Monday, July 24, 2017

Red Oak Cafe

Last Friday morning I had a doctor appointment in Oakland. It was not a pleasant or efficient experience. We were there 15 minutes early but I didn't get called back until 40 minutes past my appointment time. After that exam, I was sent off to another area for a test/exam. Another 25 minute wait. Two machines and two women later (and a lot of discomfort) there was still not a successful result so I got angry because the last time this was done there was no problem. So I told them I refused to try again. Back to the waiting room. Another 20 minute wait until someone asked if I was waiting for the next test/exam and I said yes. It was still going to be 20+ minutes before that one. At this point, we had been at the hospital for 3 hours. It was well past lunch, we were really hungry, and I was in a foul mood. So I asked for my 2 exam/test prescriptions back and said I'd make arrangements to get them done elsewhere. We left and went to get lunch. (Note: I did not have the 2 tests scheduled, just the initial exam, but my doctor wanted me to have them done so of course they shuttled me off; had I known how much time would be spent waiting and waiting and waiting I never would have agreed to have the tests done, I would have just scheduled them myself for another time).
We walked to Red Oak Cafe, a place we've driven/walked past many times but we've never eaten there. It's a cute cafe. It was crowded. You order at the counter, they give you a number, you find a table and place your number on your table, and they bring your food to you.  They serve breakfast all day and I love breakfast sandwiches so I was happy. Nothing like some bacon to improve your mood.

SP chose Galileo (egg, bacon, provolone, seared tomato, wheat toast) - pictured above. He said it was yummy.
I created my own breakfast sandwich: egg, cheddar, bacon, tomato on croissant. It was tasty. It was a good size for me, almost more than I could eat. I think SP was a little sad I didn't share!

They also serve egg scramblers, breakfast burritos, pancakes, salads, sandwiches, smoothies and have a lot of vegetarian options that can also be made vegan options.

A plus: fresh brewed iced tea.

Definitely a nice, casual, not too expensive cafe in Oakland worth stopping by and grabbing a bite. The person who took our order was very friendly and helpful. It's in Oakland so I imagine it's super busy in the fall/spring when there are a lot more students on campus.

Red Oak Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

This past weekend we finally used the dried pasta we bought at Il Corvo in Seattle last September. Sometimes we're not so great at using food we buy on vacation. I think there might still be a bit of Stumptown coffee in the pantry - that'd be 3 years old now (from the Portland, OR trip).

We went to see Spiderman Homecoming. We enjoyed the movie. I always say it's a good movie if I don't glance at my watch to see just how much more there is. I didn't look at my watch at all.

My parents are in Las Vegas. They were not looking forward to the heat but were happy to escape the rain we've been having here. Of course when I turned on one of the weather channels, I saw a flash flood warning for Las Vegas and the radar showed yellow-orange-red storms over the area!

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • We watched the 8-episode Feud: Bette & Joan, finally. It's been on the DVR since it aired in March. I never had a favorable opinion of Joan Crawford but now, after seeing this show on FX, wow was she ever an insecure, scheming, witch! Of course by the end of the last episode, I was a little teary and almost felt bad for her. I've always been more of a Bette Davis fan. 
  • Game of Thrones is back! That opening scene! That ending scene! I think SP is turning me into a nerd. Soon I'll be reading the books and complaining that George RR Martin hasn't finished writing book #6 and that the HBO series has passed the books.
  • While many seem to be freaking out that Jodie Whittaker is the next Doctor Who (oh no! a woman!), we're enjoying her work in the third season of Broadchurch. It's nice to have the new crime to investigate while also seeing how everyone from the first season is moving on (or not) from the crime in season one. (I don't watch Doctor Who so I don't care who the next doctor is. SP watches and is fine with the new Doctor Who and thinks people should get a grip.)

What I'm Reading:
House of Spies, the latest from Daniel Silva, became available. I made SP pick it up the day I found out it was ready for pick up (Thursday) and I finished the book on Sunday. I would have finished it earlier if we hadn't had weekend plans, like seeing a movie and dinner with friends. Many authors whose series I read seem to phone it in after a while, but Silva doesn't. Can't wait for the next one (hopefully the Allon books aren't finished).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Crab Salad

It's summer and we haven't wanted to spend much time in the kitchen. Last week we made a super easy meal for dinner: Crab Salad.
Easy to make. Super easy leftover night (just open the container of crab salad). And yummy. Light & cool on a hot summer evening.
Crab Salad

  • 1 16-oz can lump crab meat (we use Great Blue Crab Meat)
  • 3 stalks celery, finely diced
  • bunch of fresh chives, chopped (or you could use a finely chopped onion, or both chives & onion)
  • as much/little Old Bay Seasoning as you like (we like it, but not too much of it)
  • as much/little mayo as you like (we don't like too much mayo, but that means our crab salad might be "drier" than what you like)
  • fresh parsley, chopped (if desired)

Open the can of crab and pick out any bits of shell that might be in with the crab. Transfer crab to a mixing bowl. Add the diced celery, chives, Old Bay, parsley, and mayonnaise. Gently mix together. Enjoy with grilled bread, crackers, or greens/salad.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fresh Fruit Tart

We love fruit tarts but only make them when we have guests to share the tart. Otherwise, it gets too wet and/or spoils before we can eat it all. In the past, our go-to fruit tart was this one. A shortbread crust and a vanilla pastry filling from Joy of Cooking. The most recent issue of Cook's Illustrated had a Modern Fresh Fruit Tart recipe and it sounded yummy. Plus, it uses mascarpone and it just so happened we had a container of mascarpone that my mom gave us (she bought it by mistake, don't ask, she had a huge brain fart that day!).
The tart shell is super easy. No rolling pin required, just pat it into the tart pan and bake. It didn't even call for pricking the crust with a fork before baking (but we did anyway).
The filling is mascarpone, heavy cream, white chocolate chips, lime zest, & lime juice.
I love how it looks, studded with all that lime zest. Plus the filling doesn't ooze all over like pastry cream sometimes does. It's also very tasty.
Our guests commented that it made them think of key lime pie. I can see that. The recipe says to let the tart sit at room temperature for an hour before serving, but we forgot/didn't have the time the first night. It was still tasty. However, we did let it warm up on leftover-tart-for-dessert nights. The filling was much smoother/creamier. We both liked it better after it sat out and warmed up a bit.
The official recipe calls for raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries plus peaches. I am of the opinion a fruit tart can have pretty much any fruit on it. We used blueberries, strawberries, and peaches.

Recipe here and/or here.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Blueberry Lemon Mint Popsicles

Last summer I saw lots and lots of blog posts about homemade popsicles. We also enjoyed some homemade popsicles from Stickler's. So of course I started wanting to make my own. As if we really need more kitchen gadget stuff. I felt guilty buying them. So I put popsicle molds on my Amazon Wish List. PghSIL and her family got us the molds for Christmas. Yay! I've been patiently waiting for warm weather since I don't like cold desserts in cold weather. Then of course there was always a reason we couldn't make popsicles (travel, going somewhere and making another dessert, having people over and making another dessert). Finally, in late June, we had a weekend that was warm and with no other dessert plans so we made Blueberry Lemon Mint Popsicles.
Of course then I forgot to take photos until the very last popsicle. These are simple. Puree blueberries, mint, and lemon syrup together. Pour into molds and freeze. They were tasty. I like the bit of tart lemon taste and bright, refreshing mint with the blueberry flavor.

Blueberry Lemon Mint Popsicles

1/2 c blueberries, plus extra for in the molds
fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups water
3/8 cup sugar

In a sauce pan, heat on low the lemon juice, water, and sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Let cool a bit. In a blender, blend together the lemon syrup, mint, and 1/2 cup blueberries. Strain to remove chunks of mint or blueberry. If desired, place 3-4 berries in the bottom of each popsicle mold. Pour in the strained blueberry puree. Freeze.

Makes 7 (we kept the leftover in the refrigerator and after eating 1 popsicle, refilled the mold with the remaining puree)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

It's been one of those weeks where adulting stinks. On the bright side, after some serious rage last week over the Hawaii Car Incident, I can finally report that it is resolved as far as we are concerned. I can't figure out where things got twisted and miscommunicated (or something like that), but we were under the impression from our day-of-accident calls to the car rental company (CRC) that they would handle it since we were not at fault. CRC did not, in fact, handle it. Instead, a FL CRC office started calling us repeatedly in May/June for payment while a rep in a HI CRC office tried to resolve the case and said she didn't know why CRC FL was badgering us to pay or why they weren't in contact with the car rental company at fault, etc. It took 2 months for them to tell us that because we didn't purchase one of their insurance/waiver options (because we know our regular car insurance covers rentals), they are not responsible for doing anything but making us pay for the damage.

We were all sorts of confused because when we got rear ended in Portland, the CRC (different CRC) handled everything, we never had to contact our insurance, and we hadn't bought any of that CRC's insurance because we knew ours covered rental cars.

Meanwhile, we still didn't have the FOIA from the Park Service (the accident report taken by the park police). It took 5 weeks for the requested document to get from Hawaii to Pittsburgh via certified mail. Even then, it wasn't even delivered to our house. It sat in a post office with the USPS site saying "In Transit." After 9 days of checking the tracking number and seeing it was still "In Transit" we tried to call USPS. But the wait time was 45-60 minutes every time we called. And of course we had no idea which post office had it because our zip code is part of the township we live in but also the same zip code as the town down the road but the post office we usually need to go to to collect mail is in a 3rd town. Makes sense, right?  I'm trying to be not too specific and name the actual locations. Anyway, one day before work SP stopped at neighborhood share zip code PO and they confirmed it was at the 3rd town PO and they had no idea why it had been "In Transit" for over a week. So then SP had to leave work early to go to 3rd town PO to pick it up and never received an explanation for why it sat there, other than it required a signature, but we never received any notice to go pick it up or that delivery had been attempted but no one was home to sign. Incompetent CRC, incompetent PO.

Then the debate of whether or not to bother filing a claim began. We'd be responsible for the deductible, the total damage wasn't that much over the deductible, our rates might go up, etc. At this point I was royally **ssed because  of all the miscommunication and incompetence and because I had a feeling all along that those shifty Germans were going to get off free and we'd get screwed. Our car insurance didn't even know if they'd be able to get the people at fault to pay (or their CRC) because they were foreigners renting a car in the US and didn't provide any insurance information other than their CRC information. I assume that as foreigners they had to buy the CRC insurance, but, who knows. As I said before, they acted kind of shifty on giving up any info to us and the park ranger. Not to mention on the official report they filed they said they "bumped" our car. Meanwhile, the witnesses who found us in the museum referred to it as "creamed" and "slammed."

Anyway, to end the story, we next found out that not only does our car insurance cover car rentals but there is no deductible on rental car accidents. I am not sure how this is the case, and I'm not asking for any details, but I guess we did something right somewhere with the insurance.

We are NEVER again renting from the CRC we used in HI.

Thank goodness that issue is resolved. I was so sick of having it on The List for the past 2 months.

What We're Eating:

  • Crab Salad with grilled bread and grilled asparagus
  • Fattoush with grilled bread instead of pita
  • Dessert: Chex Mix, finishing up ice cream/popsicles/cookies lurking in the pantry/freezer

What We're Watching:

  • We spent 3 nights watching GLOW on Netflix. I didn't think I would like it because I cannot stand wrestling but after the first 2 episodes, I was hooked. We both enjoyed it a lot.
  • Sunday night we watched the History channel's special Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence. We were curious. What we enjoy about these shows is the science stuff, like the analysis of the photo, etc. It's worth a watch, keeping an open mind and a questioning mind.
  • We finally watched The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (HBO). It was quite good. I knew the story behind the HeLa cells, but not so much about the Lacks family. 
  • We also watched Moana and we both enjoyed it a lot. Much better than Frozen. Yes, that's right, we didn't think Frozen was all that great. 
  • Game of Thrones! This Sunday! We both are excited. Probably too excited.
What I'm Reading:

  • I read Racing the Devil by Charles Todd. it took me a while to really get into this book, to reach the "can't put it down" stage, but I'm glad I stuck with it.
  • I also read The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel. I read it quickly, so I guess it held my attention, but I knew exactly how it all would play out from about page 2. 
  • Only 1 magazine in the magazine pile.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Industry Public House - North Fayette

Last weekend we decided to give Industry Public House in North Fayette another try. It had been 14 months since we last tried to go and had a not-good experience that ended in us not eating there (No Wait said come on in but when we did, we were told there was a 45 minute wait plus they had the curb cuts blocked off and SP had to get me up the high curb). This time, No Wait said come on in, but SP went in first to check before getting me out & in the wheelchair. Happily, they could seat us right away. Sadly, while the curb cuts were not blocked, they stink. I'm not even sure they're completely ADA compliant. There's no way I can go forward over the uneven bumps/levels of concrete to get to the curb cut itself, so SP had to take me backwards, and at the top of the one curb cut, there is no space for the wheelchair to be level because the outdoor dining railing comes all the way out to the top of the curb cut slope. So then I have to be turned sideways on a slope and pushed while tilted to the side to get to the flat part. Sigh. No idea why there is not a curb cut right in front of the restaurant entrance.
Anyway, Industry inside doesn't look like the Don Pablo Mexican Restaurant it used to be. As the name suggests, there is an industrial feel (wood/brick). We were seated off to right of the entrance in an area near the outdoor dining area. There are lots of large windows, so lots of natural light. We both ordered fresh iced teas - points for fresh iced teas and not that fake fountain crap. SP ordered a cocktail: Smokestack, their signature cocktail (choose your favorite whiskey, drizzle in some maple syrup & a few dashes of bitters, then torch some wood (cherry, mesquite, apple, hickory, maple, or pecan) to lightly infuse a fresh smoke to the bourbon).
He chose Buffalo Trace and cherry wood. He really liked it. I had a wee sip and rediscovered that I hate smoke flavor in a beverage.
We started with Deep Fried Pickles (house made pickles / beer batter / ranch dip). These were spears, not rounds, and were really hot. I burned the roof of my mouth. But they were yummy. I loved the breading.
For his meal, SP chose 9th Ward Salad (salmon / kale / blackberry / green apple / goat cheese / barley / ginger vinaigrette). It was a lot of kale. It looked way to rabbit-y for me but SP said it was delicious and he ate every last kale leaf.
I chose the Smoke Stack sandwich (shaved ribeye / aged white cheddar / arugula / horseradish / sourdough). This was yummy and I really liked it.
While I liked the sandwich, I didn't care for the fries. I'm not much of a fries person anyway and these weren't very crisp, just kind of soft/limp and tasteless. Disappointing. SP didn't even scarf them up.
I didn't really want dessert, but SP did, so I said OK. What really appealed to me was a Leona's ice cream sandwich, but I couldn't believe they were selling them at $8/sandwich. Everywhere else we've gotten them, it's been $5/sandwich. Same for the Stickler's popsicles - the truck sells them for $3 but here they were $5. I couldn't quite grasp the lemon sugar nacho concept and even after asking our server about them, I still couldn't get it, so I left it up to SP because I didn't much want dessert anyway. He chose the Fresh Fruit Cobbler.
It was disappointing. I don't like oats, and oats were in the crumble topping. SP likes that. I don't. The fruit was just one fruit, cherries, and they didn't look/taste fresh. They looked/tasted like canned cherry pie filling. Definitely won't be ordering the cobbler again.

It's nice to have a non-chain option in this area (Robinson/North Fayette). I liked the iced tea, pickles, and sandwich, but next time I'd ask about ordering a side besides fries and skip dessert. The crappy curb cut access still bugs me. Our server was fine. She seemed a little thrown by a couple questions I asked and didn't ask SP if he wanted a second cocktail, but she was pleasant and kept his iced tea filled (no small feat - I have no idea how he can drink so much!). We'll go back.

  Industry Public House - North Fayette Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Cafe Carnegie

After we finished The Power of Poison exhibit at the Carnegie Museum, we both were really hungry so we decided to eat at The Cafe Carnegie. It's in the same area as the previous museum restaurant, but the space has been redesigned and there's an all new menu from Dinette's Chef Sonja Finn, who is also Consulting Chef of The CafĂ© Carnegie. I think it just opened in early December last year - ? There's a coffee/wine bar area and beyond that, the restaurant area. I recall a neutral color scheme, grays and browns. and wood tables. It was very relaxing and inviting, perfect to take a break from browsing the exhibits with lots of other people and kids. If only people wouldn't bring babies to a museum and let them wail at the top of their lungs for 5-10 minutes (at least take your wailing child out of a restaurant). We were so annoyed because we had just escaped screaming toddlers having meltdowns only to have our relaxing brunch get off to a horrid start with ear piercing baby screams. Ugh.

SP ordered fresh iced tea, I was OK with water. Here's what we ordered and enjoyed:
Watermelon & Cucumber Salad (Watercress, Scallions, Feta, Mint, Sherry Vinaigrette). This was yummy and summery. There were 4 thin, juicy watermelon wedges, crisp cucumber ribbons, salty feta, and a tasty, tangy dressing.
SP chose Roasted Chicken & Mushroom Crepes (English Peas, Leeks, Thyme, Bechamel, Raclette Cheese, Summer Lettuces). He really liked it. I tried a bit and agreed with his assessment that it was a really tasty chicken pot pie filling inside crepes.
I chose Croque Madame (House Cured Ham, Gruyere, Asparagus, Mornay, Egg in the Hole on Pullman). So good. I only let SP have a small bite. The bread was fantastic.
As always I asked for my egg yolk to be not runny. Our server didn't think they could do that, I was a little confused as to why, especially when he said something about they put it on top, but I went with this dish anyway and in the end, the yolk was cooked how I like it, so I remain confused but happy.

We both really enjoyed our food at The Cafe Carnegie. I like the relaxing space. Definitely a good choice for lunch if you're at the museum, or even just in Oakland since you don't need to be visiting the museum to dine at The Cafe Carnegie. I'm sure some will complain about the cost, but it's no more than other museum restaurants at which we've dined and our food was tastier than some of those meals. We'll be back.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Tortellini Pasta Salad

I still subscribe to Food Network Magazine and enjoy reading it although I rarely rip out recipes to save. In my experience, my taste buds never think the recipes from the Food Network Kitchen are all that great. The recipes from the "celebrity" chefs, yes, but for some reason, not the FNK. There is an exception: this Tortellini Caprese Salad recipe. It's so simple that you don't need a recipe. I just had never thought to make a cold pasta salad from tortellini. So thanks for the idea, FNK.
Cheese tortellini. Tomatoes. Fresh mozzarella. Fresh basil. Dressing of olive oil & white balsamic vinegar. Salt & pepper. The ingredient amounts? Whatever your personal taste is. We like a lot of basil and a lot of tomato. You could use a different dressing, or change the ratio of olive oil to vinegar to suit your personal taste.
This is really good. Really good. Like we can't stop eating it good. I've been snacking on a few spoonfuls during the day. The white balsamic is barely noticeable, just a hint of it, which is nice. In spite of cheese-filled pasta, this dish feels light and summery. We've been eating it on the side with our hamburgers and hot dogs. SP bought dried cheese-filled tortellini in the dried pasta aisle. I thought he was going to buy it from the freezer, like a package of Rosetto, or one of those Buitoni packages. I was skeptical of dried tortellini but I shouldn't have been. It's very tasty.

We'll definitely make this again.

Official recipe here.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

It's almost time for another weekend. We just finished last weekend's 4-day holiday weekend. We started the weekend with a trip to The Power of Poison exhibit at Carnegie Museum. Above is the Golden Poison Frog. Such a cutie! It was a really interesting exhibit and we highly recommend it. Plus, there's dinosaurs at the museum, which we never tire of seeing.

SP's sisters were in town for the holiday weekend so there was a lot of family time. TXSIL and her family brought their puppy into town this time. Cody is a wonderfully calm, non-jumpy dog. But since they had Cody, they didn't stay with us this time. As usual, we had dinner with just them one night. We made hamburgers. Sadly, after SP did the shopping, I discovered this:
Thanks Giant Eagle for shelving and selling a bag of buns this badly ripped. OK, that might be slightly more ripped than at purchase time since I was annoyed and I poked at it, but it was at least a 3 inch rip when he got home. SP didn't notice when he bought them because of how the bag was twisted. I noticed it when I picked the bag up to de-clutter the counter a bit. Fortunately there was time to get more buns.
Last week SP emailed me this article. I was a little surprised because we rarely eat hot dogs. Usually only when they're leftover from buying them for some kids visiting and even then we usually just toss the leftover hot dogs.
Sure enough he said he had been craving hot dogs. I was a little sick at the thought of eating hot dogs. But he said he was going to go to Whole Foods to buy one of the "winning hot dogs" in the article and it'd be all beef, natural, no fake crap. He actually made it sound yummy. So I said OK.
And so we are eating hot dogs for 2 dinners this week. Above is my creation: toasted bun, lots of Dijon, Colby cheese, and a well browned on the grill hot dog.
His creation: grilled bun, Colby cheese, dill pickle, ketchup, mustard, hot dog. He ate a second hot dog bunless but with ketchup and mustard.

They were pretty tasty. But I'm OK waiting another 5-6 years for my next hot dog.

What We're Eating:

  • Hot dogs
  • Hamburgers (with bacon)
  • Pasta Salad with lots of tomatoes
  • Green beans from the garden
  • Dessert: Fruit tart, cookies

What We're Watching:

  • We binge-watched the latest season of Silicon Valley.
  • We watched The Lego Batman Movie. It was better than we expected given the reviews.
  • We are enjoying Broadchurch a lot.

Nothing. No progress on the books or the magazine pile.