Monthly Archives: October 2010

Good Morning, Waffle House!

I have a pretty early commute on Thursday mornings, a 6:00 am start to my day that, no matter how much I do it, still seems almost a novelty. Getting up and dressing in the dark and trotting out to the corner to catch a bus into Downtown, then picking up a trolley and making the slow rail trip back to Dormont, my thoughts drift to other early mornings, the roads and places traveled through before the sun even had a chance to fully rise.

I think about rising for school all those years, how difficult it was to go from cozy in bed to the cold, sterile school environment. I think about early morning band practices, shivering through thicker and thicker jackets as the season went on. I think about college, years spent staying up into the wee hours only to get up two hours later to make it to class (or the unfortunate times that getting up two hours later never happened). I think about getting up super early for family road trips down to see my grandmother in Florida, usually sometime around 4 am. We’d be out of Pennsylvania before the sun rose, crossing the border into WV with the light still an hour away. I think of that highway terrain.

I think of Waffle House.

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5 Halloween Recipes That Seem Delicious Despite Their Holiday Affiliation

I’m not crazy about spending a ton of kitchen time whipping up a recipe that is overtly holiday themed. While each season brings its particular focus into the items I make, I tend to shy away from recipes that are clearly meant for themed parties.

Part of this is due to the fact that many of these recipes are decorating-heavy: a sugar cookie shaped and colored to look like a pumpkin is still a sugar cookie. A cupcake designed to look like a ghost is just a cupcake with a shit ton of frosting on it. And so on. Although I love sweets, I prefer my baked goods simple. Elaborate confections of icing, sprinkles, and carefully placed accessory morsels usually add little to the taste or experience of the baked good, aside from the mess that they inevitably cause.


And… yes, I’m admittedly terrible at decorating baked goods, at least to the extent that they look like little black cats or witches on broomsticks. I can frost a cupcake, sprinkle powdered sugar daintily on a bundt cake, and uniformly sprinkle thumbprint cookies, but when it comes to matching a baked good with a well-crafted, well-staged picture (see accompanying photograph for an example) I suck.

But, with the sheer abundance of Halloween recipes, there were bound to be at least a few that were good enough to try despite their garish decoration. Here are five recipes that I’ve spotted that seem like they might be worth the trial for the decorating-challenged such as myself: Continue reading

See? Those Things Will GET You!

I refrained from discussing the potential health hazards of energy drinks in my article yesterday, but this has recently been brought to my attention (link from ABC News):

Four Loko Company Defends Caffeinated Booze After Washington Students Sickened at Party

“The aftermath of the party, at which police found students passed out all over the house and rushed nine to the hospital, has renewed calls for bans on the drink Four Loko, which combines as much alcohol as a six-pack of beer and the equivalent of one cup of coffee.”

Four Loko is (according to Phusion Projects) “a mix of caffeine, taurine, guarana, and alcohol. The brand name “Four” is derived from the use of these four ingredients.

Four Loko comes in eight flavors: blue raspberry, cranberry lemonade, fruit punch, lemon-lime, lemonade, orange-blend, uva (grape) and watermelon. Four MaXed comes in citrus and grape.”

Yikes! Better think twice before picking up that energy boozer. I’ll stick to my espresso-martinis, thank you… Oh, wait a minute…

Good Morning, Scary Energy Drinks!

As you can probably tell from the amount of times it gets mentioned on this blog, I am a diehard coffee drinker. Aside from when I’m sick, I drink it every day, multiple times a day. Doesn’t matter if it’s the substantial home-brew from my French press, mediocre (yet surprisingly okay) offerings from the local gas station, or the thin (surprisingly less than okay) cup of coffee from the one-cup maker in the office. If I drink it all and as much of it as I can get. 

My ideal coffee consumption is something like this: a cup or two in the morning, one in the afternoon, and possibly two more before bedtime. I know people who balk at drinking coffee a mere hour or two before bedtime, as they claim it would keep them up all night. I know what this is like – I feel the same way after I’ve drunk nearly two pots of the stuff and tried to go to sleep. Anything under five cups, I’ll still sleep like a baby. (Well… a slightly jittery, jumpy baby, but still….)

I can wax rhapsodic on all the reasons I love coffee some other time, but suffice to say, even though I know I should be drinking better, purer, healthier things, I can’t shake my attachment to the taste,  the heat, the ritual. My adoration, devotion, and complete sublimation to coffee has steered me clear of at least one hazard: energy drinks.

I stay away from energy drinks.


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Admiration to be discovered, as direct as the crow flies….

I won’t pretend with you dear readers to write a thread of thought on a food forum, and link it in some obtuse way to what I’m about to discuss here for a few moments.

Now I could mention the uncanny way the brilliant mind operating inside one of nature’s most keenly honed animal’s drops a nut, depending on weight, at the exact height necessary to crack it’s outer hardened husk, but not break it apart entirely as to avoid it’s inevitable destruction by passing traffic or thievery by a fellow flighted compatriot. I won’t do that, but with a specimen as intricate and savvy as the crow, it’s clearly possible.

I could elaborate on the elevated nature that drives the crow to be one of the triad of animals (alongside chimpanzees and elephants) that utilize constructed tools in some form to snag food outside of its reach, of the more advanced occurrences outside of the human realm.

Like I said, I could do make some tenuous connection, but will choose not to as I don’t want to insult the intelligence of our fine readers, both feathered and non feathered.

My recent fascination with this black beauty has come as a myriad of observational discovery. Continue reading

First Podcast – It’s Greek to Me

In addition to the sparkling writing you read regularly on this blog, we have started a little podcast where Wes and I take you on a dinner trip to a local Pittsburgh eatery. It’s sort of about the place – certainly, the setting plays a huge part. But it’s also more about our dinner conversation. Wes made the suggestion that it might be nice for lonely people eating by themselves to listen to us and feel like they were among friends. I think that sounds really sad, and besides, if you’ve got a TV or a computer, eating alone is never really an issue. Anyway, the first podcast has been posted: Forked on the Road, on, also available on ITunes.

Take a listen as me and Wes make a visit to his favorite gyro place, It’s Greek to Me in Brookline. If you’re short on time, I’ve prepared a little review.

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Good Morning, Pancakes and Sweet Potatoes!

Fall harvest crops are some of my favorite vegetables and fruit. I’m still learning the ins and outs of cooking squash, but in the meantime, I’ve taken on a new patron cause, and that is the sweet potato.

Internationally, sweet potatoes are an important part of many cultures’ diets, but in North America they’ve been somewhat marginalized. They’re still plentiful in the States, and sweet potatoes are still a staple of a few regions, Southeastern US being the major proponent of this fantastic food. In Mississippi, for example, sweet potato farming yields 19 million annually to the state’s economy. The National Sweet Potato Festival is held annually in Vardaman, self-proclaimed “Sweet Potato Capital.” They’re also quite popular in Kentucky, where slices of sweet potato fried in bacon droppings then served with bacon on toast are a regular item on breakfast menus throughout the state.

So I’ve been spending some quality time with the sweet potato. Last week I made roasted sweet potato burritos. For my weekly Sunday breakfast makings, I decided to forgo the usual tofu scramble and opt instead for a pairing that makes perfect sense, taste-, texture- and timing – wise:

Apple Pie Pancakes with Apple-Walnut Topping
and Sweet Potato Hash

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Good Morning, Cruller and Cruller Imposters

To your right, you will observe a traditional cruller, topped with chocolate icing. From the Wikipedia entry on the Cruller:

A traditional cruller (or twister) is a twisted, usually ring-shaped, fried pastry made of dough somewhat like that of a cake doughnut, often topped with plain powdered sugar; powdered sugar mixed with cinnamon; or icing.

The name can also refer to the French cruller, a fluted, ring-shaped doughnut made from choux pastry with a light airy texture.

This, my friends, is a cruller. That delectable, light-as-a-cloud donut that delivers the sweetness satisfaction of an ordinary donut, without the dense “remember how bad I am for you” doughiness of an ordinary donut. It requires only a dollop of icing on top and is a pleasantly mild way to ruin your diet before 9 am.

I am very fond of the cruller, despite its manipulations (oh, fluffy sweet pastry, how can you taste so right and be so wrong?) and fortitude-destroying deliciousness. So how surprised was I when I pointed to my beloved pastry this morning at Graham’s Bakery, asking for the vanilla-topped cruller, only to be told that I was not looking at a cruller at all?

The lovely woman helping me at the counter insisted that their crullers were the long donuts on the bottom row, most assuredly filled with some kind of fluffy icing or custard. I wanted to scoff at her, “Madam, I know crullers, and THOSE are not crullers.”

But I was momentarily thrown. I shrugged, pointed to the vanilla-topped non-“cruller” cruller, and went on my way. After all, a cruller by any other name is still as sweet… but what gives?

Good Morning, Evolving Coffee Culture!

From a recent article by Tara Clapper on

Now when I enter Starbucks, it’s a completely different environment. It’s not the “third place” environment it’s supposed to be, but it is what the customers want: a drug shop. They’re guzzling caffeine and plugging in. The caffeine hastens their pace when typing and texting; they must have tired hands. They meet their friends at Starbucks, then sit in silence, laptop-to-laptop instead of face-to-face, studying over instant messenger instead of breaking that new Starbucks silence.

It doesn’t come as a surprise to me that coffeeshop culture has rapidly evolved from a vibrant meeting house of spirited conversation and activity to a public place where people can still isolate themselves from others via their personal tech devices. As far as Starbucks  is concerned, I’m only surprised that it hasn’t happened sooner, given the customer base the company attracts (high school and college students, urban office workers). Clapper makes the assumption, however, that this change is a corporate coffeeshop trend – at the end of the article, she cites choosing to meet a friend at an independent coffeeshop so they are free to converse without fear of the icy glares bouncing off laptop screens and IPhones. But depending on the independent she chooses, she might face the same tech-oppression. Continue reading

Thoughts on the Strip



I have only recently become Strip savvy. Despite a few years living over in Bloomfield, not more than a mile up the road, I only ever dabbled in Strip District shopping. A loaf from Mancini’s here, or a stop-in at DeLuca’s. I had a birthday dinner at Kaya’s once. I’ve been to the Heinz History Center more times than I can count. None of that really seems to count.

When I moved to Dormont, the only things I missed about the East End were in Bloomfield, Lawrenceville, Friendship. I never even considered how much farther I was going to be from the Strip District.

So how, if my living distance from the Strip has only increased, did I finally fall for the charms and bargains of this glorious market district? Continue reading