Thursday, September 24, 2009

hummus, burgers, & sufjan stevens

I've been a bad blogger, I know. I promised myself to keep updating this thing at least once a week, even if it meant a silly optimistic weekend list, and I haven't even held to that these past two weeks... so I'm sorry. I'm not even really apologizing to any of you, because I mostly feel disappointed in myself! But I won't get hung up on a lack of blog updates. Thankfully, there have been blog-worthy things in my life since my last post!

Restaurant Week has turned into Restaurant Two Weeks in Philadelphia, which is great news for those of us who love dining out & bargains. There are also a few restaurants offering a special $20 (yes, you read that right) lunch menu. Since I don't work on Fridays and my friend Chris only has class in the morning, we decided to start our Friday afternoon last week with lunch in the city at Zahav, an Israeli restaurant in Society Hill that has gotten rave reviews since its opening. I'd wanted to go forever, mostly because I'd heard such good things about their hummus! And it really did live up to the hype.

Zahav offered four courses for its Restaurant Week menu, starting with a selection of small salads and a giant plate of hummus and fresh pita for the table. Because I love sharing, this worked out perfectly, as did the rest of the menu-- though my lunch partner took a little convincing. We then had fried cauliflower with a mint tahini dipping sauce as well as mini stuffed peppers, then moved on to two types of kebabs; one traditional Israeli merguez and the other a lamb and beef mixture. Though I haven't been eating meat lately, I had to give these kebabs a chance, and they were really delicious. Perfectly seasoned, served over tomato couscous and the other with some sort of cracked wheat that was really also couscous. I was slightly disappointed that the couscous wasn't the fat Israeli kind I love, but happy nonetheless.

My second-favorite part of the meal, after the hummus, was the dessert. We decided to branch out and for one of the options got a traditional dish, which was phyllo pastry made into a sort of light birds' nest, over ricotta cheese served with pistachio and rosewater. It was absolutely spectacular... a perfect blend of savory, creamy, and sweet. Even though we were already pretty full, it was light but a nice sweet note to end on.

All in all, a fantastic experience, though I won't be drinking Turkish coffee again anytime soon. They even slipped two "$10 off" coupons in with our receipt, so I'm hoping my parents will get a chance to check out the restaurant soon!

If you're interested in squeezing in a dinner or lunch during Restaurant Week, you still have time! Offers are valid until tomorow, Friday, and you can find a list of restaurants with menus here.

This past Tuesday, I was lucky enough to score tickets to see Sufjan Stevens perform at Johnny Brenda's, a bar in Fishtown. The tickets sold out in about ten minutes, but luckily I heard my alarm go off at 8 am the day they went on sale and had minimal technical difficulties. And so, after work on Tuesday night, I met up with Chris and his fancy camera, and we made our way north for burgers at Sketch, on Girard Ave. Aptly named for the semi-"sketch"y area wherein it resides, the place was awesome. The walls were covered with customers' crayon renditions of various burger drawings, including one featuring Gordon Ramsey, another quoting Pulp Fiction ("Mm mm mm, that IS a tasty burger!"), and my personal favorite, a small piece of paper stating that "Cats love Sketch Burger."

I ordered a smashed onion burger with horseradish cheddar and aoili, and Chris got a smashed onion too, but with blue cheese and Greek Goddess dressing. We also got an order of fries with wasabi and chipotle dipping sauces, AND milkshakes. My belly hurts just writing this, but I'd eat it all again just to taste that delicious first bite once again.

As if we weren't full enough, we then got a pitcher of PBC Kenzinger at Johnny Brenda's before the concert began. Though I probably should have passed on the beers right after all that food, the stomach pain dissipated once the concert began. I'd had the pleasure of seeing Sufjan twice before; the first time, at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA right after Come On, Feel the Illinoise! came out, and the second time, at the Tower Theatre in Upper Darby. This was closer in feel to the first time I saw him-- small venue, great crowd, and a really great experience all-around. Though he played a lot of new songs, I really liked the feel of them... classic Sufjan but maybe a bit more experimentally synthesized.

After playing a slew of new material, he came up to the mic and thanked us for our patience. "Thanks so much for letting us experiment with all that stuff. It's been a real honor to play.. Sufjan is up next." And with that, he launched into some older songs, including "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." which, though slightly creepy, never fails to tug at the heartstrings. I took a video which hopefully I'll get around to posting soon.

What a handsome, talented man. New requirement for anyone interested in romantic involvement with me: must play banjo.

And finally, a special thank you to Chris for allowing me to use his beautiful photos here (he took all the Sufjan ones, duh). You should check out his Flickr for more-- thanks for being such a talented good sport!