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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

IMG_5736

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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Food for the eatin’ in Pgh, Part 1 @Kaya_Pittsburgh @4MeatnPotatoes @EatnPark @IndustryPgh @VerdePgh @notionPGH @thepubchipshop Apollo Cafe Noodlehead

Food for the eatin’ in Pgh, Part 1 @Kaya_Pittsburgh @4MeatnPotatoes @EatnPark @IndustryPgh @VerdePgh @notionPGH @thepubchipshop  Apollo Cafe  Noodlehead

I haven’t done a restaurant roundup in a while. My last one was a year ago, in fact (my post on Ten Pgh Kid Friendly Eateries was in February 2014). It is time to change that. So over the next several installments, my pals and I are going to share the foods we love around the ‘burgh. Some high brow, some low brow, some in-between unibrow. I didn’t use a rubric other than “tell me what you love to eat.” And boy did I collect a LIST. I’ll be publishing these in installments of 10, but there are a whole heck of a lot of them, and they are presented in no particular order (other than my whimsy).

1. Egg and cheese sandwich with potatoes form Apollo Cafe

Apollo is cash only and no-nonsense. The breakfast isn’t flashy, but it is perfect on those mornings when I’m like I NEED TO EAT A SUBSTANTIAL BREAKFAST AND I NEED IT TO BE PREPARED IN LESS THAN 4 MINUTES. Also, this breakfast costs like 5 bucks. It’s too bad they’re closed on the weekends, because this would make for a killer hangover cure.  (I just wanted to point out that I centered the below photo like 50x and it still won’t work. So whatever. Here it is.)

Apollo breakfast

2. Pulled pork quesadilla from Kaya. Mr. Beez loves this dish so much that we included it in the catering for our wedding. When I asked him for his thoughts for this series, he immediately brought up the pulled pork quesadilla, and then I had to twist his arm to get him to come up with anything else.

Pulled Pork Quesadilla at Kaya

3. Tempura avocado at Kaya. This isn’t a regular feature on the menu. I had it once ages ago, and my dining companion and I wolfed down the first one, and immediately ordered a second, it was so good. It’s exactly what it sounds– half an avocado tempura battered and fried, but it’s extra decadent with all the fat from the avocado.

4.  Steamed pork buns at Noodlehead. I had this on my list already and @ohhkatrina seconded this nomination. They are fab. The Noodlehead menu is extremely spicy so there isn’t a whole lot on there I eat (Mr. Beez, however, loves the place), but I would for sure go there just for the steamed pork buns.

noodlehead buns

5. Devils on Horseback at Meat & Potatoes. @The_Steel_Trap added this one to the list, as well as the Hudson Valley Duck Breast and Pot de Creme. I don’t think I have had those other two, but the Devils on Horseback are definitely delicious and memorable. They are chorizo-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, in some kind of a rich sauce.

Devils on Horseback

6. Eat & Park salad bar- as nominated by @GoBobbo The salad bar isn’t quite my thing, but Bobby loves it. You would not believe the enthusiasm this man has for the place. He’s a true believer. And I’ve got to say, E&P has its charms. We went there for dinner tonight, because I know my kid will reliably eat a waffle and bacon without me going out ofmy mind in the ever-losing battle of getting a 4 year old to eat. Also, E&P has chai milkshakes. And if you say you don’t like smiley cookies, you are lying.

Hello. I bring all the boys to the yard.

Hello. I bring all the boys to the yard.


I do not get why other milkshake places don’t regularly serve chai milkshakes, because they are rad. But E&P has them, and therefore forever has my heart.

Baby girl on her first birthday-- Eat & Park BACON!

Baby girl on her first birthday– forever enjoying her Eat & Park BACON!


7. Speaking of bacon, have you had the candied bacon at Industry? Heck yes. I did email my foodie friend, Christine, for her thoughts on this list, even though she avoids all things internet. She was right there with me on including the candied bacon on this list. It’s salty, sweet and perfectly fatty.

Oh Good God Glorious Candied Bacon at Industry

8. @OneSweetWriter named the white truffle risotto at @notionPGH as one of her hands-down favorites. I’m sad to say that I have not yet made my way over there, but she literally licked the plate clean in this linen napkin establishment. Her enthusiasm speaks for itself.
9. Being a Southern California native, I’m usually on the up & up on all the Mexican food options around town. Somehow the guacamole at @VerdePgh slipped by my radar. Both @TheFoodTasters and @WReynoldsYoung sang its praises. I’ve been there before and heartily enjoyed the Carne Asada, but it looks like I’ll have to make a trip back to check out that guac.

Carne Asada at Verde

10. Boxty Tots at @ThePubChipShop , and seconded by @WReynoldsYoung. The chili cheese boxty tots is the comfort food of my dreams. Will prefers the bacon cheddar option. Whatever you pick, it’s deep fried and smothered and heavenly. I would eat tots covered in chili and cheese every day if it wouldn’t give me a heart attack in short order, and the only thing better than making that lovely meal is having someone else make it for you. Hello, Pub Chip Shop. And their Welsh Cheddar sauce, omg. I can’t even.

That’s it for Part 1. Parts 2 through 507898796 to come shortly. I just wanted to point out that all the photos in this post were ones I personally took while eating at these places. Only to say daaaang that’s a lot of restaurantin’. And I’ve got plenty more snaps where those came from. Feel free to pass on your suggestions for the Pgh eats that make your belly happy! We can all do with some good recommendations!

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Unique eats at Grit & Grace and @PghRestaurantWk in full swing

Unique eats at Grit & Grace and @PghRestaurantWk in full swing

I went into Pittsburgh Restaurant Week planning to try a new restaurant every single day, but then the week got away from me. Thursday ended up being our only night out so far. It was a good one, and I’ll write about it soon. In the meantime, I’m sharing my lovely lunch out at Grit & Grace.

Grit is not for those with timid palates. Although they offer “dim sum” dishes, those words are in quotation marks because they all show decidedly nontraditional qualities. Grit loves contrast and the unexpected. it is essential to visit with an open mind. Such adventurous cuisine often comes with an adventurous check. This is where Grit wins me over– they offer moderately priced lunch service, which makes the dining experience even more accessible and appealing.

Grit & Grace Pork Belly

Lunch starts off with the option of picking dim sum small bites. Each day Grit offers 3 dim sum dishes, at $5 each. I picked the pork belly dish, which was fantastic. This was my favorite part of the meal. The pork belly, although generally fatty, was not drippy or chewy, but rather dense and flavorful.

Grit & Grace crispy tofu

My entree selection was the crispy tofu with baby bok choy, braised daikon, mushrooms, green onion, and “hot & sour mushroom essence.” There were large dollops of foam and some kind of cream thing, maybe that was the mushroom essence? It was decidedly different, but not in a bad way. It was filling but light, and did not give me that post-lunch food coma I’ve become so shamefully used to.

Grit & Grace roasted pork ramen

My dining companion opted for the roasted pork ramen, and reported that it was delicious. I must admit that I coveted that egg and seaweed. It looked crazy delicious. And although soup is usually a cold weather dish, Grit’s ramen does not at all seem out of place in warmer weather.

Grit is running a dim sum special for Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, so this is a prime opportunity to swing by. I did like Grit and expect to return, but because it is so unique (and I often dine out with not-as-adventurous companions) I expect I will not be able to visit frequently. But when it comes to impressing out of town guests or foodies, I’ll be calling for a reservation.

Grit & Grace on Urbanspoon

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@PghRestaurantWk recap with @McAndSchmicks @51_Wings @TexasDeBrazil & @HabitatPgh

@PghRestaurantWk recap with @McAndSchmicks @51_Wings @TexasDeBrazil & @HabitatPgh

I went to law school not math school, OKAY. So it should be no surprise that my 10 to 10 countdown ended up being slightly off, and I still have 2 posts in the countdown, but the BIG DAY is 3 days away. So that means you get a filler post about my doings with the Winter 2014 Pittsburgh Restaurant Week. The Restaurant Week blogger dinner is always my most favorite event of the celebration. This time it was a blogger brunch, and due to scheduling conflicts I could not attend. I have a big sad over that. But I did manage to make it out to a number of good places to eat!

First stop was McCormick & Schmicks with Orange Chair Blog Sandy. There are quite a lot of wonderful downtown dinner options during Restaurant Week, but the downtown lunch options are minimal. This is sad, because I would absolutely go to a Restaurant Week lunch every single day of Restaurant Week, if there were more places dahntahn to pick from. The Mc & S special was a $20.14 menu of soup or salad, an entree and dessert. Mc & S is reliably tasty, and no surprise, it delivered. Also, lunch is always lovely when there is creme brulee involved.

That same night the Beez Fam CROSSED THE GREAT MONONGAHELA and visited 51 Wings in Brentwood. It’s a casual place in a roadside shopping plaza, and is a newcomer to restaurant week. The wings were good and the bacon cheese fries shamefully indulgent. I’d say the food itself is standard take-out greasy fare, but 51 Wings really stood apart based on its service. The waitress was extremely friendly and attentive. The owner also works the fryer and came out during out dinner to chat briefly. We told them that we were there because of Restaurant Week (honestly, I wouldn’t have heard of them otherwise) and they were thrilled to have us there as guests. Genuinely thrilled. It was such a pleasant visit.

51 Wings and Things on Urbanspoon

The third stop for Restaurant Week was grown-up dinner with Mr. Beez’ parents at Texas de Brazil in Station Square. We have long been big fans of Green Forest Churrascaria in Penn Hills, and were eager to try out the new meat-on-swords in town. The service was friendly and the food fresh and delicious (the salad bar was remarkably fresh), but there are still some kinks to work out with the timing. When we were first seated, the meat servers came around and served us in an overwhelming torrential downpour of steak. That quickly petered out, and my husband was left whimpering “where’s the meat? where’s the meat?” I suspect they do not have the timing down yet for cooking the meat. During the “dry spell” the weren’t avoiding our table, but rather there weren’t servers out at all, and a whole lot of stuff was cooking on the fire. The timing of things needs to be worked out better, but even so, with the great deal they offered for Restaurant Week ($35 per person), we have no complaints.

Texas de Brazil on Urbanspoon

For my final Restaurant Week outing, I enjoyed the “Executive Express Lunch” at Habitat with some of my colleagues. The lunch consists of a soup, salad, 1/2 sandwich and dessert all served on one plate. The usual price is $18, but they offered it at a special rate of $14 for Restaurant Week.  I am ridiculously in love with all things related to the Fairmont, so it’s no surprise that I loved lunch too. For $14 you could easily get a lunch in Market Square that’s a lot bigger, but this was just the right size of lunch to be tasty, filling, and not totally destroy my efforts to not eat so darn much.

Three cheers to the Pittsburgh Restaurant Work team! As always they did a wonderful job of coordinating everything, and succeeded in their efforts to get people to explore new restaurants!