Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I'm Sure the Gel is Oddly Soothing

DB~ stumbled on this odd little website and passed on this link to a futuristic bleeding edge design studio. This idea is to use nanotech robots to cool food in a mind-blowing refrigerator.

The food would be held in place through surface tension principles. There are no doors or drawers. Each piece of food placed in the "fridge" would be encapsulated in its own gel capsule. Since the nano-bots absorb the energy on the infrared scale on a nano-scopic level, the whole refrigerator would only be 9 inches deep, thus freeing up huge amounts of space.

Since there are no doors or drawers, you would be able to place the refrigerator either vertically or horizontally -- although I'm not sure why horizontal would be a good idea.
The obvious benefit is that it has no moving parts and requires no power, so it would be silent and green. Which is oddly close to Soilent Green....which was made of people....wait....what exactly is that gel made of again?

I'm sure that once you get past the notion of reaching your hand into a gooey biomass of nanoscopic robots that are circulating and holding up the food you will eventually put in your mouth that this will catch right on with the public.

I'll reserve my nanorefrigerator at Best Buy for delivery in 2058.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Shrimp Saganaki and Mushroom Risotto

I've decided that I can no longer be allowed to go to a Market District unsupervised. When I go shopping normally, I have a list (thanks to the app Cozi) that I follow. The list has been done ahead of time and the meals are planned for that week, based on our respective schedules.

All of that goes out the window when I go to a Market District. I get into a food haze when I walk in there. My mind starts to race about different things to make, different foods to try, and new variations on products.

I didn't intend to replicate some of the dishes that we had on our honeymoon in Greece, but it turned out that way.

I'm not a fan of mushrooms. At all. But for DB~ I'm re-considering all options. Since her favorite dish of all time was the mushroom risotto that she had at Kandouri's in Oia, Santorini, I decided to buy some crimini mushrooms and do a knockoff version of it for her.

My original intent was to find some seafood that Market District advertised during their Fill Your Freezer Sale, but I ended up just getting a 2 lb bag of shrimp. I always like to buy shrimp fresh not frozen, even if I'm just going to end up freezing them myself. I also like to buy American. Both of those things were overlooked in my Market District frenzy. Even though they are Indonesian and most likely raised on a farm instead of wild, it is nice that they are already peeled and de-veined.

For the shrimp saganaki dish, attempting to recreate the dish I had at Cafe Petros, I used the two tagines. I put some canned tomatoes seasoned with garlic and oregano in each tagine, then topped them with crumbled feta. I baked this in the oven covered for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. After that, I introduced the shrimp into the tagines to cook for 5 additional minutes.

Making risotto is labor intensive. First I started by putting 2 cans of chicken broth into a saucepan and keeping it on medium-low heat. Then I sauteed the chopped mushrooms in a little olive oil to soften them up. Next I added a little oil to a medium size saucepan and added some diced yellow onion. After softening that for 3 minutes, I added the 1-1/2 cups of arborio rice to the saucepan and coated it in the oil and onion. You then introduce 1/2 cup of chicken broth and stir the rice vigorously. This breaks down the rice and introduces the starch into the mix, giving it that creamy texture. Once the rice absorbs that liquid, repeat the process until all 4 cups of broth are done.

Then add the mushrooms, some grated parmesean cheese, 3 tablespoons of butter, salt and pepper, and stir together until creamy.

We ate directly out of the tagines, so I plated a scoop of mushroom risotto in the center of the plate surrounded by 4 grape leaves. DB~ put on a CD of Santorini music and for 1 hour we felt like we were back on that island again.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Oakland -- Future Leaders of America?

If Oakland, home to the University of Pittsburgh, is helping to cultivate our future doctors, engineers, and business leaders....then they're all going to have terrible fashion sense.

That was the takeaway from my trip down to Oakland to pick up some gift cards for a birthday gift. My cousin from Texas chose to come to the University of Pittsburgh because she hates Texas, Texas weather, Texas people, and wanted to see snow.

Anywho...I didn't have to rush home, so I wandered around Fifth and Forbes and couldn't believe how much it changed since I used to haunt it in my misspent youth. (Dons old man cap and puts on cardigan sweater).

I didn't attend Pitt, but I had a ton of friends from high school that did, so during breaks or when I was interning back here in Pittsburgh, I would hang out there. I noticed last night that there are so many more food choices and interesting food choices as compared to the mid/late 90's. I bought GC's to Caribou Coffee and Starbucks Coffee, both jammed with young brainy females that would have loved to talk to an engineering college student back then...surely. There's Noodles and Company, Panera, Quaker State, multiple delis with healthier choices, plus offstreet ethnic places like an intriguing Cuban restaurant that I should have tried.

Instead, I think stubbornly, I went to the O for a "small" fry order (feeds 2 people) and ate it in a place that refuses to change and adapt. It's dirty, cheap, greasy, and probably still edgy at night -- awesome. I got some noodles not at Noodles and Company, which was bright and trendy, but Taiwan Express which was dirty and probably staffed by indentured servant immigrants.

I kind of flashed back to when DB~ and I were in Montreal. We spent a good deal of time using the subway system to explore the city. We got off at an interesting stop called Beri-UQAM which we found out meant University of Quebec at Montreal. We were deposited into the middle of what felt like Oakland, except it had strip clubs and a massive amount of bars and shopping areas.

Tons of skinny jeans (both girl and guy), leggings, ruffled skirts, yoga pants. Typical college attire that will hopefully not start to translate to the workplace. Some things have to stay the same, right?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What A.J. Burnett Means to the Pirates

The Pirates (finally) completed their trade for A.J. Burnett yesterday with the Yankees. The Yankees will be paying $20M of the remaining $33M on Burnett's contract -- the Pirates will pay Burnett $5M in 2012 and $8M in 2013 -- and the Pirates sent RHP Diego Moreno and OF Exicardo Cayones in exchange. Neither of these guys will be missed. The Pirates seemed to have tired of Moreno's immaturity, as they stalled him out in High-A with only a taste of AA. Cayones was a Latin American bonus-baby ($400K signing bonus) that has yet to hit a professional home run.

I've seen Burnett described as "old" as a 35-year-old pitcher. I'm 35. Hearing him described as old makes me feel old. Gah....growing old is getting old.

Burnett had a rough 2010 and 2011 with the Yankees due to higher-than-usual HR rates. In my opinion, most of the problem is a lack of separation in speed between his slowly declining fastball (still a top notch 92.7 average) and his firm changeup of 88 mph. You really want to see an 8-10 mph difference between the two. Hopefully Ray Searage can alter that.

But what Burnett does is legitimize this rotation and to a small extent this whole team. He's a "name" and still producing well. Barring injury, Burnett will anchor this rotation and provide 190+ innings this year.

Both Burnett (8.1 K/9 innings) and free agent signee Erik Bedard (8.7 K/9) bring a different dynamic to this rotation in 2012 -- the strikeout capability that has been lacking since...forever. Just as an example, here's the K rates for the rotation in 2011:

2011 -- McDonald (7.47 K/9), Morton (5.77 K/9), Maholm (5.38 K/9), Karstens (5.32 K/9), Correia (4.50 K/9)

Here's what that could look like in 2012:

2012 -- Bedard (8.76 K/9), Burnett (8.18 K/9), McDonald (7.47 K/9), Morton (5.77 K/9), Karstens (5.38 K/9)

Quite a difference. Instead of relying on putting the ball in play, with all that entails in terms of errors and poor decision making of other moving parts, the rotation is now a do-it-yourself type of mentality. I'm just going to throw this ball past the hitter, have my catcher catch it (bye Ryan Doumit), and eliminate the middle man.

This past offseason, the Pirates waded in to free agency early and got guys like Clint Barmes and Rod Barajas as soon as the store opened. Both of these guys are defensive upgrades on their replacements. Barmes should at least be Cedeno's equivalent on offense, too. Barajas has power at least -- hopefully a healthier Chris Synder. The Pirates also stole Bedard at $4.5M, although it will be amazing if he pitches move than 140 innings this year.

The Pirates tried to obtain a big player via free agency, but for the 2nd year in a row they couldn't give their money away. Last year their white whale was Jorge de la Rosa, this year Edwin Jackson. So they did the next best thing and shanghaied someone from another team in A.J. Burnett.

It may be the excitement of the move, still, but I'm excited about the Pirates. I will realistically say this is a 78 win team, but with a bounce or two here and there they could finally break The Streak. If that happens, it will be due to A.J. Burnett fronting this rotation. Breaking the losing streak should finally lead to free agents not using the Pirates as their "back up school" while they wait for Harvard to get back to them.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to listen to the Silversun Pickups.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Probably Tough to Find Curtains

DB~ stumbled on this story from the New York Times about a Pittsburgh couple that built quite an avant-garde house in Pittsburgh. Click the link and check out the slideshow. Go ahead, I'll wait. (*checks email) (*refreshes MLB Trade Rumors for the 8,156th time to see if the Burnett trade is final) (*thinks about what to make for dinner)

Pretty sweet, huh? As long as your bag of tea is a glass and steel cantilevered box of a house. The story is that the empty nest couple wanted to live in the City and have a cool house. They also wanted to be close to the husband's glass factory business. They took those two things to their maximum extent by building their new home DIRECTLY over top of the business. The house cantilevers out quite a bit from the facade of the business, so that is quite a transfer beam running through there at some point.

The Zielinski's own Emerald Art Glass in the South Side, so they get a picturesque view of people peeing on cars on Carson Street and the muddy waters of the mighty Monongahela passing by them each morning and evening.

All snark aside, I would love to live in an industrial steel and glass house like this. It's ballsy and is a definite showpiece. I wonder if the decorations are as spartan as shown in the slide show or if that was just for the news piece? You certainly must be willing to surrender your privacy to live in a place like this.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Going back to Kingston

I gave DB~ carte blanche to select whatever she wanted to eat. She wanted to reminisce over our trip to Jamaica we took back in March 2010, so she went with Jamaican night.

I bought a jerk chicken marinade that was just spicy enough to get your attention, but not ridiculous. I marinated some chicken tenderloins at the start of the morning so they were good and marinated by dinner time. For the side dishes, I went with a simple box of herb roasted chicken rice. Technically, it should have been white rice I guess, but that can get boring.

I wanted an island-feeling side dish, so I saw some plantains at Giant Eagle. I took the peels off of the them, cut them in half width wise and then cut each half LENGTH wise (twice) to get plaintain "planks". I fried them in some oil for 1-1/2 minutes each side, until they get just a little brown, then I dusted them with cinnamon to give some taste to the kind of plain taste.

The finishing touch was serving it all with Red Stripe. Swim up bars + Red Stripe in Jamaica = one stumbling good time on vacation. We toned it down considerably, of course, only having 2 each.

Big ups to Tony, who made the fish for us, and Geraldine who braided DB~'s hair. One love. Respec'.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Avacado - Apple Slaw

It's happened slowly. Almost imperceptibly. Like a whisper of a notion daydreamed by the wind.

I'm slowly becoming a vegetarian, I fear. DB~ is a wannabe vegetarian who will one day go Full Veggie. Through osmosis and the transient property of food consumption, that means I'm adopting vegetarian tendencies, too.

DB~ has been on a nice run of finding recipes, primarily through the website Real Simple, and last week she found a good one for fish tacos. We made them with tilapia, but the real star of the show was the Avacado-Apple slaw that was the primary topper on the fish.

I cubed one avacado, diced up one peeled Granny Smith green apple, dashed on some chili powder, and sprinkled salt. I forgot to buy a lime to squeeze over top, but I'll do that next time for sure.

The apple gave it some crunch, while the avacado was smooth and creamy. We added some colby cheese and sour cream on top of the fish tacos in the soft shells.

The sad part to me is that I really don't miss red meat that much. I still love pork and can't ever see giving that up, but aside from a stray burger here and there, I don't eat red meat anymore. In a blue moon, I'll splurge and have a steak. But overall I don't mind a predominantly vegetarian diet.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Park Brugge

Last night I was working late. DB~ planned to meet her aunt for dinner and asked if I would like to join them. The place they selected was Park Brugge, which is the sister restaurant of the fantastic (and still relatively-under-the-radar) Point Brugge in Point Breeze.

Park Brugge is located in Highland Park (see the pattern) and has a French flair to its menu in contrast to the Belgian tint of Point Brugge. Old favorites from the Point are still on the menu, such as the mussels (Moules Frittes), but one of the 3 possible preparations is a Creole-style with andouille sausage/trinity/tomatoes. Foreshadowing!!

They also have these little flatbreads using a recipe from the region in France known as Alsace. The flatbreads are called Tarte Flambees and there are also 3 preparations. We selected as an appetizer the one with carmelized onions, shaved cheese, ham, and chives with a topping of creme fraiche. It was pretty fantastic and enough for 2 people to enjoy and for 3 people to share (meaning I was ready for my entree).

I did end up ordering the mussels creole-style. You get a pound and a half of the tasty little hinged black sea creatures. This was only my second time every having mussels, with the first being when I made them a few months ago for DB~. The sauce and veggies infiltrated every one of the mussels, so you actually get excited to pop them open fully and scoop out the goodness inside. It also comes with frites (french fries) and mayo, plus a chunk of crusty bread. I was uncomfortably full when done.

DB~ made an interesting choice by selecting the Vegetable Pasta, minus the peas which are the bane of her culinary world. She was quite pleased by the huge size of the pasta, which were rather large as pasta shells go. She got it topped with some grilled chicken.

Her aunt went with the Roasted Half Chicken that came with an order of frites and vegetables. The presentation on the plate was quite pretty when it was served. The remnants of this dish are sitting in our refrigerator and will probably be my lunch sometime this weekend.

If you've ever been to Point Brugge, you know that it is a real feat to get a table. It's a small space and has a borderline cult following. Park Brugge has more seating, but it was still a 20 minute wait on Thursday night. We chose to dine bar-side instead.

Highland Park is an area of town that I have not frequented much in the past, but with Park Brugge there and the Smiling Banana Leaf right next door, we'll probably be back in this neck of town.