Tag Archives: food

Perfect tacos take out @SMOKEbbqtacos

19 Mar

Tacos are trendy in Pittsburgh right now.  I don’t mind trends.  Trends mean intense focus on quality and creativity.  How can you lose with that?

It’s probably a good thing that Smoke Taqueria is cash only.  I never have cash.  And if they took cards, I’d probably be getting tacos there every single day.

On Friday night, like most Friday nights, Mr. Beez and I were beat.  The idea of cooking dinner was just too much.  Even mac & cheese was too much effort.  Tacos from Smoke were perfect.

If I had the self-restraint of a normal person, two tacos would have been more than enough to fill my belly.  I, however, have no such thing.  Three tacos it must be!  I had the wagyu brisket, the roast pork, and the chicken and apple.  The tortillas are pillowy and the meat juicy and flavorful. Each of them were divine.  Mr. Beez also had the wagyu brisket and roast pork, but for his third taco opted for the lamb taco on special for the evening.  That taco had gyro-style toppings, but the meat was chunks of lamb (instead of gyro mystery meat).  I didn’t pick it because I assumed that the lamb would be gyro style.  When I learned that it was actually chunks of meat, I was very jealous of his meal choice.

Smoke has a pretty small dining room.  Due to the uncertainty of dining space and our banshee of a toddler, we always opt for take out.  Smoke makes everything fresh, so that can mean a wait.  It is worthwhile to call in ahead of time, instead of having to wait around in the dining room.  Their menu isn’t available online, but they will email it to you if you call. Go for it!

SMOKE Barbeque Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Oodles of Noodles at Ramen Bar

11 Mar

One evening last week I just wasn’t feeling it.  I was feeling sickly (that’s been a theme this winter apparently), I was tired, and I just didn’t have it in me to cook dinner.  I texted my Mr. Beez, “I want nooooodle soup!”  Lucky for us, Ramen Bar recently opened in Squirrel Hill, and we love us some ramen.

The menu is not yet available online, but that was hardly an issue. I told Mr. Beez to just pick up whatever. As long as I got noodle soup, I’d be happy.  Mr. Beez, in his usual fashion, spoiled me.  He picked up two ramen bowls for me– the pork & garlic bowl and the kimchee bowl.

Ramen Bar is generous with the meat and veggies. In the case of the pork and garlic bowl, there was clove after clove after clove of stinky delicious garlic.  Mr. Beez had the Tom Yum soup, he said it was very good, but he was ogling the pork and garlic bowl I had, and wished he’d have ordered the pork and garlic instead.  This noodle soup hit the spot.  I followed it up by crashing at about 7pm. Soup and sleep are perfect on a sicky day.

I had the kimchee soup for lunch the next day, and it too was awesome. Big chunks of chicken, stinky but not too spicy kimchee, chewy tasty noodles.  Ramen bar is going to be in heavy rotation in our takeout selection.

Ramen Bar on Urbanspoon

Green Pepper, YUM YUM

19 Feb

Green Pepper has a funny little hold on Mr. Beez and my hearts, because it is in the location that formerly housed Sweet Basil (a Thai & Filipino restaurant), where we had our first date. Misplaced nostalgia aside, Green Pepper holds its own with delicious Korean fare and a friendly neighborhood vibe.

I feel the need to get this out of the way early on:  Green Pepper’s website and menu are peppered in weird disclaimers.  I totally get that they are trying to be upfront, but being that upfront can be off-putting.  Don’t let that scare you away.  The proprietors are friendly and normal, and hope that you will be a courteous diner.

Now lets get to the food:

We left a party early that evening and still had time before the babysitter had to go home, so we were thrilled to get a chance for a grown up meal.  Mr. Beez opted for the spicy bulgogi.

He loved it.  I can’t ever get enough of the millions of side dishes that seem to come with every Korean meal, and I chowed down those tasty noodles before he had a chance to tell me to go away.

I went for my usual–the bi bim bap. Oh how I LOVE bi bim bap.  I’m not a “the usual” kind of diner.  I want to try something new every time I’m at a restaurant. I just love bi bim bap so darn much that I can’t help but order it when it is an option.

The food was prepared quickly and was fresh and tasty. And that kimchi? Made in house. And delicious.  It was tangy and a little spicy. Not that gummy jarred nonsense.

Although we didn’t have more drinks that evening, the one thing I want to scream from the rooftops about Green Pepper is that they are not BYOB, but they do not rip you off with the wine prices either!  I should probably be ashamed of this, but I drink enough cheap wine that I can usually spot it right off when a restaurant is trying to charge me $40 for a bottle that costs $7 at the state store.  Green Pepper doesn’t serve fancy wines, but they don’t try to charge you like they are fancy wines either.  A bottle of good ol’ Yellowtail only runs you $15 at Green Pepper.  Sure it’s a markup, but the place has to make a buck, and I respect that they’re not trying to go hog wild in the process.

Green Pepper also has karaoke set up if you’ve got a mind to belt a few tunes.  Mr. Beez was not (and is never) up for such things, so we gave it a pass that evening, but next time! Next time! All of Squirrel Hill will share in my vocal stylings.

Green Pepper has all the elements of an awesome neighborhood hangout.  It’s a shame that it was so quiet there on the Friday night we visited.  It’s a great place, and it deserves to be hoppin.

Green Pepper on Urbanspoon

A Belly-Filling Brunch .@TinFrontCafe

17 Feb

A few weeks back, the Beez family piled into the car, rolled down the High Level Bridge, and joined friends for brunch at the Tin Front Cafe. Baby Beez is an early napper and brunch time tends to be the witching hour.    We got lucky on this particular Sunday and she behaved more like a baby than a banshee. We managed to have a charming brunch.

I kicked things off with a generously-portioned bloody mary.

Salty, tomato-y and all things wonderful.  They also offer one with horseradish infused vodka, but I was afraid that the kick was more than my delicate sinuses could handle.

The Tin Front Cafe has a varied menu of hearty stick-to-your ribs vegetarian fare, but I also love that they have a small buffet that goes along with your brunch entree.  On this particular day they offered chili with chili-toppings and cornbread, potatoes, salad, cookies and to die for banana chocolate chip mini muffins.  The mini buffet was a lifesaver for brunching with a toddler.  Toddlers, and Baby Beez is no exception, are not known for their patience when hungry. We always order for her as soon as we are seated, but it was nice to be able to give her some food immediately.

For my entree I went for the polenta with ratatouille and veggie sausage.  It was a very cold day outside, and this selection was delicious and belly filling.

Along with the typical brunch fare of french toast, pancakes etc, there was a breakfast burrito on that menu that I was dying to try (next time! next time!). As Greenfielders, Tin Front is super close in Homestead.  The on street parking is very easy on Sunday mornings.  The cafe staff were friendly and attentive.  The cafe was all around excellent.  Tin Front is a brunch gem.
The Tin Front Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Sandwich of my Dreams @BlueBirdKitchen

11 Feb

Sandy has long been singing the praises of Bluebird Kitchen’s chicken salad sandwich.  The Post-Gazette added its voice to the choir in a hunger-inducing article about local sandwich shops.  I’ve never had much of an opinion about chicken salad.  I don’t dislike it. I don’t care much one way or another about it.  But with all these devoted chicken salad fans, it was time to try this sammie out.

Oh my goodness.

Seriously.

This is a perfect sandwich.  The croissant is flaky, just a tiny bit crunchy, and not soggy in the slightest.  The chicken was for-real roast chicken, flavorful and delicious.  The mayonnaise was creamy, and lacked that off-putting tang that usually keeps me away from mayonnaise.  The chicken salad featured tasty apple chunks and cashews.  Wow. What a sandwich.  I could eat these every minute, every day.

The one mistake I made was chomping down on a cookie sandwich along with the sandwich.  The sandwich is incredibly rich and filling.  Going for the sugar cookie sandwich filled with vanilla creme was just way too much.  I’m sure the cookie is wonderful on its own, but it was too sweet, too rich, just all around too much to go along with that sandwich.  A side green salad, though, might not be a bad option.  The sandwich is decadent, and anything else rich alongside it will just be overwhelming.

I don’t know how I’m going to convince myself not to wander on down to Market Square for one of these sandwiches every single day for the rest of forever.

Bluebird Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Pastries Savory and Sweet at Bubble Pi Baking Arts

9 Feb

Bubble Pi baking arts is a tiny Asian bakery on a somewhat unfortunate stretch of Murray Avenue.  I say unfortunate because parking is tricky around there and it’s on the steep slope of the hill.  I am lazy and don’t want to walk far to my car, much less up a hill.  I had an appointment at Eyetique, two doors away, and it was perfect timing to check out Bubble Pi.

Many of the pastries were unfamiliar to me.  I have been told that Lin, the owner, is Taiwanese, but that her baked goods cover many different Asian countries.  Basically, I didn’t know what a lot of the stuff was, and I was shy about asking her a lot of questions.  She happily suggested that I try the fresh out of the oven cookies. I did get one (and I swear I took a picture of it, but I have no idea what happened to the picture…), and it was chewy and chocolaty and very delicious.

Wanting to branch out into something less familiar, I picked this pastry.  I have no idea what it was….

It was DELICIOUS.  It was like nothing I have ever tasted before, and I loved it.  It was a savory pastry with a little tang to it.  This pastry for sure was worth the hassle of parking on that annoying sloped section of Murray Avenue.  Sometimes a blind leap of faith has great results.

In chatting with friends after my visit, I’ve been told that the Japanese Cheesecake is also excellent.  I’m going to have to stop in again soon and just buy a bunch of stuff.  Who cares whether I know what it is? It’s bound to be good.

Bubble Pi Baking Arts on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Week Lunch @MartysMarketPgh @PghRestaurantWk

6 Feb

Following the fantastic blogger dinner at Alma, my pal Lisa and I decided to meet up for a Restaurant Week lunch.  We picked Marty’s Market, since neither of us had been there before and were both eager to try it out. 

I got there a little early and kicked things off with a latte.  Marty’s Market is serious about their coffee, both in the quality of the product and the execution of the drink.  The barista was SUCH a barista! He had a beard and a jacket with suede elbow pads. I wanted to take a picture of him making the drink because it was just so stereotypical coffee house (of the friendly variety, he was not snobby), but I didn’t want to be a creeper.  The latte was delicious and pretty and everything wonderful.

Lisa and I both opted for the price fixe lunch, and actually made the same selections for each course.  The first course was a beet salad.  From the menu, I assumed it would be a salad made primarily of beets, not a green salad with beets on top of it.  Even though I was confused about the dish, it was a good salad.  I’m always happy when a green salad is not the same old iceberg/tomato/onion song and dance, and this salad was made of fancy curly lettuce and was generously portioned.  While generously portioned entrees put me in a battle with my waistline, I’m always thrilled to get a generously portioned salad.

The entree was boef bourginion (spelled incorrectly, I’m sure).  Let’s just say French beef stew.  The noodles were fresh and cooked perfectly.  The stew as a whole was hearty and a good tummy filler for this cold day.  Although Marty’s has a good start on this recipe, it does need a little tweaking.  The broth needed a stronger flavor, probably more onions.  I added salt to the dish, which is something I very rarely do.  It was not a bad dish by any means, it just needs some work before it can be considered a really great one. 

The finale really stole the show.  The pot au creme was just delicious.  I’m wary of cacoa nibs because I don’t much like dark chocolate, but they, along with the dollop of creme fraiche, perfectly complemented the thick, flavorful pudding.  The dish was perfectly portioned that your sweet tooth was completely satisfied, but you’re not overwhelmed by too much dessert. 

I would happily return to Marty’s Market cafe.  The food was high quality, the service fast and attentive, and it was an all around great place.  I like that there is a parking garage right there, so you won’t have to drive in circles around the strip district to park your car.  Also, since it’s not a parking garage exclusively for Marty’s, you can park there, grab a bite at Marty’s, then go wander down to the strip for more shopping.  Marty’s recently has been offering a number of events like butchering demonstrations and wine tastings.  I need to get there soon, because I’m sure they are excellent.

Marty's Market, LLC on Urbanspoon

MLK Day QT at The Dor-Stop and Potomac Bakery

22 Jan

Baby Beez’ daycare was closed yesterday for MLK day.  I have been avoiding restaurants with her lately because she is 2, and she acts like she is 2, and that’s just a recipe for misery for everyone.  Yesterday seemed like a good day to test the waters at a loud, fast diner so we went to the Dor-Stop.  And there is hope! She was so well behaved, that I’ve got a little spark of hope that maybe we’re coming out of the too-destructive-for-restaurants phase!

The Dor-Stop is everything there is to love about a diner– greasy hearty food, fast service, good prices, and waitresses that call you “sweetie.”   That steak and eggs hit the spot. After stuffing ourselves with delicious diner food, we stopped across the street at the Potomac bakery for some sweets.  What a lovely morning.

Dinner with the In Laws at Marisqueira Mediterranean Bistro

21 Jan

Boy do I love Marisqueira Mediterranean Bistro. Mr. Beez and I visited here a few months ago with our friend Krista and fell in love with the hearty, rich Portuguese fare. Although the menu is full of exotic Portuguese dishes, their explanations were accessible. Lots of meat, fish, soups and salads in flavorful sauces and spices.

I started the evening off with a glass of Carmenere. I’ve been loving Carmenere recently. I’m not really sure why. I went through a Shiraz phase, then a Malbec phase, then a Pinot Noir phase and now I’m on to Carmenere. Of course, whatever phase I’m in, I’ll never turn down a nice glass of red wine.

I kicked off my meal with the hearts of palm salad. The salad is enormous. A vegetarian could select it as a full entree, or it could easily be shared as a starter by two or three people. The veggies were crisp and fresh. The green dressing complemented them nicely. The salad was lightly dressed- just enough for flavor, and not so much that it made it soggy. I am a glutton so I ate the whole darn thing, but it’s definitely a healthy salad– all vegetables, and not heavy cheeses or other fatty things.


Mr. Beez and his parents all had the mahi mahi special. The portions were generous and the fish, rice and vegetables all delightful. So much rich, complex flavor.


I ordered the shrimp with piri-piri sauce. It, too, was awesome. The sauce is a tiny bit spicy, but just enough to give it a little kick, not too much for my wimpy self.

The service at Marisqueira is paced at a European-style pace. The folks at the table next to us were whining that it was slow, but I did not agree with them. It’s paced so that you can savor your meal, chat comfortably, and not feel pushed out the door. That being said, make sure to have a couple of hours set aside for a dinner there, because they do take their time. Marisqueira is owned by the same folks who own Ibiza and Mallorca, and is by far my favorite of the three. Marisquiera’s menu is exotic enough to please adventurous eaters, but also accessible enough that less daring folk will feel comfortable with their selections.  It’s certainly a show-off kind of place,  the kind of place it’s a pleasure to bring out-of-town guests, to show off the deliciousness that this city has to offer.

Marisqueira Mediterranean Bistro on Urbanspoon

Blogger Dinner @AlmaPgh, Last Call for @PghRestaurantWk

19 Jan

Attending the first Pittsburgh Restaurant Week blogger dinner was one of the highlights of my summer. I met lots of cool people who were just as enthusiastic about the Pittsburgh dining scene as I am, I got to chat with the chef about his thoughts, and I had some excellent grub. When Restaurant Week Winter 2013 was announced, I was thrilled to see the food blogger dinner on the agenda again.

This time the dinner was hosted by Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen. I have eaten at Alma before, and my previous impression is that their fare was tasty and satisfying, but did not find the restaurant to particularly stand out. This time around, they really brought their A game (I guess that’s what will happen when you’re hosting a dining room full of amateur critics), and we had a really excellent meal.

The evening started out with a cocktail hour hosted by PG Plate. The wine was flowing and the conversation was cheerful. I got to meet some new people and it was an all around nice way to kick things off.

20130119-192945.jpg

Alma’s owners, Jamie and Heather, shared with us the trials and joys of owning their own restaurant, and their experiences bringing new varieties of cuisine to often-change-resistant Pittsburgh (btw, they also own Abay, which is delicious and excellent, and it’s been far too long since I was last there…)

20130119-193920.jpg

Mr. Beez and I were thrilled to partake in the price fixe menu that Alma was offering in celebration of restaurant week.

20130119-192953.jpg

I started off with the Brazilian chicken and rice soup.  It was excellent.  I eat a lot of soup but I’m not usually enthusiastic about it.  Soup is just soup.  But this soup was very hearty and full of rich flavor.  I hope this is (or will be) part of their permanent menu.

20130119-192935.jpg

The theme for the night was apparently FLAVOR, and my entree was full of it! I had pork line with mashed white sweet potatoes and a plantain chip.  The meat was expertly seasoned, and every bite was lively.  I usually like to try new things every time I visit a restaurant, but the pork was so delicious that I would absolutely rather order it than anything else.

20130119-193001.jpg

Mr. Beez had the chicken, which also had vibrant flavors.  Although Alma is a Pan-Latin restaurant, the food was not spicy (which is great for me, I can’t take the heat), just flavorful and tasty.

20130119-193010.jpg

For dessert, Mr. Beez opted for the molten chocolate cake with cinnamon ice cream. That  dessert was GOOD, and it was just the right size so that you got a satisfying serving of it, but no so large that you got all sugared up and lost the effect.

20130119-193019.jpg

I had the fresh made raspberry sorbet.  It was a great sorbet, but not a chocolate cake. I was in the mood for sorbet, and loved the sorbet when I started eating it, but then Mr. Beez gave me a taste of his chocolate cake and I was all full of envy of his selection.

20130119-193027.jpg

Mr. Beez and I had such a lovely evening chatting with Quelcy of With the Grains, and her special one, Gabrielle of Primped in Pgh, and Alex of Everybody Loves You.  I would have absolutely loved to mingle and meet more people, but the space was a little limited, so that was hard to do.  Alma did a lovely job of hosting all these food snobs.  Every review I’ve read so far has been rave.

Tomorrow is the very last day of this Restaurant Week, so you better get out there quickly if you want to catch the specials!  There will be another one in the summer, but on these cold January days, summer is oh so far away.

Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen on Urbanspoon