Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sean visits Pittsburgh

This is very out of date but still...

Sean is a wonderful friend of mine. He has this blog which you should check out. And is generally just a fabulous and magnetic person. So Sean moved away about a year and a half ago. And when he comes to visit, delicious things inevitably happen.

We gathered some lovlies (Kyle, Janna, Kenny) and headed to Plum:

Seriously, someone needs to teach me how to use this camera.
Also, I can't remember what we ate. Pad Thai? Tofu Curry? 

Sean and I met in grad school as Duquesne University, which is the reason I moved to Pittsburgh in the first place. He was a gregarious bass trombone player and I fell in love with him immediately. He is funny and smart and charming and I absolutely adore him. He also happens to be the reason that I know 75% of my friends here, which means that when he visits, I get to see people I haven't seen in far too long. 

So over the course of the weekend, word got out that I planned to make a giant pot of chili Sunday afternoon and I ended up with an amazing group of people at my house to partake in some homemade chili. I ended up making two pots, one beef, one veggie, and we went to town.

This is a combination of both beef and veggie. Genius.

Also, this adorable thing happened:

I every Sunday of my life turned into a spontaneous chili party, I would be the happiest woman alive.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Childish Indulgences

Revisiting a point I made in my last post, I have been having completely musically saturated weeks.

A very important thing to not about me: I do not deal with stress very well. And a lot of times, you can tell by the way I'm eating how stressed I am. To be more specific, I tend to eat like I'm a 12 year old whose parents left her money to feed herself for the weekend.

In the spirit of Delicious New Year, I tried very hard to make my childish stress binge actually delicious and not just indulgent in the junk food my healthy parents rarely let me have.

This brings me to my current happy place: Gourmet Popcorn

a couple of these places have popped up (hah!) around town and I finally got to check one out thanks to my friend Jess. Now I'm just completely enamored by popcorn smothered in outrageous flavors.

 Chipotle Cheddar Popcorn
 This was dinner one evening before rehearsal. And also several snacks at work thereafter.

Was this the most nutritious option available to me? Absolutely not
Was it delicious and sufficiently juvenile (yet still somehow refined)? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Thursday the 17th was Music of the Spirit concert, and the weather was gorgeous. It was that little Pittsburgh spring teaser that happens every year that makes you think the worst of it is over, but always ends in heartbreak when a ridiculous snowstorm follows about a week later, and you feel that utter despair of never being able to escape the bitter bitter cold.

WHOA, sorry....  Where was I?

Oh yes.

Beautiful weather deserves a beautiful dinner

Razzy Fresh Plain Yogurt with Oreos, Blackberries, and Strawberries

Tart frozen yogurt, sweet berries, crunchy oreos. A grown up version of gorging myself on ice cream. YUM.

Both of these "meals" made me unrealistically happy. And I tried to pin down exactly why that was the case. I love to cook, and, obviously, have not been able to do so recently. But surprisingly I'm not disliking it as much as I have in the past. and I think DNY has a lot to do with that shift. Instead of just eating whatever because I need to eat SOMETHING, I've made a conscious effort to eat something that actually MEANS something. Whether that something is just a little twist on something I've had a thousand times before.
So now, instead of just some stupid food that I ate before rehearsal one night when I felt completely overwhlemed, this is an actual legitimate memory. Something I can look back on fondly, smiling to myself that I've not actually become a grown up, but I'm not really a child any more. I can take care of myself, but in whatever way I choose to.

Also, sometimes the littlest things are just so delicious.

Where I reveal my love of Baba Ghanouj

Growing up, my dad's best friend was a Lebanese man named Salim. He's the reason I used to get cucumbers and slices of cheese with pita in my lunch when everyone else was eating Handisnacks and Dunkaroos (Remember Dunkaroos?!). We were eating hummus way before it was popular to be eating hummus. As a result, some of my fond food memories from childhood involve middle eastern foods.
Am I the only person who thinks of Baba Ghanouj as a comfort food?

Yes, that is a side of snap peas. Yes, you are jealous.

So, the week after my delightful Valentimes was epically rehearsal filled.  Because the Music of the Spirit concert with the Pittsburgh Symphony was Thursday night, we had production rehearsals every day, which needed to be balanced with opera rehearsals. So, after work, I got in my car and went straight to singing.
I'll say this now, and I hope to say it again:
It makes me so unbelievably happy to be exhausted by singing so much good music.
 This did not leave me a bunch of time for food or normal living however. So I had to cram deliciousness into small bursts.  Which I did with Baba more than once that week.

One of the most rewarding things about being a musician is the amazing company you get to keep. In the Mendelssohn choir, we not only sing some of the greatest music in the world, but we get to sing it with some of the greatest people you will ever meet. Which is why I like spending time with as many Mendelfriends as I can. 
Music of the Spirit included Hadyn's Te Deum (which I grew to absolutely love), the Tuba Mirum of the Berlioz Requiem (multiple brass choirs!), and end of Mahler's second symphony (Holy Shit). Needless to say, I was in tears at the end of the concert.

I needed some sustenance and comradery and at least two manhattans after such an emotionally draining evening. I got all three at Harris Grill:

More Baba.

I am eternally grateful to my friends, who did not mind that I completely reeked of garlic for the rest of that evening.


Wow, It has been a while. In the past three weeks, I have laughed a lot, cried more, slept too much, slept too little, had the same section of my bathroom ceiling collapse twice in two days (it looks like number 3 is on its way), felt like an amazing musician, felt like the worst musician ever, sung more high As than I ever have in my entire life, almost lost my voice, almost lost my mind, declared open war on my uterus, seen friends I have not seen in FAR too long, missed seeing friends I love dearly here, been to the ballet, been to the symphony, lost someone else's house keys, found them, talked about love and music and beer.
And it has all been SO delicious.

Let's talk about Valentine's Weekend, which was an unstoppable whirlwind of deliciousness.

I'm not a huge fan of Valentine's Day anymore. I used to be religious about it. But not any more.
It's not like I feel embittered by singleness or jealous of other people's love affairs. I just no longer feel that adoration should be reserved for one awkward holiday in the bitterest month of the year.
Also, it tends to slip my mind, as was the case this year.

Kate, my amazing friend, got tickets to see the Pittsburgh Symphony play the finale of the Tchaikovsky festival, the Violin Concerto and 5th symphony.
To precede what was sure to be an amazing evening, we decided to get a really epic meal. After trying several restaurants in search of a place to sit before 10:45pm, it finally dawned on us that everyone else was celebrating Valentine's Day while we were celebrating Tchaikovsky. Priorities, people. Priorities.

Have you heard of Cioppino in the Strip District? It's a seafood restaurant with a surprisingly roomy bar.

And Crabcakes with Mac and Cheese

Here's a good sign: when you ask the waitress "which would you choose: the crabcakes or the"
and she replies "CRABCAKES" before you even get the rest of the sentence out. She was absolutely right.
Some great things about this: 
  1. They were perfectly seasoned. I'm a fan of seafood but not a big fan of Old Bay seasoning. Not too much in there, just enough. 
  2. These were definitely fried crabcakes but were not at all greasy or heavy at all. Just crunchy and tasty.
  3. A side of Mac and Cheese with crabcakes? I think that's genius. It was homemade, it was cheesy but not too sloppy, and a really lovely balance. A lovely, starchy balance.
But they weren't even the best part.

This was:
Beignets with Homemade Caramel, Raspberry, and Chococlate dipping sauces.

Chocolate Praline Torte with Toffeed Hazelnuts and a Dark Chocolate Espresso Truffle

Our awesome waitress told us that the pastry chef makes everything by hand in house. It was absolutely hands down the MOST DELICIOUS DESSERT TIME I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.
The Beignets were light and sweet, the dipping sauces rich and complimentary to the fried dough I dipped in them.  
Chocolate Praline Tart was dense, the topping crunchy, the Hazelnuts fun and surprising, the Dark Chocolate Espresso indescribable. We literally could not stop talking how happy we were about these desserts. 

Now, let's talk about something that was delicious is a completely different way.

I've never been a huge fan of Tchaikovsky. I always preferred to spend my Russian composer time on Prokovief or Shostakovich. But something about this performance definitely changed that. I wept openly during a French horn solo, got chills more than once, marveled at Manfred's exuberance and passion. I'm consistently pleased with how well the Pittsburgh Symphony plays, and I highly recommend you go see them play pretty much anything. Especially something with a lot of brass in it.
I wish I had more apt words to describe how this evening of music made me feel. I walked away even more in love with music, having shared that experience and a delicious meal with a friend that I love very much.

There's More.

I feel pretty strongly about supporting the arts in Pittsburgh, even if I don't necessarily understand them very well. Which is why I bought four tickets to the Pittsburgh Ballet and took other, smarter people with me. Because I'm not great with ballet. I've been looking forward to this ballet for several months, and I will be the first to admit how surprised I was by loving this production:

K accompanied me on the second leg of my culturally stimulating weekend. The staging was visually pleasant, the music (though recorded) interesting, the dancers mostly of the wrong ethnicity, but very good! Although there were some very pink, very tight pants.  Afterwards we ventured back to familiar territory.

Chicken burger with Pesto and Guacamole at the Sharp Edge Bistro

The new Sharp Edge Bistro downtown does not disappoint. There was also some really excellent stout.

Yeah. Happy Valentine's to me.