Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Hofbrau Quickie

You guys want a quickie??

Every time I go to the Hofbrauhaus in Pittsburgh, I'm cool with it.  Its not amazing, but its good.  The bang for the buck is there (even though we didn't buy last night, thanks to a great friend). 

We went for a boat ride - a boat ride with grownups only.  There are plenty of spots to tie up, but then you've got to walk into the city to get where you want to be.  SouthSide Works was our go-to last night because of the new marina there.  We tied up, hopped out, and were sitting at a table at Hofbrauhaus within 5 minutes.  Chose to sit outside because the weather was phenomenal.

~ Use the No-Wait app
~ Sit outside if the weather is good, it gets so loud inside.  Pick inside if its winter and you want to be in the middle of the chaos (ie. you're there to drink beer)
~ Get the smaller beer, the big beer glass is wicked heavy
~ They have a Gluten Free & a Kid's menu

And do eat?  I'm a big fan of the Works Sampler to get started.  Its a little bit of everything that you probably want to try.  I like schnitzel, so I prefer the Bauern Schnitzel - put beer cheese & ham on it, all good.  IPA-hole went with Wurstplatte.  I was hoping someone would get the weiner art.  No one did.

I didn't take any pictures, so that's it.


Hofbräuhaus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Farm Dinner: Churchview Farm

One of my favorite things to do has rolled around again.  In the spring, Churchview Farm puts together a schedule of farm dinners.  

Its a working farm - think growing plants more than livestock - on 13 acres in the Baldwin section of Pittsburgh.  If you weren't looking for it, you'd never know the farm is there.  Its on a residential dead end street in typical Pittsburgh suburban neighborhood.  Park on the street and start your trek up the gravel driveway.

Churchview Farm supplies fruits, vegetables, herb, eggs, to some of our finest and coolest restaurants.  For their farm dinner series, the chefs come to Churchview to prepare a 5-8 course dinner in the outdoor kitchen for all of the guests. 

This is our second Churchview Farm dinner; we did one last year too.  Chef Keith Fuller (Root 174 , Pork & Beans) did a great vegetarian dinner in 2015.  This year, we chose Chef Kevin Costa, formerly of the Crested Duck Charcuterie and Root 174.  This truly is one of my favorite summer events. 

Chef Costa meets us at the top of that gravel driveway with a welcome cocktail - a very herby cucumber, melon, mint concoction.  Surprise: We were the FIRST ones to arrive!  For the first 45 minutes or so, you can check out the farm and there are some adorable seating areas to hang out.  We plopped down after a walk around, sipped our cocktails, and made some new friends.  Lucky for us, we start chatting with another fun couple, and she's a chef.  So now we have a professional opinion with us.

 We're called over to our seats, a long table with a rustic setup. All of the chairs, dishes, & glasses are mismatched and all come together so perfectly.  The kitchen is open and over to the side where we are encouraged to watch these guys work.

Chef Costa and Churchview's Tara Rockacy greet us, share some background and start pouring the wine for the first course:  Rabbit Pate.  Between each course, Chef gives an overview of what he prepared and is open for questions. 

1st:  Rabbit Pate - great texture, grilled sourdough was wonderful!

1st Course:  Rabbit Pate
Grilled sourdough, herb pistachio pesto, viennese pickles, pecorino

2nd: Tomato Soup - Peaches are perfect and unexpected in the tomato soup.  Adds some sweet acidity to the super smoky soup.

Second Course:  Chilled Smoky Tomato Soup
Toasted almonds, grilled Peaches

3rd: Summer Squash Tart - this might be my favorite of the night. Everything came together so well and ricotta is at the top of my list.

3rd Course:  Summer Squash Tart
Lemon-thyme ricotta, carrot cream
4th:  Duroc Pork Chop - Excellently prepared, juicy, great flavors.  Cabbage was spot on.

4th Course:  Duroc Pork Chop
Grilled cabbage, cauliflower puree, oregano mustard vinaigrette,
spiced walnuts, raspberry demi-glace
5th:  Salted  Butter Semi-freddo - this was so cool, literally.  If you've never had a semi-freddo before, do try. 

5th Course:  Salted Butter Semi-freddo
Candied elderberries, cocoa nibs

 Everything, and I mean everything, was wonderful.  If you're thinking about doing a farm dinner at Churchview or any other, do try it.  We met some great new people, experienced a new chef, had great food, and sat outside while the sun set.  Its one of the coolest things that we hope to continue doing.



Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Prairie: Where'd that cookie go?

Things have changed over in our world.  BabyG is no longer the baby - we have our newest addition and yes, we are already taking him out. He's been good so far, but IPA-Hole and I are not sure how we feel about being outnumbered.  And a table for 5 is a little harder to navigate than a table for 4. Let the fun begin...

This week is Pittsburgh Restaurant Week and I just can't help myself.  A friend and I snag tickets to the preview party.  There are 10 restaurants competing for your votes for the evening - Bangkok Balcony, Bill's Burgers, Chaz & Odette, Istanbul Sofra, Mansions on Fifth, Matteo's, Prairie, Senti, Silk Elephant, & Texas de Brazil - at the Pittsburgh Glass Center.  Sidenote, Pittsburgh Glass Center is a very cool place if you're looking for something different to do.  IPA-Hole blew his own glass ornament at a work event last year, and we forgot to hang it on the tree until after Christmas.

Prairie Fire
Anyway, cool evening - we ate quite a bit and the voted winner was Prairie with Istanbul Sofra as the runner up.  Prairie is passing around this chicken on a stick - fried with something sweet and spicy and perfectly followed up with a pecan chocolate chip cookie.  I'm so impressed with Prairie's showing at the preview party, that I immediately go home, tell IPA-Hole about it while being interrupted a couple times by a wailing newborn, and make a reservation for the two of us for a much-needed night out together 2 days later.  I'm so excited.

A few months ago, I followed up on my post about Verde - as they slid downhill and ended up closing their doors.  Prairie is the next incarnation of Verde - same place, some of the same decor, a long list of tequila that one can only assume is left from the previous venture, and some of the exact same positive and negative we got from Verde.  Dammit.  

For restaurant week, the participants are running prix fixe menus at special prices to encourage you to visit them.  We go for it and here are the selections:

Campfire Mac & Cheese
1st course:  Brussels Sprouts Gratin and Campfire Mac & Cheese
2nd course:  Great Lakes Whitefish and Chicken & a Biscuit
3rd course:  Prairie Cookie & Ice Cream and Bourbon Bread Pudding

Brussels Sprouts Gratin
As I sit, sipping my Short Skirt, Long Jacket - which is sweet and bubbly - I am telling IPA-Hole that I'm so optimistic for this after the glowing party performance and please, please, please don't let me down.  Please.

Campfire Mac & Cheese starts out strong.  The beer cheese, onions, and bacon make comfort food, well, comforting.  Sprouts are good, ever-so-slightly undercooked, but the bacon and parm pick up the slack.  We've started out on the right track.  And then we ever-so-slightly go off the rails.
Chicken & a Biscuit

Great Lakes Whitefish
Starting with the Chicken and a Biscuit - the skin has all the flavor, and its cooked perfectly.  The hash and the biscuit work well together with the chicken, but its all missing something.  Something that ties it together, that makes it outstanding...  And the whitefish?  The whitefish was beautiful and the wild rice, cauliflower and beet puree brought it all together visually. The fish itself was rubbery and undercooked.  Awesome.  The setup was all there and the letdown was HUGE.

 I need another cocktail.  Order up a prairie fire and a bourbon neat.
Bourbon Bread Pudding

Ok, dessert, here's your chance to shine - bread pudding is my fav and I've already had that cookie so I know its fantastic.  Bread pudding shows up first:  sweet, savory, texture is fluffy.  Here comes that cookie with ice cream; now we are back on track.  Yes?  No! No we are not.  The cookie that shows up is not the same cookie as 2 nights before.  Its cakey and fat, not chewy-gooey and flat.  Which is fine as long as you didn't have the first one.  Where'd that cookie go?

Prairie, I beg of you, WHERE WAS THAT COOKIE THAT I HAD THURSDAY AT THE PARTY?!?!?! How did we get mixed up from Thursday to Saturday??? The party was across the street - how did you lose it? I want to love it here, I really truly do.  You'd make a kick-ass local grown, slightly sophisticated, comfort food go-to with a fab cocktail list if you'd just focus on the food. But the cookie, the cookie sealed the deal.  Ugh.
Prairie Cookie

So now what?  Prairie, if you can hear me...  embrace that comfort food and let it be comfortable.  I know its only been a few weeks and I hope you can find your groove.  Your cocktails are great and your potential is high. You wowed me, you did, enough to run home and make a reservation, proving that you have it in you. I know you're new and finding your identity beyond the old Verde.  So go find that chicken and that cookie that you left across the street and put it on the menu! 
Prairie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
For me? 
Lemme know when you find it.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Porch on a Sunday Afternoon

Yes, that's a bird above his head.
Feeding the Lorikeets
IPA-hole and I were running around the city on a Sunday afternoon.  We took the kiddos to the aviary, which is always good fun.  If you've never been there, its great because all of the birds are free in the different rooms, so you're basically walking around in their world.  If you pay attention to the schedule, there are plenty of opportunities for the kids to do hands-on activities, mostly centered around feeding the birds.  Get in line early and buy the cup of nectar for $3 to feed the Lorikeets!  Yeah, I know, some of you think its creepy for birds to walk all over you, but c'mon, the kids think its great - these particular birds are very friendly.

We're getting hungry after all that bird-feeding and trying to think of a kid-friendly option while loading the car on the north side isn't coming easy.  I can think of a whole bunch of spots that I'd like to wander into, but with BigBrother and BabyGray in tow, ain't no way.  There was a time when they would eat whatever we put in front of them, but right now - as every parent dreads - they're in the (use your best child whiney voice) "I don't liiiiike it" phase where everything's taste value is based on how it looks to a 3 year old. And they're hungry and tired.  Awesome.  Find some pizza.  Fast.

Double Dip French Fries
Thank God for smart phones.  What we did before them, I can't recall - the dark ages.  The Porch at Schenley wins in a complex matix analysis of google searches, mental maps, urbanspoon app shaking, and that deck of cards that you could buy on living social a few months ago.  Yup, marketing works on me.

We walk in during that weird time between lunch and dinner.  Winning - there are other kids in the restaurant.  Losing - you can't get the dinner menu for another 40 minutes.  Pizza:  the goal is pizza, stay focused!  But pork belly, cassoulet, and truffle whipped potatoes...  ah, there's the kids' menu. 

To start:  Double Dip French  Fries (w/ parm, truffle oil, garlic aioli) & a Caesar salad
Bianca Pizza
IPA-hole: Beef Burger
Me: Bianca Pizza (Fig, goat cheese, truffle oil, arugula)
the Kids:  Pepperoni & Plain Pizza

Beef Burger
Our server is friendly, the atmosphere is light and airy. It really does feel like you could be sitting on someone's porch. The beer menu looks good - flights, floats - IPA-hole is satisfied, and with his burger & taters as well.  In his words, "simple, not over-engineered."  Everybody likes the fries and I think all fries should have truffle oil and then garlic aioli.  Kids are happy with pizza, not a tough crowd here.  I learned something new: I like figs, I like goat cheese, I like black truffle oil.  Please put them on a wood-fired pizza and we have a sweet and savory combination that just works.

It was a simple and casual meal, down to the lemonade.  The food was good, the restaurant itself was so bright and open, and everything was tasty.  I'll be honest, the big win here is the kids menu.  There aren't tons of choices that have great menus and kids menus.  I mean, my kids will order the cobia or lobster tails if offered, but sometimes I just want them have  pizza and lemonade.
Kid's Pizza

The Porch at Schenley on Urbanspoon


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Kaleidoscope Cafe

Kaleidoscope Cafe
Per usual, we keep looking for new or little-known restaurants to try.  I've been pushing for Kaleidoscope Cafe for quite sometime.  I figured it's in Lawrenceville, where a lot of hot spots are right now, and they show on their website an attention to vegetarian and gluten free options.  So on trend, and important to some members of the entourage, that we figured it'd be worth trying.

Industry Public House
Well, its winter and its cold outside.  And not knowing, we pull into a parking lot on Butler St, while Kaleidoscope is quite a few blocks off of Butler - so park in their lot.  Anyway, we have some time before our reservation and we are waiting on some members of our party.  We first walk into Tender for a drink.  No room at the Inn - they turn the 4 of us away for drinks.  This is not the first disappointment for me at Tender, but I was surprised, being that we were only there for a drink.  They don't allow people to congregate around the bar - you have a seat or you don't get a drink, apparently. 

So we run across the street to Industry, which hasn't let us down yet.  Their drink menu is extensive and it truly is fun to watch the bartenders work.  Rhuby Rhuby Rhuby was sweet and light - good for just about anybody.  The Menlo Park was delish and fun to watch him make.  We had Carnegie Cucumber, Tesla's Coil, and for entertainment, order a Smokestack or a Kentucky Holiday.  I don't know how they taste, but fun to watch them being made.
Oven Roasted Salmon

So we walk for what seems like forever down to Kaleidoscope.  When you walk in, it's awkward - with a glass counter and a little room that make you feel like you walked into a deli or something.  We felt like we were in the wrong place, which isn't a good start for a restaurant at 7pm on a Saturday night.

We get our table - the dining room is small, cluttered,  and dark and the decor gives an eclectic and homemade vibe.  The stand-out here are the tables which have been created by local artists and are for sale.  But the walls need to be painted, the layout is uninviting, and the homemade fabric covered triangles on the wall are tired. 

So what did we eat? 

Apps: Duck Cannoli, Deep Fried Gnocci, Chicken Apple Sausage
Saute of Chicken Apple Sausage
Duck Cannoli

Deep Fried Gnocci

The Cow Jumped Over the Blue Moon Pasta
Dinner:  The Cow Jumped Over the Moon Pasta
     Chicken Pot Pie
     Sweet Potato Tagliatelle
Sweet Potato Tagliatelle
     Oven Roasted Salmon
     Scallop Beurre Noisette  
Chicken Pot Pie
 I wish a I could, but I can't rave about the food.  I think the Cow Jumped Over the Moon Pasta was the best, with Gorgonzola cream sauce.  Everything we tasted had great elements to it but nothing was quite perfected - and seemed to be missing something.  Brie was key the Sausage appetizer.  The tagliatelle had a cool twist - it wasn't pasta made with sweet potatoes, but the sweet potatoes were made to be the pasta.  This had a great texture and flavor, and was surprisingly good.   The scallops were also very tasty, but again, were just missing a little something to make the restaurant worthy, especially in this city with so many choices.  Chicken Pot Pie and Salmon were not exciting at all. Same with the cannoli and the gnocci.
Scallops Beurre Noisette

While the whole experience was good, it wasn't great.  From the descriptions on the menu and the artsy-funk decor, I guess I was expecting some more pizazz.   We didn't get it in the food.  It seems like Kaleidoscope is going for homey and familiar, but missing the mark a bit.  I can see how this is a good place to have lunch delivered at work, but other than that, I wouldn't make a night out of it.

Kaleidoscope Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 5, 2015

Ten Penny - meh, not a 10

I've tried to get to Ten Penny on 3 separate occasions.  For the record, don't try to get there during the Pittsburgh Marathon.  It won't happen.  I guess the 4th time was a charm.

So you hear its new, its hip, the location is great and brunch is catching on in Pittsburgh. The name is perfect - on 10th and Penn.  Clever.  But, while the concept, ambiance and decor were fantastic, the food was just good.  With so many great and outstanding options in the area, its going to be difficult for us to recommend Ten Penny for dinner over other restaurants.

We went before a Penguins' game.  The restaurant was full of people heading to the game, so the attire was relaxed.  There is a valet - it's $10 and takes a while, so if you can park across the street it might be worth it.  My car was too big for the valet kid to handle, but that's another story.
Duck Breast

There were six in our party, so we were able to try quite a few different appetizers and dishes and they were good, however, nothing knocked us out.  For everything we ordered, I think I can quickly name another restaurant close by that does it better.  I truly wished it would have offered some gems because the restaurant itself is very cool.

Seared Sea Scallops
On the table:

 ~ Mega Meatball app
 ~ Pork Belly app
 ~ Duck Breast
 ~ Lamb Shank
 ~ Ahi Tuna
 ~ Seared Scallops
 ~ Stuffed Chicken Breast

Lamb Shank
Everything was good - it was.  It was prepared well, had tasty flavor combinations.  I don't think any of us would have turned our choices away if you put them in front of us again, but I'm not running back. Our server was attentive, the drinks were great, the wine list was decent, beer selections were good.   Nothing knocked my socks off.  I think it'd be a great place to grab a drink or two and an appetizer.  When you're positioned to compete with the likes of Butcher and the Rye (better Pork Belly), Meat and Potatoes (better duck), Emporio (better meatballs), Six Penn (same name play, better lamb) - I could go on - kick it up a few notches.

Bummer.  I guess we'll have to try brunch and see what happens.  Meh...

Ten Penny on Urbanspoon

 ~ CDO

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Nicky's Thai Kitchen

Tom Kha
Somehow, some way, I managed to try so many things from Nicky's Thai Kitchen menu last night!  I was so proud of myself! 

Nicky's Thai Kitchen is on Penn Ave downtown.  I don't know how long its been there, or how many times I've walked or driven past.  Its through a narrow door (that you'll probably miss if you're not really looking for it) with all kinds of Thai statutes and sculptures, paintings, and art covering most of the walls.  Its tight in there, but I feel like it added to the experience - I kinda felt like it was better and more authentic with more people around.  Proximity also made it much easier to creep on everyone else's dinner choices.

After staring at the extensive menu, and then the additional special menu,for about a half hour or more, we were able to come to some decisions.

Spring Roll
Apps:  Fresh Spring Roll, Peanut Fried Tofu, Tom Kha, Appetizer Sampler

Peanut fried tofu
Vegahimsa:  Vegan Duck Curry
OnionHater:  Pad Thai
EasyD:  Shrimp Salad
Chickie:  Pork Fried Rice
CDO:  Nicky's Thai Sampler

Appetizer Sampler
Vegan Duck Curry
The appetizer sampler had egg rolls, dumplings, crab rangoons, shrimp toast, curry shrimp cakes, and chicken satay.  If you like this kind of thing, and its available (was on the special menu), I would go for it, we managed to get a couple bites of so many things with coordinating sauces. The Spring Roll and Peanut Fried Tofu are vegetarian options on the table.  Peanut sauce is on the tofu and the chicken satay - delicious enough that we started putting it on other things.  Tom Kha is light, creamy, and unique - if you like subtle coconut, try this.

So the most interesting of choices was the Vegan Duck Curry.  How on earth does that work, you ask?  Its a Vegan duck, as in not a quack-quack duck, but a duck made out of something else.  Then, you cook it in traditional Thai fashion with curry and veggies and you're now eating a vegan duck curry.  Fascinating, isn't it? 

Pad Thai
Pad Thai was delicious, Pork Fried Rice also delicious.  Both safe and yummy go-to options. If you're new to Thai food and not ready to jump full force into a vegan duck or a #8 curry, you will not go wrong here. For those not familiar with the number system, at Thai restaurants, they ask for your heat-level in number form on a 1-10 scale (curry starts at 3).  OnionHater, without thought,  blurted out #7 on Pad Thai as she ordered, to which we all gasped and she quickly retracted.  Remember, you can make it spicier, but I'm not sure if you can bring it down.

Nicky's Combo
I was ready for it, I know my number - its a 4 - and I went in for the Nicky's Combo.  So smaller portions of some staples - Tom Yum soup, fried rice, Pumpkin Curry (shrimp), & Duck Curry. My personal favorite was most definitely the duck, but the whole concept of this plate made it a great idea.  I had Duck Curry and fried rice for breakfast this morning and IPA-hole hovered until I finally gave in and let him have the rest of the pumpkin curry leftovers.  He's raving too.
Pumpkin Custard w/ black sticky rice

Custard w/ sticky rice
Back to last night, we did dessert.  All variations on the same - custard and sticky rice.  One was regular custard and white sticky rice, pumpkin custard and black sticky rice, and then just pumpkin custard.  Black sticky rice wins.  There is something so addicting about black sticky rice!  It doesn't look like what it tastes like - sweet, sticky, chewy, awesomeness.

So, I'm having Tom Yum soup for lunch tomorrow.  With everything, I barley touched it last night.  This was a great place to grab a bit.  Loved it!  Enjoy!

Nicky's Thai Kitchen on Urbanspoon~ CDO