Pittsburgh's Best Resource for Food Adventures
Archive for December 2010
Dec 22 2010
So, my last post was Foodie Gift #7. I still have to do 8, 9 and 10 and there are just a few days left until Christmas. I’m not sure where the time went, but the last few weeks just disappeared. Because of this, I’m putting 8, 9 and 10 all into one post.
#8. Go to Jean Marc Chatellier’s Bakery in Millvale and buy a few chocolate croissants for your family on Christmas morning. Get there early on Christmas Eve, because the goodies will sell out. I place my order a few weeks ago for croissants, macarons, mini croissants and a Buche de Noel. Your family will love you for this.
#9. Take a trip down to the Strip District, armed with a little patience and a lot of holiday cheer. The Strip will be crazy during the next few days, but if you go with the right attitude, it will be a blast. Pick up a few of my favorites for last minute gifts – fresh salsa and locally made tortilla chips from Reyna Foods (2023 Penn Avenue – (412) 261-2606), the BEST marshmallows from The Pittsburgh Marshmallow Factory at the Pittsburgh Public Market, or a prosciutto end (the end pieces are really inexpensive but still the same sweet meat) from Pennsylvania Macaroni.
#10. I love local, even when it comes to alcoholic beverages. My choices? A bottle of wine from Glades Pike Winery
Even if you’ve checked everything off your list, definitely pick up a few of these items just for yourself.
Dec 17 2010
Today is National Maple Syrup Day and, in honor of that, I am suggesting Paul Bunyan Maple Syrup products as a perfect holiday gift. I first met Molly, part of the Enos family that taps the maple trees, at the Ligonier Country Market last summer, and I was impressed by her cheerfulness and knowledge. But then I tried their Maple Cream and I fell in love. This creamy, sweet spread is delicious on muffins and bagles, as well as on pancakes, waffles or just right off the spoon. Paul Bunyan also makes high quality maple syrup, maple candy and maple sugar for sprinkling on just about everything. Give the folks at Paul Bunyan a call to find a local retail outlet or you can order online. A perfect winter gift.
Paul Bunyan’s Maple Syrup
404 East Mud Pike Road : Rockwood, PA 15557
Dec 12 2010
Last summer, I drove out to the Heirloom Tomato Festival at West Overton Village in Scottdale. It was there that I first came upon Old Linn Run Coffee Roasters. Kandi and Dave Newell roast beans in small batches (actually, the beans aren’t roasted until they get your order) and the resulting brew reflects the care in their roasting process. Kandi and Dave are beginning to branch out from their home base in Rector, out in the beautiful Laurel Highlands. Their beans can now be purchased at McGinnis Sisters in Monroeville and at Currant Thymes (136 East Main Street, Ligonier) - two of my favorite foodie haunts. Of course, you can give them a call to place your order, too. (724.238.9102)
Something new at Old Linn Run just in time for the holiday season is a nifty travel mug with a built-in French press and a compartment to hold grounds for a second cup of coffee. I love this! One cup is just not enough on these cold, winter days and French press coffee is the way to really rev up your morning.
My super-dee-duper gift idea? A bag of Old Linn Run Coffee and one of their new travel mugs. If you want to kick it up a notch or two, G Squared Gallery in Ligonier carries a beautiful hand-crafted coffee scoop that would be the perfect addition to this gift.
( Shhh, my husband is getting one of these scoops from Santa. I’m tired of seeing a big ol’ tablespoon, along with a pile of coffee grounds, on my kitchen counter-top every morning. If I have to clean something up, it might as well be something pretty.)
Dec 8 2010
Today’s great food gift is for someone very special. It’s a bit more pricey than the other ideas, but this truly is the gift that keeps on giving. A CSA ( Community Supported Agriculture) membership gives your lucky friend or family member baskets of fresh, local (sometimes organic) produce throughout the Western Pennsylvania growing season. I’ve been a member of the Harvest Valley CSA for quite a few years. Each May, I can’t wait for the pick-ups to begin. Here’s how it works. You buy a share of the CSA, based on your needs and family size. (Prices begin around $200 for the season.) Then every week, once the Western PA produce starts peeking through the ground, you pick up your local goodies at a pre-determined drop-off spot. The CSA season usually runs through the beginning of November and it’s really like getting a great healthful surprise gift every week. Tender greens in the spring, juicy tomatoes in August and loads of winter squash in the fall. Some other CSAs that I’ve heard good things about include Blackberry Meadows, Kretschmann Farm and Cherry Valley Organics. A nice list of local CSAs is on the Slow Food Pittsburgh website at http://www.slowfoodpgh.com/csa.html ( A Slow Food Pittsburgh membership is another great holiday gift idea.) Check the list of last year’s drop-off sites before signing someone up, because convenience is key.
Every week, the lucky recipient of your generous gift will be reminded of how much you care about them. And while you’re at it, why not get yourself a CSA membership, too?
Dec 6 2010
Yesterday, I went to a Seven Fishes cooking class at Merante Gifts in Bloomfield. My family has never prepared this Christmas Eve extravaganza, but I am determind to give it a shot this year. Even if half the family doesn’t like fish. They need to get over it.
A cooking class or food tour is the perfect gift for someone who has everything. The classes at Merante are small and it’s just like hanging out at Nonna’s house. The food is abundant and the casual atmosphere ensures a perfect afternoon. Of course, the Seven Fishes class won’t be offered until next fall, but others are on the schedule for winter and spring. How about buying two “tickets” to a class? One for you and one for a friend or family member. It fits my idea of giving – one for me, one for you.
A gift certificate to Burgh Bits and Bites is another winner for just about anyone on your holiday list. Owned by the lovely Sylvia Emmenegger McCoy, Burgh Bits and Bites tours take you on an edible history through areas like Bloomfield, Lawrenceville and the Strip District. They last a few hours and are suitable for young and old and good even for folks that think they know Pittsburgh inside and out.
And of course, The Fork and The Road gift certificates would be a wonderful choice for anyone special in your life. ( It really would.) We have some terrific trips planned for spring, including a new tour to the Italian neighborhoods out near Latrobe and Greensburg.) Debbi and I have been having a lot of fun “testing” everything to make sure that tour-goers will love each stop. Click on the Tours tab or email for more information.
Dec 4 2010
Practically every day I’m reminded of how many wonderful people I’ve met in this past year during my new Fork and The Road adventures. This morning, as I was checking out the tempting cookies, baklava, pierogies and more ( yes, more means marshmallows – they had ROOT BEER ones today!) at the Pittsburgh Public Market, I turned the corner and there were the folks from The Blueberry Patch in New Florence, out past Ligonier. I bought some of their Spiced Blueberry Jam this past summer at the Ligonier Country Market and figured I would have to wait until spring when the market opens again to get another jar. It was my lucky day. The jam, thick with berries and loaded with a cinnamony, spicy flavor, is just right for toast or a bagel on these 20 degree mornings. So happy to see them, I wanted to buy everything in sight – I’m a bit of a food hoarder – including their precious flaky mini-pies, which they call empanadas. But I held off. With too many holiday parties this weekend, I thought I should show a little restraint. I sampled (and bought) The Berry Patch’s pumpkin butter. It’s like a mouthful of pumpkin pie minus the crust and if your pie crust is anything like mine, that’s a good thing to be minus the crust. And their new product, beer jelly is made with East End Brewing’s Snow Melt Winter Ale (try a sample or buy some actual beer across the aisle at East End’s stall at the Public Market.) My first thought was “ick”, but it really is fantastic on cream cheese or served with an aged Cheddar. They even sell the beer jelly in a pint beer mug. So cute, or maybe handsome is a better word . . and such a great gift. I can’t think of better treats for your friends and relatives. Just drive on down to the PPM tomorrow (Sunday, December 5) and stock up for those last minute hostess gifts. (The Berry Patch won’t be there next weekend, but will be back the weekend before Christmas.)
Dec 1 2010
Today’s gift idea is made with edible stuff, but isn’t for eating. It’s my favorite brown sugar scrub, called Candy, from Paisley & Company, a precious little bath boutique and fragrance bar in Kutztown, PA. Not only does it smooth and soften, but it smells divine, like a mixture of oats, apricots and brown sugar. Never into floral frangrances (maybe because most flowers make me sneeze) I always go for scents of vanilla and sugar. Candy is listed as a facial product on the store’s website, but I use it mainly as a daily treat for my hands. Other personal favorites are the Sugar line by Fresh, and the Creme Brulee products from Laura Mercier. These are lined up on my bathroom shelf, but I most often first reach for that little jar called Candy. (I know, Creme Brulee is supposed to have all sorts of little accents above the letters, but bear with me, I just can’t find that stuff on WordPress.)
Last weekend, in a “forced by mom” crafting event, my girls and I made a homemade scrub and it rivals the best of the storebought varieties. At least we think so. Here’s the recipe in case you want to craft your own:
1 cup organic cane sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil – one with a neutral scent like canola
1 or 2 drops essential oil (scent of your choice – we used Banana Nut)
Glass containers with lids ( I found the perfect jars with little spoons attached at Pat Catan’s)
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl until well blended. Transfer mixture to a container with a lid. Make a pretty label for your lovely gift of sugar scrub! ( I tossed in a few tablespoons of brown sugar to the mixture just for fun.)
Before using: Stir, then scoop a few teaspoons into your hands and massage onto wet skin.
A food adventure might be sleuthing out the juiciest June strawberries at a farm market, learning about gone but not forgotten area food treasures, working with a chef during a hands on cooking class or touring Pennsylvania’s artisan cheesemaker’s farms (and meeting a few cows along the way) . . or any of a zillion other fun ways to explore foodie things within a day's drive of Pittsburgh.