Food for the Eatin’ in Pgh Part 4: @VooDooBrewery @TheCommonplace @PennBrewery @HarrisGrill Speakeasy

Food for the Eatin’ in Pgh Part 4: @VooDooBrewery @TheCommonplace @PennBrewery @HarrisGrill Speakeasy

So post no. 4 is all about beverages, or should I say, vices? Caffeine and alcohol all the way, it seems. I’m not much of a soda drinker and despite the juice craze, I just don’t like juice. I’m all about water, coffee and alcohol. So what can I say, the beverage post is all about those things. Because they’re great.

1. Coffee from Commonplace Coffee. Drip coffee, pour-over coffee, latte, whatever. Commonplace is the b-e-s-t. I don’t care whether it’s the Commonplace in Squirrel Hill or Commonplace Voluto in Garfield, this coffee is the caffeinated nectar of the gods. Yes, many think that one must drink it black to show proper appreciation for the bitter bean. I’ve tried that. Drinking black coffee is a great way to get me to throw up on the table. I just can’t do it. Ultra-hipster coffee shops have a rep for having an attitude, but Commonplace’s baristas have always been crazy friendly to me. One time, I sheepishly asked for cream, and the barista told me “Lady, you’re paying $4 for a cup of coffee. You can put whatever you want in it.” And that’s when they had me for life. (Note to the owners: before the renovation, there were very detailed descriptions of all the coffees posted in the Squirrel Hill shop…after the renovation, they’re gone. Hopefully you’ll bring them back, so I can select my coffee without having to interrogate the barista and hold up the line).

2. Voodoo Love Child beer from Voodoo Brewery.

I’ll admit it, sometimes you have something so divine, so blissful, so amazing that it ruins you to everything else, ever. Voodoo Love Child is that thing. It’s a Belgian Style trippel aged on cherries and passion fruit. Oh, and it’s 10.5% alcohol Oh, and the brewers play music to their beer 24 hours a day, because they want it to be happy. AND IT MAKES ME HAPPY. I mean, I can drink other beers sometimes still, but none of them even come even remotely close to Voodoo Love Child. Voodoo is opening a new brewery site in Homestead in just DAYS, and you don’t know how excited I am about this.

VooDoo Brewery

Voodoo Brewing Samples

3.  Fancy Cocktails at Speakeasy.  I don’t even have a fancy cocktail in particular. Craft cocktails are all the rage right now, and I can list off a whole bunch of places with very skilled bartenders that can whip up something potent and creative for you. Speakeasy, however, has Dawn. And she is caring and careful and friendly and awesome. Even Mr. Beez, who is quiet and antisocial, loves to sit at the bar and chat with Dawn about her creations. She really is amazing, and can make quite a drink.

4.  Mr. Beez’s pick is up for No. 4– best beer out of a milk jug: Penn Brewery. I admit, Penn Brewery has reliably decent beer, particularly their Oktoberfest. And Oktoberfest is what puts the big hearts and stars in Mr. Beez’ eyes. He loves Penn Brewery’s Oktoberfest. There’s plenty of drinking beer out of milk jugs, and oompah bands and pretzels. It gets too crowded for my taste, but he always loves going, and gets excited for the event as we head into the fall each year.

penn brewery

5. Best bad decision drink goes, hands down, to the frozen cosmos at Harris Grill and Shiloh Grill. It is nice to have one, but these are sweet and syrupy and hard to resist. They should be remained “Bad Decisions.” Let’s leave it at that. Also, go try one. And make sure to have a designated driver.


Mem’ries of Snowfall

I called off our plans of Baby Beez’ swim class in favor of Chutes & Ladders, mac & cheese and red wine (for me, not her). Despite nearly 15 years in Pennsylvania, I still haven’t adjusted to real winter. I do whatever I can to stay indoors when the bad weather hits. And every bad snowstorm feels like I’ve never been in a snowstorm before.

I’ve been in Pennsylvania for two big snowfalls. For the first one, I was in my senior year at Pitt. The snow just dumped down. Pitt does not like cancelling classes for anything. Snow? Hail? Sleet? Forget it, you whippersnappers can trudge your way out of the towers into DLH. But in this one snowfall, they cancelled classes. Finally. And pretty much everyone trudged it out of the towers to sled on down Flagstaff Hill.

For the second big snow, I was in the middle of a trial. The first big case that I worked from the ground up as a young associate, fully educated the partner before trial, and then tried as second chair. We partially prevailed for the client. Even though it was not a full victory, I was still so proud, because I prepared so thoroughly. I learned so much. I was proud.

Court let out early a couple days, and even took a day off during that trial. The snow was just dumping down.

Mr Beez in the blizzard of 2010

I spent the entire time snoozing on the couch as Mr. Beez shoveled and shoveled and shoveled. I refused to lift a finger to help with the snow. Possibly rightfully, because I was 10 weeks pregnant, and exhausted. I didn’t even mind the trial delay, I was so tired. And the funny thing, on the next to last day of trial, opposing counsel asked if we could recess case early, because he felt soooo sick. And all I could think was, “SERIOUSLY?” Because I had just done 3 days of trial, 10 weeks pregnant, exhausted to the bone, ready to barf at any moment, and he was the one crying sick.


Beers and Bites, Western PA style at @IndependentPgh

Beers and Bites, Western PA style at @IndependentPgh

I had dinner plans with a friend on Friday, and of course being such a restaurant enthusiast (I’m about done with “foodie”), she let me pick the location. I fretted and hemmed and hawwed over this, because there are SO MANY factors to consider in deciding on a place for dinner out! Did I want to revisit an old favorite? Or try something new? Did I want something light? Or experimental? Or belly-warming comfort food? Was I thirsty for beer? Or wine? Or cocktails?

My decision ultimately came down to: 1. Beer and 2. Comfort food. So many people have said great things about The Independent Brewing Company in Squirrel Hill since its not so long ago opening, and this seemed like a prime night to try it out. The Independent’s mission and focus is local products. The beers, the wines, the liquors are all from producers in W. Pa., as well as a lot of their kitchen ingredients.

The best way to explain my experience at The Indepedent is this: when you sit down at the bar, before getting around to orders, the bartenders introduce themselves and shake your hand. It’s such a small thing, but speaks volumes about the establishment’s philosophy. The Independent is a place of relationships, neighbors, friendships. Also excellent food and drink.

I don’t consider myself a picky beer drinker, but I certainly have specific tastes. I do not like dark beers (stouts, porters, etc.) and I do not like very hoppy beers (in particular, IPAs). I do like wheat beers, Belgian ales, red ales, some pilsners, and often do like fruit infused beers. It’s not that I turn my nose up at most beer lists, just that it is very quick and easy for me to pare down a voluminous list. Even though The Independent’s list is not huge (they’ve got about 12 taps, all rotating various new and fresh kegs), there were several beers to my liking.

Also, being fairly familiar with the local breweries means that The Independent’s beer list was, for me, easily navigable. When I’ve got a long list of beers from breweries all over the place, sometimes I wind up just picking by name. Western PA has a good number of local breweries, so The Independent has plenty of options when shopping for its kegs, but familiarity with the breweries also means that I can make a knowledgeable selection for my drink.

Time for a draai lag gerstelijke @independentpgh

A post shared by EC (@ecpgh) on

The Independent opens at 5pm. We arrived at 6 and the place was bumpin’. We got the last 2 seats together at the bar, actually. For the best seating options, come early or be patient. I kicked things off with the Draai Laag Gerstelijke, similar to a farmhouse ale, and it was a sweet, full bodied thing of beauty.  I had another beer also, but I can’t remember what it was. It was good, but not as lovely as the Gerstelijke.

We ordered plenty of food while we were there. We started off with the meat & cheese plate, which is accompanies by grilled bread instead of crackers or chips, making it hearty and satisfying. We also ordered the brussels sprouts with porter mustard and gorgonzola. Yeah, roasted sprouts are trendy, but they are so good so I can’t help myself. My pal and I both ordered the burger on special for the night– the “kafta burger” which is made of lamb and had lots of Middle Eastern inspired toppings. I was a vegetarian for over 10 years, and during that time, the only meat I missed was lamb and corn dogs. I love lamb, in all it’s greasy, shameful “I’m eating helpless Lamb Chop” goodness. And this burger, it hit the spot dead-on. I wasn’t the only one who thought that, they sold out of the burgers pretty early in the night.

When I got home, the first thing I told Mr. Beez was “YOU NEED TO GO TO THE INDEPENDENT WITH ME!” It’s like having our own little Big Pour whenever we want. Pittsburgh’s got lots of neat new little restaurants popping up, but there hasn’t been one that I’ve fallen for so unabashadly for a while. The food and the drink are spot on, and the bartenders were crazy friendly and attentive. Can we go back tomorrow?

 Independent Brewing Company on Urbanspoon


Food for the Eatin’ in Pgh Part 3: @thePubChipShop @PageDairyMart @IndustryPgh Pamela’s Diner and the Mung Bean Pancake Vendor

Food for the Eatin’ in Pgh Part 3: @thePubChipShop @PageDairyMart @IndustryPgh Pamela’s Diner and the Mung Bean Pancake Vendor

In part 3 of Food for the Eatin’ in Pittsburgh, I’m gettin ALL about COMFORT FOOD. Mostly because I ran 9 miles on the day I wrote this post, and then have you SEEN the weather today? Comfort food is ALL I CAN THINK ABOUT right now. So yes, when it’s winter, when you’re sad, or when you just need food that’s going to be one giant hug in your belleh, these are  the things you need:

(EDITED TO ADD…when I wrote this, I didn’t realize that I had already written about the Boxty Tots in my first post. This is what happens when you write after distance running. But oh well, they’re awesome. So they deserve a double-mention)

1. The Boxty Tots at the Pub Chip Shop. Boxty Tots are a fancy name for tater tots topped with amazing things. My personal favorite is the chili cheese. Will Reynolds Young swears by the bacon cheddar. What everyone agrees on is that they are a-may-zing. The picture looks disgusting because there isn’t a way to make this phenomenal dish look good. But dear lord, it is the best.

2. Basically anything at Page Dairy Mart. For the longest time I claimed to not like soft serve ice cream. That is because the “soft serve” I had came from McDonalds, and was barely a food product, much less soft serve. Then I had Page Dairy Mart’s soft serve, and the heavens opened and the angels sang and I learned what I had been missing. They offer a PHENOMENAL chocolate chip cookie sundae featuring Nancy’ B’s cookies (which deserve their very own mention),  but my usual go to is coffee soft serve with hot fudge and whipped cream. What a thing of beauty.

3. Candied Bacon at Industry. This was a favorite also added by Mr. Beez and my pal Christine. How do I even describe it? It’s bacon that’s all sugary and caramelized and candied and sweet. It’s a perfect salty and sweet balance. Even Mr. Beez, who hates salty-sweet combinations (what is wrong with that man?) loves it. How can you not?

Oh Good God Glorious Candied Bacon at Industry

4.  Pamela’s is incredibly well known for their crepe pancakes, especially the ones with strawberries and whipped cream. I like them OK, but not really crazy about them. What can I say, I’m not a pancake person. What I AM crazy about at Pamela’s is the Lyonnaise Potatoes. I have no idea what their secret is (I suspect that it’s like 2 lbs of butter per serving, or something like that), but they are the best breakfast potatoes I’ve had ever, and have absolutely no idea how to replicate them on my own, which means I HAVE to go to out to eat to get my potato fix.

5. Mung Bean pancake from the vendor in the strip whose name I don’t even know. But there is only one mung bean pancake vendor, so you can figure it out. I know the Strip is chock-full of delicious options, so the mung bean pancake vendor might not be on your radar, but GET IT ON YOUR RADAR. The only way I can think to describe a mung bean pancake is like a scallion pancake but EVEN BETTER. It’s a thick, savory pancake full of mung beans and just a little spicy. If there is one thing that I NEED when I visit the strip, it’s this salty fried thing of goodness.


Food for the Eatin’ in Pgh Part 2: @BurgatoryBar @umi_Pittsburgh @spoonpgh @fiorispizzaria @Ds6Pax

Food for the Eatin’ in Pgh Part 2: @BurgatoryBar @umi_Pittsburgh @spoonpgh @fiorispizzaria @Ds6Pax

Here we are at part 2 of my “Food for the Eatin'” series. Restaurant lists abound, and an experience can vary there due to service, the crowd, all kinds of different things. And of course, “best of” anything lists are a product of subjective taste, and therefore incredibly variable. But what the heck, my friends and I are continuing to share our favorite Pittsburgh dishes with you. And since I can’t find the time to sit and write out 10 favorites (dude, that takes well over an hour), hopefully I’ll get more of these done if I just do 5 at a time. Anyway, a the rubric for qualification is: you love it. Subjectivity all the way.

Here we go, round 2:

1. My favorite milkshake: Burgatory. When the burger fad was in full blossom a couple years back, I scientifically examined the various milkshake offerings, and readily concluded that they are the B-E-S-T at Burgatory. Burgatory does offer boozy milkshakes, but I don’t even bother with the booze. With all the sugar and fat and what have you, I don’t even feel the booze, so why bother. Also, a full milkshake is too much for me, so I usually split it with my kid (they give you the milkshake glass plus the mixing cup, so it’s plenty for two), and giving booze to a four year old is frowned upon. Also, when I opt for the shake that has espresso in it, I keep that all to myself, because dear lord no I am not caffeinating this already-insane child. Burgatory shakes are thick, with big chunks of the mix-ins, and topped with super-dense and indulgent whipped cream. They offer a special flavor each weekend, too, including the annually looked-forward to ScareHouse shake, for which they donate the proceeds to the Mario Lemieux Foundation. It’s hard to say what my “favorite” is there, because they’ve all been flat-out amazing, but the Burnt Almond Torte and the Coffee & Donuts shakes have a special place in my heart.

2. Mr. Beez eagerly added the Rock Shrimp Tempura at Umi to this list of favorites. Umi may well be the best restaurant in the city, the flavors, omg the flavors. Talk all you want about other sushi places, but Mr. Shu’s dishes are absolute perfection. Every time I think about Umi, hearts and starts fire off in my brain. You don’t even KNOW. I do love the rock shrimp tempura there, but my altogether favorite dish there is the miso blackened cod. It’s so delicate, so butter. It’s an absolutely beautiful dish.

We went to Umi for my birthday this past year. Umi’s about taste and quality, not about quantity, so even after laying down a fat chunk of change, you aren’t going to leave stuffed. But seriously. Worth it.

3.  The Bleu Cheese Souffle at Spoon is a pick from my foodie friend Christine.I personally haven’t eaten it, but when I emailed her to ask for her favorites, she responded like BOOM about the souffle. And she’s a picky, picky woman, so her recommendations are very reliable.

Spoon Bleu Cheese Souffle

4. The Steel Trip’s pick in the ever-contentious pizza wars is Fiori’s Pizza. Although Mineo’s has many an outspoken devotee, Fiori’s has a massive devoted following (I am a member of the small minority who picks an entirely separate pizza joint, not even within the City limits as my favorite, but we’ll get to that later). I have eaten at Fiori’s and agree they make a good pie.

5. My heartbeat quickens and my mouth waters even when I think about the Mac & Cheese dog from D’s Six Pax & Dogs. It’s a frickin’ good dog topped with frickin’ good mac & cheese at a frickin’ awesome neighborhood bar right outside Frick Park. Frickin’ amazing.