My “Last Hurrah” dinner at Crested Duck Charcuterie

Cduck04.JPGClose-up to part of my dinner: root vegetables, toasted brioche bread, and bacon jam from Crested Duck Charcuterie!

*NOTE*: Neither Chef and Owner Kevin Costa, nor Crested Duck Charcuterie asked me to write this review. I am just a humble Pittsburgh Foodie, who enjoys sharing her foodie adventures with others. Photos captures with an iPhone 5s, and edited in Instagram and Adobe Photoshop Extended CS4.

If you have not read my previous blog post on Crested Duck Charcuterie, I encourage you to do so: first review of the Crested Duck.

As many a dedicated Pittsburgh Foodie knows, Kevin Costa‘s Crested Duck will be closing on Friday, January 1st, 2016 forever. I am so sad to see this shining beacon of hope in the Pittsburgh Restaurant world close, but never fear Pittsburgh Foodies; Kevin has a few more opportunities in store for us!

Next year (crazy that it’s just one day away, right?), Chef Costa will become the Chef Du Cuisine of Keith Fuller‘s Root 174 restaurant, located in Regent Square! Thus, the closing of the Crested Duck is certainly not the end of Kevin Costa’s culinary career. In fact, the Crested Duck was just the beginning of the journey for him.

Refocusing to December: on Thursday, December 17th, my Mom and I visited the Crested Duck for a “one last hurrah” dinner, before they closed. Here’s what I chose for my final dinner at the Duck:


Course #1: Picked Vegetable plate

I REALLY enjoyed this healthy first course, particularly the tiny pickles, olives and cauliflower, but all of the vegetables were good!


Course #2 (main course): Duck Liver Mousse, with toasted brioche, root vegetables, duck breast and bacon jam

This course was HEAVENLY! 😀 I really enjoyed spreading the duck liver mousse on the toast, and adding the bacon jam on top (talk about decadence)! I also really enjoyed the slices of duck meat on the plate, as well as the carrot! I’ve never tried a soft carrot before, but I loved this fresh take on the vegetable (thanks Kevin)!


Another AMAZING angle of my main course at Crested Duck!


Course #3: S’mores! Homemade graham cracker. mascarpone cheese and chocolate ganache

Those of you who know me, it’s very rare for me to pass up on dessert when dining at a fine Pittsburgh Restaurant. Especially since this would be my last time dining at the Crested Duck, I indulged. 😉

The homemade graham crackers were THE best graham crackers I’ve ever tasted! What a HUGE difference, compared to the store bought ones that come in a box. Pair that with mascarpone cheese (which I love dearly), and perfectly-made chocolate ganache (I mean, who doesn’t love chocolate?), and you have a winning dessert combination! 😀


Here’s another view of this lovely dessert!

Pittsburgh Foodies: please make sure to visit Root 174, and say hi to Kevin!


Cheers to Food and Fitness,


-Friendly Fitness Foodie


Crested Duck’s website

Crested Duck’s Facebook page

Crested Duck’s Twitter page

Kevin Costa’s Twitter page

Keith Fuller/Root 174’s Twitter page


First two dinners at Bill’s Bar & Burger Pittsburgh

billsmilkshake01Mom’s chocolate milkshake from our first visit to Bill’s Bar & Burger! 

*NOTE*: Bill’s Bar & Burger did not ask me to write this review.  I am just a humble Pittsburgh Foodie, who enjoys sharing her foodie adventures with others. Photos captured by an iPhone 5s, and edited with Instagram and Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended.

Bill’s Bar & Burger is a small restaurant chain that started out in New York City, and has also expanded to Atlantic City (and recently, Pittsburgh)! A few of my Pittsburgh Foodie friends (Tasha of The Foodtasters, John of YaJagoff, Mike of  Why I Live in Downtown Pittsburgh, and Robert of Downtown Pittsburgh Concierge) have been raving about the Bill’s Bar & Burger inside the Westin Convention Center. Local Marketing company Markowitz Communications has also done a great job of promoting #BillsInTheBurgh! Finally, it was time for me to formulate my own opinion about the new burger joint in town!

My beverage of choice for the first trip was the Campfire Milkshake, which contained pretzels, marshmallows and chocolate. It was a good milkshake, but not quiet as good as the ones that I’ve had from Burgatory and BRGR.

I tried a sip of my Mom’s chocolate milkshake and absolutely LOVED it! Needless to say, I ordered a chocolate milkshake during my second visit, and was quiet pleased. 😉


Here’s my chocolate milkshake from the second visit. Sometimes, simple is best.


During the first dinner to Bill’s Bar & Burger, I ordered a Veggie Burger with Sweet Potato Fries! First of all, I am a sucker for Sweet Potato Fries (these ones were particularly good); second of all, this was one of THE best veggie burgers I’ve EVER tasted! When I asked the waitress what was in the burger, she told me all vegetables- neither beans or rice, like your traditional veggie burgers. I could taste the broccoli and asparagus; I was definitely in veggie heaven! 😀


A second shot of my veggie burger and a REALLY good shot of the Sweet Potato Fries!

bills2ndmealWhen my Mom and I returned for our second meal, I decided to order a few appetizers and make that my meal. First: Chicken Hot Wings with a honey mustard glaze! Next: Small Market Salad with Shrimp (which was just the right size, and so tasty), and the Sweet Potato Fries (I told you I was a fan).


The highlight of the second dinner was DEFINITELY the hot wings! These were some of THE best wings I’ve EVER had! The hot wings were everything that I need: hot, sticky and delicious!

Well there you have it, foodies! Whether you live either near or in Pittsburgh, or plan on visiting the ‘burgh soon, I highly recommend dining at the Pittsburgh Bill’s Bar & Bar locating inside the Westin Convention Center!


Happy Holidays & New Year,


-Friendly Fitness Foodie


Next post: my “last hurrah” dinner at the Crested Duck Charcuterie!


Bill’s Bar and Burger’s Pittsburgh website

Bill’s Bar and Burger’s Pittsburgh Facebook page

Bill’s Bar and Burger’s Twitter page

Birthday Dinner at Cure (Year Two)

CureScrubBlackberry Scrub beverage from Justin Severino‘s Cure restaurant, located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

*NOTE*: Neither Justin Severino nor Cure asked me to write this review; I am just a Friendly Pittsburgh Foodie, who enjoys sharing her foodie adventures with others. Photos captured with an iPhone 5s, and edited with Instagram and Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended.

Last year, I enjoyed my birthday dinner at Cure so much, I decided to continue on the tradition to this year’s birthday.

I saved my one and only visit to Cure for this very birthday dinner. If you are not familiar with Justin Severino’s (Owner and Executive Chef) Cure restaurant, I encourage you to read my post from last year: (Last Year’s Birthday Dinner at Cure). It truly was a magical experience at Cure, being surrounded by pig memorabilia, art by Tugboat Printshop, rustic wood tables, chairs and fabulous food!


Course #1: Small Salumi plate! I must say, Cure makes THE best charcuterie in the ‘burgh (Crested Duck is a very, VERY close second). If you read my birthday dinner from last year, all of the same fixings are on this plate, and are as wonderful as ever. 😉



In-between course: homemade focaccia bread with cheese, olives and lardo! The focaccia bread came VERY close to being as good a the focaccia  bread at The Hyeholde (which has the best tasting focaccia bread I’ve ever had in my entire life), and spreading the lardo with the cheese and olives on the bread transported me to heaven (even if it was just for a few minutes).


CureMushroomSoupCourse #2: mushroom soup! Not as good as the butternut squash soup that my Mom ordered at last year’s dinner, but this was still THE best mushroom soup I’ve ever had! The presentation was incredible (the bowl came out with just a few ingredients, and then the waiter poured the soup into the bowl).



Course #3: dark chocolate soufflé cake with pistachio butter. Cloud Nine chocolate paradise. ❤



Close-up shot. As Bourdain would say: “oh yeah, baby; the good stuff”.


Next post: my first two dinners at Bill’s Bar and Burger (Pittsburgh location)


Cheers to Food & Fitness,


-Friendly Fitness Foodie


Cure Pittsburgh’s website

Cure Pittsburgh’s Facebook page

Cure Pittsburgh’s Twitter page

Cure Pittsburgh’s Instagram page


Win Tickets to Saturday’s Matinee Showtine of Yinz’r Scrooged!


Hi Pittsburgh Theater fans! You have a chance to win two free tickets to Bricolage Production Company‘s Midnight Radio: Yinz’r Scrooged!

The tickets would be good for this Saturday‘s (December 19th) matinee showtime at 2:00pm.

All you have to do to participate is Tweet your favorite Pittsburgh holiday tradition with the hash-tag #YinzRScrooged.

I will announce the winner of the two tickets on Friday evening. If you are the winner, please follow these instructions:

  1. Click here.
  2. Add two general admission tickets to your cart.
  3. Use the promotional code FRIENDLYFITFOODIE at the checkout (all caps).
  4. Complete & check out!
  5. You’re done! No need to print out tickets; just show up, and your name will be on the list!


Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays n’at, Yinz!


-Friendly Fitness Foodie


Bricolage Production Company’s website

Bricolage Production Company’s Facebook page

Bricolage Production Company’s Twitter page

Bricolage Production Company’s Instagram




My first two brunches at The Vandal


The ever-changing brunch menu at The Vandal in Lawrenceville.

*NOTE*: Neither Joey Hilty nor The Vandal asked me to write this blog post. I am just a friendly Pittsburgh foodie, who enjoys sharing my foodie adventures with others. Photos captured with an iPhone 5s, and edited with Instagram and Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended.

This month and in October, I experienced my first two brunches at The Vandal, located on 38th Street and Butler in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Ever since I tried one of The Vandal’s dishes at Station‘s Cocktails and Construction event, I knew I had to dine at this restaurant.

Chef Joey Hilty (formerly of Bar Marco) and Emily Slagel (owner of Mid-Atlantic Mercantile boutique) set out to a bring casual, ingredient-driven restaurant to Lawrenceville.

Pictured above was the brunch menu for my first brunch visit in October. The Shala was hosting its first ever Bhakti Hour, where students and teachers alike discussed the Yoga Sutras and chanting. Since The Vandal is right across the street from The Shala, my golden opportunity arrived!


Close up of my beverages (coffee [which was REALLY good] and vanilla lemonade [I’m officially a fan now]), and the first course: granola with vanilla yogurt and sliced apples!

The Coffee was INCREDIBLE; just as good as the coffee I had at the Pittsburgh Athletic Association, for my brother’s wedding food tasting. Also, I really liked the sweet taste of the vanilla with the tartness of the lemonade.


Close up of my tasty breakfast granola at The Vandal! Homemade granola and yogurt is the way to go, folks! I really liked the apple slices too!


The Vandal’s logo (Hang Out or Take Out).


Mom’s brunch: biscuit, egg, bacon and kale. I tried a bite of this dish- I must say it was REALLY good!


My main dish for the October visit (and my Mom’s main dish for our December visit): Beignets with Paw-Paw sauce! These were just as good as the Beignets that I had at Bouchon in Las Vegas! 

Fast forward to last Sunday: my Mom and I were in Lawrenceville for the last day of the Joy of Cookie Tour. We arrived early due to parking, but our arrival was a little too early (meaning none of the cookie tour stops except The Shala, which I always enjoy visiting, where opened). Thus, we decided to visit The Vandal for a second brunch!


I had to get the coffee again! This time, the name of the restaurant was on the cup! 🙂


My second brunch at The Vandal included sourdough bread, ricotta cheese and lomo! All toast should be this good!


Close up of the GLORIOUS toast during the second brunch trip to The Vandal!

Another aspect of the restaurant I really appreciate (and is important to me) is the friendliness of the staff.

During the first visit, Joey asked my Mom and I: “What have you been up to today? What will you do next? Where are you ladies from”, and I discovered that Joey (and one of his chefs) and I are both from the South Hills (he represents Bridgeville and I rep Upper St. Clair). The other chef (forgive me for not knowing your name) was also very amicable, as well as the lady with the long black hair and glasses (forgive me for not knowing your name as well).

All in all, in two visits, The Vandal has become one of my new favorite restaurants in Pittsburgh! I can’t WAIT to see what The Vandal has in store for 2016!

Cheers to Food and Fitness,


-Friendly Fitness Foodie

The Vandal’s website

The Vandal’s Facebook page

The Vandal’s Twitter page

The Vandal’s Instagram page




Final #LauraLovesNYC Post: Dinner at Brasserie Les Halles Park Avenue


Standing right in front of the ICONIC Brasserie Les Halles Park Avenue window, located on NYC’s Upper East Side

*NOTE*: Les Halles did not ask me to write this blog post. I am glad a Friendly Foodie & Yogini, who enjoys sharing her foodie and yoga adventures with others! Photos captured with an iPhone 5s, and were edited with Instagram and Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended.

I saved the best post for last! The reason why I wanted to visit New York City in the first place: to dine at Brasserie Les Halles Park Avenue, where Anthony Bourdain used to be Executive Chef.

Eventually, he wrote an article in a newspaper, that earned him a book deal- the book was Kitchen Confidential. Next came a book tour, and then, his first T.V. show (A Cook’s Tour on Food Network. Yes, Bourdain was originally part of the network that he pokes fun of to this day). Then, it was Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and The Layover with Anthony Bourdain, both on Travel Channel. These two shows made him a bonafide Food and Travel Star.

Of course, Bourdain went on to star on The Taste on ABC and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown on CNN. Despite all his fame, he has never forgotten his job at Les Halles. The owner has been featured in both A Cook’s Tour and No Reservations. The dearly departed Carlos was featured several times, mainly on No Reservations, and once on The Layover.

Anywho- enough about Bourdain; time to talk food!


The first two courses of my dinner at Les Halles! If you look in the upper right-hand corner, I shared a roasted brie crostini, with honey and black pepper. The main dish was duck, with fig, creme fruit and heirloom tomatoes (I think this might of been one of that night’s specials).

I must say, the crostini was amazing, and this duck dish was the best duck dish I’ve EVER had!


Main course: P.E.I. Mussels with saffron!

Until this dinner, I had only had mussels at The Olive Garden; I am VERY happy to report that these mussels were MUCH better. As of matter of fact, they were THE best mussels I’ve EVER had!


Close-up shot of the P.E.I. Mussels


BEST French fries I’ve EVER had in my entire LIFE!

I know Bourdain thinks Bouchon makes better fries. Since I haven’t tried the French Fries at Bouchon, I can’t say if that’s true, but the French Fries at Les Halles were THE best French fries I’ve had at this point on my life. Also, they were perfectly paired with the mussel sauce!


My dessert at Les Halles: frozen espresso mousse

Even though the presentation is impeccable, the taste was good, but not great.


Close up of this beautiful dessert


Well there you go, folks! Thanks for reading my #LauraLovesNYC posts!

Next up on the blog: brunch at The Vandal, in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh!


-Friendly Fitness Foodie


Les Halles Park Avenue’s website

Les Halles Park Avenue’s Facebook page

Les Halles Park Avenues Twitter page