Monday, May 28, 2012

Casa Rasta in the Beechview neighborhood

I finally made my way to Casa Rasta Friday, which is restaurant that features Mexican and Carribean fusion. I heard many good things about them through posts from Food Collage and Sabor PGH.  I've wanted to try Casa Rasta's food, but never really had the chance till this past Friday.  It was well worth the trip.  The restaurant itself isn't that big in that it had only four tables in the outside patio and two tables inside.  But it was a very laid back atmosphere, and I felt welcome by the owners Laura and Antonio.

As we were waiting for the food, my friend DD and I yet again found Sriracha sauce.  When JC and I were filming for the hot dog project earlier in the month, we noticed that two of the hot dog establishments had sriracha sauce.  What I will say is controversial, but I feel that Sriracha will overtake Heinz ketchup as the go to condiment in a few years.  It's a bold move to say that, and I'm sure most of my readers won't agree but I enjoy stirring the pot sometimes :).

We got our meal.  The first thing I ate was the vegetarian poblano chilis and potatoes taco.  I love how they roasted the chilis and it was a fairly spicy taco.  The tortilla held the fillings very well and it helps when you have two.  As much as I love the tacos, I thought the choriza torta was the highlight of the evening.  I like how the torta was really crunchy and held the fillings well.  When you take a bit of the torta, the combination of the crunchiness of the torta and the spicy bite of the chorizo takes the dish to whole new level and bliss.  I definitely want to make this dish at home.

Overall Casa Rasta was a good experience.  The menu may not be extensive like other Mexican establishments in Pittsburgh, but the quality of the food was phenomenal.  I can't wait to go back again.

Casa Rasta on Urbanspoon
Casa Rasta

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pittsburgh's Best Hot Dogs Part 1 Station Street Hot Dogs

This is part in a 4 part series about Pittsburgh's best hot dog establishments. The 1st part features Station Street Hot Dogs run by Kevin Sousa. Check it out

Station Street Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

Station Street Hot Dogs

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Feta-Crusted Salmon

When my mom is in town for Mother's Day, I normally take her to brunch to celebrate her special day.  However this year was different.  Being that my cooking skills have improved every year, I convinced my mom and sister that we should just spend Mother's Day at the house, and I would whip up something awesome for them.

I got a sweet recipe from to make feta-crusted salmon.  I made it along with the vegetables.  I did make a few changes to the recipe by using minced garlic and shallots instead of garlic powder and onion powder to bring out more flavor.  I also used plain yogurt instead of cream cheese because I happened to have yogurt and didn't want to spend the money on cream cheese if I was only going to use one time.  Here are some pics that I took as I made the dish.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My Love of Chicken Feet

One of the many things that Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations has taught me is to step out of my comfort zone and experience new things whether they turn out good or not.  One of the things I like about Anthony Bourdain is his love of eating food that people shy away from normally.  I've been adopting his motto for quite awhile and I'm glad I did.

When I went to Tokyo Sushi Buffet a few years back, I noticed at one of the stations there was huge plate of what it looked like to be some sort animal feet.  I asked one of the people working there what it was, and he said it was chicken feet.  Being that I was getting more open to food, I decided to give it a try.  At first glance, it seemed to be a lot more skin than meat.  When I took my first bite, I realized I should have nibbled it because I immediately felt the bone in my mouth.  I recovered and ate the rest of the chicken feet.  At this point I fell in love with chicken feet.  There really was no chicken meat at all, and it was mainly skin and tendons.  Eating the skin had a gelatinous, fatty feel to it.  It took some effort to eat them too because you had to remove the small bones.

This past Sunday, my mom(who is in town for Mother's Day) and I did a little bit of grocery shopping at the Oriental Market in the North Hills area on McKnight.  They just opened not too long ago, and they can certainly compete against the big boys at the Strip District.  We noticed that they had chicken feet for like around 2.25 a pound and I decided to go with it and order two pounds of it.  Thankfully they were clean and had no nails.  I've seen Youtube videos of people taking the nails out of the chicken feet, and it's not pretty.

The next day we cooked our chicken feet.

1.  We washed the chicken and dried with paper towel.
2.  Fried them till cooked.  Covered the frying pan with foil because if not, it will splash all over.
3.  Put chicken feet on paper towels so they absorb the oil.
4.  We soaked the chicken feet in cold water for an hour so the chicken feet becomes more puffy.  We then drained it.
5.  We cooked the mince garlic, mince ginger in one tablespoon of cooking oil for 30 seconds.  Then we put the feet in.  Then we put salt, pepper, sesame oil, sugar, soy sauce, and some boiling water.  We boiled and covered in medium heat until the chicken feet were tender.
6.  After that we put chopped green onion and chopped hot pepper and mix it.

Here is what the finished chicken feet looked like.  It's not the prettiest site to see and will not win any awards for presentation, but it tasted damn good.  It was definitely very messy to eat due to the ingredients, and it required a lot of napkins.  I think our version is a lot better than Tokyo Sushi Buffet.  It has more flavor(not too spicy), and the skin was much juicier and gelatinous.

As much I love chicken feet, I don't think I'll be cooking this again for quite awhile since it's not something you should eat all the time.  But eating chicken feet is a good introduction to eating food that is not the norm.  So when you get the opportunity, eat some chicken feet.  You'll be pleasantly surprised.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Thelma's Chicken and Waffles in Roanoke Virginia

This past weekend I spent time with good friends at our buddy D's house in Roanoke.  D has an annual party every year during this time, and as usual it was a blast which included a lot of drinking, eating, playing cards, and watching funny Lonely Island music videos.  I've never heard of them before this weekend, but apparently they've been around for awhile and have great music videos.  To all readers out there, I would recommend them.  They are funny as hell and you may be tempted to throw things on the ground Lonely Island - Threw it on the Ground .

On Sunday morning even with some slight hangovers from everyone, J(D's wife) and D suggested that we all go for breakfast at Thelma's Chicken and Waffles in downtown Roanoke.  Thelma's is a home style southern cuisine restaurant that serves chicken and waffles as their main specialty.  You can also get omelettes, ribs, pork chops, etc.  But since their specialty is chicken, I decided to order the leg and thigh chicken but without the waffles.  It's not that I don't like waffles, but I would rather try their sides and I like the side choices better than the waffles when reading the menu.  Hey at least I ordered the chicken.

As we were waiting for our food, I took a look around the place for a little bit.  Apparently on the other side of the restaurant there is a bar.  It seems from what J has told me, the restaurant is bumping during the weekends(They have ladies night or band come in for example).  I also noticed that the service was slower than most restaurants.  J mentioned that the restaurant isn't fast pace because they are from the South and they promote a laid-back atmosphere.  I don't really have a problem with that because I had faith the food would be good, and this is the type of place where it's okay not to be in a rush to eat.  The people that work there also made you feel like you were at their home.  They were very nice, attentive, and went above and beyond to make sure we had a great time.  The best part was when we struck up a conversation with the waitress about her unique nails.  I wish I would have taken a picture of it.

When all said and done, our food came.  The leg and thigh chicken came with macaroni and cheese and corn pudding.  Yes you heard me right, I got corn pudding.  I guess that's a southern thing since I've never seen that as a side in any Pennsylvanian restaurant.  The macaroni and cheese was pretty good, but it could have had a lot more cheese.  It was more buttery if anything.  The corn pudding was excellent.  It's similar to cream of corn but a lot thicker and less soupy.  The chicken of course was the highlight of the entree.  The meat was flavorful and juicy with no dryness whatsoever.  The skin was crispy, succulent, and can sense there were some good spices in there.  The spices did not overwhelm each other.  I would have to say this was the best fried chicken I've had all year.  The long wait was worth it.

Right before I left, I noticed the award on their wall.  It was no surprise they got them because the food was delicious.  I hope next year we'll go there again for breakfast. 
Thelma's Chicken & Waffles on Urbanspoon
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