Monday, November 12, 2012

Review: Barcelona at River's Edge

And now, my friends, the time has come for yet another gustatory review, this time of a restaurant in the midst of a renaissance. A chef can make or break a restaurant, there is no way around it. He must combine ingredients, time, and artistry in order to create a masterpiece, and he is under the pressure to do it consistently  day after day. In addition, he must strive to create the new constantly, as he must have a base of patrons who return, and he does not want them bored. All in all, it seems like a monumental Sisyphean task. A great chef can succeed, and make this look easy. A poor chef sinks into the rote, and is sent to oblivion.

I am sure at this point, you are wondering about that overly poetic paean to to practitioners of the culinary arts. The answer is simple: A great chef, like a good woman, is hard to find. Therefore, when you find one, go back.

I was dining recently with my father and mother at Barcelona at River's Edge, a restaurant that has been around for a while. What makes it different is the new Executive Chef, Bernie Bereksazi. A man of culinary experience, he created a meal truly to remember.

We started off the meal with the Charcuterie Plate, a mixture of breads, cheeses, fruit, and meats, an excellent starter, as it is not too heavy, and prepares your mouth for more. A little bit of fig jam on the side definitely highlighted the sharpness of the cheeses, and mellowed out some of the spicier meats like the chorizo.

Moving on to the main course, I ordered the Chicken Romano, as did my Mother, and my father ordered the Paella. Now, long time readers know my opinion of the dish, but I am glad my father ordered it.

In short, the Chicken Romano was divine, crispy, with a perfectly balanced picatta sauce. It was served with Green Beans Almondine, and a phenomenally smooth Mushroom Risotto. I took the opportunity to sample the Paella, and I honestly think my faith has been restored in the dish. The rice was perfect, as was the seafood, including scallops the size of Eisenhower dollars. In truth, I don't think I've ever had a meal that was better prepared.

Finally, we ended up at the final portion of the meal, and the one that my waistline might attest to as my favorite, desert. In this case, I decided to go with one of my favorites, the simple, yet complex Bread Pudding. It was served piping hot, on a pool of Creme Anglaise, drizzled with a caramel sauce. The delicate texture of the pudding was heightened but the interplay of the sauces for a decadent mouth feel. I would gladly walk there barefoot right at this moment for another piece.

In short, this is a phenomenal restaurant, and I hope they, and Chef Bereksazi are there for many years. Be sure to check them out, and give them my compliments. I'll hopefully see you soon there. (See the menu and address at

Until Next Time,

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Extremely Busy, and New Work

I am very sorry that I have not updated this for close to a month, but I have been incredibly busy running from job to job. Some interesting highlights from the past month:

  • Model groom for David's Bridal
  • Art Department Production Assistant for Kitchen Nightmares (on Fox)
  • Puppet at the Pittsburgh Zoo
  • Filling out MASSIVE amounts of paperwork and holding meetings for my theater company Theatre Sans Serif. On the positive side of that, there are three shows ready to move into production.

Of course, while all of this has been going on, I have also been making visual arts, and am naturally continuing in on this process. As I write, I have just finished up the first step in staining the next piece, and I have the aging solution fermenting next to me. Of course, I have included the paintings of the past month below. Four of these paintings below are actually from a new series I have started, called "52 Pick Up" where the goal is to completely re imaging the playing card deck.

Marching, 12"x12", Acrylic on Record, $50

Composition in Red and Blue (After Davis), 8"x10", Acrylic on Canvas

3 of Diamonds, 8"x10", Acrylic on Canvas

10 of Hearts, 8"x10", Acrylic on Canvas

Queen of Hearts, 8"x10", Acrylic on Canvas

9 of Diamonds, 8"x10", Acrylic on Canvas

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Veni, Vidi, Ut Perii.

(Photo Credit: Brooklyn Brewery)

Some people who have been following the blog know that I was competing in the Food Experiments Tour, sponsored by the Brooklyn Brewery. My confidence was high after a really nice Happy Hour with the competitors, followed by a quick shopping trip to Market District to pick up supplies (with the gift card the competition supplied!) It turns out to make 300 pierogies, it takes a bit of shopping. For my recipe, I went with a traditional pierogie, only filled with a mixture of potato, cheese, sauerkraut, and kielbasa. In order to have enough pierogies, it took a total of 15 pounds of flour, 10 pounds of potatoes, 3 dozen eggs, 4 pounds of onions, 2 pounds each of butter, cheese, and sauerkraut, and a pound and a half of kielbasa.

The pierogies were formed by 11:30 Saturday night, and after waking up at 7 am the day of the competition to boil the pasta, and saute the onions, I was ready to compete, alongside mi mama. And compete we did. Now, I could drag out the suspense, but those of you who are versed in Latin already know the answer. I was thoroughly trounced. I was very happy with the pierogies, for making a large amount of a brand new recipe, I was extremely happy. I was even happier whenever I was asked a few (OK, my ego counted, 6) times what restaurant I was with. I at least know the pierogies were edible, as at the end of the day, all of 267 of them were consumed.

At the end of the day, so what if I lost? It was a lot of fun to compete, and I met some great people, and had really great food and beer. And there is some rumor the competition is returning next year. That means I have a year to plan, and my vengeance will be sweet...(insert maniacal laughter here.) Just kidding...or am I?

Until Next Time,

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Dumpling Experiment: Day 2

It is now 5 days until the Pittsburgh Dumpling Experiment, and this led to the next round of training. After yesterday's serviceable trial (good, but somewhat disappointing) I tweaked the recipe. The specific issue with yesterday was the pierogie was 1) flat tasting, and 2) too heavy/ chewy. In order to counteract this, I upped the sodium chloride, and made the dumpling thinner. This seemed to work. And so, I present the results:

Title: Pierogies-Mark II
Positives: These are pierogies, and they are pretty good. I could eat a lot of these.
Negatives: The dough is a little difficult to work with, and as a result, the pierogies need some help in the cosmetics department.
Possible Improvements: I need to reshape them in order to present a better appearance. I think I have the dough down, and now it is time to perfect the filling.
Final Result: Good.

The Dumpling Experiment: Day 1

It is now less than a week away from the Pittsburgh Dumpling Experiment, and I have decided to enter. Now, I can't reveal the full details until the day of the competition, but I have chosen the truly Pittsburgh dumpling to represent in the upcoming culinary battle. However, before I rush too far ahead in excitement, let me take a moment to explain what is going on.

On Sunday the 20th, there will be a competition of amateur chefs in Pittsburgh, with everyone vying for the title of "Best Dumpling." This is part of a larger national tour, where each city has a theme. (

Now, if you have been reading this before, you know I am a fan of pierogies (see here:, so naturally I was excited about this theme. I could finally put those recipes I learned to the test.

In keeping with the theme of training, yesterday was the first of a few test batches, to make sure everything is ready for the competition. I mixed up a batch of dough, and got to folding.

Not bad for a test, and at least they look right. After boiling them, and then adding the butter, I have come to the conclusions.

Title: Pierogies-Mark I
Positives: They look right, and they smell right. They are definitely pierogies, and are edible.
Negatives: The dough is flat and chewy, and they are truly "gut-bombs." These things will sit like a rock in your stomach.
Possible Improvements: I need to up the salt in the dough, and it also needs to be rolled out to be even thinner.
Final Result: Fair.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Record Arts

A few pieces I painted for submission to an upcoming show. Tho only requirement was that the art was to be painted on records. All of these pieces are currently for sale. Here is what I came up with:

Wild West
12" x 12"
Acrylic on Vinyl

12" x 12"
Acrylic on Vinyl

12" x 12"
Acrylic on Vinyl

12" x 12"
Acrylic on Vinyl

Compass Rose
12"x 12"
Acrylic on Vinyl

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Installation Artwork (War is Child's Play)

Mixed media, 8' X 8'
(Each toy soldier corresponds to one member of U.S. or Coalition forces killed in the war in Iraq.)

Mixed Media, 3' X5'


Mixed Media, 1' X 5'


Portfolio Update: War is Child's Play

It is now just about the 3rd month of 2012, and as such I am due to update my portfolio. This is convenient, as my solo show, War Is Child's Play closed this past week. There is an excellent feature of the show at Pittsburgh Urban Media:

And of course, the additions to my portfolio. There will be a following post of the installation pieces from the show:

War Mask
Mixed Media, 18" X 8"X 3"

Love Bomb II
Acrylic on Canvas, 15" X 10"

Love Bomb III
Acrylic on Canvas, 15" X 10"

Love Bomb I
Acrylic on Canvas

Circular Logic

LEGO bricks, 20" X 20" X 18"