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Unexpected Date Night: Tearing up the Town @almapgh @cakecookiespot and @clubcafelive

Unexpected Date Night: Tearing up the Town @almapgh @cakecookiespot and @clubcafelive

On Mother’s Day Weekend, we ended up with an unexpected date night.  My mother –in-law already had plans to watch Baby Beez while we were out on our roller skating adventure, but when we dropped her off that afternoon,  she asked if she could please keep Baby Beez for an overnight.  We didn’t have anything planned with the kiddo for the night, so what the heck, spending more time with her Grandparents is a win all around (they took her to Chuck-E-Cheese, by the way, so I’m sure she was very pleased that we acquiesced to this request).  After living out our childhoods on the rink, we ran some boring grown-up errands (which included buying new couches. Yay new couches!)  Since we hadn’t planned for an evening out ahead of time, we went with the old standby: FOOD!

 For dinner we went to Alma, Regent Square’s innovative pan-Latin establishment.  We’ve been there several times before, but this time the starters really stole the spotlight.  I had an avocado and grilled chicken soup that was hearty but not too thick for the warm weather, and the fried yucca was amazing.  I’d take that yucca over French fries any day.  It was crispy on the outside but much denser than the common potato.  It was hearty and filling.

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Mr. Beez went for steak and was very pleased with his dish.  Many of the dishes here are some variation on protein/rice/beans, but they are all skillfully seasoned and carefully prepared.  I find that Alma doesn’t provide any surprises, but that its strength is in its consistency. 

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I had the vegetarian tangine with tofu.  The vegetables, fruit and rice within the tangerine were a colorful mixture.  They actually forgot the tofu initially and quickly brought it to me on a separate plate, but I didn’t even notice it was missing, because the dish was quite excellent without it.  In fact, I didn’t think the tofu was really necessary (I certainly won’t turn down a serving of tofu, though, I like that stuff.) 

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Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen on Urbanspoon

We passed on the dessert at Alma in favor of exploring an establishment in Squirrel Hill.  We visited the Cake & Cookie Spot. Its offerings are exactly like its name—cake and cookies. They are awesome. 

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Their signature offering, and my favorite of the ridiculously huge gluttonous order we placed, are cake shots.  This is cake layered with filling and frosting.  I feared that the cake might get soggy, but it did not. Not in the least.  This cake was so light and fluffy and the fillings and icing so perfect.  I picked the S’mores cake shot, but they had many, many flavors including red velvet, vanilla, grasshopper, etc. I need MOAR.

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I also ordered a 7-layer bar, which was delicious and buttery and chocolaty and rich.  So delicious, even the sea mammals are trying to steal the treats!

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Mr. Beez and I also split a bunch of cookies.  Like the other desserts, they were exquisite.  He had ordered a brownie, and we discovered that they didn’t hear that part of our order, and Mr. Beez was heartbroken.  I guess that just means I’ll have to make another visit back there soon!  The Cake & Cookie spot is the perfect place when you’re having a hankering for skillfully baked but homey-tasting baked goods.  It’s like a Pittsburgh cookie table in a storefront!

The Cake and Cookie Spot on Urbanspoon

The following day was Mother’s Day, so we had plans to spend most of the day hanging out with my in-laws.  I was hoping for an opportunity for a grown-up brunch, complete with cocktails, so the timing of Baby Beez’ overnight was impeccable.  Mr. Beez and I were able to pay a visit to Club Café for a sophisticated, grown up brunch.  The last time I was there I had the steak & egg croissant and it was awesome.  I wasn’t in the mood for that on this visit, but I pressured Mr. Beez to try it out, and he loved it.  The combination of the buttery croissant from Jean-Marc Chattelier’s bakery and the meaty steak is delicious and filling.

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I started off with a salad that was perfectly dressed with arugula, walnuts and goat cheese.  If only every meal started this way!

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Next were the shrimp & grits.  I love grits. Love them, love them, love them.  These were dressed with turmeric and a little kick, and delightfully lightly charred shrimp.  It was delightful.  Absolutely delightful. 

shrimpgrits

Club Café is a decidedly grown-up brunch spot.  It’s laid back, not fancy, but it has an abundant cocktail menu and sophisticated dining option.  It’s not as well known as some other big-name brunch spots, so that means there’s often a table open.  Club Café s on my short list of places to bring out-of-towners when they’re seeking a taste of the ‘burgh.
Club Cafe on Urbanspoon

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30 Before 30– Sahside Step Trek #steptrek

It’s been radio silence on the 30 before 30 front for a while. I’ve been making my way steadily through the AFI Top 100, and I have a few things coming down the line. Some things I know I’m not gonna get done (not going to do a hot air balloon ride before Nov 18, because I don’t want to blow $500 on a novelty right now, and vacation happened so that whole pay-off-the-credit-card thing did not), but I’m not stressing myself over this. My purpose for the list is to have FUN, and to finally get around to doing things I’ve wanted to do, but haven’t made time for. Some of the things I’ve gone above and beyond with– for example, I’ve had several legal articles published, and Baby Beez is a total pro at please/thank you (sometimes a reminder is needed). As my 30 before 30 draws to a close, I’m working on thinking up a BIGGER and BADDER 40 before 40. It will mostly be travel focused, and be on a larger scale, since I’ll have ten whole years to get through it. Now, on to the day’s adventures!

We made the Southside Step Trek a family outing. Mr. Beez enjoys hiking, and he totally spoils me, so he agreed to do the trek and he carried Baby Beez in the beco carrier. Climbing the steps of the Sahside is way easier when you do NOT have a 25 lb toddler strapped to your back. Last year the Step Trek was on Yom Kippur, so that was a no go. I almost bailed on the outing today because the sky was drizzly, but it cleared up beautifully.

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Grouchy face

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The Southside slopes combine history, charm, and industrial grit. The views from the hills are breathtakingly picturesque. The streets are small, winding and inconsistent. If it weren’t for the Step Trek, I probably would have never explored the slopes. It’s almost entirely residential, and I wouldn’t have seen much reason to go wander around a neighborhood where, on my own, I would get terribly lost. The Step Trek is an awesome event to get a glimpse of a part of the city you might otherwise not see, to support a helpful neighborhood group. and to have fun with friends or family while having some exercise. The stairways are separated by fairly long flat paths, so you don’t have to be in the best of shape to be able to complete the trek.

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Thanks to Pittsburgh’s working class mill town history, the city is covered in city stairways that millworkers used to use to go to and from work.  The stairways are frequently designated as streets, so if you every try to get around using a GPS you may get the unique treat of being instructed to make a turn onto what you discover is not a street at all! Instead, it’s just a stairway that is identified as a street on maps….. Recalculating! Recalculating!

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The Step Trek is phenomenally well executed. The trek is self paced, and at check-in, you get a booklet with a map and written directions, complete with interesting historical facts. There are two routes, Black (3.1 miles) and Gold (2.6 miles). With the little one in tow, we opted for the shorter one. Had we not been hauling her around, it would have been fun to do them both. Each of the routes takes 60-90 minutes, so completing them both would be a long endeavor, but doable. The routes are very well marked with signage, which is so amazingly helpful.

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Mr. Beez designated me as “navigator,” but I’d be better known as “lostmaker.” Thanks to the excellent signage, we managed to stay on path. Kudos to the Step Trek for an event well planned!

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The Virgin Mary and a fallout shelter…if praying can’t help you, come hang out in our bunker…

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Trekking is hard work!



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Club Cafe Brunch

Friday’s not a traditional “brunch” day, but I figured by posting this on a Friday, you could keep Club Cafe in mind when you’re putting very important brunch plans together. (Brunch, my friends, is the most IMPORTANT meal of the weekend). Also, I am feeling like a sad sack because there aren’t many entries on my Love With Food giveaway.  The giveaway closes to night, so please stop on over there to share your FAVORITE THING ON THE INTERNET! (and to make me feel popular)

Club Cafe is an intimate live music venue in the Southside. Seeing a band play there feels like you’re hanging out with them in your living room. I was excited to see they’ve begun to offer Sunday brunches…oh who am I kidding, I get excited about every mention of brunch! Of course, a LivingSocial deal bumped Club Cafe up to the top of my “must try!” list.

I met up with my friend Sonia for a walk around the Southside before brunching. We walked from 18th street down and around the Southside Works and back, and worked up quite an appetite. Good thing, because Club Cafe’s brunch menu was so full of delicious sounding offerings that we had a hard time choosing.

I selected the Steak & Egg croissant. This is no Crossainwich, this thing is delightful. Club Cafe gets their croissants from Jean-Marc Chatellier’s French Bakery. They are SRS BZNESS. While the croissant was too delicate a bread to fully contain the sandwich, it complemented the steak and egg with perfect decadence. The only fitting description for this sandwich is buttery. Oh it was so good.  I want to eat this every day.

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I initially did not plan to order any cocktails, but I saw they offer a Bloody Mary flight, and I could not resist. I imagined that these would be small glasses of bloody mary, but hoo boy, are they ever generous with their servings.

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I would return to Club Cafe for brunch in a heartbeat. The food was delicious and the prices were good. The service was astounding as well. We arrived on the earlier side for brunch, but even as time passed and the seats began to fill, the servers were quick to fill our water and coffee and attend to every need.
Club Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Delanie’s Coffee

A friend who lives in the Sahside and knows of my interest in trying new places, and in great coffee shops, told me all about Delanie’s Coffee.  If I had an afternoon to burn, I’d love to spend it lounging at a coffee shop, reading a book, and sipping a cafe au lait.  I was a coffee shop expert in law school, and spent MANY full days studying for the bar exam various coffee shops, sampling both the shop’s breakfast and lunch wares.  Those days are long gone, and sadly most of my coffee shop visits are of the carry out variety.

If I were back in my study-hall days, Delanie’s would be just what I’d be looking for.  There is ample seating, plenty of light, a variety of food and coffee choices, and free wireless.  Although its location in the Southside is notorious for limited parking, that’s really only a problem at night.  I’ve never had trouble finding a place to park (and often without even the need of quarters) during daylight hours.

I was sorely caffeine deprived, and ordered myself a large cafe au lait.  I also got a “naughty chocolattie” cookie, which contains a smidgen of hot pepper and BBQ sauce.  After purchasing the cookie I worried that I just bought something inedible.  However, the cookie only had a tiny smidgen of spice, and tasted mostly of chocolate. It would have been nice to be able to hang out at Delanie’s for a bit, but my Saturday was chock-full of errands, and I only had time for a quick stop on my way home from my weekly Costco run.

Both the coffee and the cookie were good but not particularly stand-out.  I might not bother to go out of my way for carry out coffee from Delanie’s, but I would definitely return for the coffee house experience.  The size and welcoming feeling of the shop would be perfect for various literary events or meetups.  The shop is fairly new and still getting it’s legs.  I hope it finds a strong footing and succeeds.