Thursday, April 27, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

Hockey tonight! Pens vs Capitals.

SP spent a lot of time last weekend fixing up the garden boxes. Winter always causes the chicken wire part to sag and fall crooked so every year they need to be rebuilt. Our garden plants are slowly growing in the dining room. This year we aren't using grow lights in the dining light. We went back to everything on a table in front of a window. Hopefully, maybe, we'll get a cucumber this year. And lots more tomatoes.

He also mowed but of course 2 days later we had a dandelion field. This time of year yard work is annoying!

We grilled again - lots of veggies, a flank steak, and some chicken. Yum!

Meals This Week:

What We're Watching:

  • We watched all 10 episodes of Season 3 of Bosch on Amazon. Such a good show! Can't wait for Season 4 and for the next Bosch book in the fall.
  • We are recording Fargo & Genius, but have not started watching either yet.
  • We are enjoying The Americans (can't wait to see what happens with Oleg's storyline) & Designated Survivor a lot. 

What I'm Reading:

  • I finished  The Blood Strand: A Faroes Novel by Chris Ould and am looking forward to the next book in the series.
  • I also read Two Days Gone by Randall Silvis. If you enjoy mysteries/suspense, this is a very good one. I had a hard time putting it down. I haven't read any of his other books, but I might start. This one was set north of Pittsburgh and the areas were familiar so it was a little extra enjoyable since I could really picture the areas he wrote about.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Chicken Casserole with Spring Vegetables & Tarragon Cream Sauce

This post has been in Drafts for a year. It was last spring that we made this Chicken Casserole with Spring Vegetables & Tarragon Cream Sauce from Cover & Bake (an America's Test Kitchen recipe). It was quite tasty, lots of veggies, chicken, and a yummy tarragon sauce.
The asparagus is sliced on the bias. I have to admit, I wasn't a huge fan of slicing so much asparagus on an angle. 
It quickly became boring & tedious & seemed to take an awful long time. The results of my slicing labor:
Meanwhile SP chopped the chicken breasts.
And he started sauteing the carrots and onion, which I chopped as well. Lots of chopping.
Cream & chicken stock to add to the onions & carrots.
Add chicken and simmer:
When chicken is cooked, stir in asparagus, peas, tarragon, pepper, and pour into baking dish:
Topped with homemade breadcrumbs:
And baked until golden & bubbling:
We served it over rice (white for me, brown for him):
We both liked this a lot. We like casseroles because they make a lot of leftovers for the week. Lots of veggies (peas, asparagus, carrots, onion) in cream, chicken stock, and tarragon sauce. We like tarragon a lot. This is something we'd make again and even serve if we had company for dinner.


Chicken Casserole with Spring Vegetables & Tarragon Cream Sauce

4 slices white bread
2 tbsp melted unsalted butter

We used:
4 tbsp unsalted butter
3 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 onion, chopped (not in original recipe)
6 tbsp flour
2 c low sodium chicken stock
1 c heavy cream
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 lb asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut on bias
1 c frozen peas
3 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon (we used dried and guessed at amount)
black pepper

We omitted:
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1.5 tsp salt
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press

Topping: In food processor, pulse bread & butter until coarsely ground. Set aside.

Heat oven to 400. Melt butter in large pot/Dutch oven. Add leeks (or onions), carrots, salt. Saute until softened but not brown. Add garlic, if using. Add flour and stir until golden (about 1 minute). Whisk in chicken stock & cream and bring to a simmer. Add chicken and cook, occasionally stirring, until chicken is no longer pink. Stir in asparagus, peas, tarragon, and pepper. Pour into 9x13 inch casserole/baking dish. Sprinkle with bread crumb topping. Bake until browned & bubbly, about 20-25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over.

We served it atop rice.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Talia Cucina & Rosticceria

A couple weekends ago, we met R&S for dinner after seeing Fun Home/before they went to see it. We decided to try a new-to-all-four-of-us place: Talia Cucina & Rosticceria. It's a new place in Pittsburgh. I think it opened in March. Here's what we ate:
Our drinks: Like A Boss and white wine (GL Dalila). I liked my wine. I did not like SP's drink at all. It had a very strong smoky/tobacco flavor.
We started by sharing Our Daily Bread - a small loaf of bread with olive oil. I forgot to take a photo until it was nearly gone. Whoops.
SP & I shared Italian Salad (iceberg, radicchio, cucumber, tomato, black olive, basil, lemon vinaigrette). We both liked the salad a lot, except for the part where we both dropped bites and the dressing splatted on our shirts!
SP had an appetizer special: Octopus Salad. He enjoyed it a lot. I liked my bite of octopus, but that's about all I ever want of octopus.
R had a steak with risotto for dinner. I cannot find it on the menu, maybe it was a special. She seemed to like it.
SP ordered Porchetta. It was good but it was a little disappointing because it seemed like there was an awful lot of fat.
I opted for Open Face Melt (short rib, focaccia, caramelized onions, caciavallo, pan jus). I liked this a lot. The grilled focaccia was tasty, the meat tender, melted cheese. It was filling and I took some home for lunch the next day.
For dessert, SP & I shared Chocolate Cake. I liked it, but there were nuts in it and I'm not much of a nut in my dessert person. SP is.

I thought our server was very good. Everyone was very friendly and helpful. I liked my salad and meal. SP liked his food but found the porchetta a little too fatty. S didn't like the Greens & Beans, saying they were too salty. R tasted them and agreed they were way too salty, so that's disappointing. I'm not sure how they felt about their meals. We'd go back. Next time, I think I'd try one of the pasta dishes.

   Talia Cucina & Roticceria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, April 21, 2017

Thursday Thoughts on Friday

I forgot Thursday Thoughts yesterday. Whoops! This week went by so darn fast.

I turned our air conditioning on yesterday! On April 20. Once upon a time I firmly believed in no a/c until June but in my fussy old age, I'm more of a screw it, the thermostat says it's 77 degrees inside and I'm stuffy and hot and miserable so who cares if it's April? You might wonder, hey, it's spring and not that hot & humid, why not simply open the windows? Allergies. Bugs. Plus the screens aren't in.

Speaking of bugs, they're making their return. We've spotted several ants inside so it's time for fresh ant traps. We've also spotted a lot of wasps attempting to build in their usual spots (they seem to love the deck) so we've got to start anti-wasp measures. We hung up anti-bird reflectors in an attempt to keep them from building nests under the deck. No need to entice the snake up onto the deck again.

My mom came over yesterday. She cleaned our liquor cabinet for us. I like the cabinet, the glass front doors and shelves, but the doors get dusty, and the dust gets inside and on the glass shelves and the glasses and the liquor bottles. Mom emptied it out, cleaned inside, cleaned all the glass parts, wiped off everything, and put it all back. So shiny now. She also did our ironing for us. I despise ironing and I'm not very good at it. Mom is an excellent at it - she doesn't add extra creases they way I do!

Meals This Week:

  • Easter leftovers! Mom sent me home with ham, scalloped potatoes, green beans, and asparagus.
  • Monday we went out to dinner for our anniversary. My lunch for the next 2 days was leftover pizza.
  • We finished the Easter side dishes on Wednesday so we turned the remaining ham into ham salad for lunch on Thursday & Friday (and the weekend).
  • For dinner Thursday & Friday we made Pasta with Prosciutto & Peas (our usual at home anniversary meal) and had some spiralized zucchini on the side.
  • Dessert was leftover Easter cheesecake or chocolate eggs.

What We're Watching:

  • Lots of Penguins playoff hockey. Last night they won a 4th game over the Blue Jackets and now move to the next round.
  • Fargo is back! But we haven't watched the first episode yet. We watched Designated Survivor while Fargo recorded. 
  • Scandal - wow! No spoilers from last night's episode but these new bad people are way worse than Papa Pope.
  • Trial & Error ended. We both really enjoyed it.

What I'm Reading:

  • I'm in the middle of The Blood Strand: A Faroes Novel by Chris Ould. It's got attention even if the islands are rainy, gray, bleak, and gloomy. I like the interaction between the 2 policemen (the Faroes one and the one from Britain, returning to where he was born).
  • New magazine issues, but I haven't been inspired by any of the articles or recipes in the latest Food & Wine, Cook's Illustrated, Food Network Magazine.  

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Drinks at The Commoner

Last weekend, we went to see Fun Home. It was about an hour and forty minute long show with no intermission. This means it was over by 3:45 pm. Unfortunately we weren't meeting our friends for dinner until 5:30 pm. What to do? It was a nice, warm day, so we walked around a bit and sat in a park but it was getting quite breezy and looked like it might rain. So we started using our phones to look for somewhere near dinner to hang out. Some places we thought of didn't open until 5 pm. But then we remembered The Commoner in the Klimpton Hotel Monaco, which happened to be right next to dinner, so went there for a pre-dinner beverage.
Happily, there is a lower bar area, which was still a bit high for me but not too bad. So we sat there and I enjoyed a glass of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc while SP enjoyed a cocktail called Just Entitled. I don't remember what was in it other than gin and a garnish of orange peel and thyme sprigs. I was surprised how much I liked it since it is a gin drink.

We didn't eat at The Commoner, just a drink, but the bartenders were friendly, the cocktail tasty, the Pirates game was on, and the bathrooms were nice & spacious & clean! A good place for a drink/to kill some time. Maybe next time we'll eat there.

  The Commoner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Il Pizzaiolo

Yesterday was our 7th wedding anniversary. SP took the day off, not so much because it was our anniversary but because we had a very busy weekend, he had a doctor appointment in late morning, and this way we could spend some time together and go out to dinner and celebrate a bit. Neither of us wanted an expensive, fancy meal. SP said he wanted a good pizza. So we thought about it, ruled out traveling into the city, and decided to go to Il Pizzaiolo in Mt. Lebanon. It's been a while (years) since we've dined there.
Celebratory wine. I didn't recognize any of the Italian wines, so our server suggested a chardonnay-like wine for me and a sauvignon blanc-like wine for SP. Here's what we enjoyed for our anniversary dinner:
Bread and dippy oil.
Insalata Misticanza (mixed greens, tomatoes, roasted peppers, olives, carrots, red wine vinaigrette with Parmigiano-Reggiano). Really tasty salad and a nice size for us to split.
Arancini (Sicilian and Neapolitan fried rice balls). The smaller ones had cheese inside. The larger, oval shaped ones had meat & peas inside.
Melted cheese inside - yum!
Stracciatella (Stracciatella di Burrata, fresh cherry tomatoes, Sicilian sea salt, basil, extra virgin olive oil, Prosciutto di Parma). This was delicious. It was a pizza full of a few of my favorite things: burrata, tomatoes, basil, prosciutto.
Salsiccia (San Marzano D.O.P. Tomatoes, Fior di Latte, sweet fennel sausage, Pecorino Romano, basil, extra virgin olive oil). This was also a very tasty pizza, more traditional. The tomatoes were so sweet and flavorful. The sausage was how I like it, not too sweet, not spicy, light fennel flavor, good sausage flavor. Really good. We couldn't decide which pizza we liked better.
I wasn't going to pass up Tiramisu. It was a large piece of tiramisu, good for sharing, light and delicious.
Cappuccino to finish the meal and relax.

Il Pizzaiolo does not take reservations. We had some errands in the area and one was going to a store (not in a mall) before it closed, so we ended up having an early dinner, arriving around 5 pm. We were given our choice of seats and chose a table by the front window, looking out on Route 19. Our server was fantastic, very friendly and helpful (our table was a little wobbly, he noticed and fixed it for us). I remember being a little disappointed the last time we were at Il Pizzaiolo (again, years ago) but this time, we both were very happy with the service and food. A delicious anniversary dinner. I can't wait to eat the leftover pizza. And then go back for more.

Il Pizzaiolo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, April 14, 2017

April 14

Today, April 14, marks 8 years since I started this blog. Eight years is a long time. It's obvious that over time, us trying out new meals and desserts dwindled and so the posts dwindled. We also have been to a lot of restaurants in the Pittsburgh area and we have a list of favorites, so with limited dining out nights (usually we only eat out once/week), a list of favorites, family birthday dinners and/or seeing friends out on our one night/week, trying new restaurants has decreased as well. I always feel like I'm on the verge of quitting the blog, yet I don't. Mostly, I like having this space as a reference for the recipes we've made and the restaurants we've tried.

Today is also Good Friday, the one Friday a year that I do not eat meat on Friday. Or at least I try. One year I was out doing errands and got super hungry so I went through the Wendy's drive thru and got a junior bacon cheeseburger because that's what I always get. It wasn't until I was chewing the last bite that I realized what I'd just done.

I grew up Presbyterian, and while I remember a lot of frozen fish stick Fridays as a child, I do not recall that being a Presbyterian "thing." Just like we never gave up anything for Lent. Our meat-free Fridays may have been influenced by extended family/friends who were Catholic or by my mom's dad's family being Ukrainian Orthodox, I've no idea (he died before I was born, before my parents even married). But gosh did I come to loathe Fish Stick Fridays as much as Meatloaf Mondays.

This year, I planned. I made a reminder note last week when we started planning the shopping list. "No Meat On Friday!!!" Today I'm having yogurt for breakfast, grilled cheese & tomato for lunch, and crab cakes with spiralized squash for dinner. Popcorn for dessert. Not a very foodie-like blog-iversary celebration, but a meat-free Good Friday. Plus, there will be (hopefully) tasty food at a new-to-us restaurant on Saturday plus Easter dinner & dessert (and maybe the bunny will bring a basket of treats?) and Monday is our wedding anniversary. So there is plenty of good food in the next 3 days.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

It's Easter time, which means it's paska time. SP bought a mini paska from St. Peter and St. Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Carnegie. He also bought me another pysanky egg.

I still have a persistent, pesky cough so the doctor prescribed a new medicine. I am not optimistic.

Last weekend we saw The King & I at the Benedum. It was OK. I knew the general story but had never seen the show (or movie(s), etc.). I think I was thrown off in the beginning and never recovered because around us, the following occurred for the first half hour of the show (and for some things, all show long):

  • The woman to my left kept texting during the show. Her cell phone light was very distracting.
  • The couple behind us, seated in non-existent seats (we sit in a wheelchair area and there is not supposed to be anyone behind us because it blocks in the wheelchair users but there is always someone who has a special reason they can't sit in the seat they bought so the ushers seat them behind us even though they are not supposed to) - well this couple proceeded to talk for quite a while and then at intermission, when their friends joined them (blocking much of the wheelchair area so good thing I didn't need a restroom) they complained about how noisy the platform area is. ? Then stop talking. Jerks.
  • They weren't the only ones talking. There were multiple conversations around us, even while the performers were on stage.
  • The people in front of us kept crinkling candy wrappers and plastic water bottles. Every time they drank they would squeeze the bottle then let go & let it pop back into shape.
  • There was some commotion off to our right as someone else with a special need arrived 20 minutes late and it took what seemed like the entire usher staff 10-15 minutes of whispering (trying to figure out what to do?) before a production of getting the party seated. I get special needs, but for Pete's sake, show up on time if you need extra help. We do. For everything.

I am old. I long for those good old days when going to the theater meant dressing nicely (not ripped jeans & t-shirts or shorts and flip flops), not needing snacks & beverages like you're at home sprawled on your couch, and ignoring the outside world because you were there specifically to escape into another world for 2-3 hours. It seems like a lot of people no longer have manners. And I don't mean the young folks because the people I'm complaining about were not young.

Meals This Week:

  • Ribs with grilled green beans & paska
  • Grilled Chicken with green beans/spiralized squash & paska
  • Crab Cakes with spiralized squash & paska
  • Dessert: Lemon Cheese Danish bites from Market District

What We're Watching:

  • Spring Baking Championship ended. The final challenge was to bake a flag cake and the finished cakes looked amazing.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is back. These 2 recent episodes have been OK, though I remain confused a bit by the whole framework/two worlds concept. But I do not like robot stories so I've been hating this season, much like I disliked Westworld.

I watched Cafe Society. It was a decent diversion one afternoon.


  • I finished Mississippi Blood and handed it over to my dad. Such a good book. Good final book in the trilogy. Love, betrayal, loyalty, trust, murder, sadness, war, racism, adultery, hatred, revenge, secrets, assisted suicide, family ties, southern history - so much in the books and woven together in a way that makes you feel for all the sides, even the "bad" guys.  I like that Iles is the kind of guy who doesn't wrap everything up neatly and tie it with a bow. That's certainly not how life is. Everything has repercussions.
  • I also read the latest Tea Shop Mystery, Pekoe Most Poison. The problem with long running series is that the author often seems to phone it in and the books follow a predictable plot outline, just name, locations, motive changes.  

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Park Bruges

I always vow to make it to Park Bruges more often and fail. We went a few weeks ago and before that we had last dined there in early July 2016. So 9 months ago.

They still have delicious Earl Grey iced tea. They had an East End beer SP had not yet tried and really liked. But they changed the Tarte Flambée!
We always start by sharing Tarte Flambée, from the Alsace region of France, a thin crispy crust with a variety of toppings. This time the toppings were Emmenthal, bacon, crème fraiche, caramelized onions. It was good but not as good as the rosemary ham, caramelized onion, chive, shaved cheese one they used to offer.
SP chose Moules Frites, the Spicy Creole version (andouille sausage, peppers, onions, celery, bleu cheese). He got it without blue cheese since he dislikes it. As always, he enjoyed his mussels.
I really, really miss the Sauteed Chicken Breast with onions, tomatoes, artichokes, mushrooms, herb risotto, marsala sauce. I ordered it every time and it was soooo delicious. Last summer I discovered it was replaced by Chicken Milanese (lemon-basil panko breading, arugula, peaches, pancetta, goat cheese, red onion, heirloom tomatoes, honey bourbon vinaigrette) and now the Chicken Milanese is served without peaches & tomato but with butternut squash and with a citrus herb panko breading. The breaded chicken is still delicious, but I miss the other salad. I realize it's likely a seasonal thing, but I'm still sad.
Dessert: Ricotta Zeppole. Yum!

I still like Park Bruges a lot, I just miss the dishes I used to always order. Sometimes change stinks!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Habitat Restaurant

Last weekend we met friends for dinner at Habitat in The Fairmont Hotel. We had dined there once before, several years ago. Here's what we ate this time:
Fresh tandoor baked naan served with homemade spreads. Close up of the spreads:
Hummus, a raspberry compote, a tzatziki. The bread was delicious. Soft, fluffy, chewy. I like the raspberry compote a lot, but I liked the tzatziki more, and I ignored the hummus (garlic).
I started off with Local Organic Lettuces (chopped herb vinaigrette, radishes, onions). SP helped me finish it. Everything was crisp and fresh and yummy.
For my meal, I ordered a starter: Burrata Risotto (roasted shrimp, tomato ragout). The risotto was creamy and cheesy and very good. I ate it all and I was stuffed. This was a great size for me.
SP started with Crab Salad (smoked mackerel, avocado, cider vinaigrette, toasted bread). The crab salad was so smooth and creamy and crabby. Very good.
For his entree he ordered Seared Duck Breast (thigh confit, creamy artichoke, apple, port reduction). I didn't get the chance to try any since he quickly cleaned his plate, I suspect it was quite tasty.
I took a photo of R's meal: Striped Bass (chickpea panisse, Castelvetrano olives, tomato marmalade, chive cream). She said it was delicious. I kinda wanted to swipe an olive, some cream, and maybe a bite of the fried chickpea cake (I didn't). I didn't take a photo of S's meal or of the octopus starter they shared.
For dessert, R chose Essence of Spring (raspberry and rhubarb jam, roasted fennel buttermilk ice cream, black pepper short cake, white chocolate citrus crunch, lemon curd, sugar-tossed raspberries). She said it was tasty and light, definitely spring-like.
S and I each ordered Chocolate & Tea (gluten-free chocolate cake, milk chocolate cremeux, gluten-free broken tea cookies, Earl Grey tea ice cream, kumquat marmalade, orange meringue sticks). Honestly, owing to 2-3 glasses of wine, I don't recall much other than I was tipsy, full, and couldn't finish it but the earl grey ice cream was very nice. The cake and other bits must've been good because I ate those, I just left behind some ice cream and cremeux.
SP chose Berries & Blossoms (black and blueberry jam, chamomile custard, lemon froyo, sour cream cake, pine nut streusel). This is his kind of dessert. This was my second choice, but I couldn't resist the earl grey ice cream.

We all enjoyed our food very much. Service was wonderful. A nice relaxing meal - maybe too relaxing because S&R had to rush a bit to get to their 8 pm show! I guess we were talking too much. We definitely like Habitat and would return for dinner before/after a show or for a special occasion (it's one of those "more expensive" meals).