Saturday, August 20, 2011

A trip to the Strip

I had my first culinary class yesterdayFoods 1—and I'm so excited about it! The chef/teacher is really friendly and definitely loves what he does (which is great, because he'll be teaching my Basic Culinary Skills class too), but I'm still getting to know my classmates. We spent the morning going over an expansive syllabus, learning some random facts about the culinary world, and touring the kitchen, and I'm so ready to get started in the kitchen next week. Being in a food-focused mood, I thought it would be fun to take a trip into the city today to do some serious food shopping with my parents in the Strip District, a section of Pittsburgh filled with ethnic food stores, open air markets, small retail stores, and little restaurants. While there are a lot of fun stores there that we like to visit—In The Kitchen, Penn Avenue Pottery, and Mon Aimee Chocolat, to name a fewthe two that we always make sure to go to are Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. and Penzys Spices.

Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. (a.k.a. PennMac) is a large Italian food market, which I of course love. They have artisan breads; an enormous selection of cheese from all over the world; and just about every sauce, oil, and pasta under the sun, plus so much more. The store was bustling today, so I made a beeline for the cheese counter with the hope that I could get around some of the crowd crushing in around me and avoid a long wait—they were on number 20 when we pulled 33 as our number, but the workers quickly got through to us. Their selection is enormous and the workers behind the counter are more than happy to let customers taste various cheeses, which I definitely take advantage of. We decided to get grated pecorino-romano, mozzarella balls, shredded asiago, crumbled goat cheese, and this sweet crumbly lemon Stilton. The rest of our shopping basket was quickly filled with ciabatta bread, farfallini pasta (adorable mini farfalle), truffle olive oil, fresh flavored pasta, and a few other delectable treats. I'm already dreaming about cauliflower drizzled with truffle olive oil, farfallini with olive oil and cheese, and lemon Stilton with a slice of ciabatta.

The list of cheeses available at PennMac. Cheese = Heaven.

Penzys Spices is my other favorite Strip store because every whiff of spice gives me countless ideas for new recipes, and the store has an expansive selection to choose from. My dad and I made our rounds in the store, smelling anything and everything that looked or sounded good (thank goodness for samples for customers to smell!). I definitely have some favorites in the storethe mulling spices that make me think of Christmas and the holiday party my senior sorority sisters and I had this past winter...the various types of cinnamon that get me daydreaming about cinnamon-sugar toast and applesauce...the Indian spices that make me salivate over thoughts of paneer, tandoori chicken, and spicy many amazing smells in this store! Our haul today included ground anise, peppermint, pure orange extract, shallot-pepper, lemon-pepper, basil, rosemary, and a few other spices and seasonings. I already have plans for just about every item we bought. First on the list: anise-flavored sugar cookies with an orange glaze (this makes so much sense in my head, so I'm dying to make it...I'm thinking making a biscotti-version of this would be fantastic too). I'm also looking forward to blending some peppermint into my English Breakfast tea and I know the shallot-pepper will be delicious on some roasted red potatoes. So many recipe ideas!

So many spices!

We finished off our day with an early dinner at BRGR (I know I just went there with friends last week, but it's so good!) and a quiet evening at home. May not be like my former college-day Saturdays, but I'd call it a success.

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