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Saturday, June 17, 2017

City Brew Tours


Pittsburgh is the newest city to join the City Brew Tours family.  Their other cities include Philadelphia, DC, Baltimore, Boston and Burlington. Apparently the owner, Chad Brodsky, got his start in Burlington running around town in lederhosen telling people to get into his suspicious van.

The current City Brew Tours van is much less suspicious and seats about 16 people. For $99 they will pick you up and drive you around to tour some of the following breweries: Spoonwood, Penn, Draai Laag, Cobblehaus, Couch, Allegheny City, Grist House, Aurochs and Hop Farm. They generally select which breweries your tour will visit, but can customize your tour upon request.

You can expect plenty to drink, some fun banter about the history of beer, an inclusive lunch paired with some local brews and a lot of information about the brewing process from the brewers themselves.





Auroch's was my second favorite stop of the day. It is located on Rt. 65, aka the Ohio River Boulevard in the last place you would look for a brewery. (Right next some establishment where you can wash your dog. How anyone would go somewhere other than their home to wash a dog makes no sense to me. Throw the beast in the tub or hose it off in the yard.)

An auroch is a type of extinct cow whose demise was thought to be brought on due to the expansion of agricultural development. The name is quite cute as Auroch's is a gluten free brewery. Their beer is made from quinoa and millet and uses a process that includes no gluten whatsoever. (Many other gluten free beers are made by stripping the gluten from the brew after the fact.) Their faux wheat beer and their session IPA were some of the best beers I tried on our tour. I could not even tell they were gluten free which was quite uprising.

I asked the brewers if they'd be interested in taking on a purine free beer. They didn't seem super interested. (The gout is brought on by the over consumption of purines which are extremely prevalent in beer.) The gout affects more people than gluten intolerance, and as such, I certainly hope to see some purine free beers in the US market soon. Several purine free beers exist in Japan, apparently they are not very good. For more information, check out this great reddit post.



We had a wonderful lunch at Hop Farm. As I said above, your lunch is included in your ticket price. We were treated to a buffalo chicken ceaser, soft pretzels, a beef slider and some gouda beer mac.  Each course was paired with a different beer, you can check out the pairings on the menu above. If you've been following my musings closely you are already aware that I simply love the food at Hop Farm and I have many nice things to say about them.



Carl hated all the beers. (I'm just kidding, he seemed to really enjoy them.) My favorite beers of the day were served by Draai Laag. I've always though of Draai Laag as a small time operation that played second fiddle to Millvalle's  Grist House. Boy was I wrong. Draai Laag is actually distributed in some 39 states throughout the country. Their beers are uniquely sour and yeasty in a way that makes me tingle. I've started drinking their products basically anywhere I can find them, and I can't wait to go back.

Overall, I have to say the beer tour was excellent! A ton of great information and a wonderful excuse to get out and enjoy the city. If you are considering booking a tour, just do it. You'll absolutely enjoy yourself.



Thursday, June 15, 2017

Farm to Table 2017

Logan Family Farm
Every year the Farm to Table tasting is one of my favorite events in Pittsburgh. Some of the best farms and restaurants from around the city come to showcase the creme de la creme of local ingredients. This year there were noticeably fewer restaurants but a great deal more liquor vendors.  I certainly can' t complain though as we were able to sample everything from mead to spiced rum in addition to a wonderful assortment of food. In terms of the drink samplings, Pennsylvania Libations made an outstanding showing. They must have been sampling at least 30 different products.

Pictured above are the great people from Logan Family Farms. They are the only vendor to make our list two years in a row. No matter the preparation, their beef is spectacular. This year they served a pulled beef sandwich that topped the charts. (I'm ashamed to admit that I went back to their booth at least five times, but on each visit I was welcomed with open arms.)


Carbonara's
Carbonara's from Mt. Lebanon served an incredible spread including their homemade meatballs and hot sausage. Their products really showcased their sauces, which were worth taking home. I also have to mention that I loved their pizza. (I'm partial to any pizza where provolone is featured over mozzarella.) Their website offers a buy one get one half off coupon for entrees. 

Frankferd Farms
I never knew that I liked buckwheat pancakes until I met these colorful characters from Frankferd Farms! I have to mention that their flour mill is solar powered, which allows you to carelessly indulge in pancake binging without fear of hurting the environment. (You still have to worry about being fat though, that's totally on you.) Their farm has a showroom where you can come purchase their products during business hours.

Cherish Creamery
Cherish Creamery was my top pick of the 2017 Farm to Table Conference. Their products are made of goats milk and were simply irresistible. In particular their feta cheese was some of the best I've ever had. I'll be looking for their products at local markets in the future and I really hope to see their cheese offered at some of my favorite restaurants. 

Ernie's World Famous Gourmet Sauces
Ernie may have had the largest personality of anyone in the room at the Farm to Table Conference. When asked what his favorite BBQ in town was, he stated, "BBQ is nothing special without my sauce" and refused to name a restaurant! His sauce and his pulled pork were quite good though, so I appreciated his hubris. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Streets on Carson

Wingz
Streets on Carson served our group some of the most unique chicken wings I've had in recent memory. In general, chicken wings are served fried, baked or smoked. (I would even venture to say in that order of prevalence.) Streets on Carson has a unique style, they serve a confit chicken wing that has a remarkable texture and a very original flavor. They only serve one style of wings and they come with roasted garlic, roasted jalapeno puree, fresh lemon juice, scallions, celery and carrot. I found the citrus and garlic to be the most prevalent flavors, I could not taste the jalapeno. In all my chicken wing adventures throughout the lands, I do not believe I've had a wing that featured a citrus profile. It was great! The wings were exploding with flavor, and although the meat was falling off the bone, the skin still maintained a crispiness due to the confit cooking style. 



I cannot remember what this thing was called, I believe it should be called the peasant's egg roll. ( I'm just kidding, it was a pretty standard pork egg roll with cabbage, carrot, scallions, cilantro and sirracha aioli.) Although I called this egg roll standard, you can tell from the photo that great care is taken in the preparation of all of the dishes at Streets on Carson. 

Other favorites included the duck fat poutine and the jerked chicken skewers.  Hit up happy hour from 5 - 7 for discounted small plates and drinks.


Streets On Carson Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Pirata

Smoked Guac
Pirata currently is currently my selection for 2017 sleeper restaurant of the year.  I love the Caribbean theme so much that I went back to visit a week after happy hour. Some of their fantastic menu items include: empenadas, Jamaican curried goat, salt cod fritters and a watermelon honey salad.

The smoked pineapple guacamole wasn't just delicious, it was masterfully presented. The guac came served with a nice little bundle of plantain and taro chips. It was one of the better deals on the happy hour menu for $6. (Pirata is not cheap, and it is worth mentioning that they have the same menu for lunch and dinner. Happy hour and later in the evening (10-12) are the only times you can expect any discount on menu items.)

My other favorite was the jerked chicken. I tried the entree version as well as the tacos. The secret to any good jerk seasoning is the scotch bonnets, the allspice and the smoke. Lots of other flavors are typically added, but I would consider those three elements the most essential base to any proper jerk seasoning.

The jerked chicken at Pirata is true blue. I tend to stray from the jerked chicken on most menus as I find bastardized versions of the dish to be quite awful. The jerked chicken at Pirata has been flavorful, spicy and perfectly moist on both of my visits. It is reassuring that they warn you that the dish has a natural level of spice. A real pirate's booty and the must order dish for the year!

As the Pirata website loves to mention, don't forget to check out the rum.

Pirata Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, May 19, 2017

M&J Bistro - Mad Noodles




Wow, M & J Bistro. Talk about a god damned restaurant nightmare. My friend Phil warned me about this place. but I laughed in the face of destiny and scheduled a happy hour. The establishment was not equipped to handle more than 12 patrons at any one time. Our happy hour was clearly overwhelming for both the bar and the kitchen. The most disappointing part of writing this review is that they seemed like really nice people that are trying to operate a decent restaurant. However, they desperately need some help.

Four weeks after we visited M & J they have already re-branded as Mad Noodles. Even more alarming is that their market research for their re-branding project appeared to be based on a series of questions that were posited to the members of the Facebook group South Side Secrets. (I wouldn't even trust the collective members of this group to give advice on how to make potato salad.)


Who has ever heard of french fries in a bento box? What a great idea! The food at M & J really wasn't bad. I enjoyed my bento box as well as my sushi - I would have no problem stating on the record that the food was better prepared and higher quality than the offerings at Nakama right down the street. I'm quite hopeful that Mad Noodles will also have great food.

I wish the staff and owners of Mad Noodles the best of luck. However, I think it would be in their best interest to hire some type of brand and operational consultant. They are shaping up to be the next Bobby Hendrix aka Wings and Whiskey aka whatever they called it the third time before they closed.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Southern Tier Brewing




I had the pleasure of going to Southern Tier for their groundbreaking last summer. It was truly a momentous event filled with celebration and excitement. The Pittsburgh brew pub is the first location Southern Tier has opened outside of their flagship brewery in New York. Apparently the Pittsburgh market has responded well to their brand.

I actually consider Southern Tier to be one of my favorite breweries. They have one of the best pumpkin beers on the market and, in my opinion, their 2X IPA really set the standard in terms of bringing IPAs to the public. Pictured above with my sandwich is the cherry gose - a delightful cherry flavored sour beer that was available for limited time.

Unfortunately, I do not have anything positive to say about the kitchen at Southern Tier.

It emphatically states on the Southern Tier website, "We take our food as seriously as we do our beer." This statement is a bold lie. The food at Southern Tier is extremely underwhelming - particularly in comparison to their world class beer.

My grilled chicken sandwich was charred, flavorless and covered in a thick blackened crust that did not seem intentional. I barely wolfed the thing down. The salad that accompanied the sandwich consisted of simple greens with some type of vinaigrette. (Can a man get a cucumber or at least one cherry tomato?)

The other dishes on the Southern Tier menu also appear extremely uninspired. (A simple bar man's menu of sandwiches and lackluster entrees.) For a brewery that goes out of their way to serve extraordinary beer, they sure slacked on the kitchen. 



These wings actually weren't too bad! But, I'd still rather eat at a Bojangles or Fuddruckers.

Southern Tier Brewing Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Condado

Queso, Pineapple Salsa and Hot Salsa
Of course you can customize your tacos almost anywhere, but how often are you given the opportunity to do so meticulously with a work sheet? Now that Bites and Brews has closed over in Shadyside, Condado is the new customization spot. Pictured above are the queso with chorizo, the pineapple guacamole and the ghost pepper salsa.  The queso was the crowd favorite. We scraped the bottom of the bowl.



On our two trips to Condado we tried the jackfruit, beef, chicken and the shrimp ceviche. One of my favorite options on the menu is the "sweet Lucy." For an extra dollar you can have a double decker style taco with a hard and soft shell along with queso and gauc. Most of the other options on the customization menu come at no additional charge.  For example, your choice of cheese, salsa, sauce and cabbage, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, etc. Also, be sure to add the bacon refried beans. We loved the damn things. 



Check that menu out! The possibilities are nearly endless. Actually, I attempted to do the math. I believe the number of possibilities is 40! which equals 8.159152832 E+47. I honestly do not think I can comprehend how much that is.

Out of the protein selections that I tried, the beef brisket and the shrimp ceviche were my favorites. The shrimp was outstanding, packed full of flavor and perfect for the sweet Lucy double decker style taco. The jackfruit was also a really unique choice. If you aren't familiar with jackfruit, don't be intimidated! It is really just a starchy filling that soaks up whatever sauce you use. I loved it, but I would always select meat over jackfruit, tofu, seitan or basically any veggie protein. Sorry vegetables.

I can't wait to go back and try the ghost pepper steak, brunch and awesome cocktail selection. (Be sure to check out happy hour too, you can't beat $3 margaritas.)

Condado Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato