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Date Night Dinner on the farm with Churchview Farms and @CrestedDuck

Date Night Dinner on the farm with Churchview Farms and @CrestedDuck

One of my “to do’s” on my 32 before 32 was to attend a farm dinner. Unlike so many other things on that list that I’ve utterly failed to tick off, I have actually made it to two farm dinners this year. You can click on this link to read about the first one at Blackberry Meadows Farm. For a second one, we went on a double-date outing with some foodie friends to Churchview Farm.

Although I spent several years as a vegetarian, I fell off that bandwagon while pregnant with Baby Beez (craving hotdogs, 24-7), and now I’ve turned into quite the charcuterie snob. When I saw that Crested Duck Charcuterie, an amazing brilliant beautiful wonderful butcher shop & teeny-tiny restaurant in Beechview, was the featured restaurant for an upcoming Churchview Farm Dinner, I was ALL ABOUT IT.

Churchview Farm

Churchview is a small family farm nestled away in the hills of Baldwin. Churchview is a well-known name in the restaurant & local food circles in Pittsburgh, and it was neat to see how a farm providing so many fruits, veggies and herbs all throughout the city can provide so much on such a small parcel of land. The evening started off with a little farm tour, led by the farmer, Tara Rockacy. It was neat to see everything growing, and the chickens and guinea hens waddling around and clucking, but it was especially nice to hear in Tara’s voice how much this farm and her work mean to her. Farming is certainly not easy work, and I can imagine that running a farm in basically an urban area is even harder. But it comes through clearly that she finds meaning and beauty in what she does, and she is proud to share it.

Crested Duck Farm Dinner

On to the meal! These farm dinners are special because the chef, here Kevin Costa, spoke about the thoughts and motivations behind each course. I admit that I was really looking forward to a massive dinner all full of charcuterie, and was a little disappointed to hear the Chef announced that he instead chose to draw his inspiration from the beautiful produce of the farm, and work more with the fresh vegetables and fruits, rather than the cured meats which so often drive his dishes. My disappointment was short lived, as each course was so delightful.

Crested Duck Salad Niciose

First up was the salad nicoise, although it did not have any tuna in it, so I don’t exactly know what makes it nicoise. In any event, it was delicious. The pickles were so fresh and the boiled egg was just at that perfect level where it’s all just barely cooked, but not so cooked that it’s all pasty.

Pate en croute

The pate en croute was hands down my favorite dish of the evening. It’s so weird looking, that I think if it were offered to me in any context, I would have been like “no thank you, I do not want to eat that.” But I’m so glad that the timing and presentation was just right to get me to try it, because it was awesome. The only way I can describe it is that it’s like a little charcuterie platter baked together in pastry? I think? In any event, so good. It also satisfied my charcuterie craving for the evening, so that was a good thing.

seafood stew

Here’s the part where I will mention the lovely wine pairings that were coordinated with each course. So very, very delicious. Thanks to those delicious lovely wine pairings, this is around the course where I no longer really remember the particulars, other than “TASTY!” This is the light and lovely bouillabaisse. Tasty tasty.

cheese pairing

Oh, this cheese plate, so good. Everything about it was so perfect, except for it being so teeny tiny. I tried to steal Mr. Beez’ cheese plate but he jabbed me with his fork. So good. Did I tell you how good it was? I’ve never thought of pairing cheese and almond paste, but omg so good.

Chard tart

We wrapped up the evening with a dessert of a sweet swiss chard tart. I think this would make an amazing breakfast dish. The chard makes it hearty, but the candied pine nuts, golden raisins, orange zest and whipped cream ensure that it’s nice and sweet. Like the pate, it’s not something I would ordinarily pick on my own, but I was glad that it was presented to me how and when it was, because I did like it quite a lot.

There are a few seats left at the remaining Churchview Farm Dinners this summer. The experience was such a lovely, laid back evening, and the food and wine, just lovely. I was full from my dinner when I started writing this post, but now after revisiting all those food memories, my stomach’s rumbling again. Gotta go rustle up some grub.


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Sahside Date Night with @city_theater and Kassab’s

Sahside Date Night with @city_theater and Kassab’s

Mr. Beez and I take a neighborhood-centric approach to our date nights. By planning multiple destinations in one neighborhood, we cut down on travel time and parking hassles, and spend more time having fun than getting from place to place.

In January, we had a Sahside date night at Pittsburgh’s City Theater and Kassab’s Lebanese Cuisine. This is my third visit to the City Theater. While it is a small company, I am always blown away by the amazing quality of their performances. When my mom was in town a couple of years ago, we took her to a show, I don’t remember the name but it was about a pair of brothers, and she still brings up how amazing that show was. Two other big pluses about City Theater: (1) Their Greenroom events are an awesome deal, and while I have yet to actually make it there, I’ve heard they are rockin’. (2) Their annual gala is reliably one of the best events in the ‘burgh each year.

On to the show! South Side Stories is a one-woman show written and performed by Tami Dixon. It’s first run was last year and was highly acclaimed. I was extremely bummed that I didn’t get around to going, and was elated to hear that they were bringing it back for a second run. Dixon is a talented actor, and brilliantly weaves together a tapestry of the personalities, meek and overpowering, of the remnants of milltown Pittsburgh still living in the South Side.

South Side Stories preserves uniquely-Pittsburgh culture in a way that the thirty-somethings in Pittsburgh have only heard as memories from their grandparents, or if they are lucky, their parents. I say “they” rather than “we” because I’m a Pittsburgh transplant, and do not personally have the milltown history in my family, so I can only experience it as an outsider. Then I look at my daughter, and realize that although her dad’s family has steelworking in their history, those stories are going to be as abstract to her as they are to me. It’s a culture that is quickly fading.

Dixon’s play is, frankly, amazing and important to Pittsburgh culture. I hope City Theater brings it back for future runs.

City Theater South Side Stories

After the show, we shuffled our way through the snow and wind to a cozy dining spot a mere block away– Kassab’s Lebanese Cuisine.

Kassab's Lebanese Cuisine

I must admit that walking into Kassab’s, I had no expectations, because Middle Eastern food does not excite me. Mr. Beez loves it, but I am generally ambivalent. The only thing I usually have much interest in is pickled turnips.

Kassab’s, however, turned my ambivalence on its head. Let’s start with the hummus– it is so silky. We ordered the appetizer platter, which at around $15 and massive portions of their appetizer selections, it was intended to be shared by more than 2. But it was awesome. And yes. We ate it all. And there were lots of pickled turnips, ALL FOR ME, because Mr. Beez wouldn’t eat a pickled turnip if you paid him.

Kassab's Appetizer Plate

I ordered the grilled chicken flatbread sandwich. It, too, was amazing. It was warm and flavorful, and accomplished all the things such a sandwich is supposed to accomplish (which, I guess, is taste good and be filling. Which it was)

grilled chicken wrap at Kassab's

Mr. Beez had a shish kabob platter and was also extremely pleased. He did share a little bite of lamb with me, and it was so buttery and delicious.

Kassab's Shish Kabob Plate

The service at Kassab’s was casual but attentive. There was a large table nearby that was celebrating a birthday, and it struck me that Kassab’s really is a great place to get together with friends. I may not usually crave middle eastern food, but I now feel differently when it comes to Kassab’s. It is only 8:30 am right now, but all I can think about is that hummus and those turnips and all of that amazing food. Kassab’s has earned a well-deserved spot on this family’s short list of favorites.

Kassab's on Urbanspoon

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Hello, Sunday

Hello, Sunday

Today I took a nap, cleaned up the house, read a couple magazines and did laundry. It’s almost like I’m a normal person! Usually Sunday is full of running around and work and all the normal things that normal people do to get ready for the week get shoved to the side and forgotten. I did need to do a lot of work today, but I hit a wall, because there were things around the house that needed to be done, or I would completely lose my mind. So I took care of things around the house, and as a result I’m going to pay for it this week with having to be more focused, more efficient and working even longer days, but it is what it is.

My once-a-week crock pot cooking has been a success. We’ve been trying lots of new recipes, and not only is it super easy to throw a meal in the crock pot, but I also end up making enough food to feed us for at least two meals. This means healthier meals and less money on take out, with minimum time and energy investment.

Lemon Chicken Orzo

Two weeks ago I tried 365 Days of Slow Cooking’s Lemon Chicken Orzo soup recipe and it was just lovely. It is a warm and comforting winter meal, but not so heavy as a chunky soup. I ended up eating several bowls of it for one dinner, whoops! It’ll last a bit longer if you don’t strap on the feedbag like I did.

This week I made Skinnytaste’s Crock Pot Balsamic Pork Roast, and it is an instant favorite.  It is SO incredibly easy and SO incredibly delicious. We were so hungry that we ate the whole thing up before I even remembered to take a picture, but there are plenty of gorgeous pictures over at Skinnytaste’s site, so you should check them out.

Last night, Mr. Beez and I had a date night where we went to an early play, went out to dinner and then went to the movies. I let him pick the movie, since I pretty much pick everything all the time. He picked Gravity. I was not interested in it to begin with, but it was pretty good. It has tones of tension and the outer space imagery is all beautiful. We saw it in 3D and I expected to pretty much be horribly motion sick the whole time, but ended up being OK. I ended up liking it a lot, and it re-confirmed that I absolutely have no interest in traveling to outer space. Ever.

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The sushi that will ruin you to all other sushi: @umi_Pittsburgh

The sushi that will ruin you to all other sushi: @umi_Pittsburgh

My first visit to Umi was at some point after I graduated law school. It was not my first experience eating sushi, by a long shot. I generally like sushi, but would not consider myself a sushi snob. Then I visited Umi. It ruined me to all other sushi.

Soba Pittsburgh 1

Umi’s offerings are so fresh, so melt-in-your mouth delicious that after eating Mr. Shu’s wonderous creations, sushi from any run of the mill sushi joint will taste grainy and sad.

It is a very small establishment.  Reservations are a must. There is first-come seating at the sushi bar, but it is a small bar and only seats a couple of people. It is worth calling ahead to secure a table.  If you reserve through OpenTable, it does not give you the option to select regular chairs vs. the tatami tables.  When I learned we were seated at a tatami table (and there were no regular tables available to switch), I almost cancelled the reservation. However, there is a big open space underneath the tatami table, so you are not seated cross-legged, but rather seated just like you would in a regular chair, with your feet below in the open space. It’s hard to get into and out of, but while you are sitting there, it is just fine.

Soba Pittsburgh 2

Oh the salmon mushroom sashimi. So velvety and savory. There just isn’t any substitute for the quality and care Mr. Shu devotes to these dishes.

Umi’s prices, not surprisingly, run on the “very special event” end of the spectrum for us. This is why I was never able to go as a student, because I did not have disposable income to eat. Of course, we cannot now visit nearly as much as I would absolutely love, either.

Soba Pittsburgh 3

In this last visit, I ordered lots of sushi rolls. This really was a disservice to Umi’s brilliant menu, and the quality of the fish does get lost in all that rice. The next time I visit, I will absolutely order the Omekase (chef’s tasting). Our dining companion, Anthony, did order the Black Cod with Miso (which is part of the omekase). I failed to snap a pic, but it was so buttery and amazing. It just melts in your mouth.  I do like Big Burrito Restaurant Group, but Umi is a special shining star in the bunch.

Umi on Urbanspoon

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Brewin some brewskis with @CopperKettlePgh and @HoughsPgh

Brewin some brewskis with @CopperKettlePgh and @HoughsPgh

For Chankukah last year, I bought Mr. Beez a gift certificate to brew beer at Copper Kettle Brewing Company. It took nearly a year for us to actually schedule the appointment and make it in the door, because that’s how we do. We love the idea of brewing our own beer, but in no way have the time to invest in learning the science, buying all the equipment, and especially not for cleaning all that equipment. Copper Kettle was the perfect solution– you have the fun and ownership of picking out your beer recipe and putting things together, but without any real commitment.

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Step one in beer brewing is settling in at the bar at Hough’s Taproom (with which Copper Kettle shares space) and reviewing the recipes. They have a whole huge stack of options, running the gamut from the darkest stout to hearty lagers to crisp wheat beers. Being as this was a present for Mr. Beez, I for once was nice, and did not hijack the decision. He picked the Smithers Irish red ale, which I must say was an excellent choice.

Srs Bzness

Srs Bzness

After selecting your recipe, you get to “brewing.” I use quotation marks because in this setting, “brewing” really jeans that the Copper Kettle staff tells you about the science of brewing, and you measure out the ingredients and put them in the kettle. The tasks take minimal effort, but it is still fun. Plus there is a lot of waiting time which calls for more time sampling the selection at Houghs. No complainin here.

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The whole brewing experience is about 2 hours, most of which is hanging out, sipping beers, waiting and NACHOS. Houghs has great grub, so you shouldn’t miss out. Bottling takes place about 2 weeks after the brew session. If you have better calendar management skills than I, you can go in and bottle it yourself. Seeing as it took a year for us to get in the door in the first place, we opted to pay the bottling fee. Copper Kettle bottled the beer for us, and we just had to pick it up. I must say, the beer tasted comparable to Killian’s Irish Red, and was very delicious. Brewing at Copper Kettle is not a cost effective way to acquire your beers, but the extra cost is worth the fun experience. It’s an excellent setup if you are interested in homebrewing and want to learn a little more before committing all the cash for the equipment, or if you are like us, and have a fleeting interest in homebrewing and would like the fun of brewing your own beer, but there’s no chance you’ll make the time investment for really getting into that hobby.

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