Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Lunch at Bistro 19

Last weekend we went out for lunch instead of dinner. We wanted a "date lunch" so we decided to go to Bistro 19 in Mt. Lebanon.
We stared with Lemon Pepper Calamari with citrus caper remoulade. This is still my favorite calamari in Pittsburgh. I like the light breading, the grated cheese, the citrus and pepper and caper flavors.
SP had a cup of the coup special. It was a Kielbasa Soup with sauerkraut & potato soup. He liked it a lot. I didn't try it.
For his lunch entree, SP chose Grilled Salmon Salad (greens, dried cranberries, pecans, goat cheese, orange poppy dressing). He ate it all and said it was delicious. He especially liked the dressing.
I chose Black Tiger Shrimp (artichoke & spinach stuffed, tomato parmesan cream, basmati, fresh vegetable). This is one of my favorite dishes, although I prefer the dinner version which comes with risotto instead of basmati.

It was really nice to have a lingering date lunch instead of date dinner. We always enjoy our food at Bistro 19, the service is always great, and they have fresh iced tea. We were too full for dessert, but happily on the way home, we drove right past La Gourmandine so SP ran in for some treats for later that evening.


Bistro 19 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, January 30, 2017

Chocolate Babka

For a very long time, we've been meaning to try baking babka/paska. I'm actually a little confused about the difference between the two. When I say paska, SP thinks babka based on what his Polish grandma used to bake. When I say babka, I mean swirly bread. He thinks bread with raisins (what I call paska). I thought we had it all sorted out one day after lots of Googling, but then it turns out we didn't because we found more contradictions. So I'm just going with babka/paska all depends on where exactly your ancestors are from.
This is a Chocolate Babka recipe from Cook's Country. Making the dough with the dough hook in the stand mixer is straight-forward and easy. Place it in a bowl, cover, and let it rise at room temperature for an hour and then in the refrigerator for an hour.
SP rolled the dough out, spread on the filling, rolled, and twisted while I was doing something else so there are no photos of those steps. Here it is, nestled in the loaf pan:
Let it rise for another hour and then bake it about 45 minutes.
A golden brown loaf with swirly chocolate interior. We should have smushed it together a bit tighter because there is a crack/hole where the twisting seam pulled apart.
It was very good. Pretty chocolate swirls inside. I liked the interior best and would rip off the crust but then again, I've never much liked the crusts of breads. It kept well for a week wrapped in foil. We ate it for dessert.
Next time, I think we'll try the cinnamon version.

Recipe here.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Kalaloch Lodge

Obviously, I've not been blogging very much. I like having the blog, it's a great reference for us, both the recipes and restaurants, but I feel my interests shifting. Not that I don't want to cook/try new recipes or try new restaurants, just maybe not always take photos and write about it. I was looking at my drafts folder and discovered I never finished writing about our Seattle vacation last October.
The last 2 days of vacation were spent driving from Seattle to Olympic National Park. It's an enormous park. It would be a very long day to drive from Seattle, drive through the entire park, and return to Seattle in one day. Maybe impossible. Maybe not if you're young & energetic but we're no longer young and not as energetic as we once were! So we decided to stay overnight and chose to stay at Kalaloch Lodge. Happily, they have a restaurant, so we wouldn't have to find a grocery store, or a cooler, or starve.

So I'm not sure how I feel about this place. It was the first time I'd ever stayed at a National Park lodge/hotel. It's situated on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which is fabulous. It would have been more fabulous if it hadn't been so rainy and windy and cold. As for accessible lodging, there are 2 wheelchair accessible cabins. When we first entered our cabin, I was hit my a very strong smell of industrial strength, lemon scented cleaner. My allergies acted up within seconds and I felt stuffy & nauseous. I couldn't wait to get out & go for a walk and started wondering how the heck I was going to be able to sleep.

It's a pretty big cabin. Kitchen, which we didn't need for just one night. Sitting area with wood burning fireplace, but we didn't light a fire because by the time we got back to our cabin after dinner, it was pretty much time for bed since we were getting up early the next day. Bedroom with two full (or maybe queen) beds. A large bathroom that looked like it hadn't been updated since the 1960's and that also was incredibly dimly lit. It was, honestly, kind of creepy. We discovered that the cabin floors were pretty dirty when SP's white socks turned dark gray. But for a night, it was manageable.

We had dinner at their Creekside Restaurant. We tried to take a walk before dinner but the rain & wind defeated us so we went to the lobby/gift shop area and sat in front of a fantastic, giant fireplace, drying out and warming up.

We were seated right away, but not at a table with a view of the ocean, so that was a bummer. I remember it took a really long time for our server to come take our drink order. In fact, service all night was really, really slow. That's why even though we were seated at 5:30, we didn't get back to our cabin until around 8 pm.
We started with Washington Cheese Plate: goat cheese, a Beecher’s cheese, and a cheese I don't remember other than that I didn't like it at all, honey, a berry-like sauce, and nuts. It was OK. I found it disappointing for what it cost.
SP had soup - I think this was a split pea soup. He liked it.
I had Clam Chowder. I didn't like it at all. I cannot pinpoint why other than it just tasted off to me. SP ate some of it and thought it was OK but that it was definitely not as good as the other clam chowders we'd had on vacation.
For his meal, SP chose fish, I think it was halibut. It came with potatoes and vegetables. He said the fish was good. But it was such a tiny portion of fish. An insulting, absurdly small size of fish given the cost and what we've been served/paid at other restaurants around the country.
I didn't want an entree so I order an appetizer: Pulled Pork Tater Tots (pulled pork, BBQ sauce, hollandaise, chives). I didn't much like this, either. The tater tots didn't taste homemade, the sauce was too sticky sweet for me, and the pork was dry and chewy. Very disappointing.

The entire dinner experience was disappointing to us. The lack of a seat with a view (which might have been because there were steps down inside but there was an outside side door to the lower area). The incredibly slow service. The very pricey food (which, yes, isolated area, hard/expensive to get food delivered) versus the quality/quantity of what was on our plates. The best part of the meal was the hot tea.

Even worse, when we got back to the cabin, my stomach was immediately upset and I spent a very long time in the bathroom before just going to bed. Definitely not a romantic cabin experience.

The next day, SP went to breakfast to use our free breakfast vouchers. I stayed in the cabin, afraid to eat. He was gone a long time (slow service again) and he said his order, when he was served, was wrong, but he didn't say anything because we needed to set off early. He used our other voucher to bring me back a bagel, cream cheese, and bacon, I slowly munched on that food in the car for the next 5-6 hours, praying I wouldn't get an upset stomach again.

So, I'm not much of a fan of Kalaloch Lodge and their restaurant. The employees were very nice ad friendly and helpful. It's a beautiful area. But restaurant service was way too slow and the food was expensive for the quality/quantity.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

We've been enjoying a lot of paczki. Perhaps too many. Last night, SP came home with paczki from Oakmont Bakery. I've never been there, so I had never tried their paczki. They're different (to me) in that these are glazed, not sugar coated, paczki. I've never much liked glazed donuts, but look at all the filling! That more than makes up for the glaze.
I ate a chocolate buttercream one. SP had peach. These are tasty paczki, but huge. Bigger than the ones from Bethel Bakery & Party Cake. While these are tasty, given the glaze, the large size, and how far away the bakery is, I think we'll stick with Bethel Bakery & Party Cake.
Last Friday I had to go to a doctor located near-ish Party Cake so we stopped by (drove slightly out of the way) to get paczki from Party Cake. I ate the lemon one for breakfast (with my yogurt).

So like has been giving me lots of paczki. They help me deal with the news because every time I read the news, I cringe and feel so stressed and dismayed and hopeless. We quit watching TV news. I'm about to quite reading it, too.

Dinners This Week:

  • Pork tenderloin, mustard roasted potatoes, mashed cauliflower
  • Quesadilla filled with chicken (seasoned with Penzey's taco seasoning), cheddar, roasted tomato, and salsa, avocado, sour cream, cucumber on the side.
  • Dessert - paczki, Chex Mix, M&M's

What We're Watching:

  • Last night we watched Sully. It was very good. Made me get teary. 
  • Still watching & enjoying Victoria on PBS.
  • Quantico is back. Meh. I guess we'll keep watching but it's turned into a show that we watch and comment on all the inconsistencies and plot holes and errors.
  • We love laughing at Worst Cooks In America. Admittedly, I would have a very tough time doing what they had to do: fillet and prepare a fish dinner. Between the smell and trying to fillet the fish without hacking it into a raggedy mess, mine would probably look horrible.
  • Tonight Shonda TV returns! SP is exiled to the basement. Grey's Anatomy (What will happen to Alex?). Scandal (Um, kinda don't even remember where it left off.). HTGAWM (Who killed Wes?).
  • We watched an abysmal football game last Sunday night. No interest in the Super Bowl. Other than hoping the Falcons make Shady Brady & Bellicheat cry.

What I'm Reading:
I read Modern Lovers from Emma Straub. This is my second Straub book. The first was The Vacationers. I have a like-dislike relationship with these books. They never completely suck me in, I can easily put them down & walk away. Yet I don't give up, no matter how annoyed or uninterested I am at certain points, no matter how much I can't stand the characters, no matter that I always end up skimming through much of the book, just wanting to see how it ends. Maybe I just don't enjoy reading 300+ page books about dysfunctional families/trials & tribulations of contemporary relationships/angsty relationship stuff. I probably should have just walked away from both books because I didn't close them after reading the last page and think anything other than "time to put it in the library return pile."

Monday, January 23, 2017

Arlecchino Ristorante

This week, my dad celebrates one of those birthdays than ends in a "0." Usually, for birthdays, my family celebrates by dining out. A birthday that ends in "0" is cause for a more special than usual place. My mom & I debated a lot, should there be a surprise party, where should it be, or should there be a dinner out and if so just us or invite other people, too? In the end, we decided on mom and dad plus me & SP dining at Arlecchino

SP & I really like Arlecchino. We hadn't been there in over a year. Mom & dad had not yet been there but did dine there many, many years ago when it was The Classroom Restaurant.

Dad started with an old fashioned. We ordered a bottle of chardonnay for the table and started with bread & their dippy oil plus an appetizer we really like: Smoked Provolone (Allegheny mountain, seared with black winter truffles, arugula, and locatelli), which I did not photograph. Here's what else we enjoyed:
A second appetizer which we had not seen on the menu on our previous visits: Breaded and fried zucchini stuffed with goat cheese and covered in marinara. This was really good. I think it might be
our new favorite appetizer at Arlecchino.

The next course was a salad, served family style, with beets, golden raisins, and sunflower seeds. I didn't take a photo.

Following the salad, the pasta course is served. As on our prior visits, there is Fusilli a la Vodka.
New to us is another option: a Cacio e Pepe pasta made tableside. There is an extra charge for the cacio e pepe pasta, but it's worth it.
A bowl of pasta noodles. A mostly hollowed out locatelli cheese well. The noodles are placed int he cheese wheel bowl.
 Then salt, pepper, romano, olive oil, and cream are added and everything is tossed together.
 The cheese wheel melts into the pasta as it's tossed. Yum! Look at this bowl of cheesy goodness:
So. Good. Dad and I liked this best. SP & mom liked the fusilli a la vodka best. Yes, rich and salty and cheesy and not healthy but oh so tasty.

Then the entrees arrived:
For mom, Bistecca Diane (prime aged sirloin, chargrilled and presented with caramelized onions and wild mushrooms in a light Worcestershire butter, finished with shaved locatelli). She said it was very good, lots of mushrooms.  
For the birthday boy, the house specialty: a double cut veal chop from milk fed Wisconsin raised young cattle prepared Milanese style (paddled, pan fried in clarified butter, baked in the oven, finished with kernels of colossal lump crab, toasted pignoli, lemon scallion butter). Dad said it was excellent, probably the best veal he's ever eaten.  
SP always talks about ordering the veal chop and this time he did, choosing the Griglia preparation which had a mountain of mushrooms and some asparagus. He said it was very good. I snuck a mushroom and it was a very good mushroom.
I ordered my usual: Cottoletta del Monzu (scallopini of veal finished with fresh mozzarella, colossal lump crab, arugula, and toasted pignoli). I love this dish and still think it's the best veal I've ever eaten.

Everyone took home about half of their entree plus we took home about half of each pasta. I was not about to pass on the Raspberry Tiramisu, so we shared an order of that:
I also ordered the Cannoli. I don't see it often on dessert menus here so I like to order it when I have the chance. We ended up bringing half the cannoli home.
My parents really enjoyed their meals at Arlecchino. I'm glad because whenever you tell people how fantastic and delicious a restaurant is and then they go, you want them to think it's as good as you said. I think my dad may have said it's the best meal he's had in Pittsburgh.

Dining at Arlecchino is an experience, it's not in & out. It's nicely paced, on the leisurely side but not like you're waiting and waiting. More like experiencing and anticipating and enjoying. Our server was great. We never felt rushed, not even when we took a bit to decide what beverages to order. Still one of our favorite places in Pittsburgh. And definitely the best veal.


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

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

Exciting News: We finally have heat in the car! Way back in Nov.-Dec., SP told me the heat didn't seem to be working. The next time I was in the car, I discovered he was indeed right. Thank goodness the seat warmers were working! "Cool heat" was not pleasant on those 10-15 degree days. It took awhile to get around to having it checked out. You'd think it would have been a higher priority in winter, but with the holidays and him being on call for 2 weeks, well, it got pushed. Yesterday was finally the day. Having heat is nice. The cost to fix it, not nice.

He took a slight detour on his way home and brought me a paczki from Bethel Bakery. My first of the season. Yum! I think they're around until March so hopefully I'll get to enjoy a few more.
Last weekend we stopped in Prantl's Bakery. I'd never before tried anything from Prantl's. We got a lady lock and a travel burnt almond torte. There are people who swoon over Prantl's burnt almond torte. The Huffington Post called it "possibly the BEST cake America has to offer."
Keep in mind I don't really like nuts and definitely don't like them on dessert. I also am not a huge fan of plain white cake and white icing. So I was unimpressed. I know. What's wrong with me? I can see why people like it. I just don't. At heart I am a Bethel Bakery girl so while Prantl's lady lock was good, it's not a good as BB's (to me).

Meals This Week:


What We're Watching:

  • We finished Season 2 of The Man in the High Castle. We really enjoyed the show and are looking forward to seeing where it goes. 
  • We started watching Victoria on PBS. We were surprised to see Rufus Sewell, who plays the American turned Nazi in TMITHC, portraying the Prime Minister. Kind of disconcerting to go from seeing him as Nazi right into seeing him as Prime Minister!
  • Last weekend we watched Kubo & the Two Strings. We both really liked the movie.

What I'm Reading:
I read Daisy In Chains by Sharon Bolton. I read Little Black Lies and loved the book so I decided to try another of Bolton's novels. I liked this one a lot, too. I remember reading LBL and at the very end, the last 2 pages, being shocked at the twist. I remember re-reading the last part of the book 3-4 times! DIC didn't surprise me quite as much, but it still had a good twist. I wasn't a fan of the "style" of book, the letters in different print, but I was interested enough in the story to stick with it.

Last Sunday we watched the Steelers beat the Chiefs. It was a little stressful! This Sunday is Steelers-Patriots and the winner goes to the Super Bowl. I am a Steelers girl. I have a deep dislike of Shady Brady & Bellicheat. I'm not sure if I should be allowed to watch Sunday's game! I tend to get a little... worked up. Go Steelers!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Mercurio's

Last weekend we went to Mercurio's for dinner. Turns out, it had been 10 months since we last ate there. I didn't think it had been that long, especially since we really like their pizza. But it seems we only get there once a year. I'm not sure when it happened, but they no longer offer fresh brewed iced tea. That makes me super sad. I do not like that fake tea taste of pre-made teas, even if they're unsweetened.
Their menu is different, too, although that could have happened 9 months ago and we wouldn't know. Usually we share the Della Casa Salad but this time we tried the new-to-us Burrata e Prosciutto appetizer (burrata, prosciutto, arugula, grape tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil). It was very good - lots of salty prosciutto with creamy cheese and crisp arugula.
As usual we shared two pizzas. This time, above, the Lasagna Pizza (tomato sauce, house made mozzarella, Italian sausage, ricotta, oregano, extra virgin olive oil) and below, the Pizza Della Casa (tomato sauce, house made mozzarella, grape tomatoes, arugula, Prosciutto di Parma, parmigiano, extra virgin olive oil).
Both were tasty, as usual. I really like the ricotta and oregano flavors on the lasagna one. The other pizza is probably my favorite pizza - something about that combination of flavors.
I wasn't going to have gelato for dessert. It was chilly outside, gloomy & rainy, and I usually only enjoy frozen desserts on warm days. SP is always up for gelato and he chose the blackberry, above. It had a lovely light flavor. I changed my mind when I saw they had a peppermint gelato.
Ever since we made peppermint ice cream, I've been in love with it. Like the ice cream we made, this gelato had candy cane bits in it. It was so good. Worth it to make myself chillier than I was.

We still like Mercurio's a lot and will go back. I wish they'd bring back the fresh iced tea, especially since I don't like soda and am not always in the mood for wine (and never beer!).


Mercurio's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

It's a gray, gloomy, rainy Thursday, but at least it's warm, 65 degrees right now. Quite nice after last weekend's miserable frigid weather.

I spent a long time today trying to use the site for my health insurance. It's unbelievable how darn slow that site and the prescription site are. Ridiculous. Excruciatingly slow. Trying to do health stuff online is just as painful, difficult, and time consuming as trying to call and getting stuck in an automated system hell before being placed on hold and then talking to a person who never fully answers your questions and insists no answer is binding because everything just "depends" on stuff out of my control. Which means I can never definitively know if/what is fully/partially/not covered and how much I might have to pay.

I was seriously told last fall that that whether or not my doctor appointment was covered as a yearly/annual wellness exam or as a regular office visit (which are covered at different rates/co-pays) depended on what additional tests the doctor may or may not order during my appointment (but that I would not know ahead of time) including any blood work (which apparently means it's not an annual exam - ?). Meanwhile, the same insurance company is sending me letters telling me I am past due for my yearly/annual wellness exam, as if I am shirking responsibility for my health. But I see the same doctor every fall for a check up - it's just billed differently every single time.

Meals This Week: Braised Lamb with smashed parmesan potatoes and roasted cauliflower for 4 dinners. The other 2 dinners are eggs with toast, sausage, and arugula. Dessert is holiday cookies from the freezer.

TV This Week:

  • We finished season 1 of The Man in the High Castle and started season 2. Only 2 more episodes until we finish season 2. Watching those is the plan for tonight. It sure would be nice if Amazon would actually consistently work. For the past 2 weeks, every time we try to watch something, it gives us these messages about the network connection being down, disconnected, cannot connect, whatever, but when we switch to Netflix it's fine, everything works, so...  Grr. It's Amazon, not us, I'm positive, and it's really annoying.
  • I wasn't really enjoying last Sunday's Sherlock until the last half hour or so. The payoff was worth it.
  • Bones is back, and it's nice to see things sort of starting to wrap up since it ends this May. It's time for it to end.
  • Grimm & Sleepy Hollow are back and we're again watching both. Grimm ends this May, too, so we're excited to see how it ends. As for Sleepy Hollow, I had been annoyed with the show, but so far it seems to have been given a pretty decent re-boot. We'll see.
  • I recorded the first episode of Taboo on FX with Tom Hardy but haven't watched it yet. 
  • Despite being unsure of Good Behavior on TNT, I watched the whole first season. I like watching Lettie & Javier, but I just want to shake them and tell them to stop being such bad people even as I root for them.

Magazines: I read new issues of Food Network Magazine and Food & Wine but didn't find much of interest. Usually, winter recipes don't much interest me.

Other: I have 2 library books and 4 more ready for pick up. Oops. I deliberately didn't add anything to my request list from mid-Dec until last week because I knew we'd be busy over the holidays. Sure enough, the majority of the books I requested became available at the same time.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Roast Goose

Obviously given the plate the sliced goose is piled atop, this is from a few weeks ago. I am just now getting around to writing about the Roast Goose that SP made on Christmas.
Every year when we talk about if we're going to have anyone over and what to make at Christmas, he immediately starts talking about the goose he made several years ago. Every. Year. The stupid goose. He swears his family loved that super tasty goose.

One day while baking with mom, when she asked what we were making for Christmas Eve, I said I didn't know but I mentioned SP's goose obsession. Like me, she wasn't into the goose idea. But for some reason, she later mentioned it to my dad. He got excited about goose. Ugh. So then there was a whole week of goose talk. Where to buy one, how to cook it, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, what else to serve. I tried to not participate too much in these discussions. I didn't want to encourage the goose.
We didn't make goose for Christmas Eve for several reasons:

  • We weren't sure the niece/nephew would like it. 
  • We weren't sure what else to make in case the goose wasn't tasty (the goose would take up the entire oven and the obvious crock pot meats had problems because some people don't eat certain meats/foods, etc.). 
  • After making some calls, I discovered goose was $7-8/pound and the Internet told me that for 8 adults and 2 kids I probably needed a 10-12 lb goose. So the goose would cost $70~$96. 

So I told the goose supporters absolutely not on the goose idea for Christmas Eve. But I caved in and said that if my dad really wanted goose, if they bought a small goose, we'd cook it on Christmas Day at their place for the 4 of us. So mom tracked down a frozen goose and SP cooked it.
I should probably be a vegetarian because  I don't like dealing with raw meat, especially something like this. I realize SP was the one handling the goose, but I was disgusted by the cracking sounds as he broke the legs/wings and nipped and tucked and trimmed fat and prepped the goose. Gross. We stuffed it with chopped apple, orange, and lemon. You have to poke the fat on the goose. They are fatty. And then as it roasts, you have to continually drain the fat. Goose = fat machine. Every 20 minutes, SP went out to the oven and used the turkey baster to suck out the fat accumulating in the roasting pan. Here's the finished roasted goose:
After resting for a bit, SP carved it. Goose is a darker meat.
Look at that fat! Honestly, I think all 4 of us were disappointed with how much fat is on a goose given the cost of goose. There's not really all that much meat for the price.
My mom made a cranberry-apple sauce for the goose.
But how did it taste? My dad & SP ate most of it because they liked it. Not loved, liked. My mom said it was OK. I didn't like the piece I tried. It was chewy and tough and had a funny texture. 
To be fair, I ate ate a well-done piece, but... Definitely not something I want to again eat.
I'm sort of glad we tried the goose. At least now maybe SP won't bring it up every year. It was sort of fun for something different but I am really glad we didn't make it on Christmas Eve when we had both families here. I think it's an acquired taste. Many say it's similar to duck, and while I like the bites of duck I've stolen off SP's plates at restaurants, it's not something I'm ever going to order as a meal for myself.

Christmas 2016: Year of the Goose. Hopefully the only one.