Arni Sto Fourno - Mediterrano

October 2014 Wine Exchange at Mediterrano

Arni Sto Fourno - Mediterrano
As we look forward to fall harvest flavors, we are about to return to a north hills favorite, Mediterrano. This time Chef Swiger is preparing a feast to be served family style among all our closest friends and followers. If all goes as planned, weather-included, our lamb will be roasted outside of the restaurant on a spit resulting in a delectable flavor.

The entire menu is as follows:

Appetizer Sampler
Hummus and Grilled Pita, Stuffed Grape Leaves, Spanakopita

Soup & Salad Course
Potato-Fennel-Leek Soup and Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Balsamic Glaze

Dinner Course, Served Family Style
Roasted Lamb on a Spit served with a Rich Lamb Gravy and Tossed with Gemeli Pasta, Topped with Kasseri Cheese
Roasted Tomatoes Stuffed with Organic Grains, Grilled Zucchini, Squash, and a Blend of Cheeses, with Cinnamon Infused Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Green Beans with Tomatoes, Onions, and Garlic
Rice Pilafi with Toasted Almonds, Pine Nuts, and Orzo

Soft Drinks/Coffee/Hot Tea included
More Info >>

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Photo Credit: Business Insider

Save your money in 2014, Don’t “Do Us A Flavor”

Photo Credit: Business Insider
Photo Credit: Business Insider

Lays is at it again, trying to find the best new potato chip flavor in America, and not sure that any of the options are really “in the bag”. So far, I have had three of the four “Do Us A Flavor” contest varietals. Cappuccino, Mango Salsa and Wasabi Ginger.

Cappuccino

The Cappuccino flavor, submitted from Chad Scott in Iowa, was probably my favorite of the three, though it didn’t really give me what I want from a potato chip. When I eat potato chips, it’s because I want something salty. This wasn’t that kind of chip. The Cappuccino flavor was well balanced and yes, it tasted like a cappuccino, but this was a breakfast chip.

The best equivalent that I can think of was that you’d eat the Cappuccino Lays with the same things you’d accompany a piece of coffee cake. Like coffee cake, the chips are dry and leave you wanting a quenching cup of coffee, tea or milk. It wasn’t something you want to have with a beer, like your typical potato chip.

Mango Salsa

The Mango Salsa flavored Lay’s are a “WAVY-Lay”. Apparently Julia Stanley-Metz, of San Francisco, California, can’t get enough of the mango salsa her husband makes so she thought it would make a good potato chip. I would only go so far as to say it wasn’t bad. But the flavor is better suited to a bag of Doritos than Lay’s. The slightly sweet mango comes through in the chip and the “salsa” flavor reminds me of the varying, heavy-handed seasoning that you get from Doritos. Using the thicker, wavy potato chip was a smart choice by Lay’s because you needed the ridges to capture the seasoning and give it that extra crispness. After tasting this chip, it was clear to me that I prefer my salsa and chips separate. I’ll dip my own salsa, thanks.

Wasabi Ginger

The Wasabi Ginger flavor was actually something I ate by mistake at a fantasy football draft. Among friends that typically like to talk food, the kettle cooked chips were just sitting on the table and I snagged one and had to do a double take. Not knowing what I was eating, I initially thought it was a horseradish chip. According to the Huffington Post, this makes sense if in fact “most of the wasabi served outside of Japan is a mixture of horseradish, mustard and food coloring.”

Frankly, the chips weren’t all that good. Crispy, yes. Though when I think of wasabi, I think of the spiciness that you get when you add it to soy sauce. The chips weren’t really spicy, but rather had a the back of your throat bite that I like from horseradish. After just one bite, I wasn’t reaching for a glass to cool my mouth – I wanted to get the taste out of my mouth.


So – 2014 Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor” contest, based on these three, you have no clear winners this year. They were all different and while don’t necessarily regret trying them, there is nothing that I would go back and buy again. Better luck in 2015.

Tavern Food Refined – Discovering “Fine Tavern Dining” in Mount Washington at Bigham Tavern

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week started strong at Bigham Tavern as we met friends for dinner on Monday night. The three-course offering was available for $20.14, which was quite the steal. Go!  It will surpass your expectations with some of the finest quality food that I’ve ever had at a “tavern.”


Appetizer: BLT heirloom caprese
A lightly fried green tomato, topped with layers of locally grown heirloom assorted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, spinach and fresh basil, bacon, blue cheese crumbles, and topped with a honey balsamic reduction drizzle
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So, I got the appetizer without the bleu cheese – it just isn’t my thing.  The friend green tomato was hot and from the assembly of the dish, I knew I was in for a fine meal.  The dish was remarkable. The salty bacon complemented the balsalmic drizzle and fresh ingredients below.  The slightly crunchy fried green tomato topped the dish well.   To be honest, I would have eaten this on a hamburger bun as my meal.  But it’s restaurant week, so you splurge.


Main Course: Bayou burger
Aged sirloin burger, stuffed with pepperjack and jalapeños, topped with fried pickles, crispy onion straws, siriracha mayo, side of house made chips
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The burger was the highest quality burger I’ve ever had.  The burger was stuffed, as the menu listing indicated and cooked to absolute perfection. A steak knife was used to hold the masterpiece together.  It was a little tough to get your entire mouth around the burger, so as you can see, the fried pickles came on the side. The burger was spicy, but not over the top. While I didn’t measure it, I bet the burger was a 1/3lb of meat. It held together remarkably well.  The bun was soft and slightly toasted, I believe.  The chips that came on the side were also delicious, but I left many of those on my plate and set forth to conquer this burger.

Frankly, the burger was too good not to finish!  After the burger, it was time for a break. We sipped our beverages and enjoyed conversation, asking the waitress to hold off on delivering the desserts for about 20 minutes.


Dessert: The Bigham signature sundae
CARAMEL SEA SALT GELATO TOPPED WITH CRISPY BACON AND BUFFALO SEASONING
Seriously, you didn’t expect it to not have bacon on it, did you? You need to try this to believe it.
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Ok, ok. This is where things got a little rough. The caramel sea salt gelato was great. It was creamy and a perfect mixture of salty and sweet. My first bite was heaven. However, I caught the buffalo seasoning on my second bite – that wasn’t so heavenly. The entire table agreed, that we were on board with the gelato and even the smoky, salty bacon bits on top, but the buffalo seasoning was quite strong. We assume the seasoning they used was from one of the multitude of offerings on wing night (Wednesdays). Less seasoning may have been okay, but no seasoning would have probably been preferred. None of us finished the dessert – though we weren’t that hungry by that point anyway.

I commend the chef for thinking outside the box and taking a risk. I would absolutely get it again without the buffalo seasoning. I suggest if you go there for Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, that you do the same.

Cheez-Its

My Kind of Cheez-Its

These are my kind of Cheez-Its. While not something I would buy on a regular basis, a recent trip down the grocery aisle caused me to stop and appreciate the king of the orange cracker market.

I LOVE, LOVE Scrabble.  Unfortunately, after beating all my friends at Words with Friends, I can’t find anyone who will still play with me.  And no, I didn’t need a cheat app to win.

Cheez-Its Scrabble Junior

This would totally make me play with my food.  I’d probably create a game where I would make words and eat the words.  Hoping I could use all the crackers from the handful.

For all the other kids of the ’80s out there – does Campbell’s still make vegetable soup with letter noodles?

Trying the Kentuckyaki (drunken teriyaki) marinade at Open Bottle Bistro

Friday night date-night brought us to the new Open Bottle Bistro in Shadyside on Ellsworth for our first visit.  We made reservations on OpenTable, but probably could have just walked right in.  We were able to sit on the cute patio off the back of the restaurants where we enjoyed a nice dinner.

Our waitress was great and very patient with us.  Though she listed off 5-6 special features of the evening, I decided to order from the menu.  Most of the specials seemed priced much higher than menu items, which also deterred me from ordering them.  Though it was nice to hear the price with each feature as it was read, because not all servers do that.

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To begin our meal, we shared a Medley of Spreads served with cucumbers and tomatoes.  Since the table service also included a refillable bread basket that we also took liberty to refill once. The medley was a white bean pâté , fava bean pâté & hummus – all good.  TasteBudA and I each favored different spreads, so it comes down to a matter of texture and preference.  I thought the portion of spread you received was great for only $9.

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I also ordered one of the Soups of the Day – a gazpacho with some saffron and fresh veggies.  It was lightly seasoned and of course served cold.  After having more bread than I should have I didn’t finish my soup.  It was missing just a little something, but I couldn’t really put my finger on it.

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I was torn between ordering the Filet Mignon Kabobs or the Steak Tartar of Prime Filet Mignon.  I went with the Filet Mignon Kabobs at the waitress’ suggestion.  They come marinated in a Kentuckyaki-sauce, a bourbon infused teriyaki. The kabob was in fact very delicious, though the teryaki didn’t have as strong a bourbon flavor as I was hoping to make it super special.  The meat was cooked as ordered and was plentiful on the skewers.

I decided to substitute the saffron rice for asparagus.  If you look at the photo above, you may miss the asparagus, because the substitution only got me 4 stems.  For a $20 entree, I was marginally underwhelmed. Perhaps my substitution was ill-advised.

Our service, however, was stellar.  Taylor, our waitress was attentive and very pleasant.  You could tell that she liked her job and was very knowledgeable about items coming from the kitchen.  I would go back, sit in Taylor’s section and certainly give Open Bottle another visit.  This visit would probably only get a 3.5/5 for me with most of the credit going to the service and the medley of spreads.  Next time, someone else gets to order for me.
Open Bottle Bistro on Urbanspoon

Bites from Savory Hill

Unique Inside-Out Bites from Savory Hill

Bites Sampler from Savory HillOne of the most unique things I’ve had in a while has got to be the “Inside Out Chip and Dip” bites at Savory Hill in Moon Township.  I ordered ordered the sampler which included 6 bites – a random collection of all four different bites.

The bites are essentially dips or spreads rolled into a ball and coated with a crunchy mixture – think Shake ‘n Bake.  The combinations of flavors are very approachable, as you would likely see them as appetizers on regular restaurant menus.  Serving these as Bites is just one way that Savory Hill is deserving of its Eclectic Bistro tagline.

The four different bites are as follows:

  • Chips and Dip – Creamy french onion dip with crushed potato chips.
  • Spinach Dip – Cream spinach dip crusted in pita chips
  • Buffalo Chicken – Spicy buffalo chicken dip coated with crushed tortilla chips
  • Bacon Horseradish – Bacon, horseradish and white cheddar covered in bread crumbs

Eat ’em while they are hot, because like any hot dip, they lose their richness as they cool.

Continue to the PhotoBlog of the rest of our meal

Discovering a new Thai BYOB in the North Hills

New BYOB restaurants aren’t always easy to come by these days, so when I suggested to TasteBudA that we check out Red Orchid in the North Hills and to pick a bottle of wine out to take, he was excited.  Red Orchid is located in a small plaza of businesses on Babcock Boulevard near the juncture with 3 Degree Road.  The restaurant boasts just 24 seats, so you feel as though you are getting a personal experience with the restaurant.  Being small, it would also make for a nice date night, or private party restaurant (assuming you could rent the entire space).

Being new to Red Orchid, we started with a Red Orchid Combination Sampler of 2 steam dumplings, 2 fresh spring rolls chicken, 2 crab Rangoon, and Red Orchid style bread.  The sampler came with a trio of sauces for dipping.  As usual, the spring rolls were my favorite of the sampler.

Appetizer Sampler from Red Orchid
Appetizer Sampler from Red Orchid served with a trio of sauces

For my entree I decided not get a Basil dish, because that would make me predictable. Instead I ordered Spicy Pad Ka Prao. It’s not too far a leap from my usual basil dish, but the fried egg was a welcome new texture and paired well with the spiciness of the dish. The dish tasted as great as the photo looks. The vegetables were super fresh and with a medium-level of spice, I was content to finish the plate – against my diet of course.

Spicy Pad Ka Prao from Red Orchid
Spicy Pad Ka Prao from Red Orchid

I’m glad we have a new North Hills BYOB gem, since Stoke’s Grill is no longer BYOB. We will certainly go back. It was interesting to see the bulk of people getting takeout. For anyone looking for at-home Thai, you will need to pick it up, because delivery isn’t available.
Red Orchid on Urbanspoon

Sip N Spin

Sip ‘n Spin, a wine exchange workout

Club CycleIn the recent couple months I’ve finally found a spinning studio that I enjoy in the Pittsburgh area, Club Cycle in Dormont.  Club Cycle is a locally owned business where spinning and club music collide.  Live DJs spin music during a 45 or 60 minute cardio workout.

On Tuesday, June 3, 2014 at 5:45 p.m. Club Cycle will be hosting its second Sip ‘n Spin session.  This class is similar to our Pittsburgh TasteBuds Wine Exchanges, but instead of eating along with an exchange of wine, you are burning calories. Newbies can enjoy their first class for only $10 if they sign-up online.

Sip N SpinSeating is limited to 20 people, but the registration system does keep track of a waiting list, so don’t hesitate to join it!  Bring a bottle of wine valued around $15 and come exchange with the funnest spinning group in Pittsburgh.

Fingers crossed that DJ Kurve is the DJ because not only does he mix the music live for the class, but there are also videos to help distract the fact that you are working out.