Thursday, September 3, 2015

Afternoon Commute

I will be driving this afternoon (to Uniontown) and tomorrow afternoon (to Sheldon Calvary Camp). Here are a few of the songs that will be played on my journey. Enjoy!

Song: "Reality"
Artist: Lost Frequencies

Song: "Hold Each Other"
Artist: A Great Big World

Song: "Thunder"
Artist: Leona Lewis

Song: "Roll Up Your Sleeves"
Artist: Meg Mac

Monday, August 31, 2015


And just like that, I am back at my "real job." Reality has set in and I may have veins filled with Red Bull and adult grape juice more so than actual blood. In terms of my writing for various outlets, I am still having issues with things appearing on zomato; I've written two articles so far as a staff writer for Urban Cashmere, and I will let you know when they are posted; and my food pieces have been popping up periodically in The Downtowner. The Steel City Big Pour is coming up, along with Labor Day camping at Sheldon Calvary Camp (and Lord knows how badly I need a Lake Erie sunset right now), Penn's Colony, an Everything But The Book (Club) meeting, ALG and JAG's birthdays, junior high swimming season, and a destined-to-be-hilarious Miss USA party (I am representing Hawaii).

The new fall TV lineup doesn't seem like it's in my wheelhouse with the exception of The Muppets, which starts 09/22 (ABC). I am going to give it a try simply because The Muppet Show (and resulting movies) are some of my favorites. Empire starts on 09/23 (FOX), and I am pretty excited about that. Any chance I can get to watch Cookie and Lucius battle it out, sign me up. Then FINALLY on 09/24, ABC's trifecta of Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder begins and I will be unavailable socially until I have watched all three of those premieres.

Over the next few months, there are a few movies that have caught my eye: Black Mass (09/18), Spotlight (11/06); Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (11/20); and Star Wars: Episode VII (12/18). Sadly, I didn't see nearly enough of what I wanted to see this summer, so my hopes are not high that I will even see these on the big screen.

A few thoughts about August before I sign off:

  • The [New] Bacon Wrapped Stuff JalapeƱos ($10.40, roasted peppers, bacon, Asiago, Parmesan, slow-cooked beef, and Jack Daniel's sauce) from TGI Friday's are awesome. Truthfully, I would eat just about anything with Friday's Jack Daniel's sauce on it, and this was an interesting addition to the menu; despite being on the more expensive side for a chain restaurant appetizer, I think that this was worth it. So the next time you are in the suburbs, swing by and give these a try. 
  • I still love my tattoo. In case you were wondering. 
  • I am currently waiting to hear the results of an MRI on my hip. I've gained ten pounds as a result of the pain in my left leg; my workouts have been altered to the point that they feel completely ineffective and useless. 
  • Savor Pittsburgh was truly fantastic. If you've ever met the brains (and beauty) behind that event, Christina Dickerson of Dickerson Creative, you would understand why it's one of the best in Pittsburgh. Other events for good causes should take note. P.S. Judging the food competition that is part of Savor was a honor, albeit it was one of the hardest tasks that I have ever completed. Yes, that's a first world problem, but it's true! However, I would do it again in a heartbeat! Savoy and McCormick and Schmick's had some of my favorite samplings. Here's an article from the paper for a recap: "10th annual Savor Pittsburgh raises funds for Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC." 

Check out me and the Parmesan Princess in action! There may have been dancing in our chairs between courses.  

As I have always said when ending one of these posts, thank you for reading and continuing to read The Steel Trap. August was another successful month regarding our number of hits; we are nearly at 292K hits overall and progress remains consistent (and organic)! That's right. I don't buy popularity. We are still in the top 10 on zomato (formerly urbanspoon)! As always, thank you for "liking" The Steel Trap on facebook, following @The_Steel_Trap on Twitter and @The_Steel_Trap on Instagram. Lastly, if anyone has anything that they would like me to cover, or a restaurant for me to review, please send me a message. I am always open to suggestions (you can take SAA's lead because she calls me with them at least once a week)!

Helloooo September!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Dining About Monroeville

Because of where I work and live, I've spent a significant amount of time about the Monroeville area. Over time, I've realized my three favorite spots. Thus, here are three brief, yet informative reviews of locally owned restaurants that are doing their thing, and doing it pretty well.

Shelly Pie Pizza
Down in the valley just below Monroeville is a place with a special spot in my heart, Turtle Creek. That might seem shocking, but it really isn't if you really know me. With all sincerity, some of my favorite students, coworkers and friends are from the Creek; the Wolvarena is in the Creek; and my all-time favorite U.S. Post Office is there too. Interestingly, I can add Shelley Pie Pizza (912 Penn Avenue, 15145) as yet another thing that I love about the 15145.

Housed in an old VFW, Shelly Pie has a pleasant and nostalgic atmosphere with soft colored walls, dark wood furniture, and an abundance of vintage Turtle Creek photographs. The hostesses and waitstaff are terrifically helpful, the turnaround time from ordering to eating is pleasing, and every patron appears to be having a great and satisfied experience.

On my first trip, I tried the Stuffed Hot Banana Peppers ($6.95, sausage, marinara sauce, melted mozzarella cheese), the Chicken Parmesan ($13.95, fried chicken breast topped, sauce, cheese and a side of pasta), and a Large Pizza ($13, $1.50 toppings for 1/2 pie, $3 toppings for whole pie, 19") with sausage, pepperoni, green peppers, and banana peppers; Shelly Pie is BYOB, so my group washed it all dahn with a six-er of Miller Lite pounders.

Large Pizza
The Stuffed Hot Banana Peppers are delicious, the Chicken Parmesan is good as well (juicy chicken!), and the Large Pizza is beyond noteworthy- loaded with toppings is an understatement.

I've been back to Shelley Pie twice since my initial visit and I also recommend the Italian Hoagie (half for $6.25/whole for $10.50, Italian ham, Genoa salami, pepperoni, capicola, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and Italian dressing) and the
Reuben ($9.95, thinly sliced corned beef, sauerkraut, homemade thousand island dressing, swiss cheese, and grilled Mancini's marble rye). 

(3.75 stars, 3.75/5) 

Shelly Pie Pizza on Urbanspoon

Gateway Grille
Strangely enough, I'd been to the miniature golf course and the Dairy Queen next to Gateway Grille (4251 Northern Pike, 15146) about 800 times, but I had never eaten there until 2013. As I quickly discovered, I'd been missing out on some great food.

The menu is pretty standard with the usual fare: pizza, hoagies, burgers, wood grilled entrees, salads, etc. I first sampled a Small Pizza ($11.99, $2.29 toppings, 15", 8 cuts) with pepperoni and banana peppers, a Steak Salad ($11.99, grilled black Angus sirloin, fries, cheese), and the Pork Chops ($12.99, 2 chargrilled center-cut chops, sweet & sour sauce, sauerkraut, vegetables).

The Small Pizza was tasty; the Steak Salad was exactly what one would expect from this staple menu item, and the steak was tender and juicy; and the Pork Chops were absolutely delicious, which is a true compliment from me, especially considering that I am a self-proclaimed pork maven.

Since my initial visit, I've returned possibly 800 times to make up for what I had been missing; I think that I've sampled possibly the entire menu. Here are the additional items that I recommend the most:

  • Wings ($7.99 per dozen of Plain, Cajun, BBQ, Ranch, Garlic, Sweet & Sour, Mild Buffalo, Medium Buffalo, Hot Buffalo, Super Hot Buffalo, Teriyaki, Spicy Seasoning, Honey Mustard or Hot Honey Mustard)... I prefer getting them dry with the Hot Honey Mustard on the side. 
  • Oven-Baked Italian Hoagie ($6.5 for half/$9.00 for a whole of baked ham, salami, melted provolone, Italian bun, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, Italian dressing)
  • Reuben Sandwich ($8.50)... grilled to perfection! 
  • Grilled Steak Caesar Salad ($13, Romaine, black olives, homemade croutons and Romano cheese)... the homemade croutons are delicious! 
  • Fresh Cut Fries ($4.50, plain or seasoned)... get the seasoned! 
  • Everything on their breakfast menu! 

Overall, the service is friendly, the atmosphere is lively and bustling, and the location is convenient. Gateway Grille is a nice spot for a quick weeknight dinner or a pregame gathering before catching some high school football. They also have a full bar and six-pack shop if you are so inclined to imbibe while you dine (and/or dash).

(3.75 stars, 3.75/5)

Gateway Grill on Urbanspoon

Carl's Tavern

I really like Carl's Tavern (3386 William Penn Highway, 15235), which sits on the edge of Churchill in Wilkins Township. Whether it's for a "coaches' meeting," a "staff meeting," or any other kind of "meeting that isn't really a meeting," Carl's is a solid spot. With a decent beer selection, a slew of excellent specialty drinks, and an appetizing menu, solid service behind the bar and in the dining room, Carl's doesn't disappoint.

Most recently, I've been digging Russ' Chili ($3.99), which is hearty without being too heavy, but I've really enjoyed everything on the menu that I've tried over the years (especially when washed down with a Pabst Blue Ribbon draft):

  • Carl's Pierogies ($5.75, homemade bacon sauce)... totally delicious. 
  • Grilled Cheese ($3.25)... made "diner style", this is hard for me to resist. 
  • Rachel ($9.75, corned beef, swiss, cole slaw, rye)
  • BLT ($3.95)
  • Homemade Potato Chips ($3.75, choice of plain, season salt, or salt & pepper) 

Lastly, Carl's patio must be noted... it's covered and perfect for a cool end-of-summer/start-of-fall evening.

(3.75 stars, 3.75/5)

Carl's Tavern on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 21, 2015

Going Rogue

Today was a big day in the life of HGB. Yes, I know that referring to myself in the third person point of view is totally weird, but so be it. Today was a big day because I finally acted on something that I have been wanting to do for about seventeen years.

I got a tattoo.

Like, a permanent one.

Why? It's just something that I wanted to do; it's an experience that I wanted to have.

The setting for this scene was Rogue Tattoo in Lawrenceville; my tattoo artist was Kelly. I cannot express how simple and satisfying this experience was for me. AIG recommended Rogue to me, and she was on point. I highly recommend it. I had a dry mouth when entering, and a smile on my face when leaving. I am still smiling...

So what did I decide to permanently place on my body? Well, let me tell you what I didn't put on my body first. In college I joked that I would get Kermit the Frog tap dancing on my ankle. I got navel and brow piercings instead. The navel piercing remains; the brow piercing lasted less than three months. After that, I considered getting the Shakespearean citation for the following Hamlet quote, "This above all: to thine own self be true," which would have been I.iii.78-82 in some "cool" font. And I never acted upon that either. Obviously.

Yet, as typical and trite as it sounds, my final decision came to mind this past month; I knew that I had to act upon my thoughts and ideas: a lily of the valley. Here's why. Lily of the valley is a flower that symbolizes both sweetness and purity; it is also a symbol of humility and the return of happiness. Its legend says that when Jesus was crucified, Mary cried tears that became this beautiful white flower. Furthermore, it's the favorite flower of both my mother and myself, and will forever remind me of her and my childhood. Lastly, it's the flower that represents the month of May, which was when my beloved and dearly missed Uncle JFG was born.

I must give credit to PSB who was a trooper through the entire afternoon. I told her the news during a fabulous lunch at Smoke (4411 Butler Street, 15201) about an hour before my appointment; she asked the "right" questions and supported me throughout the process. I am forever grateful for this day. XOXO

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Chelsea Collective Experience

Editor's Note: This post is sponsored by Vocalpoint and Chelsea Collective. All thoughts, ideas, and opinions are my own. 

I exercise regularly; I am not an athlete, but I am athletic. My workouts are a combination of cardiovascular (walking/running intervals, field sprints, elliptical, swimming, stadium stairs, etc.) and strength (circuit, core, barre, etc.) training. I also run errands regularly after I exercise, because as much as I dislike to admit it, I an am "adult." Lastly, I coach swimming and track & field. Thus, I have a need for fitness apparel, accessories, products, and shoes that are specific to my activities, but that are also appropriate for a thirty-five year old female working professional who is often representing her employer and blog in public places.  

Because of my schedule and my budget, my fitness purchases typically come from a variety of big box strip mall stores, and the experience of buying anything is never very enjoyable and mostly haphazard. The warehouse atmosphere of these retail outlets lacks intimacy, nor is it conducive to receiving great customer service. The few fitness boutiques we do have in Pittsburgh don't truly fit my needs either: one is too expensive and too specific to yoga; one focuses solely on those who run long distances for fun; and another doesn't really have anything appealing to my sense/preference of style. 

Enter Dick's Sporting Goods and their latest endeavor, Chelsea Collective, a beautiful boutique that is a literal representation of where women's fashion, fitness, and active lifestyles collide. There are two locations: Pittsburgh, PA and Tysons Corner, VA. 

Chelsea Collective's interior evokes inspiration with an atmosphere perfectly designed for the modern Pittsburgh woman. Pale hues, spacious ceilings, and picturesque lighting make it difficult to discern whether one is shopping in a mall or in a tasteful Manhattan loft.

Apparel, accessories, products, and shoes are organized in a way that is accessible, cyclical and feminine; curved lines blended with fierce displays pay homage to our gender's dedication to embracing our bodies and our desire to make fitness an integral part of our lives. Apprehension can be left at the door; honest, yet simply stated signage combined with a high level of genuine customer service makes Chelsea Collective a destination for finding exactly what one wants, needs, and desires whether it's for oneself or a gift (for the record, my wish list is already formed... hint, hint!).

One of the best aspects of Chelsea Collective is its actual collection of brands and products at an array of styles, sizes, and price points. From what I could gather, the Pittsburgh location has items from the following brands: Aasics, Adidas, Alternative, Birkenstock, Brooks, Calia, Emi Jay, Garmin, Fitbit, Free People, Havaianas, Herschel Supply Co., Hunter, Klorane, Komono, Lorna Jane, Mario Badescu, Move by Ardene, Moving Comfort, New Balance, Nike, Onzie, Panache, Philosophy, Sanuk, Saucony, Sorel, Splendid, Spiritual Gangster, Stance, UGG, Under Armour, Vans, Violet Love, and Zobha. 

After shopping around and perusing everything carefully, I now have affinity for Calia, which is a lovely line by Carrie Underwood (check out the headbands and the Essential Straight-fit Pant a.k.a. "the little black pant"); the Komono "Renee" sunglasses; the Emi Jay Flexx neoprene hair ties (perfect for the aquatically inclined); and the Aasics Gel-Fit Sana shoes (which I broke in today on the elliptical machine).

Did I mention the in-store services? Restrooms, refreshments, a rewards program, personalized fittings for bras, gait analysis (complete with treadmill), and alterations are complimentary.* So yes, I can guarantee that the odds of visiting any of my former big box warehouse haunts for future fitness purchases are very low. 

items from my opening night build-a-bag: Philosophy glosses, a Nike tote, a Nike towel, and Calia headbands

The Pittsburgh location is on the second floor of Ross Park Mall (1000 Ross Park Mall Drive, 15237) near Nordstrom. Store hours: Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

The Tysons Corner location is on the second floor of Tysons Corner Center (1961 Chain Bridge Road, 22102) near Lucky Brand.  Store hours: Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.

*If you get a chance, ask for Billy and/or Gabrielle and tell them that you know yours truly.