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.

Local Food Gift #5 – A CSA Subscription

Today’s great food gift is for someone very special.  It’s a bit more pricey than the other ideas, but this truly is the gift that keeps on giving.  A CSA ( Community Supported Agriculture) membership gives your lucky friend or family member baskets of fresh, local (sometimes organic) produce throughout the Western Pennsylvania growing season. I’ve been a member of the Harvest Valley CSA for quite a few years. Each May, I can’t wait for the pick-ups to begin. Here’s how it works.  You buy a share of the CSA, based on your needs and family size. (Prices begin around $200 for the season.) Then every week, once the Western PA produce starts peeking through the ground, you pick up your local goodies at a pre-determined drop-off spot. The CSA season usually runs through the beginning of November and  it’s really like getting a great healthful surprise gift every week. Tender greens in the spring, juicy tomatoes in August and loads of winter squash in the fall.  Some other CSAs that I’ve heard good things about include Blackberry Meadows, Kretschmann Farm and Cherry Valley Organics.   A  nice list of local CSAs is on the Slow Food Pittsburgh website at ( A Slow Food Pittsburgh membership is another great holiday gift idea.)      Check the list of last year’s drop-off sites before signing someone up, because convenience is key.

Every week, the lucky recipient of your generous gift will be reminded of how much you care about them. And while you’re at it, why not get yourself a CSA membership, too?

Foraging – The Hottest Dining Trend

Even the centerpieces were foraged!

Foraged food is in. Local, sustainable, organic . . it’s all that and more.  It’s the new locavore fixation. But it’s a good fixation.  A few days ago I went to the first  dinner hosted by Wild Purveyors as part of a series called Table Terroir.  Wild Purveyors sells in-season, local foods including foraged mushrooms and some other wild edibles, sustainably farmed  fruits and veggies, farmstead  cheese, humanely raised meats and poultry and sustainably farmed fresh water fish.

The reasons to attend this event were many, as one can see from the description of the Wild Purveyors company. But there were even  more reasons to go. Point Brugge Cafe Exec Chef Kevin Hunninen was in charge of the cooking and the rustic barn at Beechwood Farms was the location.  The chef from one of my favorite places in town and  one of the most beautiful settings around. And a portion of the proceeds went to Farm Corps and The Audobon Society. Sign me up.

Brothers Cavan and Tom Patterson (the Wild Purveyors brothers) went all out for this dinner. From starters through dessert, every bite was thoughtfully prepared and truly scrumptious. The spelt and beet risotto, a creamy, slightly chewy spoonful of autumn, was my favorite course of the night.  The centerpieces were stunning.  The pawpaw infused vodka was fruity and smooth. A dessert of warm apples, nuts and a little wedge of Crotin de Chevre, a creamy camembert like goat cheese,  finished the night.

A perfect fall dessert.

Another dinner, this time with Justin Severino from the new Elements Cuisine downtown, is scheduled for October 20.  Check it out here.