Savor Pittsburgh 2013

09.03.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Last Thursday, Nick and I had the pleasure of joining 12 other local foodies to judge the eighth annual Savor Pittsburgh event. Nick was pretty pumped to come along this year after suffering through the many mouthwatering photos I texted to him last year while he sat in class. Evil wife, I know. But we more than made up for it this year.

We sat between a former instructor at Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts/current executive chef for the Giant Eagle Market District and a food critic/restaurant reviewer for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Other judges included writers from local magazines, directors and producers for local television stations, and radio personalities. Yes, we were in very good company.

Nick was quite impressed with the attentive service we received from the volunteer staff. They didn’t let a beer bottle or wine glass (or, in my case, a water bottle) sit empty for longer than a few minutes. We were given a new set of silverware with each dish. And they kept us on track, swiftly moving through all 35 dishes in 2 1/2 hours.

But the real stars of the evening were the chefs. We don’t get out to eat in the city very often, so this was the ideal way for us to sample some of the best dishes the Steel City has to offer.

We each had our favorites, most of which took top honors that night. But first up, three dishes worth mentioning, in our humble opinions.

Gorgonzola Crab Polenta: A crispy soft shell crab topped with creamy Gorgonzola polenta and finished with chilled lump crab meat. A nice variety of tastes and textures. It was a bit heavy for an August night, but that didn’t stop me from finishing nearly half the dish.

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Chilled Corn Soup with Red Corn Salad, Popped Corn, Corn Shoots, and Roasted Pepper Aioli from Habitat: A surprising favorite for Nick. Flavorful and refreshing, and we especially loved the creative addition of popped corn.

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Short Ribs Mac and Cheese with Red Onion Marmalade from Bistro 19: Comfort food at its finest! Plus I’m a sucker for anything macaroni and cheese.

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And now onto the winners.

Best Appetizer: Corn Custard with Shrimp Escabeche, Crispy Garlic, and Tomatoes from Bar Marco: Lots going on here, but it worked. A little tangy, a little sweet. And it was pretty, too.

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Best Entree: Sesame Scallops with Bourbon Infused Teriyaki from Table 22: I can’t believe they served us each two huge scallops — I still regret not finishing every bite of both. The scallops were beautifully prepared, and the seasoning was spot on. Scallops are a real treat for us, and these did not disappoint.

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Best Dessert and Best Dish: Salted Chocolate Caramel Tort with Milk Chocolate Mousse, Hazelnut Bark, and Blackberry Sauce from Savoy: This may have been the first time in the history of the event that a dessert was crowned best dish. But, for us, this dish had it all — sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy, appealing presentation, and completely satisfying. It was the perfect ending to our 35-course meal.

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We would like to thank our friends at Savor Pittsburgh for trusting our palettes and inviting us to judge another very successful event. We were thrilled to participate and support the Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation. Congratulations to the winners!

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Four Years

08.28.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Sometimes rainy days are the most beautiful and perfect ones. Happy four years to my partner, my best friend, my love, an amazing father, and the man I choose to walk beside today and always.

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Müller Yogurt Giveaway

08.27.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Yogurt is such an easy, nutritious snack for toddlers. In fact, Sam has a cup almost every night before bed. (Before bath, too, obviously).

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The kind folks at Quaker recently gave us the opportunity to sample several new Müller yogurt flavors released earlier this summer: Mango and Orange FrütUps plus Pineapple Passion Fruit and Mango Greek Corner cups. As always, the yogurt was high quality, and the flavor combinations were spot on. Read my review of other Müller products.

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Quaker is also offering five free product coupons to three lucky readers! Just enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. And please note that due to dairy restriction laws, the coupons are not valid in the following states: California, Connecticut, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Tennessee. Good luck!

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I was given these products free of charge, but the opinions expressed are my own. I was not paid to write this post.

Upcoming Event: Savor Pittsburgh

08.25.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

If you find yourself in our neck of the woods this Thursday, come on out to SouthSide Works for the eighth annual Savor Pittsburgh. I am honored to return as a judge for the event that celebrates the finest chefs and cuisine that Pittsburgh has to offer. And I can’t wait for Nick to join me on the panel this year!

Enjoy VIP tickets at $120 or general admission at $65. Click to purchase tickets, or call 888-71-TICKETS. Proceeds from the evening benefit the fight against prematurity at Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation.

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See more highlights from last year’s event.

Savor Pittsburgh • Thursday, August 29th • 6:30pm • SouthSide Works • Proceeds Benefit the Magee-Womens Research Institute and Foundation

It’s A …

08.16.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

We were so surprised and thrilled to find out yesterday that we are having …

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agirl

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Nick and I were both convinced we were having another boy, and we were so shocked to see PINK balloons pop out of the box.

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We smiled, we cried, we kissed, we celebrated.

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I would be lying if I didn’t say I am so incredibly excited and feel so very blessed to be having a daughter.

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And Nick already can’t stop talking about his little princess.

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I know Sam will be in love the moment he meets his baby sister, and he will be an amazing and protective big brother.

Thank you to our friend, Kari, for capturing this special moment in our lives. And thank you all for celebrating with us!

Bumpdate: Weeks 12-18

08.14.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Poor baby #2. Just because I haven’t blogged bumpdates every week since you were conceived does not mean that we are any less excited to meet you. It just means that your big brother occupies so much of my energy that I don’t have as much time to detail the symptoms and milestones. But believe me, I memorize every movement and every emotion.

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So far you have been very kind to me — just like Sam. I have experienced no nausea, no significant discomfort, no intense cravings. (Except for that random Monday at midnight when I craved spaghetti and meatballs. Luckily, your daddy made me a homemade batch the next night for dinner!) I have had just a few minor tension headaches, and sleep has only recently become difficult. I wake up at least once — sometimes three times — to use the bathroom, and often have a hard time falling back asleep. I believe it’s soon time to resurrect the snoogle! Of course, I have had no trouble sleeping during the day. Though I’m happy to report that by week 14, I was able to make it through an entire day without napping.

I “popped” much sooner this time around, but my weight gain is right on track, so I’m not worried. I’ve been wearing maternity pants for weeks already, and I have finally retired almost all non-maternity shirts.

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I felt your first flutter kicks at week 16 — about 2 weeks earlier than I felt Sam. I most often feel your movements at night while laying in bed, and I can’t wait for your daddy and brother to feel them, too.

Speaking of your brother, he is already so in love with you. He talks about “baby” all the time and likes to pat my belly. Sometimes he takes socks or stuffed animals over to your room and tells me they’re for “baby.” I already know the two of you will be the best of friends.

The definite highlight thus far was our 18-week ultrasound. Sam played protective big brother and didn’t want the tech to touch my belly. But eventually he jumped into Daddy’s arms to watch the “show.” And you were quite cooperative!

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You proudly showed your perfect spine and the four chambers of your heart. You wiggled your ten toes and waved your ten fingers. You reacted to Sam’s singing by moving your own tiny mouth. And, after about 25 minutes, you showed your face. It was in that moment that I fell instantly in love.

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I had forgotten how defined your features would be at just 18 weeks. And it was no less thrilling this time than it was the first time. Yes, we are anxious to know whether you will be a boy bean or a girl bean, but it truly does not matter. You are happy and healthy, and we can’t wait for you to join our family.

Love you already, little one!

Five on Friday: Volume 1

08.09.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

In an attempt to post more regularly, I’m linking up today with a fun bunch of ladies. Because there’s nothing easier to write than a brain dump on a Friday afternoon.

(1) There are so many projects in progress in our house that I can’t keep count. Sam’s big boy room, the nursery, and the loft playspace, to name a few. The goal, of course, is to have everything complete before baby #2 arrives — five months from yesterday! I have lots of lists and items saved to our Amazon wishlist and so many ideas taking up space in my head. Probably partially explains why I haven’t been able to sleep lately. Here are a few things I have in mind:

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(2) Another important step in my nesting phase? Housecleaning. We have been purging and condensing and organizing and cleaning. And it feels so good. Of course, the daily chores don’t complete themselves while I’m busy working on other things, and so I’m thankful to have a son who loves to dust and vacuum. Speaking of vacuuming? I do it every day, and I still find piles of dog hair in the corners and under the kitchen table and behind Sam’s tool bench. I believe I could create a second Lucy from the hair that I collect each week.

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(3) As if the above two bullets don’t keep me busy enough, I’m also planning Sam’s second birthday party. It will be impossible to top last year, and so I’m not even going to try. We’re keeping it much simpler this year and plan to invite a few of Sam’s little buddies, as well as our immediate families. The theme is “tools” because Sam is obsessed, and I’m anxious for it all to come together!

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{photo credit Bringing Up Three}

(4) Nick has been enjoying a very wonderful eight-week break from school (which is why we’ve been able to accomplish so much around the house). But, sadly, summer vacation is nearing its end. He promised to bottle up some of the “relaxed, stress-free, fun Nick” for when he’s overwhelmed with homework and tests and group projects.

(5) Finally, a good friend is someone who bakes a second loaf of double chocolate zucchini bread for you because your dog ate the first one. And then she shares it after a particularly long day. (That particularly long day deserves a post all of its own.)

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Happy weekend, friends!

One-Pot Tomato Basil Pasta

08.07.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

You may have noticed that I have not posted a recipe in … almost three months. Wait, is that right? Yes. Yes, it is. While the Peanut Butter Cup Brownies were amazing and unforgettable and worthy of the most recent recipe spot, it is unacceptable.

It’s not that we haven’t been cooking. We just haven’t made anything new. We’ve stuck to our favorites: Lasagna, Turkey Burgers, Thai Chicken Pizza. Also, burritos and grilled cheese and omelettes. Recipes I know by heart and meals that are easy to prepare.

I was just too tired during the first trimester to make anything that required more than five minutes of prep work. And now, honestly, we have our hands in about a dozen different home projects (i.e. painting the garage, converting the loft into a playroom, and considering paint colors for the nursery) that we just don’t have time to stand over the stove.

Which is why I’m on the lookout for low maintenance dinner ideas. For now. And for when Nick goes back to school. And for when baby #2 arrives. And, oh boy, have I found a good one.

In my opinion, there is nothing better than a one-pot meal. Chop and drop and simmer, and dinner is ready. Also, we love pasta. And so this dish is perfect.

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Simply choose your pasta (we like whole wheat spaghetti). Slice an onion and a few cloves of garlic. Open a can of diced tomatoes. Add a big bunch of basil (preferably from your backyard garden). Top with dried herbs and vegetable broth and a bit of olive oil. And let it do its thing!

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Seriously YUM. It’s even better the next day.

What’s your favorite one-pot meal?

One-Pot Tomato Basil Pasta

(Print Recipe)

Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb spaghetti or linguine
  • 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes with liquid
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 4 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • 1 big bunch basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

  1. Place pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and basil in a large stock pot. Add vegetable broth, red pepper flakes, and oregano. Drizzle with oil.
  2. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or so. Cook until almost all of the liquid has evaporated.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir to evenly distribute the sauce. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

(Inspired by Apron Strings)

Letter to Samuel: 22 Months

08.01.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Hey little buddy,

What a fun month we have had! From holiday festivals to birthday parties to summer picnics. From the aquarium to the amusement park. From ice cream dates to popsicles on the front porch. From the beach to the splash park to our own backyard. From sunny days to rainy days to everything in between. You just love life!

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Your cheese face is your new favorite face, which makes photo shoots much more fun. As soon as you see my camera (or iPhone), you squint your eyes and flash your toothy grin and say “cheeeese!” I can’t get enough of it. You also don’t mind posing for me sometimes — hands in your pockets, headstands, leg kicks. You’re a riot.

You have become much more vocal this month. Favorite new phrases include: “I want” and “I’ll get it” and “that one.” You also picked up “mine” while on vacation, and you have not stopped using it since. You have become pretty good at saying names. Cutest pronunciations are “Lalalala” for Auntie Laura and “Chuh-duh” for cousin Chandler. I still hear “Mama” at least 50 times a day, but I kind of love it.

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You still love to dance and go to gymnastics class and blow bubbles and push your lawn mower around the yard (which you sometimes call “mawn lower”). Stroller walks have become difficult because you would much rather walk on your own. One night, Daddy decided he wanted to push you during his run. But you took his offer to run with Daddy very literally and insisted on sprinting around the cul de sac right beside him.

You are still the best little garden helper I could ask for. You pull “weeds” and water the flowers and fill your wagon with dirt. And you have become quite good at pointing out Lucy’s “poo” for us to clean. But you have also started to test your limits and often wonder to the front yard when I am in the back, and to the back yard when I am in the front. Which always ends in a game of chase. Exhilarating for you, exhausting for Mommy.

But your most favorite activity this month is anything that involves water. Running through fountains and waves, swimming like a big boy with your “turtle wings,” soaking yourself with the hose, even splashing in the bathroom sink.

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Sometimes you do things that really surprise us and remind us how incredibly fast you are growing. Like at storytime at Barnes and Noble when you were brave enough to share your Mr. Ribbit during show-and-tell. You were the youngest participant by at least a year, but you did not hesitate to walk past the benches of big kids and parents and right up onto the stage. Mommy may have cried just a little. I was so proud!

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You are also now officially big enough (over 32 inches tall) to ride several rides at our favorite local amusement park, Idlewild. Motorcycles and boats and helicopters, oh my! But you absolutely cannot get enough of the train that circles the park. You squeal and clap and yell “choo choo” when you see it approaching the station, and you love the loud whistle that blows just before starting down the track. You insist we ride it at least two full loops.

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Your eating habits are mostly the same. Still obsessed with sweets. Still can’t get enough cheese. Still request “milk” every night before bed. While on our beach vacation, you ate an embarrassing amount of chips and cheese curls and freeze pops. But that’s what vacations are all about, right? And let’s not even talk about how much “sheet tea” you consumed.

Sometimes you clean your plate, and other times you barely take a bite. Though I can always count on you to eat all six grilled nuggets from Chick Fil A and an entire chicken quesadilla from Chipotle. You are obviously growing and thriving, and so I try not to stress too much if you have a few days of just grazing. I mean, who am I to deny you of the absolute pleasure of licking the cookie bowl clean?

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Bedtime routine has become an hour-long ordeal. From painting in the tub to brushing your teeth with three different toothbrushes to requesting “milk” and “wawa” and sometimes a piece of “cheese” to insisting we read six books, or the same book five times. Whew! Most nights this summer, you have not gone down until 9pm. But I can’t complain. You sleep until about 8:15am and take a 2-3 hour nap every afternoon. I just hope we can streamline the process before baby brother or baby sister arrives!

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Sam, you are growing into an opinionated, goofy, slightly mischievous, and always adorable little boy. I am so lucky to spend my days with you. Love you, bud!

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