Chalk One Up for Bite Bistro

Bite Bistro on UrbanspoonOver the summer Pittsburgh has become home to some new BYOB restaurants in the area, many of which we plan to try.  Our first, Bite Bistro, has set the bar pretty high on what we’re going to come to expect from this 2011-class of restaurants. 
Bite Bistro is located on Lincoln Ave in Bellevue in the location formerly occupied by Vivo.  Despite some very warm weather last week, we ventured through the sweltering humidity to Bite and found ourselves experiencing some new tastes that we can’t wait to share with our wine exchange friends.  The menu is representative of some French influence, but Bite makes it all its own. 
Dinner began by oggling the variety of options on the menu, found not in printed format, but on a chalkboard in the dining room.  Using the day’s freshest ingredients, the cooks change the menu up based on what’s available. 
I started my meal with a soup of potato and scallions.  After ordering, I sat puzzled why I would ever order a warm soup on such a hot day.  The warmth of the soup was overshadowed by the thite-brothy soup that was actually light and flavorful as if it had simmered all day.  I found it pleasantly unlike most potato soups which are very thick and heavy.  I also envisioned fresh sliced green scallions throughout the soup, but instead the soup was topped with some very fried scallions – I love surprises.

Wild Mushrooms and Polenta

As a shared appetizer, TasteBudA and I split the Wild Mushrooms and Polenta.  The first bite was heaven.  As we continued to eat, we convinced ourselves that cooking the mushrooms in a bacon fat was a genius idea.  However, when the waitress returned, she informed us that it was not a smoky flavor we tasted, it was in fact a walnut oil.  The dish was the first vegan dish TasteBudA has ever truly enjoyed. 
Flank steak and frites with Bite sauce
For our entrées, TasteBudA made the wise choice of a flank steak and frites.  I was jealous, because the  “fries” were very crispy, as frites should be, and topped in a house-specialty Bite-sauce to die for. 
Sliced pork loin with collard greens and polenta
My main course was sliced pork loin over collard greens and polenta.  The pork was excellently cooked.  In my opinion, the items on the plate weren’t complimentary, but individually, each item was well executed and tasteful. 
After a spectacular meal, we asked to see Perque, the “underground” party room inside Bite Bistro.  This space is often used for musicians, comedians and other entertainment, so we wanted to check it out for a potential wine exchange.  Following the downstairs tour, we endulged in an ice cream dessert, which if I recall was inspired by a Heath Bar. 
We encourage folks to have a bite at Bite.  Unfortunately we can’t guarentee that you will have the same menu offerings we had, but if our meals spoke to the quality of the food, then we assure you that you won’t be disappointed when you go either.

TasteBuds Judge Pittsburgh’s Best Hoagies with other local celebrities

This afternoon, TasteBudA and I had the pleasure of judging the WPXI Pittsburgh’s Best Hoagies contest where 10 of Pittsburgh’s top hoagie restaurants were put in a head-to-head competition for the prestigious title of having Pittsburgh’s Best Hoagie.  The competitors were chosen by online nomination and the top 10 were included in today’s final round of judging.  Judges included media personalities WPXI anchor David Johnson and 96.1 KISS FM morning show hosts, Mikey and Big Bob.  Special guest judges included Derrick Kosinski (from MTV reality shows), Frank Murgia from the Talent Network and  The Pittsburgh TasteBuds.
The competition was fierce and filling … and all 10 judges may have gas for a week, but it was worth it to participate in such a fun afternoon of taste testing.
Each restaurant submitted two hoagies, one italian hoagies and one speciality hoagie. Each hoagie was given a maximum score of 10 points and the restaurants total score was made up of their hoagie’s composite score.  

Watch for us on tonight’s news broadcast on WPXI and stay tuned for some online video and commentary.

Coca Cafe, a balance between breakfast and lunch

Coca Cafe is a local brunch hot spot with a more modern, food-forward menu than the likes of traditional breakfast fare like Pamela’s or Dorstop. On a sunny weekend morning, we ventured to Lawrenceville to discover what all the buzz was about. If it wasn’t so humid a day, I’m sure we would have asked to sit in the small outdoor seating area, but on this occasion was opted to stay indoors.

Cafe Americano in a festive zebra print mug

Upon entering and getting my coffee, it was clear that this was a very artistic cafe – my Espresso Americano even came in a zebra-print mug. The Sunday Brunch menu offers a mix of breakfast and lunch options.  I treated my coffee as my breakfast and opted to go straight for lunch.  My Turkey Rachel Panini came with a nice side salad.  It was a very balanced plate with pleasant flavor highlights.  The coleslaw in the panini was amazing.  It made the sandwich a hit in my mind.  The turkey and cheese was warm which counterbalanced the cool, moist coleslaw.  The brightness of the salad and the orange (yes, I eat my garnish) completed a nice meal. I left quite satisfied.

Turkey Rachel Panini

Coca Cafe on UrbanspoonOverall, I think my experience was much like my experience at North Star Cafe in Columbus, Ohio.  The atmosphere was very pleasant and the menu hit the right spots for me.  I will warn you that the prices will appear a little on the expensive side, but are well worth it in the ingredients and service.

Crystal Bonsai Sushi, “Bonsai Grill”

Bonsai Grill on Urbanspoon

Looking for dinner Crystal City? Venture outside of the Crystal City shops and across Route 1 along 23rd Street South for a series of diverse restaurant options.
On my most recent work travel to Crystal City, I had the pleasure of traveling with another co-worker that I had never met in person before, so I was happy to take the time to have a sit down dinner with her and get to know one another. Not knowing what she’d be in the mood for, I directed us down to the 23 St S block where we decided on sushi. (Which is a treat for me, because TasteBudA doesn’t care for sushi). To our amazement, we were seated immediately and our night began.
Sushi Boat for only $42
The Bonsai Grill staff were attentive and the sushi boat really is plenty of food for two people. Though, we didn’t know that upon ordering so we piled an additional Spider Roll onto the order. We wished for a more diverse wine selection, though became agreeable to the Yellowtail wine that is their standard (and only) option.
Our pre-sushi course

Dinner was very nice and I spent time not only getting to know a new co-worker, but also someone I can truly call a friend.

Sweet Spot in Dormont

Sugar Cafe on Urbanspoon
In my opinion, small cafes and diners are establishments that bring a lot of character to any town.  Most of the time they are owned by a couple or family who wanted to bring a little something extra to the community where the towns people can meet a friend for lunch, drink a cup of coffee while reading the paper or even grab a snack for later. 

Dormont’s Potomac Ave. has this quality and with it, it has Sugar Cafe. 

Sugar Cafe is a cool little eat in or take out spot that has something for everyone.  Sandwiches, coffee, brownies, cookies, cupcakes and much more.  They even have a kids menu and do cakes for all occasions!
My visit to Sugar Cafe was very random.  I found them on and figured I’d stop in to take something home for later.   I ended up taking home two Blueberry Muffins and two Chambord Cream Puffs.  The Muffin was nice and moist and very good with a cup of coffee, I then took a bite of the cream puff and it was delicious!  Probably one of the best cream puffs I’ve had in a long time.  After getting home and realizing how good the pastries were I am excited to go back for lunch! 
I highly recommend everyone in Pittsburgh to go try Sugar Cafe.   

PhotoBlog: Tamari

Beef tongue tacos (TasteBudB’s new favorite dish)

Tamari in Lawrenceville is a hidden gem with many fresh new menu options that make it one of our favorites in Pittsburgh. Kudos to Allen and the Tamari staff for their continued excellence.

This 2009 and 2010 “Best New Restaurant” designation still stands and is well deserved.

And if the rumormill holds true, we should all stay tuned for a new Tamari location coming soon to the Pittsburgh region!

Sushi and Sashimi Platter

Lobster Mac and Cheese

Mango-apple Salsa with Lotus Chips

Tamari on Urbanspoon

Subway Sub of the Month – Italian B.M.T.

Italian B.M.T. ® from Subway

For the month of July 2011, Subway is featuring the Italian B.M.T.® as their featured $5 Footlong.  This option has been a longstanding staple of the Subway sandwich menu, it is not typically available at one five dollars. 

Subway Gift Cards

At first thought, the name seems like a creative spin on a BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato) sandwich.  However, the BMT is not named for it’s components.  It’s actual composition is with Genoa salami, spicy pepperoni, black Forest ham. 

The acronym B.M.T.® stands for Biggest, Meatiest, and Tastiest. In the early days of SUBWAY® restaurants, it was a promotion that was based on the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit system in New York City that went along with the subway theme. []

If you have read my previous reviews of the May and June $5 Footlongs, I have been fair, but critical of the nutritional value of the featured subs.  Alas, this month will be no different.

Unlike the Chipotle Chicken and Cheese offered in June, this sub is already exposed in the nutritional information provided at Subway.  There is even a nifty little calculator available on their website if you’d prefer to customize your toppings (click Nutrional Facts below the animation, then click Your Build).

Nutritional Value
6″ Italian B.M.T. (R)
Italian B.M.T. (R)
July 2011 $5 Footlong

In my opinion, the sad fact is although Subway is offering one of it’s more popular offerings at a great price, each successive $5 footlong from May to June to July has been getting worse and worse for the waistline.  Perhaps this is a promotional move to sell a heavier sandwich during months in which most people are trying to slim down for beach vacations. 

My summer vacation may occur in September, so I challenge Subway to be more sympathetic and offer a lighter option in August and September so I can enjoy their featured sandwiches without sacraficing my waistline.