christmas vacation is the pitts

Brett and I are enjoying our Christmas holiday at home doing just about nothing. We had a full Christmas weekend with family and friends across the state. I haven’t gotten on a scale since this past weekend of almost non-stop eating and celebrations. This week we are just bumming around. We’ve caught up on the Tivo and several DVDs that were gifts.

Each year we like to take a short one day road trip on one of these holiday days. The weather finally broke today. We have a nice coating of snow on the ground but none on the road. We headed out to our destination, Pittsburgh, under clear but chilly skies.

Our first stop was The Strip District, just outside of downtown. We didn’t know what to expect. It was a pleasant experience and a place we want to return to in the future. It is an old warehousing district that has been transformed into an eclectic collection of restaurants, retail, ethnic groceries and curbside vendors in a still active warehouse district. We had a delicious lunch at a nice pizzeria. We bypassed the most famous restaurant of all, Primanti Brothers. It is featured often on the Travel Channel and Food Network. They have humongous sandwiches overflowing with meat, slaw, French fries and such. They are definitely not on our diet.

The highlight for us was a visit to the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company. This was the largest Italian market I have ever seen. It snaked through 4 storefronts with rooms of pastas, breads, olive oils and balsamic vinegars and many, many Italian specialties. Their cheese room was amazing with most likely 100s of cheeses on display. A large neighboring Italian market was also quite nice. Spices and rice were sold in bulk at low prices. I bought some jasmine rice and spicy feta cheese dip. We also shopped some oriental markets. I bought some tasty homemade black bean salsa and blue corn chips from a street vendor.

Our next stop was the downtown Macy’s (Kauffman’s flagship store). It is the typical 8 story downtown store. We didn’t find it particularly appealing. It pales in comparison to Marshall Field’s in downtown Chicago. We ended our road trip with a stop at IKEA on our way home. IKEA always has good deals. Today, it was overflowing with families.

It was an enjoyable trip. We wanted to experience something other than the typical big box chain stores and restaurants. The Strip District was just what we were looking for. Pittsburgh is similar to Cleveland with a large ethnic base that immigrated to work in the steel mills and heavy industries that dominated the Midwest in the 1900s. We are definitely returning on a summer road trip. Tomorrow we are hosting about a dozen friends for our annual New Years Eve party.

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