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The Week We’ve been Waiting For #VACATIONALLIEVERWANTED

The Week We’ve been Waiting For #VACATIONALLIEVERWANTED

It’s been quite a week. We closed on our new house on Friday, left for vacation first thing on Saturday morning, and when we get home from vacation on Sunday, we move right into the new house. Normally I don’t say anything about being on vacation until I’m already back, but all our stuff is packed in a POD, so there isn’t anything in either our new or our old house, anyway.

This year’s vacation has been a low-key visit with family. Because we had a 5:40 am flight out of the ‘burgh, we decided to stay overnight at the hotel at the airport. I took Baby Beez for a swim, and was very successful at tiring that kid ahhhhht (wonderful result: she was so tired that she slept through most of the morning’s flight).

Swimming

We flew in to San Francisco to spend a day checking out the city.

First things first: Breakfast. We braved the 30+ minute line to get a table at Dottie’s True Blue Café, and it was absolutely worth it. Hanging out on a Saturday morning on a sidewalk in SoMa with a 3 year old is full of interesting questions like “Why is that man sleeping on the sidewalk?” So yes, all around an experience.

San Francisco

Dotties

The ambience is irreverent and fun (not a typically kid-friendly place, but ours stayed out of the way and we didn’t even get dirty looks for bringing her there). The menu is full of all kinds of sweet and savory treats. Dottie’s is famous for their pancakes, but when it comes to breakfast, I opt for eggs. I got zucchini cakes with poached eggs and spicy marinara, and a side of lamb sausage. Amazing. The bloody mary could have done with a few more garnishes, but the drink itself was solid. Dottie’s is A+

Dotties 2

Despite being totally stuffed, we decided our next item on the itinerary should also be full of food. Off to the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building we went. The Ferry Building itself is full of gourmet food stalls, like Pittsburgh’s Strip District or Philly’s Reading Terminal market. On weekends they also add on an enormous farmers market. We only made it through about 1/3 of the farmers market stalls, and it pains me to say this, but the variety in California’s agriculture blows Pennsylvania out of the water. All the fruit! The fruit!

Ferry Building 1

Ferry Building 3

Ferry Building 4

After stuffing ourselves, it was time to burn off some calories at the playground.

Playground

And then, a quick rest at our super cool hotel, Hotel Tomo. The price was in line with most of the hotel chains we are familiar with, but the hotel itself had personality and good service.

Hotel Tomo

Hotel Tomo 2

After the brief respite, it was back to adventuring. First up: The Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate

golden gate family

And afterward, of course, we ventured to Chinatown for some dinner!

Chinatown

All of this running around on the first day was followed-up with a quiet day of driving up to Oregon, aka quality time with my audiobooks.

Road Trip

I spy Mt. Shasta.

Mt Shasta

Once we made it to Oregon, we’ve been spending the time hanging out with family. Baby Beez was very excited to go fishing with her Papa. We came back empty handed, but had a lovely time enjoying the gorgeous surroundings.

fish lake

Fish Lake 4

Fish lake 2

That's enough fishing for today.

That’s enough fishing for today.

Today was also busy, with a trip to the Spray Park, a visit to a farm, and hanging out with family. Tomorrow, finally, is a day of doing not much of anything at all. I’m excited to check out a class of Bikram Yoga of Ashland, and we’ll spend the rest of the day just hanging around the house.

Good night.

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Contemporary Cocktails and Dishes at @TenPennyPgh

Contemporary Cocktails and Dishes at @TenPennyPgh

Ten Penny describes itself as “A Comfortable Culinary Experience,” and I couldn’t think of a more fitting description. They have a gigantic bar area, comfortable cushy dining tables, and space a-plenty. We went to Ten Penny for dinner with friends, and I quickly listed this restaurant on my “favorites” for downtown happy hours.

TP No. 1 Cup at Ten Penny

Ten Penny’s cocktails and small plates are their strengths. The visit was long ago that I don’t recall the cocktail I ordered, only that it was great. We started the meal off with an order of the giant cheese-filled meatball and crispy brussels sprouts. Both were excellent, and are perfect, filling bar snacks alongside a few cocktails.

Meatball Appetizer at Ten Penny

Crispy Brussels Sprouts at Ten Penny

I selected braised beef cheek ragout for my entree. Pasta’s not usually my jam, but the noodles were lightly al dente and the sauce hearty. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

Beef Cheeks Ragout at Ten Penny

The scallops were another delight. I can’t say I’ve had bad scallops anywhere (I’m sure it’s a possibility), but scallops are fairly straightforward, and if made correctly, consistently good. These did not disappoint.

Seared Sea Scallops at Ten Penny

The veal osso bucco and the blackened ahi tuna were both solid choices as well. Ten Penny does a nice job with the entrees, and is a good choice for diners who like predictability. The offerings are fairly standard on contemporary American menus and are prepared nicely, although with little surprise. I err on the side of whimsy and surprise, so for me, Ten Penny is a more desirable happy hour destination than a dinner location.

Osso Bucco at Ten Penny

Seared Tuna Steak at Ten Penny

While the cocktails and small eats are Ten Penny’s true strength, the desserts are Ten Penny’s weakness. Several of the desserts involve hazelnuts, which are a no-go for me. My dining companion picked the chocolate pretzel torte, and did like it.

Chocolate Pretzel Torte at Ten Penny

However, the s’mores gave me a big sad. The marshmallows and graham crackers are both house-made, but both are very dense and hard. I tried roasting the marshmallows over the provided little fire, but they wouldn’t roast in any reasonable amount of time. The Hershey Bar served to add a level of nostalgia, but this dish would be better presented the other way around, with store-made graham crackers and marshmallows and house-made chocolate truffles.

Smores at Ten Penny

Like any new restaurant, Ten Penny has a few hiccups to work out, but it shows strength and a lot of promise. The space, cocktail menu and small plates selection are all excellent. The quality of the dishes is impressive. It’s at a great location for pre-event eating both for events in the Cultural District and at the Consol Center.

Ten Penny on Urbanspoon

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I kind of love this place @ProperPGH

I kind of love this place @ProperPGH

A dining spot that offers a mid-level option between fast food and super fancy food is always a welcome addition to dahntahn. Proper Brick Oven and Tap Room has been getting some buzz for it’s excellent list of craft beers on tap (30 to choose from!). Although craft beer isn’t an option for a workday lunch option, I’ve heard the food is good too. Proper was a great choice for a casual lunch with my friend, Kruti, with whom I was long-overdue for catching up.

We started things off with the house salad. I was very happy to see that it wasn’t the usual iceberg-and-tomatoes, but rather was soft bibb lettuce, with pears, walnuts, goat cheese and a tangy vinegarette. The salad was a fresh way to kick off the meal.

Proper House Salad

Although when it comes to pizza, I can probably chow down on a whole pie myself, on this particular visit I restrained myself to the appetite of a civilized person. We shared the “Forest Pizza,” topped with caramelized mushrooms, roasted shallots and a balsalmic glaze. It was so crazy good.

Proper Forest Pizza

Proper is high up on my “to go” list for upcoming hours. The beer options are excellent, and with the variety of pizza they have, there’s bound to be something on the menu everyone will want to snack on. During the winter months I probably would have complained that Proper is across Dahntahn from my office, but now that the weather is lovely again, that stroll sounds great to me!

With the upcoming Children’s International Festival in dahntahn this May, Proper also has the right kind of feel for a family meal. For the parents, there’s good food and good drink, but it’s relaxed enough to be appropriate to bring the kids along. Lately, we’ve been going out to dinner on Friday nights. By Friday night I’m just too tired to do the cooking. Proper’s going on our list of “go to” places for Friday night family meals. You can never go wrong when you finish the week with a brew and a slice.

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Tartine: A Darling Brunch Spot in the West End

Tartine: A Darling Brunch Spot in the West End

Today is Easter Sunday, and Easter is always a good day to talk brunch! I’m at my in-laws today, and we’re having home cooked food, but given how Easter, springtime and brunch go so nicely together, I thought it a good time to talk about a new darling brunch spot in the West End neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

When my friend Amy invited me to brunch, how could I resist? Brunch is the best. The. Best. And with more and more restaurants opening up on Sunday mornings, my “to brunch” list is ever-growing. I’m always up for French baked goods, so I was eager to propose Tartine as our brunching spot.
Tartine

There are some important things to remember about Tartine:

1. It is very small. Going earlier is better, as near the end of our brunch the place was totally packed, and there were plenty of people waiting to be seated. Being small, it’s a better option for parties of 6 or fewer. The space limitations make it hard to accommodate huge groups.

2. It is cash only. I, however, never carry cash on me. So I had to make a quick (and embarrass) run up the street to an ATM. Plan better than me, folks.

3. They do not serve liquor, meaning if you are having a hankering for a brunch time mimosa, they cannot deliver (I am not sure whether you can BYOB. If you can, this may not be an ideal option).

4. The food is excellent. Keep 1-3 in mind, and you will be in for a fantastic meal.

Tartine Quiche

Quiche, a quintessentially French dish, is permanently on the menu at Tartine. Baby Beez loves quiche, so this gives Tartine extra points in picking a place for family brunch. Tartine’s potatoes are very similar to the kinds my dad would make for us on Sunday mornings, so this meal was served for us with a side of nostalgia.

Tartine Eggs Florentine

I picked the Tartine Eggs Florentine, which is an eggs benedict with spinach, and tomatoes subbed in for the English Muffin. The tomatoes took away the usual heaviness of the dish, so I enjoyed the tasty dish without a post-meal food coma.

Tartine Raspberry Torte

We absolutely could not resist completing our meal with Tartine’s gorgeous desserts. The Raspberry Torte was simply gorgeous, sweet and light, and perfect.

Tartine is one of Pittsburgh’s best-kept secrets. Selfishly, I hope it stays a secret, because I don’t want to fight a crowd when I’m in the mood for a lovely brunch. But really, it’s a wonderful place and worth a visit.

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Creative fare at @YoRitaSouthSide

Creative fare at @YoRitaSouthSide

Yo Rita’s not a new place, it’s been around for about 4 years, but when it opened tacos were far and few between in Pittsburgh. Yo Rita is a far cry from the homestyle Mexican options I was used to finding all over the place in my So Cal hometown, but they did add a little something different to Pittsburgh’s dining landscape.

When Yo Rita first opened, I went there a couple times in the space of a couple months. Now it’s been over three years since my last visit, and Pittsburgh’s dining scene has changed considerably in that time span. Yo Rita continues to offer creative and tasty tacos in a casual but fun atmosphere.

Yo Rita!

Yo Rita’s logo hearkens back to classic tattoo art, but doesn’t get all Ed Hardy up in your face. The interior is a combination of black, grey and subtle silver. The service was unobtrusive, attentive to refill our chips and take our orders quickly, but not overdoing it with the checking in.

Yo Rita! Root veggie taco and chorizo taco

One of my favorite things about Yo Rita is that you can get cava by the glass. Cava is entirely underrepresented on the wine lists in this town. The last time I was at Yo Rita, I had the seitan tortilla soup, and it was hands down one of the best bowls of soup I’ve had ever. I was sad to see that it was not on the menu this time around, and I hope that they bring it back soon.

Yo Rita has a wide variety of meat and vegtarian options, and I like to select one of each. I had a root vegetable taco, with butternut squash, beets, egg and cheese. My meat selection was a chorizo taco, with cheese and avocado cream. Both of them were flavorful and satisfying.

I’ll honestly say that Yo Rita isn’t at the tip top of my “must visit” list, but it’s a decent place to go when you’re in the Sahside and need a bite to eat. Also, cava by the glass. That’s always a plus for me.

Yo Rita on Urbanspoon