Pittsburgh's Best Resource for Food Adventures
Archive for ‘Ligonier’ posts
Oct 17 2011
Sorry for the long gap since the last post. A few new fall tours and some charter tours were underway and things got crazy.
Let me tell you about some of the many wonderful people and stops from recent trips.
First of all, my tours are pretty informal, so by the end of the day, my guests feel like old friends to me. This really is one of the best parts of the tours. The people are just the best. Just had to say this.
Second, the stops are great ( or I wouldn’t have selected them in the first place ) but the owners of the businesses or the docents at the museums or the managers at the stores . . or whoever welcomes us . . .really do make each tour special. These are hard working folks who have a real passion for what they do. And they want to share their enthusiasm. I am truly honored that they are wiling to share their time and expertise with my tours.
Okay, so if you missed the tours this fall, I’ll give you a few places to visit on your own. The Compass Inn Museum in Laughlintown is just a treasure. If you go, which you should, please ask for Jim Koontz (see his photo above.) Jim is the innkeeper there, and he continually delights my groups with his knowledge of the inn and of much, much more. During the holidays, The Compass Inn does candlelight tours. The small gift shop is a real gem, too. Check out the MANdles (man candles) and the books of word trivia. THE BEST.
While you are in the Ligonier area, stop at Connections Cafe for lunch. Sharon Detar, the owner, once worked for a vegetarian restaurant and her attention to healthy and fresh really shows. Try her curried chicken salad and the white chocolate raspberry tart.
If you’re out in the Mon Valley, take a drive through Belle Vernon to visit Melanie Patterson at the Good Ol’ Days House. You can usually find Melanie in her store across the street, and if you’re lucky, she’ll give you a quick tour of the bed and breakfast across the street. Melanie carries lots of old time candy and also sells some delicious Gene and Boots ice cream.
For some delicious food that is close to the Burgh, drive on over to the Tin Front Cafe in Homestead. The lovingly prepared vegetarian food is a treat. Ask for Ellie, Daniel or David to fill you in on the history of the building. And then mozy over to Judy’s cookware store next door.
The next sunny autumn day, take a few hours and visit some of these real gems right in our backyard!
Sep 5 2011
Sorry about that title, but I just couldn’t resist. It’s been a long and rainy holiday weekend and I’m getting a bit loopy.
But next weekend is going to be a good one for Pittsburgh food and beer lovers, rain or shine.
The Steel City Big Pour, to benefit Construction Junction, is sold out for next Saturday, but there still lots of things to do during Big Pour Week, which starts on Tuesday the 6th. There are really unique tastings, tours and dinners almost every night. I’ve been on a beer kick ever since tasting some cask beer at the Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown last spring and then touring Anheuser Busch in St Louis this summer. Now, instead of ordering a glass of wine with dinner, beer is often my beverage of choice. I’ve been trying to branch out past Corona with a lime, so this past Friday I had a bottle Guatamalan Mariachi at Alma (great meal, by the way) and I really enjoyed its easy drinkability on a super hot day. (Many beer critics label Mariachi as skunky, but I didn’t notice that. Not even sure if I would know skunky if I tasted it. Ha ha)
September 9 through 11 is the Fair in the Park at Mellon Park on the edge of Shadyside and Squirrel Hill. Always good for getting a headstart on high quality handmade holiday gifts and for eating some “fair” foods like fried veggies and lemonade. Also the 9th through the 11th is the Pittsburgh Irish Festival. Dancing, Gaelic sports, an Irish marketplace and food like bangers and mash, corned beef and cabbage and Irish stew are just part of what you’ll find at the Riverplex complex at Sandcastle. Then we have Mountain Craft Days in Somerset with crafters, open hearth cooking demonstrations and more and then the Highland Games in Ligonier, with Highland dancers and Scottish food (haggis, anyone?).
Also next Sunday, the Italian Festival at Rizzo’s Malabar Inn in Crabtree will showcase music, cooking demonstrations, great food, Italian wines . . . some of Rizzi’s fabulous homemade gelato and things like facepainting for the kids. The event runs from 11 to 7. It’s a short drive from Pittsburgh and the generous and kind DeFabo family always delivers when it comes to fun festivities and great food
Last, but not least, is the Sunday Community Heritage Market at the Pump House in Munhall. Ethnic crafts, food and other fun and educational activities for all of the family to enjoy are all in this historic site of the 1892 Homestead Lockout. It only runs through the end of September, so get there now. The market is open from 11 until 3.
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
Jul 15 2011
I took a short drive out towards Donegal this afternoon to visit with Judy Trabbold, the owner of the Historic Log Cabin Inn. Judy has vast knowledge about herbs and edible flowers, and she is a delight. The Inn is a very old real log cabin, which Judy has painstakingly restored. This blacksmith’s house is one of the oldest homes in Somerset County – from the 1700s – and it is super charming inside. Lucky guests can stay here and walk around the path outside, where you can sit and enjoy the great outdoors. It would be a treat to stay here in any season. I wanted to crawl in one of the beds and take a nap.
After the Inn and Judy’s jasmine green tea, I took the always glorious drive on Route 711 on to Ligonier. I wanted to stp at Connections on 109 South Market Street for some lunch. The last time I was there was talented pastry wizard Sharon Detar’s grand opening a few months ago and things were crazy. This time, without the big opening day crowd (and my own tour group) I had more time to enjoy myself in the shop. I was so impressed with the calm colors and stylish table decor along with a great selection of free trade gifts. But, oh, the food! I ordered ( sorry to admit that I ate all of this, but I did) curried chicken salad, a mixed veggie salad with tomatoes, beans, onions and asparagus, and a slice of an ethereal white chocolate raspberry tart . All washed down with freshly brewed raspberry hibiscus tea. Connections also carries Old Linn Run Coffee, one of my favorites. I can’t wait to go back to both of these places. They are really special.
On the way home, on the lovely (not), traffic light strewn Route 30, I made my requisite stop at DeLallo’s, where I picked up some piquillo peppers, fresh mozzarella, fresh spinach, stuffed mushrooms and watermelon. Perfect for a lovely summer dinner.
Such a short drive from Pittsburgh and such wonderful local treasures. We are so fortunate.
Apr 3 2011
Yes, it is April. But it’s April in southwestern Pennsylvania, so one can expect any type of weather. And yesterday, on the Laurel Highlands tour, we had about everything Mother Nature can dish out . . . snow, sleet, rain and sun. . . and we still had a great time.
Deb and I carefully select our stops because we love what each location is doing with regards to food. These are all hardworking food artisans or business owners who have a true passion for what they do. We are always excited to have our groups get to know these wonderful folks out in the backroads of Western PA. We try to mix it up . . some shopping, a little history, maybe a cooking demo, a tour of a kitchen. . so that there is something for everyone.
We also hand select the samples we give out, whether on the bus or in the goody bags. We never pass out anything we wouldn’t eat ourselves. We also always like and respect the artisans who have crafted the foods that we sample. It’s a very important part of my company’s mission. Companies such as Wild Purveyors, Millers Mustard, LaDorita Dulce de Leche and One Tuff Cookie and others provide our region with top notch foods. They are wonderful additions to the tours.
The stops on our tours are amazing, but the guests on the tours are just as fantastic. It is truly our pleasure to spend a day with them. The tour is more like a day out with friends rather than a “canned” guided tour. It’s relaxed and informal. And we want everyone to have a good time.
The current set of tours begin and end at McGinnis Sisters in Monroeville. Karen Novak does a spectucular job of getting us some caffeine and a few treats in our bellies before we get on our way for a day of nibbling and dining. The day after each tour, I am always grateful for the wonderful people at our stops and our on tour bus. Thanks to all of you for making this so much fun for us!!
Mar 14 2011
A quick word about the spring 2011 tours. After many requests for a Saturday tour, we’re venturing out to the Laurel Highlands on Saturday, April 2. If you went on this fun tour last fall, our newest version is similar, with a few little tweaks from last time. A new shop or two and a mini-factory tour. But just like last October, we meet some fantastic food purveyors and chefs and eat a lot of wonderful local foods. A delicious specially prepared lunch and award winning dessert are included, too. And a local wine sampling!!
The Bedford tour on April 28 also has a few twists from the route we took last fall. I know you’ll love the changes. We sure do. If you’ve been meaning to drive out to Bedford but never get there, let us do the driving for our culinary tour to historic Bedford. Breathe in the fresh mountain air while we eat and drink our way through the town. Good stuff.
Our new tour, the one with an Italian focus, is turning out to be magnifico. It covers many traditional Italian food specialties such as pasta, biscotti and cannoli along with some contemporary Italian cuisine. We’ll be meeting many personalities in the Italian world of Greensburg and surrounding areas, too. This tour is running twice. Once on Thursday, April 14 and then again on Thursday, May 12.
A few spots remain on most tours, and people come and go off the list due to other commitments that arise, so if you are interested, please contact me at email@example.com or 412.576.1755.
All tours leave from McGinnis Sisters Special Food Store in Monroeville around 9 AM and return at about 5 PM. The cost is $125, which includes transportation, all samples, meals, wine tastings and admission fees ( when applicable.)
Feb 15 2011
I’ve been super busy researching all of the fantastic stops for the Spring 2011 tours. The Fork and The Road did a culinary tour to Bedford and to parts of the Laurel Highlands last fall, and both were terrific, but there’s always room for a little tweak here and there. The number of high quality artisanal foods in these areas just keep increasing and it’s so hard to decide where the tour bus should go. So hard and so fun!
New this season is the Italian themed tour. Of course, lots of testing of all of the stops and products is in order, so as soon as there is a day without ice and snow, I head out on Route 30 to investigate all things food. I’m not giving away any big tour secrets, but I can say I’ve been sampling dark chocolate truffles, freshly made cheese, delicious pasta, crunchy biscotti and a variety of pasta sauces. Oh, and a little vino always enters the picture, too. The Italian tour is a mix of “old school” and “cutting edge” cuisine. Good stuff. We’ve already had quite a response to this tour, so we’re doing two of them instead of just one.
The small tour size (18 people max.) allows us to have a more personal experience at out stops . . talking with the chefs, store owners or vintners. So don’t delay in signing up. A few tours are close to capacity. For more info, click on the Tours tab above. For even more info or to register, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 412.576.1755. Hope to see you on the bus!!
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 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.
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.