Monthly Archives: February 2006

Food Porn: Bento Box

We picked up some sushi (Philly roll and California crab roll), inari, and veggie dumplings at Whole Foods yesterday, and arranged it in a bento box along with Vietnamese egg rolls from Mark Pi’s Expess. Instant snack. Yum.


Review: Spain Restaurant

Update: Spain Restaurant no longer offers the churrascaria, but we continue to enjoy their regular offerings.

Spain Restaurant is beyond compare for lunch. With several filling lunch specials at $6.95 each, it’s a great value. Given that fact, and given the fact that we had been to this restaurant for dinner before and been very pleased, we decided to head out on Saturday night after we heard that they had added a churrascaria – a Brazilian steakhouse where servers come to your table with meat on skewers and cut it right onto your plate.

We had been hearing that another churrascaria had just opened up shop in town, and had been wanting to try it. Given that we had good experiences with Spain Restaurant previously, we decided to try it there before heading out to the chain restaurant.

Spain Restaurant is located in a Best Western on East Dublin Granville Rd (Rte 161), near Giant Eagle. Because it is in a hotel, it’s pretty hard to find — you need to keep an eye out for the sign, and go around to the back of the Athletic Club attached to the Best Western to park. We had made reservations previously, and when we came in at 9PM the dining room was packed.

The ambiance was typical hotel restaurant, fitting for the type of food but nothing impressive. It neither added to or detracted from the experience. We were immediately seated, after which it took 10 minutes for a person to approach us to get our drink orders.

All three of us in our party decided on the churrascaria, at $21.95 a head. It was billed as including side dishes, and advertised linguica, filet mignon, pork tenderloin, chicken, and other meats as being offered. After ordering, they directed us to a salad bar – which was sparse in its offerings. It consisted of several obscure dishes, like calamari salad, mussels in tomato sauce, asparagus in vinaigrette, potato salad (obviously store bought), rice and black beans, and a terribly lonely looking and near empty bowl of mixed greens. To say we were disappointed with the salad bar would be an understatement, but at the time, we thought it was just that – a salad bar. It wasn’t until later that we found out that the salad bar WAS the side dishes.

On to the meat. Delivery was fairly slow but acceptable most of the time. It seemed as if they took longer to bring out the more expensive cuts of meat, which is a common complaint among most churrascarias in the US. The quality of the meat and the cooking was uneven and mediocre. The lamb was super-fatty and almost inedible. The linguica (sausage) was excellent on the first pass, undercooked on the second. The bacon-wrapped filet mignon was acceptable, but I feel that the bacon may have been there to hide a multitude of sins due to bad cut – filet should never be tough unless they are cutting from the chain or failing to remove silver skin. The medium rare top sirloin melted in my mouth – there is a reason that Alton Brown sings the praises of medium rare steaks – they are both flavorful and tender at the same time. The well done top sirloin could have resoled a boot. The pork loin was dry on the first pass, tender and flavorful on the second. The barbecued chicken breast was wonderful, but we only got one pass of that. The absence of side dishes during the meat carving was very obvious, though. After we had our fill of meat, we decided on dessert.

Unfortunately, they were out of their wonderful tres leches cake, so instead, our party got both the chocolate cake and the tiramisu. Neither were anything exceptional, and the tiramisu was very dry.

The high point of the night was my husband’s discovery of his new favorite drink – the caipirinha, a muddled mix of superfine sugar, chacaca, and limes.

Overall, we were disappointed. At almost $22 a head, we expected more and better. I think that next time we go for dinner, we’ll order from the regular menu and avoid the churrascaria. Needless to say, next time we won’t avoid the caipirinha – it made a bad meal almost acceptable.

Spain on Urbanspoon

Fusilli with Smoked Mozzarella and Bacon

I’m a little late posting this one – this was dinner on Monday night. It was quite tasty – the sauce is really simple, just shallots and tomato puree, a little olive oil, toss some fusilli with cubed smoked mozzarella (about 6 oz. to a pound of pasta) and about an equal amount of lardons (sauteed double smoked Schaller & Weber bacon). Easy, quick, and fantastic.

Fusilli with Smoked Mozzarella and Bacon

Fusilli with Smoked Mozzarella

recipe courtesy La Cucina Italiana magazine


1/2 lb. fusilli pasta

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

3 oz. bacon, cut into small strips

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1/2 c. tomato puree

3 oz. smoked mozzarella, cubed

1 tbsp. chopped parsley

freshly ground pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add salt and the pasta and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the bacon and shallot, and saute for 3 minutes. Add the tomato puree. and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Drain the fusilli, and reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Add both to the skillet with the sauce. Add the mozzarella and pasta and season with salt and pepper. Toss and serve immediately. Serves 2.

Food Porn: Grand Marnier Crepes

Valentine’s Day porn. The rest of the dinner was a culinary abortion (I told hubby next year to either let me cook or stick to something he does well rather than something ambitious), but this dessert more than made up for it — Crepes filled with Freshly Whipped Cream and topped with Grand Marnier mascerated berries.

Grand Marnier Crepes

Food Porn: South of the Border

Tonight’s dinner was Roasted Poblano and Bell Pepper Chicken Tacos, Southwestern Rice, and Fried Plantains. The picture came out a little dark, but it’s a good composite of what I had for dinner. Not bad at all, maybe I’ll make it again. Fried plantains go well with pretty much everything.

South of the Border


Food Porn: Veggie Lasagna

Yummy veggie lasagna for dinner tonight. It tasted much better than it looks in this picture – hard to believe it’s a “light” recipe. Served it with 5 Can Soup (OK, but bland – won’t ever make it again), salad and Pillsbury Garlic & Herb breadsticks.

Funny, the minute I stop having anxiety attacks about everything I put in my mouth, the less I ate. Weird how the mind works.


Food Porn: Hungarian Goulash and Caramelized Carrots

Dinner tonight was one of my favorite comfort foods: Hungarian goulash. This recipe is very similar to the one my great grandmother made for me many years ago, and it’s definitely one I’ll keep and pass along to other family members. I’ll need to remember to update this entry later with the recipes. (ETA: Here’s the recipe for the goulash)

I made it with broad egg noodles (haluski noodles) and caramelized carrots. I’m not much of a carrot person but this recipe is delicious – it kind of reminds me of carrot fries.

Finally feeling up to taking pictures of food again – I’ve been feeling lazy and not feeling like doing much of anything.

I’m doing pretty well sticking to Weight Watchers, I’m down 14 pounds in 2 weeks – not too bad, at least the scale is going in the right direction now.

Must do more cooking tonight before I go to sleep, I’m making some FF Cheesecake with Strawberries and maybe some Morning Glory muffins. More substantial stuff later, right now I’m feeling kind of burnt.

ETA: updating the old entry with the recipe for the carrots:

Sugar-Glazed Roasted Carrots
courtesy Cook’s Country magazine

Serves 4 to 6

If the carrots have very narrow tips, trim the thin ends; they scorch easily.

1 1/2

pounds medium carrots , peeled and cut into 2 by 1/2-inch pieces


tablespoons unsalted butter , melted


tablespoon dark brown sugar 


teaspoon table salt 


teaspoon ground black pepper 

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Heat rimmed baking sheet in oven for 10 minutes.

2. Toss carrots, melted butter, sugar, salt, and pepper in medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Remove pan from oven and place carrots in single layer on hot baking sheet. Roast until carrots are beginning to brown on bottom, about 15 minutes.

3. Remove pan from oven, toss carrots to redistribute, and continue to roast until tender and deep amber in color, about 3 minutes. Serve.