Tag Archives: travel

30 Before 30: First Class!

16 May

We took our trip back from NYC in style– with an upgrade to first class!

Sittin’ in the fancy seats!

OK, the flight from JFK to PIT is a short one and on a regional jet, so the difference in quality between first class and coach wasn’t that much, but we had celebrated a little too enthusiastically at the wedding, and were in no state to be stuffed into stiff little chairs.

I only fly about 6 times a year.  When I started plotting out my 30 before 30 list, I quickly learned that “fly first class” would be trickier than I imagined.  I don’t fly often enough to get any kind of courtesy upgrade, and buying first class tickets would mean paying out the nose (No, I will NOT pay $500 to fly RT to New York).  You can request to purchase an upgrade at the gate, but flights these days are usually SO full that none are available. And a very grouchy clerk at one airline barked at me “NO, WE DO NOT SELL UPGRADES. EVER.” Yeeesh, lady!

When we first approached the podium and requested to purchase an upgrade on our flight home, there was only 1 first class seat left.  Mr. Beez graciously offered to buy it for me.  Then, it turned out that 2 people didn’t show, and so we wound up getting to sit together in first.

So this is my summary of my experience in first class: I got to drink tea out of a real cup. They gave me a cookie.  The chairs were a bit more comfortable than in coach.  That’s about it.  It was certainly nicer than coach, and I’ll keep pestering those gate clerks about the availability of upgrades, but I’m not going to pay double for any first class fare.

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The cutest wedding in the history of all weddings!

15 May

Although we did fit in a little vacation time, the purpose of our trip to New York was to attend the wedding of our friends Jen and Tom.  Jen is an incredibly talented and creative artist– musically, visually, she masters it all!  Their wedding was so charming and so FUN.  Also, the food- DELICIOUS. They had these amazing passed appetizers, and then a family style dinner of Peking Duck with lentils, short ribs with rice, and fish with vegetables. SO GOOD.

We sat next to Jen’s friend (whose name escapes me), who sewed her amazing wedding dress, and dance skirt! I spent the whole dinner lavishing him with praise for his talents, he was swimming in it.  He, and all the other guests, were super friendly and approachable, which made this wedding extra-fun!

He did ask me if we have horses in Pittsburgh. I told him there are horses in the ‘burbs, but we do know how to drive cars here. I don’t think he believed me.

These two can’t get any cuter! Jen serenaded Tom, and then he joined her onstage for a duet so adorable I almost died of the cute!  Going to one of Jen’s comedy shows is more what I had in mind in my 30 before 30 goal of seeing her perform, but with my schedule between now and November, it looks like that might not happen. But Jen DID perform here, so I’m counting this!

The beautiful Manhattan view from the rooftop deck!

They had a fantastic DIY photobooth, using an iPad!

CONGRATULATIONS JEN & TOM!

The Big Apple: Per Se

14 May

I have probably looked forward to dining at a Michelin-rated restaurant more than any other item on my 30 before 30 list. I ticked this one off the list this weekend, with an unforgettable visit to Thomas Keller’s Per Se. Per Se is everything everyone says it is, and more. Anyone who gives this restaurant anything less than 5 stars is the kind of person who can never be fully happy, and will always manage to find some little blemish in an otherwise perfect experience.  Per Se is perfection.  It was blissful, and in a way sad.  After that meal was over, I realized that that was that.  I have experienced the pinnacle of my dining experience.  No other meal will ever compare.  Even if I go back there for another visit, a second meal won’t live up to the magic and surprise of the first visit.

Mr. Beez and I excited for this adventure!  Our friend, Anthony, joined us but he was busy taking the picture.

We fully expected the servers to be pompous and judgmental. They weren’t.  They were friendly and joking, and perfectly attentive without being pushy.  We had FIVE people waiting on us– constant, but unobtrusive.  The wine list is loaded on an iPad…it had to be 50 pages long. I have an experienced palate for cheap wine. I was completely lost on this.  Amongst crowds of wines $900-$15,000, I managed to find the “cheap-o” wine at $100.  There wasn’t going to be a thing on that list that disappointed this girl, who rarely drops more than $12 on a bottle ($15 if I’m feeling fancy).  I have no idea what the wine was that we picked. But it was fantastic. Because this is Per Se and that’s how things are.

At Per Se:

MY PURSE HAD ITS OWN CHAIR. Not like an empty chair at the table, a teeny tiny little stool JUST FOR A PURSE. I couldn’t take a better picture because I would have had to crouch down on the floor and that would just look too weird. (For the record, the girl at the next table over was taking pictures of everything TOO.)

I truly don’t have the vocabulary to describe Per Se.  The first bite of each dish took my breath away, and I could only muster a “This is really good .”  There are so many adjectives to describe a sublime meal. None of them worked for me here.  All I could think to say, with each and every of the 9 courses (and then some) was “This is really good.” 


A description of each course would fall flat in comparison to the taste and texture.  The pictures are the best substitute I can offer.

This was the first dessert of FIVE consecutive desserts.  First was this cheese and sweets plate, then a raspberry parfait, then we had chocolate layer cake (Anthony opted instead for a grapefruit concoction), then they brought over a tin of macarons and other sweets, THEN a waiter came by and offered us truffles and fancy chocolates from this enormous, exquisite box of chocolates (I forgot to take a picture of that part), and THEN they even sent us home with a little bag of candies.  FIVE DESSERTS. IN A ROW. FIVE.

Ok, so this one isn’t a dessert. It’s just the sugar for my coffee. But even the presentation for that was impressive.

And here we are, fat and happy, at the end of our long and DELICIOUS evening.

The Big Apple: Day 2

13 May

I was going to write all about Per Se, but after getting home from our flight, I had to get some work done, and now I’m short on time for the attention that adventure deserves.  I’ll write up that post soon, promise.  I also have posts planned about Jen and Tom’s adorable wedding, and the adventure of our flight home. This weekend is going to take longer to write about, than it did to live it!

So on Saturday, we slept in a little bit (9am is sleeping in when you have a little one!), and headed back to Rockefeller Center.

Our first stop was Magnolia Bakery for some sweet treats.

Pumpkin cheesecake for breakfast is COMPLETELY reasonable, in my book.

Stuffed full of sugar, we headed over to NBC for the NBC studio tour.  Tourist tip: Visiting the “Top of the Rock” observation deck is an insane $25 ticket. It’s only $13 more to add on the NBC studio tour, and you don’t have to do both in the same day. In fact, you can schedule tour for any time within 3 months of purchase.  It was a no brainer for us.  Plus, the tour guides told us all about getting tickets for Jimmy Fallon’s show.  We’ll be back in NYC for BlogHer in August, and I may well try to get us Jimmy Fallon tickets while we’re in the City.

NBC Page uniforms! (Unfortunately, we did not spot Kenneth the page)

Tour time!

The tour was lots of fun.  We got to see the sets for Nightly News with Brian Williams, The Dr. Oz Show, and SNL.  I wish we could have taken pictures on the tour. I had no idea that the SNL sets were so tightly packed.  We also got to see the SNL house band rehearse for a few minutes, so that was lots of fun.

Afterward we walked over to Times Square. It was swarming with fanny-packed tourists, so we hightailed it outta there, and hopped on the subway to visit the East Village instead.

There was a big street fair going on, so we wandered amongst the vendors.  It was a phenomenally beautiful day. The sun was shining and it was warm, it was so lovely to be outdoors!

Even though soup isn’t exactly a warm weather food, we stopped at Pho 32 & Shabu for some pho and dumplings.

So very, very tasty!

And so concluded the exploration phase of our visit to the Big Apple. Lots of fun, and lots of YUM!

The Big Apple

12 May

Mr. Beez and I arrived in the Big Apple yesterday, to attend my pal Jen’s wedding reception (which starts in about an hour! Yippee!) and to have a bit of vacation. Baby Beez is staying with her grandparents for the weekend, an while I do miss her a lot, it is nice to travel and not worry about a fussing toddler).

We flew in yesterday morning, which gave us a whole day to hang out in the city. The first order of business was to drop our bags off at our hotel. We took the train/subway from JFK, and all of that went smoothly. The walking directions from the subway to the hotel, however, not so much. The hotel is BRAND new, meaning so new that the address doesn’t exist in google. That meant that although the hotel is only 2.5 blocks from the station, google maps took us on a mile long walking tour of Long Island City. It dropped us off at Moishe’s Self Storage warehouse, a couple blocks from some gritty smokestacks. Recognizing that nothing in that area looked remotely like a hotel, I put on my thinking cap, and we did finally figure out how to get there.

Once the bags were successfully dropped off, we trucked into Manhattan for some eats. We were HUNGRY, and comfort food was in order. We headed to Cafeteria

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Cocktails at 11:30 am sounds totally reasonable to me.

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Those are Mac and Cheese EGGROLLS, with melted cheese dipping sauce. No further explanation needed.

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Spinach eggs Benedict.

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Strawberry parfait. EVERYBODY LOVE PARFAIT.

We weren’t sure what to do next, so we wandered for a bit. I spotted La Maison du Macaron, and even though I had just eaten a parfait, decided I absolutely needed macarons (for later of course), or I would die.

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I picked out fig & balsamic, apricot something or other, mango, and lavender nougat. They were all delicious, but the lavender & balsamic was the best by far.

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Next we hopped on the subway to pay a visit to Rockefeller Center.

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We also took a trip to the “Top of the Rock.”

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Afterward we walked over to Radio City Music Hall.

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We said “yes, that is Radio City Music Hall.” and took a picture.

We went back to the hotel for a rest, because we had a big night up ahead.

Once we were well rested, we trekked back to the city to meet with our friend Anthony for drinks. We went to the Barcelona Bar which was a hole in the wall dive (literally hole in the wall, we passed it once without even seeing it) that was totally fun, and has a totally insane selection.

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I had a Flaming Moe!

After drinks, we headed to Per Se for our much awaited culinary adventure! THAT, my friends, deserves its very own post!

Voyage to the Land of Cleves

29 Apr

Mr. Beez and I took Baby Beez on a little outing to Cleveland today! We had no particular reason for it, other than I wanted to get out of town for the day (and I have to go to Harrisburg for work tomorrow, so I’m really getting what I asked for.)

I was greatly looking forward to Art All Night, but Baby Beez was being a teething, drooling, screaming monster last night so we disappointedly skipped it.  This morning she seemed to be in better spirits, so we took off for Cleveland around 10 (she usually starts a nap around 10 or 10:30).  She slept for a while, and then woke up about an hour outside Cleveland, and proved our assumptions wrong by screaming the rest of the way.  It was too late to turn back then, so we soldiered on.

We went to the Cleveland Children’s Museum.  I had heard it was nice so I expected something similar to Pittsburgh’s kids museum in size and scope.  Now don’t get me wrong– Baby Beez had a great time. She played with toys, ran around, all kinds of things.  Pittsburgh’s museum, though, is a lot bigger and fancier. The Cleveland museum was small enough that I checked my phone, wondering if there were 2 children’s museums in Cleveland, and maybe we showed up at the wrong one.  We are spoiled here in the ‘burgh with a big flashy museum.  On our next impromptu road trip to our rival city, I think we’ll check out the brand new Greater Cleveland Aquarium.

Beep beep beep beep!

Splashing at the water table!

After playing for a while at the museum, we had all built up an appetite.  I have been dying to visit Melt, and it was only a few minutes away from the museum!

Melt specializes in gourmet grilled cheese and a wide beer selection. Two things I LOVE are grilled cheese and beer. WIN.

I had the 21st Amendment Hell or High Water Watermelon Ale.  It smells like watermelon, but tastes like beer.  The watermelon smell is interesting but not overwhelming. I would drink it again, and not just as a novelty.  It was good for if you want a fruity summer beer, but not something as fruity as a Lindemann’s or a cider.

I ordered this month’s special– the Corny Beast. It’s a corn dog inspired sandwich, and I LOVE corn dogs.  The thick bread was stuffed with American cheese and hot dogs, and the whole thing was dipped in cornbread batter and deep fried.  It was RIDICULOUS.  It was delicious in that terrible-f0r-you greasy carnival food kind of way.  There were so many different kinds of sandwiches that I wanted to eat, that it was very tough for me to pick this one, but if there is cornbread involved, I’m sold.

We ordered the “Kindergarten” for Baby Beez- which is the basic grilled cheese.  I ordered hers with muenster, because muenster cheese is delicious.  Baby Beez, however, is teething and had no interest in eating, so we took it home with us. Mr. Beez and I actually had to take turns respectively eating and taking Baby Beez up to the entryway or outside to run around and not disrupt the other patrons.  The Melt staff were exceptionally understanding with Baby Beez’s toddler behavior.  The hostess even gave her a packet of Goldfish crackers (she ate 2 and then spit them out, she was having that kind of day).  They brought her food out quickly, and were very friendly, which was extremely appreciated by these frazzled parents.

Melt is a great neighborhood bar and grill. If I lived in Cleveland, I’d love to be a regular there.  It’s worth one road trip up there for the novelty of all those grilled cheese sandwiches.  Since I’m not usually in the neighborhood, for future sandwich cravings, I will probably head over to FatHeads instead of making a 2.5 hour drive to Ohio, as the quality and selection of sandwiches are comparable.

After expending all that energy on shouting and dashing about, Baby Beez conked out for the whole ride back.

IT IS HARD TO BE A BABY.

Meet My Unreasonable Expectations

5 Apr

As the weather has grown warmer, I’ve gotten more and more excited about our upcoming travel plans!  Mr. Beez and I will be going to New York City twice– once for a wedding and once for BlogHer.  Baby Beez will be staying with her grandparents for those trips, and Mr. Beez and I are looking forward to fancy meals in the Big Apple.

We’ve also got a weekend planned at Bear Run Campground with pals (who also have a toddler).  I’m looking forward to taking the kids swimming, and drinking wine and making smores around the campfire!

Mr. Beez has a conference in Philly in June, so Baby Beez and I are going to meet up with him there.  We are very excited about eating lots of snacks at Reading Terminal Market, and setting Baby Beez loose at the Please Touch! Museum.

Visiting the Colosseum in 2009

We have one other long weekend to plan, and don’t quite know where we are going yet.  My mom will be coming into Pittsburgh to spend the long weekend with Baby Beez, so that Mr. Beez and I can have a few days away.  We had our hearts set on going to Paris (because Delta runs a direct flight between Pittsburgh and Paris 4 days a week during the summer), but the airline tickets are around $1200+ each, which is out of our budget.  If they come down, we’ll go there.  Sadly, it is likely they’ll only continue to go up.  We’re watching airline fares, and not in any hurry to make a decision.  If airline tickets remain too high, going to Toronto for the weekend is always an option (that just doesn’t seem as exotic).  This trip is only going to be a long weekend (leave Friday, return Monday), and we want to do a lot with a short amount of time, which makes it all complicated.

If anyone feels like playing travel agent, here are our impossible criteria:

-Airline tickets less than $1000 per person.

-Travel time less than 8 hours each direction, no more than 1 layover (preferably nonstop).  If travel time is any more than that, we won’t have two full days at our actual destination.

-A city we can explore, rather than sitting on the beach.  We’d really like to spend the weekend in a European City –pretty much any European city– but unless airline ticket prices come down, that seems like it won’t happen.

-Somewhere we have not visited before (although it’s been so long since I’ve been to Germany that I’d be more than happy to visit back there).

-Somewhere not in the USA.

I realize it’s highly likely that something is going to have to give.  We still have plenty of time, and I’m not going to pare down priorities until time is running short.

Weekend away in Las Vegas

14 Feb

I’m always telling people that Las Vegas is good for a long weekend, but it gets boring to stay there much longer.  This trip, I think I could have done well with an extra day or two.  Mr. Beez and I really wanted to have a night out on the town and visit a bar or restaurants at one of the fancy new hotels.  Unfortunately, I got sick while we were there, so while we did get to wander around Fremont Street in a jet lagged haze on Saturday night, Sunday night was spent having an early dinner followed by me crashing into bed around 8pm with the Grammy’s on TV.

Getting sick was a minor hiccup in an otherwise lovely trip.  We got to see my mom and visit some family friends.  We got to do most of the things we wanted, but also managed to avoid overscheduling.

Mr. Beez bravely (?) jumped from the 108th floor of the Stratosphere with the SkyJump Las Vegas.

I have to admit, that I was nervous about this endeavor, and I made sure Mr. Beez gave Baby Beez a kiss goodbye before heading up to leap off that platform.

Suited up for the jump.

Here he is, safe and sound on the ground.  I couldn’t get a picture of him during the jump itself, but he looked something like this:

We also took a visit up to the observation deck of the Stratosphere.

Mr. Beez rode the X-Scream rollercoaster, which is a car on a short track, and the track tips forward and sends the car hurtling over the edge of the tower, where it abruptly stops and no one dies.  We went outside to watch Mr. Beez enjoy this madness.  Some of the other passengers were screaming on the rollercoaster, and Baby Beez did not understand what was going on.  She could see daddy up there, and she started FREAKING OUT and screaming and yelling “BYE BYE!”  Poor little bug was terrified.

Once Mr. Beez got off the ride and calmed her down, we took Baby Beez to a ride that was more of her liking.

Afterward we went back to the hotel to rest (this was a tiring trip…Baby Beez doesn’t understand time zones, so she woke up at 4 am every morning).  I went to the spa and had a hot stone massage.  Going to the spa is the key difference between taking a trip and having a VACATION.

We also spent some time the following day wandering around the new City Center complex.  The Aria resort is so chic and lovely, and the Cosmopolitan is swanky.  I wasn’t sure if I was cool enough to be hanging out around that part of town.

I would have loved to spend an evening sipping drinks at the the Cosmopolitan’s chandelier bar!

The flight back to Pittsburgh was nearly as difficult as the trip there.  After flying to Orlando and Myrtle Beach this summer, I thought I had things figured out for keeping Baby Beez entertained and well behaved.  I was wrong wrong wrong.  She’s so little and changing so fast, and the success of any child-wrangling is short lived.  The difficulties of the flights didn’t ruin our trip.  I really needed to get out of town and relax, and in our trip to Las Vegas I did just that.

Unexpected kindness

12 Feb

We are in a short family trip to Las Vegas this weekend. I booked this trip because we got a great deal on airfare, and Vegas is an easy place for my mom to meet up and visit with us. Only after I booked the tickets did I realize that I would be making this trip with a busy, impatient, snarling toddler on my lap.

To her credit, she did have several periods of napping, playing nicely, and watching videos. The peace of those moments was shattered by several hitting, screaming, throwing tantrums. There ain’t no space for a tantrum in coach.

I expected to be shot the stink eye or at least be the target of muttered comments. No such thing happened! In an unexpected show of civility, at least 4 people commented to me that they remembered being in my shoes, and how hard it is to fly with a toddler. 3 of these people said Baby Beez was even good (i have no idea how the came to that conclusion.)

In her constant fussing, Baby Beez kicked the seat in front of us several times. I was wrangling her the best I could, but in that tiny space it was unavoidable. I apologized profusely to the man sitting there, and he kindly responded that she wasn’t even bothering him.

Parenting in public, and especially in the tight confines of an airplane, is so rich with opportunities for snide judgment. It was so refreshing that, despite my pessimistic expectations, my fellow passengers acted toward us with patience and tolerance.

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Who Knew?– Cheesemonger Invitational

24 Jan

This blog is such a hodge podge, and to make things even podgier, I’m adding in a recurring series called “Who Knew?” 

Basically, this is a series about events and places that I would have never thought of visiting (or even had any idea that they exist), but they sound really really cool, and I’d LOVE to visit.  It’s a formalization of my “Imaginary Vacation” tag, and a wish list of sorts.

This weekend on NPR I heard an interview with Steve Jones, World Champion Cheesemonger.  Steve is the cheesemonger of the Cheese Bar in Portland, OR.

The Cheesemonger Invitational is a competition to identify the WOOOORLDS GREATEST CHEESEMONGER.  The competition has 4 rounds:

  1. Introduction, where the contestant announces their cheese shop, their favorite cheese, and generally tries to charm the judges.
  2. Taste Test: In which the contestant must determine milk type, country of origin, raw vs. pasteurized, category (fresh, bloomy rind, washed rind, semisoft, firm, hard, blue), age of cheese (within two month increments) and name of cheese.  Because the potential for these answers seems limitless, the contestants are given a multiple choice sheet of sorts.
  3. Cutting and Wrapping: Where the contestant must cut two 1/4 pound pieces of cheese from a 15 pound half wheel, and wrap individually in paper….without the benefit of a scale.  
  4. Plating: Where the contestants must wow the judges with a brilliant cheese pairing and presentation.

I don’t know much about cheese in the formal sense, but OMG I DO LOVE IT.    The website looks like hipster central, so I’m not sure this is my crowd, but we can all come together in the love of all things cheese, am I right?

I signed up for their mailing list so I can be in the know when they start advertising next year’s invitational.  I’m certainly not going to compete, but they will of course need spectators!