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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Carlton Rosé Dinner

Tuna Poke

This summer Lee Keuhn of Vintage Imports treated me to a five course summer rosé dinner featuring five rosés from all over the world. Rosé has made a serious comeback and until I met Lee several weeks ago at The Warren, I honestly had no idea just how much I liked rosé.

I have always thought of rosé as a sweet wine comparable to to a fruity white zinfandel. I was really surprised to find out that rosé  offers a wide range of flavors, many of which are dry and quite complex. Rosé is all the rage right now according to The Guardian  - I have to say that I totally agree. In the last two weeks I've noticed a bottle of rosé at almost every summer party I've been to and I even happen to currently have a bottle in my fridge as a friend left it here on the 4th of July.

When I mentioned the rosé dinner to my parents they explained that pink wine was real hip in the 70's. I suppose it is true, all things come back into style.

Pictured above was my favorite course of the evening, Tuna Tartare, Bamboo Rice, Pickled Red Cabbage, Papaya Slaw, Ginger Wakimi Salad, Honey-Sesame Miso Glaze. It was a great start to a wonderful night of fun and it matched perfectly with the escudoreal vinho verde from Portugal. (That wine was the favorite of one of my dining partners.)

Our Gracious Host Lee

Lee from Vintage Imports is the man. He can tell you basically anything that you need to know about rosé. During our dinner he gave a five minute lecture on the wine making process and some notes on what to expect from our wine samples throughout the evening. After attending both a tasting and a wine dinner with Lee, I basically feel like a rosé pro.  (Please note that I am actually a blithering idiot who is not a real rosé  pro.)

Burrata Caprese

Sea Salted Burrata Cheese with Heirloom Tomato Medley, Hydroponic Greens, Ice Wine Vinaigrette, Spicy Pesto, Savory Biscotti Croutons. - You cannot go wrong with burrata, that's what my Italian grandpa always used to say! This was a great salad, save the croutons and it was served with a cielo rosé from Italy.

Surf and Turf Trio

Lamb & Swordfish Skewer with Bloody Mary Glaze, Scallop Rumaki Bruschetta with Apple-Avocado Salsa, Feta Chicken Stuffed Shrimp with Cauliflower Puree & Mediterranean Vegetable Salad.

This was my second favorite dish of the night. The lamb in particular was so tender that I had to go get lamb again the following week. The dish was called "surf and turf three ways" and it sure did not disappoint. It was paired with a delicious Domaine Petronivin de Corse rosé from France - my favorite wine of the evening. 

Beef Char Siu

Pictured above is the Hoisin Glazed Teres Major (Petite Tenderloin) with Caramelized Yam Spätzle,
Grilled Fennel, Coriander Crème, Cilantro-Lime Oil paired with a wonderful Domaine Maby Primadonna rosé from France.

Not pictured was our awesome pear torte which was served with some great rosé from the state of Oregon.  The Carlton is always a great time, and it really can't be beat when their amazing food is paired with some fine wine. (I intentionally rhymed.) Special thanks to Vintage Wines, Lee and the Carlton for a great time!

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Four New North Shore Bars and Restaurants

Guest Post by Pittsburgh Limousine Bus

Southern Tier

Pittsburgh is always evolving with new businesses, events, and community celebrations. It makes it a perfect destination for those who enjoy exploring the night life! There are plenty of opportunities to have fun regardless of what your interests are. If you're looking for a fresh spot to check out, here is some information for you to consider. These are four of the newest restaurants and bars in the North Shore and surrounding area. For a transportation solution that makes sure you're not in charge of traffic and dealing with parking, check out Party Bus in Pittsburgh.

Brugge on North
40 W North Avenue
You can find this restaurant attached to the City of Asylum bookstore. There's a stage for live entertainment and a center area that functions as a reading lounge. It's quite an interesting space! If you enjoy cocktails, you'll love browsing their extensive list of creative concoctions. Some of the menu highlights include their artisan cheese plate, poutine, chevre fritters, and tomato based mussels.

Molinaro Ristorante
2 PPG Pl
This new Italian eatery is closer to downtown, but it's worth the trek! Everything is made fresh in house, including the bread and the pasta. The wait is known to be a bit long, but that just testifies to the quality of the food and service here. All of the favorites are served here including margherita pizza, pomodoro, filetto, gnocchi, and more. We love their outdoor seating options.

Southern Tier Brewing
316 N Shore Drive
This brewery focuses on delicious craft beer with over thirty drafts available at any given time. There's also a full wine menu and cocktails made with their own spirits. You can purchase growlers that you can refill at their taproom, or you can mix and match your own six pack. They have the ability to host small events here which would be perfect for a bachelor or bachelorette party. The food menu is a lot more complex than your usual bar food, as is made to pair with their selection of beer.

Tequila Cowboy Bar & Grill
380 N Shore Drive
This bar gets pretty busy on the weekend! There's an outdoor bar and a wide range of music played here. It's a fitting spot to catch a sports game or catch some live local music. You can expect a standard menu of bar appetizers and entrees to choose from as well as daily specials on food and drink. Don't leave without trying their amazing chicken and waffle sliders.

For transportation solutions be sure to contact:

Pittsburgh Limousine Bus
232 Taylor Street #2
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
(412) 385-4412

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Coughlin's Law Kitchen and Ale House

Crispy Chicken BLT

The phrase, "Coughlin's Law" refers to some of the sayings from the 1988 classic film, Cocktail. Here is a list of Coughlin's various laws from the film:

“Drink or be gone.”
“Anything else is always something better.”
“Never show surprise, never lose your cool.”
“Never tell tales about a woman. No matter how far she is, she’ll hear you.”
“Bury the dead, they stink up the joint. As for the rest of Coughlin’s laws, ignore them. The guy was always full of shit.”

Coughlin's Law is just about the coolest spot to open in Pittsburgh within the last year. The space itself has a very modern feel and almost seems out of place in Mt. Washington as it is probably the only piece of new construction in the neighborhood since the 1950's. 

The best item I tried was the kung pao shrimp, freshly breaded and fried with a spicy sauce and a nice portion of hot chiles and peanuts. As the appetizers are $2 off during happy hour, this dish will be my go-to for my next visit to Coughlin's Law.

I enjoyed my crispy chicken BLT, but it was just a little underwhelming. The beer batter style breading was too heavy and I was not a fan of the brioche bun. Brioche buns do not hold up well when they are used with greasy sandwiches. The bread deteriorates and you are left with a bit of a soggy mess. Leave the brioche to the French, Coughlin!

"...brioche is simply too delicate to support a half-pound puck of griddled ground beef. It's not structurally built to encase a burger; it's by definition light and airy. Burgers release a large amount of juice and fat (at least the good ones do anyway), and a brioche bun will completely sog through and fall apart before you're even halfway through it." -LA Times Food Writer, Dan Myers, "Putting your burger on a brioche bun is a terrible idea."

I have to add that the vinegar based cucumber salad that accompanied my sandwich was amazing. Nice and light and packed with flavor - a perfect summertime treat.

Happy Hour Menu

Two items that you can't beat at Coughlin's, the view from the back deck and the happy hour menu. Nothing says happy hour like $3 well drinks, discounted appetizers and cheap cocktails. (Also, on Thursday you can enjoy $5 mules!)

I'm very excited to see how these guys progress as they work on the new establishment. The folks running Coughlin's Law are some of the nicest in the city and I'm certain that Coughlin's Law will be a huge success.

Coughlin's law kitchen and ale house Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Warren

The Warren
Let's talk about downtown drink prices. THEY ARE TOO DAMN HIGH. Much like the rent in New York, drink prices in downtown Pittsburgh are out of control. They've steadily climbed over the last several years and these days it is hard to find a decent pint for under $5.

Enter The Warren. Cocktails are affordable and many beers are in the $2-$5 dollar range. The Warren is apparently the creation of Spencer Warren and the folks from Penn Ave Fish Co. I'm told that Mr. Warren is relatively well known throughout the city, but I've personally never met the man. However, I've certainly enjoyed his work over the years. He's the mastermind behind some of the happenings at Butcher and The Rye, Firehouse Lounge, Round Corner Cantina, täkō and Meat & Potatoes and also he's apparently Pittsburgh's Busiest Bartender. Considering how often I frequent Meat & Potatoes it is remarkable that we have not crossed paths.

You can even read this great profile of him in Next Pittsburgh where they run through his typical week. He sounds very important. 

The frog legs weren't bad, but the chimichurri was severely lacking in garlic and tasted like urine. Mr. Warren should go meet with Tony Falcon from Gaucho Parrilla - that dude knows his chimichurri.

It was great to see frog legs on a Pittsburgh menu! Some of my dining partners were apprehensive, but they all agreed that frog legs just taste like fishy chicken.

The sushi was the best part of our visit. According to our server they offer discounted sushi from the cooler after 3 pm and then again later in the evening. All of the rolls that we tried were fantastic and also well priced. This is a very welcome addition to downtown Pittsburgh as the closing of the downtown Penn Avenue Fish Company location has created a sushi desert of sorts within the golden triangle. Thanks Penn Avenue Fish Co! You've totally redeemed yourself with this wonderful new bar.

One of the nicest additions to the evening was a free rose tasting nextdoor at Penn Cove Eatery. (The establishments are connected and Penn Cove sells the same sushi boxed for takeout as well as a great selection of wine and beer.) I honestly am not sure that I knew just how much I enjoyed rose until I took the time to sample a few with our awesome host, Lee.

The Warren should basically be your go-to spot in downtown Pittsburgh. It's hip, affordable and totally approachable in a casual sort of manner. I wouldn't suggest going with a large group - I'm pretty sure our server was ready to strangle us.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

La Palapa

La Palapa used to be located closer to 19th and East Carson, but they've recently moved into the building next to Mallorca where Ibiza was once situated. The old La Palapa was very small and they did not have a bar. The new location offers tons of seating, including a spacious back patio and a full bar with some very nice bartenders.

I only visited the old location one time. I ordered the dinner for two and the waitress politely explained to me that my order was meant for two people. I just smiled and said, "yes, I know." I didn't share any of it with my other dinner guests nor had I ever intended to. A dinner for two option on a menu helps deflate the stigma that accompanies ordering two separate meals by yourself, but not if the waitress doesn't play along.

I can't really say that they have sacrificed any of the quality in the move down East Carson. Not only were our happy hour empanadas outstanding, but the bar also offers a two for $5 empanada special on Thursdays. With those prices you literally have no excuse to go back to Taco Bell, ever.

The empanada I enjoyed was crispy and brimming with some freshly seasoned beef and a delicious mole sauce. The history of mole sauce is largely unknown but much like many of the tales from the bible it is believed to involve religion, poultry and uncanny happenstance. You can read more about the hotly and holy debated origins here.

Nacho Model

La Palapa is essentially a must visit for happy hour. Their $5 margs kick Mad Mex's ass. We only had one problema with La Palapa and that was the runny queso. Runny queso is sadder than prom night at the trailer park in Tijuana. Someone should write a country song about runny queso. I guarantee it would be better than 90% of modern country.

La Palapa Cocina Gourmet Mexicana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, May 17, 2018


Tina's is the latest of many new bars in the Pittsburgh hipster cool kid scene. When Amazon moves here Tina's will be ground zero for the resistance. Everyone we encountered at Tina's just seemed so hip. I also have to start by mentioning that the service and cocktails were top notch.

After nearly seven years of happy hours, one thing is certain. We are no longer cool. We have basically completed our transition from 20-something fun people to full grown adults with mortgages and pregnancy scares that are old enough to ride the Jackrabbit.

During our visit to Tina's I noted to the bartender, Elliot, that the muffuletta seemed non-traditional due to the inclusion of a sesame seed roll. Well, Elliot, I apologize. It turns out that I am incorrect and sesame seeds may be incorporated into a muffuletta.

The muffuletta at Tina's was pretty good, but I think it could have used another inch of meat. In my heart a real muffuletta should have almost as much meat as bread. Overall every item we tried from the menu was fairly decent. To quote Michael,  "the pickle was great with a good length but lacking in girth."

The style and format of the menu at Tina's reminded me of the menu at Mix Tape. Think lots of fancy noir style graphics with food listed in a haphazard manner. Quite charming.

Stupid Millennials

Now Tina's used to be this old neighborhood jaunt called Tea Bags. Tea Bags had a certain charm as it was a total dump. I think my old friend Christy put it best when he said that the Pittsburgh bar scene used to be filled with places that a decent woman would not step foot in where men liked to drink to excess and spit on the floor. Much like our mid twenties, those days have passed and very nice places like Tina's are filling the void.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Le Lyonnais

Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Pate and Tres Fromages

Le Lyonnais offers one of the best new happy hours we've visited this year. Their happy hour menu should be celebrated throughout Pittsburgh for its elegance and style. The specials are really attractive for both food and wine. Surprisingly, they even have a Jaegermeister special? I dare you to find me one happy hour menu in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that includes both Jaeger shots and chicken rillettes. Go on and try. I'll bet four rounds of Jaeger shots that you can't pull it off.

I've heard some complaints from others about the service at Le Lyonnais. While I had a pleasant experience, I could see how things could be rocky as we were delivered two incorrect appetizers. This actually worked to our benefit though as they let us keep the appetizers free of cost.

Crotch Cheese
My personal favorite happy hour food items were the tres fromages and the veal and pork meatballs. The cheese selection was great  and I really enjoyed the spiced yogurt that accompanied the meatballs. Others seemed to love the poutine, but I find it simply outrageous that a restaurant offering food from Lyon would serve poutine.

Make no mistake, THIS IS CULTURAL APPROPRIATION. Here is an article some asshole wrote about how calling poutine Canadian is cultural appropriation because it is specifically from Quebec. Similarly, I am outraged when individuals fail to refer to one of my favorite foodstuffs as a hamburger sandwich and identify the disputed origin as Texas. It's as if the cretins know nothing of culture and don't care about the lovely people from Texas.

In addition to the $3 Jaeger shots, they also offer steeply discounted wine, $3 domestic beer, discounted cocktails and a variety of other great appetizers. Bon appetit, or as they like to say in the culturally unique Lyon region of France, bon appetit!

Le Lyonnais Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato