Thursday, July 21, 2011

Restaurant Review: Burgatory Bar

Rob and I have been trying to explore new (or new to us) restaurants in the Pittsburgh area. On this past Saturday, July 17th, Burgatory Bar was graced with our presence. To start off with, the restaurant is located in the Aspinwall neighborhood of Pittsburgh at the Waterworks Mall. This meant that there was a short drive (only about 10-15 min), but also ample parking, that was FREE. This was a big positive in my book as it can be quite difficult to find parking in Pittsburgh and often it is at meters, but I digress.

Since I was not my usual over-prepared self, we did not have reservations and had an hour wait. To be fair it was about 6:30PM on a Saturday night, so I wasn't surprised. I was however, pleasantly surprised by the waiting system they had set up. Their scheduling book was on an iPad and sent me texts to let me know my estimated wait, when my table was ready, and then post-meal a thank you text for visiting the restaurant. During our wait we decided to take a stroll around the mall, which is an outdoor strip mall. We used up about 20 min or so reading magazines in the neighboring Barnes & Noble and then perused the Wine & Spirits for any tempting buys (I did end up buying a few more bottle of my new favorite Alentejo).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wine Review: Sogrape Callabriga Alentejo

The Wine: Callabriga Alentejo
From the back label
Winery: Herdade do Peso
Maturation: Oak barrels 12 mo and bottle 6 mo
Tasting Notes: Red-violet colour. Intesnse ripe red fruit aroma. Full-bodied and smooth, displays excellent balance and elegance. Ages well for 2-3 year.
Food Pairing: Meat and soft cheeses.
14.5 % alc/vol.
Bottled by Sogrape Vinhos
Imported by Evanton, Inc. Stamford, CT.

Figure 1: Bottle opened and served in vintage cocktail glass.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Farmers' Market Haul

In my continuing quest to become more educated about the food I consume, I became interested in buying more fresh produce locally. I began looking for farmers' markets and discovered the website for Slow Food Pittsburgh. They offer a completely organic farmers' market every Saturday from 9AM-1PM known as the Farmers@Firehouse due to its location at The Firehouse Lounge in the Strip.

The weekend is a more flexible time for me to get my shopping done, since I work long hours during the week and can't make it to most farmers' markets as they seem to be during the afternoon on weekdays. In addition to the convenient time, I was also attracted to the fact that this farmers' market offered only organic produce.

Enough chit-chat, let's get to the goods. Here was my haul (Figure 1) for this week:  hens' eggs, proscuitto and Crested Duck black hawaiian sea salt from The Farmer's Wife; kale, swiss chard and zucchini from Mott Family Farm; hydroponic tomatoes from Pucker Brush Farm out of Shelocta, PA; quails' eggs from Blackberry Meadows; and spring onions, broccoli and peas from Blue Goose Farm.
Figure 1: Organic produce from Farmers@Firehouse on July 9, 2011.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Article for CMU Biology Newsletter

I recently wrote an article for the CMU Biology Department newsletter. You can read the whole newsletter here :

But here's my article:

More Snapshops from the Supermodel Organism

Here's more proof that my guinea pig is trying out for ANTM.

Wine Review: Ecologica - Torrontes/Chardonnay

La Rioja Argentina.
Fair Trade Certified.
Torrontes 60% Chardonnay 40% 2009.
"A refreshing, light golden yellow colour. The delicate floral aromas are nicely enhanced with the body given by the chardonnay. Look out for citrus touches, green apples and tropical fruits including pineapples. Well balanced flavour and fresh. Best served with: Appetizers, fish, shellfish, salads and poultry, or enjoy it simply as an aperitif."
12.5% alcohol

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wine Review: Gazela - Vinho Verde

In my continuing quest to find a decent Vinho Verde, I decided to try one called Gazela (Figure 1). I previously tried the Twin Vines 2009 Vinho Verde paired with Tofu Pad Thai. The Twin Vines is 10% alcohol, but the Gazela is only 9%. Gazela's label states that it is "a fresh, young and floral, light and smooth wine." It also says that it should be served "chilled at 6-8C, as an aperitif, with salads, fish or seafood."

When life gives you lemons, make Lemon Drizzle Cake!

I'd been promising Rob a lemon cake since his birthday, and I found some yummy Meyer lemons at Whole Foods. I decided that Jamie Oliver's Lemon Drizzle Cake recipe would be a nice choice, and after perusing the recipe, Rob approved. However, I didn't have any poppy seeds, self-rising flour or an 8" spring form pan, all of which were called for in the recipe. I decided to nix the poppy seeds, and use my 9" spring form pan and hope for the best. The internet also informed me that I could substitute 1 cup of self rising flour with 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder. The results were a delicious treat that was thoroughly enjoyed by Rob and even me, despite my less than enthusiastic opinion of things lemon flavored.
Figure 1: Drizzling the lemon glaze over the cake.

Pancake Day 2011

Pancake Day celebrations made their way across the Atlantic this past week. Americans reading this post are probably more familiar with Mardi Gras celebrations, but in our apartment, we celebrate Pancake Day. For those new to this holiday, it doesn't refer to typical pancakes made with the likes of Bisquik, but instead pancakes that are more of a crepe like consistency. I used the classic recipe Delia's Basic Pancakes with Sugar and Lemon from my copy of Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course. Enjoy the pictures and a movie of our pancakes. Happy Pancake Day!

Frying up some pancakes in butter!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Vegetable Lasagna with Butternut Bechamel

Amongst the many food blogs I read on a regular basis, one that never lets me down is The Kitchn. In its semi-recent "Best Healthy Casserole" contest, the winner was this Vegetable Lasagna with Butternut Bechamel. With it's use of healthy colorful vegetables in a creative way, I had to give it a try. The result received mixed review from me and Rob: I loved it, but Rob just thought it was okay. As a bonus, since Rob didn't like it as much, I got to eat all the leftovers! I would definitely recommend it and would love to make it again. The only changes I would make to my initial preparation are that I think I would have liked it better if i made the butternut bechamel a bit thinner, and I miscalculated the spacing of my lasagna sheets, so there were a few "holes" in the layers. I've posted the recipe below. I hope you give it a try and enjoy it as much as I did.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Swiss Chard & Baby Spinach Spanikopita

Don't be afraid of phyllo dough. I stocked up on some when it was on sale at Giant Eagle a few months ago. In my current quest to cook more seasonal recipes, I bought some rainbow Swiss chard. I've also been looking for recipes that I can make one day and will leave leftovers that reheat well the next day. I found this recipe for Swiss Chard Spanikopita at I adapted it to use what I had in my fridge at the time; the recipe is listed below. I really liked this dish and so did Rob. It was really easy to prepare and only used 2 pans, one to saute the ingredients and one to bake it in the oven. We ate this as a main dish one night, then I brought some into work for lunch the next day, and the day after I served the rest as a side dish alongside some fish. The recipe is definitely a keeper.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Butter Poached Scallops and Sleek

"This is Top Chef, not Top Scallop" ~Fabio Viviani

Well, this isn't Top Chef, it's just my blog, and a couple weeks ago, I decided to buy some scallops that were "Eco-OK". I've been trying to incorporate fish into my diet more frequently to increase my protein intake and have a more balanced diet, but I've also been interested in understanding the idea of sustainable fishing. I won't go off on a rant about sustainable fishing right now (I'll be writing an article on that for my Science Writing class later in the semester, so you can hear about it then), but for now, let's just say that I decided to buy the scallops.

First Interview Article Re-write

Well here's the final draft of my interview article. I ended up getting a B-, and I must admit that I didn't put in much effort in the re-write. Not my proudest moment, but I'm getting better. We have mid-semester check-ups in a week, so we'll see if my teacher thinks I'm getting any better as well. Here's the article. Up next, another interview article, but of a more personal nature. I'll post the draft when I have one.

A woman drops her daughter off in the morning at day care. The daughter happens to spill some paint on her clothes during playtime, so the teacher tells her to change her shirt. At the end of the day, the woman returns to pick up her daughter but cannot find her among the children. She patiently waits for the teacher to bring her daughter over to her.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

First Interview Assignment

A few weeks ago, Dr. Marlene Behrmann gave a talk to my Science Writing class. We were then allowed to ask her questions and had to write an interview article on her. Below is my first draft of my article. I wrote this in about 3 hours and turned it in at 12:30AM when it had been due at midnight. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised to still get a C+ on it. Not my ideal grade, but way better than I thought I would get. I'll definitely be putting more effort in on the rewrite.

Here's the draft:

A woman drops her daughter off in the morning at day care. The daughter happens to spill some paint on her clothes during playtime, so the teacher tells her to change her shirt. At the end of the day, the woman returns to pick up her daughter but cannot find her amongst the children. She patiently waits for the teacher to bring her daughter over to her. This woman has a condition known as prosopagnosia, meaning she cannot recognize faces. People with prosopagnosia rely on non-facial queues to identify people, such as clothing or voice. When the daughter changed her clothes, her mother no longer had a visual clue to identify her daughter. She was forced to rely on the honesty of the teacher to retrieve her daughter. The simple act of recognizing a face is something most people take for granted, but in reality, approximately two percent of the general population suffers from face-blindness known as prosopagnosia.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Final version of Explanatory Article

Well, I received some feed back from classmates and from my teacher in Science Writing. Here's the final draft of my explanatory article on 5 Hour Energy. I'll let you know what I get for a grade . . .

Perhaps you’ve just finished your lunch and are feeling a bit sleepy, or you want to stay up late to finish that project and study for your finals. A jolt of energy to get you through the next few hours would be great. One increasingly popular way to get a quick boost is drinking a two ounce bottle of 5 Hour Energy.

Tofu Pad Thai

Since I'm a vegetarian and my roommate/boyfriend is not, dinners can be something of a challenge. Normally he will not eat tofu and dislikes it's texture/taste, but for some reason he cannot get enough of tofu pad thai. One of my favorite cookbooks is "How to Cook Everything: Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman, and it was in this cookbook that I found a magical recipe for tofu pad thai that my meat-eating significant other loves. I couldn't find a link to the recipe online, but I did find a link to Mark Bittman's non-vegetarian version here, where he lists the vegetarian version options at the bottom. For me, I like to switch up the kind of hot peppers I use in the recipe depending on what looks good at the grocery store that week. In the pan below, I used jalapeños, but in the past I have enjoyed using serranos. I also had some trouble finding pure tamarind paste at the store, so I just bought some "pad thai sauce" that had tamarind as the first ingredient listed. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lingonberry Cupcakes

A good friend of mine celebrated her birthday a week ago. In the spirit of celebration and my love of cooking, I decided to make her some cupcakes. I found this recipe for "Hidden Surprise Valentine Cupcakes" at the blog "Greg's Kitchen." Since I know she was a fan of the Elvis cupcake from Dozen Bake Shop, which has a chocolate ganache surprise in the center, I thought she might like these. However, I wanted to add my own twist to the recipe, and I had recently bought some lingonberry preserves from IKEA. So, I decided to substitute the lingonberry preserves in place of the strawberry jam. I'm also not a fan of making my own frosting since the store-bought stuff is usually just as good, so I just bought some cream cheese frosting and whipped it together with some lingonberry preserves to make lingonberry frosting too!

Un-fried French Fries

A couple weeks ago, I made these "Un-fried French Fries" using a recipe from the blog "Confessions of a Bake-aholic."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Smoothie Adventures

I’ve been on a smoothie kick the last week or two. Here’s a couple of my favorites.

The first is from the blog “Joy the Baker.” It’s a kale, spinach and pear smoothie. You can find the recipe at:
I found that the kale didn’t blend very well when I tried to make it, but I think that was because I didn’t blend it at a high enough speed. Despite that, It tasted quite good. The texture was a bit funny due to my lack of blending skills, but I thought it was an excellent and way to add more leafy greens into my daily routine.

A little guinea pig

I wouldn't be a proper guinea pig owner if I didn't share some pictures of my adorable little critters with you. I took some pictures with the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone because I was trying to be artistic. It's pretty hard to take a bad picture of a guinea pig. They're just so cute!

This is Cuddy (named after Dr. Lisa Cuddy on House)

and this is Ginny (named after Director Jennifer Shepard on NCIS)

Hope you enjoy my guinea pigs as much as I do.

Friday, January 21, 2011

First Assignment in Science Writing

Turned in my first draft of my first article for Science Writing this week. We had to pick an item from our purses or book-bags and write an article explaining how it works. I found a bottle of 5 Hour Energy in my purse, so I decided to write about that. Here’s the first draft:

Energy drinks and dietary supplements have been becoming increasingly popular in the United States since the introduction of 5 Hour Energy by Living Essentials in 2004. Seven years later, 5 Hour Energy still makes up approximately 75% of the energy supplement sales in the U.S. Unlike many other energy drinks such as Red Bull or Monster which contain sugar, 5 Hour Energy is artificially sweetened with sucralose, the main sweetening agent in Splenda. This allows the consumer to get the same energy increase as from energy drinks, but without the added calories; 5 Hour Energy only contains 4 calories in a 2 ounce serving versus Redbull which contains 100 calories in an 8 ounce serving. Since 5 Hour Energy does not contain any sugar, this means that there will not be a spike in your blood glucose levels and you will not experience a sugar crash as your body process this rapid sugar increase.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What is Science Writing?

I started taking a course this semester on Science Writing. It's made me realize how many different types of writing there are out there and how different a scientific article published in a magazine or newspaper is drastically different from a scientific article published in a scientific journal. Perhaps a bit naively, I never realized that there was a whole field of "technical writing" for writing software instructions and the like. I'm hoping this course will help me improve my writing skills since I have a mostly scientific background and don't have much experience writing anything other than lab reports, grant proposals and that sort of academic writing. Maybe I'll even take another writing course next semester if this goes well. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Popping the Cherry

I don't have any experience writing a blog, but I thought I'd give it a try. We'll see how this experiment goes. I don't expect anyone to read my blog but I've been reading a lot of blogs lately and have the itch to start one of my own. I plan to talk about my work (and struggles at work), my current training for the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2011 (my charity is the American Cancer Society) and I'm trying to start cooking at home so I'll try to share my attempts at cooking here as well. I enjoy writing and am trying to start writing more often hopefully this blog will help me write more. Guess this is a pretty lame first blog post, but cut me some slack. I haven't posted anything like this since my attempt at a live journal in college which was mostly just quiz results reposted from friends posts. Well, welcome to my blog :)