FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK :: Off to Exotic… wait for it… Pittsburgh!

by Harvey Gold on July 1, 2015

As many of you know, we produced a video at Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh, PA. It was great, but it was also in and out of the city, so I had experienced little to nothing of Pittsburgh outside of crossing bridges, identifying rust, and traveling to their Ikea (closest one to our homebase of Akron, Ohio).
Friends had just recently done a holiday there, turning us onto a wondertful B&B, the Parador Inn, so we decided to finally spend a little time in this interesting town in celebration of our anniversary. You can learn whatever you like about the Parador by linking to their website, but upon checking in, owner Ed Menzer will take you on the newby tour, highlighting furnishings, interesting notes about the house and it’s rooms and plenty of information about the immediate neighborhood and places of interest in Pittsburgh itself. A true Concierge Deluxe. But here’s what I have to offer:

Unique and Wonderful

Unique and Wonderful

The rooms are lovely, airy, not ultra modernized, but modern enough (flat screen, Direct TV, wi-fi, mini fridge, coffee maker with GOOD coffee) with some uniquely wonderful furniture. The intended Caribbean theme is there, but the elegance of this old Northeastern mansion is what really plays here. What distinguishes this place from other B&Bs in which we’ve stayed is, first, the common rooms. The dining area really involves three rooms opening into each other, with great light and space. Did I mention ridiculously great chandeliers throughout? Then there’s the room with the grand piano, lovely furnishings, more light, and a constantly filled sherry decanter with proper glasses. Topping things off is Ed’s garden, a courtyard where we sat and read as Ed’s dog, R.J, a sweet black lab (now with a new sister Rayze) ran around as Ed tended the plantings. Heavenly. Did I mention you can bring your dog here?

The Parador Inn

The Parador Inn

The second asset that stood out (as if my first didn’t contain several outstanding reasons for coming here), was the breakfasts… which is a good thing to do well at a Bed and BREAKFAST. When we walked into the dining room, there was coffee ready, a pitcher of juice, and a waiting breakfast yogurt parfait. Granola in the bottom of the parfait glass, filled with vanilla yogurt with fresh fruit, one day berries, another bananas, yet another, finely cubed peaches… delightful presentation and refreshing. These parfaits, fresh and cool, were waiting for us (they do three seatings for breakfast so they know when you’re coming down), next to a basket of pumpkin, banana, or some other such warm sliced breakfast bread. After finishing up the parfaits, we were brought a hot dish. One morning, egg cups wrapped in bacon, another stuffed pancake balls (yup) with a side of bacon, and yet another, baked oatmeal (w. bacon, of course)… Ed DOES understand that everything is, in fact, better with bacon. This is a superior B&B, one that we’re already returning to when we travel, once again, to Pittsburgh, when the Warhol Museum presents Television on the Carnegie-Melon campus in September.

There’s more, such as Hotel Manager Ty’s great suggestions for antique and consignment emporiums, the truly delightful housekeeper, Dee, but let’s now talk food and beverage for a minute, apart from these wonderful breakfasts at The Parador.

IMG_1726The first day, we checked in at around 2:30, got the lovely tour of the place from Ed, settled in, and then decided to eat in the neighborhood, taking a stroll down the block to local tavern, Benjamin’s Western Avenue Burger Bar, known for their unique approach to their burgers, a mix of sirloin, brisket, and short rib, and a pretty decent beer menu.

We ordered an appetizer of deviled eggs, a dish I love to an almost life threatening degree. These were simple and neat, distinguished by the use of sriracha in the mayo. Excellent.

Dolli started out with a Sazerac which was, based on inventory, a little different recipe. It contained Bulliet Rye Bourbon, Viex Carreau Absinthe, and lemon peel, with the Peychaud Bitters replaced by Angostura. The verdict was… a smile.

IMG_1727There were plenty of IPAs on the menu should I have felt the need for something to cut through the sriracha, and I do, after all, like a nice IPA, but I, instead, ordered a La Fin Du Monde, because, well… because they HAD IT! This is a great Tripel, brewed in Quebec. It has a very sweet, almost grassy/alfalfa nose, with no evidence of the 9% ABV. It offers that Belgian clove flavor as a finish to a rich, mellow, beautifully balanced ale. No real evidence, in it’s drinkability, that there’s significant alcohol in it… but there is. A great Tripel!

My Morning Burger

My Morning Burger

As a nod to the house’s strength, I ordered up “My Morning Burger”, a nice sized patty on a toasted wheat Kaiser roll, with Applewood bacon, a sunny side up egg, hot sauce mayo, and Benjamin’s (also signature) bacon fat home fries… on the sandwich. I ordered a side of slaw, and was in absolute slopped up hand, knife, fork, many extra napkins, great friggin’ beer… Heaven. Dolli had the BBQ burger with their homemade sauce and loved it big time. Benjamin’s crushed it!

The Parador Inn

The Parador Inn

Upon our return to the house, Dolli had a glass of sherry while I tried to figure out the next step in a song I’m working on. I failed, but in this place, looked great trying.

The next day, after taking a road trip to Falling Water, Frank Lloyd Wright’s amazing, but as a comfort freak a little annoying, signature “must see” creation, we decided to hit another neighborhood eatery, this one a short drive from the B&B, the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy. This was a mixed bag. The place seeming a little dreary, not much energy, but some items came recommended and this was another establishment that had a relationship with the Parador (a nice touch) where, by being a guest, you received a free appetizer, or a discount of some nature. They have, on their board, a surprise beer of the day. When I asked what it was on this particular day, the server informed me that if she told me it wouldn’t be a surprise. She was dug in and NOT going to reveal anything whatsoever about it and that was that!

Lavery Rye Stout

Lavery Rye Stout

So instead I ordered a Lavery Rye Stout. There was a nice little head, and as for the nose… well, I had just quit smoking cigars two days prior, and for the life of me, couldn’t tell whether I was smelling coffee or an ash tray. Acknowledging a bit of a sensory short circuit, I defered to Dolli who’s unsullied pink, virginal nose detected cocoa. With a reasonable 6.8% ABV, two or three good draws in, I found it to be lovely, nice and heavy in a traditional stout fashion. On the back of the tongue, at the end of the draw, it left a fine powdery baker’s chocolate bitter. A very nice and satisfying Irish Dry stout.

Another weakness I have dictates that if they have it on the menu, I am compelled to try, along with deviled eggs and New England Clam Chowder, non-Buffalo wings. James Street offered Tequila and Lime wings.

Tequila and Lime Wings

Tequila and Lime Wings

They can be had broiled or fried so, given my preference to get wings crispy as possible, I went with fried. Good choice. They were wonderful. They used some sort of a syrup or sugar, it seems, because I couldn’t see where the tequila or the lime would give them the delicious sweetness they had. I never did, actually, detect tequila in these wings, but between the lime and the sweetness of these wonderfully crispy critters, I was delighted. I commented that I could make a main course of them, and given the neutral impression of my standard fare Cobb Salad, if I had it to do over again, that’s exactly what I would happily do. On the other hand, Dolli ordered their meatloaf, giant slabs with homemade mashed, covered in, not gravy, but a creamed corn sauce that WAS creamed corn. Throwing a few hush puppies on the plate, this was a hot mess of carb happiness. She loved it. I like creamed corn (child of the 50s here), but it was a little sweet for me, a little too much. Huge portions, good beer, and the place has music on weekends and other designated nights – so we’re thinking our timing was off (too early), and this may yet be considered a place to check out.

The YBN Editor's Exploding Plastic Inevitable

Your YBN Editor’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable

IMG_1753We spent much of the next day with a dear friend who had relocated to Pittsburgh, at the Andy Warhol Museum. Starting on the 7th floor and working our way down, we really invested time in the experience and it was wonderful. Following that, after a couple hours adventuring to the aforementioned consignment & antique stores, we joined our pal for a nice italian dinner, but the one thing of note was his pre dinner offering of the one bottled craft beer he could find brewed in Pittsburgh itself, Chinookie IPA from Full Pint Brewing, in North Versailles, PA. I’m going to make this review short and sweet. Brewed with tons of Chinook, then dry hopped with same, this presented a huge nose. The brewer claims it’s grapefruit. I smelled pineapple. Dolli smelled apricot. Friend Jim smelled both (unsure of both what, exactly?). This is a nicely balanced IPA, with a 7.1%ABV and a published IBU of 103.1. I always find it interesting when, at times, the lowest IBU brew has the nastiest bitter, and some huge numbered offerings, such as this one, doesn’t. To be sure, the Chinookie offers a reasonable and very tasty bitter throughout, but again, the chemistry here doesn’t reflect what one might expect from such a high number. A good drinking IPA with a terrific nose.

Our last night in Pittsburgh, we followed another recommendation, heading to Kaya, in the cool Strip District. A pretty special place (part of the Big Burrito galaxy), this was not going to be a beer night. Dolli started with a Mojito. I have history that includes a special time at Rock in Rio some years ago. A major component of that specialness was the role played by Cachaca, the national sugar cane alcohol, more specifically in the form of many Caipirinhas, a very simple and to the point drink made of Cachaca, lime, ice, and sugar. In this case Demerara, the latest, most stylish, semi raw sugar was used. No matter, it was all tasty as expected.

Beats yet another picture of Wings!

Beats yet another picture of Wings!

We started out with chips with a mango-tomatillo salsa, and an order of their jerk wings served on a puddle of cilantro cream. The homemade “Kaya” chips were fine, the salsa great, the wings crisp as I asked and a bit too spicy for Dolli… which meant more for me!!! This worked out great as I ordered as a main course (staying thematic), their Jerk Pork Quesadilla, which was fine, but to be honest, not one of the more special items on the menu. On the other hand, we were in the house on a Thursday, which was… FRIED CHICKEN NIGHT!!! Simple, tasty, crispy, buttermilk drenched half a fried chicken. As you can see this gigantic nuclear mutated 7 breasted 18 legged, 12 winged spectacle made for one huge cartoon meal. Not even gonna mention that the very best part of it was their crazy 137 cheese adult mac & cheese, which we insisted become part of the menu as a main course. Stuffed beyond hope, we took leftovers home w/o having dessert, but did, in fact, have some coffee and walked the Strip District for a while before we could fit back into the car. Kaya gets a big recommendation here.

Balls

Balls

The next day, it was up and out to Ikea before heading home. We had a shopping list from the family… and HAD to share a plate of those swedish meatballs, dontcha know.

Thanks to PITTSBURGH ROCK CITY!!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

carol westbrook July 4, 2015 at 10:56 am

Great post, and great suggestions for one of my favorite rocking’ cities. Sorry you didn’t get a chance to experience a trip on the incline. Glad you finally got a chance to appreciate what a great town it is.

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