Ten Penny For Your Thoughts

One of the biggest Catch-22s about working Downtown is that there are a lot of good places that you can visit to grab a drink with coworkers. On the one hand, variety is awesome. On the other hand… the choices can be daunting. There are classy joints, dive bars, places I’ll only go to if work is paying, places I’d feel completely out of place in, and then there are a few places where I feel completely at home. Thanks to an invitation to a new Chef Launch event at Ten Penny, tonight I got to experience one of those rare places where I feel totally comfortable and at ease.

The BF and I showed up at Ten Penny right around 6, and I was desperate for some food and a drink. What I wasn’t banking on was all the drinks. I really should have eaten something before I left. :) As soon as we got checked in, we were presented with glasses of wine the size of my head. Granted, they weren’t full (thank goodness; I’d be dead), but they were rather ample. Given a choice between an oaky Chardonnay and an Italian Pinot Noir, we both opted for the Italian Pinot. I’m not a big wine drinker (or a big drinker at all, which became evident as the night wore on), but the wine was good. I had no trouble finishing my entire glass. As we sipped, we appreciated the décor. There were casual-chic whitewashed brick walls, lots of exposed wood, stacked cans of San Marzano tomatoes, and comfy grey couches all around the restaurant. It has a nice, clean, homey look to it, and yet it’s also a tad upscale (but not at all pretentious).

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As we admired our surroundings and mingled, servers came around with samples of the new fall cocktails that Ten Penny is offering. The first one we were given was a gin-based drink (Bluecoat, I believe) with poached pears. It was pretty sweet, but it was also delicious. We both liked how you could taste the poached pears, and how the pears cut down on the pine tree taste of the gin.

The next cocktail was probably my favorite – it had Patron XO Cafe tequila, iced black coffee, and chili. I liked that it seemed like a lighter drink taste-wise, but it was still warming and it had a nice little kick to it. I love spicy foods and spicy drinks, so I was all over this one.

The last cocktail was a pumpkin pie martini made with Bird Dog Maple whiskey, whipped cream vodka, pumpkin, cream, and spices. In an attempt at full disclosure, I took my first sip and said to the BF, “It tastes like a Yankee Candle.” But to be fair, the taste got more mellow and less intense as I kept drinking it. As I was finishing it, I was just starting to like it. Still, whiskey + vodka is a pretty intense mix, and it was a bit too strong for my liking… but then again, I’m a lightweight when it comes to these things.

As for the most important part – the FOOD – we were both excited about the spread that Ten Penny put out. We started with a mixed plate of samples. From right back to left back on the top picture, we have: Crabcakes with Tropical Fruit Salsa, Pomegranate & Molasses Glazed Salmon, Meatballs, Goat Cheese Stuffed Artichokes, and Maple Bacon Crème Brûlée (<– Oh, HELLO).

The crab cakes were exactly as they should be – full of crab. They weren’t heavy on the mayo, and the spices were just right. I seem to have grabbed a crab cake without the tropical fruit salsa, though. Booooooo.

The salmon was fantastic, in my opinion – I loved the sweetness of the pomegranate and molasses mixed with the mellow salmon. And bonus! There was potato salad inside the salmon! It was like a meal inside a meal, which means I absolutely loved it.

The meatball was interesting and delicious as well, but I didn’t hear much about what was in it, sadly. But the thing beside it? The goat cheese stuffed artichoke? Ridiculous. Rich, creamy goat cheese + tangy artichoke + deep-frying = love. Well, really, anything with goat cheese = love, but still. Omgnoms. Oh, and the maple bacon crème brûlée was okay too. ;) (You all should know me better than to think that anything with maple and bacon is just “okay.”)

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There were two passed dishes that we saw – Truffled Mac & Cheese with crumbled bacon, and Pumpkin Soup. We both liked the mac & cheese, but I think the BF liked it more than me. It was a little too truffle-y and rich for my taste. I’d order it again, but as a side that can be tamed with something lighter. The Pumpkin Soup, on the other hand, was probably my favorite food item of the night. It was passed to me as the BF and I were talking to Fox and Michael, so I didn’t get a ‘before’ picture… but my ‘after’ picture pretty much tells the story. It was sooooo good, and I’d definitely recommend it.

We ended up having a pretty great night at Ten Penny, and I can almost guarantee we’ll be back. It seems like an amazing happy hour spot – if you’re like me and a Moscow Mule freak, you’ll enjoy the $6 happy hour Mules. The other happy hour specials sound great too, but muuuules. You really can’t go wrong with them. I look forward to coming here again soon and tasting more of Chef Anthony Hruska’s creations!

NB: I was invited to attend the new Chef Launch Event at Ten Penny, but I received no compensation for writing this post. All opinions are my own.

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Lap of Luxury

After driving to three separate Park & Ride lots and their nearby streets and finding absolutely ZERO parking spots available at 8:30 (WTF?), I eventually found some on-street parking at my last-ditch stop. As you might imagine, I was kind of ticked, and not happy that I was going to be late to work (although, no one cares when I come in). And then, after Winnie Cooper finally got some rest, I got some rest too, since the buses just didn’t seem to be running for the first 20 minutes I was at the stop. Fun.

The good news is that when a bus did show up, it was a retired luxury coach, and I was able to chill out for the [very late] ride into work.

The bad news is that the transportation issues were just the beginning of a kind of crappy day and night. I’m so very glad that this day is over.

I think I’ll be working from home tomorrow so that I don’t have to face the Park & Ride situation again so soon, thank you very much.

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Parking Wars

I’m all for Pittsburgh being the Hollywood of the East, but not when it interferes with me getting to volleyball. Trying to park Downtown has become a hot mess these days, what with entire blocks cordoned off for the film production crews. This particular scene is directly in front of where I play volleyball on Tuesdays, and they’ve just shut down an entire side of the road like it’s no big deal. Also, what’s up with the creepy clown on the top of the trailer? It was animated, but obviously you can’t tell that from the picture.

So am I hypocritical? Yeah, probably. But all I’m saying is, Vin Diesel and Sir Michael Caine, you owe me one. (I accept hugs, Alfred Pennyworth.)

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Perfect Fit

I’m dreading the impending doom and gloom of winter so much (already!) that I’ve been trying to do ALL of the things outside while the weather is still relatively nice. Today, “all of the things” included my workout, as I went for a nice long run around the North Shore. (<– I know! Who am I anymore?)

My jaunt took me through Downtown, over the Warhol Bridge, along the river past the throngs of Steelers fans, past the Casino, and nearly into the tent of a homeless person before I turned around and went back. As I was crossing over the Clemente Bridge to get back into Downtown, I had one of those really serene moments where I looked around and remembered how much I love this city. For a brief moment, it felt like I was in exactly the right place for where I am in my life. Deep thoughts for an afternoon workout, right? But really, it seems like every time I cross a bridge going into Downtown, I’m struck by the same feeling.

Whether it’s the result of fate, or maybe just some confused endorphins, right now, Pittsburgh feels like a perfect fit for me.

Don’t worry, I’ll probably change my tune once the snow starts flying. :)

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What’s Your Flava?

Today’s eats just absolutely killed it. Like, they made up for the entire rest of the sick/tired/working weekend.

First, the BF and I headed out for brunch at Union Pig & Chicken. I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks, and with doctor’s appointments and bloodwork and yadda yadda yadda, it just didn’t happen. But we finally managed to get there today, and I’m so glad we did.

As I’d planned, I ordered the chicken & waffles. The BF, however, strayed from the expected and got the steak & eggs. One of us was super-happy with their meal (ahem… the one with a blog). The other was… underwhelmed.

The chicken & waffles plate was glorious. A light, fluffy waffle (not heavy at all) was topped with a fried chicken breast and leg and served with a hefty side of mac & cheese and a side of greens. I ended up eating all of the waffle, part of the chicken, and only a bite or two of the mac & cheese and the greens; it was a pretty hefty brunch. Thank goodness for takeout containers.

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The steak & eggs… well, it was much smaller. Two small pieces of something vaguely resembling steak posed on a bed of pale homefries, and the eggs sat alongside. No word on how his meal tasted (though, I can’t imagine it was bad), but it was much smaller than we both expected. I ended up giving the BF most of my chicken leg and a bunch of the skin from the chicken breast to try to compensate (brunch survivor’s guilt).

Thanks to my ginormous brunch, I wasn’t hungry again until dinner. The BF had a hot date with another woman (his mom), so I was on my own. I decided to head to Lotus in the Strip and got some ingredients with which I could experiment. I knew I wanted Asian-inspired noodles, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them.

I loaded up on fish sauce, tamarinds, bok choy, fresh Shanghai noodles, and fresh tofu. I never realized how cheap the homemade tofu is at Lotus until today – wow! When I got home, I started crafting some semblance of a dinner.

While the water for the noodles came to a boil, I heated up a heaping tsp of minced garlic in a sesame oil/canola oil mixture. Once the garlic started to brown, I added the tofu, the bok choy, almost an entire bag of TJ’s broccoli slaw, an entire bunch of chopped green onions, and some chives from the back yard. After everything cooked down for a few minutes, I added a drizzle of rice wine vinegar and then got to work on the tamarind sauce.

I put about 1/3 of the package of tamarinds from Lotus in the NutriBullet with about 1/2 c lime juice, 1/4-1/2 c fish sauce, and about a tsp of brown sugar. I added a bit of water since it was so thick, and then some Thai garlic chili paste for some extra flavor. After a few seconds, I had a very unappetizing-looking, yet very tasty sauce. I drained my noodles after they’d bathed for a few minutes in boiling water, and then dumped them in the skillet with the veggies. I added the sauce and then stirred everything up until all of the ingredients were lightly coated in the sauce.

I wish I’d written down the amount of fish sauce and lime juice I used, but I really just winged it. The result, though, was pretty spectacular – especially for something that came out of my kitchen. This dish has so much flavor; it tastes like it came from a restaurant where people actually know what they’re doing with the ingredients. The tamarind added a nice complexity to the sauce that I haven’t noticed in many other dishes; especially not in any dishes I’ve made. The only thing that wasn’t so awesome was the bok choy – I should have added it closer to the end. As it was, it cooked down a bit too much for my liking. Otherwise, though, I’m pretty darn pleased with myself for creating this dinner. I even made it look almost-pretty with some black sesame seeds (which, of course, spilled all over my kitchen floor) and some fresh mint. Boom.

So between my salty-sweet-crunchy-juicy brunch and my exotic-savory-sweet dinner, I feel like I’ve been around the world in flavors.  Not a bad way to end a weekend. :)

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Couch Potato

I spent my morning and early afternoon bundled up under ALL the covers on the couch. I actually had to leave my on-site meeting a little early yesterday because I was going to either pass out or vomit; the same feeling kind of stayed with me through today. I ended up watching Night of the Living Dead for the first time (OMG, I would have shot Barbara within the first 5 minutes… but how cool to see Butler and surrounding areas so prominently represented!) and catching up on blogs. Eventually, though, I had to get off my butt and head to work.

Let me just say, it was not worth it today. Some days it absolutely is… but today, not so much.

On the plus side, the BF and I have plans for brunch tomorrow, so at least I have something to look forward to. :)

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