Monday, April 27, 2009

Stuff Mike and Kim Like: #3 Dinner Parties

I know dinner parties was listed at #90 on the Stuff White People Like blog, but Kim and I like dinner parties so much we decided it was worth an entry of its own on our blog. This past weekend, Kim and I were invited to two dinners serving great food: one on Saturday at our co-worker, Anna Maria's house and another on Sunday at Megan's.

Anna Maria made a lot of classic Italian food: antipasto of prosciutto, mozzarella, brie, and olives, salad, two lasagnas, one eggplant and one with beef and mushroom, roasted zucchini and eggplant, potato casserole, rice and tuna salad on a hard boiled egg half. It was fun to visit Anna Maria's and enjoy dinner with friends.

Megan made deviled eggs, spiced walnuts, pea ravioli in a lemon herb broth, warm potato salad, cauliflower gratin, and stuffed roasted artichokes. Megan's mom helped make dinner and it was nice seeing her again and hearing about things in West Virginia.

However, the highlight of any dinner Megan hosts is the homemade ice cream she makes. Sunday was no exception as she made an ice cream cake with a chocolate wafer cookie crust, pistachio ice cream, and a topping of whipped cream mixed with shortbread crumbs.

Geoff liked the ice cream cake too!

We like dinner parties so much that we are part of a monthly dinner club, VD (veggie dinner) club, as Megan likes to call it, since we stick to a mainly vegetarian menu because we have several vegetarian members. Kim was actually part of two different dinner clubs in Chicago and started one with Megan when she first moved to Philly. After that one fizzled out it was revamped with co-workers from Megan's work and our friends from Lab. We now have six members/couples that take turns cooking once a month on Sunday nights, which is nice since we each only have to cook twice a year. It's always fun to try peoples' culinary experiments and learning techniques we can use in our own everyday cooking.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Stuff Kim and Mike Like: #2 Bánh mì (Vietnamese Hoagies)

Philadelphia is known for it's hoagies, sandwiches made from cold cuts, lettuce, tomato, onion, oil and vinegar first popularized by the Italian-American community. However, the hoagies that Kim and I really like are made by more recent immigrants: the Vietnamese. The Bánh mì is a sandwich made from fresh baguettes that is traditionally stuffed with roast pork, Vietnamese ham or head cheese, pate, mayonnaise, pickled carrots and daikon, jalapenos, cucumber, and cilatro. The hoagie features a combination of fatty, sweet, savory and and acidic flavors that blends very well together.

This beautiful sandwich is available at many plaes in the the city, but our favorite is Ba Le Bakery, on the intersection of 6th Street and Washington Ave. They even make a vegetarian version which replaces the meats with stir-fry seasoned tofu and vegetables.The Bánh mì is so good that even Chinese people, like our co-worker, Lili (pictured below) and our picky boss (not pictured) fight over a day-old sandwich! Not really, but it is a very well constructed sandwich and you should all try to find a shop that makes them to try for yourself.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Longwood Gardens

Saturday was the first really beautiful day of the year, so Kim and I decided it would be the perfect day to visit Longwood Gardens. We knew that we were in for a treat when on the walk to the main entrance of the grounds we saw these Cherry and Magnolia trees in full-bloom.

As you can see, the sky was clear and cloudless. Although many of the trees weren't in leaf yet, some were showing great blossoms and on a day like that what can you really complain about.

The garden was well groomed and the fountains were going. The formal Italian water garden was beautiful right at the edge of the large pond

We walked out to edges of the property where many treehouses were built. We especially like this one overlooking the meadow, which made use of these very interesting yellow natural logs. I thought they were probably stripped yellow popular logs, but couldn't find a sign anywhere to give me more information.

Longwood also has a good exhibit of Bonsai in the back of the Conservatory. They have many wonderful trees including a Crepe Myrtle with great bark, several Maples and Hornbeams, but easily my favorite was the Wisteria that was in full bloom. This tree was flowering much earlier than the plants in the landscape so it was a wonderful surprise.

While we were there, I took the opportunity to take some photographs, including some with the Nikon 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 with Macro, that I recently purchased. I hope you enjoy my pictures!
I highly recommend everyone make some time on a nice day and drive out to Longwood Gardens. From Philly, the drive is around 45 minutes. Student tickets are $6 and normal adult tickets are $16, so it isn't too expensive.

Mike's Birthday at Yakitori Boy

To celebrate Mike's 24th birthday on Thursday, a group of friends went to dinner at Yakitori Boy. The restaurant serves "japas" or Japanese-style tapas, including skewers of grilled meats and veggies, sushi, noodles, tempura, and just about any kind of Japanese food you could want. We ordered a lot of drinks and delicious food, including his favorite, the hamachi, Yellow Tail Tuna, neck!

Masako and Daisuke presented Mike with a cute little present at dinner time--a cute little miniature honey pot:
And then after a very filling dinner, we went upstairs to the karaoke lounge to sing! We picked some crowd favorites including, "My Way" and "Killin' Me Softly." Sungchan even serenaded the entire bar with his rendition of a Korean love ballad:

And here's a bonus picture of us at the lounge:

I had a great birthday with friends, enjoying tasty food, good drinks and excellent singing.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Stuff Kim and Mike Like: #1 Stuff People Like Blogs

We got the idea for this segment of our blog which will turn our faithful readers on to some of the many things we like from the blog Stuff White People Like. As is clear from the name, this blog is devoted to the things that white people like, and for the most part, Mike and I find that we agree with their posts. I mean, who doesn't like Barack Obama, public radio, scarves, and expensive sandwiches?? It's a great self-deprecating look at stereotypes about educated, liberal, white people. Stuff White People like has become quite a phenomenon and spawned a book and a number of copycat sites such as Stuff Black/Queer/Jewish/Brown people like. Our favorite copycat site, Stuff Asian People Like, is quite entertaining. If you take yourself too seriously or are easily offended, you probably won't like these sites. But we appreciate the irreverance and irony and enjoy the chance to laugh at ourselves. Enjoy and look forward to stuff we like to be posted soon!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Grad School Decision!

Today, April 15, is not only tax day, but also the deadline for me to decide where to go to Grad School for the next 5 (hopefully) years. I interviewed at and was made offers by Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania. After deep deliberation and delaying:

From Middle Cyclone

This was a very difficult decision for me because I like both programs a lot, maybe Columbia a little more. But NY is expensive and hard to live in whereas I love the life I have in Philly and being so close to friends and family. Both schools are good fits but would've required significant sacrifices either way. Living in NY would've been a great experience, however, I know that Philly is great too. Maybe in a few years I'll do a Post-doc in NY, Chicago or Boston. Ultimately I am happy with the decision I made and hope that Grad School will be pleasant, successful, and over quickly!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Neko Case at the Keswick

Last night, we saw Neko Case touring in support of her new album (and namesake of this blog), Middle Cyclone. The show was at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, which seems like a cute little town. We had amazing seats (5th row center) thanks to Mike taking the initiative to call the box office and bypass Ticketmaster. Beth met us there and we arrived just in time to hear the last couple songs by Crooked Fingers, who we'd already seen open for Okkervil River and didn't like so much. They sounded better than we remembered but we were really just excited to hear Neko.

Of course, she didn't disappoint. She played a really long set, despite being a little out of it and complaining quite a bit about "women troubles". (Her best comment of the night was that she couldn't wait to get back to the bus to put on a sleeping bag suit and feed herself potato chips through a funnel connected to a vaccuum cleaner in reverse mode.) Her voice is just amazing and her songs are wonderful. Her back-up singer, Kelly Hogan, talked a bit too much for my liking, but it was a really great show and she played all of our favorites from Middle Cyclone and past albums. Sadly, the Keswick does not allow photography but Mike tried to sneak in a few shots at the end of the show so I'm sure he'll post them soon.

Edit from Mike: I added the only good photo I took from the show and one of the fascade. Also, I used a picture I took of the set and set it as the banner

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Aileen's Birthday Party at Beneluxx

Tonight, we went to Beneluxx on 3rd street, just south of Market to celebrate Aileen's Birthday. For those of you that have not been or heard of Beneluxx, it is a Belgian-style bar that serves small (150 mL and 50 mL) samplers and large servings of beer and wine as well fine cheeses and chocolates.They had more than 30 beers on draft, including 7 Trappist Ales, which are widely considered the best Belgian beers; 50+ top-rated wines; 20+ cheeses; and 10 or so rare chocolates (though Kim and I didn't have any)

And that's not even the coolest part, they have these high-pressure glass-washers built into the tables for you to rinse out your glass between tastings. It is great fun and very effective at cleaning--now if only that easy to keep track of your own glass.
Kavi had a lot of fun playing with the glass-washer. This picture below was taken right before she tested what would happen when you push down on the grate without a glass over the nozzle. Good thing I put the camera away...
Since it was Aileen's Birthday, Kim and I got Aileen a couple of gifts that we thought she would like. I got her a 12 oz. bottle of Dogfish Head's World Wide Stout, which is a limited release by DFH. It's 18+% alcohol by volume and pitch black, I can't wait to try it with her. We also got her a shirt that says, "To Err is Human, to Arr is Pirate," since loves reading entries from her Facebook profile which has the language set to "English (Pirate)."
And lastly, a pack of the gayest cigarettes I have ever seen. Nat Sherman makes a line called Fantasia Lights, which are thin, (think Virginia Slims) have gold painted filters, and rainbow colored paper wrapping the tobacco. In honor of Aileen's birthday, I had a pink one.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bad game, worse weather, great company

Tonight, we went to see the Phillies get shut-out by the Atlanta Braves, 4-0. Not only did we have to suffer losing, it was also around 40 degrees at the start of the game dropping to about 35 with 20 mph wind blowing in our faces, which you can see in this snapshot of the 2008 World Series Champion flag out behind center field

But it was fun to get out to the park and see the team for the first time after the World Series. To celebrate that victory, they gave out t-shirts that had "Champs" written on the front with a small Phillies logo that you can see on Alex in this photo of him and Kim

With the wind chill in the low 30's and the Phillies playing poorly, Kim was not happy...

In all, it was nice to get out to the park this early in the season and hang out with Joey (and friends) for a little bit, it's just too bad that Phils didn't play any better. I just hope they get it together before we go to Bank again on May 12 against the Dodgers on Dollar Dog Night or else I'll have to drown my sorrow in processed animal product and mustard

Live Neko Concert streamed live on NPR

Quick Note:

On Thursday, April 9, at 9:30 pm, NPR Music will provide a live webcast of Neko Case's show from the 9:30 Club in DC. Check it out:

Kim told me that apparently Crooked Fingers couldn't make it tonight, so Will Sheff of Okkervil River filled in. If only we could be so lucky tomorrow because he is one of my favorite singer/songwriters

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sakura Sunday

As usual, we had a great weekend, though it went by too fast! We had some nice meals and even got some chores done but the highlight was definitely Sakura Sunday. This Sunday, after a yummy brunch at Sabrina's Cafe, we attended the annual Philadelphia Cherry Blossom Festival at Fairmount Park. It was a gorgeous afternoon, so it was nice just to be outside in the sunshine. We met up with some friends and checked out all kinds of Japanese cultural demonstrations. Highlights included Mike showing off his origami skills (while wearing an origami-themed t-shirt), our friend Daisuke demonstrating calligraphy (he even taught our boss, Gideon), and of course, the beautiful cherry blossoms (even though they haven't all reached full bloom).

One disappointment was the Cosplay (costume play) pageant. We were excited to see people dressed up like anime characters, but unfortunately we had to wait an hour for the event to start and sit through a sound check for a pretty awful Japanese band, only to see about eight people in costume walk across the stage in less than five minutes. Even though we were a little frustrated, we enjoyed the sun and the great people-watching.

After being out in the warm sun all afternoon, we decided to go for our first Rita's Water Ice of the season. It was a bit of an adventure following the GPS to 69th St, but we were successful and enjoyed the refreshing treat.

EDIT (by Mike):

We also vacuumed and washed Kim's car!

Ohhh so shiny!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why the Name

For a while it was a joke between Kim and I to start a blog to write about everything that we do, because obviously our lives are so fabulous and who wouldn't be interested? Truth is, this is blog will not only allow us to share the fun things we do, but more importantly to help us remember the time we spend with each other and with friends and family.

I chose the name Middle Cyclone for this blog for several reasons. Primarily, it is currently my favorite album from one of our favorite artists, Neko Case. Music is special in our relationship, it is really how we first connected. The title of the album is symbolic of the frenetic nature of our lives right now as we move forward. And the songs are beautiful with a lot of personal meaning.

We have a lot of great things planned for the next couple weeks so check back often!

This would be great for our blog...

Every time Mike and I do anything interesting, I always comment that we will have to blog about it. We never actually got around to creating the blog, so we've missed many opportunities to share our adventures...until today! Sadly, today was a pretty uninteresting day so I decided to post about our motivation for blogging.

I don't imagine many people will be interested in reading about our daily activities but I think that having this blog will put pressure on us to get out and do even more fun things than we already do. I mean, it would be totally uncool to blog about sleeping, work, house cleaning and playing Rock Band. So next time we're faced with the decision of whether to stay in or go out, we're going to get out of the house and do something blog-worthy.

OK, time to get ready for LOST... ;)