Our friends' stout, old country house is more in the mood of a cabin, really - burly rafters, massive stone hearth, a blaze of sunlight, last weekend at least, bouncing off the snow, flooding in through the low, eave-shaded windows.
At his 6-foot-long stand (the shortest frontage permitted in Lancaster's old Central Market), Michael Long contemplates the future for his extraordinary horseradish - 48 hours old at the oldest if you buy it here, and potently pure. He wishes, in fact, that phobics who've had shelf-stable mockeries, or stale product, or adulterated examples could try his precious little jars.
Benny Lai's journey has led him here, to the sparkling new Vietnam Cafe at 47th and Baltimore, around the corner from where the Lai family, fleeing Saigon, staked its first claim in West Philadelphia - a modest Asian grocery called Fu Wah - 30 years ago as of October.
At 33d and Arch one afternoon last week, in the sixth-floor precincts of Drexel University's student-run Academic Bistro (can someone please hotten up that name?), the platters of Christmas cookies - chocolate stars and pliable brittles and blond men redolent of ginger - reposed patiently, awaiting their audience.
The food trucks that stretch along 38th Street near the western edge of Penn's campus provide an antidote to - no, make that a repudiation of - the sad-sack food-court fare that lurks in greasy shame just blocks to the east.
Rick Nichols is a Philadelphia native (a product of rowhouse Mayfair) who moved as a child to Lower Bucks County and later to New England. He graduated from the University of North Carolina and worked on the newspaper in Raleigh. After a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard, he joined The Inquirer in 1978. He was for many years a member of the Editorial Board, and has several journalism awards.