Monday, April 29, 2013

Nicky's Thai Kitchen

A couple of weekends ago was our final Broadway Season show, 'Anything Goes.' That means it was our final 'meet S & R for dinner after our show/before their show.' S had expressed interest in trying Nicky's Thai Kitchen and I knew SP would love to go out for Thai, so I agreed even though the menu wasn't especially appealing to me. Sadly, I do not like Thai cuisine because I do not like coconut, curry, spiciness, garlic, cilantro, peanuts, lemongrass, pineapple...

Anyway, we went to the Nicky's location on Penn Avenue. Our reservations were for 5:30 and we were seated right away. They are BYOB, but we didn't BYOB.

I decided my best option was to order several appetizers. Here's what I ate:  
Crispy Egg Rolls: These were good, but I didn't really taste any of the filling. Actually, they reminded me of cigarette russes cookies. I wouldn't order these again.

Crab Rangoon: Delicious. R thought these were the best she has eaten in Pittsburgh, and I think I agree with her.

Steamed Dumplings: These were my favorite of the 3 appetizers I ordered. The dipping sauce was delicious sweet and sour soy sauce with sesame seeds.

I felt like I needed something else and at first I thought a side of rice, but then I decided on a side of steamed noodles. This was a mistake because they were way too stuck together and bland to really enjoy. SP ended up eating them with the sauce of his meal at dinner and then for lunch leftovers the next day. I should have ordered rice. Or nothing, since I was pretty stuffed after the appetizers.

SP's Tom Kha Soup. He really likes this soup and thought that Nicky's version was tasty.

SP's Massaman Curry with mixed seafood. There were a lot of seafood chunks, large scallops, shrimp, fish, etc. He got it at a spice level 6 and said it was spicy but not too spicy and not as spicy as he has ordered in the past. It was a large portion, so he took some of it home.

Rice for SP with his curry and for S with his catfish dish. We called it the holy grail of rice!
So here's the thing: I just don't like the predominant flavors/ingredients of Thai food. I am happy to eat several appetizers and I thought the ones I ordered were very good. R also ordered appetizers (crab rangoon, dumplings, and shrimp toast) and Tom Kha soup and she enjoyed her choices. S enjoyed his soup and some of R's dumplings, but I think he found his catfish dish a little too spicy and a little too salty. SP said his food was good. So if you like Thai, you'll probably like Nicky's, it gets good reviews. If you don't like Thai, you can probably still fill up enough on several appetizers, depending on how large an appetite you have.

Service was quite good, friendly, water glasses were kept filled, nothing to complain about there.

SP would go back. I would go back if a group of friends wanted to go there, but like any Thai restaurant, it just isn't going to be my first choice. But if you do like Thai, based on comments from other friends, Nicky's is a solid choice.

  Nicky's Thai Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cinnamon Gelato

I've been wanting to make ice cream for a while. I think it's because spring is taking so long to really arrive. I got excited when I saw the forecast and it was going to be in the 70's and even one day in the 80's. So we made ice cream. Actually, Cinnamon Gelato.
We saw this on Worst Cooks in America. It was part of the dessert that Anne's final recruit made for the final competition. We both like cinnamon a lot, so we definitely wanted to try it. It's delicious and creamy on it's own, especially after a couple of days when the cinnamon flavor really starts to come out. We made it the same weekend we made Apple Pie Bars:
 So of course, we scooped the gelato on top the bars and had a really, really tasty dessert.
I used to love Kings cinnamon ice cream with apple pie. Something about that combination really appeals to me. Vanilla ice cream on apple pie is good, too, but cinnamon is better. Not too long ago, just a few days after we made apple pie bars and cinnamon gelato, I had the chance to have a taste Kings cinnamon ice cream on apple pie.

Ours was so much better. Their ice cream tasted too hard and too sweet to me. I think I might be getting spoiled by homemade ice cream!

Cinnamon Gelato recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/anne-burrell/cinnamon-gelato-recipe/index.html

Monday, April 22, 2013

Apple Pie Bars

Sometimes, SP & I have very different ideas of what a delicious dessert is. For instance, he would be happy with a simple grilled peach or a poached pear and while I like those, they aren't exactly my idea of a terrific dessert. Since he likes fruity desserts, I usually suggest fruit tarts or pies. Or something like this: Apple Pie Bars (from Food and Wine magazine).
There are three parts to this dessert:

  • Granny Smith apples sliced and sauteed with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. 
  • A shortbread crust. 
  • Toasted walnuts added to a topping of oats, flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and butter.

We did not need 4 dozen bars from a 15x17 rimmed baking sheet, so we halved the recipe. We used an 8x8 baking pan. We buttered the pan and lined it with parchment. This is pretty straightforward, pretty easy, and maybe a wee bit time consuming. It took a bit of time to peel, core, slice, and then saute the apples.
 But the house smells so darn good when the apples are sauteing and then when the bars are baking.
These are delicious. I love the shortbread crust and the cinnamon & sugar apples. The topping is OK. SP loves it, but my problem is the oats. I'm just not a fan of oats. After a couple of days, I started picking off some of the topping and giving it to SP! I definitely still want to make an apple pie but until we finally get around to that, these will do. Definitely something we would make again. Plus, the recipe says these can be made ahead of time and frozen, which is nice, so maybe next time we'll make a full batch and freeze half.

Recipe here: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/apple-pie-bars

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Arlecchino, Revisited

Since our anniversary was actually mid-week, we decided to go out the weekend before for a celebratory dinner. We had two places in mind, Wild Rosemary and Arlecchino. When we couldn't get a reservation at Wild Rosemary (which we really like even though we haven't been there in over a year), we decided to have our anniversary dinner at Arlecchino, an Italian restaurant in McMurray. We went there for my birthday last November. It was just as delicious as we remembered.
Seated next to a window, looking over the menu

Of course a celebration requires wine! Italian wines with names I cannot remember nor pronounce.

Dipping oil and bread

Smoked Provolone appetizer

Sizzling, ooey, gooey cheese with arugula and truffles

Salad, with roasted beets, sunflower seeds, raisins, goat cheese aioli

Fusilli with vodka sauce. We each ate about half and took the other half home.

The chili oil, to add to pasta

Daily Special for SP: Barramundi with lobster cream sauce and sauteed spinach and jumbo lump crab. Large enough that he took a bit home for lunch the next day.

Once again for me: veal with lump crab, toasted pine nuts, arugula, mozzarella. Three large pieces of veal, so I actually got three meals from this!

For SP: Blood Orange Gelati in waffle cone - delicious. We ended up sharing this dessert since it couldn't be easily transported home and the desserts were huge.

My dessert: Raspberry Tiramisu - just as good as last time. Except for 2-3 bites, the entire portion went home with us. 
Many thanks to SP for taking me out for a delicious anniversary dinner.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A First For A Third

Yesterday morning, I was as snug as a bug in a rug. It was the perfect in house temperature combined with the perfect amount of blankets that made it so extra snuggly and wonderful in bed. But instead of dozing off, I started to wake up. There was a strange smell invading my dreams.

It wasn't an unpleasant smell. Far from it. It was.... mmmmmm tasty treat smell. I was still a bit too groggy to figure out exactly what I was smelling.
I knew it was our anniversary. I figured SP was making me a surprise breakfast, especially since we ended up not making ourselves a breakfast treat last Sunday morning, even though we had purchased all the ingredients. Was it waffles? Pancakes? But I didn't smell bacon or sausage, and of course waffles & pancakes need one those breakfast meats as an accompaniment. Muffins? Muffins are a quick treat to make before work. But what kind? Did we have berries?
I finally woke up enough to put it all together. Glazed Lemon Ginger Scones, which we had planned to bake Sunday morning but then we didn't because we had leftover tiramisu from our anniversary dinner at Arlecchino and because we were in the process of making a dessert for the week. Scones seemed like a bit much on top of those treats. Fortunately, candied ginger keeps.

Sure enough when he came in to wake me up, SP confirmed he had baked scones. What a great way to wake up on our anniversary! I have made scones before, in the days before SP, and he has made scones before as well, in the days before me, but we've never made them together. We have been meaning to make scones for the longest time, but for some reason, they always get pushed aside. This was the first time we (well, SP) had made scones, and it was for our third anniversary.
I did have to make the glaze and drizzle it myself - it's simply powdered sugar and lemon juice. These scones are delicious! Moist and light and fluffy and full of lemon and candied ginger flavor. I could easily have devoured all four myself. In one day. But I didn't. I shared one and a half with SP and the other two and a half lasted 2 days.

Definitely a make again scone.

Recipe here: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/glazed-lemon-ginger-scones
*We halved the recipe

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Louisiana Deviled Crab

I have no idea how it popped into my head last Friday, but somehow, I started craving deviled crab. I remember eating deviled crab when I was a child here in the Pittsburgh area, but I had not seen it on a menu for a very, very, long time, not until we were at Hyman's in Charleston for our honeymoon. I couldn't remember what it was, so I didn't order it, but SP ordered it. It was so tasty that I ended up eating all of it. SP was not happy that I devoured his deviled crab.

So what is it? It originated in Tampa, FL. It's basically a crab croquette - crab mixed with seasonings, coated in bread crumbs (traditionally stale Cuban bread), and deep fried. The spiciness of the seasonings is why it is called 'deviled' crab.

Of course since I couldn't stop thinking about deviled crab, I looked up recipes and printed out about five. It wasn't too hard to convince SP we should try making deviled crab this past weekend. We decided to not use a lot of butter or milk/cream, nothing with chili peppers, and no mayonnaise. In the end, we followed this recipe: Louisiana Deviled Crab.
We doubled the recipe since we had 1 lb of crab meat and omitted the green pepper. Doubling meant 1.5 teaspoons of cayenne - that sounded like a lot, especially for me, the spice wimp, so I only put in 1 teaspoon. Even that was a bit much for me! Next time, I'd only put in 0.5 teaspoon cayenne. Also, we would add in diced red pepper.
Even though they were a tad spicy for me, they were still delicious. It was the first time we made any kind of crab cake with saltines and I liked the texture the crushed crackers gave to the crab cake, both the seasoned, moist interior and the crispy, cracker coated exterior.

We ate these with the Asparagus-Ricotta Tarts.

Recipe from epicurious.com, found here: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Louisiana-Deviled-Crab-Cakes-104883

Monday, April 15, 2013

Asparagus-Ricotta Tarts

Yesterday marked four years since I started this blog. I celebrated by cooking/baking a lot of delicious goodies in the kitchen, with SP's help, of course. One of the delicious treats was Asparagus, Mint, and Ricotta Tartlets, which was in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette a few weeks ago.

One of my favorite summer treats is roasted tomato tart using puff pastry. Tomatoes = summer to me and asparagus = spring to me. This tart might just become my favorite spring treat. Plus, it helped use up the puff pastry we've had in the freezer since Christmas!
It's very easy. SP rolled out the puff pastry while I washed and chopped the asparagus. The recipe says to cut the asparagus spears in half, but I decided to chop each spear into bite size pieces, about 5 pieces/spear.

The melted ricotta with the lemon zest was so tasty and fresh and bright. We didn't add the mint leaves because it didn't seem necessary plus our fresh mint has not yet made a comeback in the pot on the deck! We ate this as part of a main meal, but it would be a good appetizer, too.

Asparagus, Mint, and Ricotta Tartlets

1 sheet all-butter puff pastry, thawed
8 ounces ricotta
3/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 asparagus spears, bottoms snapped off
Olive oil, for brushing
Mint leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place puff pastry dough on cutting board. Roll out slightly, then cut out 8 rectangles, each 5-by-21/2 inches, from the pastry sheet and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Score a 1/2-inch border on each rectangle. Put ricotta, parmesan, lemon rind, salt and pepper into a bowl and stir to combine. Spoon the mixture on to the pastry. Cut asparagus spears in half. Top each tart with 4 asparagus halves. Brush the pastry borders with oil and bake in the oven for 15 to 18 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden. Serve with a couple of mint leaves on top. 

Makes 8 tarts.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/life/food/spring-these-fresh-side-dishes-on-them-681168/#ixzz2QYJQBFCD

Friday, April 12, 2013

An Evening of Good Taste at Soergel's

I was fortunate enough to be invited to a Good Taste! Pittsburgh preview event at Soergel's Orchards last night. Even more fortunate, I was allowed to bring along a guest - so of course I took SP!
Wine from Arrowhead, Lake Erie. Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Port.
Good Taste! Pittsburgh is a food, wine, and cooking extravaganza. It's being held on Saturday, April 20 from 10 am ~ 5 pm at the Pittsburgh Marriott North in Cranberry Woods (which is very near to where I used to work). There will be celebrity chefs, wine tasting, food sampling, food activities for children, and cooking demonstrations. Food sampling? That sounds good to me! Lucky for me, we had the opportunity to sample some terrific food last night.
I am always nervous attending events where I don't know people, or don't think I will know people, but after I poured myself a glass of cabernet sauvignon and turned around, I saw Lindsay. If you haven't met Lindsay, well, she's one of the nicest, sweetest people I know and her blog leaves me laughing because she has a terrific way of finding a little happy in each and every day - or of making the not-so-happy funny! She was there with her friend Natalie and the four of us had a great time talking and catching up.

Usually we get our fill of local fruits/vegetables from our CSA or the nearby farmers market so we don't often go to the local farms. We have been to Soergel's several times and our focus is almost always on fruit and vegetables. We really should look around more because they make and sell BBQ sauce and pasta sauce and lots of other goodies.
Also, as I learned, they recently invested in a professional grade smoker and started smoking pork.
Delicious, moist, smoky pulled pork. So tasty. Did I mention how much I love smoked meats and how this pork had a delicious smoky flavor? There were three sauces from which to choose:
Sweet & Smokey (which I tried and really liked), Spicy (which SP tried and he said it was very good but not as spicy as he expected, probably because when he thinks spicy he thinks sweating and guzzling water), and a Carolina sauce, which Natalie liked.
I also learned that Soergel's raises cattle locally on the farm and it's happy cow - no added hormones or growth stimulants, just a diet of grains and grass hay. We were able to try some of the Black Angus beef. It was tasty happy cow.
Creamy potato salad - so good
The smoked pulled pork was my favorite food from the buffet but I have to say I thought the potato and pasta salads were excellent as well and I could have eaten more. If this food had been in my house and I could eat with no one watching me, I would have hoovered up a lot more at a rapid fire pace! There also was a mini salad bar, which made SP happy since he loves his lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, and cucumbers.
Pasta salad - penne with cucumber, pepper, olives and a tasty vinaigrette
Of course we all know I couldn't wait to dive into the cookies! SP and I shared one of each kind and all were very good.
Dessert! Cookies - I loved the mini lady locks and the fruit filled ones.
One thing I really enjoyed and appreciated about the evening was the presence of so many Soergel family members. They are very generous and hospitable. Towards the end of the evening, they walked around with samples of their applesauce, which is all natural, no sugar added. It might just be the best applesauce I've ever eaten.
I should mention that in addition to the wine and sodas, there was homemade lemonade and fresh brewed iced tea. SP loved the iced tea - unsweetened, not watered down. I liked both, but when I mixed them together, it was really, really good. I don't know if they sell the lemonade/iced tea in their store, but if they do, it's definitely worth checking out.

I should also mention that Soergel's has a Naturally Soergel's store which has organic, natural foods and has gluten free, soy free, rice free, casein free, and egg free options for those on special diets. While I am glad that SP's celiac diagnosis was incorrect, the convenience of a store in the north that sells such products makes me happy.

Many thanks to Good Taste! Pittsburgh and Soergel's for a terrific evening. We are hoping to be able to check out Good Taste! Pittsburgh next weekend before our show at the Benedum. If the food photos from Soergel's haven't tempted your taste buds, maybe this stage schedule for the Good Taste! Pittsburgh event will:

  • Lindsey Smith, author of Junk Foods & Junk Moods
  • Caroline Wright, author of Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals, will prepare 3 recipes from her newly published book
  • Kevin Watson from Savoy will prepare butternut squash ravioli with lobster basil creme sauce
  • Chef Keith Fuller from Root 174 will prepare Asparagus, 5 minute egg, farro salad with lemon, chive, & dehydrated oyster mushroom
  • Ann Talarek, owner, Green Spot, discussing re-purposing Olive Oil Bottles & Flower Arranging Tips
  • Ryta Mirisciotti, Wine Expert, Making Sense of the Restaurant Wine List and Other Fun Facts About Wine
  • Amy Soergel, from Soergel's, The Art of Juicing
  • Table Top Designs

You can buy your tickets for $12 here: http://www.goodtastepittsburgh.com/



* I wasn't paid or asked to write a review about Good Taste! Pittsburgh or Soergel's, I was simply invited to an event, this post is just my thoughts on the evening.