Thursday, July 24, 2014

Shahbaz Bashir has some thoughts. (Updated)

I seem to have ticked somebody off on the internet.  In the interest of fairness, I will let him have his say.  I just received this thought-provoking private message from the little fella on Facebook -

Shahbaz Bashir is apparently a fine young gentleman in Pakistan, in Azizabad, Sindh, who thinks unkindly of me.  If he'd like to expand upon his earlier thesis, hopefully he'll do it here, in order so that I may understand just why I need to self-fornicate, and also precisely what this articulate young man's problem with my mother is.

Update: (07.25.14) my new friend decided to expand upon his thoughts last night.  While also appearing at one point to argue with himself.  More messages below the fold...

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Rocco's: The Best $6 Sandwich in Philadelphia

Yeah, I'm just gonna go ahead and make that claim.  This is the best $6 sandwich ($5.90, actually) in Philadelphia.

2539 Castor Ave, Philadelphia PA 19134

With a name like Rocco's, you know what to expect here.  Goat cheese and roasted beet sandwiches with arugula and an herb vinaigrette on whole wheat sourdough ciabatta*, of course.

No, I kid.  You will find Italian sausage and cheesesteaks at Rocco's.

Attached to four Home Depots in Philadelphia, with a fifth location in Long Island City, NYC, I headed on over to the Castor stand in Port Richmond this morning on my way back home from the Chestnut Hill Growers' Market.  Upon arrival at the stand, I was immediately offered a fine toothpick with an even finer, quite large sample chunk of Sweet Italian (do I look like a sweet guy?) sausage, fresh off the grill.

The 'small' Hot Italian Sausage sandwich w/ fried peppers, onions and brown mustard.  10 inches of excellence for $5.90
Located in the 'heart' of the tragic mess that is the 'Aramingo Shopping District,' a ghastly, cultural wasteland of big boxes, strip malls, asphalt parking oceans and national chain eateries along a 50-feet-too-wide highway-like stretch of Aramingo Avenue with gaping curb cuts every fifteen to twenty feet for over a mile, someone like me would have to really be in the mood for a great sandwich to willingly venture into this void which combines all of the worst things about the latter half of last century's 'development' patterns in what is otherwise one of the most walkable cities on earth.

But yes, I was in the mood for a great sandwich.  Very much so, in fact.


We certainly all wish we could enjoy such a mustardy onion & pepper blanket from time to time.
Great char on the coils of sausage (hot or sweet) which are grilled on the flat-top right in the front window of the stand (couldn't get close enough to take a picture of the grill, but their Facebook page has good shots), and perfectly cooked onions and peppers.  The brown mustard ties together the classic Italian-American comfort food combination, and the long roll does its job adequately, holding up right until the very end.

I haven't had a sausage sandwich this good since drunken teenage summer nights down the Jersey Shore almost twenty years ago now.  And I'm sure those sandwiches weren't near as good as this.  A truly great sandwich I will definitely be back for again.  Rocco's also has cheesesteaks, chicken, breakfast sandwiches, and other such things.  I have heard good things about their cheesesteak, though I wish they wouldn't call them "Philly Cheese Steaks."  It's a cheesesteak.  One word.  And "Philly" is redundant and unnecessary.  The only places which call cheesesteaks "Philly Cheese Steaks" are national sandwich chains or pizzerias in Colorado.  But now I'm beginning to lose focus and ramble, so I'll wrap it up here.

Unwrap one of these beauties yourself soon if you get a chance.
*I am not making fun of roasted beet and goat cheese sandwiches; in fact, Soup Kitchen Cafe's version of same is another one of my favorite sandwiches in the city...

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Roadside Delaware County, Volume I: Charlie's Hamburgers Edition

How about a little Americana for the weekend.  I have many future installments in mind.  For now, let me just start with a spur-of-the-moment (well, spur-of-some-moment-last-night, but close enough) trip out to Folsom, Pennsylvania for a Saturday lunch at my second-favorite (Hackensack, NJ's White Manna being the all-time, forever number one burger on the planet, of course) roadside burger shack, the classic Charlie's Hamburgers.

336 Kedron Avenue, Folsom, PA 19033

A dozen and a half stools along the front counter and the window, with standing room for maybe another 8-10 people.

Packed at 2 PM on a Saturday, the line nevertheless moves quickly and I managed to snag a seat at the counter.  One plain cheeseburger and one Charlie's Special, please.  Thank you!

Plain cheeseburger and a Charlie's Special, $6.04 including tax.  Not pictured: milkshakes and drink options.

Plain cheeseburger.  Meat, cheese, bun.  Not pictured for some reason: Charlie's Special.

At about three ounces, on a grill-toasted, no-frills, plain white squishy bun with almost as much tangy American cheese as meat, this is the classic American burger at its purest, and best.  Plenty of moisture from the meat and the cheese, no condiments or other toppings necessary.  Perfect meat-to-bread ratio.  I don't eat burgers often, but when I do this is all I could ever ask for.

The patty gets a nice crust from its time on the grill, the cheese oozes into its nooks and crannies, and the edges of the bun give off a pleasant, random light crunch every now and then to throw in a nice textural contrast.

The Charlie's Special was good, and though I'd normally stay away from tomatoes on a burger, especially during a Pennsylvania winter,  the slice did not offend, though it, not surprisingly, didn't taste like anything, either.  The fried onions were excellent.  Tiny, tiny, hot dog cart-style dices melted right in with the cheese to add a touch of sweetness.  The ample slices of thin pickle added a cool crunch and played very well together with the whole product.

I'd probably just go for two plain cheeseburgers next time, though I do not regret the Charlie's Special in any way.  I'll surely have to try a Bunny's Special sooner or later, too.

The most American food there is, in (well, just outside of) the most American city there is.  What could be better than that?

 On your way back home, you can always pick up a few things at the drive-through dairy store down the street...

2014 snow in its final days.  NOT a flood or spill of dairy product.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Here I Am...

I never knew David Foster Wallace (z"l) played drums for UB40.  But there he seems to be, at 0:18.

Remember when pop music was actually good?

Monday, December 30, 2013

Criminal Architecture, Volume 1

I'm going to take this up as a regular feature.

Let's begin with this marvel of malevolence at Front & Poplar.  In the second decade of the 21st century in Philadelphia, these are the kinds of buildings unfortunately approved by the 'leaders' of our city, which just so happens to otherwise contain large amounts of the most incredible architecture in North America, and the world.

What's wrong with us these days?

 So much for eyes on the street, eh?  As if the garage doors and monolithic curb cuts weren't horrific enough, I particularly 'love' the prominently-featured utility boxes (not shown, the all-too-common aerial spaghetti bowl of dozens of overhead wires), and the bollards on the pavement protecting same.

Because g-d forbid somebody should somehow manage to miss the 90% of frontage dedicated to drive-right-on-up-and-through-the-pavement infrastructure, and direct their vehicle into one of PECO's meters.  I do suppose those sleek and 'modern' Juliet balconies might perhaps maybe provide a good view of the fireworks resulting from just such a potential incident, however.

 Oh look though, this 'development' might qualify as having GreenSpace(tm!)!

Here's a question, what is the purpose of these 'windows?'

 Interior view.

Yeah, seriously.  These are just random panes of glass stuck into brick on top of inappropriate garage doors breaking up otherwise blank walls looking out from... nothing.

Once again, the safety bollard on the far side of the garage door protecting yet another (!) utility meter is a fantastically amusing feature.  I suppose this one provides fail-safe protection from the precious, physics-defying drunk driver who would somehow manage to miss the massive garage door and roll his or her SUV on into the side wall at one of the most incredible angles in world history.