Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ode to Pittsburgh

In a place like Richmond, where an inch and a half of snow shuts down the city and freezing temperatures are abnormal, it's easy to just give up on a chilly day.  I know I'm guilty of losing all motivation to leave the house in the winter when I don't absolutely have to.  My recent weekend trip to Pittsburgh was a necessary reminder that life goes on every day in colder climates, even when it snows, and there's no reason for me to be a wuss.       

The main purpose of my visit was to spend time with my good friend, Sarah, who I met in college.  We have a shared interest in culinary indulgences, and she made sure that the weekend had plenty of edible highlights.  

Our first excursion was to a small Thai restaurant to meet a few of her friends who live nearby.  Thai Suan Thip is very cozy on the inside, and all of the servers were helpful and friendly.  I ordered my standard Pad See Ew with chicken, along with Tom Yum Kai soup.  Everything that I sampled was obviously made to order and very satisfying.  If I lived in the neighborhood, it would definitely be my go-to for takeout.

Sarah and I went into the city to explore the Pittsburgh Public Market on Saturday afternoon.  The building isn't completely full in the winter, but it's the perfect size to walk around and taste delicious samples without feeling overwhelmed.  Our selections ranged from goat curry (which was comforting and flavorful) to raspberry habanero jam.  We tasted peach balsamic vinegar, homemade caramel coffee marshmallows, amaretto fudge, and pork BBQ.  After some deliberation, we settled on a falafel wrap and potato and cheese pierogies for lunch.  I don't think I'd ever had real pierogies before, and they are certainly a treat when they're freshly made and hot.  I bought chocolate peanut butter fudge for dessert, and Sarah ate a signature cookie from Espresso Specialty Foods, both of which were divine.  

We had dinner at a charming little restaurant called Caffe Davio, which happened to be serving its five course Valentine's Day dinner that night.  When we sat down, we were offered healthy-sized chunks of bread with white bean and chickpea spreads.  It was hard not to fill up on those, but soon two gorgeous salads came to the table and I was temporarily distracted.  There was nothing too unusual about the salad, but the components were all impressive.  Crisp lettuce, smoky roasted red peppers, tangy gorgonzola (which isn't my favorite cheese, but it blended beautifully), and tender white beans were all dressed with a sweet balsamic vinaigrette.  

If I had to pick my least favorite part of the meal, it would probably be the pasta course, which is hard to believe.  It was a simple fettuccine with tomato sauce, and the noodles were good, but the sauce was a little on the sweet side for my taste.  Luckily, the entrees more than made up for it.  I had black grouper over spinach and roasted veggies, and Sarah ordered the veal chop, which was almost as big as her head.  Both were savory and perfectly cooked.  

We were offered a choice of coffee or tea with our biscotti and vanilla cookies.  I chose a decaffeinated Wild Raspberry Stash tea, which I liked so much that I've already purchased a box for my desk.  The biscotti had flecks of chocolate and wasn't too hard, which is the way I prefer it.  We left very full (so full that we forgot our leftovers!), and impressed with the food and the service.  

Our brunch spot the next day, Pamela's, has several locations around Pittsburgh.  The crepe style pancakes melt in your mouth, have irresistibly crispy edges, and must be tried if you are in town. 

After my trip, I'm not surprised that The Economist deemed Pittsburgh the most liveable city in the country.  If you have a chance, it's definitely worth a visit, even in the coldest months of the year.   


Book Recommendation

I've only read five or six chapters so far, but I'm already sucked in to Cathy Erway's The Art of Eating In.  She decided to abstain from restaurant dining for two years, which is a pretty big challenge wherever you live, but would especially be hard in New York City.  The book is written with a light, personable tone and includes several appealing recipes, which can all be found on her blog.  Check it out!  

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Valentine's Day Dinner

Davy utilized his fine grilling and presentation skills to make these amazing fish tacos and grilled peppers and onions.  They perfectly seasoned, and reminded us both how delicious food from the grill can be after a few months of bitter cold.  He also made enough for two nights, which made them taste even better.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Davy certainly knows the way to my heart.  I woke up to this ensemble on the dining room table:

No matter who you're spending Valentine's Day with, remember to treat yourself and make it sweet!