Friday, October 26

Bill's Excellent [Sandwich] Adventure

The problem with panini?*

They really only work out when a decent portion of cheese is used to adhere the bread and/or filling.

So, whenever I visit Bill's on Juniper and Sansom, I am again thankful that I am not quite vegan and will sacrifice a bit of gastrointestinal discomfort for the sake of a delicious lunch. Bill's offers an array of soups, sandwiches, and salads, but unlike typical Philly luncheons featuring cheesesteaks, hoagies, heavy Italian dishes, and greasy meat dishes, Bill stocks his kitchen with plenty of fresh ingredients and offers a wide variety of not-quite-vegan vegetarian options. His unchanging daily specials might as well be menu items, and I wish they were since they're my favorite selections: a grilled eggplant sandwich on a long roll with cheese and tomato sauce, and--my latest obsession--a panino of spinach, grilled peppers, tomato, and mozzerella or feta on Le Bus multigrain bread. I think the bread totally makes the sandwich. I get it with sharp provolone instead of the listed cheese options, since that tends to be (supposedly AND in practice) a little easier on the lactose-sensitive intestines. And it is d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s: grilled to a perfect golden brown, with just the right amount of veggies packed-in/spilling-out, all held together with a smooth, firm paste of melted provolone. After months (literally) of passing Bill and his specials sign, my taste buds discovered this concoction yesterday, and I went back today for another one since I liked it so much.

And an added bonus--the staff is delightful. Friendly, funny, and with the usual Philly brusque-ness but tempered by a congeniality that can be hard to find in this city. The woman who took my order checked with Bill, who was working the grill, to see if there was an upcharge for the cheese substitution (there wasn't), and she not only remembered me when I came in today, but remembered my beverage preferences (half lemonade, half unsweetened iced tea, not much ice, wedge of lemon). Service with a smile is refreshing these days (and especially in these parts), and Bill and company can count on many more visits from this non-vegan sandwich aficionado.

*PSA: "Panini" is in fact the plural of "panino." So you want a panino and we want panini. Si? Bene.

Tuesday, October 23

Herb is Good

So, as a lactose-intolerant vegetarian who's avoiding raw foods, I occasionally have difficulty finding good things to eat. Shocked? Don't be. This is not due to a dearth of cooked lactose-free vegetarian options, but rather because I am lazy/busy and rarely find/make the time to cook(/eat). In an (overly?) optomistic attempt to remedy this situation, I planted an herb garden.

Bear in mind that I live in a city apartment with no deck and limited room. So, I decided to try a container garden in the hallway outside my apartment. I had an old (read: disgusting) cooler that would never have the priviledge of cooling a taste beverage again, thus I converted it into a garden with the help of a lot of soil and a few packets of miscellaneous seeds garnered from a compulsive eBay purchase (I guess compulsive + eBay is a bit redundant, but bear with me). I also (again, compulsively) bought a few pots at Ikea and finally had the chance to fill them with dirt and hope for the best. I planted peppers, basil, and tomatoes in the pots (placed in the windowsill), and peppers, chives, dill, and parsley in the cooler (right below).

After extensive passive research, here are my findings:

*Plants need sunlight. No, really. Lots of sunlight. The plants in the window did brilliantly, while only the peppers survived (but bore no fruit) down below in the cooler.

*A friend speculated that this may have been additionally due to the depth of the cooler, which may not have been ideal for water retention/drainage (whichever the poor suckers needed).

*Plants also need...WATER! Not my most original revelation, I know, but I found that it was genuinely difficult to remember and make time for watering the garden daily. I felt like every day as I was racing out the door to work or yoga I would cast a forlorn glance towards my neglected herbs and promise myself I would water them when I got home (I work in a restaurant and usually get home between 1-2am...this promise was rarely fulfilled). I feel this was the most significant impediment to my success.

*I also had to rotate the pots in a moderately successful attempt to make the plants grow straight. It felt kind of like seventh-grade science class.

In the end, I cranked out some fine basil and a few very, very hot peppers (eBay's "mixed pepper mix" yielded an awful lot of serranos), which definitely helped out some wayward sun-dried tomato tapenade; an impromptu brunch of apple-cheddar omelettes and roasted potatoes; and a few bruschettas that needed an extra kick (and boy did they get it). In the future, I want MINT, more basil, rosemary (isn't that supposed to be hardy?), and will probably give the chives and parsley another the windowsill this time.

Monday, October 22

Topless Tapas (with shirts)

My roommates and I had a tapas-style dinner party last night. We each invited three guests, and asked them each to bring a tapas-style dish to share and a bottle of "something exciting."

We made:
Torti/Frittata di PastaCrudites
Melon balls with Prosciutto
Pomogranate Gelato-Prosecco Shots
Black Bean Dip
Cheese Plate with raspberries and pomogranate seeds
Butternut Squash Empanadas
Polenta Rounds
Eggplant-Pesto-Mozzerella Rolls
Pumpkin Bread
Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade

Our guests brought:
Shrimp Cevice
Baked Shrimp
Garbonzo Bruscetta
Olive Tapenade
Cheeses and Meats with Olive Bread
Chocolate Croissants

Here are my reflections on the evening:

*Next time, I'll stagger the food presentation in three stages:
-Initial cold nibbles (laid out in dining area) and welcome shots/drinks
-Hot food and savory guest contributions (in kitchen)
-Sweets and appropriate beverages (in dining area after preliminary clean-up).

*TAKE PHOTOS. I'm so shy about photographing my food in front of people, but the presentation looked sooo nice with tea lights and halloween decorations, etc.

Here's a non-photo of the evening to prove this last point:

[ X ]
Caption: A lovely array of tapas and fermented lactose products adorn cmoore's abode for a festive Sunday afternoon.


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