Weekend in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh has never been on my top 10 list of cities to visit, but Raisin Bread and I wanted to do a short weekend trip within driving distance. Although I did quite a bit of traveling this summer, all of my trips were solo, so I was excited to spend some time with my hubby out of town.

Pittsburgh, it turns out, was much more interesting than I assumed it would be. Our first day was spent exploring the downtown area including some visits to art galleries, places with good eats and the Cathedral of Learning (aka Hogwarts).

The day was very wet and rainy, so it was a good thing that we had planned indoor activities for most of the day. Our first stop was breakfast at Pamela’s Diner. It was greasy, kitschy and everything a diner should be. I ordered an omelette that came with toast and potatoes. Raisin Bread had banana French toast. I don’t know what was in the potatoes but they were like crack.

After breakfast, we went to The Mattress Factory, a museum located in a former Stearns & Foster mattress factory, hence the name. The museum actually is situated in a number of buildings now, but the main exhibition space is in the factory. What makes The Mattress Factory different is that each piece is a room-sized installation that is created on-site.

Ever since I saw MOCA’s Warhol retrospective in 2002, I have been pretty fascinated with Andy Warhol. Pittsburgh was his hometown and it is now home to a museum dedicated to his life’s work. My two favorite parts of my visit was learning about Warhol’s archives. Warhol created over 600 Time Capsules, which were in essence cardboard boxes filled with the stuff that passed through his hands. When he filled a box, he sealed it and sent it to storage. I can’t imagine the stories those objects can tell about what his life was like and what the time was like. The other thing I most enjoyed was the educational aspect of the museum, where you can learn in a hands-on way some of Warhol’s methods in art-making.

The butterfly is one of my creations from that afternoon!

Once we ran out of creative juices, we visited the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning. Located inside this building are a series of Nationality Rooms. The rooms are styled to represent some of the cultures that settled in Allegheny County, such as Polish, German and Irish. We were only permitted to see the rooms on the third floor that afternoon and these included Armenian, Japanese and Austrian. How lucky are the students who get to attend courses in this beautiful building and in these rooms.

The common area of the Cathedral of Learning made me feel like I was at Hogwarts. I believe if I were a student at Pitt, my favorite place to study would be this space.

The second part of our weekend was spent with Raisin Bread’s aunt and uncle. His uncle was participating in a vintage car race.

During the lunch break, spectators can make a donation to take a lap around the track in one of the vintage cars. I doubt there will ever be another opportunity for me to ride in a 1950s Lotus 7 on a race track!

I was pleasantly surprised by Pittsburgh. It was fun, relaxing and filled with plenty of good times. 
60 21st Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
500 Sampsonia Way
Pittsburgh, PA 15212

117 Sandusky Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
4200 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15260

Visit to Los Angeles: Art + Bread

While planning my trip to Los Angeles, one of my must-sees was Royal/T Cafe in Culver City. It was only while doing my research did I learn that the space would close this month for the owner to focus on other endeavors. Ever since Royal/T opened five years ago, it became one of my favorite spots to see interesting exhibitions in the city. You may recall that Hello Kitty had a birthday party there not too long ago.
We enjoyed a nice, relaxing lunch in the cafe before viewing “The Art of Cooking” exhibition. I had the afternoon tea which was a spin on traditional afternoon tea but with a Japanese influence.

Unfortunately, I was not that into the exhibit, but I do still love their small shop, which is always filled with fun and unique items. Hello, Mr. Lemon.

We continued our viewing of art at the LACMA. I spent many years living and/or working within walking distance to LACMA, which I can honestly say I took full advantage of. It remains very close to my heart.

Another reason LACMA is close to my heart is because Raisin Bread and I went there on our first date. He says the moment he knew he wanted to date me was when we were standing on the top platform of the BCAM Building, looking at the view of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign and conversing.

This is that view. Needless to say, I love the LACMA.

Plus, it always has something new that I have never seen before, like this outdoor installation of yellow rubber tubing.

or this Matisse ceramic piece from Frances Brody’s home

or this giant pool set

or hundreds of toy cars making up their own little city.

As we were leaving the museum, we noticed there were a number of food trucks parked along Wilshire Boulevard. I wasn’t exactly hungry but when I saw the banh mi truck, I couldn’t resist.

One final meal from my trip was UMAMIcatessan. The idea is six different concepts within a restaurant. Maybe like a street market or a food court?

Teal Goose – $12

Grey Goose vodka, fresh celery, kiwi and lime juices, truffle salt and a touch of sugar

I had never been to any of the Umami Burgers before so I thought it was necessary to order one. Not my favorite hamburger in the world but it also wasn’t shabby. The bread was soft and the meat was juicy.

Umami Burger – $11
shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted tomato, parmesan crisp, umami ketchup

There is also apparently a “secret menu” from which we ordered an item. I’m not sure what else you can order off the menu, but these tots were nommy.

Cheesy Tater Tots
Finally, as if we hadn’t already gone overboard with unhealthy food. We decided to end with a foie gras and jelly donut from and a donut. Pure decadance. This was a few days before the foie gras ban was going into effect so there aren’t anymore foie gras donuts in Los Angeles!

Until we meet again, Los Angeles! Miss you!

Royal-T Cafe (CLOSED)
8910 Washington Blvd

Culver CityCA 90232

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036

UMAMIcatessan (now Umami Burger)
852 South Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90014

Visit to Los Angeles: In-N-Out and Michael Voltaggio’s Ink

It’s been over a month since I told you about all of the noodles that I ate when I went home to Los Angeles for a visit, but noodles were certainly not the only thing I ate. The number one thing on my list was In-N-Out. Conveniently, a new location opened up very close to my parents’ house! Oh, how I missed you!

Grilled cheese animal-style with well-done French fries
Another thing I ate was a whole lot of food at Michael Voltaggio’s ink. The chef was working in the kitchen that night, but I didn’t want to sneak a photo of him.  

Entrance to ink.

I started with the $13 cocktail of tequila, jalapeno, passion fruit and mezcal plus a gigantic cube of ice. I really enjoyed the spicy kick of the jalapeno.

Tequila Cocktail

Our waiter suggested that we order three dishes each. We wound up ordering seven dishes total because nine dishes seemed like way too much for three girls to consume. These seven dishes turned out to be way enough for us. In fact, I was uncomfortably full by the time we finished our fifth dish. I wish we had ordered more of a variety of dishes. We somehow went very heavy on the meat and those dishes were quite rich. 

I was happiest with the first three dishes that came to our table. They were each creative, complex and composed of a variety of ingredients.

Brussels sprouts with pig ears, lardo and apple

The second dish was something that none of us thought about ordering but our waiter highly recommended it. I am super happy that we took his advice because I liked this a lot. There was a lot going on in the dish but it had interesting textures and was refreshing and clean tasting.

Carrots with coconut ice, cardamom soil and pea tendril mojo

This wasn’t necessarily my favorite dish but I thought it was the most interesting. Who would have ever thought of egg yolk gnocchi?

Baja scallops with egg yolk gnocchi, mushroom hay

Next up was the symphony of meats. At this point in time, I can’t remember which one I enjoyed the most although I believe it was the pork belly. Perhaps it was because it came out first. All of the meat dishes were good, but I knew that we had gone overboard on the meat and couldn’t really judge them fairly by then because I was getting so full.

Pork belly with charcoal oil, bbq flavor and corn

Lamb shoulder with tongue, vadouvan and yogurt

Wagyu beef with carrots, tendon and horseradish tofu

Poutine with chickpea fries, yogurt curds and lamb neck gravy

We decided to push through our uncomfortableness and order a dessert to share. I wasn’t too enthralled with it and thought that the apple could have used some more apple.

Apple with caramel, burnt wood ice cream and walnut

Overall, I quite enjoyed what we sampled that evening although I think we could have chosen our selections more carefully! Lesson learned!

various locations around California

8360 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90069

At #BlogHer12 – Avenue Q the Musical

Thanks to MamaDrama I had the opportunity to attend an off-Broadway show during my visit to New York for BlogHer 12 this past weekend. On Thursday night, I found myself at the New World Stages to see the multiple Tony-award winning musical Avenue Q.

Exactly ten years ago next month, two girlfriends and I packed up a U-Haul and moved to an awful street in Brooklyn called Avenue U. Avenue Q took me back to that time when I was fresh out of college and trying to find my purpose. It turned out that my purpose was not to live in New York City, but that is a different blog post all together.

Avenue Q follows the journey of a new college graduate named Princeton who moves to New York and finds himself on a street named Avenue Q. While my neighbors were new immigrants from China and Russia, Princeton’s are furry monsters and a couple of people.

This musical is hilarious and completely inappropriate. You should expect puppet sex and tunes with titles like “The Internet is for Porn” and “If You Were Gay.” There is something to be said about cute, fuzzy puppets singing these songs. I was rolling with laughter.

Plus, the cast is awesomely talented. The puppeteers played multiple parts each and moved seamlessly from one character to the next and sang beautifully. The concept of the musical clearly takes its cues from Sesame Street with people and puppets living together, but this show is not for kids.

If you happen to find yourself in New York and need a just for adults night at the theatre, I highly recommend Avenue Q. Trust me, you won’t stop laughing!

Tickets are available at Telecharge.
Follow MamaDrama – @MamaDramaNY
Follow Avenue Q – @avenueqmusical

Disclosure: MamaDrama provided me with tickets to Avenue Q. No monetary compensation was received for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Read my full disclosure policy 

Portugal: Part 4 – The Rest

My fourth day in Lisbon was the start of what brought me to Portugal in the first place. It was time to get to work, but I don’t want to bore you with the details of that. Instead, I will just stick to the fun stuff.

As I mentioned before, bacalhau is the national dish of Portugal. This is what the product looks like as it is sold from a bacalhau shop.

The literature that I read over the course of my studying about Portugal suggests that the Portuguese are a synchronic culture, meaning that they view the past, present and future as being interconnected, so it is not surprising that their past is symbolized in much of their arts and architecture. For example, the street lamps in Lisbon show a boat with two ravens.

Lisbon street lamp

Every guidebook I read claims that a ride on tram 28 is a “must do” on a first time visit to Lisbon. Even Bourdain doesn’t poopoo it. I felt weird riding public transportation just to ride public transportation, but one day I found myself actually needing to use it. I love how the trams remind us of just how old Lisbon is.

I spent some time at the Castelo de Sao Jorge one evening, taking in the beautiful views of the city. The red tiled roofs were a common sight throughout the country. This castle dates from the Moorish times and sits in a strategic position at the top of a hill overlooking Lisbon.
View of Lisbon from Castelo de Sao Jorge
The second half of my trip in Portugal was spent in the north, near the city of Porto. One evening, I had some free time so I went to some of my fellow conference attendees to Porto. We nearly died in a taxi but that is a different story. Porto is, of course, famous for producing port wine. The port wine houses line the Rio Douro in the city of Vila Nova de Gaia.
Sandeman Cellars

Traditionally, boats called rabelos were used to transport the port wine barrels down the Rio Douro, and they can still be seen on the river today.

Rabelos in the Rio Douro
I wanted to spend some more time in Porto, so I spent a night in the heart of the city. A landmark that can be seen around the city is Torre de Clerigos, a bell tower which is a part of a church.
Torre de Clerigos
While I never eat McDonald’s at home anymore, I had to visit the Imperial McDonald’s in Porto. It sits on Porto’s main square, Praca de Liberdade and is super fancy.
You can barely see it in this photo but the sign does say “Imperial McDonald’s”
The counter at Imperial McDonald’s
I still couldn’t get enough of the Portuguese tiles. Even the train station is heavily decorated with them. This is the train station I arrived in when I returned from the conference to Porto.
Sao Bento train station
In the afternoon, I found myself wandering about. Sometimes I have a plan of attack and sometimes I just find myself walking towards whatever catches my eye. What caught my eye was Porto’s cathedral. It was no longer open for the day, so I didn’t get to see what the interior looks like. 

Still, it was worth it. The best part was the terrace of the cathedral, which offers great views of the Rio Douro and Vila Nova de Gaia. If you look closely, you can see all of the signs of the Port wine houses.

On my last day, I also took a ride on the teleferico. This made me fall in love with the red roof tiles even more!

That’s all of Portugal that I have for you! If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend making the journey to Portugal. It is a beautiful country full of warm people, delicious food and it is quite affordable compared to the rest of continental Europe.

You might also like:
Portugal: Part 1 – Obrigada: the only word I learned
Portugal: Part 2 – Kicking it old school in Belem
Portugal: Part 3 – Cold and Rainy in Sintra