I love the Laurel Highlands, Part 2.

Last Friday, I had the honor of being chaffeured around Fayette County by Donna Holdorf, the executive director of the National Road Heritage Corridor, headquartered in Uniontown.  The National Road runs for ninety miles in Southwestern PA and it is lined with treasures – museums, restaurants, markets, wineries, outdoor adventures – and everything in-between.

Look at this view!

We started by taking in the truly breathtaking  view at The Summit Inn.  I’ve driven past this resort for something like 50 years ( obviously someone else was doing the driving way back then) but never stopped to check it out.  I was speechless.  Hard to believe, I know.

Grapevines at Christian Klay Winery

Next stop?  Christian Klay Winery in Farmington right there on the National Road.   After a tour of the property with owner Sharon Klay, we sipped and chatted about her wine, and being no grape expert, I learned a lot.  Sharon is a talented artist and her creativity is evident in her wines and in the ambiance at her vineyard.  Running late, we skipped Washington Tavern at Fort Necessity (but you can bet your booties I’m going back) and made our way to Caleigh’s, a restaurant   off the main street in Uniontown. Donna and I shared a fantastic pork belly appetizer, a cup of crab and corn bisque (made with the first of the local corn) and some sort of amazing cheesecake for dessert, possibly cappucino flavored (?). I was so delirious from all the yummy food, that I can’t remember the flavor. I had their Novara Insalata in between the pork belly and the dessert, just to toss in some veggies.   I would definitely make the trip from Pittsburgh for a meal at Caleigh’s.  Chef Joe Carei’s talented and care is evident.

Whatever the flavor, it was superb.

The trip continued with a few stops in Uniontown, Brownsville and then on to Scenery Hill, where we met Alisa Fava-Fasnacht at Bank 40 Mercantile. Alisa and her husband own Emerald Valley Artisans and they recently opened an old bank (very cool inside)  to sell their cheese and other local products.  A short tour of historic The Century Inn and other cute shops on the main drag and it was getting late and time to get back to home base in Uniontown.  I’m planning a tour or two this fall to the regions around the National Road.  Keep an eye on the Tours link for more details.  They’re going to be great.

Food Folks near Pittsburgh

Part of the fun of buying local food is meeting the interesting folks who bring it to us.  This Saturday, as the sun peeps out from the clouds for once, get out there and say hello to some of our area’s best. Here are my suggestions:

– Bank 40 Mercantile (2184 East National Pike) in Scenery Hill is celebrating Pike Days by serving up lots of  local cheese, meats, toffee and other goodies. It looks as if the sun might shine this Saturday, so enjoy it by taking a little drive to the south. After you eat some of her delish food, find Emerald Valley Artisans owner, Alisa Fasnacht, and say hello.  Alisa’s fromage blanc is a personal favorite.

Local asparagus at Farmers@Firehouse

–  The farm markets are up and running and some of the best are open on Saturdays.  The Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip ( stop at The Berry Patch and meet the super nice Brenda and Scotty.)

The hard-working owners of The Berry Patch

– The Farmers’ Market Cooperative of East Liberty, although open year round, is really hopping in the spring.  Give a shout out to David Lagnese at the California Olive Oil Connection’s table as you buy great oil, local cheese and Jamaican coffee.

David Lagnese and his son at the Farmers' Market Co-op of East Liberty


Farmers@Firehouse is open on Saturday mornings at 2216 Penn Avenue  .  Owner of Paradise Gardens and Farm,      Lucinda not only makes the freshest, cleanest goat cheese products I’ve ever taste, but she is a huge supporter of women in agriculture. Go there on Saturday and meet Lucinda, as well as the other farmers and artisan food producers.

Lovely Lucinda . . . and her out of this world goat products.


On The Road Again

It was a  sunny January day in Pittsburgh, and since the holidays were over, it was time to get back out and explore!  I knew that lots of stops on my list would be  closed due to the long holiday weekend  (and because this was Sunday,)  but I just couldn’t stay in the house one more day. No way.  I get stir crazy after a few weeks without a road trip, so today it was off to the south towards Uniontown and Route 40.  I’ve been itching to check out the shops at Scenery Hill for a while. So, they look super cute from the outside, but each and every one was closed. Phooey.  I drove on towards the next “want to see” on my list, the Christian W. Klay Winery in Chalk Hill.  I bought a bottle of their Spiced Apple wine after tasting it (served warm with a cinnamon stick) at Sarnelli’s Wine Cellar in Jones Mill. Yippee, Christian Klay was open . . . both the barn shop and the store further down the road on Rt 40 in Farmington going towards the Nemacolin Resort.  The shop at the barn  is charming and cozy, with little twinkly lights and a woodsy atmosphere and  a stunning view of the  vineyards.

Remnants of snow in the vineyard

In addition to their wine, the shop carries local cheese and maple syrup as well as nice wine-y gifts.  At Christian Klay, they have lots of special events such as Wine & Chocolate, Wine & Soup, Mystery Nights, BBQ Picnics. . .their 2011 calendar of events lists something just about every week.  Pretty cool. I wasn’t in the mood for a wine tasting, although they certainly have a large selection.   I did purchase a few for a later time – the sparkling Summit Mist and  the Raspberry Frost.  If I can’t have local berries all year round, I might as well taste them in local wine!

On my way out, I spied this artsy decoration   made from empty wine bottles.  Love it!  Happy 2011!!