Thursday, July 26, 2012

Summertime Cooking

Between the heat, rain, and being busy, we haven't had much time to cook/grill. We're still making very simple, but tasty meals, and dining out and bringing home leftovers, which makes meals super easy!
There was a birthday dinner for SP's sister at Aladdin's. As usual, despite the heat & humidity, SP ordered the V Nine Soup.

SP's dad and sister shared a stinky garlicky dish - Loubie Bzeit - bleah!

I enjoyed my usual Aladdin's meal: eggplant pitza.

CSA squash blossoms, filled with ricotta, then breaded and sauteed in vegetable oil. We used this breading & oil because we made the blossoms when we made breaded chicken tenders.

Breaded chicken tenders.

Olive Oil Bread from the Market District Bakery. I think I like this bread better than the Tuscany Bread.

Zucchini grilled inside on our grill pan.

Cucumbers in sour cream-balsamic-dill dressing. We were trying to use up the sour cream.

CSA green/white beans, steamed.

Lemon Pound Cake with blueberries, blackberries, and whipped cream.

Pasta Salad - this time with Tri Color Bow Ties, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, artichokes, kalamatas, feta, roasted red peppers, basil, chives, thyme

Cherry Chocolate Shortbread Cookies.

Monday, July 23, 2012



Last weekend, some friends were in town, so a group of us got together for dinner at Cure on Saturday evening. This was our second trip to Cure (read about our first trip here). Our second trip was just as tasty and service was just as great.
Saturday, 21 July 2012 menu
We were a group of nine. Once again, everyone brought wine (Cure is BYOB). SP & I enjoyed a bottle of sangiovese as well as lots of water, pitchers of which were left on the table so we could refill our glasses as needed.

The food: 
Cucumber-Pine Nut Gazpacho

The soup 'broth' is poured into the soup bowl at the table.

Cucumber, stone fruit, avocado, green grape, pimenton dulce-whipped olive oil

I ordered the Heirloom Tomatoes, watermelon, basil, white balsamic sabayon, pine nut brittle, goat cheese, fennel pollen. The watermelon and tomatoes were so fresh and juicy and flavorful. I'm not usually a fan of pine nuts, nor of brittle, but somehow these tiny bits of brittle added just enough crunch to the dish.

Salumi Platter

Beets, lobster yogurt, grapefruit, watercress, long pepper, black garlic

Cheese Platter for an appetizer - sorry for the blurry photo

Trout Meniere, lemon, caper, brown butter, cranberry & dragon's tongue beans, almond

Lamb Ravioli, tomato, cardamom, sumac, feta, mint and a slab of grilled eggplant. This was my entree. The pasta was nicely al dente, not mushy at all but nice and firm, the lamb filling very flavorful, lamb/pasta with that hint of cinnamon and/or cardamom is one of my favorite things these days (the moussaka we make, this dish, the bolognose I've had at Meat & Potatoes). The eggplant was a nice doneness as well - not too hard, which I dislike, but not cooked into a mush of grossness.

Duck Confit, blackberry, corn pudding, little gem lettuce, mole, hazelnut, chanterelle mushroom

Hanger Steak, smoked cheddar potato gratin, burnt broccoli, broccoli custard, caramelized onion, almond, Guinness gravy. Our server said the steak is served medium. 

Heritage Farms Chicken, peaches, pancetta, pesto, polenta

Chocolate Souffle Cake, pistachio butter, fennel marshmallow, vin cotto. I loved this dish. The chocolate cake was chocolaty without being too dense or too rich or too fudgy. I loved the marshmallow. I think a few people thought it was too sweet, or didn't add much to the dish, but maybe because I love Fluff/ and roasted marshmallows, I loved this marshmallow and was very careful to portion it out so I had a bite of marshmallow with each bite of cake. I didn't think it was too sweet. I remember thinking it was so silky and smooth and not too sticky-gooey.

Roasted Peaches, cherries, blueberries, oats, lavender, honey, ginger, almond granola
Sorry for the blurry photos. It's dark in Cure, plus we had been enjoying our wine, so maybe my hands weren't so steady, plus I think I kept forgetting to switch between the close up setting for my food and the not so close setting for food across the table. Whoops.

Everyone said everything was delicious. I know. That's a terrible food blogger food description. But it's all I have! Mostly, I took photos because the plates of food were so beautiful, plates of art, with small flower garnishes and swirls and dollops of sauces and and such. The food fills my belly without over filling it. I leave comfortably full, not feeling like I am going to burst.

Cure is one of S&R's favorite restaurants in Pittsburgh and they love the salumi platter. A&E both said they really, really liked their meals, that maybe Cure is their favorite place of the places they have dined in Pittsburgh, and if they lived here, they would often dine at Cure. I'm pretty sure C enjoyed his meal, but he was as far away from me as one could be at the table. T&K I think enjoyed their meals, but I suspect wouldn't choose to dine at Cure again unless with a group of friends. SP has traveled extensively with T, both domestically and internationally, and among this group of friends, the consensus seems to be that he is a somewhat non-adventurous eater. He ordered the steak and like me, prefers his steaks to be medium well, but he did eat all of it. I think he liked the broccoli but not the broccoli custard so much, possibly a texture thing. I think they liked everything, thought it was all tasty, but it's just not their thing, if that makes sense.

We both really like Cure and hopefully we'll be back before the end of the year.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Downey's House

Yup. Took the photo through the car windshield as we were leaving. Too tired to get back out and try to get a good angle of the front.
Last weekend we tried another new to us, non-chain restaurant in Robinson: Downey's House on Steubenville Pike/Rte 60. It's in the same parking lot area as Fuji Sushi, but not in the same building. It's to the left of Fuji Sushi and Fox's Pizza, and in front of the building with the Chinese place & Sassy Sensations.

According to their website, they opened in May 2008. That explains why it seems to us that they have always been there; we bought our home in Robinson in summer 2008. Their website also says that the owners are from Carnegie, which is where I lived before moving to Robinson, and that they worked at The Main Hotel/Restaurant and Red Bull Inn. Given that both my parents grew up in Carnegie and my grandparents lived in Carnegie for 50+ years, I'm pretty familiar with Red Bull Inn and The Main, having dined at both with my grandparents when I was growing up. SP once worked in Carnegie and he and his co-workers would sometimes go to The Main for lunch. Sadly, that establishment is now closed.
Dragons Milk Beer
It was nearly 8 pm when we entered through the bar entrance. We were seated at a table in the bar area next to a window. Fortunately, there wasn't any smoking in the bar area. It looked like there is a dining room right next to the bar area but that it might have been closed for a private party. Downey's House is a restaurant/bar, they have live music, there's lots of TVs in the bar (tuned into the Pirates game Saturday night). It was clean. Spacious but not too spacious. There is a deck out in the back area. We didn't want to eat outside, but we drove past on our way home. We didn't see much because the area is enclosed by a fence, but it looked like it might be a nice place to hang out. It sounded like there was live music on the deck. There is a whole schedule of events and specials on their website.

I was a little concerned because several reviewers on Urbanspoon said the service was horrible. We did not experience horrible service at all. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Before we were even completely out of the car, an employee came out to hold the door open for us. We were seated right away and were asked which table we wanted. Our drink orders were taken right away. Our server arrived soon after our drink orders were taken and she did not get annoyed when SP asked what was on tap (he couldn't really see the list on the board). He was very excited to hear that they had Dragons Milk Beer on tap. I have no idea what that means, or what kind of beer it is, other than it's a dark beer, and pretty pricey. He ordered it and very much enjoyed it. I'm not sure a craft beer person would be so excited about the other options since even I recognized them (Sam Adams, Yuengling, Blue Moon, etc., probably about ten total on tap).

I stuck with fresh brewed iced tea - and yes, they get lots of points for the fresh brewed part!

On to the food.
Chicken Bacon Cheddar Rolls
A lot of people raved about the homemade rolls, so I had to try one. I really wanted to try the pepperoni rolls, that takes me back to my childhood when my mom would buy me pepperoni rolls from Bethel Bakery for my lunch, but SP doesn't eat pepperoni. We agreed on the Chicken-Bacon-Cheddar Rolls with Ranch Dipping Sauce. We asked for regular ranch instead of garlic ranch.
The portion was huge - nine of these rolls! They were delicious. The dough is so tasty. Lots of cheese but not so much cheese that they get greasy. Lots of bacon, no skimping there. Chicken, too. So good. We would totally get these again. An order of rolls would be enough for my meal.
We each ordered a sandwich. SP chose chicken salad on toasted marble rye. All sandwiches have a choice of fries or cole slaw or, for $1 extra, onion straws. He got the onion straws.
It was a very finely chopped chicken salad, the way I like it. Teeny pieces of egg and celery. Just enough mayo to hold it together. Two pickle slices on the side. He said it was delicious.
I stuck with the chicken-bacon-cheddar theme and ordered the BBQ Bacon Chicken Sandwich with cole slaw.
I wanted to compare this sandwich with the one I almost always order at Bocktown. Chicken breast, bacon, onion straws, cheddar, BBQ, on a bun. Both are huge. This one has regular bacon, Bocktown uses peppered bacon. Both bacons are good. To me, it would just depend on my mood. Both places have very tasty onion straws. Both have tasty BBQ. They are equally delicious. Although Downey's House serves their BBQ on the side, so I was able to dip as I ate, whereas Bocktown puts it on the sandwich, which makes for a messy sandwich for me. I didn't need to use 3-4 napkins as I always do at Bocktown!
Overall, we had a very good experience at Downey's House. Everyone was very friendly and helpful and cheerful. Our service was great. Our food was good, especially those rolls. There are also spinach rolls, Italian rolls, and Greek rolls - they all sound tasty. There are several salad options and an 'On the Lighter Side' section as well as pizzas, pastas, and some entrees, but I didn't look closely at those sections of the menu.

We were pleasantly surprised and would go back in the future. It's a nice addition to our list of non-chain options in Robinson.

Plus, they have Funnel Cake Fries for dessert. So, yes, we will be back!

Downey's House on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 13, 2012

What We're Eating

Delicious, juicy, peachy peaches from our CSA. There were blueberries, too, but they didn't last long enough for a photo.

Mango sorbet and lemon sorbet. I prefer the mango sorbet, which is simply pureed mango, sugar, corn syrup, and lemon juice churned in the ice cream maker, while SP prefers the tartness of the lemon sorbet, which is lemon juice, lemon zest, and simple syrup. 

One of my favorite treats: pimiento cheese spread. White & yellow extra sharp cheddar cheeses, cayenne, mayo, and pimiento. YUM!

My usual lunch sandwich (toasted English muffin, turkey, and cheese) made more exciting because there was pimiento cheese spread.

Burgers! And the huge CSA onion, sliced & grilled.

My grandma's recipe for tomatoes, cucumbers, & onions in an apple cider vinegar~water~sugar mixture.

My bunless, chopped up burger, pimiento cheese, and the tomatoes & cucumbers.

Quinoa salad, again, this time with green beans, celery, tomatoes, feta, and cucumber with fresh thyme & oregano and a red wine vinegar-olive oil dressing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fuji Sushi

A couple of weekends ago, when we had the "Where do you want to go for dinner?" discussion, we knew we didn't want to go into the city. We initially decided to try Arpino Trattoria. We called to see if a reservation was necessary/if we could get a reservation, but since only 5 pm or 8 pm were available, we passed on trying Arpino. We next narrowed it down to two places: Cucina Bella or Fuji Sushi.
That's basically Yum Yum vs. SP. I will always take Italian/pizza over sushi. SP will always want the sushi. I left the decision up to SP, promising that whichever place we did not go to, we would go to the following weekend. And that's how we found ourselves at Fuji Sushi on Steubenville Pike after an afternoon showing of The Amazing Spider-Man.
It was around 5:15 pm when we got there. We were the only people, although by the time we left 4-5 more tables were filled. People are always shocked when they find out I lived in Japan for two years but I do not like fish and will not eat sushi/sashimi. I can barely stand eating cooked fish, so there's no way I'm going to eat raw fish.
Our meal started off with miso soup. I gave mine to SP because, prepare for more shock, I dislike miso soup. SP polished off two soups and said they were pretty tasty. Miso soup is just stock & miso paste, maybe some tofu, maybe some scallions, so it's hard to say much about the soup other than it's miso soup.
Next up was my salad. Iceberg lettuce, carrot shreds, cucumber slices, and a sweet, gingery, too strong for me dressing. I ate 2-3 bites and then passed it over to SP, who really liked the dressing.
I wanted to try an order of gyoza. I've been on a search for gyoza like the ones I ate in Kyoto, and by that I mean a thin dumpling, not the thick, doughy dumplings served at Chinese restaurants and some Japanese restaurants. These were thin - yay! - and pretty tasty.
SP ordered sushi. I forget which special plate, but he said there was shrimp, 2 tuna, 2 salmon (or maybe 1 salmon & 1 looks like salmon), a whitefish, and a crab piece.
He said it was good, better than a lot of sushi, but not the best he's ever had, not even the best he has had in Pittsburgh.
Not liking sushi, I ordered chicken teppanyaki. It was pretty much what I expected. The rice in Japanese restaurants in the US is never as sticky and tasty as the rice I had in Japan. The vegetables were fine. The chicken & sauce was OK. I could have made this myself at home, so in that respect I found it disappointing because I felt it should have had that extra, always missing when I try to make Japanese food at home ingredient/taste.
For his special roll, SP chose the Oh My God roll, which is brought to the table wrapped in foil and set on fire by a blowtorch.
 It's always kind of fun to have your food flaming on your table when you dine out.
 It flamed for quite some time and then SP finally unwrapped it.
 It's tenpura shrimp, crabmeat, eel, sushi shrimp, avocado, three sauces.
He didn't find it quite as amazingly tasty as other reviewers on Urbanspoon/Yelp, but said it was definitely interesting.

On the basis of my meal alone, I gave Fuji Sushi a 'don't like' on Urbanspoon, only because I've lived in Japan and I've had teppanyaki there and I know what I can make at home, and in that respect, I was disappointed. I cannot give an opinion on the sushi since I do not eat sushi.

I would not go back. SP might go back. We agreed that there are other Japanese places we would like to try again or for the first time to see how I like the non-sushi offerings (Kiku, Chaya). Fuji Sushi on Urbanspoon