Friday, May 28, 2010

So I Turned 25 Recently... (Part 1)

I'm really glad my family "gets" me.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

You'd be Proud...

The picture's not great, but that is a veggie burger. At a baseball game.
Go Phillies!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010



As I write my resignation letter to my office today, I would like to share the news with you as well. While I will not be resigning my post as "The Worst Vegetarian Ever," I will be leaving Philly and its fabulous and unique foodie culture behind as I embark on the next chapter of my life.

Philadelphia has very much become my home. I feel as if I have been here for longer than six years when I think about how much I have experienced here. I distinctly remember the very first day I visited, feeling like a small town girl in a big city. I marveled at the countless shops and more importantly restaurants all within walking distance. The concept of buying your next meal off the food truck down the block was entirely foreign to me. Now I exist almost soley on breakfast sandwiches, Magic Carpet, and soft preztels. Ok and the occasional hot dog.

I have witnessed Philly embrace many of the values of the new food revolution taking place around the world. We have restaurants serving local products, farmer's markets, CSA's, community gardens that would make Alice Waters proud, and grassroots organizations working hard to educate the masses. In the past few years I have changed the way that I eat, cook, and buy food in remarkable ways. I'm far less dependent on the supermarket than I used to be, and I've accepted that I can only eat certain fruits and vegetables when they are in season. It used to be that eating locally and organically meant shelling out a few extra bucks, but I've discovered that it's just not true any more. I think I manage to eat very well on my meager budget.

My journey continues on to Charlottesville, VA where my budget might not increase but where I hope to have time and kitchen space to keep up with my culinary explorations. I have already begun researching farmer's markets in the area. I have been accepted into a co-op, and my understanding is that the philosophy centers around shared food preparation and sustainability. I can't wait to have the opportunity to compost again!

I will continue to write, I promise. Writing has given me a creative outlet and a chance to document some important memories whether I have a large audience or not. There are far more talented, entertaining, and original folks out there I know. If at the end of the day if I'm the only one who reads it that's ok with me. At the very least I'll have a scrapbook/journal of some of my favorite memories and recipes.

But then again, maybe my tv career will take off soon. They air my episode of Chef's Vs. City in July.

As always, thanks for reading.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Food Network Here We Come

I have very few nice things to say about the Food Network. Even if I had the talent, charisma, and desire to share my cooking skills on TV I would avoid Food Network at all costs.

But that doesn't mean I can't be excited when I might have the opportunity to have my face shown on a Food Network show right? Ok I'm probably a huge hypocrite. I attribute it more to boredom than hypocrisy.

Whatever the case may be, here's the scoop for any foodies and television junkies in the area. The Food Network is taping a Philly episode of "Chef's Vs. City" tomorrow. If you haven't seen it, it's about as hokey as you'd expect it to be. Teams of celebrity chefs and wannabe Food Network "stars" race across major cities performing challenges like shoving fiery curry down their faces as quickly as possible.

I don't know what all the stops in Philly will be - I would imagine there are cheesesteaks and soft pretzels involved - but I do know that around lunchtime they will be filming at 34th and Walnut. As a loyal patron of the food truck Magic Carpet, I am thrilled that the challenge will include contestants making and selling falafel on the street. I'll be the first in line. Followed closely by Betty and Slagheap if only because I'll be dragging them down there to scope out the scene with me. I figure with 3 people we have a better shot at having someone's face end up in the final cut.

So look out world, WVE is officially making it's television debut. We're gonna be huge.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Happy Hour Just Got Happier

It's that season again, when warmer temps and lighter workloads tempt people to celebrate at the end of the workday and commiserate with their cubicle mates over a few drinks.

Any resident, employee or student of University City probably knows the same 3 or 4 bars with decent happy hour specials. While convenient, the cheese fries from New Deck and the half price margaritas from Mad4 start to get old after a few years. It may have something to do with the infamous purse melting incident at Mad4, but that's a story for another day.

All too often the happy hour dilemna is we either spend yet another night at New Deck or we venture downtown where we face higher prices plus the added transportation costs. Most times it's easier to stay within close proximity to our office. This is just a nice way of saying my co-workers (and I) are lazy.

No one was more excited than I was to hear about newcomer Landmark Americana opening up over by Drexel. Even better, they have happy hour specials to rival New Deck's half price appetizers. Ok, rival isn't the right word because they blow New Deck out of the water especially with their drink specials. I'm also a big stickler for places having an open layout that can accomodate a crowd. The place was incredibly roomy, but if you want to sit outside you'd best get there early.

We sampled the lobster quesadillas and the nachos, both of which were perfectly acceptable if somewhat predictable options for happy hour. For large portions at half price and washed down with copious amounts of beer and house made sangria, however, it's not a bad way to spend a warm summer evening.

Landmark Americana Tap and Grill
3333 Market Street

Friday, May 14, 2010

2nd Annual Earth Day Adventure

Over a year has passed since I entered the blogosphere, and not much as changed. Last year around this time Betty and I celebrated Earth Day in a manner more suited for Cinco de Mayo. We went out for Mexican food. (Ok, and we also saw the movie "Earth.") I'm happy to say that we kept our promise of making this an annual tradition. Go see the cheesy Disney Nature movie that comes out on Earth Day and eat some tacos.

This year it was "Oceans" and late night dinner at Xochitl. I was tipped off to spectacular late night specials at Xochitl, Thursdays 10-close. Something along the lines of half off almost everything on an already reasonably priced menu.

Even though it required substantial planning for me to eat dinner at 10 pm (I'm an old man, I like my dinner at 6 and I'm in bed by 10) it was worth it. The set up is great, although a little dark in the basement bar where they sat us. The service could have been better, but at half price I think it's allowed. Just don't expect to get out of there any time before midnight.

This is the place for tequila drinkers. They're serious about it here. The knowledgable waitress steered us towards a glass (and I do mean glass, not shot) served with some spicy tomato concoction that's supposed to cleanse the palate. It was interesting.

The food lived up to my expectations. While the servings are small, it's perfect for a group of people who like to sample lots of different dishes.

You'd be proud. I ordered pretty much the only vegetarian options on the menu, the empanadas and the black bean and huitlacoche burger. Both were more than satisfactory.

Oh and watch out for Earth Day 2011: "African Cats" and Zocalo

408 S. 2nd Street

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Falafel Factory (For Free!)

I don't mean to sound like a shill, but if you like bargains -and food- you should sign up for Groupon. Never heard of it? It's a daily listserve of discounts for local businesses. Don't do it if you don't like to clog up your inbox, but if you have the patience to actually read through the daily emails it's pretty sweet. And free. (I swear it's legit, you don't have to give them any scary information or commit to anything when you sign up.)

I won't bore you with the details, but I've used their food deals a lot. And I'm such a loyal customer that Groupon gave me a $5 credit just to be nice. So when the deal of the day was "$5 for $10 worth of falafel," I felt like it was my birthday and christmas all in the same day. Yes, in case you're wondering falafel is a perfectly acceptable gift in my book.

The Falafel Factory just happens to be a few blocks from my house, but it's just enough off the beaten path though that I'd never noticed it. Congratulations Groupon. You've gotten me to sample a local place I probably never would have otherwise. And they have my repeat business.

It's a pretty sparse operation. A small storefront with a simple menu. They chose a very accurate name for the place.

I haven't found much good falafel around here, and not surprisingly given the name, this was spot on. What I liked about it (besides the free-ness) was the texture and the fact that the sandwich didn't have any unnecessary lettuce or filler. If I wanted a salad, I'd order a salad. I ordered the Greek, and it was chock full of nothing but falafel and delicious toppings. They also have flavors like Hawaiian and BBQ, but I'll stick with the Greek. I'm loyal like that. You can add sides like hummus and pita or veggies and dip. I'm glad they were free, otherwise they are not worth the extra $2.

Verdict: At around $7 for a sandwich, it's a bit more than I usually spend for lunch but it's certainly within range. Next time I'm bored with my usual lunch or dinner routine and feel like a splurge it's worth the couple extra blocks. I've also heard good things about the falafel at nearby Mama's.

The Falafel Factory
18th and Chestnut

Zeke's Artichoke Surprise

This is my first blog post on the appropriately named “Worst Vegetarian Ever” site, so bear with me…

This is very simple recipe for everyone’s favorite happy hour treat – Artichoke Dip. There are lots of variations of the classic tortilla chip dipping food. But I got this one mix by watching an old man whip it up in all of 4 minutes before a BBQ. I thought, hell, I can do that. I made it a week later for family and friends – including Wilma – and it was a hit. The old man didn’t use measurements so neither did I. The best recipes are ones that are made with the eye and can evolve with each time out. Keep that in mind when making the dip. Here’s the recipe…

Zeke’s Artichoke Surprise

What you need:
1 can artichoke hearts
1 can black olives
1 spoon full of minced garlic from a jar
1 bag of 4 cheese blend (bigger the better)
1 heavy pour from a bag or can of grated parmesan cheese
6 healthy turns of fresh ground pepper (or more)
3 solid scoops of mayonnaise
· Optional Hot sauce

What you do:

Chop up the artichoke hearts in a few pieces. You don’t need to dice these too much because they will break down in the oven, but get them into sizes you would want to see on your chip and add to a large mixing bowl.

Then cut up olives into 3-4 slices per olive and toss them in the bowl. If you used pre-diced olives you can just throw them in the bowl as is, minus that nasty grey water they keep them in.
Add garlic and mix up current ingredients.

Now add the cheeses and mayo. You don’t want the mix to be soupy, however you want a good amount of mayo so that you aren’t dipping into a solid gooey cheese bowl, as appetizing as that sounds.

Add the pepper and any other spices you think will make it taste good. You won’t need any extra salt because the olives and artichokes will have enough in them already.

I personally like to add some chili powder or hot sauce just to give it a small kick

Mix the whole thing up and then put in a casserole dish ready for baking, evenly spreading out the top like a batch of brownies.

Place dish in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until the top turns golden. You can also cook for 30 and then broil the top for a few minutes for a crunchy top.

Crack a beer and wait.

When dip is done, finish your beer, crack another and grab chips. Eat.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ron's Rib's Restaurant Review

I can't say that I've ever willingly taken Al Roker's advice on anything in my life. His endorsement of local favorite Ron's Rib's has actually been enough to keep me away for a while. I'm also not a huge BBQ afficianado. I love some good ribs, but as far as I'm concerned my dad's are just fine and Philly just isn't the place for authentic BBQ. The only experience I have with southern/soul food are the few obligatory shows I've seen on the subject.

Well after many raves from Fred and company I decided I had to try Ron's. I also get weird cravings every once in a while and one day I just couldn't get a nice juicy hunk of meat out of my head. Actually, I think that describes every day for me.

I also have to hand it to a place that doesn't necessarily do any favors for it's customers. They have odd hours, they run out of food sometimes, there's not much choice on the menu and the place itself is no-frills. I think if I ever ran a restaurant that's how I would do it. The facts that they've been in business forever and have such a devoted following are sure signs of good food, Al Roker notwithstanding.

So how did it taste? It was the big tender hunk of meat I'd been craving. I'm not wimp when it comes to heat, but I had to say the spicy that we ordered was bordering on unpalatable. I'm not one to ever leave a piece of meat uneaten, however, and after eating enough, you don't notice it so much anyways. Fred and I got different sides as you can see. They were tasty enough, but I can't comment on authenticity. The coleslaw was a little sweet for my tastes, but had a nice tang as opposed to the mayonaise goo you sometimes find.

Verdict: If you live in the neighborhood and are craving some BBQ, it will hit the spot. Just maybe order the medium instead of the hot.

Ron's Ribs
1627 South St.