Monday, July 28, 2014


A couple of weeks ago, we decided to try Altius, the new restaurant from the people who brought Bistro 19 to Mt. Lebanon. Altius is on Mt. Washington, in the space that was formerly The Georgetown Inn. The Georgetown Inn was one of the first fancy places my parents took us for celebration dinners. I remember it being dark inside, sort of fancy, a dress up place, and delicious, but over the years it got a little less fancy and less delicious.

At 6 pm on a kind of sunny, kind of hazy Saturday in July, Altius is bright and shiny - grays and whites and sleek and modern. This is a slower paced meal, a meal to savor and enjoy, while also enjoying the fantastic view of the city. While we looked over the food and drink menus, we were served a silver cone of truffled popcorn:
Truffled Popcorn - yum! It's a little addictive and I was trying to resist so I wouldn't fill up before the meal! SP loves truffle flavor, so he ate the majority of the popcorn, finishing it.
Our cocktails: Vieux Carre and Seelbach (Old Forester Signature Bourbon, Peychaud's & Angostora bitters, bubbly). Both were yummy.
Amuse Bouche: Watermelon, Feta, Arugula, Balsamic. This was tasty. Summery. And it inspired me to add mint to my morning watermelon for breakfast the following week.
Breads served from a bread tray: Oatmeal Stout, Rolls, Rosemary Focaccia, All are good. The focaccia was my favorite. They were served with sun dried tomato~olive oil topper and some smooth butter.
My appetizer: Sea Scallop - pork belly, smoked peach BBQ, sangria vinaigrette, cornbread. The scallop & vinaigrette were yummy, the cornbread a little crumbly, but the star was the pork belly with peach and peach BBQ. Lately I've seen recipes for pork and peach BBQ/glaze/brine in all the food magazines we receive, and I love the combination.
SP's appetizer: Tongue n'Cheek - crispy tongue steak, braised beef cheek pierogie, melted leeks, mushrooms, veal demi-glace, horseradish creme fraiche. He loved this dish. The bite of pierogie I had was delicious.
My entree: Sheep's Milk Ricotta Gnocchi - yellow tomato coulis, roasted peppers, PA mushrooms, artichoke hearts, riccotta salata. My gnocchi was in a butter sauce with the tomato coulis on the side because of garlic concerns. The coulis was delicious, but I just had a wee bit. The gnocchi were smooth and pillowy and had a lovely ricotta taste. I ate it all!
SP's entree: Duck Duck Goose - seared breast, leg confit, whipped goose pate, cherry duck jus, soft polenta, sauteed kale.
He said his duck was delicious. He was too busy eating to say much else!
I was way too stuffed for dessert, but I did order Tea.
I like the cute saucer! SP used his phone to time my tea steeping time (yes, we're tea nerds).
SP's dessert: Coconut Rose Panna Cotta - pineapple watermelon salad, berries, coulis, pink peppercorn tuile, coconut lime sorbet. I didn't try any of it - too full and I do not like coconut. I also do not like rose flavor in my food. I love rose smell, but not taste.

Overall, we really enjoyed our meal at Altius. It's definitely a special occasion place, although this time we weren't celebrating anything, we just decided we wanted to try it. Our server was a genuinely nice fellow, pleasant, answered our questions. It's a slower paced meal, so if you don't like lingering and savoring or need to be somewhere, it might not be the place for you. The view is fantastic. The food delicious. Small touches like the popcorn, amuse bouche, and a small treat in a tiny bag to take home are quite nice. We'll definitely go back.

I do wish that Mt. Washington, particularly that touristy area along Grandview where the viewpoints and restaurants are, would clean itself up some and match the clean, sleek, new, modern feel of Altius. It seemed to us, as we parked along a side street and walked, that the sidewalks are incredibly crappy. Bumpy. Ruts. Chunks missing. Grass growing up in between cracks. Not good for the wheelchair, or a stroller, or anyone with a mobility issue. Curb cuts seemed lacking. The facades of some buildings seemed tired and dirty and in need of a face lift. If Pittsburgh is going to be a great place to visit, or live, or any of the other recent honors it has received, and if it's going to promote Mt. Washington and the inclines as a tourist 'must see' area, then it should be a little nicer.

Altius on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

1. I have sort of made progress with the digestive distress. By Sunday, I had 'progressed' to eating bananas for breakfast, grilled cheese for lunch, and breaded chicken/rice/green beans for dinner. No dessert. I wasn't barfing or anything else, but I was still having the cramping/spasms and not feeling so great.

Then this afternoon, round 2 hit. I am hoping that whatever was messing up my digestive system is now done/gone, but...

2. We were supposed to go out for dinner tonight since all the chicken/rice/green beans are gone, but now I don't want to go out. I'd like to be close to my bathroom this evening. So SP is going to bring home something for dinner.

3. Me being sick means we've been watching a lot of TV. We watched season 2 of Orphan Black over the weekend. We started watching Season 3 of Continuum. and despite our better judgment, we watched the 4th episode of The Leftovers. We are not really enjoying it. There are moments that give us hope, where we see just how good it could be, but overall it's slow, plodding, boring, and such a downer. At least even though everyone is dying/getting sick/about to die on True Blood, there's action and there's Pam & Eric. They are my favorite part of this season so far.

4. I finally watched Saving Mr. Banks. Only had that DVD from Netflix for 3+ months.
5. Last Saturday while I dined on freshly purchased Saltines and toast with strawberry jam, SP made himself tuna salad and stuffed it in an avocado. He said it was delicious. Tuna makes me gag under the best of circumstances, and Saturday was not the best of circumstances. I hid in my office while he ate the stinky tuna. At least he has learned to immediately take the can out to the recycle bin, even if it has been rinsed.

6. I have no idea where we'll dine out this weekend or what we'll cook on Sunday. Right now, nothing appeals to me. Not even lasagna or turkey devonshire.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mother's Bistro & Bar

I'm still recovering from last week's digestive distress. It's getting better but... Saltines and toast aren't exciting blog material. So, back to Portland!

Several people we know who have been to Portland suggested Mother's Bistro & Bar as a place we should check out. In my research, I found lots of positive reviews. Plus, it was within walking distance of our hotel, about 1-2 blocks away.

We didn't go for breakfast or brunch. Instead, we went for dinner. It was another one of those days when we got back to the city between 6 & 7 pm and were hungry and trying to figure out where we could go, within walking distance. SP gave them a call on a Wednesday evening and they said they could accommodate us - plus, they have a ramp they put out for wheelchair users to get up the 2-3 steps outside.
We were seated right away and ordered iced teas. A yummy bread basket appeared and since we were so hungry, we quickly demolished it!
Definitely filling bread. Here's what else we ate:
Salad special of the day: Oregon Strawberry, Toasted Almond and Goat Cheese with mesclun and poppyseed vinaigrette. This was yet another excellent salad experience in Portland. For some reason, in Portland, our salads were usually the highlight of the meal.
SP had the Senegalese Chicken Soup special: chicken, peanut, coconut milk, tomato, lime, cilantro, sour cream. This has several ingredients that I cannot stand, but that SP loves, and he enjoyed this soup a lot.
My entree: the Macaroni & Cheese of the Day Special - bacon, avocado, cheddar, tomatoes, cotija. It was good. I couldn't seem to find any avocado and ended up guessing that it got smushed/melted into the cheese sauce. It was a huge portion and I couldn't finish it all. Lots of bacon and tomato bits.
SP's entree: the Red Snapper Puttanesca daily special - tomatoes, garlic, nicoise olives, capers, orzo pasta, sauteed spinach.
It was a large portion, but he ate it all, even the orzo. He said the fish was nicely cooked and with some of his favorite, briny ingredients (capers, nicoise) a very delicious meal.
SP ordered coffee after dinner. I tried some and it was delicious - it was Stumptown, Mother's Blend.
I really didn't want dessert because I was stuffed, but SP wanted dessert, so I let him pick. He chose a Nectarine Cobbler. It was enormous. Three or four people could have shared it - especially with the scoop of ice cream on top!
It was yummy, but I was too full to truly enjoy it. It was one of those 'we ate a lot of it but there's still a lot left' kind of dishes.
And finally, the 2 complimentary cookies with the check. I had a bite of each but again, I was to full to really appreciate them.
The service at Mother's Bistro & Bar was fantastic. The food was good. It was relaxing. We sat in the dining room, not bar, area. The atmosphere was cozy, greens and yellows, large windows so lots of light. Overall a solid choice and we'd go back for dinner and/or try it for breakfast/brunch.

Mother's Bistro & Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 21, 2014

How To Ruin Your Husband's Weekend

This past weekend was not a fun weekend. It all started last Thursday evening after a delicious dinner of homemade pasta & homemade marinara with a side of arugula. As soon as I finished eating, I felt sick. I decided to ignore it. Maybe it would go away. So I ate the ice cream SP gave me. By 10 pm I felt lousy. My stomach started cramping and gurgling, the cramping & gurgling of serious digestive distress, the kind of distress that does nothing but cramp and spasm and leave me in pain for a week or so. I kept slumping lower and lower in the rocking chair. I couldn't concentrate on TV. I was hot. I was cold. Rub my back. Don't touch me. Talk to me. Don't talk to me. I don't feel well. Gah!

We got ready for bed. I took some Advil. I felt so awful that before going in the bedroom, I got a plastic container from the kitchen to keep next to me in the bedroom. SP looked at me and asked why I had a plastic container on my nightstand and I said,"Barf bin." "But you never barf." "I know. But I feel sick. Just in case. If it's here, I'll be fine. If it's not here, I'll need it." "Do you want a real bucket?" "Nope."

Ten minutes later I gave up trying to sleep in bed because the cramp/spasms were so awful. SP helped me relocate to my recliner in the living room, just like last summer when I slept in it every night for 3 months because of my hip. He got me set up with a pillow, blanket, water, Advil, barf bin - everything nearby. It was near 1:30 am and we finally went back to bed. As soon as I turned out the light, I had to turn it back on and grab the barf bin. Yup. Barfing ensued.

So SP came back out and patiently waited, helped me clean up, helped me settle back in, and then he headed off to bed, for the third time. Meanwhile, I was clutching my stomach, throwing the blanket off and on, turning the heating pad on, then off, then on, sitting up, then reclining, then sitting. I decided to take 2 more Advil and decided I'd better get in the wheelchair and head towards the bathroom. Just in case. Before I got to the bathroom, it hit me again.

I eventually made it to the bathroom. SP came to check on me. At 4:30 am when I was still in the bathroom, still barfing, SP decided to search every inch of the house to verify that we had no anti-barf medicine. So he headed down the hill to GEMD. Turns out, GEMD is closed from midnight to 6:30 am. So he drove to Walmart. I can only imagine the cursing. He despises Walmart. By 5:10 am he was home and I took my first dose of Pepto. He went back to bed. I stayed in the bathroom, sweating and shaking, and proceeded to barf up the Pepto. Can't miss that pink color.

I was in the bathroom until 7 am, sweating, shaking, having goosebumps, moaning from the cramps, and puking every 20-30 minutes.

I have not thrown up since overindulging in alcohol back in college 20+ years ago.

Around 8:30 am, SP came into the living room. We both knew what I was going to say. But I felt awful asking. "Hubby, I love you and I know it's work Kennywood Day and I know you really want to go but I don't think I'm done barfing and I haven't slept at all and I'm really drained and I'm afraid to be alone. Last time I was left alone when weak I fell and broke and my hip."

"I know. I'll take a sick day. I'm going back to bed but in a bit I'll go get some ginger ale and crackers and bread."

He tried to go get that stuff - but somehow between 5 am and 1 pm the car battery died. So he had to call his mom to drive him to get a new car battery, come home, replace the battery, and head to Walmart. Again.

I started to move from my recliner to the bathroom as he was waiting for his mom, saying that I wanted a shower because I could smell myself. "Awww my cute wife doesn't smell." Leans over for a playful sniff. Backs away. Stammers. "Uh, OK, yeah, you're a little ripe. Just be careful."

The rest of Friday was me, comatose in the recliner, occasionally sipping ginger ale or trying a saltine.

The next day, a rainy Saturday morning, he had to get up early and take the car in for inspection. He ended up spending 4 hours there because it wouldn't pass inspection without something being replaced (supposedly some kind of regular maintenance thing, but sometimes I wonder).

It also meant he walked from the car dealer, along Rte 19 in the rain, to grab an Egg McMuffin at McDonald's because he was hungry. I have never seen SP eat anything from McDonald's.

Then he had to cancel our reservation at Spoon because I could barely move and still couldn't eat anything without bringing on another round of intensely painful cramping.

At least we got to binge watch season 2 of Orphan Black. By Sunday I 'graduated' to eating a banana for breakfast and for dinner, a piece of breaded chicken, a few spoonfuls of rice, and 6 green beans.

I'm still not feeling great. I still have the horrible cramps and am bloated and sore. I'm still eating only small amounts at a time, like half a grilled cheese for lunch. Hopefully this will pass soon. But it's Day 4 and the pain is still pretty bad. I have no idea what triggered this bout - I haven't had one of these episodes since January 2013.

So, let's sum up SP's weekend: No sleep Thursday night. Cleaned up puke. Smelly wife. Crabby, sick wife. Missed out on Kennywood Day. Went to Walmart twice, once at 4:30 am. Dead car battery. 4 hours at car inspection. Had to walk in the rain along a busy road for McDonald's food. No nice dinner out. And then yard work and laundry on Sunday. Isn't he lucky?!!

On the bright side: I barfed so much that I lost my voice and couldn't talk above a whisper until Sunday evening, so he didn't have to listen to or talk to his wife.

Earlier today I went though the refrigerator and tossed everything over a week old and checked dates on all the bottled stuff. I have no idea what triggered this, but anything close to expiration date or over a week old (like the celery) got tossed.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

1. This week has been about reading. A lot of reading. I realized on Sunday that I had 3 books due back at the library on Wednesday and I hadn't started even one of them. I read We Are Called To Rise first. I know I am a sensitive sap, and this novel broke my heart and made me cry, for all the characters, but even though it doesn't end all wrapped up with a neat bow, it shows the strength and courage and resilience of people to right wrongs and help one another out.

I tackled Fourth of July Creek next. I didn't mean to read dark, sad books this summer, but like We Are Called To Rise, this book is sad. The characters are wonderful, if flawed, and I couldn't put the book down.

Finally I read Flying Shoes, perhaps the one of these 3 I enjoyed the least, but it was still a good read. I thought it was going to be more about the cold case murder, but instead it was more about the people in a Mississippi town and then about the family of the crime victim, 30 years later. I kept waiting for it to get to the return to VA to discuss the new break in the case and I was getting annoyed at how far along I was and it hadn't gotten there yet, but then I realized it was more about the characters and how they interact/what they think and less about the crime.
2. Summer is the best time for fruit! No bananas for breakfast these days - it's all about cherries, blueberries, and watermelon - plus, fresh mint.
3  It's mid July and we just enjoyed our first sliced tomato with fresh basil and drizzled balsamic syrup. I can't wait until it's tomatoes from our garden and not the store.
4. The summer is zipping by. Our niece/nephew in GA have only 3 weeks of summer vacation left before school starts! I made a list of things I want to do/try/accomplish before summer ends, but somehow I think we won't get to many, if any, of them. Things are already quite busy for the next few weeks.

5. Tomorrow is Kennywood Day! It's SP's work picnic and he's trying to entice me with promises of funnel cake, but since I can't ride anything, I think I might stay at home and ask him to bring home some Kennywood fudge.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

This week seems to have turned into the week of ice cream posts. Today, it's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream, from, where else?! - The Perfect Scoop. The first time I tried cookie dough ice cream was in college. The on campus mini store would get shipments of Ben & Jerry's ice cream and word would quickly spread that they had pints of cookie dough ice cream in the freezer section. There would be a mad rush to the store to get a pint of it - and of course those dorm mini-refrigerators didn't have freezers big enough for anything other than mini ice cube trays, so you'd have to eat it all right away (or find someone to help you out, which wasn't too hard!). 
I know. These photos - it looks regular cookie dough. Where is the vanilla ice cream? The cookie dough blobs?
Trust me. It's ice cream. Specifically, this Vanilla Ice Cream recipe with this Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough stirred in.
What happened is that SP melted the butter to make the cookie dough. When he added the chocolate chips, they were a little warm and soft from the warm weather and when they hit the dough that was warm from the melted butter, they melted a bit, turning the cookie dough chocolate colored instead of cookie dough with chips colored. Here's a chunk of the dough:
It looks like a blob of chocolate, but it tastes like cookie dough.

This ice cream is so good! It's definitely a make again ice cream. SP really likes it - he's been having slightly bigger than usual spoonfuls of it for dessert!

You could stir the cookie dough into any flavor ice cream you want. We used the Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from The Perfect Scoop instead of the Vanilla Bean Ice Cream recipe from Cuisinart that we usually make. We both like The Perfect Scoop vanilla ice cream more - of course, it's richer, with 6 egg yolks instead of 2 whole eggs and 2 yolks plus there's more heavy cream/less whole milk.
Sometimes a quart of homemade ice cream lasts a while, like 2-3 weeks, in our freezer and sometimes we just get sick of it and cannot finish it. Not this time. After just 3 nights, it's half gone. Definitely one of my top 5 homemade ice creams of the ones we have made.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Antney's Ice Cream

Saturday evening, on our way home from dinner, we veered off into Green Tree in search of Antney's Ice Cream. I had never heard of Antney's and then suddenly, it was everywhere. In Pittsburgh Magazine's Best of the Burgh 2014. In my Twitter feed. Rave reviews on Urbanspoon & Yelp. We decided we had to try it.
There are interesting flavors. It was tough to choose. We were full from dinner, but in the end we decided to try 3 Taster Scoops: Chocolate Zinfandel, Coffee Caramel Swirl, and Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip.
The Fresh Mint Chip was refreshingly minty but light on the chips - boo. The caramel in the Coffee Caramel Swirl tasted too sweet, making me think of a bottle of cheap, store bought caramel goop instead of a smooth, rich homemade caramel - or maybe there was just too much caramel swirled in? The Chocolate Zinfandel didn't taste especially zinfandel-y but had a nice chocolate flavor -- but after 2 bites it started to not taste very good.

Here's the thing: the texture on all 3 scoops seemed off. The ice cream was kind of taffy-stretchy-gooey. It pulled like melted cheese or bubble gum when I took a spoonful. It was softish, but not smooth, soft serve soft. I ended up not enjoying it at all and I felt a little sick after I ate it (and we couldn't even finish it all). I am amazed, astounded, in disbelief that this is the ice cream listed as a Best in the Burgh favorite thing, that is raved about with 4.5 stars on Yelp and 99% like rating on Urbanspoon.

I really wanted to like it. There are unique, interesting flavors. It's not too far from home. But between the lack of chips, too sweet caramel, strange pulling, gooey texture... I just can't. I do not think we will be going back. I would have been happier with a twist cone from Dairy Queen and I'd choose Scoops On Beverly over this. But it looks like we are the only ones who don't love Antney's - so you should go and check it out yourself.

Antney's Ice Cream on Urbanspoon