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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Walkabout Wednesday: Red Doors

Law Office Door - of a firm on a small side street in Philadelphia
A red door stands out.  In some cultures, it is considered a sign of good luck and fortune to have a red door as our entrance. Feng Shui states that red is associated with fire and energy, so having a red door as your entry way brings energy into your home, one of the five elements of Feng Shui you want to have.  I think, as many decorators will attest, that red doors are a beautiful accent to a home, giving it a pop of colour and focal point. 

As I do my usual walkabouts through Philadelphia and Collingswood, Red doors really are much more noticeable amide a sea of brown, white, and blah doors.  The photographic problem with finding so many red doors is to choose the ones that have other interesting details. Wrought Iron, interesting door handles and knockers, mouldings and kick plates.  My photographic Iphone Eye is drawn towards the bright and unusual.  These are my findings from over the past 2 months.

The above door, at a law firm in Philadelphia, off of a small side street, was very interesting to me, but I was first taking a photo of a funny sign outside of their offices.  Turns out they had created the funny sign, and I thought it was a piece of street art. The lawyers of the firm, all mid-30 year old handsome men, were friendly and chatty - and not all stuffy and conservative as one might expect a group of attorneys to behave.  After I snapped a photo of their street sign, I went back to take a photo of their door to add to my "collection".

St. Mark's Church - 16th and Locust Streets - High Episcopal church

St. Mark's Church door detail

St. Mark's church door handle detail
Church doors, especially of the Christian variety - Anglo, Lutheran, Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopal - do tend to be red and can be ornate.  The reasons are many: blood of Christ; symbolic safe haven; sign of the Holy Spirit; blood of the Pascal Lamb and sacrifice.  Like with red house or office doors, I needed to find doors that piqued my interest.  St. Mark's Church doors are very decorative. I could photograph many elements of their building as the whole structure and grounds are remarkable.
Side door on 16th and Pine Street

Side door on Pine Street detail of grate w/unintentional "selfie"
A small, side door, between a store and an apartment building caught my eye one day when I was driving home down Pine Street.  I made sure to do a walkabout back to the area so I could check out this door.  It's smaller than a front door - hence its side door qualities.  The door has been heavily repainted and still has evidence of graffiti, old and new.  I love what looks like could have been wrought iron brackets and buckles on the door frame at the top.  Plus the flourish of the safety grate over the glass front makes for security and beauty. Form and function.
B n B door on Rittenhouse Street.  Fairly typical style with added brass accents
I'm a sucker for fancy brass accent pieces. I liked the Claddagh handclasp door knocker.
Olde City Philadelphia door
Originally, I was noticing the door knob, set in an unusual way on the door - lower down and recessed into a brass funnel-like setting.  Then I notice the large glass panes and the fact that it was a very bold cherry red door.  It was difficult to NOT take my own photo in the reflection of the door's glass panes.  I like a good selfie now and then, but now was not the time - besides I was wearing red pants on the day I took this photo - it would have been too much of a study in red!
First Baptist Church of Philadelphia corner of 17th and Sansom

The church on the corner of 17th and Sansom Street is a very old stone, neo-gothic style church.  It shows it's age in the mottling and weather stains on the stones and downspouts.  The church is used for a variety of functions, worship services, concerts, theater productions, as well as a host for many support service organizations.  In Philadelphia, we have a church on nearly every other block in some neighborhoods. Rittenhouse square is home to at least at least 10 in less than a 10 block radius, all still in high operation.  1st Baptist Church doors weren't as interesting to me for their rosy hue or iron fixtures, it was the no loitering sign that caught my eye.  As tony as the area is, we have a very large problem with our homeless, our drug addicts and with solicitors of all "types" be they the day or night variety...I bet I'm one of the few people to take notice and pay heed to the sign.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Autumn Rising Dinner Party Cooking Class

I have a cooking class coming up on Wednesday, October 2nd - at The American Table, 6:30 pm in Collingswood, NJ.  The class will feature the best of the late Summer, Early Autumn Season - Figs, Apples, Pears, Cheeses, Nuts, Grilled Pizzas (which can be made indoors or out) and Rustic Fruit Tartlets.  Class size is up to 11 people, $35 per person, byob (wines strongly encouraged!)  The classes are fun and informative, filled with a generous tasting menu, the recipes and many cooking tips that you will use as soon as you get back to your own kitchen.  

Join me at the table at The American Table - 704 A Haddon Avenue, Collingswood New Jersey 08108  to register for the class, check out the link to the registration page here.  Hope to see you at the class!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Roast Chicken with Garlic, Herbs and Lemon

I taught a "Mastering Chicken" Class on Tuesday evening at The American Table, in Collingswood, NJ.  It was a variation on a class I taught years ago at Williams Sonoma, called, Chicken Chicken Chicken.  This week's class concentrated on essential techniques of roasting, pan searing, making pan sauces and an oven-frying technique that's lower fat and less messy (WAY LESS) messy than deep or pan frying.  The class was sold out and was a huge success.  The evening was a lot of fun, filled with a room-full of vivacious women.  Chatty, fun, sparkling conversations and good wines.  I haven't had a more lively and entertaining evening of teaching in a long time.  All of my classes at The American Table have positive experiences, but there was something about tonight's wild yet controlled event that was unbridled foodie fun.

I prepared three chicken recipes. The first was a variation on chicken with 40 cloves of garlic.  I've changed out a few things, cutting back on the garlic, adding in more herbs and cutting out the 1/2 cup of unneeded olive oil and the cup of wine.  It's not difficult to make a great home-roasted chicken but for whatever reason, so many people are intimated by the poulet.  Don't be a chicken! Try this recipe and know that you'll have a delicious dinner, with left-overs for the next day and still enough chicken to pick off the bones to make a wonderful Asian Chicken Salad on day 3.

Roast Chicken with Garlic, Herbs & Lemon Ingredients:

  • 1 - 4 to 6 lb Whole Chicken - giblets removed & patted dry
  • Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Sweet or Smoked Paprika
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil (optional)
  • 1 Lemon - cut in half, Juiced & lemon halves reserved
  • 3 Celery Ribs - large dice
  • 3 Carrots - peeled & large dice
  • 2 Medium Onions - peeled & large dice
  • 3 Large Sprigs of Fresh Parsley
  • 2 Large Sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • 2 Large Sprigs Fresh Oregano
  • 1 Large Sprig Fresh Rosemary
  • 1 Bulb Garlic - separated but do not peel the cloves
  • 1/2  Cup White Wine, or Dry Vermouth or Low Sodium Chicken Stock
  • Toasted Baguette Slices - for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 375 Degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Remove the giblets and innards from the chicken; pat chicken dry with paper towels (dispose of paper towels) Reserve giblets & innards for making stock or discard. Generously season the inside and outside of the chicken with salt & pepper, lift skin from breast and season underneath as well.  Sprinkle the olive oil & paprika over the top of the chicken, rubbing them into the skin.
  3. Place 2 or 3 pieces of celery, carrots & several pieces of the onion inside the chicken cavity.  Add in the reserved lemon halves, a sprig of parsley, thyme and oregano inside the chicken too. Tuck wings under chicken & tie or truss legs together.
  4. In a deep roasting pan or casserole dish, lay the rest of the celery, carrots & onions and herbs in the bottom of the pan.  Place the chicken on top of the vegetables & herbs. Tuck the garlic cloves in and around and underneath the chicken. Pour lemon juice & the white wine or vermouth over the chicken. 
  5. Cover the roasting pan or casserole dish tightly, either with a tight fitting lid or heavy duty aluminum foil.  Roast the chicken in the oven, with the rack set in the middle of the oven, for 1 hour.  Then, uncover the chicken and roast for another 1/2 hour, or until the chicken is cooked throughout and thoroughly brown skinned. General cooking time for a whole chicken, bone-in is 20-25  minutes per pound.  Chicken is cooked through when a)an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, avoiding the bone, registers 170 degrees and/or b) the juices run clear when pierced.  Roasting the chicken covered 1st will steam cook it. Uncovering it will brown it. It also eliminates the need to baste the chicken during the cooking process (unless you want to baste it!)
  6. If pan juices and liquid evaporates during the cooking time when the chicken is uncovered and is browning, add in a 1/2 to 1 cup of water to the pan.
  7. Remove the chicken from the oven when it has reached 170 degrees, and if you wish, transfer it to a platter. Loosely cover the chicken with foil and allow the chicken to rest for 15-20 minutes to allow the juices in the bird to redistribute.  Serve the chicken with the pan juices - if they seem too thin, heat the juices in a sauce pan on the stove & reduce by half. There is a lot of seasonings in the pan juices, so no need to add additional seasonings. 
  8. Serve the garlic cloves w/the toasted baguette slices, popping the garlic from their skins & spreading the softened & mellowed garlic like butter onto the bread. Serve the veggies w/the chicken. 
  9. Slice the chicken breast, take the wings, legs and thigh joints off the chicken and serve hot.  Chicken will hold, covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days.  It's best to remove the chicken meat off of the carcass after 1 day, discarding the bones (or reserving the carcass to make chicken soup or stock later).  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Walkabout Wednesday: Shadows

Long and Tall on the Beach in Strathmere, New Jersey
I love shadow pictures.  Sometimes you take one by accident, and other times, they are intentional. I've been doing shadow photos for years now - very much intentional.  Before I knew it, I had a collection of new photos on my iPhone from the past few months. 
Santa Fe, New Mexico - actually taken on a Wednesday!
The above photo was quiet accidental in that I was taking photos of other things and then I noticed the play of light, colours and my shadow.  A little Instagram filtering and voila! this image.
Cool Pool Blues
Pool Shadows are always so fun because the light in the water creates such psychedelic shapes and images.  This shadow photo was captured because I had been trying to photograph a group of frogs that were in the pool.  When I saw my shadow and realized it looked long and lean instead of short and dumpy or long and fat, I knew I needed to capture the image.
My Diner en Blanc self portrait
Walking to work from North Broad Street in August.  I was wearing my new white fedora hat because that night was the Diner en Blanc Philadelphia party.  I love all the black and white, the street and the marbled nature of the asphalt.  The jaunty angle of my hat is also especially appealing!

Nate was so cute finding the first fall leaf of the season.  He was exclaiming what pretty colours.  As I was trying to photograph him with the leaf, I caught his shadow in the photo.  Again, the interplay of shapes, lines, and colours intrigued me.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Alfresco Dining under the stars all in white

Diner en Blanc Philadelphia 2013
We attended the 2nd Annual Diner en Blanc Philadelphia event, a few weeks ago.  As with the first DEB event in Philly, it was a magical spectacle.  The secret location was kept from us until the last possible minute - all the way as we were riding a train to 30th Street Station, until we walked upon the street at JFK Boulevard - the location was a mystery. 2,500 people came out to enjoy a gorgeous evening in Philadelphia, along the bridge over the Schuylkill River, with a backdrop of the majestic 30 Street Train Station a one end and a view of the Philadelphia Skyline and City Hall in front of us.  
All Roads Lead to Diner en Blanc!
I waited a few weeks to write a post and share photos from the event for 2 reasons.  One, I took so many photos that I just didn't know what to do with them! I wanted to, and I am in the midst of creating a video montage of the photos.  My sound on my computer is down, so I can't set the video to music, which is what makes my "music videos" so special.  The second reason why I haven't posted about the night is because I knew we were going to attend another event, in Collingswood. I figured I'd do a dual post, comparing and contrasting the two parties.  Since the 2nd white dinner party took place last night (Saturday, September 7th) I'm inspired enough to share my experiences.  I still have too many photos.  I've culled down to the absolute best. The full photo album from both events is on my Flickr Feed - which can be viewed here.  
Our table-scape - we used all white china and milk glass

I thought after last year's event, we would be smarter about what to bring, how to pack our stuff and all the myriad details that make attending this event fun yet stressful.  Well, we improved on our pack-mule-ability.  We used our giant Wonder Wheel Beach Cart to haul our stuff.  We didn't have to buy the table, chairs and linens - we had those already from last year.  We choose to find new shirts, and I bought a new hat, but other than that, we didn't need anything for the party.  As for packing smarter, well, that didn't happen! I actually brought more stuff for my table this year, and spent hours planning and cooking my menu for the dinner.  We used all of our good and real china and dishes.  Hauled out the milk glass bowls that I still have from Rachel's wedding center pieces.  We had real flowers this year.  Thank goodness we had the beach cart, our supplies were enough to outfit several dinner parties!
The event, much like last year, was beautiful.  The location ensures that it will be a party that you will never forget. Being outside, in the city, at a location not normally known for a picnic does lend an air of exclusivity and √©lan.  It's a beautiful event, a magical night and an almost unbelievable, movie come to life kind of experience.  I've had the discussion with many people about the exclusiveness and elitist nature of the event.  I won't be able to change anyone's mind if they already think this sort of pop-up dinner party is weird (I've heard it called worse things), but I will say that in the purest sense, elitism can be a good thing.  You show only the good, you make the people who attend truly want to be there and the rules that are involved are there to keep the party's integrity intact.
The down-side to such a huge event is that the event gets so big, that it becomes difficult to have a sense of intimacy to and with the location.  I loved the views, the locale, being a part of something larger than ourselves.  But this year, we weren't with our friends.  And no matter what anyone says, it's hard to mingle, meet and interact with strangers, even if your common bond is being a part of this (sort-of) once in a lifetime event.  I knew a lot of people at this year's #DEBPHL13 party, but most of our friends were sitting elsewhere.  I couldn't even find one couple who came as our guests.  Our table mates were lovely this year but we didn't have the bonding experience that we had the previous year.

Over-all it was a visually stunning night but I felt something lacking in the over-all experience.  Some of that was due to the fact that it is so hard for me to stay in the moment and not feel the need to document everything.  That's why I have so many photos - I was too busy trying to "capture" the event that I wasn't living and enjoying the event.  I'm glad we attended this year's Diner en Blanc.  I lovely time.  The highlight of the night was getting interviewed by Qweer to The T's podcast radio show.  I was a tad tipsy but I was having fun.  I was definitely in the moment during the interview!
Debbie, Me, Liz and LeAnne - ready for a night out in Collingswood!
The Borough of Collingswood decided to get in on the Pop-Up Dinner in White action, and they organized their own version, called Collingswood Pop-Up GALA! At first the organizers called it Diner in Blanc, but they were asked by the International DEB Committee to cease and desist with using the name, concept and language.  The event was re-branded and called Collingswood Pop Up Gala.  This event was much smaller in scale.  The entire attendance was under 250 people.  The differences between the events were huge, even though the concept was similar.  You wear all white, bring your own stuff, meet a secret location, walk to another secret location. The Collingswood event, like the huge undertaking of DEB in Philadelphia, was well-organized. However this event was laid back in a way that the big giant City event can't be;  the rules were there but somehow it felt more relaxed.  Hell, I didn't even gather up my stuff  for the event until 2 hours before we left the house.  I bought fried chicken, biscuits and salads from Wegmans.  For Diner en Blanc Philadelphia, I made a 3 course meal that included shrimp cocktail and grilled fillet! It took me 2 days of shopping, prepping and planning!
Dining in White, Collingswood Style
Attending the party with our friends and then knowing at least a dozen people at the party also helped to make the Collingswood Gala a friendlier and more intimate affair.  Liz said if felt like a wedding reception - where you know the people throwing the party.  And she was right - we felt a connection to all aspects of the party.  It's our town, our friends and acquaintances.  It was the synthesis of all the reasons why we love living in Collingswood.  We are an integral part of the community.
An intimate and cozy affair - that managed to be unique
Aglow in the candlelight

I chose not to be involved in the Collingswood Gala. I wanted to attend as a guest so that I could enjoy myself and not feel stressed about being a volunteer organizer.  I didn't want to jeopardize my professional relationship with the Diner en Blanc coordinator.  I also was keenly aware of being present and enjoying myself and our company.  Yes, I still took a lot of photos, but I had a great time.  I danced, I mingled.  We chatted with our table mates, walked around and ran into people we know.
Denise Fike - sketch artist for the night
There were so many lovely things about the night - the ambiance, the very intimate company, seeing how great the neighbors were in allowing a party to be held on their street until 11 pm.  A strolling accordion player; a trio of singers doing vocal stylings like the Andrew Sisters; another live singing duo; dancing to pop music until my knees and back ached.  Our meal, the wonderful wines and prosecco we imbibed.  Plus, we were also photographed, extensively for the Borough of Collingswood and made it into the photos accompanying a blog post on Philadelphia Magazine!

Sketch by Denise Fike of Denise Fike Designs - Liz, me, and our friend, Debbie
We went home filled with wine, good food and laughter.  We also got this lovely sketch by Denise Fike, of Liz, me and Debbie - our friend and Nate's "baby-sitter cum 2nd Grandmother".  I'm glad we decided to attend both white dinner parties.  I'm sure we'll do them again, and perhaps I'll even be involved to some capacity.  I'm ready to put the white clothes away for the season and look forward to dreaming up tablescapes for next year!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wednesday Walkabout - Signs, Shingles and Plaques

And where will they bicycles be placed after?
Every day we are bombarded with visual messages all around us.  Flashing billboard ads, stagnant billboards; newspaper boxes, wrapped cars and buses; electronic message boards and our own smart phone feeds. We pass by so many signs and building identifications that I'm sure most of us never even notice what we are seeing and reading.   Take a closer look.  There are some oddball and surprising business all around us - with unusual vocations that might make you scratch your head and go to the nearest thesaurus application to look up some of the names or companies.

It's a whole building full of odd companies
The Keystone Intelligence Network is an investigative company.  They work with lawyers, the FBI, and security companies.  Since they seem to have such high minded and criminal investigative work, I'm surprised they have a building plaque announcing their presence.  I expected a bit more cloak and dagger, or a Harry Potter-type secret entrance via a phone booth…

The VIDOCQ Society, however, IS A CLOAK and DAGGER kind of group.  A group devoted to crime solving and cuisine! Okay - now I'm intrigued.  I think LeAnne from Tinsel and Tine and I ought to do a double blog post about this group!
Remnants of a famous Philadelphia Sculpture - which has been moved to another location. 
 Occasionally, I come across a forgotten plaque - like the one above.  It's the name and details of a famous sculpture that used to be on 17th and Locust Street - The man hailing a taxi. He's been restored and moved to 15th and Chestnut Street, outside of the Prince Music Theater.  The sign remains on the building which now houses Steven Starr - The Restaurant Emperor King's - business offices.  The building used to be a law firm, then the Philadelphia headquarters for Urban Outfitters/Anthropolgie.  Nice digs.
 This one always makes me smile, even if I still don't quite "get" what the Soroptimist group does.  They are an international organization for women, working to improve lives.
Not dedicated but still dedicated
 There are a few of these in the ground plaques around the city - "Space not dedicated" or this larger street sign. They make me laugh.  They read so serious and I suppose they are. Eventually the marker will be dedicated, once an important person coughs up a few million and the organization can get around to doing some naming rights.
 The Cosmopolitan Club is an old, old, OLD venue, on a small side street.  The word conjures up modern-day cocktails, chic smart parties and Carrie Bradshaw type women.  Or so it does to me and my stuck in the late 1990's, early 2000's television addled brain.
I would like Ike, if he were still alive and the President...
Who knew that Philadelphia held so many illustrious and important organizations that have world-wide influence? I also wonder how many people, especially those under 40, even know who Eisenhower was? I LIKE IKE; Mamie; son married Nixon's daughter - creating an almost dynasty family tree!  The group strives to empower world leaders in their fields.  And to think, we have this group AND The Wharton School in the same town!