Normally when I visit a friend for the weekend (or even when I host a friend myself), we keep things pretty quiet. I tend to plan most of my trips/tours around eating the local fare (yum!), so I usually just figure out the key restaurants/bars I want to hit, and then play it by ear in between. Not this weekend! My friend Lauren had a jam-packed schedule for my friend Kristen and I when we visited her in Pittsburgh.
I got in pretty late on Thursday night, so when we got back to her house I just hung out and caught up with Lauren and her mom. Lauren was one of my best friends in high school, but we hadn’t stayed in touch almost at all since then, so this was the first time I had seen her in about 7 years. There was a lot to catch up on – in that time, Lauren had gotten two master’s degrees, gotten married, gotten divorced, and now was working as a Latin teacher. Wow! For my part, I haven’t been sitting around either, so I regaled Lauren and her mom with stories of my own jobs and marathon running. Since Lauren and I were band geeks together, it was fun to get to share how much my life has changed since the days when music and drama reigned supreme and I was the least athletic person in my grade. Boy, how things have changed!
I spent most of the day on Friday working, until my friend Kristen arrived that afternoon. Let the reunion begin! Kristen and I had stayed decently in touch since high school, so I didn’t have as much to catch up on with her, but it was a lot of fun for our little threesome to be together again. We spent Friday eating our way through Pittsburgh. First stop, Primanti’s sandwich shop, where they put the fries right inside the sandwich. My verdict? Meh. For me, fries are a bit of a splurge, and I love enjoying the crispy fried texture. Unfortunately, when you put them inside a sandwich (even if it’s delicious cappicola), they lose their crisp and become just kind of soft potato filler – the equivalent of adding rice to your burrito. I was glad I tried it, but next time I think I’d either skip the fries or enjoy them on their own on the side.
For dinner, however, we had a truly unique experience checking out Church Brew Works. Basically, it’s a Catholic church that was sold and converted into a brewery/pub! I felt a little sacreligious drinking in a church (and a Catholic church at that – my own religion!) but after a few sips of the Breakfast Stout from the seven beer sampler I ordered, I loosened up and was just fine 🙂 My favorite brews in the bunch were the coffee-tasting Breakfast Stout and the champagne-like Millenium Trippel. Because really, what isn’t made better by adding the flavors of either coffee or champagne to it?
We also indulged on two delicious desserts – one as an afternoon snack and another apres-dinner. Dave & Andy’s ice cream parlor was our afternoon delight and I thoroughly enjoyed it – some of the creamiest ice cream I’ve ever had. After dinner, we stopped by Dozen, a bakery that had just opened a new location near Lauren’s apartment the day before. Fortunately for us, with only ten minutes till closing time and no donation process set up with any food pantries, the owners gave us oodles of tasty baked goods for half price and even free, trying to use up their stock. Thanks, guys!
On Saturday, we decided to hearken back to our young schooldays, and spent the day checking out Sandcastle water park and Kennywood amusement park. What a blast! I hadn’t been to either a water park or an amusement park since I was little, and found that most of the magic hadn’t been lost by aging. But the piece de resistance of the day? Of course: the food! For a late night dinner, we went to a local chain called Mad Mex, where I opted for a corn-and-crab quesadilla that was out of this world. Seriously, by far the best quesadilla I had ever had! The outside was slightly crispy but not even remotely greasy or oily (they had achieved this texture by using a paper-thin tortilla that then seemed to be grilled dry), and a creamy inside that had a surprising basil-y twist in the middle, all enhanced by terrific guacamole and homemade corn salsa. To sweeten the deal, they had a fantastic craft beer list with about 10 beers I was dying to try… but I settled for just two 🙂
Good thing, because Sunday morning we were up bright and early for a day of whitewater rafting! We kicked off the morning with some crepes at Crepes Parisienne, then hit the rapids for about six hours. The ride wasn’t as rough as whitewater rafting I’ve done in the past, but it was a lot more technically challenging. The best way I can explain it is that in the past, I’ve done rivers where the waves were bigger but you really couldn’t mess up, so the guides just let you do whatever you wanted, and you’d float through just fine. On this particular river, the waves were smaller, but you had to maneuver just so through the rapids, so I felt like I gained more skills in turning and staying on course. I had a great time meeting a bunch of Lauren’s other friends (we split up and I was in their boat), and the exercise sure didn’t hurt – I tallied four hours of whitewater rafting to net me about 40 points! Firm fitness challenge take that 🙂
Arriving back in Pittsburgh around 10pm, there weren’t many choices for food, so I got my wish and we headed back for a repeat dinner at Mad Mex. This time, we hit up the downtown location, where there were a lot more college/grad students. The beer selection wasn’t quite as great, but my experience was enhanced by getting into a spirited debate with the guys next to us about what craft beers were good craft beers (repeat after me: Abita is swill). After some witty banter in which they decreed that I must be lying about having had a beer while running the Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans, Lauren shocked them into submission by whipping out her iPhone and pulling up some of the articles and interviews about my fifty state quest. Sometimes it’s nice to be a celebrity! 🙂 One of the guys had been bragging about having run a marathon, and since he was from Philly, we jokingly challenged each other to a nice little eight mile “warm up” this Friday when I’ll be in town for business… now let’s see if he dares to show up and get his butt kicked.
In the meantime, I get to go home for a few days, and I can’t wait. Hopefully the buggies will all be gone by now? Regardless, I have a lot of chores and errands to catch up on – hopefully I can get them all done before I leave for Philly on Thursday! But to continue off my last post, yes, things are definitely looking up 🙂