Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cinnamon Holiday Mocktail (a PSA)

New Year's Eve is almost upon us!  Hubby and I have already secured a reservation for a nice dinner, then we plan to head home, cuddle by the fire, and watch the ball drop.  Quiet, just the two of us, ringing in the new year as a married couple for the first time.

And of course there will be alcohol!  But since we will be doing the drinking at home, we do not plan on getting behind the wheel while under the influence.  Hopefully, this also means we will be safe from those who will be out and about celebrating, drinking...and driving - on the deadliest day of the year for alcohol-related traffic fatalities.  I shudder to think of all the people who will be out welcoming 2013, only to not survive a single day of the new year...

It doesn't really take that many drinks before a driver is impaired, as I discovered from this recent Patch article.  Check out the two handy charts in the article illustrating the body alcohol content as a function of sex and weight.

For those who will be hosting a party themselves, I thought I'd share a "Holiday Host Toolkit" from Edgar Snyder & Associates (yep, that Pittsburgh lawyer you've seen on TV and billboards with a toothy smile pointing his finger at you).  The company has been working to promote safe holiday partying practices - a really great cause of which I am certainly supportive!  This convenient toolkit can be found entirely online.  In addition to party hosting tips, contact information for area cab companies, a coupon for a designated driver service, and other useful information, there are also simple yet yummy mocktail recipe ideas for those party guests who are minors or designated drivers.  R. and I tried the Cinnamon Holiday Mocktail today, and it is quite good!  The full recipe is available here, and I would recommend serving it with a cinnamon stick (in addition to the candy cane) to give it a little extra kick.

Cinnamon Holiday Mocktail
Cinnamon Holiday Mocktail
Cranberry juice + apple juice + cinnamon stick + candy cane

Hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday!  Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Zozo's Pub (Greensburg)

Update (4/26/2013): Zozo's Pub is closed.

We met up for dinner with some friends who live in Greensburg and they suggested Zozo's Pub.  Despite its name, and the connotation that comes with "pub food," Zozo's Pub is really much more than "just a pub."

First off, Zozo's Pub has a fun, hip atmosphere, as these photos from Zozo's Facebook page can testify.  Secondly, the food is excellent.  Though featuring casual fare like sandwiches and burgers, each dish is thoughtfully crafted and made well.

R. and I shared a Sweet Corn Risotto Cake appetizer.  The risotto cake was made with a nice balance of corn and parmesan, and the light panko breading gave it a perfectly crunchy texture that didn't feel too heavy or filling.  The cake was topped with parmesan crisps, which was a nice touch.

Sweet Corn Risotto Cake at Zozo's Pub
Sweet Corn Risotto Cake ($7.95)

Our waitress seemed like she was new, as she appeared young and was rather forgetful.  She had submitted the wrong order for my meal, though she had caught the error herself prior to serving our meals.  Because my real order of Pig Burger was put in later than everyone else's order, the waitress gave me some free Pig "Wings" while I waited.  These Pig Wings were wing-sized pork tenderloin strips wrapped in bacon and grilled with a lovely Asian barbecue sauce, served atop coleslaw.  These were quite good as well.

Pig Wings at Zozo's Pub
Pig "Wings" ($6.95)

I was quite full by the time my Pig Burger finally arrived, but I still manage to eat half of it because was absolutely delicious!  The patty was made with juicy sweet Spanish sausage, and served with grilled apple slices, bacon, and smoked gouda cheese.  It was easily one of the best burgers I've ever had.  The side of Sweet Potato Wedges was generous in proportion and chock full of flavor.

Pig Burger at Zozo's Pub
Pig Burger ($9.95)

Sweet Potato Wedges at Zozo's Pub
Maple Butter Sweet Potato Wedges

Despite the waitress's mistake, we had a fabulous meal at Zozo's Pub.  I will be back!

Restaurant info:
Zozo's Pub
1517 Broad St, Greensburg, PA 15601
On Facebook:

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Porch at Schenley: Take Two (Oakland)

I had lunch at The Porch at Schenley in Oakland some time ago and had been meaning to return for dinner.  I finally did earlier in the fall, meeting up with my hubby for a quick weeknight date.  Even though it was a weeknight, I was surprised by how lively the restaurant was!

R. had arrived earlier and was munching on some cornbread while he waited.  For his entree, he ordered a veggie burger which he said was great.  I decided to get the Pan Seared Diver Scallops, which I was told by the server were the largest scallops I would have ever seen - and he was correct.  The scallops were served with red pumpkin curry, coriander creme, fennel, and pumpkin seeds.  It was not only interesting but tasty.  Truth be told, it actually exceeded my expectations.  Can't wait to come back again!

Pan Seared Diver Scallops at The Porch at Schenley
Pan Seared Diver Scallops ($12)

Pan Seared Diver Scallops at The Porch at Schenley
Pan Seared Diver Scallops ($12)

Restaurant info:
The Porch at Schenley
221 Schenley Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
On the web:
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Chicken Soup

The beginning of October was rough as I caught a cold.  Everyone has their own special folk remedy for the common cold, and mine is a popular one: chicken soup.  But did you know that chicken soup is not just a "folk remedy" but one that has received (admittedly limited) scientific evidence for its effectiveness?  In short, it appears that chicken soup may have anti-inflammatory properties and helps relieve congestion.  An additional benefit for me, I find, is that chicken soup helps soothe my sore throat.  Psychologically, chicken soup is the ultimate comfort food, and it's one of those things that makes me feel better instantly.

At first I was purchasing soups from restaurants and supermarkets like Panera, Giant Eagle, and Eat 'n Park.  Then I wondered if I could make my own, and make it better?  Turns out I can, with a little help from this recipe and homemade chicken stock from Marty's Market in the Strip.

I doubled the recipe, and instead of using the chicken parts listed, I used a whole chicken and removed the skin before using it in the soup.  I also skipped the noodles just because I was more interested in chicken soup than chicken noodle soup, and also added a couple sprigs of fresh thyme during the simmering process that I removed before serving.  In the end, the doubled recipe, with meat from a whole chicken, yielded about 5.5 freezeable quarts of hearty, chunky soup that is far more delicious than its restaurant/supermarket counterparts.  I do think the chicken stock from Marty's Market made this soup particularly rich in flavor.  I am going to try making my own stock next, and will post it here if it turns out well, but I don't know if it will be nearly as good as Marty's Market's version!

Chicken Soup
Hearty Chicken Soup

And I swear, my cold was better in no time!

Recipe courtesy of:
Cooking Light (get the recipe here)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Red Orchid (West View)

The past few months have been some of the busiest I have ever been, as can be seen by the dwindling number of posts since August!  I have had little time to try out new recipes at home, and at times, I have even resorted to takeout. aversion to Americanized Chinese food makes the most obvious takeout option out of the question.  As luck would have it, I had recently heard of the opening of Red Orchid, so I figured I might as well get my takeout there.

I have since ordered takeout from Red Orchid a few times.  This means I have had the opportunity to try a number of their dishes, and they are all excellent, with hotness levels measured on a scale that is a bit spicier than one might expect.  I share below photos of just a few of the dishes I've had, but the dishes I did not photograph - Pineapple Fried Rice with Pork, Duck Curry, Wild Curry with Beef, Lad Nah, Pumpkin Curry with Tofu - were also very good.

While I can't comment on the service, the food at Red Orchid certainly makes it great addition to the North Hills; it is the kind of quality Thai restaurant that has been sorely missing in the neighborhood.  I'm looking forward to dining in sometime!

Red Curry Land from Red Orchid
Red Curry Land

Penang Curry Tofu from Red Orchid
Penang Curry Tofu

Drunken Noodles with Pork from Red Orchid
Drunken Noodles with Pork

Spicy Basil Fried Rice with Beef from Red Orchid
Spicy Basil Fried Rice with Beef

Black Sticky Rice with Pumpkin from Red Orchid
Black Sticky Rice with Pumpkin

Restaurant info:
Red Orchid
5439 Babcock Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15237
Bonus: BYOB

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Supper Club (Greensburg)

The Supper Club in Greensburg is one of the more unique dining establishments I have had the pleasure to experience (twice!) lately.  Housed in a historic train station that continues to service Amtrak, I was immediately in awe by its charming facade and elegant interior.

The Supper Club
The Supper Club, at dusk

The Supper Club at Night
The Supper Club, at night

The Supper Club at Night 2
The Supper Club, at night

Inside The Supper Club
Inside The Supper Club

Speaking of the interior, it is divided into a gastropub area (shown above), the dining room, and additional space up in the loft overlooking the gastropub which I'd imagine is for private or large parties.  The Supper Club offers a reasonably-priced gastropub menu, a pricier Farm to Table menu, and a special Chef's Tasting menu for which, I believe, special advanced arrangements must be made.

The food, from appetizers to desserts to the daily entree special, was generally interesting, tasty, and all-round fantastic.

Morel Mushroom and Goat Cheese Toasts at The Supper Club
Morel Mushroom and Goat Cheese Toasts

Mahi Mahi Special at The Supper Club
Mahi Mahi Special

Farm to Table Five Star Burger at The Supper Club
Farm to Table Five Star Burger
(Or as R. called it, "The Best Burger I've Ever Had in My Life.")

Asparagus Ham Goat Cheese & Chive Pizza at The Supper Club
Asparagus, Ham, Goat Cheese, & Chive Pizza

Cake Brulee at The Supper Club
Cake Brulee
(Like Creme Brulee, but with chunks of caramelized cake) 

White Chocolate Macademia Cheesecake at The Supper Club
White Chocolate Macademia Cheesecake

Fruit Crisp at The Supper Club
Fruit Crisp
(Served with homemade creme fraiche gelato)

Though we did meet with some slow service on one of our visits, we were generally pleased with our friendly and professional waiter.  He was fun, knowledgeable, and made a definite impression on us.  All in all, The Supper Club is an excellent restaurant with character.

Restaurant info:
The Supper Club
101 Ehalt St, Greensburg, PA 15601
On the web:
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Monday, November 26, 2012

Green Mango (Monroeville)

I am crazy about Thai food, so it is rather outrageous that it had taken me so long to visit Green Mango.  But that we finally did when we were looking for a place in Monroeville to meet up with some of R.'s colleagues, and Green Mango was the perfect choice.  (The Monroeville location is now the only one remaining; the Regent Square location closed in September due to family health reasons.)

I am a huge fan of taro, a starchy root vegetable with a hint of sweetness and is used often in Asian desserts.  Luckily, R. loves it too, so we started our meal with a delicious Taro Bubble Drink to share which I didn't get a good shot of, but it was tasty.

For my entree, as per usual, I selected a curry.  This time, I decided to try the Penang Curry with Pork.  It was rich and flavorful and everything a girl could hope for in a curry.

Penang Curry with Pork at Green Mango
Penang Curry with Pork ($11.95)

R. went for the Queen Tilapia, served with mangos, Thai basil, green bell peppers, an onions, in a sweet and sour sauce.  Even though I really like curry, and the Penang Curry was excellent, I'd have to concede that R. made the better choice.  Everything was just perfect about this dish: the fish perfectly cooked, the sauce perfectly balanced between sweet and sour.  I can't believe what I'm about to say, but I actually liked the Queen Tilapia better than curry!

Queen Tilapia at Green Mango
Queen Tilapia ($13.95)

We saved room for dessert, of course.  My memory is a bit fuzzy now, as I'm not quite sure who ordered the Coconut Mango Ice Cream.  I do remember ordering the Taro Custard (because I just had to have everything taro on the menu!), and it was excellent, even if it was more like a cake than a custard consistency.

Coconut Mango Ice Cream at Green Mango
Coconut Mango Ice Cream ($4.50)

Taro Custard at Green Mango
Taro Custard ($4.50)

We all thoroughly enjoyed our meal.  Green Mango is truly a great spot for Thai food out in the eastern suburbs!

Restaurant info:
Green Mango
3462 William Penn Hwy, Pittsburgh, PA 15235
On the web:
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Saturday, November 24, 2012

E2 (Highland Park)

E² (That's right, it's "E-Squared," not "E-Two") is one of those restaurants that people are always shocked to hear I hadn't been to.  I finally had my opportunity back in September when I was fortunate enough to be a guest of a private party down in E²'s new basement "party dungeon."  I felt so honored to be one of the first people to check out the new space, and I was even more excited to finally experience Chef Kate Romane's culinary expertise.

Party Dungeon at E2
E²'s Party Dungeon

Party Dungeun at E2
E²'s Party Dungeon

The party dungeon decor is spacious, simple, yet modern.  Though our group had about a dozen or so guests, the space can certainly accommodate a gathering of a much larger size.  Our meal was a set eight-course menu, consisting of a generous variety of anti-pasta, two different salads, two small bites, two main courses, and a dessert, each of which was a flavorful and undoubtedly thoughtful creation.

Although all of the anti-pasta items were fabulous, the clear favorite among our group was the Gorgonzola Mess.  Lucky for me, as a supporter of E²'s Kickstarter project on the party dungeon, I had been gifted the recipe for this dish.  I haven't tried making it yet, but when I do, I know it'll be a crowd-pleaser.

Anti-Pasta at E2

Anti-Pasta at E2

Anti-Pasta at E2

After some anti-pasta, BYOB wine, and general mingling, we were seated for dinner.  I loved both our salad courses.  Salads can so often be mediocre; the Big Fat Salad - a perfect balance of fresh greens, gorgonzola cheese, walnuts, and balsamic vinegar - was anything but.  The Heirloom Caprese Salad, likewise, was a tasty twist to the typical caprese salad.

Big Fat Salad at E2
Big Fat Salad

Heirloom Caprese Salad at E2
Heirloom Caprese Salad

Our small bites consisted of Arancini with Marinara, which were essentially deep fried rice balls served with a marinara sauce and shaved cheese, and Beans and Greens with Sausage, which was lovely, and I'm not even a big fan of beans.

Arancini with Marinara at E2
Arancini with Marinara

Beans and Greens with Sausage at E2
Beans and Greens with Sausage

Then came our main courses.  I was very intrigued by the Rabbit Ragu, served with grilled baguette, Saint-andre cheese, and a light tomato broth, as I'm not sure I've had rabbits before and I'm (almost) always up for trying something new and different.  Though the Rabbit Ragu was delicious, I'd have to say my favorite course of the evening was the Tortellini with Chive Butter, Pine Nuts, and Chiles, which was absolutely heavenly, and I say this as someone who's generally not into stuffed pastas.

Rabbit Ragu at E2
Rabbit Ragu

Tortellini with Chive Butter- Pine Nuts- and Chiles at E2
Tortellini with Chive Butter, Pine Nuts, and Chiles

We rounded out the meal with a decadent Chocolate Bread Pudding: a perfect end to a perfect dinner.

Chocolate Bread Pudding at E2
Chocolate Bread Pudding

To sum up, I think it is safe to say that our entire party was hugely impressed by the quality of our dinner at E²; it was an exceptional meal and a fabulous celebration to remember.  For more perspective on this meal, check out SaborPgh's post.

Restaurant info:

5904 Bryant St, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
On the web: htttp://
On Facebook:
On twitter:
Bonus: BYOB

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sushi Class at Habitat (Downtown)

Back in September I attended Habitat's cooking class.  The theme of the month was sushi, which is one of my favorite things in the world, and considering I am not particularly well versed in sushi making, I was definitely interested in learning some tips from the pros!

The class started with a tour of the place where the culinary magic happens - Habitat's kitchen.  Being a hotel kitchen, we were privileged to see how they handle everything from room service to wedding cakes. We were then directed back to the dining room where we would have our class by the gorgeous open kitchen, but not until we were each served a glass of ginger-lime Sake Gimlet cocktail. :)

Sushi Class at Habitat
Sushi class setup

Sake Gimlet at Sushi Class at Habitat
Nothing like learning how to make sushi while imbibing in Sake Gimlet!

I am not a fan of sake, but this was a delicious drink!

Our teacher was Chef Luis Jimenez, who provided patient instruction and guidance while we practiced making California Rolls, Salmon Rolls, Spicy Tuna Rolls, Salmon Nigiri, and assorted Hand Rolls.  Some of the techniques were similar to what I already knew learning on my own, but some were new or different from how I have made rolls before, and it was great to see how techniques vary so I can figure out what works best for me.

Chef Jimenez at Sushi Class at Habitat
Chef Luis Jimenez talks spicy tuna

Making an Inside-Out Roll at Sushi Class at Habitat
The making of a California roll

Maki placement on mat at Sushi Class at Habitat
Learning the proper placement of the unrolled maki on the sushi mat

Rolling Maki at Sushi Class at Habitat
Let's roll!

Salmon Nigiri at Sushi Class at Habitat
Salmon nigiri

Making a Spicy Tuna Hand Roll at Sushi Class at Habitat
The making of a spicy tuna hand roll

I had never made hand rolls before, so this for me was probably the most challenging - especially the part where you form it into a cone shape.

Once we were done making sushi, it was time to eat!  The large table in front of the open kitchen was beautifully set up for us.  We started with appetizers Miso Soup and Seaweed Salad, then proceeded to the star of the afternoon - the sushi we made!  (Thanks to Chef Paula Smagacz for cutting them up for us!)

Miso Soup at Sushi Class at Habitat
Miso soup, chock full of mushrooms and tofu

Seaweed Salad at Sushi Class at Habitat
Delicious seaweed salad

Our California Roll at Sushi Class at Habitat
California rolls

Our Sushi at Sushi Class at Habitat
Salmon rolls and hand rolls

Our Spicy Tuna Roll at Sushi Class at Habitat
Spicy tuna roll

And to wash all that down, we each had a sparkling Sake Raspberry Peach Cocktail served with a piece of crystallized ginger.  So good!

Sake Raspberry Peach Cocktail at Sushi Class at Habitat
Sake Raspberry Peach Cocktail

And at the end, we had this (non-alcoholic) mango bubble drink as a dessert.

Mango Bubble Drink at Sushi Class at Habitat
Mango bubble drink

The class was plenty of fun, and I learned a lot, too!  We were treated like royals from the moment we walked in to the moment we walked out.  We received copies of the recipes, as well as an apron and a sushi mat.  I'll admit to initially balking a little at the price of the class ($65), but it turned out to be an amazing value when you also factor in the drinks, ingredients, lunch, and enough sushi to take home to last another two days.  And really, you can't put a price on a neat experience!

Habitat's cooking classes are held on the first Saturday of the month, and each month has a different theme.  I'm not sure if Habitat will bring the sushi class back next year (I hope so!), but there are some holiday themed classes coming up to round out the year.  More information can be found on Habitat's website here.

Restaurant info:
510 Market Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
On the web: (click on "Events" for cooking classes)
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