Thursday, February 28, 2013

Friends. Wine. Cheese

Hi Friends,

Do you like trying new wine, sampling new cheeses and meeting new people? Me, too. Check out the Wedge and Fig Social Club.

On Wednesday, Anita and I went to our quaint neighborhood cheese shop, armed with a bottle of red, guaranteed to pair nicely with the cheese we were about to sample.

As we walked into the tickets-only event, we were greeted with this collection of reds, handed a name tag and a glass for our wine and off we went.

Throughout the two-hour event, we sampled five cheeses from around the world and learned their unique stories just before they were presented.

In between cheese courses we had the opportunity to mingle with the other guests in attendance. I met two neighbors - one who works at The Arden Theatre and I also chatted with Kirk and Lisa, the owners of the Wedge and Fig. I can easily say I walked away with three new friends and a few new tips on where to go. 

Here is the cheese list from last night's event. I highly recommend the Epoisses Berthaut for its equally unique earthy taste and history.

Here is an idea of how the cheeses were presented by the staff during the event. Shown below is the Valdeon - a lovely bleu cheese - and bleu cheeses aren't something I seek out. But, I will be picking up some of it this weekend.

If earthy French cheeses like the Epoisses Berthaut aren't your thing, the Wedge and Wig also has a few dozen other cheeses for you to try. They also have a full menu of paninis, soups, baked goods, coffee and all of the standard cheese accoutrements you need.

And about the wine. We were encouraged to open our bottle, set it on the table with the other 30 bottles and try a communal bottle. We only briefly hesitated but after seeing everyone else reading an unfamiliar label and trying the wine - we joined in. And I'm happy we did because I found a new wine I love. This was my favorite of the evening and I hope to find it at a wine store one day, soon.

The W&F Social Club happens once a month, is held midweek and is BYO. Tickets are $10 ahead of time and $15 at the door. They change their cheese selection each month and recommend an adult beverage to bring. January's suggestion was champagne, I wonder what March will be? I may have lobbied for a dark-beer pairing. We'll see what Lisa and Kirk decide upon in a few weeks!

Even if it's red again, I'll be there and I hope to see you there.

Your friend,

Monday, February 25, 2013

dîner français

Happy Monday, friends.

I found this recipe the other day and tried it this evening because I was in the mood for French food which is my absolute favorite food to make or eat - at any meal. Plus, since it ends up as an open-faced sandwich, you eat it with a knife and fork and can pretend you're sitting at an outdoor cafe in Paris at 2 p.m., with a view of the Eiffel Tower, with a bottle of champagne, and a few macaroons.
...and back to reality.

You lightly (or not so lightly) butter a few slices of brioche and broil them until browned.

Place a few slices of Gruyere cheese on the bread. I only wished I'd used more because can one ever have too much Gruyere?

For the frisee salad vinaigrette, I used the juice from two meyer lemons that I had on hand with olive oil, scallions and a bit of salt and pepper.

 I popped the brioche topped with Gruyere in the oven for a minute, until I saw this...

...I made a few eggs quickly and this is how it turned out.

I served it on my plates that are French inspired and similar to the plates served at Bouchon - Thomas Keller's French bistro that he designed so he would have somewhere to eat after cooking fine French cuisine at French Laundry. Even the butter is outstanding there. I should open the Bouchon cookbook this weekend...that would give me a reason to start researching for my trip to Paris...


Good night, friends.
Bonne nuit, mes amis. 

Your friend,

Below is the recipe from Food & Wine - March 2013.
I used meyer lemons and instead of fried eggs, I made lightly scrambled eggs and skipped the prosciutto. I would add more Gruyere cheese the next time.
  1. Six 1-inch-thick slices of brioche
  2. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus softened butter, for brushing
  3. 6 ounces frisée, torn into bite-size pieces (3 cups)
  4. 1/4 cup lightly packed parsley leaves
  5. 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  6. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  7. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  8. Kosher salt
  9. Freshly ground pepper
  10. 6 large eggs
  11. 1/2 pound Gruyère cheese, thinly sliced
  12. 12 thin slices of prosciutto (6 ounces)
  1. Preheat the broiler. Brush both sides of the brioche slices with softened butter and arrange in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Broil the brioche 8 inches from the heat, turning once, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes total. Leave the broiler on.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss the frisée with the parsley, scallions, lemon juice and olive oil. Season the salad with salt and pepper.
  3. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in each of 2 large nonstick skillets. Crack 3 eggs into each skillet and cook sunny side up over moderate heat, until the whites are firm and the yolks runny, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Top the brioche with the Gruyère, covering as much of the toasts as possible with the cheese. Broil 8 inches from the heat for about 3 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Transfer the cheesy brioche toasts to plates. Top with the frisée salad, prosciutto and fried eggs and serve at once.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

City living. Grocery delivery.

Good morning, friends.

Here is a little PSA for you about something I'm kind of obsessed with right now - Fresh Direct.

Living in Center City, Philadelphia is great for a number of reasons. I can step outside and find just about anything I need, trendy clothing stores, home stores, kitchen-gadget stores, wine and gadget stores and adorable gift stores.

The only thing missing from this end of this city is a grocery store. There is one grocery store but finding the time to get there and lugging my groceries from my garage to my apartment is just a hassle. I'm over it. Plus, I end up buying countless items I just do not need in my house.

Enter: the solution. Amazing grocery delivery. 

While this is not a new concept, other stores offer it, but for a variety of reasons, I gave up on them. Until, I met Fresh Direct, a New York City-based grocer, that started delivering to a handful of zip codes in Philadelphia in the fall. I became obsessed a few months after.

Here is how it works.

You log in and order your groceries - which include anything from your basic needs (paper towels, detergent) to cheeses from around the world, to pre-made dishes and sides, to anything else you could possibly want including incredibly fresh produce. One of my gripes from other online grocery experiences was a limited selection of items. However, Fresh Direct's selection is impressive and I have found everything on my lists, thus far.

If you are a returning customer, they even flag "your fave" items for you, which I think is a cute tactic. If you are a new customer, they have tons of deals for you from saving money on your first order to free delivery. Delivery is $8 and it's worth every penny to me for countless reasons - most of all - I don't need to drive on the weekends.

After you chose your items, you select a two-hour delivery window and check out. I've been lucky and have been on the earlier end of my delivery window sometimes even before the window begins.

The delivery men bring your items inside and off they go.

The packaging is one of the best parts. Here is an example from my delivery that arrived at 8:02 a.m. this morning. (Yes, I selected the 8-10 a.m. window on a Saturday which was only a teeny tiny bit painful.)

 The packaging. The frozen items are delivered in a separate bag.

A view inside the box...and a view into what I ordered.

Yogurt and other perishables come in a protected little packaging. Eggs come wrapped with a brown protective netting.

Here is a sample of how my produce came today - all very fresh.

I was raving about the service and products during dinner with Anita and Devon one night - Anita was psyched about the concept but Devon was against it because he prefers to select his own produce. However, a few days later, I saw Devon and he raved about their recent Fresh Direct order and how great it was - especially the packaging and the fresh produce.

So, I'm not the only one.

And if you like getting packages in the mail as much as I do - try it - because you have something to look forward to each week.

Happy shopping!
Your friend,

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I'm dreaming...of a warm evening.

Hi friends, 
Remember those days in the summer when it was too hot to move? When it was too hot to go outside and if you did, the heat would hit you like a brick wall the instant you left the AC? Yeah, me neither.

So this evening, I thought I would find a way to warm us up - those of us who are freezing on this wintery February night.

This one reminds me of a night I was drinking a cold beer with friends, in the humidity most likely.

And this is an old favorite as these are my well-loved, mojito-making supplies. Friends actually bribe me, I mean, bring me rum, so I always have the ingredients handy to make these summery cocktails on any given night between June and September. Can't you almost taste summer, now?

We'll enjoy our mojitos as we sit in Adirondack chairs on my patio and then head upstairs to the roof of my building and see this...

again, on a warm summer night, where you cannot wait to get back into the AC. And usually we were.

And in the dogs days of dog, Delaney (the one smiling for the camera), and her canine boyfriend, Dexter, would cruise around town with the top down.

I hope this helped make you forget the icy temperatures this evening. But if not, tomorrow is National Margarita Day - so that should help you remember that summer is just around the corner.

If you're going to participate in this holiday here are some Philadelphia spots for you:

Try this place - I recommend the Grenada and just about everything on the menu.
There is this Mexican spot that has a spectacular blood orange margarita - try it on the rocks with a sugar rim.
If tacos and margs are your thing, go to this taco joint be sure to bring cash because they don't take cards. And maybe try to dress like a hipster.

I think margaritas may just be the perfect treatment for the frigid temperature, at least for a little while, or until we put down our empty glasses, put on our down coats, scarves and hats, and pray we can hail a cab as fast as humanly possible.

Stay cozy,
Your friend,

Monday, February 18, 2013

National Drink Wine Day.

Ciao, wine-drinking friends,

I am not sure how I missed that today is National Drink Wine Day, until now. Oh, I know, it's because I tend to celebrate this holiday daily, or at least biweekly.

To honor this great day I put together a list of a few of my favorite wine-related items.

This may be the absolute best combination of food and wine. Maybe ever. The last time I made this dish, I served it with this wine.

And if you see the MacRostie Pinot Noir, buy it by the case, or 10. It is that good. I found it by happenstance at the wine store and mistakenly, only bought one. It was marked at $40 but was $25 when I found it at the beginning of November. 

When in doubt, drink this wine from Oregon. 
When celebrating, pop a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, which happened to be my contribution to our Christmas breakfast.

Even Grace Kelly recommends a particular brand of bubbles.

Bring your own bottle here, just mere steps from my building. Or here. You also can't go wrong here, ever. 

When in Philadelphia, be sure to visit Osteria. Sit at the bar and be entertained by one of my bartender friends, Tara, Dan or David, while you enjoy one of their countless Italian bottles, listening to Italian music, eating an amazing Italian meal.  

Also, if you require a large wine list, Panorama, in Philadelphia, boasts an incredible wine list with more than 150 wines offered by the glass. If you're nice, they may just sneak you a sip of a pricey barolo.

Open, chill and enjoy
There are thousands of wine gadgets out there and I am on a mission to collect them all. I may even have a wine-gadget drawer, or two.

For Christmas, my amazing parents gave me a new wine refrigerator, along with two yet-to-be-opened-bottles-of-wine-I'm-saving-for-a-special-occassion-also-known-as-a-random-Tuesday, but I have my eye on this wine refrigerator.  Maybe next year, guys?

Here are a few wine toys that will have your friends talking. 

Use the icicle to chill your wine. My friend, Carolyn, suggested it.
This is my favorite wine opener. It's a conversation piece.
Aerate your wine with this, this, or even this.
Everyone loves these stems when I pull them out of my cabinet.

These artists love wine, too.
Your mouth is poison, your mouth is wine... (The Civil Wars, Poison & Wine)
This is the original song about Red Wine (Neil Diamond, Red, Red Wine)
Perfect combination for a BYO (Billy Joel, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant)

I know I discovered this holiday as it was winding down but there are two items that remain to be true - this will not be my last post about wine and I hope the hardest decision you have to make tonight, is which bottle to open. 


Your friend,

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Plans tonight?

Hi friends,
A rock star friend of mine, Derek Bishop, will be playing in Philadelphia this evening at JR's Bar in South Philly.

Tonight's show at JR's Bar will be atypical of the typical bands they book because the four bands playing this evening are mostly acoustic, alternative country bands. The musicians are not punk rockers. In fact, this evening, I've been promised ukeleles and accordions. Tonight, Derek's music includes a few acoustic piano songs and a bunch of very catchy piano-pop tunes (think Ben Folds or a gay Billy Joel).

Listen to some tunes:
Derek's "The Last Word" (you can have it, I don't want it).

A sampling of songs from Paisley Fields (and I kinda love their name).
The deets
There is a $5 cover at the door and the bar only has, apparently, cheap bottled beers. 
Heads up, friends, JR's is a cash-only establishment. 

I'm heading over around 8 tonight.  This makes my third night out in South Philly in six days following Will and American Sardine Bar - that may have the best haloumi sandwich, I've ever had. Details to come on this night.

I hope to see some friends there and make a few new ones. 

Your friend, 

P.S. If you're going to make a night of it in South Philly, I recommend these nearby places.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Hello, lovers, I mean friends.

Happy Valentine's Day from Philadelphia. I have a few images that demonstrate something in which I believe - that love really is all around. You can't hunt for it, it finds you - just as I stumbled upon these sights. 

I found all of these images throughout the year in Center City, except for the carnival sign below that I walked past last weekend. It was kind of hard to miss and perfect for this Valentine's Day post.

Storefront of Duross & Langel on 13th Street in midtown. I love the way the huge light bulbs look on the sign that mimics the iconic Philadelphia statue.

  From an outdoor sign in Rittenhouse.

A front stoop of a house in Society Hill. 

 Heart-shaped hinges on a door on Pine Street.

Sweet potato vines in a planter somewhere between Old City and Rittenhouse.

A heart-shaped stone on a street in my neighborhood.

From a vendor at the most recent Clover Market.

Look around wherever you roam, I bet you will find love really is all around. This must be the reason Philadelphia is called the City of Brotherly Love.

your friend,

Monday, February 11, 2013

Birthday bash

Hi, friends!
I celebrated my birthday this past weekend and the culmination was dinner with my friends Anita and Devon at Will. Will, is a new, tiny, byo on East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia that focuses on local ingredients and includes a hint of alchemy that aims to delight each of the senses.

On Sunday, February 10, Will's five-course prix fixe menu focused on lobster. Which, I found amusing (and ironic) given the name of the recent blizzard in the northeast named Nemo.

The tasting menu...

...where nothing was as it seemed, yet every bite was delightfully surprising.

I won't share all of their secrets, but here is one tidbit: the "lobster bisque" came out in a shallow bowl with three oyster shells floating on a bed of seaweed. Each oyster shell boasted a tiny round ball in the center. The waitress set it in the center of the table and poured a liquid into the bowl that was then transformed into a smoking cauldron. We each took an "oyster" and popped it into our mouths and that was when one concentrated bite of lobster bisque was revealed. It was a lovely amuse-bouche.

OK, here is another sneak peek: a few times throughout the evening, we noticed a burning smell. We thought we had figured it out - a mistake in the kitchen, maybe incense, but no, we were wrong. We only figured it out when we were given our fourth course that included a piece of bundled hay, set on fire, burning in the middle of the table. It was not something we were to eat, it merely existed to enhance the dish through our sense of smell.

We had a fun time and thought we were pretty clever. "Hay, it's your birthday," Devon joked. "Hay, that's cool," was another. We were most certainly enjoying our wine.

Two items of note: both Anita and I requested non-meat items and the chef accommodated this very nicely and gave us scallops in one dish. All the three of us were even given a surprise dish in the middle - one large tortellini with shaved truffles and shirred quail egg. The dish was earthy and creamy - I think it was the best course of the night. cap off the evening, I was presented with a candle in my dessert and my friends sang Happy Birthday. All and all, it was a perfect night with great friends. 

The five-course meal was $45 not including tip but we were given six courses. Will remains on my list of places to try still, because the next time, I'll go and order off of the regular menu merely for the pot de creme.

So friends, I hope you "will" get a chance to check out Will byob. xo

Your friend,

Your friend, Caroline

Hi, friends. 

Welcome to Your friend, Caroline. I'm marrying a few of my favorite passions - finding something new and sharing what I've uncovered with my friends. Imagine you're talking to your best friend - that's what you'll find here - a collection of unique gems from my little corner of the world. Grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine and stay awhile. I hope you find something you love.

Your friend,