A Blast from Naomi Gallego’s Past

Chef Naomi Gallego and the ladies from eatPGH

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and I was entertaining a few stowaways from Philly who were riding out the rain from  Hurricane  Irene. We were having a great time.  So I wasn’t going to leave my patio and my guests for just anything.  But for a cooking class with Naomi Gallego, the Executive Pastry Chef at Habitat at The Fairmont Hotel?  Bye bye guests and comfy patio chair. At a little after 4 PM, I was in my car and driving downtown, excited to see what Naomi had up her sleeve for a few food bloggers who were able to attend this special class.

Chef Gallego's homemade pre-dinner beverage.

Naomi didn’t disappoint. I was joined by the ladies from EatPGH to have cocktails and then some bubbly and sweet (and homemade by Naomi) hausmade federweisser, a barely fermented freshly pressed grape juice.   At only 4 percent alcohol, this fruity, fizzy beverage was refreshing and perfect with our first creation, a traditonal flammkuchen.  Both recipes are fond memories from time that Naomi spent studying and working in Cologne, Germany. The flammkuchen, a much better rendition of the Alsatian Tart that I frequently purchase at Trader Joe’s, consisted of a thin raised crust, topped  with bacon, onions ( both raw and caramelized), homemade creme fraiche,  fresh chives, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. As usual, I tried eat only part of it, but ended up eating the entire savory tart. Next, Naomi threw in a few greens, in the form of a baby arugula salad with white balsamic vinaigrette. So good.   Then we each made a Peach Bakewell Tart for dessert.  I mentioned that I have a hard time with pastry crusts – that the crusts are never flaky, and Naomi felt my hands, labeling them “hot.”   That’s no surprise to me. All of me is a few degrees warmer than it used to be these days.  Even with hot hands, my tart came out looking beautiful.  And it tasted great.


I’ve eaten at Habitat a few times, and also attended special events there. The food has always been carefully prepared and wonderful, with a special attention made to buying from local farms and purveyors.  Naomi is very talented and you umight know her from her appearances on Food Network Challenge.  It’s really a plus to have her in Pittsburgh.

One of Naomi's desserts from a lunch last spring.

I’m hoping the folks at the Fairmont will be doing more classes for the public in the future. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my family and guests about the class and the recipes that were near and dear to Naomi. Next time, maybe  I can bring others  along. Thanks to both  Naomi and to Julie Abramovic, PR Director at the hotel, for a fun and informative class.

Spring Culinary Tours

I’ve been super busy researching all of the fantastic stops for the Spring 2011 tours.  The Fork and The Road did a culinary tour to Bedford and to parts of the Laurel Highlands last fall, and both were terrific, but there’s always room  for a little tweak here and there.  The number of high quality artisanal foods in these areas just keep increasing and it’s so hard to decide where the tour bus should go.  So hard and so fun!

New this season is the Italian themed tour.  Of course, lots of testing of all of the stops and products is in order, so as soon as there is a day without ice and snow, I head out on Route 30 to investigate all things food. I’m not giving away any big tour secrets, but I can say I’ve been sampling dark chocolate truffles, freshly made cheese,  delicious pasta, crunchy biscotti and a variety of pasta sauces. Oh, and a little vino always enters the picture, too.  The Italian tour is a mix of “old school” and “cutting edge” cuisine. Good stuff.   We’ve already had quite a  response to this tour, so we’re doing two of them instead of just one.

The small tour size (18 people max.) allows us to have a more personal experience at out stops . . talking with the chefs, store owners or vintners.  So don’t delay in signing up.  A few tours are close to capacity.  For more info, click on the Tours tab above.  For even more info or to register, email me at mary@theforkandtheroad.com or call 412.576.1755.  Hope to see you on the bus!!

Perfect Super Bowl Food: A One Pot Meal

No one wants to be in the kitchen next Sunday evening at 6:30 PM.  At least here in Pittsburgh.  But the fans will be hungry and in need of something more than black and gold tortilla chips by halftime.  A one pot meal is your best bet. Put it in the oven or on the stove before the game and set the timer to go off at half time! I have some favorites, but needed some new exciting ideas. Mu usual one pot dishes include cider braised brisketAegean chicken or a big pot of black bean soup. But I’ve made them one too many times.

Chicken and Black Bean Chili

So today, my friend Cathy and I drove to The Supper Club for their first cooking class, One Pot Meals.  A perfect way to spend a cold Sunday afternoon, the class gave us four new ways to heat up the kitchen.  Chicken and Black Bean Chili, BBQ Brisket, Snapper Veracruz and Braised Jamison Farms Lamb Shanks with dried cherry couscous were Chef Greg Andrews’ recipes of the day.  Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Maple Roasted Pears with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Oh, and dessert was Maple Roasted Pears with house made vanilla bean ice cream.  Each course was paired with an appropriate wine carefully selected by the lovely and knowledgeable Ashlee  Andrews.

Ashlee serves us some Tomaresca Neprica.

The wines were fantastic. After all the wine and the belly-warming food, I was ready to take a nap!

Next week,  once the big game is over and football is finished until next fall, check out the classes at The Supper Club. The next class is February 13 and it focuses on restaurant classics such as Hollandaise and Bernaise sauce and Duck L’Orange.  Another class is scheduled for March 13.  Call Ashlee at The Supper Club for more information or to sign up.

It all started at DeLallo’s.

Loyal readers  know that the fork on my logo is stuck in the map at Jeanette, Pennsylvania, right around the location of DeLallo Italian Marketplace on Route 30.   It’s where I developed my love of cheese, salami, marinated vegetables and many other traditional Italian foods.  I’ve been driving through the area a lot lately, trying to pin down some stops for a spring tour, and it’s right near Jeanette where I often need a little sustenance to carry on my mission.  From the days when it was just a small roadside store, to the international presence in  Italian food product sales that is now DeLallo’s, just hearing the name brings back great memories. When I stopped in today, it was really crowded and even the back parking lot was filled.  So I didn’t hang out for very long, but instead, rounded the aisles speedily to pick up a few of my favorites.  Here’s what I bought:

1.  Pepperoni Bread (made only on weekends) – Recommended to me by the former executive chef of the swanky and special Barclay Prime restaurant in Philadelphia ( try the bacon wrapped scallops and the mac and cheese), Jim LoCascio, this bread has just the right balance of sauce, cheese and pepperoni, Gourmet food? No. Delicious? Yes.

2.  Olives – DeLallo’s has lots of olives, and on the day I visited, they even had raw green ones.  You can buy a few scoops of whatever you like and eat them on the way home in the car.

3.  San Marzano tomatoes – Who knew that the real San Marzano tomatoes have three special labels on the side. . . . . Most of the tomatoes labelled San Marzano are not the real deal. Now you know.

4.  Beautiful Beans – I love beans and I also love beautiful packaging. Could I find a one pound bag of beans for 79 cents at a regular supermarket?  Yes, but just look at this beautiful jar of borlotti beans.

DeLallo’s will always hold a special place in my heart. They’ve kept up with the times, but haven’t lost that old school charm.

Sign up now for the fall tours!

Mix this kind of scenery with amazing food . . . and you've got The Fork and The Road Culinary Tours!

This fall, we are able to take larger groups on our culinary tours. It is going to be so much fun.  The tours are still small – maximum number of 18 people – and we are travelling in style in a luxury mini-coach. It really is comfy and nice, with big windows for watching the autumn leaves go by.

Our three day-long Autumn 2010 tours start and end at McGinnis Sisters Special Food Stores in Monroeville.  The October 21st tour focuses on the hidden foodie secrets of the Laurel Highlands.  Our October 26th  tour takes us to historic Bedford, Pennsylvania, which also has its share of hidden culinary gems.  The third tour, on November 12th, keeps us closer to Pittsburgh in the Gateway to the Laurel Highlands –  Greensburg, Latrobe and some  little towns in between.  Who knew there were so many great food experiences right in our eastern backyard?

Each tour includes round trip luxury transportation, tons of samples, a meal or two (depending on the tour), cooking demonstrations, some history of the area, and a few surprises. All meals, samples, and other fees such as museums are included in the cost.  A great time is guaranteed.

Don’t think we’ve forgotten about areas North, South and West of Pittsburgh, but you’ll have to wait for Spring for those tours.  We’ll keep you posted about the dates as soon as everything is lined up.

For additional information, click on the Tours tab.

Ice cream, movies and radio talk shows.

I’ve had enough of this hot summer. I know that in January I’ll be whining about the cold, but does it have to be 85 degrees and above every single day??  I’ve come up with a few ways to beat the heat and thought I’d share.

My first attempt at homemade banana ice cream.

1.  Make some ice cream or gelato. I’ve been craving Blood Orange Sorbetto ever since I had it at Anthony’s in the Italian Market in South Philly earlier this summer. So, a few weeks ago, I bought an ice cream maker so I could make it myself at home. With the never ending heat, it is the perfect summer for icy treats. Not sure what to make?  Go to the library and check out some of my fave resources for ice cream – The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato & Sorbetto, The Ice Cream Bible, and 500 Ice Creams, Sorbettos & Gelatos. Make a quick stop at the supermarket for ingredients and you’re set.  If you don’t have an ice cream maker, a blender or processor will do, too.

My hot weather friend. Sad, but true.

2.  Stay inside and watch some foodie movies ( ideally, with a big bowl of your homemade ice cream.) My recommendations?  Ratatouille, Chocolat, Tampopo, Big Night, Like Water for Chocolate and Babette’s Feast.

Radio host and author, Lorraine Ranalli. Photo courtesy of The Cape May County Herald

3.  Take an hour to relax and enjoy a radio show. I’m kinda tired of staring at the reruns on daytime TV. How about you?  So grab a glass of iced tea, sit back and listen to the radio (either a real radio or live-stream from your computer or other device.)  A  month or so ago, a  newish friend of mine, Lorraine Ranalli,  began a radio talk show based out of the eastern part of Pennsylvania. Called Cucina Chatter (also the  name of her blog,) the one hour long show is on www.wbcb1490.com every Tuesday from 1 until 2 PM.  The show is a mix of cooking and food stuff, humor, coupon tips, and various other bits and pieces.  It’s informative and entertaining.  Lorraine is a well known Philadelphia radio personality and also the author of Gravy Wars | South Philly Foods, Feuds & Attytudes (2009 Folger Ross Publications) a fun read about  Italian-American culture (and she includes some great recipes.). Put Lorraine’s show on your calendar for next Tuesday at 1 PM.

Stay cool and enjoy my ideas for taking a break from the heat!