Though I have dabbled in numerous forms of writing, I have really fallen in love with blogging. Some of this is the nature of the form – I’m an instant gratification junkie, so the quick efficiency of writing and posting blog entries holds great appeal – but what has really gotten me falling head over heels is the blogging community. Among a terrain not exactly known for its restrained, distinguished discourse, specific blogging communities remain calm, welcoming places of exchange ideas and opinions, experiences and photographs.
I have been accused of being a bit of a social curmudgeon because I’m not on sites like Facebook or Twitter. While I admit to some moderate prejudice against social networking sites, the real reason I’m not on any of them at the moment is that my time online is already maxed out. On a daily basis I’ve got a few dozen links to check on, and were I to sacrifice some of the time I dedicate to those sites for say, “poking” friends-of-friends or harvesting wheat in my virtual farm, I would be losing a significant percentage of time that I use to keep up my preferred social networking: Reading other people’s blogs.
Until recently, reading and commenting on other blogs was about as far as I had gotten into actual socialization with food bloggers. I learned how much of a shame this truly was when I finally made it to a Food Bloggers Meetup, this time at Paris 66 in East Liberty.
When you write about food, you want to talk about food. You want to talk about it a lot. And while I am lucky to have friends that are more than willing to humor my seemingly endless interest in the topic, there’s something very reassuring about being among members of the same tribe. When the food is served and my camera was only one of many pulled out, I got a warm and fuzzy feeling in my stomach – and not just because I had drunk half of my very potent French martini.
– Mike of Foodburgh
– Luke (organizer and former Paris 66 employee)
– Lauren of Burghilicious
– Erin (and Kevin) of Community Cucina
– Clara of Food Collage
– Roddy of Rodzilla Reviews
– Janelle of VegOut Pittsburgh
– Nicole (and her lovely spouse) of Yum Yum
– Laurie of Tuesdays with Dorie
– Me and the lovely Kait Wittig, friend and eating partner-in-crime
In addition to meeting these bloggers in person for the first time, I was also making my first visit to Paris 66. I’m a bit of a sucker for romantic little enclaves of atmosphere and expensive dining, and Paris 66 has all the best traps: Softly lit, furnished in polished wood and tables complete with laminated-antique postcard covers, back patio seating, and, of course, a small, concise menu of French specialties, including crepes, steak frites, duck, and some very foreign- and tempting- sounding hors d’œuvres. Billed as “everyday French cuisine” the menu still finds plenty of room for the mildly exotic.
Posted in Dining Out, Dinnertime!, Food
Tagged asparagus, bistro, blog, blogging, cafe, cocktails, crepe, dining, dining out, dinner, duck confit, east end, east liberty, food, food bloggers meetup, french, french cuisine, french food, french onion soup, local, paris 66, pittsburgh, Restaurant, review, savory crepe
Following the local food scene can skew your perspective. Read enough about a new restaurant, hear enough buzz, see enough tantalizing photographs, and suddenly, what was a normal quality eatery starts to carry the immense weight of importance. The hype raises expectations as it draws in more customers, but it can also make the first experience with a restaurant oddly dissonant, like there is a difference between trying out this hotly buzzed restaurant and the actual experience of eating and socializing in said restaurant’s environment.
I find myself most wary of this disconnect when it comes to Italian restaurants. It doesn’t help that I have in-built dismissal of them. Maybe it’s leftover hard feelings from places like Olive Garden or even the “beloved” Bloomfield fixture that is Del’s on Liberty Avenue, but I always feel like I’m getting ripped off. Noodles, sauce, maybe meat, maybe some veggies. Add a crappy glass of wine and some bread. Great, now pay $30. Congratulations. You spent three times the amount of money you would have if you had made the same dish – and you could have, believe me – at home. No matter how much a place is hyped to me, if it’s an Italian restaurant, I’m unlikely to follow-up on the praise. And if I do, it’s hardly ever an experience that turns me around on Italian dining. It sounds harsh – and please, devoted consumers of Italian food, do not misunderstand me, as I do not mean to disparage the cuisine itself – but I’d rather be in the kitchen with pasta than in a restaurant or cafe. At least I know exactly where my money is going and the quality it has been spent on.
Still, my prejudice against Italian restaurants and my normal underlying hesitancy of hype did not dissuade me from visiting Osteria 2350, a fairly new restaurant in the style of a casual tavern, less upscale than the norm of the cuisine, and thereby somehow less intimidating and more promising. A quick scan of the menu online affirmed how casual the dining experience was sure to be – not a dish over $12, with most of the small plates $3 or $4 – not to mention inexpensive. This combined with the highly favorable buzz practically made up our minds for us.
Expecting a Friday night crowd, we were pleasantly surprised at how low-key the surroundings were. Behind the Right By Nature market, across the street from the Cork Factory apartments, Osteria is remarkably inconspicuous, offering an attractive environmental mix of tavern and cafeteria. The lighting is soft and golden, the tables are mix of small two-seaters and large wooden fixtures with long benches to match. There’s a counter/bar area and a little television in the corner for sporting events. We were seated in front of the dessert display case and the large chalkboard advertising what was available. A little kid played amongst our coats hanging on a coat rack. It was all very calm, very pleasant, even sedate.
Posted in Dining Out, Dinnertime!, Food
Tagged cafe, casual dining, cavatelli, cheese and tomato, dining, dining out, food, gnocchi, italian, italian restaurant, local, mushroom, olive oil, osteria, osteria 2350, panini, pasta, pittsburgh, Restaurant, strip district, truffle oil
Behold last week’s treat from Sugar Cafe. Some people like to get their sweet fix early in the day, some like to get it following dinner. Me, I’ll take my sweet fix any how and any time I can get it, which is how someone like me ends us eating a donut and bread pudding in the same day (and probably some Girl Scout cookies too). It is also how someone like me will never, ever be a super slender person.
Whatever. If you and I were playing a game of “Would You Rather…” and your question was, “Would you rather be super fit and perfect looking but you could never eat any unnecessary calories, meaning no desserts, no snacks, no extras OR would your rather eat anything you like, but have to work out at least four hours a week and maintain a fairly active lifestyle to maintain even the slightest hold over your fitness?”
I’d go for the latter. In a heartbeat. What is the worth of living if I can’t eat something like salted caramel bread pudding? Isn’t this why we make and share and eat these things? Because they, in some way, contain the love that we feel for ourselves, feel for others? If cooking is an act of love that you perform for others, couldn’t eating something purely for taste and desire be considered an act of love for yourself?
Posted in Dining Out, Food, Good Morning
Tagged baked goods, bakery, bread pudding, cafe, coffeehouse, dessert, dining, dormont, eating, food, good morning, local, pastry, potomac avenue, salted caramel, sugar cafe, sweet, sweets
For such a small business district, South Braddock Avenue is a culinary powerhouse. Upscale options like Legume commingle with delectable down-to-earth favorites like D’s Six Pax and Dogz. Laying somewhere in the middle is a little cafe catering to both breakfast and lunch diners and commuting visitors just stopping in for a cup of coffee to go: The Square Cafe.
My pals (and previous dining companions) Maureen and Brandon had sampled Square Cafe while looking for a place to hold the rehearsal dinner before their wedding. They were thoroughly charmed not just by the food and decor but by the friendliness and attentiveness of the staff. But what really won me over and convinced me that a visit was necessary was their high praise of the vegetarian and vegan options on the menu, including tofu scrambles and soy chorizo. When they offered to take me with them on their next visit, I jumped at the chance.
Posted in Dining Out, Food
Tagged breakfast, brunch, cafe, coffee, diner, dining, dining out, east end, food, local, local dining, lunch, pancakes, pittsburgh, pittsburgh restaurants, regent square, Restaurant, review, south braddock, south braddock avenue, soy chorizo, square cafe, swissvale, tofu, vegan, vegan friendly, vegetarian, vegetarian friendly
So normally, I am about five steps behind the happenings around town. Recently, I’ve become more in the know about newly opening restaurants, the buzzed about places, the comings and goings of the food life in Pittsburgh. Yet, I’m never on top of a story.
Well, when you live down the street from a hotly anticipated, soon-to-open cafe, you keep your eyes peeled for signs of life. But how I found out that the Sugar Cafe was going to open on Friday morning wasn’t good scouting, but some terrific luck. My pal, Jackie, who lives right down the street from me on West Liberty Avenue, was walking back from my apartment on Broadway sometime after midnight on Thursday, when she spied that the slowly deteriorating paper shrouding the big windows of Sugar Cafe had finally been torn down. I received a text and that was that.
What a little blurb on the blog doesn’t tell you is that I have become borderline obsessed with this place. Okay, that’s a bit of a hyperbole. But for someone who has trouble working at home, it’s become a minor godsend. I get off the T a stop early at Potomac, stroll down to the cafe, have a cup of coffee, pastry (I’m just pretending that everything in the cafe is magic and doesn’t have calories), and sit down to write for a while. I know the whole thing of going to a cafe to write is seen as sort of pretentious, and maybe it is. You know what else it is? FRIGGIN SWEET.
For my first weekday evening in the cafe, I got to sit down with the owner, Kelly James, to discuss her fantastic opening weekend. I definitely suggest reading the article, but more importantly, I highly recommend the Sugar Cafe. Come by any weekday between 5:30 and 6:00, and you’ll likely me see there, typing and sipping away.
(Note: Article is not live on the site as of yet. I will update post when it is active.)
Posted in Dining Out, Food, Good Morning
Tagged baked goods, bakery, business district, cafe, coffee, coffee shop, dormont, dormont-brookline patch, interview, kelly james, local, news, pastries, potomac avenue, Restaurant, sweets, the local table, the sugar cafe
The much buzzed about, highly anticipated bakery-coffee shop, Sugar Cafe, opens today. I will definitely be making a stop in to sample the goods, take a look around, and enjoy the taste of something brand spanking new in our humble little borough of Dormont.
For more info on Sugar and its owner, Kelly James, check out the following links. And of course, check out the cafe itself, located right by the Potomac T Station on Potomac Avenue.
– “New Cafe Coming to Dormont” on the Dormont-Brookline Patch
– “Sugar Café will make Dormont’s Potomac Avenue even sweeter” on PopCity
– “On the Table: Unique Pittsburgh bakeries flourish with special dessert treats” on the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
– Kellypastry: Kelly James Twitter
Also, apologies for my relative quietness this week. First it was too busy, then it was too nice outside to concentrate on typing. Rest assured, I have a ton of new posts coming up, including trips to Chaya and Sababa in Squirrel Hill. I’ve also been working on a few new features to debut, hopefully by the middle of next week, to run in addition to the general chatter that goes on around here. I’m going to cross my fingers and hope that I can get down to some serious writing business this weekend.
But seriously, how freaking gorgeous was it out there today? After work, I walked home, so that I could soak up the unseasonably warm weather and take a few shots of my beloved neighborhood. It seemed like the entire borough was out to enjoy the few precious days of respite from the cold. My favorite shot:
Enjoy it while it lasts, kids. The temperature is going to drop drop drop come Sunday.
Posted in Dining Out, Food, Good Morning, New
Tagged baked goods, bakery, breakfast, business, cafe, coffee, coffee shop, dormont, food, good morning, kelly james, local, lunch, sugar cafe, sweets
From a recent article by Tara Clapper on CultureMob.com:
Now when I enter Starbucks, it’s a completely different environment. It’s not the “third place” environment it’s supposed to be, but it is what the customers want: a drug shop. They’re guzzling caffeine and plugging in. The caffeine hastens their pace when typing and texting; they must have tired hands. They meet their friends at Starbucks, then sit in silence, laptop-to-laptop instead of face-to-face, studying over instant messenger instead of breaking that new Starbucks silence.
It doesn’t come as a surprise to me that coffeeshop culture has rapidly evolved from a vibrant meeting house of spirited conversation and activity to a public place where people can still isolate themselves from others via their personal tech devices. As far as Starbucks is concerned, I’m only surprised that it hasn’t happened sooner, given the customer base the company attracts (high school and college students, urban office workers). Clapper makes the assumption, however, that this change is a corporate coffeeshop trend – at the end of the article, she cites choosing to meet a friend at an independent coffeeshop so they are free to converse without fear of the icy glares bouncing off laptop screens and IPhones. But depending on the independent she chooses, she might face the same tech-oppression. Continue reading
Posted in Dining Out, Food, Good Morning
Tagged 61C, cafe, coffee, coffeehouse, culturemob, food, starbucks, tara clapper, third place
I’m still feeling a bit under the weather. In addition to this, I am currently buried under a mountain of work, make-up time for a sick day badly needed. I hope to be back at full strength by the end of the week, and it’s likely to happen, as long as I behave myself and act responsibly. Tea instead of coffee. Greens instead of fries. Sleep instead of… well, not sleeping.
Anyhoo, to tie in with yesterday’s book review, I Googled around and found some Chez Panisse pictures. Nothing like a cup of espresso, ambience, and some Californian food porn to ease you into the mid-morning:
Posted in Food, Good Morning
Tagged alice waters, cafe, california, chez panisse, food, food porn, french, good morning, pictures, Restaurant