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Archive for March, 2009

Current Dinner Favorite

So I am on a new kick – eat more vegetables! They are still not my favorite but this after work/after gym wrap is something I keep coming back to…

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Components:

TJs whole wheat tortilla

Homemade hummus

Handful of mixed greens

Lightly sauteed red onion and mushroom

Crumbled goat cheese

Drizzle of balsamic vinegar

The heat of the sauteed veggies gets everything toasty, melty, and delicious.

However, I was upset to realize an aged balsamic I purchased at PennMac has officially gone missing. I did a thorough search last night and could not locate it. Sigh. How does a bottle of balsamic vinegar disappear ? I do some shuffling of ingredients between my place and The Boy’s place, but still. Ridiculous. Oh well, it still tasted lovely drizzled with some average BV.

The Boy is having a wonderful time eating his heart out in India.  He is an adventurous eater and I LUVS IT.

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I have visited Crepes Parisiennes at 732 Filbert St. in Shadyside a handful of times (there is also a location at 207 S Craig St in Oakland – I have never been). When friends suggested meeting for brunch this past Sunday, I dined there yet again.

I had heard the ‘Crepe Place’, as many people call it, had sporadic hours. We planned to meet at 10:00AM and I hoped it was open. A few weekends ago I arrived on a Saturday morning to find a sign proclaiming the whole place was closed for the weekend. Bummer (but, I mean, nothing The Bagel Factory – 5825 Ellsworth Ave – couldn’t fix). But Sunday morning we arrived around 10:30AM and found employees, crepes, no line, and ample seating.

This is a tiny joint, almost underground. You descend four or five narrow steps to get inside. The seating policy does not allow you to grab a table until you have placed your orders.  The front counter appears to somewhat regulate the flow of customers (seemingly slowing down or speeding up) so that everyone can find a seat once they order. You sit and they will bring the food to you.  I have never waited more than a few minutes for a table. On the contrary, I have never felt I had to quickly vacate my seat after eating.  However, I would not recommend taking a big group here. The place certainly filled up as the morning progressed.

Now to the crepes. The menu includes both sweet and savory crepes. Savory crepes come with a small side salad composed of mixed greens and your choice of sauce. Most sweet crepes come with whipped cream, walnuts, and maple syrup. Sweet delicious real maple syrup. I ordered the plain crepe. It was soft, chewy, eggy. Really delicious. Plenty of maple syrup and crunchy walnuts completed the dish.

Other crepe favorites include nutella and banana and ‘french toast’ (an egg is added inside the crepe, leading to a richer, heavier feel). I have also sampled the savory crepes and enjoyed them. My friends rave of the soytang sauce.

This place is unique and will not leave you feeling quite as leaden as Pamela’s. The seating and space is limited and this should likely be considered. Also, its only crepes – no other menu options. Yet it is definitely worth a try and I find myself craving that thin crepe/maple syrup combo.

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The Blob

Finally, an occasion to make a cake! A family birthday ushered in my chance to prepare a baked good I rarely dance with.  I am a city gal with a road warrior BF and therefore it NEVER makes sense for me to make a big cake. Like I need an entire cake sitting in the fridge, waiting to die a slow death as I sliver away at it.  Get real.

I was aware of the Double Chocolate Layer Cake, infamous over at Epicurious. See recipe here. Tons of positive and spirited reviews, so I went with it. And it uses lots of yummy chocolate. I used Hershey Extra Dark.

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Disclaimer: I am not an experienced cake baker.  Therefore, I followed the recipe closely. I did use canola oil instead of vegetable oil.  Also, I realized I only owned two 9 inch pans. Solution: dump the remainder of the batter into some mini muffin tins. 

There was a ton of batter. I likely (well not ‘likely’, ‘did’) overfill the cake pans. This resulted in a lovely molten chocolate waterfall cascading on to the bottom of my oven. The cake in the mini muffin tins tasted good but looked kind of weird and refused to dislodge itself from the tins. Uh oh. As I have had a ‘weird’ (I previously described it as ‘pocky’) look to alot of my baked goods recently, I am thinking I need some new baking powder??

Since the pans overflowed, the cakes came out lopsided and with misshapen tops. I did get the layers out of the pans but when I tried to trim the cakes, big hunks were breaking off. Oh Jesus help me.

I also may have slightly undercooked the cakes. Really I have no freakin’ clue. I soldiered on. The icing actually came together fairly easily. I let it sit in the fridge a bit to firm up.

I wrestled the layers onto a cake plate. Here is the lady from her good side.

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I tried to save the thing with icing but it was tough. I do own an offset spatula but still dont really know how to ice a cake.  I tried my best but the poor darling looked like it had a growth. That is why I christened it ‘The Blob’.

Unflattering photo of 'The Blob'

Unflattering photo of 'The Blob'

But I guess it wasn’t too bad.

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The cake was super rich and did taste divine. Rich, dark, dense, moist. I just don’t know what happened to my layers? They puffed and overflowed and then sank. They were resistant to any type of trimming. The cake did cut/serve ok after a rest in the fridge. And a few forkfuls still tasted sweet and intense at 7am this morning. Oh Blob, you are so bad your good.

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Review: Starbuck’s Oatmeal

Friday was busy busy with The Boy heading off to India and what not. This is how I found myself relying on Starbuck’s for breakfast. As I waited in line, I noticed they had a new ‘deal’ going on – a tall latte and either oatmeal or reduced fat cinnamon coffee cake for $3.95. Trying to do the math in my head and decide if I even wanted a latte or not, I just went for it.  They include nuts, dried fruit, and brown sugar ( all in individual packets) with the oatmeal.

Well, I was dissappointed.  Shocker. The nuts tasted rancid. I realized this after I dumped the packet into my oats. Taking it back was just too much effort. Blah. Maybe if I hadn’t had the nut issue? The dried fruit was a nice little mix and tasted fresh.

I wouldn’t order this again. I should have went with the coffee cake. Thats what I get for trying to be healthy.

Apparently, Starbucks has some other $3.95 breakfast pairings on the table. The ‘bucks I frequent does not carry the breakfast sandwiches.

Don’t worry, I supplemented the blech breaky a few hours (minutes?) later with some Thin Mints.

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Kassab’s (Middle Eastern influence) is located at 1207 E Carson Street. I had dinner here about 2 weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised. The place was about half full on a snowy weeknight evening. Its a casual spot – clean and airy though. Our table had hummus and meat stuffed grape leaves to start. I thought I was not a fan of grape leaves (most I have had were kind of dry) but these were moist, light, aromatic. Hummus was solid. Entrees ordered included a lamb shank special and the grilled lamb sandwich. We had a ton of food, enjoyed everything, took advantage of the ‘no-corking fee’ there and had a lovely evening. Bill was under $30 for 2.

To note, I then returned to Kassab’s for lunch a few days later. I was underwhelmed by the chicken schwarma sandwich. Chicken was very dry, tahini sauce was sparse. The sandwich arrived at the table so quickly that I suspected it had been prepped hours beforehand.  However, mi amigo enjoyed his grilled lamb sandwich.

To recap, I recommend the lamb shank, the grilled lamb sandwich, grape leaves, and hummus. And I will return.

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I have been saving up chic homemade items for some time in anticipation of starting a blog.  So I am spitting them all out now, fast and furious. Here is to hoping I don’t just purge this out of my system and then dissappear for months.

So the other evening, The Boy made veal parm. He is a wonderful cook and makes me all kinds of fantabulous Italian food. He also whipped up some ‘orzotto’. This turned out surprisingly well. Here is the sauce simmering away on my ancient stove.

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As he embarked on his whirwind tour of Italy, I decided to make oatmeal cookies. And what the hell, why not make ice cream to stuff inside these babies.

I used this oatmeal cookie recipe (substituting butterscotch chips for pecans and raisins for cranberries). And this ice cream recipe. Apparently Lebovitz is The God of Ice Cream so I bowed my head and followed his lead. This was the best ice cream I have made to date. The ice cream maker and I have had an on/off relationship, usually because he dissappointed me over and over. But alas, I realized I was not cooking my custard base long enough! I got it nice and thick and this significantly improved the texture of the ice cream. Woohoo!

The cookies were a bit too sweet and looked a little weird coming out of the oven (pocky? if thats a word). I should have cut down the sugar considering the b-scotch chips. Oh well.

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I made the sammies, individually wrapped them, and jammed them in the freezer.

That night after dinner I was a bit too full to actually partake in this healthy oat and dairy based dessert (totally, as if). However, I did nibble one last night and they are damn tasty. The stay in the freezer cut the sweetness of the cookies and they were the right texture to still be chewy. Mmmm.

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I also plan to dabble in resto reviews here on the blog-o. I eat alot in the city and find its hard to find recent or relevant updates on places. So here I go. Note: not so into taking pics at restaurants. Maybe this will change but not at the moment.

Folino’s is an Italian joint located on E Carson Street in the Southside. It is adjoining Young’s Tavern and kinda sorta Tom’s Diner. According to the Folino’s website all establishments are owned by the same family. And everyone remembers this incident, right? Fab.

We had a large group and no reservations for a Friday night – luckily Folino’s was able to accomodate. Not sure if this is a good or bad thing but we went with it. All pastas and entress were served with soup or salad and bread, which is nice. Service was fairly attentive. Fueled by wine (and maybe a few Fatheads brews) the group overwhelmingly enjoyed their meals. As it was a Friday during Lent, we had a few non meat eaters – not a ton of options on the menu for them – but a few settled on ravioli, a few on shrimp scampi, one on a salmon caesar (moi) and the kitchen even whipped up an alfredo for another (not on the menu). A few plates were sent back for reheating – perplexing, given that the restaurant wasn’t full. Oh well.

This is definitely a red sauce joint. Several dishes (gnocchi, rav) did taste homemade, which was refreshing. Salads were surprisingly large and fresh. Price point works. If you don’t want to wait 3 hours for a table at Fatheads, check out Folino’s.

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