Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Delicatessen & The Free Library of Philadelphia

So instead of working from home on Sunday afternoon (which is our normal routine if we’re not doing other things), Jonathan had the great idea to go see one of the big Philadelphia libraries. So, we looked up a place to get some food nearby and then the plan was to spend the afternoon at The Free Library of Philadelphia.

With a combination of my not reading the GPS correctly and a detour causing a road to only go one way, we had a bit of trouble getting to the Delicatessen. In fact, we ended up in Jersey since that one road had no exits before hitting the bridge, LoL. Oh well, live and learn. $4 later (NJ is so quirky. It makes me giggle about how they charge you to leave all the time) we found the place and picked up our order (we had called it in).

I had Mom Mom’s Tuna Fish Salad Melt with potato salad, and Jonathan had smoked pastrami with waffle fries. The potato salad was made with red potatoes, but it was really sweet. As in, I think they added sugar, LoL. I didn’t really care for it, but Jonathan liked it. The tuna salad sandwich was on Challah and served open-face. The muenster and tomato were a great addition, and the tuna weighed down the bread quite a bit. A delicious combination that left me full without finishing the first half, LoL. Jonathan’s sandwich was *very* smoky, but he liked it. He had added cheese to it, and they certainly gave him his money’s worth – he got four slices! The waffle fries were a little soggy by the time we ate, but still delicious. We can only imagine how good they would have been fresh!!The only downside to the meal: the pickles were salty.

We found parking a few blocks from the library so we walked on over and explored a bit. It’s been there since 1927, and there’s a lot of really beautiful architecture throughout. The strange thing, to me, is that the style isn’t exactly uniform. There were Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and even some Gothic elements. Actually, there were probably more, but I stopped pointing them out to Jonathan after that. The rooms are arranged in a makes-sense-but-not-how-you’d-expect way, and it took us quite a while to find a place to set up shop. Eventually I had to ask someone where he’d recommend we work with laptops, since we weren’t finding much. Turns out, there isn’t a whole lot of research space in this library, which is odd when you look at some of the older photographs that they have displayed around the building. Plus, after we found an area and pulled out our laptops, it became apparent that the wi-fi was only for those with Philadelphia County library cards… which isn’t us since we’re in Bucks county. So, we worked a bit on non-internet things, but ultimately left much sooner than we had planned in order to be more efficient. Neat place to spend 45 minutes or so walking around, tho!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Whistler's Inn

We watched Ghana beat the USA in the World Cup at Whistler’s Inn. Jonathan found it online since it was near Costco… another place we needed to stop by. It’s a nice little place, with lots of televisions in the bar area, and an entirely separate area for dining (you could still get the full menu in the bar area as well). We had a high top, though there were also booths. The servers were all very friendly and excellent at anticipating your refill needs.

We started out with the appetizer combo, which had mozzarella sticks, onion rings, cheese balls (think jalapeno poppers), and chicken tenders. It was all pretty good, but the props go to the mozzarella sticks, which were excellent. The chicken tenders tasted like large frozen ones that had been reheated, and the onion rings were pretty standard. The cheese balls were decent to me, but Jonathan liked them rather well. They were very cheesy with just hints of jalapeno, so I liked them better than most.

Then, Jonathan (and Rob) had the garlic wings, and I went with the Tuna Club with fries. The fries were delicious, and the tuna was plentiful. I was struggling to finish half of the sandwich, and it was really interesting to have bacon on a tuna sandwich, LoL. I didn’t try the wings, but the boys reported that they were pretty good. They were very big, and breaded thoroughly, with bits of minced garlic on them.

Overall, I’d recommend the place. Good food, excellent service, fun sporty atmosphere. We probably won’t be back (we don’t venture down toward Costco often), but that shouldn’t stop you!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer Camp Strikes Again!

So there's been a lack of posts lately. Simply put, it's just been insanely busy here. While Jonathan was in Washington, DC for a week, we finalized extending our stay in PA an extra two months. I went ahead and applied for a couple summer camp jobs in the area that were still open, and found out Saturday afternoon that I started on Monday morning. So, for the past four days I've been working full-time at a day camp. This will continue until Labor Day, maybe a week earlier.

It's about 15 minutes away (coming home. on the way there I hit traffic going into Jersey, LoL), and is in its third or fourth year of running this specific set-up. I'm the Drama Specialist, so the groups come to me for drama class, and I teach ages 5-12, broken down by grade and gender. It's difficult to say too much at this point, since I'm kinda picking it up as I go (obviously, since I didn't know the campus or anything else until after I started, LoL). So far, though, it's been pretty good. It's different working at a day camp (as opposed to residential), and it's different having boys and girls (instead of all girls), but there are a lot of similarities to the camp I worked at before (I'll expound on that another day for those without the background knowledge of those couple years).

Oh, and I also picked up a dramaturgy gig for a theater that I put in a resume for back in January or so. That also happened last week and this coming weekend I meet the staff there. I'll be working and researching for this at night and on the weekends, but I'm beyond excited that I'm getting this opportunity. If you talked to me on the phone last week, I was beyond excited pretty much every day (my sister will vouch for that... I think I scared her with my ecstasy at one point, LoL). This week, I've been exhausted. I think after another week I'll be good to go, though.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tonelli's Pizza

It's been a very busy couple weeks for us, hence the lack of posts.

Probably six months ago at this point, my friend Dani mentioned that there's a pizza place near her that has pierogie pizza on the menu. Since I'm a big fan of potato-type-pizza (thanks, Stevi B's for turning me on to that!), I've wanted to try it ever since. Well, I finally got down there and Dani and I went to Tonelli's. It's a sports bar with a lot of televisions, and it was Friday night so it was pretty busy.

We decided to go with a half-pierogie and half-"the great white," in case pierogie turned out to be a dud. The Great White was an olive oil base with garlic and parmesan plus mozzarella, always a winning combination. This pizza was no different, another delicious white pie. The server was a little unclear on what was on the pierogie pizza (we asked since the menu did not specify), but it turned out to be a base of mashed potatoes, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, and onions. We got the bacon on the side. The server also mentioned it had sour cream, but it didn't come with any. When I looked online, apparently it was supposed to be on the side. No worries, it was still yummy. Dani and I both agreed that chives would have been better than onions in this case.

I'd go back, it's a good place. It's rather far from us tho, probably a little more than half an hour. And in the land of pizza and cheesesteaks, there's not really a normal need to go further than ten minutes, hehe. I'd recommend it, especially to watch sports. Oh, and their coke is fantastic (for those of you who are picky about your fountain beverages).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Day in NYC

Jonathan had heard about a tweet-up for NASA in New York City as part of the World Science Fair. He and our friend Rob both responded to the invitation and planned to attend a special panel that would have a couple astronauts and other really interesting people. We toyed around with several different plans as to how we'd spend the rest of the day (this was only a two-hour event), and eventually came up with an over-booked idea.

We decided to drive to New York this time, which is a first. This was spurred mainly by the fact that the NJTransit system upped the rates and it went from $43 to $62 for the two of us to go into the City and back. Plus, last time we were in New York we saw a garage that boasted $17 parking for up to 12 hours, and I had figured out the tolls to be under $20 roundtrip, so the price wasn't a big difference anymore. And, with no traffic it's about a 90-minute drive, so a little longer than the train, but not a big deal.

We ended up leaving about half an hour late, so instead of parking first, Jonathan and Rob ended up dropping me off at the Broadway Theater first, and then they went to park. I stood in line and bought a student rush ticket for the matinee. Then, we met up at the Seventh Avenue station and took the subway all the way to the World Trade Center area. We saw Ground Zero and some of the memorials, then we walked around the Financial District and saw Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange, and the big bull statue (which is anatomically correct, I might add). Then we walked down to Battery Park and were able to get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.
The reconstruction at the World Trade CenterTrinity Churchinside Trinity ChurchAlexander Hamilton's graveNYSE on Wall St.

We had already planned our meals, and we headed over to the Corner Bistro (menu outdated online), which is the legendary burger place that they search for on How I Met Your Mother, a sitcom that's set in NYC. Rob and Jonathan each ordered a cheeseburger, and I had the bistro burger. Bistro apparently adds bacon, LoL. These burgers were FABULOUS. And I mean it. We all LOVED them. The fries were pretty average, but they were baked almost dry, so I was happy, LoL. Service was friendly (like mom-and-pop friendly!) and especially fast. The prices were beyond reasonable ($6 for a half-pound cheeseburger), and all three of us stand behind recommending the place to anyone and everyone. It's not even in a bad area of town... it's hard to come up with a negative (well, there is a tiny one. on my third refill, my water seemed to have a little greasy film on top. but Jonathan's didn't have this, so not sure where it came from).

Then, we went off to our respective events. Now, I've taken public transit alone in close to a dozen cities. But this was my first time taking the subway alone in New York, and I really got a sense of independence that I didn't have before when we wandered around Manhattan. I had a good time at Promises, Promises, which is a revival on Broadway. Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes are the leads (she's amazing if you're not familiar with her from her other work in theatre, movies, and television. he is most known as Jack from Will & Grace), and I really wanted to see one show while we were here where I was already familiar with the leads, so this worked out really well. My seat was 12th row balcony, so it was kinda far away, but not in the back of the theater. The choreography and the sets were my favorite parts, and the writing was just fabulous. Meanwhile, the boys really enjoyed their time at the World Science Fair, and they learned a lot, asked questions, and even got a ton of NASA swag.

We were originally planning to meet at the Empire State Building next. But that didn't pan out since both of our events went over the original time we were thinking. Instead, we went ahead and headed over to our dinner location to scope it out and have a drink at the bar. For this we chose McGee's Pub, which is what the How I Met Your Mother bar (MacLaren's) is based on. It was about 5pm on a Saturday, and they were still nice enough to give us happy hour prices, so that was cool.

Jonathan and I dashed off at 5:40 to head over to New World Stages and get student rush tickets to 39 Steps for the evening show (the policy on that show only sells them two hours before the performance instead of when the box office opens). The guy was really nice and sold us the tickets at 5:57 for the 8pm show, and we got 10th row center.

Then it was back to McGee's for dinner. It ended up being more of a snack, really. We shared the cajun calamari (that day's special appetizer) and the backed macaroni and cheese, and Rob went with some sliders and fries. The food was pretty good, and we ended up sitting right under a photo of the How I Met Your Mother cast, so that was interesting.

Rob went to hang out with an old friend while we saw the show. It's an Alfred Hitchcock piece, and is a comedy thriller. Jonathan enjoyed it more than I did, but I thought that the acting was wonderful. There are only four actors doing like 25 parts - one does the main guy the entire time, a girl plays most of the girl roles, and the other two guys play everything else. It makes for some really funny moments and ridiculously quick changes. Apparently there are like three versions of the movie out, so if this sounds appealing, check out 39 Steps.

We texted Rob as we started walking to the parking garage, and the timing worked out pretty well. We grabbed some iced cappuccinos from Tim Horton's on our way, and they were really quick about getting the car. The only problem (and a rather big one at that) is that we ended up being 40 minutes over 12 hours. Well, we didn't think it would be a big deal... worst case scenario they charge us another $17 for the next 12-hour-block (since they don't charge by the half-hour on Saturdays like they do M-F). But no... the system figures we owe $41. And the attendant has no idea how the computer figures it out. We end up paying since it's not like there's a manager around or anything, and proceed to get Rob (he was a block away at this point). Then, Jonathan got to experience driving through busy busy busy New York. As you can imagine, it's rough. There were two close calls, but I was overall incredibly impressed with his ability to navigate that insanity.

We took the Holland Tunnel back, then the NJ Turnpike (we had taken US1 most of the way there, and then the Lincoln Tunnel), and it was probably a little faster, so that's good to know (although it was $1.75 more in tolls for the turnpike). Although it still saved a little money (I called the parking company on Monday and found out that if you go over 12 hours, you get charged the 24-hour rate, which is indeed $41... even though that's not posted anywhere) and a little time, I think it's just easier to take the train in. I dunno... we'll probably go to New York a couple more times while we're here (we have a couple more MUSTS on our lists!), so we'll tackle the transportation next time.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sushi Planet

We were down in Philadelphia to swap out the rental, and we wanted to get some sushi. A quick internet search suggested we try out Sushi Planet. It happened to be down near Penn's Landing, so we drove that way and hoped for some parking. We got lucky and saw someone pulling out, so we grabbed their spot and paid at the kiosk. Reasonable rate, although we over-guesstimated how long it would take us (better than to get a ticket, tho!). It was only a couple blocks away, and with the Flyers game on tv, the eateries (and the sidewalks in front of them) were filled with screaming fans.

It was Friday night, but we were seated immediately, and promptly had water-filled glasses. The menu was average for the area, but with the great reviews we saw online, we weren't too worried.

A bowl of marinated cucumbers arrived (their standard give-away appetizer, we think), and they were okay. Honestly, they just gave us far too many of them, as it seemed we hardly made a dent (you can see the plate a little in one of the photos). Shortly after we ordered, another appetizer arrived. The server (who had an accent we couldn't place AT ALL... must've been Lithuanian or Siberian or something... some country where I don't know what the language sounds like, LoL) described it, but all we could make out was "carpaccio" and "on the house" so that was good enough. The sauce (ponzu-ish) was fabulous, and there were also scallions. The meat had the consistency of thinly sliced raw chicken, but it must've been some sort of fish, we ascertained. We figure it was probably a new dish they were trying out, since several other tables also received it, and we gave our opinions when the server came by again.

I ordered the chirashi, and was surprised when it came in a bowl (usually it's served in more of a box). The photo came out a little overexposed, but you get an idea of the fishes. The white tuna was phenomenal. As in, it might have been swimming in the ocean that morning, it was so fresh! The tuna and salmon were also very fresh. The striped bass was average, the squid was average (maybe a little above), and the sponge (the breadcrust-looking thing in the top right of the bowl). I forget what else might have been in there. The only problem was that I couldn't get to the rice forever since it's all underneath the fish, and because of the design of the bowl, whenever I ate a piece, that void was filled by the fish falling onto itself and closing up my rice access. Also, the julienne radish got in the way, since it was a little heavy on that as well.

Jonathan ordered two rolls. The first was the JB roll, which is pretty standard for cream cheese and salmon (JB in this case stands for Japanese Bagel, if you didn't know). This roll, however, was tuna and salmon. Not sure if that's the way this place interprets that item, or if someone made a mistake somewhere. Either way, the cream cheese was a little overwhelming for the tuna, but it was okay. The second roll (the gargantuan roll in the picture) was that night's special. It had salmon, white tuna, and scallops, and was topped with strawberries. It also had a sauce that was quite different, not sure how to describe it other than spicy mayo-ish. The flavor combination was astounding. Very creative, and absolutely one-of-a-kind. I had never had strawberry in sushi before, but apparently fruit is a common thing for this restaurant, since there were several other items on the menu that included things like apples.

Overall, the place is good, and worth taking out-of-towners to. It's BYOB (let's not forget about Pennsylvania and its interesting liquor laws), and they are very friendly. Stop by if you're down in that area.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hong Kong Pearl

It was Memorial Day and we planned to have a picnic. A couple months ago I had discovered a BBQ place (they're rare here), and we decided to pick some up and take it to the park where we'd spend the afternoon. Except, when we got there, we found out that they were closed. The Chinese restaurant next door was open and serving food, so we just decided to go in there. The menu was pretty big, and average-priced. We ordered a few things (couldn't really make up our minds since we were in the mood for BBQ, lol) and it was less than ten minutes before we were out the door and on our way to the park.

We both ordered chicken dishes - I went with the spicy garlic chicken and Jonathan chose the hunan chicken. Both came with pork fried rice and spring rolls. The problem? We couldn't really tell them apart. The sauces were the same color, and they tasted unbelievably similar. We ended up just each taking one, and neither of us were really in love with the taste. Eventually I realized that the one I was eating was indeed garlic for sure, but that took about ten minutes. The pork fried rice wasn't fried so much as yellow rice with veggies, so nothing special. I had to pick out the peas, but they were few and far between, plus we were at a park so I just plucked them and threw them. This reminds me, I bet we were a sight with chopsticks in the park, haha.

The spring rolls were average, too. Nice and crispy, but the filling was mostly cabbage. The chicken that was inside, however, was delicious. Jonathan also got an order of crab rangoon, which was the very best part. He reports that the wontons were incredibly well-made, fried just right, and the filling inside was delicious.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

US National Soccer Team Send-Off Game

Jonathan played soccer when he was a kid. He enjoys watching it from time to time, and enjoyed going to my sister's games much more than I did. Truth be told, soccer is one of those sports that I have very little interest in. I don't even know all of the rules. It's probably the most well-known sport that I really couldn't explain to someone. But, I do enjoy rooting for the USA.

As you may know, it's a World Cup year. Every four years (apparently. I didn't know that) there's some sort of international tournament for soccer, and it's in South Africa this time around. Well, Philly is bidding to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup, so soccer has been big around here lately. Philly also has an MLS team (the Union) and there's been a ton of pushing tickets to their games this summer. Anyway, Jonathan heard that Philly was also hosting the send-off game for the US National Team, against Turkey. It's the last game they play before they head off to the other side of the world, and it was a mere thirty miles away.

So, we went! And Rob came, too. We started out with plenty of time to spare, and it's a good thing we did, since we hit some bad traffic. On the way there we made a few stops (to get food and such), but when we weer about two miles from the exit, we hit stopped traffic. Apparently other people knew that there was a soccer game going on and decided to go, LoL. Luckily, it started picking up here and there and we were surrounded by some savvy drivers. That is, until we went to park. Then, the dummies started taking the wheel again and people seemed to have no idea how to navigate the sports complex and the parking situation there.

We park, hydrate a little bit (it was boiling out!), and start heading for will call. We inadvertently skipped several people there since the employees were not clear in the directions they gave for the entrance to will call. It went fast though, and we were then faced with the much-more-difficult task of actually getting in the gate. For some unknown reason (which we never did figure out), there were no lines, just a giant mass that wasn't moving. We were crammed in like sardines, which didn't bode well since it was over 80 degrees out (maybe even 90?). Somehow we started funneling in, and there was no bag check as we were whisked through the bars. At that point the game had started 2 minutes ago.

It took us another 8 minutes to get to our seats (apparently the clock just keeps running in soccer... any time that was lost for substitutions and whatnot gets added at the end of the half!), and although we were in the nosebleed section, we were covered, which is definitely a plus at Lincoln Financial Field. The crowds were amazing at the game, and it was really rather impressive to watch the US team in person. I mean, attending the Olympics is a big goal of mine in life (both winter and summer. I'm ambitious, I know), and this was kinda close, since I haven't been to an all-star-type event before.

Here's a few photos of the game in progress. The US is the team in white, Turkey is in red. We stopped by the souvenir shop, and it was being completely mauled. The guys were fortunate enough to find scarves that they liked, and they are pretty cool.
Rob truly had an amazing time, and nearly lost his voice shouting. Jonathan also enjoyed himself, and I was kinda thrilled with the camaraderie amongst the crowds. Go figure, if I can't be entertained with the event at hand, I'll just be amused with using audience reception theory. Yep, I'm a dork who went to grad school, LoL.The score was close for a long time, and the end result was a US win, 2-1. This is actually really good, since Turkey is a good team (or so I'm told).

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bucks County Chocolate Show

So we heard that there was going to be a chocolate show up in New Hope. I found the website and discovered it was actually the 3rd annual Bucks County Chocolate Show. We couldn't really come up with a reason not to go, so we drove up to New Hope on May 23rd and went.

As always, downtown New Hope was completely packed, and there was no parking. Luckily, the event was being held at the fire hall, which has its own parking lot. They were apparently expecting over a thousand people, and had a shuttle set up so you could park at a local school. However, we pulled on up to the main event and parked about a hundred feet from the door.

Tickets were $13 each, and when you consider that we were more than done in about 45 minutes, it doesn't sound like a good deal. HOWEVER, Jonathan pointed out that a person would be hard-pressed to buy as much chocolate as we sampled for that price. Especially once you consider the rareness and uniqueness of some of the delectables that we tasted. We started off with cake, ended with truffles, and had all sorts of goodies in-between, including some great melting bits, some pretzel-toffee-chocolate, and the most delicious bananas foster chocolates you could ever imagine. The only disappointing aspect was that the chocolate fountain was pay-only, and I wasn't feeling $3 to have two chocolate-covered strawberries.

It would have been good if we were there an hour earlier, so we could have attended the seminar on pairing wines and chocolates, as the table only had a white wine left when we got to it. It was still good wine, but I'm sure it would have made more sense if there was still the complementary chocolate next to it, hehe. The history of chocolate and the science behind making chocolate were also covered, and some really nice pieces were on display.The place wasn't that big, and there were probably only about twelve different vendors there, but it was a fun way to spend the better part of an hour. Should you go in the future, buy your tickets in advance (save a couple bucks), and definitely park on-site to save that hassle. But, go. It's nowhere near the awesomeness of the Chef's Sampler in Tallahassee, but it's still delicious!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Baja Fresh

We have seen a dozen Baja Fresh restaurants. We've seen them in several states (though not Florida, though they might be there). We once ascertained that they serve Mexican food. But we had never actually stopped to eat in one. We see one every time we venture into Mount Laurel to go to Costco, as there's one in the same shopping center. This time, we finally planned to go there for lunch.

The menu is a tad confusing at first, but then makes sense. I chose the chicken burrito ultimo, and Jonathan chose the pork carnitas quesadillas. We also shared an 8oz cheese fundito with chips. The appetizer/side was okay... the cheese sauce was pretty uneventful, even after we added some spicy salsa to give it some kick. The chips, however, were pretty good, so it worked out overall. Jonathan thought that the quesadillas were pretty average, with the exception of the cheese, which was very good. The guacamole they came with was also pretty decent. My burrito was very sloppily put together, although the tortilla was grilled, which was nice. The mixture of veggies, cheese, and sour cream was pretty bland, and the chicken wasn't memorable. Once I added some fundido cheese to the burrito, it added some character, but overall it was just kinda "eh."

Neither of us ate more than half of our respective entree, so we had leftovers the next night, which was nice. However, we weren't impressed as a whole, and probably wouldn't go back unless there weren't any other reasonable choices around. Apparently, though, some people must really like the place, since it was packed...