Regular readers of the Dudes have already discovered that we often wander astray from the topic of Speech Pathology. Some casual readers may already have abandoned us for precisely that reason. We’re sorry about that but we can’t get past the fact that much as we love our jobs, we’re not defined by our profession alone. We’d like to think that this is true of all of us; that being a Speechie is just part of our identity and there is more to life than work.
Which is why on the Sunday afternoon of July 29th, the Dudes ended up propping a bar for seven hours. Yes, you read me correctly – seven hours. OK, in all honesty, only Dude Two was there for that long. I only managed a mere four. And true, we did spend some time poking around with pieces of AAC technology to test new software and hardware features, but if there’s a little space on a bar top, it’s surprising how much you can do while simultaneously taking advantage of a huge wine bar selection.
In one of those wonderfully serendipitous turns of fate that can quickly turn an ordinary day into an adventure, Dude Two, who is staying at the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Pittsburgh, discovered a door in the hotel that lead directly into an adjacent restaurant; the Sonoma Grille . Being a wine aficionado, finding this location literally on the doorstep proved to be like walking through a wardrobe door into Narnia but instead of finding Mr. Tumnus, he found Tiffany, a skilled and attentive bar tender who was only too happy to help him explore the huge selection of wines on offer. Specifically, he was tempted by a St.Clement 2009 Chardonnay. Indeed more than one.
The Sonoma also has an excellent lunch menu, from which Dude Two enjoyed a lamb pot roast sandwich, which consisted of large chunks of tender lamb on fresh multi-grain bread, generously filled with whipped potato, roasted corn, grilled scallion, a local cheddar cheese, and house-made pickled Serrano peppers.
By the time I made it across, it was clearly time for cocktails. Pittsburgh has a number of local brews available, but the warm, summer afternoon mixed with the continental atmosphere of the bar made a Mojito inevitable.
At some point, afternoon became evening, marked by the menu magically changed from Lunch to Dinner, which meant that a whole new set of scrumptious tucker was available. This time we went for the twin bacon-wrapped medallions of veal, served on top of truffled whipped potatoes, with wild foraged Maitake mushrooms, local pears, crispy sage, and a layer of veal gravy. The wine had now given way to Cuba Libres , a much more exotic name for a Bacardi and Coke , and therefore more in keeping with the atmosphere.
As an aside, I happened to notice that high up in a case at the back of the bar was a bottle of Remy Martin Louis XIII. This is a particularly special cognac that has to age for anywhere between 40 and 100 years, which means the master distiller who lays down the barrel (or tierçon, as it is called) never gets to taste it. This unique aging process also contributes to the fact that a glass of Louis XIII at the Sonoma Grill is just short of $170. It’s on my bucket list – but not this time.
A couple of colleagues joined us for the last hour, which meant it was after 8:30 p.m. by the time we decided to call it a day. I got back to the hotel and tried to read a little more of Haruki Murakami’s 2011 opus 1Q84 but I’m apparently older than I want to believe and nodded off to sleep.
Sometimes, it’s OK to take a day off. Sometimes.
 More about the Sonoma Grille, including the all-important menus and wine list, can be found at the web site: http://thesonomagrille.com
 Coincidentally, I have just finished reading the 2007 book And A Bottle Of Rum by Wayne Curtis, who offers a number of alternatives for the origin of the name, Cuba Libre. One popular explanation is that in 1900, during the Spanish-American War, an American officer in Cuba ordered a rum mixed with Coca Cola, which made its first appearance there also during 1900. A number of other soldiers saw this and decided to try it out and it became a new favorite. A variation on this simply has a group of Cuban and American soldiers in a bar during the Spanish-American War, all drinking rum and with the Americans toasting their Cuban counterparts by shouting “To a free Cuba!” or “Por Cuba libre!!”
 The creator of possibly the world’s most succesful soft drink was a pharmaceutical chemist from Atlanta named John Pemberton. He made it using infusions of the coca plant from the Peruvian Andes and the high-caffeine kola nut from Africa. Like all good cooks and marketing executives, he added seven secret flavoring agents to make it unique and mysterious. Clearly he named the drink after its principal ingredients: hence, Coca-Cola.