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Sahside Date Night with @city_theater and Kassab’s

Sahside Date Night with @city_theater and Kassab’s

Mr. Beez and I take a neighborhood-centric approach to our date nights. By planning multiple destinations in one neighborhood, we cut down on travel time and parking hassles, and spend more time having fun than getting from place to place.

In January, we had a Sahside date night at Pittsburgh’s City Theater and Kassab’s Lebanese Cuisine. This is my third visit to the City Theater. While it is a small company, I am always blown away by the amazing quality of their performances. When my mom was in town a couple of years ago, we took her to a show, I don’t remember the name but it was about a pair of brothers, and she still brings up how amazing that show was. Two other big pluses about City Theater: (1) Their Greenroom events are an awesome deal, and while I have yet to actually make it there, I’ve heard they are rockin’. (2) Their annual gala is reliably one of the best events in the ‘burgh each year.

On to the show! South Side Stories is a one-woman show written and performed by Tami Dixon. It’s first run was last year and was highly acclaimed. I was extremely bummed that I didn’t get around to going, and was elated to hear that they were bringing it back for a second run. Dixon is a talented actor, and brilliantly weaves together a tapestry of the personalities, meek and overpowering, of the remnants of milltown Pittsburgh still living in the South Side.

South Side Stories preserves uniquely-Pittsburgh culture in a way that the thirty-somethings in Pittsburgh have only heard as memories from their grandparents, or if they are lucky, their parents. I say “they” rather than “we” because I’m a Pittsburgh transplant, and do not personally have the milltown history in my family, so I can only experience it as an outsider. Then I look at my daughter, and realize that although her dad’s family has steelworking in their history, those stories are going to be as abstract to her as they are to me. It’s a culture that is quickly fading.

Dixon’s play is, frankly, amazing and important to Pittsburgh culture. I hope City Theater brings it back for future runs.

City Theater South Side Stories

After the show, we shuffled our way through the snow and wind to a cozy dining spot a mere block away– Kassab’s Lebanese Cuisine.

Kassab's Lebanese Cuisine

I must admit that walking into Kassab’s, I had no expectations, because Middle Eastern food does not excite me. Mr. Beez loves it, but I am generally ambivalent. The only thing I usually have much interest in is pickled turnips.

Kassab’s, however, turned my ambivalence on its head. Let’s start with the hummus– it is so silky. We ordered the appetizer platter, which at around $15 and massive portions of their appetizer selections, it was intended to be shared by more than 2. But it was awesome. And yes. We ate it all. And there were lots of pickled turnips, ALL FOR ME, because Mr. Beez wouldn’t eat a pickled turnip if you paid him.

Kassab's Appetizer Plate

I ordered the grilled chicken flatbread sandwich. It, too, was amazing. It was warm and flavorful, and accomplished all the things such a sandwich is supposed to accomplish (which, I guess, is taste good and be filling. Which it was)

grilled chicken wrap at Kassab's

Mr. Beez had a shish kabob platter and was also extremely pleased. He did share a little bite of lamb with me, and it was so buttery and delicious.

Kassab's Shish Kabob Plate

The service at Kassab’s was casual but attentive. There was a large table nearby that was celebrating a birthday, and it struck me that Kassab’s really is a great place to get together with friends. I may not usually crave middle eastern food, but I now feel differently when it comes to Kassab’s. It is only 8:30 am right now, but all I can think about is that hummus and those turnips and all of that amazing food. Kassab’s has earned a well-deserved spot on this family’s short list of favorites.

Kassab's on Urbanspoon

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Hello, Sunday

Hello, Sunday

Today I took a nap, cleaned up the house, read a couple magazines and did laundry. It’s almost like I’m a normal person! Usually Sunday is full of running around and work and all the normal things that normal people do to get ready for the week get shoved to the side and forgotten. I did need to do a lot of work today, but I hit a wall, because there were things around the house that needed to be done, or I would completely lose my mind. So I took care of things around the house, and as a result I’m going to pay for it this week with having to be more focused, more efficient and working even longer days, but it is what it is.

My once-a-week crock pot cooking has been a success. We’ve been trying lots of new recipes, and not only is it super easy to throw a meal in the crock pot, but I also end up making enough food to feed us for at least two meals. This means healthier meals and less money on take out, with minimum time and energy investment.

Lemon Chicken Orzo

Two weeks ago I tried 365 Days of Slow Cooking’s Lemon Chicken Orzo soup recipe and it was just lovely. It is a warm and comforting winter meal, but not so heavy as a chunky soup. I ended up eating several bowls of it for one dinner, whoops! It’ll last a bit longer if you don’t strap on the feedbag like I did.

This week I made Skinnytaste’s Crock Pot Balsamic Pork Roast, and it is an instant favorite.  It is SO incredibly easy and SO incredibly delicious. We were so hungry that we ate the whole thing up before I even remembered to take a picture, but there are plenty of gorgeous pictures over at Skinnytaste’s site, so you should check them out.

Last night, Mr. Beez and I had a date night where we went to an early play, went out to dinner and then went to the movies. I let him pick the movie, since I pretty much pick everything all the time. He picked Gravity. I was not interested in it to begin with, but it was pretty good. It has tones of tension and the outer space imagery is all beautiful. We saw it in 3D and I expected to pretty much be horribly motion sick the whole time, but ended up being OK. I ended up liking it a lot, and it re-confirmed that I absolutely have no interest in traveling to outer space. Ever.

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The sushi that will ruin you to all other sushi: @umi_Pittsburgh

The sushi that will ruin you to all other sushi: @umi_Pittsburgh

My first visit to Umi was at some point after I graduated law school. It was not my first experience eating sushi, by a long shot. I generally like sushi, but would not consider myself a sushi snob. Then I visited Umi. It ruined me to all other sushi.

Soba Pittsburgh 1

Umi’s offerings are so fresh, so melt-in-your mouth delicious that after eating Mr. Shu’s wonderous creations, sushi from any run of the mill sushi joint will taste grainy and sad.

It is a very small establishment.  Reservations are a must. There is first-come seating at the sushi bar, but it is a small bar and only seats a couple of people. It is worth calling ahead to secure a table.  If you reserve through OpenTable, it does not give you the option to select regular chairs vs. the tatami tables.  When I learned we were seated at a tatami table (and there were no regular tables available to switch), I almost cancelled the reservation. However, there is a big open space underneath the tatami table, so you are not seated cross-legged, but rather seated just like you would in a regular chair, with your feet below in the open space. It’s hard to get into and out of, but while you are sitting there, it is just fine.

Soba Pittsburgh 2

Oh the salmon mushroom sashimi. So velvety and savory. There just isn’t any substitute for the quality and care Mr. Shu devotes to these dishes.

Umi’s prices, not surprisingly, run on the “very special event” end of the spectrum for us. This is why I was never able to go as a student, because I did not have disposable income to eat. Of course, we cannot now visit nearly as much as I would absolutely love, either.

Soba Pittsburgh 3

In this last visit, I ordered lots of sushi rolls. This really was a disservice to Umi’s brilliant menu, and the quality of the fish does get lost in all that rice. The next time I visit, I will absolutely order the Omekase (chef’s tasting). Our dining companion, Anthony, did order the Black Cod with Miso (which is part of the omekase). I failed to snap a pic, but it was so buttery and amazing. It just melts in your mouth.  I do like Big Burrito Restaurant Group, but Umi is a special shining star in the bunch.

Umi on Urbanspoon

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Brewin some brewskis with @CopperKettlePgh and @HoughsPgh

Brewin some brewskis with @CopperKettlePgh and @HoughsPgh

For Chankukah last year, I bought Mr. Beez a gift certificate to brew beer at Copper Kettle Brewing Company. It took nearly a year for us to actually schedule the appointment and make it in the door, because that’s how we do. We love the idea of brewing our own beer, but in no way have the time to invest in learning the science, buying all the equipment, and especially not for cleaning all that equipment. Copper Kettle was the perfect solution– you have the fun and ownership of picking out your beer recipe and putting things together, but without any real commitment.

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Step one in beer brewing is settling in at the bar at Hough’s Taproom (with which Copper Kettle shares space) and reviewing the recipes. They have a whole huge stack of options, running the gamut from the darkest stout to hearty lagers to crisp wheat beers. Being as this was a present for Mr. Beez, I for once was nice, and did not hijack the decision. He picked the Smithers Irish red ale, which I must say was an excellent choice.

Srs Bzness

Srs Bzness

After selecting your recipe, you get to “brewing.” I use quotation marks because in this setting, “brewing” really jeans that the Copper Kettle staff tells you about the science of brewing, and you measure out the ingredients and put them in the kettle. The tasks take minimal effort, but it is still fun. Plus there is a lot of waiting time which calls for more time sampling the selection at Houghs. No complainin here.

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The whole brewing experience is about 2 hours, most of which is hanging out, sipping beers, waiting and NACHOS. Houghs has great grub, so you shouldn’t miss out. Bottling takes place about 2 weeks after the brew session. If you have better calendar management skills than I, you can go in and bottle it yourself. Seeing as it took a year for us to get in the door in the first place, we opted to pay the bottling fee. Copper Kettle bottled the beer for us, and we just had to pick it up. I must say, the beer tasted comparable to Killian’s Irish Red, and was very delicious. Brewing at Copper Kettle is not a cost effective way to acquire your beers, but the extra cost is worth the fun experience. It’s an excellent setup if you are interested in homebrewing and want to learn a little more before committing all the cash for the equipment, or if you are like us, and have a fleeting interest in homebrewing and would like the fun of brewing your own beer, but there’s no chance you’ll make the time investment for really getting into that hobby.

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Date Night: Shadyside

Date Night: Shadyside

You may have noticed that my posts have been a touch sporadic lately.  We’ve been having internet issues at home, primarily that the new “high speed” internet provider we signed up with is providing us a service that is decidedly not high speed (i.e. so slow it is virtually unusable).  With any luck this will be resolved on Wednesday, when we start up with a different provider.  So this is a post of our outing a few weeks back, that I’ve been intending to post for ages, but due to internet problems can’t access my blog at home to properly post, and at work I’m actually working and don’t have time to write it. So here we go.

Mr. Beez and I are very fortunate that his parents live nearby, that they and Baby Beez love spending time together, and that Baby Beez is confident/flexible/secure enough to spend overnights with them.  She doesn’t spend overnights there often, but from time to time she does, and it’s nice to be able to go out for a grown up evening and not have to worry about getting home at a specific time to relieve the babysitter.

For our usual date nights, I slap together a list of all the new or cool things I’ve heard of around town, and often that results in us zig-zagging back and forth across the city.  We took a different approach this time around, and focused our evening on Shadyside.  Even though it’s the go-to neighborhood for young professionals in Pittsburgh, we actually don’t spend time there very often anymore. 

This particular evening was a beautiful spring evening.  The sky was clear, the air was mild, it was perfect to lounge around on a patio.  Naturally, we headed over to one of Shadyside’s best patios: the Harris Grill. To be honest, the Harris isn’t at the top of my list for Shadyside establishments, but they make a mean frozen cosmo, and it’s absolutely perfect for kicking off the warm weather.

HarrisCosmo

These cosmos go down easy and they are not for lightweights, so if you plan on spending more than a short visit at the Harris, you better have a designated driver in mind.  We also started the evening off with some snacks. I had wings and Mr. Beez had something that I can’t remember what it was.  The food was fine for our purposes, but doesn’t stand out in particular. This is a place you visit for the casual, irreverant atmosphere and those potent slurpees, not for fine dining.

Harris Grill on Urbanspoon

Our next stop on our evening out was Noodlehead on Highland Avenue.  Mr. Beez likes spicy food and we both love thai food & noodles.  I’d heard that Noodlehead is exceptionally spicy, so thought it would be ideal for our evening.  For wimps like me, there are a couple of non-spicy options on the menu. Since appetizers at the Harris apparently wasn’t enough, we got round 2 of starters in the form of pork buns from Noodlehead.  They were completely, insanely, remarkably delicious.  The bun was light and fluffy and the pork flavorful but not too spicy for my wimpy palate.

noodleheadbuns       Noodlehead is BYOB, with a corkage fee of a mere 50 cents per person.  Awesome.

noodleheadmenu

For our main meals, Mr. Beez had spicy street noodles and I had not-nearly-as-spicy see ew noodles.  See ew noodles are my regular order at thai restaurants, and these ones were fantastic.  Sometimes the noodles end up over-sauced and over-salty but that was not the case with these at all. 

noodleheadseeew

noodleheadspicy

Best of all, the dinner was super-super cheap. 

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Mr. Beez declared Noodlehead one of his absolute favorite restaurants in Pittsburgh, and I certainly cannot disagree.  The food was awesome, the service was quick and attentive, and it was crazy cheap. We love this place.

 Noodlehead on Urbanspoon

Our next stop was the Steel City Improv Theater on Ellsworth Avenue.  Going there feels like you’re going somewhere super secret.  It’s on the block of Ellsworth that is blocked off for construction, and the door is virtually unmarked.  We just followed the other pedestrians, and figured out where to go.  They have a steady schedule of multiple shows a night, and each show is about an hour and costs only $5.

steelcityimprov

We started the evening wiith The Lupones, a totally improvised musical, created with inspiration from the audience.  Hilarious. My hairdresser is actually in that Improv group, and it was a lot of fun seeing her very funny creative side. 

steelcityschedule

We stayed for the second show, The Death Show.  In that show, a volunteer hands up their handbag for the troupe to examine, and the show is essentially a eulogy in several acts, based on what they learn about the volunteer from their handbag.  I, being adventurous, egomaniacal and proud of the fantastic new handbag I was carrying, eagerly offered my purse for review.  The show was hilarious and fantastic.  I wasn’t embarrassed in the least (Like I said, I’m an egomaniac! I loved it!) and I even got a “The Death Show” t-shirt for my bravery!

We wrapped up our evening with a stroll across the Eastside Development footbridge to have dessert at Spoon.  I also had the refreshing citrus sorbet, and that buttery pretzel on top was the perfect complement.

spoonsorbet

Mr. Beez went for a banana cake dessert, which he gave glowing reviews. (I didn’t have a bite, I don’t much care for banana cake.)

spoonbananacake

This was one of our absolute best date nights yet.  The traveling was minimal, so we could spend more time having fun instead of driving from place to place.  I’m so glad we picked comedy as our central entertainment activity for the evening.  Any activity we would have planned owuld have been fun, but I think spending a few hours in hysterical laughter made it all the more special.