Archive for the ‘Lifestyle’ Category

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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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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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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When I started thinking about costumes I have worn through the years, I was convinced that I have been very creative. However, after reviewing Halloweens past, I am not so sure about that (please see the cat below). Regardless, it is fun to reminisce. I only have photographic evidence of Halloweens 2005 and beyond, although I did have some killer costumes as a child. I recall a borrowed Chiquita Banana costume that was pretty bad-ass and something I would love to wear today.

Anyways, just for fun, let me present – ‘Snickie, Through the Years (In Costume).

Halloween 2005

 In 2005, I decided to do Halloween as a bag of frozen broccoli. This was impossibly hilarious to myself and my pictured friend (The Jolly Green Giant of course!) and likely puzzling to anyone else we came in contact with. I was proud of that broccoli hat though. I had a guy suggestively tell me that broccoli was his favorite vegetable that night. Oh, college.

Halloween 2006

Although you can’t see me very well, I spent Halloween 2006 as ‘Sexy Shrek’. Oh boy. I am pictured here in my Shrek ‘ears’ with a bunch of my sorority sisters in the Southside. I believe the cops broke up this party shortly thereafter with some confusion as to whether they were actual cops or costumed guests. Oh boy, I really do miss college.

Halloween 2007

Halloween 2007 included a party in my brand new grown up apartment in Shadyside. My angel costume was a bit uninspired but I recall having had Lasik (for the 2nd time – grr) the day before the shin-dig. I briefly considered going as a one of the three blind mice but couldn’t get my act together in time. Wings and halo it was.

Halloween 2008

 I hit my creative Halloween low in 2008.  An old dance costume, a tail, and a mask were purrfectly lame. I don’t even have any proper fuzzy ears. Sad.

Halloween 2009

Halloween 2009 is when I realized that as a busy working woman, I needed to plan ahead in order to be looking sharp for the Halloween holiday. This was the first year I ever ordered part of my costume on-line and I think I made a solid pick with the Kate Gosselin wig. She was at the height of her celebrity and general shenanigans.  Other parts of the ensemble were from my personal collection. This was a well received costume. I did have a Jon with me, dressed in an Ed Hardy shirt, baseball cap, and shades.

Halloween 2010

After the success of my 2009 costume, I decided to go the wig route again in 2010 and ordered my Snookie wig well in advance of October 31st.  I was worried the parties I attended would be littered with Snookies but I only came across one other. With my (homemade) bejeweled glasses, it was no competition. I am ‘around the shore-house’ casual Snookie in the above photo but I brought out some leopard print the next evening – in case you were questioning my authenticity.

Halloween 2011

Halloween 2011 was another success. Ben and I dressed as Captain America and Wonder Woman. Although my costume turned out slightly more revealing than anticipated, I was still happy with the end result. Ben made an impressive showing by putting together his costume from random clothing items, dollar store foam paper, and medical tape a mere hour before gametime. I also made a clutch decision by traveling to my parents’ house to retrieve my beloved childhood Felicity (of the American Girl Dolls) cape. Great thanks to the Pleasant Company for producing such a well made cape.  It has far exceeded my expectations of usability beyond my younger years.

And so that concludes my Halloween story. Sort of randomly personal for Snickie but I do what I want around here.

Any favorite costumes past you would like the share? Please do!

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As is the case every summer, I go into a reading frenzy as the days warm up and I can find more pleasant and varied spots to lounge and read (some favorites include Schenley Plaza, my parents’ deck, and Myrtle Beach).

Here are my thoughts on six different ‘foodie’ books I made my way through these past few months.

The Widow Clicquot (Tilar Mazzeo): This book tells the story of Veuve Cliquot and the widowed young woman that helped the champagne brand rise to prominence in the 1800s. It’s quite a crazy and inspiring story considering the era in which it occurred. The book sometimes falters and drags – there are no first-hand accounts of what transpired, just what the author has gleaned from other texts and business notes of Veuve. Overall, I enjoyed the book though and it made me respect and understand the wine/champagne business even more.

Bones, Blood, and Butter (Gabrielle Hamilton): This is the memoir of Gabrielle Hamilton, chef of Prune in NYC. This book has gotten much press – I heard her on The Splendid Table a few months ago and recently saw write-ups on her/her book in various magazines. I expected something Bourdain-esque and was not disappointed – this woman has led a crazy life. From a dysfunctional upbringing, to a cocaine filled adolescence, to solo travel through Europe, to running her own restaurant, to a unconventional marriage, her story is full of twists and turns and craziness. At times I had trouble following the chronology of the book as she goes back and forth in time a bit in the middle. However, the incredible nature of her stories and pieces of her life more than make up for any inconsistencies. Definitely a solid read.

Tiger in the Kitchen (Cheryl Lu Lien Tan): Tiger in the Kitchen follows Tan as she searches for personal satisfaction and a link to her past by traveling to Singapore and learning how to cook from the instruction of her grandmother and aunts. At the time Tan embarks on this adventure, she has been living independently in NYC for many years as a fashion writer (losing this writing job actually jump starts the adventure). Her journey is not easy and she must be patient in gaining the trust of her relatives and confidence in the kitchen. As an aspiring home cook, I enjoyed Tan’s point of view and found her very easy to relate to. Also, I think anyone interested in food dreams of how they could one day make that a full time gig, something Tan has done by seeking out her Singapore heritage and writing a book about it. As a note, this is a much lighter read than Bones, Blood and Butter.

52 Loaves: One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust (William Alexander): I picked up this book randomly at the library (new non-fiction) and was pleasantly surprised. Alexander is truly a man on a mission – he is seeking what he feels is the ‘perfect loaf’ by making one new bread recipe per week for a year. The book is very detailed and the scientific way Alexander goes about his experiment is intense but entertaining (this is the author of the The $64 Tomato). He eventually ends up growing his own wheat and visiting a Norman monastery that bakes its own bread. Alexander has a great voice – Bill Bryson-esque.

Red, White, and Drunk All Over (Natalie MacLean): I am always searching for wine literature that does not put me to sleep. Based on that criteria, I found MacLean’s writing pleasant, warm, and inviting. I really enjoyed reading about her trips to France and other wine events, all with wine wisdom and information seamlessly wound into the text. This book is meant to be read front to back, not paged through for certain chapters on a particular wine. I wish there were more wine books like this! If anyone knows of any, please let me know.

Born Round: The Secret History of  Full-Time Eater (Frank Bruni): Born Round is the account of the great NYT food critic Frank Bruni’s battle with disordered eating. A food lover from childhood, Bruni struggled with his weight nearly all his life. When food truly became his job, the struggles continued and intensified. While his personal health suffers, his professional life soars. Bruni talks openly about dealing with bulimia, major self-esteem issues, etc.  Bruni’s voice is very honest and engaging. He manages to discuss the world of disordered eating while still adding comforting stories and anecdotes about the positive role food has played in his life. I thought this book might be a little odd but I ended up liking it by the end.

Now please please share with me your latest reads – food related or otherwise! I plan to post a list of my favorite non-food books of the last few months as well.

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Pumpkin Cupcakes

As you may be able to tell from the photo, I made these cupcakes a few weeks ago. It doesn’t look quite that green or pretty in Pittsburgh anymore.

I used this recipe from Eat, Live, Run. A perfect fall treat. Lightly spiced cake and cream cheese frosting. I took these to a birthday party gathering and while I saw a few people digging in,  I would guess the sugary cupcakes tasted even better as breakfast the morning after the (drinking) festivities.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with cake for breakfast, in my opinion.

I also made these pumpkin brownies last weekend. I am always unsure of the pumpkin/chocolate combination but I really liked these. I added a little extra cocoa to the brownie portion of the batter and did not attempt any type of swirling of the two batters. I simply dumped the chocolate in first and the pumpkin on top. I sprinkled some mini chocolate chips and extra walnuts on top halfway through baking.  My boyfriend crushed about half the pan in a 3 day span and my Monday night Dancing with the Stars crew (hello there!) finished off the rest.

What is your favorite fall treat?

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toast, almond butter, raspberry jam, strawberries

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Have you ever been so busy at work that you exist solely on Clif bars and coffee, perhaps with a turkey sandwich thrown in now and again for good measure?

It’s been one of those weeks.

Add hours of snowy commuting into that mix and life is kind of sucky. You are overworked, malnourished, cabin feverish, and really starting to hate winter. You are looking pale, tired and kind of wiry.

What can cure this madness?

Operation Fatten Up.

This “operation” was one weekend long and consisted of the following activities:

Friday: Dinner at Brgr (East Liberty/Shadyside)

Minor side note: I cannot look at the name of this restaurant and see “burger”. I want to pronounce all the letters, something like bee-arr-gee-arr.

Brgr is the sister restaurant/lounge to Spoon. Both spots are located in East Liberty near the corner of S Highland and Centre. Brgr bills itself as a burger joint/gastropub. The menu is somewhat limited – you will find several burgers (one veg option – falafel), sides, a few salads, and spiked milkshakes.

Maybe I was starving, maybe I was buzzed up on the glass of Zinfandel I had while waiting to be seated, but I really enjoyed Brgr. I had the salmon burger, my date had the lamb burger, and we split the fries. After reading the Brgr Yelp reviews, I agree that serving the burgers in a little basket makes it tough to cut the burger in half – I kind of demolished mine trying to do just that. However, we had no service issues, waited about 30 minutes for a table on a Friday night at 8PM, and both cleared our plates (baskets?). Our bill (two burgers, fries, two beers, and one glass of wine) came out around $50.

Saturday: Dinner at Sababa (Squirrel Hill)

While working on Saturday (told you it was one of those weeks), I developed a most intense hummus craving. Where to go? Kassab’s? Aladdin’s? Mediterranean Grill?

During Operation Fatten Up, cravings must be addressed immediately.

My partner in crime for this weekend operation suggested Sababa, a newer Mediterranean spot located on Murray Ave in Squirrel Hill. I recognized the name from Mike’s Foodburgh review and we decided to give it a go. We set off in the frigid temps and eventually settled into the brightly lit Sababa dining room. It was mostly full at 7PM-ish but we got a table and our friendly waitress opened our bottle of wine. BYO!

We decided on the babaganush for an appetizer and were surprised when a chunky concoction landed on our table. I was under the impression babaganush was typically roasted eggplant pureed into a hummus like consistency. This dip was super chunky and SUPER garlicky. Like I think I was eating whole cloves of roasted garlic. This was a little much for me and we didn’t finish our babaganush. Luckily, we had a chicken schwarma and a falafel platter (on the appetizer menu) on the way. I think the schwarma was the standout item. Way better than Kassab’s. Tender chicken, tahini sauce, diced cukes and tomatoes, all tucked into a fluffy pita. Yum.

The falafel was crispy and tasty and came with creamy hummus. Craving satisfied. I thought the falafel was a little mild on the spice but overall enjoyable. Some of the better falafel I have had in the ‘burgh.

Sababa is definitely worth a try if you are craving some hummus. I think maybe they could tone down the lights in the dining room but I still liked this place. The manager/owner visited every table (nice touch) and our waitress was cheerful and attentive.

In the spirit of fattening up, we followed up the Sababa dinner with brownies made from Ghirardelli mix at home. Yessssssss.

Sunday: Munchkins at DD and a walk in Frick Park 

Whew. Easing back into moderate activity.

Mission complete.

Brgr on Urbanspoon

Sababa Middle Eastern Grill on Urbanspoon

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Sunday Morning




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