We love sour things--lemons, pickles, old ladies. Which might explain why we're now in love with canh chua chay, a sweet and sour soup from Vietnamese restaurant Nam Phuong. After a meat-filled stretch of meals, we were looking for something pleasantly vegetarian and the canh chua--packed with okra, tomatoes and bean sprouts--fit the bill. The broth surprised with its powerfully sour punch (thanks to a dose of tart tamarind), but didn't overwhelm thanks to the addition of comfortingly bland tofu and sweet pineapple chunks. It was like eating a bowlful of hot, zingy pickles on a cold night--that might not sound appetizing, but trust us, it is. >> Nam Phuong, 1110-1120 Washington Ave. 215.468.0410. www.namphuongphilly.com
Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at your favorite bar, club or restaurant? David Grazian, associate professor and chair of undergraduate studies of the sociology department at Penn, does. He spent hundreds of hours researching the underbelly (seedy and otherwise) of Philadelphia's nightlife industry for his just-published book On the Make: The Hustle of Urban Nightlife. There are chapters on the Starr restaurant empire, Penn students and how they behave, and the ways that people try to pick each other up. On that last one, according to Grazian, the women have a bit more luck. But you knew that already.
Buy It at the Last Minute!
The three kings came bearing gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold--surely they picked those up in a hurry on the way to the Jesus party. In the last in a series of shopping suggestions for foodies, we present one of our favorite emporiums, Fante's in the Italian Market (or the Ninth Street Curb Market, or whatever that Prince-ian strip of South Philly is calling itself these days). You could spend hours perusing the aisles that brim with specialized and obscure chef supplies and kitchen tools. We spied two items that would make perfect mini-gifts. Grandpa Witmer's Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Mixer ($10.99) is a lid with a hand-crank that solves the age-old dilemma of how to reunite peanut butter and oil after they've separated in the jar without making a huge mess. We also like the Plink garbage disposal deodorizers ($4.49), which brighten odor-challenged garbage with a fresh lemon scent. You could just use a citrus peel and baking soda, but they won't seem quite as nice stuffed in a stocking. >> Fante's, 1006 S. Ninth St. 215.922.5557. www.fantes.com