A Christmas Story

6th Annual Pittsburgh TasteBuds Holiday Wine Exchange

December 2014 Wine Exchange

As per our annual tradition, where the Pittsburgh TasteBuds really got started, we are gathering our friends and followers for the 6th Annual Holiday Wine Exchange.  This year, the venue is going to Sake Asian Cuisine and Sushi Bar in South Side Works.

Just like when Ralphie and his family go out to eat when the home-cooked turkey plans go awry in the movie A Christmas Story, we will be dining at our first sushi restaurant for a wine exchange.  Brush up on your movie knowledge before the exchange, if for no other reason then to get you in the holiday spirit.

Don’t forget to bring a new, unwrapped toy for the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program.


 

Pittsburgh TasteBuds Wine Exchange
Your $5 RSVP will be your pre-paid corkage fee for the event. The wine exchange menu is available below and includes tax, tip and corkage.

$30 Per Person
Paid as $5 Online RSVP and $25 Dinner Bill at Restaurant

What’s Included:
· Appetizers (Tango Spicy Tuna, Stuffed Jalapeno, Edamame, Shumai,,Summer Roll, Harumaki, Yakitoti, Crab Rangoon)
· Soup, Salad
· Entrée (Select from choices below)

Entrée Selection:
· Two Sushi Rolls Dinner
Signature Roll (Shrimp Tempura topped with spicy crabmeat and black caviar)
Dragon Roll (Eel and cucumber topped with tobiko and avocado)
· Sashimi Dinner
· Sushi Dinner
· Teppanyaki (New York Steak, Shrimp, Chicken, Salmon, or Scallop)
· Thai Mango (Chicken or Shrimp) (Fresh sliced mango in spicy and sweet mango glaze.)
· Thai Seafood Combo (Jumbo shrimp, scallops, bell peppers, shiitake mushrooms, eggplant, asparagus, sweet peas served in special Thai brown sauce)
· General Tso’s Chicken

** Entrees requiring a protein selection (ie: Beef, Chicken, etc) will be fulfilled at the restaurant.


 

What is a Wine Exchange? A wine exchange is a dinner at a BYOB restaurant in which attendees (optionally) bring 2 bottles, one to accompany their meal and the second to be exchanged in a white elephant gift exchange at some point during the meal. The method for selecting exchange wines changes each event to correspond with the theme of the event. The average participant typically exchanges a bottle ranging from $10-20.

BYOB Scouting at San Lorenzo in Lawrenceville

TasteBudA and I dined with a couple of friends in Lawrenceville at a new restaurant, San Lorenzo Ristorante. Excited at the prospect of a new BYOB restaurant, I decided to go off-diet and understand what this restaurant is really made of.

The restaurant is bigger than it appears from the outside, probably seating 40 comfortably. We were greeted promptly and sat at a quiet table. Our waitress immediately asked if we wanted our wine bottles opened. Of course, we did.

Browsing the menu, we opted for a trio of appetizers to share at the table before setting sights on the entrees. Calamari, meatballs and greens-and-beans.

The Calamari rings were cooked with a mixture of olives and capers in a tomato-wine broth. The broth was good, but unfortunately very salty. The meatballs were the size of tennis balls so the appetizer portion of two pieces was fine to cut and split at the table. On the contrary of the calamari, the meatballs were lacking something. They were good, but lacked the seasoning or flavor you would want to be wowed. The greens and beans were okay. Unfortunately Matteo’s set the bar very high with that dish and while San Lorenzo prepared a good dish, I wanted the slightly spicier portion from Matteo’s.

Our entrees, pictured throughout, arrived piping hot and we descended upon them and conversation let up.

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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 >>

RSVP using the following Register button:

Register

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.

 

Stoke's Grill Beer List

Stoke’s Grill adds bar, no longer BYOB

Stokes Grill Beer List
Stoke’s Grill Beer & Wine List

It is with a heavy heart that I report Stoke’s Grill has expanded to add a bar and liquor license to their business. Diners who attempt to bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) will likely not be allowed to open it. Pictured above is a beer list from a recent visit. As you can see, those who enjoyed pairing wine with their Stoke’s plates will be disappointed at the lack of wine selection. The house wines (Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay) are not at the caliber many people opt for when selecting their own bottles.  For beer drinkers, their beer selection is reasonable.

Stoke’s Grill had formerly been known as one of our best kept secrets.  While the food menu has not yet changed, the overall experience will never be the same.  Stoke’s had been on a list of wine exchange venue possibilities for their consistent quality, however the time has come to take them off the list.

Lin’s Asian Fusion on South Side

Lin's Asian Fusion on UrbanspoonScouting for new Wine Exchange venues that we haven’t already been to can prove to be a little bit of a challenge. TasteBudA is currently on the hunt for a great place to invite our dinner group to in April and on Friday we went to Lin’s Asian Fusion on the South Side to see if it was up to the TasteBuds standards to host us.

Since the South Side isn’t exactly a hot bed of BYOB restaurants, Lin’s Asian Fusion has been overlooked by us for quite some time.  After TasteBudA was impressed by their soup offering during the South Side Soup Contest, he felt it was worth a dinner excursion to get a full sense of the restaurant.  Inconsistent reviews of the restaurant on Yelp and Urbanspoon left us wondering what side of the restaurant we’d experience.

Upon arrival, we were greeted nicely and promptly sat.  Our waitress was pleasant and quickly got us our beverages.  Since this was on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, so we omitted bringing wine knowing we had a big day ahead of us, but felt we could gauge the venue for our event anyway.

We started with Vegetable Gyoza, which was a cross between a mixed vegetable pierogi and a pot sticker.  It was nice and light and probably the closest you could get to a fresh spring roll, which is what I was ultimately craving.

Vegetable Gyoza from Lins Asian Fusion
Vegetable Gyoza from Lins Asian Fusion

Hungry for a mixture of meats, I waivered between the Ma La Trio and the Mixed Basil.  The waitress had never had the Ma La Sauce, so she recommended the Basil as a lighter sauce.  Yes, the basil sauce was light and not up to the default spiciness that I’m accustomed to from Nicky’s Thai Kitchen or the Silk Elephant.

Mixed Basil - Lins Asian Fusion
Mixed Basil Entree

TasteBudA got the Pepper Steak with Onion which comes in a brown sauce.  The dish wasn’t overly saucy, but the vegetables looked delicious as the popped off the plate.  Tastewise, the dish was just okay to TasteBudA’s standards.  Living on the northside, this beats China Taste by a long shot, but wouldn’t be special enough to invite our wine dinner crowd.

Pepper Steak with Onion
Pepper Steak with Onion

In the end, I don’t think we’ll be having a wine exchange at Lin’s Asian Fusion. The food was just okay and while the service was great, I felt somewhat rushed out the door. When you get that rushed feeling, it makes you wonder how a restaurant would handle a casual wine dinner crowd who are never in a rush.

Let the search for the April 2014 Wine Exchange Venue continue …

PhotoBlog: Girasole in Shadyside

As our 21st Wine Exchange fast approached, we felt the need to find a stellar place to host a fitting “21st Birthday” themed wine exchange. We found that place in Girasole. Take a photo tour of our dinner and join us for our next wine exchange on Monday, April 15, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. to discover why we fell in love with this cute little Italian restaurant just off of Walnut Street in Shadyside.

Mussels
Appetizer – Mussels. There was actual strips of freshly cooked bacon in the broth which added a slightly smoky accent to the mussels.
Black Truffle Ravioli
Black Truffle Ravioli – My ravioli were served with a creamy sauce with fresh tomatoes throughout. The ravs were tender and delicious.
Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli
Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli – TasteBudA got the ravioli with a creamy marinara sauce with his meal. He raved about the dish so much, that you can find it on the wine exchange menu.
Dessert
Caramel Mocha Gelato – Though at first, TasteBudA thought they brought the wrong flavor, he did not read close enough to know that it was caramel and chocolate with a hint of java flavor.

Interested in the wine exchange event on April 15?  Here is the menu for the event:


APPETIZER BAR
Mini filo cups with mushrooms and gruyere cheese

Polenta pizza topped with an assortment of meats, cheeses and vegetables

Antipasto bar with salamis, provolone and fontina cheese, roasted peppers, olives and artiichokes

SALAD
Girasole Salad – spring mix, carrots, tomatoes, kalamata olives, chick peas, gorgonzola, sunflower seeds, sunflower vinagrette
bread/butter

ENTREE
(Choice of one:)

SPINACH RAVIOLI
spinach and ricotta ravioli in a tomato cream sauce

MUSSELS
mussels with roasted red peppers, tomato and basil

SHORT RIBS
braised port and honey short ribs over creamy polenta

View the Menu and RSVP at:
http://www.thepittsburghtastebuds.com/upcoming-events/

Lola Bistro to host 20th Wine Exchange

The Pittsburgh TasteBuds are pleased to announce that Lola Bistro will be the host venue of the 20th Pittsburgh TasteBuds Wine Exchange.

Lola Bistro20 Questions Wine Exchange
hosted at Lola Bistro
Tuesday February 19, 2013 starting at 7:30pm
$30 Fixed Price Menu
Paid as $5 online RSVP and $25 on restaurant bill.
(price includes tax, gratuity and corkage)
Make your RSVP here and join our Facebook Event to spread the word!

AMUSE BOUCHE
this will be a surprise from the chef

APPETIZER
Seared Sea Scallop
Chervil salad with argon oil and black currant gastrique

ENTREE
(Choice of one:)

Braised Beef Short Rib
Herb polenta, rapini and tangerine jus

Chicken Pot Pie
with a house made pastry bowl

Moroccan Vegetable Stew
with Israeli cous cous

DESSERT
Available A la Carte

price includes tax, gratuity and corkage


Disclaimer: The Pittsburgh TasteBuds advise that all attendees are accountable for their own responsible drinking. Participation in the wine exchange is optional.