A blog about all the things we love, regardless of how uncool they are.

Best. Labor. Day. Ever.

Posted: September 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Food, Life, Pittsburgh | Tags: | Comments: 1 Other Dork »

Soooooo…… I actually did quite a bit of labor this past Labor Day, but honestly I would be perfectly happy working that much every day of my life if I was always able to take an afternoon break to head over to RIB FEST!

It all started when we were having dinner with our friends, Chris and Lauren, on Saturday evening. At some point in the conversation, Lauren casually mentions that there was “some rib fest” going on over at Heinz Field, home of the Steelers. I couldn’t tell you what Lauren said after that, as I temporarily lost consciousness while envisioning myself with a face covered in barbecue sauce and a pile of rib bones in front of me. If there’s one thing that my father and my Texas roots imparted on me, it is a deep appreciation for meat cooked low and slow and slathered in barbecue sauce. As soon as I came back around, I asked Lauren to tell me everything she knew about this “rib fest” event, and we soon made a plan to attend on Labor Day afternoon. For the next 2 days, all I really thought about was ribs.

As the big event grew closer, I started getting really scared that I was going to be massively disappointed by Rib Fest. What if the food was terrible? What if it was just some run-of-the-mill carnival vendors masquerading as rib experts? What if there were only a few vendors to choose from? However, as we walked in to the stadium grounds, all of those fears were immediately quelled. What we saw were about a dozen rib vendors from all over the country with larger-than-life displays showcasing their trophies and awards from all of the competitions they had participated in and won. And all of them were grilling off ribs 8 racks at a time. It was truly a thing of beauty.

You can see all of the different ribs that we tried above – from 8 vendors in all, with my personal favorites being from a group out of North Carolina. It was also a special treat to get to eat some sausage from a group out of Fort Worth, Texas. However, the wait for those particular ribs and sausage was well over the 90 minute mark – the only bad thing about Rib Fest. The lines were definitely a huge drag, but we made the best of it and would usually split into groups of two and conquer two lines at a time, buying enough for everyone to try. Prices were pretty reasonable – about  $12 for a half rack. All of the ribs we tried we delicious and surprisingly different from each other. Add some baked beans, potato salad, corn bread, and cheese fries and we were all in hog heaven!

We had an absolutely fantastic time at Rib Fest. I’ve always wanted to go to some sort of cookoff like this – be it chili, pies, or barbecue. You better believe that this won’t be our last!

Things we’ll miss about Milwaukee #4 – Sprecher Sodas

Posted: September 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Food, Milwaukee, Uncategorized | Tags: | Comments: 1 Other Dork »

Over the past several years I’ve really grown to love root beer. Being that I don’t drink beer beer, it’s nice to have this drink that people still put some effort in to adding their own personal touch to. It’s always fun to go to a different city or different bar and have the opportunity to try their root beer offering.

That being said, Milwaukee’s Sprecher Brewery has the best root beer I’ve ever tasted, hands down. I won’t go in to any adjective-riddled descriptions of its taste, but just know that it is incredibly delicious. And if you live in Milwaukee, you can pick it up at almost every grocery store and most restaurants. The Sprecher line also includes Cream Soda, Puma Cola (two of my other favorites), Lo-Cal Root Beer (Emma’s fave), Orange Dream, Ravin’ Red, Ginger Ale, and Cherry Cola.

As ridiculous as it sounds, I will really miss my daily Sprecher – so much so that I have tried to postpone the inevitable withdrawal by bringing a total of 12 4-packs of Sprecher soda with me to Pittsburgh. Sprecher Brewery does offer shipping of their sodas anywhere, but it’s a little cost prohibitive. However, if anyone cares to send me a house-warming package here in Pittsburgh, I will certainly not turn the delivery man away!

The only thing that I can say negatively about these sodas is that I really can’t stand their packaging. I always thought it would be a fun project to redesign their packaging, as I think they could do a much better job of conveying how fantastic their product is through the packaging. It’s on my list of projects I would love to tackle some day, so who knows – maybe I’ll work it out one day and sell it for a lifetime supply of root beer!

Things we’ll miss about Milwaukee #3 – Bombay Sweets

Posted: August 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Food, Milwaukee | Tags: | Comments: 2 Other Dorks »

My absolute favorite way to find a new restaurant is through word of mouth. Usually, if someone goes out of the way to tell you about a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that would never grab your attention otherwise, you know you’re in for something special. One such recommendation came to us last Christmas Eve. We were at the annual Niesl Christmas party, talking about our house and our neighborhood with Emma’s cousin, when we brought up the topic of restaurants in the area. He told us that we HAVE to make our way over to Bombay Sweets for lunch sometime.

Boy, I am so grateful for that recommendation. This restaurant has become one of our favorite places in town. It’s all vegetarian, and, just as Miguel had told us, is cooked by two or three women back in he kitchen and served to you on disposable plates. It’s absolutely no frills, the way it should be, and all of the food has real soul. Oh, and did I mention that it’s dirt cheap? I haven’t had anything there that wasn’t outstanding. We recommend Roti Sabji, Samosa Chaat, or the Vegetable Korma. But honestly, my absolute favorite thing that they serve is their chai tea. Perfectly spiced and sweetened, it never fails to hit the spot. I could sit in that quiet restaurant every day with a cup of tea, watching the world go by, and be perfectly content.

Beyond the food on the menu, they also have several cases of snacks and sweet cakes and desserts. It has been awesome this year to get to try a sweet after lunch and make our way through much of what’s available. Emma and I have discovered that we have very different taste in the desserts – her preferring many of the cakes, while I prefer the overly-sweet things that have been drowned in honey.

Still kicking, sort of!

Posted: July 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments: Dork out with us! »

Just wanted to write a quick note to let everyone know that we’re still alive and kicking, but life has managed to take ahold of us pretty good and won’t let go. I’ve been unbelievably busy with various computer endeavors and Emma spent much of her summer working one of the million jobs she held. We’re now preparing for a big move over to Pittsburgh, where Emma will be starting her masters at Carnegie Mellon and I will continue doing what I’ve been doing here in Milwaukee. There are a million things we need to take care of with the house before we go. We still have lots of dorky things we want to show you, and we’ll be trying to renew that commitment amidst all the chaos here!

Oh, and we did manage to escape all of this last week and spend some time up at the cabin in Wisconsin’s Northwoods, where I got to enjoy the company of these two wonderful ladies. :)

Music in Schools: Someone out there is getting it right.

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Music | Comments: 5 Other Dorks »

(found via Kitsune Noir)

The video above is one of the most wonderful things I’ve seen in a long time. Why don’t you watch it real quick, and then keep reading if you’d like.

This is the Chorus of PS22, Staten Island, New York. The kids are singing the song Lisztomania by the band Phoenix and – can you believe it – every single one of them is completely engaged and loving what they are doing! I honestly couldn’t believe what I was seeing the first time I watched this video. I have worked with music in schools in so many different ways and capacities and I almost always come away from the experience with the following feeling – music programs are completely doomed. Most of the kids don’t care. They’re only doing it because their parents are making them. They thought being in band would be a lot more fun than it actually is. They usually don’t even like the music they’re playing.

Schools everywhere are failing to show their students how learning music can be relevant to their lives. But the director of this chorus, Gregg Breinberg, is really doing something amazing.

I’m always dumbfounded when I’m reminded that creating music used to be an incredibly common pastime in this country. Amateur musicians were everywhere, and making music was a way that families connected and bonded. What happened to those days? Isn’t it amazing that the world isn’t like that any more, yet almost all of us are still incredibly passionate about the music that we listen to? Is it because, while the music around us continued to move forward, the music that schools taught remained staunchly rooted in the past? I believe that is a big part of it.

However, I’m so encouraged when I see something like this and I hope that other music educators can begin to follow suit, because I honestly feel that their jobs depend on it. I would love to see school music programs transform themselves into laboratories where students are given the tools and skills to form their own bands, write their own arrangements, and compose their own tunes. Get kids involved in music in ways that they can relate to. Help them to first form a connection to the art of music-making; worry about how Bach and Beethoven will fit in later.

What do you think? Am I way off base here? We’d love to have some discussion about this in the comments!