Oh, birthdays. While I don’t really enjoy your age association, I truly love your celebration. Especially in its Weekend Bender form.
Truth be told, I didn’t get much sleep this weekend. And feeling a little like I’m paying for that in the way of a sore throat and general lethargy today — but hey, it’s my MF’ing Birthday!
Friday, I rushed through my morning work schedule, so that I could walk around downtown — it was a gorgeous sunny day. I hit Franktuary for lunch, then wandered over to the Pittsburgh Public Market (for marshmallows and beer). After the boyfriend left work, I met him for a Happy Hour drink at NOLA in Market Square — totally hoping for some outdoor seating (sadly, no room on the patio) — while we discussed our night plans. Which was our first trip out to the Waterfront in Homestead, for comedy at the IMPROV (Jim Jefferies, FTW!). Then, we had WAY too much fun (think: Extreme “More Than Words”) at Sing Sing, Pittsburgh’s dueling piano bar.
Saturday: early rising to join 1,000+ “friends” for the Pedal Pale Ale Keg Ride. Of course, RAIN for the 6+ mile ride from downtown to the starting line at East End Brewing Company (and oh, holy hell, Penn Avenue I hate your elevation). The ride finished off at Penn Brew on the North Side (mmmm, love that warm German Potato Salad!), with thankfully no significant rain during that trip. Afterward, I definitely needed a Disco Nap, if I was going to survive the Dirty Ball. Which was SO MUCH FUN, Pittsburgh. And not an ankle was broken in my 6-inch heels! But there was dancing… LOTS of dancing. The sequins definitely made for an impression.
Sunday was fit for a grump, as I had to wake up early AGAIN (early, at least for how much vodka I had the night before) for a sunny afternoon game with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Oh, lookie there: The Buccos won for my birthday.
AND THEN I DID (something like) 18 LOADS OF LAUNDRY.
Have you been following my Toronto adventures?
#1: Road Trip!
And the best way I know to wrap this up… in list form.
The good: The Hockey Hall of Fame was by far my favorite adventure (besides eating my face off… figuratively, OF COURSE). Also, St. Lawrence Market is a cheese lover’s (read: ME) paradise, and I could have om nom nom’d two more days here. Sadly, I didn’t get back to Kensington Market (neighborhood) for vintage perusing because of the stupid, stupid sickness, but what an amazing place. Note: a grilled cheese restaurant DOES exist, but it’s more Panini-style and less Melt. *sadness*
Also, I was so incredibly geeked to find that the Tim Burton exhibit was at the TIFF Bell Lightbox (the Toronto International Film Festival headquarters, for those who don’t know). Totally unexpected and unplanned, until I read about it in a hotel magazine. Of course, we put it on the schedule. And the visit to the gallery sparked so much emotion and nostalgia. Completely loved it.
The bad: The stupid, stupid nightmare-worthy elevator ride and glass observation floor at the CN Tower. Could not stop the shaking — and it certainly did not help matters that it was a particularly windy day in the city and the communications tower was ACTUALLY SHAKING. I was fine with the heights when I was on the exterior observation deck (and could breathe freely), but NOT on glass panels some 33 floors above the ground. Did I mention that the elevator had glass floors. I don’t know about you, but I kind of DON’T want to see myself fall to my death surrounding by fluctuating light patterns. Double rainbow or not.
Decidedly, NOT the fun part of the tourist adventure for me.
The food: It’s probably easiest to direct you to my Yelp reviews for our eating adventures, as we experienced a LOT of food (and perhaps too much room service). Many, many thanks go to the couple behind Tasting Toronto for suggesting several options for dinner, markets, beers and everything in between. Between Yelp reviews and their referrals, we certainly experienced some gems.
I still haven’t quite figured out what Peameal Bacon is, but it is Emeril approved. BAM!
The beer: I was really impressed at the beer scene in Toronto. REALLY impressed.
Here were a few new brews to me during my trip (and a few notes):
Wellington County Dark Ale (Give me a Wellie! Love it — and my new bar coaster)
Amsterdam Black Friday Brew (exclusive: I like; only two other bars in Toronto carry it)
Flying Monkey Cascadian Dark Ale
Railway City Brewing Dead Elephant Ale (came highly recommended, but just OK; loved the label)
Beau Layered Ale
Black Oak Pale Ale (bubbly! nice in my mouth)
C’est What? Caraway Rye Beer (many times over: wow, wow, wow — excellent beer)
Alexander Keith’s Harvest Ale (reminded me of Sam Adam’s… weird)
We did attempt a stop at the Steam Whistle Brewing, but their open hours were only until 6pm. AND we missed it, but not for NOT trying — as it took us some 20 minutes to find where an entrance even existed. Cool building though and loved the trains. We didn’t end up back in that part of the city again to tour the brewery. We did stop into the Hard Rock Cafe (lame) in Yonge-Dundas Square (think: small Times Square). No interesting beers. At all. But Steam Whistle was available, which was so reminiscent of (disgusting) Heineken — in green glass printed bottle concept and taste. Blech.
Another gem: Distillery District is a cute little neighborhoods in Toronto, which includes galleries, restaurants, bars and the like, converted from the shell of a huge, old Distillery. Located in that maze of establishments is Mill Street Brewing Company — another one of our “favorites” from our trip. Because I like to share hilarious stories… while we were sitting at the bar, a one-camera film crew came in, recording what felt like part of a reality show. Or the intro to a porno… because THAT WOULD TOTALLY HAPPEN TO ME.
My face was definitely on camera — so if you ever see something taking place at this bar, please direct me to YouTube. We were not asked to sign any releases, but the bartender mentioned that it was some overseas show (recording without permission, natch — hence: porn), and she had no clue what it was all about either NOR did she want to be on camera. Anyways… interesting.
I had the award-winning Tankhouse Ale and sampled the Coffee Porter — both fantastic beers, worthy of their medals. We also purchased a 2010 Barley Wine, which couldn’t wait until we got home, and we enjoyed it that night from the hotel. We made friends with the sales associate and would LOVE to do a trade for another Barley to age (she says it’s even better).
Toronto was an amazing place. Even better than I remember from that fateful band trip some 20 years ago. I cannot wait to return — for the food, the culture AND the beer. And definitely get in some more cheese tastings!
During our visit home this past weekend, we took part in the closing ceremony of Cleveland Beer Week: BREWzilla. While I would have liked to take part in the smaller, more intimate events scheduled, this party is still a great way to celebrate a birthday with 80+ of your closet brewery friends (ahem, AB’s). Having high expectations from last year’s debut event — which I wrote about several times — it was now my year to nit-pick. You know, now that I have a few beer and whiskey tasting events under my belt.
And my tolerance (not for the drinking, even though that certainly has its challenges) has hit an all-time low. Perspective. I haz it.
First things first, I’m not certain of the reasons for changing venues (there was a wedding in the Hyatt that night though, as warned by the front desk clerk), I’m not that big a fan of events held at The Galleria. Why do we need this ginormous space? While I appreciate having enough room to put my elbows on my hips with utter disdain while complaining about everyone, why does EVERYONE even need to be there? Can CBW somehow cap ticket sales to make it more exclusive and set in smaller venues? I know the drinking events here in Pittsburgh sell out QUICK — two months in advance — but it keeps them worth the cost, I think. Also, The Galleria is DARK, especially in certain corners, which I really only recommend for the band’s staging area. Which was located in the middle of everything. And OMG, skinny escalators when inebriated is a genuine bucket list experience.
And then I said: Self, WHERE IS THE FUCKING COAT CHECK? Oh yes, I am that pissed about it, that I’m swearing on my blog today. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for adults who are paying $50 or $75 per ticket, attending an event in CLEVELAND at the end of October, that there be a designated location for such. Granted, it wasn’t snowing, but I was walking AND it was raining, so I needed to wear a light jacket. I’m no longer 21, running into bars in open-toe heels and sleeveless tops — and I sure as hell wasn’t stuffing my coat behind a garbage can. I couldn’t wear it either because even in my light sweater, it was hot as the sweaty port-o-pots. Uh, yeah, I won’t even TOUCH this part of the night, as I suppose it’s my own hang-up. Whatevs. Regardless, I had to use the restaurant’s coat rack upstairs in the VIP section (thankfully, which my tickets covered the makeshift accommodations), and by my guess-timation was NOT enough space for the coats of 1,200+ people. Was it blind neglect? Was it undue pain and suffering for carrying a clutch in the first place? Was I really expected to just “stash it” or worse, carry it with me all night?
So, when I arrived through registration (again, with serious line mishaps much like last year), this was my inventory: my purse, a drinking glass, tickets (that thankfully were on a lanyard, but I needed my own hands free to tear off), a free t-shirt… and my coat. Also, I would count my iPhone as an extension to all that, so I could log all my tastes into the awesome Beerby app (lifeliberty, FYI). It was a constant juggling act, even without my coat. And there was nowhere to set my things down for a second to even put my ID back into my wallet. Unless you count the food court. Last year, there were scattered tables throughout the Arcade. THIS IS NECESSARY! Sometimes you just gotta put shit down for a second.
Also, for the second year in a row, I missed the food. At Pittsburgh’s Big Pour (which I attended in September), the food is commingled with the beer, not separated into its own section. I think this would be more appropriate, convenient and a better opportunity to incorporate the selections from local restaurants — whether specifically beer paired or not (although I opt for the former). Lilly’s Chocolate did a FANTASTIC job of this! Use this as example. And the VIP buffet line? Completely picked through before 7 o’ clock hit. I went back twice to a nearly empty table, so I’m not certain if there were ever refills of food.
Was there water somewhere? I saw none. NOT A SINGLE BOTTLE OF WATER at a drinking event. I consider this a massive fail. And again, if it was served in the “food section,” this needs to be reconsidered. Most brewery tables didn’t have dump buckets and water pitchers set up either, so I imagine most brewers assumed the party planning commission would have attended to this, instead of bringing their own.
All that complaining aside, BREWzilla is still a fine drinking event if you want to experience several different craft brews. We did try quite a few new-to-us or un-distributed/un-bottled beverages. And I’m really excited about Rooster Fish’s Hop Warrior (even if they need to start distributing to PA). I also picked up a four-pack of vintage Goose Island’s Bourbon County bottles dating back to 2006 in the silent auction (and AB got his stupid New Holland boot). But if I go back to Cleveland next year for Beer Week, I will likely be making reservations for some of the smaller tasting and unique dinner events.
Did you go to BREWzilla? Thoughts, comments, suggestions to make the event an even better success in future years?
Side note: I won tickets from a Cleveland blogger for this event (for which I am incredibly grateful), so I did not pay anything to attend this year. I DID, however, pay for last year. So, I’m just trying to put myself into YOUR wallet-emptying shoes.
(forever?) Huh. I don’t think so.
No, not FOREVER, silly — to visit. Which still sounds weird, all things considered. I wonder if they’ve rented our old apartment. *thought process montage*
Our October trip meshes well with Cleveland Beer Week (oh, the irony!)… or at least it’s uber-fantastic and drunken closing event, BREWzilla. And many thanks to Cleveland Foodie, I’ve won myself a pair of Brewer’s Circle tickets! I did say last year how sweet it is that this event/week falls around AB’s birthday, right?
INSTANT BIRTHDAY IDEA.
Actually, I said a lot about Cleveland Beer Week last year (psst, because it’s AWESOME):
On the 9th day of Cleveland Beer Week, my true love gave to meeeeee (ahem, Christmas Ale)
We participated in some sort of tasting, paired dinner or cheese and beer party every day. I kind of wish I could be there all week again.
In any event, my buddy BJ at Three Beers Deep is giving away a pair of tickets to BREWzilla! Check out his blog and leave a comment — and hey, it’s only a couple hours away from Pittsburgh. Perhaps a few of you ‘Burghers would be interested in making the trip because you love, love, love your craft beer (but please, take advantage of the Crowne Plaza hotel discount and stick around for a night).
And then pray to beef and liver giblets that his friend’s dog chooses your can… er, name.
I’m starting to bore working from home. There are so many reasons that I love it — mostly being able to work at my own pace and schedule — but before you know it, I’ve been in the building for three whole days, so that when I finally see people I introduce myself with “meowww!” and a scowl because all I’ve talked to is a cat and muttered incessantly at the laundry. Then when the boyfriend doesn’t want to do anything, I get all bitchy about being bored (like it’s somehow his fault he works in an office WITH PEOPLE). Thankfully, I’ve got a few upcoming opportunities brewing that will get me out, experiencing my new awesome city. And yes, making new friends who are not furry balls of cute who scratch my couch.
So, since I was beyond bored — and because I called my boyfriend an old man — we went out both Friday and Saturday night. While “bored” is probably not the best word to describe my emotion, I am new here and jealous that the boyfriend has seen a lot already, since he’s worked here for six months. I totally understand that he wants to stay home and relax, having traveled for so long… what I’m trying to say is that I need some friends.
Side note: I actually started my weekend a little earlier, with a beer lunch at Sharp Edge Bistro — which is practically across the street. Something we noticed on our happy hour adventure on Friday night downtown was the rare use of valet services. WHAT A CONCEPT: people come to the city for dinner, theater and what-not and are not catered to their suburban laziness! I have ALWAYS hated the idea of valet on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland. ALWAYS. The street is cluttered with huge-ass garages and people are that inept at parking in them. ‘Burghers find street parking (which typically comes with $30 ticket) and garage space (of which, is a LOT fewer than what Cleveland has). Also? People dressed up (from the theater), waiting for the bus. When was the last time you saw that in Cleveland? While I’m sure at some degree it exists, I can honestly say in my lifetime, that I have seen that ZERO times. There are certain exceptions in Pittsburgh, of course, but nobody will be parking your hooptie, thankyouverymuch.
Is it strange that I am so fascinated by people in what many consider to be a like-sized and minded city to Cleveland? I’m not so sure that I agree with that comparison any more.
Regardless, we had an interesting experience checking out a rooftop happy hour (blech, smokers), a martini bar with an OK beer list and an amazing “lawyer bar” called Common Plea.
Saturday afternoon, I blocked out because I was extraordinarily bitchy from not eating for close to six hours while we did our grocery shopping and errands. Moving on…
Downtown was really crazy, when we decided to head off for a cab JUST AS THE THEATER WAS LETTING OUT on Saturday night. The cultural district was just… mobbed. And when we called for our “classy” cab, we were told 45-minute wait. No dice, when you need to be at an event, err, like, now. We ended up having to walk up to the Omni to use their cab stand because this city apparently has the same lack of cabs available, unless you are at a hotel.
Next up, I need to start figuring out the public transportation here. Yes, I already have a car, but using a cab ALL THE TIME will get old and expensive real quick.
My beer lunch during the week was for a purpose: to purchase tickets for the (sold out) Steel City Big Pour 4. The biggest beer event in town in our first week? I had to be there. My new buddy at Craft Pittsburgh helped make that happen.
SCBP4 took place at Construction Junction – don’t ask me the neighborhood, I think it was somewhere in South Homestead or Point Breeze or likewise bullshit, but it seemingly took forever to get there. The Junction is this awesome recycled or reusable building materials warehouse, the size of a Home Depot. They have EVERYTHING — including toilets in every color of porcelain. I need to go back for a tour (and find a vintage vanity mirror). For serious. The Big Pour event was a blast, and it was really amazing to see the amount of local brewers/crafters from around this area. Ah, yes, craft beer is alive and well in da ‘Burgh.
I likely need to start a Pittsburgh Bucket List. I’m looking forward to getting my happy hour on at the Milkshake Factory this Wednesday (impromptu Tweet-up, anyone?), a visit to a new restaurant open with a friend (and more of her Browns/Steelers fan ribbing) and Pittsburgh Podcamp 5 (super excited to meet some of my favorite local bloggers and tech peeps). I also met some great peeps at Downtown Lunch Club on Monday. We have a Downtown Resident Block Party on Saturday night (free food and drink: sweetness). It’s going to be another awesome week here.
I will not get bored.
Continuing on my eating adventures of Pittsburgh, I walked (again, the 20 blocks or so) for pancakes at Pamelas in The Strip. This is the cute old-style greasy spoon diner that Obama loved on his visit to The ‘Burgh. What’s good for Mr. President is good for me, right? Unfortunately for my waistline that morning, I also had a craving for eggs. So, I had eggs AND the delicious blueberry crepe-style pancakes for breakfast. And bacon. Sweet Jesus, this was a lot of delicious food — served quick, eaten more so. Piggy love.
After only a few hours, it was time to meet AB for lunch. It was a gorgeous day in Pittsburgh — the sun brought everyone outside to enjoy a bit of sunshine. I selected Las Velas in the Market Square to (potentially) stalk PittGirl of That’s Church — a blog I have been reading almost as long as I have been writing (her husband owns the place), but missed out on her morning appearance. Next time, Jane Pitt.
Regardless, only a few hours after scarfing down all that breakfast, I was able to devour two enchiladas. Service of lunch took longer than expected (with my millionty of visits to Mexican restaurants), but I imagine it was because of my ordering enchiladas for lunch without a margarita to pass the time. I really enjoyed what appeared to be homemade baked chips with an mild, pleasant salsa. I went with my usual red sauce on the enchiladas, but it was also slightly drizzled in some hot peppery green sauce. The small detail gave just the perfect amount of heat to my two cheesy favorites. I was also impressed with the side of BLACK beans with the order (and not the typical refried).
A food coma ensued… tick. tick. tick.
For our anniversary, we cleaned up a bit and went a little more “fancy” for dinner. We cabbed into North Oakland to Toast! (kitchen and wine bar). Don’t let their horrible Web site confuse you — this place was so cute, and was voted as one of Pittsburgh’s Best in 2009 in several categories (Best Upcoming Chef, Top 25 Restaurants and perhaps Most Romantic or something or other). We shared a couple apps: the mac & cheese and the foie gras. Both were served with an unexpected twist — the mac with a fried egg on top and the foie gras was almost blackened/grilled. Both options were so, so delicious. The mac appetizer truly gives Michael Symon’s comfort food a run for his money (you know how I love any food item with the addition of a fried egg!) Wow. The foie gras was excellent – especially to eat prepared in a wholly different manner. It was also served with beans. Delicious.
I had a salad, while AB enjoyed his Onion Bisque (which had crab in it, so I couldn’t taste). The salad was prepared to my liking, included cranberries and walnuts with mixed greens, but if you do not like a TON of dressing on your greens, I would recommend not ordering this (or even asking for less dressing if at all possible). Again, my preference is salads sopped in bleu cheese. Oh, it was good.
Our entrees one-upped our first two courses. The menu had many great options in every different fish and meat category — I selected the suckling pig and AB enjoyed the Mahi Mahi. It was served similar to a gelatinous cube of pork belly, over steamed carrots and more beans (this time, white). The pig also had a layer of crispy skin to it that totally enhanced the taste. I was definitely too full to finish my plate, and there was not even the tiniest bit of room for a dessert.
We finished up with a few craft brews at Sharp Edge, who lay claim to “Best Belgian Beer Bar in the US.” I’ll let Bier Markt know. In all seriousness, this location (there are four) had every beer I could think of that was Belgian exported. Great draft specials for a Thursday night (and thankfully, no drunk Irish to ruin our night out).
Our third day was short, since I had to get back somewhat early to Cleveland. AB took the day off work with me, and after a small breakfast in the hotel, we went walking (again) to The Strip. Man, so crappy that my good shoes tore because I ended up having to wear thin shoes and killed my legs and hips. Eh. But I digress.
I brought him to Mon Amie for a little “thank you” gift for the girl in our apartment building who looked after our Rudy while we were away (and a Bacon Bar that I cannot eat because of the potential “shellfish” warning on the label WTF?!).
For lunch we went into what I think is the Shadyside or Friendship neighborhood for burgers at Tessaro’s. The amazing (and huge) Deli Burger has Swiss cheese, cole slaw, pickles, and, I think, thousand island dressing on rye bread. We both ordered the same thing. Of course, I could eat maybe half of the delicious blend of ground meat, especially after devouring the entire side of potato salad. It had that wonderful addition of (too much for most people) vinegar that I just drool over. Like Grandma’s.
And any visit to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, would not be complete without a trip to the giant beer store. As luck would have it, there was one case of Great Lakes Christmas Ale on the shelves. Just as we ran out of our last case. Score. Next time, we pack lighter to bring another case or two home.
I know you are all jealous of my ability to wrangle not only a Valentine’s Day DATE, but a true life Valentine’s Day boyfriend.
We started off our Romantic Weekend at the West Side Market Cafe for hash and egg benedicts (and way too much Bailey’s for my coffee… yes, I did actually just type the words “too much” in front of something containing alcohol). We shopped for our sweet weekend of food. We bought fresh tuna and salmon to make our own sushi and a shit-load of goat cheese and fresh rosemary for our Valentine’s Day dinner.
A day prior, I picked up the cutest handmade sushi set at Bazaar Bizarre Valentine’s edition from local artist Christin M. Sorenson. It was a perfect Couples Gift.
Yeah, I even lit fucking candles.
Together, we love Michael Symon, so why wouldn’t we plan his infamous mac & cheese dinner for the holiday itself? More cheese for you AND me.
We walked over to Ohio City Blooms for a small bouquet to cheer up the apartment (and me, while I’m “working” from within it) — those boys walked me over to their display of beautiful tropical flowers. So much for a “small bouquet.” They are gorgeous, by the way. Since the bouquet was so large, we needed to invest in a larger vase for our table – it matched well. Even if we have to place the entire thing on the tall dresser in the bedroom at bedtime and when we leave, as to not inspire the kitty for any wrong-doing business.
How many blow jobs do you get for $50 these days?
Next up was Lilly Handmade Chocolates in Tremont for a pick-a-sixer (eg: De Dolle Extra Special Export Stout, Stone collaboration Belgian Style Triple Ale from 2008, He’ Brew Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A. and others) and a sixer of chocolate (Kindergartner, Lime, Love Potion No. 9 1/2, etc.), plus one Big Berry Monster bar to share — the Heather will be eaten and savored last, of course). Delicious. And I LOVE beer.
Continuing the date, we bought tickets to the Saturday late show at Pickwick & Frolic/Hilarities to see the ever-dirty Jim Jeffries. It was a weird show, by no fault of Jeffries. But was apparent there were a bunch of noobs out in the 216 Saturday night. A week ago we went down to see Mary Ellen Hooper (HILARIOUS) and nobody spoke out of turn… this show, some girl in the balcony nearly upset the entire show by being forceably removed by the cops. Just one after another, idiot after idiot kept yelling stupid shit out. Jeffries maybe got 10 minutes of his routine out before putting out audience fires. Have these people ever been to a comedy show before? Shut up and laugh. That is all.
Sunday, we made breakfast in… bread? Yes, these pancakes are like banana bread. While I intended on bananas foster, a stack of banana-walnut pancakes sounded so much more Valentine-y breakfast.
Love. Oh man, I need to make my own whipped cream – I keep forgetting…
Oh yeah, that “hormone problem” is still around. I cried after he read his card (it was a “serious” card this holiday, when I typically opt on the side of humour). Yeah, it’s a happy cry (one of which I experienced upon BUYING the damn thing and reading it in Target), which is ultimately what matters. But seriously, my eyes are making up for months of staying dry. I’m just feeling so freaking sappy as of late.
Make it stop!
We ended the extended weekend with a totally nerdy, early-morning Monday trip to the Great Lakes Science Center – courtesy of Cleveland.com (thankyouverymuch!). The GLSC has made some significant changes and additions since my last visit a couple years ago (where I ranted here). Majority of the exhibits were functioning and fun to play around with, and the inception of the NASA addition is incredible. I could have sat in front of the space and astronomy videos all day. Bravo, Science Center. Although, I kinda miss the weather screen.
YES! ASTRONAUT ICE CREAM!!! Am I too old for the science sleepover?
Taking advantage of our free time for lunch together, we ate the biggest and best of corned beef sandwiches at Slyman’s on Monday afternoon.
See what that is? When you have Valentine’s Day boyfriends, you celebrate an entire WEEKEND of fun.
Love x 2.