Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pittsburgh Vacation

So I am way behind on my posts, once again.  Sorry!  Let's start where we left off about 2 weeks ago.  The week after S's birthday we took a long weekend trip up to Pittsburgh, PA.  The trip was primarily for our good friends N and H's wedding, but we took the opportunity to turn it into a mini-vacation and explore the area a bit since neither of us had ever been before.  The best part other than the wedding was that I GOT MY AUTUMN THIS YEAR AGAIN!  The leaves were all amazing shades of yellow, orange, and red and the mountains especially were just absolutely spectacular.  We fit a lot of other activities into our approximately 3.5 day trip as well.

As soon as we left the airport we headed straight for Primanti Bros. for their famous sandwiches.  I got the sliced steak and S went for the capicola with egg.  Both were topped with melted cheese, tomatoes, coleslaw and french fries and they were huge!  After stuffing ourselves, we hit up the Andy Warhol Museum.

Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures inside (though I did sneak that second one), but the entire museum was chock full of Andy Warhol pieces ranging all the way from his childhood and through the many artistic phases of his adult career.  My favorites were his blotted line drawings and the room filled with floating mylar balloons, but there were also the classic Cambell's Soup images, his multicolored portraiture, and Brillo boxes.  After the museum we checked in at our Airbnb apartment and got settled and then headed out for some pre-dinner drinks.
Since we had a lot of places that served beer on our to-do list, we made time to fit in a trip to a cider house as well.  Arsenal Cider House and Wine Cellar had a bunch of delicious semi-sweet and bone dry ciders on tap ranging from classic apple to sour cherry, to blueberry.  S was digging their honey cider mead and I particularly liked their semi-sweet sour cherry cider, so after taste testing a bunch of others we grabbed a glass each and went to sit outside in their "cider garden".  The weather was crisp, but not too chilly (apparently the mosquitoes were still alive and kicking as well since I got 2 bites while we were out there) and perfect for leisurely sipping a glass of cider and chatting.  For dinner we headed a few streets over to the Church Brew Works.

Apparently back in the day every neighborhood in Pittsburgh had multiple churches to cater to all of the different ethnicities of the working class.  Eventually all of the different ethnic groups began to spread out, live among each other, intermarry, new generations identified as "American" rather than "Italian" or "Polish" and there was no longer a need to have a separate church for each group, creating an overabundance of churches.  A number of the churches became abandoned and as of late a number have been bought up to use for other purposes, in the case of our Thursday night dinner, a brew pub.  They had a huge number of beers that they brewed in the old church and served in the restaurant.  The food menu was fairly varied as well and included some unique options such as a roasted boar barbecue pizza (which we ordered and quite enjoyed) and other classics like burgers and pasta.  We also ordered their Seven Onion Soup which was ridiculously good, so much so that I spent a while hunting down a recipe online so I can try making it at home.  After dinner and drinks we hit up a grocery store for yogurts and fruit for breakfasts over the next couple of days and then went back to the apartment.
The next day we ate a quick breakfast at the apartment and then got started on our day fairly early. Our plan was to spend Friday driving through the mountains, touring Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, and then finding an apple orchard.  Quintessential fall.  As I said before, the mountains and the trees were just stunning to look at, I could have spent all day driving around and been perfectly happy.  But I'm even happier that we made it to Fallingwater.

Frank Lloyd Wright was based out of Chicago and so growing up in the suburbs of Chicago resulted in numerous school field trips to see his work.  So I've always been a fan.  But this house was just incredible.  I loved that they left it exactly how it was when the Kaufman family had lived there with their art and furniture still in the same places.  And the fact that the house was made to appreciate/be a part of nature while the trees all around were changing color made my appreciation of the architecture all that much greater.  If you're ever in the Pittsburgh area, I HIGHLY recommend a trip here, it was completely worth it.

After the tour we grabbed a quick lunch in a nearby mountain town on a stream and then proceeded to drive through the mountains some more to get to Simmons Farm, which happens to have an apple orchard.  This was S's first time every picking apples and I was so excited to share such a quintessentially fall pastime from the Midwest with him.  After we both picked our half pecks, we grabbed some fresh apple cider and a caramel apple to snack on outside.  So sticky.  So delicious.  S was amazed at how good the fresh apple cider was.  For dinner that night we splurged a bit at Butcher and the Rye and then hit up Fat Heads Saloon, where we met up with friends for some more specialty Midwest beers.

On Saturday was the wedding!  We got all gussied up, checked in to the hotel (which was also where the reception was held - so convenient) and then drove up the hillside to a beautiful historic church with a glorious view of the city where N and H got married.  H was probably the happiest bride I've ever seen - she literally danced down the aisle she was so excited.  After the ceremony we had a couple of drinks at the hotel and then proceeded to celebrate at the reception!
One of the fun Pittsburgh wedding traditions is to have a Cookie Table.  Friends and family of the couple spend weeks before the wedding baking up a storm for the wedding day, providing hundreds of fancy little specialty cookies to be displayed at the cookie table.  I even participated and made some of my German spice cookies for the occasion and flew them up in my carry on!  The effort everyone puts into this is such an amazing labor of love (not to mention delicious!)  In addition to the cookies, there was good food, plentiful drinks, and lots of dancing.  And we were just so thrilled for N and H!  The following morning we slept in (there were hangovers to account for) and then met up with some of our Houston friends for a delicious brunch buffet at Grand Concourse, a gorgeous old art-deco train station that had been converted into a restaurant.  And that was it.  From the restaurant we headed straight to the airport for our flight home.  It was such a fun weekend!

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