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RIBS at @HeinzField

RIBS at @HeinzField

Four years ago, I was due to give birth on August 29. That day came and went. And then it was Friday, September 2. And I was still pregnant. And I was so swollen I looked like Violet Bauregard about to be rolled off to the juicing room, plus I had all the absolute CRAZY that comes with being a pregnant woman, several days overdue. So what did we do? Go to the Heinz Field Ribfest. Because, why not. It’s not like there was anything else I was doing. And they had ribs, cornbread, beans and mac & cheese, so in other words, the menu was just screaming for preggos to visit.

I don’t think I’ve been back to the event this time. While I enjoyed the first visit (as much as I could, given my condition), this time around with the kid OUTSIDE my body was much better. Heinz Field Ribfest kicks off the football season, and is held at Heinz Field every day of Labor Day weekend, so you’ve got yinzselves til Monday to go get some BBQ! Admission to the festival is free, but food, drinks, rides, etc. all cost money.

Because small people love all modes of public transit, we parked dahntahn and took the T over to the North Shore. Even without her, this would have proven a much cheaper and more convenient approach than trying to park anywhere near the North Shore. In addition to Rib Fest, there was a Pirates game going on, so parking was at a premium. And Rib Fest is continuing, alongside many other events in and around the stadiums, so yeah, park it dahntahn.

Riding the T

If you are ever seeking a free source of entertainment for a small kid, ride the T back and forth between dahntahn and the North Shore. For a 3 year old, THIS IS OMG SO FUN.

We made it to Rib Fest around 6pm, which was very much at the early end of things. I had planned for us to stay for the 9pm concert by The Clarks, but Baby Beez got tired and punchy well before then, so we didn’t stay. I went to college in Pittsburgh, and to say I’ve already seen a few Clarks shows would be a dramatic understatement, so I didn’t stay up all night crying about missing one.

RIBFEST

Next up, time for RIBS! There are all kinds of ribs & BBQ vendors from all over the country, all with various and sundry trophies and proclamations of greatness. Now someone may prove me wrong, but personally, I’m of the philosophy that when serving a crowd of this size, it’s just not really feasible for a traveling BBQ vendor to be able to create massive quantities of ideal smoked meat. Smoking takes time and attention, and I just didn’t see how it would be possible to smoke so MANY ribs in any sort of ideal smoking conditions in a traveling setup. So I went with the assumption that probably any of the vendors would be fine, but I didn’t expect that any of them would prove themselves exceptional. But also, I only ate from one vendor, so maybe there was some exceptional fare and I just missed it. We ended up picking a vendor out of Texas, mostly because they did offer mac & cheese, and that’s what Baby Beez wanted for dinner. Ribfest BBQ

The BBQ sauce was really good, but the ribs were pretty gristly and chewy. I’d say that the quality was fairly comparable to a run of the mill BBQ restaurant, but the food didn’t set itself apart as exceptional. Still, the event itself is a lot of fun, and I’d be happy to go back in future years for the fun of the fest, even if it’s just average fare.

Ribfest Mac & Cheese

Baby Beez has become accustomed to my foodblogging nonsense, and as I snapped pics of my plate, she urged “Mommy, take pictures of MINE, too!”

Ribfest Rides

Ribfest had a couple of carnival rides. Since we’re suckers, we bought Baby Beez 5 tickets. There are maybe 7 rides total, and she decided that most of them were too scary. She rode the cars over and over and over and over and had a very happy time.

Finally, dessert was a necessary order of business. I opted for kettle corn (although, I must sadly report that the freshness and perfection of Pittsburgh Popcorn Company has ruined me to any other popcorn. And the popcorn I picked up at Ribfest just didn’t compare.)

Ribfest Ice Cream

This girl is following in my foodie footsteps. She properly appreciates herself a good cone. So yum.



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Weekend Update from the Beez Homefront

This has been the second quiet weekend in a row. It’s partially a matter of necessity, as both Mr. Beez and I have been finishing our weeks lately with lots of catch-up work for the weekend. It’s also partially purposeful, as my bad habit of scheduling 3-4 activities a day, for each Saturday and Sunday, has led to many exhausted work weeks. That was just not sustainable.

I have been overzealous with my 5K race sign ups. Last weekend I ran and Mr. Beez + Baby Beez walked the Brookline Breeze. Yesterday, Sandy and I ran the Yinzer 5K for Light of Life Rescue Mission. Next Saturday, we’ll be hitting the trails yet again for the Run Around the Square. The 5K distance has been nice because it’s a bit of exercise without taking over the whole day. I’m considering signing up Baby Beez for a kids race in the Steelers 5K, and maybe even running the race myself, but haven’t made up my mind. After that, I’m not signed up for another race until the Army 10-Miler in October. This is probably for the best, because I’ve been using a training program which calls for long runs on Saturday. A 5K race is too short for that purpose, and it’s inconvenient to try and tack on extra mileage before or after a race.

Yinzer 5k

Lets run, yinz!

Relatedly, the training program I’m on is essentially a half marathon training program, where the race would be scheduled the week after the Army 10 Miler, so now I’m considering signing up for a half marathon on that date. Options include the Columbus Half (which is already sold out, so I’d have to look into picking up someone’s transfer bib), the Hershey Half Marathon, or the Runner’s World Half & Festival, in Bethlehem, PA. I’m not ready to pull the trigger on any of these options yet, but I’ll have to make a decision in the next month or so.

On the flipside of cardio exercise, Baby Beez and I were on a sugar high this weekend. Baby Beez insists on continuing to grow, so I had to get her new duds for her ballet class. Afterward, we stopped over at Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor. Chocolate ice cream with rainbow sprinkles for her, and a turtle sundae for me.

Klavon's Ice Cream Parlor


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Her vociferous obsession with chocolate is just further evidence that this kid is basically the loudest, most outrageous parts of my personality in distilled form. Watch out, world.

On Sunday we also baked a cake together. No special reason, other than I wanted a cake. I learned that you should NOT bake a pineapple upside down pan in a springform pan, because the melted butter will leak all over the oven and you’ll almost burn the house down. But I promptly responded to the billowing smoke, saved the house from smoldering, and saved the cake as well. That’s a victory, right?

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On the whole, we had a pretty sweet weekend. How was yours?


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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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Finding Our Way Back Toward Normal

Nearly 3 weeks in the new house, and we are finally making our way there. Over the last few days, I’ve gotten back into preparing meals in our kitchen regularly. After shelling out for take-out three meals a day since Memorial Day, cooking on our own feels like omg all this food is FREE!

We are nearly all unpacked in the new place. Pictures are even finding their way up onto the walls. The last major thing we need are window treatments, but almost all the other big things have been squared away. As much as I hate cleaning with every fiber of my being, I find myself feeling a little house proud. I’ve been better about picking up my own clutter, and making Baby Beez regularly put her toys away. What’s the sense of having a nice looking house, if it’s charm is obscured by stuff laying all around.

OMG CHRISTMAS

I’ve taken a bar exam and have raised a child while working in one of the most high-stress jobs imaginable, so I won’t say that this buying/selling house process has been the most stressful thing I’ve lived through. Still, it’s up there. There’s been plenty of fighting and a few pounds piled back on, and two very extremely unhappy screaming parrots.

Now it’s Sunday night, the birds are peacefully chewing on treats, the little one is up in her bedroom snuggled away, and I just watched a glorious Pittsburgh sunset out of the massive window. I’m marveling at the fact that I managed to spend a weekend mostly around the house and getting things done, rather than bouncing from event to event to event. I’ll be shocked if I’ll ever fit a description of a homebody, but in these new digs, it certainly doesn’t feel bad to spend a little more time just relaxing at home.

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Gettin’ real at Sichuan Gourmet

Gettin’ real at Sichuan Gourmet

Although I’m not tripping over myself to devour scorpions and fermented shark meat, I do think I qualify as an “adventurous eater.” When encountering a new-to-me cuisine (or variation of a cuisine), I’m eager to pick random things on the menu, no idea what they are, and be surprised by the outcome. This is how I ended up paying 15 Euro for a plate of hash browns in Switzerland. “Roesti” sounded like something FUN, but no, it’s just potatoes. Good potatoes, but not 15 Euro potatoes.

The buzz on the street about Sichuan Gourmet is that it features “authentic” Chinese food. I find the description somewhat troubling, as China is so massive that there is certainly more than 1 “authentic,” and also, I’ve never been to China nor do I have any other such cultural exposure to qualify me to judge what is “authentic.” I noticed when we walked in that maybe 20% of the dining room was speaking English, so I took this as an auspicious sign for a good meal.

Sichuan Gourmet

I like that they’ve got 2 menus: a Sichuan menu and an American menu. The Sichuan menu has all kinds of traditional dishes. The American menu features the typical American “Chinese” dishes, such as General Tso’s chicken, lo mein, fried rice, etc. We, of course, ordered fairly blindly off the Chinese menu. I am pleased to say it worked out very well.

Chicken hot pan
Mr. Beez ordered a chicken hot pan, which sizzles and cooks right on the table top. It looked very good, but it was full of hot peppers. I am a wimp and can’t take the heat, so I didn’t eat any. He did report that he enjoyed it thoroughly.

Basil Chicken
The Basil Chicken was sweet and strong with garlic and basil. All around excellent.

Baby bok Choy and black mushrooms
I loved this dish of baby bok choy and black mushrooms. The bok choy was steamed and the mushrooms had a sauce, but were not heavy with it. It had the saltiness I expect from Chinese food, but without so much oil and heaviness.

Steamed Whole Fish

We also went all out and got a steamed whole fish, which was just fantastic. If I’m going to order fish, I want a head on my plate. I don’t eat the head, I just want the satisfaction of staring into my opponent’s eyes. This fish was flaky and flavorfully stuffed with ginger. The sauce was not overpowering. My mom and I shared the dish, but I am a glutton and probably could have eaten the whole thing.

The meal was more expensive than our usually Chinese take out bill, but the quality was high and the service attentive. The servers are all business and not very chatty, which is just fine with me. I like that they have some huge tables and also a private room, this could be a fun place to take a book club or just go out to dinner with a big group of friends.

Sichuan Gourmet on Urbanspoon