Tag Archives: tortilla

Smoke Barbecue Taqueria

There are a lot of reasons a Pittsburgher like me might envy Chicago. The flat landscape makes biking the entire city a cinch. They’ve got a public transportation system that, in my limited opinion, rivals that of any other city. There are beaches. There is a vibrant music scene punctuated by visits from notable bands from all over the world. There are more veg-friendly establishments in one or two neighborhoods than in the entirety of Pittsburgh (although this is rapidly becoming less true).

But the real point of jealousy, for me, is the Mexican food. The glorious, glorious array of offerings all over the city, from the high-end cuisine of Rick Bayless to the lowest of the lowly late-night burrito joints. In this regard, it’s not just the level of quality, but the sheer quantity available. Every neighborhood, every business area, seemingly every street, many open 24 hours, seven days a week. That’s an absurd amount of riches for one city and I, for one, am sick of Pittsburgh getting the short shrift on Mexican dining.

I guess I’m not alone, because in the last year or so, half a dozen openings have given local fans of Mexican, Latin American, and similarly minded cuisine a reason to stop envying our Midwest cousin city and start sampling the scattered options around town. If this gives locals a good reason to visit Brookline Boulevard or the area of Homestead that is not the Waterfront, then so be it.

While the taco stand at Las Palmas in Brookline still holds my affection as “Best Sign That Pittsburgh is Finally Getting Some Decent Mexican Food” as well as “Best Damn Lunch You Can Get for $5,” a recent contender has approached and made a powerful first strike in the war for my love: Smoke Barbecue Taqueria. A blend of traditional Mexican food and American barbecue, this little restaurant gives people like me a lot to get excited about.

Located just around the corner from the Waterfront on Eighth Avenue, Smoke is about as tiny as you can get without being a strictly takeout joint. The name of the game is house-made, from the tortillas to the beverages. The menu is an efficient affair of a few breakfast items, the small but mighty list of tacos, and some classic side options to complement the main course. The food can be ordered to-go or eaten inside the small and funky dining area that is comprised of three sets of mismatched tables and chairs and a little counter seating area.

I wouldn’t suggest going to Smoke on an empty stomach. When me and my dining companions made our first visit, we were surprised by a sign on the door that read “Ran out. Temporarily closed until 7:00 pm.” Luckily for us, it was about quarter till. We were invited in and waited at one of the tables until they were ready to start serving again. And by “they” I mean the skeleton staff of two, maybe three people preparing and serving the food and handling transactions. Because of this, the service was slow, but amicable. As the restaurant started to fill up with patrons, we couldn’t really blame the staff for the long wait for our food. They were beyond busy.

Smoke Barbecue and Taqueria on Urbanspoon

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Pure & Simple Bistro

Settler’s Ridge is about what you’d expect from the latest fashion of shopping areas. It’s expansive and open air. It’s filled to the brim with stores and restaurants of both high-class and mid-level appeal. It’s got a big movie theater. It’s got an even bigger Giant Eagle Market District, looming in the corner like an airport hanger filled with food. It’s  a huge maze of parking and commerce that on a busy Friday evening can drive a person to the brink of madness.

What a relief, then, that nestled in there, next to the movie theater, down the sidewalk from the monstrous and cacophony-laden Cadillac Ranch is a little oasis of calm?

Pure & Simple Bistro is about as far away from its neighboring establishments as it can get without an actual physical relocation. As quiet as the others are loud, as simple as the others are high concept, as low-key as the others are high energy, P&S is sweet Southern cooking with an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients and simple, classic dishes done with careful attention paid toward proportion and quality.

Walking through the doors on a hot summer night is like taking a dip in cool waters. The decor is sleek, wooden, and stylish. If you ever wondered what kind of cafe Pottery Barn would have (if, say, they went the IKEA route), you can be it would look like this:

Pure & Simple Bistro on Urbanspoon

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Vegan A to Z: Burritos with Faux Chorizo

There was so much I wanted to do with B and C, but I settled on a recipe from my lazy Saturday afternoon. Tired of seitan roast leftovers and other Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving remains, I decided to finally break open my bag of TVP and try to make a chorizo imitation that would rival my favorite soyrizo from Trader Joe’s (I didn’t quite match their version, but it was still pretty good). I had also just picked up tortillas from Reyna’s earlier that morning, so it was a good time for burritos.

Faux Chorizo
– 1 cup TVP, rehydrated as instructed on package
– 1 8 oz can plain tomato sauce
– 2 tsp sage
– 2 tsp cayenne pepper
– 1/2 tbsp chili powder
– 2 tsp ground black pepper OR garlic pepper
– 2 tsp onion salt
– 2 tsp cumin
– Adobo seasoning (if desired)
– Hot sauce (to taste)
– A few dashes of liquid smoke
(My variation included the Arizona Dreaming spice from Penzey’s, but it’s not necessary. As is the case with most of the things I make, the spices are fairly changeable, so feel free to mix and match to your own tastes.)

While TVP is rehydrating, heat the tomato sauce in a medium-sized pot on the stove. Add all spices and seasonings, then add the rehydrated TVP. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. For a thinner mix, add a tablespoon of oil along with the TVP. While greasier, it works really well for big sloppy burritos.

For the burritos:
– Faux chorizo
– 1 medium onion
– 1 Bell Pepper
– Fresh mushrooms
– Vegetable oil
– Tortillas

In large pan or pot, heat the oil and add the onions, cooking until they are translucent. Add bell pepper and let cook for another three minutes. Add faux chorizo and mushrooms, then let sit for 10 to 15 minutes on low heat. Stir frequently. Once cooked through, you know what to do.