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Archive for September, 2009

Total Tuesday: Tidbits

Instead of documenting all my eats, I have decided to go a different route on this rainy, cool, windy Tuesday – a ’round up’ of all the various foodie and Pittsburgh related events or moments I have heard off/read about/experienced over the last few weeks.

  • Return trip to Yo Rita – Southside

After a so-so first visit, The Boy and I returned to Yo Rita (1120 East Carson Street) on another Sunday night. To note, I appreciate the Sunday night hours. Sunday nights always seems like a great time to squeeze in a dinner out. However, many independent places are closed. I realize these people work crazy hours and need their downtime and Sunday night is likely slow. Its just nice to have a Sunday night option though!

Anyway, our return trip provided the same great food and much better service. I had the pork taco and The Boy had a soft shell crab taco and a veal tongue taco. The veal tongue was awesome – tender, filling. I was expecting a chewy texture but got none of that. The Boy was loving everything and we will be back!

  • Sushi Bar at Wholey’s – Strip District

Right as you enter Wholey’s (fish market in the Strip – 1711 Penn Ave) you will see the smiling face of Andy behind the sushi bar. He will make you just about anything for a pretty decent price. If you would like, you can even take your sushi upstairs (not a glam setting, but does the trick) and eat in house. This is pretty tasty sushi – maybe not the best I have ever had but quick, fresh, satisfying. (Note: Penn Avenue Fish Company is another great Strip District spot for sushi – it may just edge out Wholey’s but its hours are more limited- check out my previous reviews here and here).

  • Pittsburgh Local Restaurant Week – October 12-18, 2009

I stumbled across information on this event while trying to see if Pittsburgh was having a Restaurant Week this fall (I can never remember the dates of this and vaguely remember there being two last year?). Anyway, the website seems a bit bare but perhaps more restaurants will sign up soon? I would love to support this.

  • Dozen Cupcakes comes to Southside!

I found out about this article via some Twitter action by the man behind Foodburgh. I think the Southside could definitely use and support a place like this. Don’t get me wrong, I love the bar scene dahn the Sahside- however, I think the area could use some more places like bakeries, delis, cafés, etc. Often, The Boy and I struggle to find somewhere to get a tasty brunch or a relaxed casual lunch. Not sure if Dozen will exactly serve that niche, but I think its a step in the right direction. Yay!

  • Shadyside 5K

There is a Shadyside 5K (get info here!) benefiting the Shadyside Boys and Girls Club on Saturday, October 3rd. I am not sure I will be participating but may change my mind. Regardless, it seems like a good event and hopefully the weather will be nicer than last week’s Great Race!

Note: If you do run the 5K and are looking for brunch/breakfast afterward, you can try Pamela’s (Walnut – open at 9am?), Cappy’s (Walnut – open at 10am), Crepes Parisienes (Filbert off Walnut – check out my review – open at 10am), Bagel Factory (Ellsworth – open at 7am), or even Whole Foods (open at 8am – Centre Ave – surprisingly tasty and lots of options!). If anyone has any other suggestions, please chime in! Some other spots, including Casbah (South Highland – open at 11am), Paris 66 Bistro (Centre Ave – open at 10am – check out my review), and Walnut Grill (Walnut – newer to the breakfast scene – open at 11am) appear only to be open for brunch on Sundays. Too bad!

  • Cafe on Main – Sharpsburg

This point is The Boy’s contribution. He dined here with his mom and was pleasantly surprised by the menu options and tasty food. He appreciated that Cafe on Main (914 Main Street) was doing things like pesto, ciabatta bread, sundried tomatoes, fresh fruit, etc. Although that may not sound mind blowing, many places in Pittsburgh are stuck in kind of a ‘bar food rut’. Nice to see a place stepping out of that zone!

  • Nine on Nine – Downtown

I lunched at Nine on Nine earlier this week. Nine on Nine is located at 900 Penn Ave, in the Cultural District. The place is tiny but well polished. Dark wood, lots of windows, a stylish bar area. I had the seared tuna salad. The tuna was perfectly cooked and of good quality, but I was not overly impressed with the rest of the salad. For $14, I wanted some other wow-me ingredients. However, I got so so mixed greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Hmm. Just wasn’t the type of composed salad I expect for $14. The lunch menu also contained appetizers, sandwiches, and entrées. Prices ranged from under $10 (apps) to high teens for entrées. One plus for Nine on Nine – they got us in and out in a respectable amount of time (hour-ish). (Please see other downtown lunch reviews of Kaya and Eleven).

  • Las Velas – new Mexican joint opening in Market Square

Husband of infamous blogger Pittgirl of That’s Church (got that?) is opening a new place in Market Square this Friday, October 2nd. Las Velas will be serving lunch and dinner. The website is up, so check it out!

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Back in the Snickie Kitchen

I am now back at work downtown, the G-20 nonsense a distant memory.

However, I am still enjoying some of the goods I prepped during my time off 🙂

In addition to the items I mentioned in my last post, I also made;

  • Pumpkin Ginger Bread
  • Brownies
  • Punjabi Chhole (I am stretching with this one…)

First up, the pumpkin bread. This bread is my absolute favorite quick bread. I use this recipe. The recipe makes two loaves. To make one loaf, I half all the ingredients – except the spices! I use the full amount of spices called for and usually add an additional 1 T of finely diced crystallized ginger and 1T finely chopped fresh ginger. I don’t think this amount of spice is overpowering. I love it! This bread is super moist and a rich orange color. Divine.

Next, I moved on to brownies. I tried this Cooking Light recipe. I had to cook them a bit longer than the suggested 23 minutes. They certainly did the job (killing a chocolate craving) and I liked the mild coffee taste. However, I am not sure these were a home-run. While they were fudgy, I was not getting a rich chocolate taste from them. Perhaps some chocolate chips or icing would have helped (although I am sure this would kick them out of the Cooking Light realm).

Lastly, I sort of, kind of tried my hand at Indian. I actually had plans to make Chana Masala after seeing it over on Rose’s blog. I planned on using the same Orangette recipe Rose mentions. However, I had trouble locating the needed spices at the Market District Giant Eagle and did not feel like making my way to the Strip District (my Pittsburgh go to for ‘exotic’ spices – try Penzey’s, PennMac or any ethnic food market!). The Market District does have a very small ‘Indian’ section. I perused the tiny area and finally came up with this:

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Which contained this:

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And ended up looking like this:

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The packet contained cooking instructions, which were similar to those for the Chana Masala. I followed them loosely.

It was tasty but quite mild. I enjoyed mine with a dollop of tangy Greek yogurt and brown rice. Most of it went into the freezer for future quick dinners. Perhaps after a trip to the Strip, I can make some ‘real’ Indian 🙂

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And that concludes my G-20 cooking whirlwind. I promise I did some other things, like attend the Bloomfield Little Italy Fest and run the Pittsburgh Great Race 5K.  Stay tuned for recaps of both!

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In the Snickie Kitchen

Over the past few days, I have gotten back in the kitchen! Having a few days working at home/simply lounging at home (thanks G-20!) has allowed me some actual downtime. Woohoo! Lots of exclamation points are needed because it has been very relaxing to lounge around, take time for myself, clean my apartment, and not feel rushed going to the gym, grocery shopping, cooking, etc.

I suppose staying at home all day would get boring after a bit, but I can definitely handle a few days.  It will be back to work as usual on Monday. Thanks to my time cooking though, I should have some frozen meals and other items to get me through the next few weeks. I love being able to grab a frozen container of homemade soup or pasta for lunch.  Much better than a Lean Cuisine or a trip to Au Bon Pain.

I really liked this mac and cheese. The only change I made to the recipe was using rice pasta. You may notice I used rice pasta (basically solely out of curiousity) the first time I made the Ellie Krieger recipe.  The rice pasta seemed to have an extra chewy, gooey texture to it. Perhaps not perfect for all dishes, but it really seems to add to the texture of mac and cheese. I think I like the chewy texture of really rich baked mac and cheese and get some of that from the rice pasta. Maybe its just me but I would encourage you to give rice pasta a try! Also, you surely taste the bacon and green onion here – its not overpowering, but it is prominent. Most of this recipe went into containers and is resting in the freezer.

  • Next up, I made Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream using this recipe.  I made no changes to the recipe.

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I liked this (obviously – look at the dwindling amount in that container) but I didn’t love it. The texture reminded me of pumpkin pie filling, just frozen. Not overly creamy and almost a bit grainy tasty from the pumpkin. I guess I was expecting more of a vanilla base with spices, etc. I will stick to my pumpkin bread from now on 🙂

  • After all that, I decided to tackle homemade bagels. I used this recipe.

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I have zero experience in bread baking or even using yeast.  I only altered the ‘shaping’ step of the above recipe. I punched a hole through the center of the dough ball instead of rolling the dough and pinching the ends together. However,  I did see some other recipes suggesting a second rise after the bagels are formed. Is this necessary? If anyone could chime in, that would be appreciated.

Anyway, I did the whole kneading and rising and kneading and shaping and boiling and baking thing.

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after boiling, awaiting sesame seeds and a nice bake

after boiling, awaiting sesame seeds and a nice bake

I probably could use some practice shaping – they ended up a bit lumpy and thin. However, the taste was pleasant, particulary when toasted. It would also be fun to experiment with topping other than sesame seeds. I will freeze most of these to use for quick breakfasts.

Whew! I have a few more items in the works so please check back for more of my G-20 induced cooking and baking 🙂

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Total Tuesday

This morning, I woke up with a cold. Ick. It seemed to either be a mild cold or in its early stages though – I felt well enough to go to work. Plus, my work schedule this week is a bit odd. Our office is closed Thursday and Friday (G-20 of course). However, there is still work to be done so I sucked it up and got ready to go.

For breakfast, I had a mix of several random cereals I need to finish, including this TJ’s Country Pumpkin Spice granola. Yum.

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I made it into town without incident. Work was busy and I sniffled my way through the day, having some leftover pasta and sauce for lunch.

An afternoon snack was a chocolate chip Z-bar.

Everyone seemed to be heading out of the office early – there are already concerns about safety, traffic, etc in the Golden Triangle. Personally, I had no issues getting around anywhere downtown Monday or Tuesday. I may work from home tomorrow, but that is really just because everyone else seems to be doing that. I am already a bit sick of all the talk and rumors regarding possible protesting and traffic restrictions. I understand this is a high risk event and Pittsburgh residents do need to be cautious and alert while traversing the city over the next few days. However, I just hate how everyone is jumping on this ‘protesters are totally insane and will ruin our city’ bandwagon.  I prefer to reserve judgment until I actually see what starts to unfold.

After work, I contemplated the gym – I didn’t feel horrible, but I didn’t feel great. Finally, after a handful of grapes and some more pumpkin granola, I decided to go. I did a very easy 3 miles, walking quite a bit. After the gym, I hit the insanely crowded Market District Giant Eagle and got some provisions for the week – if I do happen to be trapped in my apartment over the next few days, I have some major cooking and baking planned!

On another note, I signed up for the Pittsburgh Great Race 5K. The race is this Sunday, September 27th. I originally planned to run the 10K. However, my work schedule and an irritated knee (not sure whats going on there) really prevented me from training for the 10K as I should of.  So I will settle with the 5K and hope to beat the time I had at the Run Around the Square (as long as the knee holds out).

Last night, I ended up making this and this, having a little of each for dinner. Both turned out quite well! I will share pics and detailed opinions tomorrow. Plan to see more new recipes as the week continues – I have lots planned for my downtime from work!

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Review: Kaya – Pittsburgh

Earlier in the week, a colleague’s birthday freed me from my cube and sent me on a 15 minute walk into the Strip District. My destination: Kaya, located at 2000 Smallman Street, in the Strip District.

Kaya is a restaurant within the Big Burrito Group. I think after my visit to Kaya, I have now dined at all the Big Burrito establishments (Mad Mex, Casbah, Soba, Umi, Eleven, Kaya). I am not sure I have a favorite, but I think these restaurants continue to be decent choices for dining out in Pittsburgh.

I was at Kaya for lunch – they have an interesting lunch menu peppered with unique sandwiches and various entrees such as quesidillas and paella. I was a bit disappointed to only see one or two salads on the menu. Those are usually my go to lunch options.

The interior of Kaya is long and narrow, reached by a Smallman Street entrance. A nice looking bar flanks one side of the front part of the restaurant. Seems like this might be a nice happy hour spot (and hey, the website says half off drinks and draft beers M-F, 5PM-7PM). The decor is a bit eclectic – interesting sculptures and artwork, lots of color. The place isn’t super fancy but I would imagine it achieves a nice ambiance at night – relaxed, trendy-ish, fun.

After perusing the menu, I decided on the option of half a pork and banana sandwich, a small side of sweet potato fries and a small side salad (this was kind of a ‘you pick two (or three?)’ section of the lunch menu).  Several people I was dining with also went for the pork and banana sandwich.

Service was friendly, although we did wait probably 15-20 minutes for our lunches to come out. In a dinner setting, this likely would not bother me. However, when you can clearly see a table is in business attire and likely heading back to work, it seems there might be an effort to turn us over faster? No? The place wasn’t particularly crowded. I had the same issue at a lunch at Eleven not too long ago – I just can’t always take a two hour lunch! I guess I should just shut it and accept that a nice lunch takes a little more time…

Anyways, my lunch eventually arrived and I dug in. The side salad was nicely dressed in a lemony vinaigrette. The sweet potato fries were reasonably crispy and pretty tasty. The sandwich was a great combo of flavors. My meal was around $10 and I did not finish it.

Overall, I enjoyed the lunch and interesting combinations of ingredients on the menu. However, my lunch was a little heavy (rich pork, french fries) and I felt like I didn’t see many ‘lighter’ options on the menu. Yet, this is a more personal complaint – I prefer a light lunch.

I would like to give Kaya another try, perhaps for dinner. Or maybe a happy hour? I like the island cuisine – makes me vaguely reminiscent of the time The Boy and I spent in PR..

san juan

san juan

el yunque rainforest

el yunque rainforest

If I can grab a little of that flavor in Pittsburgh Strip District, I’m in 🙂

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Total Tuesday – 9.15.09

Monday night, as I drifted off to sleep, I had all intentions of getting up and going for a run Tuesday morning.

And then, Tuesday morning, I hit snooze about 4 times.

I can’t get the hang of these morning workouts :(. However, when my work schedule gets busy, I must try and rely on them. Therefore, I still forced myself out of bed after that 4th snooze and managed to fit in a 30 minute OnDemand yoga video. Better than nothing.

Breakfast was an Arnold’s sandwich thin with PB, bananas, and berries. Eaten in the car. Classy.

After arriving at work, I realized something was kind of off with my stomach. Ick. I sipped some ginger tea. Later in the morning I had a Clif Z-bar.

9/15 is a huge deadline in the tax accounting world. Most corporations and some individuals extend their tax returns – therefore, they end up being due in the fall, not the spring. I am sure you are glad I informed you of that!

I managed to eat a small portion of leftover pasta for lunch but still wasn’t feeling great. I sipped water throughout the afternoon and nibbled on a carrot cake Clif bar.

I finally started to feel better, finished up some small work stuff (truth be told, if you were really still working on returns late in the afternoon on the 15th, you are probably screwed), and zipped out of town around 6:15PM. Although I knew the Pens were playing a preseason game, the amount of jerseys swarming the stadium took me by surprise. Hockey already?

The Boy is in town this week. Therefore, this meant an adventurous dinner for a Tuesday night. The meal was driven by some harissa ( a North African red sauce or paste made from chili peppers) and random plantains The Boy and I picked up over the weekend.

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On the menu:

Harissa marinated steak

Coconut rice (used this recipe)

Plantains two ways – pan fried and grilled

 

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The verdict: The harissa gave the meat a nice moderate/mild kick. I would like to try the harissa on some other proteins or maybe even on a pizza – I think it may have have some tomato in it too. The coconut rice was tasty – nothing out of this world, but a nice compliment to the spicy meat and plantains. The sweet plantains were interesting. I fried half the plantains in some olive oil while The Boy grilled the other half. I actually preferred the grilled ones. The Boy and I vacationed in Puerto Rico last year and I loved the deeply caramelized sweet plantains served with so many dishes. I expected the fried ones to taste similar but they did not. Do the Puerto Ricans cook them in butter? Do they cook them longer? I don’t know.

The Boy and I ate outside and lingered in the cool summer/fall air, sipping on a bottle of Zin.

The day surely ended better than it started. Not a bad Tuesday at all.

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Hanging on to Summer..

This past weekend, I had to put some hours in at work. Boo.

However, I luckily chose to put in those hours on Saturday. Therefore, I was able to fully enjoy the glorious ’75 and sunny’ Sunday we had in the ‘burgh.

The Boy and I started the day apart – him= flag football (he plays with the Pittsburgh Sports League – I have never participated but it sounds like a good organization and a way to stay active and network/socialize), her= run.

We then met up and hit the Strip District. I guess we aren’t usually there on Sundays – I did not realize so many places would be closed. We wandered around Penn Mac, Stan’s Produce, and Wholly’s. We grabbed sushi at Wholey’s and ate it there, in the small upstairs eating area. Tasty and light. We also got some provisions for last night’s dinner..

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The Boy made his signature seafood and tomato sauce. Oh, do I love this. The tomatoes we used were fresh, a result of the overabundance of produce in other family members gardens (thanks!). The pasta was made by The Boy. The sauce also contained garlic, basil, bay scallops, shrimp, and langosteen.

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The Boy actually made a very similar dish the first time he ever cooked for me. The night I met him, he (perhaps helped by a few drinks) told me about how much he loved to cook and how he was actually decent at it. I quickly (perhaps I had a few drinks as well?) demanded he prove this to me, preferably by cooking me dinner at my apartment. He did so a week later (which just happened to be about 2 years ago, plus or minus a few days). The rest is history 🙂 .

Last night, The Boy also surprised me with the same wine we had at that first dinner; an amazingly smooth and rich 2007 Rochioli Pinot Noir. We savored every drop.

What a wonderful day.

Monday morning, I arrived at work and immediately began tackling a myriad of projects. At one point, I was waiting on the phone, listening to that horrific ‘waiting music’ drone on.  As a new tune started up, I heard ‘Yesterday..all my troubles seemed so far away…’

Couldn’t have been more fitting. Such is life though. Live for the weekends, right?

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