Starring Erin & Mike and Our Family
Filmed on Location in Philadelphia!
Soundtrack: The Jack’s Basement Reunion
“Always look on the bright side of life…”
I can hardly keep my eyes open to write this. Erin and I just got back from a weeklong vacation in Philly, the cradle of liberty! (I’d say Philadelphia, but everyone calls it Philly.) Really, we stayed in a suburb of Philly, which happens to be in New Jersey. We Eastcoasters are strange cats. Jimmy B., Tra and their two girls hosted us, housed us and fed us. And boy did we eat!
Erin & I have decided to tag our vacation as an “epicurean excursion,” for the sake of justifying this month’s episode of ITSK. As if we needed a reason, right? Who’s going to scold us? Jimmy Breslin or Phil Stanford?
In addition to Philly and its outlying suburbs, we also spent a weekend on Long Island in New York. Although it was only a brief jaunt, I did get to show Erin, who’d never been to NY before, my old stomping grounds. Mostly architectural ghosts (“That’s where the Friendly’s used to be. That’s where the True Value Deli used to be. That’s where Sal’s Pizza used to be. That’s where Titus Oaks used to be”).
After the tour Erin got to experience a classic Long Island barbecue at Jimmy B’s parents. It was great to see Mr. & Mrs. B again. Everyone was there! Johnny Mo, Murph, Stinky, Emmett (“Does it rain like this in Seattle?”), Homey! Lots of great food, weak beer, and hilarious stories (ask me about the “Duke of Fluke” sometime). And did I mention the most fantastically horrendous thunderstorm I’d ever seen? Well, it was awesome (check the blog for some footage). The next day, we returned to Jersey to really begin our Philly vacation.
“Hey, Mike” you’re asking, “Who cares?” I do. “Well then, are you going to talk about cooking?” Maybe.
Before I talk about cooking, I’ll talk about eating. New York’s got the best pizza – it’s not even worth discussing. We didn’t have any pizza. Philly’s got the best cheese steaks (or “Philly Cheese Cake” as my mother, the Queen of Malapropisms, repeated). But we didn’t have any cheese steaks either.
“Hey, Mike” you’re asking, “So you went to Philly and didn’t eat a cheese steak?” Nah.
What we were introduced to, though, was the soft pretzel. Actually, let’s say “properly introduced”. I grew up eating big soft salty pretzels, and still buy the frozen ones occasionally. But these soft pretzels were a quantum leap from your typical twists of dough. Big, warm, with the perfect distribution of salt crystals and, best of all, the accompanying spreads. We devoured the horse radish cream cheese. So good! Jimmy B, my brother Jim and I rocked out in the front room, working off the pretzels and sweating out the coffee as we sang soft rock classics and the Westerberg songbook. Piano and two guitars – it was a reunion of our early 90’s band, Jack’s Basement! Ok, hungry again. Back in the minivan!
The burgers at Five Guys placed a close second to the pretzels. Hand-formed and served with an abundance of hand-cut fries shoveled into a paper bag, these burgers were hands-down the best I’ve had since I last ate at the Muddy Rudder. Yes, I sure do love a hamburger sandwich!
OK, so finally we made it into Philly. We took a double-decker bus tour and glided through the birthplace of America. Did you know Ben Franklin invented everything? Even the Franklin stove! If Erin and I’d been around in the 1700’s, Ye Olde Sellwoode Kitchen would’ve prepared all its meals on a Franklin stove.
“Hey, Mike” you’re asking, “Do you even know what a Franklin stove is?” Yes – it’s a metal-lined fireplace with baffles in the rear.
“Hey, Mike” you’re asking, “Do you even know what baffles are?” No.
Where were we? Oh, yes, Philly! We saw the Fairmount Water Works, Pennsylvania Railroad Station, Reading Railroad Station... Hmm, that sounds familiar. Then we walked through the Municipal Services Building Plaza. It was full of life-sized Monopoly pieces. Wait, now I know – Monopoly!
We viewed examples of the Mural Arts Program. And I ran up the stairs to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (the Rocky steps, if you will). I worked up quite an appetite!
I’m “gonna fly now” to our last night there – Chickie & Pete’s Crab House & Sports Bar in the Stadium District. Get the cutlet sandwich and crab fries. I won’t even describe it – you’ll drool so much your tie will run.
Our time in Philly was wonderful. Erin met a lot of my friends; we became Aunt Erin and Uncle Mike to Jimmy B’s daughters; we experienced a lot of history; and ate very well! And before we knew, we were back in Portland. But no time for sleep, Dr Jones! Two days later, we had a wedding to attend (for fellow ITSKers Adam & Josh!) So what can you whip up in exhaustion? Erin’s got just the thing! It’s delicious, summery and refreshing! Just like Philadelphia (though, I’m almost certain, the same could not be said of Ben Franklin’s undershirt).
THE THING TO BRING
SUMMER PASTA SALAD
1 package bowtie pasta
1 jar roasted red peppers, diced
1 can of artichoke hearts, diced
1 can sliced olives, drained
1 package Italian dry salami, sliced in quarters
1 can great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup vinaigrette
1 package shredded Italian blend cheese
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
Cook pasta according to directions, drain, and rinse with cold water. Toast pine nuts lightly and set aside to cool. To pasta, add the next 5 ingredients. Toss everything with the vinaigrette. Next, add the package of Italian cheese and toss well. Top salad with toasted pine nuts. Chill or serve immediately.
The “In the Sellwood Kitchen” cast and crew can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org