I spent the most delightful day with my daughter, and grandchildren this week, poking around our favorite foodie locales in the city of Pittsburgh. Sometimes you have to venture beyond your own neck of the woods to see what's new out there.
It started with a facebook foodie alert from my little cousin over at Crafty's Cafe, saying the Peppermint Joe Joes had arrived at our local Trader Joe's.
For the unenlightened, Trader Joe's, is a southern California institution, specializing in fresh, frozen and canned organics. The wise folks at TJ's corporate headquarters must have realized there was a cultivated foodie population here in western PA, because they chose Pittsburgh as one of their out-reach cities.
Joe Joes are TJ's version of an Oreo (just as tasty, but better for you), and Peppermint Joe Joes (to die for, as the creamy little centers are studded with bits of candy cane) are only available for a few short weeks each year.
I was looking for an excuse to make a trip to the city, so I called Daughter No. 3, a fellow enthusiast, and we planned our day. The next morning, we strapped the kids in the mini-van, set our GPS, and hit the road.
After a rough start (the Pittsburgh Public Market was closed on Tuesday), we hit the Strip District on foot, and settled on lunch at my favorite fish market, Wholey's, where we stood in line (along with twenty-some other foodies) for a fresh, hand battered fish sandwich, appropriately referred to as the the Whaler.
No. 3 couldn't make it past the sushi-man (stationed at the front door) without ordering a spider-roll (soft-shelled crab). And, we both agreed we had to sample the lauded crab and lobster bisque.
The tender, batter-fried whiting was fabulous, as was the oversized spider roll. The two-year-old (foodie in training) who ate more than just a little of the fish, couldn't get enough of the bisque.
Next, we headed on over to Fudgie-Wudgie for a chocolate dipped, marshmallow-pop (with little round sprinkles).
Before leaving the district, we stopped to check out the new Right By Nature, an organic grocery, where Regan ate her first clementine (swallowed a little seed, much to Mommy's horror), and Richard experienced the thrill of riding in a glass elevator (to the parking garage). This place was pretty crunchy (hard-core healthy), and somewhat lacking in excitement, but worth the stop if you are in the area, as they do have a large assortment of canned items, beautiful produce, deli, meat and fish departments, and an in-store cafe.
Back in the car, we consulted the GPS, headed northwest out of the Strip, and toward Shady Side. The minute we walked through the door at Trader Joe's, I knew I just had to have a cup of whatever they had simmering on a burner in the back of the store. It smelled like mulled cider, and it was, Spiced Cranberry-Apple Cider. Mmmm. Delicious!
For those who've never been, going to TJ's is like going to the circus. It's an assault to the senses, with big, colorfully-cartoonish advertisements that draw your attention to every nook, and rafter in the building. The two-year-old was captivated.
We explored each and every aisle, had no trouble filling our cart, but failed to find the Peppermint Joe Joes. On one of the end-caps, I spied TJ's delightfully rich Peppermint Hot Chocolate (made with real bittersweet chocolate shavings) - close, but not the Joe Joes I was looking for.
I was beginning to get a bad feeling, when my suspicion was confirmed by a cheerfully outfitted store employee. The coveted Peppermint Joe Joes had not yet arrived. Grrr. Wait 'til I see my little cousin . . .
I arrived home with plenty of shopping bags to unload, and decided to indulge myself with a hot cup of chocolaty goodness. As I sat sipping, I decided I'd just have to make another trip to the city. After all, this hot chocolate would taste just awesome with one of those Peppermint Joe Joes.