Sunday, October 12, 2008

Business trips and a bit of snow

As GinaBina mentioned, we've both been on business trips this week, she's been in Austin and I've been in "The City of Steel", as it's known, Pittsburgh. We both had great trips but hate spending the time away from home separately.

Pittsburgh is now on my "good" list of cities, thanks in large part to a colleague's brother taking me around and being the best tour guide ever. Thanks Mark! What's more is while my tardiness almost inhibited a nice leisurely bike ride through the city, Mark was nice enough to wait for me and take me around the insanely steep hills in and around Pittsburgh. Here's a general map of roughly where we went. The map is not exactly accurate because I got pretty lost on some of the streets on top of the mountain, so I just followed Mark's wheel. Hopefully Mark will send me the pic he took on top of Mt. Washington while we were riding. In the meantime, here's a quick snapshot of the night view we saw.

Mark also took me to Girasole one night (see mini-review below) and Point Brugge Cafe the next night (again, mini-review is below).

Because I was just following Mark like a blind man the whole night, I was enjoying the Shadyside neighborhood in my own little world when Mark ducked down a small flight of stairs into a bustling, tight and quaint Italian restaurant. When the door opened, the dense aromas of Italian food and wine billowed out the door and into the patio where we were standing at the bottom of the stairs. The owner, who they call "Pai" greeted Mark as if he was family (Mark's daughter, Ryan, works there too). Pai got us a table while the rest of Pai's family and other servers were bustling around the tight quarters. I ordered the Bucatini on suggestion from Ryan and it was perfect. Long, straw-shaped bucatini was swimming in a mix of pancetta, peppers, spicy sauce and of course... smoked mozzarella. It had just enough kick to open the sinuses while filling my mouth with that great smoky taste of the pancetta. mmm, I'm making myself hungry again. Dessert was TiramisĂș and it did indeed "pick me up".

Point Brugge Café:
After the great ride, we swung by Mark's house to clean up a bit (he's got some amazing scooters, one is restored beautifully and almost completed, the other is classically "antique"). After throwing out a few suggestions, Mark threw out a "great Belgian restaurant that has really good mussels." That piqued my interest and we were off. The neighborhood of Point Breeze was Mark's old stomping ground when he would visit his G-ma and G-pa. The little cafe on the corner had a floor-to-ceiling glass front that opened completely to the street with a few tables on the sidewalk. It was fairly minimally (in a good way) decorated restaurant that was playing none other than a Luna song when we walked in! We started with a Tomato and Spinach dip at the bar until Ryan got there. Hearty Belgian beer and seafood smells filled the air. The menu looked great, but I had to try the mussels. I ordered a pound and a half of the Red Curry mussels along with a side of belgian frites. To put it simply, I ate every last one and left wishing I had a doggy bag of some more. Ryan had a few connections with some of the people there so we got the Belgian Chocolate Cake and the Pumpkin Roulade free. Can't beat that.

Primanti Bros:
Last but not least, on my way out of town on Friday, I stopped off at the infamous Primanti Bros. for one of the most unique sandwiches I've ever had. The 'chef' slapped out two huge slices of white bread onto the counter and loaded one side with philly cheesesteak. He continued piling with fresh cole slaw, tomatoes, and a healthy helping of french fries - on the sandwich, not on the side - before he slathered some sauces on and squished the other slice of bread on top. The monstrosity was about 8 inches tall before he leaned over it with his body-weighted hand on top and compressed it into about 3-4 inches tall. Then tightly wrapped it in paper and handed it to me. If you go to Pittsburgh, go to Primanti's at least once.

PS, we got the first snow of the season today! It was like the middle of January here with about an inch or more of snow blanketing everything and more coming throughout the day.

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