Monday, May 31, 2010
It was a beautiful, sunny, warm day. We had no problems finding the restaurant thanks to Droid's GPS. It was a surprisingly quick trip up Rte 28 to the 40th Street Bridge, across the bridge, turned left, another immediate left, and then a right, and a few blocks down there it was. There was plenty of free street parking.RMC is cozy and bright inside. It's small, but the tables are not too crowded. There were not very many other diners there when we arrived, so I'm not sure if it gets noisy or not. It was not noisy when we were there.
RMC is BYOB and amazingly, not only did we remember to take a wine, but we remembered to chill one! Since it was such a warm weekend, we decided on a white wine - Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc.While we studied the menu, our server brought some bread and olive oil for dipping. The bread was tasty - a nice crisp crust, not too chewy. We ate it all!I decided that for my appetizer I would try the House Salad - fresh mixed greens, dried cranberries & toasted pecans, with choice of dressing (I chose Italian Vinaigrette).It was a nice assortment of mixed greens, not iceberg, with cranberries and nuts. Nothing super special, but tasty and fresh.
SP opted for the Tex-Mex Roll - chipotle chicken, black beans, corn, peppers, tomato, onion, and cheddar-jack cheese, rolled in a crispy wrapper and served with raspberry chipotle dipping sauce.He really enjoyed the Tex-Mex Roll. I didn't try any. It seemed like a very good sized portion to me.
For his entree, SP chose Madras Curry - shrimp, chicken or tofu simmered in a spicy Indian style curry sauce and served over vegetable Basmati rice. He chose shrimp.He said it was very good. Again, I didn't try any of his food. He said the curry sauce was not quite as good as at a 'real' Indian restaurant but the shrimp were much tastier then at a 'real' Indian restaurant (not overcooked).
I debated between the Lasagna and the Crepes Florentine, finally choosing Crepes Florentine - baked crepes with a spinach-ricotta filling and a light Parmesan cheese sauce.Oh my gosh. The sauce was so tasty - rich and creamy and not at all healthy but soooo good! I spooned up every last drop. There was a lot of spinach inside the crepes, which made me feel a bit better about all the cream sauce!
Surprisingly, we finished the entire bottle of wine. We were amazed at ourselves! It must have been because it was so darn hot and the cool, crisp wine tasted so good. After clearing our dinner plates, our server brought over the dessert tray. Perhaps owing to my slightly more than half a bottle of wine imbibing, I actually asked him if I could take a photo of the entire tray (instead of surreptitiously snapping photos of just our desserts). Our server laughed and held the tray at a good level for a photo!There was a Lemon Tart, Raspberry Cheesecake, Strawberry & Cream Cake, and a Chocolate & Caramel & Pecan Cake. We quickly decided to share our desserts and chose the Raspberry Cheesecake:and the Strawberry & Cream Cake:Both were very, very good. We both slightly preferred the strawberry dessert only because there was something so light and refreshing about the spongy cake and cream - perfect for a warm day. The cheesecake was delicious, too, but because it was cheesecake it was a bit heavier than the cake (but not as heavy and dense as some cheesecakes, which was very nice).
I had decaf coffee with my dessert; SP had the Tea of the Day, a sencha.
We would definitely go back to RMC. We enjoyed our food. The Restaurant Week Menu was a bit different from the usual menu (the Lasagna, Crepes Florentine, and Madras Curry are not on the regular menu). Our service was very good. The servers helped each other out; if one noticed a table needed to have some plates cleared, he just did it. SP recognized one server and it turns out he was our server the first time we ate at Paris 66, which was the time we had the best service there.
A wonderful Saturday date night dinner.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
I have to admit that going in to our first meet up and not knowing anyone else who was going, just their blog, I was very nervous!! I am a shy, introverted person and I am not very good at meeting new people. Frankly, it stresses me out. I was all 'oh what a great idea Restaurant Week and a meet up' and before I knew it I had said yes and then Friday afternoon reality set in: I had to go meet people! It was like a giant blind date! What if they were mean? What if we had nothing to talk about? What if SP & I were obviously much older than everyone else (we are older than everyone else... older than people probably think!)? What did I get myself in to????
To make matters worse, as we were about to leave, the drenching downpour started. Ugh! I got pretty wet and felt all soggy! We left around 6:30 -- we always allow an hour when we have a definite time to be somewhere because you never know what the Fort Pitt Tunnel traffic back up will be like. Thanks to very light traffic, we were parked and seated by 7:15 - a bit early and we were the first ones there.
Then Lindsay showed up and all my fears went away - she's a very sweet, friendly, bubbly, fun 'Human Vacuum!' Mike from FoodBurgh was there, Julie from Snickie, Brett & Kristie from Serenity Valley Farm (Kristie is also the Pittsburgh Food Examiner), and Lindsay's friends Natalie & Joe. No one was mean and we had plenty to talk about - whew!
CBW is of course a beer place! SP ordered the Coconut Stout - he likes those dark beers. Everyone else ordered beers - I cannot give any more details because I am not a beer person! I ordered iced tea.
Mike ordered a bottle of the Cherry Quadzilla for everyone to share: From CBW site: "The Cherry Quadzilla is a full bodied Belgian ale. It is amber in color with some red hues. You will notice lots of fruit-like esters and a bread-like maltiness with a lingering caramel sweetness. As the beer finishes, you will get a slight bitterness and then a alcohol warming effect. When the Cherry Quadzilla warms, the complexity increases and the flavor becomes fuller."
I had a few sips and liked it, but not enough to become a beer drinker!
Here's the CBW Local Restaurant Week menu:SP, along with 3 other people, chose to order the special $20.10 deal. The soup was a roasted vegetable & bacon soup:I forgot to ask him how it tasted. He loves soup, and he ate it all, so I guess it was good!
He & I ordered the pierogie appetizer to share:These were good. Sometimes, to me, pierogies are hard to cut or the dough is too doughy, but these were a good consistency. Easy to cut, not too doughy, and a nice potato filling.
SP chose the Mango-Black Pepper Glazed Chicken for his entree:He really enjoyed his meal. He said it might have been the best dish he's ordered at CBW.
The other $20.10 entree was Jambalaya, which Brett ordered:I didn't ask him how it was, so all I have is the photo of his dish!
I didn't order off the special menu because the jambalaya was spicy, and the mango chicken came with coconut rice and coconut is not a flavor I especially like. Instead, I ordered the Cous Cous Salad with chicken:From CBW site: "Baby greens, spinach, chilled marinated Israeli couscous, pine-nut crusted chevre, and marinated artichoke quarters served with red pepper vinaigrette." I really enjoyed this salad. I actually enjoyed it more without the vinaigrette. There were 3 rounds of a very tasty goat cheese, lots of artichokes, lots of mixed greens and sprouts. Very tasty - and also probably my favorite dish of the ones I have tried at CBW. It was huge and like most entree salads I order, I felt full and it looked like I barely ate anything! So lots of leftovers for lunch today.
Julie had a yummy looking Artichoke, Spinach, & Feta pizza. I'm not sure what Mike, Natalie, and Joe ate - but it's all in Lindsay's post!
For dessert, SP got the special deal Bread Pudding - which was enormous!He didn't finish it all and brought some home. It seemed to me like a huge chopped up cinnamon bun! Lots of cinnamon flavor.
I opted for the tiramisu:This was good, and light, but I would have liked more coffee flavor/less rum (or whatever booze they used) flavor.
As Lindsay said in her post, the service was very good. Our server was still checking on if we wanted any more iced tea/beer/water even after we paid and were lingering; she took time to explain all the beers several times as people arrived at different times; and there were no problems or errors with the separate checks.
Again, many thanks to Lindsay for organizing a fun evening - SP & I had a really nice time.
Friday, May 28, 2010
We usually try to prepare 2 meals on Sunday - meals with enough leftovers so that from Monday-Friday, we just need to reheat. This past week's challenge was to figure out 2 meals that were quick and easy to prepare Sunday morning since we had plans for Sunday evening.
Our first choice: the Orzo, Crab, Artichoke, Sun-Dried Tomato Salad that we really enjoy and make every 3-4 months. It's easy to cook the orzo while reading the Sunday paper, and the orzo is the only part that requires 'cooking.' Blending the dressing ingredients is quick & easy. Chopping jarred artichokes & sun-dried tomatoes is quick & easy. We usually get 3 dinners out of this meal.Our second meal: Ham with Biscuits and Green Beans. Remember at Easter SP bought a huge ham at Costco and we divided it up? This is one of the 2 hunks of ham we put in the freezer.Ham is easy. Thaw it, place it in a glass baking dish, put the meat thermometer in, bake at 325 until it reaches 140 degrees. A glaze isn't necessary, but we wanted one so Sunday we mixed together the same glaze we used at Easter time and put the container in the refrigerator.
On Monday, I put the ham in the oven around 5:30; it was done around 6:55. I brushed glaze on it every 15 minutes until the glaze was used up.
While the ham baked, I washed and trimmed the ends off green beans and put them in a casserole dish to await cooking in the microwave. The biscuits were a 'cheat' - we used Pillsbury frozen biscuits. I put them in the oven around 6:30 since normally they take about 20 minutes at 375. I also took the butter out ahead of time so it would soften and be easy to spread on the biscuits.I sat at the table and read some magazines while the ham baked. After it was done, I took it out, tented it with foil, and let it rest. I turned the oven up to 375 to finish baking the biscuits.When he got home, SP sliced the ham and microwaved the green beans. There was enough ham for 2 more meals. SP had bought enough green beans for 2 meals. We also had lots of CSA greens & potatoes for side dishes.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
While I was scooping, a friend called, so I didn't take any photos because I was talking on the phone and because, in the next step, my hands got way too greasy to handle the camera!!!The next step was to roll the scoops into smooth, round balls and roll those balls in granulated sugar. Then I used a half teaspoon measuring spoon to make the thumbprint indentations. We filled the thumbprints with cherry, peach, strawberry, or raspberry. Each cookie sheet baked for about 15 minutes.After cleaning up, we settled on the couch to watch the 'V' finale and sample the cookies. Mmmm yum! The buttery cookie part is delicious! Soft, moist, flavorful. So good. The jelly adds a nice pop of flavor. All 4 flavors are good, but I think the raspberry is my favorite, followed by the peach.These are so tasty. We've been snacking on them for breakfast, after lunch, in the evening - this batch of 32 only lasted from Friday evening until Monday evening!! I guess we'll have to make more soon.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
I have to admit that going in, I was not very excited about Outback. To me, it's a lot of meat, specifically beef, more specifically steak, which I rarely if ever eat and never when dining out (unless it's a cheesesteak sandwich). I also cannot eat garlic or spicy foods. I don't eat foods like ribs when I am out because they're so messy. While I will eat fish at home, I don't usually when I am out for the same reason that I don't order pork when I am out - because some places don't cook it all the way through and even a slight hint of pink/rareness can set my stomach off. If I ask for pork/beef/fish well done at a place like Outback, I end up sawing through a piece of leather.
Those restrictions (necessary due to my sensitive stomach) rule out huge chunks of the menu at Outback. They rule out all the Signature Steaks (yuck, beef), all the Perfect Combinations (all steak and/or ribs), all the Burgers/Sandwiches (except for chicken). The salads were also rejected - Caesar has garlic, I don't eat iceberg lettuce, and I don't eat chicken salad when I am out because sometimes it can be too mayonnaise-y and too much mayo/mayo based salads like chicken, potato, and macaroni often upset my stomach.
I ruled out nearly all the Outback Favorites - either beef, or garlic mashed potatoes, or messy like ribs. I also ruled out nearly all the appetizers as a meal -- last time I ate fried onions I had horrible, painful indigestion for nearly a week, I don't eat chicken wings (messy and usually too spicy), I don't like coconut, I don't eat seared tuna, and fries are not a good dinner.
So as I munched on some bread, I was feeling irritated.
The bread is OK. It's brown, but I'm not sure it's a healthy kind of brown bread because it tasted awfully sweet to me...
SP's family ordered some appetizers to share. I couldn't eat either. They ordered a Bloomin' Onion:and Seared Ahi Tuna with ginger soy sauce and wasabi vinaigrette:They said the appetizers were good. I avoided the onion since I feared an aftermath similar to the one after I ate a bunch of onion straws at Hop House. I also avoided the tuna - I don't like seared/raw in the middle tuna.
SP ordered a side salad. It looked OK. I snagged a crouton and promptly had to discreetly (or maybe not so discreetly) spit it into my napkin because it was a garlicky crouton. Yuck! It left a horrible, horrible taste in my mouth.For his meal, SP ordered Grilled Chicken on the Barbie - chicken seasoned and grilled with their signature BBQ sauce and served with fresh seasonal veggies. He got his BBQ on the side.He ate it all and seemed to like it. He didn't like the butter on his vegetables.
Z and SP's dad both ordered steak, ZSO ordered grilled chicken, and Googer ordered the pork tenderloin. They all seemed to enjoy their meals.
I had 4 choices:
- the appetizer Alice Springs Chicken Quesadilla
- the Alice Springs Chicken (flame-grilled and topped with sautéed mushrooms, crisp strips of bacon, melted Monterey Jack and Cheddar and finished with honey mustard sauce)
- the Grilled Chicken that SP & ZSO ordered
- the Chicken and Swiss Sandwich
I ended up ordering the Alice Springs Chicken.It was OK. Bacon is always yummy, just not healthy. There was a lot of cheese, maybe too much. It could have used more mushrooms. I didn't especially like the seasoning on the chicken - it was too salty, too spicy/peppery, and just too 'fake/bottled' season-y for me, like a pre-mixed grill seasoning bottle, and I never like those pre-mixed grill seasonings. I ordered vegetables instead of fries to try to be a bit healthy but the vegetables were swimming in butter which rolled around the plate and pooled under the chicken - yuck.
Proof the food was too salty: I drank 1.5 iced teas. Ask SP - it's surprising if I finish half my iced tea when we're out. To drink 1.5 glasses is astounding.
I only ate half my meal and I brought the rest of it home. No one ordered dessert.
The service was OK. Z had made a reservation and everyone was seated when we arrived. It did take a while to get some silverware/napkins, but our server did keep the drinks re-filled -- no small feat when serving SP and Googer, who both drink a lot. Like 3-4 full glasses, sometimes more, of whatever they're drinking.
All in all, it was what I expected from Outback. Not a very Yum Yum friendly place and I certainly won't be suggesting it for future meals. But everyone else enjoyed it.
Friday, May 21, 2010
It's very easy to make. I don't cook my chicken in a skillet; I bake it in the oven. I lined a cookie sheet with foil, spread a bit of butter on the foil so that the chicken wouldn't stick, and sprinkled both sides of each chicken breast with salt & pepper. The chicken breasts that SP bought were huge. They took 40-45 minutes at 350 in the oven. We each ate half a breast for dinner, so we got 2 meals out of this dish.
While the chicken baked, I got the rice simmering. We're still debating whether or not it's worth it to buy a rice cooker. On the one hand, I always seem to boil over rice when I make it, and that makes a mess and requires more clean up, and it's annoying to have to hover over the stove keeping an eye out for the rice boiling over.
On the other hand, one User Guide I read in the store mentioned that that particular rice cooker gives off so much steam when it cooks the rice that you shouldn't place it on a counter under a cabinet because the steam could damage your cabinet - ?! We certainly don't want that! While we could use it on the island, I'm just not sure about it. Do all rice cookers give off that much steam? You would think I'd know all about rice cookers after living in Japan for 2 years, but... I don't!
So every time, I try to not boil over the rice. It seems to cook best when I start it on the lowest flame and keep it there, even if it takes an hour to cook a half cup of rice. Sometimes if I do it with the flame a bit higher, the water evaporates before the rice is fully cooked and the rice tastes a bit hard/crunchy to me. And it boils over. Yuck and ugh!
After setting the rice over the lowest flame, I washed and cut some fresh broccoli and put it in a casserole for steaming in the microwave once SP got home. Then I started the sauce for the chicken.It's really easy. I chopped a shallot and simmered the shallot in some butter. Then I added the vermouth and mustard. I've used regular Dijon and the whole grain Dijon for this dish. Both are good. I always use generous tablespoons of the mustard.
After the vermouth and mustard started to simmer, I added the cream and tarragon. I always guess on the amount of tarragon - I just sprinkle it in until it looks good to me. I didn't use whipping cream; I used whole milk. My mom once made it with heavy cream (she bought heavy cream instead of whipping cream by accident) and while it was deliciously rich and thick, it's not especially healthy! Whipping cream is less fat than heavy cream, and whole milk is even less. You could probably use skim milk, but then the sauce might be too weak/bland. I say might, because mostly what I taste is the mustard and tarragon and those 2 flavors together are terrific. I've seen a lot of recipes for similar mustard-tarragon sauces, some with brandy instead of vermouth, some with chicken broth, but they have the mustard-tarragon combination in common.After the chicken finished baking, I let it rest for a bit and then sliced it and added the slices to the sauce in the skillet. When he got home, SP microwaved the broccoli and we sat down to a very tasty and easy dinner.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
I mentioned earlier this week that we went to Home Depot last Saturday. We bought some purple petunias for the planter out front and some reddish-orange petunias for the large pot that used to have the palm tree in it. We also bought some herbs to fill the pots from all of last year's sunroom plants (last year we bought real plants for the sunroom; they didn't fare so well, got worms, and were promptly disposed). Here's some of our herbs, patiently waiting in the driveway to be placed in their new homes before a critter (groundhog, rabbit) wanders up and eats them:Oh no! What happened to their pot homes? Demolished! Smashed! What vile critter did this? It must have been a large one. Maybe silver-gray. Maybe it had big tires. Maybe it was driven by a slightly forgetful man - one who forgot he put the pots in the driveway to dry after washing them, went out to get more potting spoil, returned home and zipped down the drive front first, and somehow completely forgot/didn't see the empty pots - ?!!!!!!!Crunch. Oops. Sigh. I love SP with all my heart, but sometimes... Grrr. Well, accidents happen...
So we needed some new pots. Fortunately, the basil was already re-potted:There were a couple of pots, small ones, that didn't get crunched. The dill got transplanted into a small pot:And the parsley got transplanted into a small pot:The oregano, well, it just got a saucer.Monday night, SP bought a pot for the oregano. Tuesday night he re-potted the oregano. We'll have to see how the dill & parsley do; we might need to buy bigger pots for them.
Of course as soon as we got the petunias and herbs transplanted, the rain moved in. I was afraid my herbs might get too much water or be battered by storm winds, so we moved them under the deck table to shield them a bit.
We're hoping the herbs do better this year than last year. Last year we tried growing basil and parsley on tables in the sunroom, but our sunroom doesn't really get much sun since it's in the back of the house. The kitchen, too, is in the back. In addition to the window sills being too small for herb pots, the sun only shines in the back windows in the early morning. It would be best to have the herb pots on a window sill in front of the house because the front windows have sunshine streaming in all afternoon and evening, but the window sills in front are also too small.
We're afraid to put the herb pots on the front patio because of the deer, rabbits, and groundhogs. Last summer, the deer ate our hosta out front and left hoof prints in the fresh mulch. Otis the Groundhog and his family are frequently seen munching on our grass and lilies. We see a lot of bunnies, too.
The deck gets a lot of sun shine. Randy Raccoon goes on the deck, but hopefully we got rid of him last summer (recall the evil raccoon pooped on our deck for a month or two and got into our trash a couple of times). The squirrels and birds will go on the deck, but I don't think the squirrels will eat the herbs and the birds seem more interested in smacking into our game room window and leaving bird goo all over it. We need to put a deterrent up in that window before one of the birds smacks into it with enough force to crack it.
So the deck it is. Wish us luck with the basil, parsley, dill, and oregano!
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
I think I've mentioned before that we almost didn't register anywhere for wedding gifts because we had each been on our own for so long and accumulated so many kitchen gadgets and appliances that we thought it wouldn't really be worth it. But then we reconsidered - when we really thought about it, we realized there were quite a few items on our 'Wish List' - like a new ice cream maker. Thanks to Zurdie and her SO, we have a wonderful new ice cream maker:We've been waiting to try it out. I don't really like ice cream when it's cold and the past week or so hasn't been all that warm here in Pittsburgh. Plus, making ice cream isn't really a spur of the moment thing. The ice cream maker freezer bowl needs to be frozen in the freezer ahead of time before using it and the finished product needs/benefits from some time in the freezer before you enjoy it.
We perused the recipes that were printed in the User Guide that came with the ice cream maker and decided to try a sorbet, not ice cream. We decided on Fresh Mango Sorbet. On his weekly Costco trip, SP bought mangoes:Saturday evening, after we got home from Te Cafe, we made the mango mixture. Yes, at 11 pm we decided to start making sorbet!!! We peeled, pitted, and chopped the mangoes and placed them in the blender:We added fresh lemon juice, sugar, and corn syrup and pressed 'puree.' A few minutes later, we had a smooth mango mixture which we placed in the refrigerator overnight.Sunday morning, SP poured the mixture into the freezer bowl and turned on the ice cream maker.The recipe said it would take 25-30 minutes. It took longer than that - possibly as long as 45 minutes. The machine senses when the mixture is ready and turns itself off. It's a little loud, but SP said that compared to his old one, this one is actually 'quiet.'He scooped the mixture from the machine into a couple of plastic containers and placed them in the freezer. Sunday evening, around 9 pm, we decided to try the sorbet.
It was a little hard to scoop out. We had to let it soften for a bit. It's very good. A nice mango flavor. Not too sweet. Smooth. A very good first use of the ice cream maker. Especially tasty with a dollop of whipped cream on top.
Fresh Mango Sorbet
4 ripe but firm mangoes, peeled, pitted, and cubed
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
6 tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice
Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor until thick and smooth. The mango puree may be refrigerated for up to a day; refrigerate until ready to process in ice cream maker. Turn machine on, pour puree into freezer bowl through spout and mix until thickened, about 25-30 minutes. Makes about 10 1/2-cup servings.