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!

Ramps are here again!!

This morning, while sampling a recently pressed batch of Late Harvest Olio Nuevo from David Lagnese at the California Olive Oil Connection in the East Liberty Farmer’s Cooperative, I asked if he knew if any of the vendors had ramps yet. Just my luck!  The stall next to David’s, Zang Greenhouse, owned by Rick Zang, had one bunch left.  I’m not even sure I like these things that much, but I know that when it is ramp season, then it really means spring is here, and I like that a lot.

Ramps have a bold garlic/onion flavor, and once cleaned and chopped, they are terrific added to scrambled eggs, mixed in with melted butter for sauteing, or tossed into mashed potatoes.  Last year, at the Mason Dixon Ramp Festival, I had them in the form of a ramp burger and I also shared a bite of a plate of deep fried ramps.  If you have nothing going on tomorrow, drive down to catch the last day of the festival.  It’s in a rural area, right on the border of PA and WV, and it’s a relaxing way to spend a few hours.  They have music and  crafts, and of course, ramps.

All that needs to be said about ramps was recently in a story by Bob Batz at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  I hate to repeat something that has already been so well said. So here it is.

After my purchase this morning,  I felt confident that I have made it though the winter and that spring is really here!!

The Savvy Grouse and The Farmers’ Cooperative of East Liberty

This is not the State bird. But it was a prize winning bird in Harrisburg, the state capitol.

For a while now, I have been writing a twice monthly blog for the state’s travel blog site, The Savvy Grouse. (As you probably know, our state bird is the Ruffed Grouse.)   If you ever want to read about what others are doing and where they are going in Pennsylvania, this is the site for you.  Want to know more about Shoo Fly Pie?  Need to find a winery in Bucks County?  Yep, it’s all there.  There are a bunch of different categories, so if you’re interested in history, food, family events or specific cities, go to The Savvy Grouse to get all the details from people in the know.

This week my submission to The Savvy Grouse was about the Farmers’ Cooperative of East Liberty. It’s a farm market that is indoor  and open all year round. The market is open on Saturdays from 5 AM (yikes) until noon.Vendors sell baked goods (oh so tasty zucchini bread was a favorite on my last visit,)  Amish goat cheese, locally made pasta, homemade ketchup and more.  My visit to the market was to get some Olio Nuevo from David Lagnese, who gets the precious stuff from olive oil master Art Kishayama in northern California.

David and Marco Lagnese sell olive oil, Kew Park coffee and fresh squeezed juices every Saturday morning.

This unfiltered, bright green oil is strong flavored and delicious sprinkled on a salad or on top or a piece of crusty bread or some spreadable cheese.   David only has a limited amount, so get there before it’s all gone!

Go to the farmers' co-op and taste some terrific oils.