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.



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!!

Artisan Cheese from Lancaster At McGinnis Sisters

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.

Howard likes cheese, too.

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!

Here's Karen!

FarmFromage cheese

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.

How can it be August already??

You just might get to try this cheesecake on the October 4 tour.

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.

Beautiful fruit on the National Road.

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.  mary@theforkandtheroad.com  or 412.963.8565