A Sushi Story

Tonight we’re celebrating the long anticipated start date of my first job with dinner at Mac’s Shack. Located just down the road from the Welfleet Town Pier, this old 19th century house that was once a nautical shop, has since been transformed into one of our favorite restaurants on Cape Cod.

It’s just my parents and me tonight, the original summertime trio. We know we’ll have to wait for a table so we skip the post-beach happy hour that usually occurs on the porch around 5:00.

Mac’s Shack is alive with a sweet summertime beat. The outside bar is packed with raw oyster-slurping ‘locals’ and vacationers alike, tapping their sandal-clad feet against the broken seashell-covered ground. A cool breeze soothes our cheecks, where the daytime sun has kissed our skin.

Dad orders our drinks, pino grigio for me and mom, and a Whales Tale Pale Ale for himself. After a blissful 20 minutes or so, our pager buzzes against the white-washed, wooden bench.

We open our menus. I quickly scan the variety of familiar appetizers and entres, knowing I won’t order any of them. We’ve come for sushi…at least I have anyway. I flip to the sushi menu and skim the long list of special ‘maki’ rolls, in search of any new additions. Before making any final decisions I re-read the descriptions of my favorites, just to make sure they’re still my favorites.

Deciding how many rolls to order depends entirely on who else is at the table; this is phase 1. So I sit quietly waiting for mom and dad to decide. If the whole family where here… Andrew wouldn’t eat a piece of fish if you paid him (really, my dad used to offer him $50), so he’d be out. Pete will eat just about anything so you know he’d be willing to split a few rolls and mom always claims to “only want a few pieces”.  It all comes down to dad. He could go either way; a few sushi rolls or a traditional entre. Tonight he chooses sushi. I think mostly because he knows it makes me happy.

Wave Roll

Wave Roll

We know from experience that we’ll need about 4 maki (sushi rolls). Deciding which rolls to order is phase 2. A well-balanced variety is key.  We try to avoid ordering two rolls with cream cheese inside, like the Philadelphia roll, or multiple rolls with the same piece of raw fish, like tuna or salmon. At least one roll with a little kick to it is always good, too. Of course, at Macs we have our long list of go-to favorites, making this phase a little easier. Dad and I decide on…

  • Gan Jah Mon: Tuna, mango, cream cheese, avocado, black tobiko (always a no brainer)
  • Wave Roll: Spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, avocado, cucumber, wrapped in soy
    paper (here’s the one with the “kick”)
  • Crabby Crunch Roll: California roll topped w/ tempura flakes & sweet soy sauce & a drop of sriracha (nothing too crazy, mom will like this one)
  • Rainbow Roll: California roll layered with tuna, yellowtail, salmon & white fish (another classic staple)

For only wanting a few pieces, mom still has quite a bit to say about our selection (Is that one spicy? I don’t think I like that one. Ooh ya, let’s get that!).

Enough time passes to devour a small side of seaweed salad, when 4 rolls are presented at our table. 4 rolls to be split, as evenly as possible, among 2.5 people. Now comes the trickiest part, just how many pieces of each sushi roll are mine, dads and now officially added to the equation, moms. I try to follow a system, one Gan Jah Mon, one Wave, one Crabby Crunch, one Rainbow, repeat. I try to keep that going for as long as possible. Dad has a similar technique.

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Which one will it be?

After trading a few pieces here and there (“I’ll give you one of my Rainbows, for your last Crabby Crunch), and sorting out the uneven distribution that moms random sampling has caused, it comes down to the final round and the toughest question of all: which piece will be your last? The one you can still taste as you exit the restaurant and in the car on the ride home. Will it be a piece with a kick to it? Or one that’s savory and sweet, like the Gan Jah Mon? To each their own.

Rarely are we disappointed with our choices, the many, many choices that are required when we all sit down for sushi. At the very least, if we didn’t order enough or mom sneaks in a few extra pieces than she had originally planned, there’s always room for ice cream.

Visit the photo gallery for more pictures of tonight’s meal at Mac’s!

Dine (and of course, shop!) The Street

GraduationThe month of May has been quite a ride, filled with celebration, teary goodbyes, new beginnings and very little time for blogging. It wasn’t easy to leave Hawk Hill, the beautiful campus I’ve called home for the last 4 years, or The City of Brotherly Love where I fell in love with soft pretzels and cheesesteaks, ‘wiz witout’. After 4 years of learning everything there is to know about communications and marketing (ok maybe not everything) and a semester filled with final projects, Skype interviews and post-grad panic, I’m very proud to announce that I am now an alumna of Saint Joseph’s University. I’m even more proud to announce that I have accepted a full-time job offer from W/S Development to become the Marketing and Operations Coordinator at The Street in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. This of course means that I will no longer be spending my summers babysitting, serving tables and making sure that the license plate number on every Town of Eastham beach parking sticker matches that of the vehicle it’s attached to…a reality I am slowly beginning to come to terms with. Despite my few apprehensions, I am overjoyed to make this transition from Hawk Hill to Chestnut Hill and to begin writing this next chapter of my life.

As Mareting and Operations Coordinator at The Street I’ll be joining a team of 2 and working on a little bit of everything, from developing social media content to developing contract agreements and relationships with potential tenants and current merchants on The Street. In addition to the incredible shopping destinations found at The Street, like Portobello Road, Pottery Barn, Lululemon, Intermix and Bluemercury, The Street, of course, offers a variety of exquisite restaurants, that quite frankly, I can’t wait to try. Among them Legal Seafoods, The Cottage, Del Frisco’s Grille, Davio’s Cucina, Bernard’s and my favorite (by default) Shake Shack. It was at The
Cottage that I met with my future boss for the first time and talked Boston and business over a California Caesar salad, grilled chicken sandwich and warm ciabatta rolls. Its fresh menu and bright, inviting decor was a great escape from city life to seaside, a place I will certainly be revisiting! Knowing there’s a Shake Shake, Pinkberry, and Treat Cupcake Bar just steps away from my office, might make dieting a little more challenging this summer but I’m certainly not complaining.

While I know it’s not exactly included in my job description to shop and dine at The Street, it’s certainly important that I’m knowledgable about all that is has it offer. Whether with new friends or old, my parents or brothers, coworkers or roommates, I look forward to eating my way down The Street, menu to menu, fro-yo to milkshake, surf to turf.

I’m staring to think every new beginning has a new menu to take a look at as well, which is fine by me.

Anne, Party of 1 (or more)

I could eat every meal by myself and be happy as a clam – as long as it’s a good meal. In the morning when my roommates are asleep, working out or already in class I enjoy my coffee and egg and cheese sandwich at the kitchen table or on the sun porch, solo. I catch up on the news, watch the viral videos everyone has been talking about, plan my dinner (and usually my lunch), or sometimes I just do nothing, in silence. During May and June, when my mom is still making up for snow days in her Kindergarten classroom, and I’m alone on Cape Cod, I live well and I eat well. I experiment with new recipes, create my own personal pizzas, grill portobello mushrooms and turkey burgers, all with a serving size of one. Cooking (and eating) is time I enjoy spending in the company of me, myself and I, but certainly not all the time.

Food has the power to bring people together. Aside from taste and smell, that may very well be one of my favorite things about it.

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My grandfather celebrating his 90th birthday at Sunday Dinner with all nine (and one more on the way!) great-grandchildren!

On Sunday nights in CT, my entire family comes together for Sunday Dinner. My grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, their husbands and wives and children (lots of small children), everyone, shares dinner around a big dining room table, or wherever they can find a seat. Held at a different house each week, sometimes its a few large pizzas, other times it’s a home cooked meal. Whoever can come, comes. Most weeks, it’s a full house. There’s always something to talk about, something to celebrate or big news to share and there’s always plenty of food.

Back at school in Philadelphia, a similar tradition happens on Tuesdays and Thursdays. From 10:45 to 12:30 the university recognizes something called Free Period, a time when no classes are held and students are encouraged  to meet with professors, work on group projects, and catch up on school work. But for most, Free Period is a time to eat lunch and catch up with friends, for me in particular, with my sisters in Alpha Gamma Delta. At a big long table in the Campion Student Center 40 of my closest friends happily squish side-by-side , sharing seats and french fries. Some stay at the table for 2 hours, others for 20 minutes, some just stop by to say hello. It’s not the food in particular that draws us all to the table (trust me, I don’t think I’m speaking for myself when I say I can live without SJU’s infamous Hawk Wrap twice a week) but it’s the necessity of lunch time. We all need lunch before 12:30 classes begin again, so why not eat your mediocre wrap while surrounded by great company?

In keeping with the theme of meals shared by many, I recently crossed another restaurant off my Manayunk Bucket List, Hikaru. One step closer to eating my way down Main Street. While enjoying a glass of wine and sitting around a sizzling hibachi table, I caught up with my Alpha Gamma Delta ‘family’, my Little, Little Little and Little Little Little (for those unfamiliar with Greek Life families, save yourself the headache. It’s just a group of ‘sisters’). We try to get together a few times each semester for something we call ‘Family Dinner’. Sometimes there’s just three of us that can make it, and sometimes we make a reservation for 12. Regardless of how many of us can make it or where we decide to go, whether it’s a restaurant on campus, on Main Street or in the city, it’s something we do to catch up with each other, check in, and simply enjoy each other’s company, all while sharing a plate of nachos or catching a piece of shrimp from the Hibachi chef.

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Good food, great margs and an even better friend

I have my friends to thank for much of my progress on the Manayunk Bucket List. With my friend Kate, I weaved through crowds of people waiting in lines behind food trucks during last weekend’s 4th annual Manayunk StrEAT Festival. Together we checked out menus from Mama’s Meatballs, Mac Mart Cart, Vernalicious and Oink and Moo BBQ. We walked up and down, up and down Main Street struggling to make a decision. As our stomachs grumbled louder and louder, it was a time to make a decision. Not interested (and now too hungry) to wait in any line, and considering our love for margaritas we decided on Taqueria Feliz, a new restaurant on Main Street with an awesome authentic-mexican menu (and a phenomenal Feliz Margarita!). Sitting by large window we watched the crowds of people pass by, carrying babies and walking dogs, munching on tater tots or cupcakes. We sat inside looking out onto Main Street, Margaritas in hand, devouring chips and salsa, enjoying each other’s company.

(Side note: I later ventured back out onto Main Street with my boyfriend to wait in endless lines and eat pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches and loaded mac and cheese from various food trucks.)

So while I certainly enjoy spending a little quality time with myself while eating breakfast or whipping something up for dinner, I’m also very thankful to have such wonderful friends, a family who likes to eat just as much as I do, and a boyfriend who (although sometimes reluctantly) agrees to try new restaurants just for the sake of the Manayunk Bucket List. Not every meal should be eaten alone, not every meal should be crowded and hectic. It’s a healthy balance that keeps us sane, independence and codependence, being okay with being alone, and having great friends to join you when the meal is just too big for one.

 

I Love You, Pretzels

Screen shot 2014-04-19 at 11.34.19 PMThere’s a cure for everything and it’s about 2 inches wide, freckled with salt and twisted into a imperfect knot. Call me crazy, but a handful of pretzels will fix any and every problem. Stomach ache? A bag of pretzels is the first place I look for comfort. Headache? Pretzels. Going on a road trip? I won’t leave the house without my Ziplock bag full of pretzels.

My dad eats a handful of pretzels right before he goes to bed every night. It’s part of his routine. So much so that my mom bought an extra cookie jar used specifically and only for mine and my dads favorite pretzels, the kind that come in the clear bag with the yellow label. They have just enough salt and the prefect amount of crunch. If some are slightly burned around the edges, that’s even better. Now, when I return home for winter break or summer vacation that cookie jar filled to the top with pretzels in preparation of my homecoming, is my favorite sight to see. Home sweet (or salty) home.

It’s no mistake then that I landed in Philadelphia, home of the soft pretzel. You have to understand my only encounters with soft pretzels prior to moving to Philadelphia came from the frozen aisle of the grocery store or the snack shack at the baseball field. I had never craved a soft pretzel nor had I ever particularly enjoyed their doughy, sometimes soggy texture. This, as I later found out, was mainly because I had never tasted a just baked, soft pretzel, warm out of the oven made in the City of Brotherly Love.

My first Philadelphia pretzel experience came from Wawa during one of my very first visits to St. Joe’s. To this day, Wawa’s soft pretzels are by far my favorite, especially if it’s after 10:30pm when the freshest batch gets delivered to the closest Wawa, still soft and warm from the bakery (I like to think so anyway). My boyfriend, a Philadelphia native, thinks I’m crazy. In his eyes, Wawa’s pretzels are at the bottom of the food chain.

My next few encounters with Philadelphia soft pretzels happened during just about every single event, program, info session, lunch period, etc. during my first year at St. Joseph’s. Around every corner, on top every table sat a huge box of soft pretzels from the Philadelphia Pretzel Factory. They were free, they were salty, and they were seemingly endless. It didn’t get much better than that. I thought college was the greatest place on earth.

And so, my love for pretzels grew. I’ve scoured the city for the best of the best and I’ve come up with quite a few soft contenders but none that beat the original. The kind that comes in the clear bag with the yellow label. The kind that fills the cookie jar in the kitchen. The kind that sometimes spills from my sweatshirt pockets. My favorite kind. The one that solves any problem and gives my dad that familiar pretzel-breath when he comes in each night to say goodnight. I love you, pretzels.