Altius – Pittsburgh, PA

Upon entering Altius, it is a clean and modern layout.

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We were seated at our table which was a nice two person table right by the window. The view was amazing. I don’t think there is a better view in the city. It was beautiful and it was right when the sun was setting, which was really neat. After we gazed at the view for a bit, we were greeted by our server. She told us the specials of Swordfish and something else that I forget ha.

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We were offered fresh bread from a bread girl. She had three types of bread and two dip sauces. I am not sure why I find a bread girl so fascinating, maybe it is my love of bread or the option to have bread several times in a meal, but I just love it. I had the Tomato and Cheddar Foccacia. So frickin’ Good. The light chive and butter dip paired well, but the focaccia was so delicious and moist that you didn’t really need anything on it.

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We loved the view so much. It was just so relaxing. We ordered some of their scallops for dinner and it was a perfect starter. The scallops were cooked perfectly and it even came with risotto.

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Okay, so I have this thing about risotto…

My husband and I back in our college days wanted to make this chicken and risotto meal we found off of the Food Network. We wanted to pretend we had money at the time and were chefs because well who doesn’t? So we get the chicken and all the components, but when we had the pot of risotto boiling and were asked to add some white wine, it was at that moment, we remember we did not get white wine. No worries we thought. We were cooking in my husband’s apartment that he shared with 4 other guys. Guys don’t have wine, but they have beer. Same thing right? No. No. Not at all. If you learn nothing from reading my blog, please learn this lesson from me – Sam Adams Beer is not a substitute for a white Chardonnay for risotto. Oh, the smell was horrible and the taste… To this day we have never had risotto until this meal.

This risotto was fantastic and I guarantee they did not put beer in it ha

We were then greeted with this little cone item. We ate it because we were sure it would be good and it was. Our server informed us it was salmon and crab pureed together with chives and onion. It was pretty good.

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We are loving this experience so far. I asked for another glass of wine and that, unfortunately, was forgotten for 25 minutes. We then get our entrees and she remembers and immediately we are wine in hand again.

I ordered the Duck because it was between duck or filet and I had filet the night prior. It was just so hard because everyone loves filet, especially me, but the server noted that you can get a good filet at a lot of places, but not duck which I thought was a great point.

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The duck was cooked perfectly. It was crispy and golden brown and juicy and so very good. The little plantain thing you see in the crepe paper was not very good, but crepe does not with stand time very well so I imagine it would be good eaten immediately, just not after some time on the plate. The green beans were really good and the fruit compote log was good and different. I could only eat about 2 pieces and called it a day as I definitely wanted dessert for the anniversary.

My husband got their world famous or Instagram posted pork chop which he really loved. I ate his carrots because he is weird and does not like carrots. It was a humongous piece of pork. I think the server got him when she said, ” if you are feeling carnivorous this evening the pork chop is well known and really delicious”. My husband is always feeling carnivorous, so it worked out.

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The server then presented us with dessert menus and we saw cookie dough and the choice was clear. If you ever have the option for cookie dough as a dessert you choose that. It was a fun little presentation, she delivered it in a large ball form and then cracked it open with a spoon. The inside was a mini chocolate chip cookie, some creme, and chips. It was pretty tasty, but only a few bites as we just had this whole amazing meal.

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We then looked out at the city and a ship moving throughout the river and just feel really happy and thankful to have this experience. She gives our bill and these two little black bags as a goodbye treat. We opened and found a very small but tasty little vanilla bundt cake. It reminded me of the small kitchen food that TasteMade has on their apps. It was really yummy and there is no picture of it because it was so small to be eaten in one bite and we did that prior to a picture.

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Review

Service – 9

The server checked in on our table every 15-20 minutes. We also had several other wait staff who came to clear plates and help serve our food as soon as it was ready.

Food Quality – 9

Exceptional. You would expect fresh, but this is beyond just fresh and farm to table. It is innovative and exciting. Everything was cooked to perfection.

Price for Quality – 8

The entrees range from $24-40. You pay for quality and the price point definitely matches the quality of the meal. Altius is likely not a weekly dinner place but is almost unmatched for a special occasion.

Atmosphere – 9

Amazing. It is the whole package. From the journey to get there by taking the Duquesne Incline to stepping inside Altius. Altius is modern and elegant without being snobby. All age ranges were present and everyone was just there to relax and have a good time. Guests and servers are friendly, the seats are comfy and the view is breathtaking. I really can’t say enough about the atmosphere, definitely memorable.

Overall Experience – 9

All in all, Altius is an incredible restaurant. The service, the food, and you can not beat the atmosphere. It lived up to its 2,056 4.7 star reviews on Open Table and being rated Four Diamonds by AAA. I highly recommend Altius, you will not be disappointed.

– Elle

Where to find Altius:

1230 Grandview Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15211
412.904.4442
Reservations

 

 

Wolf’s Ridge Brewing

We went to Wolf’s Ridge today and they have a pretty incredible brunch. The brewing scene has been heating up in Columbus for a while now. However, patrons are not just looking for great beer, they also expect exceptional food and great service. Wolf’s Ridge is all of these things and more.

The brewery entrance is proud with its bold name and logo and large windows letting light throughout the restaurant. Wolf’s Ridge opened in 2013 and quickly gained a following.

A few things that make Wolf Ridge different from every other brewery:

  • Donations
    • They offer a donation section on their site to have applicants apply for an event or the beneficiary. I thought this was unique for a brewery and something you do not even see most restaurants publicly share.
  • Wolf Pack Loyalty Club
    • They have a pretty neat loyalty club called the Wolf Pack. For $100 a year it includes a quite generous benefit package that includes 4 quarterly events for new releases (members only), 25% off growlers, custom shirts and glassware. Unfortunatley, they are already sold out for 2017-2018 as they only take 100 members per year.
  • Highly Awarded
    • For only being open for 5 years, they have a lot of accolades from #7 in the nation for best new craft beer from Draft Magazine to a host of awards for their beers. It is impressive what they have done in such a short period of time.

As you walk into Wolf’s Ridge, you step into a large open layout concept, The bar on the right side, the brewery located underground on the left side of the restaurant, and then a tap-room in the far back.

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It is open and welcoming, all while still being elegant and approachable. They were packed for Sunday brunch and were booked for reservations, so we waited at the bar area until a seat became available.

I ordered the ‘Bloody Maria’, which has El Espolon, Highland Park 12 year, house mix, is garnished with cherry tomato, mozzarella, & peperoncino, and served with beer back.

It is a nice mix of spicy and flavor and I love the little beer sample I get with it.

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Upon looking at the menu, it is not your traditional brunch list of sausage, eggs, pancakes etc. No, it is an adventure of all of the items you are used to, but created with different ingredients, flavor combinations, and plated in the way you should eat it in order to hit all the right notes.

The surprising  part of Wolf’s Ridge is that everyone feels at home. Looking around the room, you can see patrons that are young, old, dressed up in a suit, leggings, shorts, ball caps… Everyone just seems to feel comfortable in the space.

They have a tap-room in the back that opens for lunch and offers items at lower price points than the front of the restaurant. The tap room offers 20 rotating  house taps and happy hour from 2-7 Monday through Sunday.

We decided to try the Sugar Donuts to get started. They arrived with a side of a coffee cream dip sauce.

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They are coated in sugar, like little balls of snow and are slightly crispy on the outside from being double fried.

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When you bite into the center, it is slightly crispy, buttery, and yummy. I did find the sugar and double-fried nature of the outside to overtake the taste of the donut, but I imagine it would be fantastic after a night out with friends or if you are really hankering a sugary dessert.

I was only able to have a half of one and then our entrée arrived. We selected the Toad in the Hole, which is brioche cut out in a perfect circle, hiding a secret sunny side up egg from Copia Farms. It lies on a bed of applewood smoked bacon with a few fingerling potatoes and is encircled with a gravy like vinaigrette.

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The one component that really makes this dish are the sprouts that lay on top. The sprouts add a nice fresh pop in every bite.

The brioche with the egg inside is perfect and creamy and I liked swirling the brioche with a bit of egg in the gravy.

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The main course was fantastic and exciting in every bite. My husband and I split this dish, so the picture above is actually a half portion. I could only eat a half of the half 🙂

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My hushed kept saying in awe how great his meal was. It is a really good dish.

Review

Service – 7

There were a few people waiting and the host let them know the tap-room was open to eat. We were offered a drink list within 5 minutes of arriving and all of the food items came out promptly.

Food Quality – 8

The food quality is fresh from the farm. They strive to source local and you can taste the difference in even the smallest components (like the sprouts).

Price for Quality – 8

The brunch entrees range from $9-$19. The entrees are definitely large enough to split between two people.

Atmosphere – 9

I love that you can be in the front for more of an elegant vibe or the back tap-room for more of a chill vibe. It is a place to enjoy at any time with anyone.

Overall Experience – 8

Wolf’s Ridge is a great place to go and they have so many different experiences to offer. They have an amazing brunch, they have a great dinner (which we have yet not experienced), and they have a tap-room where you can simply relax with one of their excellent craft beers.

Where to find Wolf’s Ridge:

215 N 4th Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215
614.429.3936
Reservations

Third & Hollywood

I had never heard of Third & Hollywood until a friend recently recommended it to my husband and I. Situated in Grandview and open since 2009, Third & Hollywood is right next door to the newly re-opened Grandview Cafe.

They have a small, but spacious layout. Upon entering inside, you feel relaxed and the space has a nice open door patio that gives light to the entire restaurant. The kitchen is situated on the left side of the restaurant in the back, but is not behind the scenes. It is all glass and makes you feel like you can see your food being made. In fact, if you are seated at one of the bar tables you likely could.

We were seated on their outside patio which was small, but awesome. The roof of the patio is curved and structured in a way that you could probably be out there if it was raining or in the fall and still feel comfortable. We had a little two top table and were quickly greeted with ice cold water. The server immediately came over and I think he was new as he was a bit nervous, but he was friendly and went through the specials of the day.

Upon looking at the menu it was nice and concise, but offers plenty of options for everyone. I am always relieved when there are less options because it typically means that the chefs practice those set items more often. This also means that the produce and dinner items are purchased more frequently, which aids in the chef’s understanding of their own menu (i.e. what type of tomato works best for the salad, etc). Large menus always scare me! I have no idea how some restaurants can have a 10 page list.

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They have daily features on their menu.  A mix of snacks, salads and entrees. They also have a decent craft beer list and a nice bottled wine list. Now, due to my love of wine, I was skeptical at first as they only offer one glass of wine by the glass in each section — Sparkling and Champagne, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chein Blanc, Pinot Noir, Rose, Merlot, Italian, Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and additional ‘more whites’ and ‘more reds’ sections. Thankfully, one of the glasses of wine offered was Smith & Hook’s 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon. Produced from the Hahn family in Soledad, California it has all the flavor to make an excellent full body red with notes of mocha, toasted oak, licorice, vanilla, coffee and black currant. It was soooo good. I think a good glass of wine can make or break a meal and this definitely enhanced the entire meal experience.

We wanted to try what they seem to be known for, their Iron Skillet of Cheddar Herb Biscuits. You have the option for a full skillet or half — being just two of us and trying to keep with the “slim for summer” mentality, we went with the half skillet. OMG guys, it was too yummy! If the pics don’t make you want to eat them, then I am not sure what would. They were so photogenic too… Cheesy and delicious in all its glory.

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They were fluffy, handmade little pieces of goodness that just melted in your mouth. They were the perfect start to the meal and came to the table piping hot. They offer these little nuggets of deliciousness for free during their happy hour Monday through Friday from 5-6. Unfortunately, we would never make that as we work downtown, but not a bad deal at all.

The ambience so far by this point consisted of a nice level of chatter and excited conversation amongst tables, but not the dreaded, “I care so much about you and want to hear you, but I am too distracted by all the other conversations and noise to focus”, as you can experience elsewhere. It also likely helped being outside to carry sound, but we felt the whole time that we were having our own meal and in our own little table world.

The entrees arrived and they were very impressive. I ordered the Seared Tuna with Chopped Vegetables. The tuna was #1 sushi grade. As much as I love sushi, I was not aware that there were grades. A quick Google search told me that the grade basically consists of a rating for fish by wholesaler and a grade of 1 means it could be eaten as sushi. So enough education, below is my meal pic. The side was a mix of asparagus, avocados, tomatoes and a vinaigrette dressing. I found the vinaigrette a bit heavy, but the combination of the asparagus and avocado was delicious.

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I wanted to share both pictures as the top one really shows the side dish, but the bottom really speaks to the quality of the tuna. The tuna had a nice smoky and peppery covering on each piece. It almost melted in your mouth, it was REALLY good.

The server offered us a few dessert specials, which while sounding pretty good (Chocolate Pudding or Strawberry Shortcake), we felt we had indulged enough for one meal.

I am going to try to use the below rating scale for each review to help with consistency. It will be based on a 1 (Not Good at All) to 10 (Exceptional) scale…

*Service – 6

I am giving service a 6 because our server was nice, but sometimes forgot to take away glasses or ask if we wanted another drink.

*Food Quality – 9

The food quality was pretty darn impressive and that should be no surprise considering the list of local growers and producers that they use. It really shows in the quality of the food and I love supporting local businesses.

*Price for Quality – 9

I think the price points paired well with the quality. I felt like the cost was worth the quality of the food and drinks.

*Atmosphere – 8

I think the atmosphere was relaxing and had a nice open air feeling. I would like to try it on a fall day later this year.

*Overall Experience – 8

Third & Hollywood is a great place to go and try. We will definitely go back and try more of their menu offerings or featured entrees. The quality of the food is definitely there and worth trying.

Where to find Third & Hollywood:

1433 West Third Ave.,
Grandview Heights, OH 43212
614.488.0303
Reservations

**P.S. A great stop following dinner is Grandview Cafe for an after dinner drink!