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    Merle Exit Share's Her Trip Dining At Pittsburgh Restaurants

    After Esther, my rubber chicken and I Jet Blued to Pittsburgh, we checked in at the Courtyard by Marriott in Shadyside complete with a comfy bed and much needed work desk for my computer. First food spot! It was off to lunch at Point Brugge Café, European café mode, in the neighborhood called Point Breeze. I sampled an appetizer of an artichoke and spinach concoction, followed by an order of lentil soup with lamb sausage.  

    A walking (and eating) tour of the Lawrenceville section is home to the “16:62 Design Zone”, a funky district that includes antique shops, artist galleries, boutiques and accessories. Lawrenceville is one of those up-and-coming revitalized neighborhoods. Sherris Moreira-Byers of Sole City Tours conducted the tour, which commenced at Dozen Bakeshop and Dozen Cupcakes.  

    The bakeshop on Butler Street, one of five locations, provides some of the best cupcakes going. Partners James Gray, the recipe provider, and Andrew Twigg (whose grandfather once lived in Lawrenceville) have recently won an award for having the best buns! Andrew told me that it’s their Lawrenceville locale doing the baking. Along with their baked goods, they also set up sandwiches as well. I found “Dozen” at the Andy Warhol Museum as well as the being the dessert supplier for Tamari Restaurant…later about that.  

    Believe it or not it was soon time for dinner at Tamari's, an infusion of Asian and Latin American cuisine. I began with a pretty good sake that was not filtered. We all had a small appetizer of skewered and grilled items served with three dipping sauces - ponzu butter, ginger and chimichurri. Sushi was important! Maki rolls. One was a lobster roll in two portions. The lobster tail was filled with some of the tail's meat and prepared “tempura” while the maki rolls had some other good stuff with it. There was also a TNT roll with tuna, salmon, yellowtail, masago, avocado and tempura fried. Naruto roll of salmon, tuna, yellowtail, tobiko, wrapped with cucumber, served with ponzu. As an entree I had Charred Serrano Hoi Sin crusted Lamb Lollipops with sweet potato mash and cilantro-mint chimichurri.  

    I just couldn’t pass up a dessert of a green tea layer cake! I didn’t know then that “Dozen” baked it. Oh yeah…Chef Roger Li is the creator of this incredible food and Allen Chen is the owner who shared how much the storeowners in Lawrenceville are extremely supportive of each other.

    We’re off to a neighborhood known as the Strip District known as Strip District. Once home to mills and factories along the Allegheny River, the area has developed into a historic market district with loads of ethnic food purveyors, antique dealers, art studios, unique boutiques and much nite-life.  

    This time it was Sylvia McCoy of Burgh Bits & Bites Food Tour that forced fed us…not really. Penn Avenue is the main street (vs. Main Street), where Wholey’s, a supermarket specializing in fresh seafood, meat and poultry, was our first stop. Here I sampled fried smelt, that didn’t. It was the first time that I tasted smelt. I’m happy to say that it did not have a “fishy” taste. There was a sushi station where I had another first nibble, that of baby octopus. www.wholey.com  
    In was on to McKees Rocks Bread Company aka Mancini’s a few doors down, to nosh on Pepperoni Roll. The bread itself is baked to obtain a soft shiny white crust with a creamy colored middle. I found the roll to have a great flavor but would have loved doing various breads with olive oil dippings.  

    Still into the staple food mode, we were off to Pennsylvania Macaroni Company for a cheese tasting. There was “Dear Heart” behind the counter. Carol Pascuzzi always refers to her customers as “Dear Heart” and so the name has stuck with her. I had Carol on my radio show and we talked cheese. I had never encountered as many types of cheese in one place or someone as knowledgeable about so many. David Sunseri is the head honcho of Penn Mac supplying much more than cheese or macaroni, for that matter.

    We haven’t departed Penn Avenue as Enrico Biscotti was just down the block. It would be much easier if there were a choice of maybe three or four flavors, but noooooo! Here they are: almond, anise almond, apricot, apricot hazel, banana walnut, black forest, black pepper walnut, cherry, chocolate, chocolate orange almond, chocolate vanilla swirl, cinnamon, coconut chocolate chip, cornmeal, cranberry/pistachio, fig pecan, ginger, hazelnut, lemon, macadamia nut, orange/almond/nutmeg, peanut butter chocolate chip, pineapple, pumpkin walnut, raisin almond, and vanilla. They can all be drizzled with white or dark chocolate if you so desire!

    Bye-bye Penn Avenue and hello Colangelo’s on 21st. Granted, it was simply around the corner and didn’t give us much of a “walking off” period, but we had also stopped in at Enrico’s café for a mini wine tasting. That meant that 15-minutes had past since the last food bite and we’re feeling a little weak. We were here for their baked goods called “Mele”, a puffed pastry turnover. I opted for the almond filling.
     
    It just so happened that Pittsburgh Popcorn Company was two doors down. This gourmet popcorn store has nine flavors: Chocolate Caramel, Caramel Corn, Wisconsin Cheddar Cinnamon Toast, Kettle Corn, Peanut Butter & Choc Kettle, Movie Style Butter, and Cheddar/Caramel Mix.

    On to the neighborhood of Oakland, the location of the Carnegie Museum of Art & Natural History. This is one huge structure that contains both museums. Time only allotted for me to check out one of them, so here’s a description of the Carnegie Museum of Art. “This Pittsburgh museum houses a distinguished collection of contemporary art that includes film and video works. Other collections of note include works of American art from the late nineteenth century, French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings and European and American decorative arts from the late seventeenth century to the present.” 

    I was most interested to see how the Carnegie Museum of Natural History fared against the museum in Manhattan. A tour of the first floor revealed the Benedum Hall of Geology, to view some of the planet’s fossils followed by the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems to see a gold collection and loads of jewelry. 

    Another one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh was the Andy Warhol Museum, located in downtown Pittsburgh. Seven floors of drawings, paintings, prints, sculpture, and video with some space for works by other artists as well. I mean, you have to be into Warhol to enjoy this place!

    By Merle Exit

    Getting There:

    Enjoy attractions, entertainment, dining, recreation and more in Pittsburgh by visiting the Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau online at www.visitpittsburgh.com.

    Photo Credits: MS

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