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Sunday Night Catch Up

There have been a number of things over the last month or two that I’ve told myself I need to get around to blogging about. I have the pictures and the intention, and then it comes down to I could either write the post or take a nap. Today I took a nap and OMG it felt good. Naps have been much higher on my priorities list. As they should be for everyone.  I hate that nagging feeling of having a backlog of posts. By the time I have enough time to sit down and write, the older ideas feel stale and I’m no longer into it. So this is my “catch up post” and I’m counting this as a clean slate moving forward.

(1) Now that the winter is really bitter and cold, I am again asking myself WHY do I live in Pittsburgh, and wishing I could go back to our holiday week in Tampa.  We only got to check out a small slice of it, but Tampa seems like a really cool town.  On our last night there we ate at this killer Latin American restaurant called El Puerto.

El Puerto


El Puerto

El Puerto

Mr. Beez had the dinner pictured in the middle, which was basically steaks on top of sausages on top of chicken on top of mountains and mountains and mountains of meat. Also, they had churros, which is nothing crazy or special when you’re in Florida, but churros are HARD to come by in Pittsburgh, so yasssssssss.

(2)  When we were in Florida, we went to Legoland. Everything was awesome.

Legoland

We were incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to enjoy a lot of amusement parks with Baby Beez this year. We went to Disneyworld (Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios), both Universal Florida theme parks, Sesame Place, Kennywood, and now Legoland.  now we are beginning what I will call “A few years of not going to any damn amusement parks” because I’ve had enough amusement. We may take her to Disney again in 5 or so years, but we need some time off for a while.

(3) Just FYI, outside of Legoland is this crazy delicious BBQ joint called Hog Heaven Smokehouse. It’s in a nondescript little strip mall, so you won’t notice it unless you’re looking for it. LOOK FOR IT. I admit, BBQ does not tend to be the most photogenic food, but you need to try this stuff, because it is delicious. Also, it’s a small family run place, and everyone working there was absolutely the sweetest. I felt more like a guest in someone’s home than a customer at a restaurant.

Hog Heaven

(4) We also visited the Dali museum when we were in Florida. It’s been a dream of mine since I was in high school to visit this museum, and it did not disappoint. It also had a special exhibition of Escher’s works going on. It was a complete dream for my high school self.

Dali Museum


(5) Ybor City was a totally cool neighborhood and we had so much fun checking out their local breweries, of which there are several. Our favorite brewery was Cigar City Cider & Mead. They had over a dozen offerings on tap of all kinds of meads and ciders, so many different flavors and all over the spectrum from dry to sweet. The bartenders were super friendly and were proud of the drinks they were serving, and chatted with us the whole time. Also they were playing Indiana Jones movies on a big screen the whole time. A+.

Cigar City

(6) When we got back to Pixburgh, we swung by the food truck roundup at The Brew Gentlemen because I saw that Blowfish BBQ was there, and thanks to the amazing food I had at Hog Heaven Smokehouse, I NEEDED BBQ and all I could think about was smoked chicken and delicious deliciousness. Delicious deliciousness was had, and if you have not yet had Blowfish BBQ, you are sorely missing out on the best BBQ in the city. And if you disagree with me, you are just wrong. Sorry.

Blowfish BBQ


(7) This week I visited Amazing Cafe with my friend Beth, and at risk of sounding ridiculous, it really was Amazing. I had the Tulum tacos, which included roasted tempeh, potatoes and vegetables. I also had a green juice that was legitimately delicious. I don’t really like juice, but from time to time I will tolerate it. I actively liked this juice, which is very unusual for me. Both Beth and I were thrilled with our lunches, the food was fresh, light and made us feel good from eating it. This is definitely worth a mid-day trip out of downtown.

Amazing Cafe Tulum Tacos

(8) This week was Restaurant Week and I made it out for 2 meals.  On Thursday, we went for family dinner to Braddock’s Brasserie at the Renaissance Hotel downtown. Baby Beez was really excited that we were eating at a restaurant in a HOTEL and I have no idea why, but whatever. The food was very good and the service was very friendly, so we had a really nice time.

Braddock's


Braddock's

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Braddock's

(9) The Steel Trap and I also went to Prairie for Restaurant Week dinner. Prairie is also on the gastropub/comfort food theme. The food was brilliantly executed and the ambiance was fun and laid back. I am puzzled, though, why the owners decided to change from Verde, which was a really good Mexican style restaurant in a town with few Mexican Restaurant, into a gastropub/comfort food kind of restaurant, of which there seem to be no shortage anymore. I went for the dishes that they are best known for– the chicken & biscuit and the ice cream cookie, and I was not disappointed. HGB of The Steel Trap also loved it, and you can click here for her review.

Prairie Pittsburgh


(10) Over this weekend, we took Baby Beez to Dave & Busters for a bit. We played this ridiculous pirates game that involved shooting monsters and such, but she and I had so much fun together with it, it was really incredible. I’m not really into video games, and she doesn’t have the skills or coordination to do well at them so she gets frustrated fast, but we were able to make some headway on this silly game and had such a fun time playing it together. It was one of those special little memories that is going to stay with me.

Dave & Busters


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And now it is January

With the new year, I’ve been spinning lots of plates. It’s always a challenge to figure out what is working and what is not.  There’s never enough time to do everything, but you can prioritize and make time for the important things. Figuring out which things are important things, however, is its own process.  I’d like to get back into a more regular pattern of blogging, but that is its own process.  For the time being, here are the things on my mind:

  • We spent Christmas to New Year’s Eve in Tampa. We had some good food down there, and I hope to put something together soon about the places we visited.
  • I love all things true crime, so Making a Murderer totally got me to renew my Netflix subscription.  I don’t necessarily think that documentary makers or journalists always have a particular agenda, but from what I have seen from reporting as compared to my experience handling particular cases (and how they are reported in the news), I find that reporting is often inaccurate (or maybe better described as imprecise) and incomplete.  All of this is a long prelude to say that although I think Making a Murderer is fascinating, it doesn’t inspire me to jump immediately onto the “Pardon Steven Avery” bandwagon.  I do, however, think that what they have presented should motivate the State of Wisconsin to order some kind of independent, external review of the proceedings.
  • I am equally fascinated by Serial and Undisclosed. Like with Making a Murderer, I’m not convinced by them that Adnan is innocent, but I think they raise enough questions that his conviction should be reviewed over again.
  • BTW, Braddock’s posted a picture of their Restaurant Week special online (bourbon braised osso bucco) and I think I really need to make this happen…


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NaBloPoMo Day 21: A New Approach to My Lists Each Year

NaBloPoMo Day 21: A New Approach to My Lists Each Year

I’ve been doing ___ before ___ lists for a while now. My first one was a 30 before 30 list. I have since done similar lists leading up to years 31, 32 and 33.  I enjoyed writing the lists and really crystallizing the fun thing I want to do, and making sure they did not slip through the cracks.  By year 32, the enthusiasm started draining and I had a mad dash right before my birthday to cross off as many things as possible.  As my birthday approached for me to turn 33, there were plenty of things left on the list, and I didn’t even care anymore.  I was working on a bigger & better 40 before 40 list, but I don’t really love it right now, and have not decided whether I want to overhaul it or scrap it.

Jump the Shark

The lists, for me, focused me on what I wanted to do as I was working toward them, but also provided a nice retrospective at year’s end.  Often I would grumble about wanting to do so many things but never having the time, but I could look at these lists and say, wow, I really did do a lot of fun, nice things.

I don’t want to abandon the lists altogether, but there’s no sense in making myself do the same thing over again, just for the sake of doing it.  I’m turning things around a bit this year. Instead of listing 34 things I need to do before 34, I’m assembling a list of things as I go, and am memorializing 34 fun things I’ve done in the year before I hit 34. I’m open to suggestions for fun things you think I should check out.

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NaBloPoMo Day 16: Birthday trip to @Nemacolin

NaBloPoMo Day 16: Birthday trip to @Nemacolin

So this is really yesterday’s post, but I was laying in bed last night and realized I forgot to post, and just was not going to get out of bed for the sake of blogging. So 2 posts tonight and I say we’re on track.  My birthday is tomorrow, and to celebrate my birthday we went on a family trip up to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.  I’ve never been there before and I always love spa treatments and excellent food.

We started our visit with brunch at Lautrec.  It’s a lovely buffet with all kinds of pastries, fish, pancakes & waffles, desserts and even prime rib.  Baby Beez’s behavior has generally been getting better as she has gotten older, but I wanted to make sure she was on her best behavior.  To encourage fancy manners, we wore fancy clothes. She loves fancy clothes so this was a thrill in and of itself.  She also likes getting to choose her own foods out of a buffet.  She was able to show her best manners for the meal and we had a very nice brunch.

Nemacolin

Mr. Beez and I went to the spa while Baby Beez spent the day at the Kidz Klub. She was literally the only kid there, but that didn’t bother her any. In typical only child fashion, she made up stories with her imaginary Harry Potter friends, went swimming, watched movies and played with toys. It did not bother her any that there were no other kids there. Although I venture to guess she was a little bit lonely, because by the time we left the resort, she was saying that she missed her friends.

Nemacolin

After having an amaaaaazing time at the spa, Mr. Beez and I spent a good part of the afternoon sitting around, drinking wine and reading the whole internet. It’s kind of a silly thing to do, but we don’t get to just sit and relax very often so it was very nice.


Autumn

We had dinner at Autumn, which included scallops with bacon jam. Yes, Please.  The meal was lovely.  We do get to go out to eat quite a lot, but it was nice to be able to just wander down and pick up our kid afterward, and then wander back to our room. Because we are total party animals, we were all in bed and asleep by 9:30. But that’s a perfect birthday treat for me. I like sleep.

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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.

FullSizeRender (5)

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.