Tag Archives: eating

Good Morning, Strip District Saturday

I’ve written about it in the past, but I have to reiterate: One of my favorite ways to spend an early Saturday morning is strolling around the Strip District alone. I love company down there, I do. Going with other people is often the perfect way to try places and things yet to be encountered. Other people mean joyful, talkative breakfasts at DeLuca’s or Pamela’s or even Chicken Latino. Other people mean a more curious, rounded shopping experience. Other people give you someone to talk to when the line at Reyna’s is really long and you’re struggling to reach your phone while also trying to keep all your bags from falling to the floor.


But other people come with a set of shopping demands all their own. Choosing to take the trip alone is lonesome, but liberating. You can move at whatever speed you want, visit the places you want to visit, come and go at your own leisure. You can invoke the zen state of being among those in very active states of mind and become a bit more passive in doing so. Gone is the necessity for distraction in that big line. That big line becomes its own distraction.


As for the rounded shopping experience, being alone can limit you to what you already know to be available, but between the flexibility of a lone person’s schedule and the comparative ease of moving one person through a dense crowd, it can also be the best way to find the little spots and corners and crannies missed on other ventures. Feeling free to do as one likes can often lead to people performing the same patterns of behavior over and over again, but it can occasionally lead to happy surprises.


I don’t like to have a big breakfast when I’m in the Strip alone. Instead, I tend to pick up things here and there: A small pastry at Lotus, a little fried dough pocket of spicy jerk chicken, a good cup of really strong coffee, a marshmallow.


I like to eat these things while perched somewhere, preferably outside, preferably perched on a concrete wall or sitting on steps or somewhere else I can simply blend into the scenery and enjoy the passing traffic. I never eat anything that needs a fork or spoon or plate. I eat with my hands, picking apart the marshmallow that has nearly melted while resting on my coffee. I keep the brown envelope around the pocket pastry, catching the little crumbs that escape with each bite. My bag and my camera are balanced on my lap. I stop to take a picture.


The Strip District alone is a world of other people’s adventures. The things that excite them, the things that tire them out, the energy and lack thereof is all externalized to anyone bothering to watch. I am watchful and therefore, while I may be alone, I am not lonely. I am entertained, I am heartened, and, of course, I’m fed.

Good Morning, Salted Caramel Bread Pudding!


Behold last week’s treat from Sugar Cafe. Some people like to get their sweet fix early in the day, some like to get it following dinner. Me, I’ll take my sweet fix any how and any time I can get it, which is how someone like me ends us eating a donut and bread pudding in the same day (and probably some Girl Scout cookies too). It is also how someone like me will never, ever be a super slender person.

Whatever. If you and I were playing a game of “Would You Rather…” and your question was, “Would you rather be super fit and perfect looking but you could never eat any unnecessary calories, meaning no desserts, no snacks, no extras OR would your rather eat anything you like, but have to work out at least four hours a week and maintain a fairly active lifestyle to maintain even the slightest hold over your fitness?”

I’d go for the latter. In a heartbeat. What is the worth of living if I can’t eat something like salted caramel bread pudding? Isn’t this why we make and share and eat these things? Because they, in some way, contain the love that we feel for ourselves, feel for others? If cooking is an act of love that you perform for others, couldn’t eating something purely for taste and desire be considered an act of love for yourself?

Chaya Japanese Cuisine


I lived in Squirrel Hill for years and never visited Chaya Japanese Cuisine. When I finally made my first visit last summer – to their new location in what used to be Sweet Basil – I felt a deep, deep remorse for all the times I could have eaten there and did not. Better, in the long run, for my wallet, certainly, but my appetite was left feeling like it had finally found the missing piece.

Chaya is that good. The food is fresh and delicious. The atmosphere is cozy and warm. Stepping into the doors on a freezing, wind-blasting evening was like taking shelter in the storm. There is even a curtain over the front entrance to protect inside of the restaurant from the furious vengeance of the outside winter.

Chaya’s interior is a softly glowing meditation on Japanese iconic images and decor. And despite how small the dining area is, the seating never seems packed. Diners are at a seemingly comfortable distance from one another, yet the restaurant manages to have enough seating to accommodate a large amount of visitors. This is artful, intelligent interior design and perhaps a little chance on my part, because I have never been to Chaya on a really, really busy night. But I have been there at six in the evening on Saturday, and around eight on a Wednesday, and neither hours seemed in want of customers or in want of seating.

Continue reading

The Surprises of Silk Road

I have come to the decision that the best part about dining isn’t really just the exceptional food possibilities or the atmosphere of the place you are dining in or even the company you keep while dining out. The best part about dining out is how all the possible good and bad factors of eating outside your own home come into play in unexpected ways. The saying “You get what you pay for” isn’t so much a negative criticism as it is a knock against the expected: Go to the same place time and time again and get the same experience time and time again, and that is the essence of getting what you pay for. A value and experience share a definition.

Some people want, nay, crave the expected, so they only go to a handful of places (if anywhere – I know plenty of people who are in a similar habitual loop with their home cooking as people who frequent one or two eateries) and quickly establish a routine that insures an edible safety zone.

While there is nothing wrong with this in a general sense, that type of behavior is not really my thing, and I’m guessing it would be safe to assume that the dozen or so lovely readers I have are similar to me in that way. For the food enthusiast, food lover, gastronomic adventurer, taste junkie, snack addict, dining explorer, or, even, shudder, the foodie, eating is more than survival obtained by chew and swallow and digest. Eating is a chance to take a chance, to take a risk, to venture reward in the face of loss, to produce, to consume, to experience through the realm of senses. For some, eating is akin to sex (indeed, these are the basic activities of mankind that utilize all five senses and to an enormous degree), for others, eating is the best and quickest way to learn about… anything.

I don’t really mean to ramble on and on about this, but it turns out I had a lot to reflect upon after a visit to Silk Road. This Chinese restaurant bears an unassuming front among the other shops and restaurants in Caste Village, but coming through its front doors is nothing short of being transported to its very specific world. The seating area is spread about and separated by partitions, wood and stone half-walls, beams, and warmly painted walls. Each little section is its own habitat, united in general theme, but invoking a feeling slightly different from the rest. Large canvas sconces of light come up from wall and float through holes in a blocks of false ceiling. It’s eye-catching, modern, with touches of the ancient heritage implied by the restaurant’s name. What’s more, it’s comfortable and well-lit, serving as a nice environment to a group of friends dining, which is exactly what we were.

My partner and I joined our friends Maureen and Brandon at the restaurant and were quickly seated with full water glasses, hot tea, and menus in front of us. Taking advantage of the good wine list, Maureen ordered a glass of Riesling. Brandon ordered a Yuengling. Hard pressed to pass up the opportunity when it comes along (which if you eat in as many Asian establishments as I do is rather frequent), I ordered a Sapporo. James stuck with the hot tea.

Admittedly, this was not the first time at the restaurant for myself, nor Maureen and Brandon. The two had held their engagement dinner there, at which I was present. Ever since that dinner we had been singing the praises to James, especially in reference to Silk Road’s substantial vegetarian menu. I’m always a little conservative with the Asian restaurants I rave about to him – he compares every place to his favorite Philly area restaurant, Kingdom of Vegetarians, and supposedly few are matches for this place (having not been there, I can only take his word for it) – but Silk Road inspired the confidence to rave and rave about the meal we had without fear of eventual disappointment on his end. Continue reading

Moonlite Cafe


It’s fair enough to say “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but there are a lot of sound reasons people judge restaurants by the look of their exterior. These reasons tend to apply more to contemporary restaurants opened in the last ten years or so. For establishments residing in the same place for decade after decade, worn exteriors often mislead as shabby, rundown, or divey. Even if one of these traits does apply, it doesn’t necessarily indicate a poor dining experience. You just have to have the right expectations.

The Moonlite Cafe in Brookline is a good example of having an expectation based on an exterior appearance completely surpassed by the performance of the restaurant within. Assuming you didn’t carefully read the green awning over the main entrance, it’s more than likely you’d assume this was just your standard old dive bar in a neighborhood full of them. And you wouldn’t be totally wrong – the lounge leading into the back dining room is fairly divey. But the dining room is something else altogether. Continue reading

Good Morning, Lazy Bones!

As much as I love to cook, I am human, and therefore prone to exceptional laziness. When I come home from a long day at the office, I hang up my coat, pull off my boots, and sink into the couch for a little post-work relaxing. Sometimes that relaxation gives way to a motivation to make something elaborate and delicious, using all those slowly wilting/rotting/souring items in my fridge that I know won’t last forever.

And sometimes, like last night, I have other things I need to do with my energy, like weather-proofing my windows or working on stuff for this blog or sitting on my butt, watching episode after episode of The Wire (seriously, have any of you out there watched this show? I am a fool for having not watched the series earlier). Sometimes, the energy is just not there.

Thank goodness for lazy food or I might starve. I try not to sink into the microwaveable/processed food trap, but some nights the thought of chopping a single vegetable leaves me collapsed on the sofa. The thought of boiling water for my French press coffeemaker is too much to handle. I’m so worn out I’d sooner eat nothing than have to get up the energy to sully a single pot and pan.

My go-to lazy meal is cereal, which makes me feel like the culinary equivalent of a seventeen year old boy, but whatever. When I’ve got the good quality stuff at home, like granola or Kashi, it’s not quite as bad for me as a lot of processed food, but when I’m in the laziness throes, I’d just as soon eat the Malt-o-Meal sugary junk, which is what I had big bowlful of last night. Cinnamon Toasters, you  are undeniably delicious even if you are nothing but preservatives.

So, question on this snowy morning: What is your go-to lazy night dinner? Do you attempt to cook something very basic or do you just say, “Screw it,” and eat a pint of ice cream instead?