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Archive for the ‘Places’ Category

I went to an incredible market this weekend in New York.  It was beautiful.  The Union Square Green Market is notoriously popular with local NYC chefs (especially those that are following the farm to table movement) and the offerings are extravagantly abundant.  Spectacular fall produce was everywhere, ogled by about ten thousand hungry shoppers.  The market provides an outlet for local New York farmers and artisans; cheese, meat, wool, honey, wine, cider, vegetables, seafood, plants, pies, cakes… I’ll take one of everything, please.  You can tell that the vegetables are grown on someone’s personal farm because they are giant and funky, not tiny and perfect.  Oh man, everything was so gorgeous.  We would have had a bizarre but delicious meal of market menagerie had we been home that night. 

Later that night we had dinner at backforty, a little restaurant that touts a very seasonal market menu.  We ordered a small plate that included the most sinful little chunk of pork belly browned in maple syrup, with a little salad on the side of caramelized radish, apple and peppers.  WOW.  Maybe I embarrassed myself by slurping the last drops of pork fat and maple syrup off the plate, but do you think I cared? 

The pork belly came from Flying Pig Farms, which I saw at the market that morning.  I also saw the plump little French radishes and the Hungarian peppers.  I love that.

Be sure to click on the pictures to enlarge them; they are best enjoyed giant sized.

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california dreaming

unedited, unadulterated beauty

unedited, unadulterated beauty

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the legend

the legend

Let me tell you about a place that I love with all of my heart – a place that makes my eyes water from nostalgic emotions and the spiciest mustard on the planet.  I love this place because it serves delicious food – I love it because it is historic and has a story and an identity – I love it because it is located in my sunny home state of California.  These are all things that speak the love language of my heart, but I love it mostly because it reminds me of my family.  This place is part of our story – part of our history and tradition.

So, this humble post is dedicated to Philippe’s, home of the Original French Dip, and to my Mom for Mother’s Day (and also to my Aunt Valerie who is a mother and to Cecil who is their mother and really to Wayne too, who isn’t a mother but definitely deserves a special nod)…

Philippe’s was founded in 1908 by Philippe Mathieu.  After accidentally dropping a baguette into some beef pan drippings, the “Original French Dip” was born.  Praise the Lord for that.  There’s some controversy on the actual circumstances surrounding the fateful dropping of the bread and who actually subsequently requested the accidental sandwich, but who cares?  The most important thing is that we ended up with juicy, flavorful, meaty, sandwichy goodness. 

While Philippe’s was sold in 1927, it has been owned and operated by the same family since.  Not a lot else has changed

these prices are history

these prices are history

since then, either.  For instance, the floor is still covered in sawdust.  The coffee is still ten cents, the lemonade seventy cents.  The mustard is still so spicy that it will literally make you cry.  Ladies, called “carvers,” still take your order behind the counter and serve you almost immediately.  They wear the same uniforms.  Pickled beets, eggs and pigs feet are still offered, purple and ostentatious.  Potato salad, macaroni salad, tapioca pudding, fruit pies, pecan pies, cream pies – all of these remain on the menu.  Beef, lamb or pork sandwiches can be dipped or double dipped.  The lines continue to extend to the back of the room.  The only thing that seems to change are the articles and reviews of Philippe’s that are posted on the walls.  In accordance with the spirit of the place, history and stories surround you. 

You will make new friends in the line at Philippe’s.  Everyone is exited to tell their neighbor about how Philippe’s is their place.  They’re excited to share their personal story and offer a recommendation of what to order.  I used to think that our Philippe’s story was unique; that we’re the only ones that consider it sacred, sawdust-covered ground.  But I’ve discovered that almost everyone in the line has been there many times before.  Most likely,

hungry people

hungry people

they started coming with their parents or grandparents, just like me.  It’s a good thing that you will make friends in line, as you may be sitting next to these same folks at the communal tables that all diners eat at.  Sharing stories, tables and tasty, tasty food is a beautiful thing. 

In turbulent times, it’s nice to go to a place that seems significant and unchanged.  Philippe’s is a beacon – a reminder that good things can last through World War II and the Depression and whatever economic crisis we find ourselves in.  I know I’m giving a lot of existential meaning to a French Dip sandwich shop here, but the place has significance!  My grandpa, Wayne went there for years and years, then he took my grandma, Cecil, and they took my mom, Paula and her sister, Valerie.  Then they all took me, and later my cousin Gabriel.  Going to Philippe’s was a family outing; birthdays, Mother’s Days, Father’s Days.  When my Grandpa Wayne passed away, we went to Philippe’s in his honor.  When my Grandma Cecil passed away, off to Philippe’s to eat her favorite, a lamb sandwich.  Since then, I’ve insisted on sharing spicy mustard and pickled beets with Jon, my husband and Jason, one of my dearest friends.  Now they’re part of the story.  When I go, I get more than my regular double

the spread

the spread

dipped beef – I get to feel a connection to people that I love – people that I can’t necessarily hug or kiss or speak to anymore.  Instead, I do what I do best; EAT (with a lot of reminiscence on the side).  I can picture my young and dapper Grandpa ordering his favorite sandwich from his favorite Carver.  He would know her by name.  He would know her story and she would remember his regular order.  Again, I can blame the tears on the mustard.

Normally I love to get really passionate and intense about food and flavor, and there is definitely some delicious noshing to be had at Philippe’s, but here I would encourage you to head to there for other reasons.  I’m convinced that once you step through the door you will feel the connection with everyone else who has been going there for years.  You will definitely come back for the sandwiches, but you will also return to this historic place because it will be part of your story.  You can make it a tradition.  Let’s share a table. 

Philippe’s – The Original
1001 North Alameda Street
Los Angeles, CA  90012

Let it be known that Philippe’s is actually pronounced like “Fil-eeeps” – we, however incorrectly, call it “Fil-ip-eees.”  Way better.   

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Yesterday I made four pounds of black-eyed peas.  FOUR POUNDS.  That’s a lot of beans to contend with.  The two

the beans

the beans

largest pots that I own were filled nearly to the brim.  Jon and I were headed to Trinity House with some of our friends.  Dinner is brought to Trinity House nightly by different groups of volunteers, who then have the fortunate opportunity to break bread with the residents and hear their stories.  We had been recruited, and our assignment was to bring black-eyed peas.  I am so thankful that we went.   

Trinity House is a beautiful place; a center of redemptive cause and purpose in the middle of Atlanta’s historic Sweet Auburn district.  Also beautiful is the fact that despite poverty, poor development and changes in social and economic structure, the pursuit of justice, empowerment and reconciliation is still taking place amidst this urban area.  Signposts of African American history abound around Trinity House, which is located in the center of this famous neighborhood – the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement.  The home of Trinity House was once the largest African American funeral home in the city; the dining hall of Trinity House is the chapel that once held the body of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  History and stories of hope surround the residents of Trinity House. 

the view

the view

Trinity House is run by a local Atlanta church – Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.  Any familiar with the downtown Atlanta skyline could pick it out; the steeple juts into the sky, with the words “Jesus Saves” displayed like a beacon.  The men at Trinity House are formerly homeless, almost all of them overcoming the addictions that destroyed their lives.  They arrive at Trinity House broken, hungry, tired, burdened – they depart sober and employed, with a home and money in the bank – restored and redeemed. 

the house

the house

Upon arrival at the house, we are instantly greeted by a smiling face – my one hundred pound pots of beans whisked away into the kitchen.  The lobby is elegant and cozy, with a painting of Dr. King proudly displayed on the walls.  We pass the glowing, stained glass windows of the chapel and land in the middle of the hustle and bustle – lots of chatter and laughter as dinner is being assembled and strangers introduced. 

The evening begins with a tour of the facility.  Our tour guide, Saeed, takes us around and explains the program – the men – the history – the meaning and symbolism that is deeply rooted and woven into the program.  The front door is open to any who are ready to change, but not all are accepted – Saeed explains that the Trinity Program is not one for those who need – it is a program for those who want.  If accepted, men are often given a new name that symbolizes their new journey (Saeed is formerly Adrian – his new name and identity meaning “fortunate”).  All men start at the third floor and work their way to the second floor, staying anywhere from six months to two years.  Brothers of the house wear shirts that coincide with their place in the house and their progress.  The colors of the shirts are drawn from an African flag – green for the land – red for the blood that was shed – black for their skin.  Real community exists here; accountability programs are staunch, and the Brothers often decide in a committee fashion on the progress and promotion of one another.  Harmony, respect and dignity are common themes.  Pictures of graduated Brothers adorn the walls; many of the counselors former members themselves.  Again, this is a beautiful place. 

the chapel

the chapel

After the tour we all sit down for dinner, volunteers and Brothers evenly dispersed around the chapel.  Everyone dines on some delicious soul food – green beans, black-eyed peas, rolls, salad and fried chicken.  As dinner wraps up, the time for stories begins.  Everyone has a turn, including the volunteers.  I was humbled and moved as I listened to the stories of the Brothers in the house; some with Master’s degrees, former business professionals, fathers, husbands, chefs, project managers, musicians – men from all paths and places.  You cannot judge appearance – you never know a person’s story unless you hear it – every created human being has dignity. 

The atmosphere in the room is not sad or heavy – it is filled with laughter and noise – hope and joy – acceptance and love – stories of dark pasts, furture plans, hopes and dreams.  We laughed and clapped and danced and sang- we were humbled and ministered to.  We were inspired. 

 All I offered was black-eyed peas for 25; I left feeling whole, joyful, hopeful – glowing with all of the knowledge and inspiration that the men of Trinity House had offered to ME.  They do this for people five nights per week.  This is a beautiful thing.   

a beautiful place

a beautiful place

I plan to go back to the Trinity House often.  I am anxious to watch the progression of the Brothers that I met last night; I am anxious to receive their wisdom and contagious hope.  I am anxious to bring my own love to the dinner table – I’m already thinking about what to cook next… 

a happy crew

a happy crew

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