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.

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:

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!