Green Eats: Tres Ríos

Author: Destiny Reber

         Tres Ríos is the newest Mexican kitchen and tequila bar in South Side, Pittsburgh located at 1919 East Carson Street.  Tres Ríos celebrates “diversity, creativity, and uniqueness” by blending two iconic cultures together, offering a combination of Mexican cuisine and spirits and sentimental pieces of Pittsburgh history.  The atmosphere provided sensations of Pittsburgh, through steel work and Warhol inspired art, and Mexico, through a variety of warm and spicy smells in the air.

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Green Eats: Chatham Parkhurst

Author: Destiny Reber

Green Eats: A series of restaurant reviews with a perspective in sustainability

Dining locations across Chatham’s campuses, such as Anderson Dining Hall and Café Rachel, in collaboration with Parkhurst Dining Services, aim to serve a wide variety of healthful and delicious meals to students, staff, and guests within the Chatham community.  By implementing a series of strategic sourcing techniques, Chatham’s kitchens strive to provide options that accommodate the wide range of diets and tastes that accompany the diversity that comes along with a college campus.  Chatham’s Parkhurst prides itself on the quality and freshness of their foods, which is why produce is sourced from within 125 miles from the university, and a large amount of Chatham’s meal items are made from scratch right on campus.

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INSIDE CHATHAM: Bookstore Manager Tioni Brown On Work, School and Family

Tioni Brown, pictured, poses outside of the Chatham bookstore
Photo: Edymar Hurtado

Author: Edymar Hurtado

“Inside Chatham” is a new series in which you will find an interesting member of the community that shares Chatham with you.

We want to showcase awesome people, but most of all, we want to share good stories. Let us know if you know a fantastic member of the Chatham family that we should interview!

Most students have had to stop by the Chatham Bookstore, whether to find some books, supplies, snacks or any number of other things. If so, they’ve met Tioni Brown, the enthusiastic and busy woman who has managed the bookstore since 2010.

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Foodie on the Half Shell: Muddy Waters Oyster Bar review

I have always loved oysters and have always made it quite clear that, if I choose to spend the rest of my life with someone, a qualifier is that they must enjoy drinking martinis and slurping down oysters with me.

I always buy them from Whole Foods and Wholley’s to take home to my parents for the weekend. We shuck them ourselves, but it’s never the same as it is when you get them served at a restaurant with the perfectly cut lemons and shaved ice bed they are laying on. I eat oysters so often that buying an ice shaver might be a good investment.

So, when it was announced that Muddy Waters Oyster Bar was opening right in East Liberty, I was skied and knew it would be the perfect place to take my entire family for a night out on the town.

Unfortunately, I think this restaurant may have had no warm up time and got booked almost immediately after they opened. The service was some of the worst I have had in a while, but the food was delicious, which if any of you know IS THE WORST PREDICAMENT IN THE WORLD.

Muddy Waters is a small restaurant and bar with a modern take on southern rock and roll décor. I came with six adults and two kids, and it wasn’t the worst environment for kids, actually. They were the only children there, but the energy was high, and it was pretty loud so the kid’s screams and overall noise was not a worry at all.

The restaurant itself though has slow service; so if you are trying to get out in a timely manner with your whole family, then this isn’t the place for you. What seemed like the real glaring problem was the fact that all of the wait staff was red eyed, squinty, and a little out of it. I have no clue what the issue could have been…were they sick? No, but really, I get it. I have worked in the restaurant industry all throughout high school and some of college. I understand that it’s stressful and that pot can be a normal part of that lifestyle, but leave it for after hours, please, because I’ve been staring at my empty wine glass for about 30 minutes now.

Their oyster selection was on point with options from both the East Coast and the West Coast. We enjoy West Coast oysters more because they are usually saltier and smaller rather than sweet and really big. The oysters were clean and fresh and presented appropriately with all the necessary accouterments. The menu itself is fun and has something for everyone. Dishes like shrimp and grits, oyster po’boys, and gumbo will feed your craving for deep southern food.

Everything was tasty. I had the shrimp and grits that came with robust prawns with their heads still attached. The grits were creamy and cheesy and all of it came together with a sweet and salty red onion marmalade sauce. Another star was their Crab Boil Reuben which came stacked with pastrami that seemed to be flash boiled in a crab bake and topped with the usual suspects: pickles, sauerkraut, and remoulade.

Unfortunately, not everyone at the table got to eat. My sister ordered their steak and frites, but the order was never given to the chefs in the back and instead of getting her what she ordered ASAP, they said they could make her something else instead if she wanted. Let me just say, if you forget someone’s order, you don’t tell them and make them deal with it. You deal with it and get them the food that they originally ordered in ten minutes or less. You put everything else to the side to get that dish out, and then you give it to them for free and offer a free round of drinks. My sister had to leave before she got any food because the kids were getting tired and it had been about two hours already. They took off her substitute meal that she got to go, but that was it. We didn’t see our waiter for about ten minutes after the chef told my sister he never got that order. I lost my appetite because the entire situation was dealt with terribly and I regret taking my family there.

Muddy Waters has delicious food and a great location, so they will probably do well for a while at least. Don’t go there expecting good service, though. I researched more and saw that other reviewers said the same thing about the slow service.

If you wish to go there, go there with only a couple people and expect to sit for a while. Sitting at the bar may be the best bet if you want your drinks sooner than later as well. I hope that they either all have a serious conversation about fixing their management, or they purge their staff and get better equipped workers. I hope that this restaurant thrives eventually, but I will not be back until I hear that they have made some big changes.

Foodie on the Half Shell: Whining and dining

It was only sometime ago that a girlfriend and I ended up at the Ace Hotel for what we thought was going to be a regular girls’ night out with a couple of cocktails and the normal chatter about the tortures of tutorial here at Chatham, the joys and woes of relationships, and everything in between.

The building used to be the YMCA in East Liberty but has been renovated into a hotel with a popular bar and restaurant inside of it. The building itself is impressive with extremely high ceilings and dramatically white walls. The drinks here are super fancy, small, and expensive, but those are all sure signs that whatever you are drinking will be delicious, which they were.

So, as my friend and I sat in the lounge area of the bar, a few gentlemen approached us who seemed to know everyone in the entire building and had an obvious influence on the staff waiting on them. We soon came to learn that they were restaurateurs in the local area and had just gotten off work. They soon took it upon themselves to entertain us for the rest of the night with more fancy drinks and ridiculous stories about life in the industry.

I was so excited to be talking to people in the restaurant scene here in Pittsburgh because, obviously, that’s kind of my “thing.” I tried mentioning my own experience with writing and making videos about chefs, restaurants, and food in the area in a futile attempt to make a lasting impression on these professionals.

The scoop was deep — I learned all about new restaurants opening up, which restaurants had new menus, and all kinds of silly gossip on the local chefs. As the night began wrapping up, they insisted we come to one of their restaurants the next weekend so we could try all of the new plates on the menu and join them in some more conversation. I became so caught up listening to the inside scoop on all of the hottest restaurants in Pittsburgh and being impressed by the promises of delicious food that I didn’t even realize what was really happening…

There it was. They wined and dined me, and I insist it wasn’t consensual because I was really under the blind impression that I was networking. We were saying our goodbyes and I realized that neither of them remembered my name or even what my skills were. Should I have had a card on hand to give to them? Would it have made a difference? Probably not.

Although being wined and dined can be a pleasant experience in the right situation, it can also feel degrading and kind of weird. I love eating and drinking and being with good company, but never do I want to be a prop placed at the side of an industry person or placed in a restaurant as a tool of persuasion. I want to be at the same table as these guys literally and figuratively, in the sense that I want to be around these important people in the industry no matter what, but I also want to be respected and seen as a professional.

That’s hard, though. Being 22 and a woman doesn’t always invite the most useful attention which can be discouraging, but I also recognize there is a really nice feeling that comes out of being blown off as some young girl and then proving later that I do have skills.

Moral of the story? If they can’t help you, then you can’t help them. There would never be any follow up wining and dining in the near future between the five of us. Instead, my friend and I would go out and eat a bunch of queso cheese dip, go dancing, and finish the night off with a good sisterhood snuggle in bed while we chatted about spanking patriarchy, creating art people love (or don’t love), and fantasizing about how ridiculous and funny it would be if the tables turned and we were the ones wining and dining them.

Foodie on the Half Shell: Awards show season

It’s awards season and I know many people who like to have viewing parties to watch the Grammys and the Oscars. If any of you follow Foodie on the Half Shell, you know that one of my biggest pet peeves is terrible party snacks. Just don’t even have a party if you aren’t going to have good food, because what is even the point?

I love the idea of classy, fun award show parties where people dress up and drink champagne or whatever they want to drink out of champagne flutes. Even better, the parties where you dress up as your favorite character from one of the nominated movies. I think I would personally pick Leonardo Dicaprio’s character from “The Revenant.” I could just not shower for a few weeks and not use any Chap Stick.

Anyway, here are some recipes to make sure your award show party isn’t a complete failure because all you did was put out a bag of potato chips and some PBR.

Apple Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms:

There’s nothing cuter than a piece of food that you can eat in one bite. Get a package of baby bella mushrooms, some sausage (I like spicy Italian), ½ of an apple, ½ of a white onion, and 2 cloves of minced garlic.

Heat the onion, garlic, and apple in a saute pan until they are caramelized. Transfer to a bowl and mix the uncooked sausage in. Pop out the stem from the mushroom and stuff with the sausage mixture.

Cook in an oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Caramel and Pecan Brie:

Cheese and crackers are a must at any party, but you can really step it up a notch from the usual cheddar and swiss, to a pretty wheel of brie.

You will need a wheel of brie, caramel sauce, and chopped up pecans. Heat the brie in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes. Heat the caramel over the stove until it is easy to drizzle. Take the brie out and cover the top of the brie with the caramel and sprinkle the pecans on top.

Serve with crackers and slices of apples.

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus:

This will be the hit of your party. All you need to do is wash and trim your asparagus and wrap them in bacon. If the asparagus is thick, use only a couple, but if you asparagus is very thin use more. Drizzle them in olive oil and add some salt and pepper.

Heat them in an oven at 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until the bacon is nice and crispy.

Champagne Cocktails:

You always see all of the stars with their full glasses of champagne during the awards ceremony, so join them. But add some juices to make it more fun!

Buy some cheap champagne and get creative with the juices you mix with it. Some personal favorites are passion fruit juice, orange juice and peach schnapps, and pomegranate.

Foodie on the Half Shell: Where I’m eating in January

After the holidays, most of us have new goals and ideas about what this New Year will look like for us. Every year I try to pick up a new healthy habit to improve my exercise and eating habits. This year I am keeping a food journal to become more aware of what and how often I am consuming.

That being said, I still need to uphold my reputation as a Pittsburgh food connoisseur so I still need to get out and about and try new restaurants, even if that means not eating an entire plate of Bolognese from Piccolo Forno or Steak and Frites from Park Bruges. It’s a real test of control when going out on the town to eat and knowing you have to have an honest moment at home when you are counting your calories for the night. It’s a humbling experience when you realize that the huge margarita you just drank was 800 calories of pure sugar and you have to WRITE IT DOWN, which makes it all the more real.

    So, where am I eating this month? All kinds of places that will help me not go home 1000 calories deep into fried foods after only one meal.  Enjoy some fresh seafood, lots of seasonal veggies, and maybe a vodka martini every now and then (just don’t drink your calories, guys!).

Everyday Noodles: This little noodle shop is not only super cute and stylish, but they also serve yummy noodle dishes that are reasonably sized portions and fulfill my craving for all things sweet, salty, and crunchy. Their noodles are full of things like bok choy, peanuts, tempura fried chicken and shrimp, and all kinds of other dreamy stuff. All of the noodle dishes are only $9, which is a fantastic deal for the tasty dishes you are getting. This place is perfect for a quick lunch or a simple dinner. BYOB. 242 South Highland Avenue in Shadyside.

Kaya: Always Kaya. I would eat at Kaya every week if I could. Its aesthetic is funky Caribbean flair (that could use some work), but the food is undeniably delicious no matter what. After 20 years they always have a full house and are serving tasty dishes like their Yucatan Hot Bean Dip, Jamaican Green Curry Vegetables, and their grilled salmon salad with green apples and Manchego. There are so many healthy options here, and a lot of fresh seafood options. I sometimes get “New Restaurant Anxiety” meaning I’m afraid I won’t know how the restaurant works, and I’ll order wrong, and they’ll yell at me or laugh at me when I call and try to make a reservation only two weeks in advance.  Kaya is a very comfortable place to be where everyone is nice, and it’s not pretentious at all. 2000 Smallman Street in the Strip.

The Vandal: It is no wonder that this Lawrenceville hot spot is stealing locals’ hearts with their short and sweet menu complete with ever-changing seasonal ingredients. The dishes are comfort food but are plated so elegantly you’d think you were in a high-end restaurant. Meat eater, vegetarian, or vegan, you will find something filling and wholesome here at The Vandal. No need to worry too much about what to order on the menu—it is all delicious. Anybody who is anybody knows how hard The Vandal rocks. BYOB. 4306 Butler Street in Lawrenceville.

Foodie on the Half Shell: Top 3 Delivery Joints in Pittsburgh

I order out more than I’d like to admit. At this point, I even know the delivery guys’ names. The GrubHub app is my best friend at least once a week.

Unfortunately, Pittsburgh doesn’t have the greatest selection of delivery options. There are about 50 crappy pizza places, a couple vague Asian places, and maybe one Indian restaurant that delivers. Most of the food is pretty bad, or really average. It’s as if they make a restaurant specifically made for delivery and they know we have no options and they’ll make money no matter how bad they are.

Honestly, all of the pizza tastes the same, too. They all get their dough and sauce pre-made from the same food distributor. It drives me crazy that delivery places won’t take more pride in what they do.

Creative and quality food is still desired in a delivery setting. Don’t get me wrong, though, I still pay for the convenience of it all. Because I know we don’t all love to cook at home or go out and get something ourselves, I have made an official “Top 3 Delivery Joints in Pittsburgh” complete with different genres of food and my favorite dishes!

Thai Hana: This restaurant delivers Thai and Japanese food straight to your door. You can enjoy curry dishes, pad Thai, and lots and lots of sushi. They have never been late to deliver food, and they have never messed up one of my orders. One of my favorite dishes to have delivered would be their Spider Roll from their sushi menu. This sushi roll is made with tempura fried soft shell crab, asparagus, and avocado. I pretty much love any sushi that comes with tempura fried anything, though. Thai Hana’s sushi is delicious, and is as good as most places around Pittsburgh. If you are looking for the real deal with grade A fresh fish, this isn’t the place for you, but if you want some tasty sushi with spicy creamy sauce drizzled all over it, then this is your place! Their Basil Fried Rice is also on point, and I would even say possibly the best in the Burgh’s delivery world.

Beta Bites: Beta Bites is my favorite place for “healthy” delivery food. It has Moroccan influences throughout its menu, but also will deliver your usual wings and fries. If the restaurant is a Moroccan restaurant, though, order their Moroccan food. One of my favorite dishes from here is their falafel salad that is served with spinach, real creamy feta, and the usual other salad fixings. Their falafel isn’t the best (it’s a little dry), but it still tastes like falafel and that will do. It comes with five nice sized balls, and is definitely a great amount of food. The BEST dish on their menu is from the “hot bar” part of their menu. Any of the dishes from the hot bar are delicious, but I enjoy the chicken with a side of vegetables, lentils, and rice. This is a lot of food complete with three spiced chicken breasts and scoops of whatever side you pick. Other options for your sides include mac and cheese, and a white bean dish that is native to Morocco. Any of their food is delicious, though, but if it looks like it has Moroccan influences in the description, it is almost guaranteed to be good.

Genoas: Now, what makes Genoas so good is their consistency. They are open all day up until 2 a.m. on the weekdays and 3 a.m. on the weekends. This is perfect when you are hungry at home after a party or a long day. Their food is the usual Italian inspired delivery joint complete with pizzas, subs, and calzones. Their subs are huge, and you really can’t go wrong with a spicy Italian. Their jalapeno poppers are so tasty, and so are their Parmesan and garlic wings.

Foodie on the Half Shell: Eating for the season

Many connote the cooler seasons with a lack of fresh produce that is available to eat. Well, that may be true during the sub zero winters that we have been having, but so far we have had a beautiful November and there is still plenty of seasonal and local foods to cook and eat.

It’s important to eat seasonally, because if we buy food that is out of season that means that it is being shipped in from far away. The amount of miles that is between where the food is grown and to where it is eaten or sold is called food miles. A large amount of food miles causes a scary amount of gas emissions into the air, which is bad for the environment.  

Some of my favorite November foods are Brussels sprouts, winter squash, and beets. These may sound like intimidating foods to some, but I can assure you that if you try out the recipes that I created, you will be pleasantly surprised.

Brussels Sprout and Bacon Salad: Heat the oven at 350 degrees. Clean one pound of Brussels sprouts by peeling off the first layer of leaves and cutting the rough bottom off. Cut large Brussels in half and leave smaller ones whole. Toss in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Put in ovenproof pan and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until crispy and dark and green. Crisp up a few slices of bacon and crumble them up. When Brussels are done, toss in a bowl with the bacon crumbles along with a few dashes of balsamic vinegar. Keep this dish delicious by not overdoing it on the oil and vinegar and topping it all off with Parmesan cheese.

Maple Roasted Acorn Squash: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut one large acorn squash in half and clean out the seeds. Then, cut the halves into about one-inch slices, so they should be little half circles. No need to cut off the skin, it is awesomely edible. Now, make a marinade with one tablespoon of olive oil, one tablespoon of soy sauce, one teaspoon of Dijon mustard, two tablespoons of maple syrup (the real stuff), and some salt and pepper. Rub those slices down with this stuff and bake in an ovenproof pan for about 25 minutes. They should be super tender to the touch.

Beet “Caprese”: You will need two large beets or three smaller ones. Heat up two cups of balsamic vinegar and a quarter cup of sugar in a pot and stir till the sugar is dissolved. Boil beets in water until they are tender and their rough skin slides off easily. When the sugar has dissolved into the vinegar and the beets are tender and have their skins removed, shut off heat to the vinegar mixture and place beets into the pot. Let sit for 30 minutes. If they are not entirely submerged, rotate halfway through. When finished, slice the beets into about quarter inch circles. Layer with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil, and drizzle balsamic reduction on top with a little salt and pepper.

Foodie on the Half Shell: Processed Meats

Up until I was 11, I was homeschooled on the llama farm where I grew up with my sister and my mom as my best friends. I began private Catholic school when I was going into sixth grade. I was already the weirdo who thought gay people deserved equal rights and that women should be able to be priests.

To make matter worse, the same year I also decided that eating meat was barbaric, and I became a vegetarian and sometimes pescatarian for the next 12 years. As I sat there in the cafeteria with all of those rude little sheep, I ate the same sandwich every day: avocado, cheese, hummus, spinach, and tomato. My peers could just not understand how I wasn’t eating their oh-so-delicious sandwiches such as bologna with mayo, or ham and cheese. My mom didn’t allow us to eat that stuff anyhow; it was pretty much turkey or veggie sandwiches. My sister ate lettuce and mustard sandwiches for, like, five years of her life.  

Well guys, don’t you feel stupid? I wasn’t eating your “meat” sandwiches because it causes cancer, and I wasn’t allowed. Probably because my mom loved me more than your mom loved you…

Ok, no, I’m sure your mom loved you just fine. This article really has nothing to do with criticizing your mom’s choices. We are adults now. It’s all about criticizing your choices.

When people began sharing the posts about “bacon causing cancer” and how processed meats were bad for us, I was shocked. Not because I didn’t know these facts, but because so many of my peers didn’t know. Where have you been? Did you seriously think that processed meats were good for you and a natural part of what a human should eat? Or how about thinking about this: smoked meats. We get lung cancer from smoking. Smoking meats is literally infusing them with stuff that causes cancer.

My mom has been calling processed meats carcinogens since I can remember. Uncured bacon and organic meats were the only things allowed in our home.

My job isn’t entirely to mock you, so I would also like to educate you by explaining in my words what the World Health Organization said exactly about certain kinds of meats, and what that means for you.

So what are processed meats? According to the WHO, they are meats that are cured, salted, smoked, or other processes that help with preservation and to make them taste better. Some examples are salami, ham, and smoked bacon. These are in Group 1 of carcinogens, which means that they most definitely are a cause of cancer.

Red meat (beef, pork, goat, etc.) is in Group 2 of carcinogens, meaning that it probably causes cancer. So, does this mean I’m never going to eat off of a salami and cheese board again? No way. How about that Italian hoagie that I love to splurge on sometimes? Still gonna. I don’t have knowledge about whether or not eating a little bit here and there is going to give you cancer, but I know that for the most part, everything in moderation is ok.

Many find this entire study laughable, such as Michael Symon, a celebrity chef that is a regular on the Food Network. He believes the entire issue is just a ploy to get a reaction out of people and to get visits on their website. I don’t agree with that statement at all, but I do agree with his concern about what these articles are doing to those meat farmers who are doing it “right.” It is unfair to categorize meat that is pumped with nitrates and hormones with all natural grass fed meats.

My advice to you all is to stay educated. Understand the holes in these WHO studies, but also understand that they are probably one of the most reliable sources, and that you probably don’t know more about this stuff than they do. Eat some delicious, all natural salami here and there with a nice glass of vintage (or Barefoot…whatever), but understand that the less meat you eat in general, the better. Chicken and fish are great sources of animal based proteins that are lean and good for you. Remember to buy cage free and wild caught, though! By eating a couple more meatless meals a week, you’ll be doing yourself, and your family, a service.