Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ringo Starr and the All Starr band

Kalen and I went to the Ringo Starr concert at Dodge Theatre. We were in Section 206, Row 15, Seats 3 and 4. I didn't realize that this would be a collection of artists that make up the band. They all seemed to enjoy touring and playing together.

Starr's All Starr band (the 10th to date) included an excellent group of musicians including: Billy Squire, Colin Hay of Men At Work, Edgar Winter, Gary Wright, Hamish Stuart of Average White Band and Greg Bissonette. Each of the band members performed hits from their respective catalogs. This meant Squire sang "The Stroke," Hay performed " Down Under," Wright belted out "Dream Weaver" (a song he said George Harrison partly inspired), Stuart led the band on the funky "Pick Up The Pieces" and Winter's monstrous "Frankenstein" made an appearance.

Fun night! I introduced Kalen to "Crazy Jim's" for dinner and the new super secret parking spot. Fast out. The concert started precisely at 7:30 PM and ended after about 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

John Mayer

At Cricket, Section 203, second section from the stage and in the middle. He is an extremely talented guitarist. It was fun to hear the songs that I knew, but incredible to watch him play. He started with the backup band, but at some point at the end came on stage with only his acoustic guitar and his voice. I was thrilled.
Of course, the people in front of me had to stand and dance during the show.

Colbie Caillet in concert

As if I knew who she was. Warm up to John Mayer. Recognized a few songs.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Phipps Conservatory

The Phipps Conservatory is filled with beautiful plants, trees and flowers. There was a Thailand exhibit, but it didn't have enough flowers to suit our fancy. They also had a chocolate exhibit, but this seemed to be more for the kids to understand where chocolate comes from and how it is made. We did join in on the "get a free piece of chocolate" part of the exhibit. Yum!
The most beautiful flowers is in the section which houses the orchids. I stopped to photography them all!
As a very special surprise, we were able to see the Dale Chihuly artwork throughout the gardens. We are fans and admirers and this was a delight.

Frick House

We started the day with a visit to the Frick House. The home is preserved with its orginal Victorian decore. It is located on "Millionaire's Row" and had been accompanied by the homes of Carnegie, Mellon, and other wealthy Pittsburgh industrialists. This is the last surviving home.

You are not allowed to touch anything in the house, as it is about 95% of the original possessions of the family. They did have some "hands on" exhibits to add to the educational experience of the tour. This woman showed us the box that was used to store a fancy beaver top hat. The box closed (under the hat) was used to store cuff and collar stays.

It took us about 2.5 hours to finish the 1.5 hour tour, so we decided that it would be best to get a light lunch before moving on to the next stop of our day event. The on property cafe was very nice, and we ate outside. I had Wild Mushroom and Chevry Mousse soup with Insalata Caprese. I wanted the Caprese because it had wonderful heirloom tomatoes grown on property, as well as fresh grown basil. Ginan had the Caprese also, and Mom settled for the inseason fresh fruit cobbler, opting to go right to the desert. I had planned to have the desert also, but was too full after the soup and salad. I should have followed her lead.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Shear Madness

A very funny show put on by the Civic Light Opera. There is a murder and all of the suspects are on stage. The audience then participates to determine who is guilty. Hilarious!

Here I am with the cast. Can you pick me out of the line-up?

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Gateway Clipper - Lords of the Mon

Took a 2.5 hour river tour, with the presentation of "Lords of the Mon". We traveled north on the Monongahela River while the presenters discussed the coke, iron and steel mills and the industry. The first photo is of a bridge, called a "Hot Metal Bridge". The hot metal was transported from one factory to the other across the river, and the bridge was reinforced to prevent disasters. Mom told us that her father had been driven some of the trains that did this type of work.
This is at the Carnegie Steel works in Homestead. The mill is now a shopping center, but the pump house remains. It is the scene of the great "Battle at Homestead" in July of 1892, complete with locked-out steelworkers, and 300 Pinkerton agents. The link has this summary:

"This event was the culmination of failed contract bargaining between the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers led by Hugh O’Donnell and Homestead Burgess John McLuckie, and Carnegie Steel led by Henry Clay Frick while Andrew Carnegie vacationed at his castle in Scotland."

Look closely at the photo. You can see the intake pipes, as well as the return. The Pittsburgh rivers were terribly polluted during these industrial ages, and the river was eventually declared dead. It has been brought back to life and is now a thriving recreational and industrial river.

Decommissioned barges are stacked as reinforcement along the river bank. They are filled with dirt and planted.

This is one of the few working plants that we saw.
We took the Monongahela all the way to the first set of locks. Locks, another one of those river technology things that amaze me. But that is saved for another trip.

As we were returning to the station, we passed a barge. This is three barges wide and four barges deep. It was huge. Of course, we were coming into a bend in the river and so was he, coming in the opposite direction. I was a little nervous because we were on the left, but it made sense that he needed a lot of room to keep it all headed in the correct direction.
We returned to "Station Square", a shopping and eating area that now stands where the P&LERR used to be. Mom worked here many years ago.
This was a great trip and gives you a chance to see Pittsburgh from a totally different perspective.

Afternoon Tea

Ok, so this is not the best picture. We had spent the morning on the river boat, and came back to the William Penn for a Victorian Tea. We were all hungry and didn't think about taking a photo of the finger sandwiches, scones and pastries until it was too late. The service was good and friendly, and the food was excellant. (Reservations required.)

Friday, July 25, 2008

LeMont Restaurant on Mt. Washington

We celebrated Mom's birthday at LeMont. The restaurant has maintained some of the original formal atmosphere and the view is awesome. We were still a little full from lunch, so we ate light.

Our appetizer was a brie with fruit.

Mom had chicken.

Ginan had veal.

I had shrimp.

The view of the city with the lights on throughout the city.

Duquesne Incline to Mt. Washington

We parked at river level, and then took the Duquesne Incline to the top of Mt. Washington. This is the way to go to get to the top, for the view is beautiful and these inclines are one of the few left in the country.
Great view from the observation deck at the top.

Andy Warhol Museum

What a surprise. This was a magnificant adventure and I am truly a new fan. We went through the introductory exhibit to understand his life and art, and then toured the six other floors.

The Warhol Cafe was in the bottom floor and had surprisingly good food.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I am in Pittsburgh with my sister and mother. The flights today were wonderful, with just a little delay leaving the Dallas airport. We are staying at the Omni William Penn is a great updated room. Check back for photos!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sophie's Bistro for Bastille Day Fete

Yes, I am very nostalgic about my trip last year to Paris. It doesn't seem as if it has been a full year. To keep in the spirit, I am joining in on two celebrations for Bastille Day. No, it is not the Eiffel Tower, but this time I get to drink that fine French wine from a glass instead of a plastic container. Curious? See July 2007.

On with the celebration of Bastille Day in Phoenix!

La Fete de la Prise de la Bastille
5 Course Tasting Menu

This was truly a magnificent meal. Dinner reservations were for 7PM and the restaurant was nearly full. Serge seated me at the "table reservation pour deux". I practiced a few of my French phrases as I inquired about his day and wished him well. Then he started a full conversation (the French have a tendency to do this with me when they think that I can chat about more than the pleasantries) and I answered the best I could and switched to English as a sign that he had exhausted my vocabulary. I invited Karl to join me in the Tasting Menu at Sophie's as I hoped that he would be adventuresome enough to enjoy any items on the menu that were new to him. Little did I know that many things on the menu were new, but he mustered the courage to try (knowing that he had sandwich materials at home in case he starved.) Michelle stopped by with a carafe of water and a conversation about the Tasting menu and the regular menu.

Course 1
Foie Gras Torchon served with brandy braised pistachios, dark chocolate croque en boucheand a cherry balsamic compote.

Yes, this is what you think it is. But it was so beautiful that it was easy to dig in and enjoy it. I had never had Foie Gras before and found it to be slightly salty but very tasty. There were wonderful flavors to blend on the plate, and the little boucheand was filled with wonderfully warm dark chocolate. It was difficult to resist scraping the plate to get every last taste.

Wine pairing: (Michelle suggested all of the wine pairings and was gracious enough to suggest splitting a glass so that we could have a unique taste with each course. Go, Michelle! Remy Pannier - Vouvray - 05 - (Chenin Blanc) (France) Slightly sweet.

Course 2
Escargot en Croute served with tomato confit and Pernod cream sauce.

Escargot. Yes, snails. But these were not your garden variety. These were very tasty with flavorful garlic. It was difficult to contain a moan with every bite.

Wine Pairing: Chateau de la Ragotiere - Muscadet - 06 - (France)

Course 3
Frisee Salad with caramelized apples, crispmarinated fennel, candied Marcona almonds with a Sherry shallot vinaigrette.

Michelle suggested to cleanse the palette with this course. No wine pairing.

Course 4
Roasted Rack of Lamb rubbed with Juniperand Cardamon and served over whipped Chevre Potatoes, baby vegetables and wild rosemary demiglace.

Wow. Beyond belief. Perfectly done and very tender.

Wine pairing: La Crema - Pinot Noir - 06 (Sonoma Coast)

Course 5
Rich Chocolate Souffle infused with fresh coriander and served with Capuccino Creme Anglaise.

Mmmmmm. How can this be described? Warm chocolate souffle. Michele (our grand server) brought two spoons to the table. She gently opened a hole in the middle of the souffle and poured in the Capuccino Creme Anglaise. This was so rich and elegant tasting. More moans came from our table, and then we noticed that the table next to ours was also enjoying the same delights. Phil and Kay started chatting with us about the wonderful food, and of course the conversation went to the other great restaurants in the area. I gave Kay the blog address and invited her to post more comments about their experience so check the comments to get a second opinion. It seems that we have one degree of separation, as she knows the woman, Dr. Julie from Rio Salado, who nurtured my return to start my degree frenzy many moons ago.

A perfect end to a perfect meal: espresso and cappuccino. A lot of chatting and comparing food notes. I found out that Karl braved the entire meal, and was a little shaky about foie gras, escargot, and the lamb. He was pleasantly surprised and delighted with the tastes.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Cafe Lalibela - Ethiopian Cuisine

Ginan was telling me about a woman that she works with and the wonderful discovery of Ethiopian food. It sounded so good and was something that I had never tried. So, during her visit in the early part of June we decided to meet with Kalen and sample the tastes and spices. We were not disappointed, and may be new fans.

We ordered the Lalibela Exclusive (suggested for a party of three) so that we could taste everything. It is a big combo platter. This is great because you get to try everything.
You get a tortilla like bread and use it to eat the food. See the hand in the picture? That is Ginan demonstrating. I learned from her that you turn the plate to put your favorite thing in front of you. Tricky.

The menu describes it as: A combination of doro wat, kye sega wat, alicha sega wat, misir wat, gomen, yebere sega tibs, fosolia, yebeg alicha sega wat, tikil gomen and yekik alicha served with ayeb and selata.

Not much help, is it? Here, this may help. This is also from their menu.

Doro Wat (chicken)
Chicken simmered in kibae, berbere, onion and a tasty combination of seasoning. The Doro Wat is traditionally served with hard-boiled eggs. (Request for egg.)

Kye Sega Wat (beef)
Tender beef cubes simmered in berbere and flavored with various spices.

Yebeg Alicha Sega Wat (lamb)
Lamb cubes simmered in kibae, onion, turmeric and herbs.

Misir Wat (lentils)
Red split lentils cooked with onion, berbere and herbs.

Gomen (collard greens) (And we thought that the South had a corner on this market!)
Chopped collard greens cooked with garlic and onion.

Yebere Sega Tibs (beef)
Lean beef cubes pan fried with jalapeno, onion and rosemary.

Lightly spiced string beans cooked with carrots and onion.

Alicha sega wat (mild beef)
Tender beef cubes simmered in onion, turmeric and spiced with various spices.

Tikil gomen
Lightly spiced cabbage, carrots and potatoes.

Glossary of general terms
Awaze: A paste made from berbere.
Berbere: A combination of red chili powder and spices.
Kibae: Purified butter mixed with various spices.
Mitmita: Very hot red chili powder and spices.
Wat: A stew like sauce made from a variety of ingredients such as vegetables, beef, chicken, lamb or fish.
As always, check it out for yourself! and our dish is

Tocasierra Spa

Welcome to the Tocasierra Spa!
The Tocasierra Spa is at the Pointe Hilton, Squaw Peak Resort. It is on 16th Street North of Glendale Avenue in Phoenix. It is tucked away in the back of the resort and is a fitness facility for locals as well as offering spa treatments. The entrance has the same Spanish architecture as the Point Resort.I used the fitness facility and rode the bike for a mile, and then walked four miles. (I'm trainingfor my 60 mile 3Day walk!) The pool is not close to the Spa, so I decided to relax a bit to prepare for my massage.
The waiting room was a little small, with a small couch, two chairs and a three chair/table setting. No place to lounge and fall asleep.

The locker room and shower area was clean with plenty of towels, showers, and a steam room.
I'm trying to decide what to do to tile my bathrooms in the house, so I always find the resorts interesting. This used very large tiles for the walls, with smaller ones on the shower floor.
The stripe about eye level was made with glass "pebbles" inset into the surface. The predomanant color was turquoise.
This is the room for the treatment. Of course, the lights were dim. I had a 80 minute Specialty massage, complete with an incredible head massage and a hand paraffin treatment. It was hard to stay awake.