Condensation & Reservations Lessons 🍴

I was taught a very valuable lesson regarding marketing by the Cheesecake Factory very early on and that lesson was not taking reservations serves as the best piece of visual marketing ever. So the masterful idea is that not taking reservations forces people to stand around and wait from fifteen minutes up to two hours and with there being no space to accommodate the often large parties, by default people stand outside, in the lobby, in the corridor, on outside benches, just absolutely everywhere. What this marketing screams to passerbyers is that this food is absolutely delicious, it bolsters the onlookers with anticipation that you too must be in on whatever it is they are selling, Cheesecake has basically perpetuated the “I want in” syndrome.

As a result of this masterful marketing scheme, many restaurants including Rose Petal Cafe & Lounge in Philadelphia have adopted the no reservations scheme and to be honest I cannot hate, because thanks to Cheesecake Factory I have been indoctrinated into the “I want in” syndrome where restaurants are concerned.

In conjunction to the no reservations the Rose Petal Cafe has a niche that they are known for and that niche is waffles all kinds of waffles, chicken and waffles, quesadilla waffles, spinach cheese waffles, almost any kind of waffle that strikes your fancy. But, while coming out of the “I want in” syndrome coma I decided to go against the grain and get catfish and grits. After all this is a soul food brunch and there nothing more soulish than grits.

When I was growing up we made grits with water and although fair tasting they weren’t creamy, they needed a boat load of salt and if you didn’t have any Philadelphia Rapa scrapple to mix in with it, you were left with a bland grain. Nowadays grits have become elevated, by adding milk or maybe half and half to develop that creamy texture, along with an infinite amount of sweet butter, and enough salt to balance it all out. It is this levitation of flavors that the Rose Petal Cafe & Lounge has done well, not just with grits, but with waffles also. Those grits came out piping hot and there were enough grits to feed a family of five a top with chives. The grits needed absolutely nothing but a spoon for me to dive in.

Accompanying the grits was a bowl of curled up catfish. Now before I proceed about the catfish, let me take you on a small trip down memory lane. Do you all remember your momma or grandma cooking fried chicken, and for some reason she was cooking it with the anticipation that your father or father figure would be walking in the door shortly, momma and big momma would cook that chicken to a golden crisp. That chicken skin glistened, the crispiness was displayed with the ever infrequent skin bubble filled with grease, the meat was juicy and flavorful, and with every crunch you felt a feeling of jubilation you could only get in your family kitchen. Yet, inevitably that father or father figure never came in the door when he was supposed to, so what happened? Mommy and big momma put that chicken breast in a flower bowl and put a plate on top of it to keep it somewhat warm. Now I don’t know what happened to the chicken breast in your house, but in my house by the time my father got home, the condensation had deflated the crispy, crunchy chicken and unfortunately, what he ate was wilted, no more grease bubbles surprises, basically unimpressive home cooked chicken. Ok ok now fast forwarding to the present to the Rose Petal Cafe, the catfish resembled that flashback fried chicken. That catfish was not crispy because the lid has been placed on top of the bowl, did I see the bowl and the top with the fish in it? No, but I tasted it and I saw and felt the skin. The fish was bordering on soggy, the crust had lost its initial burnish shimmer. The fish tasted fair but certainly unmemorable. The reason it was characterless was simple, it was not hot and it was not crispy.

Whenever you order anything crispy what the palate is really craving is layered eating even if they aren’t able to articulate that. What the gustatory cell is craving is the crunch from the skin, the slight coarseness across the tongue when it hits the crust, then the burst of flavor that implodes in the mouth which in this case should be the saltiness from the breading as it mixes with sweetness yet tanginess of the fish, then the heat from the fish just being fried, evokes the commodity of every human which is to be seen. When food is hot, it conveys to the eater that this was made just for me, the preparer is thinking of only of me, when the chef received this order, he sprung into action to present to me fried crispy catfish.

Rose Petal Cafe and Lounge you didn’t think of me when you made that catfish, you took a 1970’s home cook rookie mistake and distorted my crispy experience. In the age of Food Network and the Cooking Channel even the novice cook now knows that the lid on the bowl to conserve warmth is the enemy to crispiness.

Rose Petal Cafe I believe in redeeming grace, this fish is fixable, you can give the eater of fried food the layered eating experience they crave, it not to late to let the patron know you cooked that meal just for them and that what they eat matters. On the bright side my counterparts raved wildly about the delicious waffles.

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Johnny Come Lately

We all know of a place around the way that has soul food, most of these restaurants/take out spots hold a reputation. Sometimes that reputation can be for running out of food and sometimes it can be that you are waiting forever for your food. Despite the shaky reputation somehow people still flock to the establishment because of the tasty food.

Whenever this flocking occurs toward a restaurant where you are never quite sure your needs will be met, yet you wait with bated breath with hopes that today your low expectations will be exceeded by the dependable taste of soul always amazes me.

Just to Serve You in Wilmington, Delaware falls in this category. After an hour and a half wait for fried catfish, macaroni and cheese, and collard greens, I can honestly write I was truly exasperatingly sullen. But with the first bite of that fried catfish with a cornmeal batter, the fire that burned inside from the lingering wait began to simmer. With the next bite I tasted the tanginess, yet sweetness of the fish, it was so light and airy I began to feel a calm. My next bite was the creamy mac and cheese, perfect cooked noodles, not a dash of salt or pepper needed, it was pleasureful to my palate immediately and before I knew it a smile cracked on the sides of my mouth. Now I have always been of the opinion that no one can cook a collard green better than my father. I mean no one I know takes such care of the green more than he. He cleans them slow, he cooks them on low, he seasons them with finesse, and the product is the best pot-licker you have ever tasted. But Just To Serve You must have secretly called him on the phone and in exchange for that their delicious fried chicken he gave up the recipe.

Needless to write Just To Serve You making a patron wait for over an hour is unacceptable, but I appreciated you recognizing your penitence by apologizing profusely, but the real apology came from that delicious food that made me feel like easy like a Sunday morning.

My recommendation to you would be to refine your system, make it a well oiled machine, exceed the patrons experience by going beyond the food, and if you do this you will be a staple in the state of Delaware because the food is flat out fabulous.

Smell the Spring in the Air🍴

Its seems so apropos to go to high tea in commemoration of Spring. What a better time of the year to get invigorated from the long winter than to smell the bouquet of loose tea and be reminded of the daintiness of the season. Spring and tea are like hand and glove, they both allow you to be elegant with pinky finger in the air while feeling the lightness in the air. When you inhale the the nosegay of sparkle markle and peach tea, it somehow awakens you to the concept that the tide is changing, that the sluggishness of winter is loosing its grip. The beautiful thing about loose tea as that the smell invokes a memory and perpetuates an inevitable smile. The smell of peaches reminds me of festival season, of outside lunches with friends, and of holding hands with a loved one. Sparkle Markle with its fancy name coined by SpecialTeas Tea Shop in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania is a medley of everything posy. The smell of roses, peaches, fruit, and mint not only provide the calmness of the senses, yet a sweetness that lingers on the palate.

SpecialTeas Tea Shop served high tea in a very darling fashion. The atmosphere was quaint, the service was light hearted and the raisin scones with strawberry jam were warm. The tea sandwiches came in a variety of chicken salad, egg salad, cucumber, and ham and cheese were honestly not the most delectable Ive ever had at a high tea, but somehow they were congenial. The deserts were tea tiny cookies, powdered madeleines, dark chocolate, and the moistest chocolate chip brownies. Aesthetically the desserts looked cute and immediately made me think I would have to go Chick-Fil-A afterwards to compensate for my hunger, but I am pleased to announce that my eyes deceived me, the portions were completely appropriate for the afternoon.

Its funny how the activity of high tea makes all ladies feel just a little more like a lady in that moment. Its as if all of the charm school classes kick in and go into overdrive. You seem to sit up a little straighter, eat a smidgen slower, and are more conscientious to stand in the moment that a new day is dawning. SpecialTeas Tea Shop thank you for helping with the onboarding of a new season, Happy Spring🍴

When in Wisconsin🍴

As soon as you hear the word Wisconsin you immediately think, CHEESE! Wisconsin is the cheese mecca, the place where you get your entire life, made of cheese of course. 

But there is levels to this cheese life, it is no walk through the whey alone and it is all about the curds, yes cheese curds and not just any cheese curds, but fried cheese curds. I know you are thinking this is a high falootin mozzarella stick, but I cast down that erroneous thought of blasphemy right now and tell you that it absolutely is not.

A cheese curd is curdled milk and per “What the Health” on Netflix this is gonna kill me, and as doubtful as that is, at least I will go to heaven smiling. 

This cheesy, super rich, creamy goodness when crispy fried with chipotle spicy mayo gives an immediate sensation of giddiness that strikes you, and Revere Wells Street Tavern in Delafield, Wisconsin does it absolutely right. Theses cheese curds know exactly how to take the blues away on a rainy day.

Today was my 1st cheese curd experience and it is leaving me with an indelible imprint on tastebuds for Revere’s and the love of Wisconsin, well done Revere’s, well done.🍴

The Last Supper🍴🍴

One would think that after I watched “What the Health” on Netflix I would never eat another piece of anything for the remainder of my days. And if I did begin eating anything after coming out from my stupor it would be spinach and dark chocolate for life. With that being the case I did what any normal socially and health conscious person would do, I spent the next few weeks obsessing about the date I would begin my new plant based lifestyle and what was going to be my last delicious meal.

To think about a last meal is extremely overwhelming, I mean where would I start? Do I eat seafood, pasta, soul food, or Chinese? To be honest I couldn’t choose, so I found myself I in a quandary. So while I lingered in the land of indecision, I settled on a strategy instead. I would go to a place I had never been to, but nonetheless still order a food that I was very familiar with; so I opted for Bubby’s in Tribeca, New York.

First up, the biscuits, yes the biscuits as an appetizer not a accompaniment to the entree, a literal appetizer before the meal. This accompaniment was worth it’s weight in gold. I don’t know what it is like to bite into a cloud that is dipped in butter and baked until fluffy and airy like that of a featherweight pillow, but if I had to use my imagination it would taste like this biscuit. Yes I had the moment, the moment where I stopped mid-conversation, closed my eyes just a smidgen, and whispered to my companion “this is amazing” like it was a secret that was imperative that I kept tight to my vest. 

The second appetizer yes, second appetizer, remember now this is my last delicious meal, I am going plant based…I think. Ok next up was the deviled eggs. Now just to be clear I don’t even like eggs, or just to be specific I don’t like the yolks, yet I can tolerate the whites, but what kind of eating companion would I be if I only ordered everything I like, so deviled eggs it was. I am proud to say my palate was blessed by this devilish delicacy. It wasn’t eggy, it was smooth and creamy, it was tangy, with a backdrop of mustard, it was definitely an item I would order again.

Third up the entree, fried chicken, cole slaw, bacon mac and cheese. True this isn’t a new idea, definitely not creative sounding, and at this point not particularly worth the blog. But please keep in mind that this is my last real meal for awhile, so it was of utter importance that I order something that was familiar to me, something that spoke to my traditions, a food that in my heart I could be completely satisfied with. 

Th unoriginal fried chicken, was a brined bird that was fried to perfection. With a seasoning that would blow the roof off what your grandmother has been cooking all these years. It was crunchy, it was juicy, it was tender, it was AMAZING. The mac and cheese had shards of thick cut bacon integrated into the cheesy, gooey, white cheese, the noodles were tender, and the portion was just right. With each bite I thought I need more, so I ate more, but when I was done I felt completely satisfied. Normally in a southern trio, people find themselves getting pot licker with fried chicken and mac and cheese, but I got the creamy, perfectly seasoned, and continuously crunch cole slaw. Ohh did I lose you with the pot licker phrase? Well all of my old heads and southerners know that pot licker is collard greens. 

Bubby’s you made my last meal the most memorable in a while now. It was so good that it caused me to re-evaluate my plant based diet, it made me examine chickens real motive towards me, it made me ask if bacon was really as bad for me as they say. I started to question if cheese was as harmful as they led me to believe in “What the Health” and my conclusion is, it’s probably all true, but it was well worth it and I would repeat that meal again and again.

Thank you for not only having an old country name like Bubby, but having the best darn fried chicken and biscuits a future plant based eater could ever have.

The Doctor Is In 🍴

My mother came up with a term when I was a child called “doctoring it up.” “Doctoring it up” means taking something that currently exist and making it better. If a dress doesn’t have a pocket on it, add it. If a lamp has one little trinket hanging from it and you want two more, add it yourself, if something is the wrong color but the correct concept, no worries just remove that color and add the color of your choosing, and lastly if you order a dish at a restaurant and its not quite up to par take it home and “doctor it up.”

But, was does “doctoring it up” really mean anyway, does it mean that you dont really like the original? Does it say that the original was subpar, or does it mean that what you see or what you have tasted doesn’t quite measure up to the legend in your own mind.

After having dinner at Blue Ribbon restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn I began to wonder if a patron should lean towards the “doctoring it up” method or should I just call it like I see it and not like I how I will eventually make it.

First up on the menu was the fried oysters in a bed of baked spinach and parmesan cheese. There are always a few key questions when eating seafood, is it fresh? It absolutely was, is it light as air? It was as light as a cloud, was the batter overpowering? Not even a little bit, did it taste divine? Divine is what I would classify as superb, but it was definitely, superior. The bed of baked spinach not only made me feel health conscious, but the parmesan added a nutty, yet salty back drop which made the oyster have an an explosive bite with each taste.

Last up the Paella Basquez, which was large enough for two, made with the traditional paella ingredients: rice, chicken, shrimp, octopus, and spicy chicken sausage. The rice was perfectly cooked, the shrimp a perfect pink like a babies cheeks, the chicken tender, and the octopus inviting with their tentacles dangling. 

It came out piping hot which is always a plus, but when I had the first bite I wasn’t quite sure if my tongue had been given an epidural or not. I felt nothing, my tongue went limp, no sensation of goodness, yet not a sensation of bad either. Not tantalizing, nor titillating, but it did leave me with the rush home sensation to “doctor it up.”

With every few bites I kept thinking if I could just add a little more flavor, a little more kick, and a little more backdrop, this could be absolutely fantastic.

Did this mean I that I hated the paella? Did this mean that this was another bought lesson,? Did this paella leave me saying I will never patronage Blue Ribbon ever again? Strangely no, it didn’t. It just made me say the next time I come, I will try the fried chicken.

Blue Ribbon I am not sure if its a good thing to be known as a restaurant where the food is food I must take home and “doctor up.” But I guess being known for something rather than being known for nothing, is worth something in the end. I will give you another chance Blue Ribbon, I will give you another chance🍴

Not just for the Rich Man, but for Every Man 🍴

Is a bacon cheeseburger classified as a treat, absolutely! Is it the type of food that you wait for the weekend to indulge in and the type of food that if you plan on eating it in the evening you definitely drink a fruit and vegetable smoothie in the morning to minimize the level of guilt, definitely!

Is lobster one of the luxe foods, the seafood that speaks special occasion, darn right! The kind of dish that you tuck away a few extra coins so you can order it when going to dinner, no doubt about it! 

What if you could have both of these items at the same restaurant, better yet on the same plate, served as a combo, presenting itself as lobster and burger combo?

Its no doubt about it that this combination reads weird and sounds even stranger, but when you think about this concept it is the blue collar surf and turf. This combo of a bacon cheeseburger and healthy side of lobster at Burger and Lobster in Manhattan, New York has basically taken the she she foo foo old man classic high price meal and reduced it down to not only to being affordable but accessible to every man. The environment at Burger and Lobster is welcoming, bright, and beckons the “every” man into their place of business. 

My burger was cooked medium-well on a black sesame seed bun, it was juicy it and it was extremely flavorful, so flavorful that I forgot to add the ketchup and mustard I requested, and for me that is something. I mean it is usually the condiments that top the burger off, but no topper needed here, it came to the table already topped perfectly. 

In my efforts to always be transparent and completely honest in my blogs, I have to write I am not a lobster person. I never go out to a restaurant with an intent on splurging on lobster, I never give lobster a second thought. I have always loved to look at lobster, it always has the ability to tantalize me, and it always takes the opportunity to woo me, but I never fall for the bait. But because this was apart of a combo I kinda felt that my back was against the wall. But although my back was against the wall at the first bite I completed succumbed, and lowered my mouth in surrender for every bite. The lobster was sweet, it was grilled, and it was tender and the herb butter though not needed gave it something just a little bit extra. 

Burger and Lobster you have won my heart, you have taken a traditionally high end combination and made it un intimidating, and you didn’t sacrifice the flavor while doing it. It is not often that I salivate days after my meal wishing that I could live off of fruit and veggie smoothies just so I can indulge in a burger and lobster , well done Burger and Lobster well done. 

Is Hospitality Enough 🍴

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got. Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. 

Yes that is part of the theme song from Cheers, but somehow that is the feeling I felt when I walked inside of Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen in downtown Brooklyn. The feeling was so welcoming, I felt like I was Norm and everyone was sitting on their bar stools awaiting my arrival. When you think about it that is southern hospitality, its the kind of hospitality that doesn’t make you feel like a stranger or even a simple patron, but like an awaited guest. The community tables evoke conversations with people you may not have otherwise said hello to, the quaintness of the space encourages you to smile at your neighbors at the next table over, and when living in the world today takes everything you got, its that simplicity that is accompanied with a meal that makes the living part that much easier.

Now the decor in Carla Hall’s southern kitchen told me that the food was gonna be so good that it would make me wanna slap my momma, now anyone who knows about food colloquiums knows that you are speaking about some delicious food to make such a claim, so let me tell you what actually went down.

First up, 6 chicken wings with the “Hoot” sauce, otherwise known as medium spicy sauce. The chicken was fried perfectly, and there are just some fried foods that are pretty in color, and this was pretty in color; it was more than golden, it sort of leaned on the side of being a smidgen darker than blood orange, which is just the way I like it. I also like it when I can hear myself crunch, which is one of the byproducts of getting fried chicken. The taste however, was just good which you know if you have been following me for awhile, that good is the enemy of best. Sadly, it didn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, the “Hoot” sauce did not make an impact at all, and I found myself feeling less like Norm and more like Rebecca Howe. No one particularly cared for Rebecca they only tolerated her and the chicken was definitely a Rebecca Howe.

Second up, mac and cheese; the mac and cheese was cheesy, the mac and cheese was warm not hot, the mac and cheese did not make me wanna slap my momma, it did not even make me wanna roll my eyes at her, or give her the side eye.

Third up, cole slaw, now not all cole slaws are created equal, and I guess the inequality is okay if the end result is that the taste is fabulous. Now there are a few types of cole slaw, first there is the dry slaw, then there is the vinegary slaw, then there is the creamy slaw, my preference is the creamy. Not simply just creamy, but with a backdrop of vinegary. Carla’s coleslaw was creamy, but it was not vinegary, it was mayonnaisey, which translates into non-delectable. 

Last up, corn bread. My tastebuds tell me that corn bread should be sweet, my tastebuds go on to tell me that corn bread should be moist, because my tastebuds are talkative it proceeded in saying that corn bread should almost be cake like. So needless to write my tastebuds were ultra disappointed. This corn bread was bitter, it was a little a moist, but it was not cake like, unfortunately Carla because I love you I would strongly suggest you remove the corn bread from the menu or at the minimum add some sweetness. When people eat corn bread today in this carb conscious society, it needs to be absolutely worth it, the bread needs to make you decide to workout 6 days a week just so you can eat the corn bread on the 7th day.

It pains me to write this blog, because I loved the comfort of the environment, I absolutely adored the waitstaff, the decor made me smile when I looked at it, and I felt complete harmony and rest as I sat there. But at the end of it all its the food that it comes down to, its the food that is the determining factor on whether you will return, its your tastebuds that have the final say, and the final say is, Carla step it up more than a few notches, change up a few of those recipes, and make me not only wanna slap my momma, but bring my momma to your restaurant.

Got more than I paid for🍴

For some reason I have always thought of restaurant week like a sale on food, but not necessarily a good sale. I never viewed it as an opportunity for the chef to showcase his or her skill set, but more like a week where the chef stays home and lets his sous chef cook. As I write this now I think how slow can I be? Restaurant week is a chance for a restaurant to place their skills on blast from the first course to the third course. A chance for them to execute in a way they never have before. Its almost like a pressure cooker situation, because one false move could make a patron love or hate them forever. 

Well the pressure was on and Bocca in New York City rose to the occasion like an eagle soaring for the skies. It is not very often that you have a meal that taste so good you want to apologize to your companion for not offering them a piece of your dish, not even a slither of your dessert, because having that one less bite is like having one less breath in your lungs.

Some people may find the pre-fixed restaurant menu a drudgery and I often find myself feeling the same way too at times, because it never seems like the most delicious items are on that menu, but only on the regular menu, but Bocca you got everything just right with the pre-fixed menu.

First up a fried crab cake with an aioli sauce and red onion. Now because I believe honesty is intertwined with integrity I have to write this crab cake was not dazzling to look at. Not only did it look lonely because it was only one, the plates presentation just lacked luster, but the taste lacked nothing. All white crab meat, no claws here, nicely shredded, seasoned very lightly so that you never lost the freshness of the meat, but tasted crab with every bite. The crust was not crunchy, yet somehow not soggy either, just a perfect coating that added texture to a sumptuous crab cake. Second course, lamb shank, mint, pappardelle ribbon pasta. I was never a person who favored a certain pasta over another until a year ago. I found that the reason behind that was that as easy as it seems not everyone can cook pasta. But when it is done right it can make your heart trill, and that is what pappardelle does for me. The lamb shank ragu with grated parmesan and a dollop of ricotta cheese, gave me goosebumps. That lamb was as tender and sweet as a newborn baby, the depth of flavor made me feel like I was in an enthralling conversation with the most sensual person on earth, and they were breathing life into me with every single word. The pasta was light, it was airy it was a smidgen buttery, it was impeccable. Third course, chocolate molten cake. Even as I write this I find it difficult to capture the rush of emotions that I felt when I took my first bite, except to write AMAZING. Amazingly rich, amazingly flavorful, amazingly chocolately, yet not to rich. With every bite that song rang in my head, “SIMPLY THE BEST, BETTER THAN ALL THE REST,” and I prayed my companion wouldn’t look too hard at my plate and dare not ask for a bite, where I would unapologetically declined them.

I left Bocca feeling completely satisfied, with a palate that was supremely gratified, and most of all smiling, because I did not have food on sale, I had food that was worth its weight in gold and so much more. Well done Bocca, well done!

Thankful 🍴

Dear Lord,

We are officially approaching the season of thanks, the time of year where people are mindful and gratuitous. The time of year where people smile a bit more and where we move just a smidgen slower in an effort to absorb every moment that is taking place.

It is the time of year where diets go by the wayside and people’s concentration is on the goodness of food. Lord it is funny how food and baked goods can draw a smile, it’s amazing how the sensory portion of the brain goes into overdrive when when we taste something that dances on our palates, and it is you oh Lord that has allowed us to indulge in this euphoric time of year.

There is no other space in time where food is more celebrated and love is more exacerbated than during the holidays, and for some it is only during this time that we bless the hands who made the food, we praise them for taking the time, and honor them for making it so darn good.

But Lord it is also an exciting time to taste foods we had not encountered before and thank Jesus that through your mighty works you created something so splendid. Today for the first time in my life I tasted rhubarb and strawberry pie from Delicious Orchard in Colts Necks, New Jersey, and upon first bite if I could stopped right there and praised you for your goodness and creativity with fruit and plants I would have.

This rhubarb and strawberry pie tasted like life to me. It represented all the components that life often has to offer. At the first hit in my mouth I got tart from the strawberry and rhubarb; and life sure is tart some times, but as I began to chew and let it lay on my tongue I got a smidgen of sweet and it reminded me of your ways, sometimes we encounter tartness in this life, but being the great opportunity taker you are you turn it even into a smidgen of sweet. As a began to savor I got a burst of freshness and coolness from the rhubarb which reminded me of what fall represents. Sure its gets darker earlier and the days seem shorter, but it is all a sign that a new day is on the horizon. With every chew I was reminded of your promise which is, while the earth remains there will be seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease and that is exactly what fall is. Then I got close to the end where i am now eating the edges of the flaky and buttery crust, and while smiling I thought, how excellent you are oh Lord, yea this crust is just crusty enough and i wanna make sure I chew and not just swallow, for its slight hardness reminds to slow down and make sure I stand in this moment and meditate on the goodness, and I wanna recognize that all together this is a reminiscent of life, and in the end, I say thank you Lord because it was all good with every single bite.

Thank you Lord🙏🏽