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!!

The Fork and The Road returns!

After a few months of rest and rejuvenation . . . and lots of exploring new culinary treats, I am back to the website and blog. The past months have taken me to a food meeting in NYC which was beyond fabulous and an extended stay in south Jersey that totally cleared my mind and my constantly inflamed W PA sinuses. (Nothing like a beach breeze to cure all ills.) I’ve trekked to central PA for luscious produce and homemade ice cream, explored the history down to Pittsburgh’s south in Washington, PA and visited a brewery, a grain mill and a dairy up north of Butler.  But now it’s time to share my finds.

Blazing hot pizza oven at Keste in the West Village.

The culinary tours are still on the menu, but my focus is now mainly on charter tours. Here’s how it works. A business  purchases all 18 or 20 seats, and fills the seats with employees or customers as an incentive or “thank you” for work well done, great service or for stellar business patronage.The tours are also popular with book groups, garden clubs and “newcomer” clubs.  They’re a  great team building experience and a way to learn  about the many culinary treasures in our area without being worried about getting lost on the backroads.

The Fork and The Road is also currently doing  presentations on W PA culinary history to groups who are limited in time for a driving tour or who don’t care for riding on a bus . .albeit a luxury bus. These talks are lively, fun and involve tasting some local treats.

Milking time at Otterbein Acres farm near Carlisle. The cheese is available here in Pittsburgh in at least two markets.

If you’re looking for something new and different for your group, give me a call. I can build a unique tour specific to your group’s interests.

Spring 2012 Tours

The Fork and The Road does not like winter. Not at all. So, now that the holidays are over . . . hope yours were fantastic . . .The Fork is getting snuggled up under blankets and working on the Spring tours.  I am working with Karen Novak at McGinnis Sisters to plan some amazing wine and cheese tours, driving around finding new hidden stops for a Steel Mill themed culinary tour and thinking hard about a chocolate tour.

 So stay tuned for more info in the next few weeks. If you have specific questions, feel free to give me a call at 412.576.1755.

Happy 2012 to everyone and I hope it is filled with good health, happiness and kindness in your world.  xo

More wonderful holiday food gifts.

Nothing’s more exciting than coming home to find a package on your doorstep.  That’s why I love food of the  month clubs.  Every month a surprise awaits!   Go local by getting the hard to buy for person on your list a Biscotti of the Month membership. My friend, Anna Jo Noviello, owner of Sunset Cafe and Aunt Anna’s Biscotti in Greensburg, makes the best biscotti around. I never really liked the dry, almond scented biscotti from my childhood, but Anna Jo’s are  different. They’re  a little softer and  come in more contemporary flavors, although they sell the traditional almond ones, too.

Aunt Anna's Biscotti on the cooling rack at the bakery in Greensburg

Anna Jo has lots of varieties, but myfavorites are Red Velvet and Coconut Lemon Macadamia. The Biscotti of the Month Club is a gift that everyone would enjoy.

Another terrific idea for a local gift is a spirit filled growler from Arsenal Cider House. After months of trying to get there, I finally stopped on Saturday morning and I just loved it!  Located in a house across from the Allegheny County Health Dept. in Lawrenceville,  these folks make hard ciders from different local fruit and they also make  mead.  I can’t really describe this place, but I loved it and I loved their products, too.  You  must stop by to have a sample.  I bought the Pear, apple and Cinnamon apple.  I was told that concord grape would be next.  Their bottles are super attractive, the vintages have fun names and the contents are excellent. I can’t think of a better hostess gift for this season. ( If you can keep from drinking it yourself.)

Any other last minute food gifts ideas?  Let me know.  So many great products right here in Western PA.  We are so fortunate.


Good things in the Burgh

Wandering is my favorite pastime. Exploring new places, meeting new people.  Just looking around and absorbing the vibes.  This past weekend was filled with so many exciting discoveries that I just have to share each and every one. I ended the weekend inspired.

Friday afternoon, on a quest to finish a holiday project, I stopped at  the Oakmont Candle Company in,  duh, Oakmont.  This local company makes 100% soy candles in a multitude of really great scents. Owner, Gene Alese, told me that soy candles are required to be just 25% soy, so make sure you ask about this before you buy.  Soy burns clean, without any toxic smoke, but 100% soy is the only way to go. Oakmont Candles also make an upscale line called Wyk, with super fabulous packaging. Consider buying local for things even like candles.

Look at the lovely packaging of the Wyk candles. And the candles smell amazing!

Next on my drive was a quick stop at  The Pittsburgh Center for The Arts to pick up some lovely work by Rochel Schiffrin  and Martha Ellen Ressler.

The beautiful and talented Rockel. Can't show her work because it's a surprise for a special person.

Then a few miles over to BoxHeart Gallery in Bloomfield led to a major gift for myself . . three framed snowflake paintings by Cella Neapolitan. A few years ago I bought one of her snowflake necklaces (okay, I bough two)   and they always garner lots of oohs and aahs when I wear them.

My beloved snowflake necklace. Made from a magnified actual snowflake photo.

Saturday morning started with a stop to get olive oil refills from David Lagnese at the Farmer’s Cooperative of Easty Liberty.  Always a great way to get my local food fix and much less crowded than the Strip District.  Next stop was the I Made It! Market at Bakery Square, where I made sure to visit Krystal Doring at the Green Bubble Gorgeous booth.  I love her products, especially the Mocha Mint  and Vanilla Coconut Creme Whipped Body Wash.   There’s another I Made It! on December 7 on the Pitt campus, so check it out.

Sweet and creamy, with no icky residue. This minty soapy parfait is delightful!

On to the holiday glass sale at the Pittsburgh Glass Center.  I love glass because it is cold to the touch and with my current state of hotness ( the temperature kind of hotness, not the cool kind) having gorgeous handmade glass around the house is helpful. The center has a small shop and has classes (great gift idea) throughout the year.   Onward to the Holiday Book Fair at the Heinz History Center where I met travel and roadside “wonder” author Brian Butko and his publisher at Stackpole Books.  This actually made my day, as I have been  Butko fan for years. After paying for my books (too many books), it was time to get home.  The day ended with a bison burger from Burgatory for dinner.   My favorite burger in the city.

Sunday began with some cookie baking ( dark chocolate cherry and  Mexican wedding cookies) and then a visit to the tail end of the Lawrenceville Cookie Tour.  Some terrific new finds here . . Atelier at 5204   Butler Street  and Trinity Gallery on Hatfield Street.    Glass artist Meeghan Triggs does amazing work (I wanted to buy everything in the shop) and,  lucky me, I got to meet talented photographer Adam  Milliron, who was hanging out in Meeghan’s gallery. Adam showed me some of his recent Carrie Furnace photos and also some stunning food shots. True talent, here.  The lighting in his photos gave me chills. Really great work.  Dan and Carol Gaser at Trinity Gallery  have a gem in their place off the main drag in Lawrenceville by focusing on newer artists.  The had more of Dressler’s work and some lots of other art that was so beautiful. Definitely going back to all of my new Lawrenceville finds.

One last stop at the Pittsburgh Public Market  in the Strip for some OMG fantastic duck prosciutto from The Crested Duck, and I was finished for the day.  So pumped by all of the fantastic artisans following their passion. Thanks to all for making the end of my week so fulfilling!

More great holiday foodish gifts.

It’s no secret that I love the Farmer’s Market Cooperative of East Liberty.  It runs every Saturday from 5 am (yes, that is very early) until noon.  The vendors are so nice and they sell local goods all throughout the year, unlike many markets that close for the winter.  During each visit, I stop and say hello to David Lagnese, who sells great coffee, fresh squeezed juice, some of the best olive oil in the city and terrific local cheese. ( His stand is on the left towards the back of the market.)

Turns out David’s father has penned a lovely book about Italian cooking and Italian families called Cookin’, Recollections and Recipes of Joe Lagnese.  It’s written a  bit like a novel and the recipes read a bit like stories, but it’s obvious that this guy knows his food.  Every recipe I’ve tried has been a hit.  The best part of giving this book as a gift is that profits benefit the Muriel’s Breath of Life organization, which provides assistance to patients with Cystic Fibrosis.  The elder Lagnese’s daughter in law passed away from adult Cystic Fibrosis a few years ago and the family began this foundation to honor her life.  Stop in at the market on Saturday’s or  go to  to purchase the book.  Pair it with some of his son David’s olive oil and a piece of wonderful PA cheese and you have a gift anyone would love.

Another favorite locally made gift would be anything from the line of USA Pans bakeware made in Crescent, PA.  I purchased the mini muffin pan, the mini brownie pan and the Pullman loaf pan from CRATE on Greentree Road.  Sturdy, easy to clean and just all around terrific, these pans are professional grade bakeware that make great gifts for the family baker or for someone who wants to be a baker.  Pair your pan with some local flour ( St Vincent Gristmill), a bottle of homemade vanilla  . .  who wouldn’t love this?!

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving.  My girls were both home for the holiday and it reminded me of how much I continue to miss them even though we’ve been empty nesters for a while now.  Boo hoo.    I need to keep busy to get over my empty house sadness.   Always looking for something new and fun, so if you know of anything, please pass the info along.  Oh . . .and don’t forget the holiday glass sale and the I Made It!  Market this coming weekend . . .and the annual Cookie Tour in Lawrenceville.  Lots to look forward to this week.

Where is the time going?

Weeks are flying by and I can’t get caught up. Yikes.  Sorry for the delay with the winner of the contest.

The winner of the beautiful cutting board was Christine. Lucky girl.   Congratulations and thank you to Ralph Teets at Cutting Board Art for his generous donation.  His boards are lovely and make fantastic gifts, either by themselves or as part of a gift of wine, crackers, dried fruit and cheese.  Artisan made gifts are so much more valuable than factory made. Thanks, Cutting Board Art!!

Another fabulous holiday gift is the sampler from The Berry Patch.  You get to pick three different flavors of jams or jellies  in 4 oz jars.  Not only are they so tasty, but they have a multitude of uses from marinades to salad dressings and  come already packaged in a beautiful box ( notice the box in the above photo.)  Stop down to the Pittsburgh Public Market to select your flavors  today.  You can sample them before you purchase, too. Don’t forget to say hello to Scottie and Brenda, the owners of The Berry Patch.  The Berry Patch folks can be reached at 724-238-4714 or at if you want to pre-order your gifts.  Things can get crazy on weekends and sometimes they do sell out.

Still looking for something to do on Thanksgiving?   The nice folks at the stunning TreeTops at Polymath Park  near Donegal would love to have you join them for Thanksgiving dinner. The menu includes roasted butternut squash soup, in house smoked salmon and many traditional goodies such as roast turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes. Oh, and pumpkin pie brulee.  Call them today!!!

My 2011 Holiday Local Food-ish Gift List. . . .and a Giveaway, too!

Although it’s only Halloween, the next few months fly by, so my “2011 holiday local food-ish gift list”  begins today. Yahoo!! Why the non-word food–ish in the title?  Well, there is so much negativity – really silly, in my opinion –  in the food world around “foodie” as a word to describe someone uber-interested in edible treats . . .and since this list doesn’t just include food . . . .  and since the word culinary is sounding too snooty to me today, I am using food-ish. Don’t be a hater of words. Just keep reading. And read alllll the way to the end to find out how you can be a winner.

Oh, so nice . . . .with some crackers and Common Folk Organics blue cheese.


My first gift suggestion is a beautiful cutting board by Cutting Board Art, Inc., made in nearby Girard, Ohio.  The boards come in various sizes, are safe for using with food and are made with various woods (maple, cherry and oak.) They are stunning. A Cutting Board Art board works as serving piece for cheese and crackers, sliced bread, charcuterie or dried fruit . . but it’s also great used simply as a cutting board. It can be used every day in the kitchen and also on special occasions. I think it is a perfect gift for everyone .. .whether a new homeowner or someone who has everything. Timeless and beautiful.

See, it even looks good just hanging out on my ottoman!

Owner Ralph Teets, a master woodworker,  makes each and every board himself and he will happily ship to you in time for the winter holidays.  Lucky for my blog readers, Mr. Teets has offered to give a cutting board to one of my lucky readers. All you have to do is leave a comment below about your favorite local food gift.   Tell me what it is and where we can buy it.  Then, on November 8, I will randomly choose a winner using an online random number generator. What a way to kick off the 2011 Holiday Local Food Gift List!  Good luck!!

So many great places, so little time.

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.

Jim Koontz, innkeeper at The Compass Inn Museum, with a few fabulous tour guests.

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.

Sharon Detar, owner of Connections Cafe and Tea Room, taught us how to make grilled pizza.

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.

Front of The Tin Front Cafe in Homestead

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!


“Fall” into fun Pittsburgh food events.

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?).

Mark Ware holds a molded house made of maple sugar at the Somerset Historical Society.

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

The DeFabo men

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.