Thursday, February 22, 2007

I spent the past 5 days in Philadelphia doing the usual stuff: visiting with family and friends, walking around and most notably, eating. The second-wave of the trip felt oddly displaced and hurried, not as relaxed as my Thanksgiving visit--although there was no squatting involved. This trip was wonderful in the sense that I was able to get in some good time with my parents and friends who I rarely see, but i didn't visit any of my old haunts, I patronized all new spots, which was odd in a city whose familiarity I relish.

I ate surprisingly good Chinese food at a Bistro near my parent's and tried-and-true Mexican. I noshed on a Kofta-meatball sandwich at the vegetarian Hari-Krishna take-out spot, lunched at a Burmese restaurant in Chinatown, but most notably gorged myself at a Cuban restaurant in Rittenhouse.

This last exploit started innocently. A friend recently started bar tending at aforementioned Cuban spot. She suggested we stop by their lounge for happy hour drinks while waiting to hear from another friend. So we sat in the dimly, although not so dimly, lit lounge that the modern, chicness of the place wasn't obvious, and ordered Mojitos, innocent, right? Unbeknownst to me tapas are included with your drinks. So our server started bringing out plates of empanadas, wonderful vegetarian empanadas. So, we're a Mojito in and the chef stops by our table to say, "Hi" to my friend. He then asks if we'd be interested in tasting a more extravengent empanda, well, who says no to that, so, out comes yet another empanada, only this time gigante.

With bellies steadily filling and another Mojito down, the Manager stops by our table to inquire whether my friend has yet tasted everything on the menu, which luckily she had not, because he insisted she order more plates to properly taste and again, no protests were heard from either of us.

First, a ceviche and salad arrive. I've never mustered-up the nerve to try ceviche, well, this one was named Rainbow and it was delicious. Never being one to stuff forkful-after-forkful of "raw" fish in my mouth, I found myself doing just that, shovelling forkful-after-forkful of raw fish into my mouth. This was intermittent with downing forkfuls of an Ensalada Blanca: frisee mixed with feta, toasted almonds and cubes of a sort-of amaretto jello, um, gelee, all glazed with a sherry vinaigrette.

At this point, our other friend arrived and yet another Mojito down, the next plates followed: the Smoked Marlin and Little Neck clams. The Smoked Marlin was a block of fish tacos, smoky marlin stuffed to the point of overflowing from their shells, fish tacos. The Marlin was rum-cured and the shells are called malanga boats, which were similar to a corn tortilla only, maybe most notably, lighter. I cracked into a Marlin taco and than the Little Neck Slams which I believe we simply had roja. Not being the largest clam fan, I feel the half-dozen or so I ate attest to their edibility. Now what did we do with the remaining red sauce, that's right, sop it up with a sweat and subtly cheesy bread, which I, unfortunately, cannot recall the name of.

At this point, surpassing sated, giddy with food, or was it Mojitos, we were asked if we'd like dessert. Really, who were we to say no, as we'd passed the point of no return 4 plates/Mojitos ago. So much to our amusement, a plate baring a cigar and book of matches arrives. The cigar being chocolate mouse wrapped in a leaf of chocolate ganache, the matchbook being marzipan, which the waiter then lit! And here mis amigos, as the marzipan match burns out, so does my recounting of this supper, made foggy by my Mojito-drenched memory.

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