Thursday, August 15, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

Last weekend we saw Hello Dolly and I loved the show. I loved "The Waiters' Gallop." That was our last summer show. I'm not sure we'll subscribe next year. If we do, not all six shows. That was a bit much.

This "fun" interaction happened on our way to the show:

We were walking the 2-3 blocks to the Benedum and as usual, on each corner were homeless and/or panhandlers. This has, over the years, become a larger issue in the Cultural District. I always feel pangs of guilt as we walk by, guilt that we are fortunate enough to be able to afford our show & dinner dates. But should I feel guilty? SP works long hours. He is smart, went to a good university, did well, has always had a good job with good benefits, and we adhere to a budget and have savings goals every year.

We were waiting to cross the street and a panhandler was asking for money. Then he started ranting about folks who could afford fancy clothes and to go to shows and eat out but who wouldn't give even a quarter to help someone who fought for them to be able to go to their fancy shows. There were only 2 other people waiting to cross the street so it was pretty clear he was ranting at us. I was trying to ignore the rant, plus my back was to him since SP was pushing me in the wheelchair. Then I heard SP say he was sorry but he didn't carry cash. This is not a lie. We do not usually carry cash, not unless we know we're going to need it. We charge everything. We do not even carry change in my purse/his pocket.

After SP apologized for not carrying cash, the guy screamed,"*UCK YOU!" at him and just started screaming ranting at him even more. Then the light changed and we flew across the intersection to get away. I was more than a little rattled. I was a little afraid he was going to follow us or something worse. He must've gotten more in SP's face than I realized for SP to even say something - and then to scream the F-word at him for not carrying cash to give away?

This incident goes along with the fight we saw in Eyeball Park, the overdose in Eyeball Park (that was fun, watching police and an ambulance cart off a totally non-responsive person, didn't even respond to someone dumping a cup of water in his face), a couple of screaming matches between people - all on Sundays in the afternoon. Then there were the incidents we didn't witness, like the July shooting in Eyeball Park. The Cultural District is seeming not so nice and safe these days.

This morning after my doctor appointment we went to Party Cake in Brookline for paczki, which they are making for several days this month. As we were leaving, I pointed out to SP all the police cars and ambulances with flashing lights and the blocked off roads and wondered what was going on. After we got home, I discovered that some guy barricaded himself in a house in Brookline and it was a SWAT situation.

Huh. And we drove right to it. OK, on the streets near it, but still, there we were, clueless and donut-focused, wandering near a tense situation.

It's been an exciting week.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • We finished OITNB on Netflix. I'm glad there was a sense of closure.
  • We started GLOW Season 3 on Netflix and the first episode was OK. I hope it picks up a bit.
  • We also started The Boys on Amazon Prime and we got sucked into that, so GLOW has been on hold.
  • Mindhunter Season 2 starts tomorrow on Netflix.
  • Animal Kingdom (TNT). Next week is the season finale but oh my gosh! This week's episode! That huge death! I did not see it coming, not at all. That is a bold move, killing off that character. So excited to see how this season ends and then where it goes next season. Also, I have enjoyed the Smurf background story. I think this might be my favorite season.

What I'm Reading:

  • I read The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton. It was quite good even if it did stretch the bounds of believability a bit (there's some witchcraft/paranormal aspects to the mystery).
  • New magazine issues are arriving. The pile grows.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

Last Sunday we had brunch at Meat & Potatoes for the first time. It was tasty, as expected, and it was fun to finally see the Bloody Mary Bar. SP's was a very conservative creation. Many people came back with elaborate garnishes atop their drink, basically blocking drinking until the garnishes were eaten. Here's what we ate:
  • Mimosa for me, Bacon Vodka Bloody Mary for SP
  • Breakfast Americano (two eggs / bacon / sausage / home fries / grilled bread)
  • Omelette of the Day (english pea / asparagus / swiss cheese / mushrooms)
Definitely some of the fluffiest eggs we've ever eaten. Excellent sausage. Wonderful potatoes, nice & creamy inside.

After brunch, we stopped to buy a hot tea then walked up to Market Square and then PPG for a while. It was a blast watching the kids run through the fountain! Oh my gosh, to be that young and carefree again. All I could think was, ugh, I'd hate for my shoes to be that wet, to sit around in wet underwear, and also, ugh, small kids please stop drinking the water! I'd be no fun mom. Good thing I don't have kids!

After that, we went to see Once at the Benedum. The last time Once was in town, I couldn't go because I had a fever, was shaking, could barely talk, and was going through a box of tissues a day. I made SP go without me so we only "wasted" one ticket. I really liked the movie, and the show did not disappoint. The music is so beautiful, and one song in particular always makes me a little teary.

What We're Eating:
  • Lamb Burgers
  • Pasta & Red Sauce (from the freezer) with grilled zucchini mixed in
  • Dessert: Pizzelle
What We're Watching:
  • We watched Shazam, which was a much better movie than I expected.
  • We also watched Vice, which made me mad at our government.
  • We're continuing to watch season 7 of OITNB.
  • There are new seasons of Worst Cooks and Worst Bakers on Food Network, so we're watching those.
  • Marvel's Agents of SHIELD ended and it was a pretty good season. As in, I enjoyed it more than the last couple seasons. So we'll see how the final season is next year, I guess, is when it comes out.
  • I'm enjoying Animal Kingdom a lot. We finally found out what happened to Colin. Everything going on with Jay-Pope-Angela. Deran "handling " the Adrian situation. Craig being a dad.
What I'm Reading:
I read The Never Game by Jeffrey Deaver. It was my first time reading Deaver. I'm surprised I haven't read any of his books. I like that this book was a new character for the author. I couldn't put it down, so I guess it was a good read!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Huli Huli Chicken

Back in June, my parents mentioned a recipe for Huli Huli Chicken Wings that they saw in Food & Wine. My dad has a thing for chicken wings. He loves them. It used to be he always wanted pork chops for dinner. The last few years, it's been chicken wings. It makes my mom roll her eyes. Having them over to make these grilled wings (they do not have a grill) ended up not happening for some reason, but SP & I decided to try them anyway, just to see how the recipe worked. We made a big change: Chicken Thighs, not wings.
The marinade is pineapple juice, chicken stock, soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, and fresh ginger. It's a yummy marinade. These chicken thighs were tasty. We didn't grill pineapple slices. Instead, we made a fruit salad and some biscuits to eat with the chicken. We'd make these again. We prefer thighs to wings, so we'd make it again with the thighs.

Recipe here.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Pulled Pork Tacos

It's Taco Tuesday so I guess I should finally post about these tacos we made back in June. They were inspired by the Mexican Pulled Pork recipe in Cook's Illustrated's May-June 2008 issue. Yes, sometimes the magazines disappear into SP's office and reappear years later.
We didn't make ours in a Dutch oven. As seems to be the case for much of this summer, we didn't have much time to prepare for the week's dinners. So we used a slow cooker and cooked the pork overnight then divided it into containers for re-heating during the week.
I liked this recipe because it didn't involve lots of garlic nor did it call for lots of spicy ingredients like chili powder, ancho chile, cayenne, etc. Cumin, oregano, bay leaves, lime, orange, and onion are in the slow cooker with the pork and some water. We also did not use soft corn tortillas, nor cilantro, nor radishes. We did use avocado, tomato, and cheese.
These were tasty, but I prefer our slow cooker chicken tacos. The pork ended up tasting kind of salty to me, but there wasn't much salt in the dish. This was easy to make and a nice change from our usual chicken tacos.

How We Made This:

Pulled Pork Tacos

3.5-4 lbs boneless pork butt, cut into 2 inch chunks
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 small onion, cut into quarters
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp lime juice
2 c water
1 orange, juiced (save the juiced halves)

Add all ingredients, including the juiced orange halves, to slow cooker. Cover & cook on low overnight.

The next morning, remove the bay leaves, onion, and orange halves. Remove pork and using forks, pull into shreds. While shredding pork, reduce the liquid from the slow cooker in a sauce pan until it is thick & syrupy (about 1 cup liquid). Pour reduced liquid into pulled pork and mix together, seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. You might not need all the liquid, we used just enough to keep the pork moist when we re-heated it during the week.

Prepare tacos as desired. We used taco shells, avocado, tomato, cheese, sour cream, and wedges of lime (to squeeze over top the tacos). SP added baby arugula to his but I didn't like the flavor of arugula with the pulled pork taco.

Original recipe here.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

Last weekend I decided to make pizzelle cookies. Things were going great, I wasn't under or over browning them, I wasn't dolloping too much batter in the circles and having overflow. About halfway through, the pizzelle maker stopped working. I had just shut the lid on two blobs of batter and heard the light "tick" from green to red, but there wasn't a light. I waited a while, then checked the cookies. Not done. I shut the lid and waited some more. Still not done. The maker was cooling down. It was dead. Sigh.

So we tried pressing it through a cookie press. Fail. So we dropped spoonfuls on a cookie sheet, spread them out thin, and baked them. Fail.

I hope we enjoy this last half batch batch of pizzelle until we get around to buying a new pizzelle maker, if we get one.

What we're eating:

What We're Watching:

  • We finished all the episodes of Arrested Development on Netflix.
  • We started the final season of OITNB on Netflix and are about 7 episodes into the new season. 
  • We're caught up on Agents of SHIELD, which I am enjoying more than I thought I would.
  • I watch Animal Kingdom on TNT (SP doesn't) and can't wait to see how the Adrian problem is handled, if they can pull off Smurf's latest job, what happened to Colin - I've really been enjoying this season.

What I'm Reading:

  • I read the new Daniel Silva book The New Girl. I love his Gabriel Allon novels. As usual, I couldn't put it down.
  • New magazines are arriving. Not much progress on the pile.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Bridges & Bourbon

This past weekend, we found ourselves walking to dinner at one restaurant but getting side-tracked by another and never making it to the original destination. The place that side-tracked us: Bridges & Bourbon, which opened last month in the space that was formerly Seviche. We went in with the intention of just having a cocktail, just to check out the place, just one cocktail. But then SP's glucose monitor beeped that he was going low, so we decided we should have a snack. That turned into a couple snacks, and well why not just eat enough to be dinner and have another cocktail?
It's a bar but not really a bar, not the kind of bar with $1 Miller Lite specials (Do people still drink that? I don't even know.) nor does it served $3 margarita or long island iced tea specials. I've seen Bridges & Bourbon described as modern cocktails, elevated cocktails, high-end cocktails, craft cocktails. I'm going to with real fancy cocktails. I'm not mocking, I'm being serious. Just look at their Instagram feed. Special glassware (though sadly, the glass bird shaped glasses have mostly broken, our server told us). Intriguing garnishes: flower petals, smoking wood chips, sprigs of baby's breath, mini clothespins. Ingredients I had to look up on my phone. Even an old-fashioned is not just any old-fashioned.
D'Angelo's Concerto (bourbon, brown sugar syrup, lemon, basil, Bridges & Bourbon Black Walnut Bitters). See? Elevated, modern, high-end, and delicious. Maybe my favorite of the four cocktails we tried.
Bloom (strawberry, rose de combier, lychee, vodka, sparkling wine). Look at the beautiful presentation. This was yummy but a bit too floral for my liking. That's not to say it's too floral. My personal threshold for floral flavors in my mouth is pretty low. We both liked the flavor of Bloom. Also, so pretty. And refreshing & summery.
Nimbus (sochu, kefir, mandarin, verjus blanc, lime, grapefruit, Pittsburgh Honey). So here's where we had a huge brain fart. Maybe it was the heat & humidity - we'd wandered around Picklesburgh before seeing Rock of Ages and then walked several blocks to Bridges & Bourbon and it was a pretty darn hot & humid day and we were feeling it. I was like, oh, sochu, or do they mean shuchu? Shochu? Sochu? Which is it? Is that what I drank in Japan that was so good and went down way too easy? Kefir? Hmm, like lime, right? But wait, it says lime, so are there 2 kinds of lime? Lots of citrus, yum.

Nope. We both know this and neither of us managed to remember, not even after the above discussion, that kefir is a fermented milk drink similar to a thin yogurt. If we had, we wouldn't have ordered this because I don't like yogurt drinks. And later on when we remembered, we felt really, really stupid.

Also, it's kaffir lime.

So Nimbus was just OK but it sure is pretty to look at and it's got that super cute, tiny clothespin. It became tastier as the frozen orange blob melted into the milky part, flavoring it more.
Seger (Quantum Cucumber Gin, gewürztraminer, lemon, hibiscus, cardamom, ginger). Normally I do not like gin. but this drink was really good. My second favorite, SP's favorite. Most of the ingredients were served as ice cubes floating in the gin/wine (after you poured it on top the cubes). This means the flavor profile of the drink changed as you let it sit over time and the cubes slowly melted. Patience is a virtue with this one - I loved taking sips over time as first the cardamon and ginger cubes melted, then the cucumber, and finally just the purple hibiscus cube was left.
There's a small menu of "bar food." With Chef David Racicot (Lautrec, Notion, Täkō, Poulet Bleu) you know you're not getting bar food like fried cheese or Buffalo wings or jalapeno poppers. He offers elevated, modern, high-end bar fare with Snacks, Tapas, and Desserts. Real fancy bar food to go with the real fancy drinks. 
Shrimp Tempura (yuzu koshu mayo). Oh my gosh so good. So good we ordered another one. When I saw the shrimp sticks I figured he had pureed the shrimp and then breaded and fried them. Nope. It's shrimp.
Grilled Cheese (impossibly thin, gruyère & nutmeg). I had been thinking impossibly thin like maybe that super thin Pepperidge Farm bread but no, that's too pedestrian. Super thin as in 2 super thin crepes (?) or dosa (?) with cheese and nutmeg and oh my gosh so good. Crunchy. Like eating chips but so much better than chips. We ordered a second.
Monterey Bay Squid (imitating risotto, chicken bouillon, instant noodle seasoning). The squid was cut? pressed? riced? chopped? grated? into risotto. It was different. Tasted like squid, but a different texture, and wow was that chicken bouillon good.
Heirloom Tomatoes (super sweet currant tomatoes, frozen olive oil, parmesan & basil "raviolo").
These "raviolo" were so good. Tasted like parmesan and basil and pasta, but the texture was like a fresh mozzarella ball.
Lots of teeny, weeny tomatoes with basil and parmesan and frozen olive oil and a gel like substance and I was almost done with drink #2 here so all I really remember is allowing SP to think he got his equal share of "raviolo" (he didn't; I ate more than my fair share) but then again, I let him eat more of the tomatoes.
Did we need dessert? Probably not but we ordered it anyway. Frozen Yogurt (blueberries, hazelnut jam, exotic spices).
I liked cracking my spoon atop the frozen yogurt and watching it shatter. It was good. I enjoyed this frozen yogurt that was way better than regular frozen yogurt, a better texture, more fun to eat. The blueberries & jam under the frozen yogurt were tasty, too.
Our bill arrived in this box. Like opening a present. A present of how much you owe! I'm sure there are going to be Pittsburghers who complain and dislike this place because of the price and/or because there's not enough food on a plate to feed an entire football team. Our cocktails ranged from $10 to $14. Some on the menu are $16-$18. Our food ranged from $7 to $15. Add it all up and we spent a lot.

If it's not your cup of tea because of the cost or food portions, that's fine. Not everyone has the same tastes, not everyone is financially able or desires to pay that much for a cocktail or smaller quantities of food.

Bridges & Bourbon is more like an "experience" - it's not going out for a beer & sandwich with a pound of fries on the side. Did we appreciate the "different" ingredients and extra touches to our cocktails? Yes. That's the fun of it - trying different ingredients & the creative presentation. Did we like our real fancy cocktails? Yes. Did we enjoy the food "interpretations?" Big yes. Have we dined at other Chef Racicot places and enjoyed our meals? Yes. How was service? Our server was terrific. She was happy to answer our questions (like we wanted to know which cocktails were which based on the Instagram photos we'd seen!). Our food was nicely paced. I noticed in particular that both shrimp tempura arrived piping hot & crisp, as if they'd just been plucked from the fryer, not lukewarm & limp as if they'd been hanging out under a warming lamp.

The walls are a dark blue but the floors, tables, and chairs are light colors and the front windows let in a lot of natural light. The flatware is gold colored, which is different and feels a bit more luxurious. In spite of all the "real fancy," the staff are incredibly welcoming and down-to-earth. It doesn't feel like you have to be on your best formal behavior. It was relaxing. Nearly everyone was being a tad nosy, craning necks and gawking as drinks and dishes went past, looking at what everyone else ordered and wondering what it was. It's that kind of place. Also, it's really nice to be able to sit at a table and just have a drink and not feel as if you need to order food to justify being at a table. Or just order one snack with your drink and it's OK.

I noticed on our bill a carbon credit of 25 cents/person. I read that the restaurant is focusing on sustainability. Bridges & Bourbon has a Platinum designation from the Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant program and partnered with ZeroFoodprint to battle climate change. The 25 cents/person charge is used to offset their carbon footprint. I'm not sure how they measure it, but apparently they run on 98 percent renewable energy. Also, they use locally sourced products when possible and have extensive recycling and food waste composting programs.

We very much enjoyed Bridges & Bourbon. We'll be back.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

Last night while SP dined at Soba, I enjoyed another one of the panini we're making this week. I never would have thought to put cantaloupe on a panini, but I saw it in one of the Giada cookbooks and thought it sounded interesting plus panini are quick & easy for dinner. We're using Tuscany bread from Market District, not focaccia. We layered bread-brie-prosciutto-arugula-cantaloupe-brie-bread and cooked the panini in our press for about 3 minutes. It's really good. SP is a better panini maker than I am. When I made one by myself, unsupervised, my brie cheese oozed out all over. Oops. It was still good, the crispy brie, but it made a mess of the panini press.

What We're Eating:

  • Leftover delivered pizza
  • Rigatoni with Lamb Ragu & Mint
  • Prosciutto-Brie-Melon-Arugula Panini
  • Dessert: Ice Cream (Guinness-Milk Chocolate or Lemon-Ginger)

What We're Watching:

  • We watched Homecoming (Amazon Prime). It was really good. I wasn't sure what to expect when we started it. Each of the episodes is 25-30 minutes long but each one flew by and before we knew it, we were on to the next. Looking forward to Season 2.
  • Big Little Lies (HBO) ended. I like that it ended in a way true to the book even if the courtroom Celeste-Mary Louise drama and Bonnie-her mom hospital drama weren't in the book (as I recall). Renata in her husband's game room/man cave? Oh heck yes, I totally would have done what she did and that jerk deserved even single swing of that bat even as I cringed at the destruction.
  • I watched Always Be My Maybe (Netflix) and enjoyed it, mostly because of Keanu Reeves and because of the mocking of food. The food as described in the restaurant double date scene, it was hilarious, those headphones to hear the animal you are about to eat!

What I'm Reading:

  • I finished The Rúin (Cormac Reilly, #1) and then read The Scholar (Cormac Reilly, #2) by Dervla McTiernan. I like the books, the characters, and am looking forward to Book #3.
  • I also read Throw Me to the Wolves by Patrick McGuinness. It was very good but something about it also frustrated me. I think the pacing of the crime investigation (or maybe just the entire book) was a bit too slow because of the long and sometimes rambling ruminations and descriptions. Just when I would get annoyed enough to think about quitting, I'd encounter beautifully written, thought provoking, elegant prose. It also didn't focus as much on the actual crime investigation, which is what I'm used to, so maybe that is what frustrated me. It's a murder investigation, but the focus is more on the one policeman's memories from his time at the school where the suspect taught and on his present day observations about media.
  • Yes, the magazine pile is still there.