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Green things for lunch at @TosstPgh

Green things for lunch at @TosstPgh

During most lunch hours, I can be found hovering over my keyboard, trying not to coat my desk with sandwich crumbs. Pathetic, yes. But in the billable hour world, time spent lunching is time spent not working, which means more time spent later in the office. So I don’t go out to lunch too often.

For quite a while, Dahntahn was a desert when it came to healthier options. There was McD’s and about 974 Au bon Pains, but not a whole lot that was (naturally) green. With the revitalization of Market Square has also come a broadening of options available, both decadent and healthy.

I made lunch plans with my friend Krista. We are both moms livin’ the big firm life (i.e. ain’t got no time for lunch…or vegetables), and the newly-opened Toss’t seemed like a reasonable option for both of us. It promised to be a quick eat, as well as get some vitamins and roughage in our diets.

Toss't Pittsburgh

The staff was friendly efficient with assembling our salads. I recall that there were probably 10 different options to choose from, all with different toppings and dressings. Pretty much all the salads feature kale (why is kale trendy right now? I still don’t know). My one recommendation is that the kale be shredded into much smaller pieces. As it was, the kale was served as giant leaves, which takes a LOT of chewing and isn’t the easiest to digest.

Lots of Veggies with Tosst

I like having a new healthy salad option dahntahn. There are plenty of indulgent, not-healthy-but-oh-so-tasty salad options already (I’m lookin at you Zorba’s and Easy Street), but this salad really does deliver vegetables. Unlike many of my lunches out, I didn’t leave with guilt over nutritional misfeasance. Was it overpriced? A bit, I guess. But there’s premium to be paid for such convenience.

I would be happy to go here again, but I note that there is minimal seating. Toss’t is a good option when the weather isn’t so miserable and frigid, so that you can pick up your salad and grab a seat at the sideshow in Market Square.

Toss't on Urbanspoon

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VACATION, all I ever wanted

VACATION, all I ever wanted

This winter is killing me. Even with my SUPER BRIGHT light box blasting in my face for an hour every morning, I’m still suffering the winter blahs. 2013 was a banner travel year for me, but after August, the only other traveling I did was a quick trip to California in October for my Grandpa’s funeral. It’s been going on 6 months since I’ve had a proper vacation. No wonder I’ve got cabin fever.

This year isn’t going to be a big year for vacation for us. We’re traveling to Oregon in July to visit my dad, but that’s all we’ve got planned. There are some whisperings about a girls weekend to Bedford Springs in the fall, but that’s still so far away.

I NEED A VACATION.

vacation

It wouldn’t even have to be tropical. Honestly, my dream vacation right now would go like this: Me, going to a hotel. By myself. I love my family and love spending time with them, but for me, feeling relaxed means being left alone.

I would watch Say Yes to the Dress All. Day. Long. And ordering ridiculous things over room service. Like pizza, a hot fudge sundae, and a bottle of champagne. And then I’d go to the spa and have a seaweed wrap and a mani-pedi with a paraffin dip. And then go back to my room and read books all afternoon. And if I’m lucky and this hotel was in a tropical place, I’d go sit outside in the sunshine for a few hours and sun myself and drink frosty drinks. And then I’d go to bed. At like 7pm. And it would be amazing.

What vacation are you daydreaming of right now?


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Lunch with @KateStoltzfus of @Yinzpiration

2013 was the year of Kate Stoltzfus. Even if you don’t know her personally, if you were in Pittsburgh, you probably heard her name. Kate is a woman who knows everyone. Literally. And her blog, Yinzpiration, has been charming our fine City since 2010. Kate was a 40 Under 40 awardee last year, together with her co-Pilots she has been soaring the entrepreneurial skies with Propelle, she’s brought the Creative Mornings breakfast lecture series to the ‘burgh, and even offers her own “Connectornoon” services. This woman’s on fire!

katestoltzfuseverydayheroes

Kate was a perfect target for my first “real” Lurk No More interview. I’ve been reading Yinzpiration for ages, and I’ve exchanged friendly “hellos” with Kate at events here and there, but I can’t really say we know each other. We had just enough familiarity to get the conversation rolling, but plenty of uncharted territory to discover.

We met at the mutually-treasured Park Bruges for lunch on an icy January afternoon. Who can resist a plate of moules in wine sauce on a cold day? Although I had the best intentions to write out all kinds of questions in advance, and even send them to her before our get together so she could ponder, these plans all came apart under increased demands of work. I didn’t let my lack of preparation get me down, and sidled up to the table all ready for our friendly chat.

Kate, like me, is a transplant to Pittsburgh. She moved here right after college to take part in the PULSE program, grew to love Pittsburgh, and made it her forever home. The endeavor that likely brings her the most recognition is Yinzpiration. She recalls a PodCamp speaker explaining that it is good career insurance to grab coffee with someone from your network once a week, to keep the connections vibrant. At this point, Kate already had the Yinzpiration domain name registered, she just didn’t have a plan for it yet. And then it all came together: Yinzpiration would be her coffee break. She set out to get coffee with 100 Pittsburghers, with the simple goal of meeting people and showing the world that there are interesting people in their 20s and 30s doing cool things in Pittsburgh.

As Kate delicately enjoys her salad (while I slop through the moules like a St. Bernard at a water dish), it strikes me how different Kate is from the impression I had developed of her. Both are positive—but based simply how well known and well-spoken Kate is, I had assumed she would have one of those loud but friendly personalities that would be thrilled to hug you but may bowl-over the timid. To the contrary, Kate is cheerful and humble. I can’t get over how genuine and gracious she is. “Networking” to Kate Stoltzfus isn’t of the cocktail party and close the deal variety. Rather, she gets to the heart of it—making friends.

Before starting Yinzpiration, Kate did not realize that she had a penchant for, or even an interest in, networking. Once she got a couple of really good conversations under her belt, she realized that there were so many forms of “networking,” and by making these connections with people in her community, life became richer. Yinzpiration was also the entre to her other professional endeavors. Through her interviews, she met her co-pilots Emily Levenson and Carrie Nardini (who recently stepped down from the project). Propelle has been an immeasurable boon to local women in business, fostering both the connections and the skills to get small businesses off the ground.

Given all that Kate has accomplished in just a few years, we talked about the how and why of goal-setting. Like me, Kate seems to have mastered year-by-year goal setting, but does not project further than that. There is a certain flexibility to her goals, and she routinely checks in with them, making sure to listen to her heart, and striving toward “what’s feeling really good,” but abandoning goals that no longer serve her. I asked her how, once she has those goals set, does she get the motivation together to put in the elbow grease to reach them? To Kate, the answer was simple: Her goals are self-motivating, she is inspired by the results. When she works hard to put together an event for Propelle and sees new connections blossom and women take business-leaps that render results, her efforts have paid off. Watching that payoff keeps her inspired to keep at it.

We transitioned into what is easily my favorite conversation topic—fun things around Pittsburgh. Selfishly harvesting ideas for my own free time, I asked Kate “What would you do with a day in Pittsburgh, free of responsibilities?” Her eyes brightened, and she immediately responded “A massage!” Little did I know that Kate is a licensed massage therapist, and she too loves to indulge in a relaxing massage now and then. Following her massage, Kate would spend her day out on the water. In Pittsburgh, there is plenty of water to be had. She would love nothing more than to sail the rivers with good friends, soaking up the sun’s gentle rays.

Our conversation wound down by me picking her brain a bit on her Connectornoon networking services and her well-known networking mojo. We agree that there is a disconnect about how people perceive “networking” and what “networking” really can be. To “network,” one need not suck down wine to suffer painful small talk. Rather “networking” is as simple as meeting people, sharing interests and being friendly. Kate’s advice, which is particularly apt for the shy: Start one person at a time. Find out what they are interested in. Share what you are interested in. Ask if they can recommend 2 or 3 other people who also share your interests. So much is built out of recommendations in this town. Also, become a regular somewhere. It doesn’t matter where—a library, a coffeeshop, a bar, a church or Temple. Even if you aren’t comfortable diving right in to a conversation with a stranger, you will eventually become known to people, and someday break the ice, just by being around them frequently.

As we wrapped up our lunch together, I admitted that I sheepishly felt a little like my “Lurk no More” plans were copy-catting her. In typical Kate fashion, she smiled broadly and replied, “I didn’t invent interviews.” Her response was heartfelt, and so was her enthusiasm. She was thrilled to see her work inspire someone else to take on something new.

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Fancy people birthday brunch with @ElevenPittsburg

Fancy people birthday brunch with @ElevenPittsburg

My birthday was way back in November, can you believe how far away that was! Back in a month where the ground was not covered in snow! I can hardly remember what it’s like to walk out of the door wearing heels (not snowboots). Back in that wonderful time, I celebrated my 29th birthday (again) with some lovely friends at Eleven’s lovely brunch. I admit I’ve been to Eleven before for dinner, and wasn’t the biggest fan. The quality of the food was quite good, but it was expensive and didn’t feel as “special” as I expected (Caveat: That was a couple years ago, so maybe a revisit to dinner would be appropriate). The brunch, however, is great. It’s simultaneously fancy and laid-back. You could arrive to brunch in a ballgown or a pair of sweatpants, and it would all be OK.

Eleven Pittsburgh

The price fixe brunch includes a cocktail, starter and entree. I wish I could tell you exactly what my cocktail was, but it was over 3 months ago. All I remember is that it was grapefruit and I loved it.

Eleven Pittsburgh 2

Starter charcuterie plate. LOVE it.

Eleven Pittsburgh 3

I opted for the oysters starter. I think having oysters as a starter option really sets Eleven apart. Where else are you going to get oysters as part of a price fixe brunch? And you know that these oysters are fresh and high quality. They were. So tasty.

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This picture is kind of hard to see, but it was my steak entree. I was like IT IS MY BIRTHDAY, I AM EATING STEAK. I don’t often eat steak, but birthdays call for something decadent. And decadent it was.

Eleven is a perfect brunch spot to impress your guests. The menu selections are familiar, but have a creative twist. In particular, if you’re an out of town visitor staying in dahntahn, Eleven is walkable and worth a stroll. Although this is definitely a “grown ups only” atmosphere as the day gets later, I felt perfectly comfortable bringing my little one with me for brunch. Since brunch prices are reasonable ($25 for grown ups, $15 for kids), this special brunch does not have to be reserved solely for special occasions.

Eleven 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.

@PghRestaurantWk Act 1: Mustard crusted salmon and taters at McCormick & Schmicks

@PghRestaurantWk Act 1: Creme brûlée at McCormick & Schmicks

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.

@pghrestaurantwk Act 2: Cheddar bacon fries at 51 Wings #pghrestaurantwk

@pghrestaurantwk Act 2: BBQ wings at 51 Wings #pghrestaurantwk

@pghrestaurantwk Act 2: Extra hot wings at 51 Wings #pghrestaurantwk

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.

@pghrestaurantwk Act 3: Texas de Brazil #pghrestaurantwk #MeatOnSwords

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.

Our final act of @pghrestaurantwk at @HabitatPgh

Final act of @PghRestaurantWk with an executive express lunch at @HabitatPgh

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!