Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thursday Thoughts - Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone has a wonderful (and delicious) holiday! 

We're up early and getting ready for Thanksgiving for 14 people - not as many as 2 years ago but still a lot of people. Here's the final menu (as of 11/25):

Vegetables with Beau Monde Dip
Cheese & Crackers
Shrimp Cocktail
Mushroom Turnovers

Roast Turkey with Gravy
Mom's Sausage Stuffing
Brussels Sprouts
Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes
Dinner Rolls
FIL's Cole Slaw

Pumpkin Pie
Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Lots of wine (chardonnay & sauvignon blanc)
Spiced Cranberry Martinis
Old Fashioneds
Gin & Tonic
Unsweetened Iced Tea
Coffee & Tea

Monday, November 23, 2015

Love, Murder, and 3 Little Pigs

Last Saturday we went to see Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder at the Benedum and it was a lot of fun. It's one of the shows we've seen that I'd go see again. My dad even enjoyed it and he doesn't usually enjoy that kind of thing (plus, he was missing the Pitt football game).

After the show, we went to dinner at Meat & Potatoes. After enjoying my usual Sgt Pepper's Old Fashioned (and later on a Dark & Stormy) plus our usual fried pickles and fried Brussels, the meal I've been thinking about since last June arrived:
The 3 Little Pigs Sandwich (pork milanese, ham, bacon, swiss, fried farm egg). Just as tasty as I remember.
 And just as huge as I remember - which means I had an extra tasty treat for lunch on Sunday.
My mom had Pot Roast (braised chuck roast, baby carrots, turnips, cipollini onions, parsnips, horseradish gremolata). I tried a couple bites and it was really good.
 SP had the Turbo Fish special with a mustard sauce and I forget what else. My dad had the Chicken & Dumplings special and he ordered the Salmon special appetizer.
 The 4 of us again shared 3 desserts. Apples with spice cake and a butterscotch pudding.
 White Chocolate Panna Cotta with blueberries.
Chocolate Pot de Creme.

Everything was yummy and service was as good as usual. I think my parents really like the place, too.

I can't wait for my next 3 Little Pigs sandwich!

  Meat & Potatoes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, November 20, 2015


It's Friday, I'm super tired, my brain is sluggish, so here's a Friday Thoughts post:

1. So the car was not ready this morning. Grrr. It'll be ready mid-day. So SP returned the rental car and is working from home, hoping the car is ready around lunchtime so he can get into work for at least half a day.

2. It's cutie time! I love those tiny oranges this time of year. I've been eating them for breakfast instead of bananas.

3. This week was roast chicken week. We've been eating it every night for dinner. With rice and steamed broccoli. It's a really tasty lemon roasted chicken, but I'm getting tired of chicken.

4. We haven't had any time to bake lately. This week's dessert was the chocolate covered pretzels MIL gave me for my birthday. But now they're gone, so I have no idea what my little sweet treat tonight will be. Maybe popcorn?

5. My goal today: finish the past due library book. I started After You by Jojo Moyes and it cannot be renewed, so now I need to read really fast before the library police get me. I didn't realize it's a sequel to Me Before You, so I guess I'll have to read the first book second.

6. Happy weekend!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

1. This week is flying by. SP has been super busy because he has a work deadline next week. He's been working longer hours and one evening he watched TV with me while doing work on his laptop. I'm glad the deadline is before the holiday - that way he can relax and enjoy and not worry.

2. There was a little oopsy with the car. Actually, 2 oopsies. Sigh. First, "someone" parked crooked in the garage and scraped the passenger front corner against the patio furniture (which we store in the garage over winter). I heard a crash one morning and later that night, "someone" confessed their sin, trying to put a "it's not so bad" spin on it, but, um, it was pretty bad. I was not happy when I saw the damage on Saturday. Then the next day, "someone" parked in a space at the mall and everything was fine pulling into the space, but when pulling out, the concrete parking block scraped under the car. I've never heard a parking block scrape sound as bad as this was. Turns out that's because the parking block basically ripped the front plastic cover bumper thingy off the car. The clips were broken, it was hanging by a thread, the head light was scraped, it was bad. Very bad.

So, another car repair quote, another unexpected expense. This time: $700 for an overnight repair. We looked at our deductible and the repair cost and pondered potential insurance increases and opted to not run it through insurance.

At least we're killing two oopsy damages with one repair cost since both oopsies were on the same part of the car. Yay?

3. The next debate was to rent or not rent a car. Originally SP was going to not rent and work from home, but with the work deadline, he really felt he needed to be in the office, so he rented a car for a day. I sure hope the repair work is done before the 24 hours of the car rental is up!

4. Thank goodness for the moms because between them, they are handling a good chunk of the Thanksgiving shopping. One mom is getting the turkey, rolls, and a dessert while the other is getting the last minute stuff next week and helping me do prep work next Wed. We'll get the other stuff this weekend (apples for apple pie!). 

5. Of course it is the super busy time of year. We just found out that Z is coming into town in early Dec., but we have no idea if/when we can see her because SP works and we already have weekend plans for every weekend from now until the end of the year. We need to sit down and look at the calendar and see what we might be able to change.

6. Last weekend was my birthday dinner with SP's family at Central Diner. SP of course ordered rice pudding:
I tried a new-to-me dessert, the tiramisu:
It was good, light and flavorful, and just the right size.

7. Last night we watched the movie San Andreas. As always, it was fun to watch mass destruction and learn stuff. By learning I mean that we sat there with our tablets and looked up stuff like can a tsunami really happen if the San Andreas fault ruptures? Would SF really flood like that? What was the strongest earthquake ever? How strong an earthquake can a building survive? Would the buildings really just collapse like that? Did this movie get anything correct? Why are we even thinking?

8. I finally finished Golden Age from Jane Smiley. I really liked the trilogy and highly recommend it. This third book wrapped up the trilogy nicely.

9. I'm going to go nap now. Here's how tired I am: earlier today I decided to make myself a coffee treat using my Nespresso. I stuck a capsule in and pushed the start button and then sat there staring as the coffee flowed out and into nothing but the drip try because I forgot to put a mug there. Whoops. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Noodles & Co.

I am not a shopper. I hate shopping. My dad calls it "malling." I hate malling. I hate when I need new jeans or an outfit for an event. I hate when I need something as simple as new underwear or socks. I hate if I have to go to more than one store to find what I'm looking for. I hate when I have to drive from store to store to store, dealing with traffic and idiot drivers and idiot shoppers in search of a pair of shoes or the perfect jacket. I especially hate shopping in November & December because of all the other shoppers. If I must go malling, I insist on being there first thing in the morning because it's less crowded.

I received a bunch of birthday and holiday coupons in the mail, like 25% off anything at Vera Bradley, BOGO candles at Yankee Candle, Rewards Certificates for Hallmark, more Macy's coupons, and well, sometimes, you just need to investigate because of the potential extra savings.

So last Saturday, armed with a list of malling stuff we had to get (OK, maybe not had to get, more like wanted to look at & possibly purchase), we set off bright and early for the mall. Starting a malling trip at 10 am means that by noon, I am positively sick of the mall and shoppers and kids and strollers plus I'm hungry so I'm even more annoyed with people. This time, we were at South Hills Village Mall so we went to their food court.

If there's something I hate more than malling, it's mall food court food. It's always so salty or greasy or just... putrid and unappealing. I used to be able to enjoy something decent from Au Bon Pain, but that is no longer there. After Au Bon Pain disappeared, I tried to get by with soft pretzels for lunch during malling trips, but that really doesn't satisfy my tummy. This time, we decided to try a new-to-that-mall-place, Noodles & Co. I think it opened over the summer.
SP tried the Pad Thai (rice noodle stir-fry with scrambled egg, carrots, napa and red cabbage, sweet chili, citrus, peanuts, Asian sprouts and cilantro) with shrimp and a side salad. He said it was fine. I thought it smelled gross, but then again, I hate peanut butter and peanuts and cilantro and chili, so...
His side salad was pretty decent.
I opted for Wisconsin Mac & Cheese (a classic blend of cheddar and jack cheeses, cream and elbow macaroni). It was pretty good. I like it better than Kraft mac & cheese. Definitely better than the usual salty, greasy mall food. I'd get it again.

As far as mall food goes, Noodles & Co. is pretty good. Plus they have a nice little dining area separate from the main mall food court dining area, which was nice, although it did not block out the ear splitting noise from a horde of screaming children in the food court.

I seriously hope that any holiday gift shopping we decide to do can be done online. I've had enough malling.

Noodles & Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Brunch at Eleven

Long time readers of this blog know that every year for our birthdays, we use our Big Burrito Birthday coupons on brunch at either Casbah or Eleven. Since last year I chose Casbah and earlier this year we had to cancel SP's birthday brunch at Eleven due to weather, I chose Eleven for this year's birthday brunch. We started off with a Bloody Mary for SP and a Mimosa for me while we looked over the menu. Here's what we enjoyed for brunch:
I started with a blueberry muffin from the pastry basket. The basket also contained a coconut muffin, 2 biscuits, and a wonderfully light & flaky croissant, all served with honey butter and jam.
For his first course, SP chose Three Greens (radicchio, little gem, arugula, goat cheese, red wine vinaigrette, roasted sweet peppers, tapenade croutons).
I have been thinking about the Grilled Sticky ever since our last brunch at Eleven, so I couldn't resist the cinnamon swirl brioche with bacon butterscotch and icing. It's enormous and delicious.
SP's entree was Prosciutto Cotto, Caramelized Onion, & Aged-Cheddar Omelet with bacon and fingerling potatoes. The omelet was really fluffy and the bacon was some of the best bacon I've ever had (yes, I "whined" to try SP's bacon!).
I chose my usual Eleven brunch entree: Eggs Benedict (English muffin, hollandaise, truffle vinaigrette, Tasso spiced pork loin, citrus). As usual, I asked for my eggs well poached, and they were, and it was a delicious dish that I completely devoured.
I really wanted dessert because I love dessert and Eleven's desserts are always fantastic, but I was pretty darn full plus we had a few errands to run after brunch and I didn't want to feel overly full during errands, so we passed on dessert. Our server did bring me the above Happy Birthday chocolate. Once I split it in half, it was the perfect size sweet treat to end the meal. I am still kind of wishing we had ordered the Spice Cake, but... that would've been way too much food.

Service is still fantastic. The food is still delicious. It's relaxing and fancy but not stuffy. Still one of our favorites.

Eleven Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, November 13, 2015

Tasting at Walnut Grill in Robinson

Near the end of October, Walnut Grill opened a new location in Robinson. It's at Settler's Ridge in the space where Stonepepper's Grill was. I was invited to attend a tasting prepared by Corporate Chef Randy. In the past year or so, I've heard a lot about Walnut Grill because our friend PM works there as does her son. Before transferring to the new Robinson location, they worked at both the Mt. Lebanon and Bridgeville locations. I didn't tell PM we were going to this tasting but last night when we walked in, she was there to greet us, and it was as usual lovely to see her.

SP & I ordered fresh brewed iced tea (good iced tea) and checked out the chalkboard of beer:
I don't like beer, I know nothing about beer, but SP & a couple others commented on the beer selection which is, apparently, quite nice. Soon enough the first appetizer arrived:
Ahi Tuna (sesame crusted, Asian slaw, pickled ginger, wasabi drizzle, ponzu). Here's a closer look at the tuna:
Longtime blog readers know I do not much like fish so SP got to eat a lot of ahi tuna! He said it was very good. I did try the Asian slaw and liked it quite a bit.
The second appetizer was Lobster Mac and Cheese (alfredo, lobster, baked parmesan bread crumb crust) with a garlic crostini. Of course I didn't eat the crostini but the mac and cheese was delicious. I loved the crunch from the parmesan bread crust and there were several nicely sized chunks of lobster. Most impressive to us was that the lobster was not over cooked and tough as often seems to be the case with lobster mac and cheese. This is one of two lobster mac and cheese dishes I've tried that I would order again, and I've tried a lot of them!
Then the entree samples started to arrive. First, Walnut Grill's Crab Cakes (Walnut Grill signature jumbo lump crab cake, dijonnaise, Old Bay seasoning). This is a really good crab cake. Really good. probably my favorite dish of everything I tried. Chunks of jumbo lump crab, little/no filler, very light, not dense like some crab cakes, so light and loose that both SP & I were amazed that they were able to brown the crab cake and not have it fall apart (which happens to us when we make crab cakes).
Next was House Cut Filet Mignon (gorgonzola-bacon butter, red wine demi glaze). Oh my gosh. OK, this might have been better than the crab cake. It really did cut like butter. That demi glaze? Amazing. The filet was nice and pink inside. This is one of those dishes that makes us want to eat more beef.
Lightly Crusted Atlantic Cod (crispy shredded potato, horseradish-herb crust, Old Bay remoulade, lump crab relish). In spite of not much liking fish, I enjoyed this cod quite a bit. To me, this is a much more mild fish than tilapia (everyone who tries to get me to eat more fish suggests tilapia but I've never much liked it). The shredded potato atop the cod added a nice crunchy crispness alongside the smooth cod and the crab relish was vinegary and really good. This is a fish dish I'd order.
The next dish to arrive: Parmesan Crusted Chicken & Gnocchi (potato gnocchi, tomato basil cream sauce, basil tomatoes). A version of chicken parmesan. The chicken was nicely browned and the tomato cream sauce was delicious but the gnocchi stole the show in this dish. They were so light and fluffy, melting in my mouth. I think they were potato and ricotta gnocchi. I was secretly happy about SP's misfortune (not being able to eat a lot of carbs) because I got to eat his gnocchi, too.
A pasta dish: Pumpkin Ravioli & Chicken (grilled chicken, sauteed spinach, asparagus tips, lemon-garlic butter sauce, cranberry-gorgonzola relish). I asked for mine without garlic and was really glad because while my stomach can tolerate very small, long simmered amounts of garlic, this dish had a noticeable amount of garlic according to those seated near me. The ravioli were small so you pop an entire one in your mouth. The pasta was really good and the filling was different from anything I've ever tried. Inside was crushed amaretti cookie! It made for a sweet ravioli and while I really enjoyed the dish, I'm not sure I could eat a large plate of it.
The final entree: Rack of Lamb (Cajun spiced, blue cheese cream sauce). Mmm lamb. I was surprised that they were not as pink in the middle as I'd expected but it turned out these were cooked perfectly, juicy, flavorful, Cajun spice cooled by the blue cheese.
Dessert: Winter Berry Cobbler (baked raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, cinnamon streusel crust, brown sugar & cinnamon ice cream). Yum! I enjoyed the ice cream a lot not just because it was really good ice cream but because it was a different flavor combination plus it wasn't vanilla on top of the berry cobbler. It melted into the berries and the streusel and was a terrific ending.

In spite of PM working at Walnut Grill, and in spite of us having a gift card for Walnut Grill, we had not yet tried Walnut Grill. We were excited for another restaurant to come to Settlers Ridge since we live so close and hope it does well. Based on the food we tried, we're anxious to go back and we would suggest it to others. Everything was quite good.

Many thanks to Walnut Grill, Chef Randy, and Kristen for inviting us.

*Disclosure: I was invited to Walnut Grill for a chef's tasting event. I was not compensated for or even asked to provide any form of social media or positive blog review regarding the tasting event/Walnut Grill. All opinions in this post are mine.

  Walnut Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

1. Last weekend was my birthday and as usual, SP got me lots of treats. Friday night we had Lemon Tarts and Chocolate Eclairs from La Gourmandine. Yum!
Saturday I got to have half a Panera sandwich (Bacon Turkey Bravo) for lunch because there was no food in the house. No lunch meat, no bread, no eggs, no dinner leftovers. Dinner was the delicious meal at Arlecchino.
Sunday for breakfast & lunch I ate a leftover eclair and leftover Arlecchino then for dinner SP made me Pasta with Prosciutto & Peas - this time he bought fresh Fede tagliatelle for the dish. SO GOOD!
Dessert was birthday cake from Party Cake Shop. We really like their paczki but had not yet tried their cake. It's pretty good cake. Not Bethel Bakery, but still good.

So it was a birthday full of deliciousness.

2. Sunday we went to see Bridge of Spies. We both really enjoyed the movie.

3. My mom came over again this past Monday. She's been here the last 2 Mondays to help me "spring clean" except I suppose it's really "pre-holiday clean" or maybe "November clean." We didn't pick November/before the holidays, it just happened that we got in a habit of every November she helps me clean the huge hutch in the dining room that she and my dad "gave" us (they moved to Las Vegas & couldn't fit it in their Las Vegas home so it was in my apartment, then I moved in with SP and they told us the hutch and the contents were ours if we wanted it all). Anyway, it's huge and it's lots of glass and mirror so once a year everything comes out, gets cleaned, all the interior glass and the mirror get a thorough cleaning, and mom polishes all the brass stuff that is displayed in the hutch. Last week she helped me clean out our booze cabinet and clean the glass door and shelves plus the glasses we keep inside.

While she was working on the hutch, I was cleaning out our flatware & the other "utensil" drawer. It's amazing how many crumbs and crap get inside those drawers. Since we're having guests stay with us for a week over Thanksgiving and hosting Thanksgiving itself, I didn't want our guests to see the crumbs, loose tea, etc., that was slowly accumulating in the drawers!

4. I read Career of Evil, the new novel from Robert Galbraith, and like the previous 2 Cormoran Strike novels, enjoyed it a lot.

5. Yesterday I barely saw SP. He left early for work and after work he went to the hockey game. Thanks to a shoot out and PennDOT working on the tunnels, he didn't get home until midnight. It took nearly an hour and a half for him to get home. I can't wait until this tunnel/Parkway West project is over. Supposedly it started August 2014 and will end August 2016, but somehow it feels like it has been going on much longer than just since August 2014.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Chicken Fricassee

A couple of weeks ago we needed a quick meal for dinner and I was kind of bored with our usual quick meals, so I consulted the recipe collection and came up with this idea: Chicken Fricassee. Honestly, I'd never before heard of chicken fricassee until I saw the recipe in an old Cook's Illustrated (Nov/Dec 2010). It's pretty simple, so we decided to try it.
Except for omitting the garlic, we followed the recipe exactly. Brown chicken, brown mushrooms & onions, add wine, flour, broth, add chicken back to pan, cook until chicken is done, remove chicken, whisk together sour cream and yolk, stir into sauce, add nutmeg, lemon, and tarragon, enjoy.
This was really tasty. I really liked the tang from the sour cream and that silky/creamy texture from the yolk plus the tart lemon, warm hint of nutmeg, and the licorice flavor of the tarragon. Kind of like chicken marsala (the chicken and mushrooms) but with a different sauce. This is a definite make again dish. We got 2 meals from this (4 servings).

Recipe here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Birthday Dinner at Arlecchino

It took me a while to decide where to go for my birthday dinner, but I finally decided on Arlecchino since we hadn't been there in a long time. It's in McMurray in the old Thompson School House. I decided to write an updated post since the last time I wrote about Arlecchino was April 3013.

Our meal was just as delicious as I remember. We each had a glass of white wine while enjoying bread and dipping oil before ordering. We shared the Smoked Provolone with black winter truffles, arugula, and locatelli appetizer (as usual - we love this starter). Next was the usual side salad (romaine, red leaf, roasted beets, raisins, sunflower seeds, and an aioli from a local goat cheese farm) and then the pasta arrived:
 Delicate, fresh fusilli in tomato sauce with fresh basil. Yum!
SP had Sea Bass. It was different than what is on the online menu. It was a generous portion of fish and I think this was the fish in the mustard cream sauce (there were 3 fish options the night we went). He said it was delicious.
I ordered my usual Cottoletta del Monzu (scallopini of veal finished with fresh mozzarella, colossal lump crab, arugula, and toasted pignoli). This is still the best veal I've had at a restaurant. I ate about 2/3 of my meal and enjoyed the other 1/3 for lunch the next day.
The Raspberry Almond Tiramisu. I cannot pass on this. It's one of my favorite restaurant desserts.

Arlecchino is still as tasty as we remember and the service is still very good. Our server was quite helpful when we were trying to decide on wine. The meal was nicely paced. A little more leisurely than some meals, but that's a good thing because of all the food! It's still just a special celebration place for us because of the cost but it's a restaurant we always look forward to since it's a special treat.

Arlecchino Ristorante Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato