Tag Archives: vanilla bean

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

Vanilla Poached Baked Pears

27 Nov

OK, so you’ve been staring a pie recipes for days and haven’t worked up the motivation to make one, right?  Well how about skip the pie and opt for something a little bit unconventional for Thanksgiving dessert?

Vanilla Poached Baked Pears with Vanilla Cream

Baked Pears2

Ingredients:

  • 3 c. water
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split
  • 4 Bosc pears, cored and peeled
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

The first step is to get the poaching liquid ready.  In a saucepot large enough to fit your pears (I actually made enough for 10 people, not 4), add the water, sugar, and split vanilla bean over a low heat.  You NEVER want to heat sugar too rapidly or funky things start to happen.  While the water warms up and the sugar slowly dissolves, get your pears prepped!

I don’t have a melon baller, so I just cored through the bottom of the pears with a knife and small spoon (which is apparently easier than getting your camera to focus on the front not the back):

PearsCored

I also cut the bottoms so that they would stand up evenly.  Then, they went directly into a bowl of lemon water.  Why?  Because these pears will only be wrapped in puff pastry, not covered.  And I didn’t want to risk them turning brown from sitting around waiting for me to peel and core the rest of the pears!  Lemon water keeps them from getting those less than pretty brown spots.

pearsprepping

Once the poaching liquid is almost at a simmer, add the pears and cook them until they are fork tender.  Mine actually could’ve cooked longer, but I was so nervous!

PoachingPears

Once the pears are tender, remove them from the liquid (keep that in the pot!) and put the pears in a covered container in the fridge until they are cooled completely (at the very least this will take 1 hour).  That’s around the time I quick-thawed my puff pastry sheets!

Once the pears are cooled, roll ’em up!  I cut one puff pastry sheet into 8 long strips, dabbed some water on them and then sugared them up.  Then, just start wrapping the puff pastry around the pear, starting at the stem and ending at the bottom.  Any extra pastry got shoved underneath/into the cored hole at the bottom.

pearsbefore

Between you and I, I should’ve skipped the sugar and just done a straight egg wash on these.  They browned on the top, but I was really hoping for a more even coloring.  The taste was on point, but aesthetically I was really wishing for an even, golden crisp.  Anyway.

I let my pears sit around for a few hours in the fridge after this step, and baked them off close to dinner.  When you are ready, these will bake at 400F for around 30 minutes or until the crust is done to your liking.

During those 30 minutes, I strongly suggest adding the cream to the poaching liquid and simmering it until it is reduced by half. 🙂  The pears taste just divine.  They also would be yummy in a honey syrup, so be creative and add fruit/garnishes that suite you!

Baked Pears2

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