At Morcilla, ranked tops in the country. Photo by Adam Milliron

Eat: Tapas at Morcilla

2015’s most anticipated restaurant has finally arrived. Morcilla opens this Thursday, December 10th at 3519 Butler Street. Morcilla is the second restaurant from Chef Justin Severino and Hilary Prescott Severino, his wife and business partner. Their first restaurant, Cure, quickly became one of the city’s hottest reservations when it opened in 2012. Now they hope to repeat that magic on the other side of Lawrenceville.

That’s not to say Morcilla is a Cure clone. Where Cure’s menu draws from a range of Mediterranean inspirations, Morcilla will focus on authentic Spanish cuisine. Tapas and small bites, like Spanish ham croquettes and oysters escabeche, will dominate the menu, which is rounded out by a few larger, family-style dishes. And not to worry: plenty of Spanish-style charcuterie will be available as well.

Complementing all those salty bites will be a primarily Spanish wine list, along with Sherries and rare Spanish cider. A selection of light, food-friendly cocktails, including a sherry-based Collins and red and white sangrias, are on deck as well.

Morcilla is slightly larger than Cure, seating 50 plus some standing room at the bar. The vibe is casual and convivial, encouraging sharing and conversation. “Hilary and I couldn’t be more thrilled to bring our experiences with Spanish cooking to Pittsburgh,” enthused Severino in a press release. “We are creating a space in Lawrenceville where people can enjoy a family-style meal and great cocktails, Spanish cider and wines.”

Starting December 10th, Morcilla will be open for dinner every day except Tuesday. For more information and to make a (much-needed) reservation, check out their website.

Drink: Inventive cocktails at Butcher and the Rye

For Spencer Warren, launching a new cocktail menu at Butcher and the Rye required hours of eBay scouring and a healthy zeal for wordplay. “One hundred percent of the menu was inspired by these,” says Warren, gesturing to a collection of mid-century address indexes, the kind with sliders that allow it to pop open to the correct letter. Warren, the beverage director for the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group (which also includes Meat and Potatoes, täkō and the forthcoming Pork & Beans), used the vintage finds to create an ambitious new cocktail menu for the restaurant’s upstairs Rye Bar.

“We had to rename some cocktails three or four times,” says Warren with a smile. With some clever maneuvering, Warren and his team managed to fill every page in the address book with an appropriately named classic and signature drink. Flip to “V,” for instance, and choose between Bond’s classic Vesper and Bar Manager Michael R. Anderson’s Valley Horseman, a savory bourbon cocktail that features mustard powder and celery bitters.

Unexpected kitchen staples find their way into many of the new cocktails. “We have an incredibly talented culinary team and we always get inspired by them,” notes Anderson. One standout drink, the Conqueror’s Ruin, pairs smoky mezcal with Indian spices like garam masala and turmeric.

The new menu, which is available only at the upstairs bar, is meant to give Butcher’s veteran bar team a chance to flex their muscles. “We have the best bar staff in the city and we want to show them off,” boasts Anderson. That staff includes Cecil Usher and Giuseppe Capolupo, who cranks out hundreds of pounds of hand carved, crystal clear ice every week. From that perfect ice to the elegant glassware (including a massive copper pineapple), the Rye Bar menu is all about the details. Jokes Anderson, “we want the hoity-toities to enjoy this.”

Do: Find a gift for the beer lover in your life

Ah, the thrill of the holiday season. The rush of braving the mall to pick out a generic gift for that uncle you really don’t know—a gift that, let’s be honest, will end up at next May’s yard sale. If that uncle happens to like beer, though, you’re in luck. Here are three beer-themed gifts that won’t end up on a folding table next spring.

The first choice is obvious: beer! For a beer connoisseur who’s tried it all, pick up a bottle or two from Draai Laag Brewing Company. The tiny Millvale brewery uses wild fermentation and Old World techniques to create tart, funky and entirely unique brews. Draai Laag’s recent rebranding and switch to the unusual 500 mL bottle size ensure a gift that looks as good as it tastes. For the holidays, be sure to grab a bottle of St. Angus, a Christmas ale brewed with orange, cinnamon and ginger.

If your loved one is still easing into the world of beer, grab a signed copy of Mark Brewer’s Brewology: An Illustrated Dictionary for Beer Lovers. A resident of Pittsburgh, Brewer (that’s his real name) has illustrated for The Washington Post, The New York Times and many other outlets. Earlier this year, Brewer turned his attention to beer, writing and illustrating a funny and informative guide to the wide world of beer making and drinking.

Finally, give the beer buff in your life the chance to see in the ins and outs of one of the city’s best breweries with tickets to an East End Grains-to-Glass Tour. Started in 2004, East End is one of Pittsburgh’s most beloved breweries, offering up a range of dependable year-rounds and intriguing seasonals. A few times a month, East End holds tours of their relatively new space (they moved there in 2012) complete with four samples, a guided tasting and a growler of beer to take home. Tickets are still available for their January dates.

For more local gifts—including one more beer idea—check out our holiday gift guide.

Drew Cranisky

Drew Cranisky is a writer, bartender and recent graduate of Chatham University's Food Studies program. He enjoys cats, pinball and fancy burgers.