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Holiday Present Help-- Where would you buy a gift certificate for a "nice" meal or two in Pittsburgh?

Another vote for Salt of the Earth. This is a new restaurant that is getting a lot of buzz, so if they're foodies, I'm sure they'd love to have the chance to go check it out.

Nov 09, 2010
allisen in Pennsylvania

Bona Terra - a Hidden Gem straight from your local Market!

I ate there at 8PM one evening and was surprised that it was clearly the last seating. They had already run out of three of the seven entrees. I was new to Pittsburgh at the time and didn't realize then that 10:00 seatings are not common here.

Nov 03, 2010
allisen in Pennsylvania

what happened to Fox & Obel??

I'm in Chicago about once a year, and always enjoy a trip to Fox & Obel for lunch or to pick up a bread, cheese, and wine dinner for the hotel room. I was just there this week and was unpleasantly surprised by the state of the place. The produce section was a disaster: shriveled champagne mangoes, rock hard lychees, and sad sad peaches. I'm not sure, as I'm not there that often, but it also seemed like there were fewer offerings in the bakery. Did this place change owners? Management? Am I imagining things? Did I just hit them on the wrong day and all will be back to normal for my next trip?

Aug 16, 2010
allisen in Chicago Area

Need PA-centric foods for my new book

Whoopie pies are common in Pennsylvania, Maine, and Indiana. Indiana and PA make sense as they share an Amish/Mennonite connection - not sure why they're also big in Maine. The suggestion is that PA has the strongest claim on origin though.

Jul 21, 2010
allisen in Pennsylvania

Best pizza in the Burg

What are your criteria? Are you looking for NY style? Or more the arugula and proscuitto type?

Jul 21, 2010
allisen in Pennsylvania

help! mom wants to go to brunch last minute

I'm visiting DC with my parents this weekend doing the tourist things. Today my mother says: "Oh, I've always wanted to out to brunch for Mother's Day." (She's a professional baker, and this is the first year in 20 that she's had it off.) Help!!! I had been planning to make a nice brunch at our rental apartment, but now, I'd love to take her out if that's what she wants. Of course, we have no reservations.

Does anyone have some advice? we're staying in the Capital Hill neighborhood, It doesn't have to be fancy - in fact, a fairly normal breakfast place with a brunch menu would be great. And having a chance of getting in would be great too :)

When did cook's illustrated change their paper stock?

So Cook's Illustrated is now on glossier stock paper. I know it's not glossy like Bon Appetit or most other magazines, but it is glossier than it used to be. Does anyone know when they made that shift?

I'm trying to buy some back issues so I can frame the back covers, but I want to make sure I buy the right years so it's the old, totally matte paper.


Jan 29, 2010
allisen in Food Media & News

dining solo in Cambridge

I'm going to be in Boston next week and staying at the Hotel Marlowe (near Lechmere) stop. Any dinner recommendations? I'm happy to catch the T for another stop, but won't have other transportation. I'm looking for singleton friendly places, where it won't be too awkward to dine alone and not too expensive. Thanks so much! I know Boston just a little, but I'm not familiar with this area. Left to my own devices, I fear I'd chicken out and eat at that mall's food court.

Hotel Marlowe Restaurant
25 Edwin H Land Blvd, Cambridge, MA 02141

Nov 11, 2009
allisen in Greater Boston Area

Pgh: Abay v. Tana

I prefer the food at Abay over Tana. The ambiance is much better. Tana does have the advantage (or disadvantage depending on your perspective) or having a liquor license. I eat at Abay about twice a month and really love it. Never had any trouble with the service myself.

May 28, 2009
allisen in Pennsylvania

Soba (Pittsburgh)

It's not walkable. The express bus (EBA) has a stop quite close to the convention center and the Shadyside stop is just a three blocks from Soba. A taxi might be a bit pricey (not sure, I don't use them),

There are other great places (some by the same restaurateur) closer to where he'll be: check out Eleven, Nine on Nine or Kaya.

May 14, 2009
allisen in Pennsylvania

Soba (Pittsburgh)

I gave Soba a second try last night after being unimpressed by one of their special occasion tasting menus. I'm glad I did. I had a morel mushroom and broad noodle stir fry with a soy butter sauce that was just perfect. Of course, I'm a huge sucker for morels so that's part of it, but the big rolled noodles were also tasty with a slick of light and flavorful sauce and a generous portion of asparagus. For the price point, I'm not sure I've had a better dining experience in Pittsburgh. The atmosphere and service makes it feel like a special night out, but the check was a steal.

May 14, 2009
allisen in Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh in May

Good advice already. Just thought I'd chime in to second (or third) suggestions for:

Dinette (great pizza - worth the minor price bump)
Abay for Ethiopian
Harris Grill (for the patio and people. The food is fine, but not memorable)
Buffalo Blues on Highland is a fun sports bar with solid bar food (pulled pork, wings, etc.)
Bites and Brews on Ellsworth is a pizza and beer place (not fancy, but cheap with a really great tap list.)

I wish I could recommend CoCo's, but I haven't been impressed. Great store design though.

Apr 28, 2009
allisen in Pennsylvania

Sushi in Pittsburgh

I agree with Chaya recommendations as the best you can do in Pittsburgh, but note that last phrase. I've actually settled on living without sushi for the most part. Umi is a bizarre sushi place designed for people who do not like sushi. Each piece comes with a very strong dollop of something (yuzu sauce, cream cheese and a grape tomato) that effectively prevents you from tasting the fish. If that sounds like a good thing to you, by all means check it out.

Mar 23, 2009
allisen in Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh CSA's?

I've used Penn's Corner and Kretschmann and preferred Kretschmann. However, both (I felt) used the CSA boxes to get rid of slightly less preferable produce (12-inch+ zucchinis and bolted lettuce). I'm sticking with the co-op this year so I can hand select the best produce.

Mar 23, 2009
allisen in Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh's Bonna Terra: How Good?


Feb 26, 2009
allisen in Pennsylvania

where, oh where, can i find leaf lard?

It's already rendered.

Feb 18, 2009
allisen in General Topics

Dinette (Pittsburgh)

After reading many a glowing review, I finally made it to Dinette. Sheesh, why did it take so long? All in all, a lovely little place. Plus, if you internet stalk the chef, she's seriously cool. She wrote her thesis on the negative impact of urban renewal on East LIberty back in the day, and now her restaurant is there. Really cool.

We started with some marinated olives and a plate of salami. Great presentation. A diminutive bowl of olives (the bright green ones taste like flowers!) and a platter with just a few slices of salami. A serving small enough to make you slow down and savor your food. A welcome change.

I was really hoping for the pizza with shaved brussels sprouts, cherve, and lardons, but it wasn't on the menu. Fortunately, the fingerling potato, lardon, chevre, and poached egg sounded just as tempting. This pizza is worth every penny. The crust is exquisitely crisp and thin under the toppings with a toothsome bite when you get to the crusty edge. Suffice it to say I am absolutely delighted that Dinette is in my neighborhood and cannot wait to see what the pizzas look like in the spring when the arugula and pea tendrils come on line.

The chef/owner is obviously knowledgeable in wines, and I've heard great reviews of the quality of her inexpensive line up. However, my sole critique of the place, is that the beer list is not well developed. The entire list (5) leans toward pilsners and lagers. It's not a bad list for beer drinkers who like domestics or for hop-heads, but it leaves us malt preferers out in the cold. (And no, the Penn Dark does not belong in the dark category. It's just a lager colored brown). So my recommendation is to get some advice from a beer connoisseur and get that list balanced out. I'm far from expert, but in my humble opinion for a list of 6, I'd go with:

- 1 bland / lager type (The $1 cans of Iron City on the menu would do nicely)
- 2 hop-head selections (e.g, pale ale, IPA, amber)
- 2 darker, malty selections (e.g, nut brown, porter, stout)
- 1 Belgian

I noticed that the chef has selected all PA beers, which I admire, but I notice that the wine drinkers aren't similarly shackled. Just expanding to some regional breweries (NY, DE, OH) would improve the options.

I wouldn't go to such great lengths to critique a beer list, except that I am secretly wishing the chef reads this board and might consider making a few changes. I seriously would not be able to stay away from this place; the food is exceptional. Do not wait. Go there tonight

p.s. I love the tableware choices (vases=perfect), but beer in a faceted water glass doesn't work as well. Can we get some pints? Pretty please?

Feb 10, 2009
allisen in Pennsylvania

Bona Terra Review

My husband I went to Bona Terra in Sharpsburg (Pittsburgh) for the first time last night. I was pretty excited because I had heard it was one of the best, if not the best, place in town.

We arrived about 10 minutes early. Our table wasn't quite ready so the hostess took our wine (BYO) and showed us to the bar. A note on the decor: The bar is an absolutely beautiful copper bar with a nice patina. Unfortunately, the walls are painted almost exactly the same color so it tends to blend into the one-color palate of the place. You wouldn't even notice it unless you're sitting at it (and there's really no reason to sit there as they don't actually have any alcohol to serve you). Anyway....the all-the-exact-same-color palate of the place is a bit off-putting. I'd go with a complimentary color on the wall - some shade of green - and that beautiful copper would really pop. Anyhooo... moving on.

We were seated. A little snafoo with the wine glass (dirty), but the waiter was great and quickly brought a new one. (Actually, most of the glassware and silverware had water spots - not sure what's going on in the dish washing department).

Waiter regretfully tells us that they are out of 2 out of 6 choices for the entrée. Big disappointment. They had 3 fish entrees on the menu that night and 3 “meats”, but 2 of the meats were gone. We were told it had something to do with being the “late” seating, but in my book 8:30 is not the late seating. 6:00 is the early-birds, 8:00 is the regular seating, and 10:00 is the “late seating”. Just saying. Although, I noticed that it didn’t look like they probably have a 10:00 seating there. Turns out the restaurant was also going to be closed the next day and so the chef had only ordered for that night and overestimated how much fish people would be eating. Now, I would typically go for fish, but they were all the same, manly-man types of fish (Mahi-Mahi, king salmon, and swordfish). None of which are my style. Anyway, I think that’s why fewer people were ordering the seafood – there wasn’t much variety. Ok, Ok. So they’re out of both the duck and the veal. The waiter was super cool about it. I felt bad for him. It’s not his fault the back of the house is messing up. He was definitely on the ball though – and arranged to substitute quail and pork chop for us. Phew! Disaster averted and dinner saved!

Amuse Bouche: A local, baby watermelon consommé with a chunk of melon, proscuitto, and blue cheese. Ours came with what tasted like parmesean, not blue, but it worked. I made the mistake of tasting the soup without any of the accoutrements first. Holy sweetness! Wow, super reduced and super sweet. It was my mistake though. Balanced with a bit of cheese, or prosciutto in the spoon – better.

Appetizer: We ordered the tuna with cucumber and plums. The tuna came seared in a pepper crust. It was pre-prepared and sitting at room temperature from what I could tell. No warmth near the crusty part and the inner-raw-goodness wasn’t cold. Not a great start. The cucumber came tossed in sesame oil, but somehow didn’t pair well with a nibble of tuna. Shrug. Not sure what was going on with that one.

Salad: I ordered an heirloom tomato salad. Can’t go wrong right? Wrong. It came with 3-half slices of a red tomato and 3-half slices of a yellow. The red was pretty tasteless with good texture. And the yellow was down right mealy. I’m all for local sourcing, but you have to hold your local producers to the same standards as everyone else. I love a perfect brandywine, but given a choice between a well-raised field tomato, and a mealy heirloom – I’d choose the plain old tomato. Again – just saying. The salad was served with mizuna greens (which were lovely), and crumbled feta with a reduced balsamic vinegar. The vinegar and tomatoes paired well (of course), but the feta was weird – not one of those transcendent, “whole is greater than the sum of its parts” experience. Just feta and tomato battling it out for supremacy in my mouth.

Refresher: The waiter brought a small scoop of melon sorbet between courses. He described it as cantaloupe, but I over heard him saying to another table that it’s some obscure melon variety that they call cantaloupe to avoid confusion. It tasted like the essence of melon, very rich and flavorful – likely a reduced syrup of melon juice. I tasted a few nibbles and appreciated the craftsmanship. I have something against cantaloupe though (it reminds me of rotting flesh – yuck), but that has nothing to do with this poor sorbet, just my own weirdness. My husband helpfully finished mine for me.

Entrée: I had the pork chop, which was at least 12 inches thick. Ok, ok – probably only 2, but it seemed that thick. I ordered it medium-rare, which the chef was willing to do (good sign on quality), and it was perfect! So tender and juicy, with a salty, meaty crust on it. I happily devoured it. It came with a braised cabbage side, which in keeping with the chef’s interest in sweet was SWEET. I could not eat it alone, but it paired ok with the pork. I’m forgetting the starchy thing that came with it so it must have been neither great nor offensive.

We skipped dessert, because I wanted to leave on a good note. That pork chop definitely made up for the previous mis-steps.

Overall, I’m ambivalent. I wouldn’t call it the best place in Pittsburgh, but at the same time, I’m afraid I picked the wrong night and shouldn’t judge based on my poor timing. I’ll definitely be back. The highlight was definitely the front of the house. The waiter was helpful and classy in the face of a bad situation – without any pretense or judgment. For me at least, service is a big piece of the equation, and they definitely have found great staff members. Juries still out on the food though.

Aug 26, 2008
allisen in Pennsylvania

blackout cake still around??

Food&Wine just published a recipe for this based on the original Brooklyn version. It's in the issue on newsstands now.

May 02, 2008
allisen in Outer Boroughs

new restaurant for Shawn McClain?

I heard a rumor he was adding a 4th to his empire. Any truth to this?

Apr 25, 2008
allisen in Chicago Area

Uses for leftover buttermilk?

It does freeze fine. Then when I want to make some more soda bread I have it.

Mar 29, 2008
allisen in Home Cooking

Lunch in Bloomington, IN?

For coffee, the Bakehouse serves good regular drip coffee. I lived in Bloomington for 5 years (just left 6 months ago), and unfortunately, I can vouch for the fact that espresso is best avoided (anywhere in town). Nothing against the place, it's just a regular coffee kind of town. Fits in with the down to earth vibe of the city.

There are plenty of great independent lunch options. I'd concur with the options already provided. I might also add that there's a fun little Tibetian place on 4th. I don't know the address, but it's right across the street from the Bombay House (mentioned above).

ALASKA eats! (help with trip planning)

I grew up in Homer and visit pretty often but don't live there anymore

I second the suggestion for The Saltry. It's actually in Halibut Cove, which is a tiny community not far from Homer that's accessible only by water. There's a fun ferry that will take you over for dinner so it makes a nice night and the food is great. If you eat on the patio and order shellfish, you'll be able to watch the sous-chef run down the dock to pull up the mesh bag and select your dinner. Eat seafood here (well, that pretty much applies to everywhere in the state)

In town, for lunch, try Glacier Drive-In for burgers. (I recommend the bacon cheese burger), and don't skip the shakes. I'd kill for one of their mocha shakes now (it's not on the menu, but that doesn't stop anyone). It's definitely a locals place and not to be missed.

For the most part, avoid restaurants on the spit (it's a narrow peninsula that sticks out into the bay). They tend to cater to tourists and serve substandard food. You will get LOTS of recommendations for Land's End when you get there. It's at the end of the spit, and the view from the dining room is absolutely beautiful, but the food is equally wretched. It's worth going for drinks just to check it out though (or you could just go for a walk on the beach in front of the place).

If you want to eat on the Spit, stick with Glacier Drive-In (as above) or Fin's. Fin's a pretty neat pizza place. Not the best ever, but not your typical red sauce and pepperoni and they make a decent showing.

In town, you might want to try The Homestead or Cups. I've had amazing dinners at both and disappointing dinners at both. Both have reputations to protect, but they also tend to change owners and chefs quite frequently. If you find a foodie in town, ask them. (It's been awhile since I've been in town so I can't give the updated scoop). And if this supposed foodie also recommends Land's End, just do the opposite with respect to Cups and the Homestead. Also, you might want to try Fat Olives. It's sort of a laid back bistro type place.

Two Sister's Bakery is a fun place for coffee and a sticky bun. It's about a block from the beach so a good place to stop before or after a long walk.

Homer has great coffee. My favorite place is K-Bay Cafe. It's about 4.5 miles from town and is just a coffee stand, but the coffee is amazing. The owner wins international competitions and trains his baristas very well. They will not burn your shot. In town, I like Espresso Express, but Latitude 59 has a following as well.

Can't speak to Seward or Talkeetna. You'll drive through Soldotna on your way to Homer, but it's a culinary wasteland.

In ANCHORAGE, I'd recommend

Moose's Tooth for pizza. It's worth the wait. Trust me. They also brew their own beer.

Mar 12, 2008
allisen in Pacific Northwest

Pittsburgh Eats 2008

I wish I liked that place. It really looks so nice with the well designed store front and logo. I've only tried it twice, but both times the cake part was dry and tasteless. And the icing tasted like a mouthful of sweet Crisco. Maybe it's gone downhill?

Mar 06, 2008
allisen in Pennsylvania

Point Brugge Cafe - PGH

The mussels are amazing. Flown in fresh from PEI everyday. I'm so addicted to them it's doubtful that I'll ever order anything else. Not French, but definitely worth a visit.

Mar 04, 2008
allisen in Pennsylvania

pittsburgh chow ideas?

This thread has been quite active lately and should answer your question.

Mar 02, 2008
allisen in Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh CSA

Carole's post inquiring about a CSA in Philadelphia prompted me to ask about options in Pittsburgh. I was a member of Penn's Corner last year and while it was fine, it wasn't impressive. I felt that some of the produce was sub-standard. I'm thinking of switching to Kretchman Farm's CSA, but I've heard mixed reviews. Any Pittsburgh folks out there with a strong recommendation for a CSA? Thanks!

Feb 23, 2008
allisen in Pennsylvania

Chipotle Grill [Moved from Pennsylvania Board]

McDonald's divested it's share of Chipotle in 2006. They're no longer connected (in case that would keep you from eating there). It's one of the better fast food options I think. They are making an attempt to buy organic beans and the pork is sourced from Niman Ranch. And it's tasty.

Feb 23, 2008
allisen in Chains

Mexican in Pittsburgh?

Can anyone recommend a good Mexican place? I've been trying to find a place with a liquor license that's between the rivers. It can be authentic or tex-mex, either is fine. So far I'm batting out with either BYO joints or endless suggestions for Mad Mex, which I have tried but was not impressed. Thanks!

Feb 20, 2008
allisen in Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh Eats 2008

Great review of the Pittsburgh food scene. Thanks. Your comments about Giant Eagle in Shadyside made me laugh. I was afraid I was the only snob who hated it.

If you haven't tried it, I'd recommend Point Brugge for great mussels and pommes frites.

Feb 11, 2008
allisen in Pennsylvania