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Grit & Grace Review

22 Feb

One of my dear friends was celebrating a birthday this week and we both were looking forward to trying Grit & Grace so that is where we went to celebrate.  I honestly can’t say enough great things about this restaurant.  I enjoyed everything about the meal from the setting, to the casual style to the food itself.

They style of food is interesting.  Chef Brian Pekarcik has created a style that (according to our server) is taking Asian food and “Americanizing” it.  Not in the way that the Chinese buffet down your street Americanized things with sweet sauces and fried food, but in a way of taking traditional Asian flavors and giving it an American comfort food touch.

The menu is interesting, and to be honest probably isn’t for the picky eaters among you.  But honestly, nothing that I talk about on this blog is for picky eaters!  They have some salads, sandwiches, noodle bowls as well as small and large entrees.  On top of that, they have a dim sum offering with a server who comes around randomly with the food already prepared.  I saw several things that we didn’t order that I’d certainly go back for.

Off the regular menu we went with Short Ribs on cream cheese biscuits and a hollandaise sauce which was a little messy and also amazing.  This may have been my favorite item that we ordered!  We also ordered the chicken thighs with fried rice, also very tasty.  Until I started eating out at some of these great restaurants, I did not realize the joy that is dark chicken meat.  The flavor is fantastic in this dish and it was simple and delicious.  The last item we ordered from the regular menu was the braised pork in butter lettuce cups.  It was also very good, but probably my least favorite of the items we ordered.

IMG_1103The Chicken Thighs

When the dim sum server came to our table, I wasn’t sure what to get!  Every item was tempting.  Eventually what we got was the kimchi (2 of those because it was so good we ordered another when he came back around later).  The pork belly, which is like really amazing bacon, and a steak tartare.  Each of them were tasty!

IMG_1101The Short Ribs, Kimchi and Pork Belly

We ended with something sweet of course.  I didn’t see desert listed so I was thinking that we would be heading out for something, but they did have two options that were not listed.  What we chose was… interesting.  It was a lemongrass creme with toasted fruity pebbles.  Yes, you heard that correctly, fruity pebbles.  It was different.  I’m not sure I’d get it again, but it was certainly something to try!  I loved the lemongrass creme, just not sure how I felt about it with cereal!

IMG_1104Our Fruity Pebble desert

Again, I really enjoyed everything about this restaurant.  We ended up taking close to 2 hours to eat and never once felt rushed.  The servers were all very attentive but not overly so.  I asked about possibly menu changes and additions and she said that yes, they’ve been and will continue to change up the dim sum as well as the regular menu.  It was a small space downtown, not far from Market Square.  I’m happy to see new places going in in the downtown area as it seems some of the other neighborhoods around town have been the target for many of the interesting restaurants in the last 5-10 years.  With the relatively recent addition of Grit & Grace (as well as Butcher and the Rye which I’m hitting up in about 3 weeks) there are now some really great dining options in downtown Pittsburgh.  The only other thing I’ll add is that you need a reservation.  While we were there early and it wasn’t that busy at the time, I can see this place getting really crowded later in the evening.  Have you been to Grit & Grace yet?  What did you think?

Grit & Grace on Urbanspoon

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Legume Review

27 Nov

Last Saturday we celebrated the birthdays of two of my good friends, Julie and Sarah at one of my absolute favorite restaurants in Pittsburgh, Legume.  This amazing restaurant is on Craig Street in Oakland.  Their menu changes each day, but usually you can find some of the same things throughout a given week.  This is a family run restaurant and from what I’ve heard, they are very involved in the community and are very committed to making sure what they serve is fresh.

We started in their bar, Butterjoint.  It’s rather small and they have their own small menu.  I’d like to go back there on a night when it isn’t so busy to eat, we could barely find a spot to stand while we were waiting for our table.  Luckily, we were seated right on time.

I’ve been to Legume two or three times before but it had been a while, so I was really happy to get back there. We started by sharing some cheese.  We got the Raclette, which has a consistency similar to Brie.  We also ordered blue cheese with a pear compote.  I personally liked this best, the flavor of the blue cheese with the sweet compote was an awesome pairing.

For my main dish, I struggled with what to order.  There was a lamb dish that sounded great (and I got a little bite of it, it was done in a Mediterranean style and there was a hint of cinnamon, I really liked it).  But I went with a bluefish dish because I’ve heard that they are very picky about their seafood and they get it daily, so I figured it would be the thing to try that night!

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The fish was a little crispy on top and was served with lentils and a sunchoke puree.  It was fantastic and I literally ate every bite.  If it wouldn’t have been very bad form, I would have licked the plate.  Several of my friends ordered a house-made ricotta ravioli that I, of course, needed to try!

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Look at how pretty that was.  It was served with an arugula pesto which gave it a slightly different flavor than what I’m used to with pesto, but I liked it, it was kind of refreshing.  The ravioli was really good too.  There is just something about fresh ravioli, it tastes so much better than frozen.  I don’t realize the difference until I get some fresh ravioli.

Since it was a birthday celebration, we obviously ordered desert!  There were seven of us at dinner and we were debating what we should order, there were four options.  So we did the logical thing and ordered one of each to share.  I only nabbed pictures of two of them.

The gingerbread cake…  gingerbread usually isn’t my thing but I really enjoyed this.

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And the apple pie ice cream, which was so good, I think it was my favorite of the four.  I mean it was apple pie in ice cream form, what could possibly not be awesome about that.

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I know, bad picture, remember, I don’t want to be the annoying person in the restaurant so I keep the flash off!

We also ordered a chocolate cake that was very rich, but also very tasty.  There was one other desert that I can’t recall the name of.  It was fluffy and sticky and awesome and I’m really sad that I didn’t take a picture of it.  If Niki reads this I’m going to beg her to write in the comments on the blog what it was!  I hope she remembers since she ordered it.

So, as usual I had an amazing meal at Legume.  They put together a great menu each day and I always look forward to visits to this restaurant.  I’d highly recommend it if you haven’t been there yet.

Legume Bistro on Urbanspoon

Round Corner Cantina

6 Nov

I’ve been to Round Corner Cantina many times before, it’s one of my favorite places in my favorite neighborhood, Lawrenceville.  It’s a tiny bar that serves good tacos and excellent guaqamole.  When the weather is nice, you can sit outside in their courtyard.  I was first turned on to this place by a friend of a friend who was from Arizona.  He said that this was the only decent so-cal style Mexican food that he’d had since moving to Pittsburgh.  According to him, it wasn’t perfect, but it was close.

Jen was craving some Mexican tonight so we decided to go back to this favorite place.  I’ve tried the mahi mahi, the pork belly, the carne asada, the chicken and now the lamb tacos here.  I’ve enjoyed each and every one of them.  As you may already know, I hate turning my flash on in restaurants, so I apologize for how dark everything is!

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And their guaqamole is one of my favorites.  It’s super simple, just some lime, salt and pepper, cilantro and some other seasoning (probably chile and cumin).  They serve it with homemade chips that are awesomely salty and fresh.

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I had to have a margarita tonight also… okay, I had two.  It was a two drink kind of night, what can I say.  I needed to get some stuff off my chest, and Jen’s the person that I can do that with.  Thank you Jen.  I love how they serve these, the mason jars are a nice touch.  They are really fresh tasting.  I have to say, I probably enjoy these more when the weather is warm, but I’ll take a good margarita any time that I can.

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This really is one of my favorite places to go to.  If you are looking for some good tacos and guacamole around Pittsburgh, I highly recommend Round Corner Cantina.

Round Corner Cantina on Urbanspoon

Cure Review

26 Oct

Jen and I continued our mission to go to the best Pittsburgh restaurants this past week.  We decided to go to Cure in Lawrenceville.  Honestly, the only reason I hadn’t gone yet was because I really thought we’d already been there.  See, this is one of the main reasons I started this blog, so I could keep a running list of where we’ve gone and which we liked.

In this case, I wasn’t as impressed as I’d hoped to be.  Maybe it’s because I’ve gone to some truly amazing restaurants around town and when I draw comparisons these days, everything is compared to my favorite meals.

First impression was of the restaurant decor, which I really liked.  It was small and rustic looking and very cute.  When we went to order was when I had my first reservations.  There was absolutely no altering of the dish.  I get it, the chef has gone through a lot of trouble to put dishes together, but when Jen asked for something to be omitted because she doesn’t like shellfish, they said they only alter dishes for allergies.

So, we started with the brussels sprouts.  They were done with bacon, walnuts and goat cheese.  They were actually amazing.  I’ll still give credit to the brussels sprouts at Root 174 as my favorite, but these were a close second.  So the meal started out really well.

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Jen ordered the butternut squash risotto.  Here is where things got a little more off for both Jen and myself.  While the risotto itself was fantastic, it came with too much extra “stuff” in my humble opinion.  There was a basil oil, a Chianti froth, mushrooms and smoked mozzarella.  I get that each of those could compliment the dish, but were all four really needed?  I think that one or two of those things would have worked just as well.  I honestly loved how the basil oil tasted with the risotto, but the rest felt like overkill.  You can see all the stuff in the picture below (I didn’t use the flash, it would have just been embarrassing to use in a place like this).

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I ordered the hanger steak.  When I ordered I was told that it is usually prepared medium rare, but the chef would be willing to do it medium if I asked.  So basically, if you like your steak over medium, you aren’t getting it at this place.  As with this dish, I loved the steak but it came with too many little sauces.  I actually liked all of them, but it just felt like too much to me again.  There was a cheddar custard, lobster béarnaise, red eye bordelaise and caramelized onion puree.  I really did like the caramelized onion puree and I would have been happy with just two of those sauces.

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To end the night we decided to get the chocolate souffle cake. This I also really enjoyed.  It was served simply with some pistachio butter and sea salt.  I think I liked it so much because it was relatively simple.

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My overall take on Cure was that I was very glad I tried it, but it isn’t someplace that I’m likely to visit again.  Everything just was a bit too complicated for me, and I don’t normally shy away from different dishes.  Also the fact that there was little to no flexibility didn’t make me especially happy.  If you are a bit of a picky eater, you aren’t likely to be happy at this restaurant.  I’d say it is more for those with rather adventurous pallets.

 

Cure on Urbanspoon

Dinner at Arlecchino

13 Oct

Last week I went out to dinner with some folks to this amazing restaurant in McMurray (Peter’s Township), Arlecchino.  My cousin had invited me here over a year ago but then we ended up cancelling our plans and I’d wanted to go ever since she mentioned it.  This place is in an old, converted school house.  It’s not very big and even on a weeknight I’d probably recommend reservations.

The staff is very courteous and seemed to know when to pay attention and when to leave us alone.  The menu was amazing and the portions are very large.  They get in their meat and produce daily so know everything is fresh.  They also modify the menu each day depending on what they get in I think!

So to start, they bring out a salad for the table to share.  It had roasted beets and many other good things in it and was lightly dressed, it was perfect.  They also bring out their bread and some “holy oil” (which is infused oil for dipping).  After the salad, out came some pasta with a vodka sauce.  They also brought out a hot pepper oil if you want to add that to the pasta.  A little went a long way, but it did add a little kick to the pasta and was really good!

After all of that food, out came our meals.  I really only remember what I got, but I know there was a pork dish, a veal chop and a fish dish around the table, here are some pics of their meals…

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I did get to taste each of these and they were all fantastic.  Everything was very fresh and cooked perfectly.  As for me, I ordered the Cottoletta del Monzu.

IMG_0889This was three pieces of thin veal scallopini finished with fresh mozzarella, colossal lump crab, arugula, and toasted pine nuts.  It was so good, but there were two leftover pieces when I was done.  After the salad and the pasta who could blame me, this was huge!  The flavors in this blended perfectly and there was just enough cheese, not too much as sometimes happens when you go out for Italian.  I loved the addition of the arugula, it added something to the dish that I can’t quite explain, but I think it really brought the crab and the veal together.

And since it was still my birthday week, we got dessert.  We ordered a raspberry Tiramisu.

IMG_0893It was light and fluffy and awesome.  The topping reminded me of a burnt almond torte, it was nice and crunchy.  The filling was so fluffy it was a little like what I assume biting into a cloud would be like 🙂

Overall, I was super impressed with my meal.  This isn’t a place I’d go to all the time, it was pricey, but was also worth the money.  This may be one of my favorite places that I’ve been to since I’ve been back in Pittsburgh though, and I’ve been to some pretty amazing restaurants around town!

Arlecchino Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Park Bruges Restaurant Review

2 Oct

I went to Park Bruges in Highland Park for dinner tonight.  First of all, I love going to the Highland Park area.  There are so many pretty old homes there.  They are all in different states, some have been restored and others are still in a state of neglect, but overall, it’s a very pretty area.  And there are lots of really good restaurants there.  There is a Thai place that I like and E2 is there, which is really one of my favorite places in Pittsburgh and it’s super tiny and cute and run by hipsters.  I love it.

Anyway, on the Park Bruges, which is a french bistro style restaurant.  It  has a sister restaurant called Point Brugge Cafe in Point Breeze also.  My friend Jen and I had been trying to get here for a few months.  We tried one night, but the wait was horribly long for some reason so we ended up eating at E2 that night.  So I was really excited to try it.

I started with a beer, and being October I ordered a pumpkin beer.  I got the Dogfish Head Pumpkin Ale.  It wasn’t too heavy on the pumpkin with a very subtle cinnamon and nutmeg flavor and a bit of a hoppy taste to it.  I’m rather sensitive to hops though, so for some of you, it may not seem very hoppy.  I really did enjoy it.

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We’d talked about their frites so many times that I couldn’t wait to try them.  We ordered the Poutine in the Montreal style, which came with Amish cheese curds and gravy.  Seriously, yum.  The fries were thin and crispy and they weren’t too heavy handed with the gravy.  Which was perfect.  Sometimes you get fries with gravy and you can barely taste the fries.  These were done very well and Jen and I enjoyed every last bite.

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For entree’s Jen opted for the Gemelli Pasta with peas, artichokes, asparagus, arugula and lemon herb ricotta.  She also got tofu with it.  It was very fresh and they put nutmeg in it.  Which was surprising and really tasty at the same time.  I had a bite and really liked it.  Jen’s only complaint was that the tofu was an afterthought and wasn’t really tossed with the dish but rather just placed on it.  I get that it’s an option, but I think it would have been better if it had been incorporated differently.  And the bread was so good.  I love a good, crusty piece of french bread.  Especially since I’ve been eating sprouted wheat bread at home lately.

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I really debated about what I should order.  I really wanted the PEI mussels when I arrived, but there was also this scallop dish that sounded good.  I asked our server what she’d suggest and she said that they’d always have the mussels but the scallops wouldn’t be there forever.  So, I went with the scallops with an Israeli couscous salad with roasted eggplant & tomatoes, harissa, tahini-yogurt and roasted cauliflower.  I cleared my plate, it was really good.  The scallops were cooked perfectly, just seared.  The harissa was interesting.  It was very spicy to me and I have a decent tolerance for heat.  I only needed the tiniest bit with each bite.  I was laughing though, my friend Bhavini would have mixed all of it into the dish and probably asked for more!  I liked the balance of it though with the cool yogurt sauce.  It was an interesting little dance in my mouth.  That sounds dirtier than intended.  Get your minds out of the gutter.

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Lastly, and forgive me, I forgot to take a photo, we ordered dessert.  You know, I kept forgetting to take pictures all night.  Jen had to keep reminding me and I still forgot to take a picture of dessert.  They don’t post desert options on the website or the menu for that matter.  I assume this means that they change often.  We ordered a chocolate soufle with a salted caramel cream filling.  WOW.  It was so good.  I mean, salted caramel anything really.  The soufle part was very light as was the filling.  It was the perfect end to a great meal.

Overall, I really enjoyed my meal and the atmosphere.  The staff was friendly and attentive without being overbearing.  The location is very cute and the inside is simple and understated.  I said French Bistro style earlier, right?  This is definitely someplace that I would visit again!

Park Bruges on Urbanspoon

Industry Public House Review

28 Jun

Earlier this week Jen, her husband and I visited Industry Public House in Lawrenceville. Yet another great Lawrenceville neighborhood restaurant, this one opened in 2012. I’m really kicking myself for not buying a house there. I seriously considered buying a fixer-upper there and am now thinking that I should have bought a place to rent out.

Anyway, Industry Public house is located on Butler Street and is what I’d describe as a gastro-pub. They have an extensive bar menu with an impressive selection of beers on tap and more whiskey than I’d ever know what to do with. I ordered one of their beers, the Industry Copper Ale. It was a great mild beer. I’m not a fan of overly hoppy beers and this one was very minimal on the hops.

On to the food! Their menu features great comfort food, right up my alley. We decided to start with an order of their fries, they come in three different styles: truffle oil and gorgonzola, pot roast with gravy or melted cheddar and bacon. We opted for the pot roast and it was fantastic. It was so good in fact that we were pretty much done with eating them before I remembered to take a picture! So here is the aftermath.

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I ordered the Worker Burgher which had carmelized onions, goat cheese, wild mushrooms, arugala and a herb aioli. I figured when you go to a place with a burger menu like this one, that’s what you should order! I did opt for a side salad rather than fries since we had ordered the pot roast fries as a starter.

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Jen opted to be healthy and ordered a salad and it looked so good. She got the company salad with granny smith apples, gorgonzola, dried cranberries, sliced red onion, candied pecans and a balsamic vinaigrette. It was a good sized salad and Jen said that it was very good. Those flavors go very well together so I’m confident that it was tasty.

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Jen’s husband ordered a cheese and bacon sandwich. He wasn’t overly impressed with it, but the bacon was really good. It was wild boar bacon and I tasted a bit of it. I really expected it to taste very gamey, but it wasn’t that way at all. It was done very well and just smokey enough. It could have been a little more crispy, but it was a thick cut of bacon, so that would explain why it wasn’t.

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I really liked it here, but I’ll freely admit that I haven’t been many places lately that I didn’t like. The service was okay, not extraordinary. This is the kind of place that I would love to come to after work for a beer and a bite to eat with friends. I would definitely recommend Industry as a great casual bar/restaurant and yet another place that I would visit again.

Industry Public House on Urbanspoon

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