After a late start, a 5 hour drive, and a $100 speeding ticket (I was trying to get away from the tractor trailers! Honestly!), the most amazing thing awaited me in Devon, PA:
A picnic lunch, and a 5 mile sunny walk on the trail through the woods.
Goat Cheese, Fancy Crackers, Spicy Hummus, Grapes, and Sparkling Water
Owing to the fact that it was winter and I live in Pittsburgh, there is a distressing lack of outdoor time in my life. Sitting in the sun on a blanket in a field in Devon, I felt untethered and free.
and totally Bad Ass.
For years, Owen has been trying to orchestrate a trip to Han Dynasty for me. (Side note: I initially typed .com instead of .net for the web address and got a VERY DIFFERENT WEBSITE.) We got dinner with Graham and Laura, who were also going to the show with us. I'm a little skeptical when people tell me they have found the "best Chinese restaurant", because they're never actually right. I have memories of Mandarin Tang, a restaurant in Easton that my family used to go to twice a month, religiously, while I was growing up, and no where I have been since has matched up to those memories.
But Han Dynasty comes very, VERY close.
We couldn't resist the House special: LAMP CUMIN. It sounded Enlightening! (BAAAAHAHAHAHA)
Lamb Cumin, Chicken with Hot Peppers, Beef with Shredded Celery, and Baby Bok Choy with Black Mushrooms.
Absolutely everything was delicious, but I'm still thinking about the chicken with hot peppers. Cubes of chicken deep fried then tossed with dried and fresh peppers and garlic. No sauce, no other vegetables, just chicken and spices. I personally feel that a spicy dish should be so spicy actually hurts. This one brought tears to my eyes. Tears of joy, and a little bit of pain. After Han, we travelled to Philly for the show.
My love for folksy Appalachian inspired music has been growing steadily for years. My old roommate Mary turned me on to the Low Anthem sometime last summer, which I loved for its balance between electric Dylan sensibility and sweet soulful a cappella harmony. One of my best friends from college, Erin, got me into Iron & Wine back when it was pretty much just Sam Beam and an acoustic guitar. When they released Shepherd's Dog in 2007, I remember not being completely comfortable with the larger band sound they were migrating towards, but Sam's sweet voice, the compelling lyrics, and general music deliciousness eventually and somewhat reluctantly won me over. In preparation for the show, I bought both TLA and I&W's new albums, and was not pleased with Kiss Each Other Clean. It sounded over produced and random, not cohesive or sensitive. It seemed to have a lot of potential but did not grab me in a meaningful way. Smart Flesh, however, was pretty much all I wanted to listen to for weeks. So I approached the show thinking I would enjoy the opener and, probably just tolerate the headliner (As Graham was fond of saying all night "I'm not that into it")
I've seen a lot of live music in my life. This was one of the best live performances I have ever seen of anything ever. I could not believe how disinterested most of the crowd was in The Low Anthem, considering how well they played. But Iron & Wine was masterfully musical and completely enchanting. I could not take my eyes off Sam Beam or his magical beard. And I almost cried when he played one of my favorites:
It was incredible.
My happy place is the Philadelphia Art Museum. The last time I visited Philly, it was a Monday, and being the giant goober that I am, I did not realize the museum is closed on Mondays. So this time, I was not going to leave without seeing the inside of the museum.
I'll be totally honest, my favorite part was the Weapons and Armor collection. Something so sexy about an antique pistol.
We had planned to go to Fork and Barrel, a restaurant in East Falls that Owen could not stop talking about. I had my heart set on homemade soft pretzels, when we saw this sad sight:
Ceased operations, 4 days before our visit.
Not to be defeated, we headed to Iron Hill Brewery in West Chester.
I haven't to Iron Hill since I was in college, long before I was of drinking age. So this was very exciting for me to revisit a place known for its beer and actually be able to drink it.
Raspberry Wheat Beer
Calamari and Peppers in Cilantro Aioli
Goat Cheese Pizza on Malted Barley Crust
Cheeseburger with Sweet Potato Fries
Unfortunately, the best part of the meal is not pictured. We couldn't decide between the Chocolate Hazelnut Cake and the Limoncello Cake with Blueberry Compote. So we got BOTH. Amazing.
I miss Philadephia. My mini vacation was over much too quickly, and I never get to see everything I want to see when I'm there. Early the next morning, I was back on the road headed to an afternoon rehearsal for Dialogues of the Carmelites. I can not wait for my next trip to Philly for good food and good company.