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Seasonal Eats: Spring Edition

12 Mar

I’m trying a new series on the blog this year and I’m really excited about it!  Around Western PA, the snow is melting and the daffodils trying their hardest to force spring into existence. I thought it would be an appropriate time to roll out a seasonal recipe spotlight.  I hear the same thing from a lot of people: “I want to eat locally and seasonally.”  Seems simple, right?  Just hit up the local farmer’s market, grab some veggies, and done?  It is and it isn’t…

You might be interested to know that not all the veggies sold at your local farmer’s market are local.  Or seasonal actually!  While I’ve gotten plenty of resistance with this tactic, I don’t ever hesitate to ask my local farmer’s market vendor if they are re-selling produce or if it’s home-grown.  I’ve touched a few nerves over the years, but I don’t see anything wrong with expecting transparency from a grower.  I’m not a snob about it and it doesn’t stop me from purchasing out-of-season food (farmer’s have to make money during he slow seasons, too!), but I like to know as much as I can about the food I buy.  If you want to eat locally, make sure you ask if you’re eating locally.  Either way, you’re supporting a local food producer/grower/vendor – but educate yourself about what you’re buying and why.

If you’ve ever grown your own food, you know that some things don’t just spring up year round.  In Western PA, there is a very limited amount of seasonal product that’s available from March-April.  It’s still early spring and that means LOTS of greens, but it also means some staples like broccoli, carrots, beets, mushrooms, rutabagas, and turnips.  There are some things I usually pass over because they seem a little intimidating – like artichokes, kohlrabi, even endive is a mystery to me.  Well not this year.  This year I’m embracing all the things I’ve never embraced before.  That’s what 2015 is about, remember?  So this year, I’m not only embracing local, seasonal eating – I’m going to try as much of the produce that my region has to offer!

March-April in Western PA:

Artichoke, Arugula, Asparagus, Beets, Beet Greens, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Broccoli Rape, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cardoons (not sure I’m this adventurous yet!), Carrots, Cauliflower, Chard, Chicory, Collards, Cress, Dandelion Greens, Endive, Fava Beans/Greens, Fennel, Garlic, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Mustard Greens, Onions, Parsnips, Pea Shoots, Radishes, Rutabagas, Scallions, Spinach, Sprouts, Sunchokes, Tatsoi, Turnips

If you have been curious about how to work with any of the ingredients found in this list, shoot me a comment and I will make sure I find a great way for us to get comfortable with them.

Keep an eye out for the new series on Twitter and Instagram, I will be posting under the hashtag: #springeatsSFTS

Seasonal-Eats-Spring-Edition

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

5 Thing Friday

6 Dec

1.  We finally got a chance to see We’re The Miller’s this week.  It was absolutely hysterical!  I will not put any spoilers here, but you should definitely watch it if you get a chance.  I was worried that the previews gave away all of the funny parts, but even Hollywood promotional materials couldn’t ruin it.

Flanders

2.  Mother Jones came out with a pretty good article about BPA this week.  After years of public outcry and evidence of toxicity, the endocrine disrupting chemical known as BPA is being banned from plastic bottle manufacturing and baby/child products.  However, think tanks are forecasting the BPA industry to see even more growth over the next 6 years. Despite Americans’ increased focus and awareness of environmental/health issues, North America is the third largest regional market for BPA in the world.  Wha?  I just don’t understand.

3.  The dates have been announced for Pittsburgh’s Winter 2014 Restaurant Week, which will run from January 13th-19th.  Make sure you check out the PRW website and make a reservation somewhere you have never been!  I strongly recommend checking out restaurants that support the Farm To Table or Eat Local movements – and yes, they are labeled so on the website.

PRW14

4.  The NY Times released a Civil Behavior piece questioning whether college applicants should address their own sexual identity it in their application essays.  The author’s advice to applicants is to research the college to which they are applying for and then decide whether to address the issue based on the intended admissions department.  It’s disgusting that applicants are chastised for not “digging deep enough” or “getting personal enough” when representing themselves in these essays, yet should sometimes withhold their sexual identity, which is at the very core of that identity.  If you aren’t gay or aren’t yet gay, let me tell you – its a pretty big part of your personality, self-image, history, and more than likely will direct your moral compass and values.  More often than not, coming out is something that you battled with yourself or your family or your friends or schoolmates or teammates or neighbors.

BIAC

So, yeah.  Lezbihonest, it’s not cool to ask people to omit/cover up such a huge part of their core self to simply BE WORTHY ENOUGH TO EARN AN EDUCATION from a higher institution which has promised the general public to better society.  Needless to say, this article made me want to get in the car and drive to the closest conservative college and suck face with my girlfriend in the middle of the admissions office.  DURING prospective student tours.

5.  So. Many. Babies.  None of them belong to me though – so big congratulations go out to David & Melanie, Roney & Alicia, Meg & Dennis, Ed & Di, and anyone else who popped one out over the last few weeks.

Weekend Ponderings:

  • Do you think LGBT college applicants should address their sexual identities?  Only if it suits their overall topic?  Avoid it completely?
  • Which restaurants are you going to try this for 2014 Pittsburgh Restaurant Week?

Friendsgiving + Thanksgiving

29 Nov

Thankfully for you, I am posting photos from the last 2 days for you to stare at while you’re in line Black Friday shopping:

Tequila

Creme de Tequila from the Floyd’s Mexican honeymoon

Friendsgiving1

Kevin's smoked turkey

Kevin’s smoked turkey

clockwise from left: mashed potatoes and gravy, 7 layer salad, rolls, cranberry sauce, smoked turkey, sweet potatoes, collard greens, mac and cheese, stuffing

clockwise from left: mashed potatoes and gravy, 7 layer salad, rolls, cranberry sauce, smoked turkey, sweet potatoes, collard greens, mac and cheese, stuffing

Present, but out of frame: Ciara, Trina, Ryker, Charles, and Damon

Present, but out of frame: Ciara, Trina, Ryker, Charles, and Damon

 

Pre-dinner munchies at my mom's

Pre-dinner munchies at my mom’s

thanksgiving13.dinner

traditional spread at my mom’s house

Friendsigving.65

pumpkin pie with ginger streusel

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.

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