The Beginning of a Beautiful Summer

The past few weeks have been absolutely hectic. I finished my finals on Monday the 11th, and flew out the following morning to see my older sister graduate from the University of Toronto. I’ve had a little over a week to catch on some much-needed rest and to eat some delicious home-cooked meals by my mom. But, as much as I love hanging out with my family in Toronto, I miss Philly. Just like I miss Philly when I go to Singapore for winter break, just like I miss Philly when I go up to Manhattan for a few nights to visit my friends from high school. I really didn’t think it would happen, but over the past three years, Philly has truly become my home. And I am so excited to spend my the summer in the City of Brotherly Love this year! Over the past week, I’ve had time to relax but I’ve also had time to plan some adventures for the next three months. Here is a sneak peek of my summer bucket list! It is still a work in progress, I am 100% sure that I will be adding many more things to this list as the season goes by.

Joycelin’s Philly Summer Bucket List

I am also really looking forward to spending 4th of July in Philly! Last summer I was fortunate enough to spend most of Independence Day here, but I had to catch my bus back to NYC that night and missed the concert on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This year I am going to try to experience everything I can. I’m extremely determined. Please don’t try to stop me.

I’m also bringing back my family’s Canon EOS 400D with me. I want to improve my photography skills and I think all these wonderful sights and events will provide me many, many opportunities to do so.

I know I’ve said it before, but I am so, so, so excited for my first Philly summer! So much to do…hopefully I’ll have enough time for it all.

If that’s a challenge, bring it on.

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Hiatus: Over

It’s been a while! Almost a year, to be exact. I started this blog because it was a homework assignment for my Electronic Publishing class, and as soon as the quarter ended, so did my biweekly posts about food trucks in University City. Since June, food trucks have been popping up everywhere. Even though I’ve been meaning to write about them, I just could not find the motivation to. 

Anyway, I decided this week that I’m going to bring this blog back. I may not be as diligent in my posting, but I will definitely try my best! I have been on so many adventures this year (both food-related and not!), and I think it’s time I started documenting all the fun things I have been doing in addition to all the delicious things I have been eating! I’ve also been cooking a lot more recently, so maybe I will talk about that (depending on how successful my kitchen experiments are). Basically, I am going to start blogging again. But not just about food trucks. I’ll try to talk a little bit about everything. 

Stay tuned!

Fruit Cart on 33rd and Market

I haven’t been feeling 100% lately. With finals looming and a seemingly endless list of due dates, I haven’t really been getting enough rest and it has definitely taken a toll on my health. And I know I’m not the only one. My a cappella group, the TrebleMakers, is hosting our final concert of the year this Saturday and with everything that’s going on, it’s hard to prioritize our health. But the last thing I want is to be battling a cold or any other sickness, for that matter. My friend (and fellow TrebleMaker) Marina is a Health Science major, and she reminded me that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. While it doesn’t take a budding doctor to know that, as college students we often forget  how good fruits and vegetables are for us.

With that said, I decided to take her advice and try to eat healthier. There’s a Fruit Cart by Nesbitt Hall on 33rd and Market that I walk by everyday on the way to class. Even though the smell of the fresh fruits are enticing, I had never thought about getting a fruit salad or a blended fruit shake for a snack instead of cookies from the Insomnia Cookies truck outside the library.

I wasn’t able to get a photo of the cart because I had left my camera in my dorm, but I’m sure you have or will see it when you are walking around campus!

The Experience
Because this was my first time here (or at any fruit cart, for that matter), I had no idea what I wanted. However, the menu is pretty limited–it is a fruit cart, after all. You can choose from the four flavors of fruit shakes (strawberry, banana, pineapple and mango) and fruit salad (either with one fruit, or mixed). The owner was incredibly nice and patient, since I asked to see almost every size of the containers. In the end I decided to get a Mango Fruit Shake ($3), since mango smoothies are one of my favorite things on a hot summer day. It doesn’t take a lot of time to make a fruit shake, so I got my shake in two minutes.

The Shake
It feels weird to talk about “the food” when all I got was a fruit shake. In any case, it wasn’t the best fruit shake/smoothie I’ve had, but it was 80° out so it definitely hit the spot. There were some chunks of mango, which I loved. However, there was something that was a little off about the taste–she pumped some sugary syrup into the fruit shake making it a little too sweet. It wasn’t really worth the $3, but it could’ve been a lot worse. Next time, I’d probably try a fruit salad and just get my smoothies from Currito.

Mango Fruit Shake

Tyson Bees: What’s the Buzz?

If there is one food truck that I frequent the most, it would probably be Tyson Bees on 33rd and Spruce. This colorful truck hasn’t been open for long but has already become one of the most widely acclaimed trucks in the area, winning Appetizer of the Year at Philly Cookout 2010 with its popular steamed pork buns.

Tyson Bees

The Experience
I always enjoy my visits to Tyson Bees. Even though they’re serving a big crowd for dinner (which is when I usually go) , I still get my food in five to fifteen minutes. They have a really efficient way of  differentiating orders — playing cards. They’ll give you a card when you order and pay (I got the two of spades) and when your food is ready they’ll call out the card. So much easier than them shouting “pork bun!” and having twelve people running up to the counter. This time, I was the only customer. It was around 5:30PM so it might have been a little early for dinner. The staff are super friendly, and I got my food in probably three minutes.

The Food
I got the 1 Taco + 1 Pork Bun + 1 Thai Tea or Iced Coffee combo ($8), with the Korean BBQ Short Rib Beef Taco and Thai Tea. I should tell you that whenever I go to any dining establishment (whether it’s a truck or restaurant) more than once, I always try to get something different. But with Tyson Bees, I always get the pork bun. Every single time. It’s essential to the Tyson Bees experience, in my opinion. anyway, the pork bun didn’t disappoint as usual. A chunky piece of slow-cooked pork belly with cucumber, cilantro and sweet-and-salty hoisin sauce over a soft doughy bun–so simple, but so good. The Taco wasn’t bad, but I probably wouldn’t get it again. The beef is cooked perfectly and tastes great with the sliced radish, red cabbage and spicy sauce. It also came with a wedge of lime which gave it a little kick. Even though it still tasted great, it’s not the best thing I’ve eaten from Tyson Bees.

Korean BBQ Short Rib Taco and Steamed Pork Bun

I’ve had Thai Iced Tea probably at least three times this week. But I’ve learned this year that if I consume any coffee after 3PM, I get dizzy and my hands start shaking a little. So I went with the Thai Tea. It’s similar to that of Cucina Zapata’s, but it’s less creamy and has less ice. I like CZ’s creaminess, but I like how TB’s isn’t so diluted with ice.

Thai Iced Tea

Final Thoughts
I love Tyson Bees.  It’s very difficult for me to say anything bad about it. The service is friendly and fast, and although the food may cost a little more than other food truck options, the quality is just incomparable.

La Dominique Crêperie: Edible Works of Art!

There is a little cart that sits by the Hagerty Library on 33rd and Market that surprises me every time I go. I have been to La Dominique Crêperie several times before, and I am astounded by what owner Zbigniew Chojnacki can do in such a small space. Earlier this week I was rained on while studying in the library, so instead of walking back to my dorm, I decided to go outside and grab lunch for a study break.

La Dominique

The Experience
I didn’t go during the peak lunch hour. I got in line to order around 1PM, and had to wait for almost ten minutes for the people in front of me to get their crepes before I could order. The menu isn’t extremely extensive, but there is a good list of savory and sweet crepes to pick from. The majority of the options cost $5-$7. The last time I visited La Dominique he was out of the Vegetable Crepe ($6), so that is what I decided to get. The crepes are all made to order, so it was a fifteen minute wait (during which six other people showed up to order). However, that gave me time to read the reviews and articles proudly displayed on the window as well as watch the artist at work. Yes, Mr. Chojnacki is an artist–a sculptor, and you can see his artistic expertise in the crepes he creates.

The Food
I always love the crepes I get from La Dominique. The Vegetable Crepe was no exception. In fact, it just might be my favorite so far! Stuffed with creamed spinach, broccoli, green peppers, zucchini, parmesan cheese and topped with a sweet and spicy pineapple habanero sauce and roasted red peppers,  this crepe is an excellent example of Mr. Chojnacki’s dedication to the quality and quantity of his food. The crepes are really big and extremely filling. The vegetables are extremely fresh and grilled to order, and the pineapple habanero sauce added an interesting flavor that gave the crepe some extra oomph.

Vegetable Crepe

Final Thoughts
I love La Dominique. The crepes are definitely worth the $5 or $6, and they make the perfect lunch or dessert. Even though the wait is significantly longer than other trucks, it is completely worth it. Don’t go if you’re in a hurry though, and definitely try to avoid going during a rush hour. Mr. Chojnacki’s beautiful crepes deserve to be served in a nice restaurant, so I am very happy and thankful that we are able to enjoy his edible works of art right on our campus for a college-student-friendly price! Still not convinced? Check out this episode featuring La Dominique on VendrTV!

Pyramid Pizza: Not Just Pizza!

I have been to Pyramid Pizza (behind the Main Building) several times prior to this visit, but the only thing that I have ever gotten is the famed Jimmy’s Sister sandwich. Earlier last week as I was waiting for my sandwich (ironic, considering the name of this blog), I checked out the rest of the extensive menu. Pyramid has a lot of options, from calzones to falafel and seafood dishes. But one section caught my eye: the Indian Platter Specials. Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines, so I made sure to come back next time to give it a try.

Pyramid Pizza

The Experience
I went after class around 1PM. There were two guys working at the truck, and they were both very quick to take my order. I went with the Makhani Chicken Platter ($5.50), since that is an Indian dish I was familiar with–it’s what I get every time at my favorite Indian restaurant back home! The wait was decent–it was short enough to stand outside waiting in the heat without getting impatient, but long enough for me to know that they were making it to order.

The Food
Makhani Chicken, also known as butter chicken, is a fragrant, flavorful dish. It tastes great over rice or with naan, but I would have to say that the sauce is the highlight. Pyramid’s Makhani Chicken Platter came with rice, salad and yogurt sauce. When I first opened the box, I was a little taken aback. It definitely did not look like the butter chicken I was used to. But I shrugged it off and dug in anyway. And it didn’t really taste like what I was used to either–but it was still good. Just different. It was spicier than expected, and I had stupidly forgotten to get a drink so the salad and cool yogurt sauce was much appreciated. By itself, the salad was nothing spectacular. But with the yogurt…that’s a completely different story. I almost wished there was more salad for the yogurt. It was just that good.

Chicken Makhani Platter

Final Thoughts
Overall, the Makhani Chicken Platter was good, despite being a little different from my expectations. For $5.50 it is a little pricey, but the quality and quantity is definitely there. It’s a great place to grab lunch in between classes. So even though the food costs a tiny bit more than I would spend on a regular basis, I would absolutely go back and try another Indian dish!

Bento Box: Authentic Japanese Food

Hidden next to the David Pottruck Health & Fitness Center on Walnut between 37th and 38th are a few food trucks that have often gone unnoticed. I’ve walked down Walnut Street countless numbers of times, but I had no idea that I was passing by this small group of trucks. Last week I wanted Japanese food, so I figured I’d look on PennFoodTrucks.com for a food truck that could satisfy my craving. And so I found Bento Box.

Bento Box

The Experience
I went at lunch hour around 12:30PM. Although there weren’t a lot of people out getting food, Bento Box had the most customers out of the 4-5 food trucks next to Pottruck.  The truck had a small window, and although I could barely see anything on the inside, I’m pretty sure there was only one person there. I had to wait awhile for the owner to pop up at the window with someone else’s food before I could order. I wanted the Chicken Yakiudon–but they were out. So I settled for the Chicken Teriyaki ($5). Can’t really go wrong with that.

The Food
The Chicken Teriyaki was served over a bed of rice and came with a small Japanese-style salad as well as three cucumber maki sushi rolls. While there wasn’t anything special about the salad and the sushi, I was pleasantly surprised by the chicken. The only chicken teriyaki I’ve had in Philly has come either from a food truck or a food court, so I honestly wasn’t expecting much. But this was probably the most authentic-tasting I’ve had. It was also a lot less greasy than any your typical food truck meal. However, for $5, I would’ve liked a little more chicken.

Chicken Teriyaki

Final Thoughts
Bento Box was definitely a great find, especially for an area like UCity where there isn’t a lot of Japanese options (except for Pod, which is definitely not friendly to a college student’s budget!). There is a lot to choose from, such as tempura, hibachi and katsu dishes. They also have a lot of sushi options, but I haven’t quite decided how I feel about eating sushi from a truck. The wait time wasn’t too bad at all, and the portion was decently sized. I personally don’t think it’s worth the $5, but the quality and authenticity of the food definitely made up for it.