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Don’t call it a comeback! But I’m finally posting about our visit to @_tfl_

Don’t call it a comeback! But I’m finally posting about our visit to @_tfl_

My posts have been sparse (ok, nonexistent) for a little while. I attribute this mostly to the fact that I usually blog for a few minutes watching TV in the evening, and evening TV watching has recently evaporated from my schedule.

While we were on a glorious grown-ups vacation in Napa, I was determined to blog a little each day. Then I soon found that the time I could have used for blogging, I preferred to use drinking wine and reading. I can’t say that’s a bad use of time, I got through 3 books in a week! But here we are, back at home. I was supposed to go off to a half-marathon this weekend, but for various reasons I’m not going. Instead, I’m on the couch with Baby Beez, she’s watching the Power Rangers Movie, I’ve got work to do most of the day, and later I’ll  put on the sauce for spaghetti & meatballs, and we’ll have a family movie night to see Pixels. Even with the several hours working, I dare say it’s a lovelier weekend than driving to the mountains to run 13 miles by myself.

But now, on to the topic of interest.

The French Laundry

Mr. Beez and I are destination eaters. We will travel specifically for the purpose of visiting particular restaurants, and for our vacation this year, I hustled and hustled and got us a very coveted reservation at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry. It’s listed as a “French” restaurant, but the cuisine does not fit neatly in that description. You certainly will not find boeuf bourguignon on the menu here. I’d describe it more as creative, experimental and fresh.

We did visit Per Se in 2012, and found that The French Laundry was extremely similar to it’s east coast sister restaurant. The cuisine is virtually the same and the service at both is obsessively attentive. I was surprised that the pacing at The French Laundry was a little faster. Dinner there, even with our million courses, was about 2 hours. At Per Se, even with a 10:00 pm reservation, we strolled leisurely through cocktails and dinner and didn’t leave until nearly 2:00 am.

The French Laundry offers a chef’s tasting and a tasting of vegetables each evening. The chef’s tasting includes a number of upgrades that you can select to “personalize” the meal. Mr. Beez selected some upgrades, I selected others, and ultimately we both got to try everything.

I do not have the sophisticated vocabulary to share in detail how gorgeous these dishes were. They’re perfectly portioned– a mere 3 bites, to pack the most potent sensation of the flavors, textures and contrast, without your palate adapting. Since my description cannot do it justice, here are my pictures and the menu for the evening.

“Oysters and Pearls”– “Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar

Royal Ossetra Caviar– Cantaloupe “Gelee” and Champagne “Granite” (upgrade option)

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Garden Strawberry Salad– Marinated Fennel, Marcona Almonds, Nasturtium Leaves and Greek Yogurt

“Mousse de Foie Gras en Gelee”– K&J Orchards Nectarines, Brentwood Corn and Garden Purslane (upgrade option)

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Japanese Blue Nose Medai– Preserved Green Tomatoes, Garden Cucumbers, Brokaw Avocado Puree and “Salade Bearnaise”

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Sweet Butter Poached Maine Lobster– Crispy Picholine Olives, Globe Artichokes, Fino Verde Basil and Spicy Tomato Emulsion

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Wolfe Ranch White Quail– Toasted Buckwheat “Rouelle,” Pickled Beet Puree, Pearson Farm Pecans and “Beurre Rouge”

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Black Winter Truffle “Ravioli”– Duck Gizzard “Boudin,” Double Chicken “Bouillon” and Shaved Australian Black Winter Truffles (upgrade option, this was Mr. Beez’ absolute favorite dish of the night. He adored those truffles”

*        *        *

Charcoal Grilled Snake River Farms “Calotte de Boeuf”– Brisket Stuffed Squash Blossoms, Roasted Garden Squash, Kettle Garlic Custard and Black Olive Jus (for me, my favorite was tied between the lobster and the boeuf, both were so buttery, flavorful and delicious)

French Laundry-- Boeuf

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Andante Dairy “Acapella”– Jacobson Orchards Peaches, Piedmont Hazelnuts and Black Winter Truffle Confit

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Assortment of Desserts– Fruit, Ice Cream, Chocolate and Candies

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By “assortment” they do not mean you pick from an assortment. Rather, you are served dessert after dessert after dessert after dessert. We were served 10 desserts in all, and then were sent home with even more desserts. It was, as you would expect, amazing. If you are adventurous diner and excited to try unique, unexpected combinations, you will be be astonished by what you are served at The French Laundry. Much like Per Se, the dishes are so dazzling (and the price so, well, insane) that this will probably be our only visit. It was a memorable one, and was truly the highlight of our vacation.

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Girls Weekend at Bedford Springs

Girls Weekend at Bedford Springs

My husband denies this conversation ever happened, but some time back I suggested to him that we go on a romantic weekend getaway to Bedford Springs resort. He said the idea sounded boring. This coming from the man who counts “sitting quietly and being left alone” amongst his favorite activities. So I said fine. I’ll go with friends. So I did. And then afterward I told him how my weekend involved eating good food, drinking good wine, time at the spa, and lots of sitting quietly in a chair and resting. All of his favorite things. So maybe I’ll just need to have another spa weekend soon.

My girls weekend was fantastic and so badly needed. I have a lot going on right now at work, so it’s go-go-go-go-go. A minute away to rest my mind was necessary to keep me form losing it entirely.

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Bedford Springs has long been known for its rejuvenating spring water. Appropriately, it has a very lovely spa. I treated myself to a luxurious mud wrap, spent a good long while soaking and scrubbing and showering through the spring spa ritual, and then spent several hours lounging in a chair quietly, reading, as my friends sat nearby reading or snoozing. It was amazing.

I didn’t take any pictures inside the spa, because when they check in they have you sign a thing that says NO TAKING PICTURES. Really though, it’s better for the ambiance, so I’m all for that restriction.

We visited Out of the Fire Cafe in Donegal for dinner. Despite being usually in the know about the Pittsburgh restaurant scene, I had never heard of this place. It’s a must-stop if you’re spending some time out in the Seven Springs/Hidden Valley, but is honestly so good that may even is worth its own trip out from the City. Better yet, make your dinner reservations the central event for a weekend in the Laurel Highlands.

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I’d classify the cuisine as “contemporary American” but without getting into anything too artsy and not getting too indulgent in the comfort food direction.

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I had the cocoa crusted lamb chop. I find that the more food posts I write, the fewer unique descriptions of delicious meals I am able to craft. So this is where you put all kinds of wonderful adjectives about the wonderful meal. Because wonderful.

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The mushroom bread pudding with truffle oil was one of the most surprising and decadent side dishes that I’ve had in ages. It’s so buttery and rich that the portion size is overwhelming. But that’s what take out boxes are for.

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One of my friends ordered bronzino. I usually opt for any meal with eyeballs, because why wouldn’t you? But this time the call of the lamb chop was overpowering. Next time, my fish friend, you will be mine.

Our stress melted away over the lovely weekend. But as we returned, and drove mile by mile closer to the city, it crept back up on us. Work remains full speed ahead through May. But Mr. Beez and I do have plans for a trip away to Nemacolin in the not-too-distant future. Believe me. I’ll need it.

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Annual #PghGBE — @PenniesPintsPgh ‘s Delightful Getaway @Nemacolin

Annual #PghGBE — @PenniesPintsPgh ‘s Delightful Getaway @Nemacolin

It’s April Fool’s Day, and time for our annual Pittsburgh Guest Blogger Event! Shoutout to Alex at Everybody Loves You for his mad planning skills! I’m very excited today for this guest post by Devon and Tim at Pennies.Pints.Pittsburgh. A getaway to Nemacolin is on my 40 before 40, so this guest post is perfect!!

The Finest of Dining at Nemacolin

2015 has been a year of many firsts, including our first Pittsburgh Blog Swap. And we are the lucky bloggers to guest write for the awesome blog Beezus KiddoAs I was perusing the site, I noticed that one of her 40 before 40 bucket list activities included a weekend stay at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Well, it just so happens that my husband and I loooove Nemacolin, and we’ll take any excuse to get back there.

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is a luxurious mountain get-away in the beautiful Laurel Highlands. This handsome 2,000 acre resort is nestled on top of the rolling hills that join the Allegheny Mountain range. We’ve gone here for quick get-aways, bachelorette parties, and even work conferences. And we’ve always enjoyed ourselves immensely. Mainly because there’s a real sense of serenity up at Nemacolin. The air is so fresh, and the natural beauty that encapsulates the resort is truly breathtaking. And honestly, who can beat the unbelievably short commute from Pittsburgh?

So, my dear mother graciously agreed to take our boys for a night so we could enjoy ourselves with some friends for an evening in the mountains. And that meant one very important activity: dining out. Now the pressing question was; where? Our friends and we wanted all the bells and whistles of fine dining but not so much the formal attire. After discussing our options, Autumn was the exact answer we needed for a perfect night out.

Now as we strolled down the luxurious hallways adorned with one stunning crystal chandelier after another, we found ourselves at Autumn’s entrance. We were quickly seated at a large table in the front of the house. Our wonderful waitress, Becky, took our drink order while we chatted wine with Austin, Autumn’s sommelier. With drinks in hand, it was now time for some serious appetizers…

classic shrimp cocktail

We started off with the Classic Shrimp Cocktail. Admittedly, I had a real hard time sharing this with our group because a REAL good shrimp cocktail is hard to come by. But I ultimately got over it because everyone deserves a little taste of seafood heaven every now and then…

pretzel crab cakes

Next, we dove into these incredible pretzel crusted crab cakes. They were light and packed full of rich flavors. Oh, and they were accompanied by a beer mustard sauce. Yup, I was absolutely smitten with this chef already.

kale pot stickers

All of the sudden, this plate showed up. Is this food or 3-D art? I honestly didn’t want to disturb this masterpiece, it just looked so gorgeous. But I got over that rather quickly as Becky explained the contents these little beauties…

These potstickers are made with with kale, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, quinoa, and is accompanied by a sunflower seed hummus. This is not a traditional appetizer that we meat lovers would tend to go wild over.. But I kid you not- this appetizer completely won us over. All of us agreed that we’d all become vegetarians in a heartbeat as long as Chef Tyler Hutchison was cooking…

Not pictured but equally loved were the Spicy Calamari, Cauliflower Meze, Maggie’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Crab and Artichoke Dip with Truffle Parmesan Pita Chips, Parmesan Kale Chips, and Mushroom Soup.

And we hadn’t even touched the entrées portion yet…

bone in pork chop final

Chef Hutchison apparently enjoys the art of cooking with beer as much as we do. Once I spotted the Bone in Pork Chop with German potatoes and sauerkraut pierogies,  mustard greens with a maple beer glaze, I was done for. The other entrees didn’t stand a fighting chance… Picture Credit: Chef Hutchison’s Instagram

sesame tuna pic

Tim was enticed by the Sesame Tuna special with shrimp & wasabi potato butter, Asian crispy kalettes, and a sesame ash garnish. So stunning, so fresh, and oh so spring.

lamb

Our buddy ordered this handsome dish: Elysian Fields lamb with a “dirty” lamb pappardelle, pistachio gelato, and naturual lamb jus. Picture Credit: Chef Hutchison’s Instagram

Oh. My. Goodness

Entrées not pictured above yet were equally amazing; Basil Pesto Pasta with basil, avocado, spinach, tomato and shrimp. And the Swordfish with bamboo risotto, swiss chard, Chinese sausage, red pepper, and white soy emulsion. Just wow.

After this banquet fit for kings, we had to tap out, raise the white flag, and call it a night. As we sat back and basked in all the glory of a truly exquisite dining experience, we knew some major thank yous were in order for one very talented young chef.

Chef De Cuisine Tyler Hutchison

At the ripe age of 14, Chef Hutchison immersed himself in the culinary world. He started as a dish washer, and worked his way up to the hot line. Once he got a taste of the culinary world, he knew that he had found his life’s passion. He attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania Culinary School in Punxsutawney, PA. He was accepted as an intern at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort in Charleston, South Carolina. There, he refined his skills and learned the fine art of preparing fresh seafood. Once he completed his school hours, he was hired on full time and worked his way up to Chef De Partie. After 2 years, Chef Tyler decided to bring his skills back to Pennsylvania and joined forces with Nemacolin.

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And I’m so glad Chef Hutchison did. His interpretation of fine cuisine is stunning, moving, and beyond inspiring. Dish after dish, he offered beautiful plating, intriguing flavor combinations, contrasting textures, palate exciting, perfected culinary masterpieces. It’s brilliant how he took such familiar foods and threw countless curve balls in their execution. This dinner is one for the ages and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for such a talented chef, his sous chef Rachel Davis, and the rest of his creative team. We excitedly await Autumn’s spring menu which launches in just a few weeks.

Thank you again for such an inspiring evening! We can’t wait to cross paths again.

Cheers N’at– Devon and Tim

Also, a heartfelt thanks to Becky- you were so attentive and you really knew the menu through and through. We had an absolute blast spending our dinner with you. And Austin- it was such a pleasure speaking with you. I wish we could have pulled up another chair and talked wine with you all night. You guys made this such an incredible night out. Cheers!



I hope you enjoyed this edition of our annual Guest Blogger Event! Check out the other participating blogs at the links below!!

The AP Collection // Lucy Quin  // Beezus Kiddo // Pittsburgh Happy Hour // Orange Chair Blog // In Pursuit of Simple // The Wheezy Runner // Pittsburgh is Beautiful // Last Minute Panic // The Almond Eater // A Body of One’s Own // Lunges, Long Runs and Lattes // Downtown Living // Emily LevensonParmesan Princess // Oh Honestly, Erin // Sole for the Soul // Crank Crank Revolution // The Pittsburgh Mommy Blog // Yum Yum PGH // Ya Jagoff // Gardening in High Heels // Sean’s Ramblings // Pittsburgh Taste Buds // The Foodtasters // My Blog n’at // The Fashionable Eye // jelly jars // Don’t Forget to Eat // Small Town Dad // Josh’s World // The Steel Trap // In Pursuit of Happiness // 101 Achievements // A Librarian’s Lists and Letters // Pennies, Pints, Pittsburgh // 30-Something therapy // Red Pen Mama // Nicky D. Cooks // everybody loves you…

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Things I’m Doing When I’m Not Blogging with @2ndBreakfastPgh @EastEndBrewing @The_Steel_Trap @theCommonerPgh

Things I’m Doing When I’m Not Blogging with @2ndBreakfastPgh @EastEndBrewing @The_Steel_Trap @theCommonerPgh

The last two weeks have involved after-work meetings nearly every day of the week, the kid having to stay home from school for three days because she was sick, Mr. Beez going out of town for three days on a business trip, me falling and busting my face on the ice (nothing broken, just ugly bruises), and just lots and lots of stuff in general.

This means there’s been little-to-no time for running, blogging, watching tv, or maintaining sanity in general. I’m much more hopeful this week. I’ve got plenty to do, but my calendar is not nearly as cluttered, so I’m hopeful about having the time to actually get stuff DONE.

In lieu of timely updates on the wild and wonderful world of Pittsburgh in the last two weeks, I bring you this list of our first week + in March.

Winter

This is what our world looked like for most of last week. The temp was in the 40s and 50s this weekend, and the forecast CLAIMS it will continue to be mild, but I’ll believe it when I see it. As much as I whine about the weather, I can remain hopeful that we’ll get through to spring with a little patience. This past week totally broke me. WE’RE IN MARCH NOW FOR GOODNESS SAKES. There was a lot of despairing in glasses of beer because I just can’t take this weather anymore.

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Contributing to the despair was my nosedive into the icy driveway on Monday (I’m fine). But the only way to make myself feel better was to buy a cartful of icy things I like.

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Lately I’ve been stopping by the Pgh Public Market as often as possible after Baby Beez’ Saturday ballet class. It’s so quiet and lovely then, and the hash browns with eggs and bacon from Second Breakfast is the perfect size for Baby Beez and me to share.

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I also picked up a growler of Monkey Boy from East End Brewery, and that stuff is GOOD. It hasn’t displaced VooDoo Love Child as my favorite beer, but it’s a good one, and I really look forward to more Saturday morning growler fills at the Public Market.

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Mr. Beez and I joined The Steel Trap at the CLO Wine Tasting and Silent Auction on Friday. We had such a lovely time, and I may have drank all the cava in Western Pennsylvania. This was one of the nicest fundraiser events I’ve been to. I especially loved the variety of wines, and allllll the sparkling options. Kudos to the CLO for an extremely successful event!!

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After the wine tasting, Mr. Beez and I stopped over at The Commoner for a snack. I had the BBQ Oysters and they were amazing and all I’ve been thinking about for the rest of the weekend. It’s not a regular menu item, but next time you are there, see if they have them. Because they are amazing.

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This week was also Purim. I stopped by Allegro Hearth for some hamentaschen. I offered them to Baby Beez, but she is obnoxious and 4 and did not want any. So I had them all to myself. This was my first time trying a poppyseed hamentaschen, and it’s not really my style. Apricot or Raspberry, please.

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Our spoiled child got to go to Disney on Ice this weekend, too. I bought the tickets back in November when I was ALL EXCITED about our trip to Disney World. Then it came down to this event and I was totally burned out on Disney, but wasn’t going to disappoint Baby Beez. So we all went. She did enjoy the show, so that was really nice. And in general, the kids at the show were pretty well behaved. THE PARENTS THOUGH. This was some of the worst, pushiest, rudest parent behavior I’ve seen in recent memory. I talked to other folks who went to other showings and said that they dealt with the same thing. I don’t know what it is about Disney on Ice that brings out the worst behavior in grown ups, but I think we’ll pass the next time it comes to town.

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After Disney on Ice, we stopped by the new VooDoo Brewery shop in Homestead for more growlers. This place is my happy place. Hearts stars smiles xoxoxoxox. That is all.

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And finally, yesterday we went to a bowling fundraiser to raise money for Attorneys Against Hunger. Not many bar association events are family friendly, so it was fun to be able to get together with our families, do a little bowling, and eat a lot of nachos. I also won a sweeeet prize basket at the raffle auction, including a cute little Coach crossover purse. Win!

So that’s what’s been going on in my neck of the woods. Also, I’ve been really into peanut butter & jelly waffles for breakfast. And I really need to get the kid out of bed and get us to school/work. I’m trying to cut her a break because of daylight savings buuuuut I gotta bill some hours today!

Off

A Second Look: @CurePittsburgh @AlghnyWineMixer and @PageDairyMart

A Second Look: @CurePittsburgh @AlghnyWineMixer and @PageDairyMart

On our most recent date night, Mr. Beez and I revisited a much-celebrated favorite, Cure, in Lawrenceville. Cure’s chef, Justin Severino, was very early in the local, ethical foods trend. The cuisine at Cure is of the highest quality and care, and also reliable. Although I do like a good culinary adventure, when you go to Cure, you have a good idea of what you’ll be getting into, and you know it will be delicious. That’s not to say it lacks creativity. The dishes are creative, but we’re not talking anything off-the-deep end.
Cure

Cure’s hallmark is, not surprisingly, its cured meats. The salumi platter comes as a small or a large. The small is appropriate for 2-4 people to have a light snack before the meal. The last time Mr. Beez and I visited Cure, we had the small, and we enjoyed each bite, but wanted MOAR (in a big, roaring fashion). After all, the salumi is what we visited for. So this time, we went all out, and destroyed the large. It could have easily been an appetizer for 6. But don’t let anything hold you back from your dreams!

Cure giant salumi plate

The last time we were at Cure was before they had a liquor license. A part of me misses BYOB, because the mark-ups on alcohol in Allegheny County are inexcusable. However, the cocktails we had really were delicious, so I guess that makes the pain of the price a little less. I usually don’t like any kind of drink with cream or milk in it, but the server promised that the thing I ordered (can’t remember the name…) with egg whites in it was actually very tasty, and if I was grossed out, he’d be sure to get me something I liked. So I took the risk and ended up really enjoying it. The cocktails had the right balance of being sufficiently boozy, but also containing interesting and substantial mixers, so you didn’t feel knocked over the head with a Jim Beam bottle.

Cure Cocktail


Cure cocktail 2

Next up: more foods!


Nice little Spanish dish

My favorite dish of the evening was the salumi, because salumi. That’s what they do. But I also absolutely loved the “Nice Little Spanish Dish.” I ordered it on an impulse, and was so glad i did. It had grilled octopus and something green (parsley?) and this kicky little sauce. It was light and fresh and had all the right things to interest your palate but not bog you down so that you are incapable of moving on to the main course. It is, indeed, very nice.

Cure Hangar steak

I also had a little plate of carbonara pasta which was  very nice, especially the soft egg that I broke open and mixed all in the noodles. However, as it was carbonara, it didn’t photograph the best, so I skipped that photo opportunity. Mr. Beez ordered the hanger steak. This is usually a dish I just ignore on a menu, because bla bla boring boring. However, it is a mistake to ignore the hanger steak on Cure’s menu. It is exceptional. There are so many flavors all at once, and the steak just melts in your mouth. I wished I had ordered this for myself, but by the time I got to taste it, I was simply too fully to eat more. This subsequent visit to Cure certainly lived up to the fine impressions it created in earlier visits.

After our dinner, we still had a little time left with the babysitter, so we strolled on down to the Allegheny Wine Mixer. I love how that bar is fun, and funky, and always has a great selection of wines at reasonable prices. Also, a framed portrait of Vincent Price over the bar. Yesssss.

Allegheny Wine Mixer

We wrapped up the evening with a visit to Page Dairy Mart for their last open weekend of the season. Although they have many amazing choices involving cookies and brownies and all kinds of shakes and blizzardy things, my absolute favorite is the coffee soft serve with hot fudge and whipped cream. It’s that real, heavy whipped cream too. The best.

Page Dairy Mart Sundae

We love checking out new places, but sometimes a date calls for the comfort of old favorites. All three of these were A+.