Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Perfect Fusion of Barbeque & Mexican- Smoke Barbeque Taqueria

225 East 8th Avenue- Homestead

Blink and you might miss this little hidden gem along the main drag of Homestead.  (Well, we actually did during our first passing by & had to turn around & come back! ;) )  If you are looking for an alternative to the big name chains of the Waterfront, then take the short hop across the bridge to 8th Avenue and seek out Smoke Barbeque Taqueria.  Smoke offers 7 delectable tacos (including 2 breakfast versions served all day) for $2.75 to $4.00 a piece.    You can also include any of their 5 amazing sides to your taco order.  I strongly advise adding their housemade bacon to anything and everything that you can.  It is that good.  ;)  

From top left, clockwise:
  • I chose the Red Potato Salad to accompany my 2 tacos.  The potato salad was creamy and very flavorful with the addition of the sauteed leaks.  The salad is topped with tender chunks of Smoke's housemade bacon, lending the dish a nice smokiness and just the right amount of salt.  
  • My first taco was the Pork Taco- slow barbequed & shredded pork topped with an apricot harbanero sauce & caramelized onions wrapped in one of Smoke's handmade tortillas.  The apricot harbanero sauce is what lured me into ordering this taco.  I was intrigued.  The sauce was slightly sweet, a bit acidic, with just a tad of heat.  I enjoyed it, but really could have used just a bit more sauce in my taco. 
  • My husband ordered a side of the Mac 'N Cheese to go with his Pork taco and his Brisket taco.  The mac 'n cheese was creamy, but not heavy.  It is a perfect blend of elbow macaroni, mascarpone cheese, roasted garlic, and shallots.  It was topped with a generous helping of shredded sharp white cheddar.  The only thing that would have made this mac 'n cheese better would have been the addition of Smoke's housemade bacon (which by the way you can do!).  ;)
  • The second taco I ordered was the Veggie one.  This vegetarian version is quite substantial with black beans, roasted poblano pepper, a corn relish, crispy potatoes, & their housemade chili de arbol sauce.  Warning:  the chili de arbol sauce is not for the faint of heart.  It is spicy.  I ordered a side of the Avocado Cream to help counter the spiciness of the sauce.  It worked. ;)
What you need to know before you go:
  • Parking is on the street.  You will need change if you visit Smoke for breakfast or during the day.  The meters are free in the evenings.  
  • Smoke is presently a cash only establishment.  Make sure you bring enough!  My husband and I ate for under $30 with each of us ordering 2 tacos, 1 side, and a drink a piece. P.S.  2 tacos & 1 side is more than enough for a substantial meal for one person. 
  • Smoke is also a BYOB establishment.  If you choose to eat in and want to partake in some adult beverages with your tacos, bring your own beer or wine.  Otherwise, Smoke offers Aqua Fresca (honeydew melon was the flavor the night we visited), Horchata, & Lemonade ($3.00), all made in house with organic sugar.  If you are ordering breakfast tacos, try their Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice or Mexican Chiapas Coffee.
  • Seating is very limited (an eclectic mix of 3 tables and various chairs), so you may want to plan to call ahead and order takeout- 412-205-3039.
  • Smoke Barbeque Taqueria does not presently have a website, but you can read other great reviews and get info on their hours on Yelp here:

Friday, November 18, 2011

D's SixPax & Dogz (Monroeville)

4320 Northern Pike- Monroeville

A few weeks back I implored my Twitter pals for a few good (and budget friendly) recommendations for a restaurant to grab a quick lunch at in Monroeville.  More than one person replied with D's SixPax & Dogz.  "Hot dogs?" was my first thought.  Since I have found myself with child, I have written off all and any meat products that harbor even the slightest chance of my acquiring listeria poisoning.  Hot dogs & lunch meats have pretty much been ruled out for the 9 month duration.  So I was delighted to find that D's offers veggie dogs.  I can't lie.  I get a craving for hot dogs something fierce occasionally and veggie dogs still allow me to indulge that craving.

From left to right:

  • We started with the beer battered french fries.  I really loved the battered crisp on the outside of the fries.  A small basket was more than enough for two people.
  • I ordered the Mason Dixon veggie dog.  Being from West Virginia, I am used to a good hot dog topped with chili and coleslaw.  I also decided to order yellow mustard with mine (a hometown thing for me).  While I never received my yellow mustard (even when I stopped the server to ask for it), the veggie dog itself was substantial.  It was topped generously with their homemade chili & coleslaw. I loved the addition of red onion to their coleslaw.  
  • My husband had the Bacon Cheeseburger.  Unfortunately, there wasn't very much to say about the burger.  It was average at best.
*It is in my typical style to avoid much negativity in my blog features.  Usually if I don't have anything nice to say, then I don't write a blog feature on an establishment.  This visit to D's SixPax & Dogz left me torn.  It is difficult to find a good veggie dog within 30 minutes of the Greensburg area.  My Maxon Dixon was a damn good veggie dog.  (The only thing that would have made it better would have been that yellow mustard! ;) )  But the service and timeliness of the food was very much lacking.  We did wait nearly 20 minutes for our basket of fries.  The restaurant was steady, but not slammed.  As a former server, I am always conscious & understanding of most situations in which a server or a restaurant might fall short at no fault of their own.  None of those situations were visibly present on our visit.  Will I return?  Maybe.  But I will only be ordering veggie dogs & taking them to go.  
I don't want to judge the entire franchise on just one of their locations though. I have a feeling that I would definitely give the D's in Regent Square a go.  They seem to have it a little more together there:

I will post their website here: , though it is not very helpful.  The only page to the website is a very small print menu that you need a magnifying glass to read.  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Have You Met The Headkeeper's Older Sister Yet, J Corks?

26 East Pittsburgh Street- Greensburg

If The Headkeeper is the fun, more casual younger sister, then J Corks is the more mature, sophisticated older sister.  As many of my followers know, my husband and I have been a fan of The Headkeeper & it's laid back, yet modern tapas menu & amazing beer selection since I moved to the Greensburg area in January.  For my birthday this past September, my husband and I decided to give J Corks, The Headkeeper's sister restaurant, a go.  We found that we loved the menu just as much as The Headkeeper's, but just like when you date an older sister versus a younger sister make sure your wallet is a little thicker. ;)

From top left, clockwise:

  • My husband & I started our meal with the Pepper Jack Spinach Dip with Soft Pretzels & Adobo Chips.  The spinach dip itself had just the right balance of spinach and creamy cheese, and just a hint of spice.  All too often, a restaurant will serve you a spinach dip that is cheese heavy or spinach dry.  J Corks gets the balance just right.  The soft pretzels & perfectly salted blue and red chips are the ideal accompaniment for the dip.  My husband & I loved the chips so much that we had to ask for a second helping.
  • For my birthday girl dinner, I ordered the Black Tiger Shrimp Carbonara.  The shrimp were tossed with snow peas, applewood smoked bacon, & a romano cream sauce over linguine.  The dish itself was a sublime balance between light and heavy.  The applewood smoked bacon brought a nice smokiness to the cream sauce.
  • My husband ordered the Dry Spicy Rubbed Center Cut Pork Loin Chop with Adobo Compound Butter.  This is not a chop for the light eater.  This 2 inch thick chop was tender and juicy, cooked perfectly.  The chop itself was lightly spiced, but the spice rub was not overwhelming.  The pork loin chop was served over a generous helping of tomato basil couscous.  *It appears that this item is not on their fall menu.  J Corks does change their menus seasonally.  
  • You can't have a proper birthday dinner without a dessert.  ;)  The dessert choice was a no-brainer for us.  I love gingerbread; he loves carrot cake, so went with the Gingerbread Carrot Cake with a Vanilla Bean Icing.  The cake was moist.  The vanilla bean icing went perfectly with the gingerbread and carrot cake flavors.  What more is there to say? 
What you need to know before you go:

  • Parking is on the street, so make sure to bring change for the meters.
  • Dinner entrees range in price from around $14-$26.  If you are wanting to try J Corks, but are looking for something a little more budget friendly, try coming for lunch.  Their lunch entrees range in price from $9-$16.
  • To be in the know about upcoming specials (such as Wino Wednesdays) & events, become a fan of J Corks on Facebook-

For directions, hours, & menus, click here:

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Suburghia Girl Recipe- Pumpkin Ricotta Ravioli with a Pumpkin Tarragon Walnut Sauce

The very first thing I think of when I hear the world is fall is pumpkin.  It embodies so much of what I love about this season.  The seasonal foods, the hint of cinnamon & nutmeg, jack-o-lanterns...  Besides colorful crunchy leaves, what says fall is here more than pumpkins?

Lately, I have been on a real pumpkin kick.  Maybe it is because I am so excited for the fall (if you haven't guess it yet, fall is my favorite season!).  Maybe it is because I have been having hormone-induced cravings for the orange fleshy stuff (Yes, pumpkin IS a pregnancy super food! BabyMed- Pumpkin During Pregnancy ).  And yesterday evening I embarked on an adventure to make homemade pumpkin ravioli.

Yes, I did venture to make my ravioli dough from scratch.  I found an easy and fantastic recipe for the dough from the Food Network's Tyler Florence here- Tyler Florence's Ravioli Dough Recipe , but I am going to suggest that you do not go this route unless you already own a pasta machine.  I do not own one and try as I may, I was not able to roll out my pasta dough thin enough using a rolling pin.  But it is a great upper body and arm workout! ;)  Until I own a pasta machine (which my husband now knows is on my Christmas wishlist this year), I will stick with the wonton wrappers you can find in your grocery store's frozen food section.

If you do own a pasta machine or if you just have incredible upper body strength & feel you can dominate the dough to the right thickness, you should start your dough first.  The recipe above calls for the dough to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes before you begin rolling it out.  If you are opting for the wonton wrappers, make sure you thaw them out in the fridge or on the kitchen counter before using them. 

While your pasta dough is in the fridge, you can go ahead and make the pumpkin ricotta filling for the ravioli.  I kept the filling very simple since we will be topping the ravioli with a rich and flavorful sauce at the end.  To make the filling, scoop about 1 cup of canned pumpkin into a small mixing bowl.  Add 3/4 cup of ricotta cheese, and mix together.  Next add 1 egg and beat into the pumpkin/ricotta mixture until well incorporated.  To season the filling, just add a 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp of pumpkin pie spice or nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp of salt.  Mix well and set aside.

Now prepare your ravioli dough (using the instructions in Tyler's recipe) or take out your wonton wrappers.  No matter which you are using make sure to brush the edges of the ravioli squares with an egg wash (just beat an egg with a little bit of water).  The egg wash will make the edges stick better and keep your pumpkin filling from spilling out.  I would also suggest at this point you start a pot of salted water to boil. Drop a little less than a tbsp of the pumpkin ricotta filling into each ravioli, but make sure not to overfill.  Fold over your wrap or dough, seal the pocket of filling with your fingers, and cut the edges of each ravioli.  You can easily do this with a pizza cutter.  But if you want to be fancy, you can pick up a pasta dough cutter with the crimped edges like the one I have pictured below. ;) Set aside your assembled ravioli.

At this point, your water should almost be at a boil.  While you are waiting, go ahead and start the Pumpkin Tarragon Walnut sauce.  You will start by heating about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat.  Finely chop 1 small shallot and add to the pan once the oil is heated.  Saute for about 2 minutes.  Add 2 tbsp of flour to the shallot and cook for another minute.  The flour will work to thicken the sauce and cooking it first will make sure there isn't a raw flour taste to your sauce.  Pour 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream into the pan with the shallot and the flour and whisk often.  Once the cream is heated through, add about 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin and continue to whisk until well mixed and creamy.  Your water is probably boiling now.  Add your first round of ravioli to the pot.  Do not overcrowd them.  Your ravioli are done when they float to the surface.  Now, let's finish the cream sauce. :)  Continue whisking and add 1 tsp of dried tarragon, a few dashes of cinnamon, and a few sprinkles of pumpkin pie spice or nutmeg.  Whisk in 1 tbsp of sugar.  By now your sauce should really be thickening up.  If it is too thick for your taste, just whisk in a little water to thin it out a bit.  Throw in about a 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Never forget to taste your sauces!  To finish the sauce, add 1 tbsp of butter and whisk until melted and well incorporated. 

Drain your ravioli.  Plate 4-5 ravioli and cover with the your Pumpkin Tarragon Walnut Sauce.  Enjoy and say hello to fall!

P.S.  The Pumpkin Tarragon Walnut sauce is so good that I also suggest just making it and serving it over prepared, store bought cheese ravioli or over a spinach fettuccine. :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Suburghian Girl Recipe: Italian Chili

Fall is just around the corner.  College football season is already upon on us.  And here is a fresh new twist on a cooler weather, game day favorite- an Italian Chili.  The addition of basil, oregano, orzo, and red wine gives this chili it's Italian flare.

This is actually a crock pot recipe (perfect for your game day get-together!), but can easily be adapted to the stove if you don't have the time for the slow cooking or if you don't have a crock pot in your kitchen. But I think every well-equipped kitchen should have a crock pot. ;)

First start by browning 1 lb of ground beef in a large frying pan with 1 tbs of olive oil.  Once browned, drain the beef of any fat and place into the crock pot.  In the same frying pan, heat 1 tbs of olive oil.  Add 1 medium onion, chopped and 1 medium green pepper, chopped to the pan.  Saute for 2-3 minutes until slightly soft.  Add 4 cloves of garlic, minced to the pan.  Saute for another 1-2 minutes.  Place the sauteed veggies in the crock pot with the ground beef.  Pour one 29 oz can of tomato sauce and one 29 oz can of crushed tomatoes (diced tomatoes will also work) into the crock pot.  Using one of the empty cans, pour 1 can full of beef broth and 1 can full of water into the crock pot.  You could use 2 can fulls of water, but your chili will be much richer with the addition of beef broth.  Drain and rinse a 15 oz can of cannellini beans in a small colander.  Add the beans to the crock pot.  Sprinkle in 2 tsp of dried oregano.  Add salt and cracked pepper.  Add in 3/4 cups of red wine.  You could also use 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar in place of the wine.  I actually used a little of both in mine. ;)  At this point, you could sneak in some extra veggies by adding some fresh or frozen spinach leaves to the chili.  Mix all the ingredients together in the crock pot and turn it to the low setting.  Let it cook in the crock pot on low for at least 6 hours. 

When you are about 30 minutes from serving your chili, turn the heat setting up to high.  Add 1 1/2 cups water to the simmering chili.  Now pour in about 8 oz of orzo or any other small pasta.  Chop up about 8 fresh basil leaves and add to the crock pot during the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Before serving, taste your chili!  Add more salt or pepper to taste.  If the chili seems to be missing a little something, add a few tbsp of sugar.  Just a touch of sweetness can bring out the robust flavors. 

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and a crusty Italian bread.  Touchdown!

P.S. If you happen to have a lot of leftovers with this chili (like I did), this dish freezes well.  Just pour into freezer safe containers and freeze up to 2 months.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Braddock's Brasserie And Bar- Swank and Upscale Food Without the Pretentiousness

107 6th Street- Pittsburgh

Influenced by a recent Groupon purchase and a raving and tempting blog post from my friend & fellow foodie blogger, Food Collage (click here to see her blog post on Braddock's Food Collage- Braddock's American Brasserie), my husband and I decided to forgo the Pirates game and the sweltering heat and stepped into the lobby of the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel.  Yes, Braddock's is located just inside and straight back from the lobby of this classy hotel.  The first thing you notice about the place is the atmosphere- swanky and modern. You begin to wonder if you dressed up enough for the joint! ;)  But no worries.  Braddock's caters to all, even those patrons who stop in for a bite to eat before heading to a Pirates game.  Little black dress and heels, or a Pirates jersey and jeans- everyone is welcome & fits right in.
So, let's get to it.

From top to bottom:
  • We started out our meal at Braddock's quite simply- with a order of their Frites served with a side of Roasted Garlic Aioli.  The frites were perfectly salted and seasoned with rosemary.  They were light and crisp.  The roasted garlic aioli was creamy, but not heavy- the perfect accompaniment for the frites.
  • I ordered one of Braddock's dinner features of the evening as my entree- Filet Mignon served with Lump Crab Meat & a Bearnaise sauce.  The entree was served with a generous side of their Fingerling Mashed potatoes & their fresh vegetable of the day- asparagus.  My filet was grilled to a perfect medium-rare.  I cannot even express how happy this made me.  Lately, my experiences with a steak actually being prepared to a real medium-rare has been few and far between.  The crab meat was actual lumps of crab.  Actual sweet lumps of crab meat.  (You can clearly see that in my photo above. ;) )  The mashed fingerlings were creamy and garlicky.  My one and only complaint was the asparagus.  It had been sliced instead of left in spears, and in the cooking process had lost it's crisp bite.  I am not a fan of mushy asparagus. But the steak, crab, and potatoes were MORE than enough to satisfy me.
  • My husband ordered the Braddock's Caesar salad topped with a grilled Gerber Farms Amish chicken breast.  The salad itself consisted of two large and crisp whole Romaine hearts topped with shredded Parmesan cheese, croutons, lemon zest, and a bright Caesar dressing.  We loved the addition of the lemon to the salad.  It really brightened up the entire entree.  The chicken breast was juicy and tender.
What you need to know before you go:
  • You will more than likely have to pay for parking.  There is a parking garage that my husband & I always park at for Pirates games directly across the street from Braddock's.  It costs $5 to park there.  Even on game days- it is still only $5. :)
  • Most dinner entrees are priced anywhere from $13 to $30.  Lunch at Braddock's is a bit more budget friendly with burger and small plate options available.
For hours, directions, and menus, visit below:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Quick (& Sweet) Bite in Suburghia- The Cupcake Shoppe

20 West 2nd Street- Greensburg

If you are in need of a quick sweet treat while in the downtown area, stop in at The Cupcake Shoppe at 20 West 2nd Street.  We ducked in for some cupcake yumminess before heading to the farmers market at the Westmoreland Art Museum to pick up local goodies.  The shoppe is cute, quaint, and very clean.  This was my first visit to the Shoppe, and I was very impressed with how affordable the cupcakes are- just $2 each! :)  (Please remember, I am girl who moved here from a larger Midwestern city & had grown used to paying up to $5 a pop for a gourmet cupcake.)

So here is the lowdown...

From left to right:
  • The Cupcake Shoppe's selection of cupcake flavors changes daily, so come back often for new choices. ;)  It does seem though that the Chocolate, Very Vanilla, and Peanut Butter Cup are regular offerings.  On this particular day, the special cupcake offered was Snickerdoodle.
  • My son ordered the Peanut Butter Cup, a moist chocolate cupcake topped with a peanut butter frosting that is reminiscent of homemade peanut butter fudge.
  • I went with a classic, the Chocolate cupcake, mainly because it is topped with a rich buttercream frosting and sprinkles. (I am a sucker for a good buttercream!)  The buttercream was amazing.
I definitely see more trips to The Cupcake Shoppe in our very near future. ;)
For more information and for the Shoppe's hours, visit below:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Beyond Just a Burger & a Beer- Bocktown Beer & Grill

690 Chauvet Drive- Pittsburgh (In the Pool City Plaza, across from Target)

Many people in the Pittsburgh/Suburghia area visit the Robinson Town Center for the mall and of course, Ikea.  And shopping can work up quite an appetite.  ;)  So, the next time you are at Ikea perusing their many light fixtures and kitchen gadgets, forgo the hoards of chain restaurants (and the mall food court) and head straight for Bocktown Beer and Grill.  Tucked inside the Pool City/Target Plaza, it is a real local gem.  Bocktown prides itself on utilizing local vendors and products, and serving some of the best local beers available on tap.  You could say it is a locavore's paradise.
I was fortunate enough to have a Columbus friend (a transplant from the 'Burgh) turn me onto this place and I haven't looked back since.  Confession- there are times when the husband and I just go to Robinson for Bocktown's irresistible fresh cut fries.  The shopping is secondary to the grub. ;)
So, let's get to it.

From top left, clockwise:

  • The glorious Flat Belly Fries (also comes in Beer Belly).  The Flat Belly is perfect for 2-3 people.  Order the Beer Belly if you are out with a group or are just REALLY hungry. ;)  We start out every Bocktown meal with an order of these fresh cut fries topped with the Beer Cheese and Black Peppered Bacon.   We keep it simple, but there are 47 different toppings to choose from to slather on top of your order of Bocktown fries.
  • Just to show that Bocktown is not all beer, burgers, and fries, I ordered the Seared Salmon Salad with the suggested Basil Pesto Vinaigrette.  The perfectly seared salmon was served over a fresh mix of greens, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, & other goodies.  And yeah, it made me feel a little less guilty for polishing off those Beer Belly Fries. ;)
  • My husband, on the other hand, ordered the ultimate trifecta of a burger, the Three Rivers Burgher.  The Three Rivers is served open-faced and generously topped with beer cheese, beef gravy, & Bocktown fries.  (Yes, under all of that is a juicy 1/2 lb burger!) 
  • Check Bocktown's website often for their ongoing Beer Tastings, Beeried Treasure events, and live music schedule.  Every week there is something new and tasty going on!

What you need to know before you go:

  • Bocktown Beer & Grill is becoming one of the first restaurants in the area to utilize the Tabbedout app.  Find out more about Tabbedout here:
  • Vegetarian?  No problem!  Bocktown offers many vegetarian options as well as the option to substitute a fat portabella for any of their burgers on the menu.
  • In addition to their regular fabulous menu, Bocktown offers daily specials. Check back at their website often.  You just might find a new favorite! :)
  • Bocktown is currently in the process of opening a second location close to the Beaver Valley Mall.  For updates & job opportunities, click here:
For directions, hours, menus, and the craft beers tap list, click here:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Suburghian Girl Recipe: Summertime Risotto

What better way to display the green goodness of summertime than in a risotto?  Farmers markets, friends' gardens, and local grocers are teeming now with beautiful green zucchinis and artichokes of all shapes and sizes. (Okay, maybe just the grocers have the artichokes since Pennsylvania's climate isn't exactly conducive to growing them. ;) )  Inspired by the season, a zucchini from a friend's garden, and some beautiful baby artichokes from Delallo Italian Marketplace, I set out to make one of my favorite adult comfort foods with a fresh, summery twist.   

To start your risotto, pour one 34 ounce container of chicken broth (I use organic just because the taste is so much better) into a medium sauce pan and start to heat slowly over medium heat.  Watch it and don't let it boil.  We just want to warm the broth to add to the rice and veggies later. ;)

In the meanwhile, finely chop one medium shallot and set aside.  Slice the tops and the ends off of 8-10 baby artichokes.  Pull off all of the tough outer leaves of the artichokes, usually 3-4 layers.  Slice each artichoke into quarters.  Dice one medium zucchini

Heat 1 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large pot.  Once the butter has melted, add the shallot and saute for 2 minutes until golden and soft.  Now add the artichoke quarters. Saute for 3 more minutes.  At this point, I add a splash of white wine to help soften the artichokes and cook them.  Then throw in your diced zucchini.  Sprinkle sea salt over the veggie mixture and saute for another 2 minutes. 

Add 1 1/2 cups of arborio rice to the vegetables in the pot and saute 2 minutes to toast the rice.  Pour in about a 1/2 cup of white wine.  Simmer until the wine is absorbed by the rice.  Remove your pot of warmed chicken broth from the heat.  Add about a cup of the warm broth to the rice/veggie mixture.  Stir often- the rice can stick to the bottom of the pan if you don't stay on top of the stirring.  Once the broth has been absorbed, add another cup and stir.  Continue repeating this process until you have used all the chicken broth.  All and all, the adding of broth and the stirring should take 20-30 minutes.  Make sure to taste the rice as you add the broth to check for doneness.  The rice should be creamy, but firm when it is done. 

Once the rice is cooked to your doneness, remove from the heat.  Add a tbsp of butter and about a 1/2 cup (or a bit more ;) ) of parmesan cheese.  I suggest staying away from the domestic parms, and splurging on an Italian one.  The taste of an Italian parmesan is bounds and leaps beyond a domestic variety.  You are not using much, so it won't hit your wallet too hard.  I bought my parmesan in a chunk and then finely chopped it.  Shredded parmesan would also work well. Stir the butter and parmesan into the risotto until it is melted and well incorporated.  Add sea salt and ground pepper to taste.  Plate up and serve immediately.  :) 

Monday, June 27, 2011

A 'Burgh Inspired Wedding Reception in the Mountain State

On what turned out to be a gorgeous May Friday evening, my high school sweetheart (delayed) and I exchanged our wedding vows in front of a very small gathering of friends and family at the Shaw House in Fairmont, WV.  Our wedding was vintage inspired, and very elegantly simple.  I will be sharing more photos on this blog post than I normally do, but hey it is not everyday that a gal gets married, right? ;)  The ceremony was sweet and right to the point (just like me most of the time).  But let's be real.  Most of us really love attending a wedding for the reception grub and usually the free drinks, right?  Hehehehe...
The husband and I knew that we wanted to keep the reception menu uncomplicated, delicious, and most of all 'Burgh LOCAL.
So, let's get to it.

From top left, clockwise:

  • Our reception spread was provided by the caterer and chef at Shaw House.  This two-person culinary team did most of their shopping for the menu in the Strip District.  Our menu included a lovely Nicoise salad, a beautifully poached salmon, a tender rosemary herbed beef tenderloin, an amazing spinach artichoke dip, and a fresh and gorgeous fruit platter.
  • Our reception spread also offered hunks of self-serve (aka, have as big of a piece as you would like) fresh cheeses for our guests- a nice sharp white cheddar, a more mild Porterhouse cheese, and a sweet Stilton with apricots. 
  • The cakes... Yes, the cakes.  We did not go the traditional tiered cake route here.  We delighted our guests with six different cakes all courtesy of the lovely bakery at Delallo Italian Marketplace in Jeannette.  I am pretty sure that most of the guests came back for a second or third slice.  I mean, you can't just try one...  ;)
  • When I started to think of the wedding favors I wanted to send my guests home with, I knew that personalized M&M's or those Jordan almonds were not going to cut it for me.  We offered each of our lovely guests Peanut Butter and/or Dark Chocolate marshmallows (seen in the little silver boxes) from the Pittsburgh Marshmallow Factory.  We also created our own take on the candy bar, but used popcorn from the Pittsburgh Popcorn Company instead.  After tasting every flavor popcorn the Company had to offer that week, we settled on one savory and one sweet- Sour Cream & Onion and Baklava. 
Okay, now to share just a few more pics.  Who doesn't like pics from weddings?  ;)

My lovely sister (maid of honor) is featured in the photos on the left and right.  And yes, in the pic to the right she is proudly displaying her Yuengling bottled beer. ;)

*All photos were taken by the extremely talented photographer and my longtime friend, Mr. William Brian Bee.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Suburghian Ladies' Evening Out- The Parkwood Inn

1002 Cribbs Street, Greensburg

People say that Twitter is for connecting with and eventually meeting new people, and Facebook is for keeping up with friends you already have.  Witnessing firsthand (and personally) the many connections that can be made through tweeting, it was the first avenue of social media that I turned to when I made my big move from the Buckeye capital to Suburghia. A girl needs some friends in her new city!  I connected with 3 lovely Greensburghian ladies, and now we meet regularly for dinner and drinks.  Thus, the birth of a new blog series for me- Surburghian Ladies' Evening Out. 
This past Wednesday we decided to meet for dinner and a few drinks, and were on the hunt for a place with a terrific deck to take in the gorgeous weather.  The Parkwood Inn won the vote.  (By the way, you can see that amazing two level deck in my pic above.) ;)
So, let's get to it.

From top left, clockwise:

  • I ordered what has quickly become a Parkwood Inn fave for me- the Eva Pepper Burger.  The Eva is a juicy 1/2 pound burger topped with provolone cheese and banana peppers.  I ordered mine with the Deckers, Parkwood's homemade potato chips.  I highly recommend the Deckers, although their fries are amazing as well.
  • Colleen had the Eva's Homemade Cheese Ravioli, crescent shaped pasta filled with a blend of cheeses topped with Parkwood's very own tomato sauce and a meatball. 
  • Jaimie also indulged in one of Parkwood's delicious burgers.  She had the Asiago Burger- asiago cheese, roasted red peppers, and mixed greens atop a juicy all beef burger.  And she also went with the very crispy Deckers as her side.  ;)
  • Amanda went with one of Parkwood Inn's famous Traditional 4 cut pizzas.  (You can't go wrong with that, right??)  She ordered her's with ham and green peppers.  She was kind enough to offer me a bite.  The crust is thin- just a little chewy with a bit of crisp. 
What you need to know before you go:

  • The Parkwood Inn is very easy to get to from either direction on 30.  (In fact, you can see it from the highway.)
  • Parkwood has ample parking, but when it gets busy the lot fills quickly.  You may have to park on the street if you arrive during one of their busy times.
  • Plan to visit Parkwood Inn Monday through Friday from 4-6pm for their Halfly Hour- 1/2 priced drafts, well drinks, and 4 cut plain pizzas.
For hours, directions, and menus, visit below:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hip, Big City Cuisine Right Here in Suburghia- Solstice Restaurant and Lounge

Solstice Restaurant & Lounge- 911 Green Street, Greensburg

We visited Solstice Restaurant and Lounge for the first time on a Monday evening.  We were drawn in by the promise of $2 draft microbrews.  Being a lover of all things craft beer (and being on a budget most of the time), this seemed like as good a night as any to check out the restuarant we had driven past a few times and wondered about.  Now, while we didn't receive $2 drafts (maybe they were only at certain times? Although there was no mention of that on the website), they did have an impressive draft list and amazing food. 
So, let's get to it...

From top left, clockwise:

  • We very pleasantly started out our meal with a complimentary appetizer of lahvosch and 3 different spreads- Black bean, a hummus, and a mango orange mint dip.  The spreads were served on a chilled glass plate, and each of them were very tasty. 
  • I ordered the Cioppino and Orzo for my entree.  They most definitely do not skimp on the seafood in their version of the classic San Francisan Italian dish.  Big, soft scallops, large shrimp, and plenty of littleneck clams and mussels all floating in a smoky, spicy tomato broth around an island of orzo which falls apart and into the broth as you dig your spoon in.  It is served with a big hunk of ciabatta bread perfect for soaking up the broth.  This is by far one of the better Cioppino's I have ever had the pleasure of eating.
  • My fiance (now husband ;) ) ordered the Steak Frites topped with the Maytag bleu cheese.  It came with a side of their crispy fries with basil mayo, and a side of roasted asparagus.  The steak was cooked almost perfectly (just a tad bit overdone) and the frites (fries) were to die for.  Please do dip them in the basil mayo- you will not be disappointed.  ;)
  • We topped off our meal at Solstice by sharing their Apple Crisp.  The apple slices were tender and the topping was flaky and crispy.  It was the perfect ending to our evening.
What you need to know before you go:
  • The Solstice Restaurant & Lounge offers several food and drink specials, Monday through Saturday.  I would suggest confirming with your server or bartender for any possible fine print (which I admittedly should have done).  You can find their daily specials here:  Solstice Specials
  • Solstice offers both small and large plates.  So you can go tapas style or full on dinner.  Most of the small plates range in price from $5 to $12.  Larger plates are a little pricier at anywhere from $15 to $24.  My Cioppino was priced at $18 and was worth every penny of it. ;)
  • We were told that Solstice gets very busy on Fridays and Saturdays, and that reservations are highly recommended if you plan on visiting then.  You can request a reservation online by going here:
For hours, directions, menu, and catering information, visit below:

Friday, May 27, 2011

Witty (and Tasty) Food on the Mount

123 Shiloh Street, Mount Washington

Being a Suburghia newbie, I really had no expectations about Shiloh Grill when we decided to head there for dinner and a few drinks before a what would be rained out Pirates game.  I had purchased a Groupon for the Grill the month before in an attempt to make sure that the husband and I tried someplace new every time we drove into the city.  It is easy to become creatures of sustenance comfort, always heading back to your few fave joints when you are only in the 'Burgh a few times a month.
When we first arrived atop Mount Washington and lucked into a parking meter space right in front of the restaurant, we opted to sit on the spacious outdoor deck.  That is, until Mother Nature made other plans  and we were quickly bolting for the indoor dining room. ;)
So, let's get to it.

From top left, clockwise:

  • The first thing that struck me was Shiloh Grill's facetious and very humorous menu listings and descriptions.  Even if the food had been sub par (which it was not- thank goodness!), it would have been worth the visit just to browse through the menu.  ;)  My favorite menu item by far (and only for it's colorful description) is the Roethlisburgher
  • I started with the World Famous Patio Gazpacho.  Their gazpacho is fresh, with chunks of crisp veggies (think cucumbers, peppers, and onions) in the broth.  It packed just enough spicy heat to not overwhelm the freshness of the gazpacho.
  • Next up- Shiloh Grill's new Arugula Steak Salad. Okay, they pretty much had me at arugula and steak.  ;)  The medium-well grilled steak was sliced over a bed of fresh spinach and arugula and adorned with blue cheese crumbles, radish slices, and pepperoncini's.  Divine...
  • Ahhhhh.... we were there just in time for their happy hour (5-7pm on the weekdays).  Happy hour at Shiloh Grill means half off their draft beers, wings, and their frozen cosmos.  The FROZEN COSMOS!  Holy libations, was this a wonderful treat for an almost full-time craft beer drinker. Frozen, smooth, tasty, and it packs a punch.  This is no frou-frou Cosmopolitan.  They are deceptively easy to drink, but those pink martini glasses of frozen happiness sure do sneak up on you. (Not that I know from personal experience or anything... ;) )
What you need to know before you go:

  • Bring change for the parking meter!  Though I am sure there is free parking somewhere, most parking that I have observed on Mount Washington is metered or valet.
  • Try to to head to Shiloh Grill on a Tuesday evening if you happen to be a lover of all things bacon.  They serve up FREE bacon baskets at the bar, $1 a basket in the dining room and deck.  They also craft a bacon martini to wash down your bacon basket with.  ;)
For hours, directions, specials, and menus, visit below:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Foodie's Oasis in Suburghia- Delallo's Italian Store

6390 Route 30, Jeannette

My first visit to Delallo Italian Marketplace after arriving in my new home of Greensburg, Pennsylvania was my first realization that I could survive (and probably even thrive!) after my big move from one of the larger locavore capitals of the Midwest to what seemed to me a sleepy suburb of the Steel City.  I walked through the doors and my eyes fell upon the colorful and abundant produce area of the marketplace like the eyes of a child to the bountiful gifts below the tree Christmas morning.  This is all for me??  ;)  And I hadn't even got to the cheese counter or the deli, or to the bakery.  And oh, that bakery...
So, let's get to it.

From top left, clockwise (in order of occurrence in store):
  • After perusing all the fresh veggies and fruits in the Dellalo's produce section, you are immediately face to face with the enormous olive and antipasti bar that lines most of the entire right wall as you walk into the main part of the store.  Need hot peppered green olives? They got it!  Need marinated artichoke hearts?  Yep, they got that too.  Need prosciutto wrapped and cheese stuffed peppers?  Yep, check!
  • The cheese counter at Dellalo's is heaven...  They sell every cheese from most any country imaginable.  The cheese mongers are more than happy to slice you off a little taste of any wedge that appeals to you.  They also sell fresh, homemade mozzarella and ricotta.
  • Before you have even turned the corner past the cheese counter and the deli, the aroma of fresh baked bread floats all around you.  Delallo's bakes fresh breads, pepperoni rolls (these are amazing!), and their famous egg rolls daily.  The egg rolls have become regulars to at least one home cooked meal in my kitchen every week (and that is easy to do when they are only 2 for $1!).
  • I will admit it.  Sometimes I come to Delallo's and forgo the deeply purple eggplants and gorgeous avocados and I go straight to the bakery.  And nowhere else.  For those of us who have the pleasure of suffering from an insatiable sweet tooth, Delallo's baked yumminess may just be the cure. ;)  My favorites in no particular order: their whole grain biscotti's, their carrot cake, their coconut cream pie, their made when ordered cannoli's, the salted caramels (my mother's favorite), and the almost as big as your head cinnamon rolls. (Just a tip- they do not always have the cinnamon rolls. So if you go and see them on a plate on top of the bakery counter, have them wrap up as many as you can take home! ;) )
What you need to know before you go:
  • If this will be your first visit to Delallo Italian Marketplace, make sure you set aside ample time to explore the store & it's many culinary offerings.  You do not want to rush your first Delallo's experience. 
  • The cheese counter, deli, and bakery get pretty darn busy on the weekends.  I suggest going during a weekday if you want to take your time to sample cheeses or ogle the bakery counter. ;)
  • Above is just a small sampling of what Delallo Italian Marketplace offers it's customers. You can also find pastas there, dried beans and nuts in bulk, ready made Italian meals to go, Italian cigars... the list goes on and on.
For store hours, directions, recipe ideas, and the Delallo's blog, visit below:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Old World Italian in the Heart of Greensburg- Rialto Cafe

25 West Otterman Street, Greensburg

Rialto Cafe is tucked inside a more than century old stone building (circa 1796) at the corner of West Otterman Street and North Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Greensburg.  The bar (pictured above) is the original from the restaurant's opening in 1933, and the staff still serves up cold ones and libations over this bar almost 80 years later.  The Montouri family has owned the Cafe for 3 generations now.  It has become one of those places that a couple may have come to on a date, then got married and brought their children there, and now those children bring their children there.  Tradition, family, and good family recipes is what makes Rialto Cafe a mainstay (and quite literally a historical landmark) in Greensburg.
So, let's get to it.

From left to right:
  • Most of the dinner entrees are served with the Rialto Cafe House Salad.  The salad itself consists of lettuce, chopped mozzarella, pickled beets, and black olives. I ordered mine with the house dressing, the Creamy Parmesan.  The salad was simple, yet different.  
  • We shared the Fried Zucchini Appetizer.  I was pleasantly surprised by the cut of the zucchini.  The zucchinis are sliced lengthwise, then breaded lightly, and fried.  It is served with a side of their traditional red sauce.
  • As my main entree, I ordered an Italian favorite of mine, the Cheese Raviolis.  Each ravioli was a pasta pillow filled with a ricotta cheese mixture.  My favorite part of the dish was the generous meatball spooned right into the center of the plate.  It was tender, well seasoned, and quite possibly one of the better meatballs that I have had.  The entire plate was smothered in Rialto's traditional sauce, which is a smooth red sauce.
What you need to know before you go:
  • Parking is metered, so bring change!
  • Rialto Cafe is a fabulous choice on a nice, pretty day.  They have a good amount of patio seating (the outdoor space was once where the dining room of one of Rialto's patriarchs used to serve his family his homecooked meals. ;) )
  • There are menu choices for every budget!  The staples of the Rialto Cafe menu are their sandwiches, pasta dishes, and their pizza.
For hours and directions, call below (Yes, I said call. They do not have a website yet- so very old school.):


Friday, April 29, 2011

A Suburghian Girl Recipe: Creamy Egg Salad with Capers

What is a girl to do with leftover hard-boiled eggs?  Make a fabulous egg salad, of course! ;)

I started with 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped coarsely.  Then I added about a 1/2 cup of mayonnaise (made with olive oil). Add more or less mayo , depending on how creamy you prefer your egg salad.  That is the great thing about a recipe like egg salad- it adapts easily to your preference.  Just add a little more or less of something. Or if you really don't like an ingredient, leave it out or substitute something else.  

I then dabbed in about 2 tbsp of whole grain mustard.  I recommend whole grain versus regular mustard for two reasons: the texture it adds to the salad, and whole grain just simply has a much better flavor. 

Finely chop about 2 tsp worth of fresh dill and toss that in!  Chop about a quarter of an onion (red or white) and throw that in to. 

Next I add about 2 tsp of capers.  If capers is a foreign cooking ingredient for you, let me tell you a little bit about them.  Capers are actually the flower buds of the caper bush which are commonly found in the Mediterranean region.  Typically they are pickled or salted.  I used pickled in my recipe. (A-hem, I found my jar of capers at Dellalo's Italian Store in Jeannette. ;) )  Capers add a salty, brininess to any dish.  Because of this, please taste your egg salad before adding any salt to it- It might not need it!

Finally, add a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice.  Add a little pepper
Now mix all the ingredients together.  Taste, and then add salt if you find that it needs it. 

Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Suburghian Locavore's Paradise in the Big 'Burgh- The Pittsburgh Public Market

2100 Smallman Street at 17th, Pittsburgh

This past Saturday I had the wonderful pleasure of attending the Pittsburgh Public Market for the first time.  As a Columbus transplant, I immediately felt that a missing puzzle piece had just been snapped into place for me. (You see, we have a very similiar kind of indoor market place in the Buckeye city.  And I had been missing it very much. ;) )  Local bakeries, candy makers, farmstands, food vendors, and what is that??  A local brewery selling growlers in the corner of the market?  Yep.  This is definitely the place for me- a foodie, a locavore, and a lover of craft beer. I could spend hours in here sampling the goods, talking to the farmers, inquiring about how something is baked or made.  So, what goodies ended up in my shopping tote Saturday?
Let's get to it...

From top left, clockwise:

  • These cookies live up to their name, To Die For.  We were immediately drawn to this plate of cookies (and I think you can see why!) despite all the other delicious baked goodness that Espresso Specialty Foods was offering.
  • Homemade marshmallows from The Pittsburgh Marshmallow Factory.  We are especially partial to the peanut butter.  But we also took home the dark chocolate and bananas foster.  (Did I mention that we are going to give away these delicious marshmallows as wedding favors at our reception next month?)
  • Gala apples from Morning Dew Orchards.  We were offered an apple to sample before we decided to make a purchase.  (A whole apple, not just a slice.)  The sweet, fresh crunchiness sold us. :)
  • A growler of the East End Brewing Company's Session Amber Ale.  The East End Brewing Company's taps in the market are a new (and a most appreciated!) addition.
What you need to know before you go:
  • The above listed are not the only local goodies that ended up in my shopping tote.  A jar of Blueberry Butter from the Berry Patch and a couple of yogurt dipped doggie bones (for which our papillon was very grateful!) from Four Paws Bakery also found their way in there... :)

  • The market is only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays so plan your weekend accordingly.
  • Bring change, for most of the parking near the market is metered (except for Sundays!).
  • Don't forget to bring your own reusable shopping tote (or maybe 2, or 3...).  If you forget your's, they have lovely Pittsburgh Public Market totes that you can buy upstairs for $5.
For hours, directions, and a list of merchants by day, visit below:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lights, Camera, Carnage in the Big 'Burgh

At Bricolage Theatre, 937 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh

I had the pleasure of attending a special Bloggers' Night preview of the newest theatrical production from Bricolage, Hunter Gatherers, yesterday evening. 

Let me give you the quick lowdown on the theater itself.  It is small and intimate, and if you sit in the front row you are often only a few feet away from the actors.  In essence, you feel like you are sitting right in the middle of a very entertaining and somewhat twisted sitcom. 

I won't say much about Hunter Gatherers itself (because I would hate to give away too much of the good stuff!), but there are a few things you should know before you go:
  • This play is for you if you have a healthy appetite for raunchy, and at times animalistic humor and have the hunger to laugh. Hysterically. Often.
  • This is not one of those theatrical performances in which you glance at your watch every 10 minutes, wondering when it will be over.  In fact, you are a little disappointed when the 15 minute intermission is called. ;)
  • This play will beckon and satisfy the foodie and the theatre lover alike.  If you are a hardcore vegan, maybe not so much. ;)
For further details on Hunter Gatherers and Bricolage, please visit below: