Hodge Podge: On Vice, Designations, and Reviewing a Home

Happy Thanksgiving! As we head on into the long weekend I thought it would be nice to think about food and foodways as a lead in to an event I attended at Woodlawn, the importance of our latest National Monument at Fort Monroe, and a review of a book about the evolution of a particular hearth and home.

On Vice and Food

Woodlawn during the 2011 Vices that Made Virginia Event. Image from the Neighborhood Restaurant Group Flickr Page

When I was an undergraduate student I had the opportunity to take a course on foodways. We learned about the sugar and salt trade and their role in global economies while also examining objects from our kitchens to see and understand everyday life.

A few days ago I learned that my professor from this course, Barbara Carson, had passed away, and so I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what I learned from her.

Food can tell us a lot of things about the past. On one level we learn about diets—how our ancestors (or grandparents even) got their nutrition. We learn about how advances in canning and preservatives allowed food from California to be eaten in Vermont. And with more and more advances in transportation commodities like tea, sugar, salt, and spices became less of a luxury and more accessible—removing these items as limited only to the rich.

How this food was prepared gives us insight into familial roles—and the role of mealtimes in the cult of domesticity. We learned more about how that expectation changed, and the how advent of TV dinners moved families from the dinner table to the couch.

This was on my mind when I attended the second annual “Vices that Made Virginia” program at Woodlawn Plantation in Alexandria, VA. A National Trust property, this fund raiser was put on by Arcadia: Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture —a non-profit organization bringing farming back to Woodlawn while educating children and adults on how food comes from the farm to the table.

The program itself was set up to highlight Virginia vices: cigars, bourbon, wine and of course the fresh produce, while introducing visitors to the farm and the historic site where it lay. It was, in one word, delicious.

Thinking about local food, and eating local harvests is a current trend in being sustainable not only economically but also in establishing a healthy lifestyle. It is a matter of looking back into our pasts and recognizing that sometimes the best things to eat is in your backyard.

Professor Carson’s course gave me a foundation to understand the shifts in thinking about how we eat, when we eat, and why we eat…what we eat. She also provided me with the essential underpinnings on how to look at material culture and find meaning. For that, I will be forever grateful.

Designating a National Monument

A few months ago I had the opportunity to sit in on a conversation at Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, DC. This mini-conference was a brainstorming session, a place for attendees to envision a way to save a piece of history that is not often talked about: the history of the contraband.

In short, in May 1861, a little over a month following the shots at Fort Sumter a trio of slaves ran away to Union lines at Fort Monroe in Hampton, VA. When they arrived, the general, Benjamin Butler,chose to hold the runaways (Shepard Mallory, Frank Baker, and James Townsend) as “contraband” rather then honor the Fugitive Slave Law and return them to their owner in the Confederacy. By the end of the war half a million formerly enslaved people had looked for freedom in the same way. Their legacy, which included camps in and around Washington, DC hastened Abraham Lincoln’s decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation and bring an end to slavery. [Learn more]

During the brainstorming session a key suggestion from those attending was to urge President Obama to use his powers under the 1906 Antiquities Act and designate Fort Monroe, or “Freedom’s Fortress”, a national monument.

And guess what. this past month, he did.

Political affiliations aside, this is a “win” for everyone. I know that we are in turmoil—that finding common ground between the left and the right is a place that our politicians can’t seem find. In designating Fort Monroe as a national monument, President Obama (in my opinion, of course) emphasized how important our cultural heritage is in our identity as Americans—not merely as liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans. That is, finding common ground may involve taking a risk that will make our country stronger.

Forty years ago, historians came together to look at American history through different eyes: the eyes of women, immigrants, and African-Americans. Today, we are still working towards that goal—looking at “the forgotten” and telling their story. This National Monument at Fort Monroe is one more step in the right direction–recognizing the wide breath of stories in the American past

Reviewing At Home

From http://www.randomhouse.com

Finally, I wanted to say a few words about Bill Bryson’s At Home. It’s a book that came out a few years ago that looks at a particular home, his home to be exact, and searches for the histories of particular rooms. I’ve read Bryson before (A Walk in the Woods), and have liked his meandering tales. However, this wasn’t quite what I expected.

It’s not that it wasn’t in the same style as his other books. He uses the house—an old rectory in England—as a touchstone in telling broader stories about social changes in European architecture, family life and industry. But I had hoped for something a little bit more….structured.

I know, I know. Having read Bryson before I should have known better—but it was a little disconcerting at times to go from talking about a bedroom or a kitchen to the history of bedbugs and then to a discussion on funerary arrangements and graveyards.

That minor disappointment aside, At Home is one example of how a broader story can be told through a particular structure. Certainly not the first to use this mechanism, however it provides insights into how rooms can spark interest in the unexpected.

~~~

And with that I would like to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving. Eat well, be merry, (shop local), and live large.

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A is For Arizona

I can’t believe that April is nearly at an end.  In a month that saw prep work for THE BIG EVENT in less than three weeks, and the NCPH conference in Pensacola I also had a quick, mini-vacation in Scottsdale, Arizona.  While we spent a good amount of time by the pool enjoying the warmth (it was still very chilly in DC, something that is no longer the case) there was an opportunity for some good eats, hiking, and a moment to take in a historic house tour.

I’ll be honest and say that this trip had an agenda–it was my sisters bachelorette party–and the goal was relax, relax, relax. So while we did take a lovely hike up Camelback mountain (you can see me in the slideshow sporting my PreservationNation.org shirt) the rest of the time pretty much just involved….

Food

Mohitos!

While in Scottsdale we ate at a lot of places. I did want to take a second to mention that as great as the food at Deseo was , the private mixology class where we learned how to make three different types of mohitos was fascinating–historically speaking of course. The instructor gave us a brief history of the drink and explained the different variations of rum and how they are developed. From some of the courses I took on foodways I remember thinking about the different regions of the world that make the liquor and how the histories of those nations were affected and transformed by production.  Specifically the history of sugar and the slave trade. If you want a really good book about the subject check out Sydney Mintz’s work Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History.

Food at Deseo

We also ate at…

Old Town Tortilla Factory

In addition to perfect weather, this restaurant had amazing southwestern/Mexican cuisine.  Built from a 75 year old Adobe, diners at the Old Town Tortilla Factory sit in the open air.  I would recommend getting the green enchiladas.

Hotel Valley Ho–Cafe Zu Zu

French Toast at Cafe Zu Zu

Brunch at Cafe Zu Zu was the perfect way to start our leisure filled Saturday. It also gave me an excuse to visit a very chic modernist hotel (part of the Historic Hotels of America collection). With awesome chandeliers, and a pretty trendy lobby–I thoroughly enjoyed my french toast.  If you love mid-century modernist hotels I recommend visiting the Valley Ho–or just read about its past.


Olive and Ivy

Our first stop when we landed was getting some food at Olive and Ivy. Despite it being the hottest day of the year (so far) in the area, we decided to sit outside. While we tried a lot of different food–the Sweet Corn and Tomato Flatbread was (to me at least) the star of the meal.

And Now for the History: Taliesin West

View from the front of Taliesin West

Earlier this week I posted this post over at PreservationNation about the perfect house tour. It stemmed from my general dissatisfaction of a tour I had received at Taliesin West. I wanted to elaborate on this a little. For me the typical house tour is symbolic of a time when great men dominated our history lessons. So while many tours work very hard to look “downstairs” or interpret slave quarters occasionally you get to a tour that hasn’t quite made the leap.

Now of course, the difference with Taliesin West is its connection to Frank Lloyd Wright and his influence on American architecture–but the same principals apply. Instead of trying so hard to convince the captive audience of his greatness, the tour may have been better if his concepts and ideas were relayed narratively, using the house and the school to illustrate the points.  Instead, as an audience member, the conversation felt a little condescending. Rather than talk about the school in a way that talked curriculum and how it uses Wright”s vision to train new architects, we got discussions of accreditation and how many students are accepted. It felt, at times, much like an advertisement for applicants rather than a  story of Wright’s legacy–continuing on beyond his lifetime.  I am willing to concede, as I mention in the post above, that the temperature may have contributed to the ineffectiveness of our guide–or that it was a particular off day–but when you feel like the hour long tour could have been concluded in half the time, there is a problem.

Detail of a statue at Taliesin West

The tour aside, if you do have a  chance to visit this masterpiece do so. Every angle produces a new vision — of sky, water, stone against Arizona’s natural landscape. A is for Arizona–which means it was absolutely amazing.

Note: Speaking of historic moments. While we were in AZ, some of the party attendees stayed up all night to watch the final cricket match of the cricket world cup between India and Sri Lanka. At this moment the Indian team was playing against a team that had dominated the series, while they had fought tooth and nail to make it to the end. It was a team that had not made the finals since the year I was born (1982). While very much an important part of Indian culture, I found myself unexpectedly caught up in witnessing the exciting win–and felt like I was a part of a nationwide moment of joy. So I say Bravo India!

View the full album of pictures.

Pursuing Pensacola: Final Thoughts

Wordle Map of the NCPH 2011 Conference by Cathy Stanton

In the last week I’ve written a bunch of blog posts about Pensacola….

NCPH 2011: Shared Authority, Creating a Commons–Another Day at THAT Camp
NCPH 2011: A Public History “Spring” Break (blog.preservationnation.org)
History that is Difficult to Do (NCPH Conference Blog)
Preservation Roundup: Public History Edition (Part 1)
Preservation Roundup: Public History Edition (Part 2)

…and this one is the last. As always NCPH brought with it a meeting of minds, and a reminder of why I love history so much. The commitment and passion that comes with this yearly gathering forces me to look at how I work, and how I see the past with different tools and audiences. Often, I leave with a lot of great ideas, without enough time to bring them to fruition–and I would love for this year to be different. Specifically, I am excited about the next five years and what the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (which started this morning with shots being fired at Fort Sumter) will mean for the growth of historical discourse and memory in this country. How can we look to and learn from other commemorations to make sure that this volatile and game-changing period of America’s past is understood to  its full measure?

It’s an exciting time for public history–and I am proud and exhilarated to be a part of it.

Food. Food. Food.

What would a blog post about my travels be without a conversation about food. While I did eat at various places in the Historic Pensacola Village, there are three that I wanted to highlight

Dolce in Historic Pensacola Village: I really should only have to type out the following words–home made ice cream. With chocolate flavored with beer, or vanilla with fig each of the flavors at this store were great to eat. Especially in the lovely spring weather. The fact that it is located inside one of the Village’s restored homes makes it even better.

Five Sisters Blues Cafe: The marquee at the left may give you an idea of what the ambiance of this cafe was like. With live blues music, and perfect fried chicken and macaroni I was left in a puddle of southern home cooking goodness. I ate far too much for my own good, but would tell you that even if you eat until you can’t eat any more, you must try the mashed potatoes.

Nacho Daddies: I know the name is slightly ridiculous, but I loved the pineapple-mango salsa on my vegetarian/chicken tacos. It’s a great, independent fast food place with an excellent vibe. The sopapilla‘s were flaky and sweet and complimented the light nature of the tacos.

Everyone ate ate at least one Fried Green Tomatoes while in Florida. Yum!

Pictures!

Eating My Way Through New York City, Portland, and Miami

In the last two months I have done a lot of traveling and eating. I’ve been up the east coast to New York City, then across the country to Portland, Oregon followed by a quick vacation in Miami. Each of these trips was for an entirely different reason but in the end the food made me smile.

In New York City we went to…..

I have nothing but good things to say about the Rocking Horse Cafe. Suggested to me by a co-worker we landed there more than 40 minutes late for our reservation (we were essentially traveling the Friday after the crazy snow storm in DC so our sure fire travel plans landed us in the city a full half day later than expected) and had to get out of the restaurant within the hour to see Wicked. They got us in and out with fifteen minutes to spare, and while we inhaled our food I know each and every one of us will go back next time we are in the City.  Want to know why? Check out these images of delicious Chicken Enchiladas with pomegranate sauce.

We also ate at  Elmo’s (for one dinner and brunch). The decor and music were great, and my food was delicious. I had the latin american chicken tacos and the creme brulee (can I help it if I like Mexican food?). During brunch I had the baked french toast with grand mariner and baked apples.

The last place in New York City we ate at was a Otto’s Enoteca Pizzeria. While the Pizza was naturally really, really good–I loved how knowledgeable our server was and the great variety of cheese we had to pick from.

In Portland, Oregon….

All places I would suggest you try? The Flying Elephant Cafe for lunch, if you want a variety of different bar food try a McMenamins bar (I tried the Ringler’s Annex next to the Crystal Ballroom). The Cajun tater tots were delicious. I also was picked up by a friend and driven out of the main part of the city to the Hawthorne District (I think?!). Where I ate a great meal at Savoy Tavern (I guess the website is coming soon). Here I ate a great salad, sauteed mushrooms that were a little garlicky and a really good onion soup. This meal was quickly followed by dessert at Pix Patisserie where we got individual desserts whose names escape me. I think I was charmed by the toy monkey’s hanging from the ceiling.  Of course, let’s not forget about the incredible doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnut for breakfast.  Really good, quirky and enough to give you a great sugar high for hours.  Also, if you’re in Portland you have to get lunch from one of the carts. I had a great Kabob Sandwich that made me smile.

As for Miami

I’m just going to write you a short list. I ate at Opa’s Tavern on Ocean Drive. The food was good, very filling. They had great entertainment that was maybe a mite too loud for dinner unless you are prepared to dance on your table while you are eating. We picked up sandwiches along the boardwalk and some so-so Cuban food at a place whose name I sadly can’t remember. That being said if you are in Miami make sure you eat at Big Pink’s, but I would recommend sharing unless you have an appetite for four people.

So…that’s the food run. Are you hungry yet? I know I am.

Going Green, (Not) Eating Animals, and Finding New Stories

This post was adapted for a New Year’s Resolution Post on the PreservationNation Blog.

What happens when you decided to make a decision that involves dramatically changing your eating habits. Imagine avoiding processed food, or deciding to stop eating meat—and learning how these decisions impact not only your own health but also your sense of community and place.

One of the keynote speakers in Nashville (at the National Preservation Conference) was Bill McKibben who gave a talk that involved thinking about the environment in terms of our historic built environment (you can take a look at what he said here on Mother Jones). I finally got around to finishing his book Deep Economy and became very interested in the one chapter that describes his year of eating locally. Now, admittedly this is something that is a lot easier to do in Vermont then here in the middle of DC but it seemed like an exercise that would essentially lead (by the end of the year) to food that was boring (I mean how many times can you eat a salad made of ingredients you froze?).

He started in September (harvest time) and buys up as much fresh vegetables, fruits and produce that he can manage, freezing, brining and apparently also Cryovacing things to maintain their usage for a longer period of time. By the time he gets to February and March his menu has changed to eggs, soup and cheese sandwiches. As for his meat he goes local there as well, making his way over to local community farms.

But what does this all mean? I’m still not sure I buy the fact that its not that expensive to buy local as we think it is (once again, think Vermont), but I do believe that the food is better for you in every way. I also get McKibben’s central argument that we need to make a change in the way we live in order to help ourselves and help the environment. That being said, his strongest argument is when he points out that he has had to “think about every meal, instead of wandering through the world on autopilot, ingesting random calories” (Deep Economy, 94). Furthermore he’s “gotten to eat with my brain as well as my tongue: every meal comes with a story. The geography of the valley now means something much more real to me, I’ve met dozens of people I wouldn’t have otherwise have known“( Deep Economy, 94).

Which leads me to the idea of (not) eating animals. Last week, I was given an extra ticket to listen to Jonathan Safran Foer talk about his latest book Eating Animals, a book that describes his path to vegetarianism. While I have yet to read the book, he started off his talk telling us about how our eating habits are always connected to “stories we are told, tell ourselves, and stories that are impressed on us.” That the food we are trained to eat at a very young age is connected to what our parents fed us—in his case what his grandmother fed him.

The majority of the conversation dealt with looking at where our food comes—and pretty much like the narrative on a recent episode of Bones about the horror of large scale meat farming. But like Bill Mckibben he offers a solution, describing the importance of being able to see where your meat comes from.

Of course it all comes back to the story, at the start of his talk Foer told us about his grandmother, who spent all of his childhood feeding him—impressing upon him the importance of having food. He then described a moment when his grandmother was scavenging for food during the Holocaust. She came upon a Russian Farmer who offered her some ham. She then made a decision that I don’t know if I could have made. She said no. When Foer asked his grandmother why she chose continued starvation over some sustenance (because the meat was not kosher) she said the following, “if nothing matters, there is nothing to save.”

This phrase takes on an even broader meaning when you think about McKibben’s thoughts after his year of eating locally—that the “good taste was satisfaction. The time I spent getting the food and preparing it was not, in the end, a cost at all. In the end it was a benefit, the benefit. In my role as eater, I was part of something larger than myself that made sense to me—a community. I felt grounded, connected“ (Deep Economy, 94).

Everything we do has meaning. Where we live, who we interact with, the choices we make—and, as it turns out, what we eat. While I’m not sure what changes I’ll make in my eating habits, I know that I’m now looking at what I eat and why I eat with a more critical eye. I know that the Indian food my mother has made me from birth invokes a sense of homecoming, and that mint chocolate chip ice cream makes me think of my older sister. I know that every time I eat Italian food I’m going to think of the best tiramisu I’ve ever had (randomly at Canary Wharf in London)–which brings up memories of the summer I lived there and traveled around Great Britain.

So something to think about this holiday season as we embark upon our traditional fruit cakes, gingerbread cookies and other Christmas food traditions. Of course this is something that can be seen from a variety of perspectives, so I wanted to bring in another perspective. After that, take a look at some pictures from my all vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner.

Being Vegetarian
By Guest Blogger: Sarah F.

As a somewhat recent vegetarian, I’m often discouraged by the flak meat eaters give vegetarians—and vice versa—in my own experience, in the food blogs I read, and even on my favorite shows (hello, Top Chef! Please stop treating us like second-class culinary citizens!). I enjoyed Jonathan Safran Foer’s talk because he mentioned that the issue of factory farming doesn’t have to pit meat eaters versus vegetarians; it’s an issue of extending our moral consideration to include animals and the environment, which anyone can do. He even argued that the term “vegetarian” has done a disservice by making dietary choices seem like one extreme or the other (also, I know I often feel like I am not living up to some imaginary vegetarian ideal).

That people get so impassioned over eating meat or not shows the extent to which food is tied in to our culture and our identities. The food you eat can help define you as health-consious, socially or environmentally conscious, “real” or “elitist,” a manly burger eater or a dainty salad bar eater. Perhaps we’ve been wrong to think of it in such binary terms.

While I try to think critically about what I eat, it is hard not to get discouraged. Eating locally seems too expensive and too time-consuming. Processing all the labels at the grocery store can be overwhelming, especially when certain terms (organic, free range) seem to have lost all meaning. I haven’t read McKibben’s book yet, but from Priya’s description it sounds like following his example would be a tall order. I’ll be keeping in mind Foer’s point that eating responsibly doesn’t necessarily have to be an extreme or some impossible state of dietary perfection, but a goal to keep striving towards.

~~~~~

Some pictures from all veggie Thanksgiving.

The Menu:

Stuffed Shells (with shredded zucchini, mozzarella cheese and potato)
Eggplant Parmesan
Butternut Squash Puree (with sweet apples and orange zest)
Mushroom, Spinach, Pine Nuts in Phyllo (Note: The recipe includes bacon and is a lot fancier, we kept it simple)
Traditional Green Bean Casserole (with Campbell Cream of Mushroom Soup)
Melted Brie with cranberries and walnuts
A soup that my mom made which is I guess her own special recipe.
Potato Pave

Desert (aside from apple pie): Caramelized Pineapple, Apples, and Craisans in Phyllo (Note: We did not use dried cherries, and instead of rum put in Apple Juice, also didn’t do the ice cream mixture).

Closing it Out (and a bit about Nashville Food)

I know it has been a few weeks since the end of the National Preservation Conference, but I wanted to make sure to provide a closing post. On Friday after dispatching the last of the field sessions those remaining in town made our way over to BB Kings for the Final Fling which included a live auction and music from Last Train Home.

Interior of the Downtown Pres. ChurchBut there was more to come. Saturday dawned bright and early for us with the Closing Plenary in the Downtown Presbyterian Church, an example of Egyptian Revival architecture. We were about to be treated to a talk by Chief Justice of Indiana Randall Shepard and Congressman and Civil Rights Leader John Lewis of Georgia.

Fisk Jubilee SingersBefore we talk about them let me say a few words about the Fisk Jubilee Singers. First started in 1876 as a means to raise money for Fisk University (the first American University to offer a liberal arts education without any stipulations as to race) the group is now known for preserving one of America’s greatest treasures—that which the website refers to as the negro spiritual. Let me say from first hand experiences that those voices rose in perfect harmony, bouncing off the walls with a clarity and resonance so vivid and vital that I got chills.

As for the talks-despite coming from two tangentially different directions (preservation and law/preservation and civil rights/politics)-Chief Justice Shepard and Congressman Lewis had ultimately one message for preservationists. The Chief Justice surmised our mission in one eloquent sentence, that “we stand up for livability, for a sense of place and architecture that lifts up the soul rather than deadens it.” His words were followed quickly by a call for continued agitation by Congressman Lewis who proclaimed that “If we do not fight for these places then history wont be kind to us.” In both speeches there was a rallying call that said, to borrow a popular phrase from the National Trust at this conference, what we do matters. That preserving buildings, music, and the spectacular architecture that Nashville has to offer effects how people live and breathe and connect with the world around them.

This dialogue intermingled with my thoughts on the music, the lights and the life in Tennessee and led me to ponder the following question: Where do we go from here?

Union Station Hotel in Nashville

All right. Maybe not. But it does allow me to segue into the final event of the conference (for me at least) which was the Forum Lunch, and I urge everyone who is interested on where Preservation should be and could be going in the next fifty years to take a look at Don Rypkema’s talk here. Particularly intriguing for me was his assertion that as historic preservationists we should work (at least in urban areas) to manage change over time and not necessarily a point fixed in time. At the heart of his talk he is asking us about how we remain relevant in a world that incorrectly sees history and historic preservation as a luxury, as something that will not create jobs, will not help the economy, and is not important enough to consider a priority at every level of living. He says that we are evolving–(for those not familiar with it, This Place Matters is a program of the National Trust that asks citizens to look at the world around them and identify the places that matter to them.)

Here is my test – look at what made the list of the National Trust’s “This Place Matters” program. Virtually none of the finalists met the test of either being an architectural masterpiece or of particular significance to our national history. Those places were nominated because they mattered to the local community and in many cases not on architectural grounds. I for one think that is a wonderful way for historic preservation to have evolved.

Stained Glass at Union Station Hotel

I say that this is exceedingly clear when we think about the evolution of historical thought in the last few decades. We have moved from looking only at the big men of history to understanding the everyday—the people on the streets, the forgotten and the silenced. Social history has done amazing things for democratizing what we know about our pasts and our future—we can now step inside museums and watch on television stories that make connections on a more visceral level than before. It is the same way with Historic Preservation whose history may have began with the rich and the elite but has long since moved to a movement that seeks to preserve the places we live in, the character of neighborhoods, the places that, in essence, make the world unique and diverse in every sense of the word.

So I think my one takeaway from this conference is that we have to be open to expanding our definitions and boundaries, looking to new horizons to let the past and present stand the test into the future.

Shrimp & Grits from Prime 108Whew. Did you think I was going to forget to talk about the food?

This is one of those towns where being a Vegetarian is really difficult—luckily I eat chicken, and boy did I eat a lot of it.

Here are my recommendations:

  1. The Fried Chicken at BB Kings
  2. While the Mac n’ Cheese I had at Robert Hicks’ house was to die for, I’ll just say that Nashvillians know how to make a mean mac n’ cheese.Mike's Ice Cream Fountain-Ceiling detail
  3. Make sure to check out Mike’s on Broadway by the River where you can get some of the most delicious ice cream cones out there.
  4. For brunch—go fancy and hit up the Wyndham Union Station (Prime 108) where I had some delicious French Toast, and my friend had some true southern grits with shrimp. While we waited for food we ogled the stained glass windows.

Don’t forget to Check out the pictures on Picasa!

National Preservation Conference in Nashville

Eating our way through the Windy City–or Can I just have six tacos?

Though we were in Chicago for a little over 24 hours we ended up doing a whirlwind tour of places I have eaten at before. That’s right—they were all so good I couldn’t help but go back.

Dinner Friday was at the Green Zebra

Some of the things I tried:

  • Thai Spiced Carrot Soup, crispy rice noodles: a nice amount of heat, and perfect for the slightly chillly evening
  • Chilled Sweet Corn Soup, breakfast radish, parsley: sweet, and tastes like what you would expect
  • Farro Risotto, lemon gremolada, zucchini, sweet peppers, mascarpone: the only dish I wasn’t huge on, the risotto was a little bland, but the veggies were really good.
  • Fresh Burrata Cheese, candied olive, lemon, fava beans, tempura squash blossom: A nice cheese, not too sharp, not too bland great texture and flavors (especially with the olives)
  • Honey Hazelnut S’more: How can I love thee…let me count the ways.
  • Five Spice Doughnuts: Doughnuts! Doughnuts! Doughnuts!
Chai French Toast at Orange
Chai French Toast at Orange

Brunch on Saturday was great following a six mile run (Army Ten-Miler in 3 weeks!)

This is what we had at Orange

  • Chai French Toast (It has ricotta cheese in the middle, just think about that).
  • Rosemary French Toast
  • Eggs Benedict
  • Fresh juices

…and an atmosphere is cute, cute, cute. Did I mention you can get orange flavored coffee for those who like inventive coffees.

Plantains at Frontera Grill
Plantains at Frontera Grill

Now we’re coming to the best part. For those of you who know about food I’m sure you had heard about Rick Bayliss long before he won Top Chef Masters this summer. We should have thought about making reservations a long time ago but for reasons I can’t explain we didn’t. So my friend and I headed over to Frontera Grill and Topolobampo at about 4:50pm on Saturday only to discover that the line was out the door and around the corner.

We got in, put our names down for the 2-3 hour wait, then proceeded to stalk the bar tables. An hour later after having a four top stolen from right under our noses (we had recruited a couple from Baltimore to sit with us), we sat down next to a table of U2 concert-goers. They were having a nice sociable conversation with another group of four who were clearly stalking their table.

Then the drama began. The U2 goers departed, the new group sat down. Man 1 is on the phone, Man 2 is tried to get his lime in a bottle of Corona, lime juice sprays everywhere including inside Man 1’s eyes. Man 1 freaks-out talking about how he’s been attacked by juice (now its not angry freaking out, its over the top drama queen freaking out).

Then the waiter comes to get their order and Man 2 says this is what he wants:

Six hard taco shells with nothing but beef.

The poor waiter tried to explain the options for tacos, including that they don’t have hard taco’s. The guy then says–

All I want are six tacos. Three hard and three soft. The beef on the side.

So my question is—why come to a four star Mexican restaurant when you want Taco Bell level food?

Chicken Enchilada's at Frontera Grill
Chicken Enchilada's at Frontera Grill

Anyway—This is what I got:

  • Chicken Enchiladas: Beautiful Mole sauce.
  • Fried Plantains: Sweet, and tasty.

While we had to eat pretty fast (the concert started at 7 and we decided to forgo seeing Snow Patrol) and it was 7 when we got our food, it was just delicious.

So when you’re in Chicago check out all these places and eat your heart out!

Philly by Food

Continental Midtown
Continental Midtown

While I was in Philadelphia I ate at some fantastic places.

Mugshots

Right across from Eastern State this place has a little fun with its location serving meals with names that fit right in with the criminal justice system. Things like Bonnie & Clyde or like my sandwich “The Scapegoat” which is local garlic herb goat cheese, with spinach, tomato, red onion and pesto on ciabatta. I love goat cheese.

Capogiro’s
Really Really good Gelato. Enough said.

El Vez
A Stephen Starr restaurant this place has great ambiance. I ate here for New Years a few years ago  and loved it.  This weekend we had the black bean enchilada and the chicken taco’s and some tasty sangria. All good, and with a giant motorcycle rotating around the bar it was a great meal!

Tria
After El Vez we made are way over to Tria for some desert. The Lemon tart/cake had just the right amount of  tartness combined with sweet delicious blueberry compote.

I had a delicious cabot clothbound chedder from Vermont and we tried a Tawny Port ( “10 YR. OLD,” RAMOS PINTO, NV) from Portugal and a Port “Ink Grade Vineyard” Heitz Cellars, NV from Napa. We both liked the second Port better than the first (a little less of an aftertaste).

Continental Midtown

madnarin orange and coconut
mandarin orange and coconut

I’m just going to list what we got. Visit the website and check out the pics here and on my picasa page. This is a great little place. Chic and really trendy.

We started out the meal with a orange and coconut palatte cleanser. I had the Corn and pepper omelet  with Nutella toast. My friend had banana fritters (get these!) and a breakfast quesadilla.

So, next time you’re in Philly check some of these places out.