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Pittsburgh Restaurant Week: The Porch At Schenley

21 Jan

On Saturday, we ventured out to a new-to-us spot for Pittsburgh Restaurant Week 2014, a week-long event which occurs 4 times throughout the year.  During Pittsburgh Restaurant Week (PRW), restaurants around the city offer special fixed-price menus to entice foodies and non-foodies into their establishments.  This season, PRW ran from January 13th-19th so unfortunately by the time you read this it will be too late to take advantage.  But spring is right around the corner, I promise! 🙂

Pittsburgh-Restaurant-Week-Porch-At-Schenley

We chose The Porch at Schenley, located in the heart of Oakland right on Schenley Plaza.  I remember when this restaurant was built and every time we would drive by (which is often!), I would make a mental note that I wanted to try it out.  On Saturday, things kind of fell into place because The Porch is close to home, we didn’t need a reservation even though it was a Saturday night, and they support Buy Fresh Buy Local which is near and dear to my heart.  Why would I spend money at a restaurant which isn’t invested in our region?  Why do you?!

The ambiance was…different.  Sort of an industrial/dairy vibe at times, but they also had these awesome bay doors overlooking the Plaza that open during nicer weather.  The crowd was very collegiate (obviously, Schenley Plaza is nestled between Carnegie Mellon and Pitt with Carlow, Chatham, and Duquesne just beyond), bustling with college students.  Fun fact:  You can use your university meal plan flex funds there.  Basically, we were surrounded by college students ordering delicious looking pizzas and profesh types sitting in larger groups towards the middle of the restaurant.

Since we rarely get a chance to go out anymore, we decided to take advantage of some appetizers! Perhaps my favorite part of the dinner was this sweet potato gnocchi:

Sweet Potato Gnocchi w/ confit pork belly, apples, dates, sage, and a brown butter cream sauce

Sweet Potato Gnocchi w/ confit pork belly, apples, dates, sage, and a brown butter cream sauce

Just wow.  I basically wanted to lick the plate clean.  I mean, the brown butter cream sauce was just heavenly; the whole combo just worked!

Pittsburgh-Restaurant-Week-Porch-At-Schenley-Cornbread

We also ordered this cornbread.  I cut us 2 pieces, but Christina spit hers into her napkin (this somehow doesn’t effect me at all anymore since she is such a picky eater) after the first bite.  Cornbread fail! It was not very good at all!  The server was beyond great about it and took it off of our bill without us even asking.  I don’t really know what was going on with it, but the taste and texture just weren’t for us.

So, onto the PRW-menu with this roasted butternut squash soup:

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup w/ Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Creme Fraiche, & Carmelized Apples

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup w/ Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Creme Fraiche, & Carmelized Apples

You guys, I wasn’t a huge fan of this either but it was edible.  It felt a bit heavy on the nutmeg maybe?  I felt like there was flavor, but not much depth of flavor if that makes sense.  Is it wrong that I was comparing it to the one at Panera Bread?  Do I lose foodie street cred for that? Whatever, that’s ma favorite squash soup.  The caramelized apple settled to the bottom of the bowl, so I tried to get at least one with each bite because they were awesome!  At this point, I was a bit nervous about the main course because the soup was ‘meh’ and the cornbread was ‘blah.’

But, redemption!

Smoked Berkshire Pork Shank w/ Fingerling Potatoes, Heirloom Carrots, Dates, and Mustard Greens

Smoked Berkshire Pork Shank w/ Fingerling Potatoes, Heirloom Carrots, Dates, and Mustard Greens

The mustard greens were mysteriously absent, but no complaints here!  Everything was sooooooooo tasty, the smoked Berkshire  paired so well with the sauce and the dates and the veggies.  Berkshire is a breed of pig, not a style of cooking, if you were wondering.  🙂  The above picture doesn’t even do it justice because it was a HUGE chunk of meat on a HUGE bone!  We totally could’ve shared one.

I wasn’t sharing this at all:

Vanilla Bean Creme Brule w/ Marinated Figs & Mint

Vanilla Bean Creme Brule w/ Marinated Figs & Mint

I don’t really get the mint because it was just a little leaf and obviously I wasn’t going to chew on it, but this was yummy!  The figs were outrageously good!!  Yay figs!!

All-in-all, we found The Porch At Schenley to be nice but next time we will probably hit it up for lunch and order one of those pizzas that everyone was ordering.  That many people couldn’t be wrong!

Past Pittsburgh Restaurant Week posts:

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Fall 2013:  Habitat

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week: Habitat

13 Aug

Last night, we were out and about in the city taking advantage of 2013 Summer Pittsburgh Restaurant Week!  Their website is really interactive and it allows you to narrow your restaurant search down using options like “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” or “Special Diets.”

Surprise, surprise…we picked a participating restaurant that proudly supports local growers (and also happens to be an old favorite) – Habitat.  Since their menu is seasonal and changes periodically, it was completely unrecognizable to me!  Luckily, it didn’t matter because for PRW they offer a 3-course fixed menu.

PRWMenu.Habitat

Since there were 3 of us and we all ordered different variations, I got to try everything on the menu!

Salads

Christina and her mom both ordered the Arctic Char Salad:

PRW.ArcticCharSalad

Those are pickled cucumbers, smoked sour cream (very interesting taste!), squash blossoms, and onion crumble (a nice twist on the cruton).  The Arctic Char was very mild, but tasty.

On the other hand, my Caesar salad tasted fishier than the salad with the fish!

PRW.CaesarSalad4

The salad was excellent – the bed of Romaine was placed on marscapone cheese, which also filled the lemon garlic croutons.   It served as an interesting variation from the traditional creamy Caesar dressing.  Each crouton was topped with a salty fried anchovy.  It was honestly the perfect portion considering the salty bitterness of the salad.

Entrees

Christina’s mom ordered the Grilled Ribs

PRW.GrilledRibs2

One word: Bazinga!  The cherry BBQ sauce was no joke, especially when you tasted the tangy cherry with the pork puffs.  We weren’t really sure what to expect from the menu’s claim of “pickled vegetables and black rice gel.”

PRW.PickledGel

Well, its exactly what it sounds like.  It had the exact consistency of gelatin, which I’m assuming was used along with pickling liquid to make this nugget.  I am a lover of tart, salty tastes so this was right up my alley.  I have honestly never seen gelatin treated this way before!  It was the strangest thing I think I’ve tried recently buy man was it good.  Also, I don’t think its coincidental that the only two times I’ve ever had black rice was at Habitat.  Both times I found it to be phenomenal!

There was also cornbread with whiskey butter:

PRW.Cornbread

This dish was a delightfully new twist on a savory, home-style favorite!  I preferred my dish, however.  The Alaskan Halibut was PERFECT.

PRW.AlaskanHalibut

It was seared to perfection and plated over a summer bean salad.  The fish was the total star of this plate, I wanted there to be endless amounts of it.  The burnt squash were so good that Christina asked why I don’t make her burnt veggies!  (To which I replied:  “Honey, I do make you burned food all the time.  It just doesn’t taste as good as this.”)  The menu said a leek puree, but I swear our server said this was an arugula puree and it tasted more peppery than oniony.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this was an arugula puree.  No matter what it was, I am in love with it.  I would have traded in my salad and my dessert for a double portion of this – it was that good.

Dessert

Let me backtrack for a second.  I would have traded in my dessert for more halibut BEFORE I tasted dessert.  Once I had a taste, I doubt I would be willing to trade.  I mean, COME ON.  Is this real life?

PRW.Blueberries2

The bottom layer is a blueberry panna cotta, topped with a blueberry compote, jasmine ice cream, and then had a piece of blueberry crunch and vanilla meringue sticks.  I wanted to cry.  I suddenly felt like I needed to eat this exact thing every single night of I would die.  I got up this morning and ate a handful of blueberries.  Just wow.  I tried to get a little bit of each aspect on the spoon with every bite.

If you haven’t yet been to Habitat, you are honestly missing out on one of Pittsburgh’s best restaurants.  Each time we visit there, I love it more and more.  Each dish I’ve had is better than the previous and for the $35 price tag, you would be absolutely crazy not to have this meal.

Oneonta, NY: The Yellow Deli

16 Jul

So, what else did I do while in Oneonta?

I sure as heck didn’t run.  I was a little disappointed in myself about this – I had packed basically all of my workout clothes, juiced up my iPod, and talking myself up.  When we arrived at our rental, it was located right along a state highway with a very narrow shoulder.  Christina’s step-mom and I both quickly determined that it was a bad idea to run there.  Honestly, we just didn’t have time to scout a good location!  Do I regret it? No.  I enjoyed my time away and I value my safety.

One day, the games were rained out.  It was pouring and thundering and lightning.  Unable to sit at the field another second, we headed into the town of Oneonta to grab some lunch.  Yelp directed us to The Yellow Deli.

YellowDeli

Expecting a simple deli, I unknowingly walked into a utopian hippie land.  The first thing I noticed was all of the gorgeous wood work and details.  Check out this cool little table in the back…it’s isolated and the servers had to walk up a flight of stairs to get to it:

YD2

There was a coffee/tea/mate/juice bar in the middle that looked like a little house:

YellowDeliJuice

I also noticed hippie lit and murals covering several of the walls

YD.Mural

Pretty sure that’s John Lennon.  But hey, I’m an equal opportunity diner!  I bet they attract one mean drum circle.  Even though I don’t necessarily agree that the world took a turn for the worse when the LSD movement didn’t really take off, I will certainly eat of thy bounty. Turns out, most of the employees live on a farm/commune-type place.  All the veggies are grown right in Oneonta by the owners and all of the breads from the deli are homemade as well.

While we checked out the menu, the host gave us some beverages to sample…

YD.Mates

I personally like the papaya mate the best, it was really sweet.  The others had rich layers of flavor, but unfortunately just not flavors I enjoy.  I’m not a big tea drinker.

Hello Virgil’s cream soda and root beer on tap…

YD.Bevs

You guys.  The kitchen of The Yellow Deli is downstairs (where there was a ton more seating).  Instead of walking the orders up, there was an awesome dumbwaiter which used a rope pulley system.  How cool is this:

YD.Dumbwaiter

Anyway, Christina ordered a bowl of chili which came with a side of artisanal bread.  It was soooooooo delicious.

YD.Chili

We both ordered Reuben with chips.  The Reuben came with mustard and mayo, but we both asked for 1000 dressing instead.  It came on the side, so I was able to just put a light layer on mine.  I’m used to a Jewish deli-style Reuben, where the corned beef is so heavy that you can barely get your mouth around it to take a bite.  I have to say, the size of this Reuben was preferable.  It had a really nice ratio of bread to corned beef to sauerkraut.  You could taste everything but nothing was overpowered by the other flavors.

YD.Reuben

This place ranks up there as one of the most eccentric places I have ever visited.  And they make a damn good Reuben.

Chicken Burgers + My First Lettuce Harvest!

10 Jun

Don’t you love it when you make something that tastes so incredibly good and you don’t feel bad about it because its healthy?!  I love when that happens.  No doubt this would be “cleaner” if I had omitted the cheese, but….who the heck wants to omit cheese.

chickburgerfinal3

First, throw this into a food processor:

  • 4 oz. wilted spinach
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 green onions, roughly chopped

ChickBurg1

ChickBurg2

Try not to drool into the food processor when your kitchen becomes overwhelmed with the smell of fresh garlic and onion.  Then, stir this mixture into 1 lb. ground chicken  and add:

  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 t. soy sauce
  • 1 t. lemon juice
  • 1/2 t. chili powder
  • 1/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese

ChickBurg3

Then, I added about 1/2 c. of Panko (NO EGG!), mixed it all together, and formed them into patties:

ChickBurg4

I refrigerated these for about 2 hours prior to dinner.  It allowed all the garlic and onion to release into the meat.  Also, the soy sauce and balsamic are super flavorful – more so after a few hours in the box.  You could grill or broil these, but I chose to cook them in my 10″ skillet.  Then, I WALKED OUT INTO MY FRONT YARD AND HARVESTED LETTUCE, Y’ALL.  No, really.  How cool is that?

chickburgfinal2

Recipe inspired by Super Pickle

Weekend Round-Up

3 Jun

It was a really busy weekend around these parts!! Amazing what you can get accomplished when your internet goes out and a tech can’t come in until Monday.

On Saturday, we headed over to East Liberty to the farmer’s market:

I had gotten an email talking about all the yummy local product expected in over the weekend, so I was pretty excited.  I ended up getting some carrots, a tomato, asparagus, green onions, rhubarb, red potatoes, beets, some green leaf lettuce starts and some jalapeno pepper plants all for $16!!

photo(22)

Around 11:00, my family arrived to spend some quality time with the puppies.  Everyone is so active now, I promise to write a whelping update this week to show you how much they’ve grown!

IMG_0470

Mid-afternoon, we headed to Little Miss E (my cousin’s daughter)’s 4th birthday pirate party.  We had little brother CO in tow, and luckily he and my brother were able to hang out amongst all the littler kids.  They have only hung out a few times because they live so far away, but I was really happy to see how well they get along!  They had a lot of fun decapitating a pirate pinata after the kids ravaged it of its candy.

On the way home, we spotted a pop-up carnival and I suggested we make a quick stop.  Since there were three of us, we decided that we would go on three of the big rides and then leave.  Good enough for us!

gforce

Then, we headed over to the baseball field to pick up almost-not-little brother CJ. We got there just in time to see him pitch the last inning.  He is a baseball extraordinaire, in fact he’s the league’s best catcher and as of right now he’s leading the state in home runs.  Apparently all the pitching practice in the driveway has been paying off because he struck out all three people that were up to bat that last inning!

Sunday was pretty low-key.  We finished up some projects around the house that have been lingering, like finally installing the overhead light in the living room.  Now, we just have to touch up the plaster and pick out a new paint color!

livingroomlight

The doodles got their first taste of grownie food!  This picture doesn’t even do the mess that was made any justice.

puppyfood

Dinner was organic pierogies with sour cream and green onions from the market.

pierogies

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