Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Toast Kitchen & Wine Bar

Last weekend had the potential to be a traffic nightmare for us. Our 4 year old niece was having her birthday party. She lives in the eastern part of the city. The Squirrel Hill Tunnels outbound were closed and while we didn't have to go through them, we could have been stuck in the backed up/detoured traffic. Then, there was a concert at Star Lake (Yes! Star Lake! Not whatever name it currently claims! It will always be Star Lake!) which usually means a traffic nightmare on the parkway west/in the area where we live, so we weren't looking forward to driving home.

So we plotted an alternate route for going to the party and made dinner reservations for after the party in hopes of avoiding the concert traffic. We went to Toast Kitchen & Wine Bar on Baum Blvd in Bloomfield. We've been wanting to try Toast for a while.

Sadly, there is street parking only, but happily, we found a great spot. It's smallish inside, a wood bar, wood ceilings, wood beadboard/wainscoting (never quite sure of the difference), wood tables & chairs, a reddish wall. Cozy. We each ordered a 4 oz white wine: a Bordeaux Blanc for SP and a Curator Chenin Blanc Blend for me. I liked his better than mine.

We ordered a lot of food! A lot of dishes sounded really tasty, so we figured, what the heck, we'll just have leftovers. Here's what we ate:
Fried Green Tomatoes, smoked ham relish. It's been four and a half years since our trip to Savannah/Charleston and I still think about the fried green tomato dishes I ate on that trip! I don't see them too often on the menu here in Pittsburgh, and when I do, I always order them. These tomatoes may have been more yellow than green, but there were delicious and ripe and so good. Just a dusting of cornmeal, such a nice thing, so much yummier than tomatoes caked in a batter and fried. The ham relish? Oh my gosh. Flaky ham with a vinegar tang - so good.
House Made Andouille Sausage, creamy lentil salad, bacon, jalapeno, BBQ sauce. This was more for SP than me since he loves sausage and he likes lentils. I'm not much of a lentil person, though I have to say that when they are creamy and mixed with bacon and BBQ, they are pretty darn tasty. The sausage, however, was the standout. I always think andouille = hot and spicy, but it doesn't, and this wasn't. I don't know what was in this andouille, but I almost stole the plate from SP so I could eat all the sausage, that's how good it was.
Pork Rinds, BBQ seasoning, garlic aioli. This, too, was more for SP than me. I'm not a huge fan of pork rinds. I tried one, and it was super crisp and crunchy and porky and tasty. These arrived at the table still snapping and popping in the bowl. We took some home and the next day when SP ate some, they were still very crisp. We had expected them to lose a lot of that crunchiness, but they didn't.
Shrimp & Grits, trinity vegetables, tasso ham. Another dish I fondly remember from our trip to Savannah/Charleston. This version was so darn good. It wasn't doused with/sitting in a pool of heavy sauce, but was in a light broth. The trinity vegetables really stood out - they weren't just cooked to a background flavoring. Creamy grits. Succulent shrimp. More of that tasso ham. No garlic (I checked).
Vegetable Flatbread, peas, asparagus, green onions, manchego. Chewy flatbread, lots of tasty peas and asparagus, salty manchego. Not soggy in the middle.
Peach & Basil Risotto, arugula, gruyere. The risotto we make at home is always good, but there's something about risotto made by the real chefs! I expected the peaches to be cooked in with the rice, but instead they were placed on top with the arugula and just 'wilted' a bit from the warmth of the risotto. Creamy, al dente risotto rice. Fresh peaches and arugula. A very nice freshly chiffonaded basil flavor. That delicious nutty gruyere flavor. Really good.
We both ordered decaf House Blend La Prima coffee and although we were full, we decided to order dessert: Fried Dough, cinnamon sugar, ginger syrup.
It's hard for me to pass up fried dough. It's hard for SP to pass up desserts with ginger. We each ate only one dough stick because we were full but they were tasty and the ginger syrup was good, too, I think, although since I dipped gingerly I maybe didn't get the full effect (I didn't want to drip on my shirt!).

Our server was fantastic. She knew a lot about the wine and food and checked with the kitchen when we had questions. SP guzzles water, and his glass was kept filled. We enjoyed our food. We liked the cozy atmosphere. We'll be adding Toast to the 'definitely return to' list - which, sadly, knowing us, with all the places we enjoy, means it might be a year before we return, but hopefully it'll be sooner than that. After all, I've finally found delicious fried green tomatoes and shrimp & grits that rival the versions I had in the south.

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