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Archive for November, 2011

Here are some quickie thoughts on recent restaurant visits:

Park Bruges (5801 Bryant Street – Highland Park):

Ben and I had Sunday brunch here about a month ago. This is a sister restaurant to the popular Point Brugge in Point Breeze.

For brunch, I had a lovely butternut squash and goat cheese frittata and Ben had an Italian breakfast sandwich. Service was friendly (although we did wait awhile for the food) and the space is really bright and lovely. This would be a great place to catch up with family or friends. This is a spot that is much more polished than a diner but not prententious or unapproachable or anything like that. Also, as I am a huge fan of moules and frites, I would like to return for dinner and try those dishes. A solid addition to Bryant Street and Highland Park.

Park Bruges on Urbanspoon

Meat and Potatoes (649 Penn Ave – Cultural District – Downtown):

Ben and I joined another couple for dinner here on Light Up Night. As I had read about service issues in several reviews, I was a little concerned about what we might encounter on Light up Night, a sure-to-busy evening. Meat and Potatoes bills itself as a gastropub. The menu is small but predictabley very meat heavy.

I was pleased to find we had no service issues. Drink orders were promptly taken. My wine was served in a jelly jar type glass – not sure how I feel about that but I rolled with the gastropub-ish theme. The bar here is beautiful. I would gladly return here for a drink before any downtown event. They had an interesting and unique cocktail list. The bar was all light marble and black accents and pretty bottles. Casual but sexy.

For dinner, I ordered the tacos. They were quite tasty. Deliciously tender brisket meat and salty/sweet/spicy accompaniments. The order came with 3 well stuffed tacos. Two others at the table went for sandwiches and the other got the fish and chips. We also ordered the poutine (fries topped with gravy and cheese curds) as an appetizer. This was a ton of heavy/borderline greasy food – portion sizes were large. While everything tasted really good, I think we all left feeling weighed down and parched. I admit my insistence on briskly hiking up to my Steel Building office minutes after signing for the bill may have added to this feeling. But what better way is there to view the fireworks?

Not sure I would rush back to Meat and Potatoes. To be fair, this is mostly due to my veggie leaning tendencies. However, although everyone liked their meals but no one seemed overly wowed.

Meat & Potatoes on Urbanspoon

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A Walk Through Shadyside

calvary episcopal

 

squirrel!

 

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Happy Thanksgiving

My aunt and uncle hosted 40+ people at their beautiful home for Thanksgiving.

thanksgiving set up

 It was a lovely holiday, full of family. Both sets of my grandparents were there. I always feel so thankful and blessed when I have them all in the same room. Makes me heart happy.

We had all the staples – turkey, green bean casserole, vegetables, corn, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes. My addition was roasted brussel sprouts with a bacon/mapple glaze.

I plan to spend the rest of the break relaxing, seeing friends, decorating for the holidays, and (maybe) shopping. I hope your holiday has been as lovely and enjoyable as mine. I truly have so much to be thankful for.

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Shenandoah Valley

Last weekend, Ben and I embarked on another random getaway, this time to the Shenandoah Valley.

shenandoah national park

The drive from Pittsburgh is about 4 hours. Fairly scenic. In the daylight. Not so much at around 8PM on a Friday night but such is life.

We stayed at the Stonewall Jackson Inn. Lightly civil war themed, this bed and breakfast was pretty nice. A big airy light filled room, good food, and a cool old house with interesting architecture.

When considering staying at a B&B, I always imagine myself conversing with the innkeeper and other guests and joining in the social scene of  the B&B. But then I get there and remember sometimes I don’t like to be social. Oops. Everyone we came across was very friendly but we stuck mostly to our private room when we weren’t out and about.

Stonewall Jackson Inn did put together some pretty killer breakfasts. We had eggs benedict one morning and croissant french toast the next. I cleaned my plate both mornings.

foyer of Stonewall Jackson Inn

Our main point of interest in the area was Shenandoah National Park.  On Saturday, under a shockingly blue sky, we drove along Skyline Drive.

skyline drive

We stopped at overlooks, took lots of pictures, and hiked a very small part of the Appalachian Trail.  Here is Ben posing enthusiastically next to a trail marker.

appalachian trail

We have both recently read Bill Bryson’s ‘A Walk in the Woods’ – a book in which he chronicles his attempt to hike the enitre AT. The AT runs from Georgia to Maine.  Based on Bryson’s trials and tribulation in the book, I think I saw plenty during our quick walk.

After beautiful Shenandoah, we made our way to CrossKeys Vineyards. In an ideal world, I would always schedule a wine tasting as a follow up to a nature based event.  The winery and tasting room were very nice (bigger and more modern that I expected) and CrossKeys has an amazing patio overlooking the rolling hills of Virginia where you can sit and enjoy a bottle or glass of wine you have purchased inside. Loved this place.

cross keys winery

During our weekend we also had dinner at the Joshua Wilton House and explored downtown Harrisonburg. All 3 blocks of it 😉

It was a lovely and relaxing weekend. Great thanks to my sweet Ben for planning it 🙂

 On the drive back we passed Bedford Springs and I decided that is the location of our next random getaway…

Until then…

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Sweet Potato Soup

After seeing this Sweet Potato, Apple, Carrot, and Lentil soup linked over at Lindsay’s site, I decided to give it a try.

chop chop

It turned out pretty good.  I did puree it and it was smooth and creamy and well balanced (although I did add a little more broth/apple cider I had on hand to thin it out). Sometimes soups like this can leave me a bit gaggy to be honest – too thick and one note. However, when served with some greek yogurt and chopped walnuts, I wolfed this right down. As did Ben.  I served this with a salad and some hearty crackers. Another great fall dish.

Work has calmed down and I am finally back in the kitchen and realizing how much I missed it 🙂

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I am forever behind on write-ups of places and spaces I have recently dined. Here are some thoughts on (semi) recent visits to two new-to-me spots; Vivo in Sewickley and Gypsy Cafe in the Southside.

Vivo – Sewickley

I ended up at Vivo (432 Beaver Street, Sewickley) after a classmate of Ben’s (hi Wynne!) discovered my blog and was surprised to see Ben’s smiling face plastered amongst the pages. She extended an invite to try Vivo on a recent Friday night. Ben and I made the drive to Sewickley, easily found parking, and found Wynne and her husband seated at a great table. I loved the vibe of Vivo – somewhat minimalistic (whites, blacks, greys) but warm, with great light fixtures and a pretty backlit bar. Even though Vivo does have a liquor license, they welcome you to BYO, which is what we did.

To start, Ben and I ordered the short rib appetizer to share. This was really good. The portion was hearty and a great thick, slightly sweet, gooey, crunchy crust covered the meat. The table also tried to the marrow appetizer – it was novel, tasty and rich but not something I think I could eat alot of!

For my entree, I ordered the scallops. The meal came with roasted baby carrots and a black bean/succotash-like side (note: we dined about a month ago and it seems the menu has already changed, FYI). While my meal was very good (the roasted carrots were exceptional – sweet and perfectly crisp/tender), I think it fell a little short of my expectations after the appetizer. Nevertheless, the conversation, ambiance, and service were great and I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at Vivo. If I lived closer, I would definitely give it another try – just not sure it’s worth the drive from Shadyside on food alone. There was also an outdoor seating space that looked pretty amazing though. Maybe I’ll head back next summer 🙂

Gypsy Cafe – Southside

A month or so ago, Ben and I enjoyed a Thursday night meal at Gypsy Cafe  (Corner of 14th and Bingham Street, Southside) using an about to expire Groupon. We arrived around 6PM and were barely seated due to reservations. This place must be more popular than I thought!

After getting settled and ordering drinks (a Magic Hat and a zinfandel) we perused the menu. According the their website, the Gypsy Cafe menu offers “a path through Europe, offering an eclectic selection of homestyle dishes“. Fair enough. I ordered the Szekely Goulash, a dish of slow cooked pork, onions bacon and saurkraut, spiked with Hungarian Paprika and served over noodles. Ben ordered a pasta, peppers, and sausage based dish that no longer appears to be on the seasonal menu.

Our meals arrived quickly and I enjoyed my comforting bowl of noodles and slowly braised meat. The dish had a slight kick but nothing overpowering. The portion was very generous. Our entrees came with a nice little house salad.

I am not sure Ben was overly enamored with his dish – it was a bit spicier and contained almost too much sausage. Overall, I am not sure how I feel about Gypsy Cafe. I liked my dish but it’s not something I would generally crave or seek out. The space was a bit more sparse and casual than I anticipated.

Nevertheless, I am glad we tried Gypsy Cafe and would love to go back for dinner and a tarot card reading. There was nothing really wrong with the food and it is certainly a unique spot but I am just not sure where a Hungarian leaning restaurant fits into my normal dining out routine.

Also, I recalled recently reading something about the Gypsy Cafe closing or being for sale. A little googling turned up this Pittsburgh Business Times article from August that speaks to the possible sale of Gypsy Cafe. I am not sure of the status of the sale at this point. In anyone has any info, drop me a note in the comments!

Vivo Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Gypsy Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Smiles on a random weeknight.

Ben and I made these Bourbon Pumpkin Pie Milkshakes from Jessica at How Sweet It is. This girl is a fellow ‘burgher and has an awesome blog full of amazing looking recipes. These were darn tasty and very rich. I could have went for slightly more spice but the general idea of adding bourbon to a milkshake is life changing.

After the milkshakes, I went a little bourbon crazy and also made the Salted Brown Butter Bourbon Rice Krispy Treats from last week’s Post Gazette. I took them to a party and people kind of went nuts for them. The novelty of bourbon in a childhood snack pretty much had everyone talking about and trying the treats. I would definitely make these again, possibly adding a little bit more than six cups of rice krispies – mine were a little overly gooey.

I also enjoyed a nice bourbon and coke while dressed up as Wonder Woman for Halloween. I might be bourboned-out for a bit. I’ll be back though.

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