The Daily Bongo
Friday, May 19, 2006 -- AfternoonI have developed a new addiction. This time it is to the caramel cooler from Caribou Coffee. The cooler is basically a Starbucks frappuccino, only smoother. I could never understand why Starbucks doesn't blend their drink more so it isn't clumps of ice bits. The other thing that I like about Caribou Coffee is that they have a daily trivia question. If you know the correct answer, you get $.10 off of your order.
Friday, April 28, 2006 -- EveningThis evening, my boyfriend and I went to Bahama Breeze for dinner. It was quite enjoyable. The wait time was not long even though there were a large number of people there. The restaurant is large with indoor and outdoor seating. One of the outdoor tables is for a large group of people and had a fire in the center of the table. The decor of the restaurant is in keeping with a the Caribbean theme. The food was wonderful, fresh, and very tasty. We started with the Jamaican Grilled chicken Wings which were huge, whole wings rubbed with Jerk seasoning. Jerk barbeque sauce was on the side, and a huge slice of fresh, juicy pineapple accompanied the dish. For the main course, my boyfriend had the Jerk Chicken Pasta which he said was very good, but not as spicy as he thought it would be. That doesn't mean he didn't like it, it was just unexpected. The dish came in a normal and light size. I had the fire-roasted Jerk shrimp which had a garlic-thyme butter dip and a whole hoagie sized loaf of bread for dipping. As a side, I had a bowl of fresh fruit that was made up of actual fresh, juicy pieces of pineapple, cantaloupe, and honey-dew melon. I finished the meal with the Dulce de Leche Cheesecake and a hot, alcoholic, coffee drink. The food was great, and the waitress was very attentive and pleasant considering how busy it was there. I will definitely be back.
Thursday, April 20, 2006 -- EveningMy boyfriend and I went to a restaurant opening today. We were invited to the opening, and it appears that everyone on the guest list was not charged. Never having been to a restaurant opening, I didn't know that it was good luck to do this. The restaurant is owned by the same folks who own and run Bangkok Balcony, and the food is of the same quality--extremely good. Silk Elephant is a Thai tapas restaurant, and the items on the menu this evening were just the tapas part. It was all very tasty, and even though things were tapas sized (ie, small), we were full. We had the chicken curry puffs--my favorite, and the crunchy taro, which was deep, fried taro with crushed peanuts and a hot, spicy sauce for dipping. We also had beef satay and fried calamari (dipped in washabi). To end the meal, we had a sampling of taro cake which was mushier than cake, but not as soft as pudding. It was very tasty, and I look forward to going again. The menu in future weeks should be more expansive with noodle and curry dishes.
Friday, March 24, 2006 -- Late EveningAfter the game this evening, my boyfriend, two other friends, and I went to Six Penn Kitchen. It's on Penn Ave in the Downtown area of Pittsburgh, several blocks from the Arena. The food there was actually good. The calamari was tender and tasty, the personal pizza with homemade mozzerrella, tomato, and basil was very tasty. We decided to get dessert which was a warm apple pie with cinnamon ice cream. The food was good even though abit on the small side. The nice thing about smaller sizes is that you don't overeat. The prices were comparable to the sizes, so I was not disappointed. The only negative was the number of items on the menu. It didn't have alot of options or variety. Even with that, I would go back again if I was in town.
Friday, February 17, 2006 -- EveningMy boyfriend and I returned to my favorite eatery, Bangkok Balcony. They have the best Thai food, and they have added a new item to the menu. They now have a pastry dough puff that is filled with either curry chicken or taro. Tonight we got the taro, and it was excellent. If you want to sample some of the best Thai food, Bangkok Balcony is the place to go.
Saturday, January 22, 2006 -- EveningI forgot to mention my restaurant experience recently at Sweetbasil and La Filipiniana. This is a Thai and Filipino restaurant that has opened a second location here in Squirrel Hill. The restaurant is split into two rooms, so there is plenty of seating and space. The food was very tasty but not as hot as I expected for the levels requested. We started the meal with the Sa-Tay Chicken and Crispy Curry Puffs. The puffs were exceptionally good with a light pastry dough filled with a curry chicken and potato stuffing. The puffs were bite size and we had one for each person. So the second appetizer wasa a needed. The Sa-Tay chicken was typical of others of its kind. For the main course, I had the Mussamen Curry with chicken which was the monthly special. The curry was made over a 24 hour period and it was equal in taste to the place with the best curry, Bangkok Balcony. The only problem that I had with the food was that the spicy level seemed extremely bland. The curry was supposed to be at level 5, but it tasted like a level 0. My boyfriend's sister had the ginger chicken and asked for level 5 and that also was not hot at all. I filled out a survey card and expressed by displeasure with the spice level. Other than that the food was very good and tasty. Be forewarned, if you go there, you might want to try a level 10, and hopefully you might get something that in actually is a level 2.
Wednesday, November 9, 2005 -- Early AfternoonI didn't get to watch Amazing Race 8 or Bound for Glory last night because I went out with a group of friends to try Claddagh Irish Pub located at the SouthSide Works. I was looking forward to the visit because the restaurant has homemade shepherd's pie. I've made my own shepherd's pie so I was looking forward to trying it. The design of the restaurant is centered around the bar, hence the pub part of the name. Booths were scattered along the side of the bar, and since we were a large party of nine, we were placed in one of the back rooms. The items on the menu were responsibly priced with appetizers and sandwiches under $10 and entrees under $20. My boyfriend and I started out with the Pots of Gold which were potatoes that were peeled, cut in half, scooped out and filled with cheese and scallions. The potatoes were tasty, and plentiful (six halfs in all). For the entree, I decided against getting the whole shepherd's pie on my own because I heard that it was large, so I went for the half order of fish and chips. The half order was large, with a huge slice of fish. The fish was crispy, but not remarkable. The chips were large, seasoned fries, again unremarkable, and the side of coleslaw was a miniscule portion that was average in taste. Others ordered the shepherd's pie and I was immensely disappointed when I saw it. Bascially, it was a bowl of seasoned ground meat with huge chunks of carrot in it with a scoop of lumpy garlicy mashed potatoes on top. Every shepherd's pie recipe that I have seen has the meat covered with potatos on top that form a crust. It was not at all what I expected, and I was very happy that I didn't get it. My boyfriend had the salmon with dill butter, and it was okay--again a dish that was average and nothing to be excited about. I decided to get a dessert and got "Bailey's Crepes: Two thin crepes filled with a Bailey’s cream cheese, rolled and topped with a raspberry and blackberry fruit compote." Again it was a disappointment. The crepes were tough and tasteless and the cream cheese was also bland. All in all, I would have to said that Claddagh's was a huge disappointment to the palate, and I probably won't be returning in the future.
Tuesday, November 1, 2005 -- AfternoonI had a very nice lunch today. The McRib is back! A McRib is good eating. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of savoring this tasty morsel, the McRib is McDonald's answer to a rib sandwich. It's a slab of preprocessed pork meat slathered in tasty barbeque sauce. Pickles and onions are scattered on the sandwich. It is one of my favorite foods and offered only for a limited time at McDonald's in the Pittsburgh area.
Saturday, September 17, 2005 -- EveningMy boyfriend and I went to an early dinner so we could watch the Pittsburgh Panthers game this afternoon on a big screen television. More about the game later, but first I wanted to mention the great experience that we had at Buffalo Blues located on South Highland Ave. in Shadyside. The restaurant is known for having great wings (they have been voted best in Pittsburgh in some local polls) and for having blues music. Today they had all the large screen televisions (of which there are several scattered all over so every seat has an excellent view of a large screen) focused on the Pitt game. The food was served quickly by a very alert and responsive waitress. The wings are some of the best that I have had in a restaurant. They were meaty and on the large size. Usually when you go to a restaurant for wings, you get an anorexic chicken. Not at Buffalo Blues! The flavor of wings that we got today were garlic parmesean (drier, less saucy wings), Buffalo Blues (a buffalo style sauce), and spicy garlic (with hot pepper flakes scattered on the wings). I gave in to the inner fatty who is quickly becoming the outer fatty since I haven't been as mobile since the bunion surgery, and we got the fudge brownie ala mode with chocolate sauce. It was enormous and fabulous with an extra container of hot chocolate sauce on the side for additional pouring and dipping. I was really impressed with the atmosphere, the price ($8 for a dozen wings), the quality of the food, and the service which was exceptional considering how busy it was. I would definitely go back again and recommend the place to others.
Monday, August 15, 2005 -- AfternoonBecause I love the curried chicken Salad from the Cafe at Frick, I decided to try the recipe that I got from the wait staff the last time I was there. The salad is very tasty, and I'm not sure that even with the recipe that I did it justice. I have it cooling in the refrigerator now, and we will see how it turns out. Here is the recipe:
Curried Chicken Salad
2 chicken breast halves, diced
2 1/2 tsp. curry powder
1 3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground coriander
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 to 3/4 cup mayonnaise
Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a heavy skillet. Add garlic and spices, and cook over medium heat for about one minute. Add diced chicken, stirring to coat with spices. Cook over medium heat (to keep the spices from Scorching) until chicken is fully cooked. Remove the chicken from the pan. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar until the pan is clean and vinegar is syrupy. Pour over chicken and cool completely. When the chicken is cool, chop it by hand to a medium-fine texture. Add 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar and enough mayonnaise to make a spreadable mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
From the sampling bite that I took, I noticed that the taste of balsamic vinegar is stronger than I think it should be. As I said, I'll let it sit for abit in the refrigerator, and then see what it is like.
Saturday, June 18, 2005 -- EveningThis evening, my boyfriend, his sister and I went to the Cheesecake Factory. It's located on the South Side in an area called the SouthSide Works. The location is being built up with a variety of shops (mostly upscale) to compete with the Waterfront area. The Cheesecake Factory is off of the main street, East Carson Street, but is within sight of the road. Although there is a usually a wait before being seated, the area outside of the restaurant is quite nice. There is a area for a band called the Town Square, and tonight the group was the String Cats. The music was the swing type that you would hear from Frank Sinatra. It was very nice to sit on the bench, listen to music, have conversation, and watch the fountain display. The fountain is a group of perhaps 24 spouts that are placed in the middle of the square. The water spouts up in a changing rhythm. It was very soothing and relaxing. Now on to the Cheesecake Factory itself. The seating area is large, but arranged in such a way that you feel some privacy as you sit in one of the booths. The food was good, and the portions were enormous. The menu is huge, and I had alot of difficult making a selection. We started out with an appetizer, and got the Bruschetta. This was an 8 inch round of pizza dough that was piled high with chopped tomato pieces, garlic and olive oil. It was tasty--abit too many tomatoes, but I am not a big fan of tomatoes. For the entree, I chose the Veggie Curry Pot Pie. The puff pastry was enormous, and overwhelmed the dish. I would have preferred more of the veggies in the dish, and a smaller size in the overall dish. My boyfriend had the salmon special which came with french fries and steamed broccoli. He said that the salmon was tasty. My boyfriend's sister had the fresh Fish Tacos. There were three tacos, and the sides were black beans, rice and guacamole. She liked the tacos which were made with grilled mahi. The spicy avocado cream was abit overwhelming though, and took away from the taste of the fish. The guacamole was salty too. We weren't disappointed in the food, just not overly impressed. The dessert menu in enormous, and dominated by cheesecakes. However there are other options, and we got settled on sharing a chocolate cake. It was a huge piece. Even with three of us sharing, we weren't able to finish it. In fact, a large portion was left over. The cake was very tasty and moist. Desserts are definitely great. I will go back because the area is nice, and the food is decent.
Saturday, June 4, 2005 -- EveningThis afternoon, I went to the Coffee Tree here in Squirrel Hill. Since the weather was so nice, I thought that it would be nice to sit outside at the sidewalk tables the store provides. The outside experience was pleasant and the coffee drink, a frozen carmel coffee, was good. The problem was that the service was horrible! After my order was taken, the drinks were made, and then were set aside before they were completed so they could work on drinks that came after mine. I was abit perturbed by this, and had to call it to the attention of the two coffee makers. Then because I didn't want whipped cream on the drinks, and I suppose they can't give you the raised whipped cream style lid if you don't get whipped cream, the girl slopped out some of the drink to put a lid on the cup (losing an inch of drink), and gave me the plastic glasses in the sloppy, messy condition. My boycott is on! I won't be going to Coffee Tree for drinks again this summer. In my opinion, it's not only the quality of the food and drink that's important, but the level of service. The level of service today was extremely below par. I should have known it was not going to be a good experience based on the flies inside the pastry case that were buzzing the unwrapped food.
I did have two very good slices of New York style pizza at the Italian Village on Forbes Avenue here in Squirrel Hill. The service is always quick, the food is hot, and where else can you watch someone actually twirling the pizza dough in the air? The store also has very good prices. $3.50 will get you two large slices of pizza and a drink.