Tag Archives: Food

A Taste of Pittsburgh

Since my wife is in charge of meal planning for all of our trips, I wasn’t sure what to expect food-wise but I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of amazing restaurants in Pittsburgh. Highlights included:

Primanti Bros: Whenever I asked about Pittsburgh, people have told me that I have to visit Primanti Bros. The place has been around for about 80 years. It started out as a small sandwich shop in the Strip District and because most of the clientele were truckers, they started designing their sandwiches with french fries and coleslaw right on the sandwich itself….for ease of eating while driving. The four elements that make up most of the sandwiches….. the bread, meat, french fries, and coleslaw…were all delicious. The sandwiches were all big, solid, excellent sandwiches. Whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, or a late-night bite, I definitely agree that Primanti Bros. is worth a stop. Or maybe more than one….

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina: This unique hotspot is open for lunch and dinner, and they cook right on open wood! Whether you’re looking for chicken, lamb, steak, or sausages, this place has it all. The restaurant works a little differently than many other restaurants, as you line up, almost like a fast-food joint, if you will, and they only take your order once there’s a table available. After you place your order, you then sit down, and they deliver your food right to you, like regular table service. When it gets later in the dinner period and they won’t be able to seat anyone else, they give the last person a t-shirt that says “end of the line” and that person’s responsibility is to inform anyone else who shows up that they will have to come back another time. The service is amazing, and the staff are extremely friendly…in fact, once they learned we were from out of town, they accommodated us even though the person in front of us had the “end of the line” t-shirt. On top of that, they were kind enough to gift us with our own t-shirt after I was joking around with them. It’s a terrific place with great décor and service, topped with delicious food. If you’re ever in the area, it’s well worth standing in line for. Also, this local joint is BYOB!

Kaya Island Cuisine: This restaurant is in the Strip District and serves up some hot and tasty Caribbean food. Near the end of my trip, I was a little fooded out, and wanted something a little different. Although we hadn’t planned on going to this restaurant, we changed our plans given that the menu had so many unique dishes. We actually ended up sharing the food, as they had a lot of appetizers that all looked amazing, including conch fritters, baby back ribs, Jamaican jerk wings, a spectacular salad known as the Caribbean rainbow salad, crispy fish tacos, and pulled pork quesadillas. All of the food came out very hot and fresh, very nicely presented, and we were pleasantly surprised to learn that it was big portion sizes, big enough to share among three people. The service was very good, and the atmosphere was fun, lively, and vibrant. It was the perfect meal to end our trip. It seems that, despite the popularity of the Strip District, most of the area closes down earlier on Sunday nights and Kaya was one of the few restaurants that stayed open. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Peace, Love, & Little Donuts: This is a small donut shop found in the Strip District, and I guess appropriately, they serve small donuts…about half the size of a regular donut. They actually take a plain donut and jazz it up with different toppings, which you choose off of their extensive menu. We tried the apple pie, banana split, s’mores, and the strawberry french toast, but you can choose from almost one hundred more. We stopped by after brunch one day and it was the perfect ending to our meal, with the four of us sharing six donuts. Although there is a little bit of a wait while they prepare each donut, it’s well worth the extra time, and they ended up being an awesome sweet treat.

The Church Brew Works: This is a microbrewery located in a very large, old church. The food is good pub food, all designed to go with beer. The atmosphere was truly amazing and certainly worth visiting. They also conduct tours of the brewery two or three times a day.

Whether it’s sandwich shops, pizza joints, or even some chain restaurants, there is certainly no shortage of great food in the Pittsburgh area. Happy eating!

 

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A Party Down in Pittsburgh

As often as I can, I try to get out of town on long weekends and the recent Victoria Day long weekend was no exception. In fact, this time I turned the three day weekend into a five-day road trip and took my wife and daughter to Pittsburgh.

I haven’t been to Pittsburgh in about 25 years, but remember enjoying my last visit. Initially, we were only going to stay a day or two, go to visit Fallingwater and the Hershey factory, when I realized that Hershey was about three and a half hours in the opposite direction. So we changed our itinerary. It turns out that we had no problem finding tons of things to see and do in Pittsburgh! The city is very vibrant, home to many innovative companies, products and services, has truly fantastic restaurants and plenty of sporting events for the athletic enthusiast. I can honestly say that one out of every four people in Pittsburgh were decked out in black and yellow in an ode to the Pirates, Penguins or their beloved Steelers. This is a city that wears their love of the game on their sleeve…where everyone can see it!

Pittsburgh is a tourist friendly city! When we were trying to find a specific area of a large cemetery, to avoid having us get lost, the groundskeeper gave us an escort over to the exact location… in his cart. The next day, we stopped to ask a police officer how to find the Duquesne Brewery Clock (the largest single face clock in the world – two times the size of Big Ben!). Moments later, we found ourselves with a police escort right to its location!

Over our four day visit, some of our favourite sites included the Heinz Center, the Strip District, Randyland, and Fallingwater.

Of course, during our days of sightseeing we needed energy and found no shortage of great restaurants. For lunch and dinner, whether it was Primanti Bros., an Argentinian steakhouse, or some fun and whimsical donuts at Peace, Love and Little Donuts, you could simply eat your way through the city and walk away a happy camper.

Sports fans, don’t look any further than Pittsburgh, which has an NFL, NHL, and a major league baseball team. During my trip, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in town, and while they weren’t successful on the field, the ballpark was beautiful to see and it was a beautiful spring night for baseball.

Lastly, I have to mention a one-day excursion down to Fallingwater. Built by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this beautiful country home is about 1.5 hours away from Pittsburgh. It is a a gorgeous drive and should not be missed.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll highlight a few of the places on my trip, but needless to say, if you’re up for a fun and adventurous road trip, Pittsburgh should be next on your list!

 

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Leela will show you a great night on the town!

Recently, when my wife was out with a friend, they went to an Indian restaurant in The Junction area. When my wife returned home, she said she had a great meal and that it was a little different from most Indian restaurants she’d been to.

The place is called Leela Indian Food Bar and they describe their restaurant as “a journey of old Indian streets, with dhaba-style food”. The menu covers all regions of India, but has some different and authentic Indian dishes.

My wife has been wanting to go back for a repeat visit, so this past weekend, we made a reservation and headed there for dinner.

The restaurant is a small, rustic, but modern place, with approximately 30 seats. It has an open kitchen so you’re able to see the entire cooking process. When we arrived, we were greeted right away warmly and seated at a table that was already set for us. We were quickly approached by the server, who was very pleasant and knowledgeable about the menu items. Unlike most servers who don’t make recommendations until you ask, he told us all of his favourites and recommended items according to our tastes.

Even though they prepare all of the dishes as they are ordered, the food arrived quickly. All of the dishes were hot, fresh and everything was really beautifully presented.

During the course of the meal, the server was extremely attentive and made sure our water glasses were always filled. We received the bill soon after we had asked or it, and the payment was taken promptly. As we were getting ready to leave the restaurant, we were thanked for coming, given multiple coupons for a return visit (good for any night of the week….no restrictions!) and headed out for a walk in the neighbourhood.

Whether it’s just a night on the town, a first date, or a family function, Leela has great food, great atmosphere and is something a little different.

Leela
416-769-7777
http://www.leelaindian.ca

 

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The Birth of Customer Service

Once upon a time, some 2,000 years ago, a farmer by the name of Mac started selling eggs alongside the road. Once every so often, a neighbour of his would come by and buy a dozen or two. Soon enough, word spread quickly and he had a steady stream of customers to tend to each morning. Farmer Mac found himself content with the sizeable profit he had flowing in each day. Unfortunately for him, Farmer Bob took notice of his easy-going lifestyle and started to sell his eggs on the side of the road as well. To top it off, Farmer Bob offered a free bouquet of flowers with every purchase of a dozen eggs. Naturally, the ladies loved this and flocked to buy eggs from Farmer Bob’s.

Farmer Mac was quite miffed at this turn of events and thought long and hard about how to one-up his crafty neighbour. In the end, he decided to sell fresh meat along with his eggs. His customers loved the convenience and so he won their hearts over, once again.

Farmer Bob thought, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” and asked Farmer Mac if he wanted to set up one big shop at the end of the road. Farmer Mac agreed and they teamed up to sell different products together, including eggs, meats, milk, and flowers.

Soon after, more and more farmers asked to join them, selling their own unique wares. The customers loved the convenience of one stop shopping and Farmer Mac and Farmer Bob’s invention is now considered the birthplace of the modern day shopping mall.

To enhance the customer experience, a courier by the name of Jeff started offering a home delivery service, where those who were sick and elderly could buy products from the marketplace from the comfort of their own home. As more and more people preferred to order from home, Jeff’s service became more and more popular. Today, his company is known as the retail-crusher, tech giant, Amazon.

Okay, admittedly we’re just having some fun in advance of April Fool’s Day, but when you think of it, chances are that customer service did indeed start with a small farmer at the side of a road. Today, it is the key to drawing in consumers and making a profit.

 

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The Olympics are over…but the newfound appreciation for Korean Cuisine goes on!

A few weeks ago I was getting together with a former SQM employee and for a bit of fun I gave her the challenge of picking the restaurant. She asked me if I preferred better food or a fancier place and I responded that I’d like better food. I don’t care how fancy it is as long as the place has good food and a good atmosphere. Since her background is Korean, she picked a popular Korean restaurant near Yonge and Finch in Toronto.

Huh Ga Ne is a traditional BBQ restaurant that is open 24/7. They have your regular tables and the more traditional ones where you sit on the floor. I’ve been there three times now and it has always been insanely busy! The restaurant offers authentic, ethnic, and delicious cuisine!

The staff are very friendly, helpful, and are happy to make recommendations. I’ve tried both hot pots and barbecue…both options are excellent and filling. They have a nice selection of beers and drinks to choose from. Other than one small television that is usually tuned to CP24 and the news, all of the other, large screens are constantly playing kpop, which I personally find adds to the fun atmosphere. It truly is a relaxing, casual place, with a great Korean atmosphere.

Given the amount of business, the products are certainly fresh, and even though I’m cooking some of it myself, it has always turned out to be tasty and flavourful. Even better, it’s reasonably priced….two to three people could eat for $40.00 -$50.00 depending on what you order. If you want something not too far from midtown Toronto, and a fun, authentic experience, I suggest this cozy Korean spot.

416-901-1288
http://www.huhgane.com/

 

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Spice Girls Are Not the Headliner Anymore!

If you’re an avid baker, you may have realized that there is a worldwide shortage of vanilla beans. Not only is the price of supply skyrocketing, but it’s also making it difficult to find good quality beans. Since my wife had a recipe that required several vanilla beans, I went on a search looking for beans at a reasonable price. During my research, I came across a store that I used to be familiar with when I lived downtown. House of Spice located in Kensington Market in Toronto on Augusta Avenue.

I called up to find out if they had the product I was looking for, and much to my surprise, they stocked a few different varieties of the bean. The most popular is the Madagascar vanilla bean and while other places quoted as much as $12.00 a bean, House of Spice was selling them for $6.95. My wife and I decided to go down there to check out the quality. Much to her excitement, the beans were fresh and of high quality!

While we were there, my wife started looking around and found a number of different and unique ingredients that she had been searching for. Items like pickling salt, Ethiopian spices, and several different types of coffee were all right there, tucked into the little store. In addition to the wide selection of products and reasonable prices, perhaps what was just as important, if not more, was that the staff were extremely friendly and very knowledgeable.

When it comes to something like simple salt and pepper (this store had 4 different varieties of specialty sea salt and truffle salt!) you don’t need an expert, but with other products you need someone who understands what they are for, and how they should be stored. The employees at House of Spice were helpful, and clearly know their business! Although it is a small store, they manage to stock a lot of different items, so I would plan on browsing the shelves. In fact, why not make an afternoon of it? There are lots of other food stores in the neighborhood, as well as great restaurants to grab a bite.

House of Spice is definitely a worthwhile place to check out for anyone interested. Enjoy your cooking and shopping and remember to invite me for dinner!

House of Spice
416-593-9724
http://www.ehouseofspice.com

 

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A Slice of Happiness at Bitondo’s

Slice of pizza from Bitondo's Pizzeria.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself in my old stomping grounds, down near Little Italy. Feeling a little peckish, I decided to head along College to grab a quick bite. I had been circling around, looking for a parking spot in the residential area, when I came across a small restaurant I had bypassed hundreds of times…Bitondo’s Pizzeria.

It’s a small pizzeria that looks like a restaurant still stuck in the 50’s…with signs painted on the windows and minimal decor…a place that has made a name for itself with the quality of its pizzas, panzerottis, and pastas.

When I stepped in, I was greeted pleasantly by a young lady and asked what I would like to order. Since I was in a hurry, I ordered a pizza slice, which was immediately warmed in the oven. It was about $5.00 for a slice and a drink, and the place was doing a brisk business, with some people sitting at the few chairs and tables inside the restaurant, and other opting to head outside and sit on a bench in the warm weather.

Much to my surprise, the pizza reminded me of an old-style pizzeria’s – it was not too thick, thin, or chewy.  In addition, both the cheese and pepperoni were extremely tasty, and didn’t seem industrialized – the quality was fantastic.

My only complaint is that there wasn’t much of a selection of cold drinks, despite having a large cooler.

During my time in the restaurant, I noticed employees answering phones and making pizzas for delivery.  Sadly, I live too far away to be a regular delivery customer, however, if you want to try an independent pizza place, in an old-school style, I highly recommend Bitondo’s Pizzeria!

Bitondo’s Pizzeria
416-533-4101

 

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