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.

Lancaster Farm Markets

Yesterday when I looked up  at the sky, it looked like Fall.  It had to do with  something in the color of the clouds against the sun, a different kind of shading, a  filtered type of light. Winter is not my season, so this first feeling of autumn makes my heart sink a bit, but then I remember that fall means pumpkins, gourds and apples at the farm markets. It’ll be okay.

Two of my favorite large farm markets are located mid-state. One is Roots . . . correctly pronounced  like soot and not toot, if that makes any sense. I am too lazy to type it out phonetically. Roots Country Market and Auction is located in Manheim, PA and it’s held on Tuesdays from 9 til 9  (May to October) and 9 to8 (the rest of the year.)  My other favorite market is the Green Dragon, located in Ephrata, PA. The Green Dragon Farmer’s Market and Auction is open on Fridays, from 9 til 9 . From January 1 through February 26, it closes at 8PM instead of 9. Bring coolers, because there is a lot to buy.

Who can be sad about Fall when there are pumpkin gobs to eat?

Both markets have indoor and outdoor stalls, and sell a mish-mash  of everything from local produce, to Amish canned foods and baked goods, to livestock, to the usual flea market items like socks and designer knock-off handbags.  There’s something for everyone. It’s not for uppity folks. I love it.  My favorite stands are the ones with the Amish baked goods, the home canned pickles and the home brewed root beer. I also try to scout out any  butcher stalls because they always have giant smoked turkey legs and ham hocks.  Homemade split pea soup can sure cheer me up on a chilly fall day.

Now that's what I call a turkey leg!

By mid-September, I  can always find lots of different shapes of squash and pumpkins for outdoor decorating, along with apple cider, apple butter and pumpkin whoopie pies ( gobs to some of us) to get me excited for the season.  Let’s hope a visit to the markets does the trick, because I feel old man winter breathing down my neck already and I’ve got to prepare. Get me some of those pumpkin gobs, a bag of apples and a few butternut squash. Pronto!

Pittsburgh Public Market

The line waiting for the opening bell at the Pittsburgh Public Market.

Yippee!  Yahoo!  The Pittsburgh Public Market is finally open for business, beginning this Friday, September 10.  It had a soft opening last weekend, with only some stands up and running, but this weekend is the grand opening.  Philadelphia has its Reading Terminal Market, Lancaster has the Central Market and now all of out in the western end of the state get our turn at strolling through aisles of local products in an terrific indoor venue. Pittsburgh’s market is located in the old produce terminal building at 17th and Smallman Street in the Strip District. I am so excited.

When I stopped by last week, I got to taste some super delicious (and whole grain-y) treats from Sustenance Rustic Bakery, with a little Big Hop IPA from the East End Brewing Company to rinse them down. I also tried some tangy barbecued pork from Rowdy BBQ and a smooth nibble of duck pate from Crested Duck Charcuterie. A nice perk is that there is a small seating area where folks can  sit and eat their goodies.  But it’s not all about food.  Other market products that caught my eye were beautiful knit wraps from Edith and Eartha Textiles and natural shea butter soaps and scrubs from Tracy’s Treats.    Some stands are as simple as card tables stacked with the vendor’s items, but others, notably the Sito’s Foods area (where you can get a fantastic and healthful salad,) are  more ornate.

The colorful background at Sito's.

On my second visit to the market, I bought some precious little fingerling sweet potatoes  from Clarion River Organics, a bag of LaPrima Espresso‘s coffee beans,  a few Mallo Cups ( frequent readers know Mallo Cups qualify as my addiction) from the Pittsburgh Candy Buffet and a few Pittsburgh “pockets” – soft and buttery pierogies – from Gosia’s pierogi booth. Oh, and I taste tested olive oils at  Cosimano e Ferrari.   This is gonna be good.

Try before you buy at Cosimano e Ferrari.

Ligonier Country Market

I bounced out of bed this morning, knowing that I was about to explore a new outdoor bazaar, the Ligonier Country Market, held on the grounds of the Loyalhanna Watershed Farm in, you guessed it, Ligonier, PA.  I went mainly to look for a nice cookie baker by the name of  Dorothy Madore, who I met a few weeks ago at the Rivers of Steel tour. As I wound my way around the booths to find Dorothy,  I came across lots of  pleasant surprises – from toasty mohair shawls (it was about 55 degrees outside,) to yummy raw milk cheese  and unique rustic flower arrangements. I wanted to buy everything in sight, but was limited by the lack of funds in my wallet.

Maple Syrups from Paul Bunyan's Sugar Camp

I met recent college grad Molly Enos, who was manning the booth for  her family’s maple syrup business, Paul Bunyan’s Sugar Camp. Their Maple Cream is smooth and sweet and is heaven on muffins, pancakes, even crackers.  It’s good just eaten right off the spoon, too. For a  late summer treat, mix a few shakes of their maple sugar in a skillet with some fresh sliced peaches and a bit of butter. Heat until the maple sugar and the butters melts and the peaches are slightly tender . Oh . . . . my . . . goodness.

The Salsa Sisters' products

Next stop, The Salsa Sisters (724.538.7212) for some of their zippy One Peach of a Salsa.    Then, it was across the grassy “aisle” to Nicole Nickischer’s stand, where she sells her Serendipity Dip Mixes.

Nicole and mom from Serendipity Dip Mixes

I like her Tuscan bread dip mix but wanted to try a few others.  This mom of five (yes, five) suggested I try the spicy flavors like Habanero and Cayenne Jalapeno. I’m mixing them up tomorrow when my folks come over for dinner.  Finally, I made my way to Dorothy Madore’s One Tuff Cookie.  I”ve seen photos of her cookies, but never met one in person until today.

One Tuff Cookie's many cookie choices

Sometimes purchased cookies look good, but the taste is only so-so.   The Apricot Snowcap, the Dreamsicle and (yes, I ate three) the Chocolate Cherry Shortbread not only looked like they just finished a “Martha” photo shoot, but they tasted great, too.   Before I knew it, the clock struck noon and the market was ending. So many treats, so little time.

Summer Food Fun in Pittsburgh

So many things to do. So little time. That’s how I feel about all of the foodie places in Pittsburgh. All those small cafes, food stores and farm markets that I love to visit. Saturdays are a fun time to explore because the markets and stores are bustling and it just adds to the excitement. So this would be my idea of a perfect Saturday morning. 1. Stop at the Farmer’s Co-op in East Liberty for some fresh squeezed juice from the Kew Coffee Stand. Taste some olive oil and cheese even thought it isn’t quite 8AM. 2. Drive to the Farmers@Firehouse market, 2126 Penn Avenue, for some free range eggs, local maple syrup, super delish pork pate and Sara Pozonsky’s salmon. I’m always looking for beet greens, and the local produce selection here is my best chance for finding them.

Yes, I like donuts, but greens, especially beet greens are tops in my book!

3. Stop to get a Bitter Combo at La Prima Espresso. Nothing like the sweet and bitter taste all in one sip. And hanging out in there make you feel like you are in Italy. 4.  Then, in a perfect world, I would get a mini donut or two at Peace, Love and Little Donuts. The coconut one and the donut with chocolate with the little cherry on top. 5. Since now I need something to rinse down the donies, I would stop at Espresso A Mano, found at 3623 Butler Street in Lawrenceville. The coffee artisans here make little swirly designs on top of your cappucino. Great coffee, too. 6. Next stop –  La Gourmandine Bakery and Pastry Shop. This new place in Lawrenceville (4605 Butler Street) is run by the real deal. An actual French pastry chef. Last week I drove past, noticed the sign, and the looped around the block until I could find a parking space. Their croissants were flaky and buttery and the mini pear tart was a slice of sweet heaven. I can never say anything bad about the other top notch croissant maker in town, but it’s always nice to have another option on the other side of the river.   Filled with caffeine, sugar and fat, it would now be time to go home and take a nap, dreaming of my next food adventure.  Something for lunch, maybe?

The East Liberty Farmer’s Market

When I see these at the farm market, it is going to be a good day!

When I see these at the farm market, it is going to be a very good day!

Pittsburgh’s farm markets are open and I couldn’t be happier.  But sometimes our city’s weather doesn’t cooperate with strolling the outdoor farm stands.

Don’t get me going on ‘Burgh weather. Oops.  Too late.  I’m already annoyed from the  rainy May, so allow me to tell a quick weather story before I get back to the topic of farm markets.

What is this? A typical Pittsburgh sky. Notice the lack of sun.

Many years ago, while in sunny Maui on vacation, we stopped at a sunglass store where they altered the UV  value of the glasses based on where the customer lived.  When we told the folks behind the counter that we lived in Pittsburgh, they laughed. And laughed. A lot.   Our fair city was second only to Seattle on their list of  cloudiest cities.  Ha ha – it was sooooooo funny. Not.

Back to farm markets. So it seems to rain a lot here on weekends, especially in June once the Three Rivers Arts Festival begins.  But there is one ray of sunshine each and every Saturday. The East Liberty Farmer’s Cooperative, located at 344 N. Sheridan Street near Home Depot, is an indoor farm market open on Saturdays year round.

The East Liberty Farmers Cooperative

Established in 1941, it’s  the oldest farm market in Western Pennsylvania.   So early on Saturday mornings  (the market is open from 5 until 10 AM,) I visit this small-ish indoor market to buy eggs, chicken or Indian food and grab a glass of fresh squeezed fruit juice.  Even mid-winter when local  produce is sparse, this little market gives me enough “farm” to get me through the winter.   Recent personal highlights at the market included delish whole wheat gnocchi from Vandergrift  based Fontana pasta, Jamaican coffee from the Kew Park Coffee Stand, Riverview Dairy goat cheese and my  favorite horseradish hummus from The Greek Stop. Oh, and the Kew Park folks are now bringing in fresh pressed olive oils from California. Can’t wait to give them a try this Saturday. Rain or shine.

Tait Farms – yet another reason to visit Penn State

The Joe-Pa Statue outside of Beaver Stadium

Not sure what it is about Penn State fans, but they are a loyal bunch. I should know, I’m one of them. Even when we visit the ol’ Blue and White, I think most tend to hang out on or around campus. . . .the Creamery, the Rathskellar, Hi-Way Pizza.  But there are some really great places just a few miles away from Happy Valley and Tait Farm is one of them.  This spring at the Farm to Table conference here in the ‘Burgh, I tasted some super delicious Apricot Butter from the Tait Farm booth.  So good.  When I looked at the jar, I noticed the farm was really close to PSU, in Centre Hall (not the dorm complex, but the town.)  I knew I had to find a way to get there really soon. So last week, on a very unconventional route back from Philly, I stopped at Tait Farm Foods right there on Rt 322 before my obligatory walk through the Penn State Campus. I sure wasn’t disappointed.

Right when I stepped inside,  a delivery of a freshly picked batch of asparagus arrived, then, still dewy  spring greens were delivered followed by bags of spicy stir fry greens.  Yahoo. You see, my day is made by fresh produce, cheese,etc.  A new diamond necklace?  A day at a spa? Who cares? Not me.

The log cabin market is filled with jams, spreads, dressings .. . all made at the farm.  They carry lots of other locally made products as well as bread from Gemelli Bakery in downtown State College.

And the plants!  The healthiest, most beautiful things I’ve seen in a while.  I have the brownest thumb on the planet, but the herbs were so pretty that I ended up with a flat of them in my trunk for the drive home.  So if you’re going to visit your kids at Penn State or will be driving up for the Arts Festival in July, it’s only a few minutes outside of town and definitely worth the detour.

Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance

Not every day can be a big food adventure. Sometimes I actually have to stay in Pittsburgh and work for a living.  But yesterday I snuck in a visit to the Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance‘s Monthly Farm Stand in Squirrel Hill. After the never-ending winter, thoughts of  first local spring veggies got me through the day. Yes, I realize most people don’t get so excited about vegetables. But I really do.

Yahoo!!! Parnips and Greens!!

Penn’s Corner is a farmer’s co-op that offers great local produce and other goodies ( bread, eggs, cheese, honey) to restaurants, to their CSA customers and to people who pre-order for pick-up at  their Farm Stand .  (CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Buy a share of the CSA for a specific farm or group of farmers and get a weekly delivery of produce and other local products.  The bounty varies depending on the CSA and the growing season.   For a list of CSAs in your area, visit the PA Buy Fresh Buy Local website.)

Since I already belong to one CSA (Harvest Valley – love those guys) joining another would put my small household on produce overload, but I still can’t resist shopping at other farm markets.   With the “Farm Stand only Mailing List” at Penn’s Corner, they’ll send you an email list of available items. You just let them know what you want  and then pick it up on the designated day.  I ordered  braising greens, a bag of parsnips and some grass fed beef bones for making stock.

Better than Christmas!

I’ve been a bone aficionado since I was a child, when I learned my skills from my dad on how to get the last bite of meat from the steaks we had all too infrequently for dinner.  It’s a bit gross, but I love gnawing on the bone from a porterhouse steak or digging the marrow out of any sort of shank.  Bones make me happy.  At a fancy dinner later last night, I must have mentioned the grass fed beef bones to my husband at least ten times. . . just like a kid with a new toy.  As soon as we got home, I hauled the bag out of the freezer to show him  the high point of my day.  He didn’t seem too excited and I think I even caught him rolling his eyes.  But these are some mighty fine soup bones . . . . just look ..

a perfect proportion of meat to bone  . . . so hopefully once he tastes the final product, his eyes will be rolling because of the deliciousness of the soup instead of the craziness of his wife.