Sunday Philly Funday: Food Truck Street


A quick Sunday post to satiate all you folks who gave up deliciousness for Lent:

Though this might be a trend nationwide/in Philly that already reached its saturation point (thanks a lot for the overexposure, Tyler Florence), I do love me a good food truck.

I stayed away from them for a long time; in my parents’ time, food trucks were dubbed “roach coaches” and only people who needed to lose a lot of weight via food poisoning to fit into their wedding dress ever dared to eat from one.

Some socio-foodologist could probably trace the history of gourmet food trucks better than I can, but it’s my understanding that the trend started in Los Angeles with the Kogi BBQ truck, which tweeted out its location every day; the thrill of the hunt, probably as much as the food itself, created a massive following.

The first time I became aware of gourmet food trucks in Philly was with the Buttercream Philadelphia truck, owned and operated by “the Cupcake Lady,” Kate Carrara. Kate was right on the crest of the cupcake wave, and was almost single-handedly responsible for bringing the craze to Philly.

Probably about two years ago now, more and more gourmet trucks began popping up: Vernalicious, Chewy’s, Pitruco (with a brick oven in the back of the truck!), Guapos Tacos (by Iron Chef Jorge Garces, now more or less defunct), Foo Truck, Say Cheese, among dozens of others (some great, some not).

Thankfully, there’s a great line-up of trucks just down the street from where I work at the intersection of 33rd and Arch Streets here in Philadelphia.  Spot Burger makes what might be the best bang-for-your-buck burger I’ve ever had.  Mac Mart is one of the newest of the bunch, but serves some deliciously satisfying spins on classic mac n’ cheese.

And, of course, my favorite has to be Rival Bros. Besides the super-dreaminess of its owners/operators [Get ahold of yourself, Jeff!], they make what is by far the best latte I’ve ever had…and their hand-drip ain’t too bad either.

This crop of food trucks is great because you’re getting some really high-quality goods at solid–though not dirt-cheap–prices.  However, if you consider the food to be of the same quality (or better) than that of a sit-down restaurant, you’re saving money and time.

If the rumors of a food truck area in the new Disney Springs section of the Walt Disney World Resort turn out to be true, they could do a lot worse than emulating these guys.


Lance + Jeff + Marriage Equality

marriage equalityWe live in some amazing times.

As a blog that every-once-in-a-while discusses a marriage between two dudes, I suppose it would be slightly irresponsible to our three readers (hi, Mom and Dad! And person from Singapore!) if I didn’t address the Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act cases in front of the Supreme Court this week, and what they mean to me and us.

Regardless of whether or not the Supreme Court affirms, overturns or invalidates California’s Proposition 8, the tide is turning.  Marriage equality has already won.  As the basically infalliable Nate Silver points out, support for marriage equality has increased about 2% every year over the last decade and a half.  Neither DOMA nor Proposition 8 nor many of the state constitutional bans on same-sex marriage which passed over the past ten years would’ve even been seriously considered today.  To paraphrase analyst (and kinda creep-o) Jeffrey Toobin, the war for marriage equality in the United States is basically over, though the battles (and there are many still) remain.

Like I said, though: we living in amazing, remarkable times, especially from the viewpoint of a young gay man who saw my home state deny my right to marry in 2002 2004; ten years less than ten years later, I legally wed my partner in our nation’s capital.

We have a president who fully supports marriage equality, as does nearly half the Senate.  Nine states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages, and just this past election, Maryland and Washington state were the first states to enact same-sex marriages by popular vote.  Though leaving civil rights up to the population goes against the 14th Amendment and all that, I’ll let these two states slide, since it demonstrates that, yep, we’re on the cusp of change.

This may all be a bit naive.  If the Supreme Court tosses the Proposition 8 case as many are suspecting after oral arguments on Tuesday, no massive change will have occurred; things remain with the status quo, still too slow to curb bullying, too slow to convince LGBTQ youth that there’s something better out there than the quick release of suicide.

But to those youth, I say, yeah, it does get better.  Look at the numbers, man–it’s actually getting better before our eyes.  It might be slow, but a 30-plus point reversal in public opinion in the last 15 years is massive.    You see all those red and pink equality signs on Facebook? Those people have your back.  Did I ever think, as I was figuring out who I was in the early 2000s, that I’d be able to be married and generally un-harassed and surrounded by a strong network of people who either fervently support my rights or at least say, “eh, who cares?”

Marriage equality is coming at the federal and state level.  Non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation will become more prevalent.  State bans will be overturn.  Eventually, the Supreme Court will consider same-sex marriage protected by the Equal Rights Amendment–they’ll have to from a practical perspective, since how long can the country go with half of its states recognizing some marriages but not others?

I will be able to actually check off “married” on my tax returns, and I’ll be able to do it soon.

Travel Tuesday: I’ve Lost My Mind

travel on the mind“Honey?”

“Yes, my darling?”

“Do we need a two-day rental car for any reason?” I ask. “I can get it for $5 total, but I’m not sure if we’d actually need it any time soon…”

“Oh, brother,” Lance sighs with an air of defeat.

This is my life lately.  While I’ve been otherwise lazy as shit (no, really…that’s about as apt a simile as I can come up with), I’ll keep myself up at night, my brain doing (probably really poor) arithmetic, calculating percentages off, points transferred, miles gained.

2013 was supposed to be our “good” year.  Be frugal, save some money, pay down some debt, line the coffers and such.  Of course, a huge expense of ours last year was traveling, so when Lance and I sat down to trim our expenses, that was the first to go.  No more spontaneous overnights to Disney World ::sadface::

This also meant no “major” traveling.  We like to do at least a weeklong vacation somewhere–Vegas (ugh), Hawaii, Tokyo.  As I’ve discussed before, we alternate who picks these annual vacations because there’s no way we could ever agree to one place.  2013 was Lance’s year to pick, but by agreeing to punt his vacation into 2014, Lance became frustrated and mighty sad.

Only a few weeks into this new status quo, and it was already driving me nuts.  Though this is the first-worldiest of problems, I couldn’t imagine going a whole year without a vacation.  In fact, I may love piecing together the elements of a vacay more than actually going on vacation.  I love getting the best hotel deal, getting the cheapest flight, arranging an itinerary.

So…I looked at our frequent flyer accounts through American Airlines.  Though neither of us are super-fans of AA (we’ll get to the Cookie Incident another time), we accumulated a nice chunk of miles through our first two trips to Hawaii by flying American, so we are kinda stuck with them.

We were both somewhere between 35,000 and 40,000 miles; too little to redeem for a roundtrip to Europe (what I’d been saving the miles for), but just enough for a roundtrip to Hawaii.  Instead of spending $800+ each on plane tickets, we’d pay $5 a piece for taxes and fees.

I heroically offered up the miles I alone had amassed so that Lance could take his vacation.  Please, no applause.

The only problem was the dates available to book flights either allowed too short of a vacation, or one that was 10+ days.  I wasn’t going to spend 11 hours on a plane to only go to Hawaii for four days, but the 10-day vacation scared me.  Hotels in Hawaii ain’t cheap, and eating in Hawaii is like going out to eat all the time in a big city: we’re used to those kind of prices, but doing it for 10 solid days adds up quickly.

But, the thought of going for double-digit days appealed to Lance. “Let’s do it!” he proclaimed, forgetting our whole “financially responsible” charge.

So, we booked the flight; now we needed a hotel.  A nice one.  And a cheap one.

We’d previously stayed at the Hilton Waikiki Beach, and loved it, but it was going for over $200 a night; the goal of this trip was to save money, not spend $2000 on a hotel room.

So I began looking elsewhere.  Thankfully, around the corner from the Hilton is a brand-new Hyatt Place, which was going for $169-$212 a night.

In this case, Hyatt is preferable to me for two reasons:

  1. They offer a better best rate guarantee than Hilton does, where, if you find a cheaper rate elsewhere, Hyatt’ll not only match it but take 20% off.
  2. I have a Hyatt credit card, which I got primarily for the “no international fees” feature, but it also allows me to rack up Hyatt hotel points to redeem for free nights.  Plus, I get a free night dumped into my account on my cardholder anniversary, which will be in July (and we go to Hawaii in August.)

So now I’m in the process of coming up with every possible scenario for using our free nights and paying for nights.  I already have one night booked with points, and I estimate I can earn enough points via my credit card before we go to redeem for a second free night (this only requires, like, $12,000 spent on my card. You know, whatever).  So there’s the scenario for one free night and nine paid nights, two free nights and eight paid nights, etc.

I’m hoping to get it down to where we’re only paying for seven nights out of the ten; I’ve already used Hyatt’s Best Rate Guarantee to bring the hotel cost down to $120 a night (from $169-212  a night).  This required me scouring the internet for a cheaper advertised rate, and then calling up Hyatt and trying to convince them that all the terms and conditions are exactly the same (really, they try to find the tiniest discrepancy so that your “claim” isn’t valid).

I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent calling Hyatt trying to get them to match rates; oftentimes, if they find a minuscule difference, I hang up and shout, “It is TOO valid, you sonofabitch!!” and shake my fist in the air all dramatic-like. And then I cry.

But it’s worth it.  I love doing this stuff, and it makes going on vacation financially feasible where it wasn’t otherwise.  Instead of spending $1700+ a person on a flight-hotel package deal through American, we’re aiming to spend about $450 a person on paid nights.

So that’s basically what I’ve been doing instead of writing blog posts.


With A Cup Of Coffee: March 10-16, 2013

reads headersHappy Saturday, all!  I’m currently sitting here admiring my view of the Philly skyline, sipping on some Caribou Coffee as the pets drape themselves on various pieces of furniture.  Who could ask for more?

Thankfully, though, I’m blessed with riches this morning, as I’m catching up on some of my favorite blogs and news from the week.  I hope you’ll take the time to check out what’s been “making us happy this week” (trademark NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour):

As many people who follow this blog probably heard, the six-years cancelled TV show Veronica Mars is making its to a movie theatre need you with the help of a wildly-successful Kickstarter crowdfunding venture (it raised its goal of two million dollars in a little over 10 hours).  There’s been a lot of rejoicing on the Interwebs for this project and impending return of these wonderful characters, not to mention the mob-mentality enthusiasm of being a part of A Little Engine That Could.

However, there’s been the inevitable backlash, too, criticism about not only how people should donate their money to some other worthy cause (this argument could then be applied to any superfluous purchase anybody makes ever, which is dumb), but how it sets a “dangerous precedent” for how movies and passion projects are made.  This position is a little easier to understand, since, yes, the $35 I donated does go into Warner Bros.’ bank account, which they’ve pledged to use on a Veronica Mars movie, though I have no real guarantee.  Plus, will I see a return on investment if the movie is profitable? No. (And, let’s be serious, even if Warner Bros. kicks in a few million to get the budget up to $5-10 million, there’s no way this is going to turn a profit for the studio.  It’s obviously a passion project for Rob Thomas, the creator, and Kristen Bell.)

I get that this could lead to a slippery slope: if this is moderately successful by some measure (positive buzz, possibly turning a profit), are you going to have Disney/Marvel launch a Kickstarter for Avengers 2, trying to squeeze some money out of the fans in the name of “better special effects” or a “crazier action sequence” or what have you?  It’ll be interesting to see.  The reason why I’m hopeful the Veronica Mars Kickstarter model will stay somewhat self-contained (perhaps to some of these buzzy, cult-following shows) is that Avengers 2 is going to happen regardless, and anybody would have to be an idiot to propose a Kickstarter for it, much less contribute to it.  A Veronica Mars movie, which they’ve tried for years to make, wasn’t going to happen via traditional pathways.

Plus, as a contributor and consumer, I am fully on-board with VM‘s creator’s perspective on this: I’m essentially pre-paying for my consumption of this movie.  At the $35 contribution level, I get a t-shirt (which I’m neither here nor there about, but there’s some monetary value there) and a digital download of the movie, which I would argue is worth at least $15 itself.  So I forked over a little bit more to get the film made; at least I’m getting some extra value out of it on the back-end too.

There’s also this very interesting piece by S.T. VanAirsdale which goes into how the rewards process works for Kickstarter projects, especially at this scale.

Anyway….yeah. A lot of my week has been following this story since I find it so interesting.  Here’re some other reads that I’ve enjoyed:

Melissa from Mouse on the Mind and Estelle from This Happy Place Blog do another round of Kill-Refurb-Marry at Walt Disney World, this time with the monorail resorts.

Estelle also discusses the very real problem of being…shall we say “attached”…to social media, and when it runs up against the very reason you’re going on vacation in the first place: to relax and enjoy the place you’re traveling to.  I definitely struggle with this myself, like, all the time!

Disney Hipster Adam covers “When You Wish Upon A Star” as they rope drop the Magic Kingdom!

Ooh, one of my fave TV shows, Gravity Falls, got a second season order yesterday. AW YEAH!

As some of you know, I’m a sucker for a good travel deal, and follow several different travel blogs.  Gary over at View From The Wing  tends to do a lot of reflection on the role and responsibilities of travel bloggers themselves (and how many of the big ones get significant referral kickbacks from travel-associated credit cards), and this piece on travel blogs as “thought leaders” in the travel industry is no different.  At some point (and some would argue, this has happened already), these blogs are going to expose too many good deals, reveal too many secret strategies, get too many people involved in the game to the point where loyalty program incentives will continue to decrease and “secret loopholes,” once exposed to the masses, will be shut down.  I’ve earned a lot of frequent flyer miles and hotel points via the advice of travel bloggers, enough to get two roundtrip tickets to Japan and Hawaii in the last two years (without signing up for one credit card!), so I’m curious to see how this sub-industry changes affects the travel companies over the next few years.

Lastly, thoughts from Corey Blake at Robot 6 about comics app Comixology and the concerns of participating in their cloud-based model.  Worth a read as the comics industry slowly and painfully transitions into the digital sphere.

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Happy Marriage License Day!


The other day, my parents sent us a gift card to The Cheesecake Factory.  Inside the card read: “Happy Marriage License Day!”

Two years ago today, Lance and I got legally wed (which you can read about here).  There was never any question about a “commitment ceremony” or “civil union” or “legal marriage.”  Though we’re two dudes, we’re traditional in a lot of ways, and this was one of them.  Being legally married, no matter which states or countries actually recognized said union, was just something we had to do.

It’s been a whirlwind two years, sure–extensive travels, two moves, adding a dog to our Furry Friend Gang–but I, at least, don’t measure our marriage by this anniversary, except to have an excuse to go out to dinner (usually on my dime, too. DANG IT!)

No. Lance and I have always been married.  We’ve always been attached to each other (not in the Side Show way, but close), been open with each other, fought with each other just like a married couple, ever since we met.

We developed an acronym for each other not long after we met, which we still use today: P.N.F.F. Which stands for “Partner ‘N’ Friend Forever.” (how revolting cute, I know.)

Much love to you today and every day, my P.N.F.F.

Oh…and you’ve got a two-drink limit at dinner tonight. I’m not Daddy Warbucks or anything.

With A Cup Of Coffee

reads headersWhat is it about those last frigid weeks of the winter that totally sap your energy to do anything?  I was so unmotivated to go to the gym the other day, so I started watching my brand spankin’ new Blu-ray copy of “Wreck-It Ralph” instead, only to turn it off halfway through and go to bed…at 9:30PM.

Anyway, hopefully that explains somewhat the lack of posts recently; I actually have a whole list of stuff to write about, but when it comes to actually getting up the gumption to write, well…I find myself catching up on episodes of Nashville instead (Juliette, you scoundrel!).

Before we get back to our regularly scheduled posts, however, I’d like to spread some love for of the corners of the Internet that kept me distracted from posting these last couple of days:

Have you checked out the episode(s) of the Disney Hipster Podcast that I totally crashed? You can find ’em on iTunes and elsewhere, but I’ll be nice and include a link here.

Melissa from Mouse on the Mind shares some of her, err…shall we say, challenging trivia questions from the Disney Northeast Meet-up, which I discussed a ways back.

Over on This Happy Place Blog, Estelle catches us up on the happening of Disney theatre, including Mary Poppins‘ swan song and the latest updates on Aladdin’s out-of-town tryout.

Estelle also tweeted us a video of Cheyenne Jackson and Jeremy Jordan “miscast” in one of Lance’s favorite musicals, Side Show! Thanks, Estelle!

Stitch Kingdom shares the first hi-res model art for Shanghai Disneyland; it looks so different from the traditional layout of the parks, I’m a little scared…and is that a Christmas tree between Enchanted Storybook Castle and the carousel? What the what?

MouseChow‘s Dawn chooses her stateroom on the Disney Dream! Lance and I have been debating between a short cruise or a trip out to L.A. this fall (of course, both Disney-related if I press hard enough!), so this is some great info in making an educated decision!

Mara Dreams of Disney has some beautiful photos of the new Tangled Toilets in Disney World’s Fantasyland. EXCITING.

My co-worker and pal Kelly from talks about e-meeting a celebrity via gluten-free peanut butter brownies.  I have no interest in gluten-free anything and would probably jump off a bridge if I developed a gluten intolerance (“WHY IS LIFE WORTH LIVING???” I scream as I plunge to my doom), but, as Kelly says, the interactive possibilities of social media are mind-boggling at times.

Gizmodo reviews the release of the Marvel Unlimited app, which is intended to be sort of the Netflix Instant of comics.  I’m not ready to take the plunge yet, but if the functionality and titles are there, I might sign up.  One day…