Using the “Cat Filter” as a Lifestyle
…and I’m not in D.C. anymore!
First things first: I’m diving into Substack to keep friends up to date. If you don’t want email from me, feel comfortable unsubscribing. No judgment! I like a tidy inbox too. If you do stick around, I’ll write once a month or less, and each missive will include a cat and a pizza. 🐱🍕
The short update: I’ve left D.C. and am traveling full-time. I am in Minnesota today, in Vermont the rest of May, then Massachusetts in June.
The long update: I phased out my client work at the end of last year, got a full-remote job, found an old Subaru Outback for cheap (paid for it on Venmo!), sold my condo in D.C., and got rid of most of the stuff I owned.
Prior to this, I was exploring tiptoeing into the van life and traveling the continent. I quickly found out that I wasn’t the only one doing this during the first year of the pandemic. Getting a nice Class B RV includes navigating exorbitant prices, year-long waits for nice models, a cutthroat secondhand market, and for me, so many browser tabs open you can’t tell what any of them are anymore. But I figured it out!
I was all organized to buy one in Madison, Wisconsin and a couple days prior got cold feet. It took a bit to sink in, but I finally realized I wasn’t really looking for the van life, but seeking the travel life.
Thus, I pivoted to penciling out how I could live in different places for a month or three, navigating the rental market that exists between 12-month leases and weekly stays. So still traveling full-time, but not in a van.
The Cat Filter
I have a running joke (or free idea) that peer to peer rental platforms should have a “cat filter.” As in, if you’re allergic and don’t want a cat in the house you’re staying in, you can filter cats out. On the contrary, if you love staying with cats, turn it on! One of my favorite Airbnb experiences was in Chicago when cats kept breaking into my room. I completely understand this is not what most people want in a short-term rental, but for those who do, why not be able to self-select this?
A friend, now hearing this joke from me a third or fourth time asked if I knew Trusted Housesitters. New to me, it’s a service that connects people looking to have someone take care of their home and pets (and sometimes their yard and plants) while they travel. It costs a couple hundred bucks and a background check to get in, and the rest is about building your reputation and relationships to get matched. And they have the coveted 🐈 “cat filter.” As I have a lot of experience caring for cats, and I’m traveling full-time anyway, why not lean into it? I started lining up gigs!
So here I am now: working remotely and living with different cats. (and I’m still eating a lot of pizza.)
Next: a couple pizzas I’ve had, my upcoming schedule, and a request!
The Brick Oven Bus, Minnesota
The Brick Oven Bus upon first glance can look a tad rickety. An old yellow bus with a blackened chimney protruding through the roof doesn’t exactly invoke ideas of great food. However, after having a couple drinks at Brooklyn Park’s newest brewery, Heavy Rotation, I decided to walk to the parking lot and give it a closer inspection.
Just four pizzas on the menu: “Meat” and “Margherita” are what you think; “Angry Hawaiian” includes pineapple, smoked bacon, and banana peppers; and the “Lionheart” has artichokes, Kalamata olives, and balsamic. Most of the pizzas have mozzarella, asiago, and parmesan as well.
The oven is actually an impressive feat. This isn’t some old makeshift oven they’ve jerry-rigged through the back door, it is a restaurant-quality wood-fired oven built out by hand inside the bus. Their dough is planned out to allow a couple days to rise. The yeast is apparently from Minnesotan grapes. They’re not screwing around.
The results come fast. Within a few minutes after ordering I had a pizza Margherita with steam coming off of it. The crust had a crispy edge with a slight leopard char encasing a chewy, light center. The tomatoes were juicy and sweet, and the mozzarella pulled and was thick and chewy. Basil was almost peppery as if it was just taken from a nearby garden. It was overall more salty than your average pie, almost as if a bit of sea salt was sprinkled on the edges, but that caters to my preferences. Overall, stellar.
Your chances of finding the Brick Oven Bus are high if you’re in around the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro because they’ve recently expanded to three buses, announce their locations regularly on social media, and update a calendar. If you spot a bus with a chimney out of it, check it out.
The Brick Oven Bus, locations in and near Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
Menomale NoMa, Washington, D.C.
I’ve been a big fan of Menomale in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, D.C. for years, and for a while I was certain they held the crown as the best Neapolitan pizza in the state. Genuinely comparable to pizza in Naples, Italy, their only regional peer was Pupatella in Arlington, Virginia. Menomale was the pizzeria to take people to for authentic Italian pizza, and it even where a couple friends of mine first met – and now they are married! (Isn’t pizza great? 💖)
I’ll skip the exercise of describing a Neapolitan pizza, but I’ll attest that Menomale nails it to spec. Pizzas are served traditionally uncut, but you’re provided with the convenience of enormous kitchen scissors to chop up your pie as you deem fit. That is, if you don’t want to use a knife and fork.
However, over the years consistency started to dwindle, and new Neapolitan and Neo-Neapolitan style places sprung up in D.C. like Mozzeria and Stellina with superior pies (example). To me, Menomale became more of a neighborhood gem in Brookland instead of a destination pizzeria.
On a visit back to D.C. in April, I decided to check out Menomale’s new outpost in NoMa. It was like visiting Menomale anew all over again. Every detail that made the pizzas perfect was back. And in a region that has a number of excellent pizzerias, upon this one visit to Menomale NoMa, they’re back in the top of the list.
…and Alex and Graham, go make a date night!
Menomale NoMa, 33 N St NE, Washington, D.C.
Now – May 6: Brooklyn Park, MN
May 8 – May 28: Burlington, VT
Jun 5 – Jun 22: Cambridge, MA
Jul 26 – Sep 28: Lambertville, NJ (why I picked here is for another story soon)
Do you need a cat sitter later this year? Someone to watch your home for a few weeks or months? Have a spare room you’d like to rent out a room for a month or two? Places like Maine, Québec, Nova Scotia, Idaho, Montana, and Colorado are around the top of my list, but I am ready to explore anywhere pleasant. Please, let’s chat!
Thanks for reading, and keep in touch!