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NaBloPoMo Day 5: Enchiladas with @AlexanderFIV at @AzulBar_Cantina

NaBloPoMo Day 5: Enchiladas with @AlexanderFIV at @AzulBar_Cantina

Mexican food is food worth driving for.  Pittsburgh’s options have developed considerably in the last 10 years, but there is still a paucity of Mexican cuisine here as compared to my So.Cal. hometown. I get by. But good Mexican food is worth the time and effort of a bit of a drive.  So is good company. I would have put the company first in this post, but said company failed to notify me of the massive plant between my teeth in the selfie we took. Hence: Alex gets booted to second place. Also, I crop our faces.

Foodie faces

Azul Bar Y Cantina is in Leetsdale. To get there, you drive up Route 65, and then keep driving and driving and driving. Ok it’s not that far. But it’s beyond the territory where I usually roam for lunch.  Mr. Beez and I visited Azul a few years back (and by a few, I think it was actually before Baby Beez was born, so you know, a few), and just loved it. I’ve been meaning to make my way back there, but it kept getting pushed to the bottom of the priority list, as things do.  But Alex works out in that direction now, so getting lunch together there worked out just perfectly.  If you don’t know Alex already, you should check out his blog: Everybody Loves You. His Mixtape Mondays and Week in Tweets are beyond compare. If you don’t like them, you aren’t human. Or funny.

chips and guac

We started things off with chips & guac & salsa. Everything is freshly made. The chips were hot and crispy and the guacamole was at just the right consistency where it still has a few satisfying chunks of avocado.

Enchiladas

For my entree, I had chicken tinga enchiladas in a verde sauce with black beans and rice. Alex copy-catted me, but that’s OK because he knows I have good taste in Mexican food. Also it’s ok because I usually don’t mind people copy-catting my order, UNLESS YOU ARE MY MOTHER, AND THEN MOM PLEASE FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO ORDER WHY DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO ORDER THE SAME THING AS ME?

Everything was delicious. My only regret is that it was lunch time, not happy hour, and therefore I did not get to enjoy Azul’s delicious margaritas.

I know the “happening” dining spots in Pittsburgh are concentrated in the city, but it’s great to venture out once in a while. On my way back in to town, I made quick stops in Sewickley and Ben Avon (more about those later), and couldn’t help but notice how gorgeous the autumn leaves are, and what lovely communities they are up north.

Thanks again for being my Mexican food lunch pal, Alex! We’ll have to do this again soon! And next time, I will floss before we take selfies!


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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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Fall Happenings with the Beez Family and @412FoodRescue @WGMarathon @PittPanthers @WigleWhiskey

Fall Happenings with the Beez Family and @412FoodRescue @WGMarathon @PittPanthers @WigleWhiskey

Ahhh fall! It is my favorite season of the year! Pittsburgh is absolutely gorgeous in Fall– well it was gorgeous this weekend. Now the skies are gray and threatening rain, so I’ll be cuddling up with a cup of coffee and hoping the crisp sunshine returns soon.

I’ve been reading about the great work that 412 Food Rescue has been doing to reduce food waste and hunger in one fell swoop, by connecting those with surplus food with those without enough, and by using a volunteer network to transport that food from one place to another. I also like the opportunities that 412 Food Rescue provides for those of us who have inconsistent schedules.  I want to contribute to my community, but my schedule does not often lend to commitments planned far in advance or at regular intervals.  412 Food Rescue posts their volunteer requests on their facebook page (and soon, through their new app) and anyone who is available can help out.

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Last week we were out and about, when 412 Food Rescue posted they needed someone to do a quick pickup in the South Side and drop-off in Uptown.  We were in the right area at the right time and had a few minutes to spare, so Baby Beez and I volunteered for the task.

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We picked up 7 cases of fresh orange slices from the Pittsburgh Public School’s central kitchen and delivered them to Jubilee Kitchen.  Baby Beez helped with the carrying, and as we delivered the oranges to Jubilee Kitchen, she wished the clients a cheerful “Enjoy your oranges!!”  This provided a great opportunity for us to talk about food insecurity and food waste in a way that was meaningful and clear to a 5 year old, and was especially meaningful just a few days after Yom Kippur, in a season when we should be thinking of improving the world.

412 Food Rescue

If you are hungry for an opportunity to contribute in a way where your dollars “hit the ground running” so to speak, 412 Food Rescue’s Taco Tuesday fundraiser is tonight. There will be tacos (AND WHO DOES NOT LIKE TACOS?) and an opportunity to learn about the organization, mix and mingle with the leaders and volunteers and an opportunity to preview their new app.

In other fall happenings, I am very much looking forward to a solo-road trip this weekend. I’m going to be heading up to Corning, New York for the Wineglass Half Marathon on Sunday in the Finger Lakes. I have loaded my phone full of audiobooks and I’m very excited to have a couple days to just relax. I suppose I am an introvert, because a little time by myself really does leave me feeling refreshed. You don’t have any idea how much I am looking forward to laying in bed, reading, maybe painting my nails, getting a spaghetti dinner by myself, and going to bed at like 7pm.

wineglass

Baby Beez was disappointed that I did not bring her home a medal from this weekend’s Pittsburgh Great Race (they do not give finishers medals, which makes complete sense for a 10k), but I told her about the gorgeous glass medal they give finishers at the Wineglass Half and she became very excited for this weekend’s race.

On October 10, I’ll be taking Baby Beez to her first Pitt Football homecoming game! This kid LOVES Pitt! There aren’t many words she knows how to read yet, but Pitt is definitely one of them. She has even announced that she plans to be a Pitt Cheerleader. While cheerleading is (to put it mildly) not really my thing, at least she has her sights set on Pitt. Can’t wait for the game! H2P!!!

Read her second word today! "P-I-T-T….mommy it's your school!!"

A post shared by EC (@ecpgh) on

And fall would not be complete without APPLES!  I could really go for apple crisp this morning, to tell you the truth. But apple whiskey would also do the trick! I’m excited for the Wigle Whiskey Apple Whiskey festival coming up later this month, on October 17 and 18.  The celebration is taking place at both their Strip District Distillery and the Wigle Barrelhouse in Spring Hill. It is family friendly, and will include bobbing for apples, live music and whiskey samples for the 21+ crowd. Yes, PLEASE!

Walkabout Promo


Thanks to everyone who has been reading! My posting has slowed a bit lately (that’s what happens when you go on a manic reading kick, and spend all your time taking words in, instead of writing them out!), and it’s great to have dedicated and enthusiastic readers! If you aren’t already doing so, please follow me on Instagram and Twitter, to carry on about ADVENTURES IN PITTSBURGH!

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The Best Things I’ve Eaten Lately with @OhioCityPasta @OutTheFireCafe @LeonasLLC @BlowfishBBQ @BeatrixChicago

The Best Things I’ve Eaten Lately with @OhioCityPasta @OutTheFireCafe @LeonasLLC @BlowfishBBQ @BeatrixChicago

I’ve had some good eats lately, both in Pittsburgh and while traveling. What is “good” or “best” is completely subjective, but these things have completely knocked my socks off.

Sweet Potato Blue Cheese pierogies from Ohio City Pasta in Pittsburgh Now that Baby Beez is back in ballet on Saturdays, an after-dance stop at the Pittsburgh Public Market is usually on the agenda. Ohio City Pasta has a stall there, vending pasta and pierogies to take home as well as hot cooked dishes. These sweet potato blue cheese pierogies are beyond. They are starchy, buttery and sweet, but that blue cheese gives them a little funk in an excellent way. I have an enthusiastic appetite, but 4 pierogies filled me up nicely.


Honey and Cinnamon Latte from Restaurant Beatrix in Chicago. This is the coffee drink of my dreams. The sweetness is so subtle, and the espresso so smooth. It was a few blocks away from our hotel, and I snuck back over several times to pick up more of these beautiful lattes. I just could not help myself.

Beatrix Cafe

Pasta with fresh vegetables and langoustine at Harvest Moon Cafe in Sonoma, California Setting aside our dinner at the French Laundry, this pasta dish at Harvest Moon Cafe was my absolute favorite meal of our trip to wine country. Saying that I am picky with pasta is not quite the right description, but I usually just do not care for pasta dishes. But every once in awhile, I am treated to a pasta dish that impresses me, and does it ever impress me.  This pasta was all things summer in one delicious meal. The vegetables, including corn, were sweet, crisp and crunchy and the pasta was deliciously hearty.  Although it is nice that Harvest Moon is a local/seasonal kitchen that focuses on the produce that is available and best, it is sad to know I could not just show up at the cafe again and expect this dish to be offered. I suppose it will have to live on in my memory.

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Grilled Oysters at Hog Island Oyster Co. in Napa.  After being entirely squicked out by oysters for many years, I gave them a try a couple years back, and quickly acquired that acquired taste.  More recently, I was introduced to grilled oysters and they changed my world. Grilled oysters have a denser texture, alleviating the texture issue for anyone who is afraid of slimy foods. They are also grilled with various sauces, which adds a kick of flavor. Especially if you like oysters (or even if you don’t), try them grilled. It will change your world.

Hog Island

Mushroom Bread Pudding from Out of the Fire Cafe in Donegal, PA. Even if you don’t have a visit to Seven Springs booked, it’s worth the drive to get dinner at Out of the Fire. I had dinner there with my friends during a girls weekend in the spring, and it was one of the most fun and delicious meals I have had in ages. The mushroom bread pudding is so unique and decadent, it is by far the star of the menu.  It is kind of like stuffing, but covered in a rich bechamel sauce. Unlike so many other mushroom dishes where the mushrooms are flavorless bits of sponge, these mushrooms have real flavor. Bonus–if you are like me and your heart breaks to see food thrown out even though you are stuffed, go ahead and bring the rest of this home in a doggie bag. It reheats very well and I bet would make great breakfast alongside some eggs.

Mushroom Bread Pudding from Out of the Fire

Brisket & Mac and Cheese from Blowfish BBQ. Pittsburgh has had quite a few new bbq options lately.  We discovered Blowfish by accident, and it absolutely blew us away. Blowfish is a mobile operation. You can find out their location from their twitter feed, or, if you are like me and can’t handle keeping track of one more thing in your life, just remember: they are at the Brew Gentlemen in Braddock every Friday NIght.  As I write more and more in this post, I’m running out of adjectives. And anyway, you know what BBQ brisket and mac and cheese taste like. So I’ll just say this: Best.

Blowfish BBQ

Leona’s Ice Cream Sandwiches.  I have to admit, my obsession with Leona’s is twofold: (1) they are delicious and I like to have them in my belly; (2) finding them in stock or with flavors I have not yet tried is always a crapshoot, so there is a thrill-of-the-chase element in working to get my next ice cream sandwich fix.  A number of their sandwiches feature cinnamon, ginger or speculoos, which is just about perfect in my book. They go perfectly with a hot cup of coffee, which is why Zeke’s coffee shop in East Liberty is one of my favorite places to stop for this treat.  I especially like that the fruit flavors in the ice cream are fairly mild. I had a ginger cookie and plum sandwich recently, and the plum was nice and subtle, not beat-you-over-the-head overwhelming plum, which was lovely. I did reach out and ask Leona’s if there’s any possibility for them to publish info about what flavors are stocked where. They replied “no can do,” so it looks like the hunt will continue.

Leona's

Breakfast burrito from Kelly-O’s in Pittsburgh As a Southern California girl, I take breakfast burritos very seriously. Very. Seriously. For the record, the breakfast burrito of my dreams is served at Primo Burgers in my hometown. Several places in Pittsburgh now serve breakfast burritos, but none have proven to be “the one.”  Every once in a while, I have a breakfast burrito CRISIS, and I need one immediately.  I had such a crisis last week, and Kelly-O’s breakfast burrito, while not a Primo Burger breakfast burrito, did hit the spot. I recommend ordering it with extra salsa. I snagged one through carry out around 10am that day, and was stuffed all the way through dinner.


And now, a completely gratuitous picture of the now-5-year-old Baby Beez, who is hoping for a win for the Bucs this afternoon. Let’s Go Bucs!

Let's Go Bucs

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4 Things for Wednesday.

Numbered lists are doing it for me right now, so I’m gonna go with it.

1. New hair.

new Hair

I’ve been free-agenting it with hairdressers lately. I was going to one for a while, but then she had my trainee do most of my color and blowout (which made me look like a poodle, and had to be redone), and then charged me her full price. No. The next one I went to was OK but not anything impressive. I went to another one today, and I really do like the color, cut and price, but it took FIVE hours. 10am-3pm. I don’t know what to think. It might have just been a bad day, so I will probably try her again, but if my next appointment takes nearly my entire workday, I am going to be on the prowl again. I feel like finding a hairdresser who has talent AND good chair-side manner is like finding a contractor who is actually skilled at the trade AND shows up when he says he will. Meaning, virtually impossible. And the last time we needed a good contractor, we just threw in the towel and bought a new house. It’s not like I can throw in the towel on hairstylists and buy a new head.

2. Goddess Dressing

Goddess Dressing

Why am I incapable of pouring any less than 1/2 a bottle of this stuff on my salad. That picture is of the bottle after 2 salads. I like it, but wow, way too much, and after eating a big ol salad now I am feeling a little sick.

3. Horns
Horns

Horns is the most recent book that I read and really, really enjoyed. It’s classified as “horror,” but like Joe Hill’s dad, Stephen King, Hill is the most skilled and the most scary exploring human cruelty.

4. Big Sour Patch Kids

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Yes. Bigger is Better.