Living where I live in Philadelphia is both a blessing and a curse. It turned out to be in the opposite order last night, but I think I'd prefer the happy ending anyway. The Phillies lost the last game of the World Series on Wednesday, so I don't know why there were so many people around on Thursday, but when I got home from work I drove around for 45 minutes looking for parking. I would love to give a parking etiquette lesson right now, but I'll just get myself all riled up again.
Anyway, after looking for parking for as long as it took me to drive home, I was so hungry I couldn't even imagine trying to cook. Actually, that's not true - when I thought about cooking it made me angry and frustrated, so we took advantage of the blessing part of our neighborhood: the wide array of restaurants amenable to our menu requirements within only a few blocks walking distance.
In case I haven't done so before, let me take this opportunity to plug for Cedar's on 2nd Street, just below South Street. Mister and I have been faithful diners here for most of our 8 years together. The food is fantastic, the service absolutely cannot be beat, and they have recently redecorated and it looks far more expensive than it is. It is a Lebanese restaurant and they feature many of the Mediterranean delights we favor at his family dinners - hummus, baba ganoush, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), falafel, pita, spanakopita (spinach pie), an amazing Imam Baldi, and of course, fries. I think one of the more charming things there is that they serve the ketchup for the fries in a tiny silver gravy boat that looks like Aladdin's lamp.
The most charming thing, honestly, is the staff. We have gone there countless times over the last five years that we've lived within walking distance. Because it's so close and so reasonably priced, we go there the way someone else might go to a diner. It's normally not a big event, just somewhere to go when cooking dinner isn't on my list of things-I-want-to-do. I do not think we have ever had the same server twice. There must be a revolving door for employment, though I'm pretty sure it's a family affair. Perhaps when the family members come to America, they work in the restaurant until they get established, but we have also never had a bad server.
Last night, though, I think we had the best server ever. His name is "Ronnie" and he had an almost puppy-like smile, which he offered readily every time he approached our table. His favorite phrases seemed to be "Thank you" and "You are very welcome." In fact, I have never believed so completely that I was, indeed, welcome. He said those words more genuinely than anyone I can remember. That really made it a nice night - Mister and I agreed that Ronnie rocked.
So, plug: Next time you find yourself near South Street, do your mouth, stomach, wallet, and mind a favor and eat a meal at Cedar's.
Tonight, we had a meal we haven't had since July - I made the Mandarin Tofu with Broccoli and Peppers again. It was so photogenic! These pictures are much better than the first ones, and if you want the recipe, go ahead and click the link.
It's very pretty and the tofu was absolutely out of this world - it just soaked up every bit of marinade and caramelized beautifully when I basted it with more. The vegetables + mandarin oranges are very attractive, with their rainbow of nutrition, but they actually did not taste like anything, not even vegetables. That was profoundly disappointing. I don't know if they tasted like nothing because the tofu tasted so much like something or if I just didn't do something right, but it was unfortunate. Also, the rice tasted like water.