And the PRABBY goes to . . .

Written by Gretchen McKay on . The list

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The votes have been tallied for the first Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Awards Ceremony, and the results just might surprise you. 

At a gathering last night at Bridge Ten Brasserie on Pittsburgh's South Side, River City Grille in Cranberry won the PRABBY for Best Overall Dining Experience during the city's summer restaurant week (Aug. 12-18). During the seven-day celebration, the hotel restaurant offered a $35 three-course meal that included an entree choice of Skuna Bay Salmon, Seared BBQ Dry-Rubbed Flatiron Steak or Stuffed Cornish Hen. 

In case you're wondering, PRABBY is shorthand for "Pittsburgh Restaurant Awarded Best by Yinz," which means diners are the ones who voted. The friendly competition between more than 70 participating restaurants in and around the city was held online and included five categories. 

Other awards (and winners) include: 

* Best Preview Taste -- Skinny Pete's Kitchen in Avalon, for a delicious green chile soup with chicken and roasted corn and Caprese salad with smoked mozzarella served at PRW's Preview Party at the National Aviary on Aug. 8. 

* Best Dining Deal - Texas De Brazil in Station Square, for a $35 three-course fixed-price meal that included a gourmet salad bar and all-you-can eat grilled beef, lamb, pork, chicken and Brazilian sausage. 

* Most Mouthwatering Special -- Braddock's American Brasserie in the lobby of the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel on Sixth Street, Downtown. Diners voted on the dish they were most eager to try; Braddock's whetted the most appetites with a $30 special that included pierogies, filet mignon and white whiskey and berry cobbler. 

* Most Photogenic/Best Public Photo -- Escabeche at Meat and Potatoes08272013prabbybestphoto
During Restaurant Week, diners tweeted/uploaded photos of their favorite RW dishes. The top 10 images were put to an online vote, and Carnegie Mellon University grad student Pui Siripha Junlakarn won for a picture of the Spanish pickled fish dish (at right). According to voters, the restaurant crafted the picture-perfect dish. 

Photos: Jeffrey Perry (top) and Pui Siripha Junlakarn (right)





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Local harvest: A guide to 2013 farmers markets

Written by Gretchen McKay on . The list

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Pittsburghers take their fresh fruits and vegetables pretty seriously. 

So of course there was a huge crowd at today's Market Square Farmers Market in Market Square, which opened its 2013 season with more than a dozen vendors selling everything from lettuce and rhubarb to chocolate milk, cherry-raspberry pie and hanging baskets of purple and pink petunias.

Plenty more farmers markets are soon to follow, and if you're wondering where and when, stop fretting. We've got you covered today in the PG's Food & Flavor section with the region's most comprehensive and up-to-date list of them.  mktflowers

Working since January, food editor Bob Batz Jr. has compiled the dates, times and locations of more than 130 farmers markets, from Eastern Ohio to State College, and from Erie to northern West Virginia. The list also includes more than a dozen Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank food stands, which open June 19 and run through Nov. 21. 

You can find the complete list here, along with a point-and-click interactive map that will help you locate the markets and/or farm stands nearest to your neck of the woods. It will be continually updated throughout the season as we learn about new locations. (If we missed your market, give Bob a holler at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .) 

My day's purchases included a couple of cukes I'll use in a sauce to serve with grilled jerk chicken, and a pint of green tomatoes. Hopefully, there's a recipe in "Miriam's Garden" columnist Miriam Rubin's new book "Tomatoes" that will tell me what to do with them.

mktsandhillGretchen McKay photos 




 






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Five soups for cold days

Written by Melissa McCart on . The list

fukudaduoWith temperatures dipping to the teens, it's the time to warm up with hot food and drink. Soup may be the most resonant of comfort foods. Here is a round-up of restaurants offering bowls from which to sip or slurp. 

1) New England clam chowder from Penn Avenue Fish Company
Often a sellout on the menu at the Downtown location, this chowder is stocked with classic ingredients: chopped clams, potatoes, onion, celery, fish stock, half-and-half and fresh herbs. It's only available at the Strip location a couple times a week, as it's on rotation with bestsellers seafood gumbo and creamy crab and corn chowder.

2) Ramen from Fukuda
My favorite ramen in town has been the tonkotsu at this Bloomfield newcomer. A rich broth offers pork belly, housemade noodles, a slow-cooked egg, and bamboo shoots among other goodies. Lunch ramen Wednesday through Sunday includes miso and seafood variations.

3) Pho from Tan Lac Vien
Laced with star anise and ginger, beef stock at this new restaurant in Squirrel Hill  is layered with flank steak, rice noodles and green onions, and served with an enticing selection of bean sprouts and jalapeno peppers. Add heat with chili sauce, a spike of acid with lime. It's the most satiating pho I've had in Pittsburgh so far. 

4) Chicken soup from Bluebird Kitchen
Chef Steven Thompson says that chicken soup varies by day with rice, pasta or no starch at all. But free-range chicken from Miller's Organic Farms makes for delicious soup, while confit adds richness. "The gelatin from confit goes back into the broth," says Mr. Thompson. And it's often garnished with confit legs and thighs. 

5) Mushroom soup from Wild Purveyors
A terrific lunch option is the mushroom soup, made with crimini, shitake and portobello. Maitake and royal trumpets round it out, though mushrooms vary according to what's available. Note that soup is sold for take-away, to heat and eat in the comfort of your home -- very often the best place to enjoy a bowl of soup.

Melissa McCart photo

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In the round

Written by Melissa McCart on . The list

takoyakiWhether it's apple cider holes or sugar-dusted beignets, variations on donuts can satiate a sweet craving. But fried batter isn't just for dessert.  Cuisine from around the world offers savory donut variations. Here's a short list of where to find them in Pittsburgh.

Takoyaki at Teppanyaki Kyoto
Served with spicy mayonnaise, bonito flakes and okonomiyaki sauce, takoyaki is Japanese street food that originated in Osaka in the 1930s. Usually, these fried dumplings offer savory bites of octopus within.

Arancini at Il Pizzaiolo
Who would have thought rich risotto could get more decadent? Arancini at this Mt. Lebanon restaurant is made from leftover risotto that's breaded into form and fried just long enough to melt fresh mozzarella inside the croquette. 

Lentil & corn beignets at Kaya
An accompaniment for cocktails at this staple restaurant in the Strip are lentil & corn beignets, a vegetarian fritter enticing for the donut in the name.

Kimchi balls at The Butterjoint
A work in progress in the kitchen at Legume, these bites are inspired by sauerkraut balls. Fried in beef tallow, fritters offer a taste of housemade kimchi and ground pork.

Vada from Udipi Cafe
Indian donuts made from lentils can be spiked with green chilis, curry and onion. At Udipi, they're available plain, with yogurt, or dusted with rasam for a chili powder kick.

Flickr photo
 

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Eat and drink by the fire

Written by Melissa McCart on . The list

20121029 diningbyfirelight600
Dramatic weather brings an excuse to find a cozy corner and indulge in food and drink that speak to the season. Hot cocoa or toddy, braised meats and hearty stews highlight winter menus.

To score a seat by the fire is all the better. Below find suggestions for respite from the cold. 

5. For pampering: Eleven Restaurant in The Strip
Among China Millman's four-star restaurants, Big Burrito's Eleven offers refined plates and graceful service.

4. For cheap eats: Eat'n Park in Squirrel Hill
Eat'N Park's remodel offers stone accents and a fireplace by which to sit and sip hot cocoa, 24 hours a day.

3. For the wine list: Toast! Kitchen and Wine Bar in Shadyside
Crispy pork, roasted beets and brisket are on the menu here, where patrons can sample tastes or bottles of old and new world wines.

2. For a cocktail: 1947 Tavern in Shadyside
Order an old-fashioned and grab a seat at this charming neighborhood bar with terrific ambiance.

1. For the neighborhood: Monterey Pub in the Northside
Hearty pub food and a local clientele make this spot a destination even for those who live outside the neighborhood.

For a comprehensive list, the Post-Gazette offers more over here.

Post-Gazette photo

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