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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pooper Law

Pooper Law
Pooper Law,
originally uploaded by neenyd03.
The sign says it all! One of many wacky signs I find in my neighborhood or just about anywhere in Philadelphia. Nothing like the fine citizens of Philadelphia taking matters into their own hands and warning the law breakers of their misdeeds, violations and inconvenient behaviors. File this one under - there outta be a law...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

City Food Tours

Here's what's happening - I've been somewhat involved with a culinary tour group in Philadelphia for the past 6 months, City Food Tours. I met the owners, Robert and Eric, through my work at Williams-Sonoma. They would bring in food tour groups for olive oil tastings, and I would give the tasting lecture and share the samples for the group. The guys and I hit it off immediately and discovered that we have lots of common ground in our lives, most of which revolves around the culinary and art worlds of Philadelphia. Since I've met these guys they have asked me to work on a few small projects where I've been able to share and show my myriad of talents; bookkeeping, catering, event planning, and now, adding to the mix - helping to lead the food tours! Yeah! I'm stepping back into the spotlight and will soon get to talk about food to the masses (I hope!)
During my first test and learning tour, with Eric, I tagged along with 2 couples from San Diego, who planned their vacation in Philadelphia around Restaurant Week. Talk about good planners and smart eaters! Eric brought us to, and soon I will too, three stops in the city, Cheese at DiBruno Bros.; Chocolate at Naked Chocolate; Tea at TBar.

1st Stop - DiBruno Brothers store at 18th and Chestnut Street, for a cheese tasting. We sampled a young gouda, a Swiss, some Bleu, and a version of Parmigiana Reggiano.

This is a giant, wagon wheel-sized round of Emmental cheese. You can see the top half of the wheel, and underneath, is the whole wheel.
Don't be scared of the Bleu! As part of the lesson in cheese, we learned that some mold is good mold. Here's a "science" experiment where the cheeses have been allowed to grow mold, in order to show what the process looks like, and to show what kinds of molds are good and bad. Hey, mold is an every day occurrence, mostly only bad in the bath tub and walls of your house, not necessarily in or on your cheeses. Lucky for us, this was not part of the tasting sample. The cheese they offer is better looking and tastier too.
Mmm, chocolate. All that good dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and full of nuances, with tastes ranging from wine and raisins, berries or coffee. The folks at Naked Chocolate - 13th & Walnut Street, (off of Juniper between Broad and 13th) - arranged a plate of chocolates to sample. Disks of white, milk and dark chocolates used for making confections, as well as finished bars of dark and varietal chocolate pieces. To finish off the tasting, a lavender honey truffle was savored last. Snappy outer shell, filled with dark chocolate ganache infused with the essence of lavender and sweetened with honey. The purple stripe across the top of the truffle is chocolate "paint".
Tea leaves and herbal infussions at TBar - 117 S. 12th Street (between Chestnut and Sansom on 12th St.) In the left tray from top to bottom: white tea leaves; gun-powder green tea leaves with peaches; black tea leaves. On the right tray, top to bottom: roobios; jasmine; chrysanthemums.
The ladies at TBar brewed up several different teas for us to sip, starting with white tea and finishing with a bubble pearl tea drink. I'm almost ready to switch my caffeine habit from coffee to tea. As an afternoon cuppa walking down to 12th and Sansom street is worth the trip. TBar is a charming and relaxing place to visit. Serene, Zen and at the same time, filled with a rejuvenating energy that will help right your mood or day.

On a side note, there have been no further developments with the cricket cookery - I've been too busy lately to devote any time to my other projects. Ideas are in the crockpot of my brain, but as of yet, I don't have a date set for a tasting. However, anyone out there who might even be remotely interested in joining my merry band of cricket tasters is still invited to inquire, participate or brave a bite with me. Leave your comments here, or send me an email: My best guess is that I'll hold an event within the next 3 weeks.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cycling Fever

Photo credit: taken by Jill J. In red, Jason, center - moi, Sammy & Derek & Ryan ( front) at Bike Philly 2008.
It's been extremely busy and productive past week and a half. Lots of biking, cricket recipe idea germinating, gearing up for the High Holidays at the 'gog, and some other project developments. This past weekend I went on 3 different bicycle rides - my morning 25 miler with Sue S. and another friend, Derek J. We do the double loop around the Art Museum and the Drives, heading up Kelly Drive, over East Falls Bridge, down West River/Martin Luther Drive and then back up and over the bridge to come back down Kelly Drive again. It's a moderately paced 13-16 mile, 2 hour bike ride. As Sue said to me the first time she suggested I get up at 5:30 am to do it (we meet at 6:30), it energizes you. I feel so much more productive for the rest of the day.
Saturday, the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia had their 12th Annual Scenic Century Ride. You could ride an eight, 25, 35, 65/69 metic century or full 100 mile century ride. I opted for the metric century, or 65/69 mile bike ride up into Montgomery County, deep into Collegevile and the Schuylkill Valley area. The forecast predicted a lot of rain, heat and humidity. Luckily, the rain came early on Friday and left town by Friday evening. The heat and humidity came a calling, but it was manageable for the most part. There were a few times when climbing the hills made it hard to breathe, the air was just too thick to take a deep breath but otherwise, the weather and my strength held out long enough for me to ride the metric century and add a few additional miles to make it a 75 mile day.The Saturday morning ride meant yet another early morning out to meet up with fellow cyclists, though this time I actually didn't know anyone at the start. I took my chances and decided I'd ride with whomever I happened to meet. As great luck would have it, I met some wonderful cyclists and tagged along with a group of people who ride regularly together - Itzza, Barry and Jim. We all had similar cycling paces - not riding much past 17 miles an hour on the flats, averaging around 14 miles an hour for most of the ride. We rode together, letting folks fly past us as though they were all in the peloton of the Commerce Bank Triple Crown Race. Where these folks were rushing off to I don't know. It was a ride, not a race, and it was scheduled for the whole day. It's called a Scenic ride - designed to allow you to take in the scenery and enjoy the ride. That's definitely an issue about other cyclists. Get some spandex on their butts and a wacky cycling jersey, and suddenly everyone is Lance or Valverde or the Great Greg LaMonde hammering up the big hills in Nantes. Ugh! I'm generalizing here, but I think I could find a lot of riding pals to back me up on this, other cyclists tend to behave like badly reared elitist riders. We're not that exclusive of a club guys and gals - lighten up, go slower and enjoy scenery. If you were really a pro, you wouldn't be riding along the River Drives for god's sake! Enough already with the attitude!Aside from my rant here, the ride was fun, as scenic as promised and not that difficult. I rode the majority of the century with just one other person, Jim. We left our buddies behind at the first big rest stop. We had taken too long along the way, stopping to chat, help other people with flats and in general, riding just a bit too slowly. We only went 12 miles in 2 hours and Jim and I really wanted to ride the 65 miles. We sped along, just the two of us and hammered it out by ourselves, dead last along the route. Thank god for the SAG cars, the cue sheets and the street markers. The SAG car kept circling back to make sure we were okay, and the street markers helped us keep along the route. Jim and I, now old friends, rode a steady pace, meeting up with other slower riders, or those who were lost, all the while taking in the sights of Montgomery County, gentleman farm lands, Prep Schools, Cricket Clubs and Golf Courses. Two of the most scenic sights along the way were photos taken only in my mind's eye - a pond along the grounds of a preparatory day school had giant Lily pads and flowers the size of a home satellite dish, like a scene out of Woody Allen's movie, Sleeper. They were sticking straight up into the air, facing the sun. After climbing one of our bigger road hills, the sight was magnificent to behold. Nature putting on a show. The other great image I got to enjoy was 26 miles out of the City. We came to Potshop Road, somewhere in the North Wales area. At the top of this hill, was a scenic view of the Schuylkill Valley and the Philadelphia Region. It was a bit hazy and overcast, but the view was nonetheless breath taking. We made it to mile 32, four hours after our 8 am start. Refueled with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches - manna from heaven! - oranges, bananas, trail mix and lots of Gatorade. By this time, we were in Evansburg State Park, heading into the Perkiomen and Valley Forge areas. The choice of routes home and to the next rest stop 12 miles away was a no-brainer; take part of a 5 mile hillier route, or a flat gravel trail through a state park. We, along with many other tired cyclists, took the shorter route and let our butts and arms deal with the bumps along the ride. Hey, there aren't any awards given out just 'cause you are a masochist to the bike! Riding home along the Perkiomen trail was nice and easy though crowded. Made it back to Philadelphia and to Boathouse Row around 3 pm. Downed some pizza at the finish line festival and more water and then came home to clean up and visit with some friends for dinner. I think I was a bit more wound up and wacky than I am on any other given day, but at least I'm sure I made for some interesting company at dinner that evening. Nothing like the endorphin high of exercise to dope you up and keep you going on a natural high.Sunday - it was the 2nd annual Bike Philly Ride. When I signed up for the ride, I had planned on doing 35 miles. As if! Since my friend, Rachel, is visiting from Arizona, and we had not one, but two Phillies games to go to on Sunday - a rained out game from Friday night postponed to Sunday night, and day game tickets for the Sunday afternoon game - I decided, wisely to only go on the 10 mile Ride for Everyone, through the closed streets of Philadelphia. I rode my beach cruiser, jazzed it up with decorations, and donned some devil horns and flame sunglasses and had a blast! I'm glad I only rode the short ride, my butt couldn't take much more biking for one weekend. Overall mileage, from Friday to Sunday - 122 miles, give or take a mile or two. I broke the 500 and 600 mile mark on my road bike odometer between Tuesday morning and Saturday afternoon. Quite a change from thinking that a 20 mile ride was a lot to do in a day a year ago. Biking - it's a good thing.

Here's a clip I filmed at the start of the 2008 Bike Philly ride. Listen for the ubiquitous Rocky Music. It's not a day in Philly near the Art Museum without our unofficial theme song roaring in the background!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Night of 2,000 Crickets

Cricket Update! The order arrived safely and loudly! A chorus of chirping greeted me at the house this afternoon. I biked home during my lunch break, (thank goodness I only live two miles away from my office) and found 2 boxes full of 2,000 happy and healthy crickets. I'm sure the delivery person was not amused by these loud packages.

Here's a close-up of the full-grown babies! Yikes! I had to put the boxes outside in the backyard, their song making was just too loud and I was concerned that our dog, Hamlet, would go a bit bonkers trying to see, smell and have a smackerel of Jiminy and his 1,999 friends!

The plan now - when I get home tonight, after a long day at the office and a shift at Williams-Sonoma, is to have the critters go gently into the night, by introducing them to Mr. Freezer. Please, baby, Please - feel free to leave your (clean) comments here and don't forget to contact me if you are even remotely interested in partaking in the great cricket cook-off of 2008! Email me at: I'm hoping to hold this cricket tasting expo over the next week.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hop To it - Calling all Adventurous Eaters

I am about to embark on a very unusual project - cooking with bugs. It's a crazy story that started with an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer Food Section. I read a story about a bug cooking and tasting demonstration at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Embedded within this article was this sentence "...Anyway, now he's at work on a cookbook. The job is slow going because he lacks the necessary culinary training to create and write recipes, Gracer says. He hopes to connect with a talented chef." A light flashed a bell rang and an idea came over me. I immediately wrote to Dianna Marder, author of the article, and asked her to forward my contact information to Mr. Gracer. Within a few days he called me and after a brief, hilarious and energetic phone conversation, I found myself agreeing to order 1,000 plus crickets and planning to come up with recipes for using these little hoppy fellows. This is where YOU come into the picture. I've ordered the crickets from Fluker Farms and sometime this week I will be the happy recipient of 2,000 members of the family of Gryllidae - commonly known to you as Grasshoppers, Crickets and Katydids. My undertaking, as it were, is to slow down their metabolism; carefully open their box; feed these buggers a last supper; and then humanely euthanize them so that I can then clean, roast, blanch and pulverize these protein packed chirpers into edible tasty treats. Honest! Truly! I am not kidding here!
As part of my assignment, I am going to document my tasks and record my findings. I need several adventurous tasters to join me in my culinary journey and help to make this project a reality. For your consideration, you will be immortalized herein this blogosphere, if you so desire. I plan to rustle up these victuals within the next two weeks. Any one out there in the Philly area "game" enough to step up to my plate and dine with me? Contact me at
Serious yet curious tasters only invited. The evening is sure to be packed with fun and subterranean good eats.

Friday, September 5, 2008


Well, I've put over 125 miles on my bike odometer this trip! Hopefully by the end of today, I'll have turned the meter past the 500 mile mark since the day I added the odometer to the bike, a few weeks after I purchased my new Fuji. It is great easy cycling here, as the streets are long and flat with only a bit of a sea or bay breeze blowing in your face to keep you from hammering away at 20 miles an hour or faster. On Thursday, my cycling pal, Sue S. and I rode down to "THE WILDWOODS" aka ChildWood, aka Wilewould. For Sue, coming in from Ocean City, it was about a 50 mile round trip. For me, 6 miles closer and further south, it was a 43ish mile round trip. Very scenic, a bit hot and humid and absolutely fantastic way to see the scenic coastal highways and byways. It is a fascinating study of shore town architecture riding from one town to another over the course of the past two days and week. On Wednesday, I rode to meet Sue, and then we headed up to the end of Atlantic City. A real history lesson of how the shore has evolved and degenerated over the past 30 years since the Casinos came to AC. As I wrote in my earlier post, Margate and Ventnor are still beautiful and family friendly. AC, well, let's just say the casinos don't want you spending any of your time or money outside of their sin palaces. When you drive, walk (if you dare) or in our case, ride along the main streets, you can really see how everything is designed or not designed to make you only want to be in the Casinos. It's just plain ugly and scary.
By contrast, the trip south to the Wildwoods was a study in the history of working class family vacation land. I am happy to report that Wildwood New Jersey is still home to several dozen "Doo Wop" Hotels and Motels, mostly along the strip of the town known as The Crest and Diamond Beach. While much has changed and many of the funky wacky motels are gone, casualties of the Condo craze, many remain. The Lollipop, Suitcase, Yankee Clipper, Waikiki, The Tiki, and other paeans to the late 1950's & early 1960's are still there in their resplendent glory, along with fake palm trees, totem poles and myriad of neon lights still glowing and thrilling visitors and old timers.

This is cycling Sue - stopping for a moment in front of the Wildwoods sign on the Boardwalk.
Hmm, don't know if there is something a bit whack about these giant beach balls and me in the middle of them...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Trip to Margate and other fun times

The week at the beach continues to be lots of fun. On Tuesday, we drove into Margate, NJ. This is one of the older shore communities, a few miles south of Atlantic City, and home of Lucy the Elephant. You can walk into and up to the howdah on the elephant's back and view the city and coast of the beach.
A nice couple from York, England, took this photo of Liz and I on top of Lucy. This was are second visit to this iconic novelty building that dates back to 1881. Over the course of my stay at the shore, I've seen Lucy more times in the past two days than I have in all of my 41 years. Tuesday we drove to Margate; on Wednesday, I rode over to Ocean City, met up with my friend Sue, and then biked all the way to the end of Atlantic City, passing through Longport, Margate and Ventnor, while spying Lucy two more times during my bike rides.

Self-portraits # 1000! One of so many pictures we take at events or places to commemorate ourselves! This was taken on our back porch. We were attempting to get a good photo with the setting sun behind us. We mostly succeeded in taking goofy shots and then laughing ourselves silly. We "shore" are having fun on this trip.
Now that the season is officially over at the shore, this beach and the entrance have become practically our own private beach. Strathmere and this end of Sea Isle City are very quiet and not as densely populated as other parts of the Jersey shore. As I ride the length of the island, I feel like I'm in an old New England shore town.
Dinner by candle light. Part of the fun of sharing a shore house with a group of friends is the time we spend together at dinner. Donald, our house organizer, has made each meal time festive and special with table decor, seating arrangements and candle light.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Post cards from The Shore

Greetings from Sea Isle City, Stone Harbor and Ocean City, New Jersey: The weather is fantastic, the company full of life and fun and all the food is great. We are staying the week in Sea Isle City, on the Edge of Strathmere, mere steps away from the beach and feet away from the bay. In a word - GLORIOUS! Came down on Saturday afternoon and so far have ridden to several other towns to explore the sights and tastes of the best of the shore. It's easy riding here, long flat roads with a few inlet bridges to cross. Each town, with the exception of Ocean City, which is as big as 3 or 4 shore towns combined, are quick rides to manage. I biked down to Stone Harbor on Sunday, in search of sights and Springer's Ice Cream. Best Homemade ice cream at the South Jersey Shore. The 23 mile round trip added some miles, worked off the chocolate almond ice cream calories and gave me a great opportunity to take in sights of shore towns previously unexplored. Monday, I biked the opposite direction, north, into Ocean City and traveled along the 5 miles of the OC Boardwalk. I also somehow managed to run into my triathlon and biking Buddy Sue S, amidst the throngs of thousands on the boardwalk. Visited with family friends, the Hoelters, and took a ride over the Long Port Bridge. In between biking, eating pancakes at Uncle Bills, hanging out on the decks, we've been running across the street to dive into the ocean. Next up, the 30 mile bike ride down to Cape May, a trip to Atlantic City, strolls on the Boardwalks of Sea Isle and Ocean City, and of course, another ride down to Springer's for one last taste of the summer.
Ice Cream Treats at Springers.
Breakfast and the Paper at Uncle Bill's in Strathmere, NJ.

Fun and Flags with The "Beach Boys" at the Shore.
A View of Rob from the Upper back Deck.
He's the Grill Meister cooking up some ribs for dinner.
Miles of Biking along the Ocean City Boardwalk. There were hundred's of people on bikes, surrey's and tandems for the last hurrah of Labor Day 2008.
More Bikers and the crowds at Browns on the O.C Boardwalk
View from our Deck at the Beach house. It's lovely!

Hanging out with the Gang and Hamlet, in our "living room" for the week.