Dish 55: Sopa de Tortilla, Tequila’s, 16th and Locust, http://www.tequilasphilly.com/
Dishes 56 and 57: Ceviche and Royal Palm Dates, Alma de Cuba, 16th and Walnut, http://www.almadecubarestaurant.com/
Caitlin is DTHF. (Down To Have Fun.) She combines humor with a complete lack of pretense, evidenced by her last Halloween costume, a Hawaiian-shirt wearing tourist decked out a top-of-the-line fanny pack borrowed from—and sized for—her 6’4” dad. (Did it have two beer holders? Do I need to justify that with a response?)
She enjoys ribbing me for the frivolous habits I’ve picked up in the business school—“Lauren, you carry a lint roller?!” And then I remember the old days, and our uniform of sneakers, cableknit sweater, jeans, and –horror of horrors!—no makeup and laugh at how much things have changed.
Naturally, nothing excites an engineer more than a challenge, except for a challenge organized by an Excel sheet and a Google map, so Caitlin suggested that we combine seeing the Disney documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty with a dish or two from The List. After calling in our orders—“We don’t take orders, miss, I’m sorry.” “Well, suppose I just tipped you off that I’d like tortilla soup and I would be there in fifteen minutes?” “I’ll let the kitchen know”—we were tripping down Chestnut and spotted Rita’s. I had saved my frequent buyer card loaded up with ten precious stamps from last summer, and when I asked whether we should eat dessert now or later, Caitlin informed me that it is healthier to eat dessert first. Wait, what?
If you eat dessert first, she explains, then it fills you up a little and you eat less dinner. If you eat dinner first, you fill up and then try to make room for dessert, and you end up eating more. Brilliant. We gleefully order a chocolate brownie smoothie with two straws and bask in the golden afternoon glow.
Caitlin and I set up our cilantro-scented shopping bags on a bench in Rittenhouse Square by some hippies who were hula hooping and tapping out tunes on a tiny piano that sounded like a lyre.
We unearthed two kinds of salsa from Tequila’s, a thin, hot-ish one, and a chunky, light, fresh, mild one, in addition to the tomatoey tortilla soup with its luscious threads of spicy pulled chicken. The mysterious Royal Palm dates paired bacon and dates for a heavy, airless duet broken by the unexpected almonds at their core.
I felt like Aladdin discovering his lamp; the dates have a sexy, dangerous aura like smoke in a jazz club that contrasted elegantly with the weightless ceviche.
The ceviche, a mix of scallops and shrimp, lifted me back to summers at home, eating lunch alone in the kitchen with the lights off and the screen door open, the breeze brushing past my bare shoulders. –“That’s going to make it into your blog, isn’t it, Laur?” “Yes.”— And we laughed, the engineer and the former engineer, systematically working their way through a mission whose circuitous path is anything but systematic.