Monthly Archives: March 2010

61c Cafe, Pittsburgh, PA

So, Monday night when I walked into The 61c Cafe, I fell in love. Immediately, I felt like I was home. Even though I was on a familiar street in familiar Squirrel Hill, I think that with little effort I could have convinced myself I was in another country far away. And I loved that.

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How to Cook Rice

Recently, I’ve been asked my many people how to cook rice. Most people think that cooking rice is easy, but it can actually be difficult. Often the rice comes out undercooked, overcooked, or clumpy; all things you want to avoid. Let’s start with the basics. Regardless of what type of rice you’re going to make, rinse it thoroughly in a pan. As you let the water wash away the impurities, you will notice that the water is cloudy. This is excess starch, and excess starch can cause the rice to become gummy and stick together. Continue rinsing the rice until the water runs clear- this will indicate that you have washed away all of the excess starch and loose kernels. With your clean rice in the bottom of your cooking pan, add enough water to cover, and add an additional inch of H2O. After you have added the water, add a small amount of seasoning (salt and pepper). Put on high heat, and let the rice/water mixture come to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Allow the rice to cook for at least 20 minutes before checking it. Check the kernels by tasting them; they should be firm to the bite, not soft. With brown rice, you will need to let it cook for an additional 20 minutes before testing. Remove the rice from the burner, and let sit covered for 15-20 minutes. Remove the cover from the rice, fluff with a fork, and serve.

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Eleven, Pittsburgh, PA

I’ve heard nothing but raves about the burgers at Eleven in the Strip, so a trip to a member of the Big Burrito restaurant group was in order. We decided to go informal and sit in the bar. As we entered, I noticed that the entire establishment was very dark. We were greeted by a very kind hostess who escorted us to the bar area. There were high top tables and some very comfortable looking plush chairs situated right by the windows. We pushed two high tops together to accommodate our group of six.

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Eggs-R-Us, Pittsburgh, PA

A while back, I reviewed Pamela’s, a trendy breakfast joint in Shadyside. Although Pamela’s has a great reputation, I was disappointed. As a follow-up, I’d like to introduce you to a diner that I do love. It’s called Eggs R Us, but please forgive it’s ridiculous name. The breakfast speaks for itself.

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Aiello’s versus Mineo’s Pizza

Those of you familiar with Squirrel Hill have undoubtedly witnessed this fight before. It’s a fight that goes back for years and years. Many people have put their own taste-buds to the test in this age old question. Those of you who are unfamiliar with these neighborhood pizzerias, well, you’re also in for a treat. Because tonight I will find out for myself which of these landmark Squirrel Hill pizza joints really is the Best of Murray Avenue.

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Secrets to Great Barbecued Ribs

Ribs aren’t always easy to make. If you’ve ever been to a dinner party, and bitten into a gristly, tough rib, you know what I mean. Everyone swears they have the secret to good ribs. My neighbor swears that if you boil your ribs before grilling them, they become tender and soft. The only problem is, all the good flavor from the ribs is going to be left behind in that pot of water. I met another woman who sprinkled her ribs with lemon Kool Aid; her ribs were excellent! So, if you’re looking for some ideas for great pork, baby-back ribs, give this a try.

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Uncle Sam’s Subs, Squirrel Hill

I’ve had my fair share of subs. This isn’t something I’m proud of, it’s merely a fact. I’ve traveled through Oakland, most of the East Suburbs, Downtown, and Monroeville. Of all the sandwiches I’ve enjoyed over the years, some of my favorites are being made at Uncle Sam’s Subs, in Squirrel Hill. Uncle Sam’s Subs has a wide variety of selections that can be seen on their wall-mounted menu. Among some of the offerings are: The Mediterranean ($4.15), zucchini, tomatoes, grilled onions, black olives, cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce, The Roma Vegetable Sub ($4.15), broccoli, green beans, mushrooms, zucchini, and sweet peppers, The Vegetable Florentine ($4.15), spinach, sweet peppers and fontina cheese. If you’re more of a carnivore, you can go for the Steak Sub ($4.05), The Cheese-Steak Sub ($4.30), The Pepper Mushroom Steak Sandwich ($4.65), Steak and Egg Sub ($4.30), Capicolla and Cheese Sub ($4.15), or the Chicken Cheese Steak ($4.65). Although all of the sandwiches are good, I always opt for the “Ultras.” These are pretty much the same sandwiches as above, but with extra everything! Extra meat, cheese, toppings=extra YUM. All of the sandwiches are prepared in front of you, on a flat grill. The steak, chicken, or other protein is grilled, cheese melted, then the sandwich is built…fresh and tasty! You can choose between regular or whole wheat bread for your sandwich. I recommend the whole wheat- it has a hearty texture and great flavor. It also helps me rationalize ingesting a few thousand calories at one sitting. One more thing…the fries…oh the fries…they’re crisp, salty, and starchy; a must if you’re ordering one of these colossal sandwiches. Uncle Sam’s Subs also offers a wide variety of domestic and imported beers.

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Willow Restaurant, Pittsburgh,PA

Willow describes itself as a restaurant that serves “contemporary American” cuisine. While I’m not sure exactly what that means, I do know one thing–It’s darned tasty.

With nine different dining rooms, you can have a different visual experience each time you visit. On my most recent lunch visit, I was seated with my family of four in a room surrounded by comfy looking couches and a fireplace. With only two other groups of diners in the same area, it felt like we were lounging in a swanky lodge, après skiing.

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Church Brew Works, Pittsburgh, PA

Have you ever been to dinner in a palatial restaurant that was once a church? Well, that’s what you will find if you choose to have dinner at Church Brew Works. Besides having good food, Church Brew Works brews, and serves its own beers.

It’s hard to believe that a building so vast could house a restaurant, but it does. One of the first times I had dinner at Church Brew Works, I remember entering the parking lot and seeing something peculiar. There were people standing in the parking lot, looking up. A large collection of bats were circling the top of the church, hundreds of bats, it was creepy. Maybe the bats knew something we didn’t.

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Tessaro’s in Bloomfield

Char-grilled burgers, big ones, that’s what you’ll find at Tessaro’s in Bloomefield. Besides having great hamburgers, Tessaro’s has a rich history. It’s been around for years, and has enjoyed continued success. The continued success can be attributed to the atmosphere, wood- grilled food, and the wait staff, many of whom who have been around for years.

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