Friday, February 21, 2014

The Blog's Namesake on a piece of Memorabilia

DB~ works with a guy who let her bring home a piece of cool memorabilia to show her two biggest Pirate fans -- her dad and me.  It's a commemorative bat from the 1979 World Series winning Pirates.

On the bat were all the usual suspects -- Stargell, Parker, Madlock, Candelaria, and Tekulve -- but there was also one other name prominently featured.  A young, 22-year old shortstop, still four years away from his prime drug-abusing peak, named Dale Berra signed his name.

It's got to be tough to be the son of one of the most famous players in baseball history, especially one that had such a well-known personality off the field, but Dale Berra never amounted to anything in his career.  Drugs ruined it, but he was never going to be a star in his own right.

It was a young 8-year old nerd that was first captivated by the 1984 Pirates and saw Dale Berra.  Imagine being an impressionable little kid rooting for your first Pirate team and the 1984 Pirates were your first team.  Yikes.  To hear people tell it now, the streets of Pittsburgh were paved with cocaine back then.

I started this blog as a way to memorialize events and thoughts for DB~ and I.  The fact that it is so widely (un)read only adds to it for me.  I selected Dale Berra's Stash for the triple meaning:
1.  A reference to his fantastic mustache
2.  A reference to his fantastic drug supply
3.  A reference to my stash of thoughts

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Best Valentine's Day Gift

On Friday, DB~ told me that she was going to pick me up at work at 5:30 for our Valentine's Day/Night activity.  At 5:30, she called and said she "didn't feel well" and that I should just come home.

When I got home, a fully prepared meal was waiting for me.  If you've read this, at all, you'll know that DB~ has many interests, but being in the kitchen is not one of them.  She put together a pretty challenging menu to boot.

The star of the night was this very creative little appetizer she came up with.  She made stuffed figs with a concoction of cream cheese and mint mashed together, then piped through a piping bag.  It was very artful and delicate.  I was quite impressed with her technique.

The main dinner were heart-shaped crab cakes and some sauteed vegetables.  She made me a twice-baked potato, which only after I raved about did she admit she bought at Market District.  But all the rest she made herself, finished off by a piped chocolate mousse topped with whipped cream.

Now that I know she can put together a multi-stage dinner, I'll be expecting her to do it more frequently.

Kidding.  I know you were probably chomping on gum and sweating the whole time.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sienna Sulla Piazza

My mom and DB~ went to Mamma Mia on Wednesday.  As I'm typing this post, I have Mamma Mia's soundtrack playing on the laptop next to me, with DB~ vocal stylings in my ear.

I met them in town for dinner at Sienna Sulla Piazza before the show.  This was a place that DB~ and I had on the radar for a while.  When we walked in on a bitter night, we were greeted by a warm hug of coziness.  It was so warm in there, I could have taken a nap.  The lighting is very low and provided by cool wrought iron wall sconces that I wanted to steal.

And naturally at an Italian restaurant, we had a French waiter.  He grew up on Reunion Island, which is off the coast of Madagascar.  He described living on a small island as "living in a jail" because it wasn't very easy to leave and there wasn't a lot around it to visit.  He was an excellent server.

For dinner, my mom went "old school" and got Chicken Cacciatore.  I always thought it was more of a casserole-style dish, but it came out with a tomato based sauce.  I didn't try any of it, but she raved about it.

DB~ chose an excellent dish in the Ricotta Gnocchi.  If you are a loyal reader of this blog (all 6 of you), you may pick up that this is the equivalent of the Gnudi that I make.  I'm not sure why Sienna doesn't just call them this, unless they're worried that people won't understand what they are.  These were excellent, with a hint of lemon in there somewhere, and DB~ said she would get them again.

When she asked our French server what the sauce was, he replied that it was a pan sauce made from the vegetable cooking down in a base of the starchy pasta water.  This was basically the type of sauce on my dish, too.

It seemed as if Sienna stocked the menu with all of my go-to favorites when eating out.  There was Crispy Quail, Braised Short Ribs, a Pork Tenderloin dish, a Bolognese sauce, but ultimately I went with my siren call -- Braised Rabbit.  I'm a total sucker for it.

The springy pasta (maccharetto pasta) had a medley of vegetables like mushrooms, peas, and carrots on top with the pan sauce running through it.  The generous amount of rabbit was layered throughout the dish and then topped with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.  It actually reminded me more of a deconstructed chicken pot pie.

We loved, loved, loved this restaurant.  The interior design was great, the food awesome.  Market Square has really done a complete 180 in the past 5 years and is now a concentrated little zone of great restaurants of all ethnicities and price ranges.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Winghart's -- South Side

On Saturday, DB~ wanted to see American Hustle and grab dinner beforehand.  Once we saw the times, we felt like going to South Side Works to check it out.  To my surprise, my borderline-vegetarian wife suggested we go to Winghart's.  Even more surprising, she wanted to taste the delicious flesh of ground up cow.  That's right -- she wanted a burger.

I was pretty excited to go.  I've heard good things about Winghart's down in Market Square.  We got to Winghart's early around 5:30 p.m. and were one of just a few seated tables.  We had a really nice server with a very bubbly personality.

We ordered the Pepperoni Roll (a DB~ favorite) as an appetizer.  Sadly, it did not show up until the main dishes came to the table.  That's always a mark against for me.  I don't want to power down a bunch of food all at once.  I'm not Joey Chestnut over here.

For dinner, I went with the Market Square Burger (minus mushrooms), which had gruyere cheese and bacon on it.  It was quite good, but here's my issue.  For $8.75, I want something other than a burger.  Some fries.  Some chips.  A pickle.  Anything.

You can get fries for $2.75 and they're big enough for 2 people, but c'mon.  Fries and a burger for basically $10.25?  No way.  Man, I'm getting super cranky as I progress through my 30's about pricing.

DB~ got a Lonely Burger (plain burger) but gave it a friend with a piece of provolone cheese.  This was going to be an interesting experiment.  I haven't seen her eat a whole burger in a very, very long time.  Her burger was a touch greasier than mine and it threw her off her game.  She ate about half of it and then turned its inevitable demise over to me.

The clincher for us on why we didn't like Winghart's was how dirty the bathrooms were according to DB~.  All in all the slow service, lack of value, and dirty bathrooms totally turned us off from visiting another Winghart's.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chicken Piccata

Last week, DB~ wanted something different for a chicken dish and suggested Chicken Piccata.  I found a recipe that was a variation on a basil-cream chicken dish that I already do.

I seasoned the chicken breasts with some salt and pepper and then dredged them in flour.  In a skillet over medium heat, I melted two tablespoons of butter and mixed in two tablespoons of olive oil.  Once blended, I added the chicken and browned each side for four minutes.

I removed the chicken and put it on a side plate, covering it with aluminum foil to retain the heat.  In the skillet, I melted one additional tablespoon of butter and added one cup of chicken stock, the juice of one fresh lemon, and 1/4 cup of rinsed capers.

I got this mix to a simmer, with the residual flour acting as a thickener, and blended everything together.  I then put the chicken back in the skillet and covered it with the sauce, cooking it for just three more minutes.

It had a nice flavor profile of the saltiness of the capers coupled with the sweetness of the lemon.  It was a good suggestion by DB~ and will probably be in the semi-regular food rotation.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Over The Bar

On Saturday night, DB~ suggested we try the new restaurant at the North Park Boathouse called Over The Bar.  It's a bicycle themed restaurant, so I was totally out of my element, as I'm not a person that chooses to pursue transit on only two wheels.

The restaurant was a previously unused (or at least underused) space by Allegheny County Parks and Rec.  Apparently, they gave a ton of money to the owners of OTB to facilitate the creation of the restaurant, by way of new kitchen equipment and remodeling.

The restaurant itself is divided into three distinct seating areas.  There's the inner ring of small two person booths and a handful of four person tables.  The middle ring is an outer area under a roof, but during these cold months it is enclosed with plastic sheeting to protect from the elements.  The outer ring is the at-the-moment unused outdoor seating with a perfect view looking down the length of the lake.  As DB~ said, it will be impossible to get a seat here on a nice summer day/night.

For dinner, DB~ selected the Pedal Paddle Panini.  It's a sandwich with mozzarella, basil, tomato, and peppers.  She added chicken for $3 extra and admitted that it wasn't worth it because the amount of chicken was so small.

At OTB, you can get any of their burgers in either ground meat, ground turkey, or black bean, no matter what it says on the menu.  I chose the Trail Steward, which was topped with avacados, pico de gallo and pepper jack.  I chose the fries as my side.

The food itself was average.  If you go in expecting bar food, good beers, and a great view, especially after you just went kayaking, zip lining, or jogging, then you'll be fine.