Super Saturday: Smashed Taters, Partying with a Heartbreaker and Losing Myself in a Book

Super Saturday: Smashed Taters, Partying with a Heartbreaker and Losing Myself in a Book

Oh boy, we had such a nice Saturday today. An extraordinarily nice Saturday. And we didn’t even make it down to see THE DUCK yet, although that is on the agenda for tomorrow, once I cross the finish line for the Great Race.

Last night I finished Helen Bryan’s The Sisterhood, which I didn’t really like, but it wasn’t bad enough to totally ditch. I didn’t realize that I didn’t much care for it until about halfway through, and by that point I was already halfway through, so I decided to stick it out to the end. Which I did. And it was nice to just be done with it and move on to something new. So I started Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple.


Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

I had an inkling I would like it because it kept coming up as “recommended” on Amazon, Goodreads, all kinds of things. I cracked into it, and I loved it. It was one of those rare books that I just wanted to clear out my whole schedule and sit down and read. Semple’s got solid skills at writing light, fun banter. All the characters are completely batshit crazy, but in a super fun way. The whole plot is ridiculous and implausible, but Semple pulls it off in a way that’s funny and kept me wanting to see what would happen next. I stayed up late last night to read it, and finished the rest of it this afternoon. It was simply great.

This morning, after Baby Beez’ ballet class, we went to the Quiet Storm for our farewell visit. We went there with friends for brunch a few weeks back, only to find that the items Mr. Beez and I loved most and craved weren’t on the menu for brunch. So it was necessary to return to get those dishes as our formal farewell. So today, I got my ultimate comfort food: The QS Home Fries.

QS Home Fries

Smashed taters, soysage, tofu (or eggs, your choice), cheese (or vegan cheez) roasted veggies, pickled onions and garlic aioli. Heaven. And I ate the whole thing. Stuffed. Word on the street is that QS has teamed up with Ava lounge to keep both projects open at a North Oakland location. I hope it works out, because my life will be sadder without those QS Home Fries.

After brunch, we celebrated the First Birthday of Judah K, our favorite little heartbreaker! Judah’s such a sweet little guy and his parents are such wonderful people. Judah was born with a congenital heart defect called truncus arteriosis. He has been through several heart surgeries and rough patches and successes. We were so thrilled to get to celebrate the amazing milestone of his first birthday with his family. The party was at the Children’s Home and was partially a fundraiser for the organization/facility, and it was great to learn about all the amazing work the Children’s Home is doing. In addition to doing arts & crafts, eating like 50 cookies, and playing with kids, Baby Beez got a chance to play out on the Children’s Home’s wonderful playground.

Gettin' Crafty

Gettin’ Crafty

As the party went on into that time of day designated as “nap zone,” Baby Beez got progressively wonkier. At one point, some boys a little older than her were roughhousing (not being bad, just being typical over-sugared 4 year old boys) and Baby Beez ran up to me, demanding that I join in the roughhousing:
Me: (shocked, kind of embarrassed) No! I can’t hit them!
BB: Can I hit them?
Me: Uh, no.
BB: Can I kick them?
Me: Um, no. How about you color?

It doesn’t look nearly as funny in print now, but believe me, it was funny at the time. And then Baby Beez continued to get ridiculously tired, tried to lick the bathroom door, and I knew it was definitely time. to. go. home.

So we went home and everyone took a 4 hour nap. And it was amazing.

Tonight it’s movies, magazines, a glass of wine and a lot lot lot of water. Tomorrow is The Great Race. Wish me luck!


31 Before 31: French Baking Class with Chop, Wok & Talk!

31 Before 31: French Baking Class with Chop, Wok & Talk!

Butter. Sugar. Butter. More butter. What’s not to love about French baked goods? When I added “Take a Cooking Class” to my 31 before 31 list, I didn’t have a particular cuisine in mind. There are a few options when it comes to cooking classes in Pittsburgh. I was browsing here and there, and then I saw it. French baking with Chop Wok & Talk. I HAD TO DO THE FRENCH BAKING.  My friend, Christine, chef extraordinaire, was more than happy to join me.

Starting off with Croissants from La Gourmandine

The class started off with friendly introductions and a snack of delicious croissants from La Gourmandine. I assumed that “French Baking Class” would obviously mean baking croissants. It turns out we weren’t baking croissants at all. The reason is because the dough has to be folded and chilled and folded and chilled, and the whole process takes at least a night for the dough to be prepared. So since croissants are the quintessential French baked good, at least we shared this snack before getting to work.

Tarte Tartin

Tarte Tartin prepared in the cast iron skillet.

Whole Wheat Tomato Tart

Whole Wheat Tomato Tart

Buckwheat Ham & Cheese Crepe with Tomato Tart and Salad

Our tasty lunch: Buckwheat ham & cheese crepe with tomato tart and salad.

 Chop Wok & Talk is in, what appears to be, a converted apartment. I always imagined a cooking class to look something like Kitchen Stadium, with multiple large stainless-steel cooking stations.  Chop Wok & Talk’s kitchen is basically a home kitchen with a large stainless-steel island in the middle. Students work together and take turns.  There isn’t space for us to work independently. But this collaboration fosters conversation and fun.

Making the Chocolate Caramel Lava Cake

We made something like 7 different recipes, some sweet, some savory. We started off with the croissants, then had our hearty lunch, and then savored decadent salted caramel lava cakes for dessert, and were even sent home with more pastries.


Salted Caramel Lava Cake

Tarte Tartin

Napoleon (Dynamite)

All the food turned out delicious, and we were so stuffed.  Classes cost about $60 and upwards, but classes are several hours log, are full of tons of food, very fun and education, and I think on the whole a great activity.  Chop Wok & Talk’s options are incredibly diverse. They offer Indian cooking classes, Thai food, Date night themed classes, all kinds of things.  Christine and I had so much fun that we’ll be returning in December to learn to cook the Feast of the Seven Fishes.  This was an incredibly fun time, and I’m thrilled I had it on my 31 before 31 list.

The Wall of Death


Brunchin’ with @BrunchBurgh

Brunchin’ with @BrunchBurgh

I was lucky to have the opportunity to be interviewed over brunch by the fabulous Mary of the BrunchBurgh podcast.  Mary loves brunch and loves meeting new people, and decided to bring these two things together in this fun podcast.  Mary and I know one another through various social media events (she was my Secret Santa at the Pittsburgh TweetUp’s holiday party), and this was such a fun opportunity to get to know one another better.

You can listen to the podcast through iTunes at this link.

You can also listen to it on the BrunchBurgh site at this link.

I made Mr. Beez sit through the podcast today, and he promised that I don’t sound like a total jagoff.  So that’s good. In retrospect I feel like I came off as a massive egotist, but the interview was about me after all.  I’m hoping maybe some of the thoughts and thought-processes I shared will help others who are interested in blogging, but maybe aren’t sure about how to fit a “blog life” in with the rest of their lives.

In related news, Mr. Beez and I returned to Club Cafe for brunch today. This is my third time there, which is highly unusual, given how rarely I’m a repeat visitor to places (too many new and exciting things to discover!!)  He went for the Steak, Egg & Croissant sandwich because it is the best thing in the universe.

Club Cafe Steak & Egg on Croissant. Heavenly.

I wanted to order that, but I’m *so close to hitting my 10% in weight watchers that it huuuuurts* so instead I wanted to pick something slightly lighter, and went for the omelette.  The omelette was very good, but I had massive food jealousy. I should have just gotten the steak sandwich. Nothing beats that darn steak sandwich. So jealous.

Club Cafe Omelette and Toast

In other related news, I can’t find my darn running earbuds and it is making me INSANE. I have other earbuds I can use but they’re not as good. So if anyone has seen my earbuds, PLEASE return them to me stat. Or I will lose my mind. Or have to buy another pair at least.


Goodbye, Grandpa

Goodbye, Grandpa

My Grandpa passed yesterday after battling lung cancer for many years.  He was resting and surrounded by loved ones, and I hope at complete peace.  This is a tough time for the Farinas, but we are sharing lots of love and support.  I only wish I were in California right now to give my Grandma a hug.


I will miss how he greeted me with “Hiya doll!” and a firm hug and slap on the back, so enthusiastic that he almost knocked the wind out of me.


As far back as my memory goes, he had lost most of his vision and hearing.  He didn’t let this get in his way.  Despite these challenges, he kept busy by building an intricate doll house with working electricity and tiny furniture, a miniature church with all the details, and other doll-sized creations.



He spent most of his sunny California days tinkering in the garden.  As a kid I loved to collect his carefully-grown roses that filled the front yard.  The back yard was filled with lemon and orange trees, and at harvest time every visitor was urged to please take some home!



My favorite memory was one Christmas, after all the other presents had been opened, he brought forward another gift for Grandma from “Captain Video” (a nickname that predated me, so I don’t even know what it means).  She was puzzled, because they went and did nearly everything together all the time, and where did this gift come from? Despite being almost fully blind and deaf, he had snuck out to the shops on Ventura Boulevard and found his way to a perfume shop, and surprised Grandma with her favorite perfume.




Seriously My New Favorite Fancy Lunch Spot @SiennaPgh

Seriously My New Favorite Fancy Lunch Spot @SiennaPgh

A perk of lawyering in a mid-to-large law firm is summer associate interview season. I love interviewing people because I am nosy and I love to ask a million questions about their lives. I especially love summer associate interview season because I get to interview people and get a fancy lunch out of it.  Our usual lunch digs for this purpose is The Carlton or McCormick & Schmicks, both of which are very nice.  This most recent time, we decided to change it up and check out Sienna Sulla Piazza.

Confession: I’m not big on going out for Italian food. To me, Italian food is the food you eat at home.  I don’t go out for things I could just make at home.  Nevermind that this train of thought makes no sense because most places make Italian food much better than I make at home, but whatever, this habit is hard to break. So even though Italian is usually near the bottom of my list when it comes to dining out, I heard a glowing recommendation of Sienna a couple weeks back and decided to try it out.


Chilled Corn and Crab Soup at Sienna Sulla Piazza

I started with the chilled corn and crab soup.  It was a deep bowl teeming with sweet roasted corn and flaky crab.  Sweet and salty and delicate, I think this is the best summer soup I’ve ever had in forever.

Sausage Flatbread Pizza at Sienna Sulla Piazza

The setup for a summer associate candidate lunch is the candidate plus two associates.  I usually don’t photograph food during summer associate lunches because it makes me look like a crazy person. (I have only photographed lunch once before during such an interview lunch, and during both times the candidate was nonplussed and claimed I did not look like a crazy person…photographing plates is clearly becoming more socially acceptable).  So with this amazing meal, I could not help myself. And I did photograph the other associate’s lunch (see pizza, above), but I did restrain myself from photographing the interviewee’s food, because that would just be too much.

The flatbread pizza was heavy with thick slices of sausage and dollops of ricotta cheese. The other associate ate one slice of it and declared he didn’t care for it. Because he does not have good taste.  He ended up getting it packaged up but later decided he didn’t want it.  So I ended up taking the remainder of the pizza, because it was awesome, and you can’t let pizza like this go to waste.

Savory rabbit and vegetables pasta at Sienna Sulla Piazza

Pasta isn’t a good option for a lunch where you actually have to go back to your office and get WORK DONE during the afternoon, but I could not pass up this pasta with rabbit and parsnips and carrots.  It was hearty and salty. I really can’t identify anything comparable.  It is a perfect cold-weather stick-to-your-bones meal, but on this day it was like 90 degrees outside, and it was STILL amazing.

I’ve had some good lunches downtown, but Sienna blows them all away.  I am truly in love with this place.  The prices are fancy-meal prices, so it’s ideal to save this place for a special occasion.  The menu offers everything from the basic spaghetti and meatballs to my more-exotic rabbit selection, so it’s a perfect place to bring your dining companions who may not be as adventurous as you.

Yes, it’s true that I only post about a restaurant if I like it, however Sienna was truly exceptional. I just loved this place. I’ll be heading back every chance I get.

Sienna Sulla Piazza on Urbanspoon