Christmas Eve dinner with all my favorite guys at our favorite Chinese place.
Category Archives: Dinner
The holidays are a magical season. Money, resolve and time all disappear faster than you can say “abracadabra” during these short December days. Accepting that what one gets in exchange for those commodities are opportunities to share time and laughter making new memories, it’s a trade I’m happy to make.
This first weekend of my holiday break has been filled with activity – and cookies. Lots of cookies. Friday’s original evening plan had been to revisit Soul Night downtown at Lost & Found. We went last month and really enjoyed the music, vibe and diverse crowd. But, I caught an ad on Facebook for a Funk Night at Savoy, which was easily within walking distance, and it appealed on a cold night. No regrets – DJ Trumastr was on his game as usual and the Manhattans (yes, two) were impeccably crafted. It was a fun night.
Saturday brought another opportunity to stay in the neighborhood, but this time it was DelSo, rather than Center Square. A neighbor’s annual holiday party brought together a wonderful crowd of yogis/educators/creative types who all shared at least one common friend, the hostess, but often the connections between guests exceeded that minimal number. Albany, Smalbany, I love you. Another merry event with lots of laughs.
Sunday it was our turn to host for the first night of Hanukkah. The plan was traditional latkes, soup, salad and a couple of quiches. And cookies, of course. Prep, beyond the task of preparing and frying latkes, was well in hand until minor tragedy struck – or stubbed, as in a broken toe which required medical attention and prevented the potatoes from being transformed into latkes. What to do?
My friend and uber talented chef, Ric Orlando, had shared on FaceBook that New World Bistro Bar was featuring his “Beat Bobby Flay” latkes…hmmm. Why stress when I could place an order and simply stop to pick them up on my way to my sweetie’s house? Done – and no lingering odor of frying at home with which to contend.
While nothing replaces a hot latke out of the pan, Ric’s latkes were wonderful. They’re large and magically manage to be crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and nearly devoid of oil or greasiness. After reheating them on a rack on a baking sheet, everyone happily loaded on sour cream and applesauce and we feasted. Crisis diverted, we enjoyed a festive evening with lovely people.
I’m not going to claim that bringing latkes to dinner for the first night of Hanukkah is a miracle or anything, but I believe many would be happier to see a resourceful woman arriving with award winning latkes, than three “wise” men bearing Frankincense. I know I would.
When I was a kid I had faux aunts and uncles. There were no true relatives (that I knew about) in the States, so my mother provided close friends who functioned on some level as family. It was a laudable attempt and there were some good people in our lives during those years, some of whom remain to this day.
One of these families, the Ls, had the most multi limbed family tree in
the my world and I loved the holidays we shared with them over the years. Dinner usually included all of the following: the married couple, (about the same age as my mom), and their daughter, who was a toddler when we met, his son from his first marriage, joined by her two children from her first marriage. Also present, her first husband with his son from his second marriage. And the three of us.
It seemed like the most exciting, bizarre and totally normal holiday gathering ever. The traditions all blurred together, Jewish, Italian American, German, and the food was crazy – lasagna, bagels with lox, ham and fruit cake. Thinking about those days always makes me smile big.
Yesterday, for the first time in a few years, I had Thanksgiving dinner with friends. It was very low key and comfortable. We brought desserts and a savory vegetable casserole to join the bounty that was already present. While we didn’t play backgammon for boxes of Marlboro Reds, (as I might have decades ago with “my” extended family), we sipped far better wine than in those long ago days, with a mood which was comparably mellow.
At the table was my UG* and his children. And his children’s mom and her partner, along with her partner’s parents and her brother and sister in law. Looking around the table and seeing the threads that tied us all together, I couldn’t help but smile at the familiarity of the situation.
We recreate the chaos with which we are most comfortable. (I use “chaos” here to suggest a familiar dynamic with lots of activity, not as an indication of lack of control.) There’s a vibe or pace that we try to replicate, whether it’s conscious or not, because that’s what we grew up knowing.
Sitting at the dining table with a bunch of people who, through the years, have chosen to share their lives with one another, defines the holidays for me, even more than turkey and cranberry sauce. The combination of common histories and yet-to-be-explored future activities is what I was raised on and yesterday was the first time I felt that familiar energy in a long time.
It was a good holiday.
How was yours?
*don’t ask me what it means, it’s a private
joke term of endearment
Tuesday night I made my way to Troy to finally (after years of missing it) participate in the Night of the Walking Red. The event, organized by The League of Extraordinary Red Heads and hosted by Ryan’s Wake, annually gathers together natural redheads to celebrate how wonderfully special and unique they truly are in a world of brunettes and blondes.
Side note: Twice on Tuesday I was called a strawberry blonde. I suppose it is possible that my hair color is fading as I age, but don’t doubt for a second that my redhead personality remains as vivid as ever.
After posing for the group photo, snapping a few of my own shots and catching up with a fellow teacher I had worked with more than twenty years ago, (who is married to a redhead) I found myself hungry and without a dinner plan.
Hmmmm…Troy….where have I been wanting to eat? Nighthawks!
I Wazed my way to the other side of the bridge and quickly found a parking spot, something that doesn’t always happen in trendy Troy. As I walked the half block to the restaurant’s corner, I couldn’t help but be impressed with how good Troy looked in the dusky, evening light. There were appealing storefronts and shops which attracted my eye for another visit, while the soft glow of Nighthawks’ windows beckoned with a warm welcome.
I arrived at about 7:00 and grabbed a seat at the bar, my preferred spot, particularly when dining solo. It was Burger Night, something that is celebrated weekly on both Monday and Tuesday nights when $15 gets you a burger, fries and a beer. I love me a meaty burger, but the veggie burger called my name and I couldn’t have been happier with my choice.
When my plate arrived, everything was hot and well portioned. I’m usually that annoying person who doesn’t eat the burger roll, but I was feeling indulgent with my bean, grains and mushrooms based burger and went hands on. So damn good.
The special sauce and pickles made for a wonderfully messy delight and I’m pretty certain it was the best veggie burger experience I’ve ever had – and that’s without factoring in the tasty Indian Ladder cider and the excellent playlist that had me humming. Gladys Knight and Led Zeppelin? Uh, yeah!
It took me too long to get to Nighthawks but, now that I’ve finally made my way there, a return visit is guaranteed. Keep the lights (and music!) on. I’ll be back.
There’s been so much talk this spring about the rain. Many people seem to feel that we’ve had an excessive number of stormy and wet days. Until recently, I believe, there hadn’t been more than an instance or two of our stringing more than three rainless days together since March. Or something like that. Rain doesn’t bother me too much, especially since I’m finally having some necessary work done to my house to ensure it remains dry when it rains. The wind, though, is a different story.
I was thinking about wind and why it makes me uncomfortable and I think it’s because wind is 3-D. I mean, if 3-D is defined as being discernible with three different and unique senses, that is. Is that what 3-D means? Wind is audible, visible and physical, which is kind of a lot, don’t you think? I don’t know if it’s a childhood spent watching The Wizard of Oz every year or what, but wind frightens me. It’s powerful.
It’s going to sound completely ridiculous, but I’ve been working on becoming more comfortable with the wind. For a long time, actually. I know wind and change are partners in moving life along and I’ve gotten better at swaying when in a gust, instead of going with my usual response of digging in and refusing to let go. I’m a work in progress. Mid-gust, shall we say?
One recent change that I’m trying to relax into is the diminishment of family dinner nights. I think it’s more a function of the season than a complete breakdown of family time, so I’m tolerating it. Time will tell, but for now I’m going to cook when I feel like it and continue to make an attempt to prepare meals that can be reheated or repurposed. Case in point, last night’s baked ham with scalloped potatoes and broccoli, became the foundation for a pasta with cubed ham, peas, arugula and grated cheese. Tomorrow I plan to eat some leftover scalloped potatoes with poached eggs. Is it morning yet?
Has the rain or wind impacted your mood? How old were you when your parent stopped regularly cooking dinner?
A couple of days ago an image came across my Facebook feed* that I couldn’t stop thinking about. It was a photo. Of a sandwich, of all things. What would make a sandwich so compelling? Well, it was a fried soft shell crab BLT served with chipotle mayo and poblano slaw. What else do I need to say?
Knowing that soft shell crab season is over in the blink of an eye, I decided last night to make my way to New World Bistro Bar for dinner. Of course, me being me, I called first to confirm that the sandwich was on the evening’s menu and that there would be one available when I arrived. You do that, too, right?
Anyway, I settled in at the bar and asked Nick to make me a Stoli gimlet, a cocktail that I thought would go swimmingly with my dinner. As has been my experience without fail, my drink was perfectly executed and delivered refreshingly cold and slightly tart. Yum.I sipped my drink and chatted with Nick about travel and music, two favorite topics for both of us, until my date arrived and we placed our dinner orders. I tweaked mine a little, opting to skip the roll and save my carb intake for the hand cut fries as my side.
A short while later I was rewarded with the gorgeous plate you see here. The crab had a meaty body and crunchy legs and was everything I had hoped it would be – and, seriously, how often in life does that happen? The mayo had a pleasant heat to it and the slaw provided a great crunch to the dish. In place of the roll, I had a combination of lettuces and some cooked greens, which were a lovely surprise.
Get it while you can, people. Tell Nick I sent you.
*how appropriate a term!
People say all kinds of negative things about Irish food – it’s bland or all fried or what in God’s name is black pudding?, but I’m here to tell you there is some excellent food to be had on the Emerald Isle. While my first day of eating was a disaster with two subpar meals, it’s all been good since then. Here’s a round up of my favorite places to get a good quality meal.
Vintage Kitchen. Apologies in advance for not having photos of my fantastic dinner, but it’s hard to snap pics when your hands are full of wine glasses! This established and highly regarded spot, near Tara Station, is a tough table to get and had been booked a full 6 months prior to our Saturday night reservation. My lamb shank was divine, but following the starter course of a potato gratin with crab (served in an adorable mini copper skillet), I was hopeless to finish it. This place rocks.
Italian food in Ireland can be dodgy, but Ciao Bella Roma, excruciatingly slow service aside, does a good job with a fairly broad menu. Our table of five enjoyed an array of items including pizza, a calzone, three pasta variations and a couple of salads and everything was surprisingly tasty. Was my cacio e pepe as memorable as what I had in Rome? No, but it was really good and the portion was tremendous. Desserts and a cappuccino rounded out the meal and all were thoroughly enjoyed.
Searsons Pub – This large, popular pub serves a terrific pint as well as a full menu of delights. I had the seafood chowder and found it excellent, chocked with fresh fish and a touch of cream. Very nice and social spot.
Outside of Dublin
Tranquil Tearooms in Deansgrange Cemetery. After a drenching walk trying to locate my father’s resting spot, this cafe was like a welcome mirage promising warmth and coziness. I had no expectation for the high quality of the offerings and I only wish I could have justified ordering a slice of any of the cakes on display, following my sweet potato soup with a slice of brown bread. Wholesome, fresh and precisely what my chilled self needed prior to making my way back outside again on a damp day.
Octopussy’s in Howth. Get on the Dart to Howth and make your way to this small tapas place. If you’re lucky, they’ll find a table to tuck you into, but if you need to wait for availability (reservations not taken), settle in. It’s worth waiting for oysters like the 1/2 dozen I enjoyed. Rounds things out with another plate or two – I went with the scallops and patatas brava. Solid selections. Bonus – great music and very capable service.
Quay Street Kitchen on the lower part of Quay Street, is a wonderful spot to enjoy a meal while watching the crowds make their way up and down the busy pedestrian street. This was probably my favorite chowder of the trip and it’ll be hard for anyone to exceed the quality and freshness of the ingredients prepared with a respectful and light hand. Absolutely delicious and served with warmth and hospitality.
Oslo Bar in Salthill, luckily for me just a few minutes walk from my Airbnb, is a place that takes it beers quite seriously. Fortunately, their menu rises to the occasion and I thoroughly enjoyed lunch of broccoli salad with a side of the best polenta fries I’ve ever had. The service was a bit distant, but the food hit the mark.
Cava Bodega, a wine bar and tapas spot, made my last evening in Galway a sensory delight. After a bit of negotiating between sitting indoors and out, my server found me a lovely high top table and I settled myself indoors with a view of the street and dining room. My glass of cava came from a fresh bottle and the anchovies with peppers paired beautifully with the dry bubbles. I enjoyed the evening’s special preparation of local mussels in white wine and garlic and despite the loudness of the nearby Americans, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in this well lit and cozy nook slightly off Quay Street. Find it.
Maybe you have some recommendations to add to my certainly incomplete list?