Pittsburgh Food News: December 2012

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And, there’s no better way to celebrate than with some festive food. We have a collection of hors d’oeuvres recipes sure to please every guest at your holiday cocktail party and a whole slew of soulful soups that will warm you to the core during this snowy season. Enjoy this wonderful and wintery weather (and the food that comes with it!) while it lasts.

by Abby DiBenedetto | Photographs by Cayla Zahoran | Styling by Allie Wist

 

Buck Up

It is a cold, rainy Pittsburgh day, and I’m walking up East Carson Street toward Rowdy Buck to warm up with some stellar spirits. The rambunctious joint has a long list of signature cocktails, all of them totally unique to the establishment, not to mention delicious. I pick a barstool and take my seat, still shivering from the wicked cold wind, when the bartender serves me the perfect solution — this tasty trio. Rowdy Buck, 1323 E. Carson St., South Side. 412.431.22825. rowdybuck.com.

Pittsburgh Food Tour: December 2012

From left to right: Not Your Mama’s Mule (Granny-Smith-apple-infused vodka with fresh ginger, cinnamon + lime) | Buckin’ Julep (Buffalo Trace Bourbon, apple brandy, mint + cinnamon) | Harrison 9 (Rye whiskey, apple brandy + Medley #3)

 

Soulful Soups

With a tagline like “Artfully simple dishes fresh from Iovino’s,” you better try the seriously delish selection of soups at Café io. What could be a better testament to made-from-scratch cooking than a bowl of tomato basil or a cup of chicken noodle? Chef Iovino lets fresh ingredients hold their own, whether it’s tomato cream and basil, or housemade chicken stock with roasted chicken, carrots, celery, onion, and pastina. Chef adds diced country ham to a creamy white bean puree for his Ham ‘n White Bean, and braises brisket for a hearty chili paired with kidney beans and tomatoes. For a slight twist on a classic, Iovino makes a rich French Mushroom with onions and fresh mushrooms, topped with housemade croutons and decadent shaved Parmesan cheese. For a seasonal treat, don’t miss the vibrant Curry Butternut Bisque with roasted butternut squash and crispy onion topping. In deliciously simple dishes like these, each ingredient has to shine, and at Café io, you can taste that in every spoonful. Café io, 300A Beverly Road, Mt. Lebanon, 412.440.0414, iovinoscafe.com. — Lauren Schmeer

Pittsburgh Food Tour: December 2012

Soups (clockwise from top left): Brisket Chili, French Mushroom, Curry Butternut Bisque, Ham ‘n White Bean, Chicken Noodle, Tomato Basil

 

It’s a Date

Pittsburgh Food Tour: December 2012Looking for a fun, festive holiday activity to share with loved ones? Make a date with Chop, Wok, and Talk! Owner and Instructor Dorothy Tague teaches creative cooking classes all year long, but her holiday repertoire is especially informative and entertaining. We took the Feliz Navidad class for throwing a Spanish holiday tapas party. This class taught us all of the essentials for executing a successful Spanish menu — and we passed with flying colors (if we do say so ourselves!). The Spanish Salad with oranges, black olives, raisins, and sunflower seeds, topped with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing, is fresh. The bright flavors are the perfect complement to the lamb skewers we seared by hand. After creating a crust and cooking the kebab through, we topped with a pomegranate-Rioja wine vinaigrette and a mint almond relish. The best part of this class? Enjoying the end product with friends and sangria. For more information and a class schedule, visit chopwoktalk.com.

UPCOMING HOLIDAY CLASSES:

Holiday Cookies and Candy Class
$65, December 1, 11am – 2pm

Feliz Navidad Spanish Holiday Tapas Party Class
$75, December 7-8, 6-10pm + December 9, 4-8pm

Chop, Wok, and Talk, 5404 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. 412.362.0679. chopwoktalk.com.

 

Did You Know?

Tucked beneath the Omni William Penn Hotel lobby, Speakeasy — a sophisticated, social lounge — is welcoming patrons for its first month in operation. In true ‘20s tradition, the elegantly nostalgic space will feature exclusive elixirs, such as Absinthe, and classic cocktails. The intimate restaurant is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for cocktails. We’ve already chosen our favorites! Omni William Penn Hotel, 530 William Penn Place, 412.281.7100. omnihotels.com/pittsburgh. — Andrea Bosco

Pittsburgh Food Tour: December 2012

From top to bottom: Blind Tiger (Double-brewed tea, sour mix, Batavia Arrack, Benedictine, Cherry Heering + Swedish Punsch) | Manhattan (Old-fashioned bitters, Evan Williams Black Label bourbon + Luxardo maraschino juice) | Egg Flip (Pittsburgh Birch Beer Syrup, Hennessy, Grand Marnier + egg)

 

Are You Experienced?

I arrive to Nine on Nine hungry, knowing I’m in for quite a mighty meal. I’m here to experience Executive Chef Dan Carlton’s tasting menu, and it quickly becomes clear that this is more than just dinner — it’s a culinary event. Chef emerges from the kitchen, we chat for a bit (he’s gauging the level of adventurous eating my palate can handle), and after I assure him that I’m up for the task at hand, he returns to his post to prepare my first course. I eagerly await his return as I am teased by the aromas of other diners’ dishes, making their way from kitchen to table. As Chef Carlton presents the first dish (filet tartare), I am first taken back by its beauty and later by its taste. Every dish to come thereafter was better than the next. I swooned over a cool asparagus salad topped with a warm poached duck’s egg. I surprised myself with my enthusiasm for the unctuous, rich roasted bone marrow slathered on a grilled crostini. For a main course, Chef Carlton’s smoked short ribs literally melted in my mouth, and the heirloom beans served alongside were just as flavorful and deliberate. I highly recommend this fantastic food experience for anyone who likes to eat and adventure. Tasting the flavorful succession of Chef Carlton’s menu is truly a culinary experience to remember. Nine on Nine, 900 Penn Ave., Downtown. 412.338.6463. nineonninepgh.com.

Pittsburgh Food Tour: December 2012

 

Beyond Basics

Arpino Trattoria offers up traditional Italian family favorites, but Chef Goda doesn’t shy away from experimenting with and even modernizing some Italian classics, too. We recommend a dish Goda calls “a deconstructed stuffed artichoke.” This isn’t your traditional ravioli. The stuffing is a creamy combination of artichoke and Asiago cheese that is perfect for soaking up the extra virgin olive oil and white wine sauce. Chef garnishes with a grilled, long stem artichoke, cracked black pepper, and grated Pecorino Romano cheese — he finishes with fresh mint and garlic. This sophisticated dish could definitely be your new favorite — it’s fit to rival even your old-school Italian standby. Arpino Trattoria, 1910 Cochran Road, Scott Township, 412.207.2765. arpinotrattoria.com.   — Lauren Schmeer

Pittsburgh Food Tour: December 2012

 

_____________________________________________

This Food Tour is featured in the December 2012 issue of WHIRL Magazine.
Click here to browse the archive.