Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Table is Set

I've got to admit that for the past year two things have been highly influential in my choosing of restaurants to review.  #1 being convenience.  Whether that means it's near our home, on our way to something or a planned evening with FORTs, our busy schedules don't always allow for us to travel too far -- even for the good of the blog.  We're hoping to expand our taste radius this coming year to include a bit more flavor from the North Hills and we'll certainly do our best to do so.  But for now, I've got another pending review from the deep south that's still got to be shared!  And the reason we chose this place is thanks to influencer #2: Groupon.  I'd actually bought this specific Groupon almost exactly 1 year ago and it took me receiving an expiration notice to remember to use it. 

But a few weeks back, PID and I braved the 6 p.m. route 19 traffic and headed to Table Lakeside.

Though we went what felt like mere days before the deck opened for business and nothing was quite yet in bloom, I could tell it would be a fabulous place for outdoor dining.  With an excellent view of the water and a charming patio ambiance, I was sad we couldn't experience it first hand in peak season.

Nonetheless, we were seated in a dimly lit, scarcely populated dining room and greeted by an incredibly charming waitress. We asked her opinion on appetizers and after she gave us a recommendation, we ordered the Gorg' & Crab Polenta as it sounded so unique. 

What a wonderful recommendation she gave.  It was truly something I had never tasted and was anxious to tell ya'll about!  The crab and Gorgonzola cream sauce married incredibly beautifully on the polenta triangles which soaked up just enough sauce to keep the flavor going with every mouthful. Our only wish was that there was a touch more chunks of jumbo lump crab meat.  Very delicious!

Our spirits were high as we awaited our entrees.  Being his second to last day on the current job, PID had a few moments of free time in the office that afternoon and spent it studying the menu -- so he was more than prepared to order the Strip Steak.

The steak came served with a house potato salad and seasoned snow peas. I took a bite or two as per usual and absolutely loved the potato salad. It was very light and flavorful.  Peas were....peas.  But PID very much enjoyed his steak which was perfectly cooked and pleasantly juicy!

I ignored my instincts that originally steered me in the direction of what was referred to as the "Famous Pork Shank" (I tend to gravitate toward dishes prefaced by the word "famous") and decided I was in the mood for seafood (what's new, huh?) instead. So I ordered the special: lobster and halibut steak served with house linguini.

It was this day that I finally learned my lesson.  I always order specials and am rarely pleased.  I will say this time I was at least half pleased! The lobster was buttery and delicious and I wanted nothing but more.  The halibut was extremely bland and the linguini even more so.  I was slightly disappointed as well when I asked for a cracker for my lobster claw to be told that they had none.  But my fork, albeit messy, wound up working just fine.

Restaurant Info:
Table Lakeside (not to be confused with it's counterpart, Table 22)
Address: 200 N. Lakeside Dr, Canonsburg
Phone: (724) 746-1126
Reservations: Likely needed on weekends, especially during the summer. Weekdays, I'd make them on nights they have events, but not really necessary otherwise
Price: $$$

Cliffs Notes:
Guess who lost the receipt? Here are the general prices I know:
Gorg & Crab Polenta @ $10
Strip Steak @ $28
Yep. That's it.

Overall Opinion:
Despite my bland fish and pasta, I'm actually excited to go back.  I genuinely enjoyed the waitstaff, atmosphere and appetizer and PID was quite pleased with this meal.  The menu was vast enough that I could have made far better decisions and have since heard AMAZING things about the Pork Shank that I apparently should have ordered in the first place.  Maybe I'll swing in for Kareoke on the deck some 2nd or 4th Wednesday this summer?! I certainly hope you'll give it a try! Right now, you can get $10 off your meal just for liking them on Facebook!


Table Brick Oven and Bar -

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ice Cream Cupcakes!

I know I don't do many "I Cooked" entries anymore, but I've just gotta do it this time!  One of my favorite bloggers in the world, Stef at The Cupcake Project, is hosting a contest with the folks at Scoopilicious for the best ice cream cupcakes. Not sure if many (or any) of you know this, but I'm somewhat of a cupcake freak.  I eat them, I bake them, I covet them.....

So diet, I beseech thy forgiveness.  But darnit, I'm makin' cupcakes.

The contest goes a little something like this:

1) I come up with a recipe for an Ice Cream Cupcake.
2) I blog about my recipe.
3) I post a photo on the Cupcake Project Facebook wall.
4) I eat every last one of the cupcakes I make.

So I did a lot of thinking, visited a few of the judges' blogs to determine proper brown nosing methods, and finally decided to stick with what I know: sweet, simple and satisfying.

What my mind and taste buds landed on was this:

Light 'n' Fluffy Strawberry Shortcakes!

Here's what you'll need for the Cupcakes (12 yield)

3/4 c. powdered sugar

1/2 c. cake flour

3/4 c. egg whites (about 6)

1/2 c. granulated sugar

3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. almond extract

1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

1/4 tsp. meringue powder (optional)

dash of salt

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (note, this is hotter than for normal cupcakes which are typically baked at 350).  In a small bowl, combine your powdered sugar, flour and meringue powder and set aside.  Beat the egg whites at medium speed for 1 minute, then add in the tartar.  Beat at medium-high speed and gradually add in the granulated sugar, then the vanilla, then the almond extract, then the salt. Let this mixture beat at medium-high for about 5 minutes or until it starts looking like a meringue and begins to peak.  Gradually begin to mix in the flour/powdered sugar mixture until smooth.  It should look, feel and taste much lighter than your typical cupcake mix.

Spray cupcake tin with Baker's Joy (aka my best friend) and fill each tin to the very top with the mixture. Drag a knife through each tin to break up any air bubbles, then flatten the mixture so there are no peaks.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Here's what you'll need for the Whipped Cream Icing:

1 c. heavy whipping cream

1/4 tsp. meringue powder

2/3 c. granulated sugar

Beat the cream on high and gradually sprinkle in the meringue powder. When it starts to peak, gradually add in the sugar. Continue beating on high for about 4-5 minutes and you're done! Easy peasy, lemon squeezey!

Here's what else you'll need:

1 container of fresh strawberries save 12 small berries whole, chop the rest

1 container of Breyers Strawberry Ice Cream (or your favorite brand -- just make sure it's got the delicious chunks in there)

After your cupcakes have cooled, use a cupcake corer (or a spoon, or knife, or whatever you've got handy...) to core a substantial chunk out of the center of the cake.

Then, take a few chunks of your chopped strawberries and set them in the bottom of the cored center. Take a spoonful of your strawberry ice cream and scoop it on top of the chopped strawberries, smoothing it out over the top of the cupcake.

If you'd like, drop a few more chopped strawberries on top of that. I didn't -- but after tasting it was thinking it might be good! Then, either with a piping bag or a spoon, ice your cupcake.  As a garnish, take one of your remaining full strawberries and slice it three times up the center, then twist it out in to a fan. Voila!

Now for the best part...... TAKE A BITE!  I assure you, you won't be sorry!

So there you have it, my entry for The Cupcake Project and Scoopilicious' Ice Cream Cupcake contest!  I hope you find it simple, sweet and satisfying as PID and I did!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Happy Anniversary to TOP!

Exactly one year ago today, Taste of Pittsburgh began serving up it's very first less-than-professional culinary opinions to the iron city.

It's been a heck of a year and I have to say that though I"ve learned a lot of things, the two most prominent are:

1) Blogging is an awful lot of work.
2) Pittsburgh is delicious.

I've noticed that my positive reviews strongly outweigh my negative which definitely reaffirms the whole reason I began blogging in the first place: there is certainly more to the dining scene in Pittsburgh than chain restaurants!

In honor of TOP's one-year anniversary, I've decided to offer you all another TOP-ten:  my very favorite restaurants that I've reviewed so far! The following is a list of what I would consider to be places you absolutely MUST take your new girlfriend, parents or friends from out of town (or, let's be honest, just yourself) at some point in your life.  Hope you enjoy!

10 --  Fatheads  
The best part: Pierogies on burgers?! YES PLEASE!

9 -- Monterey Bay Fish Grotto
The best part: Oysters Rockefeller. Holy melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness.

8 -- Bistro 19

The best part: The perfect pairing of fresh-fish and homemade slaw.

7 -- Mallorca
The best part: Aside from the service and meal-closing complimentary shots? Gotta be the amazing sauce on my seabass (did I sound dirty when I said that?)

6 -- Franktuary
The best part: The Pittsburgh Dog.  And I don't say that because I write a blog about Pittsburgh food.  I say that because it was far and away the best hot dog I've ever eaten.

5 -- Habitat
The best part: Hands down the locally sourced beet and goat cheese salad.

4 -- Cafe du Jour
The best part: The outdoor ambiance and salmon/asparagus appetizer.

3 -- Willow
The best part: One of the most beautiful restaurants I've ever been to with delicious food to boot.

2 -- DeLuca's
The best part: Eating seafood in a crepe was a shockingly outstanding experience that I hope you'll all try at least once.

1 -- Spoon
The best part: Every. Single. Bite.  I'm not even kidding.

I'll tell you now, I have a few restaurants that would (and should) have made this list as my favorites in the city, but I've not yet blogged about them.  What this means is that I need to get my butt out there and KEEP EATING! So here's to one year of blogging about delicious food and hopefully many more to come.

Now if you'll excuse me, there's a celebratory glass of wine with my name on it.

Bon Appetite, fellow 'burgh buddies!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Franktuary Giveaway Winner


Congratulations to Y2Flound!  Your entry was drawn as the winner of a $10 gift card from Franktuary!  Claim your prize by e-mailing us at tasteofpittsburghblog[at]gmail[dot]com and let us know where to send it!

Remember to follow Franktuary on Twitter to see where you can catch the Frank Truck in action!

Congratulations toY2Flound and to all other entrants: keep your eye on Taste of Pittsburgh for more opportunities to win (as well as more take 'em or leave 'em opinions on the 'burgh's dining scene).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Franktuary Gift Card Giveaway!!

Good afternoon TOP fans and welcome to another edition of WE ACTUALLY GIVE THINGS AWAY ON THIS BLOG!

Today we've got a very SPECIAL treat for you.  But before we get to that part here is some MUST KNOW information about the amazing and wonderful Franktuary food truck!

A few months back, I reviewed Franktuary in downtown Pittsburgh and immediately fell in love. I am so excited to share the good news that Franktuary is celebrating the resurrection of its food truck!  The 1988 Chevy P-30 made its Pittsburgh debut last summer, briefly appearing on the mobile food scene. The vehicle (fully repaired and restored in the finest condition) now vends from Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community’s South Side parking lot at 2700 Jane Street.  Two percent of all profits generated on Hot Metal property are shared with the church, which runs a variety of neighborhood ministries throughout the week. 

The truck will operate from the Hot Metal lot every Tuesday and Thursday from 11 am to 3 pm.  If you don't already follow Franktuary on Facebook and Twitter, you might want to start so you can keep tabs on realtime updates of where the truck is located as it moves around the city on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays! 

Unique menu items that differ from the downtown storefront are offered from the truck.  Continuing the store’s international topping trend, a Boar’s Head all-beef or locally farmed grass-fed beef frankfurter can be topped as the Brasil - mashed potatoes, tomato corn relish, crumbled bacon, potato sticks and mayo - or the Oahu - bacon, pineapple, green onions, and teriyaki sauce.  Rounding out the menu are vegetarian franks made from whole grilled carrots, grass-fed burgers, and Franktuary’s take on poutine, Canada’s national dish: french fries covered in house-made vegetarian brown gravy and local Cannonball Curds from Arsenal Cheese.

You can also book Franktuary’s truck for private events!  To charter the truck for your event, write to

In the mean time, now's your chance to snag a $10 gift card from the folks at Franktuary!  Each comment you make below on THIS blog will gain you an entry.  You can earn up to 6 entries!  Here's how:

1) Simply comment on this blog post, letting me know what you'd buy with your $10 Franktuary gift card!
2) "Like" Franktuary on Facebook
3) "Like" Taste of Pittsburgh on Facebook
4) Follow Franktuary on Twitter
5) Follow Taste of Pittsburgh on Twitter
6) Write a blog post about Franktuary (and/or their Food Truck) and leave the link as a comment!

Be sure to leave comment for very entry you make below!  We'll take a look to validate any claims of "liking" or following before we announce the winner.

This giveaway will close on 5/16/2011 at 8 p.m. so get your entries in before then!  I will choose the winner via random drawing at

Good luck!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Baltimore House of Pain

When I finally joined the 21st century and invested in an iPhone, I immediately decided to download as many discount apps as possible in a sad attempt to save me the dollars I spent. One of those apps was Coupon Clipper.  They are not paying me to endorse them. I genuinely think that if you have an iPhone you should immediately download this app.  So many surprising discounts waited for me at the touch of a screen!

One of those discounts was $10.00 off a meal at the Baltimore House on Lebanon Church Road in Pleasant Hills. PID grew up here.  He's a Bethel boy for life. And he had heard great things from many friends growing up about the Baltimore House. He'd actually been anxious to take me there for a while, knowing my deep seeded love for all things shellfish. So as soon as I noticed the coupon, we set sail.

It looked like a place I would absolutely love.  Enormous and gimmicky -- my usual cup-o-tea. I was so excited when after making my way past the 3 pool tables, I was greeted by a land-lubbing pirate guarding his booty, then made my way up a few floors of amazingly tacky (and I honestly say that in a GOOD way because I love restaurants like that) Jolly Roger-esque memorabilia.

We were still incredibly optimistic as we eyed the menu and had SERIOUS trouble deciding between the seafood buffet, the fresh fish platters and the "Seafood Feast." I even spotted Oysters Rockefeller on the menu for $5.95.  WHAT!? $5.95?! I almost gave it a shot but I needed to try something new for a change.  So we checked out the buffet and were pretty unimpressed. Very little sushi and empty chafing dishes were really all we saw.  So we decided to go with the Seafood Feast.

Our waitress was extremely sweet, but we got off on the wrong foot right from the start when she took our order without writing it down.  This is a GIANT pet peeve of mine.  Note to all you eateries out there: WRITE DOWN MY ORDER!  You honestly are not impressing me by "memorizing it" and it will only make me angrier if it doesn't come out absolutely perfect.  I'll admit -- she wound up getting our order right, but only after she returned to our table three times to clarify.

But it had been a long day, so of course it had to start with the wine...
A glass of house Cab Sav eventually made its way to the table.  Here, house is definitely synonymous with "cheapest the state store had available," which I totally shouldn't judge.  I'm perfectly OK with that as it's what I do at home.

So we moved on to the bread...

Here's where I should have had my first clue.  But I still didn't.  The bread was rock solid on the outside.  Sometimes that's permissible dependent upon how the bread is baked.  But I can't even be sure it didnt' come directly out of a 3 day old bag. Oh well.

On to the appetizers...
The crab puffs came out looking burnt to a crisp, but tasted surprisingly decent. They simply looked like they'd been forgotten about in the fryer.

The Lobster Bisque was a complete mystery that left both PID and myself scratching our heads. It looked and tasted more like yesterday's clam chowder with a few chunks of store-bought lobster tossed in for good measure and some sort of peach tinted food coloring for effect.  What an epic disappointment.  (Sorry, we were so caught up in how little this tasted like lobster bisque that we both forgot to snap a photo).

It was about this time we heard both the guys behind us and the couple to our left blatantly begin to complain.  Though our waitress had improved her impression by coming back to check on us a number of times, the other tables waitress was completely negligent and downright rude when they reminded her for the fourth time of their drink orders. Their complaining did not cease at any point in the night, which wound up affecting our already jaded experience.

Just when we thought things couldn't get much worse, we received our entrees.

PID's mashed potatoes were literally like water and FREEZING cold to boot.  My coleslaw was inedible -- it tasted like I was eating straight pepper.  And those were just the side dishes.

I'm not going to add injury to insult by dramatically describing everything that was wrong with our meal.  So Ill give you the abbreviated version:
Cod: more fryer batter than fish
Scallops: comparable to burnt rubber
Crab: tiny legs, very little meat
Shrimp: dry and flavorless
Hearts: broken

Restaurant Info:
Baltimore House
Address: 176 Curry Hollow Rd,  Pleasant Hills
Phone: (412) 653-3800
Reservations: They occasionally have live music on the weekends, so you should at least come early.  On a week night you'll get in no problem
Price: $$

Cliffs Notes:
2 glasses of Cab Sav @ $6.50
2 Diet Pepsis @ $2.50
Crab Puffs @ $6.50
1 Cup Lobster Bisque @ $3.25 
2 Seafood Feasts @ $15.50
Coupon Clipper @ -$10
Tax (7 % in Allegheny County) @ $4.39
Total for two: $51.96

Overall Opinion:
SUPER bummed. It was anything but the amazing seafood joint that PID had heard about years ago.  We learned (or rather, heard a rumor as I cannot clarify this as fact) halfway through the night that the entire kitchen staff had been replaced not too long ago.  Maybe that had somethign to do with our poor experience?  I will say I did love the atmosphere.  It was so much fun just walking through the place.  And although our waitress and I started off on the wrong foot, she did come back to become one of the best waitresses we've had in a while -- pleasant and astute while living a double life as waitress/bartender.  But alas, waitstaff and decor do not make a restaurant.  Food does.  And we were so incredibly disappointed with the food.  We certainly hope that if you brave your way to the Baltimore House you will have a far better experience than we did.  Here's hoping they were merely short-staffed, though that shouldn't much qualify as an excuse when you're in the restaurant biz.  Turns out the Ravens aren't the only awful thing about Baltimore....


Baltimore House on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fresh Baked Friday: Bartram House Bakery

This week's Fresh Baked Friday comes to you courtesy of my last fling with high-cal sweets for what I hope to be a very long time.

Sigh. Dieting sucks.

Last week on my way to some serious retail therapy at Tanger Outlets in Washington County, I stopped at a place that had caught my eye many times before.  I'd never been to Bartram House, but any business with the word "Bakery" in its name certainly strikes my fancy.

So knowing that my "diet" was about to start in a matter of hours, I made a point to stop in for some sweet smells and what I hoped would be some delicious goodies, too.

It's a small but charming little place with a few tables for folks to enjoy the coffee (and free wifi) and a sandwich or those who are just too excited to dig in to their croissant to wait until they make it home.

I admit, I stared down the cases and menu for an awkwardly long period of time before I decided I couldn't decide. There were so many options from a classic BLT to a gourmet grilled cheese, delicious looking salads, quiche, breakfast sandwiches and loaves of bread.

But I wasn't there for savory.  Oh no, I was there for the sweet stuff.

Even amongst the amazing looking cakes, pies and tortes, my eyes were immediately drawn to something adorned with Oreo cookies.

I knew I wanted to take one home with me, but I couldn't stop there.  I asked the woman behind the counter what her favorites were.  She smiled and told me "everything."

But she strongly recommended the Chocolate Caramel bar.  A chocolate cookie bar with chalked with coconut and walnuts, delicious chunks of real chocolate and gooey caramel holding it all together. So of course, I had to give it a try.  But as she began to ring me up, a beautiful red velvet cupcake caught my eye. I had her add it to my order.  As something of a self-proclaimed cupcake connoisseur, I couldn't leave with out seeing how their rendition of a classic favorite stands up.

The "Oreo cookie thing" turned out to be a chocolate mousse cup. The "cup" part being hardened chocolate so literally every piece was oh-so-very edible.  The contrast of the solid chocolate with the creamy mousse and caramel that lay inside was so super gooey-licious. I was skeptical to share with my fellow FORT who accompanied me in this tasting.  She made the same face I did after one bite. A face that can only translate to "omg."

The Chocolate Caramel bar was slightly less glorious for me and even less for my FORT who is far from a coconut girl.  Did I enjoy it? Certainly.  But sadly I couldn't bring myself to eat the entire thing.  There are a lot of elements to it that make this bar perfect for sharing.

But the cupcake -- dear lord my fresh-baked-friends -- this thing was amazing.  Not too light, not too heavy and a cream cheese icing that makes Philadelphia proud to be in business. Normally I'm a tough cupcake critic.  But this one passed the test.

Restaurant Info:
Bartram House Bakery
Address: 4120 Washington Street, McMurray Pa (in the strip next to Franco's Trattoria)
Phone: 724-260-0702
Monday - Thursday: 7 am - 10 pm 
Friday & Saturday: 7 am - 11 pm 
Sunday: 8 am - 4 pm
Reservations: Seats about 40, but no need for reservations
Price: $$

Cliffs Notes:
Chocolate Caramel Bar @ $3.99
Berry Mousse Cup @ $3.99
Red Velvet Cupcake @ $2.50
Diet Pepsi @ $1.00
Total with tax: $11.54

Overall Opinion:
I'm definitely glad I stopped by.  Overall, fellow FORT and I had pleased palates and my mousse cup and red velvet cupcake were a wonderful send-off to my sweet-eating days.  I would very strongly recommend it to anyone who lives out the Washington/Peters/McMurray way.  Stop by for breakfast OR dessert!  They also cater both soups, salads and sandwiches or cakes and treats. I can't wait to go back when this cursed diet is over and eat me an ENTIRE key lime pie!

Bartram House Bakery on Urbanspoon

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