Tag Archives: Lunching Ladies

Another Look at PGH: Appetentree

October 2011

Where do you go when you need cheese, charcuterie and Terrible Towels?  Where do you go to show Steelers mayhem to visiting friends?  Which neighborhood do I try to avoid when “All My Steelers’ Ladies” (a play on Beyonce’s “Single Ladies) is playing?  As one who is apathetic to football (apologies Steel town) but zealous for cheese and farmers markets, my relationship with this neck of the PGH woods is of the love-hate sort.

The Strip District

We couldn’t resist the cheesesteak photo opportunity to highlight the Philly roots that bind us all together.  Why is it the world is seemingly so hellbent on stealing Philly’s fame?

When the enthusiastic vendor saw the special attention we were paying to his sign, he was very quick to bestow his BIGGG!!! sampler upon the ladies.  If you’re in the Strip District and for some reason find yourself craving Philly’s specialty, this is your tent, or you could also hit up the main source!  Unfortunately, we had a big eating agenda for the day, and we just didn’t have the stomach capacity for a cheesesteak “snack,” but rest assured, the food went to an appreciative stomach.  Our food agenda was calling us back to my ‘hood.

Polish Hill & The Invention of a New Course

Our day had begun later than we had intended, but we were still attempting to squeeze in all our food goals.  We had already sampled the best French offerings the city has to offer, we had French plans for dinner, and we also had wine, cheese and picnic goals.  This is when Jess so ingeniously invented a new course:  Appetentrée– a fusion of the appetizer and entrée course, meaning slightly more than an appetizer, slightly less than a main course (and only slightly less, by a show of modest restraint).  We could have our picnic and eat it too!

Plus picnics and pique-niques provide a great opportunity for friendships circles to form ven diagrams.  Nina, of Pittsburgh, meet Jess and Heather, of Philly.  All, meet Ruby (a very friendly lady despite her territorial stance on all fours).


Had my wrist rotated a tad more, you would see the red dot marking my foray into South America via the motherland of the very wine we were enjoying.

The very Italian man at the meat counter of Penn Mac told me he liked my taste upon my ordering of the speck and complimenting his previous recommendation of porquetta.  When I came home and unwrapped the day’s supply of speck, I was quite surprised to find an extra hunk of speck hidden in the parchment paper!  I could attribute this generosity to a regularly occurring gift given at the end of the meat hunks, OR I could attribute it to the bond I have formed through frequent visits, impeccable tastes and very polite meat counter manners (and humility obviously).  Clearly, the ladder option is the most viable.

Remember the scent of fresh baked bread and the warm morning apartment?  It was time to sample some!  Look what a lovely job my new With the Grains interns did styling the meat and cheese for our outing.  Bravo Heather and Jess, bravo!

My trusted friend at the Whole Food’s cheese counter recommended Wellspring Creamery cranberry-orange, goat cheese.  Typically, I prefer to buy a cheese with its own flavor merits and add garnishes accordingly.  Often I find cheeses with fruit additions to be bland.  I was skeptical, but as I said, Justin is trustworthy in the cheese department, and he also said, “it tastes like cheesecake.”  I believed it, I bought it, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it!

The orange-cranberry goat cheese paired especially well with the slightly sweet and salty bread and a pecan garnish.  Delight in one bite!

I have zero credentials enabling me to declare a resemblance to a dinosaur egg, but I do have an active imagination.  These olives looked like dinosaur eggs!

Freckled dinosaur eggs!

Not only were they visually stimulating, but they tasted good too!  Jess was quite, quite pleased with her olive selection.

Also, I may or may not have proposed friend marriage to my bff, Nina…


…with a ring made of peppered salami.

No need to be concerned for me after watching that magic.  Sometimes it looks like Nina just isn’t that into me.  Don’t worry.  She is.

The sun set.  The crisp air demanded more layers, and the evening plans called for a change of locale.

The appetentrée course was perfect!

Post FleaTique PiqueNique

September 2011

The vendors shuffled, wrapped and packed, closing booth by booth.  The FleaTique was drawing to a close.  Time for the PiqueNique!  It was a perfect afternoon.  Thank you ladies for sharing the sunny Sunday with me!

(Click here for the recipes)

A Bad Pun & An Eggcelent Afternoon

August 2011

Another Sunday.  Another gathering of great ladies!  Thank you Nina, Nicole and Sara for joining me at the table!

Without further ado, I present to you, this Ladies’ Lunch on a gray, rainy, blistery summer Sunday afternoon.

The Menu

The Spread

The Ladies

(Click on the above pic of The Ladies to see the full antics in the form of a slideshow)

The Sandwich Bread


Place the water, sugar and yeast in a small bowl, and whisk to blend.  Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is activated and foamy or bubbling.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the warm milk and melted butter.

In a larger bowl, mix together the flours and salt.  Add the yeast mixture and milk mixture.  Combine until the dough comes together.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp, lint-free, cotton towel, and let the dough rest for 20-30 minutes.

Once the 20-30 minutes have passed, knead the dough until firm, elastic and smooth.

Lightly oil a bowl.  Scrape the dough into the tub, and lightly coat the surface of the dough with a little oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp, lint-free, cotton towel, and let the dough rise until doubled, 45-60 minutes.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface.  Press down the dough firmly to expel some of the air bubbles, but don’t knead the dough again.

Press the dough into a flattened rectangular whose long sides are a couple of inches shorter than the long sides of the bread pan.

To Shape the Dough:

Arrange the dough so a long side is parallel to the edge of your work surface.  Fold up the long side opposite you into the center of the rectangle.  Fold the long side nearest you into the center.  Use the heel of your hand to press the two edges together.  Repeat for the short sides.  Press your thumbs into the crease to seal it and create tension on the outside of the dough.  Pinch the final seam closed.  The final shape should be the same size as the bread pan.

To Proof the Dough

Lightly oil the top of the dough to keep it moist.  Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap or a towel and allow the dough to rise again until its top is ½ to 1 inch above the rim of the pan., 45-60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and position an oven rack in the center.

Brush the top of the loaf with a thin film of the beaten egg.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and the internal temperature registers 200 degrees F.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

The Condiment:  Homemade Mayonnaise


Combine egg yolk, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Whisk until blended and bright yellow, about 30 seconds.

Whisk Time:  About 4 minutes

Whisking constantly, add ¼ cup olive to yolk mixutre, 1/4 teaspoon at a a time.

Whisk Time:  About 8 minutes

Gradually add remaining 1/2 cup oil in a very slow, thin stream, whisking constantly, until mayonnaise is thick (mayonnaise will be lighter in color). Cover and chill.  Can be made up to 2 days ahead.  Keep chilled.

For the SandwichesCurried Egg Salad (using homemade mayo)


Serves 5-6

Hardboil the eggs.

Combine the mayonnaise (see above recipe), curry powder and salt in a tiny bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs and the remaining ingredients.

Add the mayonnaise mixture and stir to combine.

Serve with purple and green basil and the very fresh bread mentioned above.

The Side Dish:
Cold Corn & Avocado Soup

For the Purée

4 ripe Haas avocados, puréed
1 ripe Haas avocado, sliced
2 cups organic chicken broth
Fresh squeezed lime juice from 2 limes
4 tablespoons homemade crème fraiche
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 cup water

For the Topping

2 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cups yellow corn
1 local Italian red pepper, sliced
4 slices cooked Black Forest bacon, chopped
3 local beets, boiled and chopped


To make the soup, place avocado flesh in a blender along with chicken broth, lime juice, crème fraiche and salt.

Blend until the avocados are creamy.

Remove the center from your blender lid, and while blending, slowly add the water.

Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.  Add the sliced avocado, and then place in a container in the fridge while preparing the topping.

To make the topping, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until translucent and browned, about 5 minutes.

Add corn, pepper and beets and cook for 3 minutes more.

Add chopped bacon.  Cook until everything is warmed and just browned.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the topping into a ramekin or small bowl.  Pour cold soup around the topping.

Serve and enjoy.  Soup lasts up to three days in and airtight container in the fridge.

The Thrift Store Score!

A hodgepodge box of jam and ball jars.  Perfect for adult root beers!

The Beverage:  Adult Root Beers

The Dessssssssssssert!


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a mini cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

Using a hand mixer to cream the butter and sugar. Then add the mascarpone, vanilla, lemon zest and egg yolks.

In a separate bowl, combine and mix the flour, baking powder and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and combine until well integrated.

Fold in the egg whites.

Use a spoon to put a small dollop of batter into the cupcake liners.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the sides and top of the cupcakes are beginning to turn golden brown.