Friday, July 20, 2012

Northside Staycation Begins with Wine and Song

Yesterday evening when I told my boyfriend to pack a bag and basically pushed him out the door within minutes of him getting home from work, there was a tad bit of confusion, alarming looks, questions and maybe even a small “tiff” amongst the two of us.  Just a little one though.
My plan for Brian’s birthday “staycation” on the Northside was about to get underway, and due to my lack of planning, I was in a bit of a hurry.  If you don’t know what I am referring to, click here to read my first blog post about my plans to spend the weekend on the Northside at The Priory Hotel for the ultimate weekend birthday getaway (that actually turns out to be in walking distance from our home!).

The first event of this long birthday weekend was a wine tasting that happened to be at the same place where we would be spending the next four nights: The Priory Hotel.   And again, since we live a few blocks away, the short drive to the hotel’s private parking lot only gave me a few minutes to explain my birthday “surprise” to Brian.  And after an expedited cliff notes version of the entire plan, Brian seemed a bit blurry on the whole situation, but at the same time was intrigued and maybe even slightly excited.
So he gave me the nod that he trusted me and, in hopes that his birthday weekend wouldn’t be a total bust, followed me through the doors of the Priory Hotel. 
James Egidio Faiella (Mandolinista), Me & Milko MIladinov
Every third Thursday of the month, the Priory hosts these special wine tastings, (alfresco style in the summer in their beautiful courtyard, and bistro style in their exquisite Grand Hall in the winter) and though I’ve been to a handful of these tastings, Brian has never gotten to experience what has to be one of the best, if not the best, wine tasting in town.
Typically, the summer tastings are held in the Priory’s beautiful courtyard, but due to the weather it was moved indoors to the Priory’s even more incredible Grand Hall.  There are not a lot of words you can say that justify how you feel when you walk into the Grand Hall for the first time.  You may be able to catch my drift by skimming through this photo gallery, but do yourself a favor and just stop by for a quick drop-in.  You’ll be dreaming up your pretend wedding there in no time.
I knew what Brian was thinking when we walked in.   A lot of “high-brows,” as he likes to call people that can keep more than 10 dollars in their bank account at any given time, sipping wine and eating some ridiculous food that no one can even pronounce. 
His skeptical outlook was quickly overturned though by what Brian soon found out was actually a down-to-earth, engaging group of people drinking (as opposed to sipping) wine and enjoying simple, yet delicious and elegant hors d'oeuvres.  Within no time, he was into the spirit of the event, washing down prime rib with Venetian wines and getting caught up in conversations all throughout the Grand Hall’s exquisite four walls.
Boyfriend/birthday weekend boy Brian Rose, Priory Co-owner John Graf and me
The wine tastings are always themed, and last night, the theme spoke heavily to my Italian heart.  Milko Miladinov from Winebow presented four wines from Allegrini Estates, a winery located in Italy that has been producing wines since the 16th Century. 
Milko alone was a show in himself, speaking so lovingly of the wines, as if each were his first born child, through a thick, yet charming, Bulgarian accent while working his way through the crowd of some 50 plus people.   
To further set the mood, the group was serenaded by the romantic sounds of a Mandolin played by Aliquippa’s Egidio ‘Jimmy’ Faiella, accredited for his music on the Sopranos.   Probably the best line of the night comes from Jimmy, who, when asked when his music was featured in the Sopranos, proudly exclaimed “You remember the episode where Adriana gets whacked, that’s my song they’re playing!”
And, it was a good thing we were spending the night, because even though the Priory is a short drive back home, they do not mess around with their “tastings.”  The Priory’s philosophy of the three-finger pour and what seems to be unlimited refills, usually has everyone feeling rather chatty and unusually joyful by the end of the evening.  After several glasses of wine, a daunting amount of hors d'oeuvres and a 30-minute discussion over the Godfather, Brian and I made the short walk to our hotel room, where we quickly crashed. 
In the morning, we briefly paused our staycation to take on our daily work grind, and now we prepare for an uninterrupted weekend of activities, starting tonight, checking out the Northside’s night scene and celebrating the start of Brian’s birthday weekend.
Check out our adventures right here tomorrow!
We're off to see the Pirates game at PNC Park tonight!

Having fun and making new memories on the Northside - Stephanie!

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