Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cioppino and GoodTaste! Pittsburgh

It's been a while. An awfully long time, in fact.  I've been here and there and New York and Philadelphia and home to see the TOP fam and sleep off the Tryptophan, but I'm back!  You may have missed me, you may have....not. But I have a few tidbits of tasty tidings to report if you’re up for hearing them!

First, I have to tell you about a little event called GoodTaste! Pittsburgh

PID and I were lucky enough to know someone who knows someone who happens to be the brains behind this FANTASTIC foodie event.  Dee, you are a wonderful woman! What an event! I can sum it up in a few words although it deserves SO much more than that:

Celebrity chefs, dessert sushi, free samples, wine tasting, local vendors, bacon. 

C’mon. Just TRY to tell me those words alone don’t make you want to buy next year’s ticket right now. 

We spent a good four hours roaming the floor of the Monroeville Expo Center and still felt it wasn’t enough time to take it all in. This TOP is a HUGE Top Chef fan and I was extremely excited to get to see Spike Mendelsohn in action!  Did I get to meet him or get a picture? By my own fault, no. I was invited to head out on the town with him and a few of the PR folks behind the show, but sadly I was quite under the weather that weekend and with a heavy heart, I turned down the invitation. But I hear from a first person evening recap that he is EXTREMELY friendly and outgoing!

Here are a few pictures to whet your appetite for next year’s expo: 

It all began with the celebratory Cracking of the Parm at 9:15 a.m.

There were....a FEW completely awesome celebrity chefs in the house. Who's watching Top Chef All Stars premiering this Wednesday? SPIKE WILL PREVAIL!

A "Sweet Treat" cake decorating challenge caught my eye as soon as we walked in. I swear I'll be a cake decorator one day!





 Dozen's James Gray and Claire Robinson carefully judge each entry...
Then there was the Dessert Sushi competition with a few local celebrity entrants! I heard a few women expressed interest in having this event at their bridal showers! What a cool idea!
 Sushi connoisseur Trevor Corson has the know-how to judge even a dessert sushi competition!


Wine pairings and tastings? You know this was MY favorite part:

And of course PID and I loved perusing the local products.

PID and I certainly had a bacon-and-egg-cellent time!

So what samples did we love enough to purchase?  The winners are...
Mackenzie Creamery's SweetFire Blackberry Jalapeno Goat Cheese was TO DIE FOR and we've already bought our second jar of Miller's hot Mustard.

Remember those PR folks behind GoodTaste?

Well they happen to be close friends of TOP. And we wanted to head out to celebrate a successful event a few days later (once the sniffles subsided) at Cioppino Chophouse in the Strip District just inches away from their world headquarters.

It was a beautiful fall evening and we were pretty excited to check out the view

….and the happy hour.  Cab Sav on special? Yes, please.  We checked out the infamous Cigar Bar before committing to a seat.

Now don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the smell of cigars at tailgates or outdoor parties or around a card table. But I don't light scented candles on my dinner table, so why would I want to chow down with the smell of (albeit sweet) tobacco invading my nostrils?


If you're just headed for a drink or a smoke, it's the place to be.  But it proved far too smokey for us to fathom enjoying good conversation - or anything that requires a taste bud for that matter. So we pulled a U-ey and headed back to the cocktail room to each order a glass and an app.

But first came the bread...

Which was OK.  Though typically I feel that sweet butters are a welcome teaser for a meal.  It sweetens the palate in preparation for a delicious savory entree.  However this butter just didn't work for me. And the bread teetered on the edge of stale, or at least it tasted that way to me.

When the appetizers came my PR pals were nice enough to let me snap a few photos before we dug in. D ordered the calamari which came with a nice, crisp crust, but the lemon, parsley garlic aioli stole the show. I even stole some for my Tuna Tartara!

It's not a great shot, but it wasn't a great Tartar. I usually have some detailed explanation involving adjectives and adorable puns...but I just don't have it this time.  I'm not really sure why I didn't like it. I was super psyched for the white truffle oil! It might be the combination of thyme, tarragon and parsley.  Sometimes I think you've just got to K.I.S.S. and be done with it. But remember, I've no culinary training, so maybe it just wasn't my taste!  I smothered it in D's parsley garlic aioli so I could enjoy it a bit more and it worked!

BK chose the White Bean puree Dip (only available on the bar menu) and all three of us picked at hers all evening. It was the clear winner of our not so official app competition.

But this place, by name, is a chophouse so I don't feel that I can rightfully review it without trying a fat, juicy piece of steak. So until I have the opportunity to review that (slightly important) element, I will give the food a tentative

But the conversation among friends?

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