Memorial Day Weekend

Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to live in such an awesome city. Pittsburgh has a variety of treasures around the city to explore. This long, holiday weekend I was able to hit up a few different areas of Pittsburgh. One of the reasons I love this city so much is because of the various neighborhoods that are on the outskirts of the city. During the three day weekend, I was in Gibsonia, Bakery Square, Shadyside, Southside, and the North Hills area. It was a fun-filled weekend with lots to do but there was also some time to relax added in which is essential.

 

On Friday, we had a brunch buffet at the Rivers Club, where they had candied bacon and eggs benedict. A way to a girls heart is through a good brunch. Then, sadly work still had to be done before we commenced the weekend activities. After work, we went to the North Park Clubhouse to sample some Pura Still, the new non-carbonated alcoholic water. It is quite interesting! If you are looking for something to drink this summer without the fizz this is for you, but I would strongly suggest pouring it over ice. We headed down to Southside for some Winghart’s burgers. My go-to burger choice is anything with either bleu cheese, hot sauce, or an egg…or all three together!

 

Saturday rolled around, and we made it to Crossfit in order to complete the Murph workout for the first time. It was rough! But since we worked it, it means we could eat more holiday food right?!? The Bakery Square summer quick-off party was going on 1-5 pm, so we stopped by for a bit. It was the perfect temperature and was not overly crowded at all. They had a beer tent that served Sam Adams Porch Rocker that was very fitting for the day. We each tried a different food truck. I had Parrot Bay Cafe where I got their buffalo chicken mac n’ cheese. It was really good! My belly was certainly please. My boyfriend tried La Palapa’s for the first time. He had three different tacos. The pork one was definitely the best and most flavorful. My friend got a rice bowl at Pittsburgh Po’Boy, and it looked really tasty. I am always excited to try new food trucks and support the local Pittsburgh businesses. Bakery Square put together a nice event. Later that evening, we headed over to Walnut Street for Jam on Walnut. Since it had rained, the crowds were limited. Normally, I can barely move at this event but Saturday night hardly anyone was there. Plus, you no longer had to pay for a wristband to drink which made it much more worthwhile. We stuck around Steel Cactus for a little, until we headed to Southside. This was just like an old Duquesne college night where we started at Tad’s and ended at Jimmy’s. It was not where I thought the night would go, but we had a lot of fun!

 

Sunday was spent drinking lots of water HAHA my 25 year old self cannot keep up with holiday weekends anymore. We indulged in some delicious Mad Mex for dinner. You can’t go wrong with that place in my opinion. We started with the trio dip – roja salsa, cheese dip, and guac. We were both starving and this certainly hit the spot. Each of us ordered a burrito the size of our face. I had the wing-o-rito with their General Zaragoza sauce. If you have not yet tried this sauce, you are missing out! Also, I ordered a side of fries because they have incredible waffle fries. But not only are their waffle fries great, the bleu cheese they have is out of this world. It has a hint of spice and whole chunks of bleu cheese. Yum! We each took our burritos to go in order to eat them after our soccer game. We got our butts kicked but at least our bellies were full.

 

On Monday, we headed to Crossfit again for a Memorial Day Hero WOD. It was one of my favorite workouts in a while. My family was having a midday cookout, so we showered and headed there for some grub. It was another beautiful day outside. We had cheeseburgers, corn on the cob, baked beans with sausage, sweet and spicy chicken thighs, pasta salad, and fruit. Also, my boyfriend and I collaborated in making some guac. This was a process and a half because we decided to buy avocados an hour before making it. The avocados were rock hard so smashing them was very difficult. At least the guac tasted good. I love some good cookout food! When the sun is shining and the grill is cooking, you know it is going to be a good day. We had such a lovely time with the family. The whole weekend was wonderful, and I wish we never had to work again.

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Belgian waffles

Since my return from Europe, life has been a little hectic. I graduated from my master’s program in secondary education. I began substituting at a local district while continuously applying to teaching positions is honestly a full-time gig. Seeing my friends and family has been a priority as well. So this whole blogging thing is difficult to keep up with all of the time. I am sorry that it has been a while!

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I was going to write a blog post on all of my food adventures in Europe. You see I went over in February to finish my student teaching in Ireland. While there, I had the opportunity to travel to London, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The whole thing was an incredible experience. I was able to have many food adventures and hit up a bunch of different pubs. But guys, the thing I need to brag about the most is the waffles! I mean you go to Belgium in order to gain 15 pounds alone on waffles covered in nutella or whipped cream.

Our first waffle stop was at Le Funambule. We had searched long and hard for waffles as soon as we got there, but we were no where near the city of Brussels. It shocked us that we could not find a waffle anywhere. Then, we came across this street right in the heart of Brussels, and we knew we hit the jackpot. This waffle was freshly baked with powder sugar on top. It was very good but a little sticky compared to the others we tasted. It almost had a crunchy texture because of the crystalized sugar.

Next stop, Be Waffles where I decided to add some ice cream to my waffle. The ice cream made this sweet treat much better than Le Funambule. The waffle was lighter and not as crispy, so it was easier to eat. When the ice cream began to melt it made for a delicious combination. The only problem with this one is that I wish it had been a little more fresh.  After Brussels, we hit up Brugge and of course had a waffle. In the Grote Market, they were selling desserts which included waffles. The waffles were more expensive here and not the best one we had all trip. This one was just a simple waffle with nothing on it, but it was still tasty.

 

 

 

As we went on throughout our trip, we got better at picking out the best waffles. The last two waffle stops were by far my favorites! Vitalgaufre served stuffed waffles which is as good as it sounds. I picked a chocolate stuffed waffle. Drool worthy! In each bite you had a mixture of nutella and fluffy waffle. It was extremely sweet but exactly what I needed after walking so many miles in our days. I would go back to Brussels just for this waffle. Finally, our last waffle adventure ended at Los Churros & Waffle. Now I had a few Belgian beers this night, but I know a good waffle when I taste it. This waffle had homemade whipped cream, caramel, and biscoff cookie crumbs on top. Quite a filling dessert but I do not regret any bite. This place was certainly my second favorite out of them all.

I hope you all have the chance to someday experience the deliciousness of Belgian’s many waffles. If not, my friend that I travelled with told me Waffallonia is extremely good. I have yet to go, but if you need a professional waffle taster to go with, I am your girl. Feel free to let me know of any other amazing waffles right in the United States, I would love to continue my waffle journey.

Weekend Trip to Nashville

Well foodie friends, I am officially a quarter of a century. I hit age 25 last week and celebrated it in Nashville, Tennessee with my 5 college best friends. The city is incredible with an abundance of fun bars and restaurants. We stayed at an incredible Air BnB about 10 minutes from Broadway (message me for details about our house). Nashville has the food scene down pat. Every single one of our meals was honestly amazing. It would be tough to pick a favorite, but we sure did do a lot of eating in the three day trip.

When a group of girls get together, what do they do best? BRUNCH! We were able to hit up two brunch spots on Saturday and Sunday. Our first stop was Another Broken Egg, which had to be one of the best eggs benedict I’ve ever experienced. When in the south, you must eat all the brisket and BBQ you can, so I had the brisket benedict. The poached eggs sat on a cornbread, jalapeno waffle with a lump of tender, juicy brisket and a drizzle of BBQ over the hollandaise sauce. My mouth cannot stop watering. Sadly, I was a teeny bit hungover from all the partying on Broadway the night before (bars don’t close until 3am in Nashville). I still managed to clear my plate though because you can’t not finish something that tasty. Our second brunch stop was at 51st Kitchen and Bar where we cheers the morning and our last day with a carafe of grapefruit rosemary mimosas. This space was super adorable and had a dog park out front, which instantly makes my heart happy. Since I love breakfast food so much and once again when in the south, eat southern things, I got The Coma. As you can imagine this meal is a lot of food, but everything I ate was delicious. The pancakes were really yummy due to their sprinkle of cinnamon flavor throughout each bite. The scrambled eggs were fluffy and went well with the sausage patties. My two favorite parts were the biscuits with tomato bacon gravy (OMG) and the cheesy jalapeno hashbrowns. Those biscuits were bomb!

When heading to Nashville, I had two places on my list that were must tries – Hattie B’s and Five Daughters Bakery. We were able to go to both of them, which made my weekend even better. We went to Hattie B’s for lunch when we first arrived. The family-owned Southern restaurant knows how to serve up some incredible fried chicken. I ordered the small platter with a second level spice and it was everything I dreamed it would be. The pimento mac and cheese and baked beans were great side choices. The hype about Hattie B’s was real. Then, we ventured to 12 South where we each bought a 100 layer donut. The flavor I ate was the King Kong, which had a maple glaze and bacon on top. Now I enjoy donuts every once and a while, but this one was THE BEST I HAVE EVER HAD! I may have to ship them to Pittsburgh, so I can indulge in them again.

The first night we went to dinner at Cabana to celebrate my 25th birthday and my best friend, Paige’s birthday. The atmosphere was chic, and they had indoor cabanas. I was still pretty full from lunch at Hattie B’s, so I ordered a salad. The Cobb Salad was perfect because of the mixture of smoked chicken, avocado, and pork belly croutons. What I loved most about it was the dressing I chose, a Tabasco Honey Vinaigrette. Cabana was kind enough to bring out two delicious desserts for our birthdays. I had their soft, creamy original cheesecake. On the second night, we went to Bar Taco, which was mouth wateringly good. Once again, the atmosphere was adorable with cute decor. Our table split a large guacamole and chips. The guac was really fresh and had a strong hint of lime to make it extra tasty. The tacos were served family style. My two favorites were the duck and carne asade, unbelievable! But the best part of the whole meal was the Mexican style street corn. Every single bite was heavenly! It was the best corn I have ever had, and I am a big corn on the cob fan. Our last night was spent on Broadway throwing back beers with a bunch of Patriots fans and cutting it extremely close to catching our flight home. Some of my favorite bars while we were there were Florida Georgia Line, Tootsie’s, and Jason Aldean. I recommend anyone taking a trip to Nashville, you will not regret it.

The Warwick in Philadelphia

With a hectic life in Pittsburgh, I take any travel experience extremely serious. Being a graduate student, juggling three jobs, having a social life, and trying to keep up on the food scene all lead to my stressful life at home. I certainly enjoy it, do not get me wrong. But when VisitPhilly reached out to me for an opportunity to travel to the City of Brotherly Love there was no hesitation. Over the weekend, I flew to Philadelphia for a three-day trip. This was my first time being able to actually explore the city and its culture. Since I grew up in Pittsburgh, it seems as though this stigma has been set for Philadelphia (mainly due to sports). I wanted to make my own experiences and assumptions, so I kept an open mind the entire time.

 

The hotel that we were lucky enough to stay at was The Warwick on 17th Street in Downtown Philly. Everything about the place was superb – from the service to the rooms. They were accommodating, especially since I came in much earlier than the check-in time. They were able to find me a room quickly, and they even held my luggage in order for me to explore the city while I waited. Also, a huge perk for me was the wonderful, well-equipped gym they had for guests while they stayed. With all the incredible food we ate, I needed a place to run off some calories. Speaking of food, the Warwick had room service, a brunch spot, and a dine-in restaurant. The first evening as a group, we went to the restaurant attached to the hotel called Spice Finch. This was a modern Mediterranean restaurant opened by TopChef alum Jen Carroll. Every dish was created beautifully and plated as a work of art. The table ordered a variety of starters including the Date Truffles, Charred Carrot Hummus, Baked Cheese, Shisito Peppers , and Tortilla. My favorite was the Charred Carrot Hummus because of the creamy blend of flavor, as well as the warm naan bread they served with it. After conversing over the amazing  bites, we ordered our entrees. The Shakshuka was calling my name. Such a filling meal, but one that certainly did not disappoint. This dish came out warm in a skillet dish with a mixture of spiced tomatoes, peppers, nigella, and three eggs. I had the warm naan bread to dip, which is an absolute must for a dish like this. If you are looking for a filling and comforting meal, stick with the Shakshuka or the Dry Rubbed Chicken. After our entrees, I sampled a few spoonfuls of the flan for taste. This dessert hit the spot, even though I was very full.

 

My absolute favorite part about the hotel was the brunch spot connected to the Warwick, called Bluestone Lane. I went both Saturday and Sunday morning because of how big a fan I was for their style and taste. It is important for me to feel comfortable and relaxed at any breakfast place because that will be how one begins their day. Bluestone Lane was exactly that vibe. It was adorable and Instagram worthy, by far. The most important part was that it was not just picture perfect, the food and drinks were delicious. My first morning I started with a latte flight (matcha, beet, turmeric) that came is mini white mugs. They were extremely colorful and a fun addition to the menu. Then, I decided to try the banana bread which was incredibly yummy. The honey drizzle and fresh berries really made the flavors in the bread stand out wonderfully. On my second morning at brunch, I decided to give the Brunswick Juice a try, and I am really glad I did. This consisted of apple, ginger root, lemon, and cayenne, which reminded me a lot of a sweeter detox juice cleanse. It really hit the spot after all of the eating and drinking we had been doing over the weekend. Then, I ordered the avocado toast with a poached egg and bacon. Damnnnnnnn! This toast was the ultimate avocado toast simply due to taste. I was in love with how creamy it was and that it just melted in your mouth. Now I am salivating all over my keyboard.

 

I had a wonderful trip to Philly and will certainly be blogging more about my stay while I was there. Keep reading or subscribe to read about more of my food adventures and fun spots to hit up in Philadelphia. A huge thank you to VisitPhilly for the incredible time. Please check them out and all the great deals they have for traveling to this fun city. Also, thank you to The Warwick for letting me stay there and giving me the best service possible. Everything turned out better than I could have expected.

 

 

 

Fall Sneak Peek at HOME

On Tuesday, I was lucky enough to attend a sneak peek of HOME’s fall menu. The restaurant has occupied a space at Smallman Galley in the Strip District of Pittsburgh now for about two months. When I first tried their food in the late summer, it took me right back to the fantastic home cooking of m parents. Everything I have tasted from them has been nothing less than incredible. Each meal has a comforting, hearty taste, which is why I was ecstatic about this fall sampling. To no shock at all, everything was amazing. The owners, Chef Phill and Melanie Milton are welcoming and knowledgable. They know to make your tastebuds do backflips. The night was enjoyable, and everyone left full and satisfied to say the least.

About 16 Pittsburgh foodies gathered at two tables for the best fall food experiences we could get. I sat with Matt @morningafterpgh, Shannon @pittsburghplates, Alex @alexeatstoomuch, Bill @pghfooddude, and Stephen @pittburgh.eats. They are always great company, and I must say I never thought such great people would be brought to me through food. We all share in the love of amazing dishes, good cocktails, and lots of laughter. To begin the evening, Melanie brought over their new signature drink for Breast Cancer awareness month. It was a pink lemonade to sip on throughout dinner. We started with a plate of fresh cut, lightly breaded zucchini, acorn squash, and butternut squash paired with a spicy crystal ranch. Who doesn’t love squash in the fall, better yet when it is fried?!

Once the first dish came out, I knew my night was going to be a good one. This was a burger that would be served during brunch time, but let me warn you that a nap may be in your future after that brunch. This was one, big burger loaded with bacon, egg, cheese, and cheese. They topped it off with a maple aioli making it story and sweet (a common trend throughout the night). The breakfast burger was by far my favorite plate of the night. Next up was their take on a fish sandwich that was such a surprising taste. This crispy, panko-breaded cod was cooked perfectly in my opinion. The best part was the candied jalapeño slaw giving the sandwich a little kick. I really loved the unique creation and twist that Chef Phill came up with for this sandwich. So like I said, sweet and savory was the best theme ever with HOME’s fall preview. The dinner burger we sampled was not your average burger. This thing was heavenly with so much flavor bursting with each bite. Piled on top of the burger was white cheddar, tomato jam, truffle onions, and lettuce all squeezed between two buns.

After such hearty meals, we sampled the new fall salad which had an interesting taste to it. If you love blue cheese, this salad is all you! This dish was a mixture of local greens, roasted parsnips, turnips, butternut squash, blue cheese, and candied pecans. Everything was tossed in a maple dijon dressing. Then came another hearty, comfort dish which was called the quack mac. The fontina cheese mac was super creamy and went really well with he shredded duck confit. I absolutely love duck, so this meal made me happy. The final dinner plate was the pork tenderloin, which happened to be my second favorite dish of the night. This magical dish was an apple cider brined pork tenderloin, sous vide and roasted, laying in a bed of vanilla scented sweet potato puree, garnished with pickled red cabbage and mustard caviar. To end the amazing sneak preview at HOME, we were lucky enough to try their new pumpkin cinnamon bun with candied pecans. If I was not so full, I would have attempted to eat the whole bun. This thing is massive, almost as big as my head. Like I said with the brunch burger, a nap made be needed after indulging in this treat.

Overall, the experience was a 10/10 with amazing food and good company. HOME outdid themselves by putting together a must try fall menu. Seriously though, everyone MUST try it. You will not be disappointed in the least. Come hungry. Be sure to let Phillip and Melanie know what a wonderful job they are doing because they deserve all of the praise. I love watching great people see great results. Their hard work is paying off, and I am so happy to be a part of their journey. Stop by Smallman Galley for brunch, lunch, or dinner in order to try out a new, fall meal. I know you will enjoy it!

Not just a hotel restuarant: Ember & Vine

Last week, I was pleasantly surprised with a terrific four course meal at Cranberry’s Ember and Vine. The restaurant is located in the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotels right off of highway 79. My previous experience with restaurants located in hotels was just alright, but this dinner swept me off my feet. I was accompanied by the lovely Gretchen, (@gretchenruns) who was also a first time Ember and Vine patron. After each course, we discussed how each bite was delicious. When entering the hotel, we were extremely pleased by the open concept. Ember and Vine sits right in the middle of the hotel and looks at to all of the guests. The kitchen is not hidden, rather it is open where you can watch the chefs cook your meal. The beautiful wood-fire oven is a sight to see. As we cheers to a long week with some crisp Pinot Grigio and a lovely red blend, our minds were made up that we would try the Restaurant Week four-course special.

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I started my dinner off wood-fired oyster, which is something I normally would not pick. OH MY, AM I GLAD I DID! They were cooked with a chili garlic butter and warmed perfectly. I would say they were tasty, as well as a fantastic starter for one person. I am fairly new to the oyster world, so I can not say my comparison to others. All I
can say is try this ones out because you will not regret it. The second course was our salads. I chose their house salad mainly to sample the champagne vinaigrette they paired with it. This was a great choice. I really enjoyed the red pepper and golden raisins that they sprinkled on top of their mixed greens. The dressing was perfect in my opinion because of how light, yet flavorful it was. With four courses in one sitting, I had to pick something that was a little light.

The third course, our entrees, Gretchen and I split ways on our choices. She decided upon the Roasted Amish Chicken that she told me was very good. It was accompanied with rosemary-lemon Yukon potatoes and broccolini. I went with the carbo-loading, of course! A terrifically prepared bolognese pasta dish. I am a huge pasta lover, and this pasta was right up my alley. The meat sauce was not too heavy which is something I love. The pasta was cooked properly, so not too soft. Both of our main courses were filling! We knew we had dessert coming still, so we took home leftovers. Even after reheating my pasta the next day for lunch, I still loved every bite. I think judging a restaurant off of leftovers is not always a key to it being good. But if the leftovers are as delicious as these were, I would say Ember and Vine is doing something right.

Lastly, our fourth course arrived which happened to be the dessert. I did not think the meal could get much better, but once the Peanut Butter Pie and ice cream came, my mind was changed. The slice of pie had a chocolate crust with an amazing peanut butter filling and a chocolate ganache on top. To make it even more tasty, I had a scoop of peanut butter ice cream. The combination was to die for. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I may be a pasta lover, but I think I am an even bigger fan of dessert. I was not disappointed in the least. Gretchen order the cheesecake sampler with three small cheesecakes and whipped cream. This also looked beautifully prepared and very tasty. Ember and Vine outdid themselves for this four course dinner. To say I was happy with it would be an understatement. Our server was extremely attentive. He did a spectacular job presenting us with each course. The sous chefs and manager were welcoming and pleasant.

ember and vineI can not wait to venture back to Ember and Vine. The breakfast menu looks fantastic. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The hours of operation are wide open! Monday – Thursday 6:00 am to 12:00 midnight – Friday 6:00 am to 1:00 am – Saturday 7:00 am to 1:00 am – Sunday 7:00 am to 12:00 midnight. That gives you plenty of time to give them a try. The ambience is perfect for date night or a night out with your friends. Please let me know your thoughts once you go, and if you want to recommend a new dish, I would be happy to try it out!

Hood Cottage Cheese Pop-Up Event

Such a fun event at South Hills Village Mall today with Hood Cottage Cheese. If you have not heard yet, this New England original brand is now in Pittsburgh stores. We are lucky enough to be a part of their cottage cheese expansion, as well as stores in Washington D.C. and parts of Ohio. The #hoodPITTpopup is open in the mall until Tuesday, July 31st and is worth stopping by. It is completely free to sample any one of your favorite cottage cheese flavors. Plus they have so many fun, yummy toppings to add to your bowl. You can be part of #TeamSavory or #TeamSweet depending on which flavor you choose. The five flavors provided at the event are: Country Style, Pineapple, Chive, Low Fat Peach, and Cucumber and Dill. The best part is that these choices are the perfect way to eat healthy while still feeling full. Hood has a high-quality taste that is loaded with protein and a great source of calcium.

At the pop-up event yesterday, I made two bowls. It was just so good, I could not

IMG_2899have just one! I tried out #TeamSweet first with the Country Style Hood Cottage Cheese. It was extremely rich and creamy. My add-ins for this bowl were almonds, chocolate chips, granola, and a drizzle of honey. What I discovered is that this would be the perfect breakfast bowl for after I workout. Such a healthy option without sacrificing the taste. There are only 120 calories in each serving, but 13 grams of protein. Can’t beat that! I would probably switch out the chocolate chips with some blueberries or raspberries. You can even take this on-the-go if you are in the rush in the mornings, just make it in the Hood Cottage Cheese bowl.

My second bowl was all about #TeamSavory. I chose the Hood Cottage Cheese with Chive and let me tell you how perfect it was with pita chips. I added a little bit of bacon and hot sauce, but honestly you do not need anything added to this product. It was the perfect protein-packed snack. A great choice for lunch or an evening snack, and you can dip whatever you please – pita, pretzels, celery, etc. I love how filling it is without making you feel gross from being full. I would say the Chive was certainly my favorite. But as I said, you can not go wrong with any flavor.

I was shocked that I picked #TeamSavory in the end. Usually I lean toward sweet, but my best friend Lexis went for #TeamSweet in the end. She was a cottage cheese newbie, and she even loved this product. She was so surprised by the rich, delicious taste of the Low Fat Peach Hood Cottage Cheese that she sampled. The peach flavor is sweet and has many health benefits too. It is a great dessert if you are looking for something to satisfy your sweet tooth. We had a blast at the event, especially the Instagram station. Everyone can take pictures at the professional lighting station, and get this – if you post to your Instagram, you are entered to win a $100 Giant Eagle gift card. It is super simple, and think of all the Hood Cottage Cheese you can buy with that.

Hood is a great brand, and I am really excited for it to be in Pittsburgh. It is great that Giant Eagle has picked it up to allow everyone to grab it and try! They have been committed to serving New England for over 170 years with top-notch dairy products. Right now, they have 10 different flavors of cottage cheese. They are constantly brainstorming new ideas and flavors as well, so be on the look out. They even have 7 flavors of single-serve options (5.3 oz) to meet your busy days with protein-packed snacks. Plus, Hood Cottage Cheese is gluten-free, so everyone has the chance to take a bite. Now it is your chance to stop over to South Hills Village Mall to sample it for yourself. Hop over for an easy, tasty lunch today and let me know what you think of Hood Cottage Cheese.

A special thanks for Hood Cottage Cheese and 451 Wildfire for a special pop-up event. Kate and Sarah did a fantastic job creating a fun, consumer-oriented event. I am grateful to be a part of such a great way to show Pittsburgh what Hood is all about it. Check out https://hood.com/recipes for fun recipes to make using Hood products.