Thursday, March 22, 2012

Park Bruges in Highland Park

I've heard many good things about Park Bruges, but I've never had an opportunity to go till a few weeks ago. Park Bruges is the sister restaurant of Point Brugge Cafe. I would describe Park Bruges as a European bistro with French and Belgian influence. Going inside Park Bruges, I decided to sit at the bar and was to be honest kind of glad there wasn't a television. To me it would ruin the experience of Park Bruges because it's a place to eat good food and strike up meaningful conversations at the bar.

Looking at the menu, I decided to order the tarte flambee. These were the following reasons why I ordered it.

1. I never had it before
2. It had bacon in it. Enough said. My friend calls it a meat candy :).
3. The crust was cooked on a wood-fired oven at Enrico Biscotti.

The type of tarte flambee I got was with bacon, creamed leeks, maytag bleu, and mushrooms. The crust was crispy with a little blackness to it, and was strong enough to hold its own with the toppings. It's similar to pizza, but airy, lighter, and again crispy. I thought the ingredients went really well together and really didn't overpower one another. All in all, it was a great dish. It was so great that it actually inspired me to make my own tarte flambee.

I got the recipe from Anne Burrell on the Food Network website. I was surprised that it wasn't that difficult to make. The only thing I would have changed was that instead of using the ricotta, I should have used the fromage blanc. Combining that with the creme fraiche would have been more creamier. Also a pizza stone would have helped made the crust more crispier. That being said, the tarte flambee was still delicious and fun to eat. In the future, I'll definitely try different toppings, but bacon will always have to be there no matter what :).

Park Bruges
Anne Burrell's Tarte Flambee

Park Bruges on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cenci's Italian Restaurant and Pizza Bar at Wexford

When I think of Wexford, I think of it as one of the better suburban areas of Pittsburgh. Normally I'm not a big fan suburban areas because of the high amount of chain restaurants and stores and a lack of character. Sure Wexford has chain restaurants, but they have a lot of local stores, restaurants, and bars. This past Thursday, my friends and I decided to check out a place called Cenci's Italian Restaurant and Pizza Bar.

I thought the atmosphere was pretty good especially for families though based on some of the pictures I saw at the website, adults can also have fun on weekends at this place.

The first thing we all got were garlic knots. I would have to say these were the best garlic knots I've ever had. They were even better than the ones at Mamma Lucia's. The knots were crunchy on the outside, and soft on the inside. The butter, olive oil, and parmesan cheese really enhanced the flavor of the knots. I think the next time I order it, I'll ask for no marinara sauce since I felt it wasn't that necessary.

Our pizzas came next, and we got the mushroom pizza and sausage pizza. What I liked about these pizzas is that they didn't overdo it with the toppings, sauce, and cheese. They were perfectly balanced pizzas. I've had a lot of gourmet pizzas recently, and it's not really fair to compare Cenci's pizzas to the pizzas I have recently ate. With that said, it was nice to be eating mushroom pizza and sausage pizza again. They weren't too greasy, had lots of flavor, and the crust was able to hold its own from all the ingredients.

All in all, I had a great experience at Cenci's. It's a good place that caters to anyone from families wanting to have a great meal to adults who want to enjoy adult beverages. One thing is for sure; I'll be getting the garlic knots again.

Cenci's Italian Restaurant and Pizza Bar
Cenci's Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Los Cabos in Lawrenceville

Living in Pittsburgh, I often go to Lawrenceville or at least past it on a daily basis. Once a week, I drive from the Strip District to Trader Joe's or Whole Foods via Penn Ave. A few weeks ago I noticed a new Mexican restaurant almost from across the Children's Hospital called Los Cabos. I figured it just opened up. Lo and behold it had been open since the middle of last year. I'll admit I'm pretty embarrassed that I did not notice the place, but I have some excuses granted though not good ones. The restaurant doesn't seem to stand out from the outside, and no Pittsburgh food blogger hasn't even blogged about the restaurant, well according to Urbanspoon. So it is my duty to be the first person to blog about Los Cabos and let you guys know what I think.

When I walked in, I noticed that they still had the temporary sign on the front of their restaurant. I can understand it being there when it first opened, but now they should mark their territory so to speak by putting up a permanent sign. Not too much of a big deal though. When you go in, you order your food from the counter and then pick a table to sit at and wait till the food arrives.

Fortunately as in most Mexican restaurants, Los Cabos gave me complimentary chips and salsa. The salsa was tomato-based with cilantro, white onions, and other flavors. It was fresh and not too spicy in my opinion. I liked it so much that at the end of dinner I ordered a batch of chips and salsa to take home.

I ordered the Chile Verde as my main entree. It consisted of chunks of pork cooked in green tomatillo sauce served with rice and refried beans. The refried beans were okay; they were nothing special. The pork and rice were pretty good. I like how the sauce and the green chiles adds a spicy kick to the dish. The pork was chunky, tender, and succulent. I was able to finish the pork and rice but barely since it was a fairly heavy dish.

Overall, I had a good experience eating here. They have a fairly extensive menu and I hear their fish tacos are the best in the city. Is this the best Mexican restaurant in the city? For now no, but I could change my mind after a few more visits.

They do not have a website yet, but they are working on it. For some reason they still have their Christmas lights on inside their restaurant. So if any of your kids out there want to have the Christmas spirit all year long, Los Cabos is your place.

Los Cabos Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sweet potato madness

While I was in Cleveland, we stopped at the West Side Public Market to do some grocery shopping before going home. While I was looking at the sweet potatoes in one of the stands, it occurred to me that I've never cooked sweet potatoes before and I enjoy eating them. So I decided to get 4 lbs of sweet potatoes. I ended up cooking three dishes from the sweet potatoes.

The first dish I cooked was sweet potato salad. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of it. The recipe asked for 3/4 cups of mayonnaise but I instead used just 1/2 of it plus less than 1/4 of sriracha sauce to give the salad a kick to it. The salad turned out pretty well. It wasn't really spicy, but there were certainly hints of it.

Sweet Potato Salad

The next dish I cooked was sweet potato fries. When I go out to eat, if there are sweet potato fries as a side, I usually end up getting them. I found a very good recipe from the Instructables web site. My first batch was a complete mess because I left the fries in the oven a little too long. My second batch(the picture above), was a lot better but could still be less blackened. I still have to learn a lot about my oven since ovens vary in terms of heating. My second batch was crunchy and fluffy at the same time. I used mayonnaise as my condiment. Trust me it's really good.

Sweet Potato Fries

The last dish I cooked was sweet mashed potatoes. I've had them before in the past but I never realized that maple syrup was one of the main ingredients. I can see now what makes the potatoes really sweet. The sweet mashed potatoes turned out ok and I still have a lot left since I cooked them last night. I could of put a lot more to it, but wanted to keep it simple. Also even though it tasted good, I could have used less milk thus less mushy.

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