Saturday, November 28, 2009

Week 13: piccolo FoRNO

Last Saturday, Caryn and I went on a hunt for a deliscious lunch in Lawrenceville. Our search started a little later than expected, so our lunch began at 3PM...piccolo FoRNO on Butler Street was the venue --- and boy, was it worth the wait!

This Italian bistro pulls you in from the street, inviting you to dine amongst exposed brick, soft lighting, an open brick oven, and a dumbwaiter (one of my favorite restaurant inventions, and so fun that it's right in the middle of everything).

Had it been dinner, we would have brought our own wine. But alas, productivity called, so no drinking in the afternoon for us. However, you can be sure I'll bring some wine the next time I attend.

Here's what we went with...

For an Appetizer: Bruschette Varie This assortment of toasted baguette included a tomato, olive tapenade, and red pepper spread. My favorite type of bruschetta is always tomato, but all were excellent!
Caryn's Lunch Main Course: Caprese Panini It's simple: you take really really fresh mozzarella, a thick and flaky roll, and add tomatoes and homemade pesto.
My Lunch Main Course: Lucchese Panini I think that what set this panini apart from others I've had is the bread. SO perfect. Take the perfect bread, and add proscutto (yum!), red peppers, some more fresh mozzarella, and pesto.

The Bottom Line
Great atmosphere, awesome bread, and fresh ingredients (not to mention BYOB) make piccolo FoRNO a must visit Pittsburgh Italian lunch (even if it's not technically in Little Italy). I'll be making a return trip soon for some of their dinner pastas and pizza!



Piccolo Forno on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Week 12: Morning Glory Coffeehouse

Steve and I had been plotting a visit to Morning Glory for quite some time; we acted on our threats yesterday.

We heard about this place based on a recommendation from one of Steve's coworkers at Patrick Dowd's office (thus the proclamation on the establishment's wall with best wishes from Patrick). The Morning Glory Coffeehouse is located in Morningside as detailed by this wonderfully witty map below...

The entire Morning Glory Experience is just that: witty. Not to mention hip, charming, adventurous, fun, tasty, and original. This is the kind of place that every town needs: a chill venue for group gatherings, live music (from all over the world!), and movie nights. Here are the details...

The Space
It's hobbit themed -- from the forest-like ceiling hangings (see below) to the light switches!

My favorite sign: "Mind your head on the way down the steps --- the basement is for hobbits only."

The speakers are fed by an old record player with scores of records for patrons to change at their will. Being a new visitor, I did not feel I had the street cred to change the music, but I didn't need to --- the regulars at the front put on a Supremes album that was PERFECT (I am actually Pandora-ing the Supremes as I write this posting to help set the mood).

The Coffee
It's my "runner up" for best coffee in Pittsburgh (I had 2 lattes!). I think that says it all --- try it and you'll agree! Be sure to try their signature Rhode Island Coffeemilk Latte --- subtle but delicious.

What to do when you're there...
Well, you certainly will not get work done. Steve and I were ambitious walking in, but were quickly distracted by the following:

- Listening to the foozeball machine (that's right, the place has a vintage foozeball machine)
- Wondering what movies they show on the projection screen during "MOVIE NIGHTS"
- Sorting through puzzles (including the "locate the 50 states" puzzle --- always a contest!)
- Reading the City Paper
- Checking out the book collection
- AND, my favorite, playing "It's bigger than...It's smaller than..." cards, in which you are given a noun and need to fill in the blanks to guess your item. For example, "It's bigger than our Solar System, but it's smaller than the Universe." ANSWER: The Milky Way

The Bottom Line
Affortable and Amazing, it's bigger than a hobbit but smaller than (and WAAAY better than) Starbucks. It's the Morning Glory Coffeehouse in Morningside, and you'll be glad you stopped by!

Morning Glory Coffeehouse on Urbanspoon

PS --- I know I'm a bit behind on the posting! I've been visiting the places, I just need to turn my notes into write on the look out for a catch up over Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Week 11: the Zenith Tea Room

On Sunday, Emma and I had a brunch date with the stipulation, "make it something vegitarian..."

Alright, I can work with this --- after a flick of the Urban Spoon iPhone application (note: this was not my iPhone, I'm a Blackberry gal), we found the Zenith Tea Room on 26th and Sarah Street in the SouthSide. This vegitarian dining establishment, turned antique store, turned art space has the witty tagline of "The Zenith Tea Room: Where your seat can literally be sold out from under you..." Such an interesting concept! But the big question is, how was the FOOD?

Well, friends, it was AWESOME! When you walk in for Sunday brunch, you most likely will wait (but not for too long), and shortly your waitress will sit you down at family dinner tables shared with strangers. Here's the run down...

$10.00 gets you:
- One hot item off of their brunch list that changes weekly (I ordered cinnamon french toast with pears, Emma ordered scrambled eggs with ricotta cheese and red peppers)
- A tea (you knew it would come up sometime based on the name of the establishment), or in my case a coffee--lots of work to do yesterday afternoon.
- An unlimited visit to the salad buffet. They literally have fifteen different types of salads. My personal favorite, the chickpea/cucumber salad. Careful, some of the items are surprisingly spicy!
- THE MOST IMPORTANT PART: An unlimited visit to the cake bar. It's not just any cake bar, either. These cakes are moist grandma-esque cakes. My favorite was an apple cinnamon cake with cream cheese icing...mmm.

Bottom Line

You don't have to be a vegitarian to love the Zenith Tea Room. So, go Enjoy a nice whimsy Sunday brunch this week --- and make sure you look up when you do so, the ceiling decorations are really fun!

Zenith Tea Room on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 2, 2009

Week 10: Abay Ethiopian Cuisine

Just off of Penn Circle in East Liberty, there is an Ethiopan restaurant named ABAY --- which, in Amharic, refers to the main source of nourishment for the Nile River (no, I didn't take a night class in African languages, I just read the menu).

I'll describe my experience as a series of several internal (yet wonderful) debates...

Debate Number 1: I'm 99 % sure that this debate comes up for the majority of patrons, that is --- Where is Ethiopia?

Well, it's right here:

(and also it's noted on the map in the vestibule of the establishment --- It's like they knew we were unsure!)

When you enter ABAY, you have the option of eating at a table or on traditional stools at the front window. Steve and I opted for a table, as I was already kind of in my Halloween Costume(just the dress), and stools are difficult in a dress.

Debate Number 2: What to have to drink?

Might I recommend bringing a bottle of wine?...that's right --- ABAY is BYOB!

Debate Number 3: What to order?

I'm not going to lie, I am completely clueless when it comes to Ethiopian food (as I'm assuming many of you are as well --- if not, I'm impressed). The menu has it's own glossary of Amharic terms, but I was still a bit puzzled. Thankfully, our waitress had some GREAT recommendations. Here's what we went with:

The Combination Platter for 2:

  • Zizil Tibs: It's a spicy mix of beef strips, awaze (spicy paste made from red pepper, garlic, ginger, and cinnamon), peppers, onions, and herbs. But not too spicy, my low tolerance could handle it, especially with our wine to calm my palette.
  • Gomen Besiga: It's cube beef mixed with kale, peppers, ginger, garlic, and onions. THIS was my favorite, and consequentally I have a huge bag of kale in my fridge after a trip to the Strip District the next day.
  • Doro Minchet Abish: It's chicken diced and simmered in a berebere (like awaze, but a powder instead) stew.
  • Ayib be Gomen: Or, as I like to call it, greens and cheese. This one came from the vegetarian portion of the menu, and it was a nice accompaniment to our carnivorous first few dishes.
All of this comes atop ABAY's injera, a light, soft, flat bread that comes on a pizza tray for the table. No utensils, just the injera for scooping.

The Bottom Line

I never would have guessed it, but I am in love with Ethiopian food! I can't stop thinking about how cool the environment was, the expert wait staff, and how much fun it was to eat with my fingers (without making a mess or a slap on the wrist)! ABAY is reasonably priced (on a once a week budget), easy to get to, and even more fun to talk about afterwards.

So, the next time you are in the mood for a change, hit up ABAY, and "Enjoy one of the world's most unique cuisines..."

Abay Ethiopian Cuisine on Urbanspoon