Friday, September 27, 2013

BOhem Bistro

Last Saturday evening, SP & I ventured north to Seven Fields to dine at BOhem Bistro. Cranberry/Seven Fields sounds far away, but it's not that far from our house in Robinson Twp, which I knew because when I lived a wee bit farther south in Carnegie, I worked in Cranberry. It's only about a 25-30 minute drive, which is what it sometimes takes us to get to the city/East Liberty/Squirrel Hill/Highland Park areas, depending on traffic.

Before dinner, we took advantage of heading north, a direction in which we do not normally head, to check out the Whole Foods in Wexford and just drive around the area for a while. I haven't worked in Cranberry for 9 years and when we passed through the area where I did work, I was amazed at how much it has grown.
Happily, by the time we arrived at BOhem Bistro, it was no longer raining. To get to the entrance, we walked through the outdoor dining area, which looks like quite a nice area in which to hang out and have a drink and a few snacks when the weather is nicer. Inside the restaurant is a rustic, cozy dining area. We were able to speak with Kevin, the manager. and he told us that the ceiling beams were reclaimed from a barn in Zelienople and are 150 years old. The back cushion covering is actually feed bags from the same barn:
These huge glass lights are used wine jugs from Italy and the light fixture in the background is made from recycled wine barrel material.
There also is a large wine bottle lighting fixture which the restaurant itself created:
So there is a lot of re-purposed/recycled material.

The tabletop candle is a jar filled with salt - at one point, I snuffed out our flame on my sleeve and consider myself lucky I didn't catch myself on fire!!! I was so not paying attention as I reached for food. I wish I could show SP a picture of his face when that happened!
To start, we each chose a bistro wine. SP chose the merlot/cabernet bistro wine and I chose the sauvignon blanc bistro wine. They arrive in small decanters and are poured into European style wine glasses:
We also enjoyed water, served in a recycled wine bottle. I really like when restaurants leave a bottle of water on the table because SP drinks a lot and this way, they don't have refill his water every time they stop by, he can keep it filled.
BOhem's dishes are meant to be shared, which is perfect for us since we always share our food anyway. We started with the Gorgonzola, Pecan Mousse, and Wine Poached Pear Spread. SP was a little apprehensive since he's usually not much of a fan of blue cheeses, but this spread was so smooth and it was such a mild gorgonzola that he enjoyed it much more than he expected. The cubes of wine poached pear were a nice 'chunky' addition to the smooth spread. Plus, poached pears are one of SP's favorite things. Some might argue the gorgonzola was too mild, but for us, it was just right. It all depends on how strongly flavored you like your blue cheese.
Next up was PEI Mussels with andouille sausage, white wine, garlic butter, tomato concasse. SP loves mussels and he said these were delicious, on par with his favorite places in Pittsburgh for mussels (Point Brugges & Park Bruges). I tried a couple of them and I have to admit I liked them much more than I expected. As it turns out, mussels themselves are just kind of there, they do not have a very distinctive taste, they're just soft and slippery little blobs, a wee bit chewy. It's the added flavoring that makes the mussel, and in this case the bites I tasted had a very nice taste of andouille. They were not very garlicky, which in my book is a terrific thing, but that could be because SP was careful to not give me mussels that were soaking in the liquid but ones from the top of the pile.
Alongside the mussels, we enjoyed Crispy Brussels Sprouts, balsamic glaze, pancetta, parmesan. They were served on a wood plank, just like the gorgonzola spread, and a jar filled with some sprouts.
The photo does not do them justice. I took a lot of photos and they all looked horrible, I think it's just the nature of Brussels sprouts to not photograph well. Most people seem to not like them, and I suspect they are thinking of a box of frozen sprouts removed from the freezer, dumped in boiling water, and served, slightly soggy, with only butter as an additional flavor - the Brussels sprouts of my youth. At home we roast ours with olive oil or some maple or balsamic. These ones were extra decadent and tasty with the shaved parmesan cheese and pancetta bits nestled in with the halved, roasted until soft Brussels and balsamic glaze. So good - these alone are worth the trip to BOhem!
Next up was Fig & Smoked Moody Blue Cheese Flatbread, arugula, balsamic glaze. Once again, SP was amazed by how much he liked the blue cheese. I was surprised by the figs. My mom never bought Fig Newton cookies when I was a kid, so I never tasted fig until I was in my 30's and even then it was a dried fig. I think this was the first time I tried fresh fig. The flavor itself is pleasant, sweet, maybe honey like, as some say, but the one thing that doesn't please me is the tiny seeds. I have the same problem with blueberries that are too seedy (yes, this has happened). That being said, I do like the flavor of figs, especially when paired with blue cheese, and the flatbread was a very nice thickness, had some delicious bubbled parts, and stood up to the toppings (didn't get soggy or wilt).
Crispy Skin Duck Confit, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes Lyonnaise, cherry gastrique. I like duck, but I do not normally choose to order it, so this was a new experience for me! This duck was quite good. The skin was thin and super crispy, really tasty and we fought over who got to eat the skin! This is a great way to prepare duck for me because the meat is thoroughly cooked, no pink. It easily came apart from the bone and melted into bite size pieces. The potatoes were delicious, thinly sliced, soft, and flavored from the duck perched atop them. After the Crispy Brussels Sprouts binge I didn't have any room for more of them, preferring to focus on the duck & potatoes; I only ate one, taking the rest home, but they were a nice pairing with the duck & sweet potato flavors.
HKatfish, blackened, creamed spinach, roasted yam. It was a little too spicy for me, but SP loved it. The creamed spinach was good - I love my veggies in creamy sauces! I also really liked the roasted yam which picked up a hint of the cayenne and other spices from the catfish.
Next up was dessert and we were lucky enough to try several. First, Chocolate Whiskey Cake:
This was delicious. I could taste the whiskey but it wasn't overpowering. The top and edges of the cake were nice and crisp but underneath is was soft and gooey, like a lava cake.
Cheesecake with Berry Compote. This was delicious, too, sort of the 'vanilla' contrast to the chocolate cake. The cheesecake was soft and creamy, not dense and heavy like some can be.
Cinnamon Roll. I love cinnamon rolls! Especially when served with cream cheese icing that melts on top the warm roll. This had lots of cinnamon flavor. I tried my best to finish it, but after eating the chocolate cake and most of the cheesecake, I just couldn't fit the entire roll in my belly.

We left BOhem with our bellies full of tasty food. Our server was attentive, keeping our wine glasses and water glasses full and offering thoughts on the dishes. We really liked the rustic, cozy interior and the attention to using recycled materials. Sitting near the fireplace would be welcoming, warming, and cozy during the chilly winter months. It seems to me that Cranberry is much like Robinson - there's every store and chain restaurant you could wish for, but sometimes you want something different. BOhem Bistro is a place to which we would happily return, especially if meeting up with some of our Wexford/Cranberry area friends.
**Full disclosure, we were invited for a complimentary dinner at BOhem but the photos and thoughts in this post are entirely ours.
BOhèm - Bohemian Bistro on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

1. Brrr the past few mornings have been chilly. Normally I resist turning on the heat until mid to late October, but this week, we made an exception because when we woke up, the thermostat said it was 65 in the house.

2. Of course chilly weather means my little stink bug friends are trying to wiggle their way inside. I've been repeatedly nagging SP to repeatedly spray all windows with the bug spray. Now our windows have lovely streaks of dried bug spray all over them. But the screens have dead stink bugs clinging to them. I think this a big win since I'd rather see stink bug corpses on the screens than have live ones crawling inside.

3. I caught another cricket. I almost let the hoppy little bug go free, but then my bug rage took over and I trapped it under a glass for SP to dispose of when he got home. I never thought it was a cricket because it was so tiny and I thought they were bigger, but SP says it was a cricket. I wish I knew how those annoying, noisy pests are getting inside. We've never had them inside until this past month.

4. This week I've been enjoying Portman's ham salad for lunch. I love this stuff. Good thing we don't live too close to Portman's or else I'd want it all the time. It also helps that their ham salad is only an every other weekend offering. Not the healthiest, but it sure is tasty.

5. Last week I read Cinnamon & Gunpowder by Eli Brown. It took me a while to really get into this book but by halfway through, I couldn't put it down. It is set in 1819 and is about a red-headed female pirate who, after murdering his employer, kidnaps a chef and commands him to cook her  amazing suppers every Sunday aboard her pirate ship or swim home. The other characters aboard the ship are wonderfully drawn, the chef's resourcefulness is amazing and the descriptions of the meals makes your mouth water and you start to wish you could be aboard the pirate ship eating the food. There is a lot more to the novel, a very interesting mix of rival pirates, the English & Chinese opium & tea/spice trade, culinary delights, family secrets and relationships, and human motivations.

6. I also read the latest Jack Reacher novel, Never Go Back. I must have accidentally requested the large print version because that's what SP brought home from the library for me once I got the call that my request was ready for pick up. Reading large print was interesting - I didn't have to wear my glasses! I alternated between feeling like I was a 3 year old reading a book (little kid books always have big print, right?) and feeling like a blind old fart.

7. The duck is coming! I cannot wait to see it, but I think I'll have to wait a week since we already have plans this weekend and they don't involve going near The Point.

8. Our plans do involve a hair coloring/cutting appointment for me. Yay! Not only will the vile gray be disguised for another 7-8 weeks but we get to go to lunch somewhere in Peters or between there and Robinson. I'm trying to decide where. Plus I discovered a new bakery that we must investigate. Mmmmm bakery treats.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Oxtail Soup

One day in August, SP stopped at Sunny Bridge in McMurray. Upon returning home, he proudly showed me his purchase: oxtails.
I was mystified. I've never, to my knowledge, eaten oxtail. I've definitely never purchased or cooked oxtail. I've never asked for oxtail. SP was excited - beef! Happy beef! Inexpensive happy beef! I felt bad not sharing his enthusiasm, but really, I wondered just what the heck we were going to do with this oxtail and just what the heck inspired him to purchase it. The oxtail went into the freezer.
August turned into September. The garden was starting to wither away. SP went out one day and pulled our carrots. Aren't they cute, little stubby carrots? They have a very mild carrot flavor and the skin is much thinner than the grocery store carrots we buy.
The September weather was turning a bit cooler and I was starting to crave warm and comforting meals. Easy meals. Crock pot meals. Like soup. SP pounced on my soup suggestion: Oxtail Soup. That's what he was going to make and I would love it (so he said). We could use the garden carrots, the leftover celery and onion and potatoes, and the oxtail.
Basically this is a beef vegetable soup. SP seared the oxtail in a skillet before putting it on the bottom of the crock pot and adding the other ingredients. It smelled really good after the searing. It smelled even better as it simmered all day. And it tasted really, really good. The oxtail added a nice, extra layer of flavor to our usual vegetable soup. It was moist and flavorful, easily shredded into small bites. There were lots of veggies in our soup. This time we used red potatoes, usually we use regular russet potatoes, but after this soup I will never again use those boring, hard russets in soup. The red potatoes cooked into soft, creamy, delicious bites - so creamy and melt-in-your-mouth good. After the oxtail and red potato additions, I'm not sure I'll be able to go back to regular vegetable soup!
Our recipe:

1.5~2 lbs oxtail (we bought Logan Family Farms oxtail at Sunny Bridge)
2 small cans diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 cup beef broth
4 carrots, sliced
3-4 celery stalks, chopped
4 medium red potatoes, peeled, cubed
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 bag frozen peas
1/2 bag frozen green beans
1 tsp Worcestershire

Sear the oxtail in a skillet. Place it in the bottom of 5 quart crock pot. Add the tomatoes and juice, beef broth, carrots, celery, onion, and Worcestershire. Fill crock pot with water up to about the 4 quart mark. Cook on high for 2 hours, then turn to low and cook another 6 hours. After about 5 hours, add the potatoes. After about 6.5 hours add green beans. After about 7 hours add peas. The times are estimates, just don't add the frozen green beans and peas too early or else they might get too mushy. Before serving, remove the oxtail from the crock pot and cut/pull the meat into small bites, then return the meat to the crock pot.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Warm Beer & Cheddar Dip

For the first Steelers game of the season, we always make ourselves a special treat. I know, last night was the third game of the season, so this post is a little late. The thing is, the treat we made would be great for any sporting event, any time of the year. It would be great for non-sporting events. It would be great just because. It's Warm Beer & Cheddar Dip.
It's no secret I love most cheeses. Growing up, when we would go to my aunt's house, in addition to a tray of sliced cheeses (and many other non-cheesy treats), she frequently had a cheese bread bowl. It was a melted cheese dip inside a hollowed out round loaf of rye or pumpernickel bread. Back then, she made it with 7 Up soda, but the recipe she gave me said it could also be made with beer. Mmmmm.
Not content to simply use that recipe, I scoured the internet for other recipes and settled on one almost, but not quite, identical to the one I have on a faded old index card. I use this recipe, from Williams-Sonoma.
It was delicious. We almost ate the entire batch on that first afternoon. A pumpernickel bread or crusty white bread would have been better than the rye bread we used, but it was still really good. We used a dark beer from Penn Brewery. I love the Worcestershire & mustard flavor in the dip. We used the rest of our aged white cheddar and then added some grated yellow cheddar. You could add more hot sauce if  you like things hot, but we found that the amount in the recipe was just right for us. A couple of nights later, we reheated the remaining amount of small dip in the microwave and it was just as tasty as the first day.

The beer & cheddar dip was the best part of that Steelers game. Bread dipped in warm, thick, melty cheese mixed with beer & mustard & Worcestershire. Yum.

Recipe here: Williams-Sonoma Warm Beer & Cheddar Dip

Friday, September 20, 2013

Gryphon's Tea

After dinner at Piccolo Forno, we walked a few blocks to a tea place I have been wanting to check out: Gryphon's Tea. It's at 4127 Butler Street and it took us 5-10 minutes to walk there from the restaurant.
SP & I love tea. Our at home selection of tea is... well, large. It's something in which we can't resist indulging and when we travel, we always look for tea shops. We love walking into a tea shop and confronting a wall of tea, which Gryphon's has. Jars and jars of tea. So many options - the tea options listed were several pages long in a binder. White, green, black, herbal, rooibos, oolong, mate, tisane - so many teas! Something for everyone.
We decided to get cups of hot tea to go. I chose an apple spice black tea. It seemed to say 'it's autumn' to me, and I am just about ready to embrace apples and pumpkins and spice. The tea was delicious. SP chose a smoky lapsang souchong, which he enjoyed a lot.
Gryphon is a really nice guy. He was ready to open any jar we wanted to smell and to offer suggestions on which teas we might like. I prefer black tea, flavored black tea, and herbal/tisanes. He was out of the orange spice tea, possibly my favorite tea, so I am looking forward to going back to try that one. SP is looking forward to going back and trying one of the white, green, oolong, or smoky teas he prefers.

Gryphon mentioned that eventually there will be small tea tastings/classes, which sounds interesting. The shop also sells herbs and spices - the list is just as long as the tea list!

We are very happy to have another tea shop in Pittsburgh. We love Margaret's in Squirrel Hill and now there is Gryphon's in Lawrenceville. They sell different teas, which is nice. We also still enjoy a relaxing cup at Te Cafe while catching up on our reading and there is another tea shop across Murray Avenue from Te Cafe called Dobra Tea.  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Eat'n Park, breakfast for dinner - two grilled stickies, scrambled eggs, and bacon. Yum.
 1. I can't believe it's time for another Thursday post. Fall is already going by too fast!

2. Last Friday we went to the mall. I got an early birthday/Christmas present, SP got a much needed new light weight jacket, and by the time we had finished shopping, we were really, really hungry because we had not yet eaten dinner and it was 8:30. We decided to walk over to Eat'n Park instead of indulging in the mall food court. The food at Eat'n Park was fine, what you'd expect, but the unexpected was that it took 20 minutes for a server show up after we were seated. We had to flag someone down and ask for a server! Not good, Eat'n Park. Not good. Especially when the people who had been seated just before us were receiving food and we hadn't even received water!
I forgot to take a photo of the fried pickles. Probably because we were so hungry when they showed up that we pounced on the basket and shoved them in at warp speed.

3. Earlier this week I read The Cuckoo's Calling from Robert Galbriath, AKA J.K. Rowling. To be fair, I had not heard of the book until I saw the headlines about the law firm employee revealing the true author behind the pseudonym. Then I decided to read it. It's a very good detective novel. Very compelling. Once I started, I couldn't put it down. Much better than a lot of the 'fluffy' mysteries out there on the best seller list these days. I adore detective/suspense/mystery/thriller novels and this one is definitely one of the better ones - I hope it turns into a series featuring Strike (the detective) and Robin (his secretary/assistant).
SP's Eat'n Park dinner: baked lemon sole with steamed broccoli and a side salad (salad not pictured)
4. Last Sunday we baked the Mint Chocolate Chunk Cookies that I love. The ones with the bits of Andes Creme de Menthe Candies. We got 45 cookies. As of Thursday morning, 14 are left. Let's not do the math and calculate how many cookies per day I ate.
5. Maybe I ate so many cookies because I had to drown my sorrow over the Steelers and Pirates and I choose drowning in sweets rather than booze?! Even SP is getting into the Pirates and caring about whether they win or lose. Today he's at the game with his team from work - a special outing to build team unity. I wish wives had been invited. I could handle some unity building while munching on nachos and pierogies and watching baseball.

6. The new TV season is starting. Not sure if that's good or bad, especially since at times I can't wait for new TV episodes to end because it seems like we watch way too much TV! I am really trying to not add too many new shows to the DVR, but already I've added two. First, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I like Andre Braugher and have never seen him in a comedy so I decided to give it a try. I made SP watch, too, and we laughed a lot, so I guess we'll keep watching.

The other show we watched was Sleepy Hollow. I wanted to not watch, to not be intrigued, and I was resisting, but then I read this article and I just had to see the show. I wanted to not like it, to think it was too silly, too outrageous, too stupidly absurd, but... It was that kind of 'this is so crazy that it's kinda awesome and I can't stop watching.'

7. I celebrated, literally cheered and clapped, when the finale of Under the Dome ended. What a stupid, lame season finale. Butterflies and eggs and pink stars and a so obviously lying and crooked sheriff/politician dude but the townspeople are way too stupid to see it and they built a gallows in like an hour so there could be a public lynching just because crooked, lying guy said so and not a single person questioned any of this and... And good grief. I hope SP got it out of his system and we don't have to watch this drivel next summer.

8. Thank goodness for Broadchurch on BBC. It blows away that dumb dome show. Better writing, better acting, better plot, better pacing, better twists and turns. I can't want for the finale next week when they figure out who murdered Danny.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sienna Sulla Piazza

Last weekend, we went to see The Lion King. It was the first show of the 2013-2014 PNC Broadway Across America season. Even though we both have seen it before, it was still great to see and marvel at the costumes plus, we changed our seats this year and we like our new location much better. After the show, we headed over to Market Square for dinner.
We had reservations at Sienna Sulla Piazza, one of the restaurants I have been wanting to try. We were a little early so we sat at a table in the sunshine and enjoyed Market Square for a bit before heading over and being seated inside. What a difference! It is very dark and intimate inside. It was a beautiful day, so the front facade of the restaurant was open to expand the seating out front to the outdoors. I kind if wished we would have been seated outside because the photos would have turned out much better. Then again, I'm a sucker for exposed brick, dark woods, lanterns and candles, a cozy, warm, inviting, and relaxing atmosphere.
The menu is three sheets of paper on a clipboard. The first page is food, the second is cocktails, beer, and wines by the glass, and the third is wine by the bottle. SP, to my surprise, ordered a glass of sauvignon blanc. To his surprise, I chose a cocktail over wine, it was called a Kentucky Mule, I think, or something like that. It was bourbon, lemon, peach, and ginger beer and it was served like this:
So cute! And so delicious! I forgot how strong ginger beer can taste so I was taken aback by the strong ginger flavor on my first sip. Very good. I think SP was jealous of my cocktail and I think he wants to go back some time just so he can get his own.
Bread with a white bean, mushroom, rosemary puree. It had a strong smell and taste of rosemary and was delicious although I had just one small bite because our server told me there is garlic in it. SP was happy to hoover it up.
Blurry photo of SP's appetizer: Grilled Mediterranean Octopus (roasted red peppers, toasted garlic, sherry vinegar, grilled toast). He said it was very good but he didn't finish his third toast triangle because they were relatively thick slices and he'd already had some bread and he didn't want to fill up on carbs.
I happily filled up on carbs: Tomato Arancini (kalamata, saffron aioli). At first glance I thought they looked like they were too crispy on the exterior, like they'd been cooked too long, because they were a much deeper, darker color than any arancini I've had. Happily, they were not too crisp, it was actually a thin exterior with tasty tomato rice inside, a kalamata buried in the center of the rice, and a lovely dipping aioli. I can't really remember the flavor of the aioli enough to describe it, and I ate it sparingly because of potential garlic, but it added a bit of needed moisture to the arancini.
No surprise, SP ordered Tomato Bisque (San Marzano tomato, basil oil, grilled bread, parmesan). This was so good. It's tomato soup, so it was tomato-y and thick and had cheese and I helped SP eat it because I couldn't stop dipping my bread in the soup.
For his entree, SP chose Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast (grilled fingerling potatoes, farro, pistachio, spinach, chianti braised blueberries). His duck was cooked just as he'd asked, medium, with a nice char on the exterior, and he really liked the flavor of the blueberries with the duck. He didn't finish the potatoes and farro because it was a bit too much carb for him.
I chose Chianti Braised Beef Short Rib (orzo mac & cheese, parmesan, mascarpone, tomato-basil jam). This was delicious. I ate every last bit. Our server told us this was the chef's specialty. The short rib was so easy to pull apart and just so moist and flavorful. The orzo mac & cheese was deliciously creamy. I couldn't get enough of the jam and while there was just the right amount on the dish, I couldn't help but wish there was a bit more because it was that good.

*Many thanks to our server & to the chef because I mentioned my garlic sensitivity and asked about garlic in this dish and after checking, our server said they could make the mac & cheese garlic free for me.
Dessert. I had already heard the dessert options when they were relayed to nearby tables. Cannoli (3 small ones on a plate, lemon and chocolate). Zeppole. Raspberry tiramisu. I tried to get SP to agree to two desserts so I could try two, but he said he was too full. So I debated. And implored some more. And finally he said to get the zeppole. The raspberry tiramisu will have to wait for another day (and hopefully still be an option).

The zeppole were delicious but filling. SP ate one, I ate two, and we took the other two home and ate them on Sunday. They were rolled in sugar and had hazelnuts sprinkled on and chocolate sauce drizzled over.

We both really enjoyed our meals at Sienna Sulla Piazza. We thought everything was tasty. Our server was great. He checked on garlic for me, even offered to bring some plain olive oil for my bread since the bean puree contained garlic. It was a leisurely dinner and that was fine since we had nowhere to be and we were really enjoying our food and the atmosphere but I am glad we always see our shows before dinner and not after because if we had to get to the Benedum after dinner, I would have been worried by the leisurely pace of the meal. That's one reason we choose to see the shows as matinees, we'd rather have a leisurely dinner than feel rushed, and the other reason is that we prefer to eat after seeing shows/movies, etc., and not before because we both have sensitive stomachs and never know when the sensitivity might strike. We would rather not be uncomfortable or get sick during a show/movie.

Of the four restaurants I mentioned in my Perfect Pittsburgh Saturday post, we've been to three this month. I think I'll give SP a break from the pizza/pasta dinner dates and wait to try the final restaurant later in October or November.

Meanwhile, the final verdict on Sienna Sulla Piazza: we will definitely return.

Sienna Sulla Piazza on Urbanspoon