Friday, July 29, 2011

Dining on a Dime: Ibiza Tapas & Wine Bar

For those of you who missed our announcement, we're proud to let you know that we've been asked to write for CBS Pittsburgh's Best of Food & Drink section on their website!  We'll be sharing these posts with you here, but you can always find them and more useful local information at first adventure took us to all the way to Ibiza!

On a budget? Let’s face it, we’ve all been there… and many of us still are. Whether you’re a student paying your way through school, an entry level professional learning the self-sustained ropes, or a parent of three looking to sneak away for a date night – the money we have to spend on a dinner out may not always match our appetites. With a strict budget of $40, we ventured to the South Side for a tapas treat at Ibiza Tapas and Wine Bar (cue record scratch of disbelief). It was a bold move for a budget meal, but we were on a mission.

Full article...


Monday, July 25, 2011

Mango-ing Green

Oh, hello Regent Square.  It was such a pleasure to meet you on Friday! 

Yes, that's right.  I just had my first dinner in Regent Square since moving to Pittsburgh more than eight years ago.  Judge me all you want.  I'm right there beside you.

(And I call myself a food blogger....)

Well, Pittsburgh...I am proud to say that I have finally expanded my culinary circumference while ALSO eating a dish I have never eaten before!

PID, a few familiar FORTs and I ventured to the area on a Friday evening in hopes of heading to check out the relatively new Alma for dinner. A risk and a failure.  Alma does not take reservations for parties under eight and a two hour wait greeted us in the unbearable moist heat of the evening. While we were slightly bummed to miss out on what we were all so excited to experience, we were far from discouraged. (Alma, we'll be back to check you out shortly...) We walked a few blocks down South Braddock Ave. (Note: don't walk this. Just don't do it. It's too darn far and it was too darn hot.) and tried our luck at a few more (also relatively new) places to no avail. Until a neon noodle beckoned to us.

The Green Mango is a hole in the wall amongst golden palaces.  With restaurants quickly becoming the talk of the town popping up left and right, it blends in to it's brick facade save the glowing bowl of steamy Pad Thai in it's window.  It was the only place that could seat all six of us immediately, so we jumped on the offer.  Admittedly, I originally didn't approve.  Though I've yet to meet a food I dislike, I've never found myself particularly fond of Thai cuisine. Until now.

Amongst us, we ordered three appetizers of beef rolls, spring rolls and Somosa for the table

Spring Rolls with homemade duck sauce

Samosa: Lightly fried pastry stuffed with potatoes, onions, tofu and Thai spices

and  two "Drunken Noodles," a classic Pad Thai, Spicy Green Curry, Sukiyaki Soup and Spicy Pineapple Curry with beef for our entrees.

Classic Pad Thai

One of the Drunken Noodle dinners (with shrimp)

Spicy Green Curry (with beef)

Sukiyaki Soup

Spicy Pineapple Curry (with beef)
I went in with one opinion of Thai food and one alone....and that opinion culminates on a porcelain throne later the evening.  But tonight I experienced Thai done right. Sure, there were a few watery eyes and cleared nasal passages - but that's just the nature of the beast.  Each and every one of us couldn't wait to tell the other how they chose the best item on the menu.  I will say, that although I entered the skeptic, I walked out standing behind my Sukiyaki Soup as the best of the evening. It's not often I think of soup as a meal, but it certainly was. With all of the glass noodles, perfectly translucent, mixing with the crunch of the green onion and the taste of the chicken and shrimp, I could barely even finish it all. Not to mention the mirin and soy flavors accumulated by the tofu, I didn't want to leave a single bite behind. My first attempt at Sukiyaki was a success!

Restaurant Info:

The Green Mango
Open for lunch and dinner 7 days/week
Regent Square
1109 S. Braddock Avenue
Regent Square, PA 15218
Tel. 412-244-3310
Penn Center East
3462 Wm. Penn Hwy
Pittsburgh, PA 15235
Tel. 412-824-9500
The Waterfront Mall
142 West Bridge Street
Homestead, PA 15207
Tel. 412-476-9100
Reservations: We walked right in on a Friday night when everything else had a line out the door. But maybe give a call ahead just to make sure.
Price: $$

Cliffs Notes/Overall Opinion
After being granted a small taste of everyone's dish, I knew that my an-Thai shell had been cracked. For only $9.50 (well, plus about $1 worth of Spring rolls that I snuck) I had a wild-with-flavor dinner with my wild-with-flavor friends. And the kicker?  Because The Green Mango is BYOB, not one of us spent over $20 on ourselves for the entire, delicious dinner out.  WINNING.

Here's our lesson(s) of the day: Don't automatically walk on by a "hole in the wall" on a mission to eat at the neighborhood's newest and most exciting hot spot.  AND don't disregard cuisines altogether just because you once had a mediocre experience. You never know what you might find!

The Green Mango on Urbanspoon

The Green Mango  Restaurant Reviews

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Home Cookin':Attack of the Homegrown Zucchini!

It's about that time of year when home-gardeners back yards are overcome with a jungle of Zucchini plant leaves.  Some years are better than others when it comes to how well the vegetables themselves grow.  For PID and I, saying this this was an "on" year was a bit of an understatement.

This was our first pick of the season. For the record, that is a massive apple.

We knew we had a lot of Zucchini to use and not a lot of time to use it before a) it went bad or b) we had to pick another one. So I took it upon myself to create a full Zucchini themed dinner.  I was inspired by a Martha Stuart cookbook which was given to me by a dear FORT...but I made a few adjustments to make these dishes my own. PID seemed to enjoy it -- let's hope you do too!

My first course was a Cilantro Zucchini Chicken Salad with a Lime Vinaigrette.  This was a simplistically delicious dish that didn't take a lot of time to create.  Here's what you'll need for 4 healthy servings:

1 medium Zucchini -- sliced thin
2 large boneless chicken breasts 
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup + 1 tbs olive oil (I used Roasted French Walnut Oil from the folks over at A Taste of Olive - YUM!)
1/4 cup cilantro -- chopped
1/2 cup red onion, sliced thin in rounds
2 cups fresh spinach leaves -- chopped
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts -- whichever you prefer
Salt & pepper

Here's what you'll do:

1) In a large bowl, whisk together your lime juice, oil, and a heft helping of salt & pepper and add your zucchini slices, allowing to marinate 
2) Here's where you can make a call based on the amount of time that you have available: Either heat your tablespoon of oil on medium, season your chicken breasts with salt & pepper and cook until browned (about 8 minutes per side).  OR!!!!  You can do what I did and slice your chicken breasts in to thin slices and season each one individually with salt and pepper before heating your oil on medium and cooking the slices until browned (about 4 minutes per side). The upside to the latter? It takes less time. I personally liked crispier chicken slices, but I know some (/most) may not.  Doing it the former way makes for much juicier chicken.
3) When your chicken is finished cooking, rip the pieces or breasts apart with your hands until you have small chunks.
4) Toss the chicken in the bowl with the zucchini, vinaigrette, pecans, cilantro, onion and spinach. 
5) Serve and enjoy!
This dish was a PERFECT summer meal.  It was crisp and cool and had the perfect amount of citrus-y zing to it.  As I mentioned -- I loved the contrast of the crispiness of the thinly sliced chicken against the spinach and zucchini-- but some may enjoy a juicy bite!

The second meal on the menu last night was a Lemon Wine Risotto with Peas and Zucchini.  So um....lest I remind you that I write a RESTAURANT blog for a reason.  I am not a trained (or talented) chef and I think it goes without saying that I'd never made a risotto before.

Let me start by giving a piece of novice advice:  If you do not have 35 solid minutes to dedicate to NOTHING but your risotto...if you don't have the patience or stamina to stand and stir the entire time... then you should not even attempt to make a risotto.  This dish slightly resembled the girl my best guy friend dated in high school: high maintenance, but in the end -- beautiful.

Here's what you'll need for 6 servings:

2 cups chicken broth
2 1/2 cups water
4 tablespoons of butter
1 large zucchini -- cut into small cubes
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (you can find it at Giant Eagle -- but it can also be substituted for medium grain white rice)

1 cup thawed frozen peas
1/2 cup dry white wine, like Pino Grigio
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper

Here's what you'll do:

1) In a large skillet, heat your water and chicken broth on low heat and keep it warm
2) Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in another large saucepan over medium heat and add your zucchini cubes -- toss and season with salt & pepper -- cooking and stirring often 8 minutes.  When your zucchini is complete, use a slotted spoon to transfer the zucchini cubes to a plate lined with a paper towel and cover.

 3) Reduce heat to medium-low and add your onion, cooking about 5 minutes or until soft, then season with salt & pepper
4) Re-raise the heat back to medium and add the rice -- cooking until the edges are translucent (about 3 minutes).  Then add the wine and cook another 2 minutes to combine.
5) Begin adding your broth liquid to the rice, 1 cup at a time, cooking the rice and stirring constantly until the entire cup is seemingly absorbed before adding the next. This should take you about 25 minutes.  Important: DO NOT STOP STIRRING!  I know most people have non-stick it may not be as big of an issue for you...but as an unmarried young professional who has never had a reason to register for anything or a surplus of money to spend on a new set, I'm stuck using family hand-me-downs which were crafted prior to Teflon times.

6) Once all the liquid has been incorporated in to the rice, immediately add the peas and gradually add your lemon juice - stirring all the while, then add the zucchini and stir again with the final tablespoon of butter and another flavoring of salt & pepper.

7) Serve with the grated Parmesan cheese on top and be prepared to NOM.

So there you have it.  My wrangle with the Attack of the Homegrown Zucchini. I didn't have time for dessert, but if I did i PROBABLY would have made these suckers -- which I attempted for my other (slightly underdeveloped) blog, Life is Cake. They didn't make this post because -- duh -- no zucchini. I didn't want to mess with my Iron Chef-esque status in Battle Zucchini (*said very excitedly...*)!

And so I say unto you in the words of some guy from TV's uncle....


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