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Hanging Out with Stinky @RomeroAtPhipps and VOTE FOR ME with @PghRestaurantWk

Yes, Twitter truly does have a value– thanks to Twitter, we caught the coolest botanical event of the year, and managed to completely beat the crowd!  I’ve been a ridiculously obsessed follower of the @RomeroAtPhipps twitter feed, following the progress of the corpse flower with eager anticipation. And finally, yesterday evening, the tweet I have been waiting for arrived! @RomeroAtPhipps was blooming! And he only blooms for 24-48 hours before his rotten smell turns into rotten rot, and he’s all gone.  As soon as I saw that tweet I pestered my husband like you would not believe. And yes, he said we could head over to Phipps Conservatory post haste to see this botanical wonder.


Pee- ew

Pee- ew

By the time we got there, Romero had only been blooming for a couple hours, and hadn’t made it up to his full stench.  We were some of the earliest visitors, and boy am I glad that (thanks to twitter) we made it there early.  We got there early enough that we were able to walk right on up and check out the flower.  Once we were getting ready to go, they were starting to have people line up.  From what I heard, as time passed, the line got longer and longer until it wrapped all the way around the Conservatory and went out the door. 

Yes, the Corpse Flower lived up to its smelly name.  There were pockets up close of hot-garbage smell, although it wasn’t obnoxiously pervasive.  The longer we spent there, the stinkier it got.  I can only imagine how awful the place smells today (although even with an awful smell, I do think this is enough of a wonder of nature that it would be worth suffering both through waiting and stink to see).

Romero

Would I call Romero a “beautiful” flower? Ehhh, no.  But it was really really cool. I’m very glad we saw it, and these kinds of opportunities don’t come around often.  Phipps is staying open until 2am today, the flower only blooms 24-48 hours and that clock started ticking around 5:00 pm on Tuesday, so your time is running out!! Hurry on over!

Now on to non-stinky things, as part of Pittsburgh Restaurant Week I submitted my photo of Coq au Vin from Bridge 10 Brasserie for consideration in their photo contest.  The prize is tickets to the invite only wrap up party, and you know me, I love a party!  Please click on this link to vote for me! Vote for me! vote for me!!

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Chowin down en Francais at @Bridge_Ten with @PghRestaurantWk

Chowin down en Francais at @Bridge_Ten with @PghRestaurantWk

First order of business: My photo of Bridge 10 Brasserie’s coq au vin is in the Pittsburgh Restaurant Week photo contest.  And if I get the most votes, I will win tickets to the invite-only Restaurant Week closing party. And I like parties. And I like Restaurant Week. So I am hoping you’ll be fantastic and click on this link and vote for my photo. Pretty please with cherries on top!

I admit it. Sometimes I’m a snob. I drive through the South Side frequently, and when I saw Bridge 10 Brasserie open in the Holiday Inn Express near the 10th Street Bridge I had no interest in it whatsoever. I figured it was a mediocre hotel restaurant to feed the travelers. Pass.  Then I started hearing some generally good chatter about the place. And then when Karla Boos (of Quantum Theater) named her favorite dish in Pittsburgh as Bridge 10’s Blanquette de Veau, I decided that yes, I do need to check this place out.

I won’t claim to have a refined palate when it comes to French cuisine.  I’ve had many of the traditional dishes. But my tastebuds do know the difference between a meal prepared with high quality ingredients and care and a meal reheated and shoved out the kitchen door.  I don’t think you need to be specifically familiar with any particular cuisine to be able to identify a good meal.

Bridge 10 was running a spectacular Restaurant Week $25 price fixe menu, so it was a perfect time to try the place out.  This menu included a starter, an entree from a limited list and a dessert.  Before I get into the food pics, I want to point out some other pluses about the place:

(1) They offer valet parking so you don’t have to hassle with the street, but if you do decide to hassle with on-street, the restaurant is in a part of the South Side that is not very crowded, so you should not have a hard time finding a spot;

(2) They have a generously sized patio, and although it’s near a high traffic bridge, they’ve got a huge wine list, so tip back a glass and you won’t notice the traffic;

(3) Aforesaid massive wine list and a staff that is very well acquainted with the offerings;

(4) Spacious dining room space (I’m looking at you, rehearsal dinners and other large parties)

Now on to the pictures!

Carrot Basil Soup at Bridge 10 Brasserie

I selected the soup du jour for my first course.  I initially hesitated, thinking that since it is still hot hot summer outside, soup might be a stupid choice. I’m glad I ignored that hesitation, because this was some good soup.  It doesn’t look it, but it was actually very light.  I don’t think it had any cream in it at all, the thickness is all pureed carrot, but its seasoning was perfect, and the flavor incomparable. I’d go back just for a bowl of the soup.

Bridge 10 Brasserie Fries

Yes, fries. This wasn’t part of the price fixe. But we were there with Baby Beez, and like heck was I going to pay for a full meal she wasn’t going to eat anyway. And it was a night out. A night to have fun! So I said sure, she could have french fries for dinner. Except she ate 2. She was much more interested in her iPad. So Mr. Beez and I ate them, because food has no calories if it was ordered for your kid.  These had all kinds of different seasonings and herbs on them (including green ones).  I thought they were good, but Mr. Beez declared these fries “the best fries ever.”  I don’t dispute that these were good. I’d say that they’d elevate the steak frites from “the dish on the menu that people who are scared to try new things” order, to “a dish that is worth ordering because it is very good.”

Coq au Vin from Bridge 10 Brasserie

Next up was the main course: a very classic Coq au Vin.  How rich, how belly-warming, how classic. Now this is what you want to devour on a cold winter night. But it’s delicious on a hot summer night too, because a good dish is a good dish all the darn time.  Hey, did I mention that my photo of coq au vin is in the running for the Restaurant Week photo contest? And if I win, I’ll get to go to the invite-only Restaurant Week closing party? And I want to go to that party? And I’d be very happy if you vote for my photo? So please click here and vote for it?

Bridge 10 Brasserie Pot de Creme

For the grand finale, I opted for the chocolate Pot de Creme. And this is not just chocolate pudding. The pot de creme is rich and is a very generous helping.  I was only able to eat half of this chocolatey bliss. I wasted CHOCOLATE! What a sin! But it was so rich and so tasty that it was just too much, and next time I’ll share the dessert and accompany it with a coffee.

The Beez family thoroughly loved Bridge 10.  For future visits, I’d keep in mind that this restaurant is very French, both in the food and the timing.  The meal is at a very relaxed pace.  With a squirmy toddler, we’re usually in and out of a restaurant under an hour.  That’s not the pacing in play here, and I think our meal ended up being about 2 hours, start-to-finish, and we were noticeably finishing up before other diners who were seated before us.  This is not an issue of slow service. The servers are attentive, the wine and water glasses stay filled, no one is forgotten. It’s just an appropriately French ambiance that you should be mindful of when planning your visit.  I would rate Bridge 10 Brasserie up there with on the list of restaurants I’d be excited to show off to out-of-town guests.  We might not return with our impatient toddler, but this restaurant is definitely on our list of “top date night locations.”

PS– Please vote for me?!

Bridge Ten Brasserie on Urbanspoon

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Winning At Lunch with @PghRestaurantWk

Winning At Lunch with @PghRestaurantWk

On Friday, Sandy and I treated ourselves to a fancy-lady Restaurant Week lunch at The Capital Grille. A Darden brand restaurant is not usually my first pick for a meal out, since I tend to opt for local, independent places first. But you do have to admit, that The Capital Grille is delicious (yes, they even have skilfully made off-menu vegetarian options), and the Restaurant Week menu was simply too good to pass up:

$18 Three-Course Fixed Price Lunch
Starter Course
Field Greens, Seasonal Vegetables with Shallot Champagne Vinaigrette
Clam Chowder

Entree Course
Dry Aged Sirloin with Chimichurri and Charred Corn Arugula Salad
The Grille’s Signature Cheeseburger with Parmesan Truffle Fries
Seared Citrus Glazed Salmon
Caesar Salad with Roasted Chicken Breast and a Parmesan Tuile

Dessert Course
Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake
Handcrafted Ice Cream
Chef’s Seasonal Fruit Sorbet

For my starter I selected the salad.  It was a typical salad mix– lettuce, tomatoes, maybe some cucumber.  It was not creative but it was fresh and generously portioned.  In short- I liked it a lot, but didn’t bother to take a picture.

My entree is where I walked away with the “I Win at Lunch” award.  I ordered the Dry Aged Sirloin with Chimichurri and Charred Corn Arugula salad (yes, 2 salads in one meal. I like salad).  The waitress served my plate, and a few moments later I waved her over quizzically….

The Capital Grille Bone-In Sirloin

She assumed I was reporting a missing salad. I actually had forgotten about the salad (she brought it afterward and it, too, was very good).  I was waving her over because I thought she might have given me someone else’s steak. It was big.  Much too big for an $18 lunch.  She assured me it was the right steak and I dug in.  Later she revealed that she hit the wrong button and while it was “my” steak, it was the bone-in sirloin rather than the smaller size on the Restaurant Week menu.  The Capital Grille, of course charged me only the Restaurant Week price despite me being served this gigantic steak.  And yes, it was delicious.  I suppose I could have been reasonable and only eaten part of it or taken home a doggy bag, but steak is not nearly as good as leftovers, and I simply could not let such a good steak go unconsumed at its peak.  So yes. I ate the whole thing. And it was marvelous.  I Win At Lunch.

Sandy ordered the cheeseburger with truffle fries.  It was also very large and looked juicy and tasty.  She seemed to like it quite a lot.  I failed to take a picture because I was too busy obsessing over my own meal.

I did not save any room for dessert, but that did not stop me.  I was determined to eat it anyway.  An included dessert must not go unconsumed.  I selected the flourless chocolate espresso cake.

The Capital Grille Espresso Cake

Oh what can I say that is not already communicated by this beautiful photograph? It was perfect, simply perfect.  It was small, but for this kind of rich, intense dessert, small is exactly perfect.

You would think that all of this decadent food would leave me in a food coma for the remainder of the afternoon.  I have no idea how this happened (I didn’t even have a cup of afternoon coffee) but I was crazy productive on Friday afternoon and completed multiple writing projects.  I guess I need to make giant slabs of steak a more regular lunch option.

Capital Grille on Urbanspoon

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@PghRestaurantWk Food Blogger Dinner

@PghRestaurantWk Food Blogger Dinner

Happy Friday, Yinz! The sun is shining, the weather is mild and I’ve got Buccos tickets for tonight! Nothing to complain about around these parts! 

Restaurant week is going strong and I’ve been chowing down around the city.  I kicked off the festivities at the official Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Food Blogger Dinner on Tuesday at Sausalido.  The crowd was a little smaller this time around but that did make it easier to chat and mingle.  Mr. Beez and I had super fun dinner companions:  Alex of everybody loves you, HGB of The Steel Trap, Natalie and husband-of-Natalie (my apologies for my terrible memory!) of Fork2Mouth and Ashley and husband-of-Ashley (double sorry! What is wrong with me?!) of A Dash of Spectacular.  We discussed all things food and Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh food.  The most thought-provoking conversation of the night dealt with whether to write negative reviews.  Everyone at our table had different opinions, set within different perspectives, and it really was an excellent talk. Ashley wrote about it on her blog, and I urge you to check it out and contribute your thoughts!

I’m glad that Sausalido was selected for the blogger dinner location.  It’s a restaurant I have noticed and have been interested in trying, but not one that had moved very high up on the priorities list.  It is quiet and cozy inside.  Although it’s right in the middle of busy Bloomfield, it has the right atmosphere for a comfortable date night.  Mr. Beez and I both thoroughly enjoyed the food and enjoyed even more that Sausalido is BYOB.  The menu is contemporary American and had plenty of familiar dishes on it, which pleased Mr. Beez, who is growing weary of my constant interest in experimental kitchens.

For our starters, Mr. Beez opted for a corn and pineapple salsa with crosini and I selected the fried gouda.  Both were fresh and tasty, and consistent with expectations for the dishes.

 sausalido2

This looks like a big heap of greens, but it's a big heap of greens on top of FRIED CHEESE.

This looks like a big heap of greens, but it’s a big heap of greens on top of FRIED CHEESE.

Our entree selections were risotto (for him) and ravioli (for me). Both of them were delicious- the flavors and textures well balanced.  The entree selection, however, is where I have my only hesitation about return visits to Sausalido.  I believe that, outside the Restaurant Week special menu, each of these entrees are somewhere in the range of $18 per plate, and that is generally more than I’m willing to pay for either risotto or ravioli.  I do not like to pay more than like 25 cents for a dish I am capable of making at home.  Yes, I understand that these are high quality ingredients, made with love and care and the tears of angels, but I am stingy.  The Restaurant Week menu, however, placed these entrees within a very reasonable price fixe option, and I was quite pleased.


sausalido 

sausalido4  My favorite part of the meal (besides the great conversation and copious amounts of wine) was the dessert– berry mascarpone cheesecake, topped with yogurt covered raisins. 

sausalido5

I admit, the picture is a hot mess, but the dessert was awesome. Mr. Beez, for whatever unthinkable reason, did not care much for the cheesecake, so I got to eat almost all of it. And it was awesome. Which brings to mind that I would totally return to Sausalido for a dessert evening. A slice of that cheesecake and a fresh cup of coffee sounds simply amazing.

Sausalido on Urbanspoon

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! RESTAURANT WEEK .@PghRestaurantWk

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! RESTAURANT WEEK .@PghRestaurantWk

To my overwhelming joy, it is Restaurant Week time again!! Each time around the list of participating restaurants gets bigger and better, and this is the biggest Restaurant Week yet!  Last night was the Kickoff Party, but sadly I did not make it.  It’s always a nice party.  Last night it was at one of my favorite venues– the National Aviary.  Having just come back from traveling and then unexpectedly finding myself sick, I really needed to stay home (I fell asleep about 7pm).  I’m sad to have missed the party, but I think it was a necessary decision.

I’m glad to say that Mr. Beez & I WILL make it to the Food Blogger’s Dinner on Tuesday.  Will you be there?  That is by far my favorite event of Restaurant Week! It’s such a great opportunity to meet other local food enthusiasts.  Each time I go, I make more and more friends. I love it.  It is being held at Sausalido in Bloomfield.  I’ve been meaning to go there for ages, and this is the perfect opportunity to make it there!

As a family, we’ve finally hit that stride where we can go out to dinner with Baby Beez and it’s not a total cluster.  Hand that kid an iPad and she’s busy for hours (see: the virtually painless 4+ hour car drives back and forth to Bucks County recently, courtesy of the iPad).  This means that we have more freedom to explore Restaurant Week offerings without having to constantly scramble for a babysitter! Hooray!  We do have a babysitter for the Blogger Dinner, but we will probably take her with us on other outings, depending on the ambience of the restaurant.

I’ve been combing the list of the Restaurant Week options and putting together my plans.  These are the places I’d *like* to visit, of course my waistline and wallet guarantee that I’m not going to visit every one.

Andy’s for their $8 price fixe lunch (already have lunch plans with a friend who, like myself, has an unhealthy obsession with the Fairmont).

Bridge 10 Brasserie for their $25 3-course price fixe (coq au vin! yes please!)

Cornerstone Restaurant for their $30 3-course price fixe (scallops AND lamb on that menu!…I think this just jumped up to my #1 priority for the week…)

Pino’s Contemporary Kitchen and Wine Bar, they’re offering both a $20.13 special and a $30 price fixe

Tender Bar + Kitchen with a $25 3-course price fixe (I love that they offer city chicken as an appetizer!)

Texas de Brazil churrascaria with a $35 special (I admit, I’m a sucker for churrascarias.  But I’m also not going to pay cash money for my kid to go, when she’ll eat maybe 75 cents worth of food, so this will have to wait for date night)

up! modern italian kitchen with a $30 price fixe (I’ve heard mixed reviews, but I’d like to check it out for myself).

and one more that was not on my radar at all is Skinny Pete’s Kitchen in Avalon, who is offering a $20.13 special. The twitter buzz from the Kickoff Party was swooning over the soups that Skinny Pete’s served, and they won the “best of” award for the night.  Now this place I have to see for myself!

Are you participating in Restaurant Week? What’s on your “must eat” list?