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Posted by on Dec 4, 2013 in Blog, Personal, Restaurant Reviews | 1 comment

Two Very Different Pittsburgh Dining Experiences

 

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Part 1 — A Visit to Pittsburgh’s Famous Penn Brewery

Part 2 — Dining With the Weinstocks (Grand Concourse Restaurant)

 

This week, I’m visiting Pittsburgh.

This city was pretty much a hellhole a century ago.  Once cloistered with gritty steel mills and coal depots, giant smokestacks barreled out a toxic blanket of blackness, gradually turning day into night, transforming any human lung within breathing distance into something that resembled a charred Brillo pad.

Today, Pittsburgh is a very different city.  A much cleaner city.  A city completely transformed.  Virtually unrecognizable in many ways from its early heyday as a buckle on the rust belt, what once was an industrial junction of steel, coal, and railroads is now a major center for banking, medicine, and higher education.

Yet even now Pittsburgh retains a core toughness about it, rooted in the rocky cliffs towering over the city’s three rivers and picturesque downtown, capped with fresh snow in early December.  It’s a city of contrasts — of tradition and innovation, of rivers and bridges, of long drives and short walks.

Pittsburgh’s also home to countless local breweries.  One of the oldest is the famous Penn Brewery, perched atop a hill in the historic working-class district of Deutschtown, once the home to thousands of struggling steel mill workers which ultimately helped spark the formation and eventual power of trade unions in America.

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Posted by on Nov 25, 2013 in Blog, Personal, Restaurant Reviews | 1 comment

Question for Foodies: What’s the Meal that Changed Your Life?

 

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What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?

That’s really an open-ended question, isn’t it?

Most of us would probably answer an expensive dinner at a fancy restaurant with our family or friends, perhaps on a special occasion.  That seems to be the most logical answer.

But ask Terry Anderson about his most memorable meal.  For those who don’t remember that name, Anderson was held captive for nearly six years in Lebanon by Hezbollah, an Islamic militant group.  While held prisoner inside a dark room most of the time, he was fed a horrible diet.  Anderson lost a third of his body weight while being a hostage.

When Anderson was finally set free, he was flown to a U.S.A.F. base in Germany, while in transit back to the United States.  At the time he landed, Anderson had not enjoyed what we would call a “normal meal” in six years.

Anderson was led into a cafeteria.  A chef was summoned to cook whatever Anderson wanted.  Imagine what that instant must have been like for him.  Think of being denied what you enjoy most.  What would you demand in that situation?  What would you hungry for the most?  Can anyone even contemplate making such a decision, unless you’ve lived through that kind of hell for six long years?

Probably not.

Even so — what do you think Anderson ordered?  Go ahead, take a wild guess.

I’ll return to this question (and answer) at the end of today’s article.

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Posted by on Nov 14, 2013 in Blog, Las Vegas, Rants and Raves, Restaurant Reviews | 15 comments

My Rant Against “The Crepe” at Tivolli Village (Las Vegas)

 

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How fucking difficult is it to make a crepe?

Well, it might as well be rocket science if you’re dining at the newest cafe-restaurant which just opened up at Tivolli Village, in Summerlin.  Wanna’ guess what the name of this new place is?  Try this:  The Crepe.

The most outrageous thing about our lunchtime visit today was — WE NEVER GOT ANY CREPES!

Can you fucking believe it?

Maybe they should rename this place The Air.  Or, The Wait.  That was the full extent of our lunch.  I’ll say this, it’s one helluva good place to go on a diet and lose weight.  Everything on the menu is low fat.  Er, make that no fat.

Here’s what happened.

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Posted by on Sep 16, 2013 in Blog, Las Vegas, Restaurant Reviews | 7 comments

Restaurant Review: Echo and Rig (Tivoli Village in Summerlin)

 

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One of the butcher cabinets at Echo and Rig. All meats are hand-craved on site.

 

Echo and Rig is unlike any other restaurant in Las Vegas.

First, there’s that odd-sounding name, chosen (I was told) because the owners thought it had a nice ring.  In a sense, the nonsensical name embodies the free-spirited and self-confident approach here to the entire dining experience — including food, drink, and service.

It’s best classified as a nouveau steakhouse, yet it also defies conventional description and expectation.  On one hand it’s a butcher shop, yet also offers an extensive salad and vegetarian menu.  It’s bar selection is top notch (Abita Amber on tap!).  Deserts are home made.  The staff knows and loves food.  Bargain prices compared to what you’d pay elsewhere.  What more could you ask?

Echo and Rig stands near the entrance to Tivoli Village, an upscale (but surprisingly affordable) enclave of excellent restaurants, specialty shops, and other businesses.  The district located across the street from the Sun Coast Casino.  Since its grand opening about 18 months ago, Tivoli Village has been introducing a Tuscany-style flair to Summerlin residents, with considerable success.  If excellence lies in getting the details right, then Tivoli Village has spared no expense in pursuit of creating not just a popular food court, but an entire neighborhood and atmosphere.  Pay a visit and look around at the architecture, the lighting, the ambiance.  This entertainment community is as nice as anything on the Las Vegas Strip, without the crowds of tourists and inflated prices.

By my count, Tivoli Village includes five solid restaurant choices, four of which we’ve tried (multiple times).  Topping the list, Cantina Laredo serves Mexican fare and is fantastic.  Kabuki is Japanese-themed and serves excellent lunch specials.  Poppy Den is a one of those celebrity chef joints that I’m not usually fond of — but turned out to be wonderful.  Brio is Northern Italian, and although a national chain, quite serviceable.  The View Wine Bar and Kitchen has a terrific happy hour with live music.  Then, there’s Cafe Leone, the perfect place to enjoy a coffee and pastry.  And now, let’s add a sixth worthy destination to the list — Echo and Rig.

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Posted by on Aug 19, 2013 in Blog, Las Vegas, Rants and Raves, Restaurant Reviews | 1 comment

The Whine Tasting: One Drunk Puppy

 

One Drunk Puppy

 

You know it’s a fucked up situation when the evening’s success depends on the goodwill of a scalper.

I’ll get to this in a moment.  But first, the preamble.

“One Drunk Puppy” seems like a strange name for a wine tasting event.  The proceeds raised from selling thousands of tickets for a room that comfortably holds about 150 goes to support a charity for homeless dogs here in Las Vegas.  Hence the odd name.  We love wine and who among us doesnt like dogs — so this was a “must-attend” event.

Marieta and I go to as many wine tastings as we can.  Most are pretty good since Las Vegas attracts a steady flow of wine marketeers, mostly from California.  As a general rule, the more expensive the tickets cost, the better wines that are served.  Since I’m the king of $9-a-bottle specials, attending the more refined tastings gives me a chance to sample wines that (in many cases) I wouldn’t be able to afford on a daily basis.

So, One Drunk Puppy is held at the Silverton Casino, across the highway from South Point.  Tickets cost $45 at the door.  It’s like 160 degrees outside, so we’re eager to step into the atrium where it’s nice and cool inside and wine is pouring aplenty.

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