Saturday, January 22, 2011

Georgetowne Inn: Fine Dining on a Low Budget

I've done some thinking.  My original New Year's Resolution was to eat "better."  And while that's still a goal of mine, it's something I shouldn't simply "resolve" to do on January 1.  It should be something that I simply aspire to infinitely. That being said... I simply love to eat the best, most delicious food I can when I'm out to review a restaurant.  So that technically qualifies as "better," right?

That being said, I've made a NEW resolution.  To keep better control of my finances!  So with PID's and my anniversary on the horizon we knew we had a challenge in front of us: find a nice place to celebrate that wouldn't make the sun set on my checking account, especially after a particularly expensive holiday.

So, obviously, we went to Mount Washington. (cue the record scratch...)

If you take a look to your right, you'll likely see a small icon that reads ""  Your first step to dining fine on a dime is clicking that link and snagging yourself a $25-50 coupon for just a few bucks.  That's what we did with the Georgetowne Inn.  Surprisingly, neither of us had ever been there before (and PID, if you didn't already know, has lived his entire life in the 412).

I'll start with the story.  The night PID and I began dating, we ate dinner with a group of f.o.r.ts at The Fajita Grill on Ellsworth Avenue.  Our plan was to head there for our anniversary but, alas, it was closed.  So we dug through our repertoire of coupons and decided it was finally time to check out the Georgetowne.

I was a bit nervous because I knew we both wanted to make a serious attempt to spend less money, but we thought hey, $25 is a good start. So off we went.

And it all started with the crackers and cheese...(yes. that's right. crackers and cheese.)

Alright.  You've already won my heart.  Sesame and poppyseed crackers and cheese (forgive me, I don't know my cheeses) were the perfect start to the meal.  But wait folks, we're not done.  We still got bread...

Freshly baked, brought to the table nice and warm with a surprisingly light, but fully flavored butter.  I was in amuse-bouche heaven.

We decided against wine since wine always tends to rack up the bill.  So we immediately moved on to the appetizer and salads...

Though it may not look like much, all I have to say is "wow."  This appetizer caught me by complete surprise.  The Crabmeat Hoezel was something I'd heard of, but never had before.  I wasn't expecting it to be served cold, but it was, and though it shocked me, it was a pleasant shock.  The lemon and vinegar blended so well together and provided a completely light and fresh perspective to the way I've too typically looked at appetizers.

Normally I don't talk about salads since they're generally so standard.  But when I was asked if I wanted "mixed greens or the bacon vinaigrette," it was an obvious choice.  You had me at "bacon."  It was AGAIN such a pleasantly surprising blend of flavors! The spinach and this deliciously subtle bacon flavor was (dare I say it) divine!  Yes people... I know I'm still on the salad here.

PID and I both opted for the French Onion soup.  PID thought it was some of the best he'd ever had, but I found myself missing the ridiculously unnecessary glob of melted cheese on top of the bowl.  Call me old fashioned. Lots of great flavors, though!

Next we moved right on to the main event...

PID and I have similar tastes.  I was leaning toward the Blue NY (New York Strip topped with crumbled blue cheese) but PID beat me to it, so I went with my second instinct, the Veal Oscar.  We both totally and completely enjoyed our meals.  Everything was cooked to perfection, we couldn't think of a single bad thing to say about the meal or the service.

And because of this, though we knew it would add a few bucks, we couldn't pass up dessert.  When that tray came by we found ourselves hungry all over again.  On the count of three, we both said "Raspberry Cheesecake," and so that was what we got!

It was a sweet ending to a beautiful meal and anniversary.

BUT... I will leave you with a warning.  It is January, and though we were absolutely delighted to be seated at a beautiful, secluded corner seat by the window...

I. Was. Freezing.  I'm talkin' teeth-a-chatterin' cold. If you happen to go and have any desire to sit near the window, bring a SWEATER (or two or three).  We could over hear the table next to us saying the same thing.  Let this be a warning!

Restaurant Info:
Georgetown Inn
Address: 1230 Grandview Ave (Mount Washington)
Phone: (412) 481-4424
Hours:  Lunch - 11a-3p
            Dinner - 5p-midnight
Reservations:  Highly recommended
Price: $$$ (unless you've got a coupon which you can get right over there ----->)

Cliffs Notes: Coupon: $3.00
Drinks: 2 Diet Pepsis @ $2.75
Appetizer: Crab Hoezel @ $11.95
Entrees: Veal Oscar @ $31.95
             Blue NY @ $33.95
Dessert: Raspberry Cheesecake @ $6.00
Tax @ 7% (Allegheny County only): $4.50 Coupon: -$25.00
Total for two: ONLY $68.85!!!

Overall Opinion:
We were very impressed.  We were under the (wrong) impression that this was one of the less expensive restaurants on the Mountain and thus the quality would falter. It definitely did not.  We adored our server, she was right on top of refilling our drinks, the meals were cooked perfectly, the cheesecake was smooth and delicious.  If it weren't for the bitter cold, this would have been damn near a five-star experience (turn up the darn thermostat, GI).  I really enjoyed the rustic atmosphere that reminded me of a cabin getaway. The two of us felt very comfortable and happy.  If I haven't said it enough, I will say it again: we were very pleasantly surprised over and over again, especially at the end when we saw our totally reasonable bill. It was a very happy anniversary indeed.

Georgetown Inn on Urbanspoon

Georgetowne Inn  Restaurant Reviews

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Do the Truffle!

I have to share this for two reasons:

1.) I love Casbah.
2.) I love Truffles.

Tonight, Tomorrow and Thursday Cashbah in Shadyside (or East Liberty or whatever you call that end of S. Highland) is hosting a Prix Fixe truffle dinner. 

The last two times I ate at Cashbah I was in heaven.  They patio is amazing and it's HEATED!  You can brave the snow and still have an "outdoor dining"  in the middle of January.

The food is well prepared and delicious, the service was excellent -- I recommend giving it a try.  Pricey -- but with this menu it just might be worth it!

Casbah Mediterranean Kitchen 
229 S. Highland Street 
Pittsburgh, PA 15206 
Reservations: strongly recommended


Casbah truffle dinner

Monday, January 10th through Thursday, January 13th
Chef Eli Wahl has sought out four courses flavored by these precious gems of the forest. Join us for our extraordinary nights of truffles.
First Course Sea Scallop & Foie Gras
chanterelle mushroom puree, micro greens, black truffle & Meyer lemon vinaigrette, truffle sea salt
Second Course White Truffle Cavatelli
Brussels sprouts, duck confit, sage, Pecorino Tuscano, shaved alba white truffle
Third Course Perigord Truffle Braised Short Rib
chestnut risotto, truffle jus, fennel-orange gremolata
Dessert Revani Cake
pistachios, white truffle & honey ice cream
Prix Fixe is $90 per person.
Companion wine package offered for $35.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Super Easy "Broke & Hungry" Sausage Pasta

Are you like PID and I? Super busy, slightly low on cash after an insane holiday and, generally speaking, hungry?

You've had to have noticed that my restaurant reviews have dwindled in December.  They'll be back in January with a heavy focus on eating right while dining out, but in the meantime we've been looking for ways to whip up quick, hearty, delicious and inexpensive meals in the interim.

And wouldn't you know it? Red Pack tomatoes came to our rescue. They'd approached me a while back asking if I'd review their canned tomatoes.  Originally I'd politely declined because the nature of my blog, as you know, is Pittsburgh restaurant reviews.  But because I've decided to occasionally delve in to the world of home cooking, I figured "why not?" I love, love LOVE tomatoes (I've even been known to eat them like apples) but I'm not typically big on using canned.  So it was worth a shot to check out Red Pack and see how they shape up!

A few short days later this awesome little kit showed up at my door:

Woah!  Way more than I'd ever expected.  The best part of it all were the two massive cans of whole and diced tomatoes and three awesome recipes. 

But the main basis behind this post is how to create a dish super cheap, super fast, and super delicious.  I have no doubt about the delicious part, but for me super fast and super cheap meant utilizing only what I already had in my pantry. 

So I'm excited to share with you the fastest, easiest and most delectable recipe I can for those nights you're running behind like PID and I so often are. Six simple ingredients, 12 quick minutes. Boom.

So we'll start at the beginning.  Bring 4 cups of water to a boil.  When I do this, I often like to add olive oil and salt to a) keep the pasta from sticking and b) give it a touch of predetermined flavor.

Once your water is on the stove, you can get to chopping.

Start with your hot Italian sausage because you'll want to throw that in the skillet first. I like to chop my sausage when I'm going to sautee it with veggies because it renders the juice that way to flavor them. (If you're simply cooking sausage to serve on it's own, DON'T chop them first like this. Keep the juices in tact so they emerge when you bite in to it). So just take four sausages and chop them in to one inch "links." Heat a fry pan with olive oil to a medium heat until it's hot enough to flow around the pan freely.  Then plop your sausage in the pan and get 'em cooking!

At this time, your water should  be boiling.  I had nest pasta on hand, but any angel hair or spaghetti will do.  If you use straight pasta, I always like to live by the rule that 1 fistful = 4 people.  So for two, use about a half a handful and break it in half before tossing it in the pot. This'll make life easy for your fork and save you from that awkward, tedious "pushing the pasta in to the boiling water" step.

Then you'll quickly move on to your veggies. I was lucky enough to have diced onions on hand, but if you don't, I'd suggest chopping them last in case you're like me and have to leave the kitchen due to tear overload.  Also, your onions will maintain more flavor the longer they are in tact. If you do this though, I'd wait until you begin the onion to throw the sausage in the skillet.

I'm going to teach you how to prepare a pepper the way mama TOP taught me. It starts with three simple steps:

1.) chop top

2.) chop bottom
 3.) Swipe! (hold the pepper in your non-dominant hand, insert the knife in the open area adjacent to the pit, rotate the pepper around the knife so the seed pit simply falls out and you're left with a hollow pepper.


You'll only need half of each pepper and you'll want to chop each in to 1" pieces. Once your veggies are chopped, throw the onions, red and green peppers in to the pan. Truth be told, a little minced garlic wouldn't be so bad to add. But I wasn't in the mood.

Once my peppers and sausage were cooking away, I finally broke in to the Red Pack!  I opened the can and instantly an amazing and surprising aroma leapt out.  I say surprising because again, I'm not accustomed to canned tomatoes. So when I could smell fresh tomatoes the moment the can was open, It made me feel a bit more comfortable. Then, I'll be honest, I bit in to one the moment I took it out of the can.  Unconventional? Probably frowned upon? Maybe.  But it tasted pretty darn good. I won't venture so far as to say it tricked me in to thinking it didn't come from a can, but it certainly shattered my aforementioned opinion of canned tomatoes. And already peeled for me? Perfect, thanks!

So with the tomatoes, I quartered them and tossed 5 in to a small pot with a cup of my favorite red sauce and a cup of the leftover juices from the can of Red Pack. I brought it to a simmer, then turned the heat down to low to keep it warm. I thought about it for about two seconds and realized I needed to season it.  So I spun my herb lazy-susan around and landed on one of Brother PID's Christmas gifts from Penzey Spices in the Strip District!

I tossed in a pinch or two and stirred up the sauce.

As soon as your pasta is done (How do you tell? Simply use a fork to pull out one strand of pasta and fling it at the cupboard.  Did it stick?  It's done!) grab a colander and strain it, then immediately plate. Give your sausage and veggies a quick stir and, if you feel comfortable with their "doneness" place a heaping spoonful on top of the pasta. Then, pour the sauce and tomatoes on top to seal in the flavor!

Finally, sprinkle a bit of freshly grated Parmesan and you are done!

This may have seemed like a long post, but let me break it down to show you just how easy it is:


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 tsp salt
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons diced or 1/3 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minded (optional)
4 links Hot Italian Sausage, sliced in to one inch pieces
1 small can Red Pack whole peeled tomatoes, quartered, juices reserved
1 cup of your favorite tomato sauce
1 tsp herbs de province or similar dried herb
4-5 tbs grated Parmesean cheese

1.) bring water, salt and 1 tbs oil to a boil
2.) add pasta, cook until limp
3.) heat remaining tbs oil in fry pan to medium heat
4.) add sausage to fry pan
5.) cook 1-2 minutes, allowing to brown on one side
6.) flip sausage, add vegetables and garlic
7.) heat tomato sauce, tomatoes, and remaining juice from tomato can in a small pot to medium heat
8.) stir in herbs and reduce heat to low
9.) plate pasta, add meat and vegetables
10.) pour tomato mixture over dish, add parmesean cheese

Literally this dish took barely more than 15 minutes from start to table and cost me absolutely nothing -- but wouldn't cost much more than a few dollars if you had to shop for the ingredients. It's absolutely wonderful if you're short on time or dough and doesn't taste too shabby either! PID gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up...

And TOP DAWG was admiring the aroma, hoping and praying we'd drop a forkful.

The best part about this little endeavor was overcoming my fear of canned tomatoes.  Red Pack, I need to thank you for making me a believer.  They seriously are bursting with flavor and are very obviously a very high quality product at a very affordable price. I admit defeat...and excitement.

And the great thing about this dish as it stands on it's own.  Who needs a side dish when you've got this much substance and this much flavor? This superhero meal works alone.

So until next time, enjoy cooking cheap, fast and hearty :)

Bon Appetite!

**Red Pack Tomatoes provided me with samples and other goodies in order to facilitate a review.  All opinions are honest and my own and this post was written solely by me**

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