I’m Baaaack… and a review of Kavsar

10 Jul

It’s definitely been a while and I have a very poor excuse for my absence.  My life just got in the way of my going out to eat and watching movies!  Not that I haven’t been going out, I certainly have!  I’ve just been going places that I’ve already been to and cooking easy meals that either aren’t worth posting (umm, spaghetti with meat sauce) or things I’ve already showed you how to make.  I will admit that I’ve been hitting up a new breakfast place quite frequently and will definitely write up a review soon since I am pretty sure I’ve had about 5 things on the menu already and loved all of it.

Jen found an article about Kavsar a month or two ago and we decided that we should definitely hit up this Uzbek restaurant.  Because honestly, I’ve never had anything from Uzbekistan and Pittsburgh doesn’t have much in the way of middle eastern cuisine.  Quick geography lesson for everyone, Uzbekistan is north of Iran and Afghanistan.  So we decided to hit up this cozy place on Mt. Washington on the corner of Southern and Shiloh.  The restaurant itself is in a renovated house.  The dining room is upstairs and you have to brave the uneven Pittsburgh stairs in order to get up there.  In the dining room they had live music.  At first I thought he was just going to play the keyboard but then he sang, and while it was a bit loud, he did have a decent voice!

Kavsar seems to be run by a family and the service was different.  I won’t say it was bad, it just wasn’t American style so you have to be a little flexible.  The two girls working the dining room were very sweet, I just think a few things get lost in translation and we definitely could have been more clear with what we wanted done with the check (long story, I won’t get into it but it really wasn’t a big deal).

Ok, on to the food… finally!

We figured, hey, we’re in this Uzbek restaurant, we probably won’t come back (or at least not often), lets try some stuff since it was all reasonably priced.  We decided to start with an appetizer.  I actually asked the girl serving us what she liked best and she recommended that we get the Julien in Pancake Bags with the chicken.  This was really tasty.  We usually think of pancakes as being something sweet and I forget that they can also be savory.  These were very thin, almost crepe like and filled with a chicken and mushroom mixture in a  creamy sauce.  Jen was nice and ate them with me by picking out the mushrooms since she doesn’t like them.  I would definitely suggest you get these if you try out this restaurant, it was worth trying out.

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As usual, Jen and I shared the main dishes as well as the app.  The first thing on the entree list came with the following description:  Palov is the symbol of Uzbek food. It is prepared in every Uzbekistan family, whether Uzbek, Russian, Tatar of Korean. Uzbek palov is the part of mentality of Uzbekistan people and traditionally it is cooked by men.

So We decided that we had to try it since it was the only item that came with a description like that.  I mean when in Rome (or an Uzbek restaurant)…  There was definitely a heavy tomato flavor on the rice, which I loved.  I’m honestly not sure how to describe the rest of the seasoning, it wasn’t especially spicy or anything, but it was very good.  The beef was good and was sliced thin and served over the rice.

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The other dish we opted to try Kovurma Chuchvara – small, handmade dumplings filled with ground beef and onion.  It said that they were roasted on the menu, but the certainly tasted fried to me!  They were really good and were served with a little sour cream to dip in.  The onion mixture in these was really fantastic.  And they were bite sized, so they were really easy to eat, honestly, I could have kept eating these delicious little puffs.

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Overall, this was definitely something different to try and I’m very glad we went.  I really enjoyed the food and I’m happy that something middle eastern has opened up as that is definitely a hole in the Pittsburgh restaurant scene.  Another friend of mine recently tried a Turkish restaurant in the Regent Square area and he said that it was really good and also very reasonably priced so I’d like to hit that up soon as well.  I’m not sure I’d be a regular at Kavsar, maybe if I lived nearby I would be.  But even at that, there are several places on Shiloh that are also good.  In fact, when we were done Jen and I walked down the street for some soft serve ice cream.  Because it’s summer and I’m allowed to have ice cream!

So, if you are in the mood for something different from the ordinary, give this family run place a try.

KAVSAR Uzbek Halal Restaurant on Urbanspoon

 

 

Butterjoint Review

6 May

Tonight Jen and I went to Butterjoint, the bar attached to Legume, for dinner.  After a few weeks of somewhat fancier dinners, I was looking forward to something a little more low key.  We were debating going to Union Pig and Chicken again (which I went to before I started the blog and really liked but need to go back to), but decided to try something new instead.

I’d stopped in here for a drink before dinner a few months ago, but didn’t get to try out their menu.  It’s a pretty simple menu that really just features some burger and pierogie options.  Jen and I of course shared!  We went with pierogies with Kimchi and a burger.  One of the things I liked about this place was that they split everything in the back for us.  I love it when they do that for you.

The burger was good, nothing spectacular.  We just had it with lettuce, onion and tomato.  The fries on the other hand were fantastic.  It was the really really bad for you kind that were totally double fried I think.  They just tasted too good.

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I loved the homemade pierogies.  They were really tasty, maybe not as good as the ones the old Polish ladies make during lent at my mom’s church, but they were good. I also liked the kimchi that we ordered, but it wasn’t as good as the kimchi that we got at Grit & Grace.  Still though, totally worth trying.  All of the potatoes at this meal made me think of a comment two of my Orlando friends (Tracy and Heather) made when they came to visit and I took them to some standard Pittsburgh restaurants.    We Pittsburghers LOVE our potatoes.  Pierogies, fries, chips, you name it.

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I would love to try some of the different sides.  If Jen hadn’t been in a sharing, burger mood, I was going to get the pierogies with sauerkraut and sausage (which they make in house).

And I’m sure you are all shocked that even though we were totally full, we tried dessert.  We didn’t finish it, but we did try the toasted pound cake with poached pineapple and whipped cream.  It was as good as it sounds.

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Definitely a more casual dinner that we needed this time.  I really liked stopping in here for a quick bite tonight.  If you think you’ll be able to stop in on a Friday or Saturday night and not wait for a spot at the bar or a table, don’t be foolish.  This small place gets packed on the weekends (and I’m guessing Thursday too).   I’ll also add that my diet is taking a hit this week.  I had wings for dinner on Monday and this tonight.  I’m going to be eating plain salad for the next 2 days I think!

Butterjoint on Urbanspoon

Rock the Casbah

30 Apr

Ok – I went to my first hot yoga class tonight.  I’ve taken plenty of yoga classes before, but I wanted to try something new and there is a place not to far from me that offers these classes.  Fist of all, I had more sweat pouring out of my body in this yoga class than I do when I go to spin.  They keep the room at 85 degrees, so it’s, well, hot once you start moving and holding eagle pose for 2 minutes.  I was looking around going, please tell me that I’m not the only one this gross.  Luckily, I was not.  We all had beads of sweat on our arms, legs and chests.  That made me feel better.  So that was totally off topic, but I wanted to share :-)

Last night my friend Niki and I went to Casbah in Shadyside for dinner.  Casbah isn’t a new place, it’s been open for several years now and is one of those places I kept meaning to go to for dinner but just never did.  It has a Mediterranean themed menu and they change the menu daily (with some things that are always on there of course).  I enjoyed this meal very much and was surprised at how busy this place was on a Tuesday night.  Shadyside is always busy of course, but there was a constant flow of people.

The way they have the menu setup is that there are small plates and appetizers and then larger plates.  I know a lot of people who have gone here just ordered a bunch of small plates and apps.  Niki and I decided we’d go with real dinners.  We both started with salads.  I got this pretty salad, the Salad Vignarola, with asparagus, radishes, Manchengo cheese and a celery seed dressing.  This was a tasty salad.

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Niki went with the arugula salad, I took a bite and boy was this great.  I think it was the pancetta vinaigrette that made it so good.

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I went back and forth on what to order for dinner.  I decided on the short rib ravioli and it was exactly what it sounds like.  It was the braised short rib meat in ravioli served with a short rib sauce.  It was very good and I ate about half of the serving while I was there, I wanted desert ;-)  I actually ate the leftovers for lunch today and it still tasted good!

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Niki went with the house specialty, the pork chop with braised kale and pea and prosciutto risotto.  The chop was cooked perfectly (even if it was gigantic) and I loved the kale and risotto.  Niki was kind and let me try a bite of her food.

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Even though I was full, Niki talked me into desert.  We ordered a champagne Macaroon to share.  I loved the strawberry sorbet, it just tasted summery to me.  I liked the cookie and the cream as well.  It was surprisingly pretty big, we only managed to eat about half of it between the two of us but I’m glad we tried it.

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Overall, I really liked Casbah for dinner.  It was on the pricier side especially if you get a glass of wine or two, but I would go back here for a nice night out.  Probably not the place I’d go to every week for a casual dinner.

Casbah on Urbanspoon

 

Sienna Mercato Review (first time)

26 Apr

I’m trying to get this done while I’m still awake and remember what all we ordered tonight.  We had all been talking about gong to Mercato (aka Emporio) for a few weeks now.  Honestly, I didn’t think we’d make an appearance until the rooftop bar opened later in May.  But we decided to hit it up tonight for some drinks and meatballs.

Yes, this is a meatball themed restaurant.  Pick a ball (beef, spicy pork, veggie or chicken), pick a sauce, pick a serving option.  We all decided on different things.  I got a spicy pork meatball with the arribiatta sauce.  So it was spicy and delicious and was truly memorable.  I loved the sauce on this one, it was a great tomato sauce with a kick and I really like spicy food.  My other choice was a chicken meatball with the mushroom gravy.  It was good, but nothing to write home about (unlike the other ball).

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Maura went with the beef meatballs for both with different sauces.  On one she got the parmesan and on the other the pesto.  She was nice and let me have a tiny bite of both so I could try the sauces.  I have to say, both were amazing but I’ll give it to the parmesan on this one.  I really enjoyed it.

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Ok, I admit, I forget what type of ball Niki ordered, but I do remember the sauces she choose!  She got the parm (like Maura) and also the tzatziki.  I tried the tzatziki that she ordered and it was really good.  I liked the cool cucumber sauce (that you’ve had if you’ve ever ordered a gyro) with the meatball.  It was a nice complement.

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And because this was on the menu and neither Niki nor Maura had ever experienced the joy that is poutine (is it just me or does that sound like a slightly dirty word) we ordered some.  So if you haven’t had it yet, it is fries with gravy and cheese curds.  And it is heaven on a plate.  Artery clogging heaven on a plate.  This was good poutine, not the best I’ve had in the city, but really good.

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So my overall on this place was a serious thumbs up.  I really can’t wait to go back and try the different combinations of meatballs and sauces as well as some of the other sides.  I loved the atmosphere and I can’t wait for the top two levels to open up over the next two months.  And again, go downtown for yet another great new addition for the after-work crowd!

Emporio: A Meatball Joint on Urbanspoon

 

Habitat Pittsburgh Review

22 Apr

Jen and I went to Habitat at the Fairmont in downtown Pittsburgh this evening.  It made the list of restaurants for Pittsburgh magazine last year, therefore it’s been on the list for a while now.  Not at the top, but since we’ve been on a downtown kick, we decide to go for it.  We made reservations about a week or so ago, but honestly, we didn’t need them.  I assume that unless it’s a busy weekend you’ll be fine without calling ahead.

The setting was very hotel-ish (another non-word for you).  Just that you could tell you were in a hotel restaurant.  It was super modern and absolutely fit with the theme at the Fairmont, but my guess is that the decor will seem outdated in about another 7 years.  The conversation and company was awesome (as always).  Lots of work talk tonight for some reason, but we both had some things we needed to talk out.  Then there was the people watching.  Which was just phenomenal this evening.  Shortly after we arrived a couple, in their 80’s I’d guess, walked in.  The wife in these black silk pants and what I believe was a chinchilla fur vest that came to her knees.  It was fantastic.  And then toward the end of our meal, a woman came in, also probably in her 80’s, in a silver metal (metal, not metallic) tie and gigantic 70’s glasses.  If I am even half as eccentric as either of these two women when I’m in my 80’s then mission accomplished ;-)

On to the meal…

Two of the things I liked about Habitat Continue reading

Butcher and the Rye

9 Apr

Last night, Jen and I finally made it to Butcher and the Rye.  I’ve been wanting to go here for months.  First I had the surgery and wasn’t exactly getting out of my house and then the winter sucked.  I think we made plans to go twice and were snowed out both times.  So weather is finally improving (it may be in the 70’s this weekend!!!) and we made it to this awesome little restaurant.

This restaurant is brought to us by the same folks who run the super popular Meat and Potatoes just a few blocks down from this location.  Both places are difficult to get weekend reservations for, so if you want to go on a Friday or Saturday, make a reservation a few weeks in advance.  The inside of Butcher is rather dark and intimate.  I mean, you are pretty much right on top of the table next to you, so if you want to have a private conversation, good luck.  It wasn’t uncomfortable, but it’s not someplace I’d necessarily want to go for a romantic night out.

When you walk in, the first thing you’ll likely notice is this gigantic wall of whiskey!  They have a large drink menu that includes a whiskey flight.  Alas, that did not sound like a good idea on a Tuesday night, maybe some other time.

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After we sat down, I looked down at our table and had to giggle.  Each table had a different graphic on it, this was ours…

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I found it fitting that I got the Butcher (played brilliantly by Daniel Day Lewis) from Gangs of New York as this was one of the first Leonardo DiCaprio movies where I actually looked at him as an adult and not a kid.

I had been looking at the menu for days, okay weeks, I won’t lie.  One thing I knew for certain that we’d get, the Brussles sprouts.  They did not disappoint me.  I still intend to make a list of the best sprouts in Pittsburgh at some point as so many places have awesome recipes involving this veggie that was the bane of many childhood dinners.  These were wonderfully salty between the prep and the fresh grated parmigiano on top.  It was also served with a creamy lemon aioli that really complimented the Brussles sprouts.

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Jen and I debated whether to get just a few small plates or our own larger plates.  We were all ready to just get 3-4 small plate options but then our server totally changed our mind.  There is a burger on the side menu that was truly fantastic.  They grind the meat fresh and only made something like 25 patties each day.  I know, we ordered a burger at a place like this, but it was not a normal burger.  The pickles were made in house, the onion was grilled and the sesame seed brioche bun was the perfect way for this burger to be served.  Our only issue was that we were sharing and Jen and I have very different ideas of how meat should be cooked.  We ended up in the middle (I would have gone with medium-rare, Jen would have gone well done).  Either way, it was still amazing….

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So of course, our eyes were much larger than our stomachs and we went with one other small plate because we could not pass up the mac and cheese.  This was made for grown-ups with four different cheeses and was cheesy and creamy and absolutely delicious.  Mac and cheese is totally my guilty pleasure food, I was a little devastated that I was too full to enjoy more than a few bites of this.

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So despite sending back about half of the mac and cheese and a few bites of the Brussles sprouts and being ridiculously full, we did order a small desert.  Coconut ice cream with carrot cake and some fried shaved carrot.  Again, we could only eat about half of this, but the ice cream was homemade and it was fabulous as was the cake itself.

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Overall, I really enjoyed this and fully intend to make a repeat visit.  The ambiance and the staff were both lovely as was each dish that we ordered.  They checked on us frequently, but not too often and that is a difficult line to walk as a server.  I would absolutely recommend going here for dinner, but again, make reservations.  It’s by no stretch a large space so I understand why it’s a little difficult to get in to.  And I said this about another new downtown restaurant recently, but I’m so happy to see more places like this going into the downtown area.  It’s just nice to have a lot of options in that area!

Butcher and the Rye on Urbanspoon

Spa Weekend in Bedford Springs

30 Mar

This past weekend one of my good friends, Sara, from my Philly days and I got together for a spa weekend in Bedford Springs.  We did this same trip last year, I have to say, we’ve got this relaxing thing down.

We met on Friday at the resort and after lunch headed to the tasting room of a local winery, Briar Valley Vineyard and Winery.  We had gone here last year and had a nice time so decided to go again.  We did the full menu wine tasting, which is super reasonable at only $5, and they have a very generous tasting pour.  I ended up getting three bottles to take home, two reds (Cab Fran and Lemberger) and a Chardonnay because it was rather tasty.  All of their wines lean toward the dry side.  I would totally recommend stopping in this store if you are heading to Bedford for the spa, it’s a fun stop before the Omni.

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At the resort, there are only three restaurants, two of them are what I’d call more formal while the third, the Frontier Tavern is very casual.  For lunch and dinner the first day we opted for the Frontier Tavern.  We grabbed lunch there before we went to the winery.  I think it was a good call to eat a little before drinking at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.  Sara loves to share food, which makes me happy because I’m the same way.  You get to try more if you share!!  So we split a chicken sandwich and this awesome lobster cobb salad with green goddess dressing.  It was fantastic.

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For dinner, we weren’t especially hungry so we opted for a cheese plate…

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Some fried crab fritters (which honestly were more like hush puppies).  I was expecting more crab I suppose.

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And of course we got a bottle of wine :-)

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Because drinking at the winery and then again in the room before dinner wasn’t enough!  There was a drinking trend this weekend.

We then headed to bed… partly because we were tired and also because we had our spa day ahead of us on Saturday!  In the morning we had a late breakfast at the buffet in the Crystal Dining Room before our appointments at 1.  It was such a great morning, I slept til 8:30 got my workout in early and had a great breakfast all before my spa appointments!

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Ok, on to the good part, the spa…  I had a massage and a facial.  Both of which I loved.  First we get to relax in the spa pool, which I almost fell asleep in because it was so warm and comfy with the jets going.  Then my favorite part, the massage, it was so lovely.  I think next time I do something like this, I’d skip the facial (even though it was very nice) and just do a longer massage.  When my masseuse told me that my hour long session was done I was so sad, I could have stayed for another hour.  One of my friends asked me how I was doing on Saturday night and I told him that I felt like jello, because that was the only word I could come up with to describe how relaxed I was.  It was so nice.

We had dinner reservations in the 1796 room that night for dinner.  So after our spa day, we went back to the room and had a few glasses of wine that we had brought while we got ready for dinner.  The last time we were there I really enjoyed my meal there and was so looking forward to it again.  Sara and I started with this Seafood Tower for 2, it was hysterical (and very good).  There were a few crab legs, one lobster tail, a few shrimp and some tuna ceviche.  I loved that tuna, I seriously could have had that for my meal.

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Since we got such a large starter, I opted to stick with the Seafood theme and got the fish special which was tuna (and I made that decision before I had the ceviche).  It was prepared simply and was done rare.  I loved it, it was very good and light enough for me since I was still feeling jello-ish from my massage!

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Sara went with the beef tenderloin which I got a bite of.  It was a very nice piece of beef and was served with their house-made steak sauce and a grilled artichoke heart.

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We were pretty full after all of that, but our server mentioned a nutella cupcake, and there was no way we were turning that down, so we decided to share one and took it to-go.  First we went back to our room to get some more wine (because a bottle with dinner and some drinks while getting ready was clearly not enough).  It’s fun to drink wine out of to-go coffee cups with the sippy lids on.

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So we got our drinks and took our cupcake down to the lobby area to relax by the fireplace. So this cupcake had nutella and banana chips, two of my favorite things that I never buy.  Sara was super sweet and gave me the banana chip on top.

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This was so good.  Words honestly can’t do it justice.

After the massage and that cupcake and the wine, this was a lovely end to the day…

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Sadly, good things like this must come to an end.  So after a workout in the morning while Sara got a manicure in preparation for her upcoming wedding (3 weeks!!!) and a quick breakfast, we hit the road.  And it was snowing.  Mother Nature and I are going to have some serious words after this winter, she’s going to drive me south again with this nonsense.

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