A Royal Day in Bedford

On the day before the Royal Wedding, we ventured out to Bedford, Pennsylvania, where the British once ruled at Fort Bedford.  The weather report said wind and thunderstorms, but the sun peeped through the clouds and not one raindrop fell.  Here are a few highlights of the day.

The group started the morning with one of my new favorite treats thanks to Jan Dofner at the Levi Deal Mansion in Meyersdale  . . the burnt sugar gobs from Landis Bakery in Berlin, near Somerset.

We had a new lunch stop from our Bedford tour last fall.  Michael and Huston at The Bird’s Nest Farm and Cafe did a fantastic job.  They pay attention to details, and it shows.  Our dessert, Bird’s Nest cupcakes, was beautiful and perfect for the spring day.

During lunch, Lori Sollenberger of Hidden Hills Dairy paid us a visit to tell the group about her farm and her luscious cheese.  I really like her cheese and was so excited to meet her.

A visit to Briar Valley Winery ( both the wine making facility and the tasting room) also was on the itinerary.  Briar Valley is currently the “hot”  PA winery, and we’re so lucky to have them just a short drive from Pittsburgh.

Tod at Briar Valley Winery . . pouring some of their award winning wine

Another stop on the tour was at one of my fave shops for all things Italian, LIFeSTYLE.  Stephano and Sarah carry only the finest food, linens and pottery.  Oh, and they have a fantastic selection of cookbooks which I just can’t resist.  Yesterday’s purchase was My Tuscan Kitchen by Aurora Baccheschi Berti.  Tonight, as I watch the highlights of the wedding, I will also be flipping through the recipes in this lovely, authentic Italian cookbook.

The ladies watching Stephano's demo at LIFeSTYLE

Thanks to everyone who was a part of the tour.  It was a day fit for royalty.

Viva Italia!

Fresh Gnocchi at Fede Pasta

The last few days have been filled with everything Italian. First,  I stopped to say hello to Steve Salvi at Fede Pasta in North Huntingdon. He sells his fresh pasta to top restaurants in the Pittsburgh area, and now all of us can buy it directly from Steve to cook at home. He  is truly a  master pasta maker. And he’s a really great guy, too.  See, it’s not good enough if the food product is outstanding, but the person in charge has to be nice.  I’m too old to deal with cranky folks. Not happening.

Steve Salvi, owner of Fede Pasta

Steve makes many pasta shapes that are difficult ( if not impossible) to find.  When I buy from Steve, he knows exactly what type of sauce goes with each pasta shape or every type of ravioli.  Check out Fede Pasta’s website for upcoming Open Houses, Classes and Dinners, too.

On another day, I spent a few hours chatting and tossing back some espresso with master restaurateur (and another gem of a guy), Ernie Vallozzi. This led to a sleepless night because caffeine is a no-no after three PM for me, but it was well worth it.  Ernie’s Greensburg restaurant‘s menu mixes classics with contemporary Italian and I love the food there. There’s something for everyone. Pizza, salads, pastas, seafood. And the menu doesn’t always stick to just Italian.  Valozzi’s chef, Jenna, recently told me about a seafood entree she prepared with Indian spice marinated sturgeon served with Basmati rice with yams and pears in a curried cream sauce. This sounds like something I have to try.   In addition to all the good food,  the restaurant has a special cheese area,  a refrigerated case of Norman Love truffles and the coolest Enomatic wine machine around. ( I think it’s the only wine machine like this in our area!)  Even though Greensburg isn’t far from us in the ol’ Burgh, lucky for us, Mr Valozzi is opening a new place, called Vallozzi’s Pittsburgh,  in the old GC Murphy building downtown in Market Square Place.  I heard some of the plans for the new digs, and I can’t wait until it opens late summer/early fall 2011.

Anna Jo Noviello (photo courtesy of Aunt Anna's Biscotti)

The next day,   I was driving towards Pittsburgh, but still a few miles east of home when the clock struck six.  Dinner time.  So I stopped at The Sunset Cafe, where the place was really hopping.  I  ordered lemony cod with lump crabmeat served on top of beans and greens. A beans and greens addict, I had to go with this entree even though I hear their pasta and meatballs are to die for.   I’ve  been tempted by the roasted  pork shank on the menu for some time now, and decided to bring this home for the hubby knowing that he would share a bit or two with me.   Both entrees were wonderful. Anna Joe and Bobby Noviello really have a good thing going here.   Anna Jo also owns Aunt Anna’s Biscotti, but that’s a story for another day.

My last Italian food of the week (that’s a lie)  was at Olives and Peppers on Rt 8 in Bakerstown, where I met my accountant for lunch.  The decor was calming, even though the place was super busy.  It’s a family place, with a nice menu that includes pasta, salads, pizzas, panini and hoagies, but everything is carefully prepared and quite high quality. I ordered the stuffed banana peppers and a side salad.  These were some of the best banana peppers I’ve ever eaten.  The key:  they weren’t over-loaded with that shredded mozzarella that turns the whole dish into a soupy, calorie laden mess, but topped with some shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano instead. Not too saucy, not too cheesy, perfection. Definitely going back here with the family.

Jerry Jr., Jerry Sr and Rizzi De Fabo

My Italian fest all started with our visit to Rizzo’s Malabar Inn in Crabtree about a month ago. The DeFabo men – Jerry, Sr.,  Jerry, Jr., and Rizzi – do up traditional Italian in a tasty way at their always busy restaurant.  Their Feast of St Joseph celebration in March got me on an Italian kick, and I can’t stop.

The pastries at Isgro's Bakery in South Philly

Tomorrow, it will be a quick visit to the Italian Market in South Philly for some fig bars and maybe a little gelato. Then maybe I’ll switch to another cuisine for a few days.  Doubtful.

Spring Culinary Tours from the Pittsburgh Area

A quick word about the spring 2011 tours.  After many requests for a Saturday tour, we’re venturing out to the Laurel Highlands  on Saturday, April 2.  If you went on this fun tour last fall, our newest version is similar, with a few little tweaks from last time. A new shop or two and a mini-factory tour.  But just like last October, we  meet some fantastic food purveyors and chefs and eat a lot of wonderful local foods. A delicious specially prepared lunch and award winning dessert are included, too.   And a local wine sampling!!

The Bedford tour on April 28 also has a few twists from the route we took last fall.  I know you’ll love the changes.  We sure do.  If you’ve been meaning to drive out to Bedford but never get there, let us do the driving for our culinary tour to historic Bedford.  Breathe in the fresh mountain air while we eat and drink our way through the town.  Good stuff.

Our new tour, the one with an Italian focus, is turning out  to be magnifico.  It covers many traditional Italian food specialties such as pasta, biscotti and cannoli along with some contemporary Italian cuisine. We’ll be meeting many personalities in the Italian world of Greensburg and surrounding areas, too. This tour is running twice. Once on Thursday, April 14 and then again on Thursday, May 12.

A few spots remain on most tours, and people come and go off the list  due to other commitments that arise, so if you are interested, please contact me at mary@theforkandtheroad.com or 412.576.1755.

All tours leave from McGinnis Sisters Special Food Store in Monroeville around 9 AM and return at about 5 PM.  The cost is $125, which includes transportation, all samples, meals, wine tastings and admission fees ( when applicable.)


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!!

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.