Pittsburgh's Best Resource for Food Adventures
Archive for May 2011
May 20 2011
Part of the fun of buying local food is meeting the interesting folks who bring it to us. This Saturday, as the sun peeps out from the clouds for once, get out there and say hello to some of our area’s best. Here are my suggestions:
- Bank 40 Mercantile (2184 East National Pike) in Scenery Hill is celebrating Pike Days by serving up lots of local cheese, meats, toffee and other goodies. It looks as if the sun might shine this Saturday, so enjoy it by taking a little drive to the south. After you eat some of her delish food, find Emerald Valley Artisans owner, Alisa Fasnacht, and say hello. Alisa’s fromage blanc is a personal favorite.
- The farm markets are up and running and some of the best are open on Saturdays. The Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip ( stop at The Berry Patch and meet the super nice Brenda and Scotty.)
- The Farmers’ Market Cooperative of East Liberty, although open year round, is really hopping in the spring. Give a shout out to David Lagnese at the California Olive Oil Connection’s table as you buy great oil, local cheese and Jamaican coffee.
- Farmers@Firehouse is open on Saturday mornings at 2216 Penn Avenue . Owner of Paradise Gardens and Farm, Lucinda not only makes the freshest, cleanest goat cheese products I’ve ever taste, but she is a huge supporter of women in agriculture. Go there on Saturday and meet Lucinda, as well as the other farmers and artisan food producers.
May 17 2011
The words Mary Miller and Green Thumb do not go together at all. Terrible with all things that grow, and that sometimes includes my own children, I have been known to kill plants after just days of buying them, to watch my herbs ( all excpt that pesky mint) droop very soon after arriving home from the nursery and to have bad luck even with those little air plants that need nothing at all to thrive.
But I do love garden stores, maybe for the smell of green and dirt, maybe just for the possibility that someday my thumb will turn from brown to green. Imagine my joy when I first found Terrain, owned by the Anthropologie folks, on one of my treks out to the eastern part of the state. You see, this store is not only a gardener’s dream, but it’s a haven for carefully selected treasures . . . beautiful jams, luscious oils, kitchy dishtowels, sweet smelling lotions and creams. It’s also the site of a delightful, outdoorsy cafe.
On my last visit, I didn’t have tme to stop for a meal, so I made sure to work in some time on this trip.
Warm bread and honey butter topped with Hawaiian red salt arrived first, followed by a spring salad and then Gnocchi Parisienne. (I actually ordered the salad and gnocchi, they didn’t just “arrive” at my table.) The browned gnocchi were topped with seasonal veggies – pea tendrils, asparagus, fiddleheads, peas. . served on a ramp puree with house made goat ricotta. Oh . . my . . goodness! Even the lemon mango iced tea was fabulous.
If you’re a Burgher and summer at the Jersey shore, consider taking a detour to Terrain on your way home. Make sure to leave some space in your trunk for all of the things you will just have to buy!
May 8 2011
Yesterday was my idea of a perfect day. It kinda started the night before at a wine tasting at Palate Partners/ Dreadnought Wines, where Eric Miller from Chaddsford Winery was signing his new book, and Debbie at Dreadnought was sampling six different wines. Too fun. Too much fun, maybe? Look at the photo below.
The joy spilled over into Saturday, when I met so many great people, got to wander around, tasted some new foods and saw an amazing pre-Mother’s Day event. Saturday started with a visit to the Farmers’ Market Cooperative of East Liberty for some PA cheese and a few baked goods. A quick drive to the Strip for the season opening on Farmers@Firehouse was next, where I bought some asparagus, tender beet greens and chard, and got to meet Lucinda from Paradise Gardens and Farm. I’ve enjoyed her super fresh goat’s milk products for a while now and love putting a face to the name behind the goodies.
Then on to Salem’s (2923 Penn Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15201-1518, 412- 235-7828) for some Middle Eastern goodies and Greek treats at Salonika, both in the Strip. I love these stores because the selection is great, the parking is easy and they’re a little bit away from the Saturday craziness of Penn Ave on a Saturday. And look at the happy exterior of Salem’s.
Next stop? A quick drive ( it’s on the way home) to Lawrenceville to find the perfect last minute M-Day gift. The Gallery on 43rd proved to be the right choice – not only did I find the perfect mosaic for mom, but I also had energizing conversations with Jennie from Bee Happy Honey, Zo Re of ZoBaby and Mona of The Artful Tart. Wonderful women. By then, I was way behind schedule, and I needed to check the route for part of my upcoming Italian tour. Mapquest wasn’t working for the backroads out near Latrobe, so I had to test the route myself. It was one of those afternoons with sun, rain, dark clouds and blue skies, all within minutes of each other. Fabulous.
With tour route nailed down, I decided to pop into Bardine’s Smokehouse in Crabtree to introduce myself, as I had written about them in the May issue of Frommer’s Budget Travel, and although I shop there frequently, I thought I should probably let them put a face to the name on the story. Gary Bardine, the owner, was there and we had a long chat about sausagemaking and his passion for quality. Thank goodness for people like Gary.
On the way back to Route 22, through gorgeous spring farmland, I noticed a cow standing in the field, looking kind of odd. I stopped to stare and right then and there she gave birth to a calf. Oh, my. I pulled over and watched for a bit, then took some photos as the little one tried to stand for the first time. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.
May 4 2011
How they became known as a weed, I’m not sure. ( Well, they are fairly invasive, I guess.) But they’re pretty, and edible, and with all this rain in Western PA, they’re popping up daily in all of the yards in my neighborhood. You either love ‘em or hate ‘em. Dandelions.
As a child, my Italian relatives tossed tender spring dandelion greens with olive oil and vinegar and savored every bite. I never ate them, for at the time iceberg lettuce and canned green beans were the only veggies that touched my lips. Today, I enjoy bitter greens, so when I see dandelion greens on the menu or in the market, rest assured that the’ll be on my dinner plate. But I’d never eaten the flowers, until a few weeks ago. Well, I didn’t actually eat the flowers, I ate jelly made from the flowers. And it was surprisingly good.
Jam and jelly maker Linda Croskey, owner of The Purple Spoon, kindly allowed me to watch while she made the jelly with dandelion flowers from her own vast backyard of yellow blossoms. Believe me, it’s a real effort to pick enough dandelion tops to make even a few jars of jelly. I picked just a few while chatting with Linda. Yikes. That was enough picking for me.
(Linda makes a sweet and stunning purple violet jelly, too. Can you only imagine how many violet tops it takes to make a jar of jelly? This is tedious work here.) The final product tastes a lot like honey. It’s great on with peanut butter or dabbed on top of a slice of cheese.
Judy Trabbold , owner of the Mountain Herb Shoppe and the Historic Log Cabin Inn in Donegal is also into dandelions. (The inn is the oldest log cabin in Westmoreland County.) On June 12 from 2 to 4 pm, Judy is having a Dandelion Extravaganza with lessons on making dandelion jelly, syrup, salad, wine, and more. I hear that dried and ground dandelion leaves taste just like coffee whem brewed. Who knew? Judy will also discuss the medicinal qualities of the dandelion. Contact her to register.
Sounds like a dandy time!
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.