What is a good brunch place in Philadelphia that has very good food and a fun atmosphere but is neither stuffy nor grungy?

Try Honey's Sit-N-Eat.  See http://www.yelp.com/biz/honeys-s….

Another option: if you like delis, Famous Delicatessen is very good.  See http://www.yelp.com/biz/famous-4….

What are the best (dry) snacks to go with wine or beer?

Cheese seems the obvious pairing for wine. I tend to prefer a nice creamy cow's or goat's milk cheese, but it's really dependent on your individual taste and the kind of wine you're drinking. Something to cleanse the palate also seems to be standard in this case, like nuts or honey, at least in my experience.

For beer, any salty snack that doesn't have an overwhelming flavor of its own will do. Pretzels, peanuts, you get the idea. If you pick a snack food that is too strong – like, say, Doritos – it will definitely overwhelm the flavor of the beer you are drinking. Which is okay, if it's MIller High Life, but not ideal if you're drinking, say, a craft brew.

What is the origin of the Chinese tradition of tapping a couple of fingers on the table when being served tea by another guest?

Supposedly, the custom originated with Emperor Qian Long, who used to travel the country in disguise. On one such excursion, he was at a restaurant and poured his servant a cup of tea. Not wanting to reveal the emperor's identity by bowing, the servant instead bent his fingers on the table to express gratitude and respect.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chi…

How do you make the best pizza dough?

You need wheat flour, water, yeast and salt. I also use a bit of olive oil.

The wheat flour would be labeled "typo 00" in Italy, which means it has a lot of gluten and a high protein content. (I don't know the US categories, so someone might want one to suggest an edit here and add this information).

Use a mixer with dough hooks.

If you use fresh yeast:

  • Dissolve 20-25 g of yeast in 300 ml water at room temperature (a fork helps)
  • Put 500 g of wheat flour in a bowl
  • Start mixing and add the water with the yeast in small portions. Mix thoroughly – it takes time!

If you use dry yeast:

  • Put 500 g of wheat flour in a bowl and add the dried yeast. Blend with a fork. Move the mix to the margins of the bowl to create a pit in the middle.
  • Pour 300 ml of water at room temperature into the pit.
  • Start mixing in the center of the bowl, collecting the flour mix from the rim in small portions. Mix thoroughly—it takes time!

Continue (in both cases) like this:

  • The dough is supposed to be elastic; if not add some more flour or water, but only very little at once! It is OK when your mixing machine starts to protest.
  • Let the dough rest for a few minutes.
  • Then add a tea spoon of salt to the bowl and a table spoon of olive oil. Knead the dough with your hands for five minutes so that salt and oil are slowly worked into it. If do it with clean hands, the dough won't stick to them when your finished.
  • Put a towel on the bowl and let the dough prove at room temperature for app. 90 minutes. Alternatively, you can put wrap on the bowl and let it prove in your fridge (make sure to have enough headroom!). It will prove within 4 hours there and stay fresh for more than 48 hours, so you can prepare your dough days before.

If your ready for your pizza production, make four (thick) to six (thin) portions and roll the dough on plenty of wheat flour to the size you like. Roll it immediately before the pizza goes into the oven; if you can cook only one or two at a time, have the other dough balls covered with your towel.

Pizza is all about heat. Heat your oven to the max, put the pizza onto a solid oven tray (pre-heat it if you can) and use one of the bottom slots. Don't overload it with ingredients.

Enjoy!