Wednesday, July 31, 2013

DBS Euro Trip 2013 - Borough Market, London

There's a term among food blogs referring to the pictures as "food porn".  Well, while we were in London we went to the equivalent of a "food gangbang" in the form of the Borough Market.  It's located just downriver from the Southbank District, nestled in this section of open air warehouses and under a bridge.

We were greeted by a vendor selling hard cider, which we immediately purchased.  At 8% alcohol on a hot day, this immediately went to our heads after we chugged it a little too quickly.  The rest o the market was alcohol-free for us, but no less exciting.

When I ask DB~ what she wants me to pick up at Giant Eagle for dinner, it's mostly "chicken" or "fish" -- when the London version of DB~ could say she wants me to pick up a "zebra burger" or a "springbok burger" or a "kangaroo burger".  Among many other exotic cuts of meat at this one butcher stand.  The fish mongers were out of control as well.

Teas, coffees, desserts, fruit, breads.  And cheeses....oh, there were cheeses.  We stopped to get a sample from a nice Swiss gentleman at a stand.  He shaved pieces of a hard cheese right into our hands and we sampled it.  It was a hard goat's milk cheese with a finishing kick of black pepper.  It would be PERFECT as a finisher on pasta.  This cheese was called a Gesper Knoll and a small 3 oz ball of it was 28 Sterling Pounds (around $40 U.S.), so....yeah, it's 'spensive.

There were some many Londoners here for lunch.  What a lucky bunch of limeys to be able to just walk over for lunch to this worldwide smorgasbord.  There were massively huge skillets of paella and curries that were no lie at least 5 foot in diameter.  And they could barely keep them full the demand was so high.

For lunch, DB~ chose a small mushroom and veggie pie from a stand called Pie Minister (she laughed about this name all day long...I could say it to her right now and she would chuckle).

I had two different things.  The first were some vegetarian dumplings from a small Asian stand that was insanely busy.  The second was a pork and Stilton cheese burger on a Brioche bun.

Not only was this my favorite thing in London (tough call, because I loved London), it was my favorite thing on the whole trip.  There were things in the other cities that were very inspiring and impressive, but in terms of pure favorite this was it.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

DBS Euro Trip 2013 - London Calling

I haven't written a lot this summer.  It's seems like DB~ and I weren't really doing interesting this year, but we were scrimping and saving every sheckel we could find to take our vacation to Europe this summer.  We decided to semi blitz Europe by going to London, Brussels, and Paris over a period of 9 days.  Eventually, our feet would tell us this would be a bad idea.

Once we got to Heathrow, the best and most economical way into town would be to take the Underground to London.  This was only 11 pounds (about $15 dollars, man the exchange rate sucks) and took us to the Vauxhall station just 10 minutes from our hotel.

The very first thing we see when we get topside from the Underground is the MI-6 building.  I mean...the first thing we see is James Bond's headquarters.  It's a very impressive looking building sitting right on the Thames River, even if the area directly around it is a little edgy.  Thankfully, our hotel area 10 minutes by foot was much nicer.

We were just a couple minute walk away from an area of town known as Southbank, which is a trendy/touristy area highlighted by the London Eye, the giant Ferris wheel that gives great views of London.  To stave off the jet lag, we set our stuff down in our room (thankfully it was ready at 10:30 am local time) and head off to explore.  The first thing we did was ride the London Eye.

The Eye is an engineering marvel in terms of its gigantic nature, but I'm sure that many Londoners consider it to be an architectural blight as it is very imposing on the surrounding skyline.  For as big of an attraction as the Eye is, the line moves surprisingly quick.  Each pod holds around 25-30 people and the Eye never stops moving.  It just slows down a little for the people to get out and then the next group gets on.  There's probably 30-40 pods so at any time there's 1000-1200 people on this thing.  The views really are spectacular.

After the Eye, we had our first meal at a real hole in the wall English pub called....The Hole In the Wall.  I went with Bangers and Mash (sausage and mashed potatoes), while DB~ chose an Onion and Cheese sandwich.  She doesn't eat onions back home, but chose to eat them here for some reason.  It was a nice intro to England and gave us some energy to get through the afternoon.

We crossed the Westminster bridge and headed towards Parliament and Big Ben (look kids, Big Ben...Parliament) and got to hear Big Ben chime on the top of the hour.  When you look at things in London (and later in Brussels and Paris) you realize the amount of detail work that went into construction back then.  It's hard to imagine that any building built today would have such hand carved details and gargoyles and figures to it.

After seeing some more governmental type buildings, such as 10 Downing Street from behind a security gate, it was around 5:30 pm.  We decided to eat dinner now, as DB~ was rapidly losing energy since we both only slept 2-3 hours on the flight.  Across from 10 Downing was a cool looking English restaurant with dark colored wood and brass called The Red Lion.  I had Fish and Chips and DB~ went with a Salmon Filet (she was being very picky about where she selected her Fish and Chips, for some reason again).

The fish was crunchy and the chips (fries, if you weren't sure) were fine.  The British were big on serving peas, so I asked for some other vegetable instead (I had peas with my Bangers and Mash).  It's the tempura batter on the fish that really makes it.  Not surprisingly, it was only us and 2 other American-looking couples eating dinner at this time.

On the way back to the hotel, about a 15 minute walk, DB~ was practically falling asleep as she moved.  We covered a lot of ground on foot, but that was nothing compared to the Death March we would go on the next day.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trade Target - Kevin Frandsen

Although the most glaring need on the Pirates right now is in Right Field, it is important to also upgrade the bench at the trade deadline too.  Right now on any given night, the bench available to Clint Hurdle is Gaby Sanchez, Michael McKenry, Travis Snider, Brandon Inge, and Clint Barmes.

All of those range from awful to avert-your-eyes-awful.  Neal Huntington may have some in-house upgrades at his disposal in the form of Tony Sanchez (backup catcher) and Andrew Lambo (5th OF, 1B).  But a player who help immediately would be Kevin Frandsen of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Frandsen is 31, so he's plenty old enough for Clint Hurdle to play him in the field.  He plays 2B, 3B, and SS -- or at least he's capable enough of standing there -- so he can replicate what Inge is doing for this team.  Plus, unlike Inge, he's capable of hitting a baseball with a wooden bat.

Right now Frandsen is hitting .295/.380/.440 (820 OPS) with 3 HR.  The great thing about Frandsen is his strikeout rate is 11.0%, which is actually the highest of his career, so he's a good contact hitter that can put it in play and move runners over.

The interesting thing about Frandsen is that he's a failed Giant prospect that has bounced around in his career.  He's only had two decent years (2012 and 2013 with the Phillies) in his spotty career, so he still has 2 additional years of control after 2013.  He only makes $850,000 in his arb-1 year in 2013, so there's no real monetary cost to obtain him.

Because of the years of control and the fact that he's a 1.0 WAR player, the Pirates would have to give up something of note.  Perhaps Chase d'Arnaud or Josh Harrison plus a pitcher like Joely Rodriguez would do the trick.

Huntington clearly must know how awful his bench is right now, so I imagine that he's at least been reviewing tape of Frandsen.  I'd love to see him take the Turnpike over to the Steel City.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Yinz Guys Like Fireworks N'at?

DB~ and I took my parents to the Pirate game last Saturday night.  The Bucs won 2-1 thanks to two "dingerz" by Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones.  But that's not the point of the post.

The point was the stadium was packed (yes, the Fireworks night was a key reason) but there was an energy in the stadium.  The concourses were packing and there was relentless chatter in the air.  But this time, it was baseball related.  People were hanging on each pitch, not just worried about where the cotton candy was at.

After the game, there were the aforementioned Fireworks.  The fireworks were set against the backdrop of a warm (but not hot), humid night.  They were framed by one of the best skylines in the United States at one of the best ballparks in Major League Baseball.

The Pirates are dazzling the league, opposing managers and coaches, their fans, and maybe even themselves.  This team has holes (I'm looking at you RF and Bench), but they still have the best record in the Majors and are raising expectations with each win.

In 2011, the mood was "I think we might break .500!" (missed on that)
In 2012, the mood was "We're going to break .500 and we might make the wild card!" (missed on both)
In 2013, the mood is "We're going to the playoffs, let's win the division title to avoid the wild card!"

No one is even contemplating not finishing .500, even though many (including me) did the same thing last year and were let down.  This team is different.  Things are stabilized at two positions in LF and C.  There are less holes.  There is optimism that the completely stacked farm system will be utilized in a manner to trade prospects for players to fill those holes.

This town is no longer a baseball town.  It's a football town with a hockey hobby.  Baseball has been an afterthought for a long time.  But things are changing this season.  And maybe, just maybe, once the Steelers start up training camp in late July, attention will continue to be on the Pirates through September.  And dare I say...into late October.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Leeks, Tomato, Goat Cheese in a Puff Pastry Shell

As I've mentioned numerous times before, a lot of our meals are determined by DB~ seeing a recipe (usually on Pinterest) and then saying "Can you make this?"  (or something close to it).

Before I met DB~, it would have been strange for me to eat a vegetarian meal for dinner.  I suppose it was my upbringing with a fairly traditional meat-and-potatoes family, but even on pasta nights we had meatballs and sausage.  I'm counting seafood as a protein, in this case, as well.  I'm taking straight up veggies only type of meal.

But here we are and it seems that at least once or twice a week, I'm nomming down a meal with nary a piece of land animal or sea animal flesh in sight.  And I'm OK with that.

This concoction was based off of a picture of flatbread with these various ingredients on it.  I modified it to use Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry Shells (not the sheets).  I took all six shells out and  egg-washed the tops of them.  I then put them in the oven at 425 F for 20 minutes to pre-bake.

While that was going on I sauteed some leeks in olive oil with a dash of garlic salt and pepper to soften them up.  I cut up a tomato to small puff pastry shell-sized pieces and crumbled goat cheese.  When the leeks were done after about 10 minutes, DB~ squeezed some fresh lemon juice on them.

I took the puff pastry shells out of the oven and cut the tops off of them.  I then layered on (in this order) goat cheese, tomato, leek, and replaced the top of the shell.  I put them back in the oven for another 8-10 minutes to get all the flavors mingled and the cheese to soften even more.

I made a side of roasted asparagus as well, with parmesean cheese sprinkled on top after it was taken out of the oven.  A small portion of rice completed the meal.

It's OK to not eat a dead animal, typed the blogger as he was on his way out the door for a hamburger tonight....