Obviously, regular readers of this blog know that our primary focus is local art events by smaller/midsized companies. However, though we rarely review them, we are fortunate enough to see larger acts on a somewhat regular basis. Therefore, we’ll occasionally make exceptions to our “indie” guidelines and document more sizable events, if only for the sake of our own memories.
This entry comes to you courtesy of one of our recent traditions, the “Tuesday Lotto”. Basic concept is that Tuesdays are boring, and we could use their time to better effect. Therefore, we draw a random card from a deck of pre-selected activities (ranging from “Give dogs a bath” to “Eat at random restaurant” to “Dusting” (ug)) and make this the focus of our Tuesday evening for that week. This particular week’s winner was “update the Philly Art Blog”….and so here we are!
David Cross has been a comedian hero of mine since the late 1990s when roommates introduced me to a latenight oddball program called Mr. Show. Running in a terrible midnight HBO timeslot and largely backburnered before being canceled, Mr. Show remains a legitimate cult classic program that simply refused to disappear. Thanks to their unforgettable comic legacy, the absurdist sketch show of Bob Odenkirk and Mr. Cross has recently been revived by Netflix in a truly it-could-never-be-done-and-yet-they-did-it reboot, “W/Bob and David”.
Anyway, that’s my David Cross story. I’m not the biggest fan of Arrested Development (I know, I know, it’s awesome, everyone always tries to convince me) but I do tend to like Cross’ other efforts, particularly his standup albums and even his offbeat, self-humbling documentary, Let America Laugh. When I heard he’d be visiting Philadelphia on the night before Tara’s birthday, it was a no-brainer—she loves stand-up, we love seeing comedians together, and given her preference for memorable experiences and meaningful gestures rather than for-the-sake-of-it throw-away gifts—I secretly purchased these golden tickets with a plan to surprise the wife.
With Tara’s agreement, I managed to get her all the way to the lobby of the show without her knowledge of exactly what we’d be doing for the night. However, the blinded surprise was spoiled when a cardboard cutout of David’s body, complete with a speaker and animated talking head, caught the corner of her eye. “I, uh, I think I just saw someone’s face” she confessed, and the cat was out of the bag. We took our seats in the upper balcony (this show sold out very quickly, leaving us in the 5th to last row of a large theater), waited through overloud “pump you up” rock anthems designed, I imagine, to pump us up, and even spotted some of our neighbors a few rows behind us. Small city—it never ends.
Finally, here’s my summary of the actual show. I’d been warned by close friends that Cross is good, but not epic, as a live comedian. I’d never presume that a comic’s overall skill can or should be judged according to a single (or even a couple) performances. But with no biases or real expectations, yeah, I’d admit that this particular event was slightly underwhelming—especially considering how astoundingly funny Cross is as a television sketch artist. Don’t misunderstand—I laughed. He wasn’t terrible. But his act, at least this evening, was more angry and rant-y than classic comedy. There’s a place for this, and I was glad I came. But Cross spent a lot of time setting up jokes for medium payoffs, which, admittedly, did get us chuckling (and wincing, as appropriate to his frequently acerbic style). But it wasn’t persistently funny—more of an experience where you love the performer, know what he’s capable of, and enjoy his presence and general vibe at least as much than the jokes themselves.
In general, there were plenty of political pieces as is Cross’ norm, along with a smattering of references guaranteed to offend your parents. The entire show ran about 80 minutes, the sound was fine, and other than a (likely) drunken person a few sections over from us who got dangerously responsive/loud during a couple jokes, people were mostly well behaved. This was a big room for standup, and I’m glad Cross gets to play them. Next time, I’m hoping he’s got a few more laughs up his sleeve, and maybe just a tiny bit less vitriol. But then again, it might not be much of a David Cross experience if he pulled his punches.
The next day was Tara’s birthday, and we continued the celebration with dinner at Vedge, one of our favorite restaurants. I’ll let her tell you all about it.
The evening of my birthday began with traveling in the rain. I arrived at the restaurant straight from work with a specific agenda in mind. You see, Vedge has a delicious Korean taco that they will refuse to sell you at the formal table seatings, reserving this item for bar-service only. Given that this was my second annual birthday Vedge visit, I was prepared to fulfill my taco fantasy by arriving early to start my evening at the bar with the wonderful smoky, spicy Korean taco to whet my appetite. I wish that this taco was featured in the Vedge cookbook! The recipe includes seitan with onions and peppers and a delicious spicy smoky sauce on a grilled tortilla. It is fantastic- and this year it was MINE! I was NOT to be denied merely because of a mere seating restriction!
Now for the second paragraph about the taco:
Next, my husband arrived and we were ready to be seated . . . yeah, that’s right, the taco and I started this date together . . . I am a bad wife that did not share, but, in fairness, it is a small taco and sooo delicious. If he had arrived mid taco consumption – I would totally have given him a bite. But said taco was finished and paid for prior to his arrival. Alas, he went taco-less (this is also a defensive strategy to ensure Clay continues to love my homemade tacos . . . should he actually experience the Vedge version, my lowly homemade taco would never shine in his heart as it does now, as one of his favorite dinners.
Anyway, so Clay and I now reached our table together, Clay none the wiser about my secret taco. Our server was well versed in the menu, greeted us kindly and, it must be said, gave us three(!) surprises during our meal—orders of food we hadn’t requested or expected! The first treat, before we even ordered, was a parsnip soup. It was served in a square glass slightly larger than a double shot glass. The soup as warm and creamy with parsnip and thyme. i believe they might give this item to all guests(?), but the unexpected offer of a surprise taste definitely worked to make me feel special. It was as though the server and chef were so interested in me and my evening as to ply me with treats. I joked to Clay that maybe they had me confused with some important food writer!
In other news, my cocktail contained beet juice! It had an earthy, vodka, slow gin and lemon flavor. I kept lying to myself that this drink was actually healthy for me because it was made from potatoes and beets with herbs! Ha!
To begin, my husband and I shared the sourdough pretzel bread with “cheese” sauce. Oh! If I could only eat one delicious food for a week it might be this appetizer. Somehow they take a rutabaga, work some magic with nutritional yeast (and I don’t know what else) and produce an insanely amazing “cheese” sauce. This, pared with the fresh warm delicious sourdough bread . . . . arhhh arghhhh. I lose my mind over this dish. When it was suggested that we would go to this restaurant for my birthday I jumped on the Vedge menu website and did a happy dance that this was still ON THE MENU. I had it last year for my birthday and we ordered a SECOND one it was sooooo good. It also came with a side of smoked rutabaga and pickled cauliflower, olive and beet.
For his first dish Clay selected an avocado half on “fried rice” with a romenesco sauce- the fried ‘rice’ was a deep fried rice noodle that the avocado rested within. It looked fantastic. Clay will have to tell you how it tasted.
(Clay says: eh, it was good. Not my all-time favorite, but fine. Flavorful.)
My first dish was broccoli rabe from the dirt list served with a black tahini sauce. FANTASTIC! I forgot how good tahini is and them bam, Vedge reminds me– it is smooth, creamy, and delicious, perfectly paired with the slightly bitter fantastic accompaniment of the broccoli rabe.
The fantastic server and kitchen then sent us another surprise dish! It was a purple potato salad. Small purple potatoes with a creamy heart of palm on top with celery. Clay isn’t a fan of celery so I got to enjoy this fantastic dish all myself. So creamy, so delicious- imagine a “Pennsylvania Dutch” potato salad . . . but magically vegan . . . and ‘fancied up’ a bunch . . . but retaining the creamy taste to which you are accustomed.
We were starting to feel a bit full and so decided to share an entrée. We selected the grilled seitan. This dish was an excellently seasoned generous piece of grilled seitan accompanied with pickled celery, horseradish and a kohlrabi slaw. This was a hearty main. Very reminiscent of a meaty “steakish” main dish.
We considered dessert. Last year I had a fantastic peanut, pretzel stout “ice cream” dessert that was out of this world- but my fantastic husband had thrown me a surprise birthday party just days before, and we had not one but two Termini Brothers cakes in the fridge at home that were looking to be eaten.
Vedge then supplied us with our third and final delicious surprise, a pretzel, peanut butter and chocolate treat. Mine came with a candle for my birthday . . . thank you Vedge . . . that was very sweet of you.
Vedge . . .I love you. Do you every let peons like me work for free in the kitchen to learn some of the fantastic secrets of making your delicious amazing food? Mrs. Landau, if you’re reading this….. a friend of mine claims that at one time, years ago, she took a cooking class from you!? Can this be? With your family and two restaurants, I suspect you do not have time for this anymore – but please let this blog know if you would ever consider giving classes again – I would sign up in a heartbeat!
Thank you for another amazing birthday treat.
My wonderful husband also surprised me with tickets to see the fantastic sarcastic funny man David Cross. I am really happy that he obtained tickets to this show. I was totally surprised and hadn’t even know that Mr. Cross was in town that night. David opened his show talking about how he spent his day in Philly taking a homeless person to the hospital- I know we both left wondering if this was for comedic effect . . . or if he had really had some “Philly interaction” that resulted in this famous comedian actually accompanying a homeless Philadelphian to the hospital?… I suppose we will never know.
I enjoyed his set- I guess I expected more political humor- but I enjoyed the show a lot. We even randomly saw our neighbors there are were able to give them a ride home.