Business Lunch

That blissful hour in the middle of the nine to five, where lady professionals meet to eat. Ragers by night and assistants by day, this page is devoted to making a record of the sumptuous details of our break from the cubicle.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Alls in the Foodily

After yesterday's Hearty Satisfaction with lunch, Karina and I ventured out to try to repeat our luck. Stopping first at the Sprint store (boo), we had time to collect our appetitious thoughts and after admitting a craving for peanut noodles, Karina recalled a Thai carryout place on 18th street where we could get exactly that. So after purchasing a new charger for my phone, we headed westerly, in the direction of what we hoped would be a fresh take on our by now beaten lunch path.

The place is called the Pad Thai Shack. Not terribly original, but their menu was much more enlightened. They have hot and cold, small and large morsels ranging in price from three to eight dollars. And the boy working there was adorable, glasses and all. I enjoyed Pad Thai with tofu and extra peanut sauce and Karina got a peanuty, buckwheat noodle salad. Eaten in the solace and comfort of our flourescent break room. But it was all as it should be. Exactly right. dare we try for overwhelming lunchtime delight tomorrow too? Three days running? Perhaps Thanksgiving is the new New Year? Stay tuned.

good dogs

Thanks to some magical electric spark in the fabric of time, Karina, Mary and I all arrived at The Good Dog within seconds of each other. Our previous and only other business lunch at this fine establishment occured on the eve of my monthlong excursion to most points north and west of Philadelphia, back in the giddy days of Emily's membership in Lunch Club and smoke-filled barrooms. Today we sat at a booth towards the back, ordered beer and more beer from a deliteful lady with Shirley Temple locks, and watched as the number of bar patrons diminished from twelve or so to just us three in the blink of an eye. A surprisingly appropriate Rolling Stones mix was playing, not too loudly for once in our lives.
Most business lunches the nation over must be consumed with talk of Thanksgiving these days, and ours was no exception. Mary had just returned the night before from Wisconsin, where the men are bearded and Republican, the women drink too much, and the fourteen year olds get cars before they get driver's licenses. Her apparent exasperation with all things family-related made me even more proud and glad that I had spent the holiday, along with Karina, in the family-less realm of Durham, North Carolina, and even more insistent that I never spend another Thanksgiving day with my family, much as I do love the folks. Seriously, once you've spent Thanksgiving night eating free turkey and mashed potatoes in a bar and impulsively rearranging the letters on a McDonald's sign to say something both lewd and nonsensical, you'll never want to go back to watching your drunk relatives embarrass themselves and stating, over and over again that no, you do not have a boyfriend.
Mary ate a half salad whose gigantic side made me shudder to think at the enormity that must be the full salad. Lettuce, arugula, feta, cranberries, really a quite delicious thing indeed. Karina and I shared the Good Dog's infamous mac 'n' cheese, which comes bubbling primordially in a crockpot with flaky cereal sprinkled atop and a slab of blueberry cornbread on the side. I had another beer and didn't finish it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Geratology

Today, the strong, colorful flavors of Kennedy Food Garden called. And we answered.

Kate went for their herbed brie sandwich, while Karina and I split the Health. Flavor and dripping condiments all around. Excessive toppings: peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers. Kate stacked her extra cucumbers next to her pickles, a sassy display.

Most of our fellow lunchers today were 65+. They make for charming company, really. Quiet, but seasoned. A pair of older gentlemen sat at the table behind us and caught our attention by nearly leaving a tip. We noticed the bill sitting amidst their many plates and cups on the table, and it made us wonder whether all this time we had misunderstood the cryptic etiquette of the Garden and been shafting our hosts. (Upon closer inspection, it must have been a mistake because after they'd gone, the dollar was nowhere to be seen) They bumbled a bit, one of them with the aid of a walker and the other in a maroon velour sweatsuit, out into the day. This little square of the city is rife with the elderly. Rumor has it that Kennedy sits below an entire tower where they all live, in a vertical deposit for the city's grandparents and great grandparents.

It always makes me a little sad to think that people sleep at night knowing their elder versions live on this busy street in Center City. An area where I, for one, wouldn't walk alone at night. We joke that Center City is more dangerous than West Philadelphia after dark, because crazy people abound and there is no semblance of a community to speak of. The buildings are no shorter than ten stories high, the sidewalks are wide and the streets are much wider. Now that the days mean darkness by five, the facelessness startles you.

Aging has long given me pause, beginning when I was very small and far from death. I used to say I wanted to die by 55. Now that my own father is older than that, I've changed my mind, but these shells of people, cooped up in their own bodies still give me chills. Husbands push wives in wheelchairs and unlikely friends keep one another company. One man stoops to half his height. They stand for the time and the things they've seen in my mind. But the vivacity is gone. Still, this sadness and decay is something for which I have great reverence. Like an excellent novel or an important photograph. The constant juxtaposition of these people at the culmination of their lives against the harsh skyscrapers and business lunchers of JFK Boulevard makes a girl think over her sandwich in the middle of the day. It also makes her count her luckies.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Weeks and Weeks

Good Lord!

We've been absent for quite a while. I realize some of you may have decided that you were sick of waiting around for us and have found some other lunching mavens to follow. For those of you who still regularly check, hoping that one of us has found time to write, thank you, thank you and thank you.

Lunches themselves have grown further and far between, and with them, lunching ladies have also lunched less often. I for one, have begun skipping lunches to catch up on hours. My Tuesdays and Thursdays are now just half, because of an internship with Fabric Horse. Which means often no lunching at all, let alone blogging about it.

Today though, today. If you haven't heard, global warming is in full effect here in the Philadelphia metropolitan region, temperatures in mid November have stayed in the upper 60's and even 70's. There were a few cold weeks, and we've had a share of rain, but no credible threats of snow or sleet, those, you know, typical meteorological patterns associated with the coldest of the fall months. But to coincide with the recent election in our fair country, wherein a healthy number of Republicans were both outed and ousted from office, this month's unnatural warmth is only further proof of the ridiculous logic of the former ruling party. Global warming is real, George. Just like the heap of trouble you're about to find yourself in.

So in light of the (I'll admit) pleasant forecast, we lunched in the park! The birds were frantically chirping and chasing one another in a rather aggressive swarm that startled each of the park's lunching ensembles, in turn. The leaves were falling into our food. It was lovely. I've recently taken to ordering a twist on the Philly sushi roll from the Sushi Restaurant next to Secret Park: avocado, asparagus and cream cheese. Mmm. Karina ordered a spider roll (eel, shrimp and avocado, for those of you, who like me, had no idea). Kate stuck to her guns: the mediterranean wrap (just half) from dibruno brothers.

But we didn't even really talk about the food (except for when I choked on the miso in my soup twice!, and we subsequently commented on how it wasn't really very good miso anyway). Rather, we discussed the art classes at Fleisher and our varying degrees of satisfaction/compelledness to continue attending. Kate and I are each currently enrolled (Intro. to Drawing and Sculpture, respectively) and find them to be charming additions to our lives. I, however, also rue the loss of Wednesday evenings, a time to regroup and clean my room. And as glamorous as being a sculptress may sound, so far I have only a ceramic fennel bulb to show for my toils. And each week, it loses a limb. I just need to have something to show for those hours of meticulous carving and shaving and rotating, call me crazy.

Karina is going to take cello lessons after the holiday. And (fingers crossed) her grandmother might pay for them! Related to this, she is in the market for an 18 inch chair on which to sit while she plays her cello...so if you come across one, let a girl know.

We left early, Kate to relieve her sick boss, and Karina and I to window shop our way back to the office.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Everybody's Family

There are some days, those days in the dogged heat of summer, when you wake up in the morning and know that all you want is something light and healthy to eat for lunch. Something that matches the greenery all around you, but that you can eat, with a light oil and vinegar dressing and a crusty multigrain piece of bread.

And there are other days in the fall and winter, when the chill in the air overtakes your better judgement and all you want is heavy, creamy foods full of those delicious fats and carbohydrates that help you put on some extra pounds in preparation for the long winter ahead. As October draws to a close, it is easy to guess which mood I found myself in this morning as I sat at my desk, fantasizing about the lunch I was going to have. I wanted alfredo sauce and pasta, and salad and soup and breadsticks....

Perhaps you've guessed where this is going. Or if you are just too dignified to admit that you can guess, I'll go ahead and tell you: the Olive Garden, of course! I timidly suggested the, ahem, unconventional lunching destination to Karina around 1:15 and to my pleasant surprise, she shared my craving. We checked their website (it does exist) and headed out to experience their lunch special: unlimited salad and soup and breadsticks for 5.95!

Of course when I arrived, I couldn't pass up the fettucini alfredo, which comes with its own supply of soup and breadsticks. Karina stuck to her salad loving guns. The decadence doesn't end there. We ordered a glass of Clos du Bois merlot apiece and sat back to await the arrival of our bottomless food groups , noting the nipple lamps above our heads, the excellent lighting and we must admit, enticingly cozy atmosphere. Have Olive Gardens always been so nice inside? We wondered aloud whether Center City Philadelphia somehow warranted an extra special edition of this cheesy (no pun intended) Italian food chain, to feed its hungry officiants in this, the fattest city in America.

But before we could answer the puzzle the food had arrived! We savored every greasy, a-nutritious morsel, which was salted and buttered and oiled to perfection. The breadsticks, so soft and not dissimilar to hot dog buns showed up in sets of four, which we used to soak up the alfredo and minestrone remnants in each of the six or seven plates at our table. I'll admit, the quantity of food was not something at which you should turn up your nose. It was absolutely, guiltlessly delicious. Neither one ever once regretted our impulsive choice in destination.

Don't worry business lunch patrons, we have not wholly surrendered our heretofore classy lunchtime entourage to the warm, parmesan embrace of American chain restaurant experiences. But we all have to admit, sooner or later, it feels good to give in sometimes to those sinful homestyle portions. Even now, nearly dinnertime, our luxurious lunch in "Italy" seems like a figment of my foodled imagination.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

a three-cake day

Today Mary has joined Karina and myself, and whatever others care to be members of this group, in the twentysomething years. She seems neither apprehensive nor disgusted by this milestone, though how much that has to do with her level of maturity than with the prespect of three cakes in one day I do not know. Should it be the latter, she has grown up into a charming young lady without losing sight of her childhood hobbies and ambitions, most of which involved sugar in some form. So, in honor of this special day, I will say not a word about our actual unches. We returned to Kennedy Food Garden, and sitting at our table adjacent to so many others filled with reading single lunchers, an eerie hush took over the place. I felt like I would break the glass of the window by our side if i were to raise my voice above a whisper.
Onward to what Mary had to eat today!
After being made pumpkin pancakes by the boy she loves this morning (and those are the best kind of pumpkin pancakes), Mary is having some kind of cake in her office today. Following her art class this evening the same boy who made her pancakes will buy her another cake at Whole Foods. They will convene at my house, where we will all watch the episode of Veronica Mars that aired last night, and wherein I will present Mary with yet another cake. Because it is mine I know the most about it. It is a goat cheese cheese cake (when I told Karina this she thought that I had said "grilled cheese cheesecake") with peaches and blueberries atop.
Knowing the wonderful friends that I do, I can only hope that our combined grit and determination can bring us sailing to a victory over all the cakes of today. I'll sup lightly and save room, be it for fruit or custard, chocolate or pudding. Cake will bring us together, my friends. Cake is the answer.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Macaroni & "Excuse me sir, but could you please go away?"

So much bunching, I do apologize fair friends, far and near. Unfortunately blogging is not my job, nor kate or karina's job and somedays you have time for writing and others you do not. And when it saddens you to let one day's tears and triumphs disappear from record, then you find yourself recapping on wednesdays and fridays and multiple posts referencing lunches present and past. It is a certain, unmistakable mess.

I would have been happy to leave Emily's gracious "field correspondence" at the top of the page but today's lunch was too noteworthy, in a cringeworthy way, to keep to myself. I'm sure that Kate and Karina would agree that today's lunch must be spoken about, at least to get it out of our heads.

At long last, lunching was going to Midtown III. Macaroni and Cheese, the kind that is baked to a golden crisp and served in a bowl and covered in cheese the consistency of mashed potatoes, was on the menu. The weather being so dreadfully cold and wet sent us seeking refuge in this cozy little diner in the center of town. Perhaps you'll note that this establishment is one in a series; they are peppered like salt in Center City and open 24 wonderful hours a day.

I've visited number three a few times before. Often late at night, and I'll admit, out of my head with spirits. The food is good. At Midtown III, as oppposed to Midtown IV, the waitresses remember what you ordered and it is centrally located to provide for the greatest convenience after leaving Oscar's at two. The waitresses are gruff but attentive and one night before quizzo, John and Emily and I got egg and cheese sandwiches here that were absolutely to die for.

And on this day of days, the food certainly didn't disappoint. The macaroni and cheese was just as I'd remembered it. Karina's salad was as good as an iceburgian diner salad can be. And Kate's fish and chips platter was crispy and amply tartared. Coffees were enjoyed all around and the discussion was lively.

The checks were delivered. We were preparing to leave. The busboy began to idle near our table and then our waitress came over and asked us our names. And then left us alone with the busboy, who was nice enough at first. But the conversation soon deteriorated into flattery and probing into whether we had boyfriends. I believe the low point occurred around the time when he singled me out and told me to stop playing with my hair because it was turning him on...

We awkwardly sat looking at one another, helpless to shut him up and blocked by his standing in the way of our exit. Help! Waitress, why hath thee forsaken us? Scrambling, we grabbed our things and all but ran for the door. He met us there and continued to ask us not to forget what he'd said. Over and over. It is one thing to encounter such persistant attentions on the street, but in your place of lunching! How awful! I finally got outside and exclaimed to my companions, "That was so mortifying!" when I noticed he'd followed us outside. and then he proceeded to trampse down the street behind us. Kate departed hastily to go back to work, and Karina and I ducked into an alleyway when he wasn't looking. He wasn't in fact following us, it seemed he was running an errand to the bank, but the continued proximity was unnerving.

Even now, in the comfort of my swivel chair, I don't feel quite rid of the experience. Some time must pass before I enjoy the comfort of their comfort food again. Sexual harrassment has an unpleasant flavor, when added to lunch. In the future, I'd like to keep these two parts of my life quite separate, thank you very much.

ahoy from portland!

i know, i know this is a bit unorthodox, a business lunch post from the road. i have not indulged in this practice thus far, and i was relatively certain i would not. for truth be told: i have had no matter of business for 3 healthy weeks now. yes, i've cavorted, lollygagged, made merry, napped, complained, got sweaty, massaged my ass cheeks after endless hours in the van. but business? nah.

however, i am sitting here in a cafe in portland, oregon (worker owned and operated, ofcourse with the moldy peaches on the stereo, and i simply can't help myself. i've been reading over the posts from the past week or two, and feel a great tugging in my heart, a hole that only lunch can fill. i think of the warm booths at the chinese restaurant, the sweet calm darkness of frank's at lunch (and the hapless, comic book character type alcoholics at the bar) - i think of the swells of joy at seeing your faces after a crap morning at work.

so the place where i am is called The Red & Black, and has got pretty standard lefty cafe fare. the boys and i all had bagels (i splurged on mine and got hummus, organic avocado and tomato) and big cofffees. the coffees came in pint glasses, which was slightly disconcerting. steve and i are considering splitting a vegan cinnamon bun.

and a slight update to titillate you: i am considering transitioning to veganism upon my return to philadelphia. the many hours through farmland (the pens of cattle shamelessly visible from the highway), the vegan literature fucking everywhere we go, and general wantingness have prompted this decision. will you still sup with me, though i may not be able to parktake of your pizzas, your croissants, your goat cheese and bread?

i miss you...and just in case you miss me, here is my face right now:


love,
emily "road warrior" j.k.

belated bore

Thursday's chill sent us shuffling to chinese food yesterday afternoon. As you've all heard descriptions of this place more times than you can count I will simply tell you our fortunes, hidden inside of three small, stale cookies:

Karina: Every friend joys in your success

Me: You never hesitate to tackle the most difficult problems

Kate (after finishing her entire cookie): Beauty in its various forms appeals to you.

That last one left us with something to think over: varying forms? all its various? botchy language can be quite the puzzle. And these, such crap fortunes, are a sad sum of the mediocrity of yesterday's lunch.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

drunch and its discontents

This morning was a good one for yours truly, perhaps or perhaps entirely due to an unprecedentedly sweet quizzo victory last night, a triumph which took me by surprise although my team had lead for the entire game, but nonetheless rained upon my dry face a druglike happiness, the yellow crusts of which remained to be picked from my eyes when I arose. Work went by like a fast bird, and my heart leapt when i read a matter-of-fact text message from Karina: 'Mary's not here. Drunch?' This was it, I thought. Our belated and tired drunch of last Friday would be stomped to the ground, and this drunch would rightly take its place on the throne of unwise activities. I met Karina at Dirty Frank's, a bar that anyone who's anyone in Philadelphia knows and has spent hours decoding the mural on its wall. This shiny and newfangled modern world we live in allowed Karina to believe that Mary was in the office today when she wasn't. Mary is home sick, mysteriously. She seemed fine last night, for anyone out there who is wondering.

Surprisingly, Frank's has taken this whole smoking ban quite seriously. I didn't care, but some guy in a blue patchwork sweater sure did. I had two lagers, and Karina had a Guiness and something else which was lighter than a lager but whose name I neglected to ask.

The time dropped by in talk of quizzo, upcoming formal parties, and subjects we've been thinking about maybe taking classes in (cello for Karina, Portuguese for me). Once I got over the small towniness of Philadelphia I realized that it was one of my favorite things about the place. Sure, seeing the same people everywhere when you don't want to see them can grate on one's general enjoyment, but when one is sitting in a bar in the middle of the afternoon and one looks out the door and sees a person on the corner across the street that one has described before to one's lunching companion as the spitting image of a mutual acquaintance in a hippie costume, and one finally has the opportunity to exhibit said person to said companion, one can't be blamed for being glad that one decided semi-randomly to move here two years ago.

When 3:30 rolled around we found that we were probably too drunk to go back to work, but just drunk enough to go to Borders and shop impulsively before doing so. So to Broad and Chestnut we ambled in the late summer heat. I bought a Portuguese pocket dictionary and a beginner's textbook, and Karina bought the tenth anniversary spectacular edition of the BBC miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice, a soup cookbook, and the Philadelphia Zagat's guide. Her boss called while we were browsing and she had to rush back to work, as did I, but my boss hadn't called, so a little bit slower.

Lunch Dessert

um, yes we did in fact lunch on dessert. Heeding the lesson of previous fruitless pastry excursions Mary and I went straight away to the coffee counter of DiBruno Bros. to peruse the baked good selection. The marbled poundcake, plethora of biscotti, and myriad rugula were enticing, but we settled on a lush and chewy lemon cookie and a snappy crunchy peanut butter ball for Mary and the chocolate croissant for me. Mary reports delightful crunch suprises from the peanut butter ball, Rice Crispies in the mix, perhaps? I had a big problem with my croissant. It was too good. The chocolate was subtle and not too sweet, and nicely demure in quantity, but the pastry, the pastry was devine. It was so buttery and savory. I prefer savory to sweet, generally, I would rather have and more real food than dessert, but with Mary's influence I am embracing sweet more. But this croissant, damn, maybe it's just that's it has been a long while since I've eaten one, but I couldn't really handle it. Basically I ate it too fast and then felt weird. I guess I should try again, maybe I'll get it right next time.

Forgive us our nonposts, though we probably don't deserve it! On Friday we halfheartedly drunched at Oscar's, home of the foot-tall Long Island iced tea, which we were smart enough to stay away from. Mary had a whiskey and soda, Karina a gin and tonic, and myself a bloody mary, which may or may not be capitalized. We also ate some huge plastic buckets of grease adorned with a few french fries swimming in the ocean of lard. I missed Monday, but Karina and Mary were disappointed with the attitude and prices of the famed and fabled Reading Terminal Market. Good cupcakes though.

Yesterday afternoon I had an experience which I assure you is not oxymonical: a thoroughly comfortable, informative and rapid gynocologist appointment. Seriously, long live Colleen. I met my lady friends in the secret park at 2:15 or so, but being far embedded in one of my patented apetiteless days, I ate nothing. Mary had the remainder of her eight dollar vegetarian chicken salad sandwich from the previous day's attempt at horizon broadening, Karina a delicious-looking fishy, caviary sushi plate from the restaurant next door.

I bitched about my brother being a jerk who doesn't visit me when he says he will, we traded stories of our separate weekend parties, we discussed the sexism inherent in bike stores, a touchy subject when one's good friend and another's boyfriend work therein. I had the afternoon off, and rode my bike home. When I left Karina and Mary were talking about dessert. Did they eat such a meal? If so, what did they have? If not, why not? The answers to these burning questions and more may or may not be available later today!