Friday, May 31, 2019

Mixed Berry Scones

Despite both of us really liking scones, we have baked them only twice in the 12 years we've been together. The first time was 6 years ago when we made Glazed Lemon Ginger Scones. The second time was last weekend when we made Mixed Berry Scones from the June/July 2019 issue of Cook's Country.
Our bag of frozen mixed berries had strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. They're pretty easy to make. Almost like making muffins (combine dry, add berries, add wet) except for the very brief amount of kneading. Shaping the scones is easy, too, much easier than rolling out dough, because you just pat the dough into a rectangle and then cut it into 8 wedges.
These were so good. The butter-honey glaze that is brushed on top before the last 5-8 minutes of baking is yummy, too. We considered not bothering with the glaze, but it was definitely worth the extra bit of effort.
The recipe makes 8 scones. We thought they were on the large size of scones. After eating two as a morning treat the day we baked them, we ate them for dessert during the week. They keep OK. They're best the first day, pretty good the second day, and then after that just OK. after day one, we reheated them for about 5 minutes in the toaster oven. I think next time it might be a good idea to try freezing a few of the baked and cooled scones.
Definitely a make again scone.

Recipe here: Mixed Berry Scones.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

Yesterday the new fans and entry light were installed plus some other electrical things were fixed. Yay! The new lights look much better. I wish we'd done it sooner. On the "not yay" side, the old fans were larger than the new ones for the part attached to the ceiling so now there's a 2" circle of exposed, dirty, not-so-white ceiling. That means now we have to paint the sunroom ceiling. Ugh! Fix one issue and create another!

Super excited about the repaired front outdoor outlet. And super happy we swapped the dining room rocker switches for toggle switches. It took 2 pros 2.5 hours so I'm glad we paid to have all this work done instead of tackling it ourselves.

This past weekend we swapped the winter bedding for the summer bedding. The flannel sheets are washed and put away. The down comforter is put away. The winter pajamas are also tucked away and the summer nightgowns are out. All this means it'll probably get cold soon!

SP got our herbs planted. Just mint, basil, tarragon, thyme, and chives this year. He also cleaned up the garden boxes and planted out zucchini & tomato plants. Hopefully everything will grow better this year than it did last year.

What We're Eating:

  • Chicken Agrodolce with Fried Green Tomatoes & Side Salad
  • Brie-Turkey-Apple-Mustard Panini
  • Dessert: Mixed Berry Scones

What We're Watching:

  • We started watching Chernobyl and quickly got through the first four episodes. It's very well done and horrifying. That dosimeter sound haunts me. 
  • I hope that next week on Amazing Race the teams vote for my least favorite team to be U-Turned.
  • We finished Bodyguard on Netflix. It's worth watching.
  • Killing Eve. Crazy. I guess they're even now?! Can't wait to see what they come up with for Season 3. 

What I'm Reading:

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

De Koperen Ketel

De Koperen Ketel was our second visit to a restaurant serving Dutch cuisine when we were in Amsterdam. We went in the middle of the week and called first to make sure they could seat us.
Once again, people were very friendly and helpful. Inside was cozy and comfortable. It was like The Pantry with blue & white pottery and paintings on the walls, but it was more spacious inside.
Beverages: Ginever for SP, white wine for me.
This was SP's first time trying ginever (jenever). Ginever is a juniper flavored national/traditional liquor of the Netherlands and Belgium and I think what we consider gin evolved from ginever.
SP chose Berry Ginever. He liked it, saying it had a light berry flavor. 

Here's what we ate:
SP started with Smoked Eel on Toast.
I started with Goat Cheese Croquette. I loved all the goat cheese croquette in Amsterdam.
We both decided to try stamppot, a traditional Dutch dish made from a combination of potatoes mashed with one or several vegetables and served with sausage/bacon/meatball. Specifically, SP chose Zuurkool (mashed potatoes with sauerkraut) and he chose sausage.
I chose Hutspot (mashed potato with carrots and onions) with bacon. They were huge mounds of potatoes but were so tasty. The meat was good, too, but it was the mashed potato-carrot-onion mound to which I kept dipping my fork.
We didn't finish our potato mounds because we wanted dessert: Poffertjes small pancakes with powdered sugar and butter
Huge mound of butter in the middle! These were yummy. Poffertjes quickly became a favorite of mine.

We really liked De Koperen Ketel (The Copper Kettle). The stamppot was delicious and filling. Our server was very nice and chatted with us. I recall a 1-2 very small steps/threshhold bumps to get into the restaurant; there also were a few outdoor tables but it was a pretty damp and chilly evening. Plus, I liked the cozy, dim, inviting interior. We'd definitely go back.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Warren Bar and Burrow

Last weekend after seeing Dear Evan Hansen, we went to dinner with R&S to a new-to-all-four-of-us place: The Warren. It's next to the Benedum (DEH was at Heinz Hall) and opened in February 2018. I didn't know anything about The Warren other than its location and that it doesn't take reservations.

Maybe we should have done some research because it turns out The Warren is not wheelchair accessible when you enter. There are 2 steps up to the bar/restaurant. Fortunately, we were able to walk around the corner and enter through a side entrance. We thought they were going to open it for us (it was locked) and we waited & waited before texting R&S who came and opened the door from inside. It's not super accessible even in the food/drink area since there are only high top tables and booths. SP helped me slide into a booth. It was nice to sit right next to an open window and people watch.
R quickly chose her beverage. I forget what it was (other than a gin cocktail) but it came in a Christmas-y Holly Hobbie glass. Side note: I loved Holly Hobbie when I was a little girl.

It took me a while to figure out my beverage because the whole menu contraption sort of befuddled me. It's a metal case (book?) that you open and then on the right side there's a clipboard of sorts that flips down & lists the sushi/sashimi options on the front and back. There's also another menu of the bar food, behind the flip part & secured under a clip. On the left side, specials are on a small sheet of paper attached to a thin metal strip and then behind the strip should be the drink menu, I think, but my metal case lacked a drink menu so I had to wait for SP to finish studying his.
For our drinks, SP chose Son of A Sailor (gin, cucumber, lime, spicy) and I chose Say No To This (vodka, tea, red bubbles). His came in a tiki glass and I got a Christmas glass. I really liked mine but I didn't quite understand the Christmas glass thing. 
I liked my cocktail so much I ordered another. For his second, SP chose Bing & Ella (gin, citrus). I had a hard time with the cocktail descriptions since they don't list the actual liquor, just a flavor description, and I really don't like gin and tequila. We asked a lot of questions.

Here's what we ate:
Spicy Yellowtail Roll. SP said it was yummy.
We shared Crab Rangoon Dip (lump crab, crab surimi, cream cheese, peppers, scallions, wonton chips). This was really yummy. Also, I really like crispy wonton chips. A lot. Next time I might order my own and not share with SP.
I also ordered a Cheesesteak Wrap with fries and cole slaw, marinated steak, horseradish, and served with ranch on the side.
It was enormous. I could eat only half & I took the other half home. It was yummy.
SP made me feel very unhealthy when he ordered The Warren Salad (watermelon, arugula, radish). R ordered this salad, too, but S ordered a burger, so I felt better.

We liked our cocktails and our food, but honestly, I was a wee bit confused by The Warren. There's a lot of sushi/sashimi but also burgers, a wrap, and online were some hot dog creations & a po' boy which were not on the menu when we went, much to S's dismay. So while writing this post, I did a little research:

  • Spencer Warren is a local cocktail specialist who made a name for himself with craft creations at his previous bar, Embury, which is now closed and which we sadly did not get to try (it was in The Strip's Firehouse Lounge).
  • Warren helped establish the Pittsburgh chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild. 
  • He also started the holiday themed Miracle pop-up bar, which might explain the Christmas glasses. 
  • And he started this bar, The Warren Bar & Burrow.
  • The Warren is partnered with/related to Penn Cove Eatery, which is next door and which is from the Penn Avenue Fish Co. people. This explains the sushi menu.
  • The reason there is no liquor listed in the cocktail description is because people think they don't like an ingredient, like gin, simply because they had a bad gin & tonic in college and they remember the bad gin taste but his cocktails bring out the tasty flavors of the gin (or whatever liquor). So focus on the flavor profile, not the liquor.

My final take is that The Warren is primarily a bar that serves yummy and affordable cocktails sometimes in Christmas glasses. It also serves food, both from Penn Cove Eatery and their own chef. The crab rangoon dip is super yummy. Service is friendly. We were not rushed. It was really nice to hang out on a warm May day next to a huge open window (door?) and people/vehicle watch. We'd go back.

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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

We have our new sunroom fans, and we have a new entryway light, now we just have to wait for the electrician next week. They will also (hopefully) fix the front outside outlet that hasn't worked in 2-3 years.

We planted flowers last weekend, and SP did some weeding, so the yard is looking better. The yard guys mowed today and sprayed weed killer. If only the grasses, catmint, and other pretty stuff would stop growing so darn fast! SP also got out and washed the patio furniture. We stored the chairs and chaise lounges inside but left the table out over the winter. Oh my gosh the table was coated in so much pollen. It was disgusting. I didn't even want to go on the deck.

Why do people post photos of themselves in restaurant reviews on Yelp/TripAdvisor? Annoys me so much. I don't understand it.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • Only 1 more episode of Killing Eve. Love this show.
  • Game of Thrones ended. I didn't like the ending at first, but the more I mulled it over, the more I liked it and think it's a fitting ending. I'm not sure there was a better choice for King, it had to be a main character, right? I also expected the Dany-Jon thing, so I'm not with those fans who are so outraged and demanding a re-do. I was wrong about Tyrion's fate. And I came to dislike Grey Worm. I didn't cry the night it aired but 2 days later I re-watched the episode and I cried 7 tissues worth of tears at the end-?!
  • We started Bodyguard on Netflix and are enjoying it. We've watched 2 of the 6 episodes so far.
  • I watched a movie: Boy Erased. It was very good, but also maddening, sad, bittersweet, hopeful. 
  • Amazing Race was fun. I liked seeing them run around in those dinosaur costumes! One of my two least favorite teams was eliminated, so that was good. If only the other one would get eliminated, too. Maybe next week.

What I'm Reading:
The usual.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Pantry

We didn't have a bad meal in Amsterdam but I think my favorite might have been the one we ate at The Pantry. Maybe because it was our first Dutch food restaurant, maybe because I loved the narrow, cozy, dimly lit interior with wood tables and blue & white plates on the walls, maybe because service was terrific.
We made reservations for Sunday at 6 pm. You might be able to walk in and get a table but I doubt it. Making a reservation is highly suggested. A lot of people were turned away while we were there. The restaurant is in the Leidseplein area. We walked there from the Van Gogh Museum.
SP had beer, I had white wine, and we ordered tap water but received bottled (I think the server misunderstood us, or maybe they don't serve tap water, but no big deal).

Here's what we ate:
Dutch shrimp croquettes (with a home made cocktail sauce). Turns out I'm not a big fan of shrimp croquette. SP loved them.
I am a huge fan of Dutch goat cheese croquettes (with small salad with honey mustard dressing). So good.
SP ordered Fillet of Sea bass steamed with fresh green herbs (with mashed potatoes and vegetables). He enjoyed it, even eating all the potato, which is unusual for him.
I chose Typical Dutch Ham (450 grams, warm with a honey mustard sauce, fries and salad). This was not what I expected! I expected a slab, like ham steak. The ham easily pulled away from the bone and was delicious. Even more delicious with the amazing mustard sauce. I couldn't get enough of the mustard sauce! I needed some help to finish the ham, I ate all the salad, but the fries were untouched.
Our server was impressed with how much ham I ate!
We ordered hot tea with dessert:
Poffertjes (mini pancakes served with butter and powdered sugar). These mini pancakes are so good! These were our first poffertjes in Amsterdam but were not our last.

We highly recommend The Pantry. Just be sure to make a reservation. Super friendly & helpful service, delicious food, great atmosphere.

*There is a small step to get inside. The doorway was large enough for my wheelchair (24") with space to spare (I think the doorway width is about 2.6 feet) but a really wide one would likely not fit. Make sure to let them know if you are in a  wheelchair so they can reserve a table close to the door. Otherwise, it would be difficult to maneuver to a table and in/out since it's a narrow building and a narrow path from front to back. Restrooms are not on the main level.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

After writing last week about wanting to finally get new ceiling fans in the sunroom, we went shopping. We drove to a "real" lighting store. We had measured the fans before we left. We were looking for two 40"-42" fans, possibly going up to 44". Turns out that is not so easy to find. Well, not in a style I like. Lots of good styles in 52"+ but not in the smaller size. The "real" lighting store was not helpful, which I found very disappointing, so we went to Lowe's. I found an acceptable style in 44" but of course they only had one in stock. They checked inventory at other stores and suggested we try going to those stores. I was surprised because I thought Lowe's offered free delivery to a store, you pick up, but that wasn't offered to us. So we came home, looked it all up online, and ordered the two fans for delivery to our store and SP picked them up yesterday.

Now we have to get an electrician to install them. There's no way we are tacking this ourselves. One, SP is no longer comfortable standing on a ladder craning his neck up at a ceiling, it makes him kind of dizzy. Two, we're not wasting time trying to level a fan/make sure it's not vibrating or something. That part sounds like a recipe for way too much frustration leading to marital bickering. And three, I'll kill SP if he does something wrong and the fan crashes down on the tile floor and breaks a tile or crashes onto the coffee table and cracks the glass top. Better to make the professionals responsible!

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • Agents of SHIELD is back. I wasn't very excited. But we watched. It's better than I expected, so I'll keep watching for now. I was ready to quit a couple seasons ago.
  • The final episode of Game of Thrones airs this Sunday. I'm disappointed in the negative reactions to this season. I'm especially disappointed in those fans signing a petition to have HBO remake season 8 with new writers. Seriously. Unbelievable. I fully expected Dany to do what she did. If you didn't, I have to wonder what show you've been watching for the past 7 seasons. There are many examples through her words and/or actions that she could, as Varys said, have her coin land with the wrong side up. Aside from her words/actions in the first 7 seasons, did everyone forget the visions both Dany & Bran had? What did they think caused the destruction to the throne room in the visions? Did they never consider that the snow was actually ash? It's GoT and Martin never seems to go the happy, obvious route. This is why I doubt Jon sits on the throne. Martin has said the main characters end up where they're supposed to end up, so it's not like the HBO writers went in a different direction and changed Dany. I've heard from people who read the books that they were never in doubt about Dany and how her coin lands. That being said, seasons 7 & 8 do feel kind of rushed, but there is so much material and ground to cover in just 6 episodes each season and so many characters to follow/wrap up stories. Also, just because you despise a character and want them to die a horrible death doesn't mean they will. Perhaps instead of looking at is as unsatisfying, look at it as the character died, buried beneath the collapsing rubble of the web of lies and deceit and horrible actions they spun? Just because a character "abandoned" a stated mission doesn't mean the character went backwards. Perhaps the character was smart enough to know the target would die anyway and the character chose life over revenge and certain death?

What I'm Reading:

  • Magazines!
  • I read Noble Beginnings from L.T. Ryan. It was pretty good. A very fast read. I'd like to read all the books from Ryan, but it looks like the library doesn't have all of them. I did request Book #2, so maybe I'll just read as many as I can.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Ivy & Bros

On our first full day in Amsterdam, after our 4 hour walking tour, we were hungry. We decided to try Ivy & Bros, which was fairly close to our hotel. Sadly, all the outdoor seats on that sunny day were taken, but we were able to sit just inside the open front door in the sunshine. We tried the iced tea:
Oh my gosh this iced tea is so good. Maybe the best iced tea I've ever had? Or maybe it was so good because it wasn't plain tea. It had spices in it plus an orange wedge and fresh mint.
We could have guzzled many, many glasses of it.

Here's what we ate:
SP ordered Burrata Salad with grilled vegetables (pumpkin, zucchini, eggplant, red onion), watercress, lettuce, tomato, romesco sauce, brown bread. He said it was excellent.
I chose Avocado, Bacon, Cheese Open Sandwich with tomato & lettuce. This was really good. The brown bread here, as everywhere in Amsterdam that I ate it, was delicious. Not like the squishy not-so-healthy stuff here in the US and not as hearty & seedy & heavy/dense as the "better" brown breads we buy here.
We went to Ivy & Bros two or three times. On one visit, SP ordered the Soup of the Day, a Tomato Soup. He liked it, but it wasn't tomato soup like we expected, it had a lot of potato, which he wasn't expecting. It was a huge and filling serving.

We really liked this place. The food was delicious. Service was always friendly, maybe a little slow one day, but when you're sitting in the sunshine by a canal in Amsterdam on vacation, why rush?

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Lobby Nesplein

Our first day in Amsterdam we were pretty tired after the overnight flight. We knew we wanted to eat early-ish so we could go to sleep early-ish. At the same time, we were not very hungry. But we set off anyway, to find dinner at Bierfabriek, a place where "we brew our own beer and serve rustic dishes" and the star of our menu is "our free range, slow roasted, chicken." Sadly, they are not wheelchair accessible. The entry, if I correctly recall, had more than 1 step and SP said that after he went inside, there were even more steps. So we went to our back up plan: The Lobby Nesplein in the Hotel V Nesplein.

That turned into quite the adventure as the road/sidewalk leading to it were under constriction with these weird not quite plywood boards plopped all over the road and non-existent curb cuts and mud and ugh. Finally SP left me and went to scout ahead. When he returned, he said that he had gone in to talk to them, he thought he could get me there, we'd have to go in a side entrance and sit in the bar area because there was a pretty big step otherwise. So off we went.
We were seated near the door through which we entered, next to a globe filled with booze. It was a cozy area and everyone was very friendly. They told us up front that they needed our table by 7 pm and we assured them that wasn't a problem (it was around 5:30 pm).

Gin & Tonic for SP. A glass of sauvignon blanc from Touraine for me.

It was definitely not a healthy dinner. It was a dinner of Dutch bar food. First up, Kaasstengels:
Cheese fingers - fried phyllo wrapped cheese. So good.
Beef Bitterballen. Yum!
Breaded & fried meatball. It was served with a mustard sauce, so good.
Finally, Flammkuchen. I think it was arugula, hazelnuts, and bacon. Very tasty.
After making sure we still had time, we ordered hot tea and dessert: Apple Tart.
I don't remember the description, and of course in the last month the desserts on their website have changed, but it was a thin cake layer topped with sauteed apples, then a crumble, then ice cream, then finally topped with an apple chip, all sitting in a pool of caramel sauce. I think the apple chip was my favorite part. It was a really, really good dessert. And so pretty. I felt bad digging into & destroying the pretty apple tower.
We meant to go back before we left Amsterdam but we never got there. Even though we just ate bar food in the bar area, it was a really nice experience, relaxing, good food, good service. Definitely try The Lobby Nesplein if you're in Amsterdam.