Sunday, April 29, 2012

Chicken Latino (Strip District)

This is a long belated post on Chicken Latino in the Strip District.  My first visit there was back in December, after receiving positive recommendations from multiple sources.  I recall trying to decide between something with rotisserie chicken and the weekend ceviche special, but given the name of the restaurant I had to go with the Quarter Chicken (dark meat), while R. had the Chicken Quesadilla.  Both were mouthwatering delicious.  In fact, I didn't expect much of the chicken quesadilla, and it turned out to be quite good.  Not pictured is Chicken Latino's special green sauce that's quite spicy but very, very good.

Quarter Peruvian Style Rotisserie Chicken at Chicken Latino
Quarter Peruvian Style Rotisserie Chicken

Chicken Quesadilla at Chicken Latino
Chicken Quesadilla

I didn't post about my first trip right away because I had hoped to be back soon for the ceviche and figured I would combine both visits into one post...only "soon" didn't happen until four months later for one reason or another.  In any case, I finally made it, and on this particular weekend the special was a Shrimp and Fish Ceviche, which also didn't disappoint.  The flavor was strong but not overwhelming.

Shrimp and Fish Ceviche at Chicken Latino
Shrimp and Fish Ceviche

Chicken Latino is a great, casual place to grab a bite during weekend "Stripping" trips, or any other time one happens to be in the Strip.  They are also great about announcing their weekend special on Twitter and Facebook.

Restaurant info:
Chicken Latino
155 21st Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
On the web:
On Twitter:
On Facebook:

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Avocado Salad with Corn, Black Bean, and Tomatillo from Cinco de Mayo Salsas

Avocado Salad with Corn, Black Bean, and Tomatillo from Cinco de Mayo Salsas
Avocado Salad with Corn, Black Bean, and Tomatillo 

Arturo of Cinco de Mayo Salsas taught my friend this simple snack by mixing his Corn and Black Bean Salad and Tomatillo sauce and adding an avocado.  She was raving about it afterwards, so I just had to try it myself!
1 (16-oz) container of Corn and Black Bean salad from Cinco de Mayo Salsas
1 (16-oz) container of Tomatillo sauce from Cinco de Mayo Salsas
1 perfectly ripe avocado, diced 
Mix the Corn and Black Bean salad and the Tomatillo sauce together.  Add the avocado.  Enjoy.
Since I liked all of the ingredients in this salad, I quite enjoyed my first bite...but I must admit I wasn't initially sure it was rave-worthy.

And then, it happened.

I got seconds.  And then thirds.  And then fourths.  And next thing you know, I Ate. The. Whole. Thing.

Yep, two large containers of salsa and an avocado. I ate it all. In a single sitting.

I should be ashamed of myself. *blush*

So my advice to you is, try this only if there is other people around to share.  It is that good.

Click here for more recipes using Cinco de Mayo Salsas, available at the Pittsburgh Public Market during the winter and all around town during the farmers market season.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Smiling Banana Leaf (Highland Park)

I've been really impressed by the quality of the Thai food in Pittsburgh.  Not to knock on Columbus, Ohio, because I do love the city, but during the six years I lived there, I never was able to find satisfying Thai food.  Before moving to Pittsburgh, I had assumed that Pittsburgh would be similar to Columbus, but its solid offerings of ethnic foods have been a wonderful and pleasant surprise to me.

One Thai restaurant I had heard plenty of nice things about is Smiling Banana Leaf in Highland Park.  I finally made it out there a couple of weeks ago on an invitation by Burgh Gourmand, who had recently befriended the owner, Tookie.  The six of us in the group came on a Wednesday night and sat out on the patio, thanks to which I was able to get some nice photos of the food.  Since we're not particularly picky eaters, we let the chef choose for us.  The food came fast and furious, and I will just let the photos do the talking, but trust that everything was just absolutely delicious and I'd most definitely come back again in a heartbeat.

Crispy Calamari at Smiling Banana Leaf
Crispy Calamari
"Fried to crispy golden brown perfection served with sweet chili sauce"

Fresh Spring Roll at Smiling Banana Leaf
Fresh Spring Roll
"In a rice paper hand roll of rice noodles, lettuce, carrot, & basil leaves served with
special brown sauce & crushed peanut"

Thai Samosa at Smiling Banana Leaf
Thai Samosa
"Lightly fried pastry stuffed with potatoes, carrot & green peas; served with Thai
special cucumber sauce"

Som Tum at Smiling Banana Leaf
Som Tom
"Shredded green papaya mixed with fresh garlic, chili pepper, green bean, tomato,
ground peanut juice"

Steamed Dumplings at Smiling Banana Leaf
Steamed Dumplings
"Thai-style pork & shrimp steamed dumpling; served with sweet & sour black soy sauce"

Mango Chicken Salad at Smiling Banana Leaf
Mango Chicken Salad
"Marinated grilled chicken mixed with mango, cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, carrots;
served with spicy chili lime sauce"

Chicken Satay at Smiling Banana Leaf
Chicken Satay
"Grilled and marinated chicken on skewers; served with peanut sauce & cucumber salad"

Spicy Green Bean with Tilapia at Smiling Banana Leaf
Spicy Green Bean with Tilapia

Pumpkin Curry at Smiling Banana Leaf
Pumpkin Curry

Pad Kee Mow at Smiling Banana Leaf
Pad Kee Mow (Spicy Noodle)
"Wide rice noodles stir-fried with Napa cabbage and choice of meat in a spicy basil sauce"

Curry Fried Rice at Smiling Banana Leaf
Curry Fried Rice
Thai curry fried rice mixed with green peas, onion and egg

Sweet Mango with sticky rice at Smiling Banana Leaf
Sweet Mango with Sticky Rice

Fried Smiling Banana with Ice Cream at Smiling Banana Leaf
Fried Smiling Banana with Ice Cream
The fried bananas had hints of coconut, perfect when paired with coconut ice cream

I'm really glad to have had the opportunity to enjoy Smiling Banana Leaf this way.  Those who have read my previous posts on Thai food may remember that I'm a sucker for curry and that is pretty much all I ever order at a Thai restaurant.  This family-style meal allowed me to sample a wide variety of the menu items at Smiling Banana Leaf, some of which I would not have otherwise ever ordered myself.  Aside from the curry, I was especially pleased with the Pad Kee Mow, but I would highly recommend everything we were served that night.

A couple final observations:  Smiling Banana Leaf occupies a small white building at the northeast corner of Bryant Street and N Euclid Avenue.  There is really not much of a sign out front so it helps to know what you're looking for.  I didn't get a picture of the outside of the restaurant, but here's one provided by the restaurant itself. The interior of the restaurant is quite small, with seating for maybe two dozen or so customers.

Finally, when you go to Smiling Banana Leaf, DO NOT park illegally on N Euclid just north of Bryant where the yellow paint marks the curb - even if you're just popping in to get takeout.  Cars are not allowed there for a reason:  Buses that run along Bryant Street turn onto N Euclid and may ding your car if it's in the way.  Twice during our meal someone parked illegally in that spot to pick up their take-out order, and both times, within a minute, a bus needed to get through.  I'll just say that there were some close calls.

Restaurant info:
Smiling Banana Leaf
5901 Bryant St, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
(412) 362-3200
On the web:
On Facebook:
On Twitter:
Bonus: BYOB

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Pittsburgh Farm to Table Conference 2012: Local Food Tasting

Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference 2012
Farm to Table Pittsburgh 2012

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the food tasting event sponsored by Edible Allegheny at the Pittsburgh Farm to Table Conference.  More than 40 local vendors offered samples of cheeses, meats, hummus, desserts, wine, name it!  I love events like this where you get to meet the people behind all these amazing local products and discover new places all in one evening.  I feature in this post, using photos and captions, some of my favorite vendors at the food tasting.  Note, however, that I didn't get to visit every single booth so I'm sure there were many gems that I missed!

Embody Natural Health at the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference 2012
Aimee Woods of Embody Natural Health (Facebook,
Twitter) making fresh juice.

The Greek Gourmet at the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference 2012
Michael Smalis, the Greek Gourmet (Twitter), serving
up some of his 24 mouthwatering flavors of hummus.
My favorites: Curry and horseradish.

The Greek Gourmet at the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference 2012
Just look at her face! I think she's excited to try Greek
Gourmet (Twitter). :)

Cinnamon Cheesecake with Chocolate Chips and Bacon by Beaver Falls Coffee and Tea Company at the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference 2012
Beaver Falls Coffee and Tea Company (Facebook, Twitter) served up some amazing
Cinnamon Cheesecake with Chocolate Chips and Bacon. Mmm-mmmm!

Franktuary at the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference 2012
Franktuary (Facebook, Twitter) offering samples of my favorite locavore frank.

Wild Purveyors at the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference 2012
The friendly guys at Wild Purveyors (Facebook, Twitter), coming soon to Lawrenceville.

Wild Mushroom Pate Crostini by Quiet Storm at the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference 2012
Wild Mushroom Pate Crostini by Quiet Storm (Facebook, Twitter). I must visit the
restaurant soon!

Pretzel Crazy at the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference 2012
I was really looking forward to trying Pretzel Crazy
(Facebook, Twitter) for the first time and it was SO good!
Follow their social media sites to find out where they're
setting up shop on any given day!

Clarion River Organics  at the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference 2012
Clarion River Organics (Facebook, Twitter) can be found
on weekends at the Pittsburgh Public Market.

Chicken Terrine by Restaurant Echo at the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference 2012
The chef at Restaurant Echo (Facebook, Twitter) putting the finishing touches on
some terrific Chicken Terrine.  I love Restaurant Echo's commitment to local sourcing.

Olio Fresca Olive Oil at the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference 2012
Heather Cramer of Olio Fresca Olive Oil Company (Facebook,
 blog) talking to food tasters about her amazingly tasty olive
oils, which can be found on weekends at the Pittsburgh
Public Market.  Check out this post she wrote recently with
some valuable information about olive oil.

Steak by North Country Brewing at the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference 2012
North Country Brewing Company (Facebook) was another vendor I was really looking
forward to, and this steak was plain awesome!

E2 at the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference 2012
Kate Romane, Chef at (Facebook, Twitter), posing for
a photo with the farmer who supplies her eggs.

Freshapeel Hummus! at the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference 2012
Great hummus from Freshapeel Hummus! (Facebook, Twitter), coming soon to a
Pittsburgh store near you.

In sum, it was a great event and I'm really glad to have had the opportunity to participate.  As a matter of full disclosure, I received complimentary tickets to this event from Revive Marketing for assisting them with a ticket giveaway.  However, it was explicitly agreed upon that I would not be expected to write a positive review of the event (not to mention that that would be against one of my own rules).  Besides, none of the vendors featured in this post knew that I'd be writing about them, and the only "bribe" I received from them was amazing foods that truly deserve attention. :)  All in all, it was a great event.  I got to try foods from places I've been meaning to check out, and learned about some new vendors as well.  My only regret is that I wasn't able to attend more of the conference because of work, but there is always next year. :)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mediterrano (Millvale)

Confession: I am not a big fan of lamb.

I have always found lamb to have a distinctively odd taste that's really difficult to describe in words, but whatever that taste is, I find it rather unpalatable.  As such, I typically pay little attention to lamb entrees on a menu since I'd hate to waste good money on something I might not like.

So when Señorita Cibulka and I went to Mediterrano a little while ago, I wasn't planning on ordering lamb.

But the special just sounded soooo good:  Sugar and clove crusted lamb chops from a local farm, served with a fig balsamic glaze and root vegetable medley.  Our waiter talked it up, too, so I was tempted.  Besides, I have had some surprisingly positive experience with lamb recently, and Mediterrano had come highly recommended to me, so I figured it was probably worth the gamble this time.

And that was the story of how I ordered lamb for the first time in my life.

Lamb Special at Mediterrano
Lamb Special

My entree was good.  Very good, in fact, even though I could still detect a bit of the "odd" taste I dislike in most lamb, but the meat was tender and cooked to absolute perfection.  It was a strange combination of "I don't like this weird taste in the lamb but I really like this dish so I'm going to eat it."  I cleaned my plate.  And could have eaten more.

Señorita Cibulka also ordered a lamb dish: Arni Souvlaki, or grilled lamb skewers with onions and peppers with rice and pita.  I had a bite of this for comparison, and surprisingly it had none of the "odd" lamb taste (and it was delicious).  I'm not sure what the difference is, whether it's in the cooking method, the cut of meat, or the individual lamb, but the lamb in this dish was definitely different from the lamb chops I had.

Arni Souvlaki at Mediterrano
Arni Souvlaki

In any case, we both agreed that Mediterrano served up a tremendous meal, and the decor is cute and warm as well.  Honestly, Señorita Cibulka and I have never had a bad meal together, and I hope our good fortune (and friendship) continues for years to come.

In the meantime, I will look forward to my return visit to Mediterrano.


Read Señorita Cibulka's thoughts on Mediterrano here, where she also addresses the unusual parking situation.

Restaurant info:
2193 Babcock Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15209
On the web:
On Facebook:

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