Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pittsburgh - The City That Drinks/Eats/Looks Nice

A little break from the Middle East posts (but don't worry - I still have some gems lined up for you) to talk about a trip a little closer to home.

My friend Dr. Emily did her residency in Pittsburgh, and back in June she invited me to take a weekend trip up there to run the Color Me Rad 5k and visit her friends. 

By the way, I don't know what it is about all of these random runs (colors, mud, obstacles, zombies, etc.) , but I dig 'em. They seem to have become immensely popular in recent years, or maybe it's just that as a runner they're more on my radar now. 

Anyhoodle, so my friend Dr. Emily and I drove up one Friday evening in June. It took about four and a half hours to get to Pittsburgh. Dr. Emily docked me nine minutes for stopping at a Starbucks halfway (I REALLY, REALLY HAD TO PEE) and then tried to make up the time later on down the Pennsylvania Turnpike. We did not make up those nine minutes, a fact that Dr. Emily reminded me of frequently throughout the weekend.

Our first stop of the weekend was the Hofbrauhaus. Now, I have been to two Hofbrauhauses - the original in Germany, and the clearly not original one in Dubai. I had no idea there was one in Pittsburgh. But there was. And it was pret-ty darn close to what you'd think of when you think "German Beer Hall." (Just in case you were wondering - the one in Dubai was NOT. The food was legit, but the atmosphere...not so much.)

The batteries in my camera were dying at the Hofbrauhaus, so my pictures are not the best, but here you go:

Live music - an oompah band playing everything from Top 40 to old Beer Hall Favorites and Favorite Wedding Songs, Volume 4. 
As expected, patrons stood upon benches and waved their beers in time with the music. Excellent German heritage.
After several beers, it was decided that we should go to a gay club called Cruze. I don't have any photos (because my camera died), but lemme say - this was the best damn DJ I have ever heard. And I've been to Vegas. This guy was mashing up Jackson 5 with Florence + The Machine and - I don't know, probably Nine Inch Nails or something. It was amazing. We danced for a very long time. Also, we learned that there is a whole LINE DANCE to "Wobble." "Wobble" is secretly the song that makes me pound it out on the treadmill. Don't know what "Wobble" is? Go ahead, I dare you. (DON'T JUDGE ME - I LOVE THIS SONG.)

After dancing all night, we headed out for late-night pizza (duh) and then went back to our home-away-from-home for the weekend - the apartment of one of Dr. Emily's Doctor Friends. She lives in basically the most awesome apartment building ever. Behold, Union Station:

Once a train station, it's now apartments, valet parking, and a wedding venue. Apparently.
Wouldn't you want to get married here?!

Or live here?!

Pittsburgh is really a beautiful old city that has somehow made it out of the wreckage of the Rust Belt that was once the production heart of America. Now, it's a fun city with plenty of character, in part thanks to one of its more famous former inhabitants:

The Andy Warhol museum is multiple stories of room-sized paintings and installations to scraps of paper, all meticulously curated. Seeing some of these works is like being in the unreal presence of a celebrity, only in Warhol's case they usually are just as big, just as beautiful, and just as stunning in real life. 
Naturally, we started the day off with Bloody Marys at Meat + Potatoes, which had not only a fantastical brunch but an epic make-your-own Bloody Mary bar. I can't remember everything that went into my vodka salad, but I know I used the bacon vodka and stuck a whole jalapeno pepper and a stalk of onion in it. The one on the left is Dr. Emily's, and the blob floating in it is an entire artichoke heart. I wasn't even that hungry after drinking my drink.

Homage to one of Pittsburgh's former industries 

Beautiful architecture downtown
The night before the race, I told our team about my usual pre-race rituals: plenty of water, a good dinner, and a decent night's sleep. They informed me that my pre-race rituals are overruled by their Saturday night rituals: Hot Pepper Hot Peppers at Round Corner Cantina, and pizza at Piccolo Forno. Since I love spicy things and pizza is technically 75% carbs, I decided that when one is in Pittsburgh, one must do as the partiers Pittsburghians do. 

A descriptive name.

I was pretty excited to see a Pimms Cup on the menu, but I was assured that THE REASON to go to Round Corner Cantina is their Red Pepper Red Pepper margarita....
...and the decor of the patio.
Red Pepper Red Pepper margaritas - Espolon Silver, Chartreuse, elderflower, basil, lemon and, of course, a chili pepper. I looooove the combination of sweet and spicy, and these things pack a punch.

It gets deliciously spicier.
Round Corner Cantina is conveniently located right across the street from Piccolo Forno, so we put in a reservation, had a couple'a Red Pepper Red Peppers, and then our table was ready. 

The pizza was amazing. Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhmazing.

Tirimisu for dessert. You know, because we're running a big race tomorrow and need to be prepared.
After an evening of pizza and martinis, we were bright-eyed enough the next morning to fit in a trip to The Strip for some breakfast and Pennsylvania Macaroni Company.

This was in June. I guess pride all year round?


Yes please.

This is the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company, the finest purveyor of imported Italian (and sometimes German, British, Polish, Turkish, Indian, Japanese, etc. etc. etc.) goods. We spent approximately 15 minutes in here, and I walked out with about $30 worth of random groceries including Italian cookies, ground hemp for smoothies, curry sauce, and dried mangoes.
And then it was time to head to the race, which was held a little outside of the city at the First Niagara Pavilion. On the way out, I was told that Pittsburgh is nicknamed "The City of Bridges." I can see why. Here are only two of the 10,003 bridges we crossed over the course of the weekend:

And the race

I am kind of competitive when it comes to races - even 5ks - and so I was absolutely delighted to learn that after our weekend rituals of Bloody Marys, museums, martinis, and pizza that this 5k is not timed. I have no idea how long it took me to run this race, but I'm betting it wasn't pretty. The point of the whole thing, however, was to get beamed with spray paint. We did good. Basically, the race was a sort of "obstacle course" roped through the parking lot with volunteers waiting to beam you with bags of dyed corn starch. Towards the end of the race, you get to run through the ampitheater - up and down the aisles - which was pretty fun.

Temporary tattoo. Everyone else put them on their faces, but I had a work meeting the next morning and didn't want to take any chances.
After this feat of athleticism, it was decided that we needed beer, more martinis, and some post-race pirogis at Harris Grill. Delightful.

And thus ended our weekend in Pittsburgh. It was a delightful time and, as always, I was glad to be traveling with, if not natives, people who had lived there for some period of time and knew just where to go. 

And seeing all that Andy Warhol made me want to be more eccentric. But that may have been my vodka salad thinking.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You should start making gift baskets of your travels so that the rest of us can share in your awesome adventures. For this trip, I suggest the following giftbasket:
-a mix CD of DJ AwesomeSauce (I just invented his name, I know)
-Bloody Mary starter package, including bacon vodka, jalapeƱos, and artichoke hearts
-pierogis-mini marshmallows and toothpicks so we can make little bridges
Just saying....
P.S. I am totally craving pierogis now. I hate you.