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6th Things for the 6th

6th Things for the 6th
  • In general I have sworn off Groupon because I buy a bunch of Groupons and never use them. Of course one day sitting around waiting to get called for court, I signed on to Groupon and went shopping. Because I’m a sucker. And fell down the rabbit hole of “Well, I’ve been meaning to go there anyway, so I might as well buy one.”  I got one for local, since I haven’t managed to make my way there yet. We took Baby Beez there on Saturday for a late lunch. It’s more bar than restaurant, so her presence was only mildly inappropriate. She also was refusing to act like a civilized human, so she fit right in with all the beer swigging March Madness fans. The food wasn’t impressive, and since there are a number of other restaurants in the South Side that I like better, I probably would not return for a meal. But I did get myself a Yinzerrita, and it was FANTASTIC. Mine was a strawberry yinzerita, which comes with pear cider (other flavors come with other corresponding beers and ciders). I would like a Yinzerrita waiting for me when I come home from work every day, plz, Jeeves.

Yinzerrita from Local Pgh

  • We went to Green Forest Churrascaria with my father in law for Easter lunch today. This was Baby Beez’ first meat-on-swords experience, and it was a revelation for her. She announce her favorite food is MEAT, because of course it is. I was a vegetarian for 10 years before I got pregnant with this kid. Then all I wanted was hot dogs and donuts. Of course those are Baby Beez favorite foods. Pregnancy cravings make a lot more sense to me now. Baby Beez is no stranger to dining out, and she announced Green Forest to be her FAVORITE RESTAURANT. She has found her happy place.

Green Forest

  • Also, because it is Easter, and she is spoiled, she got lots of chocolate even though we are Jewish and don’t celebrate Easter (we share it with Christian relatives). Baby Beez doesn’t care what you call it, as long as she gets chocolate. We usually don’t let her have chocolate because it makes her CRAY CRAY. Like serious cray cray. I thought “What the heck, it’s Easter” and let her eat a bunch of it. The result was her stripping off all her clothes and wearing only undies and my noise-cancelling headphones (not plugged into anything),  running in circles around the living room,  and at one point wrapping herself in a blanket and talking to herself under the dining room table. Now you see why she is not allowed to have chocolate. I guess I just need to eat the rest of the goodies in her Easter basket for her.

Easter Chocolate

  • We made a bunch of airline and hotel reservations for our travels over the summer and I am very excited about this. Also, I went through our calendar and plugged in “SWIM AT JCC FAMILY PARK” on a whole lot of days. In past summers, I fantasize about taking Baby Beez to swim in the kid pool while I lounge around and read magazines.Then I get all wrapped up in all the different things going on around the city and buy all these tickets to things, and then we don’t make it to the family park. So now I’m filling the calendar with “SWIMMING” and plan to stick to it.

  • Mr. Beez bought me 2 LUSH bath bombs for Hanukkah. I used one of them today, and turns out it was a bomb full of glitter. So the tub was full of glitter and I was covered in glitter, and Mr. Beez dropped a bunch of f-bombs about that bath bomb, and now I’m not allowed to have bath bombs anymore.

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  • I was very excited to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon, but now I start a trial in Erie the next day. This means no race for me. Which is probably for the best because I’ve got full-on stabbed-in-the-knee runner’s knee going on in my right knee. I could run a half in May, but it would be bad news bears. So now my next long race isn’t until Labor Day weekend. I went to the South Side trail to try and run today, but I couldn’t make it more than a couple steps before I was limping. I did a 4 mile walk instead. I need to lose some LBS, strengthen my quads and do a whole lot of stretching. At least I’ve got time on my side for this…but I better not use that time as a temptation to slack off.  I took this neat picture of the industrial bric-a-brac on the trail today.

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HAPPY MONDAY, YINZ. Go get it.

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Pleasantly surprised by @SteelCactusPgh

Pleasantly surprised by @SteelCactusPgh

By the time we get to Friday, my family is basically too exhausted to function. More often than not, we go out to dinner. And more often than night it is a place where Mr. Beez and I can have a beer, and Baby Beez can be a loud jerk without anyone noticing or caring. Not that we encourage jerk behavior. Sometimes it’s life. And we need food. And we are tired.

I’m running a half marathon next weekend. After an 11 mile group run last weekend, where I assumed there would be water stops, but there were no water stops, so I got no water, I decided it’s time for me to succumb to looking like a dork and plunk down the cash for a fuel belt. So last night I had to stop at the running store to get one. Oh right, and we needed to feed ourselves, and we have a 4 year old, and it was quickly approaching 8pm and we were all hungry and tired.

Steel Cactus to the rescue.

To be honest, I didn’t have expectations one way or another, and enchiladas sounded awesome. Because they ARE awesome. It was still fairly early for the Shadyside crowd, so we got a table right away. It was a generously-sized booth, which was a BIG plus when Baby Beez decided she was tired of destroying the table, and instead wanted to lay down on the seat and suck her thumb (DEAR GOD YES PLEASE BE QUIET CHILD.)

We started with chips and the basic salsa roja. It was nice and garlicky, and the chips were hot and salty. Not gourmet, but we were starving, and the three of us did some serious damage to them in about 5 minutes flat. Our food came out fast, which was also a big plus.

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Baby Beez got a cheese quesadilla and a side of rice, because she is boring, 4, and can metabolize carbs way better than us old folks. She refused to eat the rice at first because it wasn’t white and boring, but then Mr. Beez put on his “dad” hat and ordered her to eat a few bites, and she decided she liked the rice enough to eat the whole thing. The quesadilla was exactly as you would expect, which for our purposes was just what we needed at the time, because tired 4 year olds do not do well with new or adventurous things.

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I had the verde shredded chicken enchiladas. Usually shredded chicken doesn’t have much flavor, and you mostly taste the sauce or the cheese. Steel Cactus’ shredded chicken was a really nice surprise. Maybe it was rotisserie cooked? I don’t know, but it was very flavorful and had great texture. It was a very nice perk to the dish. The rice and beans were pretty standard for a Mexican restaurant. That shredded chicken, though, caught my attention and I’ll be sure to return for it.

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Mr. Beez had some kind of large spicy burrito that also had the shredded chicken. He said it was “good” and he agreed with my thoughts on the shredded chicken. I pressed him for more thoughts on his dish, but he was hungry and tired and mostly wanted me to leave him the eff alone so he could eat in peace. In terms of comparable restaurants, I’d say it’s more like El Campesino or Gran Agave than Mad Mex, although the decor does suggest it’s trying for the Mad Mex attitude.

Final verdict: Steel Cactus is pretty standard for what you’d expect for a casual Mexican food place, but sometimes that’s exactly what you need. The shredded chicken was high quality, the service was quick, and we made it through dinner with a tired 4 year old without the other diners hating us. Sounds good to me.
Steel Cactus Mexican Restaurant & Cantina on Urbanspoon

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Food for the Eatin’ in Pgh Part 4: @VooDooBrewery @TheCommonplace @PennBrewery @HarrisGrill Speakeasy

Food for the Eatin’ in Pgh Part 4: @VooDooBrewery @TheCommonplace @PennBrewery @HarrisGrill Speakeasy

So post no. 4 is all about beverages, or should I say, vices? Caffeine and alcohol all the way, it seems. I’m not much of a soda drinker and despite the juice craze, I just don’t like juice. I’m all about water, coffee and alcohol. So what can I say, the beverage post is all about those things. Because they’re great.

1. Coffee from Commonplace Coffee. Drip coffee, pour-over coffee, latte, whatever. Commonplace is the b-e-s-t. I don’t care whether it’s the Commonplace in Squirrel Hill or Commonplace Voluto in Garfield, this coffee is the caffeinated nectar of the gods. Yes, many think that one must drink it black to show proper appreciation for the bitter bean. I’ve tried that. Drinking black coffee is a great way to get me to throw up on the table. I just can’t do it. Ultra-hipster coffee shops have a rep for having an attitude, but Commonplace’s baristas have always been crazy friendly to me. One time, I sheepishly asked for cream, and the barista told me “Lady, you’re paying $4 for a cup of coffee. You can put whatever you want in it.” And that’s when they had me for life. (Note to the owners: before the renovation, there were very detailed descriptions of all the coffees posted in the Squirrel Hill shop…after the renovation, they’re gone. Hopefully you’ll bring them back, so I can select my coffee without having to interrogate the barista and hold up the line).


2. Voodoo Love Child beer from Voodoo Brewery.

I’ll admit it, sometimes you have something so divine, so blissful, so amazing that it ruins you to everything else, ever. Voodoo Love Child is that thing. It’s a Belgian Style trippel aged on cherries and passion fruit. Oh, and it’s 10.5% alcohol Oh, and the brewers play music to their beer 24 hours a day, because they want it to be happy. AND IT MAKES ME HAPPY. I mean, I can drink other beers sometimes still, but none of them even come even remotely close to Voodoo Love Child. Voodoo is opening a new brewery site in Homestead in just DAYS, and you don’t know how excited I am about this.

VooDoo Brewery

Voodoo Brewing Samples

3.  Fancy Cocktails at Speakeasy.  I don’t even have a fancy cocktail in particular. Craft cocktails are all the rage right now, and I can list off a whole bunch of places with very skilled bartenders that can whip up something potent and creative for you. Speakeasy, however, has Dawn. And she is caring and careful and friendly and awesome. Even Mr. Beez, who is quiet and antisocial, loves to sit at the bar and chat with Dawn about her creations. She really is amazing, and can make quite a drink.

4.  Mr. Beez’s pick is up for No. 4– best beer out of a milk jug: Penn Brewery. I admit, Penn Brewery has reliably decent beer, particularly their Oktoberfest. And Oktoberfest is what puts the big hearts and stars in Mr. Beez’ eyes. He loves Penn Brewery’s Oktoberfest. There’s plenty of drinking beer out of milk jugs, and oompah bands and pretzels. It gets too crowded for my taste, but he always loves going, and gets excited for the event as we head into the fall each year.

penn brewery


5. Best bad decision drink goes, hands down, to the frozen cosmos at Harris Grill and Shiloh Grill. It is nice to have one, but these are sweet and syrupy and hard to resist. They should be remained “Bad Decisions.” Let’s leave it at that. Also, go try one. And make sure to have a designated driver.


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Beers and Bites, Western PA style at @IndependentPgh

Beers and Bites, Western PA style at @IndependentPgh

I had dinner plans with a friend on Friday, and of course being such a restaurant enthusiast (I’m about done with “foodie”), she let me pick the location. I fretted and hemmed and hawwed over this, because there are SO MANY factors to consider in deciding on a place for dinner out! Did I want to revisit an old favorite? Or try something new? Did I want something light? Or experimental? Or belly-warming comfort food? Was I thirsty for beer? Or wine? Or cocktails?

My decision ultimately came down to: 1. Beer and 2. Comfort food. So many people have said great things about The Independent Brewing Company in Squirrel Hill since its not so long ago opening, and this seemed like a prime night to try it out. The Independent’s mission and focus is local products. The beers, the wines, the liquors are all from producers in W. Pa., as well as a lot of their kitchen ingredients.

The best way to explain my experience at The Indepedent is this: when you sit down at the bar, before getting around to orders, the bartenders introduce themselves and shake your hand. It’s such a small thing, but speaks volumes about the establishment’s philosophy. The Independent is a place of relationships, neighbors, friendships. Also excellent food and drink.

I don’t consider myself a picky beer drinker, but I certainly have specific tastes. I do not like dark beers (stouts, porters, etc.) and I do not like very hoppy beers (in particular, IPAs). I do like wheat beers, Belgian ales, red ales, some pilsners, and often do like fruit infused beers. It’s not that I turn my nose up at most beer lists, just that it is very quick and easy for me to pare down a voluminous list. Even though The Independent’s list is not huge (they’ve got about 12 taps, all rotating various new and fresh kegs), there were several beers to my liking.

Also, being fairly familiar with the local breweries means that The Independent’s beer list was, for me, easily navigable. When I’ve got a long list of beers from breweries all over the place, sometimes I wind up just picking by name. Western PA has a good number of local breweries, so The Independent has plenty of options when shopping for its kegs, but familiarity with the breweries also means that I can make a knowledgeable selection for my drink.

Time for a draai lag gerstelijke @independentpgh

A post shared by EC (@ecpgh) on

The Independent opens at 5pm. We arrived at 6 and the place was bumpin’. We got the last 2 seats together at the bar, actually. For the best seating options, come early or be patient. I kicked things off with the Draai Laag Gerstelijke, similar to a farmhouse ale, and it was a sweet, full bodied thing of beauty.  I had another beer also, but I can’t remember what it was. It was good, but not as lovely as the Gerstelijke.

We ordered plenty of food while we were there. We started off with the meat & cheese plate, which is accompanies by grilled bread instead of crackers or chips, making it hearty and satisfying. We also ordered the brussels sprouts with porter mustard and gorgonzola. Yeah, roasted sprouts are trendy, but they are so good so I can’t help myself. My pal and I both ordered the burger on special for the night– the “kafta burger” which is made of lamb and had lots of Middle Eastern inspired toppings. I was a vegetarian for over 10 years, and during that time, the only meat I missed was lamb and corn dogs. I love lamb, in all it’s greasy, shameful “I’m eating helpless Lamb Chop” goodness. And this burger, it hit the spot dead-on. I wasn’t the only one who thought that, they sold out of the burgers pretty early in the night.

When I got home, the first thing I told Mr. Beez was “YOU NEED TO GO TO THE INDEPENDENT WITH ME!” It’s like having our own little Big Pour whenever we want. Pittsburgh’s got lots of neat new little restaurants popping up, but there hasn’t been one that I’ve fallen for so unabashadly for a while. The food and the drink are spot on, and the bartenders were crazy friendly and attentive. Can we go back tomorrow?

 Independent Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

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Food for the Eatin’ in Pgh Part 3: @thePubChipShop @PageDairyMart @IndustryPgh Pamela’s Diner and the Mung Bean Pancake Vendor

Food for the Eatin’ in Pgh Part 3: @thePubChipShop @PageDairyMart @IndustryPgh Pamela’s Diner and the Mung Bean Pancake Vendor

In part 3 of Food for the Eatin’ in Pittsburgh, I’m gettin ALL about COMFORT FOOD. Mostly because I ran 9 miles on the day I wrote this post, and then have you SEEN the weather today? Comfort food is ALL I CAN THINK ABOUT right now. So yes, when it’s winter, when you’re sad, or when you just need food that’s going to be one giant hug in your belleh, these are  the things you need:


(EDITED TO ADD…when I wrote this, I didn’t realize that I had already written about the Boxty Tots in my first post. This is what happens when you write after distance running. But oh well, they’re awesome. So they deserve a double-mention)

1. The Boxty Tots at the Pub Chip Shop. Boxty Tots are a fancy name for tater tots topped with amazing things. My personal favorite is the chili cheese. Will Reynolds Young swears by the bacon cheddar. What everyone agrees on is that they are a-may-zing. The picture looks disgusting because there isn’t a way to make this phenomenal dish look good. But dear lord, it is the best.


2. Basically anything at Page Dairy Mart. For the longest time I claimed to not like soft serve ice cream. That is because the “soft serve” I had came from McDonalds, and was barely a food product, much less soft serve. Then I had Page Dairy Mart’s soft serve, and the heavens opened and the angels sang and I learned what I had been missing. They offer a PHENOMENAL chocolate chip cookie sundae featuring Nancy’ B’s cookies (which deserve their very own mention),  but my usual go to is coffee soft serve with hot fudge and whipped cream. What a thing of beauty.


3. Candied Bacon at Industry. This was a favorite also added by Mr. Beez and my pal Christine. How do I even describe it? It’s bacon that’s all sugary and caramelized and candied and sweet. It’s a perfect salty and sweet balance. Even Mr. Beez, who hates salty-sweet combinations (what is wrong with that man?) loves it. How can you not?

Oh Good God Glorious Candied Bacon at Industry

4.  Pamela’s is incredibly well known for their crepe pancakes, especially the ones with strawberries and whipped cream. I like them OK, but not really crazy about them. What can I say, I’m not a pancake person. What I AM crazy about at Pamela’s is the Lyonnaise Potatoes. I have no idea what their secret is (I suspect that it’s like 2 lbs of butter per serving, or something like that), but they are the best breakfast potatoes I’ve had ever, and have absolutely no idea how to replicate them on my own, which means I HAVE to go to out to eat to get my potato fix.

5. Mung Bean pancake from the vendor in the strip whose name I don’t even know. But there is only one mung bean pancake vendor, so you can figure it out. I know the Strip is chock-full of delicious options, so the mung bean pancake vendor might not be on your radar, but GET IT ON YOUR RADAR. The only way I can think to describe a mung bean pancake is like a scallion pancake but EVEN BETTER. It’s a thick, savory pancake full of mung beans and just a little spicy. If there is one thing that I NEED when I visit the strip, it’s this salty fried thing of goodness.