Mar 052022
 

For this weekend’s Greasy Spoon Lunch Date, I picked a place called BRENDA’S FAMILY RESTAURANT in Mills Run, whatever the fuck that means. (If Henry were the author of this Internet Diary, he would tell you exactly what that meant, with coordinates and a hand-drawn map.)

Brenda’s was a cool hour and 12 minutes away but I always enjoy going whatever direction out of the city that is — south? I can’t remember. It’s by Uniontown and I always have a tough time finding that place on a map. We listened to Kpop (mostly NCT, natch) and ranted about Russia and dumb white trash Repubs in Congress like WHOREN HOEBART and M.T. GANGRENE.

I am a good feminist.

I was getting really upset though to the point where I was ready to be trained to blow darts into Bad Russian necks.

“Can’t someone just like, poison Putin’s borscht??” I cried and Henry was like I AM PRETTY SURE HE HAS PEOPLE TASTING HIS FOOD FOR HIM.

So…back to the blow dart mission. OK.

Anyway. Sigh.

We made it to Brenda’s right when I was really starting to lean into my hunger. I made Henry go inside first because I was scared. I wasn’t really “scared” like I thought Leatherface was waiting on the other side but you know how sometimes you walk into a small town restaurant and everyone turns and looks? When I walk in first that always happens, usually because I’m dressed in something that’s not a sports sweatshirt, Looney Tunes hoodie, or flannel. On this particular occasion I was wearing a cropped gold lamé-ish young girl’s dance costume jacket over my NCT 7th Sense shirt and Cherry Bomb purse. So basically like a 14-year-old going to a Kpop concert.  I didn’t think I looked all that flashy but Henry just frowned and went inside first, using his boring blue-greenish Henley as a shield.

Hey! See those stools in the background? That is the reason I chose this place! There was a picture on Yelp that showed those stools and I was like, “OK Brenda, I’m listening.” Then I scrolled to the next picture and saw the booths with their strange 1970s watery-shit color and I was like, “Henry. I found it. This is the one.”

Seasoned with Old Bay!!

I asked Henry if this was like a big deal or something and he started to explain to me what Old Bay seasoning is like I’m a Dumbo and I snippily cut him off and said, “OK because they used two exclamation marks so I was just wondering if it warranted the extra mark but OK cool story.”

Also, the shrimp is either so big that it’s whatever comes after JUMBO in the size adjective spectrum, or they’re VEGAN? Probably definitely most certainly the former, lol.

OK OK OK I choose these places for the childhood comfort levels, not because I’m expecting some Michelin caliber plates, you know? It’s just fun to get out of the house and eat something non-fussy and casual, and everyone knows that grilled cheeses are my ult bias in the lunch genre. I have always been and will always be a grilled cheese head. And when we go to these little places, I’m not expecting some cheesy Big Boi like you’d get at Melt or some other trendy sandwich joint. But I also don’t want a soggy balled up thing that’s missing cheese on one half (sorry, I still am not over that plate of scraps I was served last summer at Hyde’s in Cinci).

You shouldn’t be “surprised” or “shocked” when you get a decent lunch at a small town restaurant, but in my experience, those of us who order grilled cheese are usually disappointed because this is traditionally the “kids choice” on a menu so it’s like the cook doesn’t even try.

But this one?! IT WAS SO GOOD. I opted for rye bread because I always forget about how much I love rye bread until I see it as an option on a menu and then shout, “I AM GOING TO CHOOSE RYE” and everyone at my table is like “ok” without looking up from the menu except with the one time I was at Pamela’s for breakfast with Wendy and Jeannie and Jeannie totally took my bread bait by agreeing that rye is underrated and then we had like a 20 second conversation about rye and I don’t even think Wendy noticed, probably.

“This bread is SO BOUNCY!” I gushed to Henry, who squinted and repeated, “Bouncy?” because he can never find good  terms to describe his food so he always likes to try and diminish the quality of my superlative descriptors. It was so good that I didn’t even bother to take a picture of Henry eating his coleslaw.

Of course I saved room for dessert! This is why I skip the fries and just pluck some off Henry’s plate. I knew from their website that their desserts are HOMEMADE so I made sure to save room to satiate my coconut cream curiosity. I knew as soon as the waitress pulled it from the cooler that it was going to be of MERINGUE variety which we all know is not my fave, but I was determined to keep an open mind.

And you know what? That meringue was actually delicious. I am super picky with that strange cloud-like pie helmet, but I do find it satisfying when done a certain way.

(I was going to say “done right” but I truthfully don’t know what “done right” is in this sense. Please tell me if you know).

This one was very, very light. Like it basically dissolved as soon as it touched my tongue, which I appreciated. I hate when you have to chew the meringue. I don’t want to chew it because I don’t really understand what meringue even is.

And the coconut cream part was satiny and delectable! The crust was nice too (I spelled it “noice” as a typo and considered keeping it and then immediately felt like an asshole, and not a cool kind of asshole but like a sleazy douchebag asshole and I squirmed a little bit)

Of course I had to check out the bathroom we left. Lots of inspirational Hobby Lobby art, as expected.

#FAITHFAMILYFRIENDS

Appreciated the wild basil and lime soap though! Good flavor choice!

There was a guest book so I signed it on the way out! “Really, you had to put down our full address?” Henry groaned. My comment was AWESOME GRILLED CHEESE!!! <3

[I know we have to continue living our lives but it is not lost on me  that we had the freedom to drive an hour to eat lunch while millions of people have been forced to leave their home country behind. This fucking sucks.]

Feb 282022
 

In today’s non-episode, we will be discussing our choice to drive three hours for a vegan lunch. Was it worth it? Do we regret it? Is the hype real? Will I continue to follow this establishment on Instagram? Am I considering moving to Columbus?

YES NO YES YES IF I  MOVE ANYWHERE IT WILL BE KOREA, SO.

That’s it! That’s the whole post! Questions answered!

Sikeeeee. I do have some words. First of all, the aesthetic was just my style: horror movie posters on the wall and 1980s goth lethargically wafting from the ceiling. I mean, bitch please. The only way this could have any more ERIN would have been if they had a Kpop section in the back or something with vegan Kpopcorn chicken as the premier menu item.

Oh! Here comes Henry, in all of his ACHING BONES glory. He just groaned because I’m writing in my blog (and also, bad joints). Apparently, I am intolerable to be around when I’m writing in my blog. I just suggested that we co-write this together since he also ate at Seitan’s Realm and surely can eke out a few coherent words?

He just said no.

The seating area of Seitan’s Realm is very small – three booths on either side of the wall, and stools at the front windows. Luckily, a booth had just opened up while we were ordering so we didn’t have to go and sit in the car and pathetically wait to be called back in like when we tried to eat at that punk ass bitch G&G’s joint last weekend.

As I was sitting down, I happened to look over to the right and screamed because THERE WAS A PICTURE OF ROBERT SMITH AND HIS WIFE MARY above our booth! It’s almost like we reserved that specific booth! Could this place BE any more Erin Rachelle Kelly-approved??

Oh wait, yes it can, and yes it was. Because THE FOOD. I know, literally the whole reason we were there. It was 100% worth the nearly 3 hour drive from Pittsburgh. I got the Dude Ranch because if there is fake chicken on a vegan menu, I’mma opt for that mothercluckin’ piece, OK. I guess first I should tell you that none of the meat alternatives in this establishment were any of the big “brands” (think Beyond, Impossible, etc). True to their name, everything was housemade with seitan. Which I still don’t quite understand, never question, but I can tell you that I really love it.

My chicken was JOOOOOOOSEY, son. And it had some bangin’ faux bacon up in it, cheeseless chedduh, and the creamiest sauce. Oh AND IT WAS ON A GOOD GODDAMN PRETZEL BUN.

This sandwich was massive and sloppy; it totally required the hep of utensils – I mean, maybe you could have handled it but I scream when I make food messes and every time I tried to lift this big boy out of the basket, I seized up with anxiety.

Henry got a Beef n’ Chedduh sandwich which was loaded with sliced “roast beef” and VELVETY fake melted cheese on an onion bun. He let me try it but I have to tell you, I was so fucking married to my DUDE RANCH that I can barely even remember what his tasted like.

We also shared a side of mac n’ cheese and bro, holy shit. You could not tell. Henry is a manly meat man and even he was like I COULD NOT EVEN TELL. He did say that he could tell his mock roast beef wasn’t real, but I mean did it taste good? Yes, he said. Yes it surely did. Yee haw.

“I liked everything I ate, so it’s a good review I guess.” – literally the best Henry could come up with, I hate him so much.

We brought a chicken sandwich with mac n’ cheese home for Chooch, Henry splurged and got himself a burger to try later, and we split a piece of German chocolate cake in the car on the way home later that afternoon. It was delicious. I wish I had another slice to eat right now. :(

Even Chooch, who does not show any excitement or even a sign of life most of the time these days, was semi-enthusiastic later that night when Henry heated up his sandwich and put it back together for him. “This was REALLY GOOD but now I wish I had gotten the spicy one. Why does this place have to be so far away?”

I KNOW, WHYYYY?? I was literally so sad while eating my lunch there because I couldn’t stop thinking about how I can’t spend the next several weeks eating my way through their menu and I can’t just zip right over there and slurp up whatever insane special they come up with.

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, Pittsburgh isn’t the WORST place to live, but we really don’t have any of these wild fast food vegan options like other cities do and it’s sad but also maybe good because I would probably need to size up and I kind of like the size I am now, but I also REALLY LIKE THOSE JOOOOOOSEY FAUX CHICKEN SANDWICHES.

(I almost called it a sando which is what the obnoxious Oak Hill Post restaurant up the street from me calls their sandwiches and I hate it so much. Actually, I hate all of their whatever-we-call-hipsters-now vernacular so much that I actually stopped eating there lol I AM LIKE THAT.)

Feb 222022
 

I used to be really into going to major FOODIE type of restaurants, but lately I’m looking for something a bit more down to earth than sitting in a candlelit room with yuppies, having the essence of hickory and truffles elegantly farted into my face by a haunted accordion. I mean, that shit is cool for a second but sometimes I just really want to eat comfort food in some small town dive with the local yokels, you know what I’m saying?

I guess this is our current version of “going out on dates” since Chooch has ditched us for That McDonald’s Life. Not gonna lie, it’s been nice to get out of the house and neither of us are opposed to driving out of Pittsburgh so it’s been nice to see non-Brookline sights. Even rural shit, I guess.

For this weekend’s diner date, I let Henry choose. As usual, he chose poorly. It was some place called G&G’s or something else equally auto body-sounding. It was in VANDERGRIFT, whatever that means, and at first I was like, “OK G&G’s, I see you. Let’s goooo” because it was situated squat in the middle of an adorable small-town street (actually, it was on the corner) and it looked cute! Not all like tires were getting rotated in the back!

Except that it was PACKED and not regular-PACKED, but TIGHTLY-PACKED. So as soon as we walked in and put our name and number on the list, I felt panicky. I mean, I’m getting less OMG about eating in restaurants during The Bad Times, but I’m not OK with crowds still. And I really didn’t want to sit in the middle of so many small-town mouth breathers just for the sake of a grilled cheese that, let’s be real, would be devoured within 4 bites.

Since the host had my number, we went back to sit in the car. There was nowhere to stand in the little foyer without jutting your buns into the face of diner.

We had only been waiting in the car for about 10 minutes before I started getting RULL antsy and “don’t they know who we are”‘ish, so Henry was like, “OMG fine let’s find somewhere else to go, fuck me for trying to choose a place without your consent.”

THAT’S RIGHT, BITCH.

I ended up finding a place through my nemesis Yelp that was allegedly “9 minutes” away. At first I was like, “I’m not sure about this place, it has taxidermy” which is obviously completely off-brand for me. But at the same time, it was the kind of DARK LOG CABIN vibe I was yearning for and just didn’t know it.

On the way there, that fucking G&G motherfucker had the audacity to call me to tell me our table was ready. Cool fucking story! I was mad that they called and not texted (you know, with their restaurant landline) so I refused to answer out of principal. They called right back! Jesus, why are you sweatin’ me, G&G?? Get a life!

Anyway, we rolled up to BONFIRE and I was like, “OK, this is nothing to look at from the outside” and then immediately upon entering, we were cock-slapped in the face by a wall of stale cigarette stench because the steps to the basement LOUNGE was right next to the entrance. I was tempted to go down there and check in on the sad sacks crying into their beers, but there’s always next time.

The front room was empty aside from a table of OLD MEN REGULARS who told us to just go ahead and sit down. I had lowkey Blue Flame-circa-1984 vibes,  to be honest, and even though I still was MEH about the DEER HEADS everywhere, I was really feeling like this was the place that I was meant to me, fuck you G&G. (And you too Henry for suggesting that dump.)

Henry immediately headed straight for the bathroom while I chose the one booth that was situated right next to a beam on one side – Henry’s side, lol.

The waitress came to get our drink orders and she was so adorable in a cowgirl flannel and Princess Leia buns. She said she loved my sweater and I sang, “I THINK I’M GONNA LIKE IT HERE” in my best Annie impersonation while Daddy Warbucks was pissing in the john.

“How was the bathroom?? Was it cool??” I cried after Henry returned and finally managed to get situated in the booth without having to slice off part of his gut first. (And yes, I was a good orphan and ordered a stupid unsweetened ice tea for him in his absence.)

“Not really, it was just a regular bathroom,” he said. “Nothing special.”

“OK well I’m taking my phone anyway just in case,” I cried as I rolled out of the booth toward the restrooms. Henry never thinks anything is special so I’d be the judge of that.

It was OK! Kept up the dead animal theme.

Back in the LODGE, Henry ordered cole slaw and something called Texas Toenails or something from the appetizer section of the menu – he was really flexing that Faygo salary. Meanwhile, someone sitting at the Old Man table had a ringtone that sounded like the horn of one of those mini-big rigs that the SHRINER’S drive down my road during the Memorial Day Parade.

Hold please, while I find an example.

LOL I just caught Henry looking all around for the sound.

Every time that notification went off, I pictured one of the old guys paying the check and then peeling out of the Bonfire lot in his bitchin’ Shriner mini-car, honk-honk motherfuckers. Why was this so stupidly funny to me??

I finished the word search in like 5 minutes or less because I am actually a prodigy at word searches in case you never read about me in the local Pennysaver or whatever. Also, Henry thought our server’s name was Audible and definitely not Autumn.

Dude, this grilled cheese was just what I needed. And I stole some of Henry’s fries which were JUST THE WAY I LIKE IT. Yeah, I could handle the whole HUNTER’S LODGE vibe a lot better if all the dead animals were fake. I felt like a hypocrite gushing over how JUST MY STYLE that place is! But it’s true! I love dark/dim restaurants. Sigh.

Meanwhile, there was a steady stream of old country classics playing, as expected. I don’t like country at all but if I’m going to be stuck somewhere enduring it, I would definitely prefer the stuff from the 70s and early 80s, like Kenny Rogers or Dolly Parton shit you know? So I wasn’t mouthing off about the Bonfire soundtrack at all. However, at one point, this one song came on that made me straight up drop my grilled cheese.

“OMG I HAVEN’T HEARD THIS SONG SINCE I WAS LITTLE AND IT’S BRINGING BACK HIDDEN MEMORIES, MAYBE OF MY BIO-DAD???” I hissed across the table because god forbid any of the deer heads heard me baring my soul. There was literally no one else around us but them. :(

It was that I WOULDN’T HAVE MISSED IT FOR THE WORLD jam and I was like on the verge of spurting out tears.

Henry couldn’t remember who sang it, and I’m certain I probably new knew, so a quick Shazaam learned him  that it was Ronnie Milsap.

“Oh, I never would have guessed that,” I scoffed. “I don’t even know who he is, just his name.”

“RONNIE MILSAP?!” Henry repeated, like OK I already said I know the name, just not really who he is but cook on with your irritating reiterations, Chef Dick. And then, “THE BLIND COUNTRY SINGER!!!??”

The way he said this, totally blurted it out across the table in this serious, frenzied way like he was the friend I phoned and he was telling me the winning answer.

We locked eyes for a moment just as the SHRINER NOTIFICATION went off 4 times in succession at the Elder Table and I just lost it, mid-chew, about to spit out a glob of grilled cheese cud onto Henry’s glasses. It was the most hilarious 3 seconds I’ve experienced in quite some time, Henry’s dire Milsap description followed by clown horns. I was choking at that point, tears streaming down my scrunched up fat face, and even Henry started laughing but I don’t think he knew why.

OMG I will never forget RONNIE MILSAP ever again except for when I started to write this portion of the blog post and had to google “Who sings….” because I totally forgot.

THE BLIND COUNTRY SINGER.

JOHN WAYNE SHIT.

SAW SHIT.

OK somehow I ended up feasting on coconut (WHY DO I ALWAYS TYPE COCOCUNT AT FIRST???) cream pie three weekends in a row, and I have no regertz. This one was so good and totally my style!! I knew as soon as AUDIBLE was walking over playing a sample of THE LAST BUCKAROO* with my slice of pie in her hand, that this was going to be a winner. For starters, it had WHIPPED TOPPING. And the actual coconut cream was fresh and homemade-tasting and not snot-textured and vanilla pudding-y which is my least favorite kind and sadly the kind that Janna and I had two weeks ago at that other place I was obsessed with but already forgot the name of.

*(I literally just googled “What are names of classic western books” lol)

This is where all the CIG STENCH was emanating from.

Oh shit, I should have checked the menu to see if they have SHIRLEY TEMPLES because this totally seemed like the type of establishment that would.

Anyway, I am smitten with this place. I want to go back soon-ish and check out the BACK ROOM which seems to overlook A GORGE. Or maybe just a slight hill.

I might have my birthday dinner here so stay tuned for an invitation. The Watering Hole area would probably be a great place for an AFTER PARTY. If I send you an invitation, you better show up and say I WOULDN’T HAVE MISSED IT FOR THE WORLD.

 

 

First round of Shirley Temples on Chooch!

Dec 022021
 

OK Brenda listen up. You know how we’re always sniffing out vegan eateries in whatever town the coasters are luring us to? Well, um…I might have chosen Six Flags Over Georgia PURPOSELY based on its close proximity to SLUTTY VEGAN. Henry alerted me to the existence of this BEAST of a vegan establishment several months ago and I have been obsessing ever since.

They have several locations around Atlanta, but from the YouTube videos I’ve watched, it looks like people line up clear around the block for this joint – one of the vegan YouTubers I watch actually stood in line for 5 hours outside in the winter when Slutty Vegan’s food truck travelled to NYC, and she still said it was WORTH THE HYPE. Also, whatever bacon they use appears to be the benchmark for all vegan bacon because I’m always hearing people comparing vegan bacon to Slutty Vegan’s bacon.

Also, it’s owned by a Black woman and this makes it even more appealing to me because you know how I love to support places like this!

Anyway, after leaving Six Flags Saturday night, Henry was like, “OK, let’s just go there and see if it’s a mess and then we’ll go from there.” I was literally having quiet, contained anxiety attacks about this because I wanted to shove slutty meatless delights into my whore mouth but I also didn’t want to endure crowds of people. LUCKILY, whichever location Henry chose was not the popular one because there was only one other person there!

It was a really small, walk-up location. I’m actually not even sure if you can dine-in at the main location now that I think about it, even though it does seem like it’s a much bigger place.

Right away, it felt like a party. The music was blasting even outside so as we walked down the sidewalk from our car, the vibe was RIGHT. Then we were greeted by the friendliest lady at the ordering counter; she was just BEAMING charisma, I fucking swear to god. There is nothing better and more comforting than going somewhere for the first time and having an employee essentially hold your hand and walk you through the process, which is exactly what she did and I really, really, really wish I had the forethought to check out her name because I would have loved to give her props when I wrote my Google review!

She explained the menu to us, told us what the most popular items were, what her personal favorite beverage is, what types of sauces they had on hand…it was like VIP treatment. The reason I’m really stressing this part of the experience is because it’s not uncommon to get treated like shit at trendy, hipster-run vegan restaurants. It’s almost like they know we’re FRAUDS when we walk in: you have Carnivore Henry, Vegetarian Chooch, and 50/50 Vegan/Vegetarian me.

I eat eggs still, OK?? And honey! SORRY.

But according to the owner, Pinky Cole (who is AN INSPIRATION, let me tell you), the majority of their customers are actually meat-eaters and that is actually amazing because this means that’s at least one meatless meal that these people are eating and it also means that this place is dispelling the myth that vegan food = rabbit food, and that maybe it’s delicious enough to get them to at least CUT BACK on their meat consumption. And that is actually so wonderful to think about.

So maybe this place is super gimmicky, but it gets people through the doors. And then it’s the quality of the food that gets them coming back. Because I am here right now telling you that this was the best vegan “fast food” I have ever had and I am WHIPPED for it. Literally have not been able to stop thinking about it since we left Georgia last weekend.

Oh! And when it was learned that we were n00bs to Slutty Vegan, our counter friend called back into the kitchen that there were VIRGINS in the house and everyone started cheering and banging on the counters. IT WAS SO EXCITING!!! My other favorite part though was hearing Chooch casually order a Fussy Hussy with no tomatoes. And Henry opted to upgrade his One Night Stand to a Menage a Trois, which added the legendary BACON and also FRIED SHRIMP!!! to the mix. I was really excited that he did this because I originally wanted to get the HEAUX BOY but it wasn’t available that day so I opted for the Chik’n Head instead. It is really hard for me to pass up vegan chicken sandwiches. I wasn’t much of a burger-eater in my past meat-eating days, but I could definitely kill a chicken sandwich. In fact, that and the McFish are the only things I ever really got at McDonald’s but that feels like an actual lifetime ago.

(I can still vividly remember the special chicken parm sandwich from Burger King though, OMFG I loved that shit as a kid!! It also felt like such a “grown up” thing to eat for some reason lol.)

Anyway, once our order was ready, we were floated out the door on a ribbon of hilarious and exuberant SLUT chants from the Slutty Vegan staff. It was one of the best send-offs of my life, not gonna lie, fam.

Then we had to endure the 10 minute drive back to the hotel which was EXCRUCIATING with a bagful of tempting, tongue-curling smells as the fourth passenger.

These pictures are shit but look, Linda – I was tryna EAT the damn food not fluff it for Glamour Shots. I dunno what that sauce was on my chik’n sandwich but I’d like to marinate all of my foods in it starting yesterday. Henry and I always get different things so we can share but I really didn’t want to give him half of this, ughhhhh.

(LOL it was Buffalo sauce – I just looked it up. As a vegetarian, I haven’t really had many opportunities to eat food saturated in Buffalo sauce so I’m not sure that’s a taste I would have recognized.)

(FOR INSTANCE: I HAVE NEVER HAD BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP!)

You can see the shrimp and bacon sorta. I should have taken headshots of that fucking shrimp because it was INSANITY. Maybe it didn’t taste SO MUCH like the real thing that it would fool a meathead, but it was pretty fucking close. The  texture was scary-realistic and the taste was half-past shrimp adjacent, more toward shrimp shadow. Like, it was REALLY CLOSE to passing, you guys. I am obsessed with it. There are some faux shrimp products on the market that we have tried and nothing has come close until Slutty Vegan. When can I go back.

And that bacon? Yeah, I get it now. I’m officially IN THE KNOW. That was some delectable fake bacon, Wendell.

And Chooch actually didn’t even want to go there once he saw the pictures because he “wasn’t that hungry” and “wouldn’t be able to eat all of that” and yet…and yet.

Bitch inhaled that burger before Henry even sat down and unwrapped his.

But yeah, that burger. Ouch, my gut, but give me more. They use the Impossible Burger but they add their own spices and secrets to it and whatever happens after that is pure animal-friendly magic. SLUT SAUCE FTW.

I hardly ever write actual online reviews but then I heard that BLUE LIVES MATTER fucker-bitches were flooding Slutty Vegan with negative reviews when Pinky made the choice to stop giving discounts to the Georgia police during the aftermath of the George Floyd murder, in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protests, I definitely felt compelled to add my five-stars.

I salivated for mths while watching so many YouTube videos about this place. Finally came to Atlanta from Pittsburgh and was determined to wrap my mouth around one of these slutty creations. I can now say with confidence that Slutty Vegan is worth the hype! Even my carnivorous partner was doing the Homer Simpson moan while devouring his Ménage a Trois! (That shrimp! The texture! The flavor! HOW?!) I got the Chik’n Head and, four days later, am still having vivid, possibly explicit daydreams about it.

The vibe of Slutty Vegan really elevated the experience – it felt like walking into the friendliest, most inclusive party, and when the person at the ordering counter found out we were VIRGINS, she happily navigated us through the menu and made helpful suggestions. I wish I had gotten her name because she was SO GREAT!

I have eaten at some vegan places where everyone acted like they were 2 cool 4 skool and it really took away from the experience but that was not the case with Slutty Vegan. I’m obsessed. This was the best, most indulgent vegan food I’ve ever had and I’m so sad that I’m back in Pittsburgh, hundreds of miles away from my new crush, Slutty Vegan. :(

Oh man, get me back to Georgia STAT. I need to eat my way through this menu! I want Pinky Cole’s autograph. What a gem.

Nov 202021
 

We’re having a pretty A-OK Saturday. I lost my temper momentarily because NONE OF THE MALES in my house had taken out the garbage and that is the only reason why I KEEP MALES IN THE HOUSE in the first place. But other than that, today has been merry. A real pocketful of posies. Etc.

  • Picked up three books at the library!
  • Started to read In My Dreams I Hold a Knife and was worried because my track record with dark academia is bleak but this seems good so far!
  • WENT TO GET CUPCAKES FROM MY FAVORITE CUPCAKE JOINT, VANILLA PASTRY STUDIO!

You may remember that many years ago, I wrote some dumb blog review about that place and one of the bakers saw it and printed it out for the owner, THE SUGAR FAIRY, to read and I found out because SAID BAKER left a comment telling me that owner loved it and I was like OMG IM DEAD but then the next time Henry went there to get cupcakes, that baker came out from the back and said OMG ARE YOU HENRY because she recognized him from my blog so then it became this funny Ha Ha thing where Henry was the face of Oh Honestly Erin etc etc. but honestly, these cupcakes are just…they’re the limit.

Here’s my old post about them from 2009. I haven’t even glanced at it since then so god only knows how atrocious and vulgar it is:

When Cupcakes Surpass Expectations: A Positive Review

OK well we reference a circle jerk in the second line, so that really sets the stage.

Anyway, VPS moved to a new location several years ago and then eventually closed when the Sugar Fairy took a job as a pastry chef at a restaurant downtown. Yeah I know I could have just gone there but it’s not the same. It’s just not. Talk to the hand, etc.

Then last week one of my pals posted in their Instagram stories that VPS was reopening in their OG location?? I went and looked and sure enough, it was a real thing and not something I misread with hopeful cupcake eyes. The soft opening was today at noon. Did henry and I get there 30 minutes early in anticipation of a line? You bet your sweet buttercreamed ass we did.

No one was there yet! So we territorially sprayed our spot at the door while we had a chance. Then some guy came out and said that he was actually first. “I even brought a chair,” he said, pointing through the window at his portable concert chair thingie. Turns out he’s like BFFs with the Sugar Fairy!

Anyway, he was a real treat to talk to, and then another guy strode up and got in line with us and he was really cool too! It was the best line I’ve stood in in quite some time. Cupcakes will do that.

They let us come in about 15 minutes early! There was a decent line that had started to snake out from the door (I WAS SECOND BEHIND BFF) so I was glad that we did get there early.

We got one of each and then told the guy to just continue plopping the ‘cakes in until the dozen box was filled. I was about to spend too much time thinking about what I wanted because it’s been over 5 years since one of the delicate frosted orbs from above melted on my tongue and I wanted them all.

Oh would you look at this smoll boi with the big sugared hair? Look how the cupcake portion is GLISTENING. Look at the specks of legit vanilla bean in that frosting beehive. I am heavy-breathing so hard right now. Thank god no one is currently home. (Chooch is at work as usual ugh and Henry is at one of his favorite stores: JOANN.)

Wow what a happy moment, tonguing a Vanilla Pastry Studio buttercream mound again. Shit son. These cake-muffins are just the best around. Go there. You won’t regret it. (Well. Maybe until you step on the scale. What? I’m a big numbers person, I can’t help it! MY WORLD REVOLVES AROUND MY MORNING WEIGH-IN I CANT BEEAK THE CHAINS, I AM BOUND TO THE SCALE, ITS MH ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP.)

We didn’t eat them all! Henry and I split the four in the above picture, so we each had two cupcakes and then felt the SUGAR DOWNS quickly after. But never fear! We took a drive out to Keystone State Park to walk it off. Whew.

“Take a picture of me with the lake behind me.”

“Give me your hat. Now take a picture of me with those things.  No, those things. No, THOSE THINGS. Whatever those things are.”

(Cattails? No. I don’t know what to call these things.)

Also!!! See that box thingie in the tree? That was the thing that started my infamous giggle fit the last time we were here! When I was trying to remember the name of the place I wanted to go today, I kept saying, “You know, that one place where I laughed a lot. No, the one where I laughed like A LOT and you and Chooch were annoyed and didn’t think it was funny. Where I almost peed my pants. I don’t know, it was because of vampires or something and I was laughing.”

And then Henry was like, “Oh. I know where you mean.” Lol.

Keystone Kackling.

“Take a picture of me looking like a stüp*.”

*(What I called stupid people.)

“Take a picture of me holding my jacket open like this.”

I do love this jacket. I got it at Target! It’s Wild Fable or whatever their strange 90s fashion reboot line is called. I’m going to be very sad when it gets too cold to wear this but hopefully I’ll be able to get away with wearing it in Georgia next weekend.

“No wait, I wasn’t doing my PEEING DOG pose yet.”

“Ok, now I’m in prime canine PISSition. I’m ready. Take the picture. Henry are you taking the picture?”

“Wait let me do my SIGNATURE windmill pose now. Do I look cool? As cool as the Dutch ones?”

Henry just diligently snaps away while mumbling, “Sure but you will find something wrong with all of these as usual.”

Fake engagement photo. Ugh.

MY NEW MOUSTACHE.

“Take a picture of me looking scared behind a tree.”

“Take a picture of me pretending like it’s my school picture. EW WHY DO I LOOK SLEAZY??”

“Because you WERE sleazy in high school,” Henry said.

Touché.

Here are canoes.

Henry and I both had to pee after that and I offered suggestions on how we could both pee in the same toilet in the park restroom at the same time and he wouldn’t entertain my ideas because: “I feel like that would burn.”

OK well now I am going to finish my cup of coffee and read some more of my book before it’s time for FAMILY KPOP KARDIO NIGHT. (Chooch doesn’t know this is happening and will likely start a fight in order to get out of it so we’ll see. Check back later for the shocking conclusion, I guess.)

Dec 182020
 

Today is the three year anniversary (that word seems not right) of Jonghyun’s death and I burst into tears thinking about that while I was doing the dishes this morning and so let’s do a Friday five to distract that blog-author, can we? Can we really?

I’ve been off work all week but as usual, I have very little going on so let’s see what I can pull out of my…brain.

CHOOCH’S MEMOIR

I mentioned previously in here that Chooch has to write a short memoir-type essay for his creative writing class and actually opted to write about his trip to Korea, which obviously made my heart swell. However, he’s been furiously searching my blog for my Korea recaps in order to get names, dates, places and basically every other detail correct. I’m not sure if this is something you’ll believe, but I have been STRAIGHT UP GLOATING over this because HAHA suddenly MOMMY’S BLOG is useful.

Anyway, he has opted to go the “switchback” route, which has allowed him to combine both trips into one story and at first I was like THAT IS NOT GOING TO WORK but then he ironed out some smaller details and it’s actually turning out pretty cool.

Also, his computer crashed last night at midnight when he was finishing up his essay and he lost two entire pages because he wasn’t aware that Word has an auto-save option that needed to be turned on and while I feel super bad for him, I’m also kind of like, “Initiation complete. Welcome to the writing club.”

It’s due at some point today so I hope he gets it done!? I’m fighting the urge to be That Mom who writes papers for their kids but good goddamn do I want to stick my finger in this pie, wow that sounded awful.

KILLER KLOWN

I got some more fantastic pieces from my favorite pin maker The Idol Collective (which is currently defunct because   Danielle is actually rebranding herself so I’m not sure if The Idol Collective is coming back or if she will be reopening under a completely new name, but I do hope she comes back because I LOVE HER).

Killer Klowns From Outerspace was one of my favorite horror movies as a child. My younger brother Ryan and I used to go ham over horror movies, especially those of the B-variety (The Gate, anybody?) and Killer Klowns was definitely on our shortlist of favorites, so when The Idol Collective debuted this new line of necklaces, I snatched one up without even blinking. I love working from home, but I’m also kind of like, “when can we go back?” because I have so many new pieces and literally nowhere to wear them!

Side note: that Killer Klown / popcorn sculpture thing was made by Chuck Jarmon, a mastermind in the Halloween costume and prop industry. A long ass time ago, he asked me to write some descriptions of his products and then gifted me this amazing piece as a thank you. We had become friends through a mutual, who I’m no longer friends with because she accused me of “talking shit on [her] mother” and I lost him in the friend divorce, which is sad, but we’re all adults here and he is allowed to make that choice, I guess…EVEN THOUGH IT WAS THE WRONG ONE. Lol.

TREK TO HANDPIELAND

Last night, 350 Bakery posted on Instagram about the new hand pies for this weekend, one of which is ROASTED WINTER VEGETABLES. I was all set to tell Henry to get his ass over there on Saturday morning, but then they mentioned that three local coffee shops were going to be selling them on Friday, and one of those coffee shops is 802 Coffee (so many number names, ugh) which is on the boulevard, so I was like, “I AM GETTING THAT IN THE MORNING” and usually I say things like that and then I wake up and think, “Eh, maybe another day.” But not today. I sprung out of bed, showered, quickly acknowledged Chooch’s presence, and then set off for my mile(ish?) trek along slushy, unshoveled sidewalks (thanks, neighbors) but as expected, this bad boy was totally worth lacing up my boots for.

File under: things that motivate me to leave the house.

KPOP DAD

I was really bored one night last week and had this GREAT IDEA to pop quiz Henry on all of the members of the Kpop mega-group, NCT. In 2020, they acquired several new members, and now, when all of their units are combined, they are up to a whopping TWENTY-THREE MEMBERS. That’s insane! I remember when I got into NCT a few years ago, the only unit I followed was NCT-127 which had…nine members then, I think? And I was like, “I WILL NEVER KNOW ALL OF THEIR NAMES.” Flash forward to 2020 and I can name all members of NCT127, NCT Dream, and WayV (the Chinese member unit).

Their agency has released this super ambitious undertaking with all of the members of those units, plus two entirely new members, for a massive NCT 2020 release. There’s one song (at least – I haven’t really looked into the whole entire album yet) that features all 23 members, and then the members are broken up into smaller groups for all of the other songs. Whenever NCT does stuff like this, it’s known as NCT-U. (It’s a whole fucking culture, you guys, you have no idea how long it took me to understand the NCT concept!)

Anyway, I gave Henry a sheet of paper and a pencil and told him to go to town. He was able to eke out the names of 11 members.

“I have to tell Veronica!” I squealed through hysterical peals of laughter. Veronica is my favorite kpop partner-in-crime whom I met on Instagram and I would be so lonely in this kpop world without her, I’ll tell you!

“Why do you have to tell her everything?” Henry sighed. But he secretly loves it, I think.

Then it was my turn and I got 22/23 because I can never remember new member Sungchan, although I probably will now.

01:27 — NCT 2020

 BAD INTERNET FRIENDS

In a previous post, I mentioned that I took down a shelf that used to live at the top of the steps and the things I found stashed away in it are Pure Gold. For instance, I found a note that one of my co-workers at Echostar and I had written back and forth (we were such great pupils in that training class!) and at first I was like “wtf are we going on about” because whoever I was writing to had replied “why would your friend want to spend the last 2 months of her life working here?!” And then I realized we were talking about my friend Cinn whom I had recently met through a gothic chat room called Darkchat and supposedly had a brain tumor.

BUT GUESS WHAT GUYS SHE WAS LYING ABOUT IT FOR ATTENTION and I guess she just hadn’t anticipated becoming IRL friends with someone from there (we lived like 15 minutes away from each other) so then her stupid ass lie took on a life of its own and it made me feel so pathetic and angry to read my parts of the note because it was clear that I really cared about my new friend who was going to die soon and how fucked up is that??

We are no longer friends, although we did come in and out of each other’s lives several times for about 8-ish years, long enough that Henry had met her and learned very quickly that she was a fucking snake. But still, I was blind to it, or maybe it was a purposeful blind eye I had, because I was attached to her. She was the big sister I never had. She took care of me. But she was also very quick to belittle and humiliate me in front of others; it took me years to finally understand that this happened when she wasn’t getting attention from the room.

Seeing that note really opened up a wound that I hadn’t realized was still festering under my skin. I ranted about this for a while to Henry and then realized that I’ve had so many awful encounters and fall-outs with people that I met online, that I could do a whole series on it WOULD U COME HERE FOR THAT TEA, y or n?!?!?

On that note, I have to go watch the squirrels from my window. At least they don’t let me down. (Although, they do use me…)

Oct 272020
 

During these #UghTimes, it’s so important to forage for all the little things you can find that boost your mood. For my household, it’s treating ourselves to the occasional Sugar Spell Scoops pint presales. We were always just the casual scoop procuring customer pre-pandemic, but we really want to support this insanely good local business which is owned by the nicest, sweetest, cutest couple who have always been so friendly to us, and that really makes all the difference in the world. I used to be such a fangirl of another local ice cream shop, Millie’s, but a series of disappointing interactions with employees left me with a bad taste in my mouth (rivaled only by their sorry attempt at vegan ice cream) so I have happily giving Sugar Spell all of my business since then.

Plus, they do vegan ice cream BEAUTIFULLY and SKILLFULLY. The flavors they create are creative and artisanal, and soooo good that even Highbrow Hank will happily stick in a spoon. The pints are a bit pricy, but vegan ingredients ain’t cheap, yo. Which is why I thought FOR SURE Henry would be like, “JUST PICK THREE” when the entire collection of Halloween flavors was unveiled last week, but instead, he said, “Just get all of them.”

IT FELT LIKE CHRISTMAS!!

Until I remembered that the presales can often sell out quickly, especially when there are seasonal flavors. I have been (freezer?) burnt in the past by rolling up an hour or two too late, only to see the flavors I wanted are long gone. So now I will typically set a reminder on my phone to ensure I get what I want.

However!!!! I knew that this one in particular was going to be like Hunger Games, because every single flavor was special. And I wanted them all! So I devised a strategy: Henry and I would go to the site at the same time. I would get the first 4 flavors listed, he would get the rest.

And maybe if you have walked past our house last Thursday at approx. 7:02pm, you would have heard me screaming like Monica Gellar because while I was able to snag the first four pints, Henry’s phone was spinning on the checkout page. And he was just sitting there ever so calmly?!

“WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO?!!?” I screamed at him, like he accidentally threw away the Hope diamond.

“I can’t get it to stop spinning. Just go back and place the second order yourself,” he shrugged with an “It’s just ice cream” nonchalance.

When I went back to the order page, TWO OF THE FLAVORS WERE ALREADY SOLD OUT, thank god they were the ones I already ordered though! So I tried to order the three that Henry failed to snag, but the pumpkin one couldn’t be added to my cart! I was FUCKING SCREAMING because it was the one I wanted the most.

“Just get the other two then!” Henry said, ready to slap me in the face with a wet fish to bring me back to IT’S JUST ICE CREAM reality.

So I got the other two and then spent a solid minute berating Henry for fucking up the system. Almost all of the pints were sold out at this point, but the pumpkin one didn’t have the “sold out” circle on it so I was confused. I tried to add it to my cart again, and Henry was like, “IT’S BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO SELECT AN OPTION!!” since it was the only one that had a GF/non-GF option, and I didn’t even notice it! So once I selected something from the drop-down, I was able to purchase it!

IT TOOK THREE SEPARATE ORDERS BUT WE GOT ALL FLAVORS! And every single one of them was sold out within 15 minutes, it was insanity.

Then it took a good hour for my heartrate to go down. It is literally comparable to purchasing kpop concert tickets, ISTFG. In the moments leading up to the order form going live, I get the Ticketmaster queue stomach cramps and pee-jigs. Whew!

Sunday was pick-up day and Henry said when he went inside to get our pints, Amanda the Scoop Genius said to her partner, “Oh, I think they have like 127 orders.” Lol.

We are not usually this indulgent (I think the most we ever purchased at one time was 4, but usually we just get 2 or 3 and they will last us a good while!)  but it’s Halloween and we are sad. This makes it feel more celebratory!

l-r with descriptions taken straight from Sugar Spell:

  • Vampire’s Blood (you can’t tell in this picture but once we dug in, the blood swirls were poppin’!): sweet cream base with coagulated blackberry red wine reduction. (The red wine is the fucking flavor burst we all need right now.)
  • Wake the Dead: Black coffee base with GF cookie dirt and white chocolate skulls. (Apparently, this contains activated charcoal!)
  • Wolfman’s Lint Roller (Henry’s favorite): First of all, how fantastic is this name? It’s chocolate coconut ice cream with chocolate coconut fur, chocolate syrup slobber, sliced almond claws, and puffed rice ticks.
  • Trick or Treat: PB ice cream with caramel ribbons, crushed peanuts, candy-coated bits, house-made PB cups, and topped with an assorted spooky shaped chocolate. (Fun fact: Chooch always corrects me because I say CARMUL and he says CARA-MEL, yet whenever I read it, I pronounce it his way in my head.)
  • Witch’s Brew: lavender ice cream with matcha whipped cream swirl and bubbling cauldron sprinkle spread. (Um, hello, a mash-up of two of my favorite flavors in the entire world???? This one had a lot riding on it.)
  • Ecto Cooler: You guys, no description needed. This literally tastes JUST LIKE THE HI-C VERSION.
  • Pumpkin Cookies & Cream: self-explanatory!

So….at first I was like, “do not make me choose a favorite” but I’m going to say it: Witch’s Brew and Vampire’s Blood have my heart. ALL OF THE FLAVORS ARE TO DIE FOR (haha) please don’t get it twisted, but if I had to go back in time and ONLY choose two, it would be these two.

Mmm, coagulated blackberry blood, boiiiii.

I’m so grateful to be in a position to support small businesses during these dark times. I know at the end of the day, ice cream isn’t essential, but giving your mental health some TLC definitely is, and what better way than treating yourself to fun vegan ice cream while knowing that you’re helping to keep a local shop afloat AT THE SAME TIME? All while wearing a mask, of course!

I love this place so much that if they had a street team like Warped Tour-type bands used to have in the 2000s, I’d sign up and pass out stickers on Brookline Boulevard for sure. I might even make sampler CDs of kpop groups to go along with it. There are a lot of ice cream/dessert-themed songs in kpop land, like this one!

 

Sep 292020
 

So we’ve officially experienced every season through the lens of a pandemic. How fucking depressing! Woo!

I don’t really have too much to report. I mostly spent a lot of time taking walks and smiling at the fall foliage that’s beginning to turn up around town.

It makes me remember that my neighborhood can be so cute sometimes, even when there has been road work going on FOR MONTHS NOW on my street, as pictured.

Since our H-Mart daytrip was dashed (don’t worry, since this was something that HENRY wanted to do, it will be rescheduled post haste), we made use of the extra time to get more shit done around the house. It’s really frustrating to have so many open-ended projects going at once, but there has to be an end in sight at some point, I guess? For example, Henry got more work done on the coffee table. I think I mentioned that on here, but we’re just refurbing our current coffee table and by that I mean we gave it a fresh paint job with some new colors and we’re swapping out the pictures that were on the top with much better pictures and by that I obviously mean pictures from our trips to Korea.

We ordered takeout from Apteka since we couldn’t get the vegan food we were pining for in Maryland and I swear, every time I eat at Apteka, I wonder why I don’t eat there more often. Well, probably because it always makes me gain weight, but still – would you look at the hunk’a sadnwich?! Good god damn. I could barely even take down half of it. I’m not joking when I say that it felt like holding a brick when I took it out of the box!

Anyway, this was the Horse & Pepper, which is:

Baked buckwheat veg paté, roast & marinated
jimmy nardello peppers, horseradish slaw, pickled
red jalapenos, and black garlic, on our naturally
leavened spent seed bread.

Oh for the love, this sandwich was DIVINE and, clearly, HEARTY. Honestly though I think the bread was my favorite part — it was so nutty and fresh! Although that horseradish really, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this but now I have to because it was the first thing that came to my head and now I am convinced I’ve been accepted into the 1970s Dad Club, hit the spot. 

Henry refuses to get food from here ever since the one and only time he went and hated every single person eating there alongside us. Look, I’m not a fan of the stereotypical vegan either, but when a place offers EASTERN EUROPEAN vegan cuisine, I will gladly suffer through hearing the lady next to me breastfeeding in Birkenstocks while talking about the new Surfjan record.

That being said, Henry ordered his own vegan food from the nearby pizza joint, Spak’s. I think he got vegan steak and cheese, and seitan wings. All I know is that I also ordered apricot cake that came with sunflower see ice cream and it really jacked me up a notch on the BMI scale and I was bloated for two days, but it was worth it.

Honestly the bread alone could have made a substantial meal.

Most of Saturday was spent watching Kpop stuff on YouTube, I can’t lie.

And then Sunday morning was SO BEAUTIFUL. Henry Oppa got up early and brought home heavenly baked goods from 350 Bakery, which I originally made fun of because I thought their name was generic, like it was probably their street address and that’s one of my pet peeves, when a business can’t think of a better name for their brand other than their goddamn street address, but then I noticed that there is a circle-y thing after their name so it’s actually 350 Degree and I guess that’s a little better.

Later that morning, I walked down to the local high school and did some laps at the track and it felt almost normal. I used to spend a lot of time at the track back when I would participate in the Law Firm walking challenges.

And then most of Sunday we painted. “We.” LOLOLOLOL.

Wait, let me back up. A few weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to paint one wall in the dining room purple and replace all the pictures and paintings that currently live on that wall with photos from Korea (what a shocker) in frames that have been painted the same green as our dining room chairs.

But then I was like WHY STOP THERE and casually came up with a color palette for all the walls in the dining room and then Henry diligently went to Lowe’s and purchased the paint.

So, remember the Get Stoked sign that Henry made for me a bunch of years ago? Well, it stopped working sometime in 2017. Henry was like, “I KNOW WHAT’S WRONG BUT I DON’T FEEL LIKE TAKING IT OFF THE WALL” because he really mounted that sucker to the wall real goodly. But now that we’re painting all of the walls, he said, “I might as well fix this while I have it off the wall” and he did JUST THAT Saturday night and it only took him like 10 minutes!

The secret is to make them think it’s their own idea, you guys.

But yeah, welcome back, Get Stoked sign! It will be nice to use it as mood lighting again if we’re ever able to have guests in the house. Sigh.

In other weekend news, I grudgingly started playing that stupid Among Us game that all the children are into lately because I was trying to use it as leverage to get Chooch to agree to a photoshoot on the day trip that we didn’t even take, but all that really happened was that I accidentally became low-key obsessed with playing it even though I have no idea what I’m doing and I’ve only gotten to be the Impostor 3x and also it bothers me that it looks like “impostor” is spelled wrong but it’s correct?! I literally thought it was some glaring typo and I quietly looked it up in the Dictionary app and wow, I was 41-years-old when I learned how to spell impostor. Imposter. <–yeah, it’s wrong! I wanted to see if the red squiggles appeared and they did!

I guess I will close that chapter in my life now.

Anyway, sometimes Chooch’s friends are in the game and one of them called me GAY like it’s a bad word and Chooch was like “bruh that’s my mom” and then someone got killed and I said “it wasn’t me” and everyone was like, “Ruby seems sus” and I got kicked off!!!!!!!! I WASN’T THE IMPOSTER! OMFG I SPELLED IT WRONG AGAIN.

Can’t this just be an alt spelling? Like color/colour?

Sunday night, I realized that I could change my language in the game to Korean and then it gave me all games with Korean people and I was screaming but Chooch was like, “YOU CAN’T PLAY WITH KOREANS. YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO COMMUNICATE” but all I really had to say was “who??” and I know that word in Korean but then it was really hard to join a game because I kept getting kicked out by the hosts before the games started and Chooch was like, “THEY KNOW YOU’RE AMERICAN, YOU IDIOT, AND THEY DON’T WANT YOU” so then I changed the spelling of my name to a Korean version but even then I was getting kicked out! I was very sad but Chooch said it was probably because everyone in the rooms probably knew each other and were waiting for their friends to join.

I mean, it helped me sleep a little better that night, believing that.

Anyway, weekend was fine. Now I’m getting ready to watch this debate and I feel like I’m going to puke, like I’m the one going up there behind a podium. Fuck Trump!!

Jan 232020
 

It’s tradition for Janna, Chooch and me to go out for lunch on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, if only doing this once prior counts as “tradition.” We’ve already started this tradition with a strangely volatile track record, because last year I chose a restaurant that was extremely crowded with awkward seating, so we left after being seated at a crowded counter, and then ended up having another awkward seating experience at the ramen place we chose as our fall-back.

But then we had a great time at a post-lunch cafe (Black Forge, holla!) so that made it seem, in our memories, that we should do it again this year. I guess kind of like how some women forget the horrors of pregnancy/child birth and do it again.

This time, it was Janna’s turn to choose an uncomfortable eating establishment!

First though, the day started on a high when Janna got yelled at in the parking lot across from my house for allegedly thieving Hot Naybor Chris’s wife’s parking spot. Janna had to swear that she’s not a weirdo after HNC’s wife ranted about all the weirdos in the neighborhood and swore she didn’t realize it was someone else’s spot (newsflash: none of us have our own assigned parking spots, so…).

“Wow, she’s very shrill,” Janna laughed when she walked into my house and Chooch and I were dying. We wanted her to get beaten, but verbal abuse is just as good!

We immediately set off for Ineffable Cà Phê which I’ve wanted to try for awhile, but anytime we’ve been in the area, it’s always looks very crowded. Well, today was no different and it didn’t help that we arrived right smack in the middle of noon.

Maybe I’m just FUCKING OLD, but I really dislike places that force you to order at a counter. I get that this is also a cafe, but perhaps separate the two areas, I dunno, because the menus were all split up in different spots and by the time it was our turn to order, I was teetering on the tip of a tantrum and blurted out, “I’LL HAVE THE SAME AS HIM” and nudged Chooch, even though I didn’t know what he ordered because every time I asked him, he ignored me.

Then the real fun began—looking for a place to sit. Again, this is a cafe that also serves food (and some of  the food is pho, so…not exactly something you can casually eat while standing. I was having ANXIETY by this point because we were just standing there, lost, in everyone’s way, looking for a place that could seat three people, but because THIS IS ALSO A CAFE, 90% of the seats were occupied by people who were not eating, but staring at their laptops with dead eyes.

Booths? People working.

Shared tables? Full of lazy hipsters and surrounded by a moat of coiled laptop cords on the floor, which I almost tripped over numerous times.

It was absolutely trash as far as comfort levels went.

We finally settled on an armchair (which White Knight Jr, a/k/a Chooch, argued was “very comfortable” and he was “just fine”) and a couch in the corner, with some extremely enlarged spool-thing to use as a table. It was SO FUCKING UNCOMFORTABLE. The couch was so low to the ground and I had to bend in half every time I took a bite of my tofu banh mi (good choice, Chooch), so I guess at least I was getting an ab workout, I dunno.

It was so bad that while we were waiting for our food, Janna could see Mt.Erinsuvius getting ready to erupt and suggested that we just get our food to go, save it for dinner, and then go somewhere for lunch.

NOT AFTER I JUST THREW DOWN $20 ON TWO SANDWICHES (AND NO DRINKS!!).

Luckily for this damn place, the banh mi was really good. It’s so hard to find GOOD TOFU on sandwiches, and theirs had a really great marinade to it. I approved. So did Chooch, who was blessedly silent while inhaling his lunch.

The worst part about this though was that I had to go to the counter and retrieve both sandwiches after my name was called, and it was a veritable slalom course of laptop cords and backpacks but I persevered all while muttering, “Don’t look at me. Don’t look at me.”

When Janna’s food was ready, the guy was like, “I will bring it to you” because she got pho, but she still walked over and kept trying to take it from him and he was like, “I WILL BRING IT TO YOU” – Chooch and I were dying. Finally, something good was happening! Then the guy gave Janna a sauce recommendation but she of course didn’t pay attention, so when he left our table she was like, “What did he tell me to do?” and I was like, “Mix the sriracha and hoisin.” As she embarked on the  treacherous journey to the counter to fetch said sauces, Chooch was like, “Oh, I thought you said sriracha and POISON and I was like ‘Yes, we’re killing Janna!'” Hahaha.

Actually, once we got our food and established ourselves in the corner which was DEFINITELY meant for relaxing with a book and coffee, not hunched over a lunch you’re trying not to spill, it was OK. Would I go back? I AM NOT SURE. Maybe I’d get it to go, but I can’t foresee myself ever attempting to dine in there again unless I get there immediately when it opens or like, right after a kitchen fire,  idk.

However, there was one super positive aspect about this place, and that was when we stumbled on  the adjacent boutique on the way out. It’s just a tiny little nook in the corner of the cafe but just secluded enough so you feel like you’re in another space altogether, and it’s run by a super lovely lady who chatted us up but not in the sense where I was trying to peel my skin off and lift it up over my head to form a nice bloody flesh tent under which to camp out with my social inadequacies.

She was SO LOVELY that Chooch was like, “I WANT ONE OF HER CANDLES.” They were all very earthly, masculine smells, er, scents, which I appreciate in a candle from time to time; one can only have so many pumpkin spices and clean cotton fragrances in the house, you know?

The special thing about her candles is that you can DIP YOUR FINGERS INTO THE HOT WAX, which is like every kids’ and my dream, and then RUB IT INTO YOUR SKIN BECAUSE IT DOUBLES AS ESSENTIAL OIL.

Brilliant. Yes, let me buy one of those.

It took Chooch forever to choose a scent (black currant is what he ultimately went for?!) and then Janna had to copy us and buy one too but when the lady asked her for her email address, Janna rattled off something I’ve never heard before, so I yelled, “HEY I DON’T KNOW ABOUT THAT EMAIL ADDRESS!” and it was quiet for a second while the lady’s eyeballs looked like they were watching a scary tennis match, but then Janna just nervously laughed it off so then the lady laughed too but I WASNT LAUGHING.

Meanwhile, there was a dog behind the counter but Chooch wasn’t able to reach it so he was terribly upset about that.

THEN WE WENT DOWNTOWN. I started laughing when I realized that it was exactly 2::00pm, which is what time I would normally be ambling about down there on a regular workday. First, we stopped at this art installation thing because Pittsburgh sometimes tries to hang with the Big City Kids by doing artsy things for people to either enjoy, scrutinize, or vandalize. I walk past this every day but have never bothered to stop and explore, so I was happy that we parked literally on the same block as it.

It was pretty cold that day but not as cold as it was last year when we did out MLK outing, because I think it was like 10 degrees that day. If you ask Mr. I Never Get Cold, he’ll tell you that both days weren’t cold at all. I hate him sometimes.

IF YOU LOOK, YOU CAN SEE ALL THREE OF US OMG.

I’m like way good at posing.

AnywaySSSS, the reason we were downtown is because Bae Bae’s Kitchen opened a brand new cafe down the street called, well, Bae Bae’s Cafe. I’ve been stalking it for months on my daily lunch break walks and was excited to get there on their second day! (I feel like the first opening day would have been stuffed to the gills with influencers and the like, so…no thanks.)

Chooch and I are both avid boba fans, so I got a taro and he chose earl gray which I thought was an odd choice for him and turns out he ended up thinking the same once he sipped it. He added some cane sugar to it after awhile and then deemed it drinkable.

This is DEFINITELY an Instagram-cafe. That’s not to take away from their drinks which are wonderful; they also serve lunch items but we had already done that so I ordered chocolate chip cookies for us to share and they were REALLY DELICIOUS. Like 진짜 맛있어요!

(Bae Bae’s is Korean, yo.)

So, the seating is pretty non-existent here, which was hilarious to us because all we wanted to do was be able to sit together today while eating and drinking?! Like, I can’t think of many more basic wants, you know? But this space is pretty small so probably prepare to pop in and pop out if you go on a busy day. As it turned out, Janna had to sit by herself and then when she left her seat to go to the counter to get her drink, some asshole stole her seat! AND THE GUY HE WAS WITH WHO WAS ALREADY SITTING ACROSS FROM WHERE JANNA HAD BEEN SAID NOTHING!

To be fair, either did Chooch or I. Chooch was just like, “LOL, Janna lost her seat” and then continued slurping up boba.

My bedroom is almost this same color and now I know that UMERELLA-ELLA-ELLAS ON THE CEILING is what it’s been missing. Get on that, Henry.

The guy on the couch is the d-bag who stole Janna’s seat, but then he moved to the couch once it became available, so Janna got her seat back. Damn. Anyway, these guys were v.annoying.

It’s a very elegant and, to use a word people hate, no not moist: WHIMSICAL. I personally liked it because it gave off Wonderland vibes and that’s my jam. My favorite Alice In Wonderland is  the version that as Carol Channing and Ann Jillian in it, in case you were wondering. I think it’s from the early 80s.

Seriously,  the best. Followed by that weirdo Jan Svankmajer stop-motion film “Alice.” Horrifying.

Janna Sits Alone.

Anyway, the best part of the day was that the proprietor of the Bae Bae’s empire, Ashley, was there and she came over to talk to Chooch and me and she took our picture for the cafe’s Instagram story! She also said I looked very familiar to her and I was like, “Oh god, am I on some Koreaboo list?!” Like Megan’s List but for Koreans to watch out for people obsessed with their culture. But it turns out she just recognized me from all the times I’ve cupped my hands next to my face and peeked in the cafe’s windows JUST KIDDING she said she thinks I looked familiar because I follow Bae Bae’s on Instagram. To be honest, I rarely go to Bae Bae’s Kitchen even though it’s right near my office because:

  • it’s kind of expensive
  • it sits super heavily in my stomach (BUT IT’S SO GOOD)
  • I don’t want to be a creep

We tried to stay as long as we could because there were three “super hip” Modcloth chicks hogging the best seat in the house and I wanted to get pictures there too but they came with A CAMERA, like a real DSLR, and just when I thought they were getting ready to leave, one of them went back up  to the counter to order dessert for them to share, see also: NEW PROP FOR MORE PICTURES.

I saw later that night that Bae Bae’s reposted some of their pictures and THEY SAT ON OUR SEATS AFTER WE LEFT, which was like 15 minutes before closing, so maybe the whole time THEY were trying to wait US out?? Like, if I had just gone over there and politely said, “EXCUSE ME, CUNTS WE WANT TO SIT HERE FOR A SEC, BEAT IT” everyone could have gotten their way!?

Anyway, it was a tumultuous day. A real roller coaster of emotions. Maybe next year, we’ll just go to the movies and Taco Bell.

Dec 292019
 

Our Thanksgiving dinner to go set notwithstanding, it had been a minute since we last dined at Zenith, which is a damn crime because it’s not only my favorite vegetarian restaurant in Pittsburgh, but also one of my favorite restaurants in general all around. I mean, how many places do you know where you can eat a vegan fish sandwich, drink of pot of whichever tea you choose from the broad collection in a cabinet, and buy an antique mental institution wheelchair?

We don’t eat out very often, but even for as infrequently as we visit, the family who runs the place still remembers us and they really make it feel like you’re dining in their home—it’s so cozy and intimate and there is not even a HINT of pretension swirling around the rafters.

I’m not sure I have ever been here during Christmas, now that I think about it…HAVE I BEEN?! My memory is getting foggier and muddier, and I’m not handling it very well. Did I tell you that a few weeks ago, Margie at work asked me when CHOOCH’S birthday is, and with the UTMOST CONFIDENCE, I answered, “June 6th.”

THIS IS NOT CORRECT! That is Henry’s birthday! So I laughed and said, “OMG no that’s not right! It’s April 6th.”

Margie laughed it off and started to change the subject but then the blood began bubbling behind my cheeks as I realized that I WAS WRONG AGAIN. I could have just let it go but what if Margie has some ironclad memory and would always remember that it’s April 6th and then there would be this whole thing where she sees his birth certificate and notices a different date and then puts two and two together that Chooch was kidnapped and NO WONDER ERIN HAS NO MATERNAL INSTINCTS SHE IS NOT A MOTHER.

Sorry. That took a turn. I’m waiting for Henry and Chooch (?!?!) to finish making dinner and I think I’m light headed.

Foodwise, Henry actually enjoys Zenith. I know, it’s hard to imagine him not double fisting some bratwurst but he doesn’t mind going meatless every now and then. (He does not like tofu, though.)

However, Henry usually clenches up the whole time we’re there because I usually find some obscure thing that I need to have, like this hanging lamp from a church that I bought straight from the ceiling of the dining room as Henry and I ate dinner. Or the time Kara and I were having lunch there and whoa, who invited this clown to join us? Oh, right – me.

(Also, apparently I HAVE been there while the Christmas decor was up. My blog serves as my memory now so it’s a good thing I’m all about the HONESTY on here, lol.)

I’m not a big tea drinker but it’s part of the process to pick a fancy tea at Zenith. On this visit, I chose maple vanilla and it was AMAZE. I think sarsaparilla (REALLY THIS IS HOW THAT’S SPELLED?!) is still my favorite that I’ve ever had there.

Oh, and for those playing along at home, Chooch burnt dinner, which was a french fry recipe called “Hume Fries” from his new “The Good Place” cook book. We blamed Henry though because Chooch was supposedly only in charge of cutting the various carbs and Henry was responsible for the oven part.

Henry’s salad. I always appreciated how colorful the Zenith side salads are. None of that soggy, wilted iceburg lettuce and cherry tomato bullshit.

Henry opted for the seitan teriyaki entree – he’s a big fan of seitan, and I am too, honestly. That shit is the meat substitute that God wanted us to have. If more people would open their hearts to seitan, the world would be such a better place! HAVE YOU EVEN TRIED SEITAN WINGS?!

BBQ tofu sandwich – I don’t eat very much bread on my daily diet, so sometimes I crave sandwich buns. This was one so soft and honestly it was almost as good as the BBQ tofu spilling out of it, which btw was the perfect texture: firm but with a nice, springy bounce, like what Henry’s imaginary mistress Cheetah Girl’s boobs were probably like in the 70s.

Chooch got the black bean burrito but I didn’t take a picture of it because you know what a burrito looks like but also because he fucking gutted it immediately so it was basically inside out and looked like a Mexican crime scene.

Oh, and he also ordered an appetizer of buffalo hummus and pita “for the table” and holy shit you guys, is that what buffalo chicken dip tastes like?! I never had it before because I don’t think it was a popular party food yet back when I still ate meat, but I guess the hummus was supposed to be flavored the same and it was honestly the best hummus I’ve ever had and look, I live down the street from Pitaland and also, I’ve been to Greece, so.

If you go to Zenith, save room for whatever vegan Bundt cake option they have going on that day because it will blow your meat-mind, yo. Personally, my favorite will forever be the lemon poppyseed but the chocolate hazelnut hunk up there was *FRENCH FINGER-KISSES*

Chooch and I ditched Henry once the cake plate was licked clean and we walked around to explore. I’m always on the prowl for new things to add to my mishmashed collection at home. There is this old-fashioned pram hanging from the ceiling and I have had my eyes on that for years but I didn’t hound Henry for anything on this visit because we are planning an Easter trip and I am trying to be responsible with my monies but shit, it’s tough when you want everything.

One of the Zenith people came over while Chooch was tapping on an old typewriter, and I thought he was going to be like DO NOT TOUCH but instead he told us that he just recorded a song using the sounds of a typewriter as the background and I thought that was really cool and wanted to ask him if he has it online anywhere but then he distracted me by asking me how long it’s been now so I’ve been coming there and I had to think for a second but wow, it’s been over 10 years now. My first visit was with Kara in 2008!

If you ever go to Zenith, after you polish off the slice of cake that I told you to order, make sure you don’t leave without checking out the bathrooms. There are two, but the door on the left is my favorite. It’s owl-themed! I’m still a little sad because this room was originally painted blue, but it’s been green for so long now that it’s grown on me. I mean, it’s a room full of owls! The only thing better would be a room full of…G-Dragons.

Obligatory selfie.

Obligatory selfie part 2.

Such a selfie station. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been peeing in this bathroom long before Instagram was even a thing yet.

I keep saying that I want to start collecting these old light up Santas (and Easter bunnies!) but then I never do anything about it. Obviously I would keep them year-round in my house.

Ugh, the most nostalgic Christmas trees! My OCD would always flare up anytime the ones we had growing up would be missing lights. I wish I had kept one.

And that was our lovely Saturday afternoon at Zenith, a place that I do not visit nearly enough. One of these years, I will have my birthday dinner there like I have been saying I want to do for the last 10 years. (OR SOMEONE COULD PLAN THAT FOR ME, I DUNNO, JUST A THOUGHT. MY BIRTHDAY IS JULY 30, EVERY YEAR.)

Nov 242019
 

Hello, here I am to tell you all about the vegetarian lunch we had in Fairfax, Virginia last weekend because sometimes I like to pretend that I’m a really shitty food blogger, except that I don’t have to pretend the “really shitty” part.

After scoping out the venue for the SuperM concert last Sunday, we decided to get lunch over with and by that I mean, Henry and Chooch were ready for lunch and I was silently hyperventilating because my stomach did seem very open to the idea of jamming food into it. I wanted to find a vegetarian/vegan place and Henry did not attempt to veto this because deep down, he’s into vegan cuisine and driving long distances for kpop concerts.

That’s our Papa H.

I used my nemesis Yelp to find this place called Sunflower. Most places in that area seemed to be chains or just salad joints. Sunflower also seemed to be an Asian establishment, which was good because those types of restaurants generally tend to do meatless dishes mush better and with less pretension than your typical hipster ding-ding-basket-on-my-bicycle-ding-ding places.

Chooch and I were off to heated start right away because there was a help wanted sign but he spotted it first and I was so pissed! I still tried to get it with my JobSpotter app on the way out, thinking enough time had passed, but it was REJECTED because it was a DUPLICATE.

We got there right around noon, which was GREAT PLANNING, and that joint was packed! But it was all normal people and no one who was going to squint at us to see if we had enough tattoos or were wearing vegan TOMS.

Honestly you guys, I have been a vegetarian since 1996 and certain vegan types make it so hard. Like, just be cool about it and dial back the anger! I swear it’s gotten to the point where the size of one’s record collection is now a factor into how good of a vegan they are, and us lowly vegetarians just don’t even count anymore more.

So I was happy when we walked in and the whole place was filled with mostly Indians and some random other families. No one stopped to stare at us to determine just exactly how meatless our lives are!

There was this one mother/son combo seated near us that were SO ANNOYING though. I tried not to fixate on them but the son waved the waiter over constantly with requests: more ice in his water, chopsticks–BLACK ONES, specifically–take this plate away! It was crazy how demanding he was. So much so that I made a conscious effort to be even nicer to the waiter.

Besides, the service there was wonderful and efficient!

There was a small two-seater table next to ours and Henry grimaced when a young couple and their baby were seated there.

“Let’s move our table over to give them room,” I whispered while they were still standing and getting their baby shit situated. There was enough empty space next to me that we could easily afford to shift our Sunflower spot.

“No,” Henry said curtly.

“Yes!” I shot back, moving my side of the table over so now I was sitting alone, basically, because all the tables were two-seaters that were pushed together to accommodate larger parties.

“No, I don’t want to,” Henry muttered.

“Oh for God’s sake!” I cried, and started pulling his and Chooch’s table over to rejoin mine until he reluctantly helped me.

And the couple thanked us profusely, because now the husband didn’t have to swan dive over the tables to get to his seat, so there Henry.

I TOOK ALL THE CREDIT FOR THAT ONE.

And even better, their baby wasn’t too annoying. But Henry hated the wife because she was, god forbid, wearing tight jeans with ripped edges and HEELED BOOTS. That’s his current least-favorite women’s fashion trend, apparently. He ranted about this a few weeks ago and I was speechless for once.

Henry got the SUNFLOWER SATISFACTION. I don’t know what it was but it had some cool mushrooms and peppers in it, and some type of soy product.

The special of the day coincidentally was a Korean tofu casserole and I was SO CLOSE to ordering it and if we didn’t have that concert looming overhead, I definitely would have, but my nerves. They were vocal. So I played it safe and ordered a tempeh sandwich, you’re welcome, Stomach.

It was delicious and came on the nicest ciabatta roll. I love ciabatta.

Chooch also opted for a sandwich but his was orange chicken and I had food-envy.

We also got an order of daikon radish cakes which were to DIEKON FOR if you know what I’m saying. Now I’m desperate for Henry to make them for Christmas, or, I don’t know, some fake book club meeting.

Here’s a better view of Henry’s lunch, photo taken by Chooch, because we use this vegetarian food rating app called ABillionVeg and for every 10 reviews of veg/vegan food you submit, they make a donation to various animal rights organizations. Chooch cracked up afterward because the tomato on Henry’s plate is actually Chooch’s refuse.

Then we finished it with a piece of lemon tofu cheese pie to share. It was SO GOOD. I always pretend that vegan desserts are like zero calories but just because they might be made with “healthier” ingredients does NOT make this diet food. Henry and I once had a raw cheesecake at some vegan joint in Cleveland and I think it was like 2500 calories, seriously, lol. Cashews, man!

My only regret is that we don’t live close enough to eat our way through their menu. It was extensive! I made sure to tell the waiters that everything was great when we were on our way out, which I think always embarrasses Chooch but at least I’m never KAREN ASKING FOR THE MANAGER.

Apr 232019
 

We’re not a religious family, not even the faux-religiosos who go to church just on holidays in order to look good or meet some kind of biblical quota, I have no idea what I’m talking about here. And Chooch is past the age where he requires an Easter basket, so even the materialistic part of the holiday is kind of just over for us.

(Actually, we got him an international snacks subscription box so someone else can prepare a monthly Easter basket for him, basically.)

However, as I mentioned before, I do really like the idea of Easter because how can you not associate it with spring and that heart fluttery-hope that comes on the heels of the end of another depressing winter?

So while we lack the bonnets and the Easter egg hunts (although Chooch did go next door to Blake and Haley’s and hid some plastic eggs while Calvin was sleeping — Chooch loves his little nephew so much and it’s pretty heart-warming, not gonna lie), I still always request that we do SOMETHING to celebrate. Usually it’s just dinner out at a Chinese restaurant, and then there was that one time we hosted a Pizza Party for Jesus Christ for some of our friends who didn’t have any family in the area. God, that was a good time.

Last year, we were in KOREA for Easter. *sobs*

For this year, I figured we’d just do the Chinese restaurant thing again but then one night, right when I was on the verge of slumber, I had the best idea: Henry could recreate the famous Inkigayo sandwiches that the kpop idols love to eat, but we’d call it the EASTERgayo sandwiches!

A brief background on the Inkigayo sandwiches: In South Korea, all of the main broadcasting stations have their own weekly music show, kind of like TRL was for MTV I guess, where all of the groups and artists perform their current hit song. One of those music shows is called Inkigayo (it means “popular”) and it’s become public knowledge that their cafeteria makes this sandwich that’s only available to staff and kpop idols, called the Inkigayo sandwich (natch). The idols supposedly go nuts for this layered handheld meal, but also there is legend that they use the sandwich as a vessel in which to secretly exchange numbers with each other, since dating is verboten for many of them (literally, some kpop groups have a no-dating clause in their contracts).

Of course, the legend focuses on G-Dragon, because he is a legend.

Goddamit I miss him.

I even made Inkigayo greeting cards for my Hello Hanguk shop! I called them InkiHELLOs, lololol I love myself.

Anyway! I thought it would be cute to make these sandwiches and have a picnic or something, but when I told Chooch the idea he was like WHY U SO CRINGE.

But Henry was like, “Whatever. Just send me the ingredients.”

Um..

I was just excited because I was able to read this without the translation. Me and my toddler-level Korean vocab!

There are all kinds of variations floating around out there, and now three convenience store chains in South Korea have started making their own and they’re all apparently completely different from each other. But the one above seems like it is the most true to the original? Hard to tell unless we ship Chooch off to JYP so he can start his idol training.

We decided to go with a nice, sturdy potato bread that wouldn’t collapse under the weight of the layers. And we even eschewed Hellman’s for the more Asian-centric Kewpie mayo (it’s Japanese, not Korean, but still felt more legit than using something American):

Image result for korean mayo

Plus, that mayo is a billion times better than our shit here at home.

Watching Henry slather on each layer, I had my reservations. I mean, we used up nearly an entire loaf of bread on this, so I hoped it wasn’t going to be all for naught.

Just in case, I threw some fruit in the basket and proposed that we swing by Pink Box for some baked goods and boba tea.

God, I love Pink Box. Asian breads are so underrated.

We found a picnic shelter in nearby Schenley Park but of course I had to take a lame picture first, not that anyone seemed in much of a hurry to dig in to some ‘gayos.

Chooch’s first bite produced some not-great reactions…

…but then by the second bite, his face transformed into this mischievous smirk and I could tell he didn’t want to admit it, but after he finished chewing, he said, “OK, holy shit. That’s actually REALLY GOOD.”

This morning he said he wished he had one to take to school today for lunch. Even with all that bread, it’s still probably a healthier option than anything in that gross cafeteria!

His official review was, “Great sandwich, cringey name.”

I can’t explain it, and it looks like crazy talk on paper, but it was one DAMN FINE sandwich. We all scarfed ours without ever putting them down on the plate. I mean, how we didn’t have at least one choking victim is beyond me.

(I even brought out the nice tea sandwich plates that I got for 99 cents at Goodwill, lol.)

Henry went light on the mayo and I think that was the trick:

  • the cabbage salad was so crisp and bright, and the apple really added a nice touch (HE ALMOST FORGOT THE ADDITION OF THE APPLE, IT’S A GOOD THING I WALKED INTO THE KITCHEN THAT MORNING TO SUPERVISE/MICROMANAGE).
  • the egg & potato combo was moist (not sorry) without being wet and drippy. Henry left the crab meat out of Chooch’s and my sandwiches, but he added it to his and said it was fine. I liked that the potatoes made it chewier.

I know that you’re wondering about the strawberry jam and I actually wish there was MORE. It really added the perfect, final touch! It was a light, sweet bridge between two picnic-y salads and it didn’t aggravate my gag reflex as expected!

It makes sense to me  though, as someone who welcomes the addition of jam on her grilled cheeses. I’m fine with any flavor on a standard grilled cheese, one with cheddar or some American slices, but my all-time favorite grilled cheese is dill Havarti on pumpernickel with FIG JAM.

Oh sweetly-spanked Mussolini, I would drop my tears onto one of those right now if I could.

(Sometimes Henry will make that one for me with raspberry preserves in lieu of fig jam and it is a comparable substitution.)

Look, I get the appeal of places like Melt but sometimes I just want a simple-sized grilled cheese (i.e. something I don’t have to eat with a fork) with super classy ingredients, OK?

My mouth is crying.

We were going to do an Easter photoshoot so the bunny ears came along but who even cares anymore. We were punch-drunk off our EASTERgayo sandwiches by this point.

After our lunch, we promised that kid that he could look for geocaches but instead of just staying in Schenley, we left and went to neighboring Frick Park, where Chooch took us down a fucking deer trail into peoples’ backyards and we were like, “YOU’RE GOING TO GET THE COPS CALLED ON US, DUMBASS” and have I mentioned lately how much I hate geocaching?

He only ended up finding two because he sucks at directions and my shoes got ruined because I thought we were going to woods that had cement paths and Henry was like, “THAT’S CALLED A SIDEWALK” but whatever. I was woefully unprepared and I hate walking in mud. Like, a lot.

Some rando fairy town in the woods. This made me laugh because earlier that morning, I accidentally stumbled across this holistic girl’s YouTube channel and before I knew was happening, I had watched six videos, added a bunch of reiki mushroom powders to Henry’s Amazon cart, and a had an intense craving for a kombucha float (made with like, vanilla oat milk ice cream, probably). Henry was like, “This bitch be annoying” but I liked her simply because her voice was soothing and she sounded like she lived inside a mushroom in a forest full of fairies. So when we found this dumbass display in Frick Park, I started cracking up because she probably has a similar set up next to her squirrel wigwam.

Meanwhile, Chooch was looking up geocaches in Seoul. “Look how many are in Hongdae!” he cried, and I was like, why? Are you pre-planning all the ways you’re going to ruin my birthday trip?

HE PRACTICALLY RUINED EASTER WITH HIS GEOCACHING SHENANIGANS.

Hoooooo lawd, I hate rooting around nature for Tupperware.

Anyway! That was our Easter. Only one tiny complaint was that it was cloudy and on the chilly side, but at least we didn’t fight at all! It was an Easter miracle.

(Those EASTERgayos, tho…)

Oct 102018
 

For reasons that I will get to in a separate post, we once again found ourselves roaming around NYC last Sunday, the day after the BTS concert. Why is it that every time we find ourselves in NYC, it’s completely spontaneous and unplanned?! I don’t know, but it’s kind of fun and I can’t say that I hate it.

We were in Queens when our original plans shit the bed, so we shrugged and moved on. I mean, at least it happened in a city that has a billion things to do! And I know it’s kind of dumb, maybe not something you would choose to do above all else while in NYC, but there is this ice cream place that I’ve been following on Instagram for a while and it’s on my bucket list. (And yes, my bucket list is like 75% ice cream joints.) So that became our jumping-off point. I mean, at least we had something to start with!

This place also happens to be near Chinatown, so we decided that we would go there first and get lunch.

And then something miraculous happened: we walked around for about 20 minutes while I coveted, and I do mean biblically so, all of the exotic fruit being sold on the street. CHERIMOYA! LYCHEE! RAMBUTAN! SAPOTE! GOLDEN DRAGONFRUIT!

Oh, Chinatown, you fucking snake, you.

Of course Henry was all, “WE ARE NOT BUYING FRUIT. I AM NOT GOING TO CARRY FRUIT AROUND WITH ME ALL DAY. NO, KEEP WALKING. I’M NOT BUYING IT.”

Something amazing happened to us in Chinatown, you guys. We found a place to eat that we all agreed on, before any domestic violence broke out, and in record time. It was almost surreal. This almost never happens. We usually walk until our feet are praying to be lopped off by the Nighttime Sickle-Wielding Ghoul.

Are we finally learning how to coexist with each other in public as a family?!

No, it was probably just a fluke.

It also helps that Henry isn’t one of those manly MUST EAT MEAT bastards. He’s super compliant with Chooch’s and my vegetarian needs and is usually the one who finds good veg places for us to dine. In fact, he’s the one who spotted Buddha Bodai Kosher Vegan from across the street (probably also because my eyes are bad). It was crowded when we walked in, but I was determined to suck it up, butter(substitute)cup. So many times I panic at the sight of a crowded restaurant, but when we walked in, I realized that not only was this place vegan like the sign boasted, but it was also DIM SUM. Uh, hell yeah I want that vegan dim sum, bitches, and I will stand here in everyone’s way until a table is cleared for me.

Things were looking up right away though when we got the coveted corner table. Even though Chooch was a dick and wouldn’t let me sit where I wanted because he’s 12 you guys and 12-year-olds are perfect fucking dickheads, in case you don’t have children/have never been around children/wear a child-repelling amulet.

So right away, we started fighting about this and Henry was like ENOUGH. Wow, dad has spoken.

And then our waitress hated us because she thought I asked for meat (I most certainly did not) and she got all defensive and said, “NO! NO MEAT! WE DON’T SERVE MEAT HERE AT ALL ANYMORE!” and I felt like everyone had set down their chopsticks to get a better listen at the dumb tourist who came into the vegan dim sum joint looking for meat.

And then she hated me even more because I had Henry call her back over after I decided I didn’t want the Buddha’s Delight I ordered because I knew it was going to be too much food and I just wanted to fill up on dim sum instead and she was like APPALLED, like no one had ever changed their mind in the history of restaurants existing, ever.

Luckily, the food was amazing and Henry is still talking about it, a week later. I love that he isn’t too burly and gratuitously masculine that he can’t set aside his carnivorous tendencies for an hour to nosh on some finely prepared soy and seitan. I didn’t take pictures, but we got a wonderful assortment of steamed dumplings, some type of bun stuffed with this wonderful sweet faux-meat, spring rolls, something with taro, sweet rice balls….we were fucking stuffed and happy.

Chooch went rogue and got some kind of faux-chicken lo mein and the Chinese family next to us kept complimenting him on his chopstick skills. I was so proud!

And then Henry sent Chooch and me a selca from the restaurant bathroom, which made us lose our minds because HAHAHAHA since when does Henry take bathroom selcas?!

He’s not even smiling, this is killing me all over again!

After lunch, we walked to Milk & Cream Cereal Bar, which I follow on Instagram and drool over daily. I just really love the cereal-as-dessert concept and the novelty  has not worn off on me yet, even though it’s been 10 years (10!!) since my brother Corey and I were launched into sugar shock when we ate at Cereality in Philly and by “ate at” I do mean binged our way into checking off “Gluttony” in Deadly Sin Bingo.

(For those of you too L-Z to click that link, my cereal bowl was called The Devil Made Me Do It and it was comprised of Cocoa Puff, Lucky Charms, malt balls, and chocolate syrup. And then I had to drive for 6 hours back to Pittsburgh.)

So yeah, my love affair with sugary cereal goodness runs deep, so this latest trend of Fruity Pebbles-on-everything is something that really fucking speaks to me like a Leprechaun yodeling in tongues or a Bee Gees record playing in reverse.

Milk & Cream is somewhere in between Chinatown and Little Italy…maybe? That’s what it seemed like. I do not know NYC well at all so when someone asked me on Instagram where this was, I just ignored that part of her question and answered the rest. That’s what you call The Erin Way.

So at Milk & Cream, you pick your base ice cream (vanilla or cookie dough) and any cereal from the laundry list on the wall, which is blended together and splooged out of a soft-serve machine.

I of course chose vanilla and Fruity Pebbles, with a Teddy Graham topping. Chooch went with vanilla and Apple Jacks with a strawberry drizzle. Henry shared mine because I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish it (I think my new diet has shrunk my stomach, and I’m not complaining) but then later on, Henry whined about how he wanted to get his own because he was eyeing up the Cap’n Crunch option which I didn’t notice because my eyes hone into Fruity Pebbles first, always, and now I’m pissed that Henry didn’t speak up and be his own person because I would have liked to try his Cap’n Crunch creation too! Cap’n Crunch is my second favorite cereal, ugh, you fucked up Henry!!

Just look at those specks of Fruity Pebbly goodness! And the ice cream itself was thick and rich, way more dense than I expected after watching it splooge through the soft-serve machine. Suffice to say, I couldn’t finish it and Henry obediently finished off the sloppy seconds. I don’t think I save any Teddy Grahams for him, lol.

While I would highly recommend this place to anyone who loves the ice cream and cereal crossover special, it fucking killed my stomach and gave me a sugar headache, so I spent the rest of the afternoon feeling like absolute trash. I think I should have waited longer after eating lunch!

God, I even fail at eating ice cream. This is where I am in life, you guys. Sigh.

(And of course they have their Halloween specials available now so I want to go back and feast on some dumb Boo Berry brain freeze. How quickly the stomach forgets!)

Apr 272018
 

Isn’t it crazy when you can not see someone for years and years yet somehow fall right back into a comfortable groove when you do? That’s how it is with my friend Alisha, who I saw for the first time last summer since 2010, and again last Friday when she was in town visiting from Arkansas.

I was so glad that she carved out some time for me on this latest visit, especially when I texted her a picture of a Julian Baker concert flyer and her immediate response was, “YES LET’S GO TO THAT” and within minutes she bought tickets. I forgot what it felt like to have a friend who wants to go to shows!

But first, food. Alisha picked me up from work and we skipped all the frou-frou salutations and went right into our routine of her being annoyed and exasperated and me being totally giddy – ugh, I missed our dysfunctionally perfect yin and yang!

Alisha’s British-voiced GPS led us to Apteka, an Eastern Europe-Yinzer-Vegan joint across from the Allegheny Cemetery that my friend Sarah recommended to me over a year ago and I never made it there because kimchi or GTFO. However, Alisha is vegan so I thought this would be a grand time to check it out and I was happy that it wasn’t crowded yet and the staff wasn’t off-putting as they sometimes can be in a niche vegan eatery, leaving me feeling not inked-up enough and half-assed in my veg-ways. (Which brings us back to kimchi, which I know is made with anchovy paste but I still eat it because I never signed a contract, OK? Korea has changed me!)

Apteka is cafe-style which is kind of annoying when you walk into a place for the first time and they’re like BAM HERE IS THE MENU STAND HERE AT THE COUNTER AND I WILL STARE AT YOU WHILE YOU TRY TO FIGURE OUT OUR WEIRDO MENU GOOD LUCK WITH THE POLISH.

Alisha had a million questions and the Apteka girl very patiently answered her. She asked what the waitress recommended and she blew through the menu so fast I felt like I just been lead through a polka.

Alisha ordered the thing I was going to get so then I had to stand there and stammer, and of course I was unable to pronounce anything on the menu (is it nuts that I was trying to imagine what it would look like in Hangeul to help me sound it out?!) so I just pointed and said, “Lima bean.”

Because the thing I got had a lima bean purée and it was shockingly not phrased more dumb or pretentious than that because you know how nauseating menu descriptions can be in these types of places.  Let me see if I can find a menu…

Kluski Slaskie

baby lima bean + winter bitter leaves + potato dumplings + fried buckwheat + marjoram (GF)

I didn’t even notice that my meal had marjoram on it and I guess it doesn’t matter because I didn’t even notice it while I was eating it to even wonder what even is it. That was a weird sentence.

(GUYS, I LOOKED IT UP. IT’S MINT.)

Alisha also ordered a pot of some kind of tea for us to share. It tasted like ground. Maybe it would have been better with sugar but do vegans eat sugar? I didn’t see any.

Alisha also ordered the Kanapki which was three pieces of small toast, each with a different spread on it. One was for sure carrot and that was the only one I liked.

Guys, that’s my plate at the bottom there and it was so fucking good – those potato dumpling dickheads were so fucking divine and I wanted so much more, and the fried buckwheat was WHAT THE HELL WHY HASN’T HENRY BEEN CRACKLIN’ BUCKWHEAT FOR ME ALL THIS TIME levels of tasty. And that lima bean puree? I didn’t have time to grab my bathing suit before diving into that bitchin’ legume lagoon.

That’s Alisha’s crap at the top.

Somehow, my dinner was considered a “large plate” and hers was “small” and cheaper yet seemed so much bigger and she was still working on it a good twenty minutes after I had licked the last lima smear from my plate.

To cap off our meal, I ordered dessert for us to split, and again, I could have eaten 5 plates of these.

My Apteka verdict is that the food was bomb and inventive, and even had a level of comfort to it that vegan joints sometimes lack. But, for the price I paid and the amount of food I ate, I was a little unsatisfied. I was ready for second dinner less than an hour later. Even still, I’ll probably go back again because I liked the atmosphere, the staff was great, and I want to try the other things on the menu — I’ll just be prepared to eat my arm later on.

Afterward, we went to the Carnegie Library lecture hall to see one of my favorite female vocalists, Julien Baker. Ugh, I have been dying to see her live for years now but something always comes up when she’s here. I thought I was going to end up going to see her alone because I don’t know anyone else who likes her and Henry was a hard nope, but it ended up coinciding perfectly with Alisha’s visit. She was my concert buddy when she lived in Pittsburgh back in the day and I was so excited to have another good music night with her!

Alisha was all frenzied because she wasn’t sure if we were allowed to park in the lot she chose, and then she was mad because we walked some totally long-ass way to get to the lecture hall when we could have taken a much shorter route, but I was selfishly happy about this because I needed the steps since it was week one of the Law Firm Walking Challenge (OH, I HAVE AN UPDATE ABOUT THIS TOO, CHECK BACK LATER) and I was kicking myself for planning an evening of DINNER and a SEATED CONCERT. Alisha was miserable because she had a bad cold and here I was, walking her around Oakland on a super chilly April night.

When we arrived, she was immediately annoyed because the young girls checking tickets at the door were all googly-eyed over my knack for accessorizing and then we stood in the bathroom waiting for the two occupied stalls to open up and then the bathroom door slowly started to open on its own and we were like WTF SCOOBY, GHOSTS!? but here it turned out Alisha had leaned on the handicap door opening button.

And then a few minutes later, we realized that only one of the stalls had been occupied that whole time, so that was cool.

“I should have known it was going to be a night full of stupid things,” Alisha sighed, insinuating that my presence draws this stuff out!?

Whatever!

Anyway, we found some good seats nice and close (BUT NOT TOO CLOSE) in the first row off the floor. Alisha was whining about why it hadn’t started yet and I was like, “Because it’s only 7. We have another hour.”

LOL Alisha thought it started at 7 that whole time and was so angry that now we had to sit in this growing-more-stifling-by-the-minute room. She amused herself by spying on a man who apparently looked at me twice after I said “bless you” to Alisha so she was convinced he was obsessed with me but clearly I think she was obsessed with him! He kept pretending like he was waiting for someone but then no one ever came…

Then people attempted to speak to Alisha and I thought she was going to will herself to incinerate into a pile of Arkansas ash.

“Why does this always happen? I was doing so good all these years and then I’m with you for like a minute…”

“And the awkward social situations come back?” I laughed, and she emphatically agreed.

It really was an interesting mesh of people there that night though. Lots of punk rock college lesbians, little girls, and old guys.

And us.

Tancred was the opener and I really don’t have much to say about them because I have tried so hard over the years to like them, especially when I got more into that Bledfest-type of scene, but I just can’t. The singer is fine but her voice doesn’t evoke a single emotion from me and the lyrics are kind of middle school diary.

But Julien though….

She performed mostly alone until closer to the end of her set, when her friend came out to accompany her on violin. I didn’t take any video and this picture is actually Alisha’s, because I kind of felt paralyzed with regurgitating grief and realized at one point that I was barely breathing.

Julien has this poignant and measured way of singing the most delicate, whispered notes and then, before you have time to prepare yourself, she is lurching her head back and full-blown power-vocals are roaring out of her small frame and sucking up all the oxygen in the room. She will leave you fucking breathless.

So, there’s this thing about me that you should know, and it’s that, as much as I love words, the lyrics of songs usually come secondary for me. It’s the music itself that heals me first and foremost, it’s what gets my heart started, the tears flowing. And then it’s the tone of the voice singing against that music. I have to laugh a little bit because when I was super into the post-hardcore and screamo scene, people would ask me how could I tell what they were saying? And I would say, “I can’t, and it doesn’t matter, because it’s still touching me.” And now, I get the same question because 99.9% of what I listen to is in Korean. And again, it’s the same thing. It doesn’t matter to me what they’re saying, because the music, and the sound of their voices singing in that perfect language, fills my heart with joy that I haven’t felt in such a long time.

But yet, Julien is the rare exception for me. Because I AM listening to her words. And they are slicing through my wrists like a rusty razor. To write the songs she writes…and to sing them with such brittle sincerity and honesty…you have to have a lot of pain in your life. I can’t imagine standing there on a stage in front of so many adoring fans, stripping down to your bare, aching soul, letting us all watch you relive whatever you were going through when these songs came to fruition. She gave us a gift that night, and I will forever cherish it!

This is one of my favorite songs. Careful, she might break your heart.

And then we thought we were going to have to live in the parking lot because one of the parking ticket machines wasn’t working right and traffic was all backed up and we blamed Henry for not driving us.

“You never asked?” he replied to my text. WELL, HE SHOULD HAVE JUST KNOWN TO DO IT!

And don’t you worry – I came home at 11pm and still managed to eke out 20,000 steps.

Sep 102017
 

On Saturday, we had donuts and coffee at some point while in Chicago. I’m not a big donut connoisseur by any stretch, but that might be because Pittsburgh doesn’t really have much to offer in that vein. (Although I still haven’t tried Duck Donuts and that place seems appealing to me.)

(And please don’t say BUT PEACE, LOVE, LITTLE DONUTS because I fucking refuse to support an establishment owned by a homophobic bigot piece of shit. It saddens me how many pieces have seemed to either overlook that or have forgotten. But I never forget!)

I wanted to try Firecakes though because they’re reknown for their donut ice cream sandwiches. Unforch, we stopped here right after eating pizza and I did not have it in me to find room in my stomach next to all that cheese. Ugh. I always have big plans of visiting a city and eating all their trendy food and then end up only eating two meals. 

(Honestly, aside from breakfast in Indiana that morning, the late lunch pizza was only sit-down meal for the day in Chicago.)

If there is anything pistachio on the menu, I will snatch that shit up without a secondary glance. This Sicilian pistachio old-fashioned was a DELIGHT. My donut preference is light and non-messy. Nothing filled. I hate filled donuts! And I’m not big into chocolate-y ones either. I like ones that get most of the flavor from the actual donut dough, and that’s how this one was. Not too sweet, with a gentle, light-handed pistachio nuance. #doucheyYelpreview

I didn’t want to share, but I did because I wanted to try Henry’s which was good but messy and filled. :( It was butterscotch praising, which I almost ordered but now I’m glad I didn’t because that pistachio was everything I wanted in that moment. 

(I just stared dreaming at the photo of it for a couple seconds into the Inappropriate Zone.)

Chooch got a red velvet but I didn’t try his because, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, I think I’m over red velvet. We had a long, good run together though! 

Later that evening, we hit up Goddess and the Baker because it was the only non-Starbucks cafe open at that hour within walking distance. Henry hated  it immediately because he hates coffee and everything about that scene. Chooch was down though because he’s a hot chocolate aficionado. 

I got a pourover and later had major order-remorse when I noticed the specialty drink menu — so many interesting flavored lattes that appealed to me! I’m really into honey, floral, and maple—not all in one latte, but you know…if I wander into a coffee joint that has those options beyond your standard pumpkin spice and caramel, I will happily overlook the pretentious third wave coffee klatch I’m inevitably walking in on. 

(Speaking of, there is a place here in Bloomfield that has an impressive list of housemade floral syrups and maybe I’ll stop there today—YOU DONT KNOW MY SCHEDULE!)

That pourover was delicious though. However, while I was waiting for it, some suspicious guy walked in, came right up to me because why wouldn’t he, and said something like, “Excuse me, miss” and then a bunch of words in a tone entirely too low for me or most normal-eared humans to possibly hear. I panicked because he had a very questionable aura to him so I blurted, “I DONT HAVE ANYTHING IM SORRY” because I assumed that he was asking for money or my pledge to Christ. 

There was a moment of uncertainty where I was braced for a knife in the gut, but then he nodded and walked slowly back out onto the street. 

I kee expecting this sign to say “eat now caffeinate later” and that would just be so fucking wrong. 

Overall, I would go back to both of these places in Chicago (they each have multiple locations, too) and probably would try to save room for a donut ice cream sandwich next time because I have The Regrets. 

Thank you. This has been a coffee and donut intermission.