Thursday, December 29, 2011


For the last several years, I have been too poor to take any time off from whatever terrible job I happened to be working, so I would either bring my parents here or journey to the Poconos for less than 24 hours. Both of those scenarios were less than ideal and usually ended in tears. You see, for whatever reason, my family has desperately wanted to but has never been able to institute a successful Christmas tradition. We have tried and tried to develop a special Dilionian brand of Christmas and it has just never stuck. Our hearts were never in it. Or maybe our attention spans are just too short for us to remember what we wanted to canonize. 

This year, I took a different approach. Due to our impending trip to the Lesser Antilles (stay tuned!), we decided that Christmas apart was probably the best solution for everyone. So I offered to sing a few gigs, watch a few friends' pets, and piece together my own strange Christmas trifecta.

Part 1: I'm Dreaming of a Verde Christmas

Though we never need an excuse to prove how fabulous we are, K and AJ and I never pass up an opportunity to be amazing together. After a quick gift exchange which proved that my friends know absolutely everything about me (I got a magnetic spice rack! and a seasonal cookbook that literally says "SAVOR THE BOUNTY" which is now my new catch phrase!), we took our impeccably dressed selves to the newest addition to the Penn Avenue Corridor: Verde
I had visited Verde with KB and Sara during its soft opening. Though we were unable to order any food (wtf) we took full advantage of the margarita list. They were absolutely delicious, the bartenders were fabulous, and we witnessed a tableside guacamole assembly. I was very eager to return. 

We ordered a pitcher of margaritas and the guacamole, because what could be better than dinner AND a show? We followed it up with Pozole, Swordfish Tacos, Chiles Rellenos, and a Pear and Carnitas Tamale that still haunts my dreams to this day.
The food was as fresh and exciting as the company I was keeping.
We then all went back to my house (conveniently two blocks away) to watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with Janna and discuss its potential as an allegory for a young man's coming out story (I'm looking at you, AJ). Rudolph the Red Nosed Gay-ndeer. 

 Part 2: Brucemas

At this point, I'd like to pause and say how touched I am by how many of my wonderful friends invited me into their homes and families to share Christmas morning with them once they found out I was to be here alone. I felt so loved and I appreciate the invitations with my whole heart. So please don't take this the wrong way, but I really wanted to spend Christmas with Bruce Bogtrotter.
I have this... habit? inclination? tragic flaw? of being in love with K's cat. When she goes out of town, I basically move into her apartment to be with him, and God bless her beautiful heart for not finding that as creepy as it probably is. 
Everyone else would probably find my Christmas morning to be completely unremarkable. I slept in a little. I went for a run in the beautiful clear crisp weather. I watched Nightmare Before Christmas. I opened my Christmas stocking. I smothered Bruce with my love. I made myself some of my favorite foods.
Eggs in a Basket with Roasted Red Peppers, Apple Chicken Sausage, and Pears.
Honestly, I don't think I could have been happier. What more does this girl need?
At least one more thing:

Part 3: Silent Night, Manoli Night

I have been told that my adopted family, the Manolis, are people that I am lucky to have in my life. 
True words have never been spoken. They are kind and gracious to me, and I think the world of them.  
Every holiday I spend Chez Manoli is the same: We talk a lot, we cook a lot, we swear a lot, we laugh a lot, and we eat a lot. Thanksgiving, Father's Day, Christmas... it doesn't matter. We know exactly how to celebrate.
Prime Rib, Sugar Glazed Ham, Mashed Potatoes and Stirfried Vegetables
This picture most certainly does not to this meal justice. Also, the rum brownies and bread pudding are (not pictured) were incredible.

I invite you now to Savor the Bounty.

Monday, December 26, 2011


 Red Lentil and Lamb Ragu with Pecorino Cheese
I made this for a dinner party Friday at which I massively overestimated my friends' appetites, leaving me with a fridge full of leftovers. I had had a whole jar of lentils in my cupboard that I finally decided to put to use, having never cooked with lentils before in my life. Some sauteed garlic, onion, carrots, diced tomatoes, and a boatload of dried herbs later, I ended up with a potful of this.

So, I ate this bowl as a recovery from a 7.5 mile run in 20 degree weather on my Monday off from work. Had you said to me a year ago "Bethy, you are going to use your Monday off from work to run 7.5 miles in 20 degree weather, and you are actually going to enjoy it" I would have told you to shut your filthy mouth. Then I probably would have taken a nap because the exertion would have tired me out. And yet, here we are.
This was just what I needed.

The Whirlwind

We're coming to the end of the year here. 
And it's been a gangbusters coupla weeks, DNY wise.

Saturday Morning Buttermilk Pancakes with Homemade Blueberry Marmalade
Something about the simplicity of pancakes is fascinating and comforting to me. They aren't terribly difficult to make, they're quite common and in this case not very fancy. Maybe it's nostalgia, maybe it's the fact that you need to invest some time in them, maybe it's the fact that you can trick yourself into thinking you're baking, maybe it's the carbo-load, but something about making pancakes is special. No matter what the rest of the day holds, no matter how difficult the week behind you was, a quiet Saturday morning becomes remarkable when you have a good friend, a good cup of coffee and a little time to spend together over breakfast.

Ground Beef and Zucchini in Tomato Sauce over Bulgar Rice, Yogurt and Roasted Cauliflower Salad, Salad with Hot Sauce and Oregano from Istanbul 
This was my temporary cure for the post partum performance depression that Messiah has left me with.  In a whirlwind lunch with Tim Marquette, during which we had to cram 3 days worth of talking into 15 minutes, I found myself staring at this beauty, which lasted me for the rest of the day due to its sheer volume. I dream of being able to cook this well. Spicy but balanced, full and bold but not overwhelming, simple but interesting.

Radioactive-looking Buffalo Cheese Fries
 Blue Burger
When Liz lived in Pittsburgh, we made Silky's in Bloomfield our second home. Liz and I lived together for a much too short period of time. I love her because she makes me laugh harder than is physically possible. She's my ray of sunshine.
Now, she lives in Delaware now and I miss her every day. Luckily she stopped in Pittsburgh on her way home, and we were able to grab dinner at our old place. It's still good. And the waitress was really interested when she heard us reading excerpts from "What Your Birthday Reveals About Your Sex  Life"

Shrimp Grits from NOLA
Every time I go to Nola (which, admittedly, is a lot) my order usually comes down to a choice between Shrimp Grits and whatever else it is that I end up ordering. The last day of work before Christmas, I went to lunch with Jess and Aidan, and finally didn't hold myself back. The sauce is very spicy and flavorful, the shrimp tender, the grits creamy. I kind of want some right now. 

Carrot Cupcakes and Cream Cheese Icing
Another baking frenzy, while playing a game of "Drink the Eggnog" with my friend Gordon (it's a pretty great game). This time, I made cupcakes for my two bosses who both happen to love carrot cake and happen to have birthdays 4 days apart. The cakes were much less sweet than other carrot cakes I've made, but the richness of the icing balanced their spice. They aren't much to look at, but they were a big hit!

Not Pictured:
Family brunch at my house, Buffalo Chicken Dip at Mario's Eastside with Liz and her friends, the crazy soup making spree I went on the other night with Michael Painter resulting in Avgolemono and Spicy Red Lentil soup

As they say, Sharing is Caring. 

Monday, December 12, 2011


This is the most scrumptious and least stressful Thanksgiving that I can remember. K, her sister, Katie and I all pitched in and made ourselves a complete feast. I wrestled the turkey, K schooled us in Phase 10, Bruce gazed wistfully at the food, and Katie wore a Tim the Enchanter cap with as much finesse as is humanly possible.

Spice brined turkey with cider gravy, pear and sausage stuffing, roasted sweet potatoes with goat cheese and fall salsa, garlic and rosemary mashed potatoes, southern style greens, braised brussel sprouts with bacon and shallots, personal ginger pumpkin pies with toasted coconut, and some lovely white wine.

I have so much to be thankful for this year.

Post Pearlfishers Pizza Pandemonium

Hooray for alliteration.

I was in need of some serious fun after Pearl Fishers, so K masterminded a plan for her friends to get together, make pizza, and play games after the Sunday matinee. She gathered some good friends (myself, AJ, Camilo, Lauren and Joe) who hadn't had a chance to all meet together, and we pulled out all the stops.

K made a simple dough, Camilo proved himself to be a master sauce distributor, and we all piled on the toppings with aplomb.
We had a little bit of everything: Spinach Sausage and Ricotta White Pizza, Pineapple with Red Sauce, Sausage Pepper and Onion with Red Sauce. My favorite, with Bacon and Mushroom, was eaten too quickly to be pictured. 
The only food I had in my house was a dozen eggs and a boatload of condiments, so my contribution to the festivities was deviled eggs
And yet another permutation of Bethday cakes, this time in cookie form
I like that the white chocolate chips make them look like big delicious buttons.

We played a game called Wise and Otherwise, in which everyone tries to complete a not-very-well-known quippy saying from another country and vote on the best answer, Balderdash style. Either because we are all hyper-uncompetitive people (unlikely) or because none of us could be bothered to decipher what the rules were, we ended up just completing the phrases and reading them out loud. We came up with some gems:
In Egypt: "Live in a place, pull your brain through your face"
In Mexico: "A good cock will crow, a bad one will too, it just takes a little longer, meng"
In Sweden: "Whoever has the longest fingers bork bork bork bork"
In Greece: "A child is like a camel's neck: something something Penn State"
In Jamaica: "When crab no have hole, bobsled bobsled bobsled"

It was a great way to wind down after a successful yet stressful performance: playing games with funny and charming people, making and consuming a ridiculous amount of homemade pizza.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I've made several huge, tiny (delicious) mistakes

Mistakes were made.

A Carnitas Burrito from Chicken Latino before a staging rehearsal.
I had to run around stage like a Sri Lankan savage with burrito belly. Not only is this thing HUGE, but I also made the mistake of dousing it with what I thought was tomatillo sauce. It was Green Chili sauce. Mouth. On. Fire.

Chicken Oregano from Salonika
Also consumed before a staging rehearsal with similar results to the burrito. But this time I was running around as a Russian Immigrant (anyone coming to see Messiah?). 
A little backstory: Salonika is right near Heinz Hall. When my last boyfriend and I would go see the PSO, he would always try to take me to Salonika, which he loved, and I would refuse because it's kind of a disgusting looking hole in the wall from the outside. Several years later, I went to lunch with Cody and he suggested we go to to this place where I had Avgolemono Soup and lemony potatoes and my life changed. So there you have it. Salonika: The ONE thing my exboyfriend was ever right about.

Two of these at brunch
I don't even remember what it was. Some sort of bourbon cider with a cinnamon stick at Park Bruges with Thrill. We had to take a nap after this.

A pint of Ben and Jerry's Half Baked
I stayed home from work with a migraine and this was the only thing I ate all day. Because I'm apparently 12 years old.

A bacon mushroom burger from Winghart's in Market Square.
It was Veteran's Day and there were only 4 of us in the office. So I decided to treat myself to my favorite burger in Pittsburgh. For the rest of the day, I was covered in a bacon sheen and smelling of burger.
A little backstory: I stumbled upon this burger joint with Kenny the afternoon before we left for Dewey. We met a ridiculously bearded waiter who introduced himself to us as "Shipwreck" then kissed my hand. We ate these burgers in the sunshine together. It was literally the perfect lunch and the perfect beginning to the most perfect week of my life. So yes, I recommend you go to Winghart's in Market Square. But hands off Shipwreck. He's mine.

I have no regrets.

More and More Birthdays

We continue down Birthday Lane, with 4 stops.

1. Happy Birthday, Shaira:

My invitation to this event was an interoffice message from Shaira that said "What are you doing November 5th? We are going out for my birthday and you can't say no." This kind of directness is exactly why I love Shaira. So out we went: Me, Shaira, Ruby, Aidan, and Jessica. A delightfully odd mixture of personailties, but we always manage to have the most fun.
We went to Nicky's Thai Kitchen on the North Side, where we had some of the best Thai food and some of the worst waiters.

Crab Ragoon, Spring Rolls, and Beef Pad Phet, which I ordered at a 9 and yes, I ate the whole thing. My face was on fire.

Shaira, you are a joy in my life. I am so happy Aidan forced me upon you.

2. Happy Birthday, KB:

What do you get the man who has everything? 
Lunch at Capital Grille downtown, probably.
This was fun because I got to call KB and work and make a very important lunch meeting with him, Mr. Bickerstaff and PNC Wealth Management.
More waiter douchery, but still, we had lunch at Capital Grille. So all in all, pretty great.
Crab Cake Burger and Truffle Fries. 

KB, I do not know what I would do without you. You make me laugh, and you know how to put me in my place. I love you more every day.

3. Happy Birthday, Aidan:

Round 2 of work buddy birthdays takes us to Ichiban for sushi, hibachi, and the most racist rendition of Happy Birthday any of us has ever heard

Shrimp and scarrops..... I mean, Scallops.

OH! OH! OH! Also! As is traditional (sort of) I made a cookie cake!

Aidan, Your obsession with grapes is both endearing and unsettling. We are the best BFAW. No matter what the newsletter says. 

4. Happy Birthday, Leonardo:

I'll be honest, I never set out to celebrate Leonardo DiCaprio's birthday, but it happened. Whether I wanted it to or not.

We obviously celebrated hard. Cranberry Brie with Crostini, Cuban with Sweet Potato Fries, Don Ho Burger with Onion Rings. Chocolate Bourbon Pie, Cherry Almond Cheese Pie, and a free brownie that the waiter threw in because he knew we would tip him more if he did. Or possibly he just sensed how much we love to eat.

Leonardo, I have nothing to say to you. But I will say this: I like learning new things about K because it always takes me by surprise. For example: She knows, without being asked or reminded, when Leonardo DiCaprio's birthday is. And she loves Don Ho. Who friggin' knew.


The perfect Saturday morning involves two things for me: making brunch and seeing my friends. I was lucky enough to have two such Saturdays in a row.

Brunch 1: with KB and Janna
Janna, a DNY regular, came back for a Halloween weekend visit and I got to see her for an all too brief brunch. KB brought scrapple (WHAT!) which I have never eaten before despite having been raised in the wilds of Eastern Pennsylvania, or as I am now going to refer to it: The Scrapple Belt. Cinnamon French Toast Sticks, Pumpkin Waffles, Sausage and Bacon also made an appearance. 

Brunch #2: with Kurishi
Taking advantage of a gorgeous fall Saturday, we walked down the *ahem* historic Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield in search of.... whatever. Three pastries, two Cafe au Laits, and one pound of sweet sausage later, we found ourselves with the makings of this:

Sweet sausage and spinach scramble. That thing on top of my mug is a lemon biscotti.
Which we consumed after a quick stop in the park to share a slice of pumpkin bread.
I really like this picture.

Let's do brunch.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


I love birthdays. I love the opportunity to make a complete silly fuss over a friend for an entire day, I love to choose and give presents, I love to make or consume extravagant meals. The following is the dramatic representation of mine and K's quest to celebrate as deliciously as possible. Never underestimate our ability to consume more food than is proper or decent.

(Because my newly found narcissism has completely taken over my life, I was unable to write this post earlier because every time I went to work with the pictures, I was completely distracted by how fucking beautiful we are.)

Completely different but both alike in dignity, our birthday celebrations were lavish and memorable affairs. They were both marathon meals, masterpieces, works of art. Enjoy.

Act I: K Day
Remember September? Yeah me either. But I do remember the day in September where I got dressed up and went to NOLA with my bestie for her birthday, during which we consumed 4 animals I had never eaten before.
Both K and I have had supremely successful meals at NOLA (the crown jewel of the Market Square dining scene IMHO): My successes are a series of lunches, too many of which for me to actually keep track of; hers was a romantic date with her little latin lupe lu. It was a perfectly gorgeous day so we requested to be seated outside where we could enjoy the sunshine.

Scene 1: Appeteasers

We started with a round of drinks and progressed to the first pairing of exotic animals:
Fried alligator in some sort of spicy aioli and frog legs in lemon bacon butter.
The alligator tasted like a chicken that ate a fish before it jumped into the frying pan; the frog legs were tender and smothered in bacon, and therefore perfect.  But this was only the beginning.

Scene 2: Nobody Expects the Flatbread Inquisition

A crawfish and chorizo flatbread. And more drinks. Seriously Fabulous.
Prior to this, the closest I had ever come to crawfish was when a giant one brushed against my leg in Horse Creek at Rockmere. That was frightening. This was delicious.

Scene 3: The Main Event

When we called our overworked waiter back for the grand finale, we pulled out all the stops.

I had stuffed quail, another first for me, with wild rice and cranberry pilaf in a port wine sauce.
You can tell the disection was a little perplexing for me. Worth it.

K went for Seafood Jambalaya, a medley of chicken, chorizo, shrimp, scallops, rice, and magic.
 Look at that smile.

After which we spent an absurd amount of time taking pictures and absolutely enjoying ourselves.

 Because we are old ladies, we went home to snuggle with Bruce after the festivities.  An evening well spent.

Look at all the pretty pictures

We only had to wait one short month before


Did you know that I am Irish and that I love drawing ridiculous parallels? I am and I do. We vacillated for quite a few weeks between going out for my birthday or making something bonkers at home. Eventually we realized that the most logical option for my birthday celebration was to go to the Claddagh Pub for claddagh rings and claddagh (onion) rings. Because that shit is funny to us.
I made an offhand comment to K one day that I dislike claddagh rings because they are tacky and ugly. Just to be contrary, she became determined to prove to me that they could be tasteful and quite beautiful. Only with K is the determination to make me eat my words an endearing quality. Because she knows how much I like eating.

Scene 1: AppeTWOsers?

We conducted the ceremonious exchange of claddagh rings over the cleverly named claddagh rings, which are called onion rings every where else in the universe.

Look how pretty! Rings and Rings.
For those of you counting at home, K and I now have two matching rings. Three if you count the onion rings.

Scene 2: Happiness is a Warm Pie... or two

What do we do when we can't decide between shepherd's pie and chicken pot pie? We order small portions of each and split them. Then everybody wins.

And Magnar's Hard Cider, which we are obviously delighted by.

Scene 3: Mac to the Future

I feel like if we weren't so charming and adorable, our tendency to order several course meals painstakingly slowly would annoy every single waiter/waitress in greater Pittsburgh. We ended with a skillet(?) of bacon mac and cheese, and didn't leave a single bite.
 This one was completed by a platonic sleepover and Bethday cakes for breakfast the next day.

More peektures

Our birthday celebrations were  representative of us, and amalgamations of our favorite things: decadent dishes and spending time with each other.

Not to beat a dead horse or anything but, I love me some Kurishi. She is the yin to my yang. She loves me when I'm mad, or sad, or drunk, or weird, or raucous, or boring. She listens to my nonsense, and talks sense back. She is asleep in the papazan next to me right now.

Happy birthdays to us.