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.

Here We Go . . . . Food for the Steelers Game

Hot off the press . . .the newest Steeler wear.

So, with a big game coming up on Sunday between the Steelers and the Jets, most people are searching for the newest t-shirt or a crazy black and yellow hat. But not me, I’m scouting around for the tastiest Steeler food.  Bakeries are  good places to start. And bakeries are some of the best places to see the best in Steeler fashions, too. Just look at Cindi Bujalski, who I spotted outside of Oakmont Bakery.

Cindi's Amazing Steeler outfit

The Blitz-Ki

Oakmont Bakery sells a sweet, cream filled donut called a Blitz-ki along with lots of cakes and cookies with Steeler colors and decorations.

Perfect January Cake - Snowman and the Steelers

Lincoln Bakery (543 Lincoln Avenue,  Bellevue, 412- 766-0954) also has a cool Steeler snowman cake and some mighty fine cupcakes that resemble Troy Polamalu. Almost too cute to eat.  Almost.

Look at the hair!!

Breadworks (2110 Brighton Road, 412-231-7555) will be making black and gold braided bread rings on Friday through Sunday.  The bread rings will also be available at some other outlets such as Penn Mac in the Strip.  If your’e in the Strip District, Reyna Foods (2031 Penn Avenue, 412-261-2606) carries black and gold chips ( and some of the best salsa fresca and homemade guac around.)

Add some fiber to your game day eating with Black and Gold tortilla chips!

Other standard Burgh food  like pierogies, kielbasa, sauerkraut can fill in the nutritional gaps from the sweets and the chips.  I don’t know for sure, but I bet the folks from NY don’t eat green bread and  special Jets donuts to fuel up for the game.  I think it gives us a real advantage.  Go Steelers!

Oh, wait . . . one more thing . .  I can’t forget the black and yellow Smiley cookie.  Eat ‘n Park also sells Steeler themed mugs.

Happy faces because they know who will win on Sunday.

National Maple Syrup Day

Today is National Maple Syrup Day and, in honor of that, I am suggesting  Paul Bunyan Maple Syrup products as a perfect holiday gift.  I first met Molly, part of the Enos family that taps the maple trees, at the Ligonier Country Market last summer, and I was impressed by her cheerfulness and knowledge.  But then I tried their Maple Cream and I fell in love.  This creamy, sweet spread is delicious on muffins and bagles, as well as on pancakes, waffles or just right off the spoon.  Paul Bunyan also makes high quality maple syrup, maple candy and maple sugar for sprinkling on just about everything. Give the folks at Paul Bunyan  a call to find a local retail outlet or  you can order online.  A perfect winter gift.

Paul Bunyan’s Maple Syrup
404 East Mud Pike Road : Rockwood, PA  15557
PHONE: (814)233-6695

Food Lovers Gift #4 – A Food Outing

Yesterday, I went to a Seven Fishes cooking class at Merante Gifts in Bloomfield. My family has never prepared this Christmas Eve extravaganza, but I am determind to give it a shot this year. Even if half the family doesn’t like fish.  They need to get over it.

Baccala and Potatoes

A cooking class or food tour is the perfect gift for someone who has everything.  The classes at Merante are small and it’s just like hanging out at Nonna’s house.  The food is abundant and the casual atmosphere ensures a perfect afternoon.  Of course, the Seven Fishes class won’t be offered until next fall, but others are on the schedule for winter and spring.  How about buying two “tickets” to a class? One for you and one for a friend or family member.   It fits my idea of giving – one for me, one for you.

Beautiful Mural in Bloomfield

A gift certificate to Burgh Bits and Bites is another winner for just about anyone on your holiday list.  Owned by the lovely Sylvia Emmenegger McCoy, Burgh Bits and Bites tours take you on an edible history through areas like Bloomfield, Lawrenceville and the Strip District.  They last a few hours and are suitable for young and old and good even for folks that think they know Pittsburgh inside and out.

Lunch during our Laurel Highlands Tour

And of course, The Fork and The Road gift certificates would be a wonderful choice for anyone special in your life. ( It really would.)   We have some terrific trips planned for spring, including a new tour to the Italian neighborhoods out near Latrobe and Greensburg.)  Debbi and I have been having a lot of fun “testing” everything to make sure that tour-goers will love each stop.   Click on the Tours tab or email for more information.

Soup, strudel and cookies in West Homestead

In the name of research for my upcoming Tastings classes at the Pittsburgh Public Market, I have been investigating all of the  amazing ethnic food in Pittsburgh’s little boroughs and suburbs.  Great for my taste buds and bad for the zippers and buttons on my clothing.  Yikes. This has to stop!  Today’s adventure took me to the Bulgarian-Macedonian Center in the old steel mill town of West Homestead.

Already a fan of their homemade soup sales, called Soup Sega ( Sega means now in Bulgarian,) today I branched out into the Center’s Gyuvech (beef stew)  and their Banitza ( little cheese filled strudels) and I also went home with a jar of Lutenica, a creamy roasted pepper spread.  The Saturday soup sales are so popular, that now the soups are sold  on Tuesdays through Thursdays from 10AM until 1PM, too.  I had the privilege of meeting with board president Pat Penka French, who told me that this group is the oldest Bulgarian organization in the United States.  They’re celebrating their 80th anniversary this year. We’re lucky to have people like Pat who work tirelessly, as volunteers, to continue these ethnic traditions for future generations. The Center is filled with memorabilia, musical instruments, costumes and other Bulgarian items, so while you are waiting for you soup ( it’s take-out), you can admire the items in the beautiful display cases. Customers can purchase Bulgarian pottery (I bought a mug, ) books and other gifts, too.

My beautiful new mug!

Upcoming events at the center include Password Love, an exhibition of paintings by Bulgarian artist, Georgi Petrov on November 11 and their annual fall concert at the Carnegie Library Music Hall in Homestead on November 20.  For more info or to RSVP, call 412.461.6188 or visit their website. I love this place!  Please visit. You will be hooked, too.

On my way back toward the Homestead Grays bridge, I made a quick turn into Nancy B’s Bakery to pick up a few of the city’s best chocolate chip cookies (according to Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2010 poll) for the drive home, hoping that another ten minutes on the exercise bike will help to burn off just a few of those calories. ( I think even two hours on that bike wouldn’t burn off the calories from those giant, soft cookies.)

If you are visiting the  Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area museum (which is very cool, by the way) in the historic Bost Building , a stop at these two foodie down the road is a must.

Meatless in Pittsburgh

A few months ago, my younger daughter stopped eating meat. This wasn’t a giant leap for her, because she already didn’t eat fish or beef, so really it was just the poultry that had to go.  At home, we already do “meatless” for most of our meals so it wasn’t  a freak-out for anyone else in the family, either.  And furthermore,  this child doesn’t even live at home anymore.  I do like to take her out for dinner now and then, and so I started to look for places with more meat-free options. Vegetarian eating is a snap for the home cook, but it can be more difficult when eating out around here, especially if you crave something more than a tossed salad, deep fried zucchini or Eggplant Parmesan. Okay, it’s not that bad, but sometimes the menus have some slim pickings when it comes to vegetarian choices. I thought I’d share some of my favorites  in the meatless category.

Thai Salad with Curry Peanut Dressing

1. Quiet Storm –  Buffalo chicken style tofu sticks  always say “pick me”, along with the  Thai salad with coconut and pineapple. Super crunchy and soooooo good.

2.  Zenith Cafe –   The menu changes frequently, but currently their apple and gouda plate is a winner along with the African peanut pineapple stew and the tofu walnut “meatball” sandwich. The decor is eclectic and it’s always fun to eat here.

3. Point Brugge Cafe –  Although this isn’t a meat-free place, their Seared Mango and Tofu is tops on my list. (Confession: I usually pass on the tofu for a big bowl of mussels, but the mango-tofu dish is really good.)

4. The Square  Cafe–  The Tofu Scramble and the Sundried Tomato and Goat Cheese Scramble never fail to please, and there are lots of “V” choices.   The Vegan Trail Mix Pancakes will keep your tummy filled for days.  Really.

5.  Smiling Banana Leaf –  Panang Curry with tofu. Say no more.

6.  The Tin Front Cafe – I’ve only eaten here twice and I am blanking on what I ate ( it’s late for me . . 8:45 PM), but this cute cafe gets my vote, in general, for great atmosphere and for effort in restoring old buildings in proud steel towns.

7.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t include my all time favorite tofu dish, Laksa Noodles with Tofu from The Green Mango. I’m fairly sure it contains fish sauce, so it would be excluded from many vegetarian’s diets, but it is oh oh oh so good. Creamy and slurpy, and served piping hot, it’s perfect for a cool fall day.

Okay, so I realize that almost every item has tofu in it. I do know that there is more to veg food than tofu. Sorry about that, I just like tofu.

Mark Bittman at Habitat

Last night I gathered myself together (I’m not an evening person, but more of an early afternoon girl) and drove down to Habitat, the sleek and stylish restaurant in the Pittsburgh Fairmont Hotel. The occasion was a tasting dinner highlighting recipes from New York Times food writer and  TV celebrity cook  Mark Bittman‘s new book, The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living (Simon & Schuster, 2010.)  Oh yeah, and Mr Bittman was in attendance, too.  Pretty cool.  Turns out he is an old friend of  Habitat’s executive chef, Andrew Morrison.  I don’t have photos from the evening, because no one else seemed to be taking pictures and I didn’t want to single myself as the only loser with camera in hand.  So what you get is a photo of the menu and of the signed book that each guest received.  Eight courses (with wine pairings for the first seven and a sparkling sake to go along with the  ice cream topped crunchy pear crisp.) Mr Bittman made his rounds to each table and casually chatted with the guests. I’m always in awe of people who can produce book after book ( and in his case, award winning books, too)  because it takes a real effort on my part to even type 300 words two or three times per week for this blog. The food was perfect for a fall evening and my dining companions ( my friend Sherris and two new acquaintances, steel expert Dr. Tony DeArdo and lovely wife Marge) made the night so enjoyable.

My top food votes for the night went to the Two Pea Soup with Frizzled Ham  and Organic Mint and the Whole Wheat and Carrot Gnocchi with Sage Butter and Dry Aged Ricotta.  The warm pea soup was a mix of dried split peas and  regular English peas. Warm, sweet and soothing for someone like me who was up past their usual 9:00 weeknight bedtime. And the gnocchi . . .  well, sometimes whole wheat gnocchi resemble little lead weights, but these were fluffy and light and they sat in a  swirl of sage scented brown butter.  Special food events like this one are common in other big cities and it’s great to see them happening here, too.  Great job with this dinner, Habitat!  More, please.

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.

Western PA Food Tours

Mural depicting Bloomfield’s immigrant history.

When The Fork and The Road began, food tours for the public were our main gig.  As the years went on, we now do special tours or adventures for private groups only.  We also are focusing on helping hotels and corporations plan special culinary events that can be uniquely theirs for clients and/or employees.  My emphasis has gotten away from the mass “selling” of food tours and back to what I love most.   Sharing Western Pennsylvania’s history and food treasure with locals and visitors is really where my passion lies.  If you call me, I am happy to give you my best tips for where to go and what to do with a food history focus.  If your company needs a one of a kind food event that reflects the past and future of food in Western Pennsylvania, please contact me.  I would love to work with you!

Cherry Straciatella Gelato


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.