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Annual #PghGBE — @PenniesPintsPgh ‘s Delightful Getaway @Nemacolin

Annual #PghGBE — @PenniesPintsPgh ‘s Delightful Getaway @Nemacolin

It’s April Fool’s Day, and time for our annual Pittsburgh Guest Blogger Event! Shoutout to Alex at Everybody Loves You for his mad planning skills! I’m very excited today for this guest post by Devon and Tim at Pennies.Pints.Pittsburgh. A getaway to Nemacolin is on my 40 before 40, so this guest post is perfect!!

The Finest of Dining at Nemacolin

2015 has been a year of many firsts, including our first Pittsburgh Blog Swap. And we are the lucky bloggers to guest write for the awesome blog Beezus KiddoAs I was perusing the site, I noticed that one of her 40 before 40 bucket list activities included a weekend stay at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Well, it just so happens that my husband and I loooove Nemacolin, and we’ll take any excuse to get back there.

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is a luxurious mountain get-away in the beautiful Laurel Highlands. This handsome 2,000 acre resort is nestled on top of the rolling hills that join the Allegheny Mountain range. We’ve gone here for quick get-aways, bachelorette parties, and even work conferences. And we’ve always enjoyed ourselves immensely. Mainly because there’s a real sense of serenity up at Nemacolin. The air is so fresh, and the natural beauty that encapsulates the resort is truly breathtaking. And honestly, who can beat the unbelievably short commute from Pittsburgh?

So, my dear mother graciously agreed to take our boys for a night so we could enjoy ourselves with some friends for an evening in the mountains. And that meant one very important activity: dining out. Now the pressing question was; where? Our friends and we wanted all the bells and whistles of fine dining but not so much the formal attire. After discussing our options, Autumn was the exact answer we needed for a perfect night out.

Now as we strolled down the luxurious hallways adorned with one stunning crystal chandelier after another, we found ourselves at Autumn’s entrance. We were quickly seated at a large table in the front of the house. Our wonderful waitress, Becky, took our drink order while we chatted wine with Austin, Autumn’s sommelier. With drinks in hand, it was now time for some serious appetizers…

classic shrimp cocktail

We started off with the Classic Shrimp Cocktail. Admittedly, I had a real hard time sharing this with our group because a REAL good shrimp cocktail is hard to come by. But I ultimately got over it because everyone deserves a little taste of seafood heaven every now and then…

pretzel crab cakes

Next, we dove into these incredible pretzel crusted crab cakes. They were light and packed full of rich flavors. Oh, and they were accompanied by a beer mustard sauce. Yup, I was absolutely smitten with this chef already.

kale pot stickers

All of the sudden, this plate showed up. Is this food or 3-D art? I honestly didn’t want to disturb this masterpiece, it just looked so gorgeous. But I got over that rather quickly as Becky explained the contents these little beauties…

These potstickers are made with with kale, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, quinoa, and is accompanied by a sunflower seed hummus. This is not a traditional appetizer that we meat lovers would tend to go wild over.. But I kid you not- this appetizer completely won us over. All of us agreed that we’d all become vegetarians in a heartbeat as long as Chef Tyler Hutchison was cooking…

Not pictured but equally loved were the Spicy Calamari, Cauliflower Meze, Maggie’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Crab and Artichoke Dip with Truffle Parmesan Pita Chips, Parmesan Kale Chips, and Mushroom Soup.

And we hadn’t even touched the entrées portion yet…

bone in pork chop final

Chef Hutchison apparently enjoys the art of cooking with beer as much as we do. Once I spotted the Bone in Pork Chop with German potatoes and sauerkraut pierogies,  mustard greens with a maple beer glaze, I was done for. The other entrees didn’t stand a fighting chance… Picture Credit: Chef Hutchison’s Instagram

sesame tuna pic

Tim was enticed by the Sesame Tuna special with shrimp & wasabi potato butter, Asian crispy kalettes, and a sesame ash garnish. So stunning, so fresh, and oh so spring.

lamb

Our buddy ordered this handsome dish: Elysian Fields lamb with a “dirty” lamb pappardelle, pistachio gelato, and naturual lamb jus. Picture Credit: Chef Hutchison’s Instagram

Oh. My. Goodness

Entrées not pictured above yet were equally amazing; Basil Pesto Pasta with basil, avocado, spinach, tomato and shrimp. And the Swordfish with bamboo risotto, swiss chard, Chinese sausage, red pepper, and white soy emulsion. Just wow.

After this banquet fit for kings, we had to tap out, raise the white flag, and call it a night. As we sat back and basked in all the glory of a truly exquisite dining experience, we knew some major thank yous were in order for one very talented young chef.

Chef De Cuisine Tyler Hutchison

At the ripe age of 14, Chef Hutchison immersed himself in the culinary world. He started as a dish washer, and worked his way up to the hot line. Once he got a taste of the culinary world, he knew that he had found his life’s passion. He attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania Culinary School in Punxsutawney, PA. He was accepted as an intern at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort in Charleston, South Carolina. There, he refined his skills and learned the fine art of preparing fresh seafood. Once he completed his school hours, he was hired on full time and worked his way up to Chef De Partie. After 2 years, Chef Tyler decided to bring his skills back to Pennsylvania and joined forces with Nemacolin.

tyler

And I’m so glad Chef Hutchison did. His interpretation of fine cuisine is stunning, moving, and beyond inspiring. Dish after dish, he offered beautiful plating, intriguing flavor combinations, contrasting textures, palate exciting, perfected culinary masterpieces. It’s brilliant how he took such familiar foods and threw countless curve balls in their execution. This dinner is one for the ages and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for such a talented chef, his sous chef Rachel Davis, and the rest of his creative team. We excitedly await Autumn’s spring menu which launches in just a few weeks.

Thank you again for such an inspiring evening! We can’t wait to cross paths again.

Cheers N’at– Devon and Tim

Also, a heartfelt thanks to Becky- you were so attentive and you really knew the menu through and through. We had an absolute blast spending our dinner with you. And Austin- it was such a pleasure speaking with you. I wish we could have pulled up another chair and talked wine with you all night. You guys made this such an incredible night out. Cheers!



I hope you enjoyed this edition of our annual Guest Blogger Event! Check out the other participating blogs at the links below!!

The AP Collection // Lucy Quin  // Beezus Kiddo // Pittsburgh Happy Hour // Orange Chair Blog // In Pursuit of Simple // The Wheezy Runner // Pittsburgh is Beautiful // Last Minute Panic // The Almond Eater // A Body of One’s Own // Lunges, Long Runs and Lattes // Downtown Living // Emily LevensonParmesan Princess // Oh Honestly, Erin // Sole for the Soul // Crank Crank Revolution // The Pittsburgh Mommy Blog // Yum Yum PGH // Ya Jagoff // Gardening in High Heels // Sean’s Ramblings // Pittsburgh Taste Buds // The Foodtasters // My Blog n’at // The Fashionable Eye // jelly jars // Don’t Forget to Eat // Small Town Dad // Josh’s World // The Steel Trap // In Pursuit of Happiness // 101 Achievements // A Librarian’s Lists and Letters // Pennies, Pints, Pittsburgh // 30-Something therapy // Red Pen Mama // Nicky D. Cooks // everybody loves you…

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Various and Sundry

Various and Sundry

Welcome to Sunday.

Today we took Baby Beez to Sunday School, had a fab grown-ups breakfast at Habitat, and then I did laundry, did a little bit of work and cooked a bunch of food for the week. Not exciting, but much needed quiet time.

Habitat Sunday Breakfast Buffet, yes pls.

Habitat Sunday Breakfast Buffet, yes pls.


My restaurant review posts have slowed down lately. I’m still trying new places and eating way too much, but I haven’t had the review-writing bug lately. I don’t know what it is. Maybe I feel like the review bandwagon is too full and it’s not as entertaining for me right now. Maybe it’s because I spend all day thinking about things and then writing about them, that by the time I get home I’m tired of thinking about things and writing about them. Maybe it’s just because I’m enjoying spending more time doing things than writing about them (I’ve already got 6 races booked this year, in distances varying from 10-13.1 miles). This blog, in the first place, is supposed to be fun, so I’m not forcing myself to write if I’m not feeling it. I’m sure I’ll swing back into reviews eventually.

There are still plenty of other things on my mind, just enough to be the kernel of a post, but not really enough to draw out a whole post, so instead I’ll share them with you in list fashion:

1.   My daughter loves Scooby Doo. She gave us the peace of a THREE HOUR nap this afternoon and I decided to reward her by letting her watch the 2002 Scooby Doo movie. This movie is very likely the worst movie I have ever seen in my life.

2.   Orlando vacation is coming soon. I am so ready for this trip. I’ve been having almost nightly dreams about it. I’m not sure if that’s pathetic or really pathetic. Last night I dreamt (dreamed?) that it was the day we were going to Universal, but I couldn’t get folks moving to actually GO to the park. Like it was noon and I still couldn’t get my family out the door, then it was 1 and they were still not budging, and I was SO frustrated and angry. I don’t know how the dream ended because then Baby Beez climbed into our bed and woke us up.

3. Speaking of bed invasions, we got Baby Beez an OK to Wake clock, in an effort to end her habit of crawling into our bed at FOUR AM. It worked great…for two days. Well, not that bad, but it’s still not a failsafe solution. I’ve been getting up earlier because I need to get into work earlier because I need to work all the hours, and lately I’ve been getting up before she does, so the waking-me-up thing isn’t such a problem. But she’s still rolling in at 6am on a Sunday, which is less than cool.

4. I finally realized that all these training runs aren’t so much about pushing myself to make the distance, it’s more about the recovery. With a very moderate level of training, I could force myself through the 2.5 hours of a half marathon, but I’d be d-e-d at the end. Even though I’ve been getting more like 2 mid-length runs in during the week (instead of 3), I have been diligent about my long run each weekend. As a consequence, I did the 11 miles yesterday, and although I was stiff afterward and still a little stiff today, I’m feeling pretty good all around. This gives me confidence that I’m going to feel just fine after the Princess runs in two weeks.

5.  I’ve been listening to audiobooks on those long runs, which means I’m killin it with my audiobooks. In the last few weeks, some of my favorites have included: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, The First Bad Man by Miranda July, In the Woods by Tana French, The Secret Place by Tana French, Dark Places by Gillian Flynn and A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. There’s something lovely about listening to a book you’re really into that helps make miles and miles and miles of running seem so much easier.

6. Enough with the Sriracha already.

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Food for the Eatin’ in Pgh Part 2: @BurgatoryBar @umi_Pittsburgh @spoonpgh @fiorispizzaria @Ds6Pax

Food for the Eatin’ in Pgh Part 2: @BurgatoryBar @umi_Pittsburgh @spoonpgh @fiorispizzaria @Ds6Pax

Here we are at part 2 of my “Food for the Eatin'” series. Restaurant lists abound, and an experience can vary there due to service, the crowd, all kinds of different things. And of course, “best of” anything lists are a product of subjective taste, and therefore incredibly variable. But what the heck, my friends and I are continuing to share our favorite Pittsburgh dishes with you. And since I can’t find the time to sit and write out 10 favorites (dude, that takes well over an hour), hopefully I’ll get more of these done if I just do 5 at a time. Anyway, a the rubric for qualification is: you love it. Subjectivity all the way.

Here we go, round 2:

1. My favorite milkshake: Burgatory. When the burger fad was in full blossom a couple years back, I scientifically examined the various milkshake offerings, and readily concluded that they are the B-E-S-T at Burgatory. Burgatory does offer boozy milkshakes, but I don’t even bother with the booze. With all the sugar and fat and what have you, I don’t even feel the booze, so why bother. Also, a full milkshake is too much for me, so I usually split it with my kid (they give you the milkshake glass plus the mixing cup, so it’s plenty for two), and giving booze to a four year old is frowned upon. Also, when I opt for the shake that has espresso in it, I keep that all to myself, because dear lord no I am not caffeinating this already-insane child. Burgatory shakes are thick, with big chunks of the mix-ins, and topped with super-dense and indulgent whipped cream. They offer a special flavor each weekend, too, including the annually looked-forward to ScareHouse shake, for which they donate the proceeds to the Mario Lemieux Foundation. It’s hard to say what my “favorite” is there, because they’ve all been flat-out amazing, but the Burnt Almond Torte and the Coffee & Donuts shakes have a special place in my heart.


2. Mr. Beez eagerly added the Rock Shrimp Tempura at Umi to this list of favorites. Umi may well be the best restaurant in the city, the flavors, omg the flavors. Talk all you want about other sushi places, but Mr. Shu’s dishes are absolute perfection. Every time I think about Umi, hearts and starts fire off in my brain. You don’t even KNOW. I do love the rock shrimp tempura there, but my altogether favorite dish there is the miso blackened cod. It’s so delicate, so butter. It’s an absolutely beautiful dish.

We went to Umi for my birthday this past year. Umi’s about taste and quality, not about quantity, so even after laying down a fat chunk of change, you aren’t going to leave stuffed. But seriously. Worth it.


3.  The Bleu Cheese Souffle at Spoon is a pick from my foodie friend Christine.I personally haven’t eaten it, but when I emailed her to ask for her favorites, she responded like BOOM about the souffle. And she’s a picky, picky woman, so her recommendations are very reliable.

Spoon Bleu Cheese Souffle


4. The Steel Trip’s pick in the ever-contentious pizza wars is Fiori’s Pizza. Although Mineo’s has many an outspoken devotee, Fiori’s has a massive devoted following (I am a member of the small minority who picks an entirely separate pizza joint, not even within the City limits as my favorite, but we’ll get to that later). I have eaten at Fiori’s and agree they make a good pie.

5. My heartbeat quickens and my mouth waters even when I think about the Mac & Cheese dog from D’s Six Pax & Dogs. It’s a frickin’ good dog topped with frickin’ good mac & cheese at a frickin’ awesome neighborhood bar right outside Frick Park. Frickin’ amazing.

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Moar Eats and Sights in Toronto

Moar Eats and Sights in Toronto

I asked Baby Beez this morning what her favorite thing is about our trip to Toronto, and she announced “EATING ALL THE FOOD!” Because she’s my kid. Obvs. I initially thought of writing a post for each day we’re on our trip, but drawing out our weekend might be completely torturous to my readers, because one weekend really is not that exciting. Also, we’re winding down our visit, Mr. Beez and I are sipping some beers while watching Gone Girl while Baby Beez is sleeping, so why not sit down and write a spell. The focus of our trip has been (1) eating things, and (2) looking at things. It’s been going very well.

St Lawrence Market

The #1 destination for our trip was St Lawrence Market, and we were definitely not disappointed. I had failed to do any research on the shops themselves before arriving, but my foodie spidey-sense was on point, and we beelined it to the first bakery we saw was Carousel Bakery, which just happens to be THE place to go for the Toronto signature dish, peameal bacon on a bun. Yes, pls.

Carousel Bakery

Donut for her, peabacon on bun for me

We continued wandering around, enjoying all kinds of tasty things, like a cafe au lait made from freshly-roasted coffee, sausage from the Ukranian store, allllll of the cheese-stuffed antipasti and delicious, buttery chocolate chunk shortbread.

Coffee Roaster

Ukranian Store

Antipasti

Chocolate Chunk Shortbread

all the cheese

Have you ever seen more beautiful words?

Have you ever seen more beautiful words?


I treated myself to a facial during the day. Mr. Beez stayed back at the room with Baby Beez. He fell asleep, during which time she took advantage of the situation and unwrapped all the Hanukkah presents we had brought for her. I told her she wasn’t in trouble, but we were just disappointed that we didn’t get to see her open them (and also she’d have to wait til we get back to Pittsburgh for any more presents.) She got all big and teary-eyed and said “I tried to wait!” I just wish we had a camera in the room, so we could have seen her “trying” to wait.

We went to the Hockey Hall of fame, and by “Went To” I mean “Stood in front of and took a picture.” We’re not really into hockey, or sports in general. But our hotel was right next to the hall of fame, and everyone else was taking pictures in front of the sign, so why not? If we come back when Baby Beez is older, and she actually WANTS to go there, I can show her this picture and tell her she’s already been there, and get myself out of that one for sure.


Hockey Hall of Fame

Our big touristy adventure for the day was going to the CN Tower, which was pretty neat and provides a lovely view. Baby Beez is apparently not afraid of heights in the least, because she just loved looking out the windows.

Taking pictures with her toy camera

Taking pictures with her toy camera



CN Tower

CN Tower

The thing with traveling with a 4 year old is that you only get about 2.5 hours of doing things until she starts absolutely losing her mind. Because she’s 4. And that’s what 4 year olds do. So we try to make the most of those 2.5 hours, and know that it’s all going to unravel afterward, so it’ll be time for us ALL to go back for a nap.

Toronto has an AMAZING food scene, and we were lucky enough to line up a sitter so we could go out for a grown-up dinner with friends whom we have not seen in way too long.  Not wanting to miss an opportunity to Rent the Runway, I got myself dressed up!

Rent the Runway Lela Rose Floating Flowers

We went to Beast, in the King West neighborhood, and had a great time sampling its inventive, locally focused menu. My favorite dishes were the first two pictured below, the simple but amazing cava + oysters, and the stuffed pasta that I can’t remember more details about, other than it being fantastic.  All of the dishes were great, but those two were my absolute favorite.

Beast

Beast

Beast

Beast

Beast

Beast

Beast

As much as I would have LOVED to return to St. Lawrence Market and eat my face off AGAIN, it is sadly closed on Sunday and Monday.  Mr. Beez ended up getting tied up with work, so Baby Beez and I explored the City together. First things first, snacking Canadian-style at Tim Horton’s.

Tim Horton's

Next up, trolley tour!! It was very cold out, but it was a nice way for us to see the city (and conveniently fit within the 2.5 hour window of my child behaving like a human, instead of a gremlin).

Bus Tour

Of course, afterward a nap was NECESSARY. And did serve us well. Then we were off to Eaton Centre to wander around the mall. Because when we go on vacation, my child begs to go to (1) the playground, and (2) the mall. Next year, we’ll vacation in the suburbs. But to keep this little one occupied, we did let her pick out a toy at the Disney Store. She passed over the princesses, and picked out Eve from Wall-E, so we were extra-pleased. I must say, the mall WAS decorated in a lovely way for the holidays, and it was a nice night out wandering around together.

Eaton Centre

Tonight, I ordered the kid to go to bed at a reasonable time (she ignored me, she’s laying on the couch and sneaking goldfish crackers), and Mr. Beez and I are up watching Gone Girl and sipping some beers. And you know what, movies and beers, that’s a nice night.

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Go North, Beez Family!!

Go North, Beez Family!!

Sometime in the Autumn, I hit a funk where it was clear that I NEEDED A VACATION. Not even a long vacation, just a little trip away, just to have some fun and (if all went according to plan) take a brief break from work. Smart people in Pittsburgh head south to where it is nice and warm. We are not smart, and we only had 4 days for this trip, so we went north, to see our friends in the land of moose and maple syrup. Mr. Beez had fond childhood memories of visiting Toronto around Christmas, and I had only visited Toronto once in my freshman year of college, and barely remember the place. Plus, hotel points=free lodging= yes pls. So Toronto, it was.

Our plan was to get on the road at 6am, but due to various work commitments for both Mr. Beez and I, we didn’t even get around to packing until 11pm the night before. We ended up waking up at a reasonable time and getting on the road by 7:30….so still early, just not as early as we hoped.We had our road “reading” all picked out. World War Z was a super fun book and was perfect pick, both Mr. Beez and I enjoyed it. (Note: We’ve got Serial all teed up to listen to on the drive back).  And then some idiot truck river got himself in a major accident on the highway causing a MAJOR traffic backup. It took us 2 hours to get to Wexford. It usually takes about 30 minutes.

truck accident

FINALLY we made it out of the Pittsburgh metro area. We did hit a couple more spots of traffic, but FINALLY Toronto was in sight!

CN Tower

Our plan for the first evening there was to visit Toronto’s famed Christmas Market in the Distillery District. It rivals the Christmas markets in Europe, and has been rated one of the World’s 10 Best Christmas Markets by Fodor’s Travel.

Toronto Christmas Market

Toronto Christmas Market

It really is a lovely and large Christmas Market, but everyone else in the Toronto Metro area apparently planned to go that night, too, and it was PACKED. Mr. Beez and I would rather sit and stare at a wall than be in a crowd, and crowded areas are even less navigable with a hungry 4 year old, so after about 20 minutes we called it a day and went searching for some food that did not involve standing in line.

I don’t know how people managed to travel or find anything before there was Yelp. I mean, I have vague memories of studying abroad in 2002 and lugging around a big ol’ travel book, but if I still had to do that today, I wouldn’t get to see anything cool, because I cannot get my act together to pre-plan our outings. We were leaving the Christmas Market, were hungry, and THANK YOU Yelp, found a well-rated Thai place nearby, Mengrai Thai.  Chef Sasi has won all kinds of awards and accolades, and we were very happy with the delicious and creative menu. The space is unique and comfy, the service quick and attentive. My favorite thing about the menu is that they have 4-course price fixe options, and they do not require everyone at the table to pick the price fixe. This meant I was able to get my price fixe, Mr. Beez picked out a couple of individual things on the menu he wanted, and Baby Beez ate steamed rice and deep-fried shrimp, as you do when you’re 4.

Mengrai Thai appetizer platter

Price fixe appetizer platter, ALL FOR ME.

Pumpkin Soup & Tempura Vegetables

Tofu with Cashews

Mr. Beez and I were both pleased to observe that our orders were chock full of fresh, delicious veggies. Lots of broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, and all kinds of good things. After spending a day in the car, mostly eating carbs and salt, it’s nice to finish the day with a meal full of colors and flavors.

sticky rice and ice cream

My meal was completed with a dessert of mango sticky rice and green tea ice cream. While I’d describe most of the rest of the meal as a solid Thai option, the kind of place I’d have on speed dial for take-out if I lived nearby, this dessert stood out as awesome. There is something about rice based desserts that sounds disgusting to me, but this sticky rice was the perfect texture and flavor, and the green tea ice cream was fabulous. Loved it.

I’ll be sharing the remainder of our trip soon. We’re on our last night here, and plan to make a few stops in Niagara-on-the-Lake and make our way back to Pittsburgh. The time just zoomed by this weekend, and more than anything, I’ve noticed just how many zillions of things there are to do in Toronto. It genuinely has all the options and excitement of New York, with far fewer headaches and at a much better price point. We’re already talking about coming to visit again soon, because there are so many more things we still want to do.