Photos of the Week

As promised, here is a handful of the photos I took while in New York City a few weekends ago. I got off the NY Airporter bus in Times Square and took an extremely chilly walk all the way up to Lincoln Center (where my audition was held.) I had my camera around my neck and was snapping away. I wasn’t afraid of looking like a tourist. I knew I wasn’t. I’ve been to New York several times and have lived there for a few months here and there. I photographed some things that were familiar to me and also I tried to photograph things I have never seen before. A fresh look on a familiar city. There is always something new to see in the Big Apple.

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Photos of the Week

The following photos were taken over the course of about a week in different locations around Pittsburgh. The first two were taken in Lawrenceville, the next three on the South Side, and the last two near my house on the day we got a few inches of snow. Next week, get ready for some pictures from my most recent trip to New York City! Enjoy!

Iron Chef Initiative

Not too long ago, I set myself a life goal to dine at one restaurant of each of the American Iron Chefs. As a foodie and lover of all foods creative and delicious setting this goal for myself will ensure that I continue to try new restaurants no matter what sorts of excuses I try to come up with. Too far, too expensive, too cold, too tired… you know the schpeel. Thanks to the generosity (and love) of my Grandma and my parents I have already been able to check three Iron Chefs off my list: Chef Morimoto, Chef Garces, and, as of last night, Chef Forgione. Both Morimoto and Restaurant Marc Forgione I went to with my Grandma in New York City. Chef Garces’ restaurant Tinto I went to with my parents in Philadelphia. Considering that I visited all three of these restaurants within the past year, I’d say I’m on a good pace to successfully accomplish this goal.

 

Last night I dined at Restaurant Marc Forgione with my Grandma and sister after traveling to the big apple for yet another ballet company audition. The restaurant is located just one block from the Cambers St. subway stop in the heart of Manhattan’s TriBeCa neighborhood. The interior of the restaurant was dimly lit when I first walked in but as my eyes adjusted I no longer noticed that most of the light was coming from the large number of candles in the restaurant. Aesthetically placed of course. I also quite enjoyed the exposed brick wall I was facing and the large framed mirrors hanging on the walls to make the space feel larger than it actually was.

Our meal began with a delightful two-part amuse-bouche. One bite was a lovely candied beet with a touch of creamy goat cheese on top. The other was a small puffed dough filled with vegetable cream cheese. Both were incredibly dainty and delightful.

For my meal I took advantage of the “Sunday Supper” deal – 3 courses for $44. You could choose any dish listed on the menu too. It was much nicer to have a choice of 6 dishes for each course rather than the 2 or 3 choices you so often see on prix fixe menus. To start things off I chose iceberg lettuce with Shropshire cheese, jicama, and sherry vinegar. The cheese was of the blue-veined variety (which I absolutely adore) and was quite delicious. There was a little too much dressing on the salad for my taste – my lips involuntarily puckered a few times due to the acidity of the vinegar. But overall it was a wonderful light start to the meal and just the right amount of food for an appetizer.

Next came my entrée. Four slices of perfectly tender duck breast with a beautifully caramelized skin, resting on a bed of shaved red cabbage which was cooked until it was soft and sweet, pumpkin spaetzle that I dare say was deep-fried (how magnificent), and refreshing pieces of parsnip. Around all of this was a delicately sweet, vanilla-y reduction that also possibly was caramelized somehow. The dish was wonderfully rich and sweet but not overly so. It hit just the right spot.

For dessert, I continued my rich and sweet theme and gorged on banana “pecan pie” bread pudding, served piping hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Once I cracked through the layer of “pecan pie” topping the bread pudding, I was delighted by the fresh banana flavor that was waiting below. Boy was that dessert gone in a jiffy! I was too excited to eat it I didn’t even pause to take a picture.

What a fantastic meal! Three chef’s restaurants happily tasted, several more waiting to be enjoyed. Mario Batali, here I come!

Photos of the Week

This week my photos are of the Hot Metal Bridge on the South Side of Pittsburgh. As you can see it just recently snowed. Not very much, but it was still slightly exciting considering the lame weather we’ve been having this winter. I think Seattle has gotten almost the same amount of snow this year as we have in Pittsburgh. Now that’s just not right. Hope you enjoy!

Mole in Chicago and Hummus at Home

Late winter/early spring. For the last four years this is the time of year I have always dreaded. No, not because the snow is gone and the flowers and baby animals are emerging. That part is quite wonderful. I dread it because for these few months I will be planning, schmoozing, and traveling non-stop for auditions for ballet companies. Companies hold auditions now to look for dancers that they wish to hire for next season. In the ballet world, employment revolves around the performance season which runs from fall to spring, not unlike a school year. For the end of this season I will be an apprentice with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (YAY!) but nothing is guaranteed that I will have that job again next season. Hence why I am now auditioning like crazy. Now that I have broken into the professional realm of the ballet world hopefully it won’t be as hard for me to stay there as it is to get in. Only time will tell…

This past weekend I made a quick 24 hour trip to Chicago for an audition on Saturday afternoon. After the audition I met up with my good friends from high school that now attend Northwestern University. I was crashing at their apartment for the night. Connections are key at this time of year too. Not only will it help you get you more quickly noticed at an audition, but if you know a friend in a city you are traveling to, staying with them considerably cuts down on travel costs. Thanks goodness for friendly friends! Anyway, After the audition we went into downtown Chicago, bought a few things at a record store and had a delicious meal at a Mexican restaurant: Buena Vista.

It was a teeny tiny little restaurant. The dining area was incredibly small, the legal maximum occupancy was only 19 people to just give you an idea. The kitchen was almost the same size as the restaurant. To get to the restroom, I had to walk through the kitchen. I can’t say that is highly comforting as a diner (someone could misbehave on their way back to pee) but at the same time it was pretty fun to see a behind the scene look at this small family run restaurant. When we walked in the owner’s family (I’m assuming) was sitting at a table near the kitchen finishing up their meals and speaking rapidly in Spanish. If I owned this place or knew the owner I’d be eating here every night too. The food was simple yet delicious. right after we sat down we were brought two homemade salsas, one regular and one green, and a bowl of homemade chips. We then ordered some guacamole to munch on too as we picked our entrees. I decided to go with the enchiladas de mole. Steaming, they came out sandwiched between some refried beans and seasoned rice. Every individual part of that meal was delicious. The enchiladas were filled with incredibly tender chicken. There was not much more to the meal than what met the eye but there didn’t need to be. It was so deliciously simple and comforting that I was for the moment distracted by how much my mouth was burning from the spice.

I finished off my time in Chicago with some quality college entertainment (you know) and then left to fly home the next morning. Once I returned home it was time to prepare for the Superbowl! I landed around 3:30 so there wasn’t much time for me to cook before heading to a friend’s apartment to watch the game but I of course wanted to contribute something. A few days before I was browsing through my Mark Bittman cookbook “The Food That Matters Cookbook” and found a recipe for hummus. In the cookbook it takes the hummus one step further and instructs you on how to serve it hot. However since I was to be transporting my batch I just left it room temperature. I have been wanting to make my own hummus for years but I didn’t have a food processor or a blender. Now that I am back at home, the kitchen supplies at my disposal have been opening the doors to my culinary adventures left and right.

With only a handful of ingredients and requiring only a total of 10 minutes to make this was one of the easiest and most rewarding things I have made in a while. By the time the game was over last night ALL of my hummus was gone. (There were only 4 of us there eating it.) I’m not sure I will ever go back to store-bought hummus. Here is the recipe, with a few adaptations I made. Give it a try!

Hummus

3 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, drained

1/2 cup water

1 or 2 garlic cloves

1/4 cup olive oil, or to taste

1/4 cup tahini, or to taste

salt and black pepper

3 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste

chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Put the chickpeas, water, garlic, olive oil, and tahini in a blender or food processor. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Puree for a minute or two until the mixture is very smooth. Add the lemon juice and blend again until it is incorporated. At this point you can adjust it to your liking by adding more of any ingredient to change the taste, consistency, or both. I just kept taking little tastes and adding more of this and that until it tasted just the way I like it. In the cookbook, Mark Bittman gives recommendations of other ingredients to add like roasted red peppers and spices to change up the flavor of the hummus. Being the first time I made it I just stuck with the original flavor. Next time I think I’ll add something to kick it up a notch. Maybe some roasted garlic. Yum. I took it to my friend’s apartment with some pita and chopped veggies and like I said, it was all gone by the time I left. Hope it’s as successful for you if you decide to give it a try!

 

 

Photos of the Week

For my photos this week I went through my entire library and composed a collection comprised entirely of black and white photos. It’s a different approach for the week than the usual “here is where I took my camera” theme that I so often fall victim to. I felt like mixing it up. I am in a bit of a monotonous stretch of life at the moment that I am slowly working myself out of. I have been taking one ballet class a day then going to my part-time intern office job every day for about 3 weeks now. Scanning is unbelievably boring. Trust me. Tomorrow is my last day scanning though! Get ready for some life changing events!  =]  

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