Archive | July, 2012

Oakmont Bakery

25 Jul
The Oakmont Bakery
531 Allegheny Avenue
Oakmont, PA 15139
http://www.oakmontbakery.com
 

As some of you know, I am a podcast junkie. I love all kinds of podcasts. I have been known to use some fun fact or interesting bit of information as an illustration in my classes. I could go on and on about all the different podcasts that I love such as This American Life or Stuff You Should Know. The other day I was listening to a very interesting story on Freakonomics about social psychology and the power of social influence. They had a professor from the University of Arizona explaining how individuals are more likely to engage in a particular behavior if they think that others are engaging in that behavior. To me this makes sense. When we don’t know how to do something the first thing we often do is look around to see what others are doing. What is interesting is that we often don’t like to admit that we are influenced by what others are doing. I think some of this has to do with our culture and how we are raised. We get early messages that tell us to stand strong against peer pressure. We have all had our mom use the question, “if all of your friends jump off of a bridge would you jump too?”, as a response for not letting you go out with your friends when you were younger. Now sometimes this is a protective response to prevent you from getting in trouble; however, there are times when doing what everyone else is doing is exactly what you need to be doing–and there are a lot of people frequenting the Oakmont Bakery. For those in Pittsburgh I am very confident that you have heard of this Mecca of treats. If you have not made the trek to The Bakery you should go, seriously stop reading this and go…now!

When you arrive there is high likelihood that you will have trouble finding a place to park, especially if you go on a Saturday morning. There is a reason that everyone is venturing to this northeastern Pittsburgh ‘burb….it’s freakin awesome. The crowds alone attest for this. Don’t let them deter you from waiting. The staff at The Oakmont Bakery are used to its popularity and move through the customers very quickly…just make sure you grab a number.

When you walk in The Oakmont Bakery you will immediately be taken back by its size. It is the largest bakery in which I have ever been. As you approach the glass cases your mouth starts to water as you see every baked treat you could possibly imagine waiting for you to make a decision as to which you will eat at this particular visit. The 2010 Retail Bakery of the Year has an amazing assortments of breads, cakes, cookies, pies, cupcakes, cake rolls, doughnuts, croissants, sandwiches, coffee/espresso, cup cakes, cheesecakes and more. It’s dessert heaven! Let me recommend one of their cupcakes and thumbprint cookie to start you off. I have already been here a few times and I cant get enough. The first time we went I got the red velvet cupcake, a fruit tart, and a chocolate thumbprint cookie. Another time we tried the carrot cake cupcake, I love carrot cake, and the Oakmonter cupcake. The carrot cake was good not too sweet topped with a cream cheese icing. The Oakmonter is a variation of a cupcake that I would recommend on your next visit. Its cheesecake, topped with chocolate ganache, topped with a brownie, topped with chocolate frosting. Super rich but so yummy! Most of their cupcakes have a bit of icing in the middle of the cake for a nice extra sweet surprise. We usually get a cinnamon doughnut hole for Gray each visit for a nice sized, easy to eat treat for him. In our most recent visit we decided to have a go at the sandwiches. I got the chicken sandwich on ciabatta and Morgan got the chicken salad on their croissant. We also got a cup of their wedding soup. Every sandwich comes with chips and your choice of a cookie. I got the iced sugar cookie, it was of course wonderful. The bread on both sandwiches was great. I think we both loved the chicken salad on the croissant the best. The croissant was so light and buttery (sorry we ate it before we could get a picture). The chicken on my sandwich was just ok. The soup was really good and satisfying.

I still plan on going back to continue trying all the deliciousness that is at your disposal inside The Oakmont Bakery. So when your mom asks “if all your friends gained 5 lbs eating at The Oakmont Bakery would you?” Answer with a resounding yes because sometimes it is great to be socially influenced.

Oakmont Bakery on Urbanspoon

Square Cafe

16 Jul
Square Cafe
1137 S. Braddock Ave.
Regent Square
http://www.square-cafe.com
 

So I got called a hipster the other day by someone outside of my family. My wife and my brother often call me a hipster ever since getting my sweet, new glasses from Warby Parker. Now, I have no problems being called a hipster because there is nothing wrong with being seen as stylish, cool, and trendy. Besides I think they are just jealous.

Now whether or not you think I am a hipster is irrelevant to that fact that I do enjoy eating like a hipster at fresh, trendy, cool restaurants. That is exactly how I would describe Square Cafe in Regent Square. Serving breakfast all day, this restaurant is a great place to go with a co-worker , friend, or significant other.The staff at Square Cafe is super friendly and they all seem super hip. I was contemplating getting a tat just watching them. We went on a Sunday morning and the place was bustling with local residents. Everyone was greeting each other and saying hello as if this was a usual gathering of neighbors. It felt as though family members were congregating to celebrate life.  What I love about this place is that you have the option to eat out side on the beautiful tree lined sidewalk watching the locals pass by on Braddock Ave. If the weather is icky and muggy as it was during my most recent visit then you can eat inside the restraint amidst bright colors and featured, local artwork. I love the irony that was used in decorating the restaurant. Bright circles explode from every corner of the room to remind you that the Square Cafe is anything but square. Yet they do not totally neglect their trendy name by serving your hot cup of coffee in a square mug. The restaurant seems to enjoy thinking outside the box from their style of dishware to the items on the menu.  The food at Square Cafe is definitely fresh. The other might we were watching one of those restaurant shows like Kitchen Nightmares were the celebrity chef goes into a struggling restaurant in an attempt to help them not close their doors. Most of the restaurants share a similar story line: poorly decorated restaurant run by a dysfunctional family (aren’t we all) that microwaves everything. What is so fascinating to me is how often the owners need convincing that microwaved Salmon is not what diners want. I mean to me this is obvious. “Hey, no one likes our food.” ” Do you think it’s because we nuke everything from being frozen.” “No people are just stupid and don’t know fine dining.” But you see when I bit into my breakfast burrito covered in some of the most delicious salsa I have ever tasted, I looked at Morgan and said, “You can definitely tell when a restaurant uses fresh ingredients.”  The breakfast burrito was huge stuffed with egg, Amish cheddar cheese, and sausage. You can tell the vegetables are fresh. The burrito was satisfying but it was not greasy as you might expect. And lets revisit this salsa. Yum! Give me a straw and I could drink this. It was so bright and full of flavor. Apparently it is so good that they sell it by the bottle.

Now the menu includes a huge selection of delicious breakfast items that it was difficult to make a selection on any one thing. Morgan ordered the veggie omelet with breakfast potatoes. The omelet was very tasty and, like the burrito, fresh, giant, and satisfying. However, those potatoes were cooked perfectly. I will go back just to have those crispy and perfectly seasoned nuggets of goodness. There is something about Pittsburgh and their ability to cook fried potatoes. We ordered Gray a buttermilk pancake but I highly recommend their Lemon-Ricotta Pancake, which I had in another visit. So light and bright its a perfect compliment to your meal. They also boast tons of smoothie and latte options to further challenge your ability to make any type of decision, which only means you will have to return to try something new.

Square Cafe is a trendy, hip spot to enjoy a morning breakfast, a weekend brunch, or a casual lunch using fresh ingredients in creative ways. I highly recommend checking out this place. You won’t be ashamed to be called a hipster if you are seen here.

Square Cafe on Urbanspoon

Primanti Brothers

14 Jul
Primanti Bros.
All Over Pittsburgh
Original Location:
46 18th Street (Strip District)
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
primantibros.com

So I am sitting around the other day and I get a text message that simply read “Primanti Bros.” My brother, who is an avid Men’s Health reader, is always looking for an opportunity to share his “manly” knowledge with anyone who will listen. Recently he stumbled upon Men’s Health’s list of America’s Manliest Resturants listing Primanti Bros. on top of the list. So as any good brother would do, he wanted to make sure that I am being true to my manly form and making visits to this restaurant. Now, we have now been in Pittsburgh for 2 months. Interestingly, I have eaten at Primanti Bros. twice. The first time we ate here I had no idea that Primanti Bros. is almost synonymous with Steelers when it comes to things that are Pittsburgh.

When we moved to Pittsburgh we drove our big, yellow, rented moving truck the 800 miles from Alabama to Pennsylvania. Yes, it was a really long drive in a truck! We did it over the course of 2.5 days. Though we love to spend time with our son, it was not a hard decision for my wife and I to allow my mother-in-law to fly our, then, 15 month old son from Atlanta to Pittsburgh. There is something about his car seat that breeds discomfort and whininess. And there was no way we were going to put him in the truck with us. We were towing our only car (I guess we could have put him in tow). Gray is, overall, an adorable, easy-going, happy baby except when he is in the car for more that 30 minutes. After that time he begins to release a gurgling, scream that would be perfect as a non-lethal torture tactic for anti-terroism units. So instead of a 2.5 day drive with us, he got to take a 1 hour flight with gran-gran. The day we picked up my mother-in-law, Susan, and Gray from the airport we drove back to the city to find a place to eat. Having been here only a few days we were lured in by the large, neon sign of a gigantic sandwich that seemed to be overflowing with toppings.  We pull into the parking lot expecting to have a decent sandwich for lunch-we had no idea we were about to be inoculated with Pittsburgh culture. Once we were seated I knew we were in for a treat when the waitress told us that she assumed we were there because they were featured on the television show Man vs. Food. Now for those who are not up-to-date with their culinary television, Man vs. Food is a show where the host Adam Richman travels the country conquering food challenges–usually this consists of him eating something considered so freakin’ hot that you have to sign a waiver and wear latex gloves or eating food that is portioned large enough to feed a small country. He usually identifies and features other unique restaurants in the city where the restaurant at which he is attempting the food challenge is located. In the Pittsburgh episode Primanti Bros is not the challenge but the build-up. I believe the food challenge was at Quaker Steak and Lube, which I have not yet visited (both restaurants have stands at PNC Park). So when our waitress told us that Adam Richman featured this restaurant, I knew I was in for a treat. As you can see in the picture, Primanit Bros. features sandwiches that are massive. They pile two slices of thick white bread with meat, a vinegar based slaw, cheese, and, what else….french fries. Now as I mentioned in my Pittsburgh Surprises post, this town loves its french fries they serve them everywhere and even put them on salads. However, this was my first experience with fries on the sandwich. Its not often when you eat a sandwich and you feel like the master of your domain; but when you wrap your mitts around this meal between two slices of bread you feel powerful! I ordered the pastrami with onions, its a manly meat. Morgan ordered the Pittsburger. Phenomenal! I like to eat and this was a satisfying sandwich. What is even more interesting is that you have the option to add a slice of pizza as a side item for a few bucks. Seriously masculine! A sandwich with tons of meat and french fries and a slice of pizza on the side. Wash that down with an ice cold beer and you feel like a man. There is nothing frilly or fru-fru about this place. So if you are looking to take your testosterone up a notch go to Primanti Bros. and experience food at its manliest.

Mix It, Crank It, Eat It

6 Jul

So we have all been there, laying on the couch one evening watching a stimulating episode of Chopped or Masterchef on the television and you think to yourself, “Hey, that looks easy I can do that!” I think we all have moments of inspiration where we think we are a James Beard award winner or the recipient of a few Michelin stars. I had one such moment this evening. I have been wanting to make homemade pasta for the longest time. So what does any future award winning chef do? Google, “How to make Pasta”. A great, informative website appeared before me, complete with pasta recipes. As I was reading the recipe, I could hear the music from Lady and the Tramp playing in the background.  I knew spaghetti was in my future. After the cannoli from Moio’s this week, I have officially turned our home into Little Italy. Needless to say I began looking for pasta machines. I started by looking for an attachment for our Kitchen Aid stand mixer, which I highly recommend as a kitchen staple for any aspiring chef. After a quick Internet search, I learned that the attachment costs somewhere in the realm of $200. Plan B, go to Target. So Gray and I loaded up the station wagon and headed off to Target (we needed to go to Trader Joe’s anyway so it worked out). We fought through the heat and the traffic only to discover that this Target does not carry pasta machines. They do have a device so that you can make your own soda, though. (Man I have so much to learn as a chef!). We got back into the car to Google search Plan C. I knew there was a William-Sonoma in Shadyside. Well according to their website they sell a nice, pasta machine for approximately $80. Lets consider a Plan D before we jump in with the $80 option. Back to Google (this search engine has saved me thousands in culinary art classes)–Bed, Bath, and Beyond boasts a $37 pasta machine. Plan D it is! I totally will buy generic. Go to BBB, find a coupon for 20% off–Yes! Pasta machine for less that $30. Gourmet and Thrifty! Plus I get to be more intimate with my pasta by utilizing a hand crank system versus the electronic version–quite rustic!

So I will include lots of pictures this post and let you experience a dinner at the New-burgher’s residence. I made a simple chicken parmigiana on top of a homemade spinach spaghetti finished with Trader Joe’s tomato-basil sauce. (I know store bought sauce on homemade pasta–I had to cut a time-corner somewhere).

Spinach Pasta Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 6 oz. Fresh Spinach
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 t extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

Chicken Parmigiana Ingredients:

  • 1 Chicken breast, butterflied and sliced
  • 1 Egg wash (1 egg with a little water, beaten)
  • 1 to 1.5 cups of Italian Bread crumbs
  • Oregano
  • Garlic Salt
  • Clarified butter
  • Mozzarella
  • Trader Joe’s Tomato-basil sauce

So the first thing you want to do is open your pasta machine from the box. Stare at it for a few seconds while the light bounces off the stainless steel and you imagine the throwing down of food in which you are about to partake. Oh yea, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

After you have prepared yourself mentally,  you want to begin to prepare the dough. First, sauté the spinach in a skillet. I cooked mine in a little bit of clarified butter. Now for those who do not know what clarified butter is, its unsalted butter that has the milk fat removed. I do this myself by melting butter in a pan and skimming off the milk fat that floats to the top. The left over golden yellow liquid is phenomenal. I love it because it has a higher burning point than regular butter so it is great for sautéing and browning (amazing sear on chicken) on high heat.  After the spinach sautés, quickly cool it under water and then strain it. I am sure a rice cloth or something similar is great. I cut another corner and used a multi-layer paper towel system. The goal is to get as much of the liquid out prior to putting it in the food processor. Once the spinach is strained put it all in a food processor. Pour in the 2 eggs, the salt, and the olive oil. MIX! Prepare the 2 cups of flour by dumping it on the counter. Make a well in the center of the flour for your spinach mixture. Pour in the wet ingredients until it forms a beautiful, green ball. Now this will take a few minutes. Also, this will get sticky. Flour your hands before diving in. You may want to use a fork at first, then your hands. Also, the dough will feel tougher than bread dough that is ok. Cover the emerald dough ball and let is sit in the fridge for 20 minutes.

While the dough is resting and radiating in all of its greenness, butterfly (a technique where you cut the breast length wise-kind of like an oreo cookie-and stop a few centimeter from going all the way through. This creates a nice heart shape for your chicken) and slice your chicken breast. I have found that when you butterfly you get more portion out of the chicken. This is a way we control our portions at home, yet I get more bites out of the same amount of chicken. I decided to slice the chicken into strips so that it would cook faster and I could eat sooner.

One the chicken is cut, begin to heat a skillet on medium-high heat with 2 T of clarified butter. Prepare the egg wash and the bread crumbs in two separate bowls. Start by dipping each strip in the egg wash and then the bread crumbs. For less of a mess, I use my right hand for egg wash dip. Drop into bread crumb and then use left hand to coat. This way I am not breading my fingers for frying. Once breaded begin placing in the frying pan to get a nice pan sear. You are just wanting to get the crunch. Don’t worry about cooking all the way through, you will finish it off in the oven.

Once you have a nice golden brown crust on each side of the chicken strips, coat the bottom of a small baking dish with a tablespoon of sauce. This will prevent sticking and, I think, drying out. Place the chicken on top of the sauce. Sprinkle with oregano, garlic salt, sauce, and mozzarella cheese (in that order). Place in the over for 10-15 minutes, until chicken is cooked and cheese melted.

Now prepare yourself for fun in the kitchen.

Take your dough out of the refrigerator. Starting with the widest setting on your pasta machine begin rolling out your dough, each time passing it through a thiner setting until you reach the desired consistency. I went all the way to the thinnest setting. Have a knife or rolling cutter on hand because the dough is going to start getting really long. Cut it into segments to ease with the rolling. For those with children, this is a great activity to get them involved in the kitchen. Though Gray is only 16 months, he was still trying to turn the crank. Really all you have to do is turn a crank, so let your little ones have in on the fun. This is a great family activity. Plus, when they eat this delicious spinach pasta they are getting some (not all, but some) of their vegetables. If your child is like mine, he loves carbs and sweets but does not care for vegetables. So I hid it in the carb and, voila!..a small serving of spinach. Once you have rolled your dough, let it rest for a few minutes to dry out a bit so it doesn’t stick. Once rested, it is time to cut. My machine came with a fettucini cut and a spaghetti cut. I went with spaghetti cut.

Now you are going to get something that resembles seaweed or witch’s hair. I recommend cutting the noodles into small sizes. 1) Its easier to handle. 2) It helps with cooking 3) It helps with eating. It can get tough to eat a 3 foot long piece of spaghetti. So use some cooking scissors and cut it down. Place your post in a pot of water that has reached a rolling boil. I seasoned mine with salt and olive oil. Mine cooked in about 2-3 minutes, very fast. Cook what you want. You can refrigerate un-cooked pasta for 3 days (because of the eggs) or you can dry your pasta to resemble the store bought kind and keep it for longer. However, I cooked all of it because I was so excited.

Once the pasta is cooked, plate it with the red sauce for a delicious meal with beautiful colors. Pat yourself on the back and make sure you gloat in your accomplishments. Feel free to present you dinner to your family by listing out all of the ingredients and how it was prepared. That is how you make it sound gourmet. “Tonight we have a butterflied, pan-seared chicken breast parmigiana that is served atop of a homemade spinach pasta that has been cooked al dente. A savory tomato sauce finishes your dish”

Thanks for stopping by for dinner, you can take the leftovers home with you. Please wipe the drool off the screen.

Note: I need to thank Instagram for making my meal look more vintage.

Moio’s Italian Pastry Shop

5 Jul
Moio’s Italian Pastry Shop
4209 William Penn Highway
Monroeville, Pennsylvania
http://www.morios.com
 

One of my favorite things to partake in is dessert. I have a sweet-tooth and I love to indulge it! I have driven by Moio’s many times since moving here but have never stopped in. This pastry shop is awkwardly located in a small strip mall next to one of the “Beer-Lottery” stores at a busy intersection near the I-76 entrance ramp in Monroeville. Nothing about its location particularly draws one in other than the fact that you know its a Italian pastry shop that must be full of delicious treats. Two weeks ago I decided to go for a run, I am in the process of training for a half marathon. I did my first half earlier this year and now I want to do another. I hope to do a marathon after this. Interestingly, I used to hate running–I mean I despised it. However, I have learned to love running (mostly after the encouragement of my brother and then later my wife both who have ran marathons) and discovered a few things: 1) I enjoy setting goals for myself and achieving them, 2) It makes me feel healthy, 3) I feel more liberated to freely eat pastries when the mood strikes. I guess I have a mild sweets obsession. There is something about a really good run where I feel like I am owed a treat. I reward myself for a job well done. I had a really good run two weeks ago. I did 3 miles on a course with rolling hills. Now I don’t obsess over a treat after every run I complete, at some point it becomes counterproductive. However, this particular day I was running a new route at a new location. On the way home I drive past the bright red, white, green sign and the mood strikes me to pull in to see what Moio’s is all about. As I walk up I am not sure what to expect. The door boasts a rather large neon “Open” sign and the windows display decorated cake mock ups. Once you walk in you see small tables on the left and a horseshoe of display cases full of the most decadent looking pastries in front of you. Both times I have been to Moio’s, at least 6 other people have been inside preparing to indulge there sweet-tooths as well. Now just because a lot of people enjoy a restaurant doesn’t mean I will. I have never seen the Golden Corral not busy but, come on, you are paying for quantity not quality there. But the location of Moio’s does not lend itself to draw people inside unless the product inside is truly legit. As you look around at the pastries, you quickly see that there is an authentic Italian influence.  One of my favorite desserts in the whole world is an Italian cannoli and Moio’s Italian Pastry Shop makes one of the best cannoli’s I have ever had. They hand fill each cannoli to order with either a creamy ricotta filling or a rich chocolate custard or both. I highly recommend both. The pastry shell is flaky and flavorful. The filling, unlike many cannoli’s I have had, is not too sweet its the perfect balance of creaminess and sweetness in the ricotta. They also boast a delicious pasticciotti  and sfogliatelle. I have not had these yet but I am sure its only a matter of time before I return. After my first experience with the cannoli, I have been craving them ever since. I took my wife and son back to Moio’s earlier this week where we got, of course, another cannoli and some of their Italian cookies. Now if you have not had an Italian cookie you are missing out. Moio’s sells all their cookies by the pound so you can mix and match however you wish. The cookies are extremely light and crumbly, they almost melt in your mouth. So be prepared for a little mess. I recommend the raspberry filled, Morgan loves the jelly filled, and Gray loves everything, he is a bottomless pit (though he did gobble up the butter cherry cookie very quickly). Moio’s also has an assortment of cakes, pies, and other pastries that shouldn’t be missed. If you are on the east side of Pittsburgh and you feel your sweet tooth acting up, make a trip over to Moio’s and try the hand filled cannoli.

Moio's Italian Pastry Shop on Urbanspoon

Center Avenue Slice

3 Jul
Center Avenue Slice
332 Center Avenue
West View, Pennsylvania • www.centeravenueslice.com/
 

Center Avenue Slice has wonderful pizza and we found this gem on accident. In fact the story that led up to finding the restaurant and the experience itself is what sparked the desire to start writing about our Pittsburgh food adventures. It’s always a wonderful surprise when you stumble upon a food experience unexpectedly, especially after being stuck in your car unwillingly for an hour and a half. Our first born, Gray (see the About Us page), is now at the age where we have decided he needs play time with others and we need a momentary break in our day from the full-throtle, all-out, no-holds-bar, bundle of energy that is our son. As Jim Gaffigan says, “It’s like living with a drunk person…[he] is either screaming, eating, or peeing his pants”. But he is the cutest little drunk person ever. (Disclaimer: I have never nor will I ever give my child alcohol until he is of legal age. I know you were concerned.  I do however make him fruit/vegetable smoothies most mornings, its the only way he will eat his carrots and spinach. Plus they are delicious.) I love having him around but there are times when the energy is draining. I believe I read a  research study during my undergraduate studies that challenged Olympic caliber athletes to try to keep up with toddlers during a 2 hours period–the toddlers won. Another aside, I am super pumped about the Olympics. I may have a traditional British meal in honor of the London games, the Queen…oh, and of course, Will and Kate. Anyways, since we are new to the ‘Burgh we are still learning to gauge when a place is 15 miles away but takes 20 minutes and when a place is 15 miles away but takes 45 minutes. For those who do not live here, there are many bridges and many tunnels that create unnecessary congestion at most every moment of the day. So we found a lovely preschool that orients itself towards a philosophy of development and learning with which Morgan and I agree. Long story short, the 15 mile commute we thought would take 20 minutes ended up taking us 45 minutes. Now I did get lost once, which is the average amount of times I get lost in any one commute. Pittsburgh has some of the most confusing roadways in any city I have ever been AND because there are so many bridges I find myself on many a bridge not knowing how I ended up there and with no way to turn around. Well once we found the address that comes up with any Google search and that is plastered all over the website we learned that this particular preschool recently change locations. We walked around the old building for ten minutes trying to figure out where everyone was at. They failed to mention this to us on the phone or on the website, except for one small blurb nestled inside a paragraph on the front page. So with a fussy baby and annoyed parents we decided to go find the new location. I mean we might as well since we just spent the last 45 minutes making our way over there, whats another 6 miles? As you learned in geometry the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, well there are very few straight lines in Pittsburgh. There are plenty of winding roads with traffic and stop signs; as such, another 45 minutes went by and we found the new location. By this point we had already decided there is no way we are going to deal with that commute multiple times per week and our frustration only grew regarding the failure to know that the preschool recently moved. We even tried calling the school many times to figure out where we are going, no answer, no return call. So frustrating! Well if your child is like Gray, once you hit the one and a half hour mark with no break from the car it is getting close to time to get out of the car seat. Also, we missed the afternoon nap and snack. Have I mentioned how pleasant it is to having a screaming baby in the back of the car when you are stressed and hungry? There are moments in your life when you need food immediately! I am not sure how we found it or even if I could get back there but we pulled up our Urbanspoon app (a lifesaver) and found a highly rated, cheap pizza place within 2 miles. Luckily, this was not a deceiving 2 miles.

Now that I have set the scene, we are pulling around this bend with a screaming baby and two annoyed parents. I am not expecting anything special about the pizzeria for which we are looking. A small store front with a neon pizza or delivery sign. However, it was like a mirage emerging in the desert. We are driving up over the hill and there before us is the building with the title “Center Avenue Slice” in enormous letters, I knew we had arrived. From the moment we walked in everyone was very friendly. Brent Dreier the owner was in and out, I think he lives next door, and was very welcoming. It felt like we were hanging out at a friend’s house. When we dine out with Gray, restaurants receive favor from me when they acknowledge and work to cater to his needs (milk and some sort of carb stat!) So the young man behind the counter recommended garlic bread because its quick and immediately brought milk for Gray. Whew! The crying finally ceased. Milk is our magic elixir. I know the debates about not drinking other animals’ milks and hormones (we drink organic at home) but screaming babies will make the strongest fold. So we, as with most everything, approach it with moderation. The garlic bread was very good. It was not a stick but a Texas toast style of bread. Covered in butter, garlic, and parmesan cheese. It didn’t last long. We ordered the 10 cut pan pizza with sausage, green peppers, olives, and onions. We took a seat in the simply decorated dining room. There is one giant screen television-old school rear projector model not LCD-on ESPN. We sat in the back under the A/C looking out the front wall of windows watching people come pick up their pies. The pizza came quickly. It was hot and delicious. The crust was crusty and chewy (I love a good pizza crust) well cooked. The sausage was by far some of the best I have had on a pizza. The cheese pulled for miles as you lifted a slice off the pan. There were so many toppings that they fall off as you pull a slice. I love eating the little extra goodness with my fingers. The sauce was good, not the best, but complemented the toppings nicely. I don’t know if the situation made the pizza taste better than it really was but it was wonderful enough for me to want to start writing about my food experiences. I also learned that this pizzeria has been voted one of the best pizza places for the last four years. I believe it! They also have a little ice creamery located in the restaurant so you can have a cool, sweet treat after you are done with the yummy pizzas. So next time you are lost in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, do yourself a favor and grab a pie at Center Avenue Slice.

Center Avenue Slice on Urbanspoon

The Church Brew Works

2 Jul

The Church Brew Works
 3325 Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15201 • www.churchbrew.com

If you are a native of Pittsburgh, I am going to assume that you have at least heard of, if not actually experienced The Church Brew Works. For all those times you got in trouble for eating during church, now you can eat AND drink in the restored landmark, St. John the Baptist Church. This restaurant receives my first post as it was one of the first places we ate at when we came to Pittsburgh looking for houses once I was hired. A wonderful colleague and her finance treated us to a memorable experience at The Church Brew Works. As soon as you walk into the brewpub you are taken back by the beauty and the detail inside the main dining room, the former sanctuary. As you stand in the back of the sanctuary your eyes are drawn down the main aisle to the beer altar at the front of the church. The microbrews served in-house are all brewed in these beautiful copper tanks. Its both beautiful and functional. Your party is seated at pews inside the main dining area. The left side wall is covered with chalk boards with information about the beers that are in rotation for that day, including ABV%s and IBUs (for the true connoisseur). One of the things I loved most about The Church Brew Works is that they cater to people like me who have a hard time deciding. So instead of having to choose one beer to try, they have a sampler that

allows you to sample 10 of the beer that are available that day. The beers come served on a chart so you know what you are drinking. It also allows you to taste, feel, and see the differences in beer styles. I found the beers to be pretty good. I enjoyed the Thunderhop IPA, as I enjoy most IPAs. It was nice and hoppy! The food was nothing memorable. I don’t exactly remember what I had, I think the Buffalo Burger. The food quickly gets over shadowed by the elaborate atmosphere and the emphasis on the beer. I do remember that the service was slow and they brought out half the table’s food first and the second half ten minutes later. I have two big pet-peeves when I am dining out. 1) When our order is delivered in shifts, with half the table waiting for the other to get the food while the half with the food waits politely, staring at their hot meals, for the foodless half to receive their food. There is always a back and forth between friends, “Go ahead and eat.” “No we don’t mind waiting.” “Please it will get cold.” The most mannered usually wait, reluctantly, while the hungrier ones will take any green light to begin digging in to their entrees. 2) My other pet peeve is when my entree is brought out seconds after I received the first course. I find this to be very annoying. I dine out not because I hate to cook or because I am lazy. I dine out because the experience is fun. When I receive my courses very close together I feel rushed and it takes away from the experience, with the food and with my company. This did not happen at The Church Brew Works; I now digress. The service at The Church Brew Works was sub-par but the restaurant is very big and it seemed as though our waitress was working a lot of tables. Overall, I found the experience to be enjoyable, the beer to be delicious, and the food to be comforting. As we were preparing to become New-burghers, this experience was a gentle nod from the city saying she will take care of our food needs once we arrive.

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