Friday, August 26, 2016

The Bench Restaurant (Pebble Beach)

I'm not done writing about our meals from vacation. Especially since the last couple of dinners were possibly the best, either because of the food or because of the company. I've stayed in touch with a few friends from grad school. One still lives in Monterey. Several years ago, he and his then girlfriend drove across country from Maryland and stopped here to visit us. A couple years later, they got married but sadly, we couldn't make it out to Lake Tahoe for the wedding. But now, we were in Monterey so we decided to see if they were free to meet up. They were and they suggested The Bench Restaurant at Pebble Beach.
There is a fabulous outdoor patio but it was too cold & breezy for the women to agree to dine outside. We still had a fantastic view of the 18th hole of the golf course & the water from inside. I had a glass of white wine, SP chose a gin cocktail and that's all I remember about his beverage!
We shared a couple of starters. One was Prosciutto Americano (Watsonville Strawberries, Arugula, Balsamic). Oh my goodness. This was so good. I was kind of happy that L & T are not huge fans of prosciutto. SP & I loved the juicy, red strawberries, the thin, salty prosciutto, balsamic drizzle, and crisp arugula.
The other starter was Organic Mushroom Flatbread (Triple Cream Brie, Goat Cheese, Sherry Vinegar). This was good but I didn't eat too much of it because I thought I tasted a bit of garlic. It could have been my imagination. But better safe than sorry. I was happy to focus on the prosciutto dish while everyone else enjoyed the flatbread.
For my entree, it was a given I was going to order Tortiglione Bolognese (Hearty Veal & Pork Sauce, Pecorino Cheese). Pasta. Veal. Cheese. My favorite kind of pasta to eat when dining out: tubes that can be speared with fork tines! No trying to be proper & lady-like while slurping swinging strands of spaghetti! (Yes, I twirl, but I still manage to have strands hanging out of my mouth.) One of the best pasta dishes I've had. I couldn't eat it all but L was happy to help finish it.
SP & L both chose Wood Grilled Jidori Chicken (Summer Tomato Risotto, Green Garlic Broth, Radish Salad). The both said it was excellent. Juicy chicken, crispy skin, creamy risotto.

T ordered Pan-Seared Verlasso Salmon (Yukon Gold Potato Hash, Smoked Paprika Tomato Sauce). I didn't take a photo of her meal.

Both couples shared dessert. I don't remember and didn't photograph what L & T shared. SP & I shared a Salted Caramel Budino that looked like a little milkshake and was served with shortbread cookies that looked like fries and a chocolate dunking sauce:

It was yummy! I think I enjoyed dunking the "fries" in the "ketchup" more than the "milkshake."

It was a wonderful evening. Great food, great drinks, great view, great service, and best of all, great friends. It was so nice to see them. L is so outgoing and tells wonderful stories. T is more reserved but is such a lovely & sweet lady. It was a 4+ hour dinner - ! But when you don't get to see friends very often, that's what happens.

We'd definitely go back to The Bench Restaurant the next time we're in Monterey.

The Bench Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

It's quiet here, which I think means the roof project is finally finished. The last of the soffit went up this morning and some other final bits & pieces were finished. After 3 weeks (but not every single day), the big project is done. I think this weekend I'll spend some time outside looking up & admiring where a huge chunk of the savings went!

Dinners this week:
Apricot-Mustard Glazed Grilled Chicken with sauteed green beans
Fettuccine with Grilled Shrimp and parmesan, bacon, arugula, basil, tarragon, tomato cream sauce
Gianduja-Stracciatella Gelato for dessert.

Books: I finished Brighton & thought it was a great read. I have not started a new book - too noisy and/or too tired.

Magazines: I read 3 new magazines, so at least that pile is under control.

TV Shows: I have no idea why I was so excited to have Dish reconnected because several times since last Friday I've scrolled through the entire guide and found nothing to watch. We got caught up on The Night Of and the final episode is this Sunday. Otherwise, we've been watching OITNB Season 4 (we have 3 episodes left) and UKS Season 2 (we have 7 episodes left). We also watched Season 1 Episode 1 of Bloodline on Netflix. I like it enough to watch the next episode. Who needs Dish when everything we watch seems to be on Netflix these days?!

Movies: I, regrettably, watched the remake of Point Break. Words cannot describe how awful it is. I fast-forwarded through it and laughed and rolled my eyes. The original is a movie that struck a chord with me and my brother. It was wonderful the day we were talking and discovered we both loved the original Point Break and could always get sucked into it. It was a brother-sister bonding thing, with his wife rolling her eyes and when I told SP, him rolling his. But the new one? So. Bad.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Independent Brewing Company

It's been well over a year since SP & I last went to The Independent Brewing Company in Squirrel Hill. Usually when we're in Squirrel Hill, we're both craving soup dumplings. But since last Saturday was a very hot & humid day, we didn't want steaming hot soup dumplings or steaming hot bowls of noodles no matter how delicious they are. So we decided to revisit this restaurant. We were seated right away (it was around 5:30 pm). It wasn't super crowded, but it was still noisier than I remembered.
I really wanted iced tea, but they do not have fresh brewed iced tea (boo) so I ordered a Mint Julep. It was cold & refreshing, I just hadn't been much in the mood for booze. SP chose a cider. He got the last almost full serving so it was on the house. He later ordered a bourbon on the rocks to try.
We started with an order of Rum-Fired Halloumi (Maggie's Farm spiced rum, dried apricot, caramelized onion, bread). I like this dish a lot. There are 3 good sized rectangles of the hard, salty cheese which is topped with the soft & sweet onions and the chewy fruit. The bread is lightly toasted but not too toasted. As delicious as I remember.
For his meal, SP chose Kafta Burger (Middle Eastern spiced lamb, asiago, pickled onion & cucumber, arugula, harissa labneh). He chose greens over fries as the accompaniment. He ate everything on the board, so I guess it was good. He said he really liked it. He never says much else when I ask him his thoughts for the blog! It didn't look like a huge burger but it was enough for him.
No surprise that I chose Mac & Cheese (beer & smoked cheese bechamel, herb-cornflake crumble) and added bacon. It was as tasty as I remember. Not as cheesy-gooey as some mac & cheese but still flavorful. I don't have much of an appetite on hot & humid days, so I ate nearly half and had to take the rest home for lunch the next day.

We enjoyed our beverages and food. The service was great. Our server was very upbeat & friendly. It was a tad noisy for us, but we're old! We'd go back.

  Independent Brewing Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

A few weeks ago I was studying the contents of our refrigerator. Sometimes stuff gets shoved in the back, hidden behind other stuff, and then when it is rediscovered, it's, well, gross. Toxic. A lab experiment. So I try to be good about taking a quick inventory on trash night and lining everything up neatly so we can see it all. By the next trash night a week later, it's all a mess and I repeat the process. Usually. Sometimes I forget or don't feel like doing it and by the time I do get around to doing it, the lab experiments have started. Yuck.
That's what led to me thinking about a way to use the leftover ricotta that didn't involve pasta. Since I had recently been flipping through Mario Batali's Farm to Table, Raspberry Ricotta Pancakes came to mind and we planned to make them for brunch one Sunday. Of course I didn't actually read the recipe ahead of time and Saturday night I discovered we were lacking a few ingredients. Oops. But then I remembered a recipe from Cook's Illustrated for Lemon Ricotta Pancakes. I checked and we had everything.
So we made them. They're a little extra work because the recipe involves whipping egg whites. It's so worth it and it's not too much extra work if you use a stand mixer. These are my new favorite pancakes.
Light, airy, fluffy, lemony, sweet enough to not need syrup, not too thin, not too thick, not dry but not wet. We couldn't get enough of these. They'd be good with a fruit served alongside or on top, but I ate the fruit (and bacon) before the pancakes were ready, so I ate my pancakes plain. It was just the two of us so we weren't going for a picture perfect brunch with food all ready at the same time and plated nicely. You can't possibly cook bacon and place a plate of it on the table in front of me and expect me to wait until everything else is ready before diving into the bacon.
We don't make breakfast/brunch too often, but these are now at the top of the list for Sunday brunch at home.

Recipe here.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Lallapalooza Restaurant (Monterey)

During our stay in Monterey. CA, we took 2 day trips. One was down to Big Sur and Hearst Castle and the other was up to Santa Cruz. Both days, we got back to Monterey around 8 pm and were super hungry so after parking at the hotel, we set off walking down Alvarado Street. Both times we ended up at a restaurant called Lallapalooza.
Usually after these long sight-seeing days, we're almost too exhausted to eat but also we're hungry and can't wait to eat. Lallapalooza was very welcoming and seated is right away. There are a lot of cocktails and bourbons, but we ordered iced teas. The iced teas were huge and mango flavored, which was nice. We started by sharing the House Salad (local organic greens, cherry tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, candied pecans, & Italian dressing). The salad came with wedges of a cheesy bread, which were yummy. It was a nice sized salad and tasty.
We also shared Grilled Goat Cheese Polenta (with roasted wild mushrooms). Lots of mushrooms and a creamy sauce over cheesy polenta. This was really good and a pretty big serving.
Finally we shared Classic Margherita Pizza (fragrant basil and fresh mozzarella cheese top a light sauce made with Naples’ famous San Marzano tomatoes). It was good and we fought over the slices with the bubbles! We both were stuffed after sharing those three dishes.
The second time we went for dinner, we shared Calamari (lightly fried and tossed with lemon juice, garlic, Italian parsley, and red-pepper flakes). I liked that it was wedges of a calamari steak and not the usual rings and tentacles. The red pepper flakes made it a little spicy/hot for me but SP didn't think it was. They made it without garlic for us, which was great.
After the calamari, we shared the Cobb Salad (grilled chicken breast, avocado, hard boiled egg, tomato, spinach, Point Reyes blue cheese, chopped bacon, and Italian vinaigrette). They were kind enough to put the blue cheese on the side since SP doesn't like it but I do. There was more cheesy bread on this salad. We both really liked the cheesy bread! It was a very good sized salad to share.

We both really liked Lallapalooza. Both times, the hostess and staff were smiling, friendly, helpful. They had no problems accommodating our food requests (garlic, blue cheese). We didn't have reservations but were seated right away (Tuesday & Thursday around 8 at night). We'll definitely go back the next time we're in Monterey.


Lallapalooza Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

The roof project is ongoing. It's been a little frustrating. We had to contact the electric company to disconnect power while they replaced the fascia where the power line connects to the house. EC insisted the disconnect had to be arranged days in advance but the roofing schedule depends on emergencies & weather so they couldn't give us a definite day with a lot of advance notice. EC also couldn't tell us the disconnect fee over the phone - ?! They said we had to make the request and then wait for a tech to call us and tell us the fee. The roofers said they only needed it disconnected for 10-15 minutes. EC said they don't hang around, they leave and then you have to call when you want them to come back. Then they told us they couldn't schedule the disconnect until we paid the fee and they would not accept payment via credit card, it had to be a check, and unless we wanted to wait for snail mail, we had to hand deliver it to their office. The fee? You don't even want to know. It was way more than I expected. I feel fleeced.

So SP hand delivered a check to EC. It was scheduled for the desired roofing day. But then the roofers said they weren't coming that day. So we had to reschedule with EC. Everyone arrived on the scheduled day, power was disconnected, and roofers were told that EC would be back in 45~60 minutes to reconnect. Did they get the one piece of fascia, the one that was supposed to take 10-15 minutes to install, installed? No. So EC left, again, and came back 30 minutes later. Fortunately the work was done & my head exploding was averted. But seriously people - it took you 1.5 hours to do 10-15 minutes of work after you were told to do it ASAP because the house was without power.

So. Progress on the last 20% of the project is slow. Nothing much happened yesterday due to rain and they are starting late today because they had to go on an emergency call. They are supposed to be here now but I don't hear them. Huh.

Of course after being without power for 1.5 hours Tuesday morning, early Tuesday evening a wicked storm blew through and knocked out power to the neighborhood for 4 hours. Ugh. So SP had to stop and get dinner on his way home. Dining on DiBella's by candlelight was not very romantic. It was more squinting to see your food and then gazing out the window looking for the EC truck (we knew where the downed line was). Of course power was restored just as we gave up and started to get ready for bed.

So. Fun week.

Books: I finished reading Major Pettigrew's Last Stand and started Brighton.

TV: Well we sort of had satellite service - SD, not HD, and OTA channels, but moments before The Night Of Sunday night, we lost all signal so we've been watching Netflix all week. Hopefully, this will be fixed tomorrow, but who knows if the roofers will be done working in that area. We just finished episode 7 of OITNB Season 4 and episode 4 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Movies: We saw Suicide Squad over the weekend. I'm also catching up on Netflix DVDs I've had for 2-3 months. I watched Joy, Triple 9, and Eye in the Sky.

Dinners this week: Zucchini & Goat Cheese Tart, Ribs, Macaroni Salad, garden tomatoes, DiBella's subs, and leftover food from dinner last Saturday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Zucchini & Goat Cheese Tart

Ever since my mom gave me a copy of Ina Garten's Make It Ahead, there has been one recipe I've really, really wanted to try: Zucchini & Goat Cheese Tart. We finally made it.
Mostly, I fell in love with her beautiful photos of overlapping, concentric zucchini. But also, goat cheese. Yum. On homemade tart crust. Yum. And also, it's zucchini season & we had 3 from the garden.
Our tart did not turn out round. It also used more than 1.5 lbs of zucchini (more like 2+ lbs). And, our zucchini slices were not the same diameter. Funny thing about garden zucchini: some are skinny, some are fat, some are fat on one end and skinny on the other, or skinny on the ends and bulging in the middle.
Since our zucchini were "misshapen," I had some trouble slicing them. They kept wobbling around. So some slices are thin and others thicker and some are half slices. Whatever. Just makes the tart look more rustic and homey, right?
Did we use more than 8 oz goat cheese? Of course. We weren't going to slice off 2 oz from a 10 oz log and save it. Did we use more than 1 tsp fresh thyme? Absolutely. We weren't going waste thyme we went out in rain to snip. More than 1/4 tsp grated lemon? Of course. Zest from an entire small-ish lemon.
Was our goat cheese creamy? Debatable. It was more crumbly than creamy. Maybe it would have been creamier if it had sat out at room temperature longer.
Did I spread the goat cheese over the tart? Well I tried to but owing to slightly warm & soft tart crust and slightly cold & crumbly goat cheese it was more of a gentle smushing of goat cheese.
Was our tart round? No. I think SP started out intending to roll a round crust but as he rolled the dough, it became apparent that a rectangle shape was more easily achieved. Above photo, ready to bake. Below photo, baked.
We used a pizza cutter to slice it into 8 wedges. I think this is meant to be an appetizer, but we made it our meal.
Delicious, crisp, flaky, golden crust. Lemony, thyme goat cheese, creamy at last from baking. And cooked circles of zucchini piled on top of one another.
It might not have been round. The goat cheese might not have been creamy. And the zucchini were of varying thickness and diameter. But it still tasted darn good. We'd definitely make this again.

Recipe here.