paste. Then the entrees! I had seared salmon with spicy tomato stew and couscous. Luke went all out with duck kabobs seasoned with foie gras, pistachios and saffron.

Dessert was a combination of nectarine sorbet with Turkish Delight and rugelach made with hazelnuts and dates. We also sampled delicious cocktails from their bar, including the Desert Rose (gin, hibiscus, grapefruit and cucumber), Smoke on the Water (cachaca, Hungarian pepper, and lime), and A Wee Saint’s Dram (scotch, cinnamon, honey and lemon).

No pictures for this one, either. We were too busy enjoying the food and celebrating our first year of married life. (Clink!)

If you are planning a trip to Philadelphia, and you should be, I highly recommend both restaurants for your “must-do” lists. Yay for foodies!

A trip to the Shore

Luke and I celebrated our first anniversary by taking a relaxing trip to the Jersey Shore. After seeking recommendations from friends and websites, we selected Asbury Park for our destination. Asbury Park has a famous musical history (every great band of the 60s played here, and Boss fans will appreciate his contributions in the 80s), along with a lovely beachfront. The entire area is connected by boardwalks and Victorian homes.

After a spicy dinner at Cubacán on Friday night, we woke up Saturday ready for a day of beach activities. The water was pretty chilly, but we still found ways to have fun at the ocean! Including:

Kite flying

Miniature golf

Bike riding

After a great day in the sunshine, we returned to our bed and breakfast to find a lovely snack tray waiting for us!

The Asbury Ocean Beach Inn was just perfect for our getaway – close to the boardwalk, yummy food, comfy bed, and charming hosts. I highly recommend it if you are in the area.

That evening, full from our snacks and ready to curl up, we picnicked in our room on deli sandwiches, chips, and bubbles.

Yummers!

Sunday was lazily spent sleeping in, followed by an amazing goat cheese, herb, and onion frittata at the b’n’b. We slowly made our way home, meandering along the coastal towns and stopping to feel the sand between our toes a few more times before crossing the bridge back to the city.

New Jersey – you served as the perfect oasis for us. I like you, a lot.

Of course Cole Porter said it best

 

Blog Inspiration

Hello friends!

We’ve got lots of new blog posts in the works – our first restaurant review, an essay on teaching and adaptability, and a photo journal of our (upcoming) trip to “The Shore” this weekend.

For now, I want to share a smattering of great inspiration from some of my favorite blogs:

Luke and I are really hoping to have a Maine vacation while we’re East Coasters. Reading Joy the Baker’s blog about her recent adventure there makes me even more excited to start planning our trip!

Some of you know that I went through a wild “head tattoo” phase. Right after I quit my job to become a full-time graduate student, I moved to Mexico for a semester and day-dreamed of having Dr. Lakra tattoo my head. While I never got up the courage to shave my hair off and pull the trigger, I have remained an avid fan of his work. His latest creations are these amazing designs for Absolut’s “Mexico” Limited Edition bottles.

Also inspiring in the art world, check out pine cone land art and these incredible mandalas made from old computer bits.

And last but not least, wonderful writing by Ally Turner Kirkpatrick on moving, mushroom jackpots, and transitioning from city life to country life – all the things on my mind lately wrapped up into one lovely essay.

Have a great weekend!

Home

Today completes my second week of classes. I am enjoying my new position, and learning so much from the students and the overall experience.

While work is going well, I admit that the last two weeks have also provided a lot of personal frustration. Things that should be easy are overly complicated – applying for a driver’s license, obtaining a residential parking permit, finding new spots where I’d like to become a “regular.” In my fantasy land, settling into a new city is full of excitement, order, ease, and comfort. The reality has been the opposite, proving the (larger) point that building a new life requires time and patience.

This experience has led me to spend quite a bit of time considering what “home” means to me. I moved around a lot growing up – like a lot, lot. Whenever someone asked where I was from, I would say Georgia. And Georgia did feel like my home long after we moved away. This was almost entirely because of my grandparents. No matter where we lived, we would always come “home” for the holidays, family gatherings, and just-because visits. My grandma’s house felt like the most constant, consistent place I would return to, and was guaranteed to have the best “home” cooking.

When she passed away, my idea of “home” shifted to be wherever my parents were living. They hosted more events at their house, moved less frequently, and always offered me a happy and loving “homecoming.”

Today, home for me is where Luke is.

It is important for me to keep in mind that the temporary frustrations of settling into a strange city will pass, the city will become more familiar – and so will the faces. For now, I am thankful to be greeted at the end of each day by Luke, welcoming me home.

Lights at Longwood Gardens

After the Mushroom Festival dissolved in the rain we drove a few minutes away to our evening adventure: a Bruce Munro installation at Longwood Gardens. The rain promised to stretch out for the rest of the evening, just steady and wet. One spare umbrella in the trunk with holes starting to appear, we agreed to replace it with a sunny new one and both enjoy a few hours walking the gardens in the rain.

Credit: Stephanie

Beautiful gardens, muted and relatively empty due to the weather but the plants were loving it. Great flowering trees and colorful peppers beneath.

We toured through the art installations, fiber optic light in flowers, orbs, and candles situated in buildings, along lakes, and in the meadows and forests of the gardens. Before dark we were the only people in this beautiful red cedar and douglas fir treehouse:

Candlelight (and Stephanie) – Bruce Munro 2012

And then after a warming cup of chili at the cafe, darkness came and the curious glass and plastic globes took on a magical waving floating nature, like finding yourself in a childhood wonderland or Miyazaki movie.

Snowballs – Bruce Munro 2012

Water Towers (and umbrella) – Bruce Munro 2012

The Mushroom Festival

Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, aka the “Mushroom Capital of the World,” hosts a Mushroom festival each Fall to celebrate local fungi.

According to the festival staff, two Kennett Square florists initiated the first U.S. mushroom cultivation in 1896. Today, Pennsylvania’s mushroom farms produce 65% of the total U.S. mushroom supply. In fact, mushrooms are the #1 vegetable crop in Pennsylvania.

Only a short drive away, Luke and I headed out Saturday morning to enjoy our fill of mushrooms and mushroom-loving folks.

First stop, the Masonic Lodge’s famous Mushroom Soup.

Look at the size of those ‘shrooms!

Next, we toured an exhibit on the process of mushroom cultivation.

At this point, Luke decided to boldly try Mushroom Caramel Ice Cream.

And the verdict, “I think I like it.”

We hoped to take advantage of the festival’s Old Fashioned Carnival, but the rides did not open until evening (boo!), so instead we stopped to watch juggler Josh Horton while enjoying more tasty mushroom snacks (yay!).

Smoky Mushroom Bisque from Half Moon

Mac and Cheese with Mushrooms from Talula’s Table

Although the day began hot and sunny, dark clouds and high winds reached the area by mid afternoon. The threat of thunderstorms sent many people packing, but Luke and I took cover in the the festival-adjacent Flickerwood Wine Tasting Room. We steered clear of the “Margarita Wine Slushies” and opted for full-to-the-brim glasses of Merlot and De Chaunac instead.

Notice everyone in panic mode outside

After a terrible Friday (summed up by simply stating: DMV), it was lovely to relax in rural Kennett Square with my husband, a steady rain, and thousands of mushrooms.

First day of class

Image credit: The School of Rock: Andrew Schwartz

Tuesday was a great first day of class – I stayed calm, got through my “to-do” list without any hiccups or snafus, and even made jokes. For their part, the students were on-time, engaged, and friendly. I realize that the first day is usually glittery in a way that the last day is usually not, but my goal between now and then is to continue engaging my students with challenging, thought-provoking questions about the history of Latin America. Blowing peoples minds with my high voltage rock would be ok, too.

Finally, I really appreciate all the words of encouragement from family and friends yesterday. You guys are awesome.