Sunday, November 28, 2010

DBS' Top 30 2011 Pirate Prospects - #1 to #5

I'm sure that all 6 of you that regularly read this blog are breathlessly awaiting the final 5 prospects, so without further ado...(Again, age is the player's 2011 season age and my projected starting assignment follows)

5. Rudy Owens (23) LHP, AAA -- Does he have a man-perm? Yes. Is he a "soft tossing lefty"? Well, maybe a shade more than that. Ultimately, I think Owens will be a cross between Paul Maholm and Zach Duke, with a touch more velocity. He sits low 90's with his FB and his secondary stuff, including his change, is above average. For that reason and due to his near-major-league-readiness, I've included Rudy Owens in nearly every trade proposal package I've made this offseason. I would love to see him in Pittsburgh, especially after his 150 IP, 124 H, 23 BB, 132 K performance this year, along with a .226 BAA and 1.32 GO/AO ratio, but he may bring us more value in a trade.

4. Tony Sanchez (23) C, AA -- The only thing keeping Sanchez from #2 on this list is his injury-riddled 2010. He got hit in his cake cruncher twice, the second time fractured his jaw and ended his season too early. He also had a severe drop off in throwing performance this year, due to a lingering shoulder injury of some sort. At the plate, he was fantastic again in High A with a .314/.416/.454 (870 OPS) with his great plate discipline (15% BB rate, 20% K rate). But a catcher who can't throw and stay healthy can't play many other positions....

3. Starling Marte (22) OF, AA -- And here's the other poster child for the Training Room Most Valuable Player in 2010. Marte apparently lines his uniform with baseball-attracting magnets, because he has been hit by pitches an abnormally high number of times. It must be that he's crowding the plate or diving in too much. This year he broke his hamate (same as Alvarez and Tabata did in the past) and missed a chunk of the season. A broken hamate saps power numbers. The good news is that Marte hasn't displayed power yet. He did put up a High A line of .319/.387/.460 (847 OPS) with 26 steals in 35 attempts. His defensive reputation is also top-notch, so he's at least working with 4 tools, including the all-important hit tool.

2. Bryan Morris (24) RHP, AAA -- Morris had a huge rebound year after a disasterous 2009 that saw his injured and then suspended for a bad attitude. His 2010 was dominant in High A and then merely very good in Double A. His combined line of 133 IP, 124 H, 38 BB, 124 K's is remarkably similar to Owens and Locke's lines from this year as all three had great control numbers and just under 9 K/9 IP. Morris gets the extra credit for greater velocity and being promoted more aggressively in the past than both Locke and Owens. Remember how Owens was stalled out in Low A for way too long in 2009? And Locke was dominant in High A this year? Morris (and Owens for that matter) may see some time in Pittsburgh this year, especially after the June Super 2 deadline farce.

1. Jameson Taillon (19) RHP, SS/A -- A high school pitcher who hasn't thrown a pitch in anger yet as a Pirate is #1 on this list? Yep, that's what happens when you are this year's "IT" pitcher. Taillon is a 6'7" monster from the Woodlands of Texas (same area as Kyle Drabek) and has the upper 90's heat and present day secondary pitches to enable people to call him a future #1 pitcher and be able to keep a straight face. The interesting thing to watch is where the Pirates place Taillon to start the season. If he is truly on the fastest of fast tracks, they will place him in Low A where he can start in May after one month in extended and still get 22 starts at 5 innings per start to conserve his arm. If he is in State College in mid-June, it will be a little bit of a disappointment. Either way, the Ace of The Future is here in Taillon. Let's hope he delivers.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

DBS' Top 30 2011 Pirate Prospects - #6 to #10

Let's continue marching towards the top of the list. Time to enter the Top 10....

10. Chase d'Arnaud (24) SS/2B, AAA -- I still believe. d'Arnaud had a down season in 2010 with his triple slash line of .247/.331/.377 (708 OPS), but his walk rate was still slightly over 10%. His K rate did increase to just under 20%, though. There were rumors that d'Arnaud was battling pneumonia at the start of the season, but he never used it as an excuse. The bottom line is that he should move up to Triple A in 2011 and hopefully regain his mojo. There are some lingering doubts if he could play shortstop full time in the majors, but it sure would be helpful if he could at least be competent with his batting potential and speed (33 SB/40 ATT).

9. Colton Cain (20) LHP, A -- I love lefties that can gas it in the mid 90's and Cain has that potential. Cain was sidelined at the start of the year recovering from offseason back surgery, but he was ready for a brief GCL stint in June and was then moved to State College for the remainder of the year. His overall line of 48 IP, 35 H, 19 BB, and 47 K's was very positive, as was his .197 BAA. His GO/FO rate of 0.54 was a little disturbing. Cain should move up to Low A West Virginia and be part of a tantalizing rotation of ZVR, Taillon, Cain, and some others from State College (Dodson, Fuesser, Stevenson, Pounders). Cain should be recovered fully from his back injury (he was sitting 89-92 in 2010 on his FB) and be able to incorporate his slider more effectively.

8. Luis Heredia (16) RHP, R -- There are exceptions to every rule and Heredia is proof of that. In the past, I have been very militant against including internationals in the Top 30 polls until they hit the states. But Heredia is such a special talent, as evidenced by his $2.6M bonus (by far the largest international bonus in Pirate history) that the rules must be changed. The rumors are that Heredia already sits 92 with his FB at 16 years old, with plenty of room on his 6'6" (that's huge at 16, especially for a Mexican) and 185 lb frame. He will be right next to Taillon in terms of pitchers to watch this upcoming year. The only reason he's not higher is that he has miles and miles to go until he's close to the majors. But he is 16.

7. Jeff Locke (23) LHP, AA/AAA -- Locke came over in the McLouth trade and may be the Pirates best hope to salvage the trade, as Morton has struggled in the majors and Gorkys Hernandez is struggling to hit in AA. Locke is slightly more than a "soft tossing lefty" as he sits 89-91 with his FB and has a curve and changeup that are at least average. Locke very quietly had a fantastic year over two levels. He always seemed to be in someone's shadow this year...first in Morris's shadow at A+, then Owens's shadow in AA. Locke's combined stat line was 144 IP, 139 H, 26 BB, and 139 K's with a .251 BAA and 1.15 GO/AO rate. As shown above, Locke has fantastic control and enough swing and miss in his arsenal. He may be held back at AA as he had "only" 10 starts there, but realistically the AAA rotation should be his destination.

6. Stetson Allie (20) RHP, SS -- Allie was the 2nd most talked about draft pick by the Pirates in 2010. That happens when you're a high school senior that sits 95 on his FB and hit 100 during the year. Allie will probably be given the State College treatment in 2011, but it would be fantastic if he could open 2011 in Low A. Something to keep in the back of your mind...Allie is an older first year player as his March 13th birthday makes him 1 "year" older than most 2010 HS draftees. My only fear is that Allie is able to harness his fastball and develop some secondary pitches. I have the Ghost of Colt Griffin haunting my prospect dreams.

One list left to go...The Top 5 prospects as rated by me.

Friday, November 26, 2010

DBS' Top 30 2011 Pirate Prospects - #11 - #15

Hopefully the tryptophan from the turkey has worn off from everybody. Let's get back to ranking prospects, this time starting into the top half of the list. As a reminder, the number in parentheses is the player's age during the 2011 season, as of July 1st. The level designation is my projected level that he will start the season at in 2011.

15. Andrew Lambo (22) OF, AA/AAA -- Lambo is the Shiny New Toy in the system, coming over with James McDonald for Octavio Dotel. Some would say that just having McDonald has already made the trade a win for the Pirates, but I would like to see a full season of him. Lambo is the "fallen angel" prospect that Huntington has been trying to scoop up during his tenure (Tabata, Laroche, Alderson, for example). Lambo was rated the Dodgers #1 prospect in 2009 after putting up a .295/.351/.482 (833 OPS) across two levels as a 19-year-old in 2008's season.

But then the trouble started for Lambo. Rumors that he was lazy and had a bad attitude started to surface. His defense was, at best, a secondary concern for him. He was suspended for performance enhancing drugs in May 2010 and while it was not revealed which drug, Lambo was caught in high school smoking marijuana. Even ESPN alluded to marijuana in their report of his suspension. All of these things, plus a drop in on-field performance, allowed him to be available to the Pirates.

Most people are automatically putting Lambo in the Pirates' Top 10. I see a guy confined to LF, even though defensively he should be at 1B (but doesn't have the bat for it) with a bad attitude. I think I will regret having him THIS high come next year.

14. Zack Von Rosenberg (20) RHP, A -- During the Great Pirates Over Slot Draft of 2009, ZVR was the belle of the ball. Signed away from an "iron-clad" LSU committment, ZVR had the frame (6'5") and the ability to add weight (205) to get the projectability tag put on him. He was to have 4 average to plus pitches at his peak, based on his present ability and projection. But a funny thing happened... to date his fastball is still in the mid to high 80's. The Pirates also put all their short-season guys on a strict fastball command program, and in some cases take away their off-speed stuff. This greatly deflates K rates in a person's stats. ZVR was at State College the whole year, which also was disappointing.

He did finish the season extremely strong, especially his last 8 to 10 starts. His overall line of 59 IP, 60 H, 13 BB, 39 K with a 3.20 ERA isn't particularly impressive but it hints at things to come. ZVR should start off the year with Low A West Virginia in what should be a very interesting rotation to watch.

13. Jarek Cunningham (21) 2B, A+ -- Cunningham was drafted in 2008 and put up one of the finest GCL seasons by a HS player in the last 20 years. Then he ripped his ACL and missed all of 2009, on the heels on him having knee surgery in HS (which caused him to drop to the 18th round in 2008). Cunningham came back in 2010 and put together a very solid season...positive for the extra base power, negative for the K/BB rate. He had a .258/.309/.436 (745 OPS) but had 56 extra base hits (37 2B, 7 3B, and 12 HR's), which is just a huge number. Especially for a middle infielder. The downside was his 6% BB rate and 27% K rate. Scouts say that he has trouble with offspeed stuff, but is just murder on a fastball.

As can be said with every prospect, this is an important season. I'm willing to give Cunningham a pass on the K/BB rate due to rust, but it has to improve in 2011. Ultimately, I think he moves to 3B, especially if the bat continues to have thunder in it.

12. Alex Presley (25) OF, AAA/MLB -- Alex Presley, prior to 2010, was an afterthought in the Pirates' system. He was more in danger of being released than in appearing on this list. But after an off-season training with Jim Negrych and getting hitting tips from him, Presley started hitting and never stopped over two levels, earning himself a September cup of coffee with the Pirates.

Presley hit .350/.399/.533 (932 OPS) with Altoona and then upon promotion to AAA hit .294/.349/.460 (809 OPS). His combined counting stats had 28 2B, 13 3B, 12 HR's, and 13 SB's. Presley is most likely a 4th OF at best, but that still has value. Depending on how things go this winter with Huntington's moves, Presley has an outside chance of being on the roster for the Pirates next year to start the season.

11. Justin Wilson (23) LHP, AAA -- Wilson was drafted in 2008 fresh off the heels of a fantastic College World Series. Wilson has all the pitches you need to be successful as a starter, but they all have so much movement that it leads to poor control numbers. This year at AA, Wilson was part of the fantastic rotation with Owens, Locke, and Morris. At times, he was the 4th Musketeer of the group. His overall line of 142 IP, 109 H, 71 BB, and 134 K's shows the best and worst of him. His BB rate of 4.5 BB/9 is unacceptable for a starter in MLB, but the 8.6 K/9 shows he has the swing and miss stuff.

Wilson will probably spend all year at AAA, unlike Owens and Morris who may debut this year, in an effort to determine if he will be a starter or a reliever long-term.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ricotta Gnudi (yeah, I laugh at the pronunciation too)

DB~ and I have been together nearly 2 years, but she still is revealing interesting little facets to me. It's her off-handed manner of these reveals that I find most enjoyable. Not all are earth-shattering; some are rather mundane, like the one a couple of weeks ago we she says unprovoked "I really like the taste of ricotta cheese".

This from a half-Italian that doesn't like red sauce on her pasta (can't trust someone who doesn't like red sauce, right?). Since I love to cook for her, I wanted to find an interesting way to incorporate ricotta cheese into a dish.

Enter the gnudi (pronounced "nude-e").

I hear about it as an alternative to gnocchi, which I like but can be a little heavy at times. I looked online for recipes for gnudi and it seemed relatively easy to make. Here's the recipe that I used this past weekend:

15 oz container of ricotta cheese
1 egg
3/4 cup of flour
1/2 cup of parm cheese
Enough chopped spinach to make it look good (very scientific)
1/2 tsp of nutmeg
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of pepper

Mix all of these ingredients together in a bowl. Then take small golf ball sized balls out and roll them into a log shape. Alternatively, you can take the whole ball from the mixing bowl and roll it into a huge 1-inch diameter log and chop it into segments.

Regardless, I got about 10-12 logs out of this recipe. Roll them lightly in flour on a board and then drop them into a stockpot of boiling water. Cook them for 4 minutes until they float to the surface. Take them out individually with a slotted spoon.

I served them with a basil-cream sauce:
1 cup of heavy cream
Handful of shredded basil
2 tbsp of flour to thicken
Salt, pepper to taste
1 tsp of garlic

I heated this up on medium heat until the sauce thickened and served it hot over the drained gnudi.

DB~ whipped up a baked brie for us (and we had a somewhat standard bagged salad) to go with the meal. The baked brie was pretty simple to make:
1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted
1 8 oz wheel of brie
Blackberry jelly

She spread the jelly in the center of the unfolded pastry sheet, in a circle the same size as the diameter of the brie. The brie was place on top of the jelly and baked for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Let it cool for a few minutes to solidify the brie a little bit.

DB~ was awesome in the kitchen this weekend at my family's vacation home. She really put something extra into her kitchen skills. Not sure exactly what, can't put my finger on it, but I just wanted to say thank you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

DBS' Top 30 2011 Pirate Prospects - #16 to #20

After this post, we'll be halfway through the list. I probably pick this up on Sunday, as DB~ and I are taking a short getaway this weekend.

20. Mel Rojas (21) OF, A -- Rojas was a 2010 draftee that is said to be a complete toolshed, but very raw. He had an atrocious debut at State College this summer with a .207/.309/.250 (559 OPS) line in 164 AB's. Rojas struck out in over 25% of his at-bats. You'll see a lot of other sites that rank Rojas higher, but I'm a 60% performance/40% potential guy. Frankly, I'm surprised I don't have him lower.

19. Jorge Bishop (20) 2B/SS, SS/A -- Bishop is part of Huntington's initial International Draft class in 2008. He was, however, a very unheralded signing of roughly $25K. Bishop in the DSL in 2009 and GCL in 2010 tailed off at the end of each season. Long-term Bishop is a 2B, unless he bulks up too much. His 2010 GCL season line was .257/.305/.421 (726 OPS). He had 4 HR and 12 SB, while striking out less than 20% of the time. At the time of his signing, Bishop was 5'10" and 152 pounds, so hopefully he can grow a couple of inches and pack on some weight, which would help his ability to finish the season out. Bishop's is slightly older than the typical 2008 International, so it would be wise to push him to Low A.

18. Exicardo Cayonez (19) OF, A -- Cayonez is also part of the 2008 International Draft class and was a higher profile signing, as evidenced by his $400,000 bonus. This was the largest International bonus prior to Luis Heredia this year. Cayonez's strongest tool is the "hit" tool. In 2010 in the GCL, Cayonez went .263/.369/.362 (731 OPS) with a 10% BB rate and 20% K rate. The downside is that Cayonez does not have a lot of present power, with no HR and only 13 total XBH in 152 AB's. If Cayonez stays as a corner OF, he will need to develop that tool. As Cayonez's approach is a little more advanced, it would surprise me if he were NOT at Low A West Virginia to start the year.

17. Nick Kingham (19) RHP, SS -- Kingham was part of the 2010 Draft smorgasbord of RHP taken. Kingham has the kind of frame that leaves scouting directors drooling...6'5" and 220 pounds. This allows you to dream that his present-day low 90's FB will get into the mid 90's in a few years. Kingham only had 3 cameo innings at GCL, but Kingham will be placed in the State College tank like all of 2009 pitchers did this year. With the potential glut of pitchers at Low A this year, I expect the Pirates to keep Kingham at State College all year.

16. Eric Avila (21) 3B, A -- Avila was an older arrival to the States from the International side of things, but he had a great 2010 season (albeit as a 20 year old in the GCL). Avila's line of .277/.327/.472 (799 OPS) was highlighted by 7 HR's and 9 SB's, all while playing a competent hot corner. Due to his age, Avila needs to be bumped up to Low A to start 2011.

Halfway through and there's still a lot of interesting names to discuss.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

DBS' Top 30 2011 Pirate Prospects - #21 to #25

Yesterday we kicked this off with prospects numbered 26 to 30. Let's keep this rolling...

25. Nathan Adcock (23) RHP, AA -- Adcock came over with Brett Lorin and Aaron Pribanic in the Clement/Cedeno/Jack Wilson/Ian Snell swap meet. To date, Adcock has been the most successful of the three, although Pribanic seems to be on track to at least be a middle reliever. At this point, Adcock's average stuff (88-90 mph FB, curve, change) is playing well. His age of 23 during the 2011 season is in his favor and he should start off at Altoona. Adcock may be a back-end starter option in 2012/2013. Adcock pitched 141 IP, gave up 131 H, walked 38, and struck out 113. His groundout/airout rate was a healthy 1.42.

24. Josh Harrison (24) 2B/3B, AAA -- Harrison is the lone healthy man standing from the Tom Gorzellany trade. Both Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio are injured and their futures are uncertain with the Pirates. Harrison has turned himself into a viable utility man option with the Pirates. This year in Altoona, Harrison had a line of .300/.345/.398 with 19 steals. Harrison doesn't walk a lot (roughly 6%), but he also doesn't strike out much (10%). I saw him twice in Altoona this year and the ball sounds louder when it comes off his bat than other players. His downside is that his defense is not very smooth, which precludes hopes he could be an everyday player.

23. Brock Holt (23) SS/2B, A+/AA -- Holt exploded out of the gate this year with a line of .351/.410/.438 before ripping his ACL in June. It really put a damper on what was an exciting start for him. Holt was already aggressively placed in High A in 2010, so there is a chance he has to start there in 2011. Hopefully he will get a mid-season promotion to AA.

22. Matt Hague (25) 1B, AAA -- Hague was part of the 2008 draft that netted Alvarez, Chase d'Arnaud, Jordy Mercer, Robbie Grossman, Quinton Miller and others. Hague has very quietly gone about his business and had a line of .295/.375/.442 in Altoona. Hague also has the reputation of being a solid defender at 1B. Hague had a near 1:1 ratio of BB/K (61 BB v. 62 K) this year, but the concern is that he won't have enough power to justify being a full time 1B. Hague had 15 HR's this year and 30 2B's. Perhaps at his best case Hague could be a JT Snow type of player, but is more likely to be a part-time player.

21. Matt Curry (22) 1B, A/A+ -- Curry was a 2010 draftee from TCU. He came out hot at State College, cooling a little at the end of the year, but still had a nice debut of .299/.421/.477 (898 OPS) with 7 HR in 197 AB's. His K/BB rates were great with a 20% BB rate and an acceptable 25% K rate. Curry may combine the best traits of the 1B-men in the system...Hague's patience, Aaron Baker's power, and Calvin Anderson's....well, Curry is pretty good. Unfortunately, he's kind of locked in the totem pole. Hague will be at AAA, Calvin will be at AA, Baker will be at A+. Unless they move one of them to the outfield or skip a level with someone, Curry may be stuck at Low A unless he's too good to keep there all year.

Tomorrow we'll keep on truckin' with #16-#20.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

DBS' Top 30 2011 Pirates Prospects - #26 to #30

It's time for the 2nd annual and hotly-anticipated DBS Top 30 Pirate Prospects for 2011! Contain yourself and maintain professionalism, please.

The requirements to be on the Top 30 list are similar to Baseball America's thresholds for rookie eligibility -- 50 innings pitches and 130 at-bats in the majors.

The age in parentheses is the players 2011-season age (using July 1 as the cutoff) and the level is my projected starting assignment.

30. Quinton Miller (21) RHP, A+ -- Miller was part of Neal Huntington's first draft as GM of the Pirates in 2008. I sometimes refer to Robbie Grossman and Quinton Miller as being an oasis in the desert for Pirate prospectors. For years, Dave Littlefield's drafts consisted of college players of all shapes and sizes. Rarely were high-end high school players, let alone over-slot players, brought into the system. So when Miller, a highly touted North Carolina recruit, was signed there was mass rejoicing.

Things have been slow going at best, teeth-grinding at worst for Miller. He has fought injuries for both of his first 2 full seasons with the Pirates. This year, Miller only pitched 66 innings (primarily at Low A West Virginia), giving up 71 hits, walking 17, and striking out 38. Not only did he not build up his arm any further, but he didn't strike many people out. The good news is that Miller had a 1.64 ground out/air out rate, but he has definitely been eclipsed in the pecking order by 2009 and 2010 draftees.

29. Evan Chambers (22) OF, A+ -- Chambers is perhaps the most puzzling player to rank in all of the Pirates' system. With a shape like Kirby Puckett, but none of his contact skills, Chambers offers a tantalizing mix of speed/power/patience. This year in Low A WV, Chambers put up a triple slash line of .239/.384/.386 (770 OPS) with 12 HR's, 35 SB's and a pile of walks (92 to be exact). Chambers possesses all 5 tools, except the most important one -- the hit tool. There is a school of thought that Chambers desire to display patience gets him into too many 2 strike counts, leading to his high K rate and lowers his batting average. Late in the year, coaches tried to make him more aggressive. Right now he has too many tools to ignore, but 2011 needs to be a turning point for him.

28. Diego Moreno (24) RHP, AA -- Moreno is a pure relief pitching prospect, with no chance of him being a starter. But this has allowed him to be rated as one of the top relief prospects in all of minor league baseball, thanks to his blazing upper 90's fastball, rated anywhere from a 70 to 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale.

Moreno started the season in High A and embarrassed the league (38 IP, 14 H, 5 BB, 57 K's, 1.17 ERA) before getting bumped up to AA. He had a setback there and encountered a disciplinary problem that got him sent back briefly to High A Bradenton. Moreno will be sent to Altoona to start 2011 and hopefully get bumped up to AAA by July. Moreno is still a great candidate to be a member of the Pirates' bullpen, but the discipline problem and his age are starting to act against him.

27. Nate Baker (23) LHP, A+/AA -- Baker is one of those guys that is going to have to work for it at every level. He's never going to be aggressively promoted or highly hyped, but if he keeps producing like he did in 2010, he'll find a spot in PNC eventually. Baker had 16 starts in Low A and 9 in High A with very similar results. His overall numbers for the season were 132 IP, 110 H, 37 BB, 94 K's and a 1.14 GO/AO rate with a 3.00 ERA. His arsenal is average stuff across the board, but he has "pitchability". So there's that.

26. Brian Friday (25) 2B/SS, AAA/MLB -- Friday may very well have already debuted with the Pirates if he weren't apparently constructed out of glass. In 2010, Friday again missed significant time and only appeared in 103 games (93 in AAA). He had a fair season of .257/.347/.378 (725 OPS) while having steady, if unspectacular, defense. His upside at this point is a utility infielder, but due to his proximity to making the majors he still gets a spot on my Top 30 for one more year.

The fun will continue tomorrow with #21 to #25.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Anniversary to DBS

One year ago today, this blog launched as a place for me to keep my thoughts in a semi-permanent state. In recent months, I have reviewed some posts to see how my ideas played out and, for the most part, they have held up well.

Not a true post tonight (feeling massively uninspired lately), but just wanted to wish a happy anniversary to my alter ego....Dale Berra's Stash.

More to come soon -- like my Top 30 Pirates Prospects. Always a crowd favorite.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wild Rosemary - save your pennies and go here

Last night, I journeyed to the strange land known as the South Hills of Pittsburgh to meet DB~ for dinner. She selected Wild Rosemary as the place to go for dinner last night. We have talked about going here for a while now and it was well worth the wait.

Wild Rosemary only has 8 to 10 tables tops, so a reservation is a must. They pretty much seat people in flights. We had the 6 pm to 7:30 pm sector. When we left, we were pretty sure the people sitting in their Lexus SUV were waiting for us to go so they could get our table.

Wild Rosemary is an absolute jewel of a restaurant. DB~ described the decor as "shabby chic". It has a refined country feel to it, with its distressed cabinetry painted cornflower blue and the presence of wooden reeds and corn-husk-looking lights in the front windows.

Our experience started with a complimentary starter of pumpkin soup, but it was the vessel that it was served in that won us over. The soup was served in a small, hollowed-out pie pumpkin and the top was cut off on a biased angle. This allowed you to use your spoon to scoop directly out of the pumpkin, rather than having to get it out of the top of the pumpkin. Just take a look at the picture, as I really screwed up that description. (Wow, what a nice looking ring on DB~'s hand!)

For dinner, DB~ went with the Sea Bass that was served in one of the largest soup bowl ever designed. The sea bass was in a risotto salad broth. There were some zucchini slices and tomato chunks intermixed with the risotto salad broth, as well. DB~ felt a little guilty leave a small chunk of the sea bass in her bowl, but it wasn't really enough to take home. Her meal also came with a few leaves of romaine lettuce topped with a ginger/soy dressing.

I wasn't feeling like having seafood last night, which was half of the Wild Rosemary menu last night, so I went boring and got the Strip Steak. DB~ chided me a little bit for my "safe" choice, but when it came to the table it was worth it. The steak, which I ordered medium-well, was done perfectly. I mean...perfectly. I hate cutting into a steak and then my plate looks like the scene of the Tate-Bianca murders. When I cut this steak, it was still juicy and just a hint of pink. The steak had a red wine demi-glaze sauce over top of the well seasoned meat, plus some fire roasted tomatoes.

On my plate, I also had a stacked scalloped potato that was thin slices of the potato with some cheese melted between each layer. I also had a salad on my plate that was called "rocket" on the menu. When we asked what that meant, our server said it was an organic arugula, but we still didn't understand why it was called rocket. Whatever, it was fantastic with the julienned tomatoes and balsamic dressing.

We spoke with one of the owners briefly after our meal (she was the hostess) and she told us that there are 3 women that own the restaurant. In addition to herself, the chef named Gloria and the baker with the blond hair are the other pieces of the triumvirate of ownership. Our table was not next to the window looking into the restaurant, but we could still see in to it. Gloria was working feverishly all night to prepare the delicious dishes.

Wild Rosemary is a locovore restaurant, meaning that they attempt to use only locally produced foods. They thanked a particular farm market on their menu last night, which I can't remember the name of right now.

The only downside is that Wild Rosemary is it's expensive. The entrees ranged from $31 for a roasted chicken dish to $43 for the majority of the dishes. It's not a place that you go every week, but definitely if you have a special occasion or are willing to splurge.

Friday, November 5, 2010

California Pizza Kitchen - I hope this little upstart makes it

Pretty much all the restaurants I've blogged about are local restaurants, maybe a restaurant that has 2 locations tops. Well, I'm not a total chain-snob, as one of my personal favorite restaurants has come to Pittsburgh (finally).

California Pizza Kitchen only seems as if they have a location everywhere but Pittsburgh. The closest they seem to be, before now, was Philly. And everyone knows that unless you have family there, there's no reason to visit Philly.

On a chilly Wednesday night, DB~ and I met at Ross Park Mall (in the site of the old Lens Crafters) to sample the delicious mallside pizzas created here. The decor inside is suburban chic, with good lighting but very clean and neat lines and building materials. The kitchen is wide open so you can watch the food being prepared. I watched the army of people (estimated 15 in the kitchen plus 10 on the floor like servers) scurrying around completing their tasks.

I went with my personal favorite, the California Club. It has chicken chunks and bacon on it, then is topped when it comes out with lettuce dipped in mayo and slices of avacodo and tomato. Here's a picture of my half-eaten pizza. Again, DB~ had to remind me to take pictures. Worst. Food Blogger. Ever.

DB~ went with the Goat Cheese and Roasted Peppers pizza, but it actually has a bunch more veggies on it like eggplant, red and yellow peppers, and carmelized onions. For a borderline vegetarian like DB~, this was a perfect choice. Here's her pizza:

Most of their pizzas can be topped with a protein, like chicken or shrimp, for a extra charge. And also for an extra charge all pizzas can be made on their thin crust, which is almost like a flatbread in crispness.

Another good thing about California Pizza Kitchen is that they have a full bar, so feel free to go get crunked in the middle of shopping for gifts this upcoming holiday season. One of these days I'll have to get something other than a pizza here, as they have a very extensive menu. But for now I'll keep sampling some of the other delicious creations that come in a round shape.