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, September 27, 2006

Holy Wrap

I fear lately that our slow divulgance of the secret of our secret lunch blog means that the posts have to satisfy all you, friends and family, of ours out there. We can't just ramble. We can't repeat. Because on the off chance that you've grown to appreciate this tribute to the triviality of our little lives, I for one don't want to leave you bored and mocking. It is hard, I tell you, very hard to come up with meaningful things to write in the confines of this here gray box. Let alone word them eloquently. So please forgive the occasional lapses in recent weeks, be they simple lack of content or days entirely.

But today, the doors to the park were flung widely open and save a bit of wind, the day was perfect! There was space and peaceful quiet and plenty of food from DiBruno Brothers. The only newcomer to our spread was a small container of Tomato Soup with Rice, which was vegetarian and soup and therefore irresistable at the counter. The deli girl was so sweet. When I asked whether the soup was made with chicken stock or vegetable broth, she went to check the ingredients in the cookbook to make sure. After a few moments, she turned around with a huge smile on her face to say, "You're safe! It's totally vegetarian!" She looked downright fucking gleeful. And I was the one who got to have some soup! I couldn't even return the expression because my mouth was so full of free dip samples.

The soup was good, but awfully sweet for tomato soup and I saved most of it for lunch tomorrow along with half of my wrap--holey, in fact, not holy. I was juggling feta and cabbage with both hands. Kate and Karina made out pretty well also: Orzo salad, bean salad and tomato basil mozzarella stacks. Foodly, we were very well off.

At some point during our lunch, I overheard a threesome of women come into the park and sit down. One woman introduced to the other two, "this is my favorite place to eat lunch!" I smiled to myself, happy at her excitement. Our lunch club went on to discuss boys who lack integrity. Those boys who don't realize how incredible an opportunity they have before them when they are making out with a girl who is smarter and hotter and better than him in every single way, but who inevitably act as though said girl is only one in his string of girl pearls. A pox on them! You might say that it was mostly me being judgmental (as usual), followed by varied levels of gossiping (also, as usual). ALso in news, Karina's and my boss will be on the vacation train all of next week! Hoorah!

Kate departed shortly before 2, as did Karina. I stayed on to read ten more pages of the Catcher in the Rye (My first time reading it, and I must admit that its a goddamn helluva book. Helluva read.) And one more thing worthy of mention: the threesome of ladies? I heard one of the newcomers say on her way out of the park, "I think this is the best lunch I've had all year!" We exchanged a warm smile as she passed; needless to say, I certainly understood.

Have you heard? Lunch might be the new happy hour? In more ways than one...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Dear Philadelphia

Dear Philadelphia,
Hi! How are you doing? Listen, too bad about the smoking ban, right? Honestly though, I don't know how much people here are really going to follow the rules anyway. I mean, was Rocky following the rules when he ran up the Art Museum steps? Were the founding fathers following the rules when they sat in that room over in Olde City and did some hugely important historical deed? I don't think so.

Anyway, I'll stop rambling and get to the point. I know I haven't known you for my entire life or anything, but we've been pretty close for more than two years now. It's not like I know every inch of you, but we definitely get along when we hang out, which is basically all the time. You're easygoing, unpretentious and unselfish. You manage to have a sparkling and memorable personality without talking about yourself all the time. Point is: I like you, and you like me.

Now tell me this: Why is the gate to the secret park closed randomly? Mary and I had to sit in front of DiBruno's today with our sandwiches and salads. Better than a slap in the belly with a cold, wet fish, sure, but those rickety tables are no secret park. I'm not mad at you. I just want some answers.

Friday, September 22, 2006


On Fridays at the Midtown IV, the most delicious, velveety macaroni and cheese is featured on the menu. On this and only this day each week, can you taste those fruits of the artificial dairy goddess that remind you of your childhood, when noodles and cheese were the height of culinary genius. And each Wednesday, we remember this fact, true as the day I was born, and vow to go to Midtown for lunching on Friday. And each Friday comes and goes, me without any mac n cheese.

This is not a sad post, I promise. It's just that the park and the sunlight seem to beckon more loudly than usual on Fridays. Heading into the orange and ocre glow of Philadelphia's most central diner chain just doesn't feel very Friday to me. I'd much rather eat cold falafel on a park bench under the dwindling green leaves and watch the pidgeons. Its not the mac n cheese, but the decor of the place that is to blame for our inevitable choice.

So, we lunched on falafel instead: transportable, CHEAP, and vegan. I'll admit, I wish that macaroni and cheese were the shape of a pocket so that I could carry it around with me and eat it in the park. But since it isn't and I can't, falafel is a handy alternative. And I'll concede that I find it a satisfying thing to eat. Maoz on South Street is an excellent source, but too far from the offices. Also good is the Armenian Restaurant on 10th Street below Locust, where Karina and I have enjoyed some expertly crafted grape leave sandwiches. We tried a new cart today, one that is around the corner from Secret Park on 17th street below chestnut. While not unsatisfied with our experiment, it must be said that falafel is tastiest when served warm. Hear that falafel man? And added to this, the lettuce overpowered the tomatoes, in droves! Heat it up, falafel makers everywhere! Because in these falling months, the chill in the air must be remedied by a reaquaintence with hot food. Take a cue from yesterday's deliciously Stewed pumpkin. Until you do, the hunt for Philly's Falafel kingship must go on. If the falafel dissapointment keeps up like this, we'll have to swallow the orange wallpaper and give into the cheeeese. Which will clearly not cost this little luncheonette any tears.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Having missed the lunch boat yesterday due to a short and freak sickness, I was in a state of mild excitement to meet my companions today at a place I'd never had the pleasure of being in before: The Sansom Kabob House, whose praises Karina has been singing to the hills for quite some time. I arrived on time, or rather, early, and was immediately thrown into a confusing rollercoaster ride of temperature, taking off my coat and considering removing my tights in the bathroom before the fan behind me began blasting cold air at my head, at which point the jacket came back. The fan whined for five minutes and then shut off again, prompting me to just take the damn jacket off and stop following like a tennis spectator the whims and whisps of an insane cooling system.
Karina and Mary arrived. I am well aware how bizarre this next sentance will sound, knowing us as well as I do, but here goes: We talked about baseball. I know. After two years of taking what we can get from quizzo, we have come to learn that shout-out prizes, while more trouble than they are worth, are not to be looked in the mouth, and sometimes pan out. Long story short: my roommate Rich won Phillies tickets for knowing that the diseased spinach that is whacking old ladies nationwide as we speak came from California, and Karina went with him last night, making us proud by sneaking in a bottle of whiskey.
Mary and I both had pumpkin with yogurt sauce, and Karina had cauliflower. I must have either been hungrier than usual or the food was extra good, because I scarfed it down without speaking a word. A+.
After lunch we walked around the corner to Cafe Loftus for Karina and Mary to get iced coffee and show me some attractive human specimen who works there, hereafter referred to as Cloftus, or, Cute Loftus. Cloftus mumbled something about a label maker while setting up iced coffee saucers for us. I was sold.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hustler Reference

Kate, you are so punctual! It continues to confuddle me that you are able to have your food, ready to eat, sitting and leisurely reading, when Karina and I arrive, with the blush of speed walking on our faces. Again today, you beat us to the punch, so to speak, basking in the overcast skies while we scurried around Di Bruno Bros for things to eat. And when we finally came back with our perfectly chosen morsels of food, you'd already finished half of your wrap!

Timing, it seems, is a bit off lately. Which is okay, we don't all three have to arrive all together all the time. But i do feel bad, leaving you to wait so often.

The food must have a mention in this post, because it was so meticulously selected and eaten: Karina and I both had variations on a classic caprese salad, with a side of hearty bread. The meal was so light and delicious and in my case, towering, and had to be ripped apart savagely with a fork And a knife. Karina was very dainty, making small finger sandwiches with hers. She also purchased an orzo salad of big fat orzos, accompanied by olives and feta cheese. Such simple combinations.

Kate bought a mediterranean wrap, of which she ate only half. It was full of red cabbage and feta cheese and...a dressing--one can only assume, because wraps have that way of wrapping things so hiddenly that the ingredients are a secret. If only Kate had spilled something down the front of herself or had things in between her teeth, then I could have told you more about these ingredients but because she did not, thankfully, this description is lacking in these probably meaningless details.

What is important is that Kate saw the movie Hustler on Monday night and that it was awesome. Awesome because kate is a terrible pool player. If you meet her in a pool hall, you should totally bet all your money against her because she'll never win. Right, Kate?

Well, so after this, Karina mentioned that Hustler is referenced in the movie Shag, the story of four girls who do it up one last time in Myrtle Beach, SC before they part ways following high school. And did I mention that it is the hands down best movie of all time?

On the way home, Karina and I stopped at this really cliche ice cream store, Scoop Deville, for ice cream cones. Yesterday we passed a man in a suit eating a single scoop of mint chocolate chip on a waffle cone and it made us so happy. We each got a single scoop of cookies and cream on a cake cone, and decided that eating ice cream cones on your lunch break makes it taste better than any other time. Its all those jealous eyes on Market Street, watching you catch the drips with your tongue and wishing they could have one too...

Monday, September 18, 2006

unhealthnut and sleeveless speculation

i enjoyed not the best lunch health- or emotionwise. at eleven my co-worker jeffrey (making his landmark second appearance on businesslunch) bought a huge bag of salt and pepper chips which he had to discard after opening upon reading (with his blessed vegan eyes) that they contained whey. so i ate them. a lot of them. at one o'clock i biked to the secret park, which was open and filled with the white noise of some horrible municipal leafkilling or barkstripping machine and had two cigarettes to complete my lunch. bad. i know. i read several pages of my huge, seemingly eternal book (speaking of which, german speakers: the translation is sometimes laughably off, so can anyone tell me what possible word might translate to 'sleeveless'? it is used in reference to 'speculation,' which makes zero sense, unless i'm supposed to gather that the main character has been doing some hard thinking in a spaghetti strapped top.).
i kept looking up at four young ladies who for the most part seemed to be in the same boat as myself and my blogrades. sure, their clothes were gappish, while mine reeked (figuratively, of course) of salvation army, but i'm mature enough now to throw those distinctions by the wayside. when it comes down to the minutes that we count as we sit at our desks, both they and i are segments of cogs in the giant wheel of a second-tier city's business. perhaps the accountants that they work for cook the books of the lawyer who employs karina and mary, or perhaps they are secretaries for men more powerful than they, and are needed, among other silly job descriptions, to change their boss's theater tickets through me. i remember a certain college professor, with whom i had a rocky and confusing relationship (although that would have been news to him; his regard for me was enthusiastic but one-dimensional) saying once that the nighttime manhattan skyline, that series of lines and lights that every american and most worldies can envision when they close their eyes, that image which stands for romance and capitalism and pride and so much else, is actually just floors and floors and blocks and blocks of underpaid janitors. my jaw nearly hit the floor when he said it. i thought of that today while satring at these other girls. when i left i wished that businesslunch had business cards, flowery and perhaps scented, that i could softly throw onto their table.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Week Ender

Rest assured, that although I write to you on a Saturday afternoon, I am not in my office. I am writing in the comfort of my dimly lit living room. Very important. A busy friday and an extremely late lunch for Karina and I meant no time to squirrel away a few minutes for blogging and well, here I am.

The lunch, in fact, was hardly worth mentioning: two warmed slices of pizza from the place next to the secret park, loaded with dusty parmesan and salt and oregano and red pepper. Eaten, sadly, in the muralled and mallish dining room of this establishment, to the tune of the Police and other such classics. Why, you might ask? Because to our horror and astonishment we found the secret park locked tight, chains sealing the gates, CLOSED this fair friday. Does September the 15th mark the official end of parking season? Philadelphia City, please answer me this.

I wondered for a second whether Emily's departure was somehow being commemorated, by the powers that be, with this heartfel omen of omens. Emily, our lunching angel? Are the remaining three doomed to suffer the days cooped up indoors? The twist in our plot has me more than a little spooked. When we first discovered this haven on Chestnut Street, I called it the Secret Garden. An urban equivalent to Frances Hodgson Burnett's creation, minus the crippled child and the overbearing uncle. Our lives have been forever affected by this place, with its distinctly romantic scenery, and I admit I am reluctant to let it go so soon.

Last night I think I dreamed that only one side of the park was locked so that we could still get in through the main entrance. It is humbling to realize the lengths your mind goes to, in order to preserve your heart's remaining hope in the world. Kate suggested we scale the high walls, but it is dubious whether three girls, often in skirts, could do this unnoticed in the bright light of the afternoon.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

the last supper

back in april i was convinced that i'd never make it through the summer at my job. i stressed and pouted and feared the long, lazy days in the office. but i took a deep breath, shaved my legs, bought a few new skirts and fucking did it. 50=75% of the credit is really due to the lunch club. mary's arrival to the city breathed new, rosy-cheeked life into our usual once or twice a week tradition (ah, those falafels in love park). my only regret is that we didn't start documenting it sooner, but i do hope to see it go on, to check in from the road and accept the little pang of missingness as i see what transpires in my absence.

yesterday was my official last day at work, and i had lunch at moshi moshi with my boss, my replacement, and our nice accountant lady who i've worked with closely. lunching ladies & i decided to celebrate today, my last day in philly. we went to the "wine cheese beer cafe" Tria on the corner of 18th & Sansom. i arrived first, with kate on my heels. we sat at the bar and talked and mary & karina weren't far behind. we perused the impressively prolific menu and each ordered a glass of wine.

now i know, gentle readers, that alcohol is not a thing that we often indulge in at lunch (there have been the very rare "drunches" which you may posted about in the future), but this was a special occasion and we wanted to treat ourselves. kate and i ordered the same "lighthearted red" described as: "Pride of Piedmont- juicy, immensely quaffable, unabashedly delicious with soft, blackberry fruit." mary, whose taste i trust above all when it comes to wine and other fineries, got a glass of the verdecchio "classico" part of the zippy whites family - "enticing flavors of green apple, lemon and almond from sun-drenched vineyards along Adriatic coast." karina opted for the more straightforward and adult bordeaux blanco - "mouthfilling and refined semillon blend with nuances of melon and stone fruit; mineral rich finish."

miraculously, a table opened up just as we were about to order, so we scooted across the small restaurant to a corner booth. we each ordered and then settled in to talk. it was the perfect kind of day for tria: damp, gray, humid, sluggish. tria is really cozy, with candles lining the walls, dark woods and soft fabrics everywhere, attentive and casual waitstaff, a killer menu with lots of desirable little morsels of foods: cheeses, nuts, olives and such. the other diners were by and large older and profesh, and we noted with raised eyebrows how nearly all the people were drinking on their lunchbreaks. not, like, getting drunk. but still.

our small white plates arrived promptly, each decorated with a perfect portion of our delicious choices. mary, kate and i all ordered panini (grilled artichoke & bulgarian feta, wild mushroom & brie, 3 cheese & tomato, respectively).

the undisputed winner, however, was karina with a jersey tomato & pecorino salad. we stared at the glowing red orbs, as if hypnotized. she generously shared little bites with us and we swooned over the tangy pesto, perfumed olive oil and delicate mounds of cheese.

we ate happily.

kate had to leave a little earlier than the rest of us. she threw a $20 on the table, blew me a kiss, and headed back out into the dishwater afternoon. the 3 left talked lazily and thumbed through a book of vintage knitting patterns while the waiter cleared our very clean plates. finally it was time to go and i must admit to a real jolt of sadness and pre-nostalgia. i really will miss you ladies. thank you for being so amazing, i love you a lot.

p.s. sorry the photos are a bit blurry, i'm still getting used to this newfangled cam.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

a new fan?

hallelujah! today marks the first time that our young ladies electronic lunch club was noticed as such by a non-member of the group! ok, it was actually my coworker jeffrey, who walked into vegetarian chinese land to pick up his lunch just as we were ordering. he waltzed over to our table and introduced himself to karina and mary, adding, flirtatiously, "i've read your blog." and for that, jeffrey, you get a mention here, by name (and just for the hell of it, a passionate endorsement of your band. oberon orchestra!). times are slow in theater box offices, which is why he knows about the blog in the first place.
foodwise, we unwisely strayed not an inch from our beaten paths, which turned out to be overly, and alternately, chewy and crunchy. karina and my general tso's tofu had an oldish texture, and mary loudly and with quite some effort managed to break apart and swallow some mysterious hard item that had nuzzled into her spring roll. too big to be an uncooked grain of rice, to hard to be an egg shell, the chemical makeup of that bizarre piece of accidental food may never be known, though i might remember mary's face upon biting into it for many lunches to come.
our fortune cookies even failed to impress. karina received one that i've gotten many a time: you will receive good news by mail. this fortune is funny if you are playing that 'in bed' game in seventh grade (or if you are a seventh grader at heart, which includes every member of this blog to some extent) and change the spelling of mail to 'male.' karina chose to go in a different direction with her inevitable fortune cookie joke though, when she stated "i'll be getting good shoes by mail." too true. mary's was something to the effect of "you possess the exceptional qualities of charm and decency," an evaluation she found to be inconsistent with our entire lunchtime conversation. i find i must disagree, though i do see the humor in that stupid cookie's statement after what we discussed (which will never be known by anyone except maybe the women in the booth behind us). mine was equally boring: 'serious trouble will bypass you.' we talked about how it would have been better to be the opposite, or if for once in our lives a fortune cookie gave us unconstruable bad news.
when i returned to work jeffrey expressed his disdain at his lunch, so i shall rest a little easier tonight knowing that it wasn't just us. everyone deserves a day off once in a while, including vegetarian chinese.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

fie...fie! last, or semi-last, lunch club lunch

today, less than 12 hours ago, i had my last official secret park lunch. i rushed to the spot and arrived out of breath at 2 p.m. on the dot - a printer snag had sucked up an hour of my morning, completely throwing off my lunchtime intuition - to find nothing but a crazy man smoking a pipe and not much else.

what the hell?! i thought.

i made the cell phone rounds, and finally kate picked up.

"um...i just left," she said, and my heart fell. no -- it collapsed.

"but this is my last lunch..." i lamented with a heavy heart.

you see, tomorrow i am having lunch with my boss and my replacement at moshi moshi. a cruel send off, i know.

but whilst on the phone with kate, mary breezed into the park. turns out, kate had announced an early lunch via email (which i hadn't seen), but no one else could meet the terms due to stupid work shit. so i actually did have 1/2 an hour of bliss with karina (welcome back dear!) and mary in our spot, unusually empty and quiet at such a late hour. we made plans to have a special farewell luncheon at a fancy-esque restaurant (tria?!) on thursday. i won't actually "be" at work, but no matter, we will dine and drink with equal gusto. perhaps i will take some photographic documentation with my new camera which i feel needs a name, as all good appliances do. despite its obviousness, i just feel the need to call it cam cam.

so yes, i will post thursday's photos, but more formally: goodbye my lovely lunching ladies and our dubious readership (if any! god fucking bless you!). november will surely bring in the cold air and lunchtime retreats to various atria and diner settings. don't stop the sweet tradition! it is literally a tiny act of rebellious love that shouldn't be swayed by some puny seasonal changes.

Friday, September 08, 2006

If I ever hear you say we're through

I realized as I walked through those decorated green gates that Kate and I have never dined in exclusive combination before today. My heart skipped a beat. I worried for a second that in my apathetic sleepiness I would have nothing to say and bore her to death, but then realized that Kate is so good at conversation that even I could not ruin it. And it was very sweet, our lunch:

The park was so crowded with people, probably emerging from their office break rooms, where we'd all been kept cooped during the rainy days that ravaged our fair city last week. I found Kate sitting on a bench, adjacent to a nondescript man who stayed unsettlingly near us for the first half of our sit. I peeled an avocado and explained my overly soy salted cabbage salad (an attempt, not wholly unsuccessful, to make Karina's famed Chinese chickenless salad, which I was craving last night in the midst of a Karinaless house). The avocado rounded out the flavor and made the salad much more delicious than it would otherwise have been. Kate brought a small ravioli salad from di bruno, which smelled of pizza. We were modest mice today, with our small portions, but even now at almost five o'clock, my tum is quite satisfied.

Recently the water in the fountain was drained entirely, to leave a dry square pit in the center of the park. I watched a woman walk directly through it today, as if she had no idea that only a week ago, she would have ruined her shoes wading through the ten inches of murky water. A man braved the square pillars, as we have often contemplated doing, and looked not unlike a nymph. Eating his pizza, perched so slightly and watching us all. I wonder now, if perhaps this drainage is just another sign of the fast approaching fall...

Kate relayed the story of Irma Thomas--a singer that has been in kate's blood for quite a while, and whose fan club she recently signed up for. Five dollars got her a mix tape, a membership card, a newsletter, and other things that I have forgotten. Bottom line, this fan club is the deal of the century. And last night Kate was listening to this mixtape with her new roommate Rich, who is very clever (he recently came up with the nickname Pony Shorts for Emily's little sister Lauren (Lauren is the biggest fan of Emily's band, Pony Pants) and so this is hilarious). Well so they were listening to this song "Over You" sung by Aaron Neville, which she admits is a very good song. But on the third listen or so, Rich Kate realized that the song was about Neville threatening to slay his special lady friend "If I ever hear you say we're through." This was quite unsettling, but also pretty incredible. I couldn't decipher wether Kate liked the song less for this brutality, or more for such extreme lyrical content. I still need to hear it.

We departed lunch a little early, I to go to the cobbler on 18th street, Liberty Shoe Service, where the man recently performed a shoe miracle on my black summer flats, bless him. Kate went back to work. We left the nondescript man's City Paper resting neatly on the park table and as we walked away, I breathed a small sigh of relief. I hadn't failed the Kate Date.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

then there were two

it was a chain of events: karina is well on her way to chicago in a car full of snarky boys (happy b-day Touch & Go) and so not at work, and not at lunch. mary had to run a document -- a complaint, perhaps? -- to city hall in karina's stead, and also could not join us lunch. we all thought at first that she might make it, but at 2 p.m. or so it became clear that she was snared, like a helpless bunny, in the jaws of municipal bureaucracy.

so it was kate and me, a lovely duo if i do say so. we sat on a small bench in the secret park and leaned against the wall, she with her falafel (the old $3.25 standby) and me with a veggie burger from home and a small bit of red bliss potato salad and a crisp apple from di bruno brothers. we talked about the effects of different living spaces on our lives, we talked shit on landlords, we watched birds fly around (i saw one with a worm in its mouth, like in a cartoon!). she told and re-told some canada stories; neither of us are sick of them yet. in a bizarre farewell, we swapped crazy person stories.

mine: the other day, headed south on 19th street on my bike approaching rittenhouse park, i passed a man who was shouting loudly at the sky. loudly, mind you, but super, frighteningly coherently:

kate's: today on the way to work, a patented broad street crazy sidled up to her, took one glance down at her brand new, supple green cowboy boots and said "howdy partner! did your horse lose a shoe?"*

*{kate, sorry if i bastardized the joke, if i did please feel free to edit the post accordingly}

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

what a feast we had

not much time, here's the brass tacks:

*1 four bean salad marinated with love and care by our sexy friends at dibruno bros.

*2 plastic cartons of vegetarian dumplings which tasted good despite their thermality, mostly thanks to the magical miracle mystery sauce that accompanied them. mary wrote down the ingredients, which were puzzlingly simple and vague.

*leftover olives, some with pits, some with cheese pits

*three different containers full of the same soup, karina's excellent minestrone

*a cheese sandwich by mary which distressed her not a little, the bread having been somehow perfumed by the chemical compounding of mustard and vegan mayonnaise. don't ask me how it happened. ask science.

*emily's lunchlike leftovers. forgive me kovach, for i have sinned. i never asked you what these leftovers were or from whence they came, so all the information that i can give the world is that there was tofu, there were mushrooms, and there was a pepper. i'm even a little shaky on the last one.

*various drinks, none shared.

*an emily sandwich, similar in building blocks to mary's but divergent in its effect on its eater. to each his own sandwich.

*italian market plums. not the juiciest i've ever tasted, nor the brightest colored. this should serve to teach me a lesson i already know: you can't win 'em all.

no camera, folks. no outside memories. that feast, spread out on the picnic table at secret park will never see the light of the world. only we know how good it was, girls. only we know. and as i'm pressed for time, only we will ever know what words were said there. i might have forgotten before i wrote that last sentance, but now i can't. ever.

have fun in chicago karina! write us a postcard telling us what you lunched upon.