Cafe Sam
5242 Baum Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
412-621-2000




 
NEWS, RECIPES, AND MORE!
(Email Us to become a Private List Member)

 

NEWS ARCHIVES

1/28/17

We will be offering a four course dinner (complete with a champagne toast) this Valentine's Day for $42.95/person. Click here to view the menu:  HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY 2017

...and here's our PREMIUM VALENTINE'S DINNER menu for the evening's celebration.

7/1/14

You're in Cheeseburger Paradise!

peach clipart

Andy’s Stuffed Burger Bacon, Onion, Three Cheeses
BBQ Burger Cheddar Cheese, Fried Onion Rings
Buffalo Bleu Burger Creamy Gorgonzola, Texas Pete Mayo
“Breakfast” Burger Fried Egg, Bacon, American Cheese
Mexican Burger Habanero Cheese, Guacamole Butter
Mushroom Burger Portabellas, Demi-Glace, Pepper Jack Cheese
Pizza Burger House Red Sauce, Provolone Cheese
Rachel Burger Swiss Cheese, House Slaw, Thousand Island
Lamb Burger Grilled Naan, Feta Cheese, Italian Greens

Private List Members Only:  Cheeseburger Coupon

5/5/14

We buy wine that is regularly available on shelves at the liquor store -  and also less known and harder to find "SLO’s" (Special Liquor Orders) from private vendors operating here in Pennsylvania.  Want to find out the price of the bottle you selected at Cafe Sam (or any other restaurant) and where you can buy it?  All you need is an iPhone and the PLCB Fine Wine and Good Spirits app to scan the barcode on the label…

4/21/14

Celebrate spring at Cafe Sam starting next week - we appreciate your business!

Jagermeister clipart

Email List Members Only:  Jägermeister Root Beer Float

Bertha

Email List Members Only:  Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri or Piña Colada

Samantha

Email List Members Only:  Samantha's 25¢ Cosmo

wine glass

Email List Members Only:  Complimentary Wine with Any New Smoked Entrée

early bird

Email List Members Only:  Early Bird Four Course Prix Fix

4/20/14

Some of our current Chef's Specials...

Romaine Stack French Roquefort
Fried Oysters  Extra Select, Panko Crusted, Anchovy Sauce
Center Cut Smoked T-Bone Pork Chop  Thai Chili Cream
Chicken Breast  Collard Greens and Bacon, Blue Cheese/Ramp Butter
Baked Ziti  Black Angus Beef, House Red Sauce, Three Cheeses
Hot Roast Beef Open Faced, Portobellas, Red Wine Demi, French Fries
Assorted Desserts  Pear Tart, Crème Brûlée, Jägermeister Root Beer Float, Cheesecake with Fresh Strawberry Compote, Italian Tartufo, More!

4/18/14

Gassy cows are having a big effect on the environment, as their “methane emissions” impact global warming.  Seriously.  And this revelation comes at a time when worldwide meat consumption is on the rise.  How can we control the emissions?

We need to improve the efficiency of agricultural land use and feed.  For example, having cows graze on grass isn’t efficient because the grass results in smaller animals that emit more gas per pound than animals raised on grain.  But corn and soy make cows gassy, too, so feed like alfalfa mixed with supplements might work better as this combination seems to decrease the overall amount of gas.

More research on what we feed cows is needed to help reduce methane emissions (and also to produce better ideas about how to get rid of their poop!)…   

4/15/14

Dessert is an expression of love, and sugar is the food equivalent of love.  But wait a second – sugar is everywhere and it’s making us all fat and sick.  Sugar is like a narcotic…

So the Schuab family decides to go on a wacky adventure:  a year without sugar.  Energy levels are reported to be higher and steadier, and bowel movements are more regular.  Are they eco-stunters looking for publicity, or are they really onto something?

We’re never going to get completely off sugar, but like everything in life, the key to good living might be taking it all in moderation…

4/13/14

“I would like to observe the vermouth from across the room while I drink my martini.”
Winston Churchill

4/10/14

A “Pickleback” is a shot of whiskey with a separate pickle juice chaser. The origin of the Pickleback isn’t known, but its most modern revival is traced to hipster bars in Brooklyn, New York. We’ve been making our own pickles at Café Sam for a long time, so it seemed very natural for us to try something different with the high quality dill/garlic enhanced pickle juice that’s on hand. Inspired by the ubiquitous “Dirty Martini,” we’ve infused fresh jalapeno peppers and homemade pickle juice with gin, and together they make one hot (and sour) tasting martini!

pickleback

Email List Members Only:  $2.00 "Pickleback" Martini

4/4/14

Spring has sprung. Once again, we will be serving our own homegrown Heirloom Tomatoes this year and they have already been sprouted from seed. This batch (the fourth generation of Cafe Sam heirlooms) is off to a very healthy start – they will grow up to eight feet high!  

There will be about forty extra plants available for customers on our email list.  Send us an email request and we will hold a couple of complimentary plants for your garden, available for pickup at Café Sam during the first two weeks of May.

First come, first served!

tomato sprout

4/3/14

Matzah has a rich and lasting history, dating back to biblical times when the Israelites fled Egypt in great haste and couldn’t even wait for their bread to rise.  At the same time, it is also known as “a poor man’s bread” and a reminder to be humble and appreciate freedom. 

Between now and Passover…

Email List Members Only:  Matzah Crusted Salmon/Sun-Dried Cherry Sauce

4/1/14

EZ Pickled Deviled Eggs for Easter

Ingredients

1  15 oz. Can of Red Beets with Juice
½  Cup Water
½  Cup White Wine Vinegar
¼  Cup Brown Sugar
½  Onion, Sliced
6   Hard Boiled Eggs

½  Cup Mayonnaise
½  Teaspoon Smokey Adobo Sauce
½  Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
¼  Teaspoon Worcestershire
1   Teaspoon Sugar

Method

Combine beets and juice, water, white wine vinegar, brown sugar, and onion. Simmer in a pan for five minutes and cool. Place hard eggs in a jar with the pickling mixture, and refrigerate three days.

Cut pickled eggs in half, and remove the yolks. Combine yolks with mayonnaise, adobo sauce, mustard, worcestershire, and sugar. Mash with a fork until smooth. Fill egg whites with the yolk mixture (use a pastry bag if available).

pickled deviled eggs

3/26/14

Shoes and food aren’t two words that go well together – the implication is that your meat is tough as leather.  But shoes and wine?  Well, that’s another story.  Especially if there’s no corkscrew nearby…

3/23/14

A Fond Farewell to Winter Comfort Food…

Email List Members Only:  Classic Baked Ziti

3/18/14

If every state had an official meat it should be famous for, what would those meats be?  Rules are rules: sandwiches are not meats, so here in Pennsylvania the “cheesesteak” is ruled out.  But where there are rules, there are ways to get by them.  For the perfect cheesesteak, you need paper thin slices of beef top round (griddled in oil), so in a roundabout way the top is the meat Pennsylvania should be famous for.  Here is a fun to read article that circles around America and names an official meat for every state…

3/17/14

“In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria.”
Benjamin Franklin

3/14/14

The Café Sam Fried Fish Sandwich (with sweet potatoes and poppy seed slaw) - catch it for lunch next week!

3/1/14

March Madness!!!

menu

Email List Members Only:  $16.95 Four Course Dinner

2/19/14

Enjoy a Martini and a Burger...

Email List Members Only:  $4.00 Cosmos

Email List Members Only:  $5.00 Burgers

2/4/14

Click here to view our Valentine's Day Menu and here to view our premium Valentine's Day Menu.

1/30/14

She was paying extra cash for organic produce to avoid pesticides and all the while her playful son was licking the bottom of his shoes and getting licked by a poop sniffing dog.  Now she is living with reality and buying produce at Shoprite.  Turns out that organic produce doesn’t necessarily mean pesticide free – the important thing is to simply get your kids into eating any kind of fruits and vegetables instead of the really bad stuff.  We’ve been here before (presenting both sides of the argument), and we’ll probably be back again, but for now check out the facts and figures colorfully presented in Slate Magazine’s Organic Schmorganic...

1/27/14

Brr…it’s cold outside. Introducing our slow cooked Pot Roast with Oblique Cut Candied Carrots and Egg Noodles - you won’t find a better way to stay warm inside!

menu

Email List Members Only:  Pot Roast Coupon

1/12/14

Current coupons...click on the following links to open them!

menu

Email List Members Only:  $16.95 Four Course Dinner

house wine

Email List Members Only:  Complimentary Wine

Samantha

Email List Members Only:  Samantha's 25¢ Cosmopolitan Martini

smoking duck

Email List Members Only:  House Smoked Duck

lasagna

Email List Members Only:  Homemade Lasagna

1/11/14

Pictures of some items that have landed on our Classic Menu and current Chef's Specials...

Sunburst Salad While We Wait for Spring
Tuna Tartar Soy, Wasabi, Sesame Seeds, Avocado, Naan
Country-Style Pork Pâté Prunes, Pistachio, Cornichons
Fried Zucchini Panko Crusted, Pecorino, House Red Sauce
Calamari Piccata Capers, Lemon, Garlic Toast Tower
Lamb Chops Domestic, Kalamata Olive Tapenade, Classic Béarnaise
Veal Schnitzel Braised Red Cabbage, Horseradish Crusted Potato Croquette
Smoked Maple Leaf Farms Duck House Curry
General Tso Salmon General Tso Cream
Homemade Lasagna Meat or Vegetarian, Three Cheeses

1/9/14

Two of our new Classic Menu items include “Tapenade Paste” (the Garlic Toast with Anchovy Spread and the Lamb Chops with Béarnaise Sauce). Tapenade Paste first appeared in ancient Roman cookbooks, and it is popular in southern French and Italian cuisines. The paste comes from a little olive oil whipped into different pureed ingredients, and as a condiment it is healthier than the trendy mayonnaise based aiolis. Here’s our simple to make recipe…

Café Sam Tapenade Paste

Ingredients

½  Cup Pitted Kalamata Olives
1   Anchovy Fillet
1   Sun Dried Tomato
1   Whole Artichoke
1   Teaspoon Capers
¼  Teaspoon Lemon Juice
1   Teaspoon Chopped Parsley
1   Pinch Fresh Cracked Pepper
2   Tablespoons Olive Oil

Method

Place all ingredients, except Olive Oil, into a food processor and puree to a fine chop. Then drizzle in the Olive Oil to form a paste.

1/4/14

“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”
Yogi Berra, New York Yankees

1/1/14

“People worry about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year, but they really should worry about what they eat between the New Year and Christmas.”
Author unknown

12/26/13

We don’t light up the sky with culinary fireworks that have never been seen before, but we are in a great rhythm.  We know you, and what you like to eat.  What’s more, as regular customers, we’re in a relationship together.  You patronize Café Sam, and we appreciate the business.  When you come back, again and again, it validates and vindicates our mission as a restaurant.  Familiarity Breeds Content – and this food article (our favorite of 2013) helps in explaining how we see ourselves and the roles we play together.  Thanks for a great year, and we look forward to seeing you in 2014!

12/23/13

“In my experience, clever food is not appreciated at Christmas. It makes the little ones cry and the old ones nervous.”
Jane Grigson

12/21/13

We will be offering a four course dinner (complete with a champagne toast) this New Years' Eve for $42.95/person. Click here to view the menu:  HAPPY NEW YEAR 2014

12/07/13

The hipster cool of pulling a stool up to a communal table and the culinary challenges of a modern restaurant vs. the comfort of a well worn banquette and knowing exactly what to expect in a meal.  It's put on the table by the New York Times in Sign of the Times/Spell of Old Restaurants and begs the question: do you want deconstructed chicken on a waffe or Coq au Vin?

12/02/13

Think about an evening that’s good for you and come visit us soon…

Monday: $4.00 House Wine
Tuesday: $5.00 Burgers
Wednesday: $10.95 Chicken Piccata
Thursday: $12.95 General Tso Salmon
Friday: $4.00 Cosmos
Saturday: $15.95 N.Y. Strip Steaks
Sunday: Half Price Pasta Entrees

11/29/13

Great updates for our "Classic Menu" next week!!!

11/19/13

Tequila + Pork = Awesome - most people have the basics down (red wine goes with meat and white wine goes with fish and chicken), but the idea of pairing food with hard liquor is the trendy thing now.  This article tells you why a Bloody Mary goes well with bacon and eggs and also why you probably don't want to sip Kahlua with chocolate cake...

11/9/13

“All cooking is a matter of time. In general, the more time the better.”
John Erskine, 'The Complete Life'

11/4/13

Warm up with our slow cooking…

Email List Members Only:  Lamb Shank/Oblique-Cut Candied Carrots

Email List Members Only:  Turducken Meatloaf

10/14/13

The Octoberfest celebration lives on…

Email List Members Only:  Pork Schnitzel and Spaetzel

10/12/13

We order six heads of Napa Cabbage twice each week, for one of the ingredients in the Café Sam Radicchio Salad.  Our produce purveyor blew it last Friday, sent a twenty-five pound case of Napa by mistake, and told us to keep it.  Welcome Kimchi (a wonderfully sour tasting fermented Napa Cabbage, Radish, Scallion, Ginger, and Red Pepper Powder preparation) – it’s Korea’s national dish, and we’ll be giving it away to you all week, complimentary of course...

9/29/13

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."
Albert Einstein

9/19/13

"When I have vegetarians over for dinner, I’m already making a sacrifice by forgoing a real entrée in favor of a meatless one. Fairness and common sense would argue that, in return, vegetarians shouldn’t make a big deal about some small amount of a near-invisible (if crucial!) liquid."  Here's a good chuckle written by a meat eater who wants to justify sliding a few tablespoons of chicken stock into vegetarian risotto...

9/14/13

Nothing is ever going to match the thrill of a twenty-fifth anniversary in the restaurant business. We worked really hard to get there, had an amazing dinner to celebrate the night (which featured our original opening menu and prices from 1987), and went into an extended and well-earned relaxation mode for a while afterward. So the fact that we are hitting a twenty-sixth anniversary today feels anticlimactic, but it is nonetheless a special day. Thanks for getting us through another year (oh my, how time flies!), and stop in sometime this week so we can pour you a strong one...

Email List Members Only:  $4 Cosmopolitan Coupon

9/8/13

Our Chef’s Specials continue to change “on the fly” – don’t miss the amazing Ultimate Hot Dog (house smoked) that we are currently serving on our lunch menu…

hot dog

Email List Members Only:  The Ultimate Hot Dog Coupon

8/31/13

Sink your claws into this...

Email List Members Only:  New England Shore Dinner

8/24/13

Congratulations Bill and Amanda - it was a beautiful wedding!!!

8/22/13

“Every year the number of new cookbooks increases, but in spite of them the progress made in this most useful of the arts is not ever overpowering. On the contrary, we must regretfully admit that nowadays people no longer prepare the fine and nourishing dishes that our mothers used to make.”
Anna Dorn, Cookbook Author (1834)

8/8/13

$15.95 Four Course Dinner August 12th – 18th

Email List Members Only:  Four Course Dinner Coupon

8/2/13

“My feet have felt the toil of years on hard kitchen floors, and when one meets another cook one exchanges more foot balm panaceas than recipes.”
Clarissa Dickson Wright, 'Food' (1999)

7/18/13

mojito

Email List Members Only:  $2.00 Mojito Cocktail

gazpacho

Email List Members Only:  Free Rosemary Infused Vodka Spiked Gazpacho

house wine

Email List Members Only:  Free House Wine With Any Smoked Dinner Special

early bird

Email List Members Only:  Early Bird Coupon

7/15/13

Some of our current Chef's Specials...

Fried Calamari Rings General Tso Sauce, Garlic Toast Tower
Chopped Lamb Steak Radicchio, Napa, Spinach Salad
Pork Chops Curry Rub, Tikka Masala
Garlic Chicken Roasted Beets
Catfish Caesar Salad Bell Pepper Relish, Lemon Butter
Stuffed Tomato Salad Trio Pesto Egg, Amish Ham, Chicken
Naan Flatbread Pizza Cappicola, Banana Peppers, Greek Salad
Fresh Fruit Cobbler Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream

7/10/13

$14 Duck Fillet Nachos after $7 Cocktails with Pounded Basil at the bottom.  Are hipster foods more valuable than foods eaten outside of restaurants that serve people who, for the most part, are thin, young, and white?

“And what does it mean when the tagline of a white-owned restaurant is something like "Modern Mexican Cuisine"? What does it mean when that restaurant charges three times more for enchiladas than the family-owned place down the street that has been there for 25 years? It means that “modern” equals white, and that “ethnic” equals antiquated and dirty.”

According to this article, if we are conditioned to think the only places that get people excited about sustainable foods are the ones that attract hipsters, we are catering to the racism/classism that high end restaurant gentrification promotes.

School kids who receive free lunches love Swiss Chard, too, and we need to think more about promoting sustainable food that reaches the entire community (not just the foodie joints)…

7/3/13

A look back at some of our best summer grilling posts...

Sticky Grate Blues
Diamond Cuts
Compound Butters
Marinades
Rubs
The Art of Grilling

6/26/13

Cold smoking and BBQ are two distinctly different cooking methods. Cold smoking does not involve heat and the process leaves smoked items raw (often for cooking later on the grill). BBQ applies heat and smoke at the same time and slowly cooks items while they are smoking.

The two methods share one thing in common – finally cooked foods are often finished off with delicious BBQ sauces.

That said, BBQ sauces vary widely in different parts of the world (examples include hoisin flavored Asian BBQ and parsley flavored chimichurri in South America). Here in the United States most BBQ sauces are vinegar and tomato based, but not all of them.

South Carolina is known for a yellow mustard BBQ sauce, and Alabama is famous for a white BBQ sauce.

We are currently offering an Alabama white BBQ sauce option on our cold smoked meats (Veal Chops, Pork Chops, Chicken Thighs, Duck, Salmon, and Ahi Tuna). Get smoking and give this sauce a try, or stop in soon and let us make the recipe for you!

Alabama White BBQ Sauce

Ingredients

2   Cups Mayonnaise
¼  Cup White Vinegar
2   Tablespoons Minced White Onion
1   Tablespoon Coarsely Ground Black Pepper
1   Tablespoon Whole Grain Mustard
1   Teaspoon Sugar
2   Teaspoons Minced Garlic
2   Teaspoons Horseradish
1   Teaspoon Hot Sauce
1   Teaspoon Salt

Method

Combine ingredients in a bowl and whisk together.

6/23/13

Samantha's Bar Specials...

Samantha

Email List Members Only:  $5.00 Burgers
Email List Members Only:  $4.00 Cosmos

6/17/13

Lost recipe recovered!  It’s back (after a ten year absence)…

fruit cobbler

Email List Members Only:  Fresh Fruit Cobbler

6/6/13

An update about our current state of mind and a look back at our culinary accomplishments since starting the Café Sam website three years ago…

5/26/13

Now's the time for Strawberries and Rhubarb!

Email List Members Only:  Coconut Shrimp

5/14/13

"It's back.  It's back in full gear," said community activist Aggie Brose, deputy director of Bloomfield-Garfield Corp.  "It's going to address all the health needs of our community and Allegheny County."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 5/8/2013

A Big Welcome Back For Our Employee Friends at West Penn Hospital…

Email List Members Only:  West Penn Hospital Employees

…And Continued Appreciation For Our Employee Friends at UPMC.

Email List Members Only:  UPMC Hospital Employees

5/7/13

This weekend...

Veal Medallions, Chicken, or Salmon Peppercorn Crusted Pork Belly, Armstrong County Ramps, Whole Grain Mustard Sauce, Collard Greens and Lentil Nest

Email List Members Only:  Happy Mother's Day

5/5/13

New – Slushie Piña Coladas!

pina colada

Email List Members Only:  $2.00 Piña Colada

4/30/13

From the Café Sam Smokehouse…

blowing smoke
Email List Members Only:  Maple Leaf Farms Duck

4/22/13

“If we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy, it will in the end not produce food either.”
Joseph Wood Krutch, naturalist (1893-1970)

4/18/13

house wine

Email List Members Only:  Free Wine

pork chops

Email List Members Only:  Smoked Pork Chops

early bird

Email List Members Only:  Early Bird

4/15/13

Amazing new feature items for Summer 2013...

FROM THE CAFÉ SAM SMOKE HOUSE

- All Items Cold Smoked On Our Premises

Appetizers

Rainbow Trout
Baby Back Ribs

Entrées

12 oz. Veal Chop
Double-Cut Pork Chops
Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast
Boneless/Skinless Chicken Thighs
Atlantic Salmon
Ahi Tuna
All-Beef Hot Dog

- Entrees Served with Collard Greens, Lentils, and Bacon

Choose a Sauce:

Andy’s Steak Sauce
Spicy Portuguese Churrasco
Bourbon BBQ
Sweet Thai Chile Cream
House Curry

Smoked Pork

4/14/13

Some of our new smoked dishes (pictured with with optional sauce examples)...

Rainbow Trout Appetizer
Baby Back Ribs Appetizer
12 oz. Veal Chop Andy's Steak Sauce
Double-Cut Pork Chops Bourbon BBQ
Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast House Curry
Boneless/Skinless Chicken Thighs Spicy Portuguese Churrasco
Atlantic Salmon Sweet Thai Chili Cream

4/10/13

We are now hand picking RAMPS (a.k.a. "wild leeks") in Armstrong County - stop in over the next couple of weeks to enjoy different dishes made with this early spring delicacy...

4/07/13

“KISS” is an acronym for “Keep It Simple Stupid” and it means things work better when they are kept simple and easily understood, as opposed to things that are designed with complexity and unfamiliar.  As far as food preparation is concerned, we’re going to run with this theory in mind for a while and see where it takes us…

4/04/13

Once again, we will be serving our own homegrown Heirloom Tomatoes this summer and have started them from seed. The batch is off to a very healthy start – and there will be about thirty extra plants available for customers on our email list. Send us an email request and we will hold a couple of complimentary plants for your garden, available for pickup at Café Sam during the first two weeks of May.

heirloom tomato sprout

3/31

THIS FRIDAY NIGHT ONLY: Live music on our second floor (6:30 - 9:00) featuring the Loebig, Mastele, Piszczek Trio!

3/30/13

We're looking forward to taking a different culinary path in a couple of weeks and excited about having some new fun with food...

3/22/13

Custom Made Just For You – Garlic Chicken with Collard Greens, Lentils and Bacon

Email List Members Only:  Garlic Chicken Coupon

3/15/13

The Fried Fish Tacos that we serve at lunch with anchovy tartar sauce, celery seed vinegar slaw, and cajun spiced potato chips are a hit with our regulars.  For those of you who have been enjoying this fabulous dish (we even got some media mention for it), here are some of the interesting particulars:  we use a really nice beer batter for dipping Pollock, which features locally crafted Penn Dark Lager, and the plate is technically “Surf and Turf."

Surf and Turf?

As a matter of fact, we deep fry with natural “Beef Tallow" instead of the commonly used vegetable based frying oils.  Tallow is a rendered form of beef suet that includes natural vitamins, while vegetable oils are highly refined, processed, bleached and hydrogenated modern oils with hardly any nutrient value.

“Monounsaturated Fatty Acids” are the kind of fats found in butter and tallow, while “Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids” are the kind of fats found in corn and soy oils.  If you are into learning more about cholesterol and heart health, and frying oils, this is all explained in a detailed article pointedly named The Oiling of America that we recently read and enjoyed…

If you don’t have the time, take our word for it – Beef Tallow is the way to go for good frying.  And it imparts a great coating flavor, too!

3/11/13

This weekend…

Email List Members Only:  Irish Banger Meatballs, Horseradish Mashed Potatoes, Gravy

Email List Members Only:  Guinness Beer Coupon

2/26/13

Great new coupons! Why? Because we really appreciate your business...

Email List Members Only:  NY Strip Steak/Andy's Steak Sauce

Email List Members Only:  Atlantic Salmon/Lobster Crusted

Email List Members Only:  All Burgers/Beef, Veal, or Turkey

Email List Members Only:  Naan Pizza/Homemade Sausage

Email List Members Only:  Hot Roast Beef Sandwich/Red Wine Demi

Email List Members Only:  Baby Back Ribs/Chinese BBQ

Email List Members Only:  $3.00 House Wine

2/24/13

Current Chef's Specials pics...

Pâté de la Maison Pork, Prunes, Pistachio, Crostini
Baby Back Ribs Smoked, Chinese BBQ, Poppy Seed Slaw
Fried Calamari Pancetta, Lemon Butter, Garlic Toast Tower
Handmade Pierogies Pico de Gallo, Guacamole, Chive Sour Cream
Coconut Crusted Shrimp Thai Chili Glaze
Fried Mushrooms Panko Crusted, Shaved Asiago, House Red Sauce
New York Strip Steak “Forestiere” Dry-Aged, Wild Mushrooms, Dijon Mustard/Cognac Cream
Medallions of Veal “Le Petit Café” Roasted Beets, Champagne Artichoke Sauce
Bratwurst/Kielbasa Sausage Combo Both Cased in House, Pommerey Soaked Sauerkraut
Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast Grilled Crispy, Szechuan Cream
Swordfish Steak Kalamata Olive Tapenade Paste, Garlic/Parsley Butter
Atlantic Salmon Lobster Crusted, Piri-Piri Aoili
Homemade Lasagna Meat or Vegetarian, Three Cheeses
Billy Gun Lamb Burger Italian Salad Topping (Radicchio, Napa, Spinach, Feta Cheese, Hard Egg)

2/23/13

It’s been about two years since we last looked deep inside the practices of the meat industry, and that's when we first discovered the virtues of dry-aged beef.  We have been dry-aging our New York Strip Steaks in house ever since, with pride and excitement, because the technique allows us to serve a premium steak.

But it’s the beef we start with that ultimately determines the end product - and a new look inside the meat industry is creating great concern about the quality of steaks that will be available to us in the future.

You’ve probably never heard about “Zilmax” before, but it’s something every beef eater will soon be digesting.  And it’s not going to make steaks taste very good.  Fatty marbling in steaks is what makes them taste juicy and flavorful, but the use of Zilmax makes animals grow more muscle instead of fat, which reduces the amount of marbling.

Four meatpackers in the United States control about 85 percent of the market, and all of them are now purchasing cattle that have been treated with Zilmax.  Of course, the meatpackers want to boost the amount of meat per carcass through use of the drug, but the cost of higher production practices to consumers is not in doubt.  The company that originally invented Zilmax made the following admission in its Food and Drug Administration application:  “Overall tenderness, juiciness, flavor intensity and beef flavor were all statistically different [in Zilmax-treated beef] compared to controls.”

Here is an important article for you to read and understand about the economics of the meat industry and the future of beef in our country.  Not surprisingly, the realities of competition and profitablilty make the use of Zilmax a done deal. 

There is no question that the quality of steaks we have enjoyed in the past will never be the same…

2/20/13

Poof – after twenty-five years the pink is gone (except on the second floor where we host a lot of rehearsal dinners). We now have “earth tones” that should be a good theme for the next quarter of a century…

 

2/19/13

Many classic cooking techniques transcend modern trends and one that has withstood the test of time is known as the “Standard Breading Procedure.” The Standard Breading Procedure is a three part method that uses flour, egg, and breadcrumbs. It is used to seal in moisture when pan or deep frying food, and provides a delicious and crunchy golden colored coating that is especially successful when cooking fish.

The three Standard Breading Procedure steps include dredging the item in flour, then dipping the item in beaten egg, and finally coating the item with breadcrumbs.

Extras may be added to the flour, egg, or breadcrumbs. For example, dry ingredients may be incorporated into the flour (like salt and pepper, onion and garlic powders, cajun seasoning, etc.), wet ingredients may be added into the egg (like hot sauce), and coarse ingredients that toast nicely may be added into the breadcrumbs (like almonds or coconut).

We like to use Panko, a Japanese breadcrumb, with the Standard Breading Procedure.

Anchovy Tartar Sauce For Fried Fish

Ingredients

1   Cup Mayonnaise
2   Tablespoons Spanish Onion, finely chopped
2   Tablespoons Pickles, finely chopped
2   Tablespoons Kalamata Olives, finely chopped
1   Tablespoon Capers
2   Tablespoons fresh Lemon Juice
1   Teaspoon Anchovy Paste
4   Tablespoons Dijon Mustard

Method

Mix all ingredients together...use homemade Mayo and Pickles for a premium product.

2/14/13

Converting from our regular format to “special occasion” menus is no easy task.  Over the course of the last six months, including the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary celebration, New Year’s Eve, and now Valentine’s Day, we have continued to perform seamless transitions, back and forth between completely different productions, without a hitch.  Tonight continued a run of getting expensive and complicated dishes to our customers without any returns to the kitchen, and the number of plates served on these high volume evenings now add up to well over a thousand.  We acknowledge the professionalism of our wonderful, hard-working staff – it was their amazing teamwork that made this remarkable thing happen again…

2/7/13

We will be offering a four course dinner (complete with a champagne toast) this Valentine's Day for $42.95/person. Click here to view the menu:  HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY 2013

1/30/13

“I am sure my music has a taste of codfish in it.”
Edvard Hagerup Grieg, Norwegian composer (1843-1907)

1/27/13

Now playing at Café Sam:  Bob Dylan (and the Band), the Grateful Dead, the Byrds, the Pretenders, Jim Croce, Neil Young, Warren Zevon, and more!!!

1/24/13

“From Black pudding to pickled jellyfish, beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. What we see and taste as beautiful depends largely on what our family and friends approve of -- with just a little room for personal preference.”
Laurence Mound, Introduction to 1988 reprint of 'Why Not Eat Insects' by Vincent M. Holt (1885)

1/22/13

We’re starting to think about the next edition of our “Chef’s Specials" (which will be coming out soon).  There’s a bright line between producing contemporary items similar to those currently available in trendy modern restaurants and what the vast majority of our customers choose to eat.  For example, we sold a ton of Panko Crusted Fried Zucchini Sticks with Pecorino and House Red Sauce on the current Chef’s Specials menu vs. Beef Tongue Tacos and Pork Belly Noodle Bowls (not so much of either).  The idea is to come up with interesting food choices that are either classically progressive or comforting (i.e., plates we can sell).  That’s our most likely recipe for restaurant success this year… 

1/19/13

This Week - Spotlight on Burgers!!!

Email List Members Only:  Burger Coupon

1/13/13

The restaurant business requires a lot of hard work and dedication on a day-to-day basis.  From there, it’s week to week, month to month, and then year to year.  After that, it’s five year increments, from five years to ten years, fifteen years to twenty years, and then twenty-five years.

As this sequence evolves, you can’t lose sight of where it all begins – on a day-to-day basis.

Our business plan for 2013 is to keep the focus on every shift.  That’s how we will make it to next week, next month, and 2014.  After that, we can think about moving on to thirty years, forty years, and (who knows) maybe even fifty years in business.

One shift at a time.

1/10/13

Hurry in for Steak Week!!!

Email List Members Only:  Steak Coupon

1/3/13

Lasagna Week!!!

Email List Members Only:  Lasagna Coupon

12/26/12

We will be offering a four course dinner (complete with a champagne toast) this New Years' Eve for $42.95/person. Click here to view the menu:  HAPPY NEW YEAR 2013

12/12/12

We don’t tweet...
it's neat and sweet
(but kind of cheap).
And besides that,
Some of our clientele are old hat.
So here you have it -
A News Page for one and all.
Ho ho ho!!!
Enjoy the coupons
And have a ball!

12/11/12

Happy holidays from your friends at Café Sam...

Email List Members Only:  Free Wine Coupon

Email List Members Only:  Burger Coupon

Email List Members Only:  Chef's Specials Coupon

Email List Members Only:  Early Bird Coupon

Email List Members Only:  Free Dessert Coupon

12/7/12

Pictures of some new Chef's Specials...

Pork Belly Noodle Bowl Hard Egg, Scallions, Watermelon Radish, Soy
Chicken Sausage Pesto Infused, Cased In House, Buffalo Sauce
Egg Devil Homemade Italian Sausage Wrapper, Chipotle Aioli
Lamb Chops Oregano Scented, Andy’s Steak Sauce
Pork Rib Chop Frenched, Collard Greens and Lentils, Bourbon BBQ
Veal Schnitzel Braised Red Cabbage, Horseradish Crusted Potato Croquette
Chicken Medallions Roasted Beets, Garlic Cream, Churrasco
Mixed Seafood Grill Swordfish (Anchovy Butter), Salmon (Béarnaise), Tuna (Thai Chili Glaze)
Cod Loin Prosciutto Wrapper, Smoked Gouda, House Red Sauce
Hot Dog Chicago Style, All-Beef, Steamed, Homemade Relish, Chopped Onion, Tomato, Yellow Mustard
Chopped Salad Sirloin Steak, Iceberg/Romaine, Crumbled Blue Cheese, Avocado, Hard Egg
Billy Gunn Whopper Burger Provolone, BLT, Homemade Pickle, Special Sauce
Banana Split White House Cherry Vanilla

12/2/12

New Chef's Specials

11/27/12

“Chili represents your three stages of matter: solid, liquid and eventually gas.”
Dan Conner in the 'Roseanne' TV series.

11/25/12

Good luck fellow hunters!!!

The Ultimate Venison Chili

1   Tablespoon Butter
2   Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
2   lbs. Ground Venison
4   (14 oz.) cans Stewed Tomatoes
1   Tablespoon Cumin
8   Teaspoons Chili Powder
6   oz. can Tomato Paste
1   Tablespoon Chicken Bouillon
1   Tablespoon Frank’s Hot Sauce (or to taste)
¼  C. Sugar
?  C. Red Wine Vinegar
15 oz. can Kidney Beans, rinsed

Melt butter in a large pot. Sauté onion and garlic. Brown venison in a pot, then add stewed tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, tomato paste, chicken bouillon, and hot sauce. Bring to a simmer. Add sugar and vinegar and simmer for ½ hour. Stir constantly until thickened. Add kidney beans at end until heated through.

11/15/12

We would never relish a bad restaurant review for anybody, but how about one that’s awfully ridiculous, out of state, and featuring a notorious critic facing off against a well-heeled celebrity?  Would that make it o.k. for a little chuckle?  Does this one take the cake?  Or, was it the Baked Alaska?

11/11/12

“I went on a diet, swore off drinking and heavy eating, and in 14 days I lost two weeks.”
Joe E. Lewis

11/4/12

The Porterhouse Steak comes from the short loin and it is a combination of different cuts of meat on the sides of a T-shaped bone. On the one side is the super tender Filet Mignon, and on the other side is the wonderfully tasty New York Strip Steak. In order to qualify as a Porterhouse Steak, the diameter of the filet has to be at least 1.25 inches. When the diameter of the filet drops below that measurement, the steak is known as a T-Bone.

In other words, the difference between a Porterhouse Steak and a T-Bone Steak is the size of the filet.

When the whole short loin is cut down into individual steaks, it yields both Porterhouse Steaks and T-Bone Steaks because the filet tapers down in size from one end of the short loin to the other. Many people prefer a Porterhouse Steak over a T-Bone Steak because the larger size of the filet allows them to enjoy two cuts of meat (the New York Strip and the Filet Mignon) together on one bone.

As we continue to wind down after celebrating twenty-five years in business, with posts coming fewer and farther between, the hit meter tells us that many of you are still checking out the Café Sam News Page on a regular basis. Here’s a delicious double cut thank-you for the continued interest and loyalty.

Email List Members Only:  22 oz. Porterhouse Steak Coupon

10/31/12

Curried Pumpkin Soup...

Email List Members Only:  Pumpkin Soup Treat

10/28/12

About the only thing that could come close to the pleasure of serving our twenty-fifth anniversary dinner last month was hanging out over the stage in a private box and watching Bruce Springsteen dish it out at the Consol Energy Center last night.  What an amazing show!!!

10/21/12

Autumn Sunburst Salad: Field Greens, Toasted Almonds, Coconut, Strawberry, Mandarin Orange, Raspberry Vinaigrette...

sunburst salad

Email List Members Only:  Complimentary Sunburst Salad

10/10/12

James Bond liked them “shaken, not stirred."  How do you prefer a martini?  Shaking the drink dilutes the alcohol and makes it colder, but maybe you like to stay warm with a stronger taste.  Anyway, here’s a toast to fifty years with the very cool 007!

10/5/12

Email List Members Only:  Samantha's 25¢ Appletini Coupon

Email List Members Only:  Samantha's $2.00 House Wine Coupon

Email List Members Only:  Fried Zucchini Coupon

Email List Members Only:  Burger Coupon

Email List Members Only:  Chef's Specials Coupon

Email List Members Only:  Night Bird Coupon

9/30/12

Some of the new Chef's Specials in pictures...

Japanese House Salad Pickled Green Heirloom Tomato, Watermelon Radish, Ginger/Miso Dressing
Pork Belly Fried Egg, Scallions, Thai Chili Glaze
Turducken Sausage Turkey, Duck, Chicken, Cranberries, Goat Cheese
Country Style Pâté Tripe, Pork, Ham, Homemade Pickle, Pistachio, Whole Grain Mustard Sauce
Stuffed Cabbage Lamb, Tahini, Apple, Sweet and Sour
Fried Oyster Slider Cornmeal Crusted, Italian Bacon, Anchovy Tartar
New York Strip Steak Hotel Butter, Rosemary Sea Salt
Veal Medallions Prosciutto, Sage Derby, Port Wine Sauce
Leg of Lamb Confit, Greek Salad, Feta Cheese
Stuffed Chicken Breast Ham, Cream Cheese, Spinach, Two Sauces
Salmon and Tilapia Combo Poached, Sweet Pea Pesto, Macadamia Dust
Nathan’s All Beef Hot Dog Fried Egg, Three Melted Cheeses, Piri Piri

9/27/12

The Harvest Moon Wine Festival in Millvale is taking place once again this Saturday at Riverfront Park from 5 - 8 pm.  We learned a lot about wine, especially local and seasonal wine, a couple of years ago during our first visit.  There will be a lot of different wines to taste, including the Spiced Apple Wine from Rustic Acres Winery in Butler, PA that we purchased last time.  Enjoy the live jazz – it’s a great event to check out if you have the time…

harvest moon wine festival logo

9/23/12

New Chef's Specials this week!

9/18/12

“Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.”
Groucho Marx (1890-1977)

9/16/12

What we will remember about our three day Twenty-Fifth Anniversary celebration?  That it was perfect – including the fact that we served hundreds of plates from a menu originally conceived in 1987 without a single one returned to the kitchen…

9/14/12

We opened Café Sam on September 14, 1987, and remember that day like it was yesterday.  Our first customers started coming in the door, and it was very special.  We were young, strong, and enthusiastic, but also feeling some jitters from wanting the restaurant to be successful.

People open restaurants all the time and know those same feelings.

In the next few hours we’ll be suiting up for tonight’s Twenty-Fifth Anniversary performance – feeling a little bit different.  We’re still young, strong, and enthusiastic, but the jitters are gone, having been replaced by feelings of accomplishment and pride.

Tonight will be much more special than the night we first opened.  We worked very, very hard to get to a place not many people reach.  TWENTY-FIVE YEARS - we’re all smiles!

9/10/12

This Friday night, trays will come out of our kitchen and into the dining room, exactly twenty-five years after we opened.  In celebration of reaching this milestone, we will be serving our original menu from September 14, 1987 (with the same prices).

We will also be serving the original menu on Wednesday and Thursday night (back in 1987 we had two “soft” openings prior to our first official night in business).

Please help us celebrate – call Mary or Dan for reservations, or just stop in for a drink.  We would love to see you…

9/9/12

Email List Members Only:  25¢ Cosmopolitan Martini Coupon
Email List Members Only:  25¢ Champagne Cocktail Coupon

9/8/12

THE CAFÉ SAM COOKIE STORY (AND RECIPE)

9/4/12

Restaurants that survive the first three years in business usually end up flourishing – they pass through the trendy phase, develop a unique personality, and begin to enjoy a broad and loyal neighborhood customer base.   It’s the neighborhood customer base that pulls everything together.  A restaurant becomes part of the community and the community becomes part of the restaurant...

9/1/12

In previous posts we’ve talked about prepping items for your grill, including suggestions for rubs, marinades, and compound butters, and also how to season your grill grates to prevent sticking. Now it’s time to close out our grilling series for this year with instructions on finishing meats with those great looking, restaurant quality “diamond cut” grill marks. It’s as simple as 1-2-3…

First, place your meat on the grill at a 45 degree angle to the grates. Let the meat sit on the grates to sear, cooking it about a quarter of the way through. Second, give your meat a ninety degree rotation and let it sit on the grill until it is cooked about half way through. After that, flip the meat onto the other side and let if finish.

Tips: keep the cover closed on the grill when pre-heating it and let the grill get as hot as possible (depending on what you are cooking the grill heat can be turned down when you start), and avoid constant flipping of the meat. Practice makes perfect – be patient!

 

8/14/12

The easiest way to husk corn?  With the help of a microwave – we tried this method today and it really works!

8/26/12

“Only a fool argues with a skunk, a mule or a cook.”
Anonymous cowboy

8/21/12

Chalk it up to apoE, a human gene that allows us to consume more meat than an ape.  After a mutation, humans were able to scavenge carcasses and eat putrid proteins.  At least apoE is good for our brains (it helps in distributing “good” cholesterol that our heads need to keep signals traveling fast).  But what are we thinking?

For millions of years “we were either too dim to link eating meat and early demise” or “too pathetic to get enough calories without meat.”  And now we are “too brutishly indulgent to stop ingesting food” we know will kill us.

Why do we love meat (and eat so much of it)?  Here's a very entertaining article that begins with Kangaroo ham and goes on to explain a link between DNA and our appetite for destruction…

8/14/12

Statistically speaking, it’s a fact that most restaurants don’t stay open long enough to celebrate a third anniversary. The couple of years after the first, when the novelty of a new restaurant begins to wear off, are probably the hardest. You really need to focus on building up the business – if it starts to decline after the first year it probably isn’t going to turn around and come back.

For us, the key to building up the business was, in a single word, diversification.

When Café Sam opened, we were very busy, but physically limited to a first floor dining room. During our second and third years we continued to invest in the building, and expanded by constructing another first floor dining room and a private dining room on the second floor. The private dining room on the second floor turned out to be a huge bonus because it allowed us to run with the regular dining rooms and do special functions at the same time. There’s a saying in the business that “the money is in catering” – and the saying is right.

It was better for us to grow under our own roof, instead of branching out into different locations.

We also expanded our menu in the second and third years, and avoided getting locked into any particular culinary theme. People used to call the restaurant to ask what kind of food we prepared, and for a while we got caught between answers. Originally, the response was "American."  At some point we started using the word “eclectic” as a way to describe the food. Eventually, we ended up saying “we have everything” because we were cooking just about everything.

A lot of people were calling the restaurant to ask about the food – but many of them were also wondering about the price of the food. Our idea was to keep the restaurant accessible to everyone by offering great value. We threw the notion of “food cost percentage” out the window because we wanted people to come in the door. To the extent a burger was marked up a certain number of dollars, it made sense to us that a steak should be marked up about the same number of dollars. To us, selling a burger and a steak amounted to the same thing as selling two burgers, which was fine, and the vast majority of people liked that philosophy.

Physical diversification, menu diversification, customer diversification. One thing led to another, but it was the latter that kept us humming. Café Sam wasn’t just about executives, doctors, and lawyers. It was largely about executives and secretaries, doctors and nurses, and lawyers and paralegals, all together in one place. Along with artists and teachers and everyone else in the community.

Our idea to make the restaurant accessible to everyone was a good one.

Café Sam was established during the second and third years – that was the time when the foundation for future years was laid…

anniversary logo

8/12/12

“It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favor of vegetarianism, while the wolf remains of a different opinion.”
William Ralph Inge (1860-1954)

8/10/12

You can’t get any more “local” than the sunflower sprouts we are currently using as a garnish on many of the entrée plates at Café Sam – the perky sprouts are homegrown from seed upstairs on our patio...

...and all of a sudden there’s a plethora of ripe heirloom tomatoes from the twenty-five plants we grew this summer on a plot in Point Breeze – they’re on display in the bar and you can choose a unique favorite!

Email List Members Only:  Heirloom Tomato Salad Coupon

8/7/12

The first year in the restaurant business is probably the easiest. Everyone likes to come to a new and trendy place, the staff is enthusiastic and motivated, and even the equipment is still under warranty (no costly repairs and maintenance to worry about). It’s not hard to think your place is a natural born winner…

We didn’t take anything for granted during the first year we opened. Mary came in to work at nine in the morning and called every reservation customer from the night before to check on their dining experience. We wanted to know what they liked and what they didn’t like, so we could do everything better.

It’s a dream for young people in the business to get a shot at owning a restaurant – and there was no way we were going to lose our kitchen.

After a while, we gained confidence in the fact that our customer base was real. Mary has been coming in half an hour later, at nine thirty in the morning, for a lot of years now (she doesn’t call people anymore). But beside that, not a lot has changed. It’s still all about you, the customer, and the priority is your complete satisfaction.

anniversary logo

8/5/12

Cooking does not necessarily require heat – chemical reactions from the use of acids (such as the lemon juice or lime juice in things like Ceviche) denatures proteins and salt (which draws juices and preserves things like Prosciutto) “cures” proteins without the use of heat. We are using both lime juice and salt, along with brown sugar, dill, basil, and green peppercorns to make fresh salmon Gravlax, which was first enjoyed by Scandinavian fishermen during the Middle Ages. The Scandinavians originally buried the fish in sand (“grav” translates into grave and “lax” translates into salmon) when preparing the dish, but we're storing our version in the refrigerator...

Email List Members Only:  Gravlax Coupon

8/2/12

Compound Butters (in French, “Beurres Composés”) are a simply fantastic way to finish off meats (like steaks, chicken, and fish) on the grill – they can be quick and easy to put together, creative and interesting, and a great replacement for time consuming sauces that can’t be made when a beautiful summer is passing by on the fly. Think about almost any kind of flavor enhancer you like, knead it into softened butter, roll, refrigerate, and voilà, the compound butter is ready to go..

Hot sauce, cilantro and lime, garlic and parsley (“beurre à la bourguignonne”) and more! Thinking about all the different kinds of compound butters you can make is no bore!

We’re currently melting Pesto Butter on our Grilled Veal Chops and Anchovy Butter on our Grilled Swordfish Steaks, and on our next menu we plan to increase the score…

Pesto Butter

Ingredients

1 Stick (8 Tablespoons or ½ Cup) Unsalted Butter
4 Tablespoons Pesto (click here for our recipe)

Method

Soften butter in a small stainless steel bowl. Knead the pesto into the butter. Remove the compound butter from the bowl, place on wax paper or saran wrap, and roll into a one inch log. Then refrigerate until ready for use. Cut into half inch silver dollar sized pieces, and when your grilled meat is just about finished, place the compound butter on top. Allow it to soften and melt about halfway, and serve to everyone’s delight!

Anchovy Butter

Ingredients

1 Stick (8 Tablespoons or ½ Cup) Unsalted Butter
4 Tablespoons Anchovies (Mashed)

Method

Soften butter in a small stainless steel bowl. Knead the anchovies into the butter. Remove the compound butter from the bowl, place on wax paper or saran wrap, and roll into a one inch log. Then refrigerate until ready for use. Cut into half inch silver dollar sized pieces, and when your grilled fish is just about finished, place the compound butter on top. Allow it to soften and melt about halfway, and serve to everyone’s delight!

   

7/18/12

The Café Sam News Page is going on vacation for a couple of weeks. After that, we will be back with our “regular” posts, along with some babbling about completing twenty-five years in business this September. Things to look forward to: we’re finally giving up THE CAFÉ SAM COOKIE RECIPE (and the story behind it) and some great silver anniversary offerings as part of the celebration.

This achievement, making it a quarter of a century in the East End of Pittsburgh, is very special for us. We are mindful of the fact that beyond ourselves and all the hard work that has gone into Café Sam, the restaurant would not have come so far without the support of our customers.  Thank-you for letting us get to this place.

Your friends at Café Sam…

7/17/12

Email List Members Only:  Chef's Specials Coupon

Email List Members Only:  Early Bird Coupon

Email List Members Only:  Baby Back Ribs

Email List Members Only:  "$5 Footlong"

Email List Members Only:  Two Dollar Frozen Peach Daiquiri

7/12/12

Pictures of the new Chef's Specials...

Tabbouleh Bulgar, Parsley, Mint (From Our Rooftop Patio)
Grilled Flatbread #1 Bruschetta-Style, Pesto, Heirloom Tomato, Mozzarella, Olive Oil, Aged Balsamic
Grilled Flatbread #2 Home Cured Salmon Gravlox, Cream Cheese, Capers, Onion, Chopped Egg
Chilled Soup Sampler Gazpacho, Mixed Berry, Senegalese
Seafood Sausage Cased In-House, Goat Cheese, Tarragon, Sauce Verte
Cheese Ravioli Homemade Italian Sausage, House Red Sauce
Pulled Pork Wrap Homemade Pickle, Bourbon BBQ
10 oz. Sirloin Steak Kalamata Olive Tapenade/Béarnaise, Summer Tomato, Rosemary Sea Salt
Grilled Veal Chop Pesto Butter, Collard Greens and Lentils
Baby Back Ribs Three Hour Smoke, Grilled Peaches, Vinegar Slaw, Korean BBQ
Grilled Swordfish Anchovy Butter, Collard Greens and Lentils
Sirloin Steak Salad Grilled Heart of Romaine, Gorgonzola, Caesar Dressing
Foot Long Hot Dog Nathan’s All-Beef, Pesto Egg Salad, Piri-Piri (on the side)
Stuffed Tomato Salad Trio Basil Chicken, Smoked Ham, Pesto Egg
Jasmine’s Tartufo Cherry Vanilla

7/10/12

“Food is not about impressing people. It's about making them feel comfortable.”
Ina Garten, ‘The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook’

7/8/12

New Chef’s Specials later this week...

7/1/12

Got the sticky grill grate blues?  It’s frustrating to go in for the first turn, feel resistance, and then watch your beautiful meat tear.  We can help you feel the joy of a clean flip!

Cut a terry cloth rag six inches by eight inches, roll it up lengthwise, and tie it together with string.  Place the cloth in a plastic zip lock container and saturate it with vegetable oil.  Grab the cloth with a set of tongs and use it to lubricate your grill.  Store the cloth in the container (it will turn black after several uses but it will last the whole summer).

That’s how profesional restaurant cooks get great looking grill marks on your meat – hot grates are constantly “seasoned” with a well-oiled cloth before firing proteins.  This method is far more superior to using spray lubricants (like “PAM”) because the vegetable oil has a higher viscosity and won’t burn off as quickly. 

Now you’re grilling…

grill rag

6/30/12

We’re growing about twenty-five Heirloom Tomato plants on a plot in Point Breeze this summer (started from seed on March 1st), and although there won’t be enough to use in the restaurant on a regular basis we can’t wait to serve these sweet tomatoes as a “Chef’s Special.”  They will be presented simply, with olive oil, sea salt, and fresh basil (that’s growing on our rooftop patio).

As we’ve noted before, store bought tomatoes give up sweetness for their uniform good looks.  You can’t buy a sweet tasting tomato in the supermarket.  Buy local tomatoes at the farm markets this summer and stop by Café Sam in a few weeks to check out the real deal…

heirloom tomato plant

6/25/12

It's burger week at Café Sam!

burger week

Email List Members Only:  Burger Week Coupon

6/22/12

Don't miss these Fifteen Fabulous Food Photos (or the titles and captions that come along with them)...

6/19/12

“Do you want to make a tamale with peanut butter and jelly? Go Ahead! Somebody will eat it.”
Bobby Flay, celebrity chef, restaurateur

6/15/12

So you want to be a food writer?  Breaking into the business might involve bending over backwards, and after that you might be in for a dysfunctional ride with loopy colleagues.  There’s a fraternal subculture that includes narcissism, gossip, and of course, chronic teenage-like tweeting.

“Think Breakfast Club, where instead of a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal, there's a wino, a fat-ass, a vegan, a food geek, and a critic.”

That’s the advance warning from an editor at New York Magazine’s food blog, who humorously provides us with ten things you should know before embarking on the new career.  Just as there’s a behind the scene world of restaurant reality, apparently “journos” are also living a life.

We’re staying in the kitchen… 

6/10/12

Maximize your summer grilling pleasure with the use of marinades – they add flavor and tenderize proteins. The proper use of marinades requires a little bit of thought when it comes to things like ingredients, pairings, and marinating times. Understanding the science (and the art) of cooking is always a big help…

Marinade ingredients should always include (at least) an acid, oil, and salt. Acid tenderizes meat by denaturizing the proteins. Oil promotes searing and browning (along with high heat it locks in juices on the grill). And the right touch of salt, of course, naturally enhances flavor.

Beef is on one end of the spectrum that requires a strong marinade pairing (so the meat doesn’t overwhelm it). Fish is on the other end of the spectrum and shouldn’t be drowned out by a bold marinade recipe. Pork and poultry fall somewhere in the middle – they are adaptable to both strong and mild marinade pairings.

Fish will marinate quickly – about one hour is usually enough time. Depending on the strength of the recipe, beef and chicken and pork can marinate as long as three hours. Never marinate for too long (overnight) – the acidic process that denatures the protein will eventually make the meat texture mushy and the salt will eventually start to extract juices.

Here are a couple recipes to quickly convince you that marinades and grilling are meant for each other!

EZ Tequila/Lime Marinade (Swordfish, Tuna, Halibut, Shrimp, Etc.)

Ingredients

½   Cup Tequila
¼   Cup Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
¼   Cup Olive Oil
¼   Cup Fresh Chopped Cilantro
1    Teaspoon Minced Garlic
1    Teaspoon Tabasco Smoked Chipotle Pepper Sauce
      Salt ("To Taste")

Method

Combine ingredients and marinate seafood for an hour (in the refrigerator). Grill to perfection…

EZ Asian Marinade (Flank Steak)

Ingredients

¼    Cup Soy Sauce
¼    Cup Rice Wine Vinegar
¼    Cup Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
¼    Cup Sesame Oil
2     Chopped Scallions
1     Teaspoon Sriracha
1     Teaspoon Chopped Garlic
1     Tablespoon Grated Ginger
1     Tablespoon Honey

Method

Combine ingredients and marinate flank steak three hours (in the refrigerator).  Grill to perfection...

6/8/12

A generous tip for all of us in the business...

6/3/12

Summer grilling season has arrived and there are a lot of great tips out there to help guide you – along with some bad ones.  What’s an example of a bad tip?  Advice that instructs you to let meat stay out on the counter and come to room temperature before cooking is really a recipe for disaster...

Bacteria that spoils your food grows fast between 41° and 135° (in restaurants we refer to this temperature range as the “Danger Zone”), so it’s important to limit the amount of time that meat and other food items stay in this temperature range.  Once bacteria get going, they rapidly reproduce and double in number every couple of minutes.  Over a five hour period, one single bacteria cell can turn into a million bacteria cells.

Aside from posing an immediate threat, food that is cooked with a high bacteria count also has a shorter “shelf life” for leftovers.  For example, Items that ordinarily store well in your refrigerator for three or four days may stay good for only one day.

So take care with your prep work prior to grilling.  After seasoning, put items on the grill right away, or place them back in the refrigerator until you are ready to go.  The best advice for great summer cooking: keep it cool and under control!

5/30/12

“Serve the dinner backward, do anything - but for goodness sake, do something weird.”
Elsa Maxwell, New York Herald Tribune, 1963

5/23/12

Email List Members Only:  Patio Happy Hour Coupon

Email List Members Only:  Strawberry Margarita Coupon

Email List Members Only:  Chef's Specials Coupon

Email List Members Only:  Early Bird Coupon

5/20/12

One constant through the years has been the complimentary Café Sam Chocolate Chip Cookie - we've hand made well over a million of them.  In anticipation of completing twenty-five years in business this September, we look forward to posting the often requested "secret recipe" for the cookies (along with the wonderful story that goes along with it) as a part of our celebration...

5/16/12

Pictures of the new Chef's Specials...

Hors D’Oeuvres Platter Hard Egg (English Tea Room Dressing), Paté (Honey Mustard), Heart of Palm (Dijon Vinaigrette), Tarragon Chicken Salad (Homemade Pickle), Shucked Mussels (Anchovy Tartar)
Soft Shell Crab Scampi Lemon Butter Sauce, Capers, Garlic Toast
Baby Back Ribs Hickory Smoked Three Hours, Korean BBQ
Japanese House Salad Leafy Spring Mix, Watermelon Radish, Ginger/Miso Dressing
Wild Boar Sausage Cased In House, Pickled Ramps, Goat Cheese, Bee Honey
Vidalia Onion Pie Rhubarb, Stilton and Cotswald, Blackberries
Fried Calamari Green Onions, Thai Chili Glaze
Surf and Turf 10 oz. Dry Aged Strip Steak and Crabcake, Chipotle Aioli/Béarnaise
Elysian Fields Lamb Chops Garlic and Rosemary Crusted, Creamed Spinach
Medallions of Veal “Le Petit Café” Champagne/Artichoke Sauce
Pork Shoulder Southern Rub, Bourbon Butter Sauce
Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast Asparagus, Cashews, Mirin/Teriyaki Glaze
Fried Chicken Collard Greens, Vermont Baked Beans
Portuguese Trout Avocado, Yellow Pepper Piri Piri Sauce
Cod Loin Grapes, Pecans, Mild Red Curry Cream
Billy Gunn Lamb Burger Feta, Olives, Tomato, Iceberg, Greek Dressing
Nathan’s Colossal Hot Dog Lightly Charred, Queso Fresco, Green Tomato Pico

5/10/12

We’ve made some nice changes in our bar to enhance the environment  – stop by soon to see them!

Samantha

Email List Members Only:  Samantha's 25¢ Cosmopolitan Martini Coupon

5/6/12

The new Chef's Specials for May will be ready to go Wednesday night!

5/4/12

Coming soon:  Japanese House Salad Leafy Spring Mix, Watermelon Radish, Ginger/Miso Dressing…

Ginger/Miso Dressing

Ingredients

¼  Cup Grated Carrot
1   Tablespoon Grated Ginger Root
2   Tablespoons Grated Sweet Onion
1   Tablespoon Miso (mellow white)
2   Tablespoons Rice Wine Vinegar
1   Tablespoon Sesame Oil
¼  Cup Olive Oil
2   Tablespoons Water

Method

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.

4/26/12

“People who like to cook like to talk about food....without one cook giving another cook a tip or two, human life might have died out a long time ago.”
Laurie Colwin, 'Home Cooking'

4/22/12

An economist turned foodie writes a book suggesting that beautiful women in trendy restaurants are men magnets, and that lure allows some places to survive (for a while) by cutting back on the quality of the food.  Another scenario:  the non-culinary environments of new restaurants allow them to get away with charging more money for the overall experience.

A blogger commenting on the book has a different theory on why some restaurants have short life spans.  He thinks new restaurants appeal to fickle and venturesome diners, the buzz is short lived, and then suggests the key to business success lies in quickly recognizing the value of solid regulars.  Why Do Restaurants Decline Over Time?

4/15/12

The raising of animals in grass-fed, cage-free, free-range, and generally more humane environments is seemingly more attractive than methods used in the industrial production of meat.  However, these alternatives might just be “a poor substitute for industrial production.”  According to The Myth of Sustainable Meat, raising grass-grazing cows, organic chickens, and pastured pigs isn’t sustainable (and damages the environment, too).

Is it a missive from the devil’s advocate (a friend of powerful industrial producers), or simply truth be told about the non-viability of meat, dairy, and eggs procured from small farms?  One thing’s for sure – there are too many people eating animal products in a world that can’t raise enough of them…

4/12/12

The great northern migration is now underway, and we’re happy to see a lot of old friends reappearing at Café Sam after spending the winter in Florida. One of the things they will notice while passing through the bar is our new Jägermeister machine - but it’s not like we’re expecting to drop a ton of Jäger Bombs (we don’t even have Red Bull).

Let’s face it – the long term viability of the restaurant continues to depend on creating nicely crafted products that are broadly appealing to all of our customers. So we’re offering a Jägermeister Float (Jäger, Root Beer, White House Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream, and Fresh Whipped Cream) to finish everyone off after dinner. It’s sure to be a crowd pleaser!

Welcome home...

Jägermeister Machine

Email List Members Only:  Jägermeister Float Coupon

4/6/12

“They take great pride in making their dinner cost much; I take my pride in making my dinner cost so little.”
Henry David Thoreau

4/1/12

New restaurants never get everything exactly right when they first open – the smart operators feel out their customers and make adjustments quickly.  As a matter of fact, making adjustments is a good thing to get used to because fine tuning (recipes, policies, etc.) is a never ending process.  And, fortunately, just about anything that isn't right can be changed.

That said, one of the harder things to change is the name on the sign.  It’s important to carefully think out the name of a restaurant before it opens because the name establishes an identity that sticks around from beginning to end.  The name needs to speak to the here and now, but it also has to be forward thinking (something too trendy is probably the sign of a one hit wonder).

We chose the name Café Sam for a variety of reasons.  When we opened in 1987, we had just passed through a highly motivated experience based on French cooking (and we didn't want to leave it behind).  The new American cuisine, born during an era of "Uncle Sam" pride and based on regional cooking, was starting to gain momentum.  We wanted to use the name of a person (to give customers the sense of a casual atmosphere and somebody on the premises who cares).  And, most importantly, there were two people named Sam that we always wanted to remember.

To this day, the name Café Sam continues to work for us – it gave everyone an idea about what the place was like when we opened and that idea still holds true today.

Here’s a great essay (“Alphabet Soup”) about restaurant names that brought back more fond memories for us…      

3/26/12

The Café Sam News is about to turn three years old and there's quite a bit of reading below. We've had a lot of fun sharing life at the restaurant with you - here are a dozen highlights!

The First Post

Mary's Pedometer

G20

Café Sam Report - What's Your Beef?

Splotch the Pig

Memory Lane

86

A Full Range of Options

Ladies Night at Café Sam

Lactovegetarian or pescetarian?

Olympia Cafe (video)

Our Marketing Strategy

3/22/12

The first sign that spring has sprung - allium tricoccum (a.k.a. “ramps”). Ramps are perennial wild leeks with a scallion-like bulb and stalk, and we just picked our first batch in the Armstrong County woods a few weeks ahead of schedule. It will be botanically interesting to see if the warm weather and early sprouting this year leads to a longer ramp season (it usually lasts around six weeks), or an early start and an early end. In either case, hurry in for your first taste of this wonderfully local treat!

Email List Members Only:  Elysian Fields Lamb Chops w/ Cream of Ramps

3/15/12

Many thanks to the Randolf family for the lovely email you sent after receiving the Café Sam News yesterday - we remember the flower necklaces!

3/14/12

It's March Madness - Steaks, Burgers, Cosmos (and more)!!!

March Madness

Email List Members Only:  10 oz. New York Strip Steak
Email List Members Only:  12 oz. Burger Coupon
Email List Members Only:  Sirloin Steak Salad Coupon
Email List Members Only:  New Chef's Specials Coupon
Email List Members Only:  Samantha's 25¢ Cosmopolitan Martini Coupon
Email List Members Only:  House Wine Coupon

3/12/12

Once again, we look forward to partnering with our longtime friend Karla Boos and the Quantum Theatre for their upcoming production of The Electric Baby, which will be performed between March 29th and April 22nd at the nearby Waldorf School.

For information and tickets:  Quantum Theatre

3/08/12

Some of the new Chef's Specials in pictures...

Garlicky Chicken Sausage Thigh Meat, Grilled Buffalo-Style, Gorgonzola Ranch
Fried Zucchini Panko Crusted, Pecorino, House Red Sauce
Beef Tartare Anchovy, Capers, Garlic, Onion, Mustard, Raw Egg, and Naan
Boneless Pork Ribs Our Special Dry Chili Rub, Chipotle Aioli Dipping Sauce
Ahi Tuna Salad Wasabi, Watermelon Radish, Mandarin Orange, Soy/Ginger Vinaigrette
Squid Provençale White Wine, Garlic, Tomato, Mushrooms
Duck Terrine Prunes, Pistachio, Cornichon, Crostini w/ Homemade Blackberry Jam
Pig In A Blanket Italian Sausage, Fried Tortilla Wrapper, Blood Orange Duck Sauce
10 oz. New York Strip Steak Sage Derby/Chimichurri
Elysian Fields Lamb Chops White Onion Chutney and Red Curry Cream
Pork Rib Chop Frenched, Amish Bacon, Spaetzle, Smokey Adobe BBQ
Chicken Roulade Pastrami, Melted Provolone, Pommery Mustard Sauce
Fried Shrimp Cakes Scallions, Thai Chili Glaze
Sam’s 7 oz. Sirloin Steak Salad Balsamic Field Greens
Pizza 8 x 6 Inch, Lamb Gyro, Greek Salad, Cheddar Jack

3/01/12

Here's the new Chef’s Specials lineup - they should be good to go this Saturday night!

2/29/12

Try our new “Stuffed Potato” Soup:  Potato, Broccoli, Bacon, Cheddar, Chives…

Email List Members Only:  Potato Soup Coupon

2/23/12

It was thrilling for us to discover an original copy of the first Café Sam menu – and we have been enjoying a scenic ride down memory lane for the last few days because of it.

Here we were, landing in Pittsburgh during the early 1980’s, as fine dining restaurants started moving away from the formal structure of classical French cooking.  The new thing was casual dining and more colorful plates inspired by “nouvelle” thinking.

It was a social phenomenon and it was an exciting culinary time.

There was the venerable La Normande (Chef Tim Ryan, now President of the Culinary Institute of America) turning into Le Bistro (Chef Cathy Armburger – really amazing), Le Pommier (Chef Christine Dauber – totally amazing), and Café Azure and Café Allegro, to name a few.

And let’s not forget about Le Petit Café!

When we opened Café Sam in 1987, a new style of cooking, inspired by American “regional” cuisine, was taking root.  The toques were coming off – there were no rules and it was freewheeling and it was fun.

Soon after us came memorable places like the Wine Restaurant, Jake’s Above the Square, Clearwater, our great neighbor Baum Vivant, and, of course, the outstanding La Foret.

There was a community of restaurants back then – much like there is today.

The difference between then and now is the time in culinary history.

Getting back to the here and now, today we are in a movement that is defined by local and seasonal.  It’s very important and meaningful.  And it’s a movement that is led by a group of restaurants and Chefs that are having an impact on the dining public.

We are certain that people will remember what is currently happening twenty-five years from now – there are restaurants around us today that are making culinary history!

2/21/12

And tucked away inside our menu - the tattered copy of an article about Café Sam published by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette two weeks after we opened...

2/19/12

WOW!!!  We were digging in the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet, looking for something else, and out popped a pristine twenty-five year old copy of our opening menu from September 14, 1987.  Take a look - we'll enjoy bringing back a few of the goodies for the next edition of our Chef's Specials in a couple of weeks...

2/13/12

In our business some dishes are more profitable than others – “loss leaders” are the dishes that have the least amount of markup (and offer the best deal for you). Compared to the Atlantic Salmon ($16.95), there’s not a lot of percentage markup in our 14 oz. New York Strip Steak ($19.95), and the New York Strip Steak is definitely a loss leader.

The theory behind keeping loss leaders on the menu is that most people who come in to take advantage of them bring others who choose different items.

We recently revamped all of the steak items on our lunch menu, including sandwiches and salads, which now include beautifully marbled 7 oz. Sirloin Steaks butchered in house. Compared to other lunch choices, like the Vegetable Quesadilla and Fried Fish Tacos, they’re our newest loss leaders.

Big time loss leaders when we offer them with a coupon – but we really want beef lovers to give our new 7 oz. Sirloin Steaks a try. So stop in soon for this limited time opportunity (but show some mercy by bringing a Pescatarian or Lactovegetarian with you)…

Email List Members Only:  7 oz. Sirloin Steak Coupon

2/03/12

Tuna Tartare

Ingredients

2  Tablespoons Teriyaki Sauce
2 Teaspoons Olive Oil
¼ Teaspoon Wasabi Powder
¼ Teaspoon Garlic Powder
¼ Teaspoon Ginger Powder
1  Teaspoon Sesame Seeds
¼ Teaspoon Lemon Juice
¼ Teaspoon Black Pepper
¼ Teaspoon Brown Sugar

1  Avocado, Medium Dice
8  Ounces Sashimi Grade Ahi Tuna, Medium Dice
3  Tablespoons Goma Wakame (Japanese Seaweed Salad)
    Naan (Persian Flatbread), Grilled

Method

Place the “dressing ingredients” in a bowl and whisk together. Then add the Avocado, Tuna, and Goma Wakame and toss. Press the Tuna Tartare into a two inch piece of plastic “PVC” pipe (available in the plumbing section at Home Depot) and slide the pipe up and out to form a tower. Recipe makes six portions – we serve our Tuna Tartare with grilled Naan.

Tuna Tartare

Email List Members Only:  Tuna Tartare Coupon

1/29/12

Click here to view our Valentine's Day Menu...

1/26/12

Elysian Fields is a name you’re probably familiar with – it’s referenced as a purveyor of lamb on the bottom of many local restaurant menus. Although we don’t list sources, our lamb comes from Elysian Fields, too. It’s a top quality product, obtained from a cooperative network of nearby southwestern Pennsylvania farms, far from industrial feedlots located in the midwest.

Elysian Fields lamb is really good for two reasons – the manner in which the animals are raised and the manner in which the animals are slaughtered.

Elysian Fields animals are monitored through a patented system (that was put in place after the original farm grew into the cooperative network of farms). Unlike industrial feedlot methods, no antibiotics or hormones are used. The key to the mild flavor is a controlled diet – the lambs eat grass for the first months of their lives, then an all-natural mix of corn, oats, and soybean meal. The grain allocation increases in the final two weeks.

Just prior to harvesting, the animals are held in a low stress environment. The end comes carefully and quickly: a lamb comes onto the kill floor, is stunned electrically, and then hung with its throat slit, in a process that only takes minutes. This care counter balances the effects of less humane treatment. When animals are stressed from being herded onto a kill floor, their endocrine system is highly agitated, and a slower death results in the release of adrenaline, which then results in a meat harvest filled with hormonal substances.

It could be that the Elysian Fields system came as a result of what Pennsylvania deer hunters have long known about the relationship between diet and flavor – the best tasting deer munch on corn, clover, nuts, or apples (as opposed to roots and leaves).  And good deer hunters also know the best kill is a “clean kill.”

We offer Elysian Fields lamb chops with three different preparations on our Classic Menu (including simply grilled with rosemary infused sea salt), and often times in one form or another on our Chef’s Specials card. Stop in soon and give them a try!

Lamb Chops

Email List Members Only:  Lamb Chop Coupon

1/19/12

For something new and exciting, try Verde Mexican Kitchen and Cantina in Garfield.  They have over one hundred brands of tequila and mezcal (ay de mí!) – and some great tasting food, too.  We really enjoyed our recent visit there…

1/15/12

Last month (12/15) we posted an article to test and improve cooking vocabulary – it included fifty words to get you humming like a culinary pro.  One word that wasn’t on the list, but probably should have been, was protein.  Protein is a word that has been thrown around a lot for the last five years, and it’s often interpreted as hip talk for meat.  But protein is actually a nutrient (a source of calories) that’s also found in grains, vegetables, and fruits.  Once and For All, Protein is Nutrient, Not a Synonym for Meat…

1/11/12

Happy New Year! Wishing you the best in 2012...

new years fireworks

Your friends at Café Sam

Email List Members Only:  Samantha's 25¢ Pomegranate Martini Coupon
Email List Members Only:  Samantha's House Wine Coupon
Email List Members Only:  Steak Salad Coupon
Email List Members Only:  Billy Gunn Lasagna Coupon
Email List Members Only:  Chef's Specials Coupon

1/08/12

Here are pictures of some new Chef's Specials taken on Saturday night...

Grilled Jumbo Shrimp  Buffalo-Style, Grapefruit, Colby Jack
Pierogies  Handmade, 81/19 Black Angus Beef Bolognese
Lamb T-Bone Chop  Texas Rub, Tarragon Aioli, Balsamic Micro Green Salad
Country Style Pâté  Pork and Liver, Pistachio and Cornichon, Honey Mustard
Duck Meatballs  Whole Wheat Spaghetti, Curried Spinach Sauce
Braised Short Ribs  Boneless, Horseradish Mashed Potatoes, Natural Gravy
Pork Rib Chop  Frenched, Spaetzle and Homemade Sauerkraut, Pommerey Sauce
Cassoulet  Turkey Sausage, Duck Confit, Pork Shoulder, White Beans
Chicken Roulade  Smoked Amish Ham and Three Cheeses, Pea Pesto, House Red
Lasagna  Vegetarian or Meat, English Cotswald and Cream Cheese
Six-Inch Pizza  Chicken Sausage (Cased In House), Three Colored Peppers, Onions
Steak Salad  Grilled Hearts of Romaine, Red Roquefort

1/04/12

Our new Chef’s Specials lineup includes some nice winter warmers, like Cassoulet (fresh turkey sausage, duck confit, pork shoulder), Braised Short Ribs (boneless), and Lasagna with English Cotswald (vegetarian or meat). Watch for pictures and coupons soon…

12/26/11

We will be offering a four course dinner (complete with a champagne toast) this New Years' Eve for $42.95/person. Click here to view the menu:  HAPPY NEW YEAR 2012

12/21/11

One of our favorite food articles ever…
Was a real life story about farm to table.
It told the tale of Splotch the Pig
And promoted local sourcing -
A thing that’s really big.
But knowing where your food comes from
Has it limits.
And cooking completely from scratch?
Well, sometimes there’s just no sense in it.
Here are some thoughts about a Cheeseburger
(including the beef and cheese and mustard and bun)...
It’s another piece we found really fun.

12/20/11

Santa's Kiss!!!  Hot Chocolate, Crème de Menthe, Peppermint Schnapps, Candy Cane

Santa's Kiss

Email List Members:  Santa's Kiss Coupon

12/18/11

We recently suggested the pan seared/oven roasted method for cooking a great steak inside, now that the outdoor grilling season is over.  As long as you’re using a pan, why not go the distance and finish the steak with some great tasting sauce?  “Fond” is a French culinary term for foundation, and it refers to the caramelized meat drippings that remain in the pan after cooking – you don’t want to waste this concentrated source of flavor.  “Deglazing” is a culinary term for the technique used to capture the drippings.

After removing your steak from the oven, loosen the fond by deglazing the pan with an ounce of winter warming cognac.  Add a half teaspoon of natural beef base and a half cup of heavy cream to the pan and gently whisk the cognac cream while simmering for a minute or two.  Slice the steak and drizzle it with the sauce.  Optional: add a tablespoon of minced shallots to the pan prior to deglazing...

Bon Appetit!   

12/15/11

Acidulated, Barding, Civet.  It’s good to talk the talk when you walk the walk.  Here are fifty culinary words to test your kitchen vocabulary.  We got four out of five “F” words right on the first try, but scored under fifty percent overall.  In the wonderful world of food there are always new things to learn, and that’s what keeps us cooking.

12/11/11

“In my experience, clever food is not appreciated at Christmas.  It makes the little ones cry and the old ones nervous.”
Jane Grigson

12/8/11

Our run to Christmas Eve starts with three consecutive private functions tomorrow.  We’ll be open Christmas Eve for the twenty-fifth year in a row and serving the “regular” menu.  Then it’s on to New Year’s Eve (watch for a “special” menu posting soon).  Ready, set, go!!!

12/1/11

Turducken is a blend of three words (Turkey, Duck, and Chicken).  It’s a dish consisting of a de-boned chicken stuffed into a de-boned duck, and as if that’s not enough, the two then stuffed into a de-boned turkey. Turducken traces back to a small market in Louisiana during the 1980’s, and it became popular after NFL broadcaster John Madden awarded one to the team that won a Thanksgiving day football game.

We’re having fun with a slightly different form of the “traditional” Turducken, serving layers of ground turkey, duck, and chicken made into meatloaf. Our presentation includes a hard egg placed in the center, which playfully raises an interesting question. What came first - the chicken or the egg (or was it the duck, or the turkey)?

In case you missed our earlier coupon, here’s a second to keep you thinking about it…

Turducken

Email List Members:  What Came First Coupon

11/26/11

How do you cook a great steak now that the outdoor grilling season is over?  A pan seared/oven roasted steak is an absolutely delightful indoor alternative (and one that’s used year round in many fine dining restaurants).  Here are simple instructions for the method…

11/18/11

Around this time last year we posted a Café Sam Report on turkey brining and noted “Once your turkey has taken the plunge, you will never cook another without brining it first.”  If you were reading the Café Sam News back then, and gave brining a try, we’re confident you will be using the process again this Thanksgiving.  Most importantly, brining keeps your breast meat moist during the extra time it takes for the legs to fully cook (the legs cook slower).  Be careful with your timing, though, as we warned in a second post (a.k.a the "Snoopy" post) that brining decreases the ordinary oven cooking time. 

This year, for some extra fun, we want to suggest a little extra seasoning – on the turkey wings only.

Pastrami is a brining method that has roots in Romania, and it was introduced to the United States by Jewish immigrants during the middle of the nineteenth century.  As you know, Pastrami is typically a delicatessen meat made with beef – but there are variations (including “Turkey Pastrami”).

Our current Chef’s Specials features a dish that uses Pastrami spices as a rub on Ahi Tuna (we finish it with pommerey mustard sauce and smoked Gouda cheese).  We came up with the idea after noticing a recipe that used Pastrami spices on Chicken Wings – and it works great!

Here’s our adapted recipe for Pastrami spices.  After brining your turkey (the seasoning will work fine even if you don’t brine), rub the wings with this mixture.  Serve the wings as a nice platter decoration on Thanksgiving - if you get lucky maybe one will be left over for a cold snack the next day...

Pastrami Spice Rub

Ingredients

1    Tablespoon Sugar
1    Teaspoon Kosher Salt
2    Tablespoons Course Ground Pepper
1    Tablespoon Smoked Paprika (you can substitute regular Paprika)
½   Teaspoon Dried Mustard
1    Pinch Cayenne Pepper

11/14/11

Did you know grenadine was originally made from pomegranates (now in season)? We’re currently infusing vodka with apples for Samantha’s 25 cent martini. Here are some great fall cocktail ingredients to keep in mind when planning the spirit portion of your Thanksgiving menu…

11/9/11

Samantha

Email List Members:  Samantha’s 25¢ Fresh Apple/Caramel Martini Coupon

Happy Hour Wine

Email List Members:  Happy Hour Wine Coupon

Shrimp Band

Email List Members:  Sizzling Shrimp Coupon

chef

Email List Members:  New Chef’s Specials Coupon

11/8/11

Here are pictures of the new Chef's Specials...

Tuna Tartare Soy, Wasabi, Sesame Seeds, Avocado, Goma Wakimi, Naan
Jumbo Shrimp Old Bay Boil, Horseradish Laced Bloody Mary Bath
Beef Carpaccio Seared, Gorgonzola, Hard Egg, Russian Tea Room Dressing
Tarragon Chicken Sausage Cased in House, Green Tomato Pico, Crostini
Fried Oysters Panko Crusted, Braised Collard Greens, Caviar Tartar
Stuffed Grape Leaves Lamb Curry, Brown Rice, Apple Walnut Chutney
Pierogies Sun Dried Cherries, Duck Ragu
Minute Steak Teriyaki, Crimini Mushrooms, Green Onions
Lamb Chops Domestic, Kalamata Olive Tapenade, Classic Béarnaise
Pork Rib Chop Frenched, Spaetzle, Pesto Cream
Chicken “Osso Bucco” Pumpkin Risotto, Gremolata
Salmon Roulade Roasted on a Hickory Plank, Apples, Celery Root, Goat Cheese
Ahi Tuna Steak Pastrami Spices, Smoked Gouda, Mustard Sauce
Pizza Cajun Shellfish, Quesa Fresco, Pecorino, House Red
Billy Gunn Whopper Burger Fried Onion Ring, Lettuce, Tomato, Homemade Pickle, Special Sauce

11/6/11

We had to tuck our Bradley Smoker away for winter – no more Sunday afternoon fun hanging around the backyard working with the greatest piece of modern cooking equipment ever invented.  We’re not easily defeated by the season, though, so we set out looking for a different way to create smoke.  That brought us back to the simple basics, fire and wood, and just in time for our new Chef’s Specials the box of hickory planks we ordered from Maine arrived.

Cooking over open flames with wood boards isn’t as old as dirt, but it might be close.

The open flame and wood board technique probably has Scandinavian roots, but Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest were the first on our continent to use it.  They took fresh fish and tacked them to boards, and then hung the boards over open fires.  Huts and smokehouses came along sometime after that, and today modern briquette units (like the “Green Egg”) and digital smokers (like the Bradley) are everywhere.

Back to the story.  So now we’re placing Atlantic Salmon (stuffed with apples, celery root, and goat cheese) on a hickory plank that soaks in water for about an hour before going on the kitchen grill.  We cover the plank, and the salmon, with a steel lid.  As the underside of the wood gets hot, it starts to smoke, but doesn’t burn because it was drenched in the water.

The steel lid captures the hickory smoke as the salmon cooks. Bottom line: our backyard summer fun may be over, but we found an ancient way to keep a great flavor going this winter.

Stop in soon and try this delightful dish - now we’re smoking all year round!

Salmon on Wood Plank

Click here to enlarge photo...

10/31/11

It was a real treat!!!

Witch

Take a look at our wonderful crew serving you in Halloween costumes…

10/28/11

Jumbo Shrimp Old Bay Scented, Horseradish Laced Bloody Mary Bath - click here to preview the rest of our new Chef's Specials that will start next Friday night...

10/23/11

Institutional restaurants are going out of business left and right because 1) nobody can afford them, 2) there’s nothing good about them, and 3) people have begun to realize they can cook the same kind of casual food better at home (for a lot less money).  It’s hard to feel sorry for these places because they are cold, faceless establishments that never appreciated your patronage, anyway. 

You’re probably more likely to shed a pound, as opposed to a tear, passing by a closed institutional restaurant that previously served as a convenient pit stop during mall runs.

For the over fifty crowd, however, thoughts about the recent shuttering of many Friendly’s establishments might be different.  For one thing, the concept was a unique first of the kind.  For another, when Friendly’s opened the institutional flavor (and composition) of industrialized food wasn’t as nasty.  And they did have a decent milkshake...

Here’s a nice piece by (and about) Mark Bittman, who has childhood memories of Friendly’s.  He thinks back about his occasional experiences there as a treat.  In consideration of the long term cultural history, this is one chain people might ultimately remember with warm feelings.

10/18/11

From Jell-O shots to the artificial crab meat in California rolls – for better or worse, science plays a role in many of the things we eat (and drink).  Here are ten interesting stories for you to enjoy…

10/13/11

New Chef's Special:  Turducken Meatloaf ("A Fowl Trio")

Email List Members:  Turducken Coupon

10/10/11

“You can't possibly ask me to go without having some dinner.  It's absurd.  I never go without my dinner.  No one ever does, except vegetarians and people like that.”
Oscar Wilde, 'The Importance of Being Earnest' (1895)

10/8/11

Lactovegetarian or pescetarian?  Semi-vegetarian or flexitarian?  Chances are none of us are carnivores.  Here are basic definitions that describe culinary lifestyles:

Vegan or Total Vegetarian.  Eats only foods from plants including fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds, and nuts.
Lactovegetarian.  Eats plant foods and dairy products.
Ovo-lactovegetarian or lacto-ovovegetarian.  Will eat eggs.
Pescetarian.  Eats fish but no other animal flesh. (May or may not eat dairy and/or eggs).
Semi-vegetarian.  Will not eat red meat, but may eat fish or fowl.
Veg*n. A contraction of vegan and vegetarian meant to encompass both approaches.
Flexitarian.  Eats meat only once or twice a week.
Omnivore.  Eats everything edible.
Carnivore.  Eats only meat.

10/2/11

The famous Chef Auguste Escoffier developed the “Brigade System” by using his experience with military hierarchy and discipline after serving in the French Army.  Introduced in the kitchen at the Savoy Hotel in the late 1800’s, the Brigade System was intended to eliminate chaos and establish order in the back of the house through the use of a structured organization that defines responsibilities and promotes teamwork.

The Brigade System, still used in most organized kitchens today, contains an extensive list of kitchen positions designed to meet the staffing requirements of hotels and other large operations.  In smaller operations, like independent restaurants where a big staff is unnecessary, the list shrinks as positions are combined.

The list starts with Chef de Cuisine (literally “Chief of the Kitchen”), and includes Sous Chef (Second Chef), Saucier (Saucemaker), Cuisinier (Cook), Commis (Junior Cook), Apprenti (Apprentice), and finally a Plongeur (Dishwasher).  There are categories of Cuisiniers including Grillardin (Grill Cook), Poissonnier (Fish Cook), Friturier (Fry Cook), etc.

The system also includes an Aboyeur (Expediter), who takes orders from the dining room and relays them to the various stations in the kitchen.  This involves a “call” of the individual items to the cooks, who then “call back” the items to confirm that they have heard all of them.

Focus and discipline among members of the brigade, especially during calls and call backs, is essential in any smooth running operation.

We recently posted a piece (9/20) filmed at the fictional Olympia Café, where Expediter Pete Dionasopolis (played by the late John Belushi) loses his cool and issues errant commands while a customer tries to order scrambled eggs.  Keep a careful eye on the Grillardin (Grill Cook played by Dan Ackroyd) during the action.  As you’ll see, even though the Brigade System was intended to eliminate chaos and establish order in the kitchen, it’s not fool proof. 

9/30/11

New Dessert:  “Almond Joy” Crème Brûlée

Creme Brulee

Email List Members:  Customer Appreciation Coupon

9/29/11

The bad news:  we’ll have to 86 our hot selling Caprese Salad next week after a season ending purchase of Heirloom Tomatoes at the East Liberty Farmers Market yesterday.  The good news:  we scored two hundred pounds of green tomatoes for pickling (so we can keep a touch of local produce on your lunch plates this winter)…

9/26/11

86 is a number that’s commonly heard in restaurants – it’s slang for running out of something.  For example, after a customer ordered the last Chocolate Mousse at lunch today (no thanks to Billy, who is supposed to be making enough), the pantry "86’d" it.  That started the “86 Mousse” transmissions which began verbally among the waitstaff and ended with a posting on the “86 Sheet” hanging on our kitchen door (in case anyone missed it).

Just like most slang terms, the origin of 86 in restaurants is unknown.  There are lots of stories about where the use of the number originated, and good bartenders can often tell an entertaining one (or two).

Alcohol related theories start with Article 86 of the New York State Liquor Code, which talks about when customers should be cut off or kicked out of a bar.  Then there’s the story of Chumley’s, a prohibition era speakeasy in New York with a front entrance on one street and a side entrance at 86 Bedford Street.  Food related theories start during the late nineteenth century at Delmonico’s in New York, where the popular house steak was listed as number 86 on the menu and often sold out.  From there, food theories move on to the Great Depression, when a soup kitchen sat 85 people and the next person in line after that number would not get fed.

One explanation actually includes the dimensions of a grave – eight feet wide and six feet deep.

Whatever the explanation, we will be “back into” (that’s more restaurant slang) all of our desserts later today.  And Samantha has enough vodka to last until Friday, when her twenty-five cent Cosmo coupon expires.  So stop down – there's “plenty of everything” for you to enjoy this week…

9/25/11

Here's a simple fall recipe we are currently using for a topping on our Veal T-Bone. It goes nicely with pasta, pizza, and just about anything else you enjoy with classic pesto...

Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Ingredients

9    Tablespoons Olive Oil
3    Cups Unsalted Green Pumpkin Seeds
4    Cloves Garlic
1    Cup Fresh Cilantro or Basil
5    Scallions, Chopped
4    Tablespoons Lemon Juice
4    Tablespoons Parmesan Cheese
½   Cup Water
1    Teaspoon Salt
1    Teaspoon Pepper

Method

- Place the cilantro or basil in a food processor and run until well chopped
- “Toast” the pumpkin seeds under a broiler until lightly browned
- Add about ½ of the seeds, garlic, scallions, parmesan cheese and blend
- Then add about ½ of the oil, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container
- Add the rest of the ingredients, and process until it forms a coarse paste
- Pumpkin Seed Pesto lasts up to one week in the refrigerator, or you can freeze it

9/20/11

We’re living the life at work every day, and thanks to reality TV (Hell’s Kitchen, Chopped, Top Chef, etc.) you can be living the life at home.  As the season premieres of many exciting shows get underway this week, let’s pause to remember the Olympia Café - where the best restaurant sketch ever was filmed decades ahead of its time…

9/18/11

Email List Members coming to Café Sam on a first date between now and the end of the month are sure to go for Samantha’s Cosmo – first impressions are important and at only twenty-five cents the Cosmo is a smart looking move.  But what cocktail (or beer) are you supposed to order after our promotion is over?  What your drink says about you on a first date might be something to keep in mind!

9/13/11

Our customers entered the house yesterday and passed by a modest flower arrangement sitting on the bar next to Samantha – there’s one in the same spot every September 12th. Nobody seems to notice the flowers, much less understand that it’s a meaningful day for Café Sam.

We opened on September 12, 1987, and it’s a birthday of sorts for the restaurant.

Every year, up until now, we’ve kept this “special day” quiet. But this year is different, because according to the math we have just completed twenty-four years in business - and we want to share our excitement about starting a twenty-fifth year with everyone.

Here in the East End of Pittsburgh, you take each restaurant year one at a time. So now, with 364 days remaining, we can finally say the completion of twenty-five full years in business is in sight. It’s a place we have been working very hard to arrive at – A Quarter Century of Café Sam – and we look forward to getting there with you.

Thank-you very much for allowing us to come so far…

Samantha

Email List Members:  Chef’s Specials Coupon
Email List Members:  Billy Gunn Burger Coupon
Email List Members:  Early Bird Coupon
Email List Members:  Samantha’s 25¢ Cosmo Coupon

9/8/11

Here are pictures of our new September Chef's Specials...

Caprese Salad Late Summer Tomato, Mozzarella and Prosciutto Pinwheels, Basil, Olive Oil
Chicken Sausage Cased In House, Pumpkin, Sage, Bee Honey Grain Mustard
Hickory Smoked Atlantic Salmon From Our Bradley Smoker, Sauce Verte
Pierogies Venison and Sun-dried Cherry Bolognese
House Pickled Trout Cucumbers, White Onions, Wasabi Cream
Duck Livers Garam Marsala, Sea Salted Roast Beets, Raspberry Infused Marscarpone, Crostini
Pork Confit Fried Green Tomatoes, Scallions, Thai Chili Glaze
Cranberry Borscht Our Soup Du Jour
New York Strip Steak Dry Aged In House, Fried Onion Stack, Andy’s Steak Sauce
Grass Fed Veal T-Bone Pumpkin Seed Pesto, Succotash
Leg of Lamb Pan-Seared, Moroccan Rub, Pickled Garlic and Hard Egg, Horseradish Jus
Wild Boar Medallions Bourbon Apple Glaze, Celery Root Croquettes
Cioppino San Francisco Stew, Assorted Seafood, Saffron Aioli Baquette
Pangasius (a.k.a. “Striped Catfish”) Lightly Blackened, Sweet Corn Pico, Lemon Butter Sauce
Roasted Atlantic Salmon Candied Ginger, Mustard, Soy, Brown Sugar

9/1/11

We change our “Chef’s Specials” every eight weeks
(In order to bring new things and entertain you)…
We love the different seasons and interesting cooking
And moving forward with the times and venue.
So it comes as a surprise when we look at our sales
(In an effort to better understand and serve you)
To find that seventy percent of what gets ordered still comes from the “Classic Menu”.
It’s probably explained by balancing a need for comfort and experimentation…
Whatever the case, we continue to provide a full range of options –
That way you can sit back and relax and choose without hesitation.

8/3/11

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
Julia Child (1912-2004)

8/29/11

New September Chef's Specials (we're cooking for this Friday night)...

8/23/11

The first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “Patagonia” is probably outdoor clothing for cold weather.  Patagonia is actually a region of the world running through Argentina and Chile that connects the Andes Mountains with both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  Patagonia comes from the word patagons, which was used by Magellan in 1520 to describe a clan of tall people that he came across during an expedition to South America.

A recent discovery may change the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word Patagonia – especially if you are a lager beer drinker.  After five years of searching, scientists have determined that a rare species of yeast (Saccharomyces eubayanus) from Patagonia was the key ingredient in the German invention of lager beer about six hundred years ago.  But how did the rare strain of yeast make its way from South America to Europe in the 1400’s?

We all know that “in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue."  The travels of beech tree yeast, however, is somewhat more of a mystery.  Here’s an interesting article for enthusiastic beer lovers…

8/21/11

Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, for better or for worse there’s always something different and unexpected waiting around the next curve – and that’s one thing we love about the restaurant business.

8/20/11

Wow!  Mother Nature unleashed her awesome power (again).  A wicked late summer thunder and lightning storm knocked out our electrical power, which went on and off for two days.  No problem – we worked right through it…

8/17/11

Bratwurst Sandwich (cased in house), Melted Queso Fresco, Cucumber Kimchi (Oi Gimchi), Beet Gastrique…

fusion

Email List Members: Fusion Sandwich Coupon

8/16/11

Bratwurst (Germany) with Ketchup (U.S.), Worcestershire (Britain), and Curry (India) - YES! Sushi (Japan) with Foie Gras (France) - NO WAY! Sometimes it works like magic and sometimes it's a bust. Mixing ingredients from different cultures dates back to ancient times, and it took hold in our country (most famously) in the form of Creole and Tex Mex cuisine. You can have a lot of fun experimenting with fusion cooking - it's inspiring and creative and reflective of the melting pot we call America (all reasons why it's one "trend" that's never going away)...

8/12/11

“Farmers are the only indispensable people on the face of the earth.”
Li Zhaoxing, Former Chinese Ambassador to the United States

8/10/11

August is a great month to eat Heirloom Tomatoes – and it’s also the right time to think ahead about growing a few vines of your own next year. Simply find a uniquely beautiful Heirloom Tomato (there’s lots of them at the East Liberty Farm Market every Monday afternoon) and proceed as follows: cut the tomato in half, scoop out the seeds and pulp, place them in a jar to ferment for several days (that releases the seeds from the pulp), rinse, and lay the seeds out to dry for a few more days on a paper towel.

Store the seeds in an airtight container and you’ll be ready to sprout them next spring!

Here’s a fancier version of what we just said – you’ll love bringing Heirloom Tomatoes into your family and enjoy having an authentic line of homegrowns for years to come!

Heirloom Tomato Sprouts

8/05/11

TEQUILA MOJITO Peach Schnapps, Ginger Beer, Our Own Rooftop Spearmint (no extra granulated sugar - but still very sweet)!!!

Mojito

Email List Members: Tequila Mojito Coupon

8/02/11

A set of quality knives is a high priority in any kitchen, and good knife skills are the sign of a seasoned cook. But you’re not going to cut anything precisely unless the knives are sharp (and it’s common knowledge that the extra force needed when attempting to work with a dull knife is more likely to cause finger slices). So it’s really important to keep knives sharp…

If you could examine the cutting edge of a perfectly sharp knife under a microscope, it would come to an ending point like the bottom of the letter “V”. A knife is very weak at the cutting edge, because the metal at that point has a very thin mass. As you continue to pound a cutting board with a knife, the delicate edge begins to curl around, and if you could examine the cutting edge of a dull knife under a microscope it would look like the bottom of the letter “J”.

Keeping knives sharp requires little more than a sharpening steel, and professionals keep one by their side whenever they are cutting anything. Using a sharpening steel often, after multiple strikes to a cutting board, bends the curled “J” shape of the edge back into a sharp “V’. The constant use of sharpening steel eliminates the need to sharpen knives with a file for long periods of time, which is good because repeated sharpening with a file eventually ruins a knife.

Quality knives are made from quality steel. The best or sharpest knives are made from carbon steel, which was the common knife metal found in your grandmother’s kitchen (and they last longer than a lifetime which in turn makes them a great heirloom). Unfortunately, carbon steel knives are very hard to find today. Nowadays, virtually all knives are made from inoxydable stainless steel because it doesn’t stain or corrode. Stainless steel simply looks better, and that’s why large knife manufacturers use it to make knives (even though it doesn’t hold an edge in comparison to carbon steel).

Pictured below is a set of carbon steel knives that we came across about twenty years ago while traveling outside of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. These knives (8” Chef, 6” Chef, 6” Boning, and 4” Paring) were hand forged by Vern and Helen Raaen from a carbon steel plow that had sat in a farmer’s field since the late 1800’s, and each has a beautiful and different wood handle (American Holly, Ron Ron, Rosewood, and Oak). The price of these carbon steel knives was little more than the price of good stainless steel knives, and over the years that have passed since purchase they have never needed a sharpening file.

It’s good to take pride in the quality of your cooking, and the quality of your kitchen equipment, too! It may be hard to find carbon steel knives today, but it’s not impossible. Keep your eyes open, during your travels, for the few talented knife craftsmen and custom knife shops that are still left in the country and maybe you’ll get lucky like we did!

Click on the picture for a better view!

7/28/11

We're rolling - the Café Sam News page is on vacation this week (but have a yabba dabba doo time until we get back)...

Fred

Email List Members: Customer Appreciation Coupon #1
Email List Members: Customer Appreciation Coupon #2

7/24/11

Quantum Theatre presents William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night: Our Prix Fixe Menu

7/23/11

Rubs are spice mixtures that greatly enhance flavor, and you can enjoy using them during the summer grilling season. We’re using three different rubs on our current Chef’s Specials menu – Tandoori (on Filets), Texas (on Pork T-Bones), and Jamaican Jerk (on Chicken Breasts). Rubs can be dry or wet (the Tandoori and Texas are dry, and the Jamaican Jerk is considered wet because it’s mixed with oil).

The trick to a good rub is coming up with an interesting spice mixture that has personality, but isn’t overpowering. The idea is to blend strong spices with complimentary spices that are relatively mild. For example, cayenne pepper mixes nicely with chili powder, paprika, and garlic powder, but you probably don’t want to put a lot of cayenne pepper together with a lot of hot chili flakes.

It’s important to apply rubs properly – simply sprinkling a dry spice mixture onto a protein and grilling right away will result in unwanted smoke from burning dry spices. Wet rubs are easy to work with because they adhere nicely, and dry rubs are best when applied an hour or so before cooking because they smear better after drawing moisture from the protein (and don’t burn).

We’re currently experimenting with Cuban, Moroccan, and Sweet and Sour rubs for the next round of Chef’s Specials – at least one of them should make the final cut. Here’s our Tandoori recipe – give it a try!

Tandoori Rub

Ingredients

2     Tablespoons Cracked Mustard Seeds
2     Tablespoons Fennel Seeds
2     Tablespoons Cracked Black Pepper
2     Tablespoons Paprika
¼    Teaspoon Allspice
1½  Tablespoons Kosher Salt
¼    Teaspoon Hot Pepper Flakes
¼    Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Method

Place mustard seeds, fennel seeds, and black pepper in a hot pan for several minutes to “toast” them. Do not burn! Mix the toasted spices with the rest of the ingredients. Sprinkle a liberal amount of the mixture onto Steak, Lamb, Pork, Chicken, or Duck and let it sit for an hour – then rub it into the meat (and skin if you are using poultry). Grill to perfection!

7/20/11

“It is a hard matter, my fellow citizens, to argue with the belly, since it has no ears.”
Plutarch (AD 46-120), Greek philosopher

7/18/11

Eating healthy portions is the challenge at every meal
They say the smaller the plate size the fuller you feel.
Now there’s a study suggesting a trick that’s new
The bigger the fork, the less you chew...

7/17/11

Our Grilled Romaine with Bacon, Avocado, Stilton, and Green Goddess Dressing is off to a good start, and so is the Lasagna with East Liberty Farm Market Veggies (we are grilling the veggies for that dish, too). There’s always room on your grill for something beside steak – so don’t waste it! Here are some nice ideas from Mark Bittman, along with a colorful picture to get you motivated.

We’ll add sweet Vidalia onions (or local candy onions) to the list…

7/13/11

It’s Summer!
Gone are the Cassoulet, Ragu, and Stew
Now it’s Peaches, Basil, and Corn for you.
Squid Ceviche, Spearmint, and Cucumber Kimchi
Grilled Romaine, Veal Milanaise, and six different Stuffed Tomatoes
(Pick Three)!
We have Lasagna with East Liberty Farm Market Veggies and Homemade Cheese
And a Vegetable Hot Dog with Seiten, Vegan Chili, and optional Cheddar (if you please).
The sun won’t last forever - so capture this wonderful time
Before you know it fall dishes will rhyme…

sun

Email List Members Only: Chef's Specials Coupon
Email List Members Only: Early Bird Coupon
Email List Members Only: Mojito Coupon

7/11/11

Here are pictures of the new Chef's Specials...

Squid Ceviche Spearmint, Cucumber Kimchi (Oi Gimchi), Beet Gastrique
Bratwurst Cased In House, Tupelo Honey, Homemade Sauerkraut, Grain Mustard Sauce
Salmon Grav Lox Buckwheat Blinis, Crème Fraiche, Blueberry Relish
Grilled Romaine Amish Bacon, Hard Egg, Avocado, Stilton, Green Goddess
Frog’s Legs Buffalo Style, Creamy Gorgonzola Ranch
Lobster Fritters Lemon/Basil Tartar
Chicken Chorizo Slider, Smoked Gouda, Homemade Pickle, Summer Corn Pico
Filet Mignon Tandoori, Curry Sauce
Pork T-Bone Texas Rub, Fried Local Onion Stack, Andy’s Steak Sauce
Veal Cutlets Milanaise, Summer Tomato, Arugula, Pecorino, Garlic, Lemon
Jerk Chicken Jamaican Spices, Mango Slaw, Sweet and Sour Accent
Atlantic Salmon Grilled Peaches, Poblano BBQ
Lasagna East Liberty Farm Market Veggies, Homemade Ricotta, Queso Fresco, House Red
Stuffed Tomato Trio Squid Ceviche, Wasabi Tuna, Lemon/Basil Tartar Shrimp, Smoked Ham Salad, Pesto Egg Salad (Pick Three)

7/08/11

Almost (gulp) thirty years ago Mary was fresh out of high school and Karla Boos was a Pitt theatre major – the two were waitressing together at a small French restaurant in Shadyside appropriately named Le Petit Café. Mary loved people and always approached tables smiling from ear to ear, and Karla loved greeting guests with a perfectly staged and authentic “Bon Jour”! Both had their hands full circling around a busy dining room and kitchen (and dealing with a growling, but well intentioned Chef that seemed nearly impossible to please).

Mary eventually landed at Café Sam (where she is still running circles) and Karla went on to found the iconic Quantum Theatre (where she continues to produce important works that reflect Pittsburgh heritage and culture). Friendships endure for many young people who meet at their first restaurant job, and all these years later Mary and Karla (and even the growling guy from the kitchen) still enjoy each other’s company.

It was a great treat for us to partner up with Quantum Theatre a couple of years ago when they performed Voltaire’s Candide next door on the Don Allen property. We offered a special theme based Prix Fixe dinner for theatre goers (and email list members, of course) that followed Candide’s travels across the globe. And we enjoyed after performance gatherings with the actors and everyone else that made the production happen.

So we’re thrilled to let you know we will be hooking up with Karla and Quantum Theatre again at the end of July for Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. It will be staged outdoors from July 28th – August 21st under Millvale Street in Bloomfield. Between now and then, we’ll be coming up with another Prix Fixe (there probably isn’t enough time for us to read and absorb Shakespeare’s entire work, but Karla has promised to send over the “Cliff Notes”)!

For information and tickets: Quantum Theatre

Twelfth Night

7/05/11

Technically, becoming the #1 server at Café Sam takes nothing but time. Mary lists servers in chronological order, from oldest to newest, when she makes out the work schedule every week. And after five years, Angel is currently perched at the the top of the list.

First impressions are important in our business, and we pay attention to them during job interviews. Angel made a great first impression when she originally stopped in for an application, and we knew right away she was a score. Angel is a natural when it comes to hospitality - and it didn't take long for regular customers to start requesting her service. As a matter of fact, at this point you need to make a reservation for Angel on most nights if you want her to get your table!

Angel's great first impression has turned into a lasting one - and we're lucky to have such a loyal employee. Her professional work raises the bar for service - she has made the #1 server spot on our schedule much more than a sign of longevity...

Angel

7/01/11

“Summer cooking implies a sense of immediacy, a capacity to capture the essence of the fleeting moment.”
Elizabeth David, food writer (1913-1992)

6/29/11

Fresh off the drawing board – here are the new Chef's Specials that will be coming out of our kitchen right after the holiday…

6/24/11

If you’re up for a heavy read about how we taste food and why we crave animal protein and msg (“we love the flavor of denatured protein, because, being protein and water ourselves, we need it” and “we are trained from birth to savor umami: breast milk has ten times more glutamate than cow milk”) click here to read all about it.

Otherwise, skip this post, proceed to the next one, and simply enjoy a three dollar vodka, rhubarb, and soda…

6/21/11

Seasons come, and seasons go. Here’s a sweet send off for the last of our rhubarb supply (that’s sure to put a smile on your face)…

Vodka, Rhubarb, and Soda

Rhubarb Syrup Ingredients

4      cups chopped rhubarb
1      cup sugar
1      cup water
½     lemon, juiced
½     orange, juiced

Combine the ingredients in a sauce pan and simmer until the mixture thickens slightly, about ten minutes. Pour the thickened mixture through a strainer into a bowl. Press the solids left in the strainer with a spoon to extract more syrup. Cool, then funnel the syrup into a squeeze bottle, and keep refrigerated (the syrup will last nicely for about a week).

Mix the desired amount vodka, rhubarb syrup, and soda with ice, and shake. Garnish with a wedge of orange.

Rhubarb

Email List Members Only: Rhubarb Cocktail Coupon

6/18/11

Cooking and eating and music are intertwined - here's a toast to twelve amazing saxaphone rifts and a Big Man we will always remember...

6/12/11

We honor work day off requests on a “first come, first served” basis. Dan’s a player – he submitted a note today for the recently announced September 10, 2016 Pitt – Penn State game at Heinz Field.

6/12/11

Nothing but blue skies this week...

Burger

Email List Members Only: Patio Coupon

6/07/11

Which of the following is NOT an accepted method for defrosting a 12 oz. New York Strip Steak?

a)  in a refrigerator
b)  under cold running water
c)  in a microwave oven
d)  in a hot water bath

The correct answer, if you’re taking the Allegheny County Food Safety Certification Exam, is “D”. However, that could soon change to “all of the above” according to research sponsored by the Department of Agriculture (as reported by The New York Times). According to studies at Utah State University, thawing steaks in hot water can be done safely, actually leaking less juice than air-cooled counterparts, and quickly.

Defrosting steaks in hot water took as little as eleven minutes (and half inch thick pieces of chicken thawed in a little more than three minutes).

Immersion circulators speed up the process – but expensive equipment isn’t necessary. Simply fill a large pot with 125 degree tap water, submerge steaks, chicken, and fish in wrapped in resealable plastic bags, weigh them down, and stir occasionally (to prevent a cold zone from developing around the bags).

You’ll be ready to grill before the charcoal gets hot!

6/05/11

We’ve been on the scene longer than just about every other restaurant in Pittsburgh’s East End, which gives us an exceptional look back. Over the last quarter of a century (holy cow!) a lot of places have come and gone– but at no time that we can remember have there been so many independent establishments in the neighborhood serving such great food. Clearly, you have a plethora of solid choices when thinking about where to go for a really nice meal.

So how do you decide? It might come down to service.

As reported in a recent article published by the Boston Globe, a Zagat survey of about 1,400 Boston area restaurants revealed that the number one complaint by respondents was about service. The article notes, among other things, that people want to be treated well and servers need to have a warm presence and a nice smile – in addition to being well trained. As for the back of the house (which plays a part in service, too), Chefs need to demonstrate flexibility and contain their egos.

One restaurant owner is quoted as follows: “One of the things that I really dislike about restaurants is when they make you feel like you’re lucky to be there. I make sure servers understand that here the attitude is contrary. We are lucky to have you here tonight. You’ve chosen us vs. a ton of other restaurants.”

We are of the same mindset and continue to appreciate your patronage…

6/03/11

Sometime around the turn of the twentieth century, the Marshall Fields department store (later renamed Macy’s) coined two phrases that have survived for over one hundred years: the first is “Only ___ shopping days until Christmas”, and the second is “The customer is always right.”

It’s the latter, intended to put the customer first, that became heavily associated with the restaurant business. Of course, the phrase isn’t intended to be taken literally – but it serves as a good business guide to making customers feel special by treating them as if they are right (even if they are wrong on occasion).

The fact that customers are sometimes wrong can present a challenge at times. This challenge can be overcome by keeping an extension of the original phrase in mind:

       1. The customer is always right, and
       2. If the customer is wrong, rule number one applies.

5/31/11

“Grilling, broiling, barbecuing - whatever you want to call it - is an art, not just a matter of building a pyre and throwing on a piece of meat as a sacrifice to the gods of the stomach.”
James Beard

5/27/11

The proper use of salt is fundamental in cooking – it’s a flavor enhancer. There are various salt options beside the iodized salt that is commonly found in table shakers, including sea salt. By weight, table salt and sea salt contain about the same amount of sodium chloride (i.e., the chemical makeup is about the same). But there are differences between table salt and sea salt…

One difference between table salt and sea salt is in the processing – table salt is chemically cleaned and bleached, whereas sea salt is produced by evaporating sea water, usually with little processing (which leaves it more natural in taste). Another difference between table salt and sea salt is in the texture – table salt is finely ground, whereas sea salt is coarse. That difference can be significant when it comes to cooking technique.

Most professional kitchens like to use sea salt when prepping proteins like beef, chicken, and seafood for the grill. The coarse grind doesn’t completely melt away while cooking, and it gives a big burst of flavor when first contacting the tongue.

Artisan sea salts are starting to become popular. We have been playing around with sea salt recently, starting out with hand-harvested sea salt from the Mediterranean and then infusing it with things like onion and garlic (we are currently using an onion infused sea salt on panko crusted fried asparagus and recently used garlic infused sea salt on beef carpaccio).

We’re going to start experimenting with more complex artisan salts for grilling steaks and burgers, chicken, and seafood. As we enter the holiday weekend that kicks off the summer grilling season, maybe you can get a step ahead of us!

Have a great Memorial Day…

5/25/11

The full moon is notorious for a lot of things, including the blue moon (an extra full moon in a season that normally has three), the harvest moon (said to help farmers working to bring in their crops), and even werewolves (people who transform into creatures that prey on the innocent – like little old ladies).

It’s also famous for soft shell crabs. Tradition holds that blue crabs (other varieties of crabs can be eaten as “soft shells” but only blue crabs yield enough meat for a meal) begin to molt with the first full moon of May.

That’s the time when crabs go through a tremendous growth stage. The blue crab loses its existing shell as its body grows by thirty percent in a matter of weeks. Commercial crabbers harvest the blue crab and place them in tanks, and watch as a colored line on the back fin changes from white to pink to red, and then the shedding process begins. Soft-shells are split up into 5 basic sizes: whales, jumbos, primes, hotels and mediums (with whales being the largest and mediums the smallest), and shipped live.

Soft shell crabs are truly a seasonal delicacy, with the finest coming from the Chesapeake Bay off the coast of Maryland. We always enjoy working with soft shells for a few weeks at the end of May (after that the shells start to get hard again and they are less pleasant to eat).

We will be offering prime soft shells starting tonight, by the piece as an appetizer or as an entrée. We have a good amount of ideas for different preparations, which we plan to change each evening. Or, if you like, we will accept Chef challenges and prepare them customized – just let us know.

Blue moons, harvest moons, werewolves, soft shells – the full moons, and the changing seasons, always bring so many different kinds of treats…

5/23/11

The history of fried chicken in our country traces back to the time of slavery, when African cooks used distinct seasonings and spices to enrich its flavor. Fried chicken survived the fall of slavery, and became a staple in southern cooking. But fried chicken is also common in other parts of the world, including Asia, where distinct seasonings and spices are also used to enrich flavor.

Our current edition of Chef’s Specials includes a Korean Fried Chicken dish, and it’s absolutely delicious. Here’s the recipe we are using – give it a try for an interesting change in your summer picnic basket!

Fried Chicken (Yangnymeom Dak)

Ingredients

1         small yellow onion, grated
2         cloves garlic, minced
3         tablespoons Korean chili paste (gojuchang)
3         tablespoons ketchup
1         tablespoon soy sauce
1/4      cup sugar
2         tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2      lemon, juiced
1/2      cup all-purpose flour
2/3      cup cornstarch
8         thinly pounded boneless and skinless chicken thighs, or
4         thinly pounded boneless and skinless chicken breasts (what we are using)…
           canola oil, for frying
salt and black pepper

Method

Combine grated onion, minced garlic, chili paste, ketchup, soy, sugar, sesame seeds, and lemon juice, and marinate your choice of either chicken breasts or thighs for one hour. Dredge the chicken in a mixture of the flour and cornstarch. Fry the chicken in a pan, using the shallow frying method (hot oil should cover the chicken about half way). Finally, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Kitchen Note: It is important to thinly pound the chicken because the coating for it requires fast cooking.

Adapted from “Quick and Easy Korean Cooking” by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee.

Asian Fried Chicken

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5/21/11

“Food is about agriculture, about ecology, about man's relationship with nature, about the climate, about nation-building, cultural struggles, friends and enemies, alliances, wars, religion. It is about memory and tradition and, at times, even about sex.”
Mark Kurlansky

5/20/11

Meet Alice Waters - probably the most revolutionary Chef of our time...

5/17/11

As reported in Nation’s Restaurant News, Ferdinand Metz, our old friend, mentor, and the former President of the Culinary Institute of America had this to say: “The perception of culinary arts in America has changed amazingly. When I was at Le Pavillon (1961-1964), if you said you were a cook, it didn’t take you very far in social circles. But media attention and public appreciation (of chefs) has changed, and so have expectations. America today cooks better than at any time before. We had to become better professionals, and we have. When I went to work at a New York hotel years ago, I saw the banquet kitchen placing hot food in warmers at 2 in the afternoon. I asked, 'What is this for, late luncheon?' The chef said, 'No, it’s for dinner.' Those days are gone."

Those days are gone, thanks in part to wonderful culinary educations that were offered at places like the Culinary Institute of America, Johnson and Wales, and our local Pennsylvania Culinary Institute. It was through intensive hands on culinary school programs that we learned (among many other things) the science of holding prepared food and sauces cold, and heating them to order, preserved the integrity of the product far better than holding them hot in steam tables for hours on end.

Are the glory days of wonderful culinary educations near the end?

Mr. Metz is now executive dean and chairman of the National Advisory Board for Le Cordon Bleu, which has 17,000 students in 17 locations around the country. Talking about what’s happening now in culinary schools around the country, Mr. Metz notes the average occupational studies degree costs more than $40,000, and there is a great imbalance between the cost of education and the earning capacity of graduates coming out of school. In response, Cordon Bleu has made a decision to cut costs by more than half by cutting time spent in classrooms and offering online courses to complete a degree.

We don’t think online courses can replace hands on experience in culinary education. To keep America cooking better than any time before, the overall quality of culinary education needs to be maintained. One answer to the cost of education problem might be requiring substantial field training apprenticeships for training chefs at accredited outside establishments to augment classroom training. Another answer might be requiring substantial field training as a prerequisite to acceptance in culinary schools, so that new students already have a knowledge base.

At any rate, the burden of growing new Chefs may well rest in the hands of today’s Chefs. Today’s Chefs finally enjoy well deserved respect as professionals – and acting as surrogate educators may become more and more important if that respect is to continue on for the next generation.

5/11/11

Navarin D’Angneau is a Spring Lamb Stew
Stawberries, Ramps, and Asparagus are all spring, too.
Vidalia Onion and Rhubarb Pie
We sure have the season in our eye.
But spring is really a season to get out and explore
So we’re covering Turkey, Asia, Italy, France, and More!!!
Our May edition of Chef’s Specials brings many things new -
We even found a place for Western Elk and Duck Ragu.
Strawberry Fields Forever…

Chef

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5/08/11

Pictures of some new Chef's Specials for May...

Western Elk Meatball Lollipops, Jalapeño Jack, Poblanos, Bourbon BBQ
Lamb Tongue Turkish Spices, Crostini, Mango/Macademia Chutney
Country-Style Pork Pâté Slider, Homemade Pickle, Spring Greens, Strawberry Mustard
Fried Asparagus Panko Crusted, Pecorino, Onion Infused Sea Salt, House Red Sauce
Sizzling Shrimp Spicy Pumpkin Seeds, Kumquats, Fried Green Tomato
Vidalia Onion and Rhubarb Pie Blueberry Stilton, Fresh Raspberry Jam
Calamari Garlic Toast Tower, Scallions, Thai Chili Sauce
Grilled Sirloin Steak Ramps, Sweet and Sour Tangerine/Teriyaki Glaze
Duck Ragu Polenta Cake, Papaya, Sage, Anchovy Catchup
Fried Chicken (Yangnyeom Dak) Asian Chili Paste, Garlic, Sesame Seed Vinegar Slaw
Shellfish Ravioli Homemade Ricotta Cheese, Sweet Pea Pesto, Pink Sauce
Catfish Blackened, Ramps, Strawberries, Cajun Cream
Ahi Tuna Steak Medium Rare, Tempura Battered, Soy, Miso Tartar
Atlantic Salmon Kalamata Olive Tapenade, Classic Béarnaise
Lentil Burger Fried Green Tomato, Corn Pico, Guacamole, Homemade Veganaise

5/06/11

We look forward to hosting a reception for the Zombie Opera after tonight's opening performance of Evenings in Quarantine at Chatham College - catch one of the shows this weekend if you can find time for some great entertainment.

5/03/11

Take a first look at the new Chef's Specials that will start springing out of our kitchen tomorrow night!

5/01/11

From Martini Bars to Micro Brews to Designer Drinks to the latest – Classic Cocktails are in again. What else is there to talk about when it comes to Rob Roys, Rusty Nails, and the Old Fashioned? How about ice – here's a really cool article for those of you who are serious about making the perfect drink at home…

4/26/11

We are huntersand gatherers, too. Although we have some concern about foraging for ramps and the sustainability of this seasonal ritual (see post on 4/21), and we now see that consuming certain plants can cause an ethical dilemma, the woods in Armstrong County seem to have an abundance of them. So it was still a joy to spend last Sunday afternoon roaming the moist earth on the hillsides above our favorite streams looking for patches of wild leeks. We’ll enjoy cooking different things with ramps for a couple of weeks (they don’t last long), and then preserving a final harvest for use next winter in compound butters and pickling jars.

Stop in soon to enjoy a wonderfully natural and truly local treat…

Ramps

Click here to view additional pictures.

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4/23/11

Interested in trying fresh fish poached in sea water? Try it this summer while vacationing at the shore – but not at a restaurant in Pittsburgh. Read a thought provoking article about food and naturalism…

4/21/11

Whole Foods will have them on shelves this weekend at $15/pound. Ramps, which signal the arrival of spring, have become a symbol of the local-food movement and the biggest seasonal food craze to hit restaurants in years. Here’s a surprise - the sale of wild leeks is banned throughout Quebec, and you can’t even legally forage them for yourself in Great Smokey Mountain National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. Some botanists are warning us that ramps are being overharvested at a rate that could make them as rare as ginseng, a medicinal root that used to be abundant in America’s woods. Click here to read more…

4/17/11

New Dessert: Berry, Berry, Cherry Cobbler (it's berry, berry good)...

Cobbler

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4/15/11

“I've always relished wordplay and have a consuming interest in culinary puns. Sometimes I'll loaf around all day, devising bone mots just for the halibut. Other times I pray to Cod for the veal-power to stop playing with my food words, but I fear it's to bread into me. For all I know, the wurst may be yet to come.”
Mark Morton, 2006

4/13/11

Two years of posts below – we’ve had a lot of fun sharing Café Sam News, Recipes, and More with you…

4/11/11

Why is it customary to leave a tip for your server? The tradition came to us from Europe, after the Civil War, and it’s now an ingrained part of our culture. But the common understanding about tipping as a reward for good service and an incentive for personal service during future visits at your favorite restaurant may be a misnomer – disheartening studies show more obtuse factors play into what really engages the customer. Click here for more…

4/07/11

The taste buds on your tongue, known as papillae, are made up of cells that have microscopic hairs called microvilli. Taste buds, through the microvilli, can detect sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and the newly discovered umami (a “savory” fifth taste sensation derived from Japan). Taste buds send messages to your brain, to let it know what’s going on in your mouth – for better or for worse. For example, just as you might love the flavor of one thing, taste buds send nerve impulses rejecting other things, such as old and spoiled foods.

The level of awareness to taste depends on the number of taste buds on your tongue. The average number is five thousand, two thousand is a low number, and people with “great taste” have up to ten thousand taste buds.

Some things can make your taste buds less sensitive, like cold foods and ice cubes. If your mouth gets really cold, your ability to interpret taste will be diminished. Age also diminishes your ability to interpret taste. Until middle age, taste buds constantly regenerate at an even pace. After the age of forty, the regeneration decreases. The ability to taste diminishes as people get older, since the mouth ages just like everything else in the body.

Taste buds combine with aroma and texture to complete the overall experience of what you are eating. The best things to eat are often the things with great balance and contrasts – and this way of thinking is important when constructing winning food combinations. For example, one thing that comes to mind with the start of baseball season is the all American hot dog – combined with relish, mustard, and ketchup it’s a classic hit.

Another thing that comes to mind is a Chef’s Special we will be offering this week – Fresh Atlantic Salmon with Kalamata Olive Tapenade Paste and Miso Choron Sauce (a “savory” tarragon and tomato enhanced Hollandaise Sauce). Stop in and enjoy a wonderfully designed new dish that your taste buds are sure to love. It's our idea of a home run - but one you can’t get at the ballpark!

Taste Buds

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4/02/11

“I could write a better book of cookery than has ever been written; it should be a book upon philosophical principles. Pharmacy is now made much more simple. Cookery may be made so too. A prescription which is now compounded of five ingredients, had formerly fifty in it. So, in cookery, if the nature of the ingredients be well known, much fewer will do...”
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

3/30/11

In today’s world, it’s natural to assume the word “modern” is associated with new technology. Not so much when it comes to modern cooking, however, and we would use misconceptions about the origin and momentary resurgence of “sous vide” as an example. Sous vide is a method of cooking food sealed in plastic bags in a water bath, for long periods of time, at very low temperatures – sometimes for several days. The main idea is to slow cook proteins without bursting their cells, in order to preserve an exceptionally flavorful product.

Thermal immersion circulators (formerly known in practice as laboratory circulators), and more rudimentary devices like food wells with sensitive thermostats and timers, have been around for decades. They were first used for cooking at low temperatures around the time microwave ovens were invented (we can talk more about “molecular gastronomy” later). Likewise, sealing food in plastic bags ("cryovac") is as easy as making a trip to Walmart for a low cost FoodSaver machine, and they have been available for decades, too.

Sous vide is really nothing new.

We played around with the sous vide technique for a short time in the late 1980’s, after being inspired by the Troisgrois Brothers cookbooks and the nouvelle cuisine of France, and quickly abandoned it. Gone were the tasty advantages of diamond branded steaks charred on a flaming hot grill and pan sauces made with the de-glazed drippings of seared veal and chicken sautéed in hot pans (cells that don’t burst simply don’t make up for those things).

To us, the word modern, when associated with the cooking of today, refers to a focus on the nature of the ingredients (i.e. where they come from, whether they are seasonal and local and fresh, and just as importantly, the creative thinking behind how they are combined). To us, modern cooking (in contrast to modern cooking technology) is about a robust, new style of environmentally inspired preparations that make eating interesting, different, and fun.

Modern cooking can be found in many restaurants here in Pittsburgh and we think it will have staying power and a great impact on the culinary art - even with the absence of any meaningful and ground breaking kitchen equipment inventions.

When it comes to new equipment inventions, we're still grasping at straws.

That’s a very long winded approach to introducing something as simple as the six new burgers we will be featuring through April, along with our Chef’s Specials card. We'll be cooking them the old fashioned way - on the grill!

Anyhow, here’s our way of saying thanks to those of you who continue to support us and our efforts to keep moving forward...

3/27/11

Strawberry season is right around the bend, and we are looking forward to incorporating them into different plates for our next menu change (strawberry mustard with French pate, strawberry rhubarb for pies, etc.). Here’s a neat little trick for cleaning strawberries that really works great – simply push a drinking straw up through the bottom of the strawberry and out through the top. This removes the unwanted core, as well as the leafy calyx, without the excess loss of sweet fruit that occurs from hulling with a paring knife. Have fun cooking!

Strawberry One  Strawberry Two

Larger Images

3/24/11

From Gourmet Magazine to food TV to food blogs to twitter - click here for more about the evolution of food fads...

3/20/11

Customers often ask us (as restaurant people) where we like to go on our nights off, partly out of curiosity and partly for leads. We’re always embarrassed by this question because the expectation is probably to hear our thoughts about the “fine” dining options in the neighborhood (there are a lot of them). The sorry truth is simply this – on the rare occasions that we do go out it’s usually to down some spicy chicken wings and Bud light beer.

We’re happy to say on three occasions over the last year we have thoroughly enjoyed dinners at Bona Terra in Sharpsburg. The atmosphere at this Chef owned BYOB restaurant is comfortable, casual, friendly, and unpretentious. The food is fresh and outstanding. The place is everything you want if the idea is to have a nice, relaxing, quiet time on a night off.

Stay tuned – sometime in the next month or so we are planning to do our first in depth food review…

3/18/11

Our new “Pittsburgh Reuben” – A Café Sam original, right down to the local kielbasa, homemade sauerkraut, and beet horseradish sauce. Try it, you’ll like it…

It’s March Madness - Let’s Go Pitt!!!

Pitt Basketball

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3/15/11

“It isn’t so much what’s on the table that matters, as what’s on the chairs.”
W.S. Gilbert (1836-1911)

3/12/11

Great food columnists can always find a way to make something out of nothing. Imagine having to write an article about a spoon – what would you come up with? Here’s a cleverly researched article that says a mouthful about the once-ubiquitous (but recently disappearing) spoon. Teaspoons are still a part of our standard four piece place setting, but now we’re thinking about only bringing them out for coffee - like a steak knife that is delivered with meat…

3/08/11

Duck Liver, Short Ribs, Grape Leaves
And More!!!
Those are just a few of the appetizers
We also have entrees galore.
Bison Meatballs, Sizzling Shrimp, and Texas Duck
Making a decision is going to get you stuck.
“Don’t ever open a restaurant - the work it’s too hard”
But son of a gun we’re having fun - check out the new specials card…

Chef Jambalaya

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3/06/11

Here are pictures of some new Chef’s Specials that came out of our kitchen on Friday night…

Grilled Squid Homemade Chorizo, House Pickled Green Tomato, Miso Tartar
Beef Carpaccio Seared, Onion Infused Sea Salt, Field Greens with Raspberry Vinaigrette
Grape Leaves Ground Lamb and Gaba Rice, Greek Olives, Feta
Braised Short Ribs Fried Gorgonzola Polenta Cake, Sun Dried Cherry Sauce
Sam’s Steakhouse Salad Bacon, Avocado, Blue Cheese, Hard Egg, Garlicky Green Goddess
Duck Liver Pate Pancetta Crisp, Crostini
Veal Medallions Prosciutto, Blueberry Stilton, Whole Grain Mustard Sauce
Jambalaya Chicken, Seafood, Tasso
Sizzling Shrimp Wilted Brussel Sprouts, Cashews
Rainbow Trout Crab Meat, Sun Dried Cranberries, Macadamia Dust, Sage Derby Mornay
Atlantic Salmon Baby Bok Choy, Enoki Mushrooms, Thai Chili Sauce
Spaghetti and Meatballs Whole Wheat, Bison, Smoked Gouda, House Red
Pittsburgh Reuben Local Kielbasa, Homemade Sauerkraut, Melted Swiss, Beet-Horseradish Sauce
Black Bean Burger Tomatillo Pico, Guacamole, Homemade Veganaise

3/04/11

We recently used a skit from the Honeymooners (of all things) to illustrate how risky it can be to jump quickly from an established style of cooking to a new style of cooking. Ralph and Norton taught us that it’s probably prudent to experiment and evolve over a period of time (and stay mindful of traditional kitchen values) instead of diving head first into a pool of foam.

Anyhow, one of the “new” dishes that will be coming out of our kitchen tonight is Panko Crusted Fried Oysters with Anchovy Catchup. Here’s the catchup recipe (it's great for pizza, pasta, and salad dressings, too)…

Anchovy Catchup

Ingredients

4       Ounces (about eight tablespoons or one half cup) Anchovy Paste
4       Cups Port or Madeira Wine (or your own custom blend of both)
4       Tablespoons Grated Onion
2       Tablespoons Lemon Juice
2       Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
1       Teaspoon Horseradish
¼      Teaspoon Black Pepper

Method

Combine the ingredients, simmer, and reduce by half.

FYI – we adapted this recipe from a book (Directions for Cookery, p. 174) that was published in 1851. There’s some food for thought…

3/01/11

Here's a first look at the new Chef's Specials that will come out of our kitchen this Friday night...

2/27/11

Café Sam received a nice little mention in a Pittsburgh Magazine article that compliments our friendly staff – we really do have a wonderful crew!

2/24/11

Thanks for visiting the Café Sam News page...

chef

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2/21/11

Our hero, Chef Norton (often advised by his well grounded wife Trixie) is old fashioned by nature and has confidence in established food handling methods. Chef Ralph, on the other hand, is a risk taking innovator always looking for the latest gimmick. Together, at the behest of Ralph, the two team up to demonstrate the old school approach to cooking compared with modern technique in a poorly executed attempt to move the culinary art forward with a newly invented kitchen utensil.

We are watching them with great interest and amusement, and moving forward in our own way. Café Sam’s classic menu, developed over a long period of time, provides comfort to many customers who like eating the same tried and true things over and over again. The classic menu is balanced by the Chef’s Specials menu, which provides new, changing, and adventurous dishes to other customers who like eating different things.

The idea is to satisfy the broad customer base that has kept us in business for nearly twenty-four years by offering plates both ways (old and new). Our classic menu still serves its purpose very well. In fact, as you can see, one thing to be learned from the Chef of the Future is that sometimes the old way works even better than the new…

2/17/11

Sad story: a former food editor steps away from the safety of her job behind a desk and has an eye-opening real life experience with a restaurant, as told first hand through the Philadelphia Inquirer…

2/15/11

Kudos to the masses that were out on Saturday night (we were happy to have you), but it’s the true lovers that show up together on a Monday

2/14/11

There’s nothing nicer than fresh flowers for Valentine’s Day – the beautiful orchids we will be placing on your entrée plates this evening are completely edible…

Edible Orchids

2/12/11

“I don’t like gourmet cooking or “this” cooking or “that” cooking. I like good cooking.” James Beard (1903-1985)

2/10/11

Our prediction for 2011 was higher food prices at the supermarkets, and soaring commodity indexes this week bring that prediction closer to a reality. The supply of corn is a good indicator of future food prices, and the reserve has just reached its lowest level in ten years. While the reserve has been dropping, corn prices have nearly doubled in the last six months (thanks in part to high demand from the ethanol industry).

Why does the price of corn broadly affect food prices at the supermarket? Corn is used to feed the cows, hogs, and chickens that we eat. It’s also used in many other things that we consume, including cereals and soft drinks (corn syrup is used as a sweetener).

Experts believe the impact from higher corn prices will be most apparent in about six months. Chicken prices should increase in about three months, because of the increased feed prices and the fact that birds have a short life span.

Delivering exceptional quality at reasonable prices is an important part of our business philosophy. As the cost of the food we purchase increases, you won’t see us attempting to make up the difference with smaller portions or inexpensive fillers. We will be working harder than ever to offset those increases by saving money in other areas of our operation.

This may sound a little bit corny, but “Where’s the Beef?” isn’t a question you will ever need to ask at Café Sam…

2/07/11

Let’s face it – the Steelers didn’t play well. But compared to the Black Eyed Peas performance, it really wasn't all that bad. Here’s to a great season, and next up is March Madness!

2/04/11

Beside Thanksgiving and Christmas for the last twenty-three years, Cafe Sam has been open every single day except 1/28/96 (Super Bowl XXX), 2/5/06 (Super Bowl XL), and 2/1/09 (Super Bowl XLII). Those were the other "holy days." We are absolutely thrilled to add this Sunday 2/6/11 (Super Bowl XLV) to our short list of days closed - LETS GO STEELERS!!!

1/30/11

Valentine’s Day Menu – complete with champagne toast. Why? Because the Night

1/28/11

Our prediction for 2011? Food prices increasing astronomically at the supermarkets, tempered by highly competitive menu prices at a plethora of wonderful Pittsburgh restaurants. It should be a value packed year for you to enjoy dining out…

1/27/11

We're thinking black and gold!!!

Here We Go Steelers

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1/25/11

“Little do they know that after the second goat-cheese crème brulée, the third ahi-shiso tuna tower with wasabi foam, the fourth porcini-dusted scallop with padron-pepper beurre blanc, and the fifth “deconstructed” s’more, a baked potato with a little butter and salt can seem like one of humanity’s most ingenious inventions.” Steven Silberman, former restaurant critic.

1/22/11

Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) is located off the eastern coast of Canada, and it’s a place of natural beauty, with gently rolling hills and salt marshes and red sandstone cliffs. It’s also home to the best tasting blue mussels in the world. P.E.I. Mussels are “cultured” – grown in mesh stockings attached to long lines of rope in the nearby bays and inlets. Cultured mussels are free of grit because the suspended stockings never touch the ocean floor (as opposed to their wild counterpart), and they are plump, tender, and sweet tasting because the rope line method provides superior access to nutrients in the clean passing water as the mussels grow.

P.E.I.

P.E.I. Mussels with Spicy Thai Coconut Broth

Ingredients

1½       Pounds P.E.I. Mussels
7          Ounces Coconut Milk
8          Ounces Clam Juice
4          Ounces White Wine
1          Teaspoon Lemon Juice
1          Teaspoon Sriracha Sauce (Thai Chili Sauce)
1          Tablespoon Butter
1          Teaspoon Garlic
¼         Cup Chopped Scallions
½         Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1          Tablespoon Fresh Chopped Cilantro
¼         Teaspoon Ground Ginger

Method

Melt the butter in a pot and sauté the garlic for a minute. Add the rest of the broth ingredients and simmer for three minutes. Then add the mussels, cover the pot, and let them steam until open.

Note: You can use eight ounces of chicken stock and one tablespoon of fish sauce (available at Asian supermarkets) instead of the clam juice for a nice variation of this recipe.

1/17/11

Our current Chef’s Specials include a Goat Curry dish, and we are impressed with how well it is selling. Here’s a surprise: more goat is eaten than any other meat in the world and it is lower in fat than chicken and higher in protein than beef. We set out to verify these facts, and learned even more about goat. Some people believe goat can lead to better “sexytime” (while others think lamb can provide extra benefits as well). Goats are falsely accused of eating cans (o.k., we already knew that), and are a staple in Mexican, Indian, Greek and southern Italian cuisines. It’s all enough to make you “go go goat.” Click here to read the entertaining article we came across…

1/16/11

“I have trouble with toast. Toast is very difficult. You have to watch it all the time or it burns up.” Julia Child

Four kinds of Homemade Sausage (Chicken, Andouille, Italian, Chorizo), Cassoulet, Gumbo, Grav Lox, Stromboli, Braised Goat Curry – no problem. Funny thing is sometimes we have trouble with toast, too…

1/11/11

It’s not etouffee or nouvelle cuisine
Not cordon bleu (or even beef stew)
But it does have shellfish stock and roux
If you like shrimp and rice
And you can handle the spice
Then stop by soon
Cuz we’re cookin' a mighty Rad Gumbo…

chef

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1/10/11

Beef that comes out of a plastic bag, after sitting in its own blood, results in “a more intense sour note and more bloody/serumy flavor” according to the Department of Food and Science Nutrition at the University of Minnesota. Dry aged beef, by contrast, is described as “buttery and rich” and “earthy and nutty” and “mellow and intense.”

Now comes the funny part – academic studies have shown that the American public at large probably prefers the “wet aged” beef.

A Café Sam Report: Wet or Dry Aged – What’s Your Beef?

1/08/11

We added a few links on the Chef's Specials page for you to enjoy, and below are pictures of some new plates that were served in our dining rooms last night...

Fresh Sardines Red Currants, Compound Cream Cheese, Meuniere Butter
Duck Livers Bacon Wrappers, Water Chestnuts, Sun Dried Cherry Sauce
Scotch Egg Homemade Italian Sausage, Panko Crust, Choron Aioli
Black Bean Hummus Puff Pastry Bowl, Assorted Root Chips
Cassoulet Homemade Chicken Sausage, Duck Confit, Pork Shoulder, White Beans, Cranberries
New York Strip Steak Dry Aged In-House, Andy's Steak Sauce
Pork Scallopine Lemon, Capers, Rainbow Chard
Coffee Infused Duck Breast Irish Cream, Croissant with Homemade Ricotta and Radicchio Marmalade
Braised Goat Curry, Onion, Papaya, Himalayan Rice
Seafood Gumbo Creole-Style, Assorted Shellfish and Homemade Andouille Sausage, Okra
Maine Lobster Claws Drawn Butter, By the Piece, Appetizer or Entrée

1/07/11

Vegans are not a radical “splinter faction” of vegetarians: Plant Only Eaters Getting Respect

1/03/11

Antelopes and Goats and Dinosaurs – Oh My!!! Click here to view the new Chef’s Specials that will be roaming out of our kitchen this Friday night…

1/01/11

Happy New Year!

Early Bird

Email List Members: Early Bird Coupon

12/22/10

Ideas for new Chef’s Specials, coming out shortly after the New Year, are starting to percolate:
Coffee Infused Duck Breast Irish Cream, Croissant with Homemade Ricotta and Radicchio Marmalade…

12/19/10

Farm To Table (up close and personal): Splotch the Pig

12/17/10

We will be offering a four course dinner (complete with a champagne toast) this New Years' Eve for $39.95/person. Click here to view the menu: HAPPY NEW YEAR 2011

12/14/10

“Her name was Miss Wonderly. She was tall and pliantly slender, legs long, lips like cranberry sauce, skin the color of an under-cooked turkey, hair like caramelized yams.” Click here to read the most entertaining restaurant review we have ever come across…

12/12/10

Good Chefs (and good cooks) have sharp knife skills – haphazard food cutting is one sign of an amateur in the kitchen. Individual pieces of like items in a recipe are supposed to be cut to the same dimensions, all the time, for the sake of consistency. There’s more to this than the look of a finished food plate – all ingredients need to be the same size for even distribution and hot ingredients need to be the same size for even cooking times.

Checking out the uniformity of sizes and shapes of cut items on a plate lets you know if a well trained hand was on the knife that trimmed them. Sizes and shapes of different cuts are classically defined: for examples, there is the brunoise cut (1/8” x 1/8” x 1/8”), the julienne cut (1/16” x 1/16” x 2”), and three different dices (1/4”, 1/2”, and 3/4” square).

Somewhat more challenging in practice is the oblique cut (Chinese in origin), which is used on long vegetables. It makes attractive chunks with increased surface areas designed for faster cooking – the blade of the knife is held perpendicular to a cutting board, the first cut is straight down on a 45 degree diagonal, and then there are several rolled quarter turn cuts.

We are currently serving oblique cut candied carrots (cooked "al dente") with brown sugar and honey as our vegetable side dish…

Oblique Cut Candied Carrots

12/07/10

Our food is excellent
Marketing poor
Social networking gets us a zero score
Two decades plus
Not an advertisement made
We finally created a website in 2008
Now come the holidays
And since we’re finally online
Email Mary for your last minute party needs
Now is the time…

Party Time

12/06/10

Prior to Thanksgiving, we posted a Café Sam Report (11/08) on turkey brining. Note: brining the turkey significantly decreases the cooking time. Some say this is because of the infused moisture content, others say it is because the salt water starts the cooking process before the bird goes into the oven. Either way, if you brine a turkey for Christmas check to see if it has finished cooking earlier than usual.

As another note, the turkey liver is a little gem – don’t discard it! Sautee the liver with equal amounts of turkey fat drippings from the skin and chopped onion by volume, cool, and puree with a hard boiled egg. Add salt and pepper. Refrigerate one hour. Everyone will be quite impressed with your turkey liver pate, served as a lovely hors d’oeuvre before dinner.

Yes, we are getting into the holiday spirit

Happy Face

12/01/10

Some of us are thrilled to be up north enjoying deer season today, but our sights were set on sharing the excitement with you before we headed out for the woods. Chasseur is a hunter’s sauce in classical French cuisine, and it is made with a flavorful demi-glace, white wine, tomatoes, mushrooms, and shallots. The sauce was invented by Phillippe de Mornay, who also had his hand stirring the first pots of Mornay, Lyonnaise, and Béchamel sauces. The kitchen will be firing fresh orders of Chicken Chasseur as one of the three entrée choices on the new monthly Prix Fixe menu starting tonight…

11/28/10

It’s back – just in time for the holidays!!!

Portobello Mushrooms

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11/22/10

Once again, let’s work together to end domestic violence during the holiday season. Stop in between now and Christmas to purchase a gift certificate, along with the attached coupon, and Cafe Sam will donate fifteen percent of the dollar amount to the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.

Email List Members: Gift Certificate Donation Coupon

11/19/10

Chef DJ’s EZ Cheesecake Cups with Pretzel Crust

Cheesecake Ingredients
¼ Cup Corn Starch
2 Cups Sugar
2½ Pounds Cream Cheese
5 Whole Eggs
1 Egg Yolk
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
5 Ounces Heavy Cream

Method
Combine the dry ingredients (cornstarch and sugar). Cream the dry ingredients and cream cheese with a mixer. Combine the wet ingredients (eggs, yolk, vanilla, and heavy cream), and slowly beat them into the cream cheese mixture.

Crust Ingredients
1 Cup Crushed Pretzels
8 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Flour

Method
Mix crushed pretzels and flour. Work softened butter into the pretzel mixture to form pea sized balls.

Baking Instructions
Place baking cups into a twelve cupcake pan. Lay a ¼ inch base of the pretzel mixture. Ladle cheesecake batter into the cups until they are almost full. Bake at 350 degrees for about forty-five minutes (note: recipe makes twenty four cups).

Optional: Finish the Cheesecake Cups with your favorite seasonal toppings (pictured below with homemade Cinnamon Apple Sauce and Caramel as we are currently serving them)…

Cupcake Pan  Apple Cheesecake Cup

11/16/10

Introducing the latest addition to our legendary Billy Gunn Burger Series:
Panko Crusted Salmon Burger Feta Cheese Salsa (Feta Cheese, Sun-dried Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives)…

Billy Gunn

Email List Members: Billy Gunn Salmon Burger Coupon

11/14/10

In case you didn’t have time to read Amanda Hesser’s article (posted below) about her thoughts and revelations while working on “The Essential New York Times Cookbook”, here are a few striking quotes (followed by a friendly "solicitation" from us):

“During my testing, I realized that not only did the 19th-century archive consist almost entirely of recipes by home cooks, but so did many of the most-recommended recipes. Four of the five most recommended recipes – the apple cake, pancake, chocolate cake, and lasagna – originated with nonprofessionals.”
"…the shape of our food culture, I saw for the first time, did not live in the hands of chefs or the media. It lived in the hands of regular people – home cooks, foodies, whatever label you want to give them – who decide what sticks."
"It was going to be an eclectic panorama of both highfalutin masterpieces and lowbrow grub, a fever chart of culinary passions. It was going to be by turns global and local, simple and baroque, ancient and prescient. And its foundation would largely reflect the tastes of the thousands of readers who wrote in to guide me."

Similarly, here at Café Sam we would like to think our broad based culinary foundation largely reflects the tastes of you (our customers). And we would like you to write in (or email) to guide us, too. Please send your favorite recipes (soup, salad, entrée, or dessert) for us to think about while planning our next edition of Chef’s Specials – we'll even integrate several of them into the menu and return the favor with $50 gift certificates for those that are chosen. Let's have some fun cooking together!

An eclectic panorama of both highfalutin masterpieces and lowbrow grub, a fever chart of culinary passions – global and local, simple and baroque, ancient and prescient. That’s us - that's Café Sam!

11/11/10

Every now and then a truly impressive cookbook falls into our hands, and such is the case with “The Essential New York Times Cookbook”, which was just released by Amanda Hesser. Ms. Hesser is a food journalist for the New York Times, the book is about one thousand pages, and it contains a like number of classic recipes that have been printed in the newspaper dating all the way back to the 1850’s.

For more about the book, in an insightful article by its author, click on the cover below:

New York Times Cookbook

11/08/10

Enjoy a great tasting turkey this Thanksgiving: A Café Sam Report: Turkey Brining 101

11/03/10

The autumn leaves are red and gold…

Red Leaf  Gold Leaf

Email List Members: Red Coupon
Email List Members: Gold Coupon

11/01/10

Here are pictures of the new Chef's Specials...

Home Smoked Turkey Sausage Crostini, Brie, Cranberry Marmalade
Roasted Beets (Red, Gold, Chioggia) Dark Porter Cheese, Drunken Bartlett Pears
Seared Sea Scallops Bacon Wrappers, Apple Chutney
Duck Terrine (Pistachios and Tehama Figs) Homemade Pickles, Blueberry Mustard
Meatball Lollipops Pesto Infused Veal, Asiago, House Red Sauce
Spinach and Mushroom Salad Ol’ Myra’s Dressing
Manicotti Homemade Ricotta Cheese, Pumpkin, Sage, Béchamel Sauce
Hanger Steak Tequila/Lime Marinade, Blue Agave/Adobe Aioli
Pot Au Feu Braised Lamb, Root Vegetables, Natural Rosemary Scented Broth
Veal Sweetbreads Scrambled Eggs and Sun Dried Cherries
Country Style Pork Chops Alabama White BBQ, Sweet Potato Chips
Half Chicken Fricassee African-Style, Peanut Butter Sauce, Curried Brown Rice
Salmon Roulade Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, Raspberry Sauce
Shore Dinner Maine Lobster Claw, Cod, Bay Scallops, Mussels
Haddock Fillet Roasted Bok Choy, Shitakes, Scallions, Miso Cream
Croque Monsieur Smoked Virginia Ham, Melted Baby Swiss, French Toast

10/31/10

Our wonderful crew witches you a Happy Halloween…

Halloween Witch

10/27/10

We are pleased to introduce the latest edition of Chef's Specials (starting Friday) - click here to view them...

10/25/10

Hanger Steak has become increasingly popular on restaurant menus over the last couple of years. It hangs (and is named accordingly) between the rib and loin, and typically weighs one and a half pounds. Hanger Steak was formerly known as the “Butcher’s Steak” because butchers used to keep the small cut for themselves.

Hanger Steak is traditionally served in Mexican cuisine. Although the steak is very flavorful, the texture is somewhat grainy and tough if not prepared correctly. Marinades, particularly acidic ones, break down the muscle and transform it into a great eating piece of meat. We considered the Mexican tradition and texture while thinking about how to present Hanger Steak for our new Chef’s Special menu and came up with this tasty preparation:  Hanger Steak Tequila Lime Marinade, Blue Agave and Adobe Aioli.

Click here for more on Mexico, Tequila, and Blue Agave!

10/24/10

Home Smoked Turkey Sausage Crostini, Brie, Fresh Cranberry Marmalade…

Smoking Turkey Sausage  Smoked Turkey Sausage

10/22/10

New Chef’s Specials are coming off the drawing board and passing through the experimental cooking stage: Half Chicken Fricassee African-Style, Peanut Butter Sauce, Curried Brown Rice…

10/19/10

Wine can be made from a variety of ingredients other than grapes - most fruits and berries have the potential to produce wine. We were first introduced to fruit wines at the Harvest Moon Wine Festival in Millvale several weeks ago, where we enjoyed tastings from local Pennsylvania wineries.

Apple wine (a.k.a. “hard” cider) can range from sweet to dry, and is often matured in vats for two to three years. We are happy to introduce Spiced Apple Wine from the Rustic Acres Winery in Butler, PA. Stop in soon and give it a try!

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10/14/10

What happens when a witty journalist takes on the chemistry of cocktails? You get a smooth shot of humor with an interesting kick. Here’s what Atlantic Monthly writer Wayne Curtis had to say about Man O’ War Rum: “Man O’War smelled a bit like you’d imagine sailors’ quarters smelled 300 years ago—a little musty, a touch sulfurous. But the rum had an outsize taste that was beguiling and somehow antiquarian. A brief chocolaty sweetness was quickly offset by leathery notes, with a powdery dryness that seemed to trigger an implosion, rather than an explosion, in the mouth."

That interpretation of Man O’ War is no dud – it’s a perfectly articulated description of the caustic dry mouth sensation that comes from tasting rum infused with gunpowder. Rum infused with gunpowder?

As a matter of fact, the practice of mixing alcohol with gunpowder suppposedly traces back centuries to a time when British sailors devised this combustible test for checking alcoholic content. If the mixture flared after being torched with a match, the quality was “proved”. And that’s the story about how the term “proof” came to describe alcoholic content in the bottles of liquor we buy today…

Here’s the entertaining article by Mr. Curtis in its entirety – have a blast!

10/11/10

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette recently published a fantastic article by Pat DiCesare about a Janis Joplin concert held at the Civic Arena in 1969. It’s about change in the Pittsburgh music scene – the cultural fabric of the time was more welcoming to performers like Lawrence Welk and productions by the Civic Light Opera than it was to raucous rock stars like Janis Joplin. DiCesare notes that the song Piece of My Heart” was already a hit in other parts of the country and Pittsburgh was behind in the trends.

Pittsburgh’s reputation for lagging behind in the trends also extended to the food scene, as we were commonly referred to as a “shot and beer” town. And there was a lot of truth to this – it wasn’t until the early 1980’s that creative fine dining restaurants like those first appearing in New York a decade earlier opened here.

We think the days of Pittsburgh lagging behind in the trends, especially when it comes to restaurants, are over. The cultural fabric of the current time is welcoming and supporting the innovative, cutting edge cuisine offered by independent establishments in the neighborhood. It’s no longer necessary to travel to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or San Francisco to experience great restaurants – there are lots of them in our own backyard.

10/08/10

We have made a few seasonal adjustments to our current edition of Chef’s Specials by eliminating the Fire Charred Tomato Soup, Caprese Salad, and Succotash that goes along with the Chicken Cakes. Replacements for those items include Roasted Pumpkin Bisque, Fried Green Tomatoes with Crab Claw Meat and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette, and Hubbard and Butternut Squash Mash. The next complete change for the Chef’s Specials is in the early planning stages…

10/05/10

Café Sam welcomes new Rivers Casino General Manager Michael Bowman to Pittsburgh. He arrives from Harrah’s Resort Hotels in Atlantic City, after overseeing every aspect of property operations there, including management of a 1450 member workforce and all gambling and non-gambling revenues.

Mr. Bowman attended the Culinary Institute of America, where he earned an A.O.S. in the Culinary Arts in 1982, and was twice awarded "Best Roommate of the Year". Expect great things from this consumate professional - that’s one lucky casino!

10/03/10

Here’s one of the reasons our “Free Form” Lasagna is so delicious – we make the cheese!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese (with Pesto)

Ingredients

5          Cups Milk
1          Cup Buttermilk
½         Teaspoon Salt
2          Tablespoons Lemon Juice
3          Tablespoons Pesto (optional) – click here to view our prior recipe

Method

Combine the milk, buttermilk, and salt in a pot and heat until the mixture starts to simmer (about 185°). Add the lemon juice, and stir for two minutes. Then pour the mixture into a stainer to separate the cheese from the remaining liquid. Place in a bowl, and fold in the pesto (optional). Cool.

Notes

Heating the milk and buttermilk causes them to coagulate. Adding the lemon juice further coagulates the proteins, and results in a mass of curds from the acidification. When making this recipe for the first time, you will think something went wrong after adding the lemon juice because there’s no cheese to see. Nothing went wrong! The curds simply sank to the bottom of the pot, hidden under the grayish liquid that remains (the “whey”). The Ricotta will appear like magic as soon as you strain the mixture.

This recipe is very easy and a lot of fun to make – and you can enjoy the homemade Ricotta in many ways. Use it for pizza, quiche, and cheesecake. Enjoy it simply with fresh berries or honey. Or blend it with pesto, as we do, and prepare a truly unique lasagna…

10/01/10

Think an article about margarine would be boring? Think again. In 1869, emperor Napolean III asked scientists to “discover a product suitable for the navy and less prosperous classes of society” to replace butter, and margarine was born. Click here to read more…

9/29/10

Our final fifty pounds of Heirloom Tomatoes from the Zimmerman Farm were delivered today - that marks the real end of summer.

9/28/10

“I don’t like food that’s too carefully arranged: it makes me think that the Chef is spending too much time arranging and not enough time cooking. If I wanted a picture I’d buy a painting.” Andy Rooney

9/26/10

The First Annual Harvest Moon Wine Festival 2010 was held yesterday at Millvale Riverfront Park, and it was a pleasure to attend and support this wonderful community sponsored event. The festival featured nearby western Pennsylvania wineries from Chalk Hill, Rillton, Gibsonia, Butler, and Volant (all great autumn ride destinations), to name a few. The sweet fruit wines, including peach, pear, and spiced apple, were especially flavorful and interesting to taste – we look forward to offering some of these local wines at your table in the near future.

Harvest Moon Wine Festival

9/24/10

Many thanks to everyone who sent us emails complimenting the Café Sam News Page after the list was sent out last week. The page was designed as an electronic scroll that will continue to unfold and chronicle daily life and interests at the restaurant – and you are part of it.

9/23/10

Are you a foodie or a gourmet (or a little bit of both)? Or just looking for coupons…

9/19/10

Sunday, Monday, Happy Days, Tuesday, Wednesday, Happy Days, Thursday, Friday, Happy Days. Saturday, what a day, Groovin’ all week with you!

Email List Members: Happy Days Coupon

9/17/10

Gefilte Fish is traditionally served during the Jewish holidays (especially Rosh Hashanah) – the origin of the preparation traces back to the Middle ages when Eastern and Central European Jews made it in advance of the Sabbath. According to Jewish law and the Talmud, one of the 39 forbidden activities on the Sabbath includes separating (“borer”) edible parts of an animal from the inedible. De-boning fish is included in this category, so impoverished Jews planned ahead by skinning and filleting fish before sundown on Friday (when the Sabbath begins).

The fish was then ground together with carrots, onions, eggs, and matzoh meal. Grinding the fish and adding the fillers stretched the number of portions that the fish could yield, and it was then stuffed (“Gefilte” is Yiddish for stuffed) back into the skin and poached so as to resemble the whole fish that wealthier Jews typically ate on other days.

As a homemade dish, Gefilte Fish preparations vary by ethnicity and handed down family recipes. It can be sweet (from Jews of German and Polish decent) or seasoned with salt and pepper (common among Jews of Russian descent). It can also include different kinds of fish – the most common form uses cheaper fish such as carp and pike, but for those who prefer a milder taste variations can include cod and even a blend with salmon.

We think these variations open the door to modern interpretations of the traditional Gefilte Fish, and given the fact that it is often pared with the shavings of fresh horseradish root one idea is to make a sweet (or seasoned!) late fall appetizer. We’re currently working with brand new Chef’s Specials, but the kitchen is already looking forward to putting a nice new spin on Gefilte Fish in the near future…

9/14/10

Here are pictures of the new Chef's Specials...

Vegan Red “Caesar” Salad Red Leaf Lettuce, Tahini, Liquid Aminos, Natural Yeast
Caprese Salad Zimmerman Farm Heirlooms, Mozzarella Pinwheel Trio, Our Own Fresh Basil
Po' Boy Slider Colossal Fried Oyster, Bacon, Homemade Pickle, Creole Mustard
Lamb Lollipops Tabbouleh, Classic Bearnaise
TurDucken Galantine (Turkey, Duck, Chicken), Cornichons, Sun-dried Cranberries, Sauce Verte
Seitan Tacos Teryaki Infused, Black Quinoa Slaw, Avocado Spread
Sliced Sirloin Steak Chimichurri Curried Cream Spinach and Cashews
Braised Lamb Shank Apple Couscous, Rosemary Scented Natural Jus
Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast Magic Rub, Peach Chutney
Chicken Cakes Black Bean Succotash, Pommery Sauce
Atlantic Salmon Chipotle BBQ, Fried Jalapeno Polenta Cake
Steamed Haddock Filet Pork Belly Confit, Tomatoes, Scallions, White Wine Broth
Late Summer/Fall Garden Lasagna Free Form, Grilled Local Vegetables, Three Cheeses, Red Sauce

9/09/10

We live in a complicated world - here’s some food for thought: Fast-Growing Salmon

9/06/10

Patrick Clark was a pioneer Chef (in more ways than one) who first participated in transforming classical French cooking into a more casual, simple appearing, and freewheeling culinary art form in the early 1980’s (a.k.a.“nouvelle cuisine”). After that, he particpated in the founding of modern American regional cooking along with other Chefs including the likes of Alice Waters, Paul Prudhomme, and Larry Forgione. That movement focused Americans on ingredients and preparations in our own country, and ultimately inspired the new wave of cuisine we enjoy today - creative combinations of ingredients focused on the use of food resources that are local, seasonal, and fresh.

Julia Child is often credited with introducing French cuisine to the Amercian public at large – and promoting its evolution. She left us with many things to enjoy, including a plethora of books and videos that continue to transcend time. Among the videos are a series of forty-six “Bon Appetit! Cooking with Master Chefs” episodes preserved by PBS, and you can click here to view them.

Chef Clark and Julia Child came together for a moment almost two decades ago to produce a wonderful espisode on fish. In it, Chef Clark is seen preparing two dishes: the first is a Sushi-Style Salmon Roulade with Gazpacho Extracts (a great fall plate), and the second is Fresh Horseradish Crusted Grouper over Mashed Potatoes (that actually has us looking forward to winter). Click here to see the video and get a sense of Chef Clark’s great talent…

9/02/10

Goodies from Chef DJ’s bad boy, a Bradley Smoker, including Tasso (Cajun Smoked Ham) for tomorrow night’s Jambalaya. Andouille Sausage goes in next, as soon as a rack opens up…

Smoker  Smoked Salmon  Tasso

9/01/10

Galantine is a sophisticated preparation of chilled poultry, similar to a roulade, which first involves skinning and de-boning the bird(s). The skin is laid out flat, and a forcemeat stuffing made from the legs is combined with breast strips and layered above it. The galantine is then rolled, wrapped in cheesecloth, trussed, and poached and cooled in a natural stock.

We have prepared an elaborate “TurDucken” Galantine (Turkey, Duck, Chicken) complete with cornichons, sun-dried cranberries, and a sage scented stuffing for the new Chef’s Specials - pictured here in its splendid glory is the raw and cooked version.

Everything’s in place for the changes Friday night. Ready, Set, Go!!!

Turkey Duck Chicken

8/30/10

Click here to view the new Chef’s Specials coming Friday – many thanks to all of you (especially the Vegan/Vegetarian community) for providing us with the inspiration to keep moving forward...

8/27/10

New Chef’s Specials in the works – Po' Boy Slider Fried Oyster, Bacon, Homemade Pickle, Creole Mustard…

8/26/10

Step Aside, V-8. Introducing Our Garden Fresh Gazpacho Bloody Mary (with Rosemary Infused Vodka)...

Gazpacho Bloody Mary

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8/24/10

Heirloom Tomatoes have become hugely popular in restaurants over the last few years. So what exactly are Heirloom Tomatoes? One thing we already know is that Heirloom Tomatoes are distinctly unusual in a wide variety of shapes and colors, and wonderfully flavorful and delicious. But after that the definition becomes a little confusing…

For more about Heirloom Tomatoes click here: A Café Sam Report: Heirloom Tomatoes 101

8/19/10

See you next Tuesday (we're taking Barney away with us this time)...

8/15/10

We appreciate your interest in the Café Sam News Page...

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8/12/10

Thank-you, New Orleans! Last night was wonderful from beginning to end - our kitchen sent out over 500 plates without a single return. Here are some photos to preserve fond memories of a very special evening…

Braided Crawfish Bread Monterey Jack Cheese, Green Onions, Pimentos, Crawfish Butter
Coconut Beer Shrimp Tangy Sweet and Sour Sauce
Spinach Salad Fried Oyster, Ol’ Myra’s Dressing
Chicken and Tasso Jambalaya Home Smoked, Cajun Trinity
Seafood Étouffée Red Roux, Fish Stock
Dirty Rice Duck Liver, Red and Green Bell Peppers
Bananas Foster Vanilla Ice Cream, Banana Liquor, Dark Rum

8/11/10

Fresh out of our oven - Braided Crawfish Bread for tonight’s New Orleans dinner. Chef DJ and his kitchen are ready to rock the house cajun style...

Braided Crawfish Bread

8/06/10

Developing a brand new recipe involves trial and error adjustments – and well tuned taste buds to finally get everything right. Setting out on a mission to increase and modernize our Vegetarian and Vegan fare, and mindful of the saying “When in Rome do like the Romans do”, a couple of us thought it would be a good idea to cut out meat for several days. Then one of us decided to continue on full throttle as a Vegan, hoping to finish out the rest of a week without eating anything animal at all. That test of endurance suddenly crashed in the afternoon of day six, in a thoughtless (but innocent) moment, when there was an overwhelming need for a pick me up and a hasty grab for iced coffee. Milk – oh, shoot! Or something like that…

Regardless of the abrupt ending, the experience was a complete success - some great recipes came along with going Vegetarian/Vegan. Random thoughts looking back: we assume the light headed feeling from not eating meat eventually goes away, one Carnivore’s side dish is another Vegan’s entrée, it has to be easier for a Carnivore to try going Vegan than the other way around, and Vegans in particular have to pay close attention to everything they eat (and drink)!

Here’s our new recipe for a Vegan Red “Caesar” Salad that’s sure to be a hit with Vegans, Vegetarians, and Carnivores too. We used liquid aminos as a replacement for anchovy, and natural yeast as a replacement for the flavor and texture of parmesan in the dressing. We’re still thinking about a replacement for the buttery garlic croutons – let us know if you have any creative ideas.

Vegan Red “Caesar” Salad

Ingredients

3          Tablespoons Minced Garlic
¼         Cup Natural Yeast
¼         Cup Tahini
¼         Cup Liquid Aminos
¼         Cup Water
1 ½      Tablespoons Lemon Juice
3          Tablespoons Cider Vinegar
1          Head Red Leaf Lettuce

Method

- Combine all ingredients (except the lettuce) in a mixing bowl. Wisk until well blended.
- Clean lettuce. Tear whole lettuce leaves into smaller pieces and place in a large bowl.
- Pour salad dressing over lettuce and toss until the smaller pieces are evenly coated.

8/01/10

Steve Goodman was the original composer of the folk song City of New Orleans. The song was made famous through various interpretations by better known artists including Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Arlo Guthrie, and John Denver – but listening to a classic version usually leaves the most meaningful impression. The bittersweet lyrics (it's about the establishment and changing times) describe a train ride starting out from Kankakee, passing through the Mississippi darkness, and rolling on to the sea...

We decided to feature a New Orleans theme for our August 11th Chef’s Dinner Series event as a result of the tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (see our 6/19 post announcing the dinner for more). After a lot of discussion about how to put the dinner together, i.e. classically or through our own seasonal interpretation of more modern Cajun-Creole cooking, we opted to go with the classic version. This is a one night performance, and there will be plenty of time later to stir up a twisty Étouffée.

Click here to view the menu - we hope you can join us for a special evening.

7/28/10

Some people pass on pickles as a sandwich or burger condiment because the vast majority of them are ordinary instituitional brands (as were ours up until now). We recently purchased two hundred pounds of local pickling cucumbers from the Kern Farm in McMurray and our own homemade brand will be ready to go in a couple of weeks. You’ll want these pickles (and some tickles)…

Pickling Cucumbers

7/24/10

The saying “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” was originally coined by President Truman in 1949. The “real feel” temperature today is over one hundred degrees, and we’re still working (naturally) in front of the stoves. But it’s too hot to think about writing anything new - click here to read a prior post that puts everything into perspective…

7/22/10

One nice thing about cooking is that it never gets boring – especially with exciting new recipes that continue to evolve. Every now and then you can take a concept to the next level and come up with something really special. Such is the case with our recently published Curried Garbanzo Beans (see post dated 7/11).

We are using the original recipe as a garnish for entrée plates – and the curry makes the beans addictive. So much so that you may want to eat them with bread or crackers. Problem is, the round beans want to roll off those surfaces before they make it to your mouth.

Problem solved. Make a batch of our Curried Garbanzo Beans. Then place them in your food processor, and drizzle the beans with a little olive oil until the batch reaches a “hummus” like consistency. You have now brought the best of two worlds (Thai and Middle Eastern cuisine) together in perfect harmony, and arrived with an awesome party spread that you will want to stick with (and to lots of different things) for a long time.

7/18/10

A Midsummer Night’s Dream - Pairings inspired by Puck (our favorite fairy)…

Perfect Pair

Email List Members: Coupon #1
Email List Members: Coupon #2
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Email List Members: Coupon #4

7/14/10

Click on the items below to view some of the new Chef's Specials - these pictures were taken just before the dishes were placed on service trays. We do not stage food photographs...

Stuffed Banana Peppers Our Own Fennel Sausage, Fresh Apricot Chutney
Grilled Veal Tongue Roasted Beets, Whole Grain Mustard Sauce
Cajun Seafood Nachos Queso Chihuahua, Black Beans, Jalapeños, Corn Pico, Cilantro Sour Cream
Country Style French Pâté Pistachios, Cornichons, Cherry Onion Marmelade
Yarnick's Farm Heirloom Tomatoes Dark Irish Porter Cheese, Frisée, Fresh Raspberry Vinaigrette
Duck Confit Quiche Cotswold Cheese, Fresh Homemade Blueberry and Strawberry Jams
Naked Pork Riblets Magically Rubbed, Grilled Peaches, Mango Slaw
Rainbow Trout Squid, Smoked Gouda, Watermelon Infused Buerre Meunière
Blackened Leg of Lamb Mission Figs, Cheesy Polenta, Fresh Rosemary Butter
Poached Sole and Salmon Lightly Crumbed, Rooftop Basil Sauce
Beef Briskett Slow Cooked, Poblano BBQ, Vermont Baked Beans, Garlic Toast
Chicken Tikka Masala Indian Spices, Scallions, Ginger, Honey, Jasmine Rice, Red Yogurt Sauce
Stuffed Tomato Salad Trio Deviled Ham, Curry Chicken, Pesto Egg, Greek Shrimp, Mediterranean Salmon, Squid Ceviche (Pick Any Three)

7/11/10

Curry is not a single spice – as originally defined the word curry actually means a sauce. In India, dishes are described as sukhi (dry) or tari (wet), and either can be a curry. Everywhere you look (all over the world) there are different curries and a plethora of curry spice blends that produce distinctive flavors.

Yellow curry is a generic term associated with Thai cuisine. Next time you’re in the supermarket, compare the spice ingredients listed for yellow curry among competing brands and you will see that none are exactly the same. That’s fine, as long as you find one you like and stay with it. Otherwise, if you change brands, whatever you are cooking won’t be completely consistent in taste.

We use our own spice blend (rather than a store bought yellow curry) for Thai inspired Curried Garbonzo Beans, which are currently served on entrée dishes as a summer garnish. It’s exactly the same every time we make it – wonderfully amazing. Enjoy this very special recipe…

Curried Garbonzo Beans

Ingredients

2 ½      Tablespoons Olive Oil
¼         Cup Diced Onion
¼         Cup Finely Chopped Scallions
¼         Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
2          Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Cilantro
½         Teaspoon Minced Garlic
½         Teaspoon Turmeric
½         Teaspoon Cumin
½         Teaspoon Coriander
¼         Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
2          Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
2          15-ounce Cans Garbonzo Beans, Drained and Rinsed
¼         Teaspoon Salt

Method

- Sauté Onions and Scallions in the Olive Oil for several minutes over medium heat
- Add the rest of the ingredients (except the Garbonzo Beans), and stir for several more minutes
    to "toast" the spices
- Add the Garbonzo Beans and toss for a final minute
- Cool and serve, no problem when prepared a day in advance...

7/07/10

New Chef's Specials starting tomorrow night! The last piece of the puzzle, a case of fresh Veal Tongues, arrived at our door this morning. We will be grilling the Tongue, and serving it with Roasted Organic Beets and Whole Grain Mustard Sauce...

Veal Tongue

7/06/10

Organic is big – but kosher is king.

7/05/10

We ran a short shift last night, opening at 5:00 and closing at 8:30. Our smiling service staff dressed casually, so they could leave and find their friends on time for the fireworks without having to stop at home to change clothes. The kitchen staff did a great Sunday cleaning, and kept our food inventory rotated, moving, and fresh. They also got out on time to celebrate. Most importantly, our regular customers that didn't want to cook at home appreciated the fact that we were open (and a complimentary “red, white, and blue” dessert cake with strawberries, blueberries, and whipped cream). It was quick and easy. We’re in the hospitality business, and closing down the restaurant on July 4th isn’t necessary or right for us…

7/02/10

We had a great time hosting an afternoon function for Tomorrow’s Future (the youth mentoring program run by our good friend and neighbor Grace Robinson) – you’re all wonderful kids. As promised, here’s a picture of everyone on the Café Sam News Page. You too, Grace!

6/30/10

We’re dressed and ready to grill this weekend!!!

Sam Grilling a Burger

Email List Members: Fourth of July Weekend Coupon

6/29/10

For Easter Sunday this year Chef DJ wanted to offer a complimentary hors d’oeuvre that would be fun, festive, interesting, eye appealing, and tasty. He hit all five of these things with pickled hard boiled eggs (which were served “deviled”). The eggs were pickled with vinegar, onions, sugar, spices, and beet juice for color. The yolks were deviled with mayonnaise, mustard, cayenne pepper, and a little paprika. And then there was a black lumpfish caviar topping...

The hors d’oeuvre was a big hit with everyone, and our kitchen is still running with it. We go through about five hundred hard boiled eggs a week - which naturally brings us to the story behind peeling them and the science of hard boiled eggs.

Starting from the outside and going in, an egg includes a protective coat, a shell, a membrane, albumen (the white), and a yolk. When an egg is very fresh (only a couple of days old), the shell sticks to the membrane, and the membrane sticks to the albumen, making a hard boiled egg nearly impossible for anyone to peel nicely. After a few days, an egg that is hard boiled starts to become easier to peel for three reasons. First, the protective coat on the egg is washed away when it is laid, and the shell then becomes porous, absorbs air, and begins to separate from the outside of the membrane. Second, the albumen loses some carbon dioxide and acidity, which lets it begin to separate from the inside of the membrane. And finally, as an egg gets older it shrinks and the air space between the shell and the membrane gets even larger.

Here are a few more interesting notes about eggs. A yolk starts in the center, and begins to move off center as an egg gets older because the albumen gets thinner and can’t hold the yolk in place. When you see a greenish color (no problem – it’s fine) between the yolk and the white in a hard boiled egg, it simply means the egg was cooked too long and hot. Eggs are best when stored up to ten days. And if an egg floats in water instead of sinking, it's old and needs to be discarded.

That’s the story. So next time you’re standing in the kitchen next to someone and wrestling with a hard boiled egg, have fun repeating it after hearing “you don’t know how to peel an egg.” Cracking truth: it’s not you – it’s the egg!

Pickled Eggs

6/28/10

Additional issues and another conundrum at sea (oil drilling isn’t the only problem): Tuna’s End

6/28/10

Thanks for the help Barney, but we’ll take it from here.

6/24/10

I’m giving the house away – that’s what they get for leaving me behind. Yabba Dabba Do! Barney

Barney Rubble

Email List Members: Barney Rubble Coupon

6/22/10

The Café Sam News Page has gone fishing (or something like that). In the meantime, Barney Rubble will be looking after things, so check back anyway because you never know what he’s going to do…

Nothing but blue skies - we’re outta here. See you next week!!!

Away We Go!

6/19/10

We are constantly thinking about the incredibly tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the resulting impact on the environment all around that area. Near and dear to us is the beautiful marine life that we work with every day, and we are also connected sentimentally because a good part of the culinary spirit at Café Sam was inspired by regional Louisiana cooking when the restaurant opened.

On the latter note, the alchemy of Cajun-Creole cooking was made possible by a giant (literally) named Paul Prudhomme in his cookbook entitled Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen. The book was among the first to document regional American cooking, as it centered on recipes that captured the heart and soul of Louisiana with an emphasis on fresh and local ingredients. Among our many favorites: Dirty Rice, Fish with Pecan Butter Sauce, Red Beans with Andouille Smoked Sausage, Chicken Gumbo, and all the Jambalayas. And then there’s the magical blackened seasoning mix, now mass produced, that actually became famous as a cooking method (the original recipe, little known to most, appeared in the book with Redfish and you can see it by clicking here). We still use that recipe to this day...

Our next Chef’s Dinner Series event for Email List Members will feature a New Orleans theme and is set for Wednesday, August 11th. The price for this five course dinner will be $29, and reservations can be made through Mary or Dan. Hold the date!

Louisiana Map

6/12/10

Homemade Blueberry Pie or Blackberry Cobbler. A la Mode on request…

Blueberry Pie  Blacberry Cobbler

Email List Members: Complimentary Blueberry Pie
Email List Members: Complimentary Blackberry Cobbler

6/04/10

June is busting out all over (click here!!!)…

Infused Martini

Email List Members: Bar Coupon

House Wine

Email List Members: Dining Room Coupon

Margarita/Strawberry Dacquiri

Email List Members: Patio Coupon

6/02/10

Yarnick’s Farm (Indiana, PA) Heirloom Tomatoes for our Roasted Beet, Goat Cheese, and Arugula Salad…

Yarnick's Farm Tomatoes

5/31/10

We’ll happily bite at opportunities to promote local restaurants cooking with high quality ingredients over relatively expensive chain restaurants that serve junk. A good one was presented to us on the front page of the New York Times yesterday in an article about the hazards of food processed and prepared with salt, which is notoriously found (usually well disquised) at corporate eateries.

Sodium is the element in salt that leads to hypertension – and too much of it is very bad for you.

Salt changes the way your mouth interprets food. It can be a low cost way to enhance flavor and texture, but too much salt is used in order to mask the poor quality of food typically found at the chains. For example, cheaper grades of beef are heavily injected with brine to make them taste better and seem more tender (whereas a well marbled steak speaks for itself). And other proteins are treated with sodium as a preservative to increase shelf life (which essentially allows them to be served old).

That’s why a lot of corporate operations won’t cut back on the use of sodium in menu items – they want to maximize profit by putting a seemingly nice but deceptively inferior product on your plate.

There’s an argument in the article that the health issue could be resolved by consuming less calories, rather than using less salt in products. But there aren’t less calories in menu items at some of the suburban mall area restaurants we’re thinking about! There’s also an argument that salt and sugar play off of each other – reducing salt would result in an equally detrimental need to use more sugar in order to maintain flavor. In our culinary opinion, that’s pretty lame, too.

We are currently using roasted jalapeños with squid, curry in chickpeas, a little fat from the duck confit in our cassoulet, and natural jus on pheasant, among many other things, to keep our dishes wonderfully flavorful and good for you. We are using salt carefully, for the right reasons, in appropriate proportions.

Independent neighborhood restaurants that take pride in using high quality ingredients want and appreciate your business more than faceless chains – and in return they offer great tasting food and the health benefit of lower blood pressure from cooking with less salt. Sleep better knowing you support the small independents (and without waking up in the middle of the night thirsty from sodium induced dehydration).

5/26/10

Memorial Day

Email List Members: Memorial Day Weekend Coupon

5/23/10

Click on the items below to view some of the new Chef’s Specials that came out of our kitchen last night – the pictures were all taken “live” in the middle of a rush…

Squid Ceviche Avocado, Jalapeños, Tomatillo Salsa Verde
Vidalia Onion Pie Cave Aged Gruyère, Mango Chutney
Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese, Heirloom Tomatoes, Arugula Salad Ruby Red Vinaigrette
Poached Buffalo Meatballs Melted Baby Swiss, House Red Sauce
Fried Green Tomatoes Crab Claw Meat, Warm Cilantro Vinaigrette
Cassoulet Homemade Sausage, Duck Confit, Pork Shoulder, White Beans and Cherries
Blackened Ribeye Steak and Firecracker Shrimp Green Goddess Dipping Sauce
Stuffed Pheasant Straight Forcemeat, Jasmine Rice, Blackberries and Natural Jus
Asian Catfish Filet Shiitakes, Daikon, Cucumber Slaw, Soy Glaze
Grilled Soft Shell Crabs Ramps, Fusilli Noodles, Lumpfish Caviar Butter Sauce
Roasted Sea Scallops Prosciutto Wrappers, Curried Chickpeas

5/21/10

Tomatillos are also known as Mexican Green Tomatoes, but don't confuse them with the early season unripe green tomatoes that also appear on our current Chef’s Specials card. Tomatillos are covered by a thin husk, which is easy to peel off when the fruit is ripe. We are currently using Tomatillos in a Latin American inspired fresh salsa that compliments the light and refreshing flavor of lime marinated Squid Ceviche. Give the salsa a try on many different things this summer, in place of the “regular” tomato salsa you are already familiar with…

DJ’s Tomatillo Salsa Verde

Ingredients

3   Tomatillos (medium sized)
3   Tablespoons Olive Oil
1   Teaspoon Jalapeño Pepper, minced
¼  Cup Onion, chopped
1   Teaspoon Garlic, minced
1   Lime, peeled
3  &nbps;Tablespoons Fresh Cilantro, packed
1   Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1   Teaspoon Black Pepper

Method

Combine ingredients in a food processor and run until nearly smooth

Tomatillo

5/18/10

One of the choices on the new Chef’s Specials card starting tonight is Pheasant. Our Pheasants are grown on a small farm and fed an all vegetable diet with no animal byproducts. They are raised without antibiotics and growth stimulants.

We are boning out whole birds, reserving the carcasses to make a natural jus, and using the livers and legs in a straight forcemeat stuffing for the breasts and thighs.

Are you a wing lover? We have a limited number of unbelievably great tasting Pheasant wings held off to the side for Email List Members only. They will be brushed with a Thai Chili and Garlic Sauce - call Mary or Dan to reserve an order.

Whole Bird  Bones  Forcemeat  Breasts and Thighs  Wings

5/12/10

Vidalia, Georgia is home to the famously tasty Vidalia sweet onion. About a half century ago, the state of Georgia built a farmer’s market near a busy highway intersection in Vidalia to help local growers sell their produce. Word about the sweet onion spread quickly among people passing through the area. The Piggly Wiggly supermarket chain (remember it here) got in on the action, and started sending Vidalia onions throughout the region when they were in season. Acreage grew steadily, and it wasn’t long before small town Vidalia, Georgia took a legendary spot on the national map.

As the acreage grew, farmers became concerned about counterfeit onions being passed around in place of the true “Vidalias,” as they became known. After talks between the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Agriculture, the Vidalia Onion Act was passed in 1986 by the Georgia legislature. It identified twenty counties in which Vilalias could be grown. After that, federal protection was also given to the Vidalias, and oversight of their production was placed in the hands of the Vidalia Onion Committee. The committee has a neat little website that you can visit by clicking here.

Vidalias are available from late April through most of the summer. The unusual sweetness of the onion comes from the low quantity of sulfur in the soil where they are grown. You can’t exactly eat them like an apple, but good Georgians are known to proudly enjoy them whole. One popular cooking preparation in the south is to score a Vidalia, fill it with garlic and butter, wrap it in foil, and simply place it over charcoal for grilling.

We look forward to our first case of Vidalia onions every May for a couple of reasons.

First, we love to cook different things with them. For example, we make Vidalia Onion soup – the onions are sweated (there’s no need to caramelize them!) and the flavor of the soup is distinctly Georgia sweet and mild mannered. We also make a sweet onion pie with eggs and cheese – you can use your imagination on that one!

Second, the arrival of the Vidalias is a signal that the heart of the summer produce is just ahead of us. Thankfully, winter produce from Florida no longer has a hold on the market. The growing season has finally begun to move north into Georgia. After that, it will be on to Arkansas, and then Ohio, and before long the truly great produce will be picked in our own sweet state of Pennsylvania!

Vidalia Onion

5/09/10

Mother’s Day Recap: We opened at 4:30 today and sat seventy-two people in the first thirty minutes. The flow continued nonstop for three hours with an eye out for the final customer – the rule is that the last dinner has to be as good as the first dinner.

It was Chef DJ in the back with two cooks (which basically equals a staff of five), and Mary out front leading the charge. Mission accomplished.

Click here: Prove It All Night

5/05/10

German Night Recap: It turned into the culinary extravaganza we had hoped for – and more! After two days of intense preparation and cooking in the back of the house, and with the kitchen finally at the ready, Dan showed up for his shift in the front carrying a CD of tunes entitled “Bavarian Classics” and sporting a tuxedo. That set the stage for an evening brought together by authentic cuisine (thanks to Chef DJ) and complimentary atmosphere (assuming you dig canned Polka and appreciate a maître d’ dressed up with a kummerbund). Needless to say, everyone had a lot of fun...

Click on the menu items below to view pictures from an awesome night to remember…

Königsberger Klopse Poached Meatballs in Lemon and Caper Sauce
Selleriesalat mit Birne Celery Root Salad with Pears
Sauerbraten Marinated Pot Roast in Sweet and Sour Sauce
Katerfisch “Fish for a Hangover” with Tomato Sauce and Pickles
Hausgemachten Aplfestrudel Homemade Apple Strudel

5/03/10

We open at 4:00 this Sunday (an hour earlier than usual) to celebrate our favorite day of the year…

Happy Mother's Day!

Email List Members: Mother’s Day Coupon

4/28/10

Wunderbar! Click on the following link to view our wonderful menu for the Chef's Dinner Series event next Tuesday night (and call Mary or Dan for reservations): Café Sam Menu Deutsch

Update: We now have enough reservations to close Café Sam for German Night!!!

4/25/10

We're looking forward to a great patio season. “Bertha” (our combination slushy Margarita/Strawberry Daiquiri machine) stands at the ready - she’s a double handled twin tank beauty that has it all. What's on the inside counts the most – and Bertha puts out potent concoctions like there's no tomorrow.

Bertha

Email List Members: Red and Green Coupon

4/21/10

Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon for hotels and fine restaurants to order whole animals and employ full time butchers to break them down into different cuts and single portions. Sometime between then and now, the industry went through changes (in economic terms it’s know as a “cost of production adjustment”) and house butchers faded into the past. Nowadays, it’s less expensive to bring in individual portions of meat, poultry, and fish than it is to break down big pieces on the premises.

We usually split the difference at Café Sam by purchasing “subprimal cuts” for butchering in our kitchen. That way, we can still control the end product by custom trimming. For example, we butcher whole strip loins into individual steaks by hand – and control the amount of outside fat and the “tail” that ends up on your plate. We also work with whole beef tenderloins, pork loins, chicken, duck, and different kinds of fish (among many other things).

Likewise, the number of hotels and restaurants employing full time bakers has greatly declined. Most hotels and restaurants find it’s less expensive to bring in quality desserts than it is to make them under their own roofs – especially when it comes to time consuming products like layered cakes.

We usually split the difference on baked goods, too, by making a lot of desserts inside our kitchen and employing a couple of quality bakers outside our kitchen. For example, we make our own crepes, crème brulee, chocolate mousse, cobblers, strawberry pies, and brownies. We currently buy cherry vanilla ice cream for banana splits and our crowd pleasing tartufo, and work with outside bakers who make our bread and peanut butter pie.

After all is said and done, it’s the quality of what ends up on your plate that counts more than anything else. Rest assured, at the end of the day, our personal signature is on everything you’re eating at Café Sam.

4/18/10

Tartufo (a.k.a. the “frozen truffle”) is an ice cream dessert that is popular in Italy – and also at Café Sam. We scoop White House Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream into balls, and roll the balls in toasted almonds. After that, the crusted ice cream is dipped into melted bittersweet chocolate for a second coat. The Tartufo is finally plated with a dollop of whipped cream - and a dab of raspberry sauce!

Tartufo

Email List Members: Complimentary Tartufo

4/15/10

Perfect notice (from the perfect storm). Click here to read a sweet swan song…

4/13/10

Chef DJ just cooked up a five gallon batch of Potato, Celery Root, and Fennel Soup. The three main ingredients came together like they were made for each other. He’s garnishing it with Smoked Amish Bacon Bits. Delicious…

Mr. Potato Head  Mr. Celery Root  Mr. Fennel

4/11/10

Spring officially starts on a particular date – this year it was March 20th. But when is spring truly sprung? When your senses tell you it has arrived. After a weekend ride through western Pennsylvania’s amazingly beautiful farmland, it is now evident that the new season is really here. You can feel the sun as it warms fresh air, hear the tractors tilling fields, and smell the earthy aroma of turned soil as you see the land coming back to life.

And it won’t be long before we can taste produce that comes from our own backyard again.

Meantime, things didn't go too badly this winter as far as fruits and vegetables are concerned (even if some of it came from far away). Here’s a list of some nice items that passed through the kitchen: yucca root, celery root, rutabaga, parsnips, sunchokes, black kale, rainbow chard, baby bok choy, vidalia onion bulbs, dates, apricots, figs, enoki mushrooms, key limes, currants, kumquats, persimmons, and papaya.

Questions about particular types of produce? The following link goes to a comprehensive source that we use all the time for general information and menu planning: The Produce Guide

4/06/10

New at Café Sam – all natural Vodka infusions. There are twelve different flavors to choose from, including everything from green Madagascar peppercorn to fresh tangerine. Combine Frangelico with Vanilla Vodka or Sambuca with Pear Vodka (as examples) and enjoy great “Dessertinis”. Try it neat, or have fun (as we sure did) mixing up your own original cocktails…

3/30/10

Here’s an offer that’s designed to get your feet stomping – half price wine bottles every Tuesday night (5:30 - 7:30) through May 1st. We’ll have a few good table wines available at the piano bar for as little as $8/bottle, in addition to half price on our entire printed wine list. Kick that around!

Wine Dance

Email List Members: Half Price Wine Bottle Coupon

3/28/10

Click here for a cataloged history (dating all the way back to 1983) that memorializes the local food movement through articles by wonderful journalists at the New York Times…

3/26/10

Our previous “Chef’s Table” events ended up taking over a whole dining room – as opposed to a couple of tables near the kitchen. So now were going to call them the “Chef’s Dinner Series” for the sake of accuracy. Anyhow, our next Chef's Dinner Series event for Email List Members will feature a German theme and is set for Tuesday, May 4th. The price for this five course dinner is $29, and reservations can be made through Mary or Dan.

Wir freuen uns darauf mit Ihnen Deutsche Koestlichkeiten zu teilen. (We look forward to sharing some fine German cuisine with you)…

German Flag

3/24/10

The - changes - to our Chef’s Specials (usually about every eight weeks) always come with some sense of regret – it’s hard to leave behind all the hard work and energy that went into the prior dishes so soon after creating them. We quickly get past the regret, though, as the next round of ideas become a reality.

Click below to see some of the exciting new things we served last night…

Petite Lobster Cake Sweet Pea Pistou, Classic Bearnaise
House Cured Pastrami Salmon Grav Lox Buckwheat Blinis, Crème Fraiche, Blueberry Sauce
Scotch Egg Homemade Fennel Sausage Wrapper, Choron Aoili
Seafood Platter Shellfish Terrine, Mussel Salad, Tuna Tartar, Lumpfish Caviar Russian Egg
Wild Caught Alligator Shish Kababs Creole Rissotto, Key Lime Meuniere Butter
Ribeye Roulade Smoked Local Pepper Jack, Celery Root Puree, Fresh Currant Sauce
Stuffed Chicken Thighs Santa Teresa Cheese, Dates, Himalayan Red Rice, Curry Sauce
Turkey Medallions Cacciatore Pennsylvania Button Mushrooms, Pearl Onions, Presque Isle Wine
Bouillabaisse Mahi-Mahi Squid, Bay Scallops, Mussels, Parsnip Fish Fumet
Fresh Blackberry Cobbler Fresh Whipped Cream

3/22/10

Duck Confit. Sounds too challenging for the home cook, huh? The hardest part might be getting your hands on some nice duck legs – because the rest is really easy (and making this dish is a great way to impress your family and friends). Give it a try…

DUCK CONFIT

Ingredients

2    Tablespoons, Kosher Salt
2    Cloves, Minced Garlic
½   Teaspoon, Thyme
½   Teaspoon, Rosemary
½   Teaspoon, Black Pepper
8    Duck Legs

Method

- Rub the skin of the duck legs with the other combined ingredients, and refrigerate twenty-four hours
- Place the rubbed duck legs skin side down in a steel or cast iron pan, and cook over medium heat until
   the fat starts to render (use a pan sized for a tight fit so the rendered fat eventually builds up on the
   legs - the idea is to cook the duck submerged in its own fat)
- Turn the legs over, cover the pan with foil, and place it in the oven
- Roast for two hours at 325º, then remove the foil and continue roasting until the skin is nicely browned - about
   another hour
- Serve hot, warm, or cold
- Note: Strain and save the rendered duck fat - it's great for roasting potatoes…

We are currently serving Duck Confit with Creamy Blue Cheese Polenta (also easy!), Apricots, and Raspberry Sauce. It's very tasty with salads, too.

Duck Confit

3/20/10

Some Chefs think classics are best left alone, but we are of a mindset that there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to cooking. There’s always room to experiment, innovate, and improve on recipes - especially with today’s market placing so many wonderful products in front of us (that we didn’t see in the past).

Our current stab at the classic Caesar (for the prior one see post dated 10/27) uses Black Kale to replace “ordinary” Romaine. The Black Kale adds a firmer texture and more pronounced flavor – so much so that some might now think the Romaine tastes like water (especially when it’s out of season). Also gone are the airy garlic croutons – replaced with crispy herb scented Yucca Root chips. And we’re tossing the new salad with a slim anchovy vinaigrette, since the blander Romaine that needs to be coated with the heavy classic dressing (made from a raw egg emulsion) is no longer an ingredient.

Old School vs. New School. The traditional style Ceasar is still a staple on our regular menu. Try both, and you decide!

3/12/10

Our previous revision of the Chef’s Specials came with a long-winded introduction that spoke about the thought process involved in creating imaginative culinary dishes (see post dated 1/12). This time around we’ll keep it simple and take you straight to the end result. Click here: New Chef’s Specials

3/11/10

The idea is to use local ingredients whenever possible in menu items, so why aren’t we cooking with western Pennsylvania wines? It's a good question. In response, we are now incorporating wines from nearby vineyards into our recipes…

3/10/10

Looks like the kitchen is going to be on time for another complete change in the Chef’s Specials Friday night. One of the things we were waiting on was the House Cured Pastrami Salmon Grav Lox (that will be served with Buckwheat Blinis, Crème Fraiche, and Blueberry Sauce). It's finished!!!

Pastrami Salmon Grav Lox

3/3/10

We will be hosting an opening night reception for the musical genious Andres Cladera and his Chamber Opera Company – The Microscopic Opera Company – after the performance of two Pittsburgh premieres on Friday night. Tickets are still available at the Grey Box Theatre, and the audience is invited to join us in welcoming the directors, cast members, and crew. Click on the following link for more information about MOC and a complete show schedule: http://www.microscopicopera.org

3/2/10

Of course we attached tunes to the March Madness Coupon illustrations below – click on them and have a gay old time. Yaba daba doo!!!

3/1/10

March Madness Coupons for Email List Members Only

- Our perfectly marbled hand-cut 14 oz. New York Strip Steak will be on sale all through March for $19.95, and we’re pairing it with a great wine offer…

Steak

Email List Members: 14oz. New York Strip Steak with Select Wine Offer

- We’re adding a new twist to things: our classic burgers and sandwiches are now available on a kosher salted pretzel bun. Naturally, you’ll want to wash one down with a complimentary draft beer…

Twist and Shout!

Email List Members: Pretzel Bun Burger or Sandwich with Complimentary Beer

- Ladies Night on Monday evenings continues, and in honor of March Madness we'll let the men in on the discount action this month, too. Oh yeah, what a night!

Let's Party!

Email List Members: "Ladies Night" Chef’s Specials Discount

- Thought we only give focused, enthusiastic service in the dining rooms? We’re at the ready and eagerly waiting for your “To Go” orders, also. Come and get it while this offer lasts…

Ready To Go

Email List Members: To Go Order Discount Coupon

2/24/10

So here’s the low down on the effective demise of our short lived “Ladies Night” at Café Sam. There was a food only coupon discounting the Chef’s Specials for a Ladies Night in January and February, and some really nice groups of women were taking advantage of the offer. For March, we thought it might be nice to pair the Chef’s Specials discount with some kind of cocktail promotion.

When thinking about doing anything involving liquor (and your liquor license), it’s always prudent to cross “t’s” and dot “i’s” before taking the plunge because it’s a swamp out there and navigating through all the rules and regulations isn’t easy. Yes, you can run a happy hour as long as it doesn’t go on for more than two hours (and ends by midnight). Sure, you can advertise a drink special each day (but for the purposes of beer there’s a difference between a draft beer and a can of beer). No problem giving out a free drink, but make sure it’s only one (and size does matter).

Big problem when it comes to Ladies Night. Turns out liquor promotions for women are discriminatory because gender is a “protected class.” Yup, some men have a problem when the ladies skate for half price – they think ice time has to be equal. Truth be told (and in defense of the PLCB), the issue isn’t limited to the liquor industry – it’s there when it comes to health clubs, spas, and even shirt laundering and cutting hair. You simply can’t give one gender group a price break – or charge them more for the same thing.

The arguments are complicated and controversial. Click here to read about a Ladies Night Bias Case in The New York Times.

We can probably avoid the problem next month by dropping the liquor promotion idea and extending the food discount for “Ladies Night” to men, also. It’s March Madness and everyone’s distracted with gambling grids - so who’s paying attention to the details? Beside that, were posting a neat little Ladies Night illustration with a catchy tune attached to it, and that’s reason enough to run with the promotion one more time.

But we’ll have to think about something new to replace Ladies Night before April, in order to stay on the right (or left) side of the law.

2/15/10

It was a magical weekend - love was in the air! In the front of the house lights were dimmed, soft music was playing, and candlelit tables were decorated with rose pedals. Smartly dressed couples sat together hand in hand, exchanging adoring glances between themselves and whispering sweet nothings into each other's ears. Sweet romance. A very beautiful atmosphere…

As for the working area behind that scene, in the back of the house our focused kitchen crew managed to put out over six hundred plates without a single return (a remarkable achievement for any restaurant). Toques off to Chef DJ and his well trained team for designing, prepping, and cooking a special event menu with such an amazing touch.

Here are two pictures of plates that were served this weekend:

Click here: General Tsao Salmon Wild Caught Enoki Mushrooms, Bok Choy, Edible Orchid
                    Roast Pork Loin Herb Rubbed, Aspirations, Celery Root Purée, Natural Jus, Edible Orchid

And here are nine pictures of the people who served the plates – our wonderful service staff:

Click here: Carly, Angel, Jess, Lisha, Mary Kate, Michelle, Leanna, Laura, and Brian

2/14/10

Happy Valentine's Day: TWO HEARTS

2/11/10

We stand corrected on our post dated 2/7, thanks to Dan. In addition to Thanksgiving and Christmas every year, we also closed for three holy days since 1987. Those were on 1/28/96, 2/5/06, and 2/1/09, when the Steelers were playing in the Super Bowl.

2/10/10

It’s snowing outside again today (of course we’re still open) – a real winter wonderland. But inside Café Sam there’s a genuine taste of summer. Last summer. You see, sometime in September we picked about fifty green tomatoes, the farewell fruit, from our big boys on the upstairs deck. Then we cored, pickled, and stashed them away to preserve fond memories and a tangible connection to our favorite season.

These pickled green tomatoes (pictured below) are now being used in the Pico we are serving with Antelope Tacos on the Chef’s Specials card, and will be appearing “au naturale” with a Paté and Galantine Platter on our Valentine’s Day Menu. After that, we'll be running them out as a garnish for lunch entrees.

Need a little relief from the freezing weather? Stop by soon and we'll put an authentic relic of last summer’s sunshine on part of your plate...

Pickled Green Tomatoes

2/07/10

As professional restaurant people, we are conditioned to work when most of you are off, including nights, weekends, holidays, and really bad snow days. We never even thought of shutting down yesterday. It was just a matter of making some adjustments to get open – like spending time hanging out on a freezing front porch trying to wave down someone with a plow truck, lowering the heat on unattended sauce pots in order to stay outside shoveling, and running our own “shuttle bus” into Oakland to pick up a front of the house crew.

Sure, we could use a little extra time off. But if it’s not Thanksgiving or Christmas, we’re not closing. Period. That’s the mindset that has pushed us through nearly 15,000 shifts (lunch and dinner) since 1987. So many thanks to the sixty-eight of our friends who trudged through a record snowstorm last night to have dinner at Café Sam – because if you didn’t show up we would have simply been there cleaning. And that gets boring.

BTW – our mail didn't get delivered…

Snowy Day January 2010

2/01/10

We will be celebrating Valentine’s Day this year with a special dinner on both Saturday and Sunday.
Click here: Valentine’s Day Menu

Tinker Bell

1/31/10

In order to provide a little bit more about Louis Saulnier’s Le Repertoire de la Cuisine (see post dated 1/12), we scanned the introduction insert written by Jacques Pépin. (You can read it by clicking on the book pictured under the earlier post). Chef Pépin notes: “Mr. Saulnier warns the reader against using the same sauces, vegetables, etc., and recommends short menus composed of very fresh products used only when they are in season.”

It is quite remarkable that today’s “modern” culinary trend was in print nearly a century ago.

If Mr. Saulnier was watching over Café Sam, he would nod approvingly at our endeavors to expand the use of fresh seasonal products, especially in the design of the Chef’s specials. We are thankful that consumer demand and the marketplace has made this possible – a greater variety of seasonal products is more readily available today than ever before at reasonable prices. And cost is important, because Café Sam has always been committed to cooking and serving high quality food that is fairly affordable to everyone.

As for his short menu recommendation, Mr. Saulnier would surely frown down on us. Big time.

1/26/10

The last time we saw Billy Gunn was on 8/27, brandishing the real McCoy and staring down lightweight wanabes with his namesake: a massive 12 oz. Chargrilled Black Angus Beef Burger with tomato, pickle, onion, lettuce, and special sauce. Now Billy Gunn is back, riding into town for a limited time only, slinging a new look for his legendary sensation.

Hands up!!! If you can lift it…

Billy Gunn

1/24/10

Attached are some pictures of the Chef’s specials that we served last night…

Hors d’ Oeuvres French Pâté, Chicken Galantine, Tuna Tartar, Lumpfish Caviar Russian Egg
Pork Wing Ding Appetizer Braised Baby Bok Choy, Thai Chili Garlic Sauce
Hearts of Romaine Caesar Dressing, Flat Anchovy Fillets
Roasted Pistachio Crusted Duck Mission Figs, Lentils with Curried Tarka
Sizzling Shrimp Wilted Brussel Sprout Leaves and Garlic Sauté, Cashews
Grilled Teriyaki Quail Gorgonzola, Kumquats, Mesculin Greens, Warm Chipotle Ancho Vinaigrette
Black Magic Swordfish Steak Papaya Chutney, Compound Tequila-Lime Butter
Panko Crusted Pork Schnitzel Crimini Mushrooms, English Pea Pesto
Three Meat Lasagna House Red Sauce

1/14/10

Now our clientele can party, too!

Email List Members: Ladies Night Coupon

Let's Party!

1/12/10

We have a culinary library with well over a hundred volumes. More than half of the books are worthless, forgotten publications that might have been purchased on sale because they looked decent at first glance or came to us as gifts. About a quarter of the books offer some interesting browsing material and get opened from time to time for an idea or a reference. The last quarter of the collection is comprised of really great stuff divided into three sections – colossal textbooks, seminal Chef authored masterpieces that played important roles in establishing modern cooking trends, and beautiful cookbooks from some really intense restaurants (many of which have come and gone, but all having left a mark in writings that will never go away).

Among the teaching cookbooks is The Professional Chef, dubbed “a definitive textbook detailing the artistry of the Chef.” That’s the book that comes in your welcome package (along with a nice set of kitchen knives) on the first day of school at the Culinary Institute of America. Examples of the important trend setters include Paul BoNouvelle Cuisine of Jean and Pierre Troisgros, Jerimiah Tower’s New American Classics, and Ferdinand Metz and the United States Culinary Olympic Team’s Culinary Olympics Cookbook. And here are a few of our favorite restaurant cookbooks: Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen, Francine Schere and Madeline Poley’s The Soho Charcuterie Cookbook, Mark Miller’s Coyote Café, Wolfgang Puck’s The Wolfgang Puck Cookbook: Recipes from Spago, Chinois, and Points East and West, and Danny Meyer's Union Square Café Cookbook.

After all of the above, however, there’s one monumental work that stands alone. It’s the highly unique and unusual Le Répertoire de la Cuisine, by Louis Saulnier. To us, in the profession, that book is akin to a bible. It was written by a Chef (a former student of the famous master Auguste Escoffier) for Chefs, first appeared in 1914, and includes 6,000 classic dishes including hors d’oeuvres, soups, salads, entrees, pastas, vegetables, pastries, and more. The Répertoire focuses on ingredients, without measurements, methods, techniques, or things like cooking times and temperatures.

In so doing, it teaches (forces) the reader to think about recipes and adjust ingredient combinations in order to arrive at a highly personalized final product. The Répertoire isn’t a beginning to end mechanical guide. To the contrary, this colossal directory of culinary art encourages the Chef to use inspiration and imagination throughout the cooking process.

Those are the intangible parts of cooking, inspiration and imagination, that transcend time and trends. Time and trends always pass into history. We need to respect the classics (and continue to provide our comfort food), but also stay on a culinary path that constantly moves us forward. So we don’t pass into history.

That’s what the Répertoire really teaches us.

And in a round about manner, it is through this library story that we are proud to introduce Café Sam’s latest edition of Chef Specials.

Click here: Current Specials

Le Repertoire De La Cuisine

1/05/10

The temperature will be hovering around the twenty degree mark all week. Stop in for Portobella Turkey Meatloaf, Antelope Sheppard’s Pie, or Sausage Lasagna. We’ll keep you warm…

Email List Members: Winter Weather Coupon

1/04/10

Have fun with this recipe for the wonderful cookies we served as an after dinner treat on New Year’s Eve. It’s quick and easy – the perfect project for children stuck at home with you on a snowy day. A baking party with the little ones is the first step in molding the next generation of great Chefs!

Italian Chocolate Raisin Cookies

Cookie Ingredients

4       Cups Flour
2       Cups Sugar
1       Cup Cocoa
1       Tablespoon Cinnamon
1       Teaspoon Ground Cloves
2       Teaspoons Baking Powder
1       Cup Water
¾      Cup Vegetable Oil
1½    Cups Raisins

Method

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, cloves and baking powder). Then add the wet ingredients (water and oil) and mix until the dough is well blended. Add the raisins. Roll by hand into one inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool.

Vanilla Icing Ingredients

2       Cups Confectioner’s Sugar
1      Tablespoon Butter, melted
¼      Teaspoon Salt
1       Teaspoon Vanilla
¼      Cup Milk
          Red Sugar (optional for decoration)

Method

Wisk the sugar, melted butter, salt, vanilla, and milk togther until a smooth paste forms. Dunk the tops of the cookies into the icing. Sprinkle the red sugar the on iced cookies immediately, before icing sets.

Chocolate Raisin Cookie

1/01/10

Here's a toast to the thousands of you that joined our Email List over the last nine months – we’re looking forward to a great New Year with best wishes for all!

Email List Members: New Year Coupon

12/27/09

A few of us at Café Sam were lucky enough to drag deer out of the woods this year. Speaking for the few, as Carnivores, we think Pennsylvania white-tails are the ultimate in organic eating. Our deer were harvested in a field filled with natural clover, where they had been grazing. We transported the meat (which was butchered the same day), and then packaged and froze it at home all by ourselves. But sometimes, depending on who you are talking to, it’s hard to share the inner feelings that make this beginning to end experience so wonderful. A conversation about hunting beautiful animals can quickly turn into an exercise of moral confusion.

We don’t take it personally. As a matter of fact, on the flip side of the coin, it turns out that even Vegetarians and Vegans aren’t completely immune to challenge when it comes to dietary choices. Plants want to survive, too, as explained in an article by a crafty journalist propounding legitimate biological science: “...we might consider that plants no more aspire to being stir-fried in a wok than a hog aspires to being peppercorn-studded in my Christmas clay pot. This is not meant as a trite argument or a chuckled aside.”

Well, we’re certainly getting a chuckle out of the preposterous notion that consuming plants should also cause an ethical dilemma. And to our well respected Vegetarian and Vegan friends out there, fear not: as proud primitive weapon deer hunters we’re still more than willing to shoulder all the moral confusion when it comes to dietary choices!

Here’s the interesting article about plant life that was surely intended to provide some humor for all of us:
Sorry Vegans, Brussel Sprouts Like to Live, Too

12/20/09

New Lunch Special

Banh Mi

Vietnamese Banh Mi Sandwich
Sirloin Steak, Daikon, Pickled Cucumber, Poppyseed Cabbage Slaw, Soy

Email List Members click here: Banh Mi Sandwich Coupon

12/16/09

It was a year of challenges, as we report in a personal note to you: Café Sam Letter

12/15/09

We will be offering a four course dinner (complete with a champagne toast) this New Year’s Eve for $38.95/person. Click here to view the menu: HAPPY NEW YEAR 2010

12/13/09

Quite a few emails coming in about the gorilla post on 12/08. Some are asking if there is really a gorilla taking over the city – others report having witnessed it scaling our iconic US Steel Tower and point to markings left at the top floors of the damaged building as proof.

One email suggests we're causing problems that may have upset a very disturbed animal, and need to back off before it attacks us. It’s probably too late for that: The Apology Scenario

12/10/09

Many thanks to the five hundred people who joined us for our pre-theatre "Candide" dinner last month. We enjoyed having the Quantum Theatre next door for a three week run and made a lot of new friends. One of those friends is Andres Cladera, artistic director of Renaissance City Choirs. Renaissance City Choirs' 25th Anniversary Holiday Concert will be held on Saturday, December 19th at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland.

We will be hosting a celebration for the singers and providing complimentary hors d'oeuvres after the concert. Come one, come all! For information and tickets: http://www.rccpittsburgh.com/

12/07/09

Gorilla

Gorillas are herbivores that love to feast where there is an abundance of fresh fruit, but they will quickly abandon an area if the fruit production is poor. Gorillas control the local environment. When there is a competitive threat to the supply of fruit, gorillas will roam around the territory and agressively pound their chests in order to intimidate. The species of gorilla that is native to our area is obese from an insatiable appetite – eating up huge portions of what the land can generate and leaving behind scarce resources to share with other primates.

Throughout most of the world gorillas are being threatened by the destruction of their habitat. However, here it is quite the opposite. Our habitat is being lost to a thriving gorilla.

Anyhow, this would be a gourmet dessert for the eight hundred pound gorilla (and one you’re sure to like, too). So eat them fast, or keep them out of sight!

Bananas Foster Cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients

½     Pound Butter
1      Cup Sugar
2¼   Cups Flour
1      Baking Powder
½     Teaspoon Baking Soda
1      Teaspoon Cinnamon
¼     Teaspoon Salt
2      Eggs
¼     Cup Milk
5      Ripe Bananas (Smashed)

Method

Cream butter and sugar with a mixer. Add the dry ingredients and then add the eggs, smashed bananas and milk. Place the batter into a cupcake lined muffin pan and bake at 350 degrees for about twenty minutes (pierce the cupcakes with a toothpick and it should come out clean). Cool completely.

Icing Ingredients

4    Teaspoons Rum Extract
1    Cup Brown Sugar
1    Cup Powdered Sugar
¼   Pound Soft Butter
¼   Cup Hot Water

Icing Method

Cream with a mixer

Makes twelve cupcakes - currently available on our December Prix Fixe menu...

12/01/09

Let’s work together to end domestic violence during the holiday season. Stop in between now and Christmas to purchase a gift certificate, along with the attached coupon, and Cafe Sam will donate fifteen percent of the dollar amount to the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.

Email List Members click here: Gift Certificate Donation Coupon

11/22/09

Cafe Sam made the Out-of-Towners section of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It doesn’t get any better than this, and we’re absolutely beaming with pride and joy: David and Colleen Vangelder’s Memories of Steel Town

11/16/09

Great new culinary treats coming out of the kitchen. Click here: Current Specials

11/08/09

It’s no secret that the restaurant business requires an incredible amount of dedication – and long hours. So how do we pull it off? One thing that keeps us going is pure love for the business. Another is a little caffeine from time to time. That means coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and sometimes even Excedrin. But for many people, coffee means an upset stomach, tea means discolored teeth, soda means something even worse for teeth, energy drinks taste terrible, and Excedrin seems like a bad pill habit. If you’re working long hours like us, and have a problem with side effects from these products, we figured out how you can enjoy a natural caffeine boost with this wonderfully simple and unique recipe.

Caffeinated Spring Water

Ingredients

24      16.9 ounce bottles of Spring Water
1320  Milligrams of Natural Caffeine (You can get it here)

Method

- Empty 23 of the 16.9 oz. bottles of spring water into a bucket and save the empty bottles and tops
- Empty the last 16.9 oz. bottle of spring water into a sauce pot and save the bottle and top
- Weigh out 1.32 grams of Caffeine (55 milligrams/bottle) on a milligram scale (Available on EBAY)
- Add the Caffeine to the bottle of water in the sauce pot, and simmer for a minute to dissolve
- Pour the bottle of heavily Caffeinated simmered water into the bucket holding the 23 other bottles and stir
- Funnel the batch of perfectly diluted Caffeinated water back into the 24 empty bottles

Note: The amount of natural caffeine in our recipe can be adjusted upwards or downwards to suit your personal preference. Our recipe calls for 55 milligrams of caffeine per bottle of water. By way of comparison, Starbucks Grande Latte contains 150 milligrams, a brewed cup of coffee contains about 110 milligrams, and the typical 12 oz. soft drink contains between 40-55 milligrams of caffeine. Simply take the number of milligrams you would like per bottle, and multiply it by 24 when making a case batch.

WARNING: Consuming more than 1200 milligrams of caffeine each day is not healthy – please view this CLASSIC TUTORIAL for help in identifying signs that you may be getting too hopped up on caffeine.

10/31/09

Halloween Witch

Witching you a Happy Halloween...

Email List Members click here: Pumpkin Soup Coupon

10/27/09

We decided to toss our classic Caesar dressing recipe, and invent a new one with a safe and modern twist. The challenge was to eliminate the raw egg and increase the stability, while maintaining a unique ingredient combination that continues to produce the same savory sensation of unami. Legend has it that the original Caesar Salad called for whole leaves of lettuce, so the stems could be lifted and the salad eaten by hand. Truth is you’ll be wanting to use whole leaves for dunking in the dressing after making this recipe!

Sam’s Caesar Dressing

Ingredients

1    Cup Whole Buttermilk
1    Cup Regular Mayonnaise
½   Cup Natural Beef Broth
2    Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
¼   Cup Powdered Parmesan Cheese
2    oz. Anchovy Fillets (mashed well into a paste)
1½ Teaspoons Minced Garlic
½   Teaspoon Black Pepper
½   Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1    Teaspoon Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce (See Note Below!)

Method
- Wisk all ingredients together in a large bowl

Note: Think an article about Worchestershire Sauce would be boring? Think again – here’s a great read about Lea & Perrins (then and now), along with a little insight on how innovative Chefs think when looking at classic recipes: Worchestershire Sauce, 1876

Email List Members click here: Sirloin Steak Caesar Salad Coupon

10/19/09

A very warm welcome to our old friend Karla Boos and her legendary Quantum Theatre, who are currently rehearsing and will be performing Candide next door to us on the Don Allen property November 5th - 22nd. Based on Voltaire’s hilarious satire and music by Leonard Bernstein, this absolutely wonderful masterpiece sings a tale of both evil and enduring hope. It’s an event you won’t want to miss!!!

For information and tickets: Quantum Theatre

Candide

We will be offering a special prix fixe dinner that follows Candide’s travels across the globe. For more about the story click here: A Café Sam Report: Candide 101 (and the Theatre Menu)

10/15/09

While we’re talking fowl (see previous post), Chef DJ just added Sweet and Sour Duck Confit Soup with Parsnips and Cabbage to our Specials Menu for $3.75 a bowl. That’s quack, quack, quack, and three quarters quack.

duckduckducksmall duck

10/12/09

We won’t balk at a challenge after coming across an article in the New York Times (Fried Chicken: A Migratory Bird), so the previously announced “Braking for Chicken” campaign is already history. Our newly invented Chipotle Adobo Fried Chicken recipe gets added flavor by mixing buttermilk, chipotle peppers, adobo, and a special blend of eight herbs and spices together into a great coating marinade. We’re probably going to ruffle the feathers of traditionalists by using skinless parts and a shallow frying method, but that’s o.k. CUZ WE LUV U healthy!!! The chicken will finally come to roost on a nest of fennel slaw, next to garlic mashed potatoes and natural gravy. This is a limited time special offer with a new coop just for you!

Email List Members click here: Fried Chicken Coopon

10/08/09

Click here to view our wonderful menu for the Chef's Table dinner next Tuesday night:
Café Sam Menu Italiano

10/01/09

For those of you with an adventurous palate, here’s the latest buzz from Café Sam. We are now stocking Scorpion Mezcal Anejo 1 on our top shelf (that’s right, with real scorpions). This award winning libation is made in small batches near Oaxaca, Mexico and spends a minimum of one year aging in small oak barrels. Anejo 1 is described as dry and sweet at the same time, with a smokey flavor accented by lime and a suggestion of mint. It is resinous to the tongue, and feels slightly oily with a delicate burn going down the throat.

For more about Mezcal (and its Tequila cousin) click here: A Café Sam Report: Mezcal vs. Tequila 101

Mezcal Anejo

9/31/09

For those of you with a preference for everyday bourbon, here's to D.H. Lawrence:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySgOds3bzcc

9/27/09

We were completely overwhelmed by a mad rush of people last Thursday, immediately after introducing three new Tacos to our menu (Sliced Sirloin with Chimichurri, Blackened Chicken with Chipotle Aioli, and Baja Fried Fish). It got really crazy and we had to call in the troops to keep a hungry crowd under control. Life is now back to normal again on Baum Boulevard – so stop by soon and give the Tacos a try!

Email List Members click here:  Taco Coupon

Taco Enthusiasts
             -View from our rooftop deck-

Riot Police
               -View from our front porch-

9/24/09

G20 Logo

9/18/09

Shucks! The local corn season is coming to an end. Here’s a simply delicous recipe Chef DJ created to serve as a seasonal farewell. Hurry up – there's not a lot of time left to try this one…

Farmhouse Corn Chowder

Ingredients

4    Cups Shucked Fresh Summer Corn (about six ears)
4    Cups Idaho Pototoes, Peeled and Small Dice
3    Cups Zucchini, Small Dice
2    Cups White Onions, Small Dice (Note: They are slightly sweeter than Yellow Onions)
1½ Cups Celery, Small Dice
2    Quarts Natural Chicken Stock
¼   Cup Dry Sherry
2    Cloves Fresh Garlic, Minced
1    Tablespoon Fresh Chopped Basil
¼   Teaspoon White Pepper
¼   Teaspoon Chili Powder
3    Cups Milk
½   Cup Cornstarch

Method

-  Add all ingredients (except the Milk and Flour) to the Chicken Stock and simmer for fifteen minutes
-  Wisk the Milk and Cornstarch together, then pour into the soup and simmer an additional five minutes

Summer Corn

9/12/09

The daily show at Café Sam includes behind the curtain scenes that are orchestrated by a bunch of pranksters. Dan approaches his car in the dark after closing a busy Saturday night shift, grabs the door latch, and comes up with a fist full of freshly whipped cream. He reportedly licks it off with a smile on his face while instantly plotting revenge. Next morning, Bill can’t find his kitchen pants and shirt, shoes or hat. They turn up later, neatly folded and stacked, rock solid on the second shelf of the walk-in freezer. Louis (our “ceramic engineer”) arrives to work a busy lunch and hears his dish machine is down. He prepares the sink to wash hundreds of plates, bowls, cups and saucers by hand (along with an equal number of expletives), and just before we open finds out the circuit breaker had been mysteriously thrown. It’s working again! Chef DJ’s favorite target, of course, is Mary. He posts a recipe on the employee bulletin board for fresh Turtle Soup, complete with illustrated directions. Mary’s beloved pet, naturally, is a Russian Tortoise given to her by Dan on a Christmas past. The gift was supposed to be a joke at the time, meant as a subtle statement that one of them is faster (or slower) than the other at covering the dining rooms.

And it keeps going from there, as does the show. Café Sam started her twenty third year in business when the curtain went up this morning - thanks to our Merry Pranksters.

Cafe Sam Logo
                  - 22 -

9/10/09

Why did the Turkey cross the road? To give the Chicken a little time off. We have been working with fresh Turkey Medallions for a few months, using a variety of preparations (Buffalo-style, Southern, and Mediterranean). This is something different and rarely seen on restaurant menus. Here’s a simple, healthy 1-2-3 recipe from our “Prix Fixe” menu that everyone has been gobbling about!

Fresh Mediterranean-Style Turkey Medallions

Ingredients

¾   fresh boneless Turkey Breast (two portions)
1    cup very thinly sliced Crimini Mushrooms
1    tablespoon Capers
2    tablespoons sliced Pimento Stuffed Green Olives
¼   teaspoon minced Garlic
1    teaspoon fresh chopped Parsley
3    tablespoons freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
¾   tablespoon Butter
¾   tablespoon Olive Oil
      Flour for dredging

Method

-  Slice ¼ inch Medallions from the fresh boneless Turkey Breast
-  Dredge the Medallions in flour
-  Melt the Butter along with the Olive Oil over medium high heat in an appropriately sized frying pan
-  Place the Medallions in the pan once it is sufficiently hot, and cook until the first side turns white and then
   begins to gain a little color
-  Turn the Medallions, and cook the second side until the pink color disappears from the middle
-  Add the Mushrooms, Capers, Olives, Garlic, Parsley and Lemon Juice and toss together for a final minute
-  Plate and serve

We’re braking for Chickens…

Chicken Crossing

9/01/09

Our next Chef’s Table Dinner for Email List Members is set to go on Tuesday, October 13th and will feature regional Italian dishes. The price for this five course dinner is $29, which includes several wine tastings. Call Mary, Jess, or Dan for reservations.

Seriamo dipassare una bella serrata con voi in Italia. (We look forward to spending a wonderful evening in Italy with you)...

Italian Flag

9/01/09

One of the things we’ll miss at the end of summer is waiting for Chef DJ’s buddies to turn into the Café Sam parking lot every Tuesday and Friday in their pickup truck. They are the hippie looking guys from Naturally Grown Farms up the road in Sarver who have been growing and delivering our local organic produce since June.

There are a couple of simple reasons why we like doing business with them. First, the product is beautiful: perfectly ripe and great tasting fruit/vegetables last week included yellow wax beans, white flesh watermelons, sweet corn, and amazing tomatoes. Second, organic farming is friendly with the environment. And we’re all for that!

For more about organic food click here: A Café Sam Report: Organic Food 101

8/27/09

Email List Members Special Bulletin: The massive Billy Gunn Burger made its world wide debut right here on the Café Sam News Page (see post on 7/16). Meticulously piled high over twelve ounces of fresh Chargrilled Black Angus Beef, it instantly turned into a storied sensation. So let’s have a Whopper™ like celebration!

Click here:  Billy Gunn Promotion

Billy Gunn

8/23/09

We got really mad after hearing Iron City Brewing was moving its landmark operation from Pittsburgh to greener pastures (and the free flowing water) in Latrobe. So we looked over our existing inventory of Iron City Lager and decided to turn the rest of the beer into soup. Next thing you know, everyone’s wanting to chug six bowls of the soup. Fortunately everything has calmed down now, and it’s back to drinking beer in bottles and spooning bowls of soup.

At least we got a tasty suds recipe out of the ordeal. Sure, it sounds a little cheesy (just like the story of IC’s leaving) – but you should believe in us by now. Give it a try!

Iron City Lager and Cheddar Cheese Soup

Ingredients

¾    pound butter
1     large onion, roughly chopped
2     stalks celery, roughly chopped
1     red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1½  cups all purpose flour
2     quarts natural chicken broth
2     12 ounce bottles Iron City Lager Beer
1     teaspoon dry mustard
1     teaspoon paprika
1     teaspoon ground thyme
2     tablespoons worcestershire sauce
2     cups half and half
1½  cups shredded cheddar cheese

Method

Melt butter, together with onions, celery, and pepper, and cook over medium heat in a soup pot until the vegetables are soft
Add the flour and stir constantly with a rubber spatula for three minutes
Then add the beer, chicken broth, spices, and worcestershire and simmer for twenty minutes
Remove from the heat and strain into a large bowl
Whisk in the half and half and cheddar cheese to finish

We are garnishing the soup with parmesean croutons…

Beer and Cheese Clip Art

8/16/09

Click here to view our wonderful menu for the Chef's Table dinner this Wednesday night:
Café Sam Menu Francais

8/12/09

WARNING: You are what you eat – don’t settle for canned baked beans.

Roger

Here's our great recipe, made with Vermont Maple Syrup and Beer, that won't leave you feeling like Rodger.

Sam’s Burlington Baked Beans

Ingredients

2   Cups Great Northern Beans
1   Medium Onion, Chopped
4   Strips Thick Bacon, Chopped
1   Cup Vermont Maple Syrup
8   Ounces Magic Hat #9 Pale Ale Beer
1   Teaspoon Dry Mustard
2   Tablespoons Ketchup (please use Heinz so we don't get into even more trouble)
     Salt and Pepper

Method

Soak the beans overnight, discard the water, then simmer them in fresh water for about two hours and drain
(Yes, you can substitute 5 cups of pre-cooked beans if you’re in a rush)
Cook the bacon and onion together over medium heat until they gain a little color
Mix the bacon and onion with the cooked beans and other remaining ingredients in a baking dish
Cover the dish loosely with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about three hours
Enjoy the remaining four ounces of Burlington brewed Magic Hat as a treat while watching the beans cook (you will probably have to pace yourself)

Photo courtesy of “The Who”

8/05/09

Mary has always complained that nobody realizes how much ground she covers each day, circling the bar, dining rooms, and kitchen, keeping things moving and servicing our customers. So we finally decided to monitor exactly how far she goes by hooking her up to a pedometer. On Monday, she took 27,434 steps, for a total of 5.2 miles. On Tuesday, she took 30,262 steps for a total of 5.7 miles. On Wednesday, she took 22,404 steps for a total of 4.2 miles. That averages out to 29.8 miles each week, or 1,490 miles each year. So over the last twenty three years, we’re estimating Mary has put on about 35,000 miles racing around Cafe Sam. Fact is, even though Mary passed just about everyone else and set longevity records years ago, she’s just now breaking in and hitting full stride, smiling more than ever and giving all the new kids a go for the money. So here’s how we’ll describe her: original equipment, perfectly maintained classic, looks great, high miles but still runs like a top. She’s a Cream Puff!!!

Pedometer

8/01/09

Legend has it that our building was home to a famous Pittsburgh bordello for many years during the first half of the last century. (The competition was doing its thing on Ellsworth Avenue at what is now the Mendelson Gallery). Puttanesca derives from the Italian word puttana. Different tales about the origin of this famous sauce trace back to bordellos, and you can read about them on the Internet. We know one thing for sure - it’s quick and easy!

Puttanesca Sauce

3  Tablespoons Anchovy, Chopped
3  Tablespoons Capers, Chopped
1  Cup Artichokes, Chopped
½ Cup Black Olives, Chopped
¼ Cup Red Wine
1  Cup Clam Juice
4  Cups Your Favorite Marinara

Combine the ingredients and simmer for fifteen minutes
Serve over spaghetti (we also like it on veal, chicken, and seafood)

Note:  If you are one of our Email List Members, we have Your Favorite Marinara. Stop by anytime this month with an empty quart container and get it filled up with Puttanesca Sauce – FREE! Thanks for your support and friendship…

7/30/09

There are a million Pesto recipes out there. But our first generation Italian-American friend from Abruzzo (the barber's daughter) asked for this one – and that has to mean something.

PESTO

Ingredients

2   cups fresh basil leaves, packed
¼  cup grated parmesan cheese
3   tablespoons pine nuts
3   garlic cloves, finely minced
½  cup olive oil
1   pinch salt

Method

- Place basil leaves in a food processor and run until well chopped (do about ½ cup at a time)
- Add about ½ of the nuts, garlic, and parmesan cheese and blend
- Then add about ½ of the olive oil, stopping to scrape down sides of container
- Then add the rest, and process until it forms a nice smooth paste
- Basil pesto keeps in the refrigerator one week, or you can freeze it for a few months

7/19/09

On Wednesday, August 19th we will be hosting our first Chef’s Table(s) Dinner - exclusively limited to our Email List Members. The five course dinner will have a classical/nouvelle French theme, and includes several wine tastings. Prix fixe: Vingt Euros (That’s $29.95/person). We’re even going to suit Dan up in his tuxedo, if it still fits. Call Mary, Jess, or Dan for reservations.

French Flag

7/16/09

Introducing the Billy Gunn Burger – a 12 oz. Chargrilled Black Angus Beef Burger with tomato, pickle, onion, lettuce, and special sauce. It’s not your ordinary Whopper™. Can we say that without getting in trouble?

Billy Gunn Burger

7/12/09

In response to yesterday’s email from a regular customer, here’s the Lamb Pop recipe. And a note to all our regulars. In this harsh economic environment (it's been a tough time for everyone), it’s you that have kept us on course with wind at our back. We appreciate the loyalty and the business – it doesn’t go unnoticed.

Chef DJ’s Lamb Pops

Pops

1½   Pounds, Ground Lamb
2      Tablespoons, Fresh Chopped Mint
1      Teaspoons, Cayenne Pepper
1½   Teaspoons, Black Pepper
1½   Teaspoons, Turmeric
1½   Teaspoons, Salt
½     Teaspoon, Curry
1      Teaspoon, Ground Cumin
1      Tablespoon, Oregano
1      Egg
½     Cup, Breadcrumbs
2      Cloves, Minced Garlic
½     Medium Sized, Grated Red Onion
½     Lemon, Juiced

- Mix the ingredients above until they are evenly distributed

Yogurt Sauce

6      Ounces, Plain Yogurt
1      Clove, Minced Garlic
1      Tablespoon, Fresh Chopped Mint
½     Tablespoon, Oregano
½     Lemon, Juiced

- Again, mix well

Method

Form lamb mixture into 2 ounce patties (recipe makes 12 pieces)
Grill to perfection
No grill – no problem! Bake at 375 degrees for twenty minutes
Insert wood skewers into patties to finish making "lamb pops"
Place three pops on top of chopped iceberg lettuce and tomato wedges
Top with the yogurt sauce as pictured below

Lamp Pops

7/08/09

Although the dish itself is commonly associated with Spain, some etymologists believe the root of the word Gazpacho derives from the Hebrew word gazaz, meaning to break into pieces. We wonder what Gus Portokalos (read about Gus below) would say about that...

Here’s a recipe for the Summer/Fall classic from our vault. There’s everyday Gazpacho, and then there’s our Gazpacho. Trust us on this one.

Sam’s Gazpacho

¾  Pound Green Peppers, Seeded
¾  Pound Red Peppers, Seeded
¾  Pound Cucumbers, Peeled and Seeded
¾  Pound Summer Tomatoes, Peeled (See Note Below)
2   Tablespoons Chopped Garlic
2   Pasteurized Eggs, Whisked (This will help stabilize the soup - if you're Vegan let it go)
2   Ounces Red Wine Vinegar
8   Ounces V8 Juice
1   Cup Chicken Broth
6   Ounces Olive Oil
½  Teaspoon Thyme
¼  Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
¼  Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

-  Mince all vegetables in a food processor and place them in a large bowl
-  Add the remaining ingredients and whisk together
-  Chill and serve
-  Optional: Top with a dollop of Sour Cream and a Fresh Basil Sprig as pictured below.

Gazpacho

Note:  For instructions on peeling the skin off tomatoes, click on the following link...
How To Peel a Tomato

7/05/09

Talk about locally grown - check out the fresh basil supply on our rooftop garden. And yes, we have fresh mint for Mojitos, too.

Sam's Rooftop Garden

6/29/09

Brand new specials will be coming out of our kitchen tonight – it’s a fun and challenging time for the entire staff. So what inspired the selections? For starters, we fly a Culinary Institute of America banner. Our free wheeling Chef first learned methods of cooking in the French tradition and was taught that modern cuisine got its structure from a master named Auguste Escoffier. So if a new dish is Mediterranean, Indian, Northern Italian, Regional American, or even traditionally Continental in style, there is probably a French influence someplace. (It’s kind of like one of the themes from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but in this case the root originates in France!) Anyway, here at Café Sam the specials are all about going to different places - we love to cook everything. And we love to eat everything, too. Mon Dieu!

From My Big Fat Greek Wedding...

Gus Portokalos: You know, the root of the word Miller is a Greek word. Miller come from the Greek word “milo” which is mean “apple.” So there you go. As many of you know, our name, Portokalos, is come from the Greek word “porokali,” which mean “orange.” So, okay? Here tonight, we have, ah, apple and orange. We all different, but in the end we all fruit.

6/18/09

Our hero #43 Troy Polamalu stopped in for dinner - he's the real deal.

Troy Polamalu signature

6/15/09

Chef DJ’s Aged Balsamic BBQ Sauce

1/3 Cup  Chili Sauce
   1 Cup  Aged Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 Cup  Sugar
   2 Tsp.  Dry Mustard
Salt and Pepper

Blend Ingredients and Simmer 12 Minutes
(We Have Been Brushing It On Fresh Atlantic Salmon and Pork Chops)

Have a great summer on the grill. Smiley Face

6/12/09

Stanley Cup Champions

Pittsburgh Penguins Logo

5/31/09

June Internet Special - Toast Yourself with a Slow Roasted Pulled Pork Sandwich on Garlic Bread in Our Bar for $5 after 5 PM. Just Tell Us You Saw It Here.

5/19/09

In our business nights off are few and far between, so we have to make all of them count. This one with the Boss at Mellon Arena (amazing) should carry us for a while...

Bruce

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KngiJUNdsu0

5/10/09

…Happy Mother’s Day. Here’s something very special, originally from the Escoffier Room at the Culinary Institute of America. And it’s our pleasure to fork (or spoon) it over to you!

Dark Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients
5 oz.      Dark Chocolate
5 ea.      Egg Yokes
5 ea.      Egg Whites
5 oz.      Sugar
¼ cup    Water
2 cups   Heavy Cream
¼ cup    Grand Marnier Orange Liqueur (Optional)
1 pint     Fresh Strawberries

Method
-  Separate eggs, placing whites and yokes in different bowls
-  Whip egg whites to soft peaks (preparing for use at the end)
-  Whip heavy cream to soft peaks in yet another bowl (also for use at the end)
-  Break chocolate into little pieces and melt in a stainless steel bowl over a pot of boiling water
-  Combine sugar and water and boil for four minutes in a small sauce pot
-  Pour the sugar mixture (now a hot syrup) into a bowl with the egg yokes and whip together
-  Switch from a whip to a rubber spatula and pour in the melted chocolate
(don’t mix much – only slightly)  SEE PHOTO ONE
-  Fold in the egg whites (don’t mix much – only slightly)  SEE PHOTO TWO
-  Fold in the whipped cream to finish (you got it – only slightly)  SEE PHOTO THREE
-  Note:  For happy occasions, add the Grand Marnier to the heavy cream before whipping it.

Refrigerate overnight, and serve in martini glasses topped with fresh strawberry pieces.

blending chocolate folding egg whites chocolate mousse chocolate mousse presentation

5/1/09

We have something pretty sweet in mind for a Mother's Day recipe post...

4/25/09

The mission of the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh is to end intimate partner violence in the lives of women and their children, and the organization needs our help. Drop off a $25 check at Café Sam (made payable to the "Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh") between now and April 31st and we will give you a $25 gift certificate. That’s right – your donation is basically free.

Go to http://www.wcspittsburgh.org/ for more information about WCS.

4/9/09

We salute you, with sadness. Click on the photo to remember...

Salute

4/4/09

Dan worked the day shift yesterday so he could take his wonderful wife Tammy, and two boys Caleb and Jacob on a cub scout trip to the Shrine Circus at Mellon Arena. On the way out he asked if anyone knew how to make an elephant float. And that inspires our very first Cafe Sam recipe post:

Elephant Float

400  Pounds Vanilla Ice Cream
10  Gallons Chocolate Syrup
60  Gallons Milk
25  Gallons Root Beer
1  Ton of Whipped Cream and Cherries

2/1/09

Steelers Logo    Super Bowl XLIII Champions


Thanks for visiting Cafe Sam


 
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