Saturday, July 28, 2012

Beef Stroganoff

Growing up during my middle and high school years, the cafeteria would serve up beef stroganoff on a monthly basis.  I didn't really have an awesome experience eating it(well then again most school cafeteria food and the word awesome don't mix well).  To me the sauce was very runny, bland, and the meat.......well I don't know if I would even call it meat.  It's best that I don't theorize where the meat came from.  I continued to eat the stroganoff anyways because no other option was better.  Because of this experience, I swore off beef stroganoff for twelve years.

I always go to AllRecipes to find something decent by typing the ingredients I already have in the kitchen.  I believed I only put in mustard and flour.  The results came back and by filtering them by rating, beef stroganoff was high on the list.  I was kind of debating for awhile whether to cook this or not based on past experience with the dish.  Then I thought maybe if I make it myself, it might not be so bad.  So I took that leap of faith, and went for it.  Here is the link to the recipe:  Beef Stroganoff.  Overall I thought the dish was pretty good.  I would still not put this on my top 20 list of favorite foods, but at least now I can eat beef stroganoff as long as I cook it myself.

Cut up some celery.  I just used the white ends only.

I cut up some mushrooms.  The recipe asked for canned mushrooms,
but I decided to make this harder on myself.  It was worth it.

Cut up some beef chuck roast into strips.

Cooking the beef stroganoff.  Looking good.

The completed dish.  I decided to mix in greek yogurt instead
of sour cream.  It makes the sauce more thick and is healthier(not
like it really matters for this dish)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Asian Cafe in Glenshaw

As much I enjoy going to hip restaurants such as NOLA on the Square and The Porch at Schenley, every so often you'll want to go somewhere where there is familiarity and you know what to expect.  No, I'm not talking about national chain restaurants.  I'm talking about Chinese take-out restaurants.  In fact I even did a review of Hong Kong Taste that is near my townhouse.  Reasons why I like Chinese take-out restaurants:

1.  You get to eat bastardized Chinese food(I'm looking at you crab rangoon and general tso's chicken)
2.  You know what to expect and it never lets you down for the most part.
3.  You at least get variety of food to choose from whether you are a carnivore or vegetarian.

So if you've never had Chinese take-out, you've never really lived.  This past weekend, I happened to past by a take-out place in the new shopping center in Glenshaw called Asian Cafe.  It clearly is a take-out restaurant with a few dining tables, but I find the name to be rather silly.  For one it doesn't look like a cafe at all.  Initially I thought they named it that way because they wanted to distinguish themselves from their competitors and fancy themselves as a sophisticated take-out restaurant.  I do think that is true for the most part, but as I was looking at the menu they also provide Thai fusion cuisine.  I thought that was a little bit of a twist(just like when Hong Kong Taste used to make sushi), but do they do a good job of it to warrant being called Asian Cafe?  Let's find out.

For our appetizer we got the red sauce wonton.  First I like that they put scallions on top of the dish to give it a bright aspect to the dish.  The wontons were fairly huge as far as the skin goes.  I felt that there wasn't enough meat inside the wonton even though the meat itself was good.  The red sauce was the best part of the  dish.  I thought it was pretty spicy, but I considered it tame compared to other spicy dishes I've ate.  Other people might consider it really spicy.  It just depends how much spice you can tolerate.  I also liked how thick the red sauce was and how it covered all parts of the wonton.  The thickness of the sauce gives the wonton more flavor and kick to it.  It was a good dish overall; it just needed more meat in it.


For the main course, we got the Penang curry with beef.  It's a spicy dish that is famous in Malaysia that is flavored with curry, garlic, and coconut milk.  The beef was spicy and tender, and you can taste the ingredients as you take each bite but don't overpower one another.  I like how they added the green beans and carrots to make the dish more bright and colorful.  The orange was also a nice addition, but I didn't squeeze any of the orange juices on the dish because the dish had enough flavors.  I've had better Penang curry at other restaurants, but for Chinese take-out, it is the best thus far. 

Overall as much as I liked the food thus far, I would have to try more of their dishes to see if they really deserve the name Asian Cafe.  The one thing that I won't think will change is the atmosphere.  It looks just like any other take-out place in the city but only nicer looking because it's new.  Hopefully eating more of their fusion cuisine and liking them will convince me that they deserve the name.  Lastly, the prices of the food are fairly reasonable. The two dishes came out to around 13-14 dollars.  Then again most Chinese food take-out places' prices are almost always reasonable.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lobsterfest near Smethport PA

One of the greatest pleasures in the world is eating fresh lobster.  Before this past weekend, I could say I had lobster twice in my life, all in lobster roll form.  Granted lobster rolls are pretty damn good, but I've always wanted to eat fresh whole lobster.  My friend JP was in Maine last week visiting his siblings, and he brought fresh lobster back.  So he invited me, our mutual friends, and his family members to the family cabin in the woods to partake in the festivities.  For years JP has always talked about working on his family's cabin, but I don't ever recall him showing me pictures.  I was pretty sure that he was making it up to make himself look good.  By the time I got there, it turned out that his family really did have cabin, and it was very nice.  So I give JP props on his family's cabin, and I had a great time hanging out with him and our friends.

Here are some major pictures are took of the festivities.

Small Steamed Clams.  I could eat 200 of these and not be full.
Corn Salsa that I made.  It was a hit at the party. 
Buffalo Chicken Dip.  It's different in a sense that it's more gelatinous
and the chicken actually was not from a can.
 I thought it was pretty good.
Lobster that was just finished steaming
My friend JP holding two live lobsters before getting steamed.
Only if the lobsters knew what was really going to happen to them.
 R had to be "that guy" in the photo.  Such a photo bomber.
My plate of lobster.  The lobster tail on the right was very
meaty.  With Lobster, all you really need is melted butter
and you're all set.  I even ate the lobster meat from the legs.
I always aim to eat every part of the lobster.  Anthony Bourdain
would be proud.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Porch at Schenley part 2 - The Rooftop Garden

Before L and I had our dinner, the manager came over and started talking to us since we were both food bloggers.  He asked if we would like to check out the rooftop garden of the restaurant.  When he said this, it was almost like someone asking me to throw the first pitch in a Pittsburgh Pirates game.  Well they are not really similar, but you get the idea.  L and I were up for it.  L likes to garden, and I knew she would like to go up and check it out.  The manager brought us up there, and gave us a tour of the whole garden.  Here are some awesome pictures to check out.

Mint.  This explains why my Almost Arnie drink was so good
Spicy Oregano
Heirloom Tomatoes
Grape Tomatoes
Stevia.  I had an opportunity to taste the leaf and it tasted amazing because of the natural sugarness.  I really should have asked for seconds.
Lemon Cucumbers
Being in that garden was an amazing experience because I can see where some of the ingredients in their food come from, and it shows that the restaurant is committed to using local ingredients as much as possible.  It is also a good selling point to get people to come to the restaurant since people are getting more into eating local.  The Porch at Schenley has a lot of good things going for them, and I don't see them slowing down anytime soon.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tony Packo's in Toledo Ohio

In the last day of D and I's road trip, we left Detroit to head back to Pittsburgh. We decided to take a detour and go back to his hometown of Toledo Ohio to grab some grub with his friends that live there. We decided that we will be eating at Tony Packo's because it's a Toledo institution and he said it was also really good as well. Before heading going there, D gave me a tour of his hometown. He showed me the neighborhoods he grew up in and talked about how Toledo is a struggling city finding its way again, albeit not easily. It really made me realize how fortunate I was living in Pittsburgh, since Pittburgh economically speaking is doing better than most other places. That will be a topic for another time and not in this blog. It is a food blog after all.

We met up with his friends and headed inside Tony Packo's. It's an institution because it has great Hungarian food and many celebrities have been in Tony Packo's due to the restaurant being mentioned in Mash Episodes since Jamie Farr is originally from Toledo. I ordered the Cabbage Combo #1. It's a stuffed cabbage that contains ground beef and ground pork along with rice and special seasonings simmered in sour cream, cabbage, and tomatoes. I also got the paprika dumplings as a side dish. The paprika and the gravy were perfectly combined for the dumplings. The dumplings were spicy but not overpowering. The stuffed cabbage was very good and anytime I took a bite of it, it felt like I was at someone's house because you can clearly tell it was homemade and cooked just right with the perfect amount of meat, rice, and seasonings. This is comfort food at its best.

Another thing I like about the restaurant is their uniqueness in the way they get celebrities' signatures. Each celebrity signs a fake hot dog bun and Tony Packo's frames it on a wall in the restaurant. This tradition was started by Burt Reynolds in 1972 and continues to this day. Here are some notable buns.  My personal favorite has to be Corin Nemic because he was in Parker Lewis Can't Lose, and he's still considered a celebrity in Toledo.  Ultimately that's what really matters.

Tony Packo's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Porch at Schenley in Oakland Part 1 - The Meal

I am going to split this post into a few parts because I want to save the other topics about this restaurant for later.  For this post, I will talk about the dining experience.  I've always wanted to dine at this establishment for months, but it was never perfect timing.  That all changed when my partner in dine(I'll call her L) and I decided to go there for dinner a few weekends ago.  Before we went, I decided to check out the menu online.  The menu wasn't exactly large, but they all sounded so enticing that I still hadn't made up my mind by the time we made it to the restaurant.  If I had to describe The Porch at Schenley, I would describe it as a modern American restaurant with a slightly upscale yet causal and local kick to it.  From pizza's to burgers to  even duck legs, they made sure that this is a place where people from all walks of life can come in and have a great time eating and socializing.

I usually don't make a big deal about drinks, but I got a particular that just needs to be talked about.  I got the "Almost" Arnie, which has limencello, fresh brewed iced tea, and mint.  For those unfamiliar with limoncello, it's Italian lemon liqueur mainly produced in Southern Italy.  What made this drink happening though was the mint.  It really gave the drink a cool, minty fresh flavor to the drink.  I swear my breath even got better after I finished the whole drink.

For the appetizer we got the crispy calamari with crispy zucchini and marinara sauce.  The calamari tasted pretty good in that it was seasoned evenly, not too greasy, and was not rubbery.  The zucchini adds a vegetable and colorful component to the appetizer.  I liked the way it was cut, almost looked like shoestring fries.  The marinara sauce was the weakest part of the dish.  It was pretty bland for the most part, and I would rather had something a little more exotic for the sauce.  Fortunately, this was the only thing I disliked about the Porch.

Now we are the main event.  L ordered the beef burger which had a brioche bun.  The burger also came with crispy taters.  L said that the burger was delicious and that she let me have some of her crispy taters.  I only wanted to have a couple, but they were so good that I got a few more.  It was crispy, fluffy, and fun to eat.  It took me back to the days of me eating tater tots as a kid.  L let me take the rest of the taters home.  She is a nice partner in dine.

As for myself, I ultimately choose the duck legs.  Looking at the description, the dish had fava bean salad, rhubarb-caramel cake, and blueberry-champagne sauce.  I'm thinking to myself that this dish can't work because I couldn't imagine sweet components going along with duck legs.  But I decided to take a chance on it because i was just that curious.  I cut the the meat out of the duck leg and dipped it on the blueberry sauce.  I got to say it was actually pretty good.  The sweetness of the blueberry counters the saltiness and greasiness of the meat, and gave the meat really sweet kick to it but not overpowering.  The fava bean salad was also good and also provided a savory counter to the sweetness of the dish.  The rhubarb-caramel cake was fantastic.  It was sweet without being overbearing, and it worked well with the duck legs.  Overall I was really surprised by the entree, and give props to whoever thought this up.

All in all, it was a great experience dining at The Porch.  The food, service, and atmosphere were all excellent.  Definitely a great place to take your family, friends, or that special someone.  Part 2 will be posted in a few weeks.

The Porch at Schenley

The Porch at Schenley on Urbanspoon
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