I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts. . . . okay, this is not true at all!!

abraham lincoln

Last week, I took a short trip to Gettysburg, mainly because one of my favorite authors was in town to do a talk and book signing.  Kelly Corrigan, who wrote The Middle Place, Lift and Glitter and Glue, was to speak at the Adams County Arts Center and my desire to wander told me that I had to go. I just can’t sit still once the weather breaks (which it didn’t once I was on the road, by the way). Plus, it was only $35 per ticket, which included the book, a chance to meet Kelly, wine and snacks.  Good deal, right?!!

When I arrived in town, I stopped at the Gettysburg Visitor Center to visit the museum and check out the Battle of Gettysburg cyclorama painting.  It was so interesting. I would highly recommend it for anyone, but especially  for folks like me with poor recollections of the Civil War from junior high history. Of course, I bought up some culinary history books from the shop there, too.  Can’t stop myself from food books.  It is becoming a problem.   From there, I was off to the Dobbin House Tavern ( built way back in 1776) after a recommendation from the guy at the ticket desk inside the visitor center. Abraham Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address across the street in the cemetery.   Really cool, historic building and good food, but when I got home I noticed weird stuff in my photos which creeped me out a bit.  A friend noticed the shadows and outlines, too.  I googled the Dobbin House and  the internets told me that it is ” very haunted.”  I ‘ve decided not to look at the pictures again and will probably delete them from my files … but here is one or two in case you want to take a peep.  See what you think. The top is of the dining room and the bottom is a peep hole into the spring that still runs into the basement of the building.  The tavern used to be a place where slaves could hid on their way up to Canada.   I am finished looking at them . .forever.dobbinsDobbin 2


I stayed at a lovely small hotel, the Federal Pointe Inn, which used to be a school ( built in 1896 ).  The 18 room hotel had a sweet, small bar in the basement, which was so toasty on a snowy (end of MARCH) evening by a pretty stone fireplace.  There I had a crab cake and a beer before the talk just to hold me over.

I also had a light meal and a beer at The Pub earlier in the day ( yes, I eat a lot, I know )  where I tried their signature sweet potato soup with raisins. Sweet Potato Soup I was hesitant, but it was really good.  Not too sugary, not milky –  and the plump raisins were a bonus.

After a few wine tastings in town, I was ready for the book event.kelly corrigan

It was a perfect short getaway.  Just a few hours from home . . . great food, amazing history and good shopping.

Double M

One of my dearest friends frequently calls me Double M because of my initials.  It’s a great little phrase yet a quick Google search shows that I am not the only Double M around.  Double M Pizza, Double M Gaited Horses, Double M Auto Sales. Food, animals, cars . . so why not have  a Double M day?

Edgar Thomson WorksMy Double M day?  Mills and Maple!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 On Sunday, I drove down to pick up my parents for a day out and about.  I left early to get some treats for them at the newish Five Points Artisan Bakery in Squirrel Hill. Five Points Artisan Everything is so good, but get there early as they frequently sell out early.  Taking the long route to the my folks’ house through Braddock,  Munhall and towards McKeesport, I ended up driving past two of my favorite places.  The first is the Joe Magarac statue across from Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock.  This legend, to me, represents toils, troubles and strength of the Eastern European immigrant population that worked in the mills.  Joe is supposed to protect the mill workers.  Drive on down to Braddock Avenue across from the Edgar Thomson Works to see Joe in person. It is a terrific place to ponder things.  There really is no parking right in front of him, but you can park and sit across the road in the small parking area near the entrance to ET.  According to legend,  Joe  “ate that hot steel like soup and cold steel ingots like meat.”

Joe Magarac

After that, my road trip took me past the Clairton Mill, a steel mill and coke production facility which is one of the world’s largest in the world. It is still working, belching out much cleaner smoke that the 1960s when our sky and water were both yellow from pollution from the mill..  I know it’s odd, but I find comfort in the sulfur smell near the old coke plants.  Smells like home.

Next, I picked the folks up and we ventured to my second M of the day .   … maple. It was open house weekend for a whole pile of sugar camps in Somerset County.  I went to the event last year and it was so great that I had to do it again..  Once you see the effort that goes into producing maple sugar and syrup, there is a real appreciation and value to the cost of true maple products.  We made maple sugar and spotza and sampled maple popcorn, maple cookies, maple syrup topped sundaes and more. Maple Sap Evaporator At the camp, we watched the big, fancy evaporator do its job to morph maple sap into syrup.  The trees can only be tapped until early April, so if you have the chance, go check it out in the next few weeks. If you’ve never been to a real hidden treasure, the Somerset Historical Center, do pay them a visit. It is a wonderful place to learn all of the agricultural history of Somerset County and surrounding areas.

So, the Double M day of mills and maple ended as it began, with a drive down the lonely roads past old mills, with my windows rolled down for a sniff of my childhood.


Let’s think about Spring!



I can’t take another day of this dreary weather. All I do is make cookies, soup and bread, as you can see from my photos.  It was fun for a week or so, but now I have had enough of flour all over the kitchen and a freezer filled with soup containers.   So, I started to think about all of the good things coming up in the next month or so to get me out of the house.  For starters, this Saturday heralds the first day of 2015 that Standing Chimney in New Galilee ( near New Castle) is open.  It’s a sweet shop filled with local pottery, baking and dip mixes, handmade candles and all sorts of lovely, locally made items.  Every time I’ve been there, the dear owners have samples of their goodies so you can try before you buy.  And once I even bought a fresh,  free range chicken there (from their backyard, I think.)  You never know what they will have and that is part of the fun.  Standing Chimney is open from 10 am until 4 pm this Saturday.  After all of this cabin fever, who isn’t ready for a little road trip??


Another cool thing this weekend is the Hard Boiled event at the Nomadic Trading Company in Punxsutawney.  This  one is new to me, but I am intrigued.  So if the weather is decent, I’ll be trekking to the land of the groundhog to check out this the goods.   My friend, Danielle, from The Tea Loft in Allison Park will be there and it is worth driving a long way for her beautiful teas.



Foods Not Made Here Anymore

A few weeks ago I visited the Duane Michals exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Art. It was a wonderful collection of photos and information about an artist born and raised in McKeesport, so close to my hometown of Elizabeth. The roots of hard work and steel show in his work, but what I enjoyed most were the photos of that included so many food products that were once produced in the Pittsburgh area.

Carnegie photo exhibit

Vimco pasta, once made in Collier, was a Western Pennsylvania staple. The Viviano Macaroni Company began in 1917 and was sold to Borden in 1985. In 1991, all operations were moved to St. Louis.

Up until the mid-90s, Heinz mustard was made in their North Side plant. If you grew up in the area in the 60s, then you surely remember the amazing field trips to Heinz and Town Talk bread. Each student went home with a sampler kit of ketchup, mustard and relish and a bag of squishy Town Talk and a bakery hat. Those were the days. For some memories of the Heinz days, check out the North Side video from the library and enjoy.

There’s a lot more in this photo . . .Iron City Beer, Klondikes, and even Clark Bars, which are now owned by the Necco company and manufactured in New England.
Although the exhibit finished on February 16, you can see more of Michal’s work in the book titled Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals. It is really worth a look.

Mother’s Bread


This ghost sign (an old hand painted ad on a building ) is on my route to the Lili Cafe at 3138 Dobson Street in Polish Hill, one of my favorite coffee shops in Pittsburgh. (If you go, get a Mind Mender . oh yeah.)   I love old faded signs, because they remind me of  Mail Pouch ads on barns and thus of  the sweet smelling tobacco that my grandfathers used in their pipes.


But, imagine my excitement when, last year while reading a book  – NERD ALERT –  called White Bread:  A Social History of the Store Bought Loaf, by Aaron Bobrow-Strain, I found out that Pittsburgh was the home of one of the first white bread manufacturer’s in the country.  The Ward Baking company was  located between 31st and 32nd Street on Liberty Avenue and  made Mother’s Bread along with TipTop, the squishy white loaves that were all the rage in the early 1900s.   It was “the idea loaf, white, light , tasty palatable and nourishing.”    The Ward company, which was the largest bakery in the US in the early 1900s,  also made TipTop bread, which was the first nationally distributed enriched loaf .  As  the whiteness took over, the nutrients were stripped away.  Enriching the bread with vitamins and minerals was the way to go.    The Ward company eventually bought other companies, merged and this and that .. .. and eventually morphed into the baker and distributor of  items like Wonder bread and Hostess products.


Anyway, the sign at 3209 Dobson Street, which was visible again after a fire in 2008 burned the apartment building next door, makes me smile every time I drive past.  Go check it out!!

Happy 2015!

Here are a few of my adventures in 2015 so far. . . . Troeg’s Brewery and Cafe in Hershey,   the PA Farm Show and a visit to the newish Five Points Artisan Bakery in Squirrel Hill.

TroegsFarm Show veggiesFive Points Artisan Bakery





Not sure where the time goes, but wow .. . . it’s already working towards February and no one is happier than me! Just a quick reminder of some good things on the horizon. . . . . . .terrific culinary tours can always be had with the folks at Pittsburgh Tours and More, so go to www.pghtoursandmore.net to see what is coming up. They are all terrific, but I helped to develop the Steel Town Sampler and The Flavor of Pittsburgh tours, so I am just a bit biased!! Also, if your cabin fever is out of control, come on out to Ligonier on January 24 to be part of the Fire, Spice and Ice Culinary Getaway. It’s the same weekend as the Ice Fest in Ligonier, so you can check out the carvings, then pop down to the Ramada Ligonier for a snappy cocktail, a sweet local food/beverage vendor tasting area, a cooking demo, delish dinner and then a bottomless mimosa brunch the next morning. Go to www.ramadaligonier.com and click on events for more details. I am making an effort to post more on the blog this year . . .mainly about fun food events, amazing local artisans and some other food adventures. Hoping to focus on people doing good things for our communities, and not so much on business stuff.  I am just not that interested in selling things or tooting my own horn. Just want to let others know about all of the good things and amazing people in our area who are involved with food endeavors.  Thanks for reading!!

Good times in September!!

The August 12 tour called Edible Secrets of Pittsburgh:  What’s All The Buzz About? sold out, so I have added another one on September 3.  The ShowClix link at www.pghtoursandmore.net isn’t up yet, but if you are interested let me know and I will do my best to hold spots for you!!  This is a lovely tour of hidden gems through Lawrenceville, Etna, Highland Park and Morningside.   Just a delight!! Cost is $75 and the tour lasts approximately 4 hours.

The picture below is a secret garden that we will visit. It is filled with the most luscious produce.  But I am keeping the location a secret.

secret garden



Another tour, called Mangia Men, is being held on September 23.  For this tour, we will venture out towards Irwin and Jeannette, visiting Italian restaurants and groceries to eat and learn about local Italian treasures. It is a six hour trip and the cost is$85.    Fabuloso!!

For any of these tours or for info about the Flavor of Pittsburgh tour, email me at mary@theforkandtheroad.com or call 412.576.1755.


Pasta Machines at Fede Pasta

Fresh Pasta . . oh so delicious!!

New Food Tours in the Works!!

If you haven’t read about the new tours  or seen us on WTAE or KDKA, let me fill you in.  The Flavor of Pittsburgh tour is a three hour food trip through Pittsburgh’s culinary history from early days in Market Square through today.  It is really fun, I promise!!    This tour is an ongoing one and more info is at www.pghtoursandmore.net.

I am starting another series of tours that are one time events, with the theme of Edible Secrets of Pittsburgh.  The first in the series is on August 12 and it’s called What’s the Buzz All About?  I don’t want to give any secrets away, but the stops are wonderful and the people that we will meet are so terrific, too.  They are all doing good things for our community .We will have enough food for a meal throughout the four hour tour and the cost is $75 per person, which includes all food and transportation. The shuttle leaves from Lawrenceville, where we can park in a safe lot during the tour.

Again, for more info, go to www.pghtoursandmore.net and click on the Food Tour link.

In the works for September is an Italian themed tour and also a fun tour to new meat markets in our area.

For  any questions, email me at mary@theforkandtheroad.com or call 412.576.1755..

Hope to see you soon!!

mary miller


The Fork and The Road rises again!!

Although The Fork and The Road has never really been gone, I am getting back into doing more tours by partnering with Pittsburgh Tours & More, which is part of Pittsburgh Transportation Group!  This will allow The Fork and The Road to do more tour and to meet your needs by doing a better job with charter and custom tours.  Keep your eyes open here and on Facebook for all the good things to come in mid-2014.  We are so excited about this new and wonderful chapter for The Fork and The Road.  Please email me at mary@theforkandtheroad.com with any questions or to discuss planning a culinary tour for you or your group.

new photos 014


It was a rainy day for the Encore tour this spring, but we still had a fabulous time!!








Thanks so much for your patience over the last year and during the next few months as my website makes a transition to something much more beautiful and readable.  it certainly is a process, but it is all good in the end!



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