Category Archives: Food

Restaurant Review – Spoon

Preface: I’m no culinary expert, but I love good food. I’m going to just give it to you as I taste it.

On Saturday, my lovely wife took me out for a pre-birthday dinner. I wanted to try out one of the several new, highly buzzed about restaurants around town, so we went to Spoon. I never got to eat at its predecessor, Red Room, in the edge-of-scaryness-but-very-cool space in East Liberty, but I did want to make sure I got into what followed it.

The space itself is very dim, very chic, not overly expressive of its food like many restaurants, and very comfortable.

We both saw a five course tasting option on the menu, and as a first time guest, we both thought it might be fun to try. Little did we know how much food was coming, and just how good it was.

1. Pre-appetizer appetizer: Duo of bean soup. A play on ‘split pea soup’. Served in an espresso shot cup to be sipped, not spooned. Served with white bean on one side, black on the other…not sure how they did that. Certainly something I wouldn’t order off the menu [if you know me, I’m not a big bean guy….and I eat almost anything]. But the flavor was great, the ham hock was great, and we were off and running.

2. Appetizer #2: Gorgonzola Blue Cheese Souffle. Again, something that wouldn’t jump out at me. Souffle was fantastic, fluffy, warm, and just right. The salad next to it with beets, grapefruit, fennel, and arugula is DEFINITELY something I wouldn’t normally get. To my surprise, I could have eaten that all day long. Perfect second dish.

3. Appetizer #3: Cassoulet. Shellbeans and tomato stew [alright, enough with the beans already] with duck confit and homemade sausage. The duck and sausage were killer – the beans, well, that’s just me. My least favorite of the three starters, but if you like duck, that’s a great dish.

[By this point, we are already getting pretty full – especially on the three homemade breads that are on the table too that are fantastic]

4. Main Course #1: Crispy Skin Wild Striped Bass. The fish was perfect, and sitting on a play off clam chowder with one clam and the whole dish sitting in some chowder-like cream sauce. The bass was cooked beautifully. I probably would have ordered this off the menu if I had to choose an entree, and very happy they brought this. Excellently prepared.

[By this point, the wife is hurting, and I’m close.]

5. Main Course #2: Grilled NY Strip. Very pumped about this one. Came out rare, but oh so tasty. Comes with some bacon and mushroom spoon bread, but that didn’t go well for either of us. The creamed spinach, as much as I also shy away from spinach, was excellent. I was beyond stuffed at this point but I actually kept trying to eat more spinach.

[We’re both afraid we may fall asleep at the table now.]

6. Dessert: Date Cake w/ Bourbon Brown Sugar Ice Cream. OMG.We thought there was no way we could eat dessert. This dessert changed that mood quickly. My wife is still dreaming about this date cake, and I’m dreaming about that ice cream. They even gave me a nice Happy Birthday message on the plate in chocolate. Seriously, who comes up with making a cake out of dates? Amazing. The ice cream, though, was unlike anything I had ever tasted. Could eat it ALL DAY.

Overall, that was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. Most likely the best I’ve ever had in Pittsburgh for sure. The tasting menu was a fantastic way to try out a lot of the menu for future visits. It’s a decent price tag per person, but it comes with a ton of food overall. Service was impeccable, to boot.

Bob gives this one two thumbs up, and will definitely be visiting there again.

The only curious thing was, I didn’t have to eat anything with a spoon?

 

Spoon

134 South Highland Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

spoonpgh.com

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Reasons I Love Italy…But Home More

So after our lovely wedding we got to take a trip to what my wife and I both consider a home away from home – Italy. During our undergraduate studies in architecture, Annie spent a semester in Rome and I spent a semester in Florence. We thought it would be fun to show each other how we lived in our respective cities.

It didn’t take long after we stepped off the Eurostar from Rome to Florence for me to remember that distinct Florentine smell of street sweeper and grungy appearance of the train station piazza primarily from an abundance of pigeons. I loved it. I got in trouble with the wife for leading us a bit too far east away from the hotel, but I just had to get my eyes on the Duomo again. It is just the most remarkable church tucked tightly in a piazza, with a fascinating mixture of tourists, locals, and students all hours of the day.

Once that excitement wore off and we kept lugging our bags to the hotel, it sank in how tight the roads and sidewalks were. They are both frustrating and intriguing. Navigating between fast paced locals, projecting cast iron window security grilles, and Vespas is an art form.

Maybe I’m a bit odd, but the immersion of oneself in a foreign culture is more beautiful to me than an exotic beach. The constant sensory overload might be what intrigues me so much.

Along the 11 day trip in both cities, I came up with a mental list of other reasons I love Italy:

-It is unbelievably, unfathomably old.

-Once you find your way through the veil of Tourist Italy, the food is unmatched. Had meals that were a disgrace to food in general, but also had the finest piece of beef I’ve ever eaten…with a juniper berry wine sauce.

-Inside city walls, it looks like new building construction has not happened since before our Declaration of Independence. So refreshing. Interiors, yes, but great to NOT see a bunch of enviro-minimal infill buildings all over the place. How a Ben and Jerry’s got next to the Duomo though, is truly a sin that someone shouldn’t have committed =). Almost as bad as the McDonald’s across from the Pantheon.

-It is inherently romantic. It doesn’t try to be, it just is.

-Despite the fact the culture appears to have no apparent future or indication that many people work all day, they are far ahead of us in terms of transportation and health. I think the reason why people perceive Europeans as so attractive starts with the fact they are all a normal size. They walk…everywhere. Your feet take a beating, but you feel great when you walk a few miles a day to get around. And if we in America had anything even in the same universe as their train system, the US economy would be entirely different. Baffles me every time.

I think I’ve had my fill of Italy for a bit now, but it sure was a magnificent place for a honeymoon. Despite all of the things I saw new and saw again, it renewed my appreciation for what we have back here at home. Sure, there are things I wish we had here in the US, but coming home we were so grateful to have the things and the freedoms we have here at home.

And given the date of this post- I’ll end it with a sincere thanks to our troops and veterans who protect this lovely place we call home.

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Has Our Food Culture Come to This?

Now, I can’t write a blog post about all of the healthy, organic food that I locally obtain and eat on a daily basis. I enjoy the typical American unhealthy pleasures as much as the rest of us. However, I’m trying to avoid the real junk as much as I can, and I am well informed about the content and dangers of eating the vast majority of food out there in our markets. Lately I have been doing much better in selecting healthier options.

Recently though, I saw an add for McDonald’s new ‘Real Fruit Smoothies’. Really??? Did anyone else notice the word ‘real’ in the advertising? What other kind of fruit would make up the smoothies? Has our food culture become so distorted and disgusting that we have to use the word REAL to advertise a fruit smoothie?

What also baffles me is if you google ‘mcdonalds real fruit smoothie’ you really don’t come across anyone else making note of this. What kind of mindset does that take? Someone in McDonald’s must have said,

“Well, everyone knows that none of the rest of our food is actually real, its all chemically induced, processed landfill material that tastes like beef, so we should probably tell people that we are using real fruit to be able to sell them.”

Ridiculous.

There are many times that I think about the 4 months that I lived in Florence, Italy and how healthy I felt. The healthiest I felt in my entire life. There are all of these junk diets here that say no pasta, no carbs, no blah blah blah. I ate pasta and pizza dough and ‘real’ vegetables and fruit in Italy every day and not only did I lose weight…I actually felt good! It didn’t hurt that we all walked everywhere. All day. But that’s virtually impossible to do in this country. It’s impossible to walk everywhere. It’s not impossible but cost and convenience prohibitive to find organic, natural foods.

Its scary.

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