Wednesday, August 31, 2011

go west, young girl!

I live on the eastern side of Broad Street, which is considered the "middle" of the city, even though there are only 13 blocks to the river on the East side and 30 to the river on the West side.  Nevertheless, I was discussing this with a future colleague in a short pre-work meeting last week: it is this huge, big deal to cross Broad Street.

There is no good reason for that, especially when you could easily walk from Washington Square to Rittenhouse Square (the two big parks on either side) in about 20 minutes, maybe 30 if you really take your time and all the lights are against you and there's too much traffic to jay-walk.  A phenomenon that I've noticed, though, is that your idea of distance adjusts to where you live.  So, when I lived in the furthest reaches of what could be called, with any kind of integrity, the Main Line Philadelphia suburbs, I had no issue driving 30 miles into the city for entertainment or to visit friends 17 miles away.  When I moved into a part of Philadelphia that could not possibly be considered center city, I had no issue driving into center city but I was less inclined to drive outside the city to visit friends as I had been when I was in the suburbs and everything was far away.  When I moved into a busy part of center city, I found it a struggle to ever go anywhere that required the use of my car (other than work, of course).

So there you go; I stick to "my" side of Broad Street most of the time.  However, now that I'm dependent on public transit and since I will be working on the "other side," I'm branching out a bit and seeing what the West side of Broad has to offer.  The answer?  A great deal, actually - Rittenhouse Square area really    has the best shopping, boutique-wise in all of Philadelphia.  You can imagine it, if you wish, as a marginally more affordable East Coast Rodeo Drive.  I'm not a huge shopper, but when I do, I prefer smaller boutiques to department stores for many reasons I'll probably go into at another time, possibly on another blog.  Anyway, although most of my favorite restaurants are within blocks of my home (which was one reason I chose to live here, honestly), I love crossing Broad to visit Williams-Sonoma, MAC, Barnes & Noble, Anthropologie, and.... Pure Fare.

Yup, that's pretty much where all of this has been leading to.  We had Pasta Della California from Veganomicon for dinner tonight, and I've made it plenty enough that it really wasn't all that interesting to share about, so I'm going to focus on lunch today.

It's a relatively small joint but it has clean lines and an airy feel, since the wall to the street is completely made of windows, floor to ceiling, just about.  On each end there is a service area - one for drinks and one for food, and then there is a wall with two or three refrigerated shelves stocked with ready-to-eat food.  One thing I love about Pure Fare is that everything is labeled - ingredients, calories, price, and in terms of their baked goods, whether it is vegan or gluten-free.  I think that is wonderful!

In the center of the room, there is a long communal table with swinging stools.  I have nearly fallen over every time I've sat down, but I think it's great that you can adjust where you sit without having to scrape the legs of a heavy chair across the hard floor.  There are also two bars against the windows, looking out onto 21st Street, but I wanted to sit at the table.

I mean, why wouldn't I want to sit in front of a centerpiece of flowers and asparagus?  I have to admit, although it did make a charming display, I was sad that the asparagus was a centerpiece and not a side dish.  Anyway, how did I come to have my lunch there?

Glad you asked.  Today was the last day I was covered by the insurance my former employer covered and there will be a bit of a gap before I am covered at my new job - 90 days, to be exact.  I am generally of good health and Mister is generally stubborn about seeing a doctor, so we've forgone COBRA's generous offer to take an entire paycheck away from me to cover our health insurance until I am covered again.  Regardless, I wanted to have my long overdue eye exam before losing my insurance, so I went to a nice little place on Rittenhouse Square and was planning to go to Trader Joe's to pick up a few things as long as I was allll the way over there.  I remembered that Pure Fare is the only place in Philadelphia who serves Blue Bottle Coffee and I was in the mood for some of that espresso-like brew.  As I walked, I realized I was a bit hungry as well, so I thought I'd get a little something from their pastry case.

As I waited for my pour-over to drip through the filter and into my cup, I inspected my options....which were, in fact, very little somethings.  I opted for the vegan brownie because they're awesome but mine always end up too dry for my tastes and this one looked nice and fudgy.  It was.  Regardless, it was just a little bugger, so I scoped out the salads, too.

This is the Falafel Salad, although I'm not completely certain why it was called that.  It had whole chickpeas, but the crumbly stuff that looked like it should be mashed up falafel patties is actually bulgur wheat.  Very good bulgur wheat, but not falafel.  Regardless, I'm not complaining - this was the best salad I have eaten in a long time.  I'm really not much of a salad person, honestly, but this salad was absolutely exceptional.  There were two especially memorable things about my salad:

First, do you see those perfect, red cherry tomatoes?  Never have I ever had such aptly named vegeta-fruits.  They were incredibly sweet, so much that I didn't believe they were actually tomatoes.  There were also slices of cucumber and green bell pepper, along with the bulgur, chickpeas, and perfectly cut up lettuce.

Second, do you see that awesome green dressing?  When I was surveying my food options, I saw a quinoa salad that I will probably try someday (since I will be working walking distance from this delightful foodery - man, that will never get old!), and a lentil hummus sandwich that was also quite tempting, and finally, my falafel salad.  Since it's normally a given that salad should be vegan unless the title expressly states otherwise (you know, like Grilled Chicken Caesar, or something similar with an animal in the name), the salads and sandwiches were not labeled vegan or not.  I asked the nice young lady at the food counter if the falafel salad was vegan and she said it was, other than the yogurt-based dressing.  I made a comment on how I could just leave that off and she asked if I would like a different dressing, which is how I came to possess the blissfully verdant and eye-poppingly tangy dressing in the picture.

Score one for customer service, Pure Fare - that's a great way to make me come back and habitually spend $10-14 on lunch!  It might seem to others like "duh, of course you could get other dressing," but I'm a person who doesn't like to inconvenience people, so I normally don't think to ask if another dressing might be available.  It was very thoughtful of her to offer it to me, because otherwise I would have eaten the salad dry.  It was a delightful salad, but there was definitely an element of pure sparkle added by the neon green dressing, and you can bet I'll be back for more!

Even if it is alllllll the way over on 21st Street.

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