What’s In Your St. Patrick’s Day Coffee?

With America’s favorite Irish holiday right around the corner, it’s time to consider what wonderful additive will go with this year’s St. Patrick’s Day brew (coffee).

Irish Whisky is a tried and true spike to your morning. There is a reason after all it is called “Irish Coffee”.

Creme de Menthe in your coffee is for those who add multiple sugar packets and need that semblance of “let’s drink green things” for the occasion. Think of it this way … Do you channel your inner Ross Geller?  

Not into mint or whiskey? Don’t let your friends tip them back without you over breakfast. Here are other ways to add some pizzazz to your coffee:

Amaretto will give you a nutty flavor for those who like their Hazelnut flavored coffees from Starbucks.  Caramel Vodka would suffice for those that like the sweeter spectrum. Of course both of these could also be topped with a whipped cream topping so you really get the coffee shop feel. Salted Caramel would also fit the bill. Lastly, chocolate liquers like Godiva would provide the most dessert-like experience of them all.

It would be a fun experiment to try what I call the “breakfast liquors” like the Van Gogh’s PB&J flavor, the Glazed Donut flavor from Mama Walkers, BAKON vodka, or Waffle flavored Georgi vodka. Probably wouldn’t want more than 1. Those Flavors don’t mix with typical bar mixers, so why not look to have breakfast in a cup and pair them directly with the coffee! 

Bar Louie opens North Shore location, free appetizers

After doing the Race to Anyplace at Heinz Field on Saturday, my team of faithful spinners decided to refuel nearby at the freshly opened Bar Louie next to Burgatory in North Shore Place developments. 

After six hours on a spin bike, we appreciated that we could walk right in and sit on a chair more comfortable than the bike seat. A round of beer in, the bartender informs us of a special free appetizer. Simply check in on Facebook and show your server and get a free appetizer. I’m sure this is for a limited time, so visit soon to get that offer.

I got the Chicken Nachos thinking they would be a good small recovery size, but boy was I wrong. This could have fed the entire team. I was happy with them. Very happy in fact, while I quenched my dehydrated body with an ice cold beer. 

I was happy I couldn’t finish the plate, especially when I went to log the nachos into MyFitnessPal. 1,532 calories. Ouch!

Good news for the upcoming baseball season that the nachos are a SHAREABLE appetizer that pleased my palate. Hopefully Pirates fans enjoy the the offseason additions of Bar Louie, Burgatory and soon North Park Lounge to their pre- and post-game hangout options.

5 Tips for the South Side Soup Crawl

5 Tips for the South Side Soup Crawl

5 Tips for the South Side Soup Crawl

The South Side Soup Crawl is an annual event to benefit the Brashear Association in the South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Being prepared for the afternoon ahead is critical for aspiring soup crawlers to get the most from there experience. As a multi-year veteran of the event, here are 5 tips to success for the South Side Soup Crawl.

1. You CAN DO IT

Don’t let the distance between two soups get between you and finding the best. The host locations for the crawl will have you making the the approximately 16 block trek along East Carson Street from 10th street to 27th, with several stops off the main street. Look at the crawl as an opportunity to get those FitBit steps in reach your step goal all the while sampling soup. It is quite manageable to make it from one end to the other (and back) within the 3 hours of the crawl. If you have to, treat it like a challenge. See how quickly you can do it all.

2. Plan Your Route Wisely

The list of host locations has been announced, so if you have an extreme planner in your group like we do, be sure plan your crawl route wisely. Side streets will be less crowded and may make for a faster route, but don’t forget the trusty saying “the straightest distance between 2 points is a straight line.”
Check out the list of participating restaurants and host locations.

3. Don’t forget to VOTE

The soup crawl uses a text-voting solution from JA Interactive which is quite wonderful. There are multiple categories. Follow the instructions closely to vote. The winners will be sent to you after the results are tabulated and you can savor in the satisfaction knowing that your voice was heard.

4. Look for Discounts & Offers

The restaurants aren’t just participating for the philanthropic aspect of the event, though that is the heart of the event. They also want to entice you to visit them after the event. Many will distribute coupons or offers for free appetizers, drinks for after the event or to be redeemed through the month of February. Be sure to leave room in your pockets to collect these offers and support the restaurants that you loved most.

5. Reputation Isn’t Everything, Be Open Minded

Have you been to some of the restaurants and not absolutely enjoyed it? That doesn’t mean there soup may not be out of this world. Branch out and attack the list of soups like they are all new, exciting offerings. What if a Mexican restaurant did an Irish Stew … for one day only … just because they can. It’s exciting creativity like that which has been able to capture the popular vote in the past. If you were to avoid the restaurant just because you thought you wouldn’t like it, then you would be a very a good judge.

Enjoy the Soup Crawl and let us know if you have any other tips to add.

Frickle, Bill's Bar and Burger

What is a Frickle?

A frickle is a breaded, fried pickle or pepper served at Bill’s Bar and Burger. It appears as an appetizer on the menu and is sized and served for general table sharing.

The peppers aren’t too spicy, so you shouldn’t have to worry about which you pick up.

Frickle, Bill's Bar and Burger

As for Bill’s Bar and Burger, the server was pleasant but messed up our order. The turkey burger was well cooked and delicious with the siracha slaw. The bar looks like it would be a nice happy hour spot, an upgrade from the location’s predecessor.

I was there for lunch and they were able to easily have us in and out in an hour. With some focus on service, the place shows some promise. Alas, downtown may be the last Pittsburgh neighborhood without a BRGR or Burgatory.

Build Your Own Pho, Quick Work Lunch in a Jar

Build Your Own Pho, Quick Work Lunch in a Jar

To attempt a healthier me in 2016, I am now targeting my midday nourishment to make some changes. The first hurdle is that my work office only has a toaster oven and an electric kettle to cook with. What can be made that isn’t a frozen processed food in a box? I thought why not focus on the electric kettle (it was a Christmas gift). How about Vietnamese Pho.

Instant Homemade Soup In a Jar, Vietnamese Pho

So I found an article about Pho in a Jar. I’ve never really been big on actual recipes, so I used it for inspiration. I bought a 12-pack of 16 oz. jars and went off to get some fresh veggies, rice noodles and ground turkey as soup filling. The recipe calls for Miso soup base, but that isn’t easy to find in a regular grocery store.

Since I couldn’t find a Miso base, my first batch of Pho uses a chicken stock base. There were two different recipes I concocted. Here is the first:

Fake-Noodle Pho
1 tsp chicken soup base
3 to 5 oz fresh Asian vegetable mix (carrots, onion, snow peas, zucchini, red pepper)
3 oz bean sprouts
3 oz cooked ground turkey
1 lime wedge
soy and/or sriracha to taste

Step 1: Place soup base at the bottom of the jar. Layer with fresh vegetable mix (ensure the vegetables are chopped small enough that they can be eaten with a soup spoon), bean sprouts and ground turkey.

Step 2: Lay lime wedge on top. Add a shake of the soy sauce bottle and a small squeeze or sriracha, if desired. Close jar and refrigerate at least 8 hours.

The jar which rested over 24 hours packed more flavor, so Patience makes the Pho grow stronger.

Lunchtime: Open jar and add boiling water. Lightly cover and let rest for 5-8 minutes. Remove lime wedge and stir. Enjoy.

Lessons Learned:
– Don’t squeeze the lime wedge, the citrus/acid will be too intense. Resting the lime in the jar was plenty effective. I plan to try lime zest next time as an experiment.
– I added a shake of fish sauce to one and the fridge marination resulted in an intense smell. I didn’t feel it added enough flavor to the Pho.
– Don’t be afraid to pack the jar with extra of your favorite ingredient. During the marination and addition of water, it will lose some volume.

Just Add Water, Instant Vietnamese Pho

I look forward to trying it with a Miso base, with tofu, shrimp and other great combinations. Have a flavor combo that I should try? Comment below.

Foie Gras from Twisted Frenchman

Our Twisted Date Night for Restaurant Week

With adventure in his heart and a grumble in his stomach, one night TasteBudA decided that Wednesday would be the best opportunity for a date night during Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Winter 2016 edition. His top choice after browsing the menus was The Twisted Frenchman, and so he made the reservation.

The Twisted Frenchman is located in the space formerly of Abay, a past favorite of ours. The interior was chic and the clientele dressed up. TasteBudA made mention that the neighborhood feels plucked from DC and not the East Liberty he grew up with.

My cocktail, the Vogue, was a vodka, white cranberry and lime martini/Cosmo with an orchid ice ball floating.

the Vogue, was a vodka, white cranberry and lime martini/Cosmo

Across the table, The Frenchman cocktail was served with billowing clouds flowing down the martini glass. Apologies for not capturing the magical display.

TasteBudA was very pleased with the Potato and Leek Soup, course one from the PRW special.

Potato and Leek Soup

I had the most delectable piece of foie gras that I’ve ever tasted. Both dishes were plated wonderfully and explained in detail upon delivery.

Foie Gras from Twisted Frenchman

For our main courses, TasteBudA had the duck while I had Salmon.

Rohan Duck, parsnip, sweet potato, grapefruit, foie emulsion

The pomme purée stole the show for me. The applewood smoked purée paired with the braised leeks were a match made in heaven. The salmon was, in my opinion, a little undercooked to my standard liking. But since salmon is a safe thing to eat raw, I ate it as the chef intended.

Salmon, béarnaise, braised leeks, potato nest

TasteBudA wishes we had saved this destination for a Valentine’s Day affair as it was quite romantic. Alas, I get to pick the restaurant for that occasion. The $90 8-course chefs tasting menu from Twisted Frenchman sounds great, but I have set my sights on somewhere else already. More to come on that later!

Looking for a NYE Dip for My Chips: Crack Dip

When searching the interwebs for a dip to take to the New Year’s Eve gathering this evening, I came across a recipe for “Crack Dip.” It’s one of those things that makes you want to read on … inspiring the same curiousity that made me purchase the new Lay’s 2015 Flavors, of which I was not a fan.

Taking this is certainly a better idea than my New Years Eve Cake from 2010, which ended up a disaster!


As it turns out, crack dip is quite easy to make. It’s a cold dip, so it’s perfect for gatherings where you don’t want to have to lug around a crock pot to keep your dish warm. I got regular tortilla rounds to have with the dip, though I would adventure into getting flavored tortillas or even plain Ruffles for dipping. For a more heartier and more-conscious party, consider serving atop pulled chicken lettuce wraps. The dip would add a complimentary flavor.

It has jalapeños, Mexicorn, sour cream, cheddar cheese and more … For the full recipe and directions, visit the blog that sent me to the store last night to fetch Mexicorn – An Affair from the Heart.Award Winning Crack Dip.