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.


“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.



Eat, Bike & Be Merry



My friend, Sara Petyk, runs a cool company called Your Active City that does walking and biking tours in the Pittsburgh area..  This fall, right in time for the brilliant gold, red and orange leaves, she’s conducting a fabulous bike tour of the Great Allegheny Passage, in Southwest PA.  From Octber 4 through 7, the small group of cyclists (you don’t have to be an athlete to do this trip) will pedal the easy bike path, make stops for treats such as wine tastings and gourmet picnics, and then spend three restful nights at the best B&Bs along the way.  I’ve been working with Sara on the food part of this tour, and let me tell you, it is going to be great.  The trip lasts 3 1/2 days, allows for the hard core bikers to be a bit more adventurous and there is van “support” for those who might need a break from biking.  If you do all of the biking, each day involves 20 to 30 miles, which should be about two to three hours per day.  The culinary part of the trip will introduce guests to local specialties, some of the area’s top wineries and some stunning dining settings.





It’s a perfect fall getaway. Just the right amount of exercise, a breath of clean mountain air, and wonderful food and wine.  I think it’s a great gift for an anniversary or birthday, too.

For more info, contact Sara at 412.303.0566 or at or or



Spring Culinary Tours from the Pittsburgh Area

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 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.)