Dining out at Bistro 19 for PghRestaurantWk

Bistro 19
Bistro 19 was packed on a Wednesday night. Is it because of Pittsburgh Restaurant Week?

Sure, we may be a couple a boys living on the northside, but we have no qualms about traversing bridges or tunnels, especially for a great meal during Pittsburgh Restaurant Week. For my fifth meal of Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Winter 2013 we went to Bistro 19 in Mt. Lebanon. The restaurant is located nicely across from a public parking garage, and there is surrounding street parking. Upon walking in, we noticed why street parking wasn’t an option on this Wednesday night – we arrived to a packed house!

After enjoying a glass of Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc (California)  wine at the bar, we were seated at a table for two and greeted by a wonderful waitress.  She promoted the restaurant week special menu well and talked me into getting the wine pairing – okay, let’s face it, I had been eyeing it up since they said they would be offering it.  While my before dinner wine was white, all of the wine through the courses were red.  I wish I would have taken closer notes on what they were by name.  I thought it was slightly odd that the wine selection was not dependent on your menu item selection, but rather presented as a pre-set discounted wine flight through the meal.

Braised Pork Mac and Cheese
PghTasteBudB Appetizer: Braised Pork Mac and Cheese

Despite having tweeted leading up to restaurant week that I was going to have the three coffee courses of (1) Pumpkin cappuccino bisque, (2) Coffee rubbed mahi mahi w yucca purée, coconut rice and candied kumquats and (3) Coffee panna cotta, I made the split second change after I was seated.  Suddenly, I wanted to try the Braised Pork Mac and Cheese for my first course.  The course was extremely savory and paired with a very strong, full-bodied red.

Pan seared scallop w local golden beets, leek fondue and toasted hazelnuts
PghTasteBudA Appetizer: Pan seared scallop with local golden beets, leek fondue and toasted hazelnuts

TasteBudA opted for the pan seared scallop and was immediately jealous of my appetizer.  Though his was cooked well, he didn’t feel the delicate scallop paired well with his bold wine.

The ambiance was wonderful, despite being so crowded.  PghTasteBudA was very happy with our table location because it put him in perfect view of the Pittsburgh Penguins Black and Gold scrimmage.

White balsamic marinated chicken breasts w red wine rosemary risotto and truffle butter
PghTasteBuB Entree: White balsamic marinated chicken breasts w red wine rosemary risotto and truffle butter

My entree was a white balsamic marinated chicken breast with red wine rosemary risotto and truffle butter. The risotto was divine, but the chicken came out blackened and a little dry. I wished there was some white balsamic on the plate to add back to the chicken and give it some moisture.  Eating risotto and chicken in one bite took away from the beautiful risotto. The vegetable that I received with it was some well grilled zucchini.  I noticed looking around that some folks appeared to get some asparagus.

Roasted lamb gnocchi w braised vegetables and sage butter
PghTasteBudA Entree: Roasted lamb gnocchi w braised vegetables and sage butter

TasteBudA got a lamb gnocchi.  My guess is because of the Penguins game, he was a man of few words, but he seemed quite happy with the lamb.  I don’t recall anything left on the plate when he finished, so Chef Jessica Bauer should consider that a success!  The wine with the second course was a much more delicate red wine.  Personally, I would have swapped the first course and second course wines to achieve a different progression.

Coffee panna cotta
PghTasteBudB Dessert: Coffee panna cotta

For dessert, the wine was a very sweet port wine.  It made me laugh when TasteBudA took a hefty first sip and almost choked on it.  Don’t worry, he lived.  As he ate his rice pudding, I think the wine provided the desired sweetness from the dessert, while the rice pudding was a nice smooth finish to his meal.

Butterscotch rice pudding
PghTasteBudA; Butterscotch rice pudding

Because I couldn’t completely give up on my original goal of three coffee courses, I did get the Coffee Panna Cotta as my dessert.  It was a wonderful creamy dessert, which looked and tasted like heaven.  To my own demise, I thought it was so delicious, I ate it very slowly and ended up feeling too full before I could finish it.  TasteBudA helped put a larger dent in the dessert with “just one bite” which turned into several because he too couldn’t resist.

Bistro 19 on UrbanspoonBistro 19 was a great restaurant week meal, and the classy atmosphere would be perfect for a romantic engagement, birthday or anniversary.  Weekdays are usually much more calm for the after-work crowd.  When I asked the waitress if it was normally packed on a Wednesday, she said “No, it’s restaurant week.  I wish every week was restaurant week.”

Bocktown Beer and Grill for Restaurant Week

For my sixth meal of Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, we met friends at Bocktown in Robinson.  It is located up on the hill in the same plaza as Target.  Bocktown may be one of the proudest members of the Pennsylvania Buy Fresh Buy Local program, as they proudly display the program information throughout the restaurant.  Plus, this week there was a strong presense of Pittsburgh Restaurant Week promotion going on.

For Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, Bocktown offered a three item tapas and beer pairing for $20.13.  Each tapas comes with a 4oz beer pairing.  For folks that like wine pairings, this would be a nice change from the norm.

Blackboard Artwork
Blackboard Artwork at Bocktown for Pittsburgh Restaurant Week
Spreading the word
Bocktown hung the simple restaurant week sign throughout the restaurant so folks knew that they were a proud participant

Though their special – called “Where Beer Meets Grill” – was enticing, one of the items was blue cheese covered in  chutney.  Since I’m not much for blue cheese, I opted to order off the regular menu.  I’ll certainly return for the beer-tapas pairings on a future visit.

Ordering off the regular menu, PghTasteBudA opted to share a Jalapeno Popper Dip with the table.  A coworker of his recently gave him a great recipe for this dip, so it was a great opportunity to see how the homemade version would stack up to a pub-style Bocktown version.  Bocktown did not disappoint.  The pretzel bites were perfect size — don’t you just hate when you get a dip and it comes with 4 huge slices of pita and you have to break it all up yourself?  Oh, and other than the homemade version has a crumbled topping, the dips were similar in nature.

Jalapeno Popper Dip
Jalapeno Popper Dip appetizer served with pretzel bites

The dip wasn’t really all that spicy, but it was reminiscent of eating a popper.  The pretzel was like the breading and the dip was a sour-creamy popper filling.  It went great with the beers too.

BackDraft Burger
BackDraft Burger, a hamburger with banana peppers and mozzarella cheese

For my entree, I decided to go with the BackDraft burger.  The burger came cooked to temp on a fresh bun with banana peppers and melted mozzarella cheese.  The burger was juicy and you could tell how fresh it was because the burger was not commercially shaped.  It gave it character and me the piece of mind of how fresh it was.  As the son of a dairy farmer, it was a nice change from the grocery store meat case.

The Live-a-Little
The Live-a-Little is a juicy 10 ounce thick-cut CAB served with Mash Tun Potatoes, fresh seasonal vegetables and a side of Untouchable Sauce for dipping

TasteBudA had the Live-A-Little, which is a 10oz steak.  Though I don’t remember his exact comments, other than that he liked Bocktown’s version of “medium,” there were no complaints coming from his direction.  I wish I would have asked him about the Untouchable Sauce, because with a name like that, it better be irresistable.

We’ll likely return in the summer to sit in the beer garden off the side of the restaurant.  The vibe and local beers served in an outside setting would be a great summer evening.

Bocktown Beer and Grill on UrbanspoonAnd I will be issuing a challenge to my food-challenge competitor, Matt, where we will faceoff in The Beer Belly Challenge.  “Take on our Mr. Potatohead timer, and receive a complimentary short sleeve tee (valued up to $20) when you finish a Beer Belly Fry with three toppings by yourself in under 30 minutes.”

My Pittsburgh Restaurant Week

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week is a celebration of restaurants in our community. The restaurants come together for one week to celebrate Pittsburghs dining scene, ethnic traditions, new dishes and each restaurants own unique qualities.  During this special week restaurants and their consumers come together for a Kickoff Party, blogger dinner, some amazing deals and eventually a closing party. With over 50 restaurant to chose from and not enough time and money to try all them I decided to be very selective with my options.

First, I had the privlige to attend the Kick Off Party at Mini of Pittsburgh Dealership where I was able to indulge in free samples from many participating restaurants like Abay Ethiopian Cuisine, Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen, Hambone’s Pub (pulled pork), and Center Plate from McMurray, PA, just to name a few. While attending the Kick Off Party I had he opportunity to meet new people and make great new contacts.

A few days later Pittsburgh Restaurant Week hosted a blogger dinner at a local partcipating restaurant. This blogger dinner was at Alma Pan Latin Kitchen in Regent Square. This was a very exciting time for any of us food blogges because we had the opportunity to meet with the restaurant owners and truely have an understanding of what inspires them to own a restaurant and to have a successful Pan Latin restaurant in our part of the country.

Finally, I made it to restaurants like Bistro 19 in Mt. Lebanon, Hambone’s Pub in Lawrenceville, Nicky’s Thai Kitchen in Downtown Pittsburgh (not a participant, but a new restaurant for me) and finally Bocktown in Robinson Township. All of the restaurants did a great job with taking full advantage of Pittsburgh Restaurant Week and making it their own special week to provide all patrons with a dining experience that will bring them back again and again.

For more information on Pittsburgh Restaurant Week please visit www.pittsburghrestaurantweek.com.

Bistro 19 on Urbanspoon

Lunch at Meat & Potatoes for PghRestaurantWk

Autumn Salad
Autumn Salad from Meat and Potatoes during Pittsburgh Restaurant Week

Today on the third day of Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, I had my third dining experience of the celebration at Meat & Potatoes for lunch. The special for the day was an Autumn Salad, Chili-crusted Grouper Tacos and Tiramasu.  The special at M&P changes each day, so it’d be difficult to send anyone back to have an identical dining experience.

Grouper Tacos
Grouper Tacos from Meat and Potatoes during Pittsburgh Restaurant Week
Tiramasu from Meat and Potatoes during Pittsburgh Restaurant Week

Autumn Salad. The salad was good, even though I ate around the blue cheese since I’m not crazy about that. The dressing was a blackberry vinaigrette, which came atop the salad. Though you can’t tell from the picture, the candied nuts had rolled to the bottom of the bowl and were a nice crunch after eating my greens. The beets were sliced thin, which frankly made them difficult to wrangle with a fork. Overall, a nice salad, but would probably opt for something else next time.

Chili-Crusted Grouper Tacos. The tacos themselves were grouper, pico de gallo with a light slaw. Very nice flavor profile and a light but filling entree. The fries came as a surprise, or I missed when the waitress read the menu to us. They were a nice compliment to the taco, though if I had to choose between fries and a third taco, i’d choose taco every time.

Tiramasu. Dessert was served in a cute little mason jar, common for desserts at M&P. However, this dessert was either frozen and let melt too long, or the cream never set. The dessert was soupy. Did it taste bud, oh heck no. It was delicious. But I think it lacked a little on execution. M&P is certainly a hot spot downtown and my lunch may not have been their finest hour, but it won’t stop me from going back. The place has a nice ambiance which any office worker would welcome as an escape midday.

Meat & Potatoes on UrbanspoonThree courses in the lunch hour is tough. (Habitat knows what they are doing with the Executive Express lunch which is four courses on one plate.) Since it was a lunch meeting, it didn’t break my heart that it ran over the hour.

Soup Month!

Corn Chowder topped with bacon and a braided roll.
Corn Chowder topped with bacon and a braided roll.
January is National Soup Month. After the holidays we try to find ways to stay warm while mother natural hits us with subzero temperatures, ice, rain and snow. And, what better way to stay warm during this time of year with a good pot of soup heated and cooked on the stove.

On a cloudy, cold, snow filled afternoon we decided to make a Corn Chowder from scratch. We found a really great recipe on www.foodnetwork.com which is found below. The corn chowder was very easy and fun to make. Use less chicken stock if you want a thicker chowder. Since there is only two of us we divided the recipe into a quarter of what is suggested on the original recipe but we kept the same ingredients. To add a little extra, we garnished with parsley and a braided roll. Enjoy!

8 ounces bacon, chopped
1/4 cup good olive oil
6 cups chopped yellow onions (4 large onions)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
12 cups chicken stock
6 cups medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (2 pounds)
10 cups corn kernels, fresh (10 ears) or frozen (3 pounds)
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 pound sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.) Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon.