I’ve been spending the beginning of my spring break in San Francisco. I flew in Friday night after teaching in the afternoon, got up early yesterday for a race, went out dancing last night, and met my friends Matt and April for lunch at Pizzeria Delfina today. Afterward I found myself wandering around the Mission District, wondering what to make for dinner. I wandered into the fortuitously named Casa Thai Market looking for some fresh produce since flying on Friday and racing yesterday morning left my stomach feeling… less than fresh. The vegetable section was a little uninspiring, but when I saw the rows of red and green cabbage, a little brassicaceous light bulb went off above my head.
I got back to the Thai compound (home to Jenny, Mon, My Le, and Kathleen) and dug around in their pantry. I wanted to make salade de deux choux, but they didn’t have any dried coconut or pecans, and I didn’t feel like going back out to the store. However, I rustled up a can of coconut milk, some spicy mustard, roasted almonds I had bought for snacking, a bag of shallots, some honey, and a lemon. I shredded the cabbage, minced a couple shallots, and whisked together a dressing using two parts coconut milk to one part mustard, the juice of the lemon, a dab of honey, and some salt and pepper. I poured the whole thing over the bowl of cabbage, and added the chopped nuts. Boom–my very own recipe redux. (I’m still mourning the end of Amanda Hesser’s column)
Jenny and Mon whipped together some stir-fried noodles…
…and to drink I made bloody monkeys, i.e. fresh-squeezed blood orange juice mixed with a light beer:
Call it my take on a classic:
As an added bonus, I fried some plantains and cooked up a pot of kettle corn. Pictures of these things do not exist because they didn’t last long enough to be caught on film.
Fresh food, friends, and fried things: life does not get better than this.
I’m busy prepping for a review session tomorrow and packing for my yearly pilgrimage to Mammoth Mountain (with pit stops in the Greater Bay Area and Los Angeles), but here’s a (very) brief distraction:
I saw this video twelve years ago on 120 Minutes and loved the viciousness of the gladiatorial supermarket battle. I’ll use it as inspiration for my travel stress-induced fantasies as I cross the country tomorrow evening. Tally ho!
Since the semester is finally over, for the past week I’ve been able to put more time and energy into Ironman training. In January I was going to sit down and write out a training plan that would take me through race day, August 30th, but that never happened. Ditto for February, March, and April. So now it’s May and I still have no training plan. But I have a vague sense of what I should be doing, so I decided that today should be a difficult bike workout to wrap up the training week, since Wednesdays are going to be my off days for the time being. I went online and chose a route called “Philly Dirty Dozen Hill Climb,” figuring it would be a good one to do since the Ironman Canada course has a LOT of climbing. I wrote out a spiffy cue sheet for myself and taped it to my aerobars. Said cue sheet would prove virtually useless.
Long story short, I got incredibly lost, and definitely biked more than a dirty dozen hills trying to figure out where I was. By grace of some velocipedic miracle, I found my way to the Schuylkill bike path, and from there I was fine.
I may not be very good at finding my way around the Philadelphia suburbs on a bike, but there is one thing I am pretty good at, making harissa:
I used a recipe from Saveur when I made this batch the other night, but there are a million different versions out there that are basically a riff on the following: rehydrated dried chiles, cumin, caraway, coriander, olive oil, salt and pepper, all whirled together in a food processor. It goes with pretty much everything–eggs, potatoes, pasta, meat, bread, grilled or roasted vegetables, whatever. Plus, you can make a big batch and keep it in a container in the fridge, covered with a layer of olive oil, and pull it out whenever you want a taste of Tunisia.
It’s Italian Idiom of the Day time!
rispondere picche–to turn someone down flatly (spicche = spades)
Speravo di ottenere il suo permesso, ma mi ha risposto picche. I had hoped to get his permission to do it, but he turned me down flatly.
When I was 15 I asked a girl to the winter formal, e lei mi ha risposto picche. We reconnected years later and discovered that in the meantime we had both come out. The moral of the story is that everything works out in the end.
On Saturday I went to check out the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby, but I got there pretty late in the day, so I missed the procession of human-powered contraptions and only got a few snapshots of people chilling with their creations. The guy in the fish-bike picture who looks like he walked off the set of Lost (especially when his hand isn’t covering his face) is an old co-worker of mine from the 20th Street location of Capogiro. I knew he lived in Fishtown, but I didn’t know he was putting an entry into the derby, and running into him was a pleasant surprise.
I don’t visit Northeast Philadelphia very often. Okay, I’ve only really been there once that I can remember, and it was a year ago on a thrifting excursion with my friend Jenny, who was visiting from Berkeley. We hit up Circle Thrift, and I walked away with two t-shirts and a three-piece YSL suit for probably not much more than $10. Granted, I never wear the suit, but it was $6, and one of these days I’m going to take it to the tailor to see if they can alter it. Come on, it’s the principle of the thing. Six dollars!
Okay, so the Northeast–it’s very popular. From what I gather, Hipsterdom travels in a Northeasterly direction in Greater Philadelphia. The South Street area used to be hip (or so my hairstylist tells me), then it was Northern Liberties, and now Fishtown/(New) Kensington/Port Richmond. I list all three because I’m honestly not sure what the difference is–for all I knew before Saturday, the area might as well be populated by dragons. However, I was really impressed. After we checked out the local artists and etsy people hawking screenprinted onesies (as an aside, I modeled etsy onesies for my mother in the Eighties, back before etsy was a big effing deal–more on that at a later date) my Northeast tour guide, Andy, and I walked over to Greensgrow, a really cool urban farm/CSA built on an industrial brownfield, and then to Memphis Taproom for some dinner. I had some pretty good hummus with sumac and fried chickpeas that tasted like puffs of legume-y ecstasy, and jackfruit cakes, which are a vegan substitute for crabcakes. I’m not vegan or even vegetarian, but I don’t eat much meat (expensive! carbon-intensive!) and I wanted to see what jackfruit tastes like. We couldn’t decide whether I ended up with jackfruit cakes or the crustacean-derived real deal, because when the server came out he said, “Crab ca–er, jackfruit cakes,” and the check read “KRABB” in block letters. In any case, they were quite tasty, and if they were jackfruit, it’s a damn good substitute for crab. If not, Memphis Taproom has good crabcakes. Either way, everyone wins. That is, unless you’re vegan, vegetarian, keep strictly kosher, or have a life-threatening allergy to shellfish.
So that was my extended introduction to Northeast Philadelphia, a neighborhood I’ll hopefully be frequenting more in the future.
And on a completely unrelated note, I’m reviving one of my blog traditions from when I maintained a Xanga page (remember Xanga?)–that’s right, it’s Italian Idiom of the Day! Hopefully this will help me prepare for the translation exam I have to take in the fall. And so without further ado, I give you the IIOTD, taken from the book 2001 Italian and English Idioms.
Today’s idiom: cacciarsi in un ginepraio–to get oneself in a fix (lit. to get oneself in a juniper thicket)
Per risolvere i problemi degli altri finisce sempre per cacciarsi in un ginepraio. For trying to solve other people’s problems he always ends up getting himself into a fix.
Don’t you hate it when you get yourself into a juniper thicket? Just the other day I did, and I thought to myself, Come mi sono cacciato in questo ginepraio? Because my internal monologue is in (probably grammatically incorrect) Italian.
Okay, it’s getting late, so that’s all for now. Thanks for reading the first post of Ye Olde Royle Blog!