Friday, May 27, 2011

Facebook Status Update Rule #18

I cannot believe that I didn't think of this before...

Facebook Status Update Rule #18 (courtesy of Jack P. Burgh): Do not update your status on Fridays by quoting Rebecca Black's lyrics. Watching her viral video for less than 30 seconds will reassure you that this ruling is appropriate and quite overdue.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Allow Myself to Introduce Myself

Truth be told, I am not a true fan of The Oprah Winfrey Show.  Of course, I certainly appreciate and respect Oprah's many accomplishments; however, she never really "reached" me the way she "reached" others through her show. I know, I  know... I am the exception, not the rule. Yet, I always give credit where credit is due...

So as a small tribute to Oprah's unparalleled career as a talk show host, I have included two of my favorite movie scenes in which her name was involved (and to a certain extent, paramount to the scenes' comedic effect): Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby; and here is my favorite Maya Rudolph SNL sketch: Oprah's Favorite Things. Enjoy. 

PS: The final three episodes of her show are on my DVR just waiting to be watched (but that's primarily out of curiosity). I figure that I'll get to them eventually...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

That Which Separates the Best from the Bunch

I've been thinking about my friendships lately. As a result of my reflections, I've concluded that I have been blessed with some wonderful "best friend-ships." Now, as much as I love early 90's nostalgia, I don't need halves of heart-shaped "Best Friends" necklaces to prove that these relationships were/are real and valuable. Henry Ford quoted, "My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me." That's all the proof I'll ever need.
Who else would welcome you into their home when you left your ex, the dog and your shared place behind? Who else would take you to Klavon's Ice Cream Parlor the day after you wrecked your car for some "sweet treat" therapy? Speaking of wreckage, who else would keep you calm after you just drove a golf cart off of a six foot cliff (and consequently smashed it)? Who else would pop a zit for you? Or put your camera down their pants so you can get it into a concert? Or drink Diet Cokes and smoke cigarettes with you while hanging out of your college apartment window? Who else wore matching outfits with you when you were younger... or wore matching outfits with you to parties in college? Who else would go with you to see New Kids On The Block (in 2008)? Or wait to see all of the Harry Potter movies with only you? Who else will point out when you stick your foot in your mouth, but also know just when to compliment your public speaking skills? Who else will still play Mall Madness with you on holidays?
Who will help you turn a bar into a dance club? Or ask you to help them decorate their new apartment? Who else will call you to say, "HGB, you were right! I wasn't drinking last Friday because I'm pregnant!" or simply send you a picture of the actual pregnancy test? Or text you to tell you that there is a look-a-like of an ex on The Bachelorette? Who else will help you to collate hundreds of copies manually after you forgot to select "collate" on your printing order? Who else will tell you how much they love you and JTP together (and mean it)? Who has bottles of wine "on call?" Who will let you cry when you need to... and make you laugh out loud right afterward? Who else will get a joint photo Christmas card with you? Who lets you make mistakes and lets you make up for them? Who else treats you like an adult even though they have watched you grow up? And who else calls you at 12:35 p.m. on your birthdays to remind you how she gave birth to you?

There isn't an age limit on "best friend-ship," nor is there an expiration date. And the very best ones simply hug you when they see you, and pick up your conversations right where you left them. If you're a cynic, you might say that this is all "relative." Yet, you are exactly right. My best friends do bring out the best in me... and they are very "relative." They are my "family."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Glimpse Of The Good Life

As much as I would love to be, I am no "foodie," nor am I an expert on fine dining.  But I do know what's good; and there's something good going on in The Strip District... it's called Savoy and it truly it lives up to its slogan, "A Glimpse of The Good Life."

Last week, when I got a text message from my good friend (we'll call her SAA), inviting me to a private gathering at Savoy, I was thrilled. I had heard some buzz about the place (Ryan Mundy's face is on the billboards, which is hard to miss), and I hadn't done a "week-night out" with SAA in awhile. Heading downtown, I had no idea that Savoy would inspire The Steel Trap's first Pittsburgh restaurant recommendation. It's important to note that Savoy is about the actual experience (company, atmosphere, dining), so I am taking a holistic approach to this review by covering everything...

Savoy is three seamlessly conceptualized floors of impeccable taste. Normally I balk when a place is compared to Vegas, but I cannot help but observe how Savoy reflects the same decadent ambiance found in Aria. The main level features a bar and the dining room; the lower level is a wine cellar with private lockers and a lush fireplace room for the most intimate of meals (think proposals!); and the upper level is a lounge (with several flatscreens for distraction) that leads to a lovely deck. There is a space for every mood and need; and much like Aria, every detail from the wall coverings to the unique lighting fixtures to the textures meshes together to create the atmosphere in which you can experience "the good life."

After being warmly welcomed by the staff, SAA and I started the evening with wine (from an ideal list); but the bartender, Ty Kerstetter, decided that we needed something more "festive." He presented us with martini glasses filled with pink and blue cotton candy. My initial reaction was, "Dessert first?! Yes!" Then Ty (with a sly smile on his face) dashed my hopes and poured a liquid mixture on top. This was his version of a "Cotton Candy Cosmo," which was nothing short of fabulous. I expected it to be sweet, but instead experienced a tartly traditional "Cosmo." Bliss. 

Before dinner we met the guests of honor, Ving Rhames and Benny-D. And much love to them both (I saw Benny-D in concert later in the week and he was hype...), but Savoy still had center stage despite the celebrity presence.

Now, I have never been to an actual chef's tasting... but I soon realized that it's the perfect situation for me. Typically, I have a hard time ordering, and usually wait for whomever I am with to order before I decide. SAA and I were seated with two other lovely ladies (new friends!), and rather than order our own dinners, Executive Chef Kevin Watson "ordered" our dinners for us... it's addictive to say the least.

Here's the run down.... first we had the Barbecued Shrimp and White Cheddar Grits, and the Fried Calamari and Shrimp which was served with a sundried tomato horseradish sauce. Fried Chicken and Waffles followed the first course, accompanied with corn pudding and Pennsylvania maple syrup. Yes, this chicken and waffles concept lives up to its reputation. I was skeptical at first, but it's downright delicious (look out, IHOP). The next course was a trio of Entrees: Butter Poached Lobster with sea scallops in a fresh basil cream sauce served over pappardelle pasta; Tilapia Piccata with capers, shallots, fresh lemon juice, Italian parsley, pappardelle pasta and asparagus; and Angel Hair Pasta with feta cheese, tomatoes and chicken. After this meal, Chef Kevin could put anything in front of me, and I would eat it. He gained my faith with the shrimp and grits, but earned my trust with the lobster. We moved upstairs to the lounge for the dessert course which was a quad... with a homemade roasted pineapple sorbet as the highlight.

As the night tapered off, owner Chuck Sanders gave us a tour of Savoy, graciously answering all of my questions about the space and the interior design choices. Lastly, he walked us to our cars... which of course, for two gals alone on The Strip, was the night's final "Glimpse of the Good Life."

(four stars, 4/4)

Savoy Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 13, 2011

Don't Leave This Good Fortune On the Table (in bed).

By no means am I superstitious; but, I do have this small "thing" when it comes to fortune cookies. When I get Chinese food (or food from Fuel and Fuddle), I save the fortunes in my wallet. From time to time, I look at the random bits of wisdom, flip them over, and learn words in Chinese (that I will probably never have to use). It's like a magic eight ball, an inspirational greeting card and a Rosetta Stone jackpot! Usually when I am in a waiting room and I am sick of looking at Twitter or facebook, or when I need to send someone a little "pick me up," I open my wallet and see what I've got. It never gets old. Color me quirky.

At the moment, there are nine fortunes in my wallet. Now somewhere, sometime, from someone, I heard that my fortune has a 0% chance of coming true if I don't consume the entire cookie before reading it. So this means that in 2011, I have eaten nine cookies in hopes of gaining some sage advice, some luck, and learning Chinese. Fortunately, they are only about 30 calories each.

Here's what I've got so far (and seriously, this is a great batch):
  • A new venture will be a success. ["daughter"]
  • Love is like a sweet nectarine, good to the last drop. [ "July"]
  • Try to avoid arguing with your elders and superiors. ["dragon" ]
  • A smile is a curve that can get a lot of things straight. ["sheep"]
  • A great pleasure in life is doing what others say you can't. ["family"]
  • A purpose is the eternal condition for success. ["sugar" ]
  • This is a night for love and affection. ["lettuce"... you know, 'cause I like to order those P.F. Chang's Lettuce Wraps n'at when I'm dahn at The Waterfront]
  • It is better to be the hammer than the anvil. ["curry chicken"... General Tso's arch nemesis]
  • Loving is sharing rainbows of happiness. ["toy"... for when I buy "Made in China" toys on my next trip to Taiwan]
Of course, I can be snarky and put "in bed" after each one. Which in most instances will generate a good chuckle out of anyone with a mild sense of humor (the hammer and anvil one especially).

Lastly, I want to share a little vignette from one Christmas while I was in college. I was broke. This is expected of the average college student; but being of a generous nature, I was overly stressed that my Christmas presents would be inadequate (you know... 'cause Xmas is clearly about the presents). At this moment, I cannot recall how I got the idea, but I did make personalized fortune cookies for my family. It's a simple recipe to follow, and you get to write whatever you want on the fortunes... thus, it's an inexpensive, yet thoughtful way to express love (or sarcasm)! Note: I used almond extract... but I am sure that other flavors would taste amazing as well.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Food For Thought: My Frenemy

It's no secret that I have a love/hate relationship with food. There are days when food is my best friend and days when it's my worst enemy (friend + enemy = "frenemy"). Sure, I love Doritos more than any chip on earth; but I also hate them so much that I will crush up an entire bag and pour it down the disposal to avoid the guilt that comes from consuming too much.

Some of my most favorite memories are linked with food: eating cheeseburgers at Hard Rock Cafe in England out of sheer desperation because British food is wretched; enjoying all of the family recipes (hamloaf, cold fried chicken, meringue shells, "heavenly" hot fudge sauce, etc.) that make holidays and being "home" a special time; running to the school cafeteria or camp dining hall to get a grilled cheese; sharing Potato Patch fries at Kennywood with the sound of the Thunderbolt in the background; or even chowing on pickles, Saltines, Triscuit pizzas (gross, but practical) and Diet Cokes in college.

On the flip side, some of my least favorite memories are linked with food as well: hugging the toilet(s) to rid my body of full meals; being overwhelmed with anxiety in dressing rooms; feeling very alone in crowded rooms because a boyfriend was cheating on me with someone "skinnier" and "hotter"; or even laying in bed feeling like my heart would burst through my chest because I took too much ephedrine...

Furthermore, romantic relationships usually start and continue with food... sharing meals can be incredibly intimate and memorable. Just today, I received a text from JTP requesting that we dine together tonight (we've been pretty busy lately). It made my day. Yet, relationships can also end with food. During one break-up, I lost 1/7 of my body weight and chunks of my self-esteem. During another, I lost 1/6.

One comfort to these inconvenient truths is that I am not alone... and for those of you who are similar to me when it comes to food, "food thoughts," "food emotions," and eating disorders, this book is amazing. It addresses our individual needs, regardless of age or gender; because if you are part of the "eating disorderly," you know that nothing is how afterschool specials or Lifetime movies depict. I have never looked in the mirror and perceived myself as "fat." We all have our ups, our downs, and our hybrids of the textbook definitions. The book is called The Slender Trap and is written by a local (PGH) therapist named Lauren Lazar Stern... who happens to be lovely and brilliant. Because of her work and therapeutic style, I have been able to minimize the role that my "frenemy" plays (and will play) in my life and I will be able to stay out of my own personal "slender trap."

Facebook Status Update Rule #17

Facebook Status Update Rule #17 (courtesy of Neil Johnston): Do not share your allergy woes with 300+ of your "closest" friends. Guess what? We have seasonal allergies too. Complaining isn't going to solve your runny nose, itchy eyes, or miserable temperament. I am pretty sure that a CVS just popped up around the corner, and there's probably a Walgreen's across the street. Go there. Buy stuff.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Facebook Status Update Rule #16

Facebook Status Update Rule #16: Do not lie (especially when emotions are involved).

As it turns out,  the MLK quote that circulated on many facebook statuses yesterday was a partial truth. It proves to be a combination of the following two quotations:
  • "Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. ... The chain reaction of evil—hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars—must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation." -Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love
  •  "Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble." -Proverbs 24:17
Nevertheless, I stand by what I wrote yesterday. And quite frankly, I have always been a fan of the Proverbs; so this is a welcome addition to my thoughts. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Darkness Cannot Drive Out Darkness

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."    -Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today, a friend of mine posted this quote as his facebook status (and yes, this is the kind of status update that I wholeheartedly endorse). It was a diamond in the very rough news feed that has been going strong since late last night.  Reading it was both consoling and uplifting, and reminded me of why Dr. King's words are so universal... so truly for the ages. 
And that's all I am going to say about that.