Sunday, August 30, 2015

Washington, DC

Sarah: Shoes / Shorts (no longer available, top version) / Tank,  Nick: Shoes / Shorts (cutoffs) / Shirt
Cheap Megabus tickets and our willingness to sit through what some would call excruciating bus trips have really opened up our weekend get away possibilities. Next in the Surznick series of 24-48 hour adventures is our mini-trip to Washington, DC!

Now, Sarah and I have both been to DC before, so we weren't too set on seeing all of the typical sites. When we first arrived, we figured we'd get the big ones out of the way right off the bat. We walked to the Capitol, down the National Mall to the Washington Monument, and over to The White House. Quite frankly, you don't need someone to tell you to visit these types of things in DC, you already know what they are and where to find them. I'm much more interested in the "regular" parts of a city - bars, restaurants, neighborhoods, etc.

If you watched the Who is Surznick? video, you know that I'm definitely a bit of an architecture geek. I know absolutely nothing about it, but looking at buildings and drooling over how they look is definitely one of my favorite past times. When we're in a new city, my favorite thing to do is just wander around and take in the all the buildings. To me, it is one of the best ways to see how I feel about a particular place or neighborhood. Of course, because of how short this trip was, we were only able to see a tiny glimpse of it, but much of what we saw was pretty awesome. There is certainly no shortage of beautiful buildings and cute neighborhoods in DC!

With the typical sites seen and some preliminary exploring out of the way, it was time to get some grub in our bellies. We got so many awesome food recommendations from friends, and it was hard to choose, but we decided on Right Proper Brewing Company. (Something about the word "brewing" in the name of a restaurant tends to sell me pretty quickly.) Stellar vegetarian friendly food, great beer served in wine glasses, awesome atmosphere, and a dessert special to celebrate Kristen Wiig's birthday? We definitely made the right choice for our first meal in DC.

After supper, it was time to hurry over to Sixth & I synagogue to see the show that brought us to DC in the first place, Gilmore Guys! If you're a fan of Gilmore Girls like Sarah and I are, you absolutely MUST listen to the Gilmore Guys podcast. We've been a fan for some time now, and when we saw that they were doing a tour of live shows, we knew we had to go. It was an absolutely hilarious time. If we did nothing else on our trip but see this show and head back home, it still would have been well worth it. 

Day 2 started off early with breakfast, coffee (duh) at Bakers and Baristas, strapping on our backpacks, and hitting the pavement to cram as much exploring in as we could before our bus pulls out at 4:05 PM. 

Over morning coffee, Sarah and I quickly decided that we were going to do our last few hours in DC right and bar hop until our time was up. We were able to hit a couple (or five) and here's what we discovered:

1. District Chophouse and Brewery is a very nice place, where the bartenders are in suits and "proper attire" is required. All beer is brewed in house and is pretty good, but if you have on cutoff jean shorts and a backpack, maybe skip this one until you're ready for a nice night out!

2. Penn Social is absolutely huge. Part craft beer house, part night club, part arcade, part sports bar, this place has everything. Luckily for us, the fact that we were the only ones in the entire place at 1:00 PM, and the manager is a huge Steelers fan meant that we drank in that bar FO FREE!

3. RFD Washington has an insane beer list and great specials. We were lucky to find a place to enjoy some dirt cheap Dogfish Head 90 Minutes.

4. Fado Irish Pub is dark, cool, and quiet. They're usually showing soccer or rugby, but if you're nice enough, they'll begrudgingly put on the Steelers pre-season game for a couple of out-of-towners.

5. We had time for one last stop before the bus leaves, and thanks to a friend's recommendation, we spent our last hour in DC enjoying some out of this world Ramen at Daikaya.

And just like that, after a whirlwind 28 hours, it was time to board the bus and head back to good old Pittsburgh. We had an absolute blast in DC, and I'm already eager to get back down there and explore some more! 

Sarah & Nick

Monday, August 24, 2015

Chickpea Salad Sandwich

When Sarah and I first decided to cut meat out of our diet, and eventually tried to eat only a plant based diet, one online food blogger quickly became our guru for delicious meal ideas: Minimalist Baker. It's been over a year now since we've cut out meat, so we've gotten pretty good at coming up with recipes or finding ideas all around us to change to fit our needs. However, its always nice to know that Minimalist Baker is still available for us when we need her!

This awesome Chickpea Salad Sandwich is a recipe adapted from MB's Chickpea Sunflower Sandwich and I absolutely love it. I'm not great at describing what things taste like once flavors combine, but there is just something so satisfying about the sweetness of this mixed with the savory flavors and the dill. Eating it cold right out of the refrigerator reminds me of summer foods like egg salad or potato salad, which is a huge nostalgic plus. But above all else, this recipe is soooo easy. 

We doubled the recipe from the original to get the amounts below. When I think of a cold salad spread for a sandwich, one of the first things that comes to mind is leftovers.

Here's what you need: 
- 2 15.5 oz. cans chickpeas
- 1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds, unsalted
- 6 tbsp. vegan mayo (we use Veganaise)
- 1 tsp. dijon or spicy mustard
- 2 tbsp. maple syrup or agave
- 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp. dried dill (or 4 tbsp. chopped fresh dill)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bread (you know, for making it into a sandwich...)
- Any toppings you may want

Here's what you do: (3 steps!)
- Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and mash with a fork. They don't need to all be mashed, some whole chickpeas are fine.
- Mix everything else in.
- Put it on your bread (toasted, if you want), top it, devour it.

So so good. I'm particularly glad we doubled the original recipe, because in my opinion, it gets even better after a night in the refrigerator.

I hope you get a chance to try this delicious Chickpea Salad. Please be sure to let us know if you do!

Sarah & Nick

Monday, August 17, 2015

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream

Chocolate, peanut butter, and banana. In all of human history has there ever been a more perfect trifecta? If you're unsure, the answer is no. Essentially, I believe that you could put these three ingredients together in pretty much any form and have a perfect tasting food, but today we're going to concentrate our efforts into making just one thing: ice cream!

Sweet, creamy, delicious, and filling, this has quickly become a go-to treat in the Surznick household. This past weekend has been particularly hot here in Pittsburgh, (as evidenced by the soupy-ness of our cool treat) so ice cream was much appreciated.

This insanely simple recipe is adapted from We doubled the recipe from the original because: more ice cream.

Here's what you need:
- 6 frozen bananas (peeled, sliced, and then frozen, don't freeze in the peel!)
- 6 tbsp. peanut butter (we used PB2 for this recipe, so mix that up before hand!)
- 6 tbsp. unsweetened almond milk
- 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Here's what you do:
- In a food processor or blender, blend all of your ingredients together. I recommend adding your frozen bananas in slowly, as they tend to clump up and are pretty difficult to blend all at once.
- Eat immediately as "soft serve," or freeze in a wax paper lined pan to scoop out later for cones!
- Top with chocolate chips, nuts, sprinkles, fruit, whatever floats your boat.

That's it! Blend it up and either eat it or freeze it, done! I'm over the moon about this imitation ice cream, and I'm so happy that it's dairy-free and way healthier than traditional ice cream. I'm sure you could adapt this recipe to suit your favorite flavors, but as we discussed earlier, there is no combination in the world better than chocolate, peanut butter, and banana. Enjoy!

 Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Raleigh, NC

And finally, we've made it to our last major leg of our super fun and excellent vacation. Just as a refresher, so far it's gone: Orlando, FL (Harry Potter World for three days - see parts 1 & 2) to Savannah, GA (just for a bite to hold us over) to Charleston, SC (and Folly Beach) and now finally, one full day and two fun nights in Raleigh, NC!

Raleigh was the perfect choice for a stop because some good friends of ours recently relocated there for work and we had a free place to stay! (Are we just opportunists? Free loaders? Lucky? Have super nice friends? All of the above? Yes.) Plus, we've heard nothing but the best about the Raleigh/Durham area and we were super stoked to give it a whirlwind couple of days.

After being greeted by this adorable puppy (everyone say "Hi, Augie!"), we kicked off our first night in Raleigh by going to Durham! (Wait...)

We went to Motorco Parts & Labor for some seriously awesome food and brews, and then hopped right across the street to Full Steam Brewery to sample some local beers. Obviously, we were too tired to remember to snap a few photos, but Motorco had some great vegan/vegetarian options and we loved their "hipster" poutine (Sarah LOVES poutine!) After a long day on the road and a few beers in my belly, it was a miracle I didn't fall asleep on the ride back to our friends' place.

We woke the next morning to be met by a nasty storm (that was a ton of fun to watch and that luckily passed by lunch time) and some quality puppy time. Once the skies cleared, it was off to downtown to meet our friend for lunch and drinks.

Raleigh Times is a great restaurant/bar/coffee shop/super hybrid were we spent a good portion of our time that day. We kicked it off with lattes and a jalapeno cheddar scone at Morning Times (the coffee shop component of the trifecta) then hopped over to Raleigh Times to sit down to some lunch. Apparently pimento cheese is a big thing down there that everyone talks about. Since I was definitely off the wagon regarding "no dairy" on this trip, I figured I'd give it a go! My verdict: it was delicious, but I don't care to think too hard about what is actually in it...

There are bars-a-plenty in Raleigh, and although it was still early after lunch, the beautiful weather was just begging us to sit somewhere cool and enjoy some delicious brews (it's vacation for crying out loud!) and so we landed at Busy Bee Cafe. This place has a fantastic atmosphere and a beer selection that speaks for itself.

On our last night in Raleigh, it was time to take in an indulgent last meal with our friends before waking early and hitting the road. We trekked out to a neighborhood/community called North Hills (if you're familiar with Pittsburgh, think Bakery Square times ten) to find a restaurant called the Yard House. Now, I realize that "lots of beers on tap" is quickly becoming a way of describing waaayyy too many bars, but trust me when I say that about this place. It is safe to say it has more beers on tap than I've ever seen in my life. It was quite impressive. Not to mention the food was absolutely bomb dot com. I'm talkin' truffle fries, veggie burgers, and pizza for days, folks. If you're a vegetarian familiar with Gardein products, you would love the entire Gardein section of their menu!

Obviously, less than 48 hours isn't even close to enough time to spend in a great city like Raleigh, so I'm already eager to go back. I hope our friends are open to more visits, because there is way more we want to explore!

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Charleston, SC

After our three days spent in Orlando, FL at Universal Studios (you can read our recaps here and here), Nick and I rented a car and set off on our four day, 1,200 mile road trip up the east coast and back home to Pittsburgh. We had a couple stops planned along the way, and our first was beautiful Charleston, South Carolina!

On Sarah: Hat, Sunglasses (Similar) / On Nick: Shirt, Sunglasses (Similar)
Charleston is about 6 hours from Orlando, so we decided to break up the drive with a lunch stop in Savannah, Georgia. Nick and I have each been to Georgia separately, but never together, and neither of us had been to Savannah, so we thought this would be the perfect place for a pit stop.

After recommendations from a couple friends, we went to Zunzi's for lunch. I ordered the falafel and Nick ordered the mushroom sandwich. The food was absolutely incredible, and Nick says the sandwich is possibly the best sandwich he's ever had in his life (in his life, people!) So if you are ever swinging through Savannah, make sure you add Zunzi's to your list of places to check out!

When we arrived in Charleston, we checked in to our Airbnb and immediately headed in to town for dinner and drinks! We had less than 24 hours to spend in this city, so we wanted to make sure we soaked it in as much as possible. With help from friends, family, and A Beautiful Mess's guide to Charleston, we compiled a list of all the places we wanted to visit this time around.

First on the list was happy hour at The Gin Joint! We sipped a few cocktails and took this time to unwind from our long drive. The drinks were wonderful, the atmosphere was great, and our bartender was friendly and helpful. This is definitely a spot I could see myself visiting regularly if I was a local gal!

Next up was some dinner. We sniffed around a bit for some vegetarian options, and ultimately decided to go with the Gin Joint bartender's recommendation: Minero. According to him it had "the best vegetarian burrito he had ever had." (We later heard this sentiment at another establishment, so it must be true!) We decided to give it a go and yes, yes, yes, a thousand times YES! This burrito is out of the park, and if you need any excuses to visit Charleston, this burrito is the only excuse you need.

While we let our burritos digest (they were absolutely monstrous... the waitress told Nick he was the only person she had EVER seen eat the whole thing!), we decided to roam around a bit and see the sites. The streets are teeming with old Southern feel, beautiful architecture, and bright colors. It's a fantastic city to explore.

We made sure to stop and visit the famous Rainbow Row (top photo), however it was tough getting a nice photo with the cars and trees. To round out our only evening in Charleston (this time) we stopped for delicious ice cream from Kilwin's and a few beers from a local brew pub, Southend Brewery.

The next morning we woke up bright and early and headed to the beach! Folly Beach, to be exact. This little town was full of the most colorful beach houses. I wish we could have spent more time there exploring the town, but the 101 degree heat was a little much so we headed back to Charleston sooner than anticipated. We did have time to grab an absolutely delicious breakfast from the Lost Dog Cafe and dip our toes in the ocean!

Sunglasses (similar)

Since going to Folly Beach I've had a lot of people tell me they've visited before or their parents visit every summer, etc. I'm definitely going to keep it in mind the next time Nick and I decide to plan a beach vacation!

We planned to get lunch back in Charleston before leaving town, but still stuffed from breakfast, we decided to stop into High Wire Distilling Co. to kill some time. A sample flight of their spirits was only $5 and everything was delicious! We tried their vodka, rum, bourbon, gin, and aged gin. Definitely worth the $5 visit!

Before heading out on the next leg of our roadtrip, we stopped for lunch at Butcher & Bee! We weren't that hungry so we decided to split the fig toast, which was soooo good. I would love to come back here and try more on the menu. We also grabbed coffee from The Daily, which is Butcher & Bee's Stumptown roasting coffee shop. I ordered a latte made with homemade almond milk and homemade vanilla bean syrup. Superb!

The Daily, Butcher & Bee, and High Wire Distilling are all right next door to each other, which was super convenient (breakfast, lunch, and happy hour!) They are also neighbored by a huge Shepard Fairey mural, which was so cool to see.

Dress (similar), Moccasins

And.... that's it! Less than 24 hours in Charleston and we were back in the car to head to Raleigh, North Carolina! We loved seeing Charleston so much and definitely plan on visiting again in the future to hit all of the places we didn't get to see this time around.

Have you visited Charleston or Folly Beach before? Any recommendations for next time? Make sure you stick around because we'll be recapping our visit in Raleigh soon too!

Sarah & Nick