Wednesday, September 14, 2011

have lunch, will travel

I can't say it enough - I love that I work in the city now.  Every single day I find a new or rehashed reason to appreciate it.  Some of the highlights include being able to walk to work somedays (there are two center city locations and one is only a little more than a mile from my home), being able to walk from one location to the other, and being able to walk to a variety of fun places for lunch.

Although I really haven't been doing anything special in the kitchen since I started (which should change sometime this week), I have had some wonderful lunch time adventures, so I figured we could do a little lunch-time round-up.

My first day of work it was pouring rain, but apparently the Big Guy managers like to take the trainees to lunch, so we ran through the rain to a crappy little bar next door.  I don't want to sound ungrateful and I don't think I will, since everyone acknowledged that we only went there because no one wanted to be outside any longer than we had to be.  The place was kind of a dump.  Several years ago, Philadelphia passed a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants - this has been both a blessing and a curse (since making people stand outside to smoke then creates a serious loitering problem for people who just want to walk down the sidewalk unmolested), but I swear, this place either still lets people smoke or so damn many people smoked when they were allowed to that the musty, stale scent of leftover ashtrays will never leave.  In addition to smelling awful, the menu was honestly burgers and salad.  I was very excited when I saw that a veggie patty could be subbed in any of the dozen burger configurations...until the "waiter" told me they didn't have veggie patties.  Okay, then - salad it is!

Our second day, they ordered Thai food.  I was cautious about anything with sauce, but all in all, I fared far better.  The third day, they let us go out on our own and that is where the fun begins.

Friday, I happily ambled over to Pure Fare in my brand new cowgirl boots (more in a minute).  It's about a block and a half away from one location and I could very happily go here every day for lunch.  If they double my salary, I could afford to do so, too!  Since that's not likely to happen anytime in the foreseeable future (I need more than a week to take over the world), I'll just let it continue to be a special treat.

There was a new salad I hadn't seen before (in the whole four times I've been in there), so I picked up the Wheatberry Salad with beets, roasted yams, tons of happy kale, and wheatberries, dressed in a nutty, tahini-like dressing and sprinkled with tiny, cute sesame seeds.  It was absolutely delightful and far more filling than I expected it to be.  I topped off with something I've been meaning to try for a while now: a Kale-Apple Smoothie.

This could absolutely become an addiction if it weren't so expensive.  It tastes incredible - just the right amount of sweetness from the apple (and I think they snuck a banana in there... I'm not complaining) with a lightness and, for lack of another word, greenness from the kale.  In a word?  Love.

Sunday found me at the more central location because of our Grand Opening of that store, and I was about 5 hours into my shift before we slowed down enough to send people to lunch.  I needed something fail-safe, so I headed to Starbucks.  I grabbed the Sesame Noodles Bistro Box, a banana, and my beloved Americano.  No, the beverage sure didn't go with the rest of the meal, but it made me happy for the last two hours of my shift...

photo from Starbucks' website

Yesterday, I remembered we're kind of poor and I'm just starting this job and should be cautious about finances, so I packed Leftovers Lunch and ate it on the steps of a church just off of Rittenhouse Square while eavesdropping on the organist practicing.  Have I mentioned I love working in the city?

By dinner, my plan kind of backfired.  I got home way later than I thought I would because I stopped into Trader Joe's to get food and ended up having a delightful surprise encounter with an old friend.  By the time I got home, I was lacking two things:

  1. complete ingredients for anything on the menu (I didn't get to Superfresh)
  2. the energy/desire to cook.
So, my money-saving Leftovers Lunch saved us the money to go out to Pietro's for dinner.  I wish I'd remembered to take pictures but please trust me when I tell you that the simple Spaghetti con Pomodoro Fresco was out of this world with flavor.  I only stopped eating so I wouldn't waddle home and I can't wait to eat the leftovers.  Mister essentially had a pile of mozzarella cheese (mozz sticks appetizer with a ricotta-less Broccoli Calzone).  I also had a pleasant Chianti that would have gone better with pizza, but I didn't want pizza.

Today, I completely forgot to take food, but a colleague used the opportunity to introduce me to my new favorite lunch spot for that location: Greenhouse.  As you approach, it just looks like a convenience store with normal convenience store stuff.  When you actually enter, you find a second room, as big as the first, and full of a hot/cold buffet.  Everything is labeled and looked fresh and delicious and it was far less expensive than I expected it to be (and the least I've spent on food so far).  I got mixed greens with sesame-sauteed spinach, snow peas, big chunks of cantaloupe, 3 halves of kiwifruit, a stuffed grape leaf, two pieces of teriyaki-glazed tofu that was stellar, and some black olives. It was an amusing combination (fusion, if you will) of Asian and Mediterranean fare and it was awesome.

Tonight, I actually bothered to cook (Mister, angel that he is, went to Superfresh for me today) and I decided to keep going on the faux-Asian theme with Seitan Pepper Steak from The Accidental Vegan.

As always, it was tasty - this time around, it seemed to have a more distinct ginger taste than I remember.  I wonder if that is because I used organic ginger - I don't think I do, ordinarily.  It seemed much "fresher" than what I get at Whole Foods, but I might have just used more or be imagining all this.  I wanted to make this first because it involves slicing 4 peppers and I hate when they sit too long and get all shrivelly.

Tomorrow is another adventure, but I have tons of leftovers in my fridge, so I must take my lunch again tomorrow....Pure Fare will have to wait at least another couple of days.  (I really could eat there happily every day if I had a million dollars.  Now that that song is stuck in your head, I'm going to skidaddle.)  

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