Table for one: Thoughts on eating alone

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I eat out alone a lot — and I really enjoy it.

I can’t remember when I first started feeling comfortable doing it. Maybe when I got my first job out of college and had lunch breaks? It was easier to just go grab something on my own rather than try to coordinate meeting up with someone. Then when I moved to Pittsburgh I didn’t have a choice because I didn’t know anyone. I saw it as a way to make friends, and I did. One of my now good friends was the bartender at a restaurant I used to go to when I first moved here. (Hi, Chelsea!)

I never really realized it isn’t something most people do until recently when several of my friends have commented about it. They usually say they would never feel comfortable going to a restaurant or bar alone. And then I realized that you really don’t see too many other people alone. For me, it’s just easy. I enjoy eating alone. I enjoy going out to grab a couple of drinks alone. I spend most of my days talking to strangers and interacting non-stop. It’s kind of nice to just enjoy a meal and a drink without having to think of something to talk about.

I can see why some people wouldn’t want to though. They worry about people judging them for being alone or feel uncomfortable with the possibility of strangers talking to them. And in some ways their fears aren’t irrational. There’s been many times where I’ve had to deal with the random creepy guy or the overshare woman next to me, but overall, it’s a great way to relax and have a different dining experience.

Here are a few of my tips for eating out alone.

Start slow: Trying going out for lunch alone. There tends to be less of an inclination for strangers to talk to you during lunch if that’s your concern. There is also usually less of a crowd and wait time.

Grab a table instead of sitting at the bar: This will give you somewhat more privacy and a chance to sort of tuck away in a corner if you want. Sitting at the bar is a surefire way to get people to talk with you, so you might want to wait until you feel more comfortable.

Don’t feel awkward: I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for 10 years and I never care when I wait on someone who is alone. I think a lot of people worry their server will judge them or not take good care of them because they are alone, but that is rarely the case. Just own it. If you really feel uncomfortable, then just tell your server you are out having a “me day” or make a slight joke about it to break the ice.

Embrace the unknown: I’ve met some very interesting people while having dinner alone. Take a few minutes to exchange a few words with the person next to you if they strike up a conversation. You might find you have a lot in common. And most people will get the hint if you aren’t feeling a conversation. Just be polite and then get back to your meal. It helps that a lot of places now have televisions that can serve as a distraction. And there’s always your phone, too.

I hope this helps! Let me know if you go out to eat alone after reading this!

 

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Pittsburgh Eats: Blaze Pizza

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This week I got to try out the new Blaze Pizza in Monroeville ahead of its grand opening today. It’s the first Pittsburgh location for the chain, which started in California. Tomorrow they are offering free pizzas all day, so definitely go check it out if you are interested in trying it.

It’s considered a fast-casual restaurant. Basically, the concept is a build-your-own personal pizza. For a flat price you can get all the toppings you want. It’s essentially set up like an assembly line similar to something like Subway or Chipotle. Then once you pick all your toppings it’s thrown into a wood-fired oven to bake. It only takes a couple minutes and then it’s ready. They also have some menu items to choose from if you don’t want to build your own. In addition to the pizzas, they also offer salads.

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I chose to try the white top pizza off of the menu. It comes with a white sauce, mozzarella cheese, arugula, garlic and oregano. I left off the bacon that normally comes on it and added roasted red peppers to it instead. It was really good. The wood-fired oven gives the crust a really good flavor and cooks it just right. I also tried their signature blood orange lemonade. It was good, but pretty sweet.

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They have indoor and outdoor seating as well as take-out. The patio actually looks really nice.

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Overall, it’s a neat concept for pizza that I don’t think you can find anywhere else in the city right now. I’ll definitely be back, especially since it’s only a few minutes away from my office!

My health and fitness relationship

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My relationship with health and fitness is rocky at best. I was a pretty active child and I was always healthy and skinny. Growing up in the country I often played outside, rode my bike, etc. My mom also made a homemade dinner every night, so I wasn’t being fed unhealthy restaurant food.

I’ve never been a fan of organized sports or working out. Once I got to high school I wasn’t running around as much as when I was a kid. I was eating more unhealthy food at school and going out more with my friends. I still remained a normal weight until I reached my early 20s. The freedom of college and the availability of drinking made me gain weight and often left me bloated. I lived on Mexican food and cheap beer for most of college.

After college I lost a little weight and even joined a gym, but I could never stick with it. I steadily gained weight for the next three years. When I moved to Pittsburgh and started grad school I lost a little weight because I was more active and eating less, but once I got comfortable I started drinking more and eating out. Over the past two years I have definitely gained a substantial amount of weight. I’d say probably 20 pounds. Much of it is in my stomach and love handles. I feel uncomfortable and unhealthy.

About a year ago I found Tone It Up and really liked how personable Karena and Katrina were. They didn’t seem overly intense and mean like some trainers who made at-home videos (side eye, Jillian Michaels). I liked that they had a loyal following and posted a lot of positive lifestyle stuff. I participated in the Bikini Series challenge and really saw a difference in my confidence and even lost a little weight. Then I started an internship that left me stressed out and sitting down for most of the day. I stopped working out and healthy eating went out the window.

So, you can see the cycle. I’m definitely an emotional eater and I eat when I’m bored. I also eat out because it’s convenient most of the time with my schedule.

Just a few weeks ago I decided I was tired of not likely the way I looked and feeling uncomfortable in my clothes. I started eating better and trying to walk more. I’ve been going to the park and walking a couple miles a few times a week. I am participating in the Bikini Series challenge again and I started tracking my eating with the My Fitness Pal app. So far I’ve been doing pretty well. I still have a meal or two a week that isn’t great, but I try to balance it out with my other meals that day. I also stopped drinking alcohol. I’ve lost five pounds so far and I feel way less bloated.

I know this is something that will always be a challenge for me because I love going out to eat and enjoying not-so-healthy food. I’m trying to find balance and treat my body better because I do notice a big difference in how I feel when I’m eating real, whole foods instead of fast food crap.

Here’s hoping it will stick this time!

Trying out Hello Fresh

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I’ve always been curious about meal subscriptions, but I never wanted to pay the high price for them. So when my sister offered to send me a free box from Hello Fresh I jumped at the chance. There are different options you can choose from like classic or vegetarian, how many people you want the meals to serve and how many meals you want per box. The prices start at $69 and go up from there.

I chose the classic box with three meals for two people. It would have been $69 if I paid full price. When it’s all said and done it breaks down to $23 per meal. That’s actually not too bad when you consider a meal out for two people will likely be well over that. However, if you would go to the grocery store and buy the ingredients yourself it would likely be cheaper and you’d get a larger quantity for future use. What’s great about these boxes if they come with all the ingredients you need except for the occasional need for olive oil. It eliminates so much waste because you use up everything. So many times I will buy a whole bag of produce only to throw out ¾ of it because it goes bad before I can use it.

Eric and I made our first meal on Saturday when we received the box and we are so impressed! The three meals we got were herby pan seared chicken, Spanish steak salad and roasted pork tenderloin.

We made the chicken meal first and it was so easy. It had a base of farro with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. Then it was topped with a balsamic, honey and shallot dressing. The chicken was seasoned and grilled and served on top. Each meal comes with directions from prep to finish. Eric and I divided up the steps and had it done pretty quickly.

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On Sunday we made the steak meal which was also very good. It was a base of spring mix with roasted red peppers, feta cheese and a white wine vinegar and garlic dressing. The sirloin was such a great cut of meat, too. It was very tender even though we cooked it to medium well. It also came with a baguette.

We’re making the pork tenderloin meal tonight which comes with potatoes and zucchini. Based on the other two meals I doubt it will disappoint.

Overall, I would definitely recommend these boxes if you are someone who eats out a lot because it will probably save you money. If you are someone who cooks at home a lot it may be something fun to get once in a while, but I don’t think the price would compare to buying everything at a grocery store, especially if you shop at places like Aldi.

If you are interested in getting a box and don’t want to pay full price then you are in luck! If you use the code “DST2L2” you can get $40 off your first box.

Pittsburgh Eats: Pittsburgh Juice Company

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I love supporting local businesses.

When I sit around and day dream about what I’d like to be doing I envision myself and Eric running a small used bookstore and cafe. Buying a building and living in an apartment upstairs while running the business downstairs. So, all that to say I really, really admire people who take the huge leap of faith and open their own small business. Because I know it’s not easy and there’s a lot of cost and risk involved.

Pittsburgh Juice Company has been open for a couple years and I’m glad to see they are doing well. I actually wrote an article about them opening when I was in grad school and got to see the behind the scenes of how they  make the juice.

They offer all different types of fresh pressed juices from fruit and green juices to smoothies and almond milk. They also offer smaller elixirs and shots like wheat grass and immunity boosters. The prices range from a few dollars for some of the smaller shots up to around $10 for the larger juices.

One thing that I absolutely love is that the juices come in glass bottles that you can return to receive credit toward your next juice. It’s such a win-win because it’s better for the environment and it provides an incentive to come back.

I recently stopped in to pick up some juices to have as my breakfasts and lunches because I’m trying to get more nutrients and eat better. I thought having some juice on hand would still give me what I needed, but give my digestive system a bit of break from all of the deep fried stuff I’ve been eating lately.

I picked up the berry-watermelon, green juice, witch’s brew and the green goddess smoothie. The berry-watermelon is the easiest to drink. The green juice is really good, too. It’s made with cucumber, apple and baby spinach. The witch’s brew is a lot more intense because it has all the ingredients of the green juice with celery, kale, lemon and ginger added to it. I didn’t care for the smoothie. It was really, really thick and I just couldn’t get into it.

I definitely suggest checking them out if you are looking to try some fresh pressed juices.