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The Week We’ve been Waiting For #VACATIONALLIEVERWANTED

The Week We’ve been Waiting For #VACATIONALLIEVERWANTED

It’s been quite a week. We closed on our new house on Friday, left for vacation first thing on Saturday morning, and when we get home from vacation on Sunday, we move right into the new house. Normally I don’t say anything about being on vacation until I’m already back, but all our stuff is packed in a POD, so there isn’t anything in either our new or our old house, anyway.

This year’s vacation has been a low-key visit with family. Because we had a 5:40 am flight out of the ‘burgh, we decided to stay overnight at the hotel at the airport. I took Baby Beez for a swim, and was very successful at tiring that kid ahhhhht (wonderful result: she was so tired that she slept through most of the morning’s flight).

Swimming

We flew in to San Francisco to spend a day checking out the city.

First things first: Breakfast. We braved the 30+ minute line to get a table at Dottie’s True Blue Café, and it was absolutely worth it. Hanging out on a Saturday morning on a sidewalk in SoMa with a 3 year old is full of interesting questions like “Why is that man sleeping on the sidewalk?” So yes, all around an experience.

San Francisco

Dotties

The ambience is irreverent and fun (not a typically kid-friendly place, but ours stayed out of the way and we didn’t even get dirty looks for bringing her there). The menu is full of all kinds of sweet and savory treats. Dottie’s is famous for their pancakes, but when it comes to breakfast, I opt for eggs. I got zucchini cakes with poached eggs and spicy marinara, and a side of lamb sausage. Amazing. The bloody mary could have done with a few more garnishes, but the drink itself was solid. Dottie’s is A+

Dotties 2

Despite being totally stuffed, we decided our next item on the itinerary should also be full of food. Off to the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building we went. The Ferry Building itself is full of gourmet food stalls, like Pittsburgh’s Strip District or Philly’s Reading Terminal market. On weekends they also add on an enormous farmers market. We only made it through about 1/3 of the farmers market stalls, and it pains me to say this, but the variety in California’s agriculture blows Pennsylvania out of the water. All the fruit! The fruit!

Ferry Building 1

Ferry Building 3

Ferry Building 4

After stuffing ourselves, it was time to burn off some calories at the playground.

Playground

And then, a quick rest at our super cool hotel, Hotel Tomo. The price was in line with most of the hotel chains we are familiar with, but the hotel itself had personality and good service.

Hotel Tomo

Hotel Tomo 2

After the brief respite, it was back to adventuring. First up: The Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate

golden gate family

And afterward, of course, we ventured to Chinatown for some dinner!

Chinatown

All of this running around on the first day was followed-up with a quiet day of driving up to Oregon, aka quality time with my audiobooks.

Road Trip

I spy Mt. Shasta.

Mt Shasta

Once we made it to Oregon, we’ve been spending the time hanging out with family. Baby Beez was very excited to go fishing with her Papa. We came back empty handed, but had a lovely time enjoying the gorgeous surroundings.

fish lake

Fish Lake 4

Fish lake 2

That's enough fishing for today.

That’s enough fishing for today.

Today was also busy, with a trip to the Spray Park, a visit to a farm, and hanging out with family. Tomorrow, finally, is a day of doing not much of anything at all. I’m excited to check out a class of Bikram Yoga of Ashland, and we’ll spend the rest of the day just hanging around the house.

Good night.

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Our charming trip to Boulder

Our charming trip to Boulder

We made it through the 3 weeks of insanity, and finally got our house on the market last Friday. We then promptly left for Colorado bright and early in the morning. My cousin was graduating from High School, and we were thrilled to have a family gathering to celebrate her accomplishments. My aunt and uncle have lived in Colorado for years and years, and I’ve always meant to visit, but never quite made it there. After this fantastic visit, we’re sure to make it back and soon. It’s a 3 hour direct flight from Pittsburgh, which is very easy travel-wise. The Boulder/Denver area is just charming. Microbreweries everywhere, HELLO. I really enjoyed our visit there, and to be honest, I rank the area up with Barcelona and Vancouver as an area I could imagine us potentially relocating to someday (but a very hypothetical someday, we just bought a new house in Pittsburgh. We’re not going anywhere for a long while).

PaeelaOur first day there was full of graduation festivities, including my Uncle Joe’s famous paella. LOOK AT THIS PAELLA. Is it not the absolute best? It tasted every bit as amazing as it looked.

I loved that Baby Beez had the opportunity to play with some of the younger members of our family. I have such warm memories of going to my grandparents and hanging out with my cousins, whether it was splashing in the jacuzzi, or pretending that the garden hose was a microphone and putting on performances in the backyard. We are lucky to have many many friends in Pittsburgh, but not very many relatives, so it was lovely for Baby Beez to get to have time with family.

Boulder run

On Saturday morning I hit the roads for a 5k run. The land is so very flat that it’s such a strange experience for me. It was such a calm and beautiful landscape. I wanted to run the 10k Bolder Boulder while we were there, but Mr. Beez nixed that. I didn’t argue with him, since we are there for just a short time, and wanted to spend that time visiting family and having fun, instead of spending half a day on a race. I suppose we might have to go back next year for Memorial Day weekend so I can do that run!

16th St Mall

We spent a few hours on Saturday walking along the 16th Street Mall in Boulder, checking out the shops, restaurants, and Baby Beez’ favorite- the fountain.

photo 1(2)

We stopped for a bite at Pizzaria Locale for some thin-crust Neopolitan style pizza. I started things off with the frutti di mare salad. It was so briny and refreshing, I just loved it.

Primavera pizza

My mom and I shared the Primavera pizza, topped with asparagus, peas and dippy eggs. It was such a unique taste, mildly salty and so richly flavorful. It’s not what you would typically think of if you’re craving pizza, but it was amazing.

Cyclhops

Boulder has some good food, and for Saturday night we ventured out as a very large group to Cyclhops Bike Cantina, which is one of the breweries for Dale’s Pale Ale. Our table was piled high with all kinds of nachos and guacamole and other goodies, and I picked three delicious tacos for my entree. One thing I loved about Colorado dining- avocado on everything. So yum.

We left Boulder on Monday evening. On Monday we had a short visit with family, followed by an outing to the Denver zoo. My mom took me there once when I was a kid, but I have no memory of it. Baby Beez had such a fun time there during this visit, and with all the pit stops that are necessary for traveling with a three year old, we only made it through a small part of a zoo. I guess that means we’ll have to go back and finish it, right?

Andean Condor

I love how the Andean condor was showing off for everyone, spreading her wings and strutting about.

Macaws

penguins

zoo

I can’t believe that we’re back to Friday again. Last Friday feels a million years ago. And since we’re busy with showing the house, we’re living this strange existence where we have to make sure the house is spotless and in tip-top shape every time we step out the door. Our weekend is full of activities and playdates, since it’s just not fair to Baby Beez to keep her cooped up in a house with no toys and not much to do.

Our trip to Boulder was a whirlwind one, but we had a wonderful time visiting family and checking out the town. I only wish we had made our trip longer. Colorado has a laid back, friendly vibe to it, and I would have loved to go for a hike, check out a yoga class, and generally just hang out for a while longer. Lucky for us, my aunt and uncle have plenty of room in their house and love to have visitors, so another trip will be shortly in order!


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Tartine: A Darling Brunch Spot in the West End

Tartine: A Darling Brunch Spot in the West End

Today is Easter Sunday, and Easter is always a good day to talk brunch! I’m at my in-laws today, and we’re having home cooked food, but given how Easter, springtime and brunch go so nicely together, I thought it a good time to talk about a new darling brunch spot in the West End neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

When my friend Amy invited me to brunch, how could I resist? Brunch is the best. The. Best. And with more and more restaurants opening up on Sunday mornings, my “to brunch” list is ever-growing. I’m always up for French baked goods, so I was eager to propose Tartine as our brunching spot.
Tartine

There are some important things to remember about Tartine:

1. It is very small. Going earlier is better, as near the end of our brunch the place was totally packed, and there were plenty of people waiting to be seated. Being small, it’s a better option for parties of 6 or fewer. The space limitations make it hard to accommodate huge groups.

2. It is cash only. I, however, never carry cash on me. So I had to make a quick (and embarrass) run up the street to an ATM. Plan better than me, folks.

3. They do not serve liquor, meaning if you are having a hankering for a brunch time mimosa, they cannot deliver (I am not sure whether you can BYOB. If you can, this may not be an ideal option).

4. The food is excellent. Keep 1-3 in mind, and you will be in for a fantastic meal.

Tartine Quiche

Quiche, a quintessentially French dish, is permanently on the menu at Tartine. Baby Beez loves quiche, so this gives Tartine extra points in picking a place for family brunch. Tartine’s potatoes are very similar to the kinds my dad would make for us on Sunday mornings, so this meal was served for us with a side of nostalgia.

Tartine Eggs Florentine

I picked the Tartine Eggs Florentine, which is an eggs benedict with spinach, and tomatoes subbed in for the English Muffin. The tomatoes took away the usual heaviness of the dish, so I enjoyed the tasty dish without a post-meal food coma.

Tartine Raspberry Torte

We absolutely could not resist completing our meal with Tartine’s gorgeous desserts. The Raspberry Torte was simply gorgeous, sweet and light, and perfect.

Tartine is one of Pittsburgh’s best-kept secrets. Selfishly, I hope it stays a secret, because I don’t want to fight a crowd when I’m in the mood for a lovely brunch. But really, it’s a wonderful place and worth a visit.

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Ten Pgh Kid Friendly eateries @PipersPub @MadMexShadyside @HoughsPGH @WafflesINCaffein @MartysMarketPGH @EatnPark

Ten Pgh Kid Friendly eateries @PipersPub @MadMexShadyside @HoughsPGH @WafflesINCaffein @MartysMarketPGH @EatnPark

Before having a kid, I never wanted kids in my presence. Restaurants were not places for kids. Ever. Can’t they just get a babysitter. Now that I have a whippersnapper, my perspective has softened a little. There better not be an anklebiter in sight when I visit somewhere quiet, fancy and expensive. Everywhere else, though, as long as kids aren’t in my face, they can do whatever they want (and really, there are plenty of grown ups as obnoxious as adults).

In determining whether a restaurant is good for kids, I consider:

1. What’s the noise level? You want the answer to be “loud.” Because kids are LOUD. If everyone else is loud too, it’s not too big of a deal.

2. What’s the menu like? They don’t absolutely need to have chicken fingers and fries, but taking your kid to a place that only offers oysters and filet is bound to result in tears from everyone.

3. Do the servers have experience with kids? There are little things that a server can do that can transform dining out with a child from tolerable to awesome. These things include: taking the order for the kids meal as quick as possible, bringing the kid’s food as fast as possible, removing all kinds of breakable and sharp things from the table, bringing extra napkins, serving the kid’s drink in a kid-friendly cup, and smiling.

With those qualities in mind, some of our favorite kid-friendly Pittsburgh restaurants are:

1. Piper’s Pub.

Piper’s is awesome for the whole family. With a focus on Scottish, English and Irish food, you can expect lots of meat, potatoes and cheese here. Who DOESN’T like that stuff? They have an awesome beer selection, including all kinds of great local and microbrews on tap. Yes, it’s basically a pub, but their staff is all around some of the friendliest and kindest restaurant staff in the City for dealing with kids. Also, if you’re a soccer fan, Piper’s is the place to be. They broadcast all kinds of games from all over the world.

2. Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal on McKnight Road does have a normal menu, but it’s best to visit on the nights they have a dinner buffet. You may think that Indian food might be a little exotic for American toddler palates, but look at the individual dishes: kids love rice. Pakora is deep fried veggies, and kids love everything deep fried. There are meats and veggies and puddings. Taj Mahal is a favorite destination for outings with the Orange Chair Blog family, and we put dishes of food out for our kids and haven’t had a problem. They do have a liquor license, but you can also BYOB with a small corkage fee. The place is always tightly packed with families, and the atmosphere is very welcoming to small kids.

3. Mad Mex

It’s always ear-blastingly loud in Mad Mex, and no one even noticed when we went there for my birthday dinner our first year with Baby Beez and she would  NOT stop crying. Under most other circumstances we would have gotten the stink-eye and had to pack right up and head home, but at Mad Mex no one even noticed the noise. I was able to enjoy my Gobblerito and margarita while Mr. Beez walked around with the cranky litltle one. As Baby Beez has gotten bigger, Mad Mex has remained on our short list of favorites. They have some kids options, but we usually just get her an order of black beans and an order of rice, and she’s pleased.

Mad Mex Gobblerito

4.  Houghs

Houghs is the only bar in Greenfield that doesn’t scare me. And it’s a pretty cool place in its own right. The seating is a free for all, so you do need to get there early to get a table. They have a kids menu, but their menu also focuses on typical bar food (lots of fried things), so there are plenty of kid-friendly options. Their beer selection is unbelievable, and the last time we were there, I had a grilled veggie sandwich that was just fantastic.

photo(8)

photo(9)

5. Max’s Allegheny Tavern

Max’s has been around for ages and doesn’t get a lot of buzz, but it’s fantastic. It’s in the Deutschtown section of the Northside, and it’s simultaneously got the laid-back feeling of a local bar, but a great belly-warming menu of German food. Sausage and potato pancakes are menu staples, so again, they’ve got a selection that is pleasing to the small people. Bonus- because it’s on a side street, it’s pretty much the easiest place to find on-street parking ever. They also have a great but totally random brunch. It’s like they think of everything in the kitchen and make it all. The last time we went (several years ago, admittedly), they had waffles, sausage & sauerkraut, lasagna, and breakfast pastries. Also, get the pretzels. They are the BEST.

6. Green Pepper

Green Pepper does not have the typical loud atmosphere that I would attribute to being “kid friendly.” However, every time we’ve been there, we’ve been dining early, and the place is pretty empty so we’re not disturbing anyone. Their food is awesome and their bar prices are very reasonable, and you can even BYOB for a small corkage fee. Their website and menu are kind of goofy with all kinds of strange disclaimers, but don’t let that deter you. Green Pepper is great, and we’ve been consistently happy with their food, service, and atmosphere. Although we’ve never taken part, they DO have karaoke in the back room. Baby Beez is a little young for this now, but when she gets a little bigger, dinner and a few songs would be a fun family outing.

Bibim bap at Green Pepper in Squirrel Hill

7. Waffles INCaffeinated

What kid doesn’t like waffles? BOOM.

WafflesINC

8. Burgatory

Their infamously long waits and refusal to take reservations makes this option a little dicey, but we’ve always gone to the Robinson location (usually as a special homecoming treat after returning home from the airport) and have not gotten stuck with a wait. This place has burgers, fries, and plenty o’ noise, so it’s a good pick for kids. Also, the shakes. Ohhh the shakes, so delicious.

Milkshake for dinner, awwww yeah @burgatorybar

9. Marty’s Market Cafe

With this being a cafe inside of a grocery store, it’s a more flexible atmosphere if your little one gets squirrely. They have breakfast and lunch options, all of which are fresh and tasty, and plenty of options that are recognizable to the young palate. Their coffee bar is, quite frankly, rockin. I love that I can get an expert brew, feed my kid, and pick up a pint of Jeni’s all in one fell swoop.

martysmarket

10. Eat N Park

Because what would this list BE without that Pittsburgh institution? Say what you will about EnP, but grilled stickies a la mode are amazing, and there’s just something great about reliably being able to go to a place where it’s totally OK if your kid is melting down, because someone else’s kid probably is too. The food is not haute cuisine, but there is plenty of stuff there that kids love, it’s cheap, it’s easy, there are smiley cookies, and the old lady servers always love to fawn over little kids. So yes. I do love you EnP.

eat n park

Where do you like to take your kids to eat in the ‘burgh?

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For Regina: BeezusKiddo’s List of Essential Pittsburgh area restaurants

For Regina: BeezusKiddo’s List of Essential Pittsburgh area restaurants

My friend Regina is looking to expand her restaurant familiarity in the new year. She asked me to put together a list of essential restaurants to try.  Tonight, with the assistance and review of Mr. Beez, I put together such a list.  I included only restaurants I have personally visited. By no means is this an exhaustive list of all restaurants in the Pittsburgh area that I have visited or that I like, this is the list of the ones I like best, and get excited about visiting.  I have not included my usual Chinese take-out place or the run of the mill places I pick up a sandwich, because most of those are places that are just fine with me, but not ones that make me extra happy. This is my completely subjective list of favorites.  Do we have similar tastes? What would you have added or excluded?

Essential Pittsburgh Restaurant List, broken down by neighborhood but otherwise in no particular order:

Downtown

  • Sonoma Grill
  • Bluebird Kitchen
  • Nine on Nine
  • Il Pizziolo
  • Diamond Market
  • NOLA on the Square
  • The Carlton
  • Franktuary
  • Andy’s Wine Bar
  • Habitat
  • Sienna Sulla Piazza
  • Winghart’s Burger and Whiskey bar
  • Hanlon’s Café
  • Speakeasy
  • Perle

Northside

  • Nicky’s Thai Kitchen
  • Max’s Allegheny Tavern
  • Penn Brewery

Southside

  • Club Café (for Brunch)
  • Yo Rita!
  • Piper’s Pub
  • Grand Concourse (for Brunch)
  • Fathead’s
  • Ibiza Tapas & Wine Bar
  • Big Dog Coffee
  • Pi Coal Fired Pizza (husband’s pick)

Oakland

  • Legume/The Butterjoint
  • Spice Island Tea House
  • Tamarind Flavor of India
  • Mad Mex
  • Oishii Bento
  • Uncle Sam’s Subs
  • Joe Mama’s
  • Dave & Andy’s

Bloomfield

  • Thai Cuisine
  • Tram’s Kitchen
  • Orient Kitchen

Strip District

  • Lucy’s Banh Mi cart
  • Taco Cart at Reyna’s Foods
  • Mung Bean pancake stall
  • Eleven (for Brunch)
  • Lidia’s Italian Kitchen
  • Kaya
  • DeLuca’s
  • Colangelo’s
  • Café Raymond
  • Thin Man Sandwich Shop
  • Primanti Brothers
  • Sushi Kim
  • Bar Marco

Lawrenceville

  • Cure
  • Tamari (for Brunch)
  • Coca Café (for Brunch)
  • Industry Public House
  • La Gourmandine

Regent Square

  • Square Café
  • D’s Six Packs and Dogs

Point Breeze

  • Point Brugge
  • Café at the Frick (for tea)

Highland Park

  • Park Bruges
  • Food Glorious Food
  • e2

Squirrel Hill & Greenfield

  • Moonlite Express Food Truck at CMU
  • Szmidt’s Deli
  • Big Jim’s in the Run
  • Hough’s
  • Wafflonia
  • Rose Tea Café
  • Everyday Noodles
  • Ramen Bar
  • Bangkok Balcony
  • Mineo’s (husband’s pick)
  • Coriander India Grill
  • Commonplace Coffee
  • Green Pepper
  • Sun Penang

Shadyside

  • Umi
  • Soba
  • Casbah
  • Noodlehead
  • Crepes Parisiennes
  • Avenue B

East Liberty/Garfield

  • Salt of the Earth
  • Union Pig & Chicken
  • Station Street Hot Dogs
  • Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina
  • Spoon
  • Voluto Coffee

Other

  • Burgatory (Aspinwall)
  • Cornerstone Café (Aspinwall)
  • Marisquera Mediterranean Bistro (Aspinwall)
  • Smoke Taqueria (Homestead)
  • Tin Roof Café (for Brunch) (Homestead)
  • Blue Dust (Homestead)
  • Azul bar y Cantina (Leetsdale)
  • Bistro 19 (Mt Lebanon)
  • Jioio’s Pizza (North Huntingdon)
  • Alla Famiglia (Allentown)
  • Rey Azteca (Monroeville)
  • Oakmont Bakery (Oakmont)