Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Farewell 2019, Hello 2020 (Cocktails)

We do not have exciting end of year/start of new year celebrations planned. We're "let's just stay in, wear our jammies, and watch TV" years old. While we're watching TV, we'll probably sip on cocktails. Cocktails were the gift theme this year. Back in November, for my birthday, SP gifted me a copy of How To Cocktail from America's Test Kitchen. For the holidays, I gifted SP a whole lot of bar tools, ingredients, and glassware. This past weekend, we mixed up a couple cocktails.
Dark & Stormy. Before I fell in love with bourbon, I liked rum. Specifically, Rum & Coke. These days I dislike soda. But Dark & Stormy? Gingery goodness. SP made the fresh ginger syrup in December and gifted me a bottle of Gosling's Black Seal Rum. Add some lime juice and club soda and you have a fantastic cocktail. I like the pretty separation, the rum floating on top. Just be sure to mix it up before drinking it, otherwise your first gulp will be a shot of rum. 
SP has wanted coupe glasses for a couple years, so I finally bought them. He made a Sidecar: orange liqueur, brandy, lemon juice. Our liquor cabinet has Triple Sec for the orange liqueur, Remy Martin VSOP Cognac for the brandy, and he made a corkscrew lemon peel on a cocktail pick with his new bar tools.

We're having fun with the new beverages and bar tools. SP likes gin and tonics so I bought him the ingredients to make tonic syrup. We tried their Old Fashioned, which uses two kinds of bitters, and really liked it.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

Last weekend we went to see Knives Out. I really wanted to see it because I love mysteries and it had received great reviews. I loved it! No spoilers, but it is a terrific old-school whodunnit.

After the movie, we went to Burgatory for the Shake Special, the Rudolph Shake. Chocolate & peppermint - yum! I had my usual chicken breast with bacon and fried egg. SP had a naked elk burger with bacon and fried egg.

We baked holiday cookies. I haven't been in a particularly festive mood and didn't much feel like baking, but we did anyway. I enjoyed it and it made me happy to bake our favorite cookies. We made Linzer, Spritz, Cinnamon Spice, Triple Ginger, and Chocolate Dipped Crescents. Only five kinds this year. We don't have the energy nor the time to bake more this year.

What We're Eating:

  • Baked Ricotta Chicken with mixed greens
  • Sauteed apples, gruyere, ham on multi-grain with mustard panini
  • Dessert: Holiday cookies

What We're Watching:

  • Watchmen ended and I enjoyed it much more than I expected. That's how a show should be made: a certain number of episodes to tell one complete story.
  • We started the third and final season of Glitch on Netflix. We have two episodes left. I wish Netflix had a recap for seasons 1 & 2 because we've spent a lot of time asking each other questions. Who is that? What happened to him/her? What did he/she do? So far it seems to be nicely wrapping up the story, I just wish there hadn't been a two year gap between seasons 2 & 3.
  • The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition.
  • Holiday Baking Championship Season 6 on Food Network. I love seeing what they create.

What I'm Reading:
Lethal Pursuit by Will Thomas. This is my first Will Thomas novel and I'm really enjoying it. I guess that means I'll have to start at the beginning of the Barker & Llewellyn series and read the first ten (I started with the eleventh).

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

It has not been a good lunch week. For one, SP convinced me that I should try the multi-grain English muffins. No. I should not have. They taste like cardboard. Lesson learned, yet again: the grocery store aisle multi-grain/whole wheat products are terrible and are not as "healthy" as they would have you believe. If you want healthy and tasty non-white breads, suck it up and pay the premium price for the good stuff at a good bakery.

Don't even get me started on the cheese. I like Swiss. Sure, sometimes he buys me Colby or smoked Gouda, and those weeks are a treat, but it's almost always Swiss and that's fine because a good Swiss is yummy. This is not a good Swiss. It's pale. It doesn't melt nicely. It has a weird texture. It tastes... well, it's tasteless. I finally figured out why when I looked at the tag on the deli package. He bought low sodium, low fat cheese. Why oh why would anyone buy me low salt/low fat cheese? Way to ruin cheese. He got an earful over that. He says it was a mistake.

So, to sum up, I am enduring 5 lunches of tasteless cheese inside cardboard.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • Only one more Watchmen! Last Sunday was another great episode that answered some questions and pulled more threads together.
  • The series finale of Madam Secretary. I've enjoyed the show and this short final season seemed a bit rushed, but at least everyone got a send off/sense of what was next for them.
  • We watched Dumbo. It was fine. It was Disney.

What I'm Reading:

  • A Dark & Twisted Tide, the fourth and final Lacey Flint novel. It was good. Not as good as the previous three, but still good. Since it's been five years without a Lacey #5, I guess the series is done, but I wouldn't mind if Bolton decided to write more books with the characters.
  • Twisted Twenty-Six, the latest from Janet Evanovich. At least it seems like maybe things are going to make progress and not be the same old thing over and over. We'll see where the 27th book goes next year. 
  • Magazines. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

It doesn't feel like it has been a week since Thanksgiving. I'm not sure if it feels longer or shorter than that! It was just the two of us although we did get to visit for a couple hours with TX family in the afternoon.

We weren't feeling much Christmas spirit and talked about not putting up the tree, but in the end we asked our friend ST to help us decorate. We didn't do quite as much as usual, but it's looking very festive now.

What We're Eating:

  • Leftover turkey, stuffing, cranberry, green beans
  • Chicken Piccata with rice and broccoli
  • Dessert: Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

What We're Watching:

  • Watchmen! I started watching simply because I knew SP wanted to watch. It was good but I wasn't all that into it for the first few episodes and I kept wondering where Don Johnson's character was since he gets such prominent billing. But the last two episodes have been fantastic and now I'm into it and wondering what happens next. I am not so into Jeremy Irons' story/character. I never get what is going on in those scenes. But the rest of it! Angela and Cal and Will and Laurie and Looking Glass - so excited for Sunday's episode! Two more for this season.
  • We finished the final season of Man in the High Castle. I thought it did a decent job of wrapping up most of the story lines, left it open at the end, maybe ended kind of hopeful - ? We enjoyed the four seasons.
  • We zipped through Season 3 of The Crown on Netflix.
  • We watched Toy Story 4 and enjoyed it.
  • I watched The Farewell and found myself enjoying it much more than I expected.

What I'm Reading:

  • Lost by Sharon Bolton, the third Lacey Flint book. Really enjoying these books.
  • The Chocolate Shark Shenanigans from Joanna Carl. Very light, quick read.
  • New issues of Bon Appetit, Saveur, Food Network, Cook's Illustrated. Lots of holiday foods.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Bakery Lorraine

I think my favorite place in San Antonio was Bakery Lorraine in the Pearl District. It's a lovely cafe with delicious food made by people who met while working for Thomas Keller at Bouchon Bakery. You order & pay at a counter, take your beverage and hope there's a free table, and they bring your food to you. It can get quite busy and a free table can be hard to find, especially on cold & windy days when no one wants to sit outside.

We went here several times. That's how much we liked it. Here's what we tried:
A yummy puff pastry with cream and raspberries.
Earl Grey tea.
Quiche Lorraine (bacon, gruyère, caramelized onions, served with side salad).
Ham & Cheese on Croissant (French ham, brie, secret sauce).
We might have asked for no secret sauce, fearing some sort of garlic sauce. I don't remember a sauce. I remember flaky layers of croissant with ham and creamy brie.
Breakfast Sandwich (sausage or bacon and egg with cheddar on biscuit or croissant). I love breakfast sandwiches. I loved this breakfast sandwich.
Raspberry Coffee Cake (served warm with cultured butter). My goodness that butter was amazing. The cake, too.

Everything we ordered, we shared, and almost every time, I didn't want to share. Not that I could have eaten all of it, there was, as always, plenty of food in front of us, but it was that tasty. I wish we could have tried more. I wish Maybelle's Donuts, the donut shop run by the same people, had been open the Sunday morning we tried to go (it wasn't open that early and we had to get on the road before 11 am). I wish we had a Bakery Lorraine here. This place is delightful.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Maverick Whiskey

It's all about the holidays now, but I'm a little tired of the holidays already. Holiday creep is ruining the holidays. I was so sick of seeing Thanksgiving food in all my social media feeds for 3 weeks that I started to want to order a pizza on Turkey Day. I was sick of Christmas before Thanksgiving because of people I follow posting about decorating trees and making wreaths, etc. I don't want to see Christmas until the Friday after Thanksgiving. I'm so sick of the holidays I don't even want to put up our tree.

Instead of thinking about Christmas, I'm remembering our trip to San Antonio in October, hot darn hot it was, and our meal at Maverick Whiskey. It's a distillery and a brewery and a restaurant. We didn't have time to take a tour but we did go for dinner one night. Here's what we enjoyed:
Maverick Mule for me and Gin & Cuke for him. He liked his a lot. I didn't like my mule that much. I think maybe I wasn't a fan of the whiskey, or maybe it was just a tad too strong for me.
We shared a House Salad (Green Bexar Farms seasonal greens, grilled corn, smoked cheddar cheese, heirloom grape tomatoes, candied bacon, creamy herb dressing). Yummy.
We also shared Cast Iron Goat Cheese (creamy goat cheese, Texas pressed olive oil, thyme, rosemary,
local berry compote, whiskey flour focaccia). Also yummy.
SP was ready for another drink and decided to try the Oat Beer.
For his meal: Shrimp and Grits Ranchero (cilantro lime shrimp, smoked cheddar grits, heirloom adobo ranchero sauce, poached egg). He said it was delicious.
I ordered Grilled Pimento Cheese (smoked pimento cheese, house bacon, grilled tomato, sourdough). It was yummy but messy. I had cheese all over the place! The thin chips were yummy, too.

Overall, we liked the drinks & food and service at Maverick Whiskey. We'd go back.

*There's a step to enter but supposedly they have a ramp. SP just pulled me up backwards while a nice man also going to the restaurant held the door. The restaurant is on the second floor and there's an elevator.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

Happy Thanksgiving!

Things have been a little stressful the past 2 weeks. One of us was in the hospital and it was pretty serious. Fortunately, things were caught in time, surgery was successful, and recovery is going fairly well. It makes us thankful for our relatively good health (though at times we feel terribly unlucky) and very thankful for good health insurance, a good job, helpful family, great friends.

We were supposed to host both families for Thanksgiving but once the latest health crisis came to be, we decided the best thing was to cancel. So we are making a turkey breast. This morning my dad brought over stuffing that my mom made. We made cranberries & pie and gave half to my parents. And we have some green beans (bought by MIL when she shopped for us last weekend, blanched by my mom when she was here last weekend helping with laundry). So a mini Thanksgiving meal.

We cheated this year and used a store bought frozen pre-made pie shell. We filled it with our usual Libby's pumpkin pie filling. It cracked on top. Oh well. You'll never notice under the mountain of whipped cream SP will pile on top.

Hopefully next year we'll be back to hosting & making pie crust from scratch!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

This past weekend we celebrated my birthday with SP's family at Cafe Io. Here's what we ate:

  • Iovino Appetizer (tempura mozzarella, Italian sweet sausage, marinated tomatoes, basil, organic mixed greens)
  • Monster Grilled Cheese (gouda and cheddar cheeses, bacon, egg, pulled pork, tomato, carmelized onions, spinach)
  • Daily Special: Fluke with couscous and vegetables
  • Chocolate Malt Cake

As usual, we enjoyed our meal and service was terrific. I think they're used to our big group of 10 by now?!

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • We finally finished The Deuce on HBO. At times I liked the show, at other times I was bored or didn't like it. It definitely isn't a feel good show. 
  • We're still playing catch up with some shows.

What I'm Reading:

  • I finished The Deserter by Nelson DeMille. I enjoyed the book. I don't want to say much else because of potential spoilers.
  • I started The Night Fire the latest Harry Bosch & Renee Ballard novel by Michael Connelly. So far I'm enjoying it. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Guenther House

One of my favorite things about vacation is going out for breakfast/brunch. It's a treat because we rarely make it out to breakfast/brunch when we're at home. One place I wanted to try while in San Antonio: Guenther House. It's an historic house, built by Carl Hilmar Guenther, who came to the United States from Germany. He settled in Texas and built a flour mill on the San Antonio River and then built this home for his family.
Today you can tour the home, hold an event here, dine at the restaurant, or shop for baking mixes/gifts in the store. The house is not accessible, but the outdoor patio area is. It was another really hot day, so I was a bit worried about being too hot, but the area is covered to shield you from the sun and there are lots of fans to move the air.
There wasn't a long line when we arrived on a Wednesday morning around 11 am, but it was busy so we had to wait 15-20 minutes for a table.
I had a pot of Earl Grey tea & SP had the Tea of the Day, a Blueberry Hibiscus iced tea that was a very vivid, beautiful color. And yummy.
SP got the Pancake of the Day Platter. The pancakes were pumpkin spice and he chose sausage. He said they were delicious pancakes.
I chose the Pioneer Pancake Platter - A short stack of two San Antonio River Mill Brand Sweet Cream pancakes with your choice of Applewood smoked bacon, pork sausage patties or chicken sausage links. Served with fresh seasonal fruit. I chose bacon. These were tasty pancakes, but I didn't receive any butter and some butter in addition to the syrup would have been nice. I'm not a big syrup person.

We got an order of Apple Strudel to take back to the hotel. I didn't take a photo of it, but it was really tasty apple strudel.

We both really liked our brunch at Guenther House. Despite the heat, it was pretty comfortable outside on the covered patio. It was definitely relaxing. Our server was terrific. I'd definitely go back next time we're in San Antonio.

Monday, November 18, 2019


Schilo's is the oldest restaurant in San Antonio. It started in the 1900's as a saloon in Beeville, TX.  moved to San Antonio in 1914, and started serving food in 1917. It also is SP's friend's favorite restaurant in San Antonio. They don't take reservations and are only open for dinner on Friday & Saturday. We didn't think we were going to have time to try Schilo's, but since our Friday in San Antonio was very windy, the roller coasters weren't running, so we didn't go to the park and instead spent the day wandering around, trying to stay warm, and stopping at Schilo's for dinner.
They are famous for their homemade root beer, so of course I had to try it. Root beer has always been my favorite soda.
You can try a root beer cocktail or order a root beer float but I opted for a mug of root beer with one free refill. It was really good root beer! I rarely if ever drink soda these days because I don't like carbonated beverages (or all the sugar or other not great for you ingredients). I thought it was very flavorful and it seemed less carbonated than most soda, which I appreciated. SP helped me drink it since he wanted to try it and ended up really liking it. We drank two mugs of root beer. He also had a beer.
SP started with Famous Split Pea Soup. He said it was delicious. I do not like split pea soup.
While he slurped soup, I munched on a Garden Salad, which was good.
SP chose the Sausage Platter (choice of one, two, or three sausages served with bread and a side of your choice). He chose Bratwurst and Cheddarwurst plus a side of sauerkraut. I didn't try the sausage (which he really liked) but I loved the brown bread. I think I ate all his brown bread.
I chose Schweineschnitzel (breaded and pan-fried pork-loin) and German Potato Salad for the side. The schnitzel was yummy. I wasn't a big fan of the potato salad, but that's because if it's not my family's German Potato Salad, well, that one is the best ever and nothing else can compare!

We both liked Schilo's. Super casual and fun, old-fashioned inside but I like that kind of charm. Tasty food, really good root beer. We'd go back next time we're in San Antonio.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Alta Via Brunch

Last Sunday we used my Big Burrito Birthday Coupon to go to brunch at Alta Via. It was out second time there. We really liked our pasta dinner on our first visit. Here's what we enjoyed at brunch:
Brunch Cocktails: Bloody Mary and Prosecco & Strawberry. I really enjoyed my strawberry "mimosa."
Cacio e Pepe Biscuits (charred scallion butter, peach jam). So good.
Waffle (orange marmellata, whipped mascarpone, maple syrup). Sweet & yummy.
I had Alta Via Breakfast (two eggs, crispy parmesan potatoes, leeks, toast. choice of: peppered bacon, housemade sausage, or grilled mushrooms). I got my eggs scrambled and chose the bacon. It was a lot of food! Tasty. Really good scrambled eggs. I took the potatoes home and ate them at dinner.
SP chose Mushrooms (smoked mozzarella, sunny side up eggs, pine nut-parsley pesto, crispy sage). He said it was delicious.
The same dessert I got last time: Hazelnut-Chocolate Torte (hazelnut-chocolate mousse, chocolate genoise, chocolate curls). So good.

I wanted breakfast food but they also offer several pasta dishes, and yes, they were really tempting, but I decided I could not order exactly what I ordered on our first visit. Like at the other Big Burrito restaurants, service is terrific. The food was yummy and we waddled out, our bellies full, ready to go home and watch the Steelers game.

Previous Visit:
July 2019

Friday, November 15, 2019

Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery

We met one of SP's coaster friends for dinner one night on vacation. We wanted to check out the Pearl District so we met up at Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery which is a place I've read about in my food magazines. Here's what we drank & ate:
Kellerleigh Bier (A Classic Example of an unfiltered German Hybrid. Bright Bread Forward, Hints of Citrus Zest) for him, my first ever Frosé (frozen rosé). I liked my drink but you have to drink it before it starts to melt and turn watery.
We started with Pimiento Cheese (Giardiniera, House Crostini). I liked the cheese a lot, the crostini were a little hard for me.
For his meal, SP chose Southerleigh's Famous Fried Snapper Throats (Crystal Aioli, Creole Mustard Remoulade). He really liked them. There was a lot there.
I opted for Iced Jumbo Gulf Shrimp, 6 pieces (Fresh Horseradish Cocktail Sauce, Comeback Sauce, Lemon). I was disappointed. I expected Jumbo Gulf Shrimp to be much more flavorful. Also, it looked to me like they could have been cleaned better. I spent some time digging out the "veins" I saw in several shrimp and that did not make me happy.
SP ordered two sides: Old Fashioned Corn Bread and Stewed Green Beans. He liked both but raved about the cornbread.
With my shrimp, I ordered Homemade Ricotta (Comfort Grown Tomatoes, Arugula, Toast). It was excellent and filling. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but there was almost too much cheese! Also, the was the other place that seemed heavy on the pepper. Much like the asparagus at Bella on Houston, the ricotta and greens were peppered a bit too much for my taste.

SP's friend had a beer and Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes. It looked yummy, and he said it was. I didn't take photos of his food. We all were too full for dessert.

Overall, we enjoyed our meal at Southerleigh. It's a casual and fun place. Our server was terrific. The food was yummy, I just wish my shrimp had been better cleaned and tasted better.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

I know it's November in Pittsburgh and I remember snow on my birthday at times throughout the years but I still believe snow has no business falling before December. That being said, it was kind of pretty outside this past Tuesday. But I'm not ready for this cold weather.

My birthday was last Friday. We didn't do anything on Friday but on Saturday we had dinner at Poulet Bleu and on Sunday we had brunch at Alta Via. SP got me a Bethel Bakery cake, so that was yummy. Chocolate with raspberry filling.

What We're Eating:

  • Baked Chicken Breasts and Salad
  • Meatloaf and Salad
  • Dessert: Birthday Cake

What We're Watching:

  • For my birthday weekend, we binged Peaky Blinders Season 5. I really enjoyed it but it ended on a cliffhanger and I really want to know who betrayed Tommy! But I have to wait for Season 6 and who knows when that will be.
  • We watched most of the Steelers game. Why do they make it so stressful?! Why does it seem like they're trying to find a way to lose?!
  • We watched Great British Baking Show Holidays episodes. I kind of want to try the Leaf Bread (Laufabrauð). It's like a flatbread, made of a thin, waferlike dough and is a holiday tradition in Iceland. 
  • I watched The Favourite and thought it was excellent. Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz were terrific.

What I'm Reading:
The Deserter by Nelson DeMille. It was good, but the new lead male character seemed like a re-named, different government job version of John Corey.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Poulet Bleu

Last weekend we celebrated my birthday with dinner at Poulet Bleu, one of our favorite restaurants.  i actually made the reservation back in September, I think, because we had wanted to try to enjoy the outdoor seating before the cold weather arrived, but the earliest Saturday reservation I could get was November 1, We already had plans, so I made a reservation for November 9 and told SP that it would be my birthday dinner. Here's what we enjoyed:
A french Sauvignon Blanc for me and a French 75 (French Gin / Lemon / Gomme Sparkling wine) for SP.

We ordered the French Onion Soup and they split it for us, which was very nice. I didn't take a photo. It was as cheesy and delicious as it usually is.
We shared Brussels Sprouts (brown butter, bacon jam) that were delicious.
As always SP had Trout Almondine (Laurel Hill trout, haricot vert, brown butter, almonds, capers).
Last time we were there I tried Scallops St Jacques and they were so darn good that I ordered them again this time. They are nestled in vermouth, cream, parmesan, espelette and there is bread to sop up the sauce.
We did not need the Aligot Potatoes but we wanted the Aligot Potatoes. So cheesy and buttery. So good.
Much as I like chocolate mousse and beignets, I cannot pass up the Grand Marnier Souffle, available only on Saturdays (and maybe Fridays, too? Or Sundays? Point is, it's not a daily dessert.). It was served with vanilla ice cream, cranberries, and creme anglaise. Yum!

Service is always terrific, the meal is always nicely paced, and the food is always yummy. I'm already looking forward to our next trip. The only thing I wish is for easier parking. Even with an early reservation, parking along Butler Street was filled, including the one handicapped spot in front of Poulet Bleu & Morcilla (one of our other favorite places; they're next to each other), and it's always tough for us because we need to be sure to find parking along a low curb for getting me in/out with the wheelchair. We ended up parking 2 blocks away and had a bit of a tough walk up to Butler because the side streets are a bit steep and have terrible, horrid, uneven sidewalks which makes them difficult with the wheelchair. Good thing it's worth the parking difficulties!

Previous Visits:
September 2018