March 2016 - The Surznick Common Room

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Surznick Reads: March 2016

We're going a little off course today and sharing our March reads on the 30th... instead of the 31st. It's all good, right?

So how was your month? Ours was full of fun trips, hanging out with friends, and therefore... not much reading. We still have a couple books to share with you today and maybe you can tell us what you're reading in the comments! We're in need of some good book-spiration right now.

Sarah's Reads!

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris
From "Felipe de Castro, the vampire King of Louisiana (and Arkansas and Nevada), is in town. It’s the worst possible time for a human body to show up in Eric Northman’s front yard - especially the body of a woman whose blood he just drank. Now it’s up to Sookie and Bill, the official Area Five investigator, to solve the murder. Sookie thinks that, at least this time, the dead girl’s fate has nothing to do with her. But she is wrong. She has an enemy, one far more devious than she would ever suspect, who’s set out to make Sookie’s world come crashing down."

So I started reading the Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) books about three years ago and it's taking me FOR.EV.ER. to get through this series. To be honest, I'm not very interested anymore, but I'm 12 books deep in a 13 book series, so I can't really give up now. I read the 11th book almost two years ago, so it's been a little hard to commit to this story again. The book certainly wasn't bad, I'm just losing interest. All of the usual suspects are still around in this story: Sookie, Bill, Eric, Pam, Alcide, and the other book-exclusive characters. There's murder, kidnapping, fighting, love, betrayal... that kind of thing. Harris jam packs so much into each story that it's kind of ridiculous and so unrealistic (I know it's a series about vampires, but you know what I mean.) Overall, it's an easy read to pass the time and the deeper you get into the story, the easier it is to keep going, but I'll definitely feel relieved when I can close the Sookie Stackhouse chapter of my life.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Nick's Reads!

Generation A by Douglas Coupland
From "Generation A is set in the near future in a world where bees are extinct, until five unconnected people all around the world - in the United States, Canada, France, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka - are all stung. Their shared experience unites them in ways they never could have imagined. Generation A mirrors Coupland’s debut novel, 1991’s Generation X. It explores new ways of storytelling in a digital world. Like much of Coupland’s writing, it occupies the perplexing hinterland between optimism about the future and everyday apocalyptic paranoia. Imaginative, inventive, and fantastically entertaining, Generation A is his most ambitious work to date."

I sort of feel bad giving this book a bad review because I thought it was really cool. The whole time I was reading it, I was so intrigued by what was happening. It was mysterious in the best way possible. A near-future, post bee world with very big things happening. The 5 main characters seemed somehow connected, but we weren't sure just how or why. The forces at work in the book were hidden, powerful, and unknown. All of it racing toward a pinnacle on a remote island somewhere near the arctic sea. And then... nothing. I was left with such a bad taste in my mouth regarding the ending, that I felt forced to give such a low rating. I have no clue what I was hoping for, but SOMETHING would have been better than nothing. Maybe you should give it a try. Perhaps you can take more away from it than I did.

My Rating: 2 Stars

Sarah & Nick

Monday, March 28, 2016

Cleveland, OH

The posts we've done in the "Adventures" category are usually recaps of quick trips we've taken. Typically, the trips span about 24-48 hours exploring a city. Well, here is our shortest adventure yet, 12 hours in Cleveland, OH!

Now I realize that Cleveland is a pretty big place, and there is literally no way to boil it down into a 12 hour visit. If someone came to Pittsburgh and did 3 or 4 things and wrote a post about an entire city, I'd possibly be offended. But you know what? Everything we did while visiting our rust-belt-frenemy-neighbor-city was pretty awesome, and if these few things are even just a jumping off point for someone to plan a day trip to the city, then we've done our jobs!

Our first stop in Cleveland was Grumpy's Cafe for a late brunch. Sorry folks, there are no pictures of our Grumpy's meals, but you can bet it was pretty good. The menu was impressive, ranging from cream cheese and strawberry stuffed french toast (my choice) to huevos rancheros (Sarah's pick). The place was packed, though Sarah did mention once or twice something about it being voted best brunch in Cleveland..

Next up, Great Lakes Brewing Co. brewery tour! Sarah and I have been to Cleveland a bunch of times for different concerts and almost every trip involves a stop at the brew pub for some delicious food and some amazing beers. This visit, we knew it was high time to finally tour the place.

A five dollar tour (booked in advance) got us access to a tour-only bar area, a very detailed one hour history and process tour of the facility, and four very generous samples of any of their beers, including some pub exclusives. If you like beer and history, do the tour. It's well worth it.

When exploring a city, Sarah wastes no time hunting down a good mural for a quick photo op. Luckily for us, this one was just a few blocks from the brewery.

At this point, with a few beers in my belly, and seeing as a couple HOURS had already passed since we ate our brunch, we were well past due for a late lunch. Off to Melt we go!

If the decor alone didn't seal the deal for me at the restaurant, the insane list of grilled cheese sandwiches, unreal vegan and vegetarian options, and the expansive, well-curated craft beer list definitely pushed me over the edge. Just a quick tip though: if the waitress describes your sandwich to you and it involves words like, "and then the entire sandwich is battered and deep fried," and you had already eaten an appetizer and only ate your brunch like three hours prior, maybe pick a different sandwich.

Now for the grand finale. The reason for the trip in the first place, LUCIUS! If you're not already in love with this band, then you need to get on that. Driving to Cleveland to see them for the third time was the least we could do. We would have driven much further if it meant spending an evening dancing, singing, laughing, (and crying) with this incredible group of musicians. The venue we saw them in, the Beachland Ballroom, was no slouch either. It's not too big or loud, but rather super intimate. Turns out, this is the same venue where I first saw Say Anything (who knew?) Lucius' new album, Good Grief, just came out a few weeks ago and it's so fantastic - give it a listen.

And for us, that wraps up a whirlwind 12 hours in Cleveland. Some people may think we spend too much time in our cars for quick little trips, but just remember: it's all in what you value. If exploring somewhere you've never been (or somewhere you have been, but never paid attention to), and trying something new is of value to you, then you can make it happen. For us, the hours spent in the car getting there and back is half of the fun. 

Sarah & Nick

Friday, March 25, 2016

Pittsburgh Blogger Posts We Love

Photo by Jamie Pearson via
Hi, happy Friday! Nick and I are taking the day off today to visit Cleveland! So we don't have a new post to share with you, but luckily some of our Pittsburgh blog friends had great posts this week that we know you'll love! Check them out below and have a great weekend!

1. That's What Sarah Said - Buy Us Brunch
Sarah is one of my closest friends and her blog is hilarious. Check out her post for some of Pgh's best brunch spots!

2. Afternoon Espresso - Luscious Lemon Cupcake
Ashley shared the most scrumptious looking lemon cupcake that I want to try immediately!

3. Style Studs and Lace - Interview with Vestis
This week Niki interviewed the owner of Vestis Menswear Boutique in Lawrenceville. I didn't even know this place existed and I can't wait to check it out with Nick!

4. Fooduzzi - Banana Bread Carrot Cake Muffins
Did you read that post title? Alexa comes up with some of the most amazing recipes (Nick and I LOVE her buffalo falafel!) Check out this recipe and drool over the photos!

5. Yes, Wear That! - Rosewood Boutique
I loved reading Kim's interview with Rosewood Boutique owner Kathryn. We worked with Rosewood last year on this post and I can't wait to visit their beautiful store!

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Home for the Weekend (Video)

The past couple of years, Nick and I have spent the first weekend of spring in Lancaster, visiting my mom for her birthday (which was Monday - happy birthday, mom!) It seems like as the years pass, we visit home less and less, so this annual spring/birthday visit is always one of my favorites (you can read past posts from this weekend here and here.)

I wanted to do something fun and different on this year's visit, so in addition to just hanging out with my mom and getting free Rita's, we also went spelunking walking through Indian Echo Caverns, toured Troegs Brewery, and visited Hershey's Chocolate World! Check out some photos from our weekend and watch the fun video recap Nick put together!

P.S. Do you guys like when we post videos (like here and here)? Should we do more or just stick with regular ol' photos. Leave us a comment below!

Sarah & Nick

Monday, March 21, 2016

Dairy-Free Cheese Pizza

Happy second day of spring, everyone! Do you know what you're supposed to eat on the second day of spring? ... Correct! PIZZA. Technically, you're supposed to eat pizza every day, but especially today, because we have a delicious vegan cheese pizza recipe for you!

This dairy-free mozzarella cheese recipe is going to come in handy for all sorts of recipes! First up: Pizza. Let's do it.

Here's what you need:
For the cheese (recipe via It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken):
- 1/4 cup cashews, soaked overnight
- 1 cup hot water
- 2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. tapioca flour (or tapioca starch)
- 1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder

For the crust:
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 packet dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. sugar

Here's what you do:
For the cheese:
- Soak your cashews overnight and drain the next day.
- Add drained cashews and all other ingredients to a blender and blend it! (It will be completely liquid.)
- Pour your liquid mixture into a small sauce pan.
- Heat over medium heat on the stove, stirring constantly.
- Lumps will begin to form, but keep stirring, and soon a smooth, creamy, gooey texture will form.
- Remove from heat and set aside.

For the pizza:
- Preheat oven to 375°
- Dissolve your yeast in the warm water.
- Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, mix with a spoon until formed into a large dough ball. Let rest 5 minutes.
- Turn dough onto a floured surface, and gently knead until smooth.
- Gently stretch/press into a greased cookie sheet or pizza pan.
- Top with sauce, dollop with cheese, and add any other toppings you may want!
- Place in oven for 18-22 minutes, until you achieve your desired crust.

I'd call our first attempt at making this vegan mozzarella a success, but there is a lot more to try! We're going to continue working with this base recipe, and see where else we can take it!

Sarah & Nick

Friday, March 18, 2016

Cut Out + Keep: Craft Room Feature

Happy Friday! Today we just have a quick post to let you know that our office/craft room is featured on Cut Out + Keep! Check out our feature to see some new photos of the office and read our interview!

You can read our office makeover post from last year here. Have a great weekend!

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Out of the Kitchen: Brunch at Franktuary

Another Out of the Kitchen post so soon? I know, I know - but this one is special. It's been mentioned several times on the blog and in our "Who Is Surznick?" video that Franktuary is one of my favorite restaurants in Pittsburgh.

Franktuary is home to unique and delicious hot dogs, poutine that I dream about, an amazing draft list... I could go on and on. This month I'm tacking on one more reason to love Franktuary: Shannon Plush! My coworker and close friend, Shannon, is the restaurant's featured baker for four weeks. I've been happy to taste test Shannon's kitchen creations over the past year and am so proud that she's getting to showcase her abilities with Pittsburgh's Sunday morning brunch crowd!

Needless to say, we were pretty excited to have a friend selling her delicious food at one of our favorite restaurants. We got up bright and early and made sure we were the first ones to order off of the featured baker menu. Since it's mid-March, you'll notice an Irish theme on the menu this week. So enough already, here's what we had!

Nick: We started off with a small plate of Philadelphia Irish Potatoes (cream cheese, coconut, cinnamon.) As you can tell, they do not contain any trace of potatoes, but that's okay. These sweet treats were like flavor bombs in your mouth - just the right size, super soft, sweet, and delicious. Next, it was time for my main dish, so I ordered Shannon's vegan French Irish Toast. According to the menu description it's "Irish soda bread, Jameson glazed pecans, and maple syrup." I'm not really sure how much more I can say with a description like that. It was seriously delicious. Shannon's homemade soda bread made for the most perfect french toast slices. A great crust around the outside with a warm, moist, soft middle gave the dish great texture. I'm used to french toast being pretty mushy, and I was so glad to have something to sink my teeth into. Such a delicious dish.

Sarah: I'm not someone that usually orders sweet breakfast (i.e. waffles, french toast, pancakes, etc.), so Nick shared his Irish Toast and Philly Irish Potatoes with me. Both were super delicious, sweet, and unique! The Irish Toast was deep fried as opposed to pan fried, so the outsides were crispy while the insides stayed soft, as Nick mentioned. For my main dish, I ordered the breakfast poutine (because I can't go to Franktuary without ordering poutine). For those not familiar, poutine is a Montreal street food that has been gaining popularity in a bunch of Pittsburgh restaurants. It's a bed of french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. Most poutine uses beef gravy, but Franktuary's gravy is vegetarian! The breakfast poutine is just regular poutine topped with a dippy egg and so stinkin' good.

If you're in the Pittsburgh area and have any of the next three weekends open, get to Franktuary on Sunday morning! You will not regret diving into whatever Shannon has whipped up for her feature! Each weekend's menu will be different, so go every week! You can see their full menu and the current weekend's brunch right here. And be sure to follow Shannon and Franktuary on Twitter!

Sarah & Nick

Monday, March 14, 2016

12 Pretty Spring Dresses

via Oasap & SheIn
I recently purchased a couple shirts from SheIn and couldn't help but window shop all of the colorful dresses. I haven't bought any (yet), but with the spring weather rolling in I'm beginning to crave breezy, warm weather dresses.

Below are 12 pretty pieces that caught my eye! SheIn has a variety of price points, but all dresses are relatively inexpensive. Quality can vary from piece to piece and it's hard to tell just from looking online. Sometimes you get a gem though (like my dress above!) Let us know which is your favorite!

11. Black Lace Dress ($21)

Happy shopping!

xo, Sarah

Friday, March 11, 2016

Faux Leather + Cat Flats

Hi, happy Friday! I feel like it's not often that we give much context when writing posts since many are written in advance, but right now it's actually late on Thursday night. I didn't have this post prepared because it's been an insane week. A stressful, I-went-to-happy-hour-twice kind of week. And I'm sooooo relieved that the weekend is (almost) here.

We quickly snapped these photos on Monday night after work because the weather was absolutely beautiful and we wanted to enjoy it to the fullest with a quick walk through our neighborhood. This is the type of outfit you're most likely to find me in if you run into me over the weekend. I love basic pieces that you can mix and match into a variety of different outfits. Favorite jeans? Check. White top? Check. Faux leather jacket, big scarf, cute flats? Check, check check.

My newfound cat clothing obsession wasn't going to end with this shirt. I've been lusting over the Charlotte Olympia Kitty Flats for a year now, but the $500 price tag was never going to be an option. When I discovered these ASOS flats for only $43, they were purchased within the hour. They took some breaking in, but now I wear them almost exclusively.

White Scalloped Top \ Old Navy (similar, last worn here)
Jeans \ American Eagle (similar, last worn here)
Faux Leather Jacket \ Rue 21 (similar, last worn here)
Cat Flats \ ASOS (exact)
Scarf \ Picked up at a clothing swap

Don't forget to check out all of the other amazing things we love from ASOS for under $50! Hope you all have a great weekend!

xo, Sarah

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Out of the Kitchen: Whitfield

Our latest feature for the Out of the Kitchen series is plucked straight from our Pittsburgh Restaurant Passport: The Whitfield Restaurant. Located inside the new, amazing, beautiful Ace Hotel right in the heart of East Liberty, this restaurant is just a short walk away from us and we're so glad it is! Since visiting, I've been dreaming of my meal. Here's what we can tell you about our experience!

The Atmosphere:
Ace Hotels all over the country are definitely hip spots, and Pittsburgh's location is no exception. This new establishment (in the former YMCA building) is most definitely a new hipster hotspot, possibly even the new hipster capital of Pittsburgh. The interior is minimal, clean, modern, bright, and amazing. The seating area is pretty tight, but I'm grateful that they put more seats in to accommodate the popularity of the restaurant, and especially the brunch rush.

The Food:
Sarah and I decided to visit the Whitfield for brunch for a few different reasons:
1. We LOVE brunch (duh).
2. The vegetarian options on the dinner menu were pretty limited. There were only three main dishes on the brunch menu that we could order without any modifications to make it vegetarian. Even less options exist on the dinner menu.
3. $$$ - The dinner options were a little pricy, but brunch was totally reasonable.

Nick: I ordered the mushroom gravy and biscuits, and I've been counting the hours until I get to eat it again. It was buttery, creamy, savory, rich, and all around perfect. Of course at the immediate end of the dish, I wanted more, but I was pleased with the portion size. I didn't walk out of there feeling like I was going to explode, which can be a typical feeling for me after eating a decent brunch. Laying right on top of the dish were these insane grilled scallions that added a perfect charred and smoky flavor to the dish. A nice, cool, brussels sprout salad was the perfect refresher to cut the richness of the dish down, and keep me feeling light. I absolutely loved this dish. I can't recommend it enough.

Sarah: I ordered the three egg omelette, filled with cheddar and caramelized onions. The dish came with a light salad, so I ordered a side of hash browns to complete my meal. Everything was truly delicious. I've said it once (or a million times) that eggs are my favorite food, but we have not eaten eggs at home in about two years. Getting eggs at brunch is a total treat for me, and this dish certainly fulfilled my egg craving. The caramelized onions and gooey cheese were perfect inside the omelette and the side salad was a nice refresher between my savory dishes. The hash browns were perfectly crisp and flavored so well. It was definitely worth the extra few dollars to add them to my meal.

I think I can speak for both Nick and I when I say that the coffee at the Whitfield was absolutely delicious as well. We're both black coffee drinkers and when our server said the coffee is a great one to drink black, she wasn't kidding.

Overall, this location is truly a gem in one of Pittsburgh's most popular neighborhoods at the moment. Compared to our typical go-to spots, this one is definitely on the upper half of the price range, but the food is so worth it. Sure, the environment is beautiful, but I could have eaten that meal in a dumpster, and I would have gone back the next morning to do it again.

Sarah & Nick