It's been a dreadfully long time! I have been so busy eating that I have neglected you. It has been birthday season and the Magnificent SA arranged several birthday dinners for me (HM). Who knew turning thirty-four would be so delicious?
For the first of the birthday dinners seven of us had dinner at Aji Picante in Squirrel hill. The waitstaff did not fail in either proficiency or quirkiness (which seems to be an endearing Pittsburgh trait) and the apps stole the spotlight. We were one of only about four tables on a Tuesday night so we pretty much had the place to ourselves and were encouraged several times to stay as long as we liked, which proved to be quite awhile with the friendly banter flowing as freely as the byob wine.
The waitress introduced the specials, an appetizer of scallops with avocado and yucca was described and being that I am allergic to shellfish, I asked if the kitchen could do it without and her response was, "I wouldn't because the scallops are most of the dish, but you could try the plantains if you are in the mood for something ah.... circular and fried? We did not order the plantains even with several seconds of shared laughter. The poor waitress happened upon several inappropriate conversations including one about the past year's birthday dinner before we were able to decide our order and put the poor girl out of her misery of asking "Are you ready?" They spaced our apps beautifully, almost serving them as courses as to not overcrowd the table. This meant that we all got to savor, taste and talk about each dish in turn. The empanadas and fritters were both a hit, to say the least, and everything from the scallops (not for me :)) to the beef heart were enjoyed. Paella, steak, chicken, pork and a seafood bouillabaisse all came as mains and whether we had filled up on apps or gotten just plain spoiled by them, the mains seemed quite boring in comparison. The dishes were all prepared with both beautiful ingredients and love, but the wow factor of the starters could not be matched.
The deserts were a bit on the sweet side but still delicious and from somewhere they found a candle. Thank you Aji for a birthday dinner to remember.