Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Dining with the Parents at Park Bruges

Park Bruges is one of our favorite restaurants in Pittsburgh. When my mom told us to pick a place to celebrate SP's (very belated) birthday, we decided to take them to Park Bruges. I didn't take my camera because I've blogged about this place before, and I always order the same things because they are so tasty, so I figured, why bother. Of course I ended up wanting some photos of the 'new to us' dishes so I ended up using my cell phone.
SP had a beer (Monk's Blood), my parents had wine, and I tried a cocktail: Wigle Warmer (Wigle whiskey infused with ginger, amaro, orangecello, bitters). Whew it was strong for me but oh so tasty. Great orange scent and flavor.
I ordered my usual Tarte Flambee (rosemary ham, cheese, and sauteed onions, chives) for everyone to share. SP ordered some frites for the table. Everyone really enjoyed both these dishes - the frites vanished! We couldn't stop eating them. Even I kept going back for more and I'm not usually a frites kind of person.

Mom and I ordered my usual: the sauteed chicken breast with artichokes, mushrooms, tomatoes, and herb risotto with marsala wine sauce. SP ordered his usual mussels. And dad ordered the Short Ribs:
Red Wine Braised Short Ribs with parsnip puree and wilted garlic spinach and fresh horseradish. I tried a bite of short rib and it was deliciously moist and flavorful  - so good! Dad thought it was delicious. He even liked his parsnip puree! He ate everything except the spinach (dad is not a vegetable person!).

Mom loved her chicken dish. I figured she would since she's a huge fan of artichokes and mushrooms.

We decided to share 2 desserts. One was a chocolate cake with strawberry whipped cream filling:
And the other was an apple tart with shortbread crust:
I love the apple tart at Park Bruges. The caramel sauce is so good! This vanished quickly. Then we dug into the chocolate cake and were pleasantly surprised that it was actually pretty light - not dense/rich/heavy and the filling was light with a terrific strawberry flavor.

Park Bruges was a big hit with my parents. My dad especially seemed to enjoy his short ribs, the frites, and the apple tart. We all left having eaten way too much delicious food, but SP & I were happy that my parents enjoyed it so much.

Still one of our favorite places, even if we only get there every 6 months or so!

Park Bruges on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Library (South Side)

Several weeks ago, on a horribly gloomy, rainy, gray Saturday, we decided to venture to Carson Street on the South Side to try The Library. It's a place that has interested us, maybe because we both like reading books, maybe the 'cute' literary themed menu, who knows. We lucked out and found a parking space directly in front. Sadly, that's as 'lucky' as it got.
Somehow, it looked and sounded cuter, cozier, and more interesting on the web site than in real life. The basic decor is: bar. I can't even recall any wall decor. No library/literary decor beyond the words on the menu. There were TVs and a pool table and generic tables and chairs. There were a group of late afternoon/early evening drinkers at the bar. A step up to the dining area (boo). No one greeted us - I think there was a sign to seat ourselves, but there was a large group and then another table of two young girls occupied and also blocking a path for the wheelchair to get back to a free table. No employee noticed us or offered to help. So we just plowed through and seated ourselves and waited a long time for someone to greet us and bring us menus.
The table wobbled. It was dirty. The menu was dirty/sticky. The menu stuck to the table. The iced tea was fake iced tea. I suppose SP's beer was fine, but I wasn't too impressed. The whole fake iced tea thing really ticks me off anymore because it is not that hard to brew fresh iced tea.
The usual Pittsburgh bar theme, I suppose: sports. In this case, old Steelers news articles on the tables. But I thought it would be library themed - ? So I was confused by the Steelers tabletops.
We shared an order of A Tale of Ginger & Pickles. Fried pickles. They were fine. I think we've been spoiled by the fried pickles at Meat & Potatoes. Certainly a generous portion.
We also shared an order of Peter Pan (fried cheese). Also a generous portion of ooey, gooey cheese. The breading was a bit heavy for my liking.
For his meal SP ordered The Alchemist - the menu says sausage & shrimp with cheese stuffed tortellini in a creamy diablo sauce so I'm not sure why the photo we took shows mussels. SP even recalls ordering The Alchemist so we're confused. It was about a month ago now, so... Anyway, it was a large portion and he ate about half.
I tried A Game of Thrones, a ricotta topped bun with a burger, pepperoni, provolone, and pizza sauce. I chose portobello for my burger. It wasn't nearly as good as the book/HBO show. It was a cute presentation, served on a wood cutting board. I think that I should stop ordering portobello as my burger because every time I do it, I don't enjoy it all that much. I should just stick with chicken.
I opted for fried onion rings for my side:
I liked the onion rings a lot. Way more than the sandwich.
Sadly, I don't think we'll be returning to Library. Between the usually difficult parking on the South Side, boring interior, lack of follow through on the theme, sticky menus and tables, so-so food, horrible iced tea, not so great service, step up to the dining area and not very spacious dining area, pool table right in the dining area, it's just not our kind of place. I left feeling very disappointed and dissatisfied and like a huge greasy, salty mess. There was a lot of water and (fresh) tea drinking that evening while we watched TV.

Library on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

1. Since my parents were just here and it was just a holiday weekend, we aren't really back on track with our eating. I'm trying to use up some leftover bread, so instead of my usual English muffin with turkey and Swiss, I am making grilled cheese for lunch. Today was smoked gouda and tomato. Yum!
2. Our anniversary dinner at Arlecchino a week ago was fantastic. I had my usual: smoked provolone appetizer and veal with lump crab entree. We shared a cannoli for dessert. I didn't have a real camera with me, so I tried using my cell phone camera, but dessert is at the end of the meal and I had consumed a lot of wine (we ordered a bottle and that's a lot for me) so I was having trouble finding the camera settings to try to take a decent photo. This is what I got! Chocolate chips on one end, pistachios on the other. Great for us - I prefer the chocolate while SP prefers pistachios.
3. Arlecchino wished us Happy Anniversary on the chalkboard! OK, you can barely see it due to my tipsy camera incompetence, but...
4. The garden continues to grow! Look at those guys! Sure would be nice if the weather would warm up so they could be transplanted outside to their real homes and lots of extra space to grow.
Above photo from outside, through the dining room window. There's probably another 3 weeks before we can safely get these guys outside. I can't wait for fresh herbs!

5. I was so preoccupied with getting ready for my parents and then them being here that I didn't pick up a library book to read until it was past due. A week past due. I thought it was a 3 week book but turns out it was a 7 day book. Oops. Between the lateness on that book and on The Goldfinch (1 day late), I owed $1.05. I always feel so incredibly guilty when I keep a book past due and owe money.

6. The book I didn't realize was a 7 day book was Steeped in Evil, the latest tea shop mystery by Laura Childs. I always enjoy these books, quick reads, not too deep, light and fun. Good thing, too - I realized on Easter it was already a week past due so I spent Monday afternoon and evening reading it so SP could return it on Tuesday.

7. As usual I am very happy to be going in for my 'every 7 weeks color the gray' appointment this weekend. It also means we'll be driving right past Portman's and I'm pretty darn sure it's ham salad weekend!

8. I think SP might have to mow this weekend. Last weekend he got the lawnmower ready for mowing season (oil, filter, etc.). He also got the garden soil prepared. Garden frog is ready for some plants and some warmer, sunnier weather:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Vanilla Cheesecake - Mix Ups & Dropsies

We had a whirlwind 6 day visit with my parents. They are currently on a plane, headed back to Las Vegas. I think my dad will be happy to get back to warmer weather. While SP & I thought it was pretty darn warm here, my dad didn't think the 60's were all that warm! We didn't wear jackets, dad did. Too used to that hot, dry, desert heat & sun!

We ate a lot of food when they were here. For Easter dessert, we decided to make a cheesecake. Both mom & dad like cheesecake a lot. So do we, but we don't make it just for the 2 of us. We need guests to help eat it!
Last summer we made a cheesecake following a recipe from our Williams Sonoma Baking Book. So I got out the book and looked up the cheesecake recipe and told SP to buy 2 packages of cream cheese. Saturday afternoon we went to make the cheesecake but when I opened the book and found the cheesecake recipe, it called for 32 ounces of cream cheese. That's 4 packages. I was confused. SP was annoyed. How did I screw this up?

So off he went to the store to buy more cream cheese, muttering that I can't do math and he should have just bought the cream cheese at Costco after all. The whole thing seemed strange to me, something was nagging at me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I briefly thought about checking last summer's blog post, but both my phone and tablet were charging and I felt really grungy so I just shrugged and went to shower.
After my shower, I went to check on things in the kitchen. The cheesecake was baking. SP said something about it taking 60-70 minutes and teased me about the cream cheese mistake. It was really bugging me, so I decided to pull up last year's post. Turns out it wasn't for Vanilla Cheesecake. It was for a Mixed Berry Cheesecake (but I just titled it Cheesecake because the berries are, in my opinion, optional). Hmmm... I got the cookbook and instead of just flipping to the cake section and finding the cheesecake recipe, I used the index of the cookbook. And discovered several recipes for cheesecake. One for Vanilla Cheesecake, which uses 32 ounces of cream cheese. One for Mixed Berry Cheesecake, which uses 16 ounces cream cheese. Whoops. When I made the shopping list, I looked at one recipe and when I found the recipe to make it, I looked at a different recipe! I didn't even realize there were several cheesecake recipes in the cookbook!
Oh well. Both are delicious. We baked ours about 5-10 minutes longer than the recipe says. It's rich. Smooth. Creamy. We've been enjoying tiny slices with strawberries and raspberries.

I was a little surprised SP kept putting the cheesecake back in the springform pan ring because usually it's kind of tough to get the flat bottom successfully and securely inside the ring, especially when it has a cake on it. I would have put the cake and springform pan bottom on a plate and covered it in foil or plastic wrap. But, whatever.
Tuesday evening was my parents' last night in town. After dinner, it was a little busy in the kitchen with one person washing dishes, one loading the dishwasher, one making tea, and one deciding to get dessert out. I was in the bathroom washing ham glaze off my hands when I heard some chaos in the kitchen. Hushed whisperings. Groans of dismay. And I thought, oh dear, I hope no one dropped the cheesecake/it didn't plop out of the ring and land on the floor.
SP's cheesecake. As usual, he buried his dessert under a huge mound of whipped cream.
Oh yes. It did. Splat. Upside down on the floor. Cheesecake on the wood, in the grooves between the wood, smearing all over. Many, many paper towels later the floor was clean again. Luckily, it didn't splat all over the place (walls, cabinets, refrigerator), it was confined to a 2 foot floor radius.

And that's the Easter 2104 cheesecake saga. One person can't find/read a recipe. Another person didn't take precautionary storage actions. And a third person dropped it upside down on the floor.

Sadly, no photos of the cheesecake splat were taken. I think I was too stunned and horrified!

Vanilla Cheesecake recipe can be found here.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Eats

My parents are in town for Easter. Much to our delight, the weather warmed up and was sunny on both Good Friday & Easter, so we were able to do lots of grilling. Good Friday was fish for dinner and Easter was a bit of a meat party with lamb, ham, and kielbasa on the table (Saturday was dinner at Park Bruges). Everything was delicious. We are surprised at how much of everything the four of us ate - there is not as much leftover as we figured there would be! Here's what our holiday eating looked like:
Easter Paska, with raisins, from Bethel Bakery. Two loaves purchased on Thursday morning, both loaves gone by Monday morning.

Moist, light, buttery, delicious paska interior. We had been thinking of making our own paska, but we figured we just didn't have enough time with everything else we were doing.

Good Friday dinner for me & dad: Scallops, grilled, with lemon juice, salt, and pepper

Scallops cooked just until done

Good Friday dinner for mom & SP: Salmon, grilled on cedar plank, lemon pepper seasoning

Salmon interior. We had a huge salad with the scallops & salmon and a French batard loaf. I also made a blue cheese dressing and a balsamic vinegar dressing for the salad.

Good Friday Dessert - Lady Lox from Bethel Bakery

More Good Friday dessert: Raspberry-Almond Tiramisu from Arlecchino

Easter leg of lamb, on the grill

Lamb after resting. We marinated it in the usual red wine-Dijon-oil-rosemary marinade
Mmmmm still pink inside and very juicy. Yum!

Small piece of ham glazed with whiskey-brown sugar-dry mustard-ground cloves-orange zest glaze

Ham, extra delicious when dipped in the glaze pooled in the bottom of the baking dish

Grilled kielbasa. Kielbasa from Market District Meat Counter. Tradition for SP's family. Very tasty kielbasa.

Weekday Scalloped Potatoes. Recipe from Cook's Illustrated. Delicious sliced russets in a chicken stock-cream-thyme-bay leaf-onion sauce with shredded cheddar on top.

The usual holiday sauteed green beans with onion and sliced portobella caps and sherry

My plate, after I wolfed down some yummy potatoes. A little bit of everything. And then a second plate of a little bit of everything.
Everything was washed down with a Chardonnay and a half bottle Pinot Noir on Good Friday and a Riesling, Merlot, and the end of the Pinot Noir on Easter. Lots of wine bottles in this week's recycling! SP did an excellent job of grilling and making the potatoes. Mom did an excellent job sauteing the green beans. I think I did a great job chopping all the veggies and making salad and salad dressing! And of course washing dishes!

Hope your past weekend was as delicious as ours was.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thursday Thoughts - Anniversaries

My wedding bouquet, a few days after the wedding
1. Today is our wedding anniversary! I cannot believe it has been 4 years - it has gone by so fast! I am so grateful that we are still so very happy and have so much fun together. Lots of laughs and silliness (of course there are tears and seriousness, too, and sometimes spats, but very few, so...)!

We will be celebrating at Arlecchino tonight. One of our favorite places, but only for special occasions, like last year's anniversary and my birthday a couple of years ago. Yum!

2. I missed my Blog Anniversary! It was this past Monday. Whoops. No special post to mark 5 years of blogging. No special dessert or dinner to mark the anniversary. Maybe I'll remember next year...

3. My parents are here! I haven't seen them since August 2013, so it's been  7-8 months.

4. The one day a year that my family does the 'no meat on Friday' thing is Good Friday. Needless to say, SP is deliriously happy that we will be having fish tomorrow. He can't wait to go pick out the fish, even offering to go to Whole Foods for fish. I am less excited. Not only is dinner fish, but it looks like lunch will be tuna salad.

5. This past week I managed to read The Goldfinch in 3 days. Yes, it took me a long time (2.5 weeks) to get started. I think the 784 pages and small print deterred me for a while, plus some mixed reviews, plus it's not my usual kind of book. I finally started reading and I got pulled in and then it was due so I *gasp* kept it one day past the due date and accrued a 15 cent fine. It's a wonderful book. A little slow to start, and then it picks up. When I think about it, none of the characters is particularly lovable or admirable, they all seem to do bad things and hurt each other and themselves, and yet you feel for them and just want to reassure them that everything will be OK. It is long, I am 'lucky' I am a fast reader, but even so, I found myself skimming some portions. I would recommend it. After all, it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
6. Signs of spring in our yard - the daylilies are starting to grow and a small purple flower bloomed.
7. SP spent some time last Sunday putting fresh dirt and compost and such into the herb pots, preparing them for when we transplant the herbs that are currently growing in the dining room. Last year's chives are regenerating:
8. I've been busy trying to figure out vacation. Again. All that we've determined is that we are not going to take a 2 week vacation because that's pretty long (that's what we planned last year). We have a credit on an airline from the tickets we didn't use last year, but this year, those same exact flights are 3 times as much on the airline, and that's a lot of extra airfare cost. Even just a round trip to one city (not multi city like last year) is at least twice as much if not more. We need to use the credit by the end of the month. So we're still trying to figure out where to go - the airline we have the credit with seems to have ridiculously inflated airfares compared to other airlines so we are very unhappy with them.

9. I'm excited for some warmer, if not super sunny, weather this Easter weekend. I wonder if the bunny is going to bring me chocolate eggs? Of course the bunny knows I still have cappuccino meltaway egg from last year, so...!