Monday, April 27, 2009

Entrepreneurs and Tomatos

Wednesday, April 29, 2009, 1:00 - 6:15PM 
Pre-register here or on-site
Jon M. Huntsman Hall, 3730 Walnut Street, Philly, PA 19104

If you know anyone young or old who is seriously considering the path of entrepreneurship, attending this afternoon-consuming series of twenty-minute (10/10 split - Presentation/Q&A) presentations from biz school students may be worth the investment. Pitching your startup is more an art than a science. I went last year and was alternately intimidated (by the business confidence and post-event networking skills of the top-tier students) and inspired (maybe I could grow a team to execute a startup).

Mashable and IndyHall Mixer on the Waterfront
Friday, May 1, 2009, 8:00PM until close
Cavanaugh's River Deck, 417 N. Columbus Blvd., Philly PA 19123

Do you like free drinks on the waterfront? This is going to kind of like the Philly Tech Scene's debutante ball. Mashable, a leading Internet news blog and IndyHall, our leading coworking space are joining to throw a party (generous sponsors providing the bar tab). Expecting geek lameness? You'd be surprised at how many interesting extroverts (guys and gals) are part of the Philly entrepreneur/tech community. T-Storms on Friday? Like the fortune cookie says: "it remains to be seen". The venue offers plenty of covered space.

Saturday, May 2, 2009, Doors 7PM, Starts 8PM
Johnny Brenda's, 1201 N. Frankford Ave. Philly, PA 19125

Ignite = 5 minute talks, 20 slides (auto-advanced every 15 sec.). After the success of the first Ignite Philly, I was worried the event was not going to be sustainable (as in how many interesting projects are going on in Philly), and I've been proven wrong. Past events have featured everything from sustainability ( to "How to hack cats into dogs" to paper airplane madness. I can't promise paper airplanes, and this is guaranteed to be an interesting 2 hours to spend drinking a lager and soaking up the interesting-ness of Philly's hackers and DIY-ers.
Sunday, May 3, 2009, 10:00AM - 2:00PM  
Headhouse Shambles, 2nd Street between Pine and Lombard

Come out and support and celebrate our local sustainability stars. This event will feature local cookbook author signings with live entertainment from local musicians. The regular farmer market will be open until it gets chilly again - Saturday (10 vendors) and Sunday (30 vendors) from 10am - 2pm.

(Photo credit: Creative Commons photo by Jill Clardy)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Home Improvements


Hello everyone! It has been a while since I've posted (though you may have seen me Twittering) and I've missed you. What's been keeping me so busy? As usual... house projects galore! Now that spring has officially sprung, I am in the mood to spruce things up. There are many things on my to-do list - planting flowers, painting the fence, wallpapering the bathroom - but the task I decided to take on first was my tiny laundry room (check it out HERE).

I believe that paying attention to even the smallest, most utilitarian space in one's home can be tremendously rewarding. It perks me up every day to see the bright walls surrounding my washer and dryer, and makes doing laundry much less of a chore. Why not take a Saturday afternoon and, instead of sunning yourself in Rittenhouse Square, use the time to breathe new life into a sad corner of your house? Line the back of your bookshelves with a bold patterned paper, paint the interior of your linen closet a sunny hue, create a gallery-style picture wall in your hallway... none of these projects take much money, but will bring enjoyment every day!

So tell me, do you have any home improvement projects on your to-do list for spring? Please share!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Salsa and Crayons

Tuesday, April 21, 2009
700 Club, 700 N. 2nd St. (Fairmount Ave.) Philly, PA 19123

I've always been a fan of attending the kick-off, first-ever events (because they have the buzz and you get the cachet of being there for the birth). The 1st StorySlam was legendary. "Jazz music" and "Creative types encouraged to attend" proclaims the white-on-red poster advertisement for the 1st ever Philebrity Salon. I assume creative types will infer the starting time (none given, probably after dinner). It sounds promising, might attract some interesting characters.

VizThink Philly #1
Wednesday, April 22, 2009, 6:30 - 8PM
Free Library of Philadelphia (Independence Branch), 18 S. 7th St., Philly, PA 19106

As someone who communicates better through written words, I'm interested in this. At the 1st VizThink Philly event, participants will spend an hour doing "a visual mind spill, where you will spill out images onto paper and share them with your neighbors." No experience necessary, just bring crayons/markers. Limited seats, pre-registration required.

The Art Criticism Junto
Thursday, April 23, 2009, Food/drink 6PM, Discussion begins 7PM
P'unk Avenue, 1168 E. Passyunk Avenue, Philly, PA 19147

What do you think about the state of art discourse in our fine Philly? The Junto, a club for mutual improvement, is discussing art criticism this month. All-star list of panelists: Sid Sachs, Roberta Fallon & Libby Rosof of Artblog, Katie Murken, Andrew Suggs.

Latin Dance Network Opening Party at Club Adesso
Thursday, April 23, 2009, 9PM
Club Adesso (above Il Portico), 1519 Walnut St. Philly, PA 19102
$10 cover

I've been to Salsa club grand-openings. The live performances by Philly's top Salsa dance will astound you (much better than DWTS' shlock - though DWTS is getting better). Philly has a decent salsa scene, the social dancing at clubs like Brasil's in Old City is pretty good, and this grand opening will probably draw the best dancers in the tri-state area, for one amazing long night of performances and dancing. If you think you can't dance (but want to be entertained), go anyway.

(Photo credit: Creative Commons photo by Ananth BS)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Steak With a Side of Ostentatious

Buzz has been spreading lately about a fairly new steakhouse in Center City. Ever since Craig Laban, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s rather rigid yet informed restaurant critic, wrote a bashing review on it, not hesitating to comment on the restaurant’s substandard food, I have been curious. Do these professional restaurant critics even attempt to relate a layperson’s experience at these dining establishments? Or are they required to follow some sort of industry standards that requires them to taste, smell and experience things completely different? I read Craig Laban’s reviews every week, having read them for quite some time, and am pretty shocked if I actually come across a positive one. The dining experience tends to be primarily subjective in nature, hence how can one accurately rate the food and the ambience? So I was anxious to compare my experience at the highly-touted Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse. As I noted in my review of Butcher & Singer, I am not a huge steakhouse lover, but for reasons of pure curiosity, I needed to know what my beloved Butcher was up against.

I had some preconceived ideas of Del Frisco’s prior to even entering the doors that did not stem from Craig Laban. A friend of mine had recently commented that Del Frisco’s was turning in to the new hot-spot bar scene on the weekends. He said the girls gussy themselves up so they can sit at the bar, looking pretty, sipping their martinis, in hopes of attracting one of the many wealthy patrons who are just finishing dining on their ribeyes and lobster tails. When I walked in the door, I was greeted by 3 hostesses and 2 coat girls, all garbed in low-cut, sexy black dresses. I decided to keep my coat on in order to hide what I was wearing because I felt like a total frump standing next to these girls in my oversized cardigan and black tights. It was becoming clear to me immediately that the restaurant was catering to the politicians, lawyers and bankers who all inhabit offices in the immediate area, thus my friend dining with me would fit right in. The dining room was a sea of suits, primarily filled with men, feasting on huge cuts of meat that their respective firms would comp. It was a Monday night, so I was surprised to see the lack of empty tables. Clearly these people were not taking heed to Laban’s review. The space was rather breathtaking – cathedral ceilings, gorgeous mahogany bar and a balcony of tables overlooking the entire restaurant. The waitstaff was attentive, too attentive at times, but in defense of the establishment, lawyers do like to have their asses kissed.

We started with the Shangai-style fried calamari, sweet and spicy, teasing the palate, but tasty on all fronts. The portion was more than enough for two to share. We were invited to dismiss all rules of etiquette, and rip the bread apart with our hands, which was fresh and soft as it is advertised to be baked daily and served piping hot to the table. Now normally if I am attending a steakhouse, I would order a steak, just as I would order fish at a seafood restaurant. On this particular occasion, I was watching my diet (which I will expand on in another blog post), so I decided to stick with a healthier option and order the one thing on the menu that I normally wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole – the salmon. In retrospect, this was a ridiculous idea, as salmon is my least favorite fish, but the error was made and the damage done. The salmon was served in a Tschoupitoulas sauce, which was a somewhat spicy, creamy tomato-based sauce. Apparently Tschoupitoulas is a street in New Orleans, hence the dish was Cajun in nature. The sauce was good, the salmon not so much. It was pretty dry and rather bland. My friend was the smart one and ordered the boneless prime rib. I have to admit it was delicious – the spices on the outside brought out the flavor of the beef and made me wish I had not been so health-conscious. The highlights of the meal, however, were the side dishes. The macaroni and cheese was a delight – not quite as good as Parc’s version, but would give it a run for its money. My favorite of the night was the skillet potatoes and onions. I am a potato chip junkie, and these came very close to resembling that of a potato chip so, needless to say, I was eating them like I would if I had a bag of Herr’s on my lap in front of the television. They were a tad greasy, but I didn’t care, the more grease the better at the time. On the other hand, my stomach was not thanking me later. We were going to forego dessert, and were surprised when a sinful slice of strawberry cheesecake was placed in front of us. Fortunately my dining companion has friends in high places, thus compliments of this considerate friend, we stuffed our already full stomachs with dessert. The cake was creamy and perfectly-textured, and drizzled with a sweet strawberry sauce.

Overall the experience was enjoyable and the food was very satisfying. As I mentioned previously, dining out is so subjective. My personal preference is to not sit in a room full of pretentious lawyers and politicians who ogle the teeny bopper hostesses in their skin tight dresses and argue over who is going to pick up the bill in an effort to prove who makes more money; rather, I tend to lean more towards the comfort of a quiet, comfortable atmosphere like Butcher & Singer, where I can talk to my dining companion without worrying if I’m in the waiter’s way while he’s trying to fill up my water glass for the hundredth time of the night. Craig Laban was not entirely amiss in his review, yet, still much too harsh in my opinion. My advice, however, is when your lawyer invites you to dinner at Del Frisco’s, by all means, accept the invitation because when is the next time you will get to eat a $10 bag of potato chips while watching the mayor lick lobster off his fingers at the table next to you?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Frog and Toad in the City

Once upon a Sunday noon, a fabulous boy and his fabulous mama went to see a play. Not just any play, but A Year with Frog and Toad, now playing at the Arden, and running through April 19. The boy was filled with youthful anticipation, and skipped the whole way down to 2nd Street. The mama felt a bit like skipping too. As I am the mama of this boy, I was lucky enough to interview the young patron of the arts following the performance; here is his expert assessment of the afternoon.

Mama: What were your favorite parts? I noticed you dancing in your seat quite a lot.

Fabulous Boy: I liked it when Frog tried to wake up Toad, and Toad said, “Blegh!!!!” Also do you remember when Toad took his shoe and went like this [here our reviewer gestures wildly] and smashed his clock? That was hilarious! [Yes, my five-year-old says hilarious.] The best favoritest part was when Frog threw a snowball at Toad and Toad looked like [FB gives arch, comical expression], and when Toad went the wrong way on his sled and got really frightened and cold.

M: It sounds like you really enjoyed it!

FB: It was okay.

M: Were there any parts you didn’t like?

FB: Frog and Toad didn’t look like a frog or a toad. [I’ve interviewed several other young reviewers, and they all shared this critique. Not even green face paint! Nor a head-dress of any sort!] But the actors were neat, and the set was pretty neat. I liked the spinning houses.

M: Did any musical numbers stand out for you?

FB: The “Cookies” song was exciting. Cookies cookies cookies cookies we are eating cookies …

[Here our reviewer gets a bit distracted remembering his enjoyment of said musical number. We resumed after a minute or two of singing, and several loud requests for cookies.]

M: That was fun. I wonder if there’s a soundtrack available?

FB: What’s a sound trat?

M: Any other comments you’d like to share?

FB: The kite flying part was not so exciting. I could see the string holding the kite up.

M: Yes, me too. Who do you think should go see this show?

FB: I recommend it for people ages 2, 3, 4, 5, and 23, and for mommies and daddies. And also for people who never saw a frog.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Jerry and Coffee and Me

Philadelphia coffee shops have become my office away from office. Had I an office in which to sit, I would leave that office and go sit in a coffee shop and do much the same thing I would do in said imaginary workspace: position myself in front of my laptop, mug of coffee in hand, half a dozen browser tabs open, iTunes downloading something to watch later, and at least three Word documents underway. I would type noisily in this little cubicle of my fancy, as I do here at the shop, averaging about 100 wpm and gazing around me all the while. But would I be able to observe humanity quite as well from my corner office on the 47th floor—as I stand there in my impeccably tailored suit, weight balanced evenly on my Louboutins, hands masterfully on my hips—as I can from the table near the outlet, prime real estate of the coffee shop neighborhood?

And perhaps in this dreamscape office, all flashing lights and stainless steel and flat panel screens, staffed by agents who look like Daniel Craig and talk like … well, like Daniel Craig … perhaps in this office I wouldn’t be exposed to quite the species diversity I’ve found in the java huts of our fair city. It goes without saying that at The Last Drop you get hipsters, at La Colombe you find your euro-types (trash is such a derogatory term, I shan’t use it!), and at Cosi there'll be office workers grabbing the same quick and overpriced sandwich they come in for at least three times a week. But every so often, here in the caffeinated realms, you find a Jerry. Or more to the point, he. finds. YOU.

I use the name “Jerry” as an erudite and timely reference to Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story, in which a derelict character of that name can NOT STOP TALKING ON AND ON AND ON AND ON to the unsuspecting middle-upper-class Peter as he attempts to read a book. Peter sways from disinterest to interest to disgust and back again any number of times throughout the one-act play, much as I did the other afternoon as I was accosted by my very own Jerry. I have no idea what his actual name was; thank the heavens above we did not exchange names, or I would be in serious trouble. (Having a unique first name means that sharing it with someone is as good as giving them your address, phone number, and top five favorite hangouts. True story.) At any rate, I will call him Jerry.

Here I am, sitting in the crowded cafĂ©, drinking my cuppa and attempting to find job postings that sound like something I could conceivably do without loss of sanity or dignity or clothing. Within five minutes of my sitting down, Jerry moves in. A seat opens up next to me and sure enough, Jerry swaps his seat for this one; he begins to make small talk. I am a friendly person. I like people, and I’m apparently rather approachable. So talking a little bit about the coffee, and the day, and what I’m doing, does not seem unreasonable. At first. But over the course of the next five hours (no lie), as I try to make use of my dwindling online time (can’t afford internet access at home), Jerry proceeds to share with me his life story, or stories. The time he was in Thailand, going from ashram to ashram. The cat he befriended while he was there. His work as a stand-up comedian. How different this coffee shop is from the ones he likes in Paris. How he hates the internet, and can’t understand people who come to public places like coffee shops and then don’t want to be talked to. (Oh, Jerry, where to begin with my explanation of this phenomenon!) Seriously, I think I’m accidentally making the man sound interesting. And the thing about him is, he could be interesting. He had more interesting life experiences than most people, even if they all only happened in his mind. But Jerry, as with all Jerrys (no offense to people actually named Jerry), has no sense of social cues. Had I been sitting there in the coffee shop hoping someone would come talk to me so that I could turn him into a character in a book (a very long book), I would have been set. As it was, I spent five hours and wrote one (1) cover letter. I didn’t even have a chance to update my facebook status! THE HORROR!!!!!

I’m realizing now that I could go on and on about Jerry, and my inability to cut someone like Jerry off mid-sentence with a stern “I’m trying to work here.” But perhaps, in doing so, I would become a Jerry myself, leaving you to give thanks that you are reading this rather than sitting next to me in a coffee shop. Instead, I'll leave you with this: Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo, which is comprised of The Zoo Story as a second act and a new play, Homelife, as the first act, is now playing at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, home of the Philadelphia Theatre Company. I saw it opening night, and it was the first show I’ve seen in quite a while that didn’t leave me making mental tweaks during the performance. I recommend it.


A couple weekends ago I dined at my ultimate Philadelphia favorite. It is probably apparent at this point that Stephen Starr tops my list of favorite restaurateurs, and on this particular occasion I was quite excited to be hobnobbing with three of my very good friends at Buddakan. It was my best friend’s birthday and I was thrilled to be taking her to Buddakan for the very first time! Buddakan originally opened in 1998 and I have dined here countless times over the years because it never fails to satiate the senses nor the stomach, usually leaving me to roll my Buddha-like belly out of the door.

The event was planned to be a small surprise for my friend, as she originally thought it was just to be the two of us having dinner; however, I arranged for two of our good friends, Shander and Tobias, to join us. It came as no surprise that Tobias was prompt and prepared by the door waiting for us, while Shander swaggered up about 15 minutes late. Tobias: 1 point. Shander: -1 point. Stepping in to Buddakan is like stepping in to another little world – the opulence of the restaurant is immediately apparent marked by the ultra-high ceilings and the gigantic gold Buddha that sits at the head of the communal table in the center of the dining room. Buzzing with energy, the restaurant has an air of social-euphoria, as Buddakan tends to be the place to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other special events – just as we were doing.

The food is all served family style, in shareable portions and served as it is prepared, thus we all agreed on three appetizers and three entrees. We started with the Kobe Beef Satay and the Pork Belly Buns. The Beef was juicy and full of flavor, and was served with tempura vegetables – crunchy, fried little delights. The pork was not something I would make a meal out of, due to the fatty, chewy consistency, but it was certainly a tasty meal-starter. Stuffed into floury buns, the dish made me imagine what a $15 hot dog might taste like. Timed perfectly, the Asian Caesar salad was served, thereafter. Loaded with
cashews, parmesan and leafy green lettuces, the Asian Caesar is always a favorite and more than enough for all four of us. I made sure to leave room for the best yet to come, however, our entrees and, my particular favorite, dessert.

The Aged Beef, prepared to a perfect medium rare and sliced into small bite-sized pieces, was presented with a mountain of szechuan fries, drizzled with wasabi sauce and a watercress salad. The Aged Beef is a house specialty, and bursts with flavor. The pork tenderloin, also served in bite-sized portions, is dressed in a tasty barbecue sauce and served with three giant panko-crusted onion rings. Anything fried at Buddakan is going to be a hit in my book. There is nothing greasy about the onion rings and each bite is filled with crunchy goodness. The Chinese broccoli served with the pork was also rather addictive and I couldn’t help going back for seconds. Finally we tried the pan-roasted duck breast served in a five-spice jus and served with a corn and scallion spoon bread. The duck was tender, juicy and aromatic, but the corn and scallion bread really caught my attention. It melted in my mouth and left me craving more.

After ordering dessert, Shander happened to take note of the desserts whizzing by, some of which were adorned with tall sparklers for the diners’ who were celebrating special occasions. He looked at me and asked, “Are we going to get one of those?” referring to the sparklers. Now, tell me if I’m wrong, but generally it should be a surprise when we arrange for candles to magically appear in the dessert upon being served. It is that thoughtful little gesture we make for the celebrant ahead of time. Apparently, however, Shander was going to do his best on this night, to make sure there were no surprises. I tried to ignore the question, but he was not ready to end his inquisition. “Seriously, I didn’t see you ask anyone for a candle, what’s the deal?” Despite my urge to jam my fist in his mouth to get him to shut up, I finally had to put Shander at ease, and reveal that we would indeed be receiving a sparkler, due to Tobias’ diligence in getting to the restaurant early in order to make the request. Surprise #2 ruined. Tobias: 2 points. Shander: -2 points. At about this time, Tobias, got a little excited and dumped the entire contents of his soda onto his lap. This spiced things up a bit and I’m going to give him another point for livening things up. Needless to say, his pants were soaked, but at least we all got a laugh out of it.

And then the holy grail of the night was placed onto our table – the Banana Tower, standing tall in its glory, the caramel walls glimmering beside the infamous sparkler. The inside was stuffed with bananas, caramel and cream making this one of my favorite Buddakan desserts. The other favorite was being devoured by Shander and Tobias, the Dip-Sum Doughnuts – sugar mini doughnuts served warm with blackberry jam, chocolate sauce and ginger cream cheese. Upon finishing up the rest of the ginger cream cheese , Shander so eloquently described that it was “like wiping God’s ass” with the last bit of his dip sum doughnut.

Almost three hours later, we had finally finished another amazing Buddakan experience. What a wonderful way to celebrate an entire year of sobriety – good friends, good food and one huge Buddha. Final score: Tobias: 3 points. Shander: -2 points. Me: 10 points (for making the whole night happen, of course). My Best Friend: well she wins, of course, to offset the pains of aging, as I’m sure winning at my juvenile scorekeeping game for this event will make her feel so much better about turning a year older.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin