My love letter to the Pittsburgh Marathon

4:30 A.M.

The alarm on you phone rings and you slowly...slowly crawl out of bed. You groggily make your way to the window to look out into the night. Trees are blowing in the wind. Droplets of rain bead on the windows. It looks cold to say the least. 

You've made a horrible mistake. You've decided to run all, half, or a portion of the Pittsburgh Marathon. For tens of thousands of suckers runners, this is a great day. But now in retrospect, this doesn't seem like the best idea.

You drag yourself into the shower, dry off, and begin to paint your high-performance wicking gear onto your body. This is the day you've been waiting for. You've ran again and again waiting for this day. When you started to do one mile at a clip to train, then you did two. When two was good, then you did five and so on and so on. Not understanding that running was truly the only insane sport that the better you get at it, the longer you have to train. You ran a mile in eight minutes? Great, now do that again, but run two miles this time. 

Going down to the kitchen, you're cautious not to drink coffee otherwise your bladder will betray you the entire run. You've decided on oatmeal and a banana, the least offensive breakfast you can think of for your stomach.

You decide to venture outside:

Yes, it's as cold as it looks!

The shards of rain water hit you in the face letting you know that you'll not only be fighting yourself, but typical Pittsburgh weather.

You find your corral and start to warm up. Some for show, but some to keep you occupied with all the nervous occupied energy. Some ankle stretches. Knee bends. You want to take a third trip to the Royal Flush port-a-potty, but the starting gun is eminent. There's enough static electricity from all the Under Armour to power a bullet train. Glancing around, you project everyone is as nervous as you.

The announcer states the starting gun is coming

*CRACK*

And you're off.

 It's all asses and elbows in the corral.

It's all asses and elbows in the corral.

Washout.jpg

Epilogue:

Kidding aside, I highly recommend everyone find a way to participate in the marathon in some way, whether that be participating, volunteering, or spectating. Nothing revitalizes your faith in humanity than watching strangers cheer for other strangers in this great city of ours. You'll never regret it. 

Lawrenceville

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Any blog that starts talking about food and drink in Pittsburgh is going to likely start in Lawrenceville. I did too. The Pittsburgh town is most well-known as the up-and-coming bohemian village with lots of shops, restaurants, bars, and events that go on here constantly. If you're always in the market for something to do, you could do a lot worse than wondering around Lawrenceville on the weekend. Like any other area in Pittsburgh, the bartenders and shop owners are absurdly friendly.

Let's do this.

La Gourmandine Bakery

La Gourmandine Bakery is just the 3000 pound gorilla in the room. Anyone that's lived in Pittsburgh for most of their life knows that it's considered the best bakery in the city (let's say it's tied with Oakmont Bakery). I'll be honest, I had never been here and was actually shocked as to how small it was. Why? Well, because I had always heard it was THE BAKERY, so good on them that they've built this huge reputation and following out of this room the size of a large dining room.

 My french is a little spotty. I think that says Something Chocolate and Something Something Pistachio. You're welcome.

My french is a little spotty. I think that says Something Chocolate and Something Something Pistachio. You're welcome.

What did I get at a bakery known for it's sweets? A big ass quiche Lorraine.

 I'm not saying you couldn't mug someone with this quiche by hitting someone in the head with it, but I'm not NOT saying it.

I'm not saying you couldn't mug someone with this quiche by hitting someone in the head with it, but I'm not NOT saying it.

I did a bonehead move when I ordered the quiche. I forgot to ask them to warm it up for me. So I stood across the street and ate a cold quiche by hand while I stood under a statue. I should've noted how much it was, but I remember it was under $5 and the size of a quarter of a wagon wheel. Good flavor and great price. Rich, buttery, worth it. I was dying to go back in and use their microwave, but I suppressed the urge.

From there I moved on down to the Vandal.

 How are these filters hitting you?

How are these filters hitting you?

I've been dying to try the Vandal since it opened. Luckily it was just me (no kids, score!) and I got a seat by the window which was perfect. It's vibe is fast-casual-meets-upscale if that makes any sense. No? Okay, it's the first blog post. It'll get better. Maybe.

 Good mix of people. Some with tossle caps, others no.

Good mix of people. Some with tossle caps, others no.

The menu presentation there is pretty minimalist. Not a lot of descriptions, but none are really needed. Like a helpful tip is if like the menu says "chicken", it's probably chicken. Anyways, I ordered the biscuit with egg, cheese, and bacon. There were some sweet things on the menu, but I will do a savory breakfast every time. Every time.

LOOK AT ME.

EVERY.

TIME.

My server asked me if I wanted a fancy coffee drink. I asked what he would recommend. He said the Cortado which is apparently an espresso with steamed milk. It was tasty and I would recommend it to anyone that wants the caffeine of an espresso, but doesn't like the taste. This was much more latte like.

I also ordered the biscuit. Ummm, they nailed this. Biscuit was perfect. It didn't crumble when you bit into it, and the cheese and the egg worked so well together with the bacon. The side salad is kind of cute. It' s more of a palette cleanser. They should sell the biscuits on the side of the road as a drive-through situation, or just throw it through my car window as I slowly pass the Vandal.

 I sometimes spell swear words in my Alphabet Cereal.

I sometimes spell swear words in my Alphabet Cereal.

 I'll never say food is too pretty to eat, but I mean, look at this photo composition.

I'll never say food is too pretty to eat, but I mean, look at this photo composition.

So I've had already had a quiche and a biscuit. Time for an after-breakfast aperitif. Across the road from the Vandal to Industry Public House.

 Signage issues

Signage issues

So they have a specialty drink there and it's super-trendy, kinda gimmicky, but I'm a sucker for it. The Smokestack. It's basically a whiskey that's smoked with the wood chips of your choice and finished with a little citrus. I got a Basal Hayden's with mesquite because I like bite on bite and it was rainy.

 Dual blowtorch only surpassed by dual shotguns.

Dual blowtorch only surpassed by dual shotguns.

 Finished product

Finished product

Industry has a good vibe to it. They open the huge front windows when it's nice out. It's casual and everyone is chill. I feel like Industry does everything well and is huge, so they're kind of like Shaq with a better free throw.

By this time, I was pretty full. I had had two breakfasts and my belt was questioning my notch decision. Time to take a walk. There was only one place I knew to go take pics. The Allegheny Cemetary.

 OMG you're really going in there?

OMG you're really going in there?

Visiting the cemetary was pretty peaceful. It's massive. Like I can't convey how big it was. Needless to say, it's a sprawling bit of estate. Ran into these deer.

 Oh man, you did go in.

Oh man, you did go in.

There's obviously historical significance here with a cemetery this old, but I'll let you walk around and read for yourself. Plus this piece is running way long, so I'm cutting the extensive grave walk-through. That's hard to pull off without coming through as goth.

Let's move on to the Butterwood Bake Consortium. It's a Vegan bakery farther down the main artery of Lawrenceville. This place was made for Instagram. Imagine antique furniture and decor and oversized baked goods. Quick side-confession. The missus and I came here a year or two ago and were kind of "meh" on the place, but I wanted to give the place another try. Why? Because I'm a pig and I hadn't hit any sweets yet. For science. You buying this?

Anyways, I'm glad I did. So glad I gave them another try. They had brown butter blondie brownies with chocolate chips in them. With a macchiato or some other bullshit. The drink was good, but seriously, this brownie. For reals. It's like butter, sugar, and chocolate had a kid and it wasn't awkward between the three of them, and OMG it was so rich and good. Did I mention I didn't like sweets. The woman behind the counter was super nice, but after the blondie, I called them evil and ran out of the door.

 Nice Vans in the shot idiot.

Nice Vans in the shot idiot.

Okay, at this point in the solo walking tour I was feeling battered. I had had a huge quiche, a biscuit sandwich, a whiskey, and a blondie. My brain had instructed my body at this point to begin sweating in an effort to throw off ballast.

All morning I loved the fancy coffee drinks, but I'm a purist with coffee. I wanted an actual coffee. No steamed milk. No syrups. No leaves painted on top. I knew just the place. Cafe D'Amore. The owner is super nice and they make my favorite fancy coffee drink in Pittsburgh: the ancho mocha. A chocolate drink with reconstituted hot peppers. The spice is not over-powering and if you love chocolate with that slight hint of spice, it's for you. But as I was saying, I was there for just coffee.

 Check out Nine Stories next door for new and used books. The owners were helpful and I didn't spill my coffee in there like an oaf, so yay.

Check out Nine Stories next door for new and used books. The owners were helpful and I didn't spill my coffee in there like an oaf, so yay.

I ordered the pour over and I'll pay the extra dollar because I'm fancy like that. The coffee had nice floral notes and I let it breathe in the cute mason jar.

I was spent. I sipped my coffee and was content.