Thursday, June 7, 2012

Date Day

Every few months, SP & I have a Date Day. No chores/errands, no house/yard work, just fun & relaxing. Last Saturday was a Date Day and we started off with a trip to The Strip. We rarely shop in The Strip. It's just not especially convenient for us in terms of our proximity to the area, traffic getting there, time spent traveling to/returning from -- there are just too many other things on The Weekend List that we need to get done.

But a Date Day, well, ignoring the long To Do list for a day means we could go to The Strip. Especially since we've been wanting (needing) to replace/replenish several herbs/spices. A trip to Penzeys may have been the motivation, but once we had parked and started walking around on a gorgeous, sunny, warm day, we decided to take our time and explore and enjoy.
We've both been to The Strip before, but it had been quite some time for me. We poked our heads in almost everywhere along Penn Avenue. We did more than poke our heads in at Cafe Raymond - we enjoyed a quick & delicious lunch. It was around 12:30 pm and we both felt a little hungry, but not too hungry, so we shared a sandwich.
The girl behind the counter was really friendly and happily offered to bring us two plates, each with half the sandwich. We chose the Prosciutto SandwichSan Daniele prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, roasted tomatoes, pesto, and olive tapenade on ciabatta. We got the pesto on the side because of the potential garlic issue. It didn't smell nor taste too garlicky, and I tried a few wee drops of the delicious pesto, but with a full day of fun ahead, I didn't eat too much of it. The olive tapenade was lightly spread on the ciabatta so it wasn't overpowering, just a really nice olive tang. Fresh bread. A thick slice of creamy cheese. Salty prosciutto. Soft red peppers. I don't really remember any tomato on the sandwich, though. The chips were quite tasty, crunchy, thick, and salty.
A delicious sandwich in a friendly setting. I would definitely return to Cafe Raymond. Next time, maybe early enough for breakfast. Breakfast was over, but we could still see that there had been Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes, which I thought sounded really good, and a Breakfast Burrito, which sounds like something SP would enjoy.
Cafe Raymond on Urbanspoon
Our bellies full, we set off. As I said, we explored nearly everywhere, but one place that sticks in my mind is Enrico's Biscotti, probably because I love their biscotti and because I am a sweets person! Walking in and immediately seeing all the glass jars filled with biscotti and all the other treats in the glass display case.... heavenly.
In the back, there was a tray of chocolate covered something cooling on a table. I asked the lady if I could get closer to the work area to check out the tray and she told me they were chocolate covered coconut macaroons. Sadly, despite the inviting appearance, I don't like coconut, so I didn't accept her offer to try one fresh from the oven. SP did. He got to sample a fresh from the oven but not yet chocolate covered macaroon and pronounced it tasty. I tried a wee taste of the crispy brown part, and it was sweet and had that fresh, homemade baked texture and smell and taste, it was light & fluffy, but still, it was coconut. And yet I kept picking off tiny bits and eating them!
There was no way we were leaving without buying some treats! We purchased half a dozen biscotti: hazelnut, ginger, marble, cherry, lemon, and cinnamon. I didn't take any photos of our biscotti, and they didn't last long once we got home. All were good, but cinnamon remains my favorite.

There are lots of places in The Strip, and I'm not going to detail every single one here, especially since most Pittsburghers know all about the terrific places there, but as a cheese-aholic, I need to mention the cheese selection at Penn Mac:
Enrico's was biscotti heaven. Penn Mac was cheese heaven. I was overwhelmed. All I could do was stare and drool. Penn Mac is also olive heaven - I now know where I can buy nicoise olives (our Market District and the Shadyside Whole Foods didn't have them the last time we went on a nicoise quest).
We did finally make it into Penzeys to replenish our cinnamon, sea salt, and peppercorn supplies. Of course we had to wander around, smelling everything!

Sunny day, tasty lunch, biscotti, cheese heaven, and herbs/spices smells - could Date Day get any better?!

Our next stop was Carnegie Museum to see Matisse: The Thousand and One Nights and Impressionism in a New Light plus, of course, a trip through the dinosaurs.

Then it was off to an early dinner. There were a lot of places considered and the final decision was a second trip to 1947 Tavern.

Our first trip was last August. We liked the bourbon cocktails, the casual menu, the lower price point. If I recall correctly, several months after our visit 1947 Tavern made some changes that resulted in a pricier more upscale menu and the 'general consensus' I got from Twitter, Urbanspoon, Yelp, etc., was that it had not changed for the better. Personally, I was sad at the loss of a 'less expensive but tasty' dining option. But still... that bourbon cocktail stuck in my mind.

Several months after that change, there was another change to another menu. It went back to what it was, sort of.

Let's start with cocktails. I was devastated to discover they took the Georgia Peach cocktail off the menu! I have often thought of that drink since our last visit, even wasting a significant amount of time online one day, trying to Google up a similar recipe! I was disappointed in the cocktail list in general. There is what looks like an extensive bourbon menu (I only quickly flipped through since I wanted a cocktail, not a glass of bourbon). However,  there are only 8 cocktails listed on the menu, 4 of which have bourbon listed as an ingredient, and one of those 4 is a $20 cocktail.  I am sure the bartender could make any cocktail you ordered, but I really missed the 8-10 bourbon cocktails that were there last August.

In retrospect, as I look at the online menu, I'm not sure why I didn't simply order the Mint Julep, but I suppose I simply had Georgia Peach on my mind. I asked our server about it, he checked with the bartender, and they offered to make something similar but not exactly what used to be on the menu. Apparently, they no longer buy the peach stuff to make the cocktail. I think what I got was bourbon and iced tea, and it tasted fine, I like bourbon a lot, and it was not a weak drink, and we all know I love iced tea, but... I just can't help but mourn the loss of that Georgia Peach cocktail.
My bourbon cocktail and SP's Woodchuck Amber
The current menu has several sections: Mac & Cheese, Starters, Salads, Sandwiches, Burgers, and Grilled Cheese. Underneath the Grilled Cheese section here is 'Tomato Soup'  and as I expected SP ordered it.
When he ordered it, our server told us it was actually a tomato gazpacho, not tomato soup, and SP was happy because he really likes gazpacho. Me, not so much. Usually. To my surprise, I really enjoyed this soup. The crostini was nicely crunchy. Tasty cucumber chunks. A taste, a hint, of green pepper but not overpowering taste, just enough to give it some oomph. Not too spicy, not too garlicky. In fact, I didn't detect any garlic, so if it's there, it's minimal.
A couple of weeks ago SP came home and said he had enjoyed some fried green tomatoes for lunch. That made me jealous. I love fried green tomatoes and I couldn't get enough of them on our honeymoon. So of course I had to again order the Fried Green Tomatoes & Crab with cheddar cheese, balsamic reduction, remoulade sauce, and arugula. There seemed to be a very nice portion of crab, which made me happy. The sauces were tasty - you can't really mess up a balsamic reduction unless you make it too sweet, not sweet enough, or too thick/thin, and like the remoulade, the reduction was fine. The tomatoes were OK. The top one didn't seem to have enough breading and both slices were still a little too firm, even for green tomatoes which stay firm when fried.

On to the meals. SP chose Mini Lobster Rolls with celery, pickle, shallot, tarragon, lemon.
He said the lobster salad was good but not especially lobster filled and that while he liked the pickle taste he would have preferred it with less pickle. I had one wee bit of lobster and thought it was just OK - my wee taste may not have been representative of the entire dish, but it tasted a bit watery and not 'lobster rich' as I tend to think of lobster. He didn't eat all the bun, saying that he felt there as a bit too much bun for the lobster filling. I've enjoyed lobster roll on my travels through Maine and other parts of New England, and while I probably have not sampled enough to be considered any sort of expert, I do think these fell short of the classic, real deal. I know the menu said sliders, and that's not my issue, though I do prefer the classic split on top hot dog bun, and I know it said pickle was an ingredient, but I've never before had pickle in the lobster salad, maybe a spear on the side, and I just don't think pickle is a good ingredient in a lobster salad.

It's not really a surprise what I chose to eat:
Pimiento and bacon mac & cheese. This time, the bacon was two slices placed on top instead of chopped and mixed in like last time. It was tasty. It'd be hard to screw up one of my favorite dishes, especially the bacon & pimiento variation. The portion isn't huge, for the second time I thought that for the price and for what it is (mac & cheese) it could have been a larger portion, but I was full after eating it all.

I have to say I thought our server and the bartender were fantastic. I liked, but didn't love, our meals, but I would go back.

1947 Tavern on Urbanspoon

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