Monday, January 30, 2012

Weekend Update - Bill's Birthday Weekend

Bill received a present from his sister, Liss, which I decided to wrap. I didn't notice the obvious Harry Potter references until it was too late. You would have thought the "Owl Post" and "Charmed" writing would have given it away. I just thought it looked cool. The present was a set of four steel shot "cups". Pretty cool. 

On Sunday we treated ourselves to a couples massage for an hour. It was nice to do it together but I think neither of us think professional massages are worth the money. But it was the first time we went to Sherman Mills, a little factory conversion of shops and businesses. The massage center was next to this cute little courtyard. 

Then came the burgers. Bill specifically requested burgers for his birthday weekend. Can you tell whose is whose? Hint: the one on the right has apple slices on it, the one on the left is 90% BBQ sauce, 10% burger. 

Some cute, boyish wrappings.... 

And what's inside....

A fun lunchbox with a container for all that BBQ sauce (see, its already in use) and an adventure-racer approved first aid kit, to keep Mr. McEwan safe in his upcoming adventures. More gifts and wrappings on Tuesday, the Big Day! 

We also got our piano tuned this weekend, went to see a house in Wynnewood, went to see a modern home down the block for a City Paper interview, saw our neighbor's new home (yeah, lots of homes this weekend), got a little work done, finished our Lord of the Rings marathon, repaired Bill's rear fender, and made more General Tsao's. 

Here's to weekends! 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Restaurant Wish List

As noted in my earlier post, my To-Go restaurant list is getting a little out of control. Philly, for anyone who's visited, probably has the best restaurant scene in America. Its a bold statement but I wouldn't be the first to make its claim.

“If you’re from Philly and you’re listening to this, please know that the rest of the world looks at Philly and they’re jealous of your food. I promise. And if you’re not from Philly, and you’ve never been here and you’re thinking about coming somewhere to the East Coast, come to Philly and eat the food because the food. Is. Amazing.”
- Duff Goldman, Food Network

Its quite true, Philly has a foodie scene like no other. And its not just the tasty bites that make Philly's restaurant scene stand out, no restaurant stays on unless it has an atmosphere to contend. Long story short, Philly's restaurants have everything going for them.

Its also a constantly changing lineup with new restaurants popping up every month. For those who can't afford (both financially and physically) to eat out every night, that makes for a few restaurants too many. I can't keep up. In the last few months alone, our own little neighborhood of Fairmount has blown up with restaurants. So here's my list of must-go-to's in Philly right now.

1. Lemon Hill


Its a little gastropub only a few blocks from us that wouldn't really draw my attention if it wasn't for the names behind it. Its the brainchild of restaurant Supper and cocktail-haven Franklin Mortgage. Supper is gorgeous but the food was slightly lacking for Bill and I. Its supposed to be simple, country fare but for the price, it was a little too simple for us. That being said, if they got more creative, its obvious their chefs would create something worth noting. Franklin Mortgage, for those who know us, is our favorite bar EVER. Bill and I hate bars but I would go here every weekend if it was convenient. Not to spend too long raving, but its an ingenious stab at prohibition-era cocktails in speakeasy surroundings. So the mash-up of the two? Totally worth the four-block walk.

2. Route 6

Steven Starr's newest endeavor, this Broad St newbie is an ode to New England Crab Shacks and fish fries. I haven't heard much yet in terms of ratings but Starr is rarely wrong and tasty fish dishes get my mouth watering...

3. Fish

 Speaking of Fish, here's Fish! What it lacks in creative nomenclature, it well makes up in its dishes. Owned by the king of seafood, Mike Stollenwerk, this seafood-specialty spot has been one of my favorite meals in Philly for a while. Recently, Fish picked up its bags and moved to a more prime-time location on 13th Street (home of our other favorite restaurant, Barbuzzo). The new digs come with a new menu and a glorious new look. While I loved the intimacy of the old Fish, I always thought it lacked atmosphere. The new spot makes sure that's not a problem with rustic, plank wood and crisp white upholstery.

4. Vedge

Supposedly one of the best new restaurants in the city, this veggie-diet haven brings vegetarian cuisine out of the dark ages. I'm excited to try something so out of our ordinary, and so simply cute. Bring on the tofu!

5. Jamonera 

It sounds like a 90's hip-hop group, but it is in fact a Spanish tapas bar from the 13th Street creators of Barbuzzo. They can really do no wrong, as far as I am concerned. I think they've outlasted the "fad" phase and can legitimately be called awesome. Every restaurant and shop they come up with has had my stamp of approval on it. And they seem to have the secret recipe for restaurant success, much like Steven Starr, which involves changing it up from time to time. Jamonera took over their former Indian-dazzler Bindi, not because Bindi was doing poorly, but simply to change up the 13th Street scene. Jamonera, I hope, will provide the mouth-watering plates of Barbuzzo with a Spanish-flair while offering yet another opulent dining atmosphere.

6. The Twisted Tale 

So this is less a restaurant and more a bar AND it opened up months ago, but its still been heavily weighing on my list. This row-house is packed with Southern comfort (not the drink, although I'm sure its there too). Its a blues bar that offers live music 5-6 days of the week in an setting that combines Jimi Hendrix cool with whiskey-washed leather and brick walls. For Bill, they have quite the whiskey and bourbon collection. For me there's a plethora of bad but Oh-So-Good comfort food specials.

7. Federal Donuts 

Here's a paradox for you: How can you put a restaurant on your top ten must-eat picks when you can't actually have anything on the menu. That's the issue I'm facing here. The local celebrity restaurateurs who opened Zahav (which is also on my list but won't actually put it up because I'm too embarrassed to say I haven't been) opened a hole-in-the-wall donut and fried chicken joint in South Philly. Normally this sounds like something a bit mundane for me, but these aren't any donuts and fried chicken. The chicken has been getting rave reviews and the donuts include choices such as "grapefruit-brown sugar" and "chocolate-spicy peanut". Sounds pretty fun to me.

8. Audrey Claire

I realize this shouldn't be on the list; I should have already gone. But there are just one too many restaurants here in Philly, which pushes some of the obvious staples into the "still-haven't-gone" pile. This is one of those cases. Hailed as one of the best restaurants in Philly, drive by any night of the week and you're sure to see a crowd who agrees. One of these days, Audrey Claire, one of these days....

9. Umai Umai 

This little sushi spot is barely noticeable from the street, which is why after living here for nine months I only spotted it three months ago. Luckily, in the mean time, I've gotten into sushi and have been looking for fun places to go outside of Starr's Morimoto. This spot has nothing but rave reviews and is only a few blocks away- which is a win-win in my book.

10. A bunch of outdoor spots


(Top to bottom: Revolution House, Llama Tooth, The Corner, Frankford Hall) 

That's not the name of a restaurant. It's just there are four spots in the city, some more bar than eatery, that boast some amazing outdoor spaces I've been dying to check out (when its not 30 degrees out, that is). The first is Old City's new Revolution House, a simple American-fare spot with an incredible roof deck. The deck looks out over bustling Market Street, which should provide ample entertainment. Then there's Llama Tooth, which may have the most ridiculous name ever. It also has probably one of the most coveted outdoor spaces in the city. Taking over a large lot on Spring Garden St, the outdoor space can probably fit 100 people under its cafe-lights. Then there's the famed Frankford Hall, which brought beer garden bliss to Northern Liberties this last summer. Bill will actually be checking it out tonight, although likely from its warmer interior. Finally, there's The Corner, a tiny spot that packs a punch. We had actually been there before when it was called Elixir, or something to that effect. Now, under new management, the spot has a new, more classic, look. New looks aside, they still sport an awesome little roof deck that proves to be an oasis in the middle of the city.

In a few days I'll break down some of my favorite spots in the city that deserve a revisit. Bon appetit!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chinese New Year

MegEwan style...

Which essentially means an excuse to make a new recipe. Because of the snow and generally chilliness we didn't go to Philly's Chinatown for any of the standard festivities. Instead, we substituted Lion Dances and firecrackers with the following...

Hamper shopping at Ikea/ Bill pretending to be Raiden from Mortal Kombat

Lord of the Rings Movies

And, General Tsao's Chicken with Oven-baked Broccoli 

Thank you, China (and Peter Jackson)! 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bluegrass Friday

Last night I decided we should go out and enjoy our city life like other young urban dwellers and not simply watch endless 30 Rock episodes like we normally do. So we popped over to World Cafe Live, a wonderful, eclectic music venue, for some bites, a drink and some old school bluegrass. We heard the Claire Lynch band, a quartet of bluegrass perfection. Claire Lynch headlined the band as its leading vocalist, obviously, but she was backed by three of the most talented string players we had ever laid ears on. The bassist played amazing bass, banjo and even did a tap dance for us on a song called "Buttermilk Road". The fiddle player also played mandolin, guitar and had a pretty amazing voice. The other violin/fiddle player was new to the band but could seriously pick away at that fiddle. Pretty amazing all in all.

Here's a taste...

What I loved about them, other than the raw talent, was their variety of sound. Yes, they are a bluegrass band primarily, but they provided twangy and folky versions and even supplied the audience with a little bluesy rock and even some swing! 

The body drum and tap dancing on "Buttermilk Road" 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Two Dinners

All has been quiet on the Eastern Front so there hasn't been much to blog about, sadly. But we have had two very fun dinners in the last week I have failed to mention.

Monday, MLK Day, we invited our upstairs neighbors over for drinks. We honestly hadn't seen them since late Oct/early Nov, a ridiculous amount of time for someone who lives the floor above us. So we were really looking forward to the reunion. I was really looking forward to it as I haven't had a chance to entertain since around Halloween and was just itching for an excuse to do so.

So I went with a "Let's pretend we are on the Amalfi Coast even through its 30 degrees outside" theme. I made peach and mango bellinis, salmon and lemon ceviche, and prosciutto-wrapped melon and it was all pretty tasty.

I suck and forgot to take pictures of the bellini. I tend to prep 5 seconds before people actually come so its usually a mad dash to get things to the table, let alone take pictures. Its still a work in progress, this whole blogger thing. 


Tuesday and Wednesday brought no fun but last night, after Bill and I played rescue mission at his Conshohocken rental house with a broken furnace, I hardly wanted to cook dinner. Luckily, a new restaurant had just opened up in our neighborhood and we decided to check it out. Fairmount has had four new restaurants open in the last few months, with one still to come, and my list of restaurants to check out is steadily speeding out of control (more on that in my next post). So it felt good to cross one off the list last night. 

The name? La Calaca Feliz (which means "The Happy Skeleton" and is a reference to the iconic Dia De Los Muertos dressed-up skeletons you may have seen). The food? Duh. Mexican. 

The space it took over was an semi-Italian spot that Bill and I had ordered out from once. We popped our heads in when we picked up our food but it didn't look like much to write home about. But La Calaca Feliz was a surprise. The little restaurant doesn't look like much from the outside, and even the small bar area, while cute and colorful, didn't demand your attention. But the back room, the main room, was surprisingly interesting. 

We took a series of pictures but thanks to our lack of real camera and the candle-lit backroom, I'll spare you the iPhone pics and just steal a few real images. 

Thank you

Thank you

Thank you

No thanks to our shitty iPhone pics. But at least here you can get a feel for the cool inlaid copper ceiling, the interesting angles and windows, and the beautiful Moroccan stars. 

The whole restaurant was painted in massive murals, all with Dia De Los Muertos themes, but we got to sit next to the coolest one. 

Bill and I both got enchiladas, mine with seafood and his with chicken. We split a bowl of guac and I had a yummy, pink, virgin margarita. 

All in all, the food wasn't out of this world, although, to be fair, we ordered 'safe' items. But it is a very refreshing change for the Fairmount neighborhood, which thus far is stuffed to the brim with gastropubs and health-conscious fare. Its nice to have a little color and culinary flare added in and only a few blocks away. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Bill and I recently went to the Franklin Institute (our Science Center) for their Giant Mysterious Dinosaurs exhibit. We went on a Saturday night cause we are just that cool. Everyone else was over 40 or under 13.

Nerdiness aside, it was a pretty fun exhibit. It was a series of skeletons of the world's most fantastic dino finds. Sadly, I don't remember the names of these guys so I can't provide much info. If you think you know, tell us!

(hint: this one isn't T-rex) 

The unicorn dino. At least I captured a name on this one. 

This guy had such a long neck I had to grab it in three (crappy) shots. Her name, sorry to give it away, is Mamenchisaurus

That's quite the neck. Apparently its head had to be super tiny, as you can see, otherwise that long neck couldn't support it. 

This one probably looked like this in real life...

See the resemblance? 

The Franklin Institute isn't quite as great with its constant exhibits. Really all they have there is an IMAX theater and something called "Sky Bike", but they constantly have great exhibits coming through. They also throw some terribly posh parties in their grand hall under this guy...

and we all know Ben knows how to party.