Thursday, December 30, 2010

1796 in 2010

It's (yet again) been a while. Well, 'tis the season! PID and I have been spending all of our money on moms and dads and brothers and sisters and nephews and nieces and so we've had no time or dough for dinners out!

But we're back! And because I haven't seen you, Merry Christmas!

I hope your holiday was delicious!

I'll warn you now, this review isn't Pittsburgh based, but at least it's still Western, PA! After a feast of the seven fishes with the PID family and a weekend in Chocolatetown with mine, we decided we needed a holiday from our holiday. So we made a reservation at Bedford Springs Resort & Hotel which is just a perfect distance away from home and Pittsburgh.  Smack in the middle!  I'd eaten here before in the Crystal Room on the way home from an epic weekend at Penn State but never stayed the night. I remembered how breathtaking the property and hotel looked and knew I wanted to bring PID here to stay.

We pulled up in million mile per hour winds to a very helpful group of bellmen. Once we were all checked in we decided to head out on a journey to explore the resort.  On the way we checked out the multiple dining options on site and asked around about options in Downtown Bedford. After quite a bit of menu reading, we decided to stay in-house and dine in the 1796 Room -- named for the year that the land was purchased to build the resort!

You don't have to be a hotel guest to dine at 1796 but reservations are definitely encouraged. Even on a Monday we weren't able to be seated until 9 p.m. but we were OK with that. We had a drink at the bar while we waited:
Bedford Lemonade: Bacardi Limon, Lemonade and Cranberry Juice

Bacardi & Diet: a PID staple

So what sold me on this place that couldn't seat me until 9 p.m.? I'll give you a hint:

Two of my favorite appetizers on the same menu?! That is a rare find indeed! Best thing about it is I have a wonderful boyfriend who doesn't mind feeding my vices by feeding his face and sharing. But I'm getting ahead of myself here... we did, in fact, get bread...

I'm gonna go ahead and say this was a garlic herb loaf and a rye loaf.  Now they seemed fresh baked (nice and warm and dough-y), but I wasn't a giant fan of the bread.  It was almost too much flavor before our meal. I needed a palate cleanser just to eat my appetizer. But I wouldn't venture so far to say it was bad.  Just a bit too much for my taste!

One thing I want to mention is something I truly feel strongly about at any establishment. If things aren't up to the standards you feel they should be for the price you're paying for dinner, you need to speak up. Now, our food was wonderful, but our server was....not.  We were greeted by a roaming server who delivered our bread and poured our water (after asking if we'd prefer bottled or sparkling, which we didn't).  He let us know our server would be right with us.  He wasn't. We waited quite a bit until he finally arrived, we placed our entire orders.  We ordered two diet cokes instead of wine tonight since we had a bottle up in the room. Ten minutes later we still had no diet coke. Fifteen and I saw the table seated after us had already drunk half a bottle of their wine, so I tracked down that friendly roaming server again.  He brought our sodas instantly.  See?  It wasn't too hard.  It's very easy to simply speak up without having a harsh, demanding tone to your request.  Sometimes things happen and they may be simple and easy to take care of.  The longer you wait to speak up the angrier you'll get and the harsher your request will be making the server all the less interested in helping you out.

But back to the meal...

The appetizers came next...

The oysters were creamy and perfect.  There was just enough cheese.  The tuna...MMMMMmmmmm good!  It came two ways with a tartare and a lightly seared yellow fin.  There was an amazing smokiness to the yellow fin that I have never tasted before and really thought it made the dish special! This ain't your mama's tuna! The tartare was well seasoned as well though a bit al dente.  Either way I loved it!

Then, although we knew going in to things it was an ambitious decision, we each ordered a bowl of Lobster Bisque because, c'mon, how could we refuse?

The bisque was thick and creamy and buttery and DELICIOUS! And with a few huge chunks of fresh lobster in the bowl, I was anything but disappointed. If I have one complaint (and really it's not much of a complaint) it's that it was very heavy.  This made it taste much better, but we made the mistake of ordering two appetizers, soup and an entree and eating the bread. So even after the soup course we were feeling mighty stuffed! If you think you want the bisque, you can probably forgo appetizers altogether!  It's that, well, appetizing!

Finally it was on to the entrees...

I ordered the Herb-Crusted Halibut and must pat myself on the back for making an excellent choice.  The fish had an excellently flavored crust and flaked perfectly at the touch of a fork. The German potatoes were dark and well cooked, just like I like 'em.  A tad too much spinach for my liking, but the tomato ragout provided a great sweetness to it.

I will say it was a bit over salted...but for me, that was a good thing. I have a salt complex in that I always want too much of it.  So to me, it made me love the meal even more. But for those of you with a less salt-favoring palate, just be warned.

PID had the New York Strip with GIANT steak fries and asparagus.

The steak was cooked absolutely perfectly and held it's natural juices well.  Tasted great!  PID was not a fan of the steak sauce though. "Too sweet." But luckily he didn't even need it thanks to the steak being so great.  The asparagus was shaved which I guess I don't really understand.  Doesn't it lose flavor and substance that way? If anyone can explain the significance of shaving asparagus to me, please do.

Now PID said the fries looked incredibly tasty, but while my meal was slightly over salted, these fries -- which are supposed -- lacked salt altogether. There wasn't a single grain on them and, oddly enough, there was no salt or pepper on the table, either. They were quite bland and tasted like nothing more than sliced cooked potatoes. We considered asking our server for salt, but he had taken ages to come back with the ketchup so we figured why bother. So instead, PID decided to simply dip in the ketchup.  Well that also didn't help.  It was a house-made ketchup.  While I generally appreciate house-made sauces and the like, I have a problem with house-made ketchup.  We are in Western PA people.  Heinz country.  Don't mess with the good thing we've got going here. No need to get fancy. It was wayyyy too sweet (it almost tasted like raspberries?) and watery.  It tasted almost nothing like ketchup.

Restaurant Info:
Address: 2138 Business 220 Bedford, PA15522
Phone: 814-623-8100 (that's the hotel's number -- simply mention you're calling about 1796)
Hours:  5 p.m. - 10 p.m. (dinner only)
Reservations: Strongly Encouraged
Price: $$$$

Cliffs Notes:
Beverages:       2  diet cokes @ $2.50
Appetizers:      Chesapeake Bay Oysters Rockefeller  @ $13
                       Twice the Tuna @ $9
                       2 Lobster Bisques @ $11
Entrees:           Herb Crusted Halibut @ $28

                       Prime NY Strip @ $33
Tax:                 6%
@ $6.07
Total for Two:  $116.07

Overall Opinion:

Though the fries and ketchup didn't exactly make the cut, the rest of the meal was delicious. Combined with the ambiance and rich history within the walls of the restaurant, the meal was quite a wonderful experience altogether. Though it's a good hour and 40 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh 1796 and, really, the entire Omni Bedford Springs Resort make a wonderful romantic evening or weekend getaway.  It's like stepping in to the past and leaving behind the worries of the real world. Don't think I've ever said that about dinner before. A trip here, even just for a meal, might be an excellent Valentine's Day or Anniversary dinner so keep it in mind. My rating is based upon many things, but I must say the fries, ketchup and service made it lose a few points in my book.  That doesn't mean it's still not an excellent place to check out.


<a href="" title="1796 Room at Bedford Springs Restaurant Reviews"><img src="" border=0 alt="1796 Room at Bedford Springs  Restaurant Reviews"/></a> 

Thursday, December 9, 2010


So tonight, PID and I had planned on heading out to a new restaurant in the city to review.  However, I am sick as a dog. I've been plugging and chugging all week, but today I just felt out of it. So I wasn't up for a trip out to eat.

So I thought about it and figured I'd try something new and different.  Cooking for myself!

Now I should mention that I work late and take the bus. So PID usually gets home a good 1-2 hours before me. And because I'm blessed with the greatest boyfriend who ever lived, he typically cooks a delicious dinner (which is great since I'm a pretty lousy cook).

But today, after napping for about six straight hours, I had some time so I decided to surprise him by giving dinner a go.

Now I know TOP is not a recipe blog, but that's not to say I can't toss in a home-cooking experience or two from time to time!  And tonight, amidst the coughs and sniffles (don't worry I used a tissue or two...) I somehow managed to make a delicious meal!  So I figured it was a good place to start.

I perused a few (dozen) recipe books until I found something that fit my criteria:  1.) PID and I would both enjoy it equally, 2.) It was novice cook-friendly and 3.) I had the ingredients in the house because I sure as heck wasn't goin' anywhere.  So I went with the Crispy Apricot Pork Loin and Mango/Palm Salad with a Lime Vinaigrette.

So let's start with what my meals were SUPPOSED to look like:

Because the salad took 15 minutes of prep time and the pork was 15 minutes of cook time, I started with prepping the pork.

I started by preheating the oven to 425 degrees as Step 1

Then I gathered my ingredients.  Everything you need for (my version of) this recipe is right here! It was all already in my kitchen:

2 Pork Loin Chops (bone-in if you have it...I just happened to)
2 slices Multi grain bread
2 cups Honey bunches of oats or your favorite whole grain cereal
4 tps apricot jam or preserves
1 tps EVOO (and non-stick spray or another tsp for the baking pan)
Salt and pepper

So for step 2 you'll want to crumb the bread.  My recipe called for me to tear the bread in to large pieces and then put it in the food processor and then place it in the food processor, pulsing until large crumbs form. But, small problem, I don't have a food processor (it's on my Christmas list, though!).  So I used the old chop and smoosh method where I chopped it up in to little crust-less bits and then rubbed my hands together rigorously with the bits inside until they crumbled.

So that was all my recipe called for, but I was looking for a bit more flavor.  So I grabbed my box of Honey Bunches of Oats and crushed about two cups in to crumbs in a ziplock bag.

Now the recipe called for a drizzle of olive oil amidst processor pulses, so I just drizzled it in and shook the bag. Set the bag aside.

Step three brings you  back to the pork.  First, season your meat generously with salt and pepper (I like to always use sea salt and ground peppercorns to bring it up that extra notch. After the meat is seasoned, spread one teaspoon of apricot jam on each side of the pork chop.

Then, bring back your bag of crumbs and evenly coat the top of each loin. (I coated the bottom even though the recipe didn't specify and all that happened was a gooey mess that didn't crisp -- so don't worry about it).

Step 4 is to simply place in the preheated oven and cook 14-16 minutes until the crust reaches a golden crisp and the pork is cooked through (should register about 150 degrees if you have a meat thermometer...which I do not). I ALWAYS use aluminum foil on top of baking pans. It eliminates the mess, cuts back on the dishes, and it's non-stick feature is quite fabulous.  Still, I'd prep it with a bit of non-stick spray just in case.

Now...I had a bit of apricot jam leftover and didn't want to waste it, so I decided to invent a sauce (not featured in the recipe).  I simply took the extra (it was about 1 teaspoons), squeezed in about 1-2 teaspoons of honey dijon mustard, and mixed in about 1 teaspoon of sour cream.  Voila!  Delicious pork dipping sauce :)

So now that the meat was-a-cookin', I got to work on the salad.

Again, all of the ingredients were already in my pantry (luckily, because I'd recently purchased a few cans of Hearts of Palm after my great experience at Mallorca).

1 can (14-15 oz.) Hearts of Palm
2 leaves of fresh lettuce
1/2 a small red onion
1 ripe mango
4 tsps dijon (or honey dijon) mustard
1/4 cup of lime juice

For step 1, just whisk the lime juice and dijon mustard in a small bowl and set aside.

Step 2 was kinda rough for me.  Chopping the hearts of palm in half longways and then in to 1 inch pieces was a cinch.

But have you ever peeled and chopped a mango!?  Cuz uh...I certainly have it.  Originally I figured it was something like a pear. But let me tell you it's not.  First of all I'd never peeled a pear. Secondly the pit is ENORMOUS and I had no idea where it started and stopped. So this was quite a task for me.  But I managed to slice it in to 1/2 inch cubes just fine...eventually.

Then it was on to finely chopping the red onion.  Here's where I REALLY struggled.  Me + onions does NOT = love. My eyes cannot take it.  I had to remove myself from the kitchen four separate times.  Looks like I'm more cut out to be a restaurant reviewer than I am master chef.  But I powered through it...

So next you toss them all in a medium bowl with half of the vinaigrette mixture and salt and pepper to taste.

Finally, gently lay an entire leaf of lettuce inside each bowl and pour the mixture in.  You can add the remainder of the vinaigrette as a sort of dressing on top (or not!) and finally, sprinkle a bit more salt and pepper to taste on top.

So after 15 minutes, check on your pork chops.  If they're not golden brown and crispy looking, leave them in for another minute or so.  Mine were just right!

So now that you have your chops and your salad, you're ready to eat!  I paired mine with a few fresh plum tomatoes sprinkled with sea salt and crumbed feta over a bed of fresh baby spinach.  But it seemed like asparagus would be another great veggie to pair well with this dish!  So here's what I thought:

The pork was excellent!  PID seemed to agree (he swelled my head with compliments) so I will make this again in a heartbeat! It was juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside with a great sweet/savory kick to it.  Personally, I was pretty proud of my invented sauce and thought it really helped make the dish.

In terms of the Mango Palm salad, It was REALLY tasty, but if I ever make it again I'll use a little less than a 1/4 cup of lime.  It felt really lime-y to me.  I might also add fresh chopped cilantro -- I feel like it could really help.

Overall I loved these recipes! I felt like a real live chef like the ones I watch on Wednesday night on BRAVO! (Go, Spike, go!)

Ya know.... I might try this cooking thing again! (that is, if I ever find the time).

If you try one of these recipes let me know how it went for you in the comment box below!  I'd love to hear it!

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mallorca Double Date Night

Not long ago, PID and I were asked to be Best Man and Maid of Honor in our close friends' (Mr. & Mrs. FORT) wedding! We are SO excited for them and to accept for the responsibility!

To celebrate, the four of us decided to choose a romantic setting for a double date.  Mrs. FORT (who, I should mention, has impeccable taste in both men and meals) made the suggestion to head to Mallorca on Carson Street for the occasion. Mr. FORT, PID and I could not have agreed more enthusiastically!


Being a Saturday and all, I made sure to call well ahead to make reservations.  The last two times I'd been to Mallorca, I remember having shown up for my reservation well on time and still having to wait in the tiny bar.  So this time we shot for an exact arrival time. But whaddaya know, as we were pulling in to the complimentary valet lot at five 'til seven we received a FORText telling us that they were seated at the table and waiting for us.  Splendid!

I was excited, because this was my first time sitting in what I'll call "the room to the left."  I had eaten in what we'll call "crazy wallpaper room"

a few times and welcomed the change. But the busy wallpaper and slightly tighter quarters aren't what make or break this restaurant.  The eclectic atmosphere certainly gives it character, but it's the food and service that I've always felt makes it stand out.

We started with the bread.  The butter was of factory descent (i.e. we had to unwrap it at the table) which doesn't ever bother me, but doesn't add extra points, either. We appropriately referred to the bread as "butt bread."  Not because it tasted bad, but because...well, see for yourself:

Then, we moved on to the wine and the appetizer.  The table decided unanimously on a bottle of Pinot Noir and and an order of the Champignones Relleno (or Fresh Stuffed Mushrooms).  

What I love about Mallorca's menu is that it's not only extensive and authentic, but it's completely in Spanish -- helps me to brush up on my conjugation!  That may deter some, but the staff is extremely friendly, knowledgeable so they are always around to help answer any questions (and believe me, I had them). Anyway, the Champignones Relleno were excellent! Very juicy and the seafood and Parmesan stuffing with roasted red peppers melted in my mouth. 

After the salads (Which, I'll admit I completely forgot to take a photo of but in the way of simple house salads, they hail almighty. The house dressing is a delicious mystery and the heart of palm  was a unique-to-the-region accent that I wished there were more of), we moved on to the hard part. Choosing an entree... 

Here's where the impeccable service comes in to play.  Put aside, for one moment, the fact that the staff is so extensive that you have one person to greet you and take your order, another to make sure your water is always full, still another sommelier to ensure your wine is just right and even more to brush your table clear of crumbs (these guys have their hands full with the likes of us). And is it me, or do every single one of them have a beautiful Spanish accent? But the part that impresses me the most is how many darn specials this place always has and how no waiter has ever once read it off of a piece of paper. They KNOW what their kitchen is serving.  Not just the names of the meals, but how it's going to taste, wine pairing suggestions, the works.  I was so impressed!  That being said... our waiter rattled off so many specials I couldn't remember a single one of them when it came time to order. 

Mrs. FORT and I requested that he repeat the Pescado specials because we were 84% sure we'd heard something interesting among them. Sure enough, we did.  In fact, we all ordered specials since the lot of us had been there a handful of collective times in the past and were, for the most part, familiar with the standard day-to-day menu. 

Mrs. FORT chose the Stuffed Flounder (which I found appropriate since Mr. FORT has been called "Flounder" since approximately 2002).  

Stuffed with lobster and crabmeat, Mrs. FORT genuinely seemed to enjoy the flavors.  I gave it a shot myself and agreed that they did a great job cooking the flounder to perfection.  A particularly boring presentation, the taste was far from lacking.

Mr. FORT had seen (/smelled) a sizzlin' steak go by our table earlier in the evening.  It's sheer mass attracted him to try it for himself, so he ordered the 32 oz. prime rib special. He didn't say much...because he didn't stop eating it until it was completely gone, all 32 ounces, which made me think he really liked it!

PID ordered the Veal Osso Bucco which I totally called.  His meat was fall-off-the-bone tender, the sauce was delicious and he enjoyed sucking the marrow out of the bone in the most inappropriate manner possible.  He told me the ziti was "lame" but that wasn't what he cared about.  

I chose the Chilean Sea Bass -- yes again.  I think I may have been so jaded by my amazing Sea Bass experience at Bistro 19 that I'm always expecting the most delicious meal of my life.  Though it wasn't the same caliber, I will say that this meal was extremely tasty.  The sauce was excellent!  I would absolutely recommend it. 

Another great part of Mallorca is the family style rice, steamed vegetables and homemade chips that come with every meal.  Big eaters? Yes, you can order more for no extra charge. 

And then it was on to dessert!!

The Spaniards sure know desserts.  PID and I shared the triple chocolate cake (chocolate cake, chocolate mousse and white chocolate filling) which was rich and dreamy and far too caloric for how delicious it was!  

Mrs. FORT ordered the Flan which we all tried and racked our brain for a good five minutes trying to figure out the flavor that was on the tip of all of our tongues...literally.  Finally it came to me (nailed it.), Pumpkin Pie! The smooth pumpkin flavor paired with the sticky caramel seriously brought a tear to my eye. Dare I say it was Flan-tastic?

Mr. FORT ordered the Tiramisu.  I think PID hates that I'm "allergic" to coffee because you could see a glimmer in his eye and a quiver in his lower lip when the waiter brought it around.  But dear old Mr. FORT let him have a bite and both agreed it was outstanding!

Restaurant Info:
Address: 2228 E. Carson Street
Phone: 412-488-1818
Hours:  Mon-Thu 11:30am-10:30pm
            Fri-Sat 11:30am-11:30pm
            Sun 12pm-10pm
Reservations: Suggested
Price: $$$$

Cliffs Notes:
Beverages:  2 bottles of Montoya Pinot Noir @ $39
                  1 glass of diet coke @ $2
Appetizer:   Champignones Relleno @ $9.95
Entrees:       Chilean Sea Bass @ $39.95
                   Veal Osso Bucco @ $32.95
                   Stuffed Flounder @ $29.95
                   Prime Rib @ $27.95
Desserts:     Tiramisu @ $6.00
                   Triple Chocolate Cake @ $6.00
                   Flan @ $6.00
Tax @ 7% (Allegheny County only): @ $16.55
Total for Four: $253.30

Overall Opinion:
Obviously, Mallorca is a restaurant that keeps me coming back for more.  The unique cultural cuisine and service make it TOP-notch in my book. My only complaint is that I believe that as tasty as their menu truly is, I can't be sure it's 100% worth the high price.  Once a year? Sure, absolutely.  But the costs deter PID and I from frequenting.  

¡Buen provecho!

(VERY close to four stars)

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Mallorca Restaurant  Restaurant Reviews

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