Saturday, January 30, 2010

Yesterday, Love Was Such An Easy Game To Play......

Welcome to Philly! I have touched upon the joys of living in the City of Brotherly Love, yes I have. I had such a busy day yesterday that I did not have a moment to write about my trip to see the Flyers.

You see, on Thursday night I had a delicious dinner at Tinto, even though it was Restaurant Week. Don't get me wrong, Restaurant Week is an incredible 2 weeks for Philly. You can try a ton of restaurants, where each restaurant has a special fixed price menu. It is great. The reason I said it was delicious despite Restaurant Week is that it usually uber crowded, the staff has been working extremely hard and run around like lunatics and I am a creature of habit. It is the habit part that gets me. I usually order the same thing at the same restaurant. Especially when I find something I really like. Restaurant Week is a fixed menu - 2 from column A, 2 from column B plus dessert - you get it. I want to order 3 from column 2 and something that is on the regular menu. Like, say, two short rib bocadillos, which is probably one of the most delicious little sandwiches evah! and a bowl of seafood chowder and bomba rice. I dream of that sandwich. John agrees. There have been times when I cannot be home for dinner and I am out with the kids and John will go to Tinto and order two, not one, but TWO short rib bocadillos. Without me. I could not do that last night. Nope, but they did have delicious selections and it forced me to order outside my habit.

Anywho, every year we are invited by our friends Carmen and his wife Elka to attend a Flyers game. We go out to dinner early, then hit the ice. Thursday night was the night and let me tell you all about how great a Philly Flyers game can be. Carmen and Elka are great people. I think Carmen could possibly be a Hall of Famer Fan. He has season tickets to the Flyers, the Phillies, and he is a founding member of the Union! He attends a ton of Villanova games and Eagle games. He grew up in South Philly and he can give you a ridiculous amount of sport trivia going back..forever! John and I really enjoy their company.

Their tickets are on the ice. Right on the ice. Against the glass. In back of the net, to the right in a primo checking location. I once met John LeClair at some random function and when introduced, I told him that we had met before. "You were pressing some guys face against the glass and I thought we made eye contact! No?" Not kidding.

When these guys slam against the glass, your seats rock. John has spilled his beer. We have caught pucks that have been stuck in the net. John got on his chair and jumped. He has the scar to prove it. Well, the guy next to me called out to the players by their first name. "Danny, no! What are you thinking?! Nice, nice Seee-moooan (Simon). Atta boy, Patrick!" Like he was their buddy or better yet, their mom. He smelled of cigarettes and when he yelled, I smelled nacho cheese (honest). The opposing goalie came right to the glass to pick up a piece of athletic tape off the ice, he pressed his face to the glass and gave him the finger. The goalie looked directly into his face and smiled. They had a moment.

There was this ancient guy with a baaaaad toupee who held up well worn signs that said, "Asham Smash 'em!" and "YOU WILL CHOKE!" He was stoned face and wore acid washed jeans. The crowd would erupt and there was toupee guy, like a statue, slowly rotating that sign like an oscillating fan, humorless. The guy behind me had a pretty young girlfriend, with a pink cashmere sweater, who filed her nails the whole time while yelling, "THAT WAS A STUPID MOVE, THINK PU-LEASE!" She would glance up from her nails to wrinkle her nose and scowl.

And did I mention the dancing guy? Holy crap. He is at every, and I mean EVERY Flyers game. He gets MAJOR jumbo-tron time. He is a gift. A gift! Other cities must salivate watching this guy do the lawnmover. How can I get an orange dancing fool at my game, that fans love, who brings to a game unbelievable joy? You cannot, he's ours!

My favorite moment was when the organ belted out the dun, dun, dun, DUN and you are supposed to clap along and yell, "LET'S GO FLY-ERS". Everyone clapped, but then yelled "REF YOU SUCK!". The organist definitely heard and played at least 6 or 7 rounds.

The Flyers were up 3 to 1 and suddenly there was 15 minutes, give or take, of sub par play. They were down 4 to 3. Fans began to boo. Suddenly, the team rallied and played beautiful hockey. Shots were raining in. There was less than a minute left to play and they were going all out. The whistle blew for a foul and 19,000 plus fans rose to their feet to recognize the effort. Whistling, clapping, shouting support. I love sports, but I do not think that any sport compares to ice hockey. I think it is the most difficult sport physically. These guys are specimens and when they go all out, it is poetic. I digress...time runs out, the Flyers lose and the fans start to file out while booing the refs and opposing team.

They played beautifully. It was a great night!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Respect Coffee!

I'm going to break away from my usual inclination toward absurd blatherings and instead go on a little rant about coffee. Anyone who knows me at all also knows that I am a bit obsessed with it. More than once, while scrutinizing an employees' coffee-making technique, they have turned to face me, offered up a crisp salute with a shouted, "yes, mein Fuhrer!", and goose-stepped off into an empty corner to cry. I'm sorry about that.

The thing is, I respect coffee a little too much to stand by silently as it is massacred by poor technique, wasteful practices or plain lazyness. But a detailed exposition on bad coffee preparation is not what I'm setting before you today. Instead, I'd like to encourage everyone to have a little more reverence for coffee or, at least, to give it a little more consideration.

Like many important foods in culinary history, coffee has a well-storied and contentious past: the legend of Kaldi and his dancing goats, how coffee got from it’s birthplace in Ethiopia over to Yemen, it’s adoption into Muslim society and culture, various theories over the origin of the word “coffee” itself, rejection and subsequent acceptance by Christendom, the development of coffee culture in the Mid and Near East and Europe, etc etc.

But what gets lost amongst the romantic stories of it’s past, the cliches surrounding the modern coffeehouse, and the corporate rush to homogenize it into a cheap staple of modern existence is the reality of the brutal day-to-day struggle that is: coffee production.

Coffea Arabica is a fickle plant. It only grows in a specific band of latitudes on either side of the Equator, and favors high altitudes (1800-3600 feet). Each cultivar offers it’s own set of characteristics in the final cup that vary with alterations in climate, altitude and terroir (the specific characteristics of the soil). (Not going to get into Arabica’s slightly nasty, kinda slutty sibling, Robusta, in this post)

Cultivar? Yup. There are many, many different varietals in coffee. In addition to the hundreds of unclassified heirloom coffee trees in Ethiopia, you’ve got Pacamara, Gesha, Caturra, Jember, Bourbon, Maragogype, Tekisik, and SL28, to name a few. All of them thrive under different conditions, or have been specifically bred for certain qualities.

Ooooh-kay. Now, it’s got to grow somewhere. You’ve got giant megafarms in Brazil and Vietnam (who is the world’s second largest producer of coffee, although it is very cheap, nasty Robusta that mainly ends up in crummy commercial blends) where things go down much like they do in, say a vast industrial tomato farm: lots of big machinery, pesticides, poor land stewardship, low quality/high yeild, etc. Then you’ve got the world’s third largest producer, Columbia, where the terrain necessitates hand-picking of all its coffee. (And I’m not trying to get down on Brazil or Vietnam. Brazil boasts some beautiful farms that produce top quality coffee. Vietnam is a very beautiful country full of amazing wonderful people.)

And then there’s the rest of the world, where most everything is done by hand. Beans are picked by hand, and carried to a weighing station. Bags are carried from a weighing station to a processing facility. Beans are stripped from the cherry and fermented in tanks (okay, unless you are in Yemen, where the coffee is dry processed. Then, the dried fruit is broken off the coffee bean, and is brewed into a tea, called Quishr. Pretty cool, right?), then washed to remove any gunk that clings to the beans. The beans are then sorted and dried and graded and bagged and cupped by importers and bought by roasters and sold to coffeehouses/bodegas/airports/etc and drunk enthusiastically by lots and lots of people.

“What’s your point, buddy?”
Good question. My point is this. Just watch this video, produced by Stumptown Coffee Roasters of Portland, OR. I know what you’re thinking, but I want you to put aside all of your prejudice against crunchy, tree-hugging liberal jerks like me and just watch this video. Watch it and think about your morning cup of coffee. Think about how much you paid for it. Think about how far away Ethiopia is (or Papua New Guinea, or Brazil, or Costa Rica). Think about all the wasted coffee grounds sitting on the counter around the espresso machine where you got your latte. Think about whether or not you care if it tastes good. Think about how much you rely on it to get through the morning or board meeting or whatever. Look at how beautiful the place where the coffee comes from is. Look at the men, women and children harvesting and processing the coffee. Think about these people carrying 75 pounds of coffee on their backs for a mile to the processing station. Consider the care and artistry it takes to process the beans in a way that preserves and optimizes their flavor potential. CONSIDER THAT THE PEOPLE IN THIS VIDEO ARE LIVING IN GRASS HUTS. Yes, I just yelled that.

“Okay, ah, so what’s your point, buddy?”
Oh, gosh…I dunno. Appreciate coffee. Don’t take it for granted. Enjoy coffee. Maybe, once in a while, go somewhere really fancy and get a really fancy, boutique cup of coffee and drink it black. Let it cool down a bit and dig into the intruiging layers of flavors in the cup. Go nuts. I mean, you occasionally treat yourself to a nice glass of wine, or cocktail, or a fancy beer, right? Go ahead and keep drinking whatever black stuff keeps you alive, but open up to the experience of better coffee, too. Come into Capo at Penn and enjoy a traditional cappuccino at the bar, relax, and chat with the barista. The Italians got coffee culture right a long time ago.

I digress. Simply remember that lots of people really worked their asses off to get that cup of coffee into your hand, and lots of other really wonderful things that we rely on to live the incredibly privileged lives we live.

Rant over.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Church of Prosciutto

Ah, back to Italy. With the freezing weather approaching (26 the high this weekend!), I find myself thinking of warmer weather and vacation. I know, I know, I think of vacation quite a bit. I work to live and to go on vacation!! Work hard, party hard!

Now I would like to share with you a story about my mother-in-law, better known as la suocera (pronouced swo-serr-rah). I know I have told you about her love of persimmons and my love of her. My in-laws are really good to me. Remember that lunch in Venice? Well, during that same trip we traveled all throughout the North. We visited friends, played some soccer and ate really well. I am sure this is not the last y'all will hear about this trip. On our way to Udine to buy a DiNatale jersey for Manny, we stopped for lunch in San Daniele.

It was the season of festas and the entire center of town was clogged with a festa or fair. We called them Festas of Underwear and Cheap Kitchen Utensils. You would recognize these fairs. They are identical to church fairs held in every town in America, every summer. Some Festas are incredible! Frico, Prosciutto, certain cheeses, awesomeness... A lot of time, this is just one part of the festa, with the majority of tables selling underwear and cheap kitchen utensils. This was an underwear festa. We struggled to get to somewhere for lunch. Lunch would be at one of the incredible Prosciutterie. A prosciutteria is a small place in which the entire menu is composed of prosciutto. Yes, it is everything you would think it is and more!

There were 11 of us and we sat outside at a long wooden table on benches. Domenic, John's Dad, has a lunch every day that consists of prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato salad and bread. It is one of his favorite things on the planet and here we were at his personal Mecca. What does he do? He orders a bowl of tortellini. Anna, la suocera, barks, "Domenic! What are you doing?!?! Order prosciutto or you will regret it!" Silly Domenic! He obeys.

Plates of prosciutto with melon, prosciutto with olives, cheese and mushrooms, prosciutto with tomatoes are delivered along with bottles of Tocai Friulano. Tocai is the perfect, and I mean PERFECT wine to drink with prosciutto. I was sitting next to Anna and made sure that her glass was always full. The kids ordered Fanta. Italian Fanta is more natural than the stuff we get here. We ate and laughed and drank and Domenic was in heaven. It was a monumental lunch.

Drunk and happy and stuffed with cured pork, we decided to walk the town until we could safely leave. We staggered through the lovely, hilly town, looked out to Austria and sucked up the sun. We stumbled upon La Chiesa di San Daniele. It is a beautiful church, white and austere. Inside it is cool and stark, calm and vaulting. I have a habit of always finding the Mary section and giving props to the girl. I noticed that the candles that you could light had a pic of the church with the inscription "Chiesa di San Daniele". I had to give one to my friend Francine. I turned to Anna and asked, "Do you think if I just paid the 2 euro I could keep the candle?" Anna looked horrified and replied in a Tocai filled Italian accent "No, no, no, Stephanie! No!" She paused, "Pay double!" I placed 4 euros in the box and slipped my candle in my bag.

See? I love her.

Monday, January 25, 2010

One of the Best Things About Philly...

is that we're pretty much in the middle of everything. Two hours to New York City, a quick shot to Baltimore and DC...rife with travel opportunity. Today, for instance. My weekends are constructed of Sundays and Mondays, Sundays being the day I spend time with my Dad and brother brunching, followed by copious amounts of friend time that has been dubbed, over the years, as Sunday Funday. Mondays tend to be slightly foggy, waste-time kind of days. Today, however, I drove into Lancaster in search of one thing and one thing only...the Shady Maple Smorgasbord. Oh yes, friends. That mammoth complex is home to what must be the largest all you can eat buffet outside of Vegas. And, being located in Amish country, home to so many feel-good pork products you suffer a massive coronary just from stepping in the door. I was raised on a bizarre conglomeration of Slovak, German, Polish and Irish foods...lots of cabbage, potatoes, dumplings, and pork. There aren't many things in life that can replace comfort foods, and my heart was made happy when we discovered that not only does Shady Maple serve all of my favorites at their buffet, they have a gift shop, too!!
I can say with absolute certainty nothing could have made today better than the baked lima beans, sausage, cabbage soup and kruschiki (Polish "angel wing" cookies) - for which we we drove an hour and a half on unfamiliar back roads through intermittent downpours.
I remarked to Mike (my partner in crime) on the way that I'm having a harder time explaining to people why we seek out the destinations we do...we went to Spain in October, to the Basque Region, for no other reason but to experience their tapas culture, eat as many churros and hot chocolate as we could before exploding (our cioccolato con panna is remarkably similar, ps), and find the freshest seafood known to man. Mission accomplished, all of which in one tiny (somewhat tense,) village called Lekeito, on the Basque coast.
We're constantly looking for the best thing we can find, preferably in the cheapest, oldest, most authentic incarnation. Lancaster, Spain...last week we went to New York for a few days to experience what I can only say was the single most amazing meal we've ever had. Followed by the best milkshake I've ever had.
All I'm really trying to say is that while driving home today, fuller than I've been since, well...last week, I was thinking about how I'm totally ok with always being broke and tired. Always being broke and tired means I'm always out looking for some new food adventure. Means always finding the new best thing, if only for the two of us. Sometime's it's in Philadelphia and is the best hot dog you've ever had. Sometimes it's in Lancaster and it reminds you of your great great grandmother, who died before you were old enough to really know who she was. Maybe it's in Spain, in a tiny coastal village wracked with turmoil and violence because of their fierce dedication to independence - but you know? It was some of the best food I've ever had. It always is.
PS? There's a Pork Bonanza happening at Shady Maple in a few weeks. Who's up for a road trip?

Coney Island Lunch!

Pennsylvania is a strange place. James Carville described Pennsylvania as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between. It makes for some interesting characters for sure.

This weekend was filled with all types of Pennsylvania. The most memorable occurred this Sunday. My daughter attended the Indoor Soccer State Cup hosted in Scranton, PA. Home of da'U and the fictional Dunder Mifflin. It is an interesting place with interesting architecture and interesting food.

My husband is an alumnus of da'U. He has met some incredible people there and looks back fondly, especially at particular teachers who helped to form his world view. Last summer we found ourselves passing by the exit for Scranton. He veered off the interstate and barked, "Quick, google texas wieners, scranton!" I did and this came up - Coney Island Lunch. I punched the address into the GPS. As we followed the directions, John muttered under his breath, "This is wrong. I don't remember it being in this area. Wrong..." The sign came into view. John announced that the sign was right, but the location wrong. "They have a beat up black and white tile floor. I will know it is the right place if the floor is right." We walked through the door. No black and white tiled floor. John went right up to the counter and spoke with the waitress. Coney Island Lunch had moved. In 1987! Talk about feeling old.

We sat at a formica booth with vinyl seats. The texas wieners are served with dusseldorf mustard, fresh onions and chili on a local National Bakery roll. The hot dog is split and grilled on a flat grill until crispy. The National Bakery roll is almost square and the split hot dog fits perfectly. It is soft and a delicious home for the dog, uh, I mean wiener.

We are not big chili dog fans so we all ordered our wieners with dusseldorf mustard and sauerkraut. Fries with a side order of gravy and fountain birch beer rounded out the lunch. Wow. It is a colossal experience. One dog was enough for me, but it seems that the thing to do is to start with two and continually order until you are stuffed. The local tables all ordered several times, as well as John.

I highly suggest that if you find yourself in the Scranton area, stop in. Michaela and I grabbed the opportunity this weekend. John was so jealous. In 1923 a Greek immigrant built Coney Island Lunch and has since been serving a delicious dog. The place is a haven for baseball lovers. The walls are decorated in the local Yankee's history, as well as neighboring Wilkes-Barre's Red Barons. It is a fantastic place. Trust.

Oh, did I mention that a Texas Wiener is $2.05? Huge. Leaves plenty to splurge on the rice pudding.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Meet My Dad...

Last night, Manny belted out a rendition of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody from the next room. I was just sitting there enjoying a grapefruit margarita (with ice thank you) and found myself smiling all over. Life is grand. I don't know if y'all know this, but I am a political junkie. I love it and hate it, as we all do. On certain days, I feel like I have been punched in the kidneys by the day's events. I try not to let it get me down. I have friends, like Dan, Kamala, Marisa and Francine who tell me to knock it the f*@%! off, when I start furrowing my brow. What am I rambling about, aside from the Patron, it's life mother puckers!

Life. Let's all just skip back down memory lane and remember why we do what we do. Why we love what we love. Why we should love what we do. Above is a pic of ....guess. It's the 70's, obviously. So smart, you are...I have my Dad's coloring and my mom's bone structure. I wish I had their height. My Mom was close to 6 foot! You can see they are happy. My dad left this earth shortly before my 30th birthday and I miss him. My Mom, she will never recover. He was nuts and dogmatic and would tickle me until I would pee in my pants. I will never forgive him for that. He had a knack for saying the most inappropriate things. Shut up! I know.... He could fix about anything and was always there for me. No one was more excited about being a grandfather. My brother once gave me the most random information about..I think it was concrete. When I mocked him, his response was, "I am my father's son." My point is that my Dad knew what he loved and he loved food. I learned to love food through my Dad.

My Dad was the king of the deli sandwich, Chinese food or any Asian product, pickled vegetables, mustard, sausage, ribs, raw bar....I could go on. The man loved food. He grew up in Rhode Island and spent his adult years in NYC. One of my first and most vivid memories is of my Dad putting a clam on the half shell to my lips on the boardwalk and me choking. He held me upside down by my ankle as he pounded my back to dislodge the bivalve. I cried and he took me for a waffle ice cream sandwich, Napolitano style sprinkled with powdered sugar, to erase the whole incident. I miss that man! My first taste of Indian, Korean and Japanese was with my Dad. He roared when I first tried wasabi. Roared! (read: annoying) He judged a restaurant by how many "round eyes" were in the place. Not too many? Good! I mentioned he was inappropriate, no?

It's a new year. Let's introduce someone to something we love. Why we love. Why we are passionate. Mike Feldman, my Dad. He has never had our gelato. He would have loved it. Now go do it! He would be proud of you!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

How do you warm up?

Those couple warm(ish) days last week absolutely disgusted me. I wanted to love them as much as I love a doppio cappuccino, but I couldn't move beyond what a giant tease they were. The blistery cold days weren't over, and albeit I enjoyed my lengthy bike ride down the Schuykil Banks, I couldn't shake that looming winter depression that was lingering in the back of my head.

Yesterday there was another false reality that rocked my winter blues. My morning routine of checking the weather was fussed with somehow when the temperature at 7:30 AM incorrectly read 52°. Fifty two! I threw open my door in a light jacket, sans scarf, sans gloves, and winter slapped me in the face so hard I had to come back inside and rebundle myself. I should have known better...

I really don't mean to complain so much, honest. I actually rather enjoy some of the perks of winter. It's a great reason to stay inside. Don't get me wrong, I love going outside just as much as the squirrels like the nuts, but having a good reason not to is kinda nice sometimes. Especially when it makes for an even better reason to invite some good company over to fill your kitchen.

I like filling my kitchen. My roommate and I try to do it as often as we can, regardless of the season. In the winter though, it warms the house with more than just heat. Those warm gushy feelings, I could go on.

Anyway, we did just that not too long ago (OK, it was November, this post is a bit late, but better that than never, right?) with some quality Capo-folk for a friendly chili cook off. Lucky for me, I've got an awesome photographer friend who documented the chili presentations. His name is Albert, he's turning 30 soon and will probably make me take these photos down for saying that. We made a Flickr Gallery in case your flash is dysfunctional.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What Do You Want?

Every now and then I find myself asking if this is really my life? Making gelato when it is freezing outside!?!?! Then I pinch myself, look at my family and smile. Even when my dumb dogs are in sight. Don't send me hate mail. If you had any clue how dumb (and sweet) they are, you would not blame me for hating on them on occasion.

Last year I was speaking to one of my Amish farmers (on a cell phone - ahem.) He mentioned that it was the beginning of the 7 Weeks of Want. How intoxicating! Seven Weeks of Want? Yes, the seven weeks when everything stops growing and nothing new will arrive or be harvested. How incredibly beautiful. We have entered the Wanting.... That is what is wrong with me. People still eat gelato when it is cold outside and my dogs are always this dumb. I have just entered the Want.

What do you want? The Fall starts beautifully with pears, apples, and squash. The Winter sashays in with black walnuts, chestnuts, persimmons, blood oranges and exquisite citrus. No want. I am satisfied.

We have entered Want. What do you want? What do you crave? What do you need? I don't need strawberries...not yet. I don't want honeysuckle...not yet.

What do you Want? Two cute dogs, maybe?

Monday, January 18, 2010

13th Street, 19107...A Love Story

This weekend rang in sweet and warm, reminiscent of cooler summer nights and lines out the door. "Melee" might be one of my favorite words, and occasionally comes to mind when I'm standing at the case offering samples to twenty or thirty adults jostling one another, occasionally in drunken stupors, grabbing to be the first to taste Cioccolato Scuro, or those newfangled flavors we've been offering up lately - Molasses, Arroz con Leche, Croccante al rhum...The thing is, speaking for myself anyway, I absolutely love the chaos of a beautiful night on 13th Street. Granted, it might not always be pretty, but it's always interesting and at very least keeps you on your toes.

One of my favorite things about working here is when we have a family visiting Philadelphia for the first time stop by and inquire about where they should head, what restaurants they should check out, is the Italian Market reallyreallyreally far away and scary, what exactly is the Rheeeding Market" they've been hearing all about?? This exact thing happened on Saturday night - a family from the Midwest greatly excited about getting gelato (Dad fell in love with Basil...), and knowing what the insiders know, came in with a flurry of questions.

What did I try to impress upon them the most? Philadelphia and its FOOD! As La Regina has begun to iterate, Philadelphia is a food loving metropolis. I'm from Delaware, and before I moved here would make weekly (ok ok sometimes biweekly...) trips to Philly for groceries. Always hitting 9th Street for super cheap produce and an occasional stop at Fante's, and just as often hauling myself to restaurants all over the city to appreciate the deep and lasting pride Philadelphia's chefs and restaurateurs take in their work.
Now that I've been here for a few years (3, but who's counting?) and have immersed myself into the unique stride that is the City of Brotherly Whiz Wit', I can say with all truth that very little has changed, except I am now among those inflated with the pride a city can bring. Yes, we have our ups and downs, and like I said it's not always pretty, but the one thing I know that I can say to tourists and mean it with every fiber of my being is that there is good food to be found here, and chances are good you don't have to look hard at all. But I promise, it's always worth it, even if you have to walk a few blocks.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

...and you didn't think we'd notice

There's been rumors flying around about how to become customer of the day, for a while now and I'd like to put them to rest. You don't need the right connections, a black card, or even a secret handshake. (Though there is one.) Just be yourself.

I mean, you love gelato.

We love gelato.

You make us laugh; we make you smile.

Remember that time you were telling us that story of the invading unicorns or how we all saw that car catch on fire or... oh wait there was that one time you got so excited about combining fig and honey that you gave yourself a gelato moustache and we had to tell you before you left...

That was funny.

We like you just because you are who you are.
So don't stop.... or we'll tell the robots to attack you.

Friday, January 15, 2010


You may have noticed that occasionally there is a kid or two mentioned with a pic on this blog. I am a working mom. I have three amazing kids who drive me nuts, while balancing gelato and a business, which drives me insane. I enjoy chaos, obviously! I thrive in it. So yesterday, amid a ton of wholesale, the broken heat at my house, two futsal games to drive to, and a broken valve on the homogenizer, I tried to get to the MLS Superdraft being held at the Philadelphia Convention Center. Yes, I watch a ton of professional soccer. We record the games and watch them when we can. I will be honest, we prefer Serie A. You have no idea what I am talking about, do you?! Serie A is the top Italian soccer league. AC Milan is our favorite team. My son can give you any information on just about any team. So if you find yourself awake in the middle of the night and cannot remember the Spanish team that Ibrahimovic transferred to, just shoot me a note and I will ask Manny. (Barcelona from Inter)

My kids play a lot of soccer. We have traveled to Brazil for soccer and one summer, the boys played in Italy. We are serious! So, when Philly was awarded a MLS team, we were thrilled!!!

Philadelphia is an amazing sports city. Forget the whole Santa tale, it's been twisted and changed and just sounds good. The true story is boring. Philly holds its teams in high esteem and hold it to greatness. You have to appreciate that trait. Philadelphia shows up during the good and bad times and it is exhilarating to attend a game. Any game and 2010 is a big year! I have a really good feeling about this year. It started when A.I. returned home. I have hoped for his return since the day he left for Denver. Thanks for coming home baby! I can really go on a rant of my views about the Sixers or the Birds, but I won't. It's a happy day. I am going to go buy my scarf and look at my seating chart AGAIN!

Alas, I never made it to the Convention Center. I did consistently update the MLS Draft page on ESPN on my phone. This is so exciting!! Congratulations Philly! GO UNION!

From a Soccer Mom (It hurts to see that in print)

Barista-On-Barista: Dawne B.

Yes. It's that time. Again... Time to get to know your 13th street Capogiro baristi!! Today you'll get to know Dawne B. through Nelson H.'s eyes:

If there is one person at Capo that will make you smile simply by existing, that would be Dawne B. Her timid yet dominant stature could overcome any Capo situation with the superior charismatic elegance and dexterity in the field of coffee and gelato that a barista should possess. Her bright smile and warm persona also makes working with her a spiritually transcending experience, which is to assume that she is in fact, Goddess herself.

In the busy Capo summer you may very well see her executing precision dance moves in a line of other Capo workers to such music as M.I.A. or Kitchen Syncopators. Don’t think that would stop her from proudly serving you delicious gelato, adroitly pouring a cup of coffee, and effortlessly steaming milk while attempting to do a back flip to Jimmy Eat World because her multitasking skills are crazy tight. In the raging sea of people that flows into Capo you can always rest assured that when you got Dawne on board the sky is the limit, but you can bet that when the Seasonal Solstice is underway you can probably find her dancing in a drum circle and raising her eyes to the Stars.
by Nelson H.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Creative Cat Strikes.

Droppin' it like it's hot

 Dearest Barista Katy has some clever concoctions to share:

So, you came into the cafe earlier in the day, in a rush and ready for a steamy hot coffee to go. You couldn't resist the gelato and in a haste took home a few pints for later. Now it's after dinner and you're ready to cozy up on the couch, turn on Jersey Shore (or whatever else your guilty pleasure programming may be), and finish off those pints with a spoon. But wait! A sudden burst of creativity hits you (no thanks to Jersey Shore, I'm certain) and you realize : this could be something more. What else could this gelato BE? Don't get me wrong, gelato is, on its own, a wonderful treat, but when you're confronted with mass amounts of the cold stuff daily as we baristi are, sometimes you just want to jazz it up a little. Here are some of my faves:

Life is messy sometimes.
Root Beer Float: Easy enough, you can get some yummy local root beers at the Reading Terminal Market. A generous helping of fior di latte on top adds to any float!

Capo-style Banana Split: Bananas are tasty but if we're going to do it right, let's use plantains. Fry plantains with brown sugar and add a little mascarpone gelato to the dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Booze It Up: many of the gelati and sorbetti we make have a little liquor in them already, especially in the wintertime. But you're at home and weary after a hard day's work, there's no reason why you shouldn't add more. Call it your personal happy hour. Throw some blood orange sorbetto and as much tequila as you see fit in a blender, add a
little umbrella, crank up the heat, and pretend it's not 15° outside. Or maybe a little vodka to the white chocolate and kahlua for a white Russian that Lebowski would approve of?

Coconut Creme Pie: I've actually never tried this, but a customer once bought 3 pints of Thai Coconut Milk with aspirations to turn it into some kind of pie. As Thai Coconut Milk is one of my ultimate favorite flavors, this notion excited me greatly. If you have the recipe for this please let me know ASAP.

There you go. Those are only a few things to do for your at-home gelato fix. I'm sure I've merely chipped the tip of iceberg - there's certainly plenty more to be discovered!

Any you'd like to share?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Scottish Ayrshire Cows Homies!

We have always let our phans know that our milk comes from a single herd of cows owned by an Amish farmer in Lancaster. It was delicious milk that we were really happy with. Our farmer was not happy with the trek into Philadelphia and we were not happy with the last minute calls stating that he did not feel like having his driver drive in. We happily parted ways, but I was a bit panicked at the time. Where am I going to get the high quality grass fed milk that I needed?!?! I refused to sacrifice our quality.

What does one do in Philly when these things happen!? You call Ann Karlen of the Fair Food Project. I really like Ann. She is not a crazy hippie that yells at you for not buying locally, she shaves her legs (not necessary, but just a fact), her knowledge of locally grown food is unsurpassed, and she makes a delicious fruit tart. Of course I called her days before Thanksgiving and instead of completely ignoring me so she could get out all those heritage turkeys and vegetables, she introduced me to a fantastic farmer. He is a Mennonite (in his words a "recovering Mennonite") who is a third generation dairy farmer and vet.

John and I drove out to his farm, which is about an hour outside of Philly. As we pulled up the long dirt drive, I noted how adorable the place looked with its blue silos and its fields speckled with cows. City Girl, "OoooooO! Cows and a barn!" They had a lot of land to graze. It was a really cold day and I wondered why the cows were not inside; it had to be in the forties - Aren't they cold? Where is this guy! He calls himself a vet! (City Girl)

As we pulled up, a man with a baby strapped to his chest via baby sling and wool cap emerges from the barn.. smiling: "You must be Stephanie!" We shake hands and I introduce him to John and the tour begins. We check out his retail area where you can purchase raw milk, cheese, and eggs and then go into the barn. It is clean and smells good, like grass and earth. Cats follow us and he talks about the milking process and how he assures cleanliness in the milk. Suddenly I notice that there is a baby cow in the feeding trough! I jumped. (City Girl) He told me that he was born on Thanksgiving night and his kids named him "Drumstick." He said that the babies love to sleep in tight spaces at first. Maia, his daughter, starts to fuss because she wants us to continue walking.

We move out to the fields - vast fields. The cows are grazing and glancing in our direction. He introduces me to Cleopatra and Rosie and Helen; a single ribbon holds them in the fields. I ask why they are not inside and he states that Ayrshire Cows prefer freezing temps. They are walking around with big udders of hot milk. As a once lactating living thing, I can relate (Sorry, I know some of you just shuttered). An adorable, ridiculously tall, mop-haired, pimply teenager approaches and starts to complain that it is the third time today that Claire is in the corn fields. He tells him not to worry and let her go; he will get her later. He explains how they are exclusively fed grass, but he grows "snacks" for them in the corn field. It is not corn exactly, but a tall grass that produces little corn. He chops it and lets it ferment a bit. They love it and it is just a snack. During the summer he cuts the grass and bales it, so when the grass stops growing in the winter and there is little to graze, they have grass. That being said, we move to where he stores the bales of grass; it smells wonderful, earthy, and the air is heavy.

We visit the teenage girls, who are not yet ready to breed. They are hanging out gossiping; I meet Isabella, Roxie, and Blanca, and they lick my hand. Their tongues are rough and long; it surprises me. He is not sure, but he thinks he has around 50 cows. They all have names: names like Dixie, Kitkat, Skittles, and Krum. Of course the occasional male is born. He gives them names, "although it kills me;" they graze separately and have a nice short life. They are veal. My stomach pitches, but it is what it is. He talks about the veal industry and how it should be, which is how he does it - humanely raised.

We tour the "dry" milk pasture and check out his horses and some chickens. He has a monster vegetable garden and that's it. I ask about the beautiful silos and what he stores there. "Nothing. They are just for show." He is serious. Back in the sixties a "sly farm salesmen" told them that they could increase their milk production and make a ton of money by feeding them grain. They bought the silos and boy did their cows make more milk. They also were sick and went lame. Lame? Why? Because they were not walking and eating. It is healthy for them to forage. Ayrshire cows are meant to walk and eat and do not do as well standing and eating grain. Grain is not good for their stomachs. "That's how they evolved or as my uncle would say 'created'" - See? Reformed. They make delicious milk with grass and although they are much more expensive and require much more work to keep, the milk and their lovely temperament makes them worth it. I have to agree!

And yes, the cows you see here produce the milk in our gelato that you are eating right now!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Why I Love Philly, Part 1

I have been asked by many for recommendations for places to eat when they travel. I keep a restaurant diary for every country and town we come across, no matter how small or large a place. We love to travel. It may seem like we NEED to get away. That is not the case, entirely. I love Philadelphia. I am not a native, but I have lived here long enough to consider myself "from Philadelphia". All three of my kids were born here.

I want to share the love. Today I am going to start sharing with you why I love Philly and why you should too! I won't just stick to food, but will touch on all ways to lovelovelove the City of Brotherly Love. BUT, I will start with Food!! Of course, I think that Capo has the quickest best lunch, but a girl can only have so many grilled mozzarella tomato pesto panini before she starts looking around! I will venture out the doors of Capo and introduce you to some other place in my hometown.

Lunch. Yes, lunch. I am stuck on lunch. Philadelphia is a place that has a huge selection of homegrown, delicious, inexpensive lunch options. Believe it or not, big chain fast food joints are not as easy to access and Philadelphians prefer other options. My kids have had fast food, oh..maybe three times. My son, Manny, was coming home from a soccer tournament in NYC with some of his teammates, when they stopped at McDonald's. Manny announced that he never had MickyD's and was...excited. The entire van, parents and all, turned with dropped jaws and collectively gasped. It is easy peasy to ignore fast food when you live in a city. No drive-thrus, no convenience, it is absolutely inconvenient. Yes, I have read all those "books". Honestly, I prefer freshly made, local places that contribute to the local fabric of our neighborhoods. Chains and fast food places constitute blight. On a lighter note, Manny announced that he did not like McDonald's, except for the fries. The burgers were dry and he preferred...

Good Dog. You have to give my 11 year old credit. He prefers a roquefort stuffed, carmelized onioned burger to fast food. He loves the sweet potato fries, which I hate! They are not bad fries, they are delicious. I just happened to think sweet potatoes are evil and do not want them corrupting my fries. Happily, the folks there understand my aversion and give me plain ole fries. The sweet potato fries are delicious if you like evil roots, and this burger is monumental with its brioche bun and core of molten roquefort. I have never had a poorly cooked burger there. A must.

Tampopo! Delicious AND healthy! Once again, a family favorite. Spicy Tofu Rice Bowl, Chicken Katsu, Veggie Soba Noodles, Bim Bim Bap and Spicy Chicken Breast Rice Bowl are my family's choice items. Tampopo is Korean Japanese fast food. Never heavy, always served hot and delicious and they play the greatest music.

Taco Riendo. This place is located in Northern Libeties, bordering Kensington. The peeps here are from Puebla. Philadelphia is also known as Puebladelphia. The food here is amazing. Fresh and delicious. John gets the fish tacos and I get the sopes. The kids love the burritos and the fresh juices in the summer are crisp. Pics courtesy of Foodaphilia.

Sansom Street Kabob House. This is my favorite place. I could eat here everyday (I have). The most lovely family owns this place. Their little girls will be there, doing homework, delivering hummus, and smiling with the most beautiful brown eyes. The husband and wife team cooks, serves and clears tables. I love watching the husband make the bread. It is light and airy and crispy and hot. Absolutely lovely. The chicken kabob flavored with turmeric over rice pilaf is delicious. Lentil soup, hummus and stewed eggplant are a must. I love this place!!

Tierra Colombiana. Columbian and Cuban dishes are both served and done equally well. You sit and they serve you this grilled buttery bread. So delicious. Papas rellanas, from the Cuban side - I could eat 500. Perfectly fried mashed potato spheres filled with spiced ground beef and peas. Served with a chunky sauce that I think is hotter than lava.John prefers the grilled salmon and the avocado citrus salad. I go for the Arroz con Pollo, Columbian style.

Lastly, Meme's fried chicken lunch. Only on Thursdays and not so fast. A leisurely Thursday lunch. Fried chicken, biscuit and a Miller High Life. I love to meet my friend Francine there. The chicken is hot, crisp and perfectly fried, the biscuit flaky and buttery, and the beer is uber cold, stored in a tin bucket stuffed with ice. Francine and I gossip and eat with our hands. What girls like to do.

Those are my quick, inexpensive eats, fast food eats. Please join me and ditch fast food. Damn, I said "delicious" way too much.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Predictions for 2010, From an Expert

Happy New Year, Capogirans everywhere! I apologize for the delay in getting this post in the mail, but there have been difficulties a-plenty. My idea was to consult certain experts in the field of prognostication in order to obtain a clear-ish idea of what surprises lay in store for us in the new year. I had some ideas of who I’d like to interview on the subject, knowing full well that it was a dream list of superstar experts, and that an interview with any of them was unlikely.

Why would any of these highly regarded seers grant me an audience? Farhad of Nisbus, the acclaimed Persian bibliomancer, is a monkish recluse who will only reveal his secrets to "Baba", the prized hunting falcon of Sultan Qaboos bin Said. There is a small town in Northern Spain (I’ve been asked to never utter its name) that is home to the Decendants of Smaragdus: a group who claim direct lineage from the 9th Century mystic. They live in a cloister, observing a strict vow of silence, and emerge once every forty-seven years to offer infallable predictions for the next century. Their invited guests are select European royals, and the three remaining Knights Templar.
Xu Zheng LXIII passed away, unexpectedly, in October and Dr. RJ Firkins of Devon is missing, presumed eaten by tigers. Who else remains to offer a trustworthy peep into what’s-to-come? The answer came to me, quite unexpectedly, during a visit to our nation’s capital. *

I’ve always found that a stroll around the Washington Monument does wonders for calming my mind and aligning my humours. My method is to start at the base of the obelisk and wind my way outward from it in a carefully described spiral, ringing an E tuning fork against my skull at regular intervals to keep my resonances at their neutral point of 659 Hz. I enter an altered state almost immediately.
This time, while mid-way through the arc of my third spiral pass, I slammed hard into a frozen pile of dirty snow. Cursing my stupidity for having not noticed it before (plus the rotten luck of their being a pile of ice exactly in my chosen path) and rubbing my bruised shins, I opened my eyes and looked at the frozen obstacle. Lo! And behold! Someone had crafted an amusing snowman of Pere Ubu right there on the Mall! I had to laugh: it had black rocks for eyes and pine needle whiskers, with a carefully drawn spiral right on his ample belly. This was no mere coincidence!
Yes! Of Course! There was one more option for expert divination. Years ago, in Portland, Oregon, a branch of the Magnetic Temple of ‘Pataphysics was housed in an abandoned corner store in the Pearl District (before the area’s horrible transfiguration). I had gotten to know a few of the Knights and Janitors there, and still had some viable contacts who would probably be able to grant me an interview with an Officer or Specialist.
I emailed my contacts from the Temple, and asked about the current whereabouts of Officers I had met. King Thirsty Hiram was in exile in Mexico, untouchable, and Chief Mystic E. Coli is currently disintegrating and re-integrating in a bile centrifuge. Luckily, though, Sr. Slushy Hugglebunny is serving a residency in an ashram near Canarsie and is easily reached. This made me very hopeful and excited, because his specializations are Parascatology and Irregular Hariolation.
To cut to the chase, I phoned him immediately and he was pleased to offer his predictions for the coming year:
1. The Earth’s Sun, currently managed by HeliosTec of Placentia, CA, will be acquired in a hostile takeover by Binary Source, Inc. of Alpha Centauri. There will be no interruption in service.
2. Our current system of hair follicle management will become obsolete with the introduction of the Remote Dermal Option: a subscription-based genetic modification allowing users to choose between scales, feathers, carapace, or lush fur.
3. The bimillenial mass-migration of arachnids will postpone World Cup Soccer.
4. Chickens will cultivate an insatiable appetite for human flesh, resulting in the complete evacuation and sequestration of Alabama, where all domestic poultry will be quarantined.
5. The Economy will cease to exist after the close of the second quarter. It will simply, inexplicably, vanish. In it’s place, a fluid system of Nonchalance and Rugged Guile will outperform close contenders Histrionics, Beaver-Damming, and Quiet Exactitude. Mellifluousness will be managed through a central agency that will also regulate Kitsch and seek the close regulation of Hirsute Avarice.
Wow! Sounds like we’re in for some exciting times!

* I would like to thank D.C. coffeehouses, Peregrine and Big Bear for creating lovely spaces and serving delicious coffee.

Friday, January 8, 2010


I've always had a weird struggle with food. When I was about 11 years old I decided that I was frumpy and overweight so, I made the decision to be the first worst vegetarian in all of West Virginia. "Whaddya mean NO MEAT?... You want bacon instead?"

I lasted about 9 years on cereal, ketchup sandwiches and microwave noodles before buckling in college to a two day old Philly Cheese Steak. (YES, I still call them "Philly Cheese Steaks". I also refer to soda as POP and the way you people pronounce "radiator" and "Acme" gives me a full bellied laugh every time. Please don't ever stop.)

Growing up in that yo-yo diet crazed part of the 90's had a huge impact on the way I looked at food. It was my enemy. Fourteen grams of fat a day was the limit. Plain yogurt, black coffee and 5 macadamia nuts for breakfast, cardio for lunch and a 200 calorie plastic-wrapped microwave disaster for dinner. Mom started sneaking vegetable oil into the few meals that I allowed her to prepare for me, simply to keep me alive. (Thanks Mom.) It was my 103 pound summer and I wouldn't do it again if you promised me fame, fortune, and another forbearance on my student loans.

After 28 years on this silicone waif infested planet, I have decided that it's okay to have a healthy bum. I know enough about Photoshop to understand that Demi Moore's hips aren't concave in real life and regardless, Kelso ain't complainin'. The girls walking downtown with legs so thin they disappear if you blur your eyes look pretty friggin' cold this time of year and I'll bet you a dollar they haven't licked the ricotta off a plate of lasagna in a loooong time.

Working and living in Philadelphia has opened my eyes to eating as an experience. The Reading Terminal Market is a gold mine of delicious cheeses (whose names I cannot pronounce), veggies and a smörgåsbord of freshly slaughtered meats! Capogiro makes the richest creamiest most amazing gelato I have ever had and it has COMPLETELY screwed my love affair with ice cream. (I'm sorry baby, it's just not the same anymore...) South Philly Pho is the cheapest most delicious soup in the world. I could quite literally drown myself in the steaming bowl of steak*, sprouts and Sriracha and die a happy girl. The restaurants that I've discovered in Philly make me wish I hadn't wasted those 9 years on ketchup sandwiches. These days I sample foods sorta like I experimented with hallucinogens in high school... "Hey, what's that? Screw it, gimme some."

So, thank you Philly Phoodies for steering me away from canned pasta and boxed mac and cheese. Thank you Steph for your gumbo and Tacy for your stress relief baking. Thank you Capogiro for completely ruining soft serve for everyone. And thank you Pho houses everywhere. I love you. I'll see you later tonight, please save me a table.

*I don't know if it's really steak and I TOTALLY don't care.