Pittsburgh's Best Resource for Food Adventures
Archive for August 2011
Aug 29 2011
It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and I was entertaining a few stowaways from Philly who were riding out the rain from Hurricane Irene. We were having a great time. So I wasn’t going to leave my patio and my guests for just anything. But for a cooking class with Naomi Gallego, the Executive Pastry Chef at Habitat at The Fairmont Hotel? Bye bye guests and comfy patio chair. At a little after 4 PM, I was in my car and driving downtown, excited to see what Naomi had up her sleeve for a few food bloggers who were able to attend this special class.
Naomi didn’t disappoint. I was joined by the ladies from EatPGH to have cocktails and then some bubbly and sweet (and homemade by Naomi) hausmade federweisser, a barely fermented freshly pressed grape juice. At only 4 percent alcohol, this fruity, fizzy beverage was refreshing and perfect with our first creation, a traditonal flammkuchen. Both recipes are fond memories from time that Naomi spent studying and working in Cologne, Germany. The flammkuchen, a much better rendition of the Alsatian Tart that I frequently purchase at Trader Joe’s, consisted of a thin raised crust, topped with bacon, onions ( both raw and caramelized), homemade creme fraiche, fresh chives, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. As usual, I tried eat only part of it, but ended up eating the entire savory tart. Next, Naomi threw in a few greens, in the form of a baby arugula salad with white balsamic vinaigrette. So good. Then we each made a Peach Bakewell Tart for dessert. I mentioned that I have a hard time with pastry crusts – that the crusts are never flaky, and Naomi felt my hands, labeling them “hot.” That’s no surprise to me. All of me is a few degrees warmer than it used to be these days. Even with hot hands, my tart came out looking beautiful. And it tasted great.
I’ve eaten at Habitat a few times, and also attended special events there. The food has always been carefully prepared and wonderful, with a special attention made to buying from local farms and purveyors. Naomi is very talented and you umight know her from her appearances on Food Network Challenge. It’s really a plus to have her in Pittsburgh.
I’m hoping the folks at the Fairmont will be doing more classes for the public in the future. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my family and guests about the class and the recipes that were near and dear to Naomi. Next time, maybe I can bring others along. Thanks to both Naomi and to Julie Abramovic, PR Director at the hotel, for a fun and informative class.
Aug 26 2011
Pittsburgh’s largest (and most fun) food event, GoodTaste! Pittsburgh, has something new this year. A chance to be a food star! Make a video highlighting your stellar cooking skills and your entertaining personality and send it to the folks at GoodTaste! Four semi-finalists will be chosen at a cookoff on September 17 at the Carnegie Science Center’s Kitchen Theater. Two finalists will them compete for the title on stage on November 5 at the show. And the prizes are good . . . . $1000, a professional video (you know, to promote yourself to the big leagues at The Food Network or on a morning show), the opportunity to become the 2012 face of GoodTaste!Pittsburgh and other goodies, too. There are a few rules and guidelines, so make sure to read the details here before you get going. The deadline is coming up soon, so hurry and get your video sent into the nice folks at GTP. Good luck! Hope to see one of my readers on stage on November 5.
My favorite Pittsburgh food destination is the Pittsburgh Public Market. From Friday, September 2 through Sunday, September 4, they are celebrating their first birthday. You’ll find samples, live music, giveaways, and a special Public Market birthday cake. I have loved watching the market grow and grow, and I’ve met some wonderful people who sell their products there . The folks at The Berry Patch and at Glades Pike Winery are near and dear to me. And, oh, the Pittsburgh Marshmallow Factory is just so heavenly. Happy Birthday, Pittsburgh Public Market! It’s been a great year.
Aug 21 2011
About a week ago, I read a post at Food in Jars that really touched me. ( I love this blog because it’s homey, the photos are stunning and the recipes are unique and delicious. ) This particular entry was about a fairly well known food blogger, Jennifer Perillo, and Jennifer’s husband Mikey’s untimely death. I won’t go into the details, but if you click on my link in the first sentence, you can read it for yourself. Please do take a minute to read Jennifer’s post, too. These talented writers can put their feelings into words . . ..and when it comes to blogs it always has to be a few words. I am in awe of their sills. I think hundreds of the pies have been made and shared since the recipe appeared online on August 12. What a sweet, sweet way to spread Jennifer’s message.
So this weekend we made two peanut butter pies. One for our immediate family, and one for my younger daughter’s boyfriend’s family. The pie is easy to make and it is really good, not too peanut buttery or chocolatey. Give it a try. And share it with those you love. Along with a hug or two.
Creamy Peanut Butter Pie
Serves 10 to 12
8 ounces chocolate cookies ( I used those thin chocolate wafers, but I see online that all sorts of different chocolate cookies were used with success.)
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 ounces finely chopped chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips ( We used chocolate chips.)
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup creamy-style peanut butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 – 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Add the cookies to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs. Combine melted butter and cookie crumbs in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well. Press mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. Pour over bottom of cookie crust and spread to the edges using an off-set spatula. Sprinkle chopped peanuts over the melted chocolate. Place pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a small bowl and store in refrigerator until ready to use. Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a deep bowl. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar. Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.
Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture (helps lighten the batter, making it easier to fold in the remaining whipped cream). Fold in the remaining whipped cream. Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan. Drizzle the melted chocolate on top, if using, and refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving.
Aug 18 2011
So much going on right now . . . .and I have NO time to get to some of my favorite summer food events. Boo. So it’s up to my readers to go in my place. And then let me know about your experiences.
International Village runs through tonight at Renzihausen Park near McKeesport. Filled with food from over 19 countries and the most delicious Croatian barbecued lamb, this is the place to go when you want to try many different ethnic dishes all at once. Get your food,then sit down to enjoy the international dancing. Love it. Click here for more info.
The Ypapanti Greek food festival in East Pittsburgh. This runs through the 21st and is another winner. The food is delish, especially the apricot baklava, and they also have dancing. A great place to bring the family.
And next Friday, there is a Frontier Dinner at Christian Klay Winery to celebrate the start of the National Road 200 years ago. You can be sure that the evening, which includes food, wine and entertainment, will be memorable. Get your tickets now.
So many good food events in August. Just not enough time!
Aug 10 2011
I love cheese. Last spring, at Waltz Vineyard’s barrel tasting (part of a fun Wine and Chocolate tour), I fell in love with Common Folk Pecan Jack. It came from an unfamiliar company called FarmFromage. Once I got home, I googled a bit and found out that a man named Howard, in kind of a second career, now sells these amazing handmade Lancaster County artisan cheeses to restaurants and retail outlets. His goal is to preserve small independent farms. Read more about Howard here.
I told Karen Novak, the lovely and knowledgable cheesemonger at McGinnis Sisters in Monroeville about Howard and she contacted him, sent for some samples . . and voila . . we can now get Howard’s cheese right here in our area! Karen tells me that she just got some unbelievable FarmFromage Beer Tomme last week. (Tommes are normally produced from the skim milk left over after the cream has been removed to produce butter and high fat cheeses, or when there is too little milk to make a full fat cheese.) I am going to get some tomorrow and you should, too!
If you love cheese, please go out to McGinnis Sisters’ Monroeville store to meet Karen and then pick up some of Howard’s finds when you’re there.
Aug 6 2011
Airplanes and I do not mix. I don’t enjoy flying. And that is an understatement. Just ask my husband, who usually gets stuck sitting next to me on flights. So two weeks ago, when I visited my daughter and her boyfriend in St. Louis for her 21st bday, I got there by driving. It’s a long drive, so I split the trip up and stayed overnight near Cincinnati both coming and going. Of course, I stayed near Cincy just to go to Jungle Jim’s, a magnificent grocery store in the suburban town of Fairfield. Jungle Jim’s never disappoints (more on JJs sometime soon) but neither did St Louis.
Juan and Lindsay had already thought through the necessary food stops before I arrived. (Juan’s recommendation to stay at the Knight Center on the campus of Wash U. was the best advice. It was perfect.)
The night of my arrival, there was a food truck ” festival” of sorts. Many food trucks, all with long lines waiting for the goodies, were lined up on the edge of a city park. I think Pittsburgh definitely needs more food trucks. The park was filled with young and old, all hanging out together eating falafel, sushi, pizza and cupcakes.
We had a fun time at the memorabilia filled restaurant in the “loop” section called Blueberry Hill. Known for burgers and for being the St. Louis home of Chuck Berry, I had a darn good Club Sandwich there and I’m picky when it comes to club sandwiches.
Next came the St Louis institution called Pappy’s. BBQ is king here and the line, even at mid-day when it was over a hundred degrees outside, strung through the restaurant. I had barbecued brisket, green beans and sweet potato fries. This was good stuff.
On the morning of the bday ( it was her 21st, after all) we toured the Anheuser-Busch factory and were treated to a complimentary brew after the tour. It was the first time she was carded and legal. We both tried the wheat beer and it was perfect, even for before noon. Dinner was at a Peruvian restuatant called Mango, recently voted Best South American restaruant by readers of St Louis Magazine. Clean fresh flavors prevailed here with tilapia seviche and other treats like plaintain chips with a salsa verde and beef empanadas. Oh, and a winning Sangria that I wish I could replicate at home.
The nest morning, before getting on my way back . .well, back to Jungle Jim’s for an evening cooking class, we had breakfast at Winslow Home, a charming store/cafe near University City. Love love love.
This was my first real adventure in the mid-west outside of the Chicago end of Illinois and parts of Ohio (Ohio doesn’t count as the mid-west to me) and I was impressed. I hope I get to go back soon. Thanks Juan and Lindsay for a great time.
Aug 1 2011
Hooray! Hooray! Two tours are scheduled for fall of 2011. I’ve been away in St Louis (great time . . .and the topic of the next blog) so I’m sorry for the delay with this info. The first fall tour is on Thursday, September 29, when we’ll doing a Laurel Highlands II tour. The Laurel Highlands trip was so successful last year (the LH actually include quite a bit of W Pa, but our LH tour focuses on Ligonier and surrounding towns) that we changed the stops a bit and added a new tour in the same area. Want to learn about grilled pizza (oh, yes), herbs and other hidden foodie finds just an hour from Pittsburgh? This is the thing for you.
Then, on Tuesday, October 4, it’s a new route for The Fork and The Road. We’ll be going south of Pittsburgh toward the historic National Road. The pieces are coming together, but believe me, this is going to be a fun food and beverage filled tour, with lots of history thrown in. It’s such a beautiful area and in October the leaves will be stunning. On this adventure, we will be leaving from the South Hills instead of Monroeville. Good news for all of you who have had to drive through the nasty M’ville traffic to get to us last year. We do love McGinnis Sisters, however, and they will still be with us in spirit ( and we’ll be munching on some of their goodies) on this tour.
One thing I am very proud about on our fall tours is that the people who run the businesses where we stop are just the kindest, most hard working folks around. They are truly wonderful and I am thrilled to bring my groups to them.
We’re quite busy with charter tours this fall, but wanted to make sure we included a couple of trips for the general public. Keep checking back, because we are also adding half day tours this fall. They will also be posted soon. Email or call for more details . . .seating is limited. firstname.lastname@example.org or 412.963.8565
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.