Tag Archives: Pittsburgh

My Favorite Healthy Eats for “Fittsburgh”

August 2014

For a city known for infusing salads and sandwiches with french fries and cole slaw, “dining out” and “healthy” are very rarely synonymous. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, the tables of greasy foods are turning, and there are plenty of healthier options. I recently added my two cents on this topic, and dorked out about whole grain rice, as part of a Fittsburgh blog post.

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Check out the full story-
4 Pittsburgh Food Writers Spill it on Their Favorite Healthy Eats in the ‘Burgh

If you happen to be dining in Pittsburgh, check out my recommendation and enjoy a serene dinner at Pusadee’s Garden.

Single-Grain

Here’s to Health!
-Quelcy

A Birthday By Day & By Night

January 21, 2014

Recently, the Pittsburgh Urbanist Guide interviewed me as part of the 3 Meals & A Bar series. The premise for the questionnaire is if you only had 24 hours to show a friend the best that urban Pittsburgh has to offer, where would you take them? As it turns out, my answers were very similar to how I chose to show myself around on my own special day…my THIRTIETH special day no less!

La Gourmandine

Every January 21st begins with a ritual- I acknowledge 8:36am, the precise moment when I entered this world. I know this time because as the baby of the family, there were several people to take note of important details like birth times. I acknowledge this time faithfully because I am quirky and crazy I suppose. With my precise birthday moment properly recognized, it was time for breakfast, and a breakfast of birthday champions should begin at La Gourmandine, so that it did!

Birthday Pastries

My lovely friend Dana accompanied me on my snowy morning to the warm, bright place where pastry dreams come true [in the form of almond croissants for this dreamer]. Dana generously gifted me a bite of her clafouti too [that sounds dirty. It was not. It was pure, innocent and delicious].

La Gourmandine Almond Croissant

Full and content from a perfectly almond-laced croissant and caffeinated from one of my favorite cappuccinos, I spent the afternoon with my favorite four-legged friend, hiking in the snowy woods and cityscapes of our neighborhood until she was plum tuckered and ready to snuggle. Those tired eyes were singing “happy birthday to you.”

Hike and Cuddle

Snow treks, snuggles and one perfectly relaxing massage later, I was ready to indulge in one of my favorite menus with two of my favorite people…

Meat and Potatoes Bar

You guessed it… Meat & Potatoes!

Meat and Potatoes Place Setting

Girls and Cocktails

Favorite faces and the cocktail that could make an alcoholic out of me- the Sgt. Pepper’s Old Fashioned

Poutine is basically a birthday cake waiting for a candle, and there were plenty, plenty more birthday treats where that came from.

Meat and Potatoes Poutine

Not quite a full 3 Meals & A Bar lineup, but my 30th birthday was a day comprised of a few of my favorite Pittsburgh offerings, with a few of the people who matter most to me. That was merely the beginning. After all, I mentioned how much I like to milk my birthday month for festivities, so obviously, there was still more in store, and that “more” included LOTS of cake!

How do you celebrate your day of birth?

Single-Grain

Happy Birthday To Me!
-Quelcy

Happy Birthday To Me, Love Big Burrito

January 2014

In an effort to fully milk my birthday, I took advantage of a special offering from the Big Burrito Restaurant Group [apologies if this post's title led you to believe I would be writing about a larger-than-life burrito...maybe one day!]

Wine Collection

The Big Burrito Restaurant Group includes several Pittsburgh establishments. While I tend to associate their name with an outdated approach to fine dining (expensive prices, design that caters to stereotypical business types and websites that inspire nostalgia for the precise moment when we moved past AOL chat rooms and began to dive into using the internet), I’m not one to turn down an olive branch in the name of my birthday. Joining the Big Burrito mailing list entitles each subscriber to a token of birthday cheer good for one free entree at the restaurant of her choice.

Eleven

Of the various restaurants, Eleven is my top choice, and if it were to have an interior design overhaul, it would probably be on my regular cycle of Pittsburgh favorites. In the meantime, I’m happy to overlook the overwhelming presence of beige and the private business rooms looming overhead in honor of my 30 years on this planet. Bring on the pork belly and foie gras!

Pork Belly

Pork Belly appetizer

Eleven is nestled between the bustling food scene of the historical Strip District and downtown Pittsburgh. Its name commemorates its place as the eleventh restaurant in the Big Burrito series. Despite my critiques, I do applaud Chef Derek Stevens’ ever changing menu of contemporary American flavors. I just wish the powers that be would frame his food more modernly. His kitchen is the center of Eleven’s spacious dining room, complemented by the more hidden, in-house bakery which yields artisan breads and desserts.

Foie Gras

Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Calvados prunes, orange-thyme biscuit, candied sage and kumquat

Beautiful Radish Salad

Beet Salad with golden beets, pickled red beets, little gem, molasses vinaigrette, taleggio and cornbread croutons

Not pictured is my complimentary Seafood Sampler birthday entree [my photo did not do its deliciousness justice], which was so flavorful it should have pushed me past the point of dessert, but when I saw beignets…

Beignets and Tables

Apple Beignets with apple caramel compote, brown sugar ice cream, cherries and granola

…I just had to have at least a few sweet bites. My birthday coupon turned out to be a pleasant reminder of why Eleven stands out from its Big Burrito counterparts and should be a part of my rotation more frequently. If you live in Pittsburgh or for some reason are planning a visit for your birthday, you should sign up for your own birthday gift!

Single-Grain

Happy Birthday Dining!
-Quelcy

ps: Pittsburgh Post Gazette food critic Melissa McCart wrote a well articulated piece about the Big group which might even describe my objections more accurately than I have done myself.

Carnegie Coffee: Where History & Caffeine Converge

I apologize for the longing these blue skies and sunny streets might stir in your winter bones, but there’s a little adventure I’ve been meaning to share, and somehow it took me all these snowy months to arrive at the right words.

Carnegie, PA

On a wide, brick, turquoise-accented street in Carnegie, Pa, there’s a location where history and caffeine converge.

Light Fixture

At this intersection of time and energy, a brick facade boasts looming windows and regal light fixtures.

Carnegie Coffee Sign and Lounge

A glass pane announces your arrival and the dual function of the space- pick up your prescription and pick up your java, but first, push through the antique door and really behold the small details so unique to this place…

Antique Door

PO Box Counter

Previously the site of the Carnegie Post Office, which closed in spring 2008 and moved into smaller, leased quarters, the spacious coffee shop pays hommage to its history through the hundreds of post office boxes and the refurbished marble forming the bar.

Carnegie Coffee Menu

These antique gestures overlap in a clean, modern way with industrial furniture, bold, simple patterns and bright color accents.

PO Box Counter and Coffees

Carnegie Coffee Pastries

Post Office Door

Booth Seat

Most importantly though, the Carnegie Coffee Company serves coffee to make a trip there worthwhile. Inspired by their European travels and the requisite coffee experiences, the owners prioritized the source of their beans. They are the first coffeeshop in Western Pennsylvania to serve the Italian-grown Illy bean.

Illy Coffee

Whether you’re a Pittsburgher, a Carnegian (?!?!), or a wanderer in need of revival, I hope you have the chance to experience this history and caffeine convergence.

Carnegie Coffee Company
132 East Main Street
Carnegie, Pennsylvania 15106

Single-Grain

Bon Voyage & Santé!
-Quelcy

Waffles & Winter Reds in Defense of Beauty

February 2014

Why?
Because it’s beautiful?
No. Why?

Curved City

In architecture school, the why was always waiting around the bend in the critique. We learned to think analytically, artistically and technically. We learned to push our preliminary concepts and defend our assertions. We learned to use buzz words and reference history. We learned to turn our noses up to symmetry, unless viewing its prescriptive balance through an historical lens. Somewhere along the way though, I lost site of beauty. I buried it because beauty was not enough of a defense to answer those looming whys. 

Life Can Be Magic

It wasn’t until recently I realized how important beauty is, how misunderstood it is, how scapegoated it is. While in a business class, I listened to a woman belittle her ambitions. “I want to open my own salon. I know it’s cliché, and I know it’s just hair, but that’s what I want to do.”

Desert Tree

I refuted her lack of confidence. Her work is not just hair. Her work is expression. It is art. It is the ability to listen to someone’s wants and desires and translate them to a style reflective of the words. At its best, her work is beautiful, and it shouldn’t be underrated, especially by her. Her work is more than the hair, it’s the hours, days and lives it touches. To desire beauty is not to be entrenched in the superficial, but we often feel guilty when admiring beauty.

Birdhouse and Coffeeshop

While learning to answer the whys, I traveled to remote Kenya. Without magazines or mirrors, the Turkana women of the desert still sought beauty. They walked with dignity and grace, with necks laden with brightly colored beads, with hair spindled and accented with a desert crimson. Beauty is part of our makeup. It brings joy, brings us together and fosters memories.

Lili

Lately, these ideas have been floating in my head. The pursuit of beauty instigates so many of my endeavors, and I’m finally beginning to appreciate the value of such a contribution. This is not to abandon the whys or the narratives behind my thinking, but it’s to give myself permission to enjoy the beautiful results and the lasting effects they have.

Lili Waffles

A warming plate of waffles and a poached apple from a recent brunch at Lili Cafe. I’m very fortunate to live so close to this neighborhood coffee shop. It has rejuvenated me on so many an occasion.

These musings are the impetus for seeing past the gloomy grays to see bright reds scattered throughout a wintry neighborhood…

Iron Works

…to see fanciful creatures in an imaginary sea…

Grain

…to see amber waves of grain jutting through metal curlicues…

Facade

…to remember what brought me here and look at it anew…

Mother's Bread

…to see tranquility in quiet resilience…

Urns

A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases;
it will never pass into nothingness.

-John Keats

Reasons to Love Winter [Alternately: Ways to Delude Yourself]

January 2014

When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age.In middle age I was assured greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked…. I fear this disease incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself…. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”

-John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley: In Search of America

PGH Winter Horizon

Winter has a way of stirring the wanderlust inside me, a stirring which I usually quell with an interlude in a warmer climate, or in the least, a high-energy city with underground transportation. Despite my steadfastness in this snowy city, I must admit, this year, I’m rather enjoying winter.

Puppy Paws

The primary reason for my sanity in spite of winter’s longevity is my pup. Having a dog is permission to “act” crazy in the snow. Having a dog is the lesson in humility learned when routinely slipping on ice and snow with leash in tow. Julep and I have ventured beyond our normal paths to discover our very own neighborhood Narnia, where my imagination runs as wild as my little excited pup. Though her playful spirit has brightened even the coldest of gray days, cameras, ice and puppies do not mix. I had to remind myself to take a solo adventure and let a wintry trip take me.

Winter Time

In the cold quiet, I found numerous examples of winter’s wonders. Have you had the opportunity to walk outside on a wintry Sunday? The only sound is the snow crunching underfoot, and it is quite peaceful.

Hills and Steps

Just in case you do not have a playful pup to mitigate winter’s incessantness, allow me to offer a few non-canine ways I have discovered to “love” this frigid season [or alternately, humor me my delusions]. Fret not, none of these reasons include extreme snow sports. I am not that girl.

In no particular oder, let us begin…

Step Snow Patterns

Reason 1:
Thanks to the Polar Vortex, anything hovering around 30 degrees feels like a tropical paradise, albeit a tropical paradise where I wear numerous sweaters. I must really love winter attire.

Silhouette

Reason 2:
Winter is the perfect time to feel like an Olsen Twin and dive into Homeless Chic trends which justify layers of sweaters. A pasty white reality check could spell depression, but fortunately, I haven’t even noticed how pale I am under the multitude of sweaters I have managed to layer this year. With all my natural shivering, it’s also completely believable for me to wear a hat all day. It couldn’t possibly be because my hair is gross and flat. No, no, it’s the arctic tundra temperatures, I swear.

Steeple

Reason 3:
Hibernation is a totally legitimate excuse to avoid just about everything. Even if friends protest, they are secretly grateful to have an excuse to wear something frumpy and behave like a hermit. Ignore their protests.

Standing in a Row

Reason 4:
It is perfectly acceptable to increase wine or whiskey habits and claim it’s for warmth. This is the purple-lipped, red-cheeked truth.

Baby Pine Cones

Reason 5:
Love what you do. Winter enables a snooze button to reach new levels of conquest in the face of the best intentions. I have never loved my bed, duvet and faux fur blanket as much as I have this year, but if a miserable job is the impetus for the alarm, winter will be unfairly demonized. The memory of that miserable, morning feeling is visceral. On the bright side of this gray season, if chasing your career dreams means a freeze on finances, winter is the perfect time to buy box wine (they’re not all terrible), hole away and binge on Netflix [with cookies too]. Win win!

Stocked for Winter

…and perhaps the very best reason of all?

Epiphany Cake

Winter is when French bakeries offer Galette des Rois! Those layers of flaky puff pastry alone justify a few weeks of gray days and temperatures that freeze your nose hairs.

How do you survive the demoralizing months?

Single-Grain

May your winter be buttery and bright!
-Quelcy

Disclaimer: Yes, I am aware both winter and French bakeries exists in warmer places, but please, leave me my delusions. 

Urbanist Guide Pittsburgh: Three Meals & A Bar with… Me!

January 2014

Whether you’re a native or a newcomer, there’s a really useful and [most importantly to me] a very visual guide to Pittsburgh. Available in almost every nook and cranny of this steel town, the URBANIST guide facilitates pinpointing the city’s outstanding local businesses. Additionally, the forces behind the guide have been moving and shaking to put more events on the calendar including the amazing Low Country Boil last summer [apologies for bringing up summer in the heart of polar vortexes].

I was quite honored when the URBANIST asked me, if I only had 24 hours to show a friend the best that urban Pittsburgh has to offer, where would I take him or her?

Urbanist Guide Pittsburgh

To read all my suggestions for 24 hours in Pittsburgh, check out my interview here, and then come visit me!

Single-Grain
Cheers,
Quelcy