Thursday, September 29, 2011

CSA #25

~1.5# fingerling potato medley, Clarion River Organics, OG
~ Cherry Belle radish bunch, Nu Way Farm, CF
~ 1/4# arugula, Nu Way Farm, CF
~ 1# mixed hot peppers, Matthew’s Farm
~ 3# D’Anjou pears, Dawson’s Orchards
~ 1# tomatillos, Becarri’s Farm
~ 1.5# red onions, Hostetler’s Farm, CF
~ 1/2# sweet, red Carmen peppers, Weeping Willow Farm, CF

We didn't take any of the radish bunch since neither of us much likes radishes. With all those tomatillos and peppers, it looks like we'll be doing some grilling and then making some kind of salsa. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bite Bistro

Lately we've been making an effort to try some restaurants on our "Try" list. Last Saturday evening, we tried another new place, one that has been on our radar for a while (thanks to Food Collage, who really likes it) and that was just reviewed in the City Paper: Bite Bistro in Bellvue. We arrived a bit past 6 pm after securing a parking space on the street. There were a few tables filled and we were seated right away. Reservations are accepted (we were asked if we had reservations) but I suppose not necessary. It's dimly lit and comfortable inside. Wood topped tables, some exposed brick wall, a bright turquoise wall. And the menu written on a chalkboard:
I apologize for the blurry photos. As you know, dimly lit = blurry photos since I won't use a flash inside a restaurant! I like the chalkboard idea, and yet I don't like it. I could see my parents being annoyed by it - they would not like craning their heads to see the menu. I have to admit, I was a little annoyed by having to twist around to study a menu and I had to ask SP to read a few options to me since a hanging light was blocking my view.  I don't think I'd like to be seated under the board because everyone looking my way would make me uncomfortable!! And yet while one side of me kind of dislikes the chalkboard approach, the other side likes it because it's a bit different and, as SP pointed out, they can frequently change the menu and not be worried about printing up new menus/the cost of that.

Bite Bistro is a BYOB place. We did not BYOB. Other tables did. One table even had a little cooler on the floor between their chairs, presumably filled with more of the beer they were enjoying. Bite Bistro offers non-alcoholic beverages as well as 'mixers' that can be enjoyed alone (ginger ale, coke, a fizzy cucumber soda) or with an alcohol provided by the customer. We ordered iced tea:
Look at those cute beverage glasses! I kind of wanted to steal one but I didn't have my big purse with me!!! The iced tea was really tasty. I asked the hostess what kind of tea they used because it tasted a bit like a chai, but she said it was just Lipton although she, too, had noticed that this batch tasted like something other than Lipton. Whatever it was, it was very good iced tea, not weak like some teas.

As usual there were many yummy sounding food options and we had trouble narrowing it down. We ordered three 'small bites.' One was 'mushrooms, polenta, walnut oil:'
A nice crispy rectangle of polenta. Lots of mushrooms. SP really, really liked this. Me? Not so much. BUT. It's me, not the dish. SP pointed out to me that in the past several months, whenever I've ordered a mushroom dish like this, with a truffle oil or walnut oil, I've not enjoyed it. I thought he was wrong until I thought about it, and to my surprise, he was right. I was shocked. I love mushrooms. But I think it's the oil. Whatever it is, it made me not want too much of this small bite, and SP was more than happy to eat more than his half.

I really enjoyed our second 'small bite' which was 'panzanella salad, prosciutto:'
Can anything with prosciutto taste bad? I think not. Add in some delicious, juicy, cherry tomatoes and seasoned, moist bread cubes and you have me making happy food noises.

Our third 'small bite' was the 'macaroni & cheese, green beans, prosciutto, basil:'
I thought that SP wouldn't be so into this dish, but he was more than happy to inhale his half. To be fair, he did offer me an extra bite, but I let him have it. We both really liked this. The green beans were a nice treat, something a little different. Pasta and cheese, two of my favorite things. More prosciutto and my favorite herb, basil - yum! I even took another photo to try and show how glorious this 'small bite' is:
There are several sandwich options and several 'big bite' options. Since we shared three 'small bites,' we both ordered sandwiches. SP chose 'BLT crab, sriracha ailoi:'
He chose cole slaw as his side. He said it was a delicious crab salad with a hint of spice from the sriracha. Bacon - nice and thick and crispy. He even liked the bun and the lettuce & tomato were excellent. He would 'order this again in a heartbeat' he says. I didn't try any since I don't like sriracha.

This was my sandwich:
Looks like plain old sloppy joes, right? Why would I get that? I'll tell you why - it was lamb! 'Sloppy Lamb' with molasses, chipotle, and onion. I chose frites as my side.

The Sloppy Lamb was delicious. I could definitely taste the chipotle, and it left a slight bit of heat in my mouth and throat, but it was not over-powering or too hot for me, the spice wimp. I could smell the smokiness if it, too. The bun? Delicious. The frites? Oh my. A cross between a regular french fry and a potato chip. As the City Paper said, in the shape of a wide egg noodle. So good! The green sauce drizzled on top is an aioli and the hostess told me they make a basic aioli and toss in whatever fresh herbs they have on hand that day. It was so good! I can't believe we ate as many frites with sauce as we ate since usually neither of us much enjoys frites/french fries.

On to dessert. We had just enough room to try some. I knew SP would want to try the Maple-Bacon Gelato:
It was good. It tasted like breakfast! SP says it was very unusual and different but also very tasty.

He correctly guessed that I'd order the Pot de Creme with Salted Caramel:
Oh my goodness. This was so thick and rich and dense. So tasty, but I could only eat about a third of it before asking to have the rest boxed up.

We both really enjoyed Bite Bistro. The food was tasty. The hostess/servers were very friendly. When I asked questions about the iced tea & frites dip, they were happy to answer and asked if I had any other questions. Our iced teas were kept filled and never too filled with ice cubes so as to dilute the tea. It was relaxing. Just a really nice meal. We will go back -- I'm not sure when since our list of places to go to again now rivals our list of places to try!! Bite Bistro is definitely worth a trip to Bellevue.

Also, they have special events. Saturday evening there was a poetry reading and there were many people arriving for that. SP told me that the restrooms are down a half flight of stairs and then down another half flight is a room where the poetry event was. There are other events - you can check out their scheduled events here.
Bite Bistro on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Second Trip to First Watch

Yesterday was another Saturday filled with errands. SP was thrilled, especially because the errands included taking me to the mall to exchange some jeans I bought that turned out to be the wrong size. Oops. Always try stuff on at the store. Otherwise, your husband will strain his eyeballs when he rolls them dramatically to illustrate his annoyance with yet another trip to the mall. To make the outing & errands somewhat less annoying, I suggested going out to breakfast.

He liked the idea. Of course, we were a little slow getting out the door. It was so comfy snuggling in bed and snoozing and before we knew it... we were leaving for breakfast at 11 am. Whoops. We decided to go to First Watch, which is at Settlers Ridge between the Verizon Wireless store & a vitamin/supplement store. It seemed like the best option since it didn't take us too far away from our core group of chores.

We were seated right away and as we looked over the menu, we both commented that it seems they have changed the menu since last we were there (March 2010). That's not a bad thing, just an observation. As for drinks, I stuck with water and SP had iced tea. SP ordered a blueberry pancake for us to share:
It was OK. I smeared the butter around but didn't pour on any of the provided maple syrup. I dunked my forkfuls in the blueberry compote ramekin. It was a thicker pancake, dense, and kind of dry, but I suppose that the dryness would have been offset by the syrup if I had poured on the syrup, but I just don't like a lot of syrup, so...

SP decided to try the Veg'd Out Omelet:
"Onions, mushrooms, celery, zucchini and broccoli. Topped with melted cheeses and diced tomatoes. Served with potatoes & English muffin." He thought it was light on the vegetables for a vegetable omelet. He doesn't recall there being any mushrooms and says there was little zucchini. What was on his plate tasted fine, it was just disappointing because it wasn't what he expected for a Veg'd Out omelet.

I opted for the BLTE. "The classic BLT sandwich plus a fried egg, cheese and mayo on multigrain bread:"
It came with the seasoned potatoes and a side of what looked like a tomato & cucumber salsa on top of some lettuce and a cup of fruit:

Here's a close up view of the sandwich:

I liked that the yolk part was cooked solid and not runny. The lettuce was fresh and not iceberg. The bread could have been toasted a bit more. But overall it was a tasty sandwich, and quite filling for me. SP ate my fruit and salsa/salad, which he said was OK. The potatoes were OK, nothing real exciting, and definitely better hot than cold. I eat slow and concentrated on my sandwich, so when I got around to the potatoes, they were cold and kind of... yucky.

Overall, we left a bit disappointed and not liking it as much as we had after our first visit a year and a half ago. I liked my sandwich, but it wasn't anything super special or that I would crave enough to motivate me to go back. SP didn't really like his omelet. And our service was not as good this time as last time. Our server seemed to want to get us in & out quickly but there were lots of empty tables and no line of people waiting. She didn't refill SP's iced tea. In fact, as she did a walk by to plop our bill on the table, I had to call after her to ask for her to refill his iced tea (he was in the restroom). She didn't stop by to ask if everything was OK. It was like the dropping off of the bill - a sort of fly by 'everything OK good OK' and whoosh! Off she went. She didn't ask if we wanted anything else before depositing the check. We didn't, but I still thought that she should have checked first before dropping the check on the corner of the table. I get that service between a chain and a place like notion or Willow or Eleven will be quite different, but to me the basics of service wherever you dine are keeping drinks filled and asking if everything is OK/if you need anything else. It's not like she had to lay out multiple utensils for multiple courses or serve multiple courses.

For the same cost ($21 with tax, before tip), maybe even less, we would prefer Bob's or Eggs N'At. I suppose if you're in the area (Settlers Ridge) and you've just worked out at LA Fitness and need to hit GEMD but you're hungry and want to sit for a bit, it's not a bad place to stop in, the food is OK, the atmosphere nondescript, it's just not somewhere we will seek out/choose again for future breakfasts when there are other places we like better. Or if we do want to eat breakfast in Settlers Ridge because of our errands, I'd rather we grab a bagel sandwich at Panera.
First Watch (Robinson) on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 23, 2011

CSA #24

Week #24:
~ 4 ounces goat milk chevre, River View Dairy
~ 1/3# arugula, Nu Way Farm, CF
~ 2# Honeycrisp apples, Kistaco Farm
~ 4 ears sweet corn, Weeping Willow Farm, CF
~ 1# mixed color Roma tomatoes, Weeping Willow Farm, CF
~ 1# sweet white onions, Hostetler’s Farm, CF
~ beet bunch OR mixed salad tomatoes, Hostetler’s Farm, CF or Golden Harvest Farm, CF
~ chives, Goose Creek Gardens, CNG
~ eggplant, Matthew’s Farm
~ 3 sweet banana peppers, Matthew’s Farm
OG- Certified Organic CNG- Certified Natural Grown CF- Chemical Free

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday Thoughts

I think I might be in a blog funk. Lately, I haven't been very interested in blogging. In fact, I've been considering quitting. I'm not sure why. On the one hand, I can't really imagine not taking photos of our food every time we make something. And we'll always be interested in going out and trying new restaurants and re-visiting favorite restaurants, and I'll want to share because we enjoy it so much and I always return home and think oh I have to blog about how great/not great this place was!

On the other hand, it's just the two of us, so whatever we cook on Sundays usually lasts the entire week. Add in the number of dishes we like and make frequently, and the number of interesting, new post options declines. I don't want to repeat myself, yet I feel bad if I don't post something besides the weekly CSA post, so I end up repeating myself, and I feel... not good. Plus, we are at a point in life where we enjoy cooking, and we experiment a wee bit with deviating from recipes/making up our meals, but again, given that it's just the 2 of us and that we have a lot going on (long work hours, family events, seeing friends, date time, other hobbies we enjoy) we don't like to experiment as much as when we were younger because if something is an epic failure, it really throws a wrench into things. If we make a casserole and it turns out disgusting or if we spend 3-4 hours roasting/braising something that then tastes gross, there might not be time to make something else, so we end up making frozen pasta and eggs all week, which leaves us both unsatisfied.  I really admire those food bloggers who come up with their own cupcake recipe or chicken recipe idea and then have the time and patience to test and test and test until it's just right.

Maybe my funk is because we are still ovenless, and as I posted last week, we've been slammed with a lot of unexpected expenses since finishing the major flooring project last April. Being an adult can be really stressful!

As for the ovenless part, we spent last week going out after work to appliance stores to look at options. Then we'd come home and do research. Then we dithered. Rather, I dithered. SP can be OK with making decisions quickly, but I need to hem & haw and fret about if it's what I really want for the next 10 years and by golly it better last 10+ years! I just 'know' when I am ready, and it took a week of pondering and measuring. I'm sure SP rolled his eyes every time I brought out the measuring tape! Our oven slides into the island and while the width is a nice, standard 30", I was concerned about depth and height. We have 'adequate' space between the island and the along-the-wall-cabinets, but can't really afford to decrease it, especially since as it is I sometimes manage to wedge myself/the wheelchair in between the dishwasher & oven. Yup. I get stuck. So if the oven is deeper, well, there could be issues. Minor issues, but issues.

Also, most slide ins have a 'lip' that sits on the edge of the counter, but the one we fell in love with isn't a true slide in, it's a free standing, so there's no 'lip' and that will be quite different for us since now we have a true slide in with lip on the counter. I started worrying about food and spills getting down between the oven & counter since there's no lip to catch stuff, would the height be OK or would it look too short or too tall, what did the back of the stove by the vent look like and would any 'ickiness' be visible in the center of the island, are our counters in good enough shape to have those edges under the lip exposed or are they all beat up and ugly, is a stupid stove going to turn into one of those domino effect things where you just want to fix one thing and suddenly you're fixing lots of things at a huge cost (what if the old counter edges exposed are ugly & beat up, then I'll want pretty new counters and then do we add a backsplash or not and where does the backsplash start/end and does it also go under the glass door cabinets on the other side of the kitchen?).

Plus the previous owners sometimes did things in ways that, as my brother put it about his own place one day when we were talking about odd things previous owners did, "It ain't wrong, but it ain't right." I am still nervous about our gas line and electrical outlet in the island being 'good enough' for the new oven!

So we set out Saturday morning to purchase the oven. We didn't get out as early as we would have liked. So we didn't get to have breakfast at Sugar Cafe or Bob's or First Watch as we planned. Instead, we had a quick Panera breakfast:
SP had egg & cheese on whole wheat toast. I had egg, cheese, and bacon on an asiago cheese bagel:
SP had  a few bites of mine. It was pretty tasty for a quick breakfast.

Then we went and made our big purchase! The new oven is ordered and should be here in about a week, then delivery will be arranged. So we are probably ovenless for another 7-10 days. After our big purchase, we walked over to The Pie Place. I had an Entertainment Book coupon for The Pie Place and since we are rarely in the area, we decided to treat ourselves. Plus, it's not like we could bake anything at home! We ended up with an oatmeal cookie for SP, a cinnamon biscotti for me, and 2 mini tarts, one mixed berry and one apple. I only photographed the half of the mixed berry tart that I ate:
It was tasty, but the raspberries and blackberries were a little too seedy for me. I like the apple tart better, even if I thought that apples were a little too sweet. The biscotti was good, but it had raisins in it and I don't like raisins.

Our meals this week are nothing new. Nothing exciting. About 3 of our dinners this week will be grilled shish kebabs: beef, lamb, scallops, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers. Along with the shish kebab, SP sauteed the CSA kale with the CSA eggplant and he cooked the corn. We bought an olive flatbread at Costco as a side, and voila! Quick non-oven dinner.

While he did all that, I made our other meal for the week: pasta salad for me and quinoa salad for him. We will get 3, maybe 4 meals, from these salads. Here's his quinoa salad:
This time, we added artichokes, kalamatas, carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, feta, basil, thyme, chives, parsley, roasted red pepper, and, for SP, capers. I used shells for my pasta - so that's new since usually I use bow ties!!!
Hopefully, next Sunday will also be a nice grilling day in case we don't yet have our new oven! Maybe once we have it, I'll feel more motivated about blogging and try some fall-ish recipes (pumpkin, apples, etc.). Right now, I'm not yet really ready to embrace fall even though it's my favorite season. However, I am ready to embrace a new oven!

Friday, September 16, 2011

CSA #23

In this week's box:
~ 1.5# heirloom tomatoes, Nu Way Farm, CF or Weeping Willow Farm, CF
~ 1.5# white potatoes, Weeping Willow Farm, CF
~ 3# Jonamac apples, Dawson’s Orchards
~ rosemary, Goose Creek Gardens, CNG
~ 1# Asian eggplant, Sunny Meadow Farm, CF or Blue Goose Farm, CNG
~ sweet pepper medley, Blue Goose Farm, CNG or Crighton’s Farm
~ green kale, Clarion River Organics, OG
~ red kuri squash, Clarion River Organics, OG
OG-Certified Organic CNG- Certified Natural Grown CF- Chemical Free
I didn't photograph the potatoes or kale. We gave the rosemary to our sharer since we have a huge pot of it on the deck. We cut the squash in half to share it - it's the orange-red thing on the left in the top photo. I guess we'll have to fry/saute or grill the potatoes/squash/kale/eggplant since we still haven't figured out the oven issue! I think we've settled on buying a new oven, and we know which one we like best, but we still have a couple of questions about it so there's one more trip to one more store before we actually make the purchase and then a 1-2 week wait for delivery & installation.

We know there are plenty of times when we don't use the oven for a week or more, but now that it doesn't work, it seems like we need it for everything and cannot possibly survive 2 more weeks without it!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Scoops On Beverly

Last Monday evening, after a bacon-less junior bacon cheeseburger and going to 3 appliance stores, I decided we needed a treat. Plus, some Entertainment Book coupons are burning a hole in my purse - they expire in November! We haven't used any of the ice cream coupons. We haven't even gone out for ice cream and summer is over! So since we were in the South Hills area, I dug out my Scoops On Beverly coupon and suggested it to SP. He agreed it sounded like a yummy idea. Scoops On Beverly is on Beverly Road in Mt. Lebanon. I seem to recall that long, long ago it was a Baskin Robbins, but I could be mistaken.

I've never been inside. It's not wheelchair accessible. I wait in the car while SP goes in. He usually calls me to tell me the flavors. Monday night, he emailed a photo! Our coupon was buy 2 scoops get 2 scoops free, so I was forced to choose 2 flavors. I chose Chocolate Marshmallow and Mint Moosetracks with a sugar cone:
SP chose Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Cherry Vanilla. He didn't get a cone.
I didn't try his flavors. I was too busy enjoying mine. The Chocolate Marshmallow was good, not great. But the Mint Moosetracks - oh my gosh. So good. Mint ice cream with crumbled chocolate cookie bits, fudge dollops, and junior mints. Mint + chocolate, one of my favorite combinations.

SP enjoyed his flavors, but he only ate about 1 scoop total (half of each). I, um... well, he was driving home, and it takes 25 minutes or so to get home from Beverly Road and I just kept eating and enjoying and trying to ice cream away the broken oven woes and before I knew it, my 2 scoops plus cone were gone.

Oink. Totally worth it.
Scoops on Beverly on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Park Bruges

Last Saturday evening, we dined at a restaurant new to us: Park Bruges. As I understand it, Park Bruges is a 'sibling' or maybe 'cousin' to Point Brugge, a restaurant at which I have not dined because we don't think it is accessible. But Park Bruges is. It took us a little while to get there because of some traffic, but we finally got to Bryant Street, found on street parking, walked over, and were seated right away. I think we got the last available table, which was, conveniently, a table for two.

SP is not able to drink alcohol right now (taking a prescription medication) and I feel bad enjoying a cocktail if he cannot have one, so we skipped the beers and wines and ordered iced teas. This is the best iced tea I have had at a restaurant. I can't remember exactly what kind of tea the menu said their iced tea is, I think it was a Numi Organic tea, but it had lots of bergamot flavor, which I adore. Yes, bergamot usually means Earl Grey, but I know the description did not say Earl Grey, just an organic tea with bergamot. Delicious. Like many other restaurants these days, our server left a bottle of cold water on the table so that we could refill our water glasses as needed.

There are a lot of delicious sounding options on the menu. For an appetizer, we decided to share an order of Crab Beignets served with charred tomato remoulade:

These were served super piping hot, which is a good thing, it just meant I had to wait a bit for mine to cool a bit. These were crabby & delicious. Fried crab cakes.
The dipping sauce was charred tomato remoulade. To me, it was more mustard-like than tomato-like. It was tasty, just not what I expected. I expected a redder and more tomato-y sauce.
When I looked at Park Bruges' menu online, I was intrigued by the Tarte Flambee appetizer options. Not surprising, I seem to almost always gravitate to such an appetizer. The one with creme fraiche, sauteed onions, Parma rosemary ham, chives, and shaved cheese sounded yummy. But then our server told us about a daily special appetizer: tarte flambee with chicken, asparagus, goat cheese, and shallot dressing. Goat cheese. Asparagus. How could we pass that up?!
Tarte Flambee is a very, very thin flatbread crust. The toppings were yummy. Big chunks of goat cheese. The shallot dressing seemed to mostly be in the center of the tarte, so the center pieces were the most delicious. The outer edge pieces were a wee bit drier and less tasty. Overall, a winning tarte. Definitely big enough that it could an entree for someone with a smaller appetite, or shared by three or four people depending on how much one wants to eat as an appetizer. The two of us didn't really need the two appetizers we ordered. One would have been enough. Especially with our entrees.
SP has often mentioned that he enjoys the moules + frites at Point Brugge, but we never go because, as I said, we don't think it's accessible. So I was really excited that we could go to Park Bruges. I strongly suspected he would order moules - and if he hadn't, I think I would have killed him!!! He ordered the creole version: spicy creole with andouille sausage, peppers, onions, celery & crumbled Maytag bleu (he asked them to leave the blue cheese off since he doesn't like blue cheese). He said they were spicier than he expected and it was quite tasty and a nice change of pace, but he thinks he likes the shallot & wine moules better and next time would order those ones instead.

He also enjoyed his frites. I tried some and they were fine. As I've said before, frites just aren't my thing. But these did have a nice crispy crunch.

I ordered Sautéed Chicken Breast with tomatoes, onions, artichoke hearts & mushrooms in a light wine sauce with herb risotto:
This was delicious! It seemed like a great transitional summer to fall dish. It seemed light enough for hot days of summer and yet something made it also seem like an autumn dish - maybe the red wine sauce and mushrooms and tomatoes, sort of like the coq au vin we made last winter. I can't single one thing out, everything together was one happy delicious plate. I ate one piece of chicken and a bit more than half of everything else and took the rest home for lunch on Sunday.
We both were fairly full, but as usual could not resist at least hearing about dessert. There was a peach-plum-and something else galette, a shortbread cake with berries, a chocolate cake dessert, and the one we decided to try: profiteroles with hazelnut ice cream.
The ice cream was so good! The profiteroles themselves were OK, a little drier and tougher than I would have expected. But the ice cream and those drizzles of sauce were so good!

I really liked Park Bruges. I have read that it is more spacious than Point Brugge, but my first impression was that the tables were a bit close. This didn't turn out to be the case. Initial fears that we and the table next to us would be eavesdropping on each other proved unwarranted. Perhaps one cannot eavesdrop even in close proximity to others because the noise level does tend to get a bit loud, but not loud enough that SP & I couldn't talk to and hear each other.

I can't really comment on any crowds or wait time. We were seated next to the hostess station and I heard them talking about wait time, but since the accessible entrance is around on the side, I am not sure how many people were waiting in front for a table when we arrived/departed.

That being said, if there were people waiting, we didn't notice it because we didn't feel rushed by our server to quickly clear out so they could serve another party. Our server was very nice and friendly. She offered some suggestions on what to order, commented that she really liked the risotto in my dish, made sure our iced teas were filled, left us an extra bottle of water. She wasn't bothered by our lack of alcohol consumption (sometimes I feel that servers are not happy when you don't order alcohol because it keeps the bill and thus their tip lower, and I think they forget that some people don't or can't drink alcohol).

We enjoyed all of our food. Two appetizers, 2 iced teas, 2 entrees, and 1 dessert came to around $72 with tax/before tip.

We will definitely go back.
Park Bruges on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Broken Oven & Other Tales of Woe

This past weekend was not an especially great weekend, from things that don't really affect us but we still care (the Steelers being humiliated by the Ravens) to things that affect us (our oven).

Today's post is all about our homeowner woes. Sometimes I miss apartment living, especially being able to call maintenance when something goes wrong. As a homeowner, you have to fix the problem yourself or call someone. In July we had the drippy tub faucet that turned out to be way more complicated than we ever expected. We called in Mr. Plumber. In August was the wire issue. We called Mr. Electric. And now, 2 more issues.

We've been calling Gutter Guys and spending a lot of time researching gutter options. Ours are fine, except for the one over the dining room, which needs to be replaced before the snow starts. It's a weak, crappy gutter and the weight of the snow the past 2 winters as it melted and slid off the roof crushed the gutter down in the center, and now it doesn't effectively work. So we got some quotes on dealing with that issue, different options, and it's not inexpensive. Grrrr. Plus, so far, the gutter guys have been pushy to the point of rude and bashed each other when they came out to give quotes. It's one thing to think you are better than your competition, another thing to actually bad-mouth your competition to potential customers.

So we have some more calls out. Meanwhile, we got up bright & early on Sunday to do some food preparation before the Steelers game. We wanted to watch the game in the sun room, but we don't have a DVR in the sun room so we can't pause/record the game while we do other things, so we wanted to be ready for kick-off. No 'oh we'll just record it and tune in 15 minutes late and then catch up by fast forwarding through commercials' or 'oh we'll pause it while we go start cooking something.'

First, we cooked our chicken for the Buffalo Chicken Dip. We use chicken breasts, cooked in the oven, when we make that dip. After the chicken was done, we started roasting some tomatoes for a tomato tart. Partway through, the oven started beeping. So we both zipped into the kitchen and looked at the display. Sure enough, it says something like F3 error call technician. Grrrr. This happened once before, and after cancelling and restarting, everything was fine. So we tried that. But it wouldn't work. So we shut the oven off, let it cool, and then tried again. Success for about 5 minutes before the beeping started.

Long story short: we spent the next 2 hours trying to cool/restart/re-set the oven and get the tomatoes roasted. The tomatoes eventually were roasted enough to call it quits BUT the oven no longer even pre-heats. If you press bake and then 300 or 325 or 375, it just sits there at 100, not doing anything.

Sob. An oven is necessary for baked goodies. And the meals we planned to cook this week. We ended up cooking the buffalo chicken dip in the microwave, and while it's fine to re-heat dip in the microwave, microwaving to initially make the dip really didn't result in a tasty dip with well-mixed flavors. You can't get that nice melty, crusty, brown layer of cheese on top if you heat it in the microwave. And then our chips were kind of stale. So disappointing. And the Steelers were embarrassed by the Ravens. Also disappointing.

Dead oven. Yucky dip. Stale chips. Steelers crushed by team we loathe.

Some research makes us think the oven's heat sensor is toast. SP made some calls to see what it would cost to repair the oven. But we have other issues with our oven. Periodically, when we turn on a burner, it causes a 'power interruption' and our digital screen/clock needs to be reset. We were already annoyed with this issue - and yes, we did try to have it fixed under the home warranty when we moved in but the technicians couldn't replicate the issue when they were here so we were SOL on getting it fixed unless they could replicate it when they were here.

And the front control panel gets super duper hot. Like I can't even touch it because it's too hot for my delicate finger tips. We've recently read online about this issue for our kind of oven and it makes us very nervous. Stories about control panels overheating, getting fried, and in some cases, catching fire.

Anyway, we had been thinking that late next year we would buy ourselves a nice new, shiny, stainless oven to match our dishwasher & refrigerator (those are stainless; the oven & microwave are black). But we are not yet ready to do so. Except we might be forced to do so. Research and quick trips to HHGregg, Best Buy, and Sears on Sunday plus trips to Don's and a different Sears & a different Best Buy on Monday made us realize we have few options (we have a drop in/slide in model because it's set in an island in the center of the kitchen) and all the models in the stores are $2500+. Yikes.

They all offer to order any of the slide ins we like from their extensive catalogs, and many in the catalogs are less than the in store $2500+ ones, but this is a major appliance and it had better last 10+ years, so we need to like it. I need to be able to see how it feels and where things are for me. It's much different when you are in a wheelchair and things like the knobs are less an aesthetic issue and much more a very important functional issue. It won't be good if we end up with an oven for the next 10 years that I can't open the door because it's too heavy or I can't reach the knobs to turn on the burners or the grates aren't shaped in a way to minimize tipping & spilling when I scoot pots and pans on top or, in the case of those ovens with a warming drawer, I can't easily remove stuff from both the drawer & the oven. Functionality for me is why we have the old style top freezer/bottom refrigerator instead of a side by side or the freezers on the bottom style of refrigerator.

Plumbing issue. Wire issue. Gutter issue. Oven issue. All after the flooring project.

Can I call R the maintenance guy? Do you think he'll do house calls for a former tenant?

This is going to take some serious research, serious saving, and serious budget maneuvering.

All with the pressure of time: we are ovenless until we make a decision. We need to fix the gutter before November and snow season. New oven or potentially costly repairs for all 3 oven issues? Or just repair one issue? Or two?

Did I mention our less costly but still annoying other issues? My hair dryer decided to die. It was only 11 years old - !!! I can't ever try to air dry my hair - it's too thick and just absorbs water. It takes like 10 hours for my hair to air dry. Unless I sit in the sun. Then it takes about 2 hours to completely dry.

The cherry/olive pitter broke. Thank goodness for those 20% off at Bed, Bath, Beyond coupons.

Our refrigerator water filter decided it was time to be replaced. Do you know how much those things cost?! After scouring the internet, SP found the cheapest price to be $41. My dad was just complaining that he had to replace his after 8 months and it cost $45. I swear the refrigerator water filter systems are configured to light up and say you need a new water filter every 6 months whether you really do or not.

We had to get me a new computer because I was getting 2+ blue screens of death a day.

Crap. This is so stressful.

I'd go have some madeleines to console myself, but the ones we baked Saturday night came out too brown, dense, dry, and heavy (maybe because the oven wasn't sensing heat properly?!). Maybe the oven is why our chocolate chip cookies turned out differently?

So no new cooking posts this week. Sunday night we made frozen ravioli (chicken & mozzarella) with jarred sauce. Thank goodness for that spur of the moment ravioli purchase at Costco on Saturday. Last night we went to Wendy's on our way to the oven stores. Not only is eating that kind of crap bad for you, but my junior bacon cheeseburger tuned out to not have any bacon, which I didn't discover until we were a mile down the road, and if I'm going to eat crappy, well, bacon sure is going to be a part of it. Grrrr.

At this point, things can only get better, right?

Friday, September 9, 2011

CSA #22

CSA Week #22:
~ pint edamame, Nu Way Farm, CF
~ 4 ears sweet corn, Weeping Willow Farm, CF
~ 3# Bartlett pears, Dawson’s Orchards
~ flat parsley, Goose Creek Gardens, CNG
~ 1# green beans, Hostetler’s Farm, CF
~ 2# heirloom tomatoes, Nu Way Farm or Weeping Willow Farm
~ 1 red sweet Carmen pepper, Weeping Willow Farm, CF
~ 1# Roma tomatoes, Nu Way Farm, CF
~ 1# cipiollini onions, Crighton’s Farm
OG- Certified Organic CNG- Certified Natural Grown CF- Chemical Free

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pure & Simple - Trip #2

After doing grocery shopping & errands and then making pie, potato salad, and chocolate chip cookies on Saturday, the last thing we wanted to do was cook dinner. But we also didn't feel like driving very far. So that left us with picking a place in Robinson. Our usual choice is Bocktown, but we were just there 2 weeks ago. So we decided to try Pure & Simple Bistro again.

I don't know what the heck was going on Saturday evening around 6:30, but there was actually lots of parking at Settlers Ridge! We were seated right away and started debating dinner choices. We tried some new dishes, and we ordered some that we ordered last time. Like the Chicken Noodle Soup:
I still think SP is crazy for wanting hot soup on a super humid 90+ degree day but... he really likes soup, and he again enjoyed this version of chicken noodle soup which has a dark broth and penne for the noodle.

We tried a different appetizer this time. Instead of the Fried Green Tomatoes we tried the Shrimp & Grit Fritters.
These were really tasty. There were 4 large fritters and they came with a sweet chili dipping sauce. To my surprise, I really enjoyed the dipping sauce.
They were super creamy, everything well pureed, then fried and served piping hot. Yum!

SP chose the salad with his entree. As before, it came with the house balsamic dressing.
SP again ordered the Eggplant & Mushroom Napoleon:
It was again tasty.

I chose the Louisiana Tempura Shrimp with cauliflower puree and apricot sauce:
There were 5 large shrimp. They were quite tasty. Not tough/overcooked. The cauliflower puree was a little chunkier than I expected, but still tasty. The apricot sauce was good, too, but I didn't really need it since I tend to not dunk my shrimp in sauces.

Instead of a side salad, I chose the vegetable of the day, which was zucchini. It was sauteed and there was parmesan sprinkled on top.
We enjoyed our food again, and we like the calm, relaxing atmosphere. Service was a little slow. Not so much our server, but apparently there was some sort of issue in the kitchen with people calling off/not being fully staffed and it took a while for our food to come out. We didn't really mind this time because we were a little tired from everything we'd been doing at home, so it was nice to have a dinner break take longer than expected, but I can understand why diners who wanted to catch a movie after dinner were a little unhappy. The owner and the chef both came around to apologize and explain to diners, which was nice.

Pure & Simple does have a new chef and he told us that on Tuesday (September 6) they were going to roll out a new menu that would have many of the same dinner options but also include lunch options, like sandwiches, for dinner as well. So one menu for all day. I think that will help them get more foot traffic since sandwiches are generally priced lower than entrees and some movie goers might not want to spend quite that much ($16~$22) on an entree. I think also they could benefit from advertising their BYOB policy a bit more. This was our second trip and second time that someone stopped in to inquire about whether or not they serve alcohol. There is a wine store next door where one could go buy some wine for dinner, but... knowing in advance would be nicer. I'd like to remember to take a bottle of wine the next time we go. Maybe they could post their menu and a sign about their BYOB policy on the front doors or near the side door so people walking by could easily stop and see what they have to offer?

We still like Pure & Simple a lot and hope they stick around. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- in the land of chain restaurants, it's nice to have a tasty independent option.