PGH Dining: Brasserie 33

 On Valentines Day, Husband took me to a restaurant I've been close to a dozen times, but never inside. Brasserie 33 is located next door to our laundromat, which might have turned a few people off. Strangely, we were happy to go, once Husband purchased a Groupon to take us to this mentally "back burner-ed" restaurant. It is next to the laundromat, so we hardly considered it!
 We sat at a table alongside the line of windows facing the street. When purchasing the Groupon, Husband was told the menu would be prix fixe,  but we were handed a one-sheet menu with several options. Lucky us!
 As we looked over the menu, we were given bread to munch on. The amount of butter was sadly not correctly proportioned to the amount of bread.
 The kitchen was just over Husband's shoulder, so we got to see the action!
 Our first part of our dinner was the steak tartar, a dish that neither Husband nor I had ever had. {Shocking, I know!} For me, tartars are interesting dishes, with the raw meat coupled with a raw egg yolk...something of an intense flavor shock. 
The dish was brought to our table, and we just stared at it. It was composed of large chunks of meat, marinated in an acidic sauce. First, we had expected a finely chopped, or even processed, product. The meat had a decent taste, but ended up being very chewy. Husband had a especially chewy piece, which may have been some sort of connective tissue. 
This dish was not our favorite, at all.
 We then moved on to another dish we'd never had: Oysters Rockefeller. This dish seems like a southern-ized version of oysters on a half shell. Someone please educate me on the past of these little lovelies. 
 The dish was flavorful and cooked well, but the details weren't there for us. The bacon/lardons were far too large, and overpowered the oyster, spinach and cheese. At the end of a bite, you were still chewing bacon. The fat had not been rendered well, either.
 Finally, we shared a salad to round out or appetizers. 
The salad was accompanied by toasts with a goat cheese spread on top - creamy and snappy! Lovely. The dressing was a Thousand Island of sorts, and was the best homemade version either of us had eaten in several years.
 For entrees, we chose the popular dishes of the night {they were on most of the tables around us}: seafood bouillabaisse and a roasted duck with currant glaze.
Roasted half duck, served with a scalloped potato stack and steamed vegetables.
Broth studded with seafood. 

 Both dishes were good, but the duck was my favorite. The sauce was sticky and sweet, which complimented the dark meat well. The sides were lackluster.
 While looking over the dessert options we enjoyed a Kir Royal, which, thank to our waiter, had extra "razzmatazz."
 Now, it's time for the HOLY MOMENT OF THIS MEAL. We ordered the apple tarte tatin. If you've ever watched the Barefoot Contessa or any french cooking show, you gape and stare at the episode when they finally arrive at making a tarte tatin. A fruit that's been encased in the most decadent caramel you've ever tasted {because it's homemade!}...a dessert that's almost perfect. Brasserie 33's offering was intensely perfect, and is certainly in my top 3 desserts of all time. {Dash Best} Husband doesn't even like cooked apples, but these were like slices of candied deliciousness.
 If you are ever in Pittsburgh, or specifically Shadyside, please go eat this dessert. Skip dinner, but have this dessert. You won't regret it in the least. 
In short, dinner was less than memorable, but the apple tarte tatin was unbelievable. 

Brasserie 33 on Urbanspoon


What I Wore Today: {Thai Date}

Husband took me out for Thai food at Smiling Banana Leaf, and I wore a combination of what I wore to my interview that day with "After 5pm" wear. {Check out those shoes, inspired by these lovelies}
Button Up: Jones New York.
Jeans: J. Crew.

Heels: Michael Antonio Anderson.
Heel Close-Up.
Bracelets: J. Crew | Ring: James Avery {Promise Ring circa 2006 from Husband}
Nail Color: OPI's Guy Meets Gal-Veston
At the restaurant.
What's your outfit transition from day to evening? Are you a dress with jacket to dress with chunky jewelry? Or like me, with adding a favorite pair of jeans to the top you wore for the work day?


PGH Dining: Smiling Banana Leaf

Last Friday night Husband and I were wanting to celebrate my success with all of the interviews I've been having {answers should be coming soon!}, but we've been going out A LOT lately. We decided on Smiling Banana Leaf, because of it's great reviews on Urban Spoon, it's close-by, and it's affordability. AND, it's Thai. Can't go wrong with that combination.
Located in Highland Park/Morningside, which is a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from us in UpLa, Smiling Banana Leaf is somewhat hidden in a residential area. After eating there, I might consider moving! 
We parked alongside the restaurant, and walked in to notice it's a TINY place. There's probably only room for 20 people to have dinner. We were asked by the hostess if we had a reservation {No?}, then were seated almost immediately in the only open table available. The one waitress came over shortly, and handed us one page, front-and-back menus. We proceeded to order two appetizers: Wonton Soup and Thai-Style Samosas.
Wonton Soup
The soup was filled with good-sized pork-filled wontons. They were cooked perfectly, and were complimented by the meaty broth. The mushrooms in the soup were particularly good, and weren't super normal or of the expected type. 
Look at that goodness!
The Thai-style samosas were MUCH smaller than I expected, as I was used to the pea and potato variety that are the size of your palm. These, however, were dainty and small. Their flavor was much more subdued, without the heavy spices of the normal samosa. These were still filled with potato, but were lighter. They were served with a sweet cucumber sauce, but were great with or without it. I wish there were a few more on the plate, because of the price {$5}.

For our main dishes, we ordered the massaman curry and the pad ped talay {Stir-fried mixed seafood with garlic, chili paste, onion, Kaffir lime leaves and green beans}.
Massaman Curry
The curry was "the best I've ever had," according to Husband. He's had a few curries in his time, and this one is his favorite, mainly because of the creaminess and the richness of the spices used. We could detect cinnamon, star anise and clove. Outstanding dish.
I took charge of the seafood dish, and ordered it very spicy. The plate was overwhelmed with tons of calamari, scallops, shrimp,  and fish fillets. Everything was cooked well, and nothing was hard and rubbery. The sauce itself was the essence of what Thai food tastes like to me: spicy and complex. You might only be able to pick out 3 of the blended ingredients, but you know it takes many to make it delicious. The green beans were such a nice surprise, too!

The portions were large, as expected, and we had enough for a lunch the next day. I cooked a generous portion of sushi rice, and poured the containers over top. 
Smiling Banana Leaf is one of our new favorites, and we can't wait to go back for more. One word of caution - for those that like to eat their Thai food with chop sticks, you have to ask for them! The tables are outfitted with forks only. {*Update: I've been privy to some information about chop stick availability...It's not typical for Thai cuisine to be served with chop sticks. I just prefer it!} Take your next date to have Thai food, and dine in a cozy restaurant!

Smiling Banana Leaf on Urbanspoon


Valentine's Day 2012 - BDIB {RED}

Happy Valentine's Day, Y'all! 
It's only half over, but I wanted to share Husband's gift with you guys! I was surprised earlier this weekend with a swanky present:
That's right! It's something Michael Kors...
Here's the inside of the pocket...
Have you guessed yet?
It's an iPad 2!
Who needs an e-reader now?!? Not this girl!
Okay, stop freaking out people. Husband did not BUY me an iPad 2 while I do not have a full-time job. He won it! He did purchase the case though, and kept the gift a secret for THREE WEEKS! This is a HUGE win for him because he usually can't keep a gift secret for longer than a few hours.
Love this gift! He does so well with Valentine's Day gifts. Stay tuned for the dinner post and a special Sarris Candies post. 

{Outfit Sneak Peak!}
I have two options on this chilly Valentine's Day. Check back to see which one I chose!

I was able to participate in the Bloggers Do It Better challenge for Valentine's Day, which was to wear red. What a sweet challenge Kristina has for us this time. This sounds simple, right? It's definitely a challenge for me because I have very few true red items. I'm usually drawn to more 'cool' colors like teal, light greens and buttery tans. Saturday I was out shopping for new work trousers in The Waterfront, and found this sweater at LOFT. This is the oufit I went with:

Sweater: LOFT | Skirt: J. Crew | Tights: Target
Heels: Michael Antonio Anderson via DSW
 And, RED LIPSTICK! {I'd never thought I'd see the day!}
Lipstick: Revlon ColorBurst Lipstick in True Red
{Happy Valentine's Day!}


PGH Dining: PLUM Pan Asian Kitchen

Often times during the week, I find myself not wanting to make the dinner I'd planned to make earlier while grocery shopping on Saturday or Sunday. Some nights you just feel like eating something specific for dinner. Friday night was one of those nights; I'd had a super stressful week {I am a busy job-seeker after all}, and to me, there's nothing better to soothe than sushi and cocktails.

We began driving around, ignoring our phone apps and GPS, and stopped at PLUM Pan Asian Kitchen on Centre Avenue, where it turns into Penn Circle South. We parked in the convenient attached parking lot, which was a bonus in our book.  We walked in to a bustling restaurant, and noticed it was nicer than we initially thought it would be. The lighting was delicate. It was a professionally-dressed crowd. The tables were covered in white tablecloths. We were seated at a two-seater booth plus chair in the middle of the main dining room, and proceeded to look at the several-page-long menu {the link doesn't include sushi or cocktail options...those are separate!}. 
Lady drink versus Man drink.
I ordered a spicy rum cocktail with light fruit juices, and Husband ordered a local stout. Both were super delicious. We then moved on to sushi, ordering the Marilyn Mon Roll {fried soft shell crab, avocado and caviar} and a spicy yellowtail roll {in lieu of the usual spicy tuna roll}.
Marilyn Mon Roll
It was mentioned as one of the patron's favorites.
Spicy Yellowtail Roll.
We both thought the rolls had a generous helping of fish and other ingredients for the price. Additionally, the sushi was on-point in taste. It wasn't outstanding, best-sushi-I've-ever-had, but we didn't have any complaints. 
I also ordered the Tealeaf Salad, which was to have an assortment of 'individual helpings' of nuts, dried fruits and other tasty bits glossed in a tamarind leaf dressing. 
Tealeaf Salad, with terrible lighting.
To pile the goodies on the outskirts of the plate was an interesting idea, and I especially enjoyed the toasted garlic chips on the side. Sweet, yet intensely garlicky. Slices that thin can become burnt so easily, but these were perfect!
The dressing, however, was not very strong, and was somewhat lost in all of the nuts, seeds and dried fruits. I was expecting it to be more 'tamarind flavored,' but it ended up being more of a simple vinaigrette.  I didn't miss it though! Lovely salad.
We then ordered another sushi roll, just because. Husband can never get enough of those fried crustacean rolls, so we ordered the Rock and Roll, which featured rock shrimp. Cute presentation!
The Rock and Roll...roll.
We ended the meal on a liquid dessert, in the form of a lychee martini. Sweet and tart!
Lychee Martini.
For a spur-of-the-moment dinner, PLUM served us well. It was certainly not too crowded to walk in without reservations, but we may have just hit the restaurant at the right time. I can imagine that this would be a fun dinner spot for a group of coworkers, or for a couple of friends catching up over several plates of sushi. If in Shadyside/East Liberty and in need of a sushi and cocktail night, PLUM Pan Asian Kitchen is it!

Plum Pan-Asian Kitchen on Urbanspoon