… followed by retiring to the roof, which thankfully was not on fire, but had a nice breeze.
Dishes 121 and 122: Roast chicken and tagliatelle with duck ragu at James, 824 S. 8th St, http://www.james8th.com
Dish 123: Octopus at Saloon, 750 S. 7th St, http://www.saloonrestaurant.net
Dish 124: Chocolate chip cheesecake at Fitzwater Café, 728 S. 7th St.
Dishes 125 and 126: Chicken cemitas and al pastor tacos at Los Taquitos de Puebla, 1149 S. 9th (Italian Market), http://www.lostaquitosdepuebla.com
July 17 dawned yet another gleaming, clear day on the Parkway, the perfect day for me to gently rouse Gustav from his slumber and to bang a wooden spoon around the inside of a saucepan, yelling “RISE AND SHINE!” to a groggy Brian and Branson. To shuffle Gustav into Brian’s car, now that Demon Bunny went to live with Mom and Dad for a while; to hustle to Lowe’s, to get the paint, to finish the apartment, to fill with furniture and food and the people that we love. A good day for all of these things.
Gustav and I tackled the furniture and cleaning while Brian and Branson finished painting the living room, and the afternoon flew by. Later Brian and Branson split to see some Philly sights—Branson is our friend from high school. Which is a great story in itself. Born and raised in Harlem, things were going great until there was a shooting on his street. His mom got scared and sent him to live with his godparents in the suburbs. So we call him—yes, you got it. The Fresh Prince of Northern Valley. And he is so fresh and so fly.—So Brian and Branson went to see the sights while Gustav and I mixed some Bay Breezes and developed our strategic plan: order ahead, make a map, pre-pay as much as possible, and pick up our dishes at the last possible minute in the style of a pelican picking up dinner without breaking stride. We chose restaurants in the region of Passyunk Ave, for their proximity to one another, and what could provide an interesting assortment: the octopus at Saloon, the roast chicken and the tagliatelle with duck ragu at James, the chocolate chip cheesecake at Fitzwater Café, and the al pastor tacos and chicken cemitas at Los Taquitos de Puebla.
When we got back to the apartment, I plated the dishes while Gustav went to freshen up. In the past three weeks I had forgotten the strange joy of not having to choose what to order, and for the result to always be exquisite. The octopus was my first sample. Supertender and lightly spiced, tossed in a frothy salad—“is that celery? Fennel?” Gustav asked—this is easily the best octopus I have had so far. The roast chicken was herb-y, juicy, tender, blah blah, ideal roast chicken and so forth. BUT THE VEGETABLES WITH IT. Gustav promised that the girl on the phone said “boatloads of veggies”, so naturally I was expecting a splat of pureed spinach. Mais non! Tender, buttery carrots, spicy cauliflower soft on the inside and firm on the surface, lima beans that were rich like edamame, oh my god. The best part of the dish. If I went back, I would order just the vegetables.
The tagliatelle featured large hunks of fall-apart duck meat in a thin sauce; the chocolate chip cheesecake was—this featherweight, soft, ever so slightly chocolate-chippy mousse, a far cry from the heavy, coma-inducing New York cheesecakes of my youth. I like both, obv.
Los Taquitos on south 9th—if one of these dishes was not the one I intended to order, we’re moving on. Rate of play! There was something of a language barrier, but the result was scrumptious: multiple slabs of fried chicken and wads of cheese, slices of avocado, on an eight-inch-diameter bun; flaky pork tacos with gems of pineapple and green and red salsa, all prepared by a “really fat dude smiling at me while holding a large knife—I can’t wait to go back”. (Editor’s Note: A reliable source tells me that this, indeed, is a cemita. Game on!)
Barely had we put the dishes on the table before friends began to arrive, and warmed the new place into a home. Over-heated it into a new home, actually. Brian and I are going to have to get used to city living, and smaller digs!