Tag Archives: Pittsburgh

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

Pittsburgh St Pats Parade

18 Mar

Mr. Beez was a band geek in high school and marched in the Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day Parade several times.  There are tons of Irish people in Pittsburgh, and the Pittsburgh parade is the second largest in the country (NYC is No. 1).  The St. Patrick’s Parade holds a special place in Mr. Beez’ heart, and he gets very excited for it every year.

I tried my darndest to be on my best behavior.  Mr. Beez always graciously goes along with things I want to do, even if he is not interested in the slightest.  I, on the other hand, wear my heart on my sleeve and have a very hard time keeping it in when I am not happy to be doing something.  On this particular morning I was freezing my buns off, tired, and constantly getting jostled by obnoxious drunk people.  It was hard for me to not be a jerk, but Mr. Beez said that I did not totally ruin his time.

Baby Beez seemed to like the parade ok.  Like me, she was freezing cold.  But she did have fun watching all the commotion.

She was a big fan of the loud, big trucks, the Irish dancers, and the dogs (there were Irish Setters, Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds and others). 

She didn’t pay much mind to the hordes of revelers.  I’m talking HORDES.

I think I could learn to love the St. Patricks Day Parade if: (1) it were warmer, (2) it were warmer, and (3) it weren’t so overrun with drunk people.  I understand it’s St. Patrick’s day, and drinking is part of the festivities, but it made me a little on edge worrying that someone was going to wallop my kid.  I’m generally not the kind of person who expects that kids should be welcome everywhere.  Would I take my kid to East Carson Street on St. Patrick’s day? No.  Would I take my kid to Market Square on St. Patricks day (even though they’ve promoted it the last couple years as “family friendly”)? No.  But I don’t think it’s too unreasonable to bring her to a parade. 

This grouchy post goes with my grouchy theme for the day.  I was grouchy yesterday about the victim blaming and completely inappropriate sympathy for the defendants in the Steubenville trial (See Hello Ladies for a perspective that actually gets it right).  I’m still grouchy today because IT IS SNOWING OUT and even if you don’t believe that groundhog, WINTER IS SUPPOSED TO BE OVER. Grouch grouch grouch grouch grouch.

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

Comfort Food, All the Way @BurgatoryBar

6 Mar

I planned to do a post that is actually not about food today, but then the snow came pouring down, and it’s so cold and dreary out, that I just couldn’t help myself.  It’s time for comfort food.

When Pittsburgh jumped on the burger craze bandwagon a couple years back, the local burger mainstays of Tessaro’s and Fat Heads were joined by the likes of BRGR, Burgatory and Wingharts Burger and Whiskey Bar.  I’ve diligently made my rounds to all of them, and must say that Burgatory is my favorite.  The downside of Burgatory is that it seems to be everyone’s favorite.  The last time I wanted to go there for dinner on a Saturday night, I looked up their online reservation page and the wait was five hours.  Suspecting that this absolutely must be some kind of website glitch (why would a restaurant even keep a five hour waiting list?) I called. It wasn’t a glitch. The wait really was five hours.  Needless to say, we didn’t get dinner there that night, and we don’t have the opportunity to go very often.

On the way home from the airport on Monday evening, I needed Burgatory. Like to my very core. There would be no making it home if there was no stop at Burgatory first.  Lucky for us, at 7 pm on this Monday evening, there was no wait whatsoever. 

I spend entirely too much time reading and drooling over the specials listed in Burgatory’s twitter feed.  I was dying to have the Chai shake that was on special for last weekend, but sad for me, the weekend shake specials really are limited to the weekend.  I was brokenhearted, but opted for the Prantl’s Burnt Almond Torte shake instead, spiked nicely with Amaretto.  It was sweet and creamy and everything that makes an excellent shake excellent.  I’m usually a chocolate shake drinker, but the almond flavor of this shake was delightful.  My only complaint about the shake is that I can’t finish it without getting ill.  The shake is enormouse milkshake size, and comes with the mixer cup with even more shake in it.  It’s perfect for sharing, but Mr. Beez and I don’t have matching shake tastes. It would be perfect if they could offer a 12 oz mini shake.  Until then, I’ll just have to leave a lot of shake pathetically un-drunk. Ah well.

I love that they offer a make-your-own burger option, with a huge variety in toppings, sauces, rubs, etc.  Too bad for me that I get too excited about ALL THE TOPPINGS and want everything, and inevitably end up with some disgusting combination of like guacamole, pancetta and a fried egg with kona coffee rub.  Yeesh.  Mr. Beez goes for the pick-your-own menu, and since I am unskilled at such selections, I stick to the menu.  I went for the Meat Your Maker burger, which featured dry aged wagyu beef with a sweet onion crust, gruyere, roasted tomatoes, field greens and truffled shallot aioli.  It was heavenly. I could go for another one right now.

Because Mr. Beez and I fail at parenting (or from Baby Beez’ perspective, we are awesome) we let Baby Beez have her own vanilla milkshake.  This meant that she totally ignored her hot dog, carrots, and chips. But I guess it’s not all a loss. She got plenty of dairy that night from the shake. Healthy bones, healthy teeth, folks!

Burgatory Bar on Urbanspoon

Adventures in Fire and Glass at .@pghglasscenter

1 Mar

I’ve been intending to take a workshop at the Pittsburgh Glass Center for ages and ages and ages (it was on my 30 before 30 list), and finally got around to it a couple weeks ago.  Sandy and I signed up for the paperweights class.  We were very excited about it, and then I got there and realized I had no idea what I was doing, and there was lots of fire, so I made lots of nervous faces like this:

See, lots of hot fiery things.

The class was very basic.  If you can follow basic instructions like “do not put your hand on molten glass” and have reasonable impulse control, you can successfully complete this workshop.  The class begins with a demonstration of how to make a paperweight.  Even though paperweights are very pretty and complex looking, they take only about 10 minutes to make.  The class is scheduled for 2 hours because the instructors take the care to walk each student through the steps individually.  This results in all students successfully making a pretty paperweight, and all students not being horribly burned to a crisp.  Everybody wins. 

The Glass Center offers all kinds of different glass workshops, including glassblowing, mosaics, etc, and these classes vary in skill level from the most basic beginner to advanced techniques.  The classes are a little pricy (our 2 hour workshop was $70), but the Glass Center opens its doors for FREE during “Hot Jam” on the first Friday of every month (as part of Penn Ave Unblurred). 

The Glass Center is a perfect venue to go on a date or out with friends for an event that’s just a little different than the usual dinner or happy hour.  I’m definitely glad we went and would love to take more classes.  I wish I had the time to take their classes that run over multiple sessions, but since I don’t have the time for that, I am very thankful that they offer one-off workshops that I can plug into my schedule here and there when I have a little time for some creativity.

 

A Kid Friendly Visit to the HBH .@HofbrauhausPitt

28 Feb

Pittsburgh’s Hofbrauhaus (yes, a sister outpost of the Munich original) has been a happy hour hot spot since it’s opening.  It’s plenty loud, it’s got plenty of beer, and it’s cleaner than Hemingways, so what’s not to like?  Mr. Beez loves Oktoberfest and the HBH.  I typically run lukewarm with it.  I won’t refuse to go there, but it’s not where we’re going when it’s my turn to pick.

We had a groupon to burn there (because I am a sucker and buy every single groupon that comes on sale), and since it is not valid for Saturday use, we decided to try it out on a weeknight.  Feeling adventurous, or perhaps foolish, or perhaps tired and just wanting someone else to cook our dinners, we strolled in around 6pm on a Monday.  Who would have thought that early weeknight dinner at the HBH is actually kid friendly?  Not me. It was a pleasant surprise.

Baby Beez loved the oompah music and the pretzels. She loves pretzels.  Since patrons are encouraged to sing and dance and stand on benches, it was a perfect setting for a toddler.  She sang around loudly and dancy-danced and didn’t disturb a soul, since everyone was dancing along.

Mr. Beez ordered a schnitzel dish and was very happy with it.  The HBH, unsurprisingly, offers Bavarian-type fare.  Of the three German restaurants I’ve been to in Pittsburgh (HBH, Max’s Allegheny Tavern, and Penn Brewery), HBH is my least favorite of the three.  The food isn’t bad, but I think most people are really there to enjoy the atmosphere.

I forewent the meat-and-potatoes Bavarian offerings and instead opted for a (meat topped) steak salad.  Virtually unheard of in Pittsburgh, this steak salad actually did not come smothered in fries.  This suited me very well because I actually did not want french fries.  The veggies were fresh and the salad generous.  It was a good meal.

Baby Beez was not the only little one in the dining room that night.  The HBH is apparently a popular place (on weekday evenings) for families with young children.  Everyone loves the fun and festivity! While I’ll only visit the HBH on a Friday or Saturday with exclusively grown up friends, it was a fun place for our family during the off hours.

 

Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh 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