Thursday, September 27, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

I'm avoiding the news today because I'm pretty sure I'll hear a whole bunch of things that will make me want to scream. Kind of like nearly every day since 8 November 2016. But some days are worse than others and I expect today will be a bad one.

This past weekend my parents invited themselves to dinner! Their apartment kitchen & dining room are being remodeled and for 2 weeks they have not had a stove or microwave or dishwasher. The kitchen has been blocked off by a plastic tap. They were in Las Vegas for most of week 1, then either dined out/ate sandwiches. The project is a bit behind schedule so it'll be more like a 3 week project. They wanted a "real" meal, so they offered to bring dinner if we'd cook. We said OK. They brought steak. We don't usually eat steak. These ones were so good. Really good. Really, really good. Probably the chef, right SP? He is a good griller.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • We have 2 more episodes of American Vandal Season 2. We are enjoying the Case of the Turd Burglar.
  • "Regular" TV is starting up. This week we watched the premieres of Big Bang Theory, Sheldon, This Is Us, The Gifted, and Modern Family.
  • Tonight Shonda TV returns, although without Scandal. Two hours of Grey's Anatomy and one hour of HTGAWM tonight. I can't remember if Station 19 is coming back to Thursday TV or not?
  • Another season of Worst Cooks in America ended. I was happy with both finalists and had no strong feelings about who should win. The pasta the Oklahoma girl made looked awfully tasty.
  • Halloween Baking Championship started. We love the Halloween one best of the seasonal baking championship shows. 

What I'm Reading:

  • I finally finished Still Me by Jojo Moyes. I couldn't remember if I'd read the first or second or both (or neither) of the trilogy, so I checked out both to read (re-read) before reading the recently published third book. Turns out I had read both. I flipped through them, just to refresh my memory, and then picked up Still Me, which I enjoyed. A good conclusion to the series.
  • Magazines. Lots of magazines. My mom brought over a few, the new ones arrived. The pile is a little scary.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Molinaro Ristorante & Bar

Last weekend we saw The Play That Goes Wrong. I didn't know anything about it before we saw it. Oh my gosh, it was so funny! I enjoyed it a lot and at times I was laughing so much I was nearly crying. After the show, we went to dinner at Molinaro Ristorante & Bar in Market Square. Molinaro is in the space previously occupied by Poros. I think the restaurant just opened this past late June/early July. There is a great outdoor dining space, but after week of very hot and humid weather, it was suddenly breezy and quite chilly. We did not dine outside.

We each ordered wine. Chardonnay for him. Vermintino for me. Here's what we ate:
Bread & olive oil. A focaccia with tomato and rosemary, a white, and a brown.
SP's starter: Piovra (grilled spanish rock octopus, menaica anchovies sauce, cauliflower, pine nuts, raisins). Yum!
Daily Special - Three Cheeses with Three Mini Salads. In the lower right of the photo, ricotta with a zucchini salad (my favorite). On the left is a smoked scamorza next to a tomato-onion-basil salad. At the top is mozzarella (or was it burrata? I want to say burrata but the receipt says mozzarella and I can't remember) and hidden behind the scamorza and tomatoes is an eggplant salad. It was excellent. I did share with SP but I probably could have eaten all the cheese myself.
SP's main meal: Daily Special - Mixed Grill: mackerel, branzino, and sea bass atop carrots and asparagus.
My main meal: Veal Agnolotti (veal stuffed ravioli, chanterelle mushrooms, fresh thyme, veal reduction). As our server said, there was a lot of veal in these ravioli:
I tried to get a wee bite of mushroom with each bite of ravioli because together, the veal-pasta-mushroom flavors were so darn tasty.
SP ordered an after dinner drink: Grappa. I took one sniff and knew better than to try the tiniest of sips. Too strong for me.
For me, cappuccino.
My dessert: Zeppole with pastry cream. Oh. My. Close up:
Crispy on the outside, light and airy inside, smooth, cool cream and a raspberry. I shared, but I think I allowed him a half of one.
SP chose Italian Cheesecake - with pear in it and berries on top/around it. 

Overall, I enjoyed Molinaro. I was trying to decide between two wines and our server brought me a sample of each to try. Our server was great, answering questions, informed, pleasant & smiling. The meal was nicely paced. The food tasty. I can't really find anything wrong. And yet. I think it comes down to this: Molinaro is a pretty darn expensive place. Maybe we didn't need 2 appetizers, or 2 desserts, or the grappa and cappuccinos. But even without those, the bill + tax & tip would have been well over $100. It might just be us. I guess we are not cheap dates?! Since it was a daily special, I didn't realize just how much the cheese plate was ($28). When we eat out, we like to get foods we do not cook at home, like octopus, which happens to be one of the priciest appetizers ($19). 

So when I look at it like that, that it's one of the priciest meals we've had in Pittsburgh, that we spent more than we do at other places in/near the Cultural District when we dine out after shows, I'm not sure I can overlook the dirt we found on the tablecloth under SP's bread plate. Or the construction noise (?) that seemed to start up around 6:30 pm on a Saturday - ? At least that's what the noise sounded like. I was glad we dined right after the show ended so we were leaving shortly after the noise started.

But the food was good, especially those zeppole. I'm sure we'll be back because delicious pasta, cheese, and donuts are three of my very favorite things.

*Full disclosure: Due to a mishap with our leftover dinner food, we were not charged for desserts/cappuccinos. That wasn't necessary. It is appreciated. We did attempt to calculate what they would have cost and then tip on the bill + the dessert/cappuccino cost. We were still surprised how much it added up. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

I saw the fat groundhog today. We call it Otis. It's so fat I can't believe it can actually walk. But then I had a horrifying thought: what if Otis is a girl and is so fat because she's pregnant? We do not need more groundhogs. I'm not even going to look up when they give birth and how many they give birth to because I do not want to know how many destructive monsters could be in the area.

We ripped out the dead petunias and planted mums for autumn. It's time to toss the herbs and winterize the garden boxes. It was definitely a disappointing herb and vegetable year.

I've spent a lot of time this week (wasted a lot of time?) trying to figure out what winter bedding we want for the new bed. It's a king, so our queen blankets and comforter won't work. I don't like heavy comforters. I also don't like most of the comforters I see. Ugly designs, or too light colored for our bedroom. I'm not getting new carpet/re-painting. We're keeping the cream/white carpet and seaside sand paint color. All the light/pale colored things are not right. The gray/black/brown ones are ugly & boring. I didn't want plain. We don't like floral prints. I don't want striped because our summer bedspread is striped. Do we want goose/duck/down or not? And then buy a duvet cover? Or just stick with a comforter? Do we need flannel sheets? Split king sheets are proving difficult to find. We have one set of sheets and they're too cool for winter. We need a new blanket and I want what we have but size king but of course we got it 8-9 years ago so we can't find it now. How can this seem so darn difficult?!

It's just a giant time suck doing all the research and getting overwhelmed/frustrated. Such problems, right? I should be glad/grateful I have a bed under a non-leaky roof in a heated house. And I am. I realize I sound stupid being annoyed by bedding that doesn't satisfy my idea of what I want. 

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • We finished Iron Fist Season 2. It was better than Season 1.
  • We started American Vandal Season 1 on Netflix and so far 3 episodes in, we're really enjoying it.
  • We watched Oceans 8. It was a fun movie.

What I'm Reading:
Magazines. The pile is high.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Last weekend, we decided to go to Hofbräuhaus. It had been 9 years since our first and only experience there. As you might guess from the long time between visits, we weren't much impressed in 2009. But suddenly autumn, pumpkin spice, fall, Halloween, Oktoberfest, it all was in my face and I ended up thinking going to Hofbräuhaus was a good idea. I did not realize it was actually Oktoberfest time. I did not realize that Hofbräuhaus was having Oktoberfest festivities the weekend we chose to go.

Here's how the nearly 3.5 hour dinner event went:
We were in Kohl's, shopping for bedding, which always annoys me because I can never decide if something is soft enough, or warm enough, or light enough, or whatever. We decided to leave and go to dinner then stop at a different store on the way home. I checked No Wait. It said 10-20 minute wait. That was too soon to get in line because it would take us about a half hour to get there.
The navigation system route to the South Side was a way we never go and it took us into neighborhoods I had never before driven through, probably because they were kind of scary.
The entire drive, the No Wait app said 10-20 minute wait.
As we were attempting to get around the blocked off streets and into a parking garage, I added us to the No Wait list. My text message, time stamped 5:11 pm, said 10-20 minute wait and advised me to arrive by 5:21 pm and check in. Okey dokey.
We arrived at Hofbräuhaus around 5:20 pm. There was a line. To check in. It took SP 10 minutes to check in. At this point, our table should be ready, right? Right. But nope.
SP maneuvered me through the line and inside near the "to be seated" podium so that when our table was ready, we do not have to get through the crowd.
It was loud inside. Very loud. Too loud for my sensitive, old ears. I prayed we were not seated by the loud live music.
At 5:50 pm, our table was ready. That was a 39 minute wait on what was supposed to be a 10-20 minute wait. Twice as long as the estimate. I was not pleased. What good is this No Wait app? Are they using it correctly? I should have put our name on the list when we left Kohl's.
Then there was some kind of issue as 2 employees huddled and discussed where to put us (I guess that is what they were doing). It looked like they were going to lead us into the loud, live music area with communal tables & bench seating. This does not work for a wheelchair. I either have to sit on the end, sticking out into the walking "lane" and be kicked/jostled every time someone walks by OR everyone on my side of the table will have to stand up & slide the bench down (so the other end of the bench will stick out and be a tripping hazard) to make space for me to sit at the table. I was about to have a fit.
Nope, they led us through that area and to the outdoor area.
Outdoor dining. What had I said to SP as we went to dinner, before he checked in? I had said I didn't want to sit outside because it was so darn humid and I do not enjoy being out in that kind of humidity. It kills my appetite. It makes me feel slimy.
Too bad for me, we were seated outside. Fine. I wasn't happy but I didn't want to wait even longer for a table inside the quiet, air conditioned area. I'd deal with the humidity and the loud outdoor music.
There was some kind of metal bar across the bottom of the table that connected the left and right legs. It prevented me from getting close enough to the table. I was going to have to lean far over to eat, which usually ends up in my back hurting a lot, food in my lap, that sort of thing. Plus, I was very far away from SP. I didn't want to shout across at him and have everyone near us hear our conversation. I figured I could get my front caster wheels over the bar. Nope. I was repelled. So I backed up and with all my pathetic might thrust myself over the bar - and smashed my shin/knee into previously unseen thin, metal, crossed in an X shape bars underneath the table in the middle. It hurt. A lot. The pain took my breath away, which was probably a good thing because it meant I couldn't actually scream the curse words that were running through my head. I instantly backed up, grabbed my shin/surgically repaired knee, and put my head on the edge of the table to hide the tears coming. It was that painful.
I was beyond angry at this point. I couldn't speak. I could only glare at everyone and hate everything about Hofbräuhaus.
And then our server popped by to tell us the kitchen was really backed up so it would take a while for our food. Yay for telling us. But. How could they not be prepared to be slammed at what turned out to be Oktoberfest?

We stayed. Gradually my pain subsided. SP gently and carefully got me over the metal bar so I could be close to the table and not have food in my lap. But later on when I tucked a napkin under my thigh so it wouldn't blow off my lap, raising my leg caused me to smash the other knee into the same bar. I ended up kind of enjoying the music but somehow I don't think that Oktoberfest celebrations in Germany include musicians playing "Sweet Caroline" and "Take Me Home, Country Roads."

I had iced tea, at least they have fresh brewed iced tea. SP had a beer. Here's what we ended up eating:
Giant Pretzel Combo (Giant pretzel served with “Obatzda” Cheese, Sweet Bavarian Mustard, and  Signature Homemade Bier Cheese). I really liked the Obatzda cheese. Thanks to Wikipedia I now know that Obatzda is "is a Bavarian cheese delicacy. It is prepared by mixing two thirds aged soft cheese, usually Camembert (Romadur or similar cheeses may be used as well), and one third butter. Sweet or hot paprika powder, salt, pepper are the traditional seasonings as well as a small amount of beer. An optional amount of onions, garlic, horseradish, cloves, and ground caraway seeds may be used and some cream or cream cheese as well. The cheeses and spices are mixed together into a smooth mass. It is usually eaten spread on bread or pretzels. Obatzda is a classic example of Bavarian biergarten food."
Haus Salad (Hofbräuhaus Salad Mix, Red Onions, Grape Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Sweet Corn, Homemade Seasoned Pretzel Croutons, served with House Cucumber Dressing).
SP's second beer was a Märzen, a lager that originated in Bavaria, has a medium to full body, may vary in color from pale through amber to dark brown, and is the beer traditionally served at Oktoberfest.
SP ordered the Oktoberfest special Roasted Half Chicken served with German Potato Salad and Fried Cabbage.
I chose Bauern Schnitzel (Breaded Pork Cutlet fried crisp and golden brown, topped with Black Forest Ham, Swiss Cheese, and Signature Homemade Bier Cheese. Served with German Potato Salad and Fried Cabbage).
I was full but SP wanted dessert so I let him choose. He chose Apfel Strudel (Traditional German Apple Strudel, imported from Bavaria and served warm with Vanilla and Raspberry Sauces). I didn't expect strudel to be served swimming in a sea of sauce (I guess I thought the sauce would be on the side?), but apparently it is not inauthentic (I Googled it). I did find the strudel to be too mushy for my liking, not cinnamony enough, and I would have preferred no sauce.

Hofbräuhaus. I do not know what to say. I liked my meal and the pretzel & sauces. The iced tea was fresh brewed. SP liked his food and his beers and remembering his trip to Oktoberfest in Munich many years ago. The outdoor seating ended up not being as awful as we expected because there were lots of ceiling fans and a breeze seemed to be coming off the river, but it was still pretty humid as evidenced by the sweat coming off the sides of our cold beverages. We used a lot of napkins to mop the table and the sides of glasses and were extra careful to not have the huge, sweaty glasses slip from our hands.

Our server was friendly and quite nice. She did update us on our food and apologized (we didn't actually get our meals until almost 7 pm). We finally left a bit before 8 pm.

But the wait. The slow kitchen. The loud music inside, it reminded me of why I hated going to bars in my 20's (too loud to talk to people or hear yourself think).

And the not wheelchair friendly table. My knees were not happy.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

Yesterday, thanks to Hurricane Florence, we cancelled our trip to north GA to visit my brother for a few days and then spend a few days in Asheville. We didn't want to be driving in a hurricane the entire trip (we were planning to leave tomorrow). My brother said he has his chainsaws and axes ready to go (in anticipation of downed trees since he lives on a mountain/in a forest and in the last hurricane ended up with about 30 downed trees blocking his road/driveway on the mountain). He also said they often lose power for days and that there will likely be gas shortages. I hope everyone in the huge projected path is OK. After all, as our dear leader says, this hurricane is tremendously big and tremendously wet, tremendous amounts of water. (snorts tea out nose as I laugh again at the stupid.)

Rarely do we ever sit and watch and entire Steelers game. Last Sunday we did. What a mistake. What a miserable game. I kept flipping to the Giants-Jaguars game for SP since he's a Giants fan. That wasn't much better. He'd tell me to put the Steelers game back on. Then I'd change to the Giants. Instead of "arguing" about which game to watch, it was "arguing" over which not to watch since neither of us wanted to watch "our" team.

The weekend was a rainy, chilly mess. It went from 90+ degrees in the early part of last week to only reaching 68 or so last Saturday. We were chilly enough that we turned on the furnace, justifying it as us needing to be sure it still works before winter. Also, the thermostat said it was 68-69 inside, which is where we have the furnace set to run in winter. Sunday we snuggled up under blankets and drank a lot of hot tea.

Saturday dinner out was at Cafe Io in Mt. Lebanon. We went with our neighbors. It was really nice to sit and chat with them. SP & I are boring. We ordered the same dishes as always: the Iovino appetizer, branzino for him, Monster grilled cheese for me, and dessert. This time, it was a strawberry shortcake like dessert.

What We're Eating:

  • Sloppy Joes
  • Salad with chicken
  • Dessert: Bethel Bakery cookies

What We're Watching:

  • We finished Season 2 of Ozark. We enjoyed it but gosh what a tangled web of fragile alliances. And Darlene - she's nuts!
  • We started Season 2 of Iron Fist. We've watched only 1 episode and it's OK so far. 
  • Catching up on Worst Cooks in America, John Oliver, America's Test Kitchen on PBS, Southern & Hungry. Southern & Hungry makes me want to plan a road trip across the southern states.

What I'm Reading:
I don't think I've read anything. We've been too busy with other things. Like obsessively tracking the hurricane to see if our trip could be salvaged. Nope.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Poulet Bleu

Over Labor Day weekend, we went to dinner at Poulet Bleu, a new restaurant from the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group. It opened last Feb-March, I think. We like to wait before trying newly opened restaurants. When we decided it was time to go and tried to make a reservation, we couldn't get a Saturday reservation at a reasonable time for something like 7-8 weeks! 
Poulet Bleu is in Lawrenceville, right next to Morcilla. We didn't sit outside, though the patio area looks amazing. We were inside at a table for two next to the wall - you can see the wallpaper pattern in the photo below:
Our beverages: Sidecar (VSOP Cognac, Curaçao, Lemon Gomme, Sugar in raw) for SP and for me,  Sauvignon Blanc (Complices de Loire, Touraine, France, 2017). SP really liked his Sidecar. I loved my wine. I ordered it because it was a sauvignon blanc from the Loire area. I knew that only sauvignon blanc from Sancerre can be called sancerre, and that Sancerre is in the Loire Valley region, and this was a sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley so I was hoping for a similar taste to the sancerre I drank and loved when we were in Paris. It was similar! I told our server how much I liked the wine and how much it reminded me of sancerre and he explained to me that Touraine is a bit west of Sancerre in the Loire Valley. It was so good I had 2 glasses and later that night I searched the online Wine & Spirits Store database for Touraine sauvignon blanc.

SP also had a glass of rosé (Mourvedre Blend, Gueissard, Bandol, France, 2016) which was very good. I think Bandol is in the Provence region and I remember one of our servers in France telling me that the rosé from that region is famous. I took that to mean good. Also, the rosé from that region always seemed to be priced higher than other rosé!

Here's what we ate:
Burgundy Escargot (garlic butter, parsley, grilled bread).
I didn't try these (garlic) but SP said they were delicious.
I decided to try French Onion Soup (braised oxtail, cognac, emmental, gruyere). Oh. My. Gosh. Believe the hype. This soup was so good. Cheesy goodness. Browned, sweet soft onions. I had promised to share with SP, so I ate about half before passing it over, but I could have finished it.
SP's entree: Trout Almondine (Laurel Hill trout, haricot vert, brown butter, almonds, capers).
We shared a side of Aligot Potatoes (whipped potatoes with cheese). So good.
My entree: Parisienne Gnocchi (brown butter, confit tomatoes, mushroom ragout, pearl onions, gruyere). Light, fluffy, crisped edge. Lots of vegetables. Really good.

We shared a press pot of decaf after our meal:
And we shared dessert: Chocolate Souffle for 2:
It came with banana ice cream, cherry compote, pineapple, chocolate sauce, creme anglaise.
It was delicious but almost too large for us. We couldn't finish it. I was disappointed in us.

We had heard a lot of good things about Poulet Bleu. Like any place that seems to receive all positive reviews from the second it opens, we were a wee skeptical. In particular, after looking at the menu, I was nervous about being able to find something free of garlic (which was not at all an issue when we were in France). Our server was terrific about checking with the kitchen on garlic in the dishes I was interested in ordering. He was also very informed about the wine, not just explaining the Loire Vally regions to me but when SP asked about rosé and explained what we'd enjoyed in France, he knew which one to bring and it was excellent. He was also very personable. It was a leisurely meal, but it didn't feel like there were long wait between courses.

We'll be back.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

This week I keep forgetting what day it is. That 3 day weekend threw me off! It went by so quickly. We had friends over on Sunday. I had hoped we could finally spend some time outside on the deck, but it was too darn hot to be outside. SP grilled bratwurst, sausage (sweet & spicy), and peppers and onions. We made our favorite Macaroni & Cheese, which it seems I've not yet blogged about even though we make it 2-3 times a year so I'll have to fix that! We also made a veggie & dip tray and baked two desserts: Chocolate Bundt Cake and Olive Oil Cake. So much food! 

We spent the Labor Day holiday laboring to clean up after Sunday and do laundry. 

This week, the deck guy finally came to power wash and seal the deck. We have it done every other year. It's too big a deck for us to do it ourselves plus you need 2-4 days without rain so it took a while for it to happen. I felt bad for the guy because it was so darn hot the day he sealed it. He hand brushes it on, he doesn't use a sprayer, so it takes a while. But it always looks great!

And still speaking of the deck, we did indeed purchase an indoor/outdoor baby gate to try to keep the groundhog off the deck. My dad stopped by one day, saw it, and laughed for quite some time. I guess it is kind of silly, but gosh is it annoying when that critter starts munching your parsley and tomatoes while sitting on your deck bench.  

What We're Eating:
  • Italian sausage and bratwurst
  • Grilled chicken
  • Tomatoes, cucumbers, grilled peppers & onions
  • Mac & cheese
  • Dessert: leftovers from Labor Day. Chocolate Bundt Cake, Olive Oil Cake
What We're Watching:
  • We watched the new Jack Ryan show on Amazon Prime. We enjoyed it. Nothing super ground breaking or outstanding, but solid and kept us interested. I always enjoyed the Jack Ryan novels and movies.
  • We started Ozark Season 2 on Netflix. Not sure what I think since we're only 2 episodes into it. 
  • We watched the movie Tag and as when we watched The Game, we laughed a lot more than we probably should have laughed.
What I'm Reading:
  • I finished Pieces of Her and enjoyed it. 
  • I read several magazines. My mom dropped off some Travel & Leisure magazines. I sort of enjoy flipping through but to me, there doesn't seem to be much substance and a lot of it, well, I'm just never going to get to a lot of places and if I do, I likely will not stay/eat at/do the pricey things they suggest. Plus, we are not beach people, or spa people, or golf people. Resorts and cruises do not interest us. I read the new Bon Appetit and Food Network issues and they seemed a little lacking as well. Maybe things will pick up with the next issues since it'll be fall and time for the holidays? 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Ladurée (macarons)

I'm still trying to wrap up the Paris trip food posts. I think this is, finally, the last one. It's also a really short post because I failed to take any photos when we were there and because we ate some without taking photos!

As part of our Right Bank walking tour, our guide took us to Ladurée, famous for their macarons. There is even a kiosk at the airport where you purchase your last minute macarons to take home. We went twice and tried 8-10 macaron flavors - so many flavors! As is usual, SP's tastes were citrus, green tea type flavors while I went for coffee, chocolate, hazelnut, Earl Grey. These were the first in France macarons we had (we've only had them from the French bakeries here in Pittsburgh). As it turned out, the Ladurée macarons were the only macarons we had in France! All the flavors we tried were delicious. 

Definitely a must try at least once if in Paris place. I wish we could have had more macarons, but as you can see from the other posts, there were just too many treats (choux a la creme, eclairs, chocolate hazelnut tarts, cream & raspberry treats, etc.). 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Odette (choux a la creme)

Our Food Tour Guide took us to another place on my list: Odette. This location is on Rue Montorgueil. The previous day, we had walked past a location during our Left Bank walking tour (before we got to the oldest church and oldest tree and then Notre Dame, I was a little disoriented by then and hoping we'd remember how to get back after lunch!):
and tried a couple of their cream puffs (choux a la creme).
Pretty flower boxes at the base of the glass display case.
I loved the coffee, chocolate, and caramel flavors. SP enjoyed the citrus flavors. These are so good.
 Of course we took a box back to the hotel room to snack on: