Pro Tip #1 – Avocados as Often as Humanly Possible

Seriously. Avocados are the best fruit/vegetable/energy source ever. They are delicious, smooth, cooling, everything. You can mash them, spread them, even fry them! And they only get better with additional ingredients. I’m sure there are some people out there who do not like avocados. Those people are wrong. Avocados are where it’s at. And here’s a delicious example of why:

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I forgot to take a picture initially because I was too excited/hungry.

Just look at those avocado pieces swimming in no-effort-straight-from-the-can tomato soup. And it looks/tastes/is insanely better with the addition of some ground pepper and avocado slices. And, don’t forget to spread the rest on a slice of toast to dip, munch, take a break from the soup, what have you. Basically, avocados save the day. Every. Time.

Now, realistically, most of you who like avocados already nodded approvingly at this post and thought to yourselves, Yeah, man. Avocados, this chick knows her stuff, and those of you who don’t like avocados remain unswayed. But, I like to imagine that at least one of you thought, you know what? I’ll give guacamole another shot, and what’s the worst that could happen? Anaphylactic shock? It’s a small price to pay, really.

Got any other great ideas for avocados? Send ’em my way. I’ll make sure to do a post on Cantina’s fried avocado salad sometime soon. As well as their vegan beef nachos. And their mojitos… and their…

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After 3 or 4 years, I finally made it to Standard Tap

I’m feeling a little sick and my head is in a fog, but I finally found some time report back about yet another fantastic sandwich, covered in shoestring fries. That sentence hit so many points; I couldn’t be prouder.

It’s been a few years since I first saw Standard Tap, quietly looming over 2nd and Poplar. And while I have visited once or twice, I never really gave it my full attention until now. Meeting up with a friend for dinner, we sat in the oddly well-lit first floor bar. Things were pretty standard as far as these meet ups go: have a drink, chat with the bar tender, order food, have another drink, anxiously await food and pretend to be paying attention. You know, normal stuff. But then A BABY showed up. And not just any baby. This baby was cool as shit. She sat right on her dad’s lap and slapped the bar like she was ready for a drink. After her dad and uncle’s beers arrived, the bar tender handed her an orange slice. The little girl, like the boss that she is, just opened her mouth to accept his offering. Solid move, I wish it was still socially acceptable for me to do that every once in a while.

Finally, after what seemed like hours and a fuzzier-than-I-was-expecting head later, the food arrived and by this point I was so hungry I was simply throwing out words and confusing/terrifying the poor food runner. I ordered the portobello mushroom burger; my friend, the pulled pork sandwich with extra long hots. At this point, my memory gets awfully fuzzy. I know there was that first amazing, juicy bite where the top bun is crispy but the bottom has been soaking in deliciousness and the cheese is melted perfectly enough to string out as you pull away… But other than that, I was so absorbed in the efficient and total consumption of my sandwich that there are few other details. The fries were that awesome texture of thin, crispy, floppy, and greasy- basically the best kind of fry there is. And the beers we had were diverse, but easily accessible to a novice craft beer drinker. I stayed more on the darker side with dunkles and porters. My friend went with the lighter saisons they had on tap that moment. One thing I always fall for that I need to stop doing is the hand-pumped beers. It’s not that they can’t pour ’em at Standard Tap, because they can; they’re great at it. But a hand pumped beer never has the same amount of carbonation or chilly temperature I’m looking for. Really, there’s nothing worse than anticipating a cold, refreshing drink (of beer, water, juice, etic. this is a universal thing) and finding it lacking.

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Photobomb like a boss.

In all, Standard Tap is one of those places you need to try at least once. Their menu is significantly gastro pub, but more “conventional” meat eaters will find something they like. If you’re ever in Northern Liberties, check it out. I’ll be back for another beer or two, for sure.

I am (Unofficially) Officially Moving to Cyprus

I have been to Kanella exactly 2 times and I can say without a doubt in my mind that I would eat there every single day if I lived close enough. Whoever was putzing around the kitchen one day and thought, “You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to mix feta with some thyme, wrap it in filo dough and smother the whole thing in thyme-infused honey and serve with roasted beets,” is a genius. Bureki. I wish I had eight more of those right now.

And the face my friend made when he tried tahini for the first time was equally magical: first the pure, unadulterated bliss of creamy, savory, slightly salty heaven. BUT THEN THE BITTERNESS SET IN AND HIS FACE WENT THROUGH A RAINBOW OF EMOTION. I, being the bad friend in this situation, did not warn him soon enough. I felt terrible for maybe half a second before breaking down into laughter.

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“Is that a bowl for washing fingers?” You would ask. And you would be correct.

After weighing the pros and cons, he eventually decided on a positive impression of tahini and continued to dip his bread in our little antipasto treat. And after our starter course of heaven wrapped in filo dough drizzled with more heaven, came the entrées. My partner in crime ordered the special poultry (Thyme and lemon hen on a bed of I believe wheat berries). First they set the table with the usual forks and knives (classy!) but then added a small bowl of water because this is the kind of dish you eat with your hands. How awesome is that? A fancy dinner atmosphere and finger food!

I ordered the Cyprus tortelloni: a utopian plate of halloumi-and-mint-filled tortelloni with a greek yogurt and spinach sauce topped with a little more mint and lemon to create nothing short of divinity. It was a wonderful dish that I am still craving (and failing to recreate at home) a week later. It’s no big deal, I guess, I’ll survive somehow.

Maybe the best part of all was that this was going to be my treat. Oh, I was hell-bent on it, too. Right up until the check came I was all, “No, don’t worry about it… It’s not that expensive… Seriously, I got this…” Then the check came. So I grab my purse, rummage around annnnnnnnd… nothing. I left my wallet at home! Ugh, seriously? I mean, really? I could die. I felt so bad. On the bright side, my Meat Partner has a solid amount of credit to his name. Lucky, lucky.

Did you know that Cyprus is the 3rd largest island in the Mediterranean? Or that the next time I’m in the mood for brunch I’m going back? Yeah, that last one was easy.

I don’t know how the Vietnamese got a hold of jalepeños and cilantro, but I’m so glad they did.

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(Note the stoop handrail)

Author’s note: it’s been pointed out more than once that I misspelled banh my in the original posting. It has since been changed. Thank you to everyone who helped!

 

Being a twenty-something young professional, I can’t always go to fancy restaurants (more so out of boredom rather than price… You’ll see why in later posts).  This time, we went to BaLe in little south Philly Vietnam for banh my, or Vietnamese deli sandwiches. The deli part refers more to the fact that there is a table for non-refrigerated items like delicate flower cookies, an open refrigerator for sausages and preserved meats and the counter for ordering food. No tables, no chairs, no

nothin’. Also, good luck trying to tell the difference between fried tofu and chicken. It helps to know what fried tofu looks like, which my accomplice did not. So after ordering our sandwiches, we set out for a place to eat them. Now, imagine south Philly for a second. Bring up those memories of parks and benches and general ‘welcome, sit for a while’ atmosphere. Now realize that idea is a lie. There are no benches, only stoops. And what’s more, Murphy’s law dictates that halfway through your banh my, the owner of said stoop will come home to find you. Luckily, he will be very nice about the whole thing and invite you to continue eating.

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Also note the significant lack of chicken.

Fortunately, once you get over that awkwardness, you begin to appreciate the Vietnamese affinity for jalepeños and cilantro mixed in with your typical fresh vegetables (carrots, lettuce, cucumber, etc.). I’m not a culinary anthropologist, but I would love to know how jalepeños and cilantro made it all the way to south east Asia. Maybe they were always there and it was Central America that benefited from the import. Honestly, I’ve never looked into it, but I want to. I think fusion cuisine is a little weird, to be frank, it always seems forced. But that’s probably because I don’t know the history behind it. For example, Chifa: Peruvian-Chinese cuisine. What? But it comes from Chinese immigrants and the story behind that sounds so fascinating.

Anyway, the sandwiches were a good call: cheap, fast, new. But they were every bit the quality one would expect from a fast, cheap deli. Not bad by any means, just not winning a James Beard anytime soon. I still recommend it if you’re in the area and looking for a quick lunch. There’s also a highly recommended Pho place behind it. Unfortunately, you’ll never see me there because, well, beef broth.

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Of course, always end your night with a few beers and some warm blueberry bread pudding with whiskey-caramel sauce from Royal Tavern. It’s only right.

A Very Happy St. Paddy’s to You

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This is the most Irish meal I can think of, can you do better?

This past weekend was the unofficial excuse for the young and old to pretend they’re back in college. Luckily, 17th fell on a Sunday and so it left the whole weekend open for celebration- not. I had work every day, but I saw plenty of other people having the time of their lives dressed in bright green swaths of fabric, shivering in the freezing rain Saturday afternoon. Really,  Mother Nature, what an immature prank.

Fear not, this entire post will not be one long rant of jealousy aimed at my more forward-thinking peers. I, too, had some Irish-American-themed fun at Slainte Pub, located at 30th and Market. Now, you don’t know this yet, but it will become apparent that Slainte is my regular haunt. They have 30-something rotating taps and never manage to get pretentious about it. In fact, you probably are thinking, what? A bar at 30th and Market? Yes. A bar. Right there after you get off the train (or an excuse to catch the next one). And you never even knew. Go figure.

Their menu is your typical American pub fair: burgers, wings, fries; with a few traditional Irish dishes: bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie- you know, all that great stuff I can’t eat. So, true to form, I ordered my favorite plate, nachos. And they were better than usual! Melty, gooey cheese with plenty of black beans to add weight. Being without a meat partner, I enlisted my lovely bartender, who ordered a burger. I will hand it to the kitchen staff- you can pretty much customize your burger any way you want.

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Full disclosure: the beer is mine, but what burger looks better without a beer?

Oh, and I totally had you going that I practiced self-control and restraint this weekend, didn’t I? Don’t you worry.

And then it hit me…

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I’ve been a vegetarian for roughly ten years. My best friend from high school likes to remind me of the days when we shared popcorn chicken wraps freshman year only to come back the next fall and I could no longer partake in our weekly ritual. It was a traumatic time, but I still hold on to the fact that processed chicken pieces are kind of gross if you think about them for too long.

Since then, there has been a lot of research- books, movies, wikipedias on the true definition of Veganism- but the fact has remained that I never looked back. I never once missed meat. I used to love lobster and it is true that one fateful filet mignon did it in for me. But enough of the past, on to the future!

Just because I don’t like meat doesn’t mean I hate happiness. I love happiness. In fact, I love it so much, I wanted to share with you my adventures in finding Philly’s best vegetarian foods. And, so that things don’t ever get boring, I’ll try to bring a long a meat eating friend whenever I can (that same friend from high school calls it a “meat partner,” she’ll appear from time to time).

The first place we visited was Watkin’s Drinkery, probably the most gastro-pubiest gastro-pub I’ve ever been to. My friend’s direct quote was, “Oh no, you’re a vegetarian, aren’t you? I wouldn’t have brought you here if I remembered that.” And as expected, my choices were limited, but that doesn’t even matter because I had what is arguably the best grilled cheese sandwich of my life. It changes weekly and I was lucky enough to have the havarti with dill and red pepper relish. I was  a little hesitant about the relish because I am a grilled cheese purist, but it was amazing and just acidic enough to cut the cheese without overwhelming it. My meat partner had the haddock fish and chips with an enviable amount of fish-less crispies. And everyone knows the little fried bits of nothingness are the best part.

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Needless to say, I won.