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NaBloPoMo Day 15: The Best Meal We Ate in Montreal

We ate very well in Montreal, but naming our “Best Meal” was no contest. After our 2nd visit to the spa that weekend (IT WAS VACATION WE DO WHAT WE WANT), we called up Bouillion Bilk to see if they could fit us in, and they were happy to oblige. To be honest, I did not do my homework in advance of our travels. Sometimes the time gets away from me. I was perusing the restaurant reviews on Yelp, and the one for Bouillion Bilk was glowing, so we decided to try it. I am so, so glad that we did.

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First, the food was perfect. Amazing.  It’s hard for me to describe the varied, unexpected and delightful flavor combinations, so you will have to make do with the pictures.  Sandy and I are both fairly comfortable with wine lists, but we were baffled by this restaurant’s. The server told us that because their menu is novel and ever changing, their wine list matches by being interesting and inventive. The only wine I recognized on the list was Rioja, so I had that. Sandy asked for the server to recommend wine based on her dishes, and he did an excellent job. This is a place where you can trust the servers to steer you in the right direction.

Urchin Amuse Bouche

Urchin Amuse Bouche


beets, smoked egg, horseradish, taliah, clementine, cranberries

beets, smoked egg, horseradish, taliah, clementine, cranberries


scallops, cauliflower, shiitake, pear, watercress, beurre noisette

scallops, cauliflower, shiitake, pear, watercress, beurre noisette


venison, rosti, cabbage, labneh, juniper, honeyberries, yellow foot chanterelles

venison, rosti, cabbage, labneh, juniper, honeyberries, yellow foot chanterelles


chocolate financier, jerusalem artichoke, clementine, hazelnuts, coffee

chocolate financier, jerusalem artichoke, clementine, hazelnuts, coffee


kouing amann, apple, caramel, vanilla, pink peppercorn

kouing amann, apple, caramel, vanilla, pink peppercorn


Second, the ambiance was dead on for our moods that night. The food was fancy but the mood was completely casual and unpretentious.  During most of our trip we were surrounded by all these twentysomethings and it just felt weird.  Boullion Bilk was full of people more in our age range, and the whole place had the feel of people just wanting to enjoy a relaxed night out with a delicious meal.

Third, the people-watching was beyond compare. The host was Alex’s Canadian long lost brother (the host was incredibly friendly, although Alex has the edge on humor). There were many couples with whom we played “guess their story,” which is always one of my favorite games. I think the restaurant is fancy enough that it is a hot spot for couples on early dates, still trying to impress each other. New couples always make for the best people watching. (I say this as my husband and I are sitting in a hotel lobby, drinking wine, and looking at the internets to make the most of our relaxation time now that we have sent our daughter to the Kidz Klub to hang out. #old).

The tastes of this meal are so vivid in my memory that it pains me that the restaurant is so far away. Hopefully I make it back to Montreal soon, and when I do, Bouillion Bilk will be right at the top of my “must visit” list.

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NaBloPoMo Day 14: A Trip up Rt 65 to @PenguinBookshop @AnchorAnvil

NaBloPoMo Day 14: A Trip up Rt 65 to @PenguinBookshop @AnchorAnvil

On the afternoon Alex and I chowed down on Mexican food in Leetsdale, I made the most of my drive by making a few extra stops on my way back to the City.  First, I crossed an item off my “33 before 33” list by stopping at Penguin Bookshop.

I have to admit that I’ve turned into the kind of person that bookstores probably hate. I get almost all of my books from the library and after moving a bunch of times in college and law school, I have no patience for shelves full of heavy things that I might have to move again someday. Even though when it comes to the destruction of the novel publishing industry as we know it I am the WORST, I do believe that independent booksellers are an incredible asset to the community, and I do try to support them.

Penguin Bookshop is cute, cozy and is excellent if you’re looking for recommendations. Their staff are avid readers and they have all kinds of recommendations posted for all kinds of different genres and interests.

Penguin

Since I have a terrible GoodReads addiction, I have a huge “to reads” list, and found that they have quite a lot of books on my list.  I picked out Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins, because I loved his We Live in Water. Since Baby Beez is 110% into fart jokes right now, a Captain Underpants book was perfect. I brought it home and she was immediately obsessed with it (that is, until she totally bumped it in favor of the Spiderman book in French. Nothing stands a chance against Spiderman in French).  I love Penguin Bookshop’s little reading nook– it’s perfect for storytime and their other events that they have for kids.

Penguin Bookshop

A few miles closer to downtown, I stopped in Ben Avon at Anchor & Anvil coffee shop. I’ve been following their twitter feed for a while, and they keep serving delicious stuff like Monkey Bread. Anchor and Anvil

The space is super big and would be perfect for book club or a crafters get together.  I tried their “Parking Chair” drink, which is like a melted espresso ice cream, super rich and sweet.  It is a lovely coffee shop, and it’s a shame that I’ve turned into a typical Pittsburgher who doesn’t cross rivers unless someone rips my arm off, because if it were a lot closer I would be there allllll the time. But since it’s kind of far for me, I’m going to have to be happy with visiting there whenever I head up Route 65.

Anchor and Anvil


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NaBloPoMo Day 2: My 30s. The Best.

I remember the pain and awkwardness of my 20s. My teens was painful and awkward, too, but it was pre-widespread internet usage, so I was not as aware in realtime of how awkward I actually was.  When I was in my 20s, I could see everyone else being so put-together and grown up. Yet there I was, in the wobbly-baby-giraffe phase of my adulthood. It was no fun at all. I did have the benefit of several friends already in their 30s who had their acts more-or-less together (at least more together than mine) who were helpful beacons in navigating that decade of transition. Even though I claim to celebrate my 29th birthday again every year, I’m comfortably in the decade of “I certainly don’t have-it-all, but I’m satisfied with what I have.”

Inspiration for this post came to me in the shower this morning. The shower is my best thinking spot, especially when I make Mr. Beez take Baby Beez to school, leaving me to take a shower without a small person tapping on the glass door and demanding attention. 10 minutes of quiet do wonders for the brain.

Absolutely Fabulous

In my few minutes of thoughtful solitude, I thought about all the ways that my 30s have been better than my 20s:

  1. I am no longer terrified of going into the movies or a restaurant or a bar by myself. Sometimes I even go alone on purpose. And LIKE it.
  2. I can comfortably navigate a bar menu and wine list.
  3. I am OK with my tastes changing from time to time. I can acknowledge that things I used to hate have become things I now love (see: mint, Indian food, massages, popcorn balls, Bloody Mary’s), without fretting that a change in taste has destroyed my identity. Who knows, maybe someday I will even develop a taste for dark beers or sweet white wines.
  4. I’m less hung up on what other people think. I can’t claim I don’t care what other people think, I still do, but I do not allow my life to be driven by the judgment of others. Because sometimes the comfort of wearing yoga pants completely outweighs the side-eye tossed in your direction.
  5. I’ve become much better at finding the “bright side” of things, even tiny mundane things.  For example, recently I was stuck waiting in Family Court from 9am-4pm. In my 20s I’d be buzzing around furious. Now, I realize I have no control over when my case will be called, so might as well sit back, read a book on my phone, and relax. Maybe this has more to do with being better at realizing what I can control and what I cannot, but in any event, it makes life a lot easier.
  6. I have a better sense of my strengths. I am better at focusing my efforts (whether at work, volunteering, etc.) in ways that channel my strengths, and bringing in help to fill in the gaps where I am less strong.
  7. I have a better sense of my weaknesses. And I can tell which weaknesses are worthwhile to develop and overcome, and which ones I should accept and move on (I will never be a dancer or a concert pianist. And that is fine with me.)
  8. My friendships are closer and stronger than ever before. Your 20s is all about networking and casting your net as wide as possible. In your 30s, those friendships really develop into people you can count on, and who can count on you.
  9. I can finally do a reasonably good job at blowdrying my hair, applying my own nail polish and putting on liquid eyeliner. Those skills take PRACTICE. Relatedly, I can walk in heels without looking like a drunk flamingo.
  10. I can go to bed at 9pm and feel awesome about it. No more of this hitting the bar at 10pm business. That’s what happy hour is for. I like my sleep.
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33 Before 33: A Very Yinzer Mom’s Day with @NolaOnTheSquare and @RowhouseCinema

33 Before 33: A Very Yinzer Mom’s Day with @NolaOnTheSquare and @RowhouseCinema

Checking out a flick at Rowhouse was on my list for this year, and it took me nearly SIX MONTHS to get my backside over there. Whaaaat? Lemme just summarize: mix-and-match beer shop meets quirky indie theater. If you read that and thought that THIS is my mothership, you’re right. I just can’t wait until the inevitable day this oh-so-hipster Lawrenceville theater sets up a lineup of Fire Walk With Me- Neverending Story- Pink Flamingos- Return to Oz (I say inevitable because this is Lawrenceville and THIS NEEDS TO HAPPEN). Because then I will camp out ALL DAY AND NEVER LEAVE.

So back to Ya Momz day in chronological form. We started off the day with a very lovely brunch at Nola On the Square. I’ve been a big fan of Nola’s since my first visit. The food is hearty and good, but more importantly, I’ve always had very super extra mega good service there. Especially when it comes to big groups or other requests that other establishments get frustrated with. Nola, instead, takes such requests in stride and goes above-and-beyond expectations.

Also, my kid has been watching The Princess and the Frog nonstop lately. Some kids would watch the film and talk about frogs or princes or fancy dresses. My kid, however, watched the movie and was like “MOM I WANT TO EAT SOME BEIGNETS.” This is because she is my kid, and this is how we do. As Nola is one of 3 options in the city for these fried goodies (the other two, if you’re wondering, are Salt of the Earth and E2) it seemed like a good option for Ya Momz day.

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I pride myself on a well-balanced diet, so naturally I started off with some vegetables.

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The beignets were a BIG HIT with little miss. NOLA has them on their regular dessert menu, but you can also select them as a starter on the brunch menu. That starter size was just the perfect amount for her. Actually, she only ate 1 and then Mr. Beez and I stole the other. But it was just enough deep fried sweetness to kick off the meal without being too heavy. The beignets come with a coffee dipping sauce and I whisked THAT away right quick. The last thing I need is for this maniac kid to be hopped up on caffeine.

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For my entree, I had the breakfast flatbread topped with scrambled eggs, potatoes, cheese and andouille sausage. WHERE HAS THIS BEEN ALL MY LIFE? More importantly, where was this every single Saturday morning of my college career?

After NOLA, Baby Beez and I went for a mommy-and-me movie date to see Labyrinth at Row House Cinema. Seriously, every time they release the features for the week, I’m  dying to ditch work for a day and camp out with beers and popcorn.

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Lemme just say, that admission for the 2 of us, a juicebox for her, a quality craft beer for me and a medium popcorn to share came out to a total of $24. Plus this is a locally owned small business. Also, Muppets. It does NOT get any better than that.

Sometimes Baby Beez can be an obnoxious terror. That’s because she is 4, and that’s what 4 year olds are like. But I’ve been so incredibly lucky that for our long weekend together this weekend, she was incredibly well behaved, and we had such fun.

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33 Before 33: St John’s Church Pyrohy

I pass by the gorgeous St John the Baptist’s Ukranian Church in the Sahside on my commute every day. And every day I drive by the sign that advertises PYROHY on THURSDAYS! And every day I drive by I tell myself THIS THURSDAY! THIS THURSDAY I WILL GET THE PYROHY! But then this or that or whatever happens, and I don’t get them. And I am sad.

st-john-the-baptist-ukrainian-catholic-church-john

But this week, IT WAS THE WEEK!

Part of me was a little nervous because it was a new place. And I had to call in advance. And talking on the phone and going to new places both make me nervous. (Can’t we just order everything online?) But I called, and the woman on the Pyrohy Hotline was very friendly. I placed my order for 2 dozen potato pyrohy and 1 dozen cottage cheese pyrohy. We may be a family of 3, but we love our carbs.

St John's Pyrohy

I was all sheepish, being a newbie and not knowing the protocol, but there’s plenty of parking and everything was well marked. I went on down the steps to the pyrohy pickup area, and they knew right away I was a first timer. The church ladies told me how happy they were that I was checking out their wares, and encouraged me to come back every month, and to buy lots of pyrohy to freeze to get us through the summer (they don’t sell in the summer….i assume there is a lack of air conditioning. It’s an old Pittsburgh building after all).

Pyrohy

I proudly brought my gluten-y goodies home for our dinner and was extremely happy to learn that all I had to do to get them ready for our plates was microwave (with a little water) and top them with a blob of butter. Haute cuisine they were not, but they were definitely stick-to-your-ribs comfort fare. As I ate them, I puzzled over why I had ever eaten those store-bought frozen abominations. These are the real thing.

I think I do need to stock up for summer, after all.