Thursday, June 30, 2011

I can't believe that I am sharing a kebab with the most beautiful girl I have ever seen with a kebab


Scallop Kebabs with K
Marinated in soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, and ginger
Seared to perfection on the newly christened Foreman Grill

 Chicken Kebabs for Family Dinner
Yucca, Eggplant, Teriyaki Chicken, Cherry Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Red potatoes, Roasted Peppers
On the newly christened family Brinkman Grill

I had a craving for kebabs. Everything is better on a stick, and when you don't bother with a starch on the side you can eat a metric fuckton of them. Which, as you can see by both of these pictures,

Let there be deliciousness. Forever and Ever.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

5 (chickPB panca)K(es)

I had to have a very honest conversation with myself. And honest conversations with myself are not exactly my strong suit.

For months, I've been setting my alarm clock for 5 AM, with the intention of getting up and running before work. And every morning, I've been snoozing until 6:20, usually end up feeling shitty, and have to rush to get to work in time. I have a quiverful of excuses: chronic insomnia, general malaise, protecting my vocal chords from harm; I am a champion at talking myself into staying in bed. One Friday morning, my alarm chirps at 5 AM, and I reach to snooze it, as always.

Bethann, the Universe says, more softly than I would expect the Universe to speak to me.

Bethann, do you want to continue to break the promises you've made to yourself?
That is a very difficult question to answer first thing in the morning.

The only person you're hurting is yourself.
I understand, but it would be very convenient for me to go back to sleep right now.

don't you want things to be different?

At which point, I got up, put on my running shoes, and tore through 3 miles before work.
So the Universe has decided for me: The theme of Summer 2011 is DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Considering that I have been shamefully out of shape my entire life, running a 5k was never an option. I've had many brief cycles of interest in running and exercise, but never managed to get more than a mile at a time, and never in less than 12 minutes. Last summer, while working an incredibly unsatisfying and draining job in the Hill District, and inspired by K's then-new-found healthy lifestyle, I decided to start running in the mornings. And it helped. For a little while. Obviously, it didn't last long. The weather turned, I was afraid of hurting my voice with the harsh cold, I started rehearsing for Lucia and Verdi's Requiem, I wanted to sleep, blah blah blah. When spring finally rolled back around again, I was eyeball deep in Puccini, and running was not near the top of the priority list. Then KP asked if I wanted to run a 5k with her. Well, why not? I had just had an honest conversation with myself about change. This was something I had never asked of myself before.

We chose to do the Obadiah Cole Father's Day 5k because we both had that weekend free. (Also, my father had prostate cancer a few years ago, so I chose this as an opportunity to support him in some small way. Call me sentimental. This one was for you, Chip.)

KP, I should mention, is an amazing motivator. My relationship with food is neither healthy nor informed, and she is constantly bestowing her knowledge of nutrition on me, a subject on which I am largely ignorant (except in the case of fiber, about which I am totally and inexplicably obsessive). She tells me what I need to hear when I'm being stubborn and whiny. She's honest, unboundedly loving, and a stellar baker. She's also been running a lot longer than I have and helped me not to kill myself in my first attempt at a 5k. I could not, would not, have done it without her.

I finished in 29:34, placed 436 out of 1200 or so. And as mediocre as that is, I'm wicked proud of myself.
Please excuse the fact that we both look slightly addicted to drugs. It was stupid early.

No one is more supportive of my (comparatively small) successes than K. She invited me over after the race to nourish me, and greeted me with a beautiful bouquet
and invited Pras over to help us consume

Vegan Gluten Free Peanut Butter Pancakes with Bananas, Whipped Cream, and Chocolate sauce.

We don't see eye to eye about running, but we do see eye to eye about pancakes. These little beauties (and the bellinis, too, after a "family" trip to the liquor store) made me so happy. Made with chickpea flour and peanut butter, protein-y to the max, filling but not heavy. Sweet and a little crunchy, because they had flax in them (yeah fiber). And Bananas. And chocolate syrup. And yum. I may have emerged victorious after the 5k, but K left both Pras and I in the dust in the 2 (pan)K.

I feel very different these days. As if I'd been clenching my fists trying to fight for what I wanted, but am now opening my hands to catch the bubbles of glitter that are falling from the sky. It's true that there was a very specific plan for my life that fell to pieces quite quickly after I moved out here, and rebounding from that has been a slow, painful process. It was like starting from scratch.  And I didn't realize until that morning 5 AM when the universe urged me to get off my ass that starting from a scratch is an opportunity, not an indication of failure. I am now building a world that is my own. It is a little silly, often misunderstood, and I honestly have no idea what it is supposed to look like in the end, but it is mine. And it is filled with magic and passion and deliciousness.

I want to keep building.

Monday, June 27, 2011


I can be honest with you, right?
I love getting dressed up and going out to fancy restaurants.

WHEW. I'm glad I got that off my chest.

This place has gotten a lot of hype. And it's literally down the street from my house. And I've wanted to go for months. So, dressed to the nines, I ventured 3 blocks to Salt of the Earth with KB and Kenny. 

I honestly don't think of myself as someone who is very creative with food. I know what I like and I tend to stick to it. I'm usually hesitant to try new things. And though I am willing to spend a lot of money on a good meal, you never really know what you're in for when you visit a place for the first time. Which is why I wanted to go somewhere that came so highly recommended from my discerning friends.

I don't want to turn this into a restaurant review because 1) I'm not good at it 2) just the thought bores me and 3) other people all ready have. But we were seated at the bar which is literally separated from the kitchen only by a countertop and I highly suggest you do the same if you ever go. The chefs are entertaining the food prep is fascinating and it smells DELICIOUS. The only down side being that I could barely converse with my excellent company, but we were all distracted by the view anyway.

Remember: sharing is caring, and one of the MANY reasons I love going out with these two is the unspoken assumption that at some point we will all be switching plates.

So here's how it went down:

For everyone: Seared Scallops with Bananas, Radishes, and Lobster Roe
Bananas and Scallops? Yes, Please.

For me: Copper River Salmon with Buckwheat, Cilantro, and Squid Ink
I'll eat just about anything if there is cilantro in/on it.

 For Kenny: Softshell Crab with Horseradish Potatoes
I thought I hated horseradish, but it just turns out I hate horseradish that sucks.
This did not suck.

For KB: Flank Steak with Chimichurri
Medium. Rare.

This is the kind of restaurant that makes me want to open a restaurant. 

I may have a new favorite place in Pittsburgh.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Lunch with Lou

Before I had Sunday Dinners, I had Becky and Lou.

Becky was the soprano at the First Presbyterian Church, my first real job here in Pittsburgh.  It wasn't an easy gig, but I stuck it out for almost 3 years, mostly because of Becky and how much I adore her. Her husband works for the same company I do (though he does something much more important than I). My first few years of living in this city were really very unsteady and unpleasant at times. I don't think I would have gotten through much of it without Becky and Lou.

When I was working as a bank teller and couldn't take any time off to go home for holidays, Becky and Lou invited me into their family. When I was desperate for a new job, Lou handed my resume around trying to get me in. When I wanted to learn to play golf, Becky signed up for lessons with me. When I wanted to learn to shoot a pistol, Lou took me to the gun range. Whenever I needed to complain about anything and everything (which I often did), they were both there for me. 

Now, I have a steadier footing, a new church to sing at, and a job at the building right across from Lou's. Sometimes, less often than I'd like, Lou and I get together for lunch so that he can "keep an eye on me", as he likes to say. He was nice enough to take me to a classy joint:

Salmon Teriyaki Noodle Bowl at McCormick and Schmick's

I'm a huge fan of anything with bok choy in it, and I'm on a salmon kick, so this was right up my alley. There was also great bread and a peach Arnold Palmer. It was really nice to catch up with my surrogate father, and even nicer to do so over such yummy food.

I also spent Father's Day dinner with Becky and Lou (and K too), but was too busy stuffing my face with grilled steak and veggies, and getting a lesson in Shabbatai Tsvi, to take any pictures. (K says: "FALSE CHRIST FTW")

An old love once said to me, after a Thanksgiving dinner at Becky and Lou's house,
"You're very lucky to have them".
And I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Essential Meals

I finally spent a summer weekend at home. Considering my unbelievable wanderlust of late, I thought that might turn into a bad decision. Much to my surprise/delight, I got to experience what I consider to be the 4 meal essential to a happy and fulfilling life:

Picnic Time
Late Night Free-for-All
and Family Dinner

(Warning: do not consume all 4 essential meals on the same day. You will die. Most likely of happiness)

1. Picnic Time

In continuous pursuit of an active, healthy lifestyle, K and I packed a picnic lunch, modified the words to the Flight of the Conchords song "Business Time" to "Picnic Time" and took to Frick Park with our Meijer Picnic Bag to enjoy the views and the food that we had prepared at midnight the night before:

Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing, and Coconut Milk yogurt.
Or, as it should be called henceforth, Noodle Doo.

The Noodle Doo was a Cooking Light recipe that we modified as we are wont to do (What free spirits we are!) It had asparagus, snow peas, bean sprouts, red bell pepper, and of course a spicy dressing with peanut butter in it. Colorful and light and portable. 
Coconut Milk Yogurt was not nearly as successful as coconut milk ice cream, which is my favorite thing in the universe right now. But still a nice balance to the spicy noodle salad.
Icing on the cake: We had lunch AND a show, thanks to some really intense dude doing Tai Chi on the hill we decided to sit on.  He took his practice VERY seriously. 

Why this is essential: One of the undeniable truths about me is that my level of happiness is directly proportionate to the amont of time I get to spend outside. This city is beautiful sometimes, and I spend too much of my time complaining about it instead of relaxing and enjoying the view. I have every intention of making picnic time a regular mealtime experience this delicious summer. Who's with me?

2. Late Night Free-For-All
After a day of being good, I gave myself license to be bad:
Salmon BLT and Cajun Fries at Lot 17
This was my first  time at Lot 17 in Bloomfield and aside from the terrible waitress, it was delightful. Salmon AND Bacon. We also had a mess of appetizers that we all split between us. Family style, because that's what we are.
I've done scientific research. Calories don't count after 10PM. So it's just a free-for-all.

Why this is essential: Nothing compliments a Saturday night out with KB, AJ, Sara, and Kenny like good food, many beers, tons of laughing, and probably some ill advised public singing.
I must have sang 9 duets at karaoke that night.

3. Brunch

I'm usually required to be awake, alert, and singing at church on Sunday mornings, which means I am up long before most of my friends.  I'll be honest, sometimes I get a little jealous that I always seem to be awake before everyone else. (I'll be even more honest, I'll probably never stop wanting to sing anything/everything I can). But this Sunday schedule sets me up perfectly to go straight from church to brunch. And brunch delights me to no end.
Mussels in white wine and garlic broth, Pommes Frites with remoulade, and Crab Beignets at Park Brugges
I realize that this spread is nearly identical to my post about Teresa's. I don't have any problem with that and neither should you.

I've heard so much about this restaurant and finally got to experience it with Bill the Thrill last Sunday.  Everything I hoped for and more! We also had a couple good beers, that I can't for the life of me remember what they were.

Why this is essential: I love the word brunch, firstly. A good portmanteau is fundamental to my communication skills, and "brunch" is pretty much the original. Secondly, this city has a smattering of places that offer great brunch options, and I want to try all of them. Thirdly, it's the perfect excuse to have a huge leisurely meal with one of my favorites.

4. Family Dinner

Hands down, my favorite new DNY tradition is Sunday Night Family Dinner. A group of us (usually consisting of me, KB, AJ, Kenny, Sara, and whoever else) gather at KB's apartment, conveniently located down the street from me, and all chip in to make an epic meal. I always over eat, usually overdrink, and never fail to enjoy myself. This night was taco night, and Kate (KP!) joined us.

I'm so happy KP got to join us! Not just for her skills in assembling Guac in a Jar, but also because she is warm and positive and beautiful.

Anyway, as a dry run for our impending Dewey Vacation Spectacular, Taco Night:

A whole table spread, complete with beef and tofu filling, roasted veggies, Guac in a Jar, spinach salad, and God only knows what else. I put the veggies and goat cheese on my taco. FTW.

Why this is essential: I'm becoming more and more dependent on these Sunday night gatherings as a way to ground myself. I don't want to speak for anyone else in the family, but it means a great deal to me to be a part of something this special. We make great food in great company. We talk about anything and everything. I feel supported and loved and listened to by every single of one them. 
Let's keep this tradition alive, kids.

The moral of the story is that I should never be surprised by how well my "family" treats me. No matter how far I wander, I always come back to home to open arms. 
And those arms are usually trying to feed me.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


This is a very special post! for two reasons:

1) This gaycay marks the glorious kick off to what is shaping up to be the most delicious summer of my life. I am VERY excited to see where this gravy train will take me.
2) My very first guest blogger! Of which I hope to have many more. K was gracious enough to jump on the DNY bandwagon for this most auspicious occasion.
(I've italicized K's commentary)

The Mich Was Delish and It Made Quite A Dish
The Tale of Two Biddies

K and I have discovered the secret to happiness:
Doing whatever you want, whenever you want, with whomever you want.
Luckily for us, we want to go to Michigan, stay in a historic B&B some random weekend in May, with each other.

Because we're good girls, we went to the gym after work before hitting the road to show up at the Homestead in South Rockwood at 2 AM. A good thing, considering our weekend would be packed with loads of Mochonut Frappucinos, delicious dinners, geriatric Shih tzus, and not a lot of exercise.

My lovely parents are true Americans, lovers of meatballs, dilly bars, and PB+J on white bread. They also find the idea of lesbians downright bewildering. So naturally their farm in Michigan was an ideal launching point for the gayest sort of cay, DNY style.

I grew up just outside the proud village of South Rockwood, where nothing of note has happened in my lifetime except one double homicide; a brief scandal involving an internet-arranged gay hookup date, one of the two local cops, and a couple of probably not gay teenagers with mugging in mind; and an unemployment-and-alcohol-motivated police shooting that ended as unremarkably as anything justifying SWAT team helicopters landing in my parents' hayfield could.  My parents live there with two geriatric shih tzus who have 3 eyes between them, a greek tortoise with a life expectancy of 50 years that my sister has at least temporarily abandoned (but not permanently, as I doubt my parents are going to outlive the thing), a smattering of semi-feral cats who are generally unimpressed by human interest, and at the time of our gaycay, a 30-year-old retired horse who has since completed the H family horspice program.

A brief side note: one of the recent additions to the K and BA dictionary is the replacement of the word "chicken" with "doodle doo". This originated one night when we simultaneously and without precedent mentioned the Mary Martin staged production of Disney's Peter Pan.  The South Rockwood Homestead just *happens* to have a copy of this production on VHS, which we were of course then obliged to watch as a bonding experience. Captain Hook, while singing a jaunty tune, proudly chortles the phrase
K perseverated on this phrase so much that henceforth, all conversation involving chicken is completely saturated with Doodle Doo. 
Use it. Tell your friends.

OK! Moving on:

The next day, we were on our way to Historic Webster House in Bay City, MI
This place is exactly what it advertises: Luxurious, Exquisite, Quaint. The owners live in the house and obviously have the greatest job in the world. We were treated like the queens we undoubtedly are.

After a quick change, we headed to Gatsby's for dinner, which advertised itself as a "roaring 20s themed bar and grill". While it was neither roaring nor 20s, the food was great:

Steak with steamed veggies for me, Raspberry glazed salmon for her. Great garlic bread for everyone.

A standout feature of southeastern Michigan culture (be it rural, urban, or miserably suburban), is an ever-present underlying sense of decay and desperation. Pretty much everywhere you go, there's a feeling that 20 or 30 or 50 years ago, this must've been really something. Pretty much nowhere you go, things seem crisp and gleaming and new. Bearing that in mind, appreciation can still be found for the 'local flavor' of the region.  Bearing THAT in mind, a couple of restaurant reviews from the gayest leg of the cay:

Gatsby's, Bay City, MI, a few blocks into the past from our impeccable and tremendous B & B:

We'd decided on this restaurant after reading a review in a local tourism mag that we found in out ridonkulous jacuzzi suite. It billed itself as a nice choice for surf & turf with a zany roaring 20s theme. In fact, it had more of a decaying Applebee's feel to it, with a seriously beat mannequin dressed as a flapper standing inside the doorway. But the surf (raspberry-orange salmon with red potatoes and garlic bread for me) and turf (steak with mixed vegetables and garlic bread for BA) really were quite tasty, and reasonably priced. Even moreso were our drinks (gin martini for BA, Leinenkugel's Creamy Dark draft for me): cheap with no reason to be so, though our waitress was self-admittedly woefully unprepared to describe their selection to us or make an informed recommendation of any kind.

Upon returning to our room after a short rainy walk around the neighborhood (K: classically behind the times, complete with some white trash lady sitting on her porch, loudly describing us and our umbrella over the phone for still unknown reasons), we found a plate of brownies awaiting us on the bed, which we wasted no time devouring. 

The night was a blur of coffee, hess, chocolates, champagne, cherries, a whole village people of rubber ducks in the jacuzzi, and that Cate Blanchett movie Elizabeth (because, why not?)

I learned to play chess (sort of)
during which two older guests identified us, more loudly than they realized, as "that lesbian couple"

We watched a movie and crushed two bottles of champagne in the skylit hot tub

With all the lil lil duckies

And made the worst rap video ever

Yes, we're adorable.

The second B & B was my favorite meal of the trip. Unfortunately, no pictures exist, because one does not bring her camera phone to breakfast in such a classy establishment as Webster House.
Homemade muffins! Herb roasted potatoes! Veggie frittata with asparagus and spinach and tomatoes and so much more! A side of bacon! Oh My God!
There was also fruit salad, but my feelings about fruit salad are.... mixed.... (rimshot)
Then back into the hot tub after breakfast.
Then back on the road, stopping briefly to spend an exorbitant amount of time/money at the outlet mall.

The original purpose for this trip was to visit Frankenmuth: Michigan's Little Bavaria. A traditional family day trip for K, it seemed like as good a destination as any for my first venture into Michigan. Last year, for my birthday we went to Niagara Falls, so we decided to stick with kitsch. But this time, without the shackles of family tradition holding her back, we were free to experience Frankenmuth our own way. Which meant trying a brand new restaurant, guided only by the internet and my hankering for beer cheese soup:

Sullivan's Black Forest Brew Haus and Grill: We found this place online and though, my goodness, it's like Hofbrau, but more authentic. 



It was like Hofbrau, but not new or fun or delicious. Most of the food wasn't German, none of it was healthy, and what we ordered didn't really come as described. But all in all, it was edible,
(Pulled Pork Sandwich and a Chicken and Ham Melt)

 and we did have a couple of nice dark beers
(Hers and Hers Imperial Stout)

Which prepared us for an extended stroll around the 'Muth, 

where we obtained a variety of fancy cheeses at the Cheese Haus

(Chocolate Mint, Strawberry, Tomato Basil Cheddar, Cinnamon Apple Jack, and Blueberry White Cheddar) which we'd later share with Mom and Dad H, and some German Roasted Almonds, which I'd even later jam down my gullet while crying into my cat.  Kidding, of course. I don't cry.

Side Bar: I used the remainder of the Cinnamon Apple Jack to make a grilled cheese sandwich the following weekend in Rockmere. Brilliance.

Towards the end of the 'Muth we found ourselves getting a little worn out

and a little goofy
So back to the Homestead we proceeded, to put Mom to work sewing our clothing and recover from what was turning into a full blown case of the strep.

That night, upon return to the farm, we went grocery shopping in a way that only people who live in a rural area in the Midwest can appreciate: the late-night run to Meijer. Or, as I otherwise have described it, killing time til you die. This yielded the needed materials for a fantastic start home the next day -- glut-tard friendly, lac-tard friendly rhubarb honey crumble a la mode. My mother, who has developed a lactose intolerance in her middle age, was flabbergasted at the discovery of (SO DELICIOUS -- I put that in caps because it's the brand name, but also because it's SO TRUE) coconut milk ice cream at Meijer, which I found myself flabbergasting, since everyone who's ever been to Meijer knows that it's a wondrous place, where anything and everything can be found, and all your wildest dreams come true.

It was a pleasure sharing this with you, friends, thanks for reading.

I'm so pleased I got to share my first venture to Michigan with an authentic Michiganian. 

A beautiful trip with beautiful memories.