From Umami to Casellula and beyond: this week's events

Written by Melissa McCart on . Events

alicewaterboardFrom an Alice Waters tribute, to previews of new restaurants, here are a few cherry-picked food events for your week and beyond:

1. Last week, I visited the menu run-through for the Alice Waters tribute gala to be held on September 12, at the Ada and George Davidson Event and Culinary Center, in a restored 1870s barn.

Chefs cooking for the event include Sonja Finn of Dinette; Kate Romane of E2; Derek Stevens of Eleven along with Bill Fuller of Big Burrito; Justin Severino of Cure, Trevett Hooper of Legume and Butterjoint and Chad Townsend of Millie's Homemade Ice Cream.

This charcuterie board is a possibility as a starter, with pickles from Mr. Hooper, meats from Mr. Severino and additional items from Derek Stevens. The main course will feature Elysian Fields lamb from the Waynesburg, Pa. farm. Tickets are available here. 

2. Tonight, Roger Li from Umami-- the restaurant that will open upstairs from Round Corner Cantina in Lawrenceville --cooks at Bayardstown Social Club in the Strip District for a backyard izakaya party, with Allegheny Wine Mixer of Lawrenceville serving cocktails. Things kick off at 4 p.m. Click here for the menu. 

3. If you're curious about the upcoming City of Asylum restaurant, Casellula from New York -- the restaurant that will be opening in the non-profit's North Side space-- will be serving food at A Taste of the Future, a celebration on August 29 from 6 to 8 p.m. at a private home in the Mexican War Streets.  Click here for tickets. 

4. A
lso on the 29th, Vallozzi's Downtown and Wigle Whiskey will be hosting Fig Fest! from 3 to 6 p.m. to honor the gardeners of the Italian Garden Project.  The event includes cocktails, cooking demos, small plates and a talk from the inimitable Hal B. Klein on the burying of fig trees. Afterward, Vallozzi's Josiah Henry is cooking a multi-course dinner for Terra Buona. Both events will be held at the Wigle Whiskey Barrelhouse. Click here for tickets

5. It's a good week to visit Soba in Shadyside. Through August 28 the restaurant offers the late summer dinner menu for $45, with beverage pairing an additional $25. Click here for the menu. 

Melissa McCart photo


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Pittsburgh Restaurant Week: Blogger Dinner at Grand Concourse

Written by Dana Cizmas on . Events

8. PRW Summer 2015

The summer edition of Pittsburgh Restaurant Week 2015 is in full swing! From Aug. 10 to Aug. 16, over 85 restaurants in and around the burgh are offering prix-fixe menus, delicious food and special deals to impress the Pittsburgh patrons. After a fun kick-off party at the National Aviary last week, the Pittsburgh blogger community gathered for the traditional Blogger Dinner on Monday evening.

During the winter edition of Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, the blogger dinner was held at Kaleidoscope Cafe, but this time around director Brian McCollum hosted the event at the legendary Grand Concourse in Station Square. Needless to say, the historic venue was a glorious location and so were the food and company. A fine group of local bloggers attended the dinner and made the evening an entertaining affair, showered with inspiring discussions and splendid food.

I opted for the Restaurant Week Special Multi-Course Dinner Menu, which included your choice of starter, entree and dessert for $30.15. For my appetizer, I decided on Charley's Chowder, a flavorful Mediterranean-style fish chowder that has been a favorite on the menu for more than 37 years. My husband ordered the Summer Chopped Salad, a colorful and refreshing salad peppered with grilled peaches, berries and crumbled gorgonzola.

2. PRW Summer 2015

For the main course, I went with the Roasted Sirloin with Sweet Pepper Chutney & Chili Oil, which was tender and spicy, and according to the restaurant manager, the most popular item on the menu. My husband, on the other hand, preferred the Lemon Scented King Salmon on a bed of roasted corn and sweet potato hash. Both dishes were excellent choices!

5. PRW Summer 2015

Finally, for dessert, I had the classic Creme Brulee, while my husband thoroughly enjoyed the rich and chocolatey Media Luna cake.

7. PRW Summer 2015

In the end, it turned out to be another successful and tasty dinner among fellow food bloggers to inaugurate yet another exciting Pittsburgh Restaurant Week. So, dine across the city and take advantage of this great week-long event to rediscover the Pittsburgh restaurant scene!

Dana Cizmas photos

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Food-truck roundup to benefit cancer research

Written by Gretchen McKay on . Events

foodtruck collage
Clockwise from top left: A burger from ReidsFreshExpress; loaded "torts" from Burgh Bites; and a brat from Berlin Street Food cart.

The chance to sample a variety of street foods all in one place is reason in itself to seek out a food-truck roundup.

But what if you also could help raise money for a good cause by buying a taco, burger or currywurst with fries slathered in curry ketchup?

This Sunday, June 14, eight Pittsburgh food trucks will gather from 10 a.m. to at least 2 p.m. at the Sam's Club at Mt. Nebo Pointe in Ohio Township for just that purpose.  A portion of the day's sales will be donated to Children's Miracle Network hospitals, an international non-profit organization that raises funds for children's hospitals, medical research and community awareness of children's health issues.

The event is part of an annual initiative by Sam's and parent company Walmart, whose associates each year hold a six-week fundraising drive to raise money for CMN hospitals. Since 1987, the nationwide campaigns have raised more than $750 million through the generosity of customers. 

gabrielSunday's roundup has special meaning for truck operators in that the proceeds will help support one of their own: Walter Aguirre of Kittaning-based L.A. Taco Truck, whose 5-year-old son, Gabriel, recently was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, or ALL, a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many immature lympocytes (a type of white blood cell).

Currently undergoing treatment at Children's Hosptial of Pittsburgh of UPMC, Gabriel on June 6 served  as Grand Marshall for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life event in Ford City, Armstrong County.

CMN is close to Mr. Aguirre's heart, he said, "because we've seen first-hand how much of an impact these organizations have on families fighting childhood illness."

The same could be said of workers at Sam's, noted Mt. Nebo club manager Shane Haynie, who urge customers to donate at the register or buy balloons or tickets for gift baskets for the cause. 

"It's something that founder Sam Walton [committed the company] to years ago, and it's become part of our culture," said Mr. Haynie, with friendly competitions between stores to see which can raise the most dollars. Last year the Mt. Nebo store collected $30,000 between the beginning of May and mid-June; it hopes to take it up a notch this year with at least $10,000 more -- a goal that required "something special."

The associate who came up with the idea for the food-truck roundup just happened to know Stephanie Morales, co-owner of Las Chicas, a North Hills food truck serving Mexican cuisine. She was only too happy to take the menu

"We want to raise money for these young fighters of ours and show that our community really does care -- all of us," she said. 

The roundup will be staged in a roped-off section of Sam's parking lot at 289 Mount Nebo Pointe Road, adjacent to the fuel station. Participating food trucks/vendors include Las Chicas, Berlin Street Food, Burgh Bites, ReidsFreshExpress, Rolling Cones, Mission Mahi, Oak Hill Kettle Corn and Rolling Kitchen.

 Reid's Fresh Express (top left), Burgh Bites (top right) and Post-Gazette (bottom) photos.

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Celebrate 20 years of Kaya

Written by Gretchen McKay on . Events


Kaya, Big Burrito Group's Caribbean-inspired restaurant, turns 20 this year and is celebrating in style with one hell of a street party.

KayaFest returns to the Strip District this Sunday, May 24, with a day-long series of events that starts with a pop-up yoga class and includes live Jamaican and other music (with accompanying dancing in the street) from five groovin' bands.

And did we say food? There will be lots of it, with an island-themed menu from Big Burrito executive chef Bill Fuller and Kaya executive chef Ben Sloan that features a little of something for everyone, so long as you like things spicy. kaya logo

The menu includes jerked chicken with a spicy mango sauce; grilled veggie, steak or chicken tacos on Reyna Foods' hand-made flour tortillas; slow-cooked pork served with braised greens and beans; and the hautest hot dog in town, the Kaya Dog. The all-beef dog comes piled high with avocado, pico de gallo, crumbled cotija cheese and fresh cilantro.  

Also, corn on the cob, because the annual event at the corner of Smallman and 20th streets is once again being held on Memorial Day weekend. 

Dancing makes you very, very thirsty so there also will be plenty of adult beverages.  Tropical-style drinks include mojitos and attendees also can choose between Troegs Perpetual IPA and Sunshine Pils on draft or Bell's Oberon, Corona and Corona Light in cans. 

The second in Big Burrito's group of six restaurants to open, in 1996 (the first Mad Mex opened on Atwood St. in Oakland in 1993), Kaya has always been popular with Pittsburghers. Though its first chef, Gary Terner, wasn't so sure the concept would fly in what was then a pretty traditional restaurant scene.

"I had no idea what I had gotten myself into," he recalls. Not only did construction take longer than expected, but there was no place to test the island-inspired recipes it's become famous for other than in his own kitchen.

"My wife, Kathy, she'd come home from work every day to a new bunch of test food to try," says Mr. Terner, who now heads up the group's catering division. "With all the coming and going at my house, my neighbors thought that I had lost my job and was selling drugs."

Equally difficult was trying to hire a kitchen staff of 25 from a "pretty thin" labor pool.  Until they opened, that is. Then "every cook in the city wanted to work there."

To that end, some of Pittsburgh's most recognized names have manned Kaya's kitchen, including Kevin Sousa of Superior Motors, Sean Ehland (now at Aster Restaurant in San Francisco), Jason Watts of Sienna Sulla and Mike Hendricks, who is  a team leader at Whole Foods.seanatkayafest 

And some of Hollywood's biggest stars have eaten there, too. Along with Bill Murray, Randy Quaid, Franco Harris and David Byrne of the Talking Heads, Kaya's staff has fed Woody Harrelson and Sharon Stone, who requested that staff not be allowed to look at her.

Here's the schedule for Sunday's fest, which runs from 3 to 11 p.m. :

11 a.m - 12:30 p.m.  -- A yoga practice lead by The Yoga Hive on Smallman St. in front of the restaurant. A $15 suggested donation does to Pittsburgh Food Bank, and all attendees will receive a voucher for a KayaFest drink.

2 p.m. -- DJ Grooving Jillian mixes it up with techno, disco and hip hop.

3:45 p.m.  -- The Byron Nash and Evan Thorsen Project

5:15 p.m. -- Working Breed

6:45 p.m. -- The Pressure

8 p.m. -- Timbeleza and Pittsburgh Samba Group

9:30 p.m. -- Truth and Rites

Big Burrito photos

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Eins, zwei, g'suffa!

Written by Gretchen McKay on . Events


Lovers of German food, beer and dancing typically have to “know” someone to catch a meal or performance at Teutonia Mannerchor: Most events at the 160-year-old German social club in the Deutschtown section of the North Side are for members and their guests only. 

This Saturday, May 16,  poses the rare exception.

The Bavarian-Austrian folk dance group G.T.V. D'Lustigen Isartaler of Pittsburgh is celebrating Stiftungsfest, or Founder’s Day, with a ceremonial parade, religious mass and dinner-dance at the historic two-story club. And they’re inviting you --  Regular Joe, with no club connections -- to join in. teutonia mannerchor exterior

The festivities begin at 3 p.m. in front of Teutonia’s clubhouse at 857 Phineas Street. There, members wearing traditional dress and waving German and American flags will lead a procession up Troy Hill Road to the historic Saint Anthony Chapel, where some 5,000 religious relics -- the second largest collection of sacred relics outside the Vatican -- are on display and a special mass will be celebrated at 4 p.m. auf Deutsch. 

A festive banquet dinner buffet featuring typical Bavarian food follows in the club’s upstairs Sangerhalle from 6 to 7 p.m. (don’t worry about having to schlep it back on foot  -- a bus will shuttle participants from the church). Then it’s on to an evening of traditional German dance and music. The dance band Siasswasser Tanzlmusi is traveling all the way from Detroit to play their wide repertoire of alpine volksmusik, and ticket holders also will enjoy performances by the Isartaler dance group and chorus. 

Tickets cost $12 for the music event (no food) or $30 with the buffet dinner. Children ages 12 and under are half price. There will be plenty of German beer, of course,  but keep in mind it’s a cash bar. 

isartaler foodAt with most events at the club, tracht -- traditional German regional dress that includes lederhosen for the men and dirndls for the women -- is always acceptable, perhaps even preferred. But street clothes are okay, too, so long as you don’t make the mistake of wearing jeans or tennis shoes and your shirt has a collar. 

A little history: Teutonia Mannerchor was founded in 1854, when the North Side was still known as the city of Allegheny. Named for the Isar River in Germany, D’Lustigen Isartale formed in 1972 as a way to promote and foster among its members a genuine love for Bavarian and Austrian traditions, customs and folk dancing. Most of its members are of Germanic descent, but not all: They're always on the lookout for those who love to dance and/or can carry a tune and would like to learn the art of Bavarian/Austrian folk dancing and singing.

More info: 724-822-9444 or

Post-Gazette (top), Teutonia Mannerchor (middle) and D'Lustigen Isartale photos

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Press Club to honor local food journalism

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Events


Many of us here at the Post-Gazette are tickled to be among the finalists for Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. Winners of the awards -- "recognizing professional excellence in written, photographic, illustration, broadcast and online journalism in Western Pennsylvania'' -- will be announced at the 51st annual Golden Quill Awards presentation on Thursday, May 21,at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel.

Honored will be a ton of local media folks in a ton of categories, but we'd like to brag -- er, share some of the finalists in the area of food and drinks, which include (in the order the Press Club listed):


Daily Newspapers and Wire Services, Circulation 45,000 and Over


Chris Togneri
“First Draft” [on beer]
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Kari Andren
“Consumers Develop Taste for Low-Calorie Alcohols”
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Bob Batz Jr. 
“Meet the Delicacy That Is Bottarga”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Melissa McCart
“Not So Sustainable”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Gretchen McKay
“Pennsylvania's Saffron Belt” / “Saffron: Just a Pinch Will Do Ya”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Page Design

Holly Artz
“The Art of Soup and Bread”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Non-Daily Newspapers


Hal B. Klein
“On The Rocks”
Pittsburgh City Paper


Community Service

“From Field to Fork”
Pittsburgh Magazine

Charlie Stewart
“The Melting Wok”

Food Feature

Sherrie Flick
“What’s Cooking?”
Pittsburgh Quarterly”

“From Field to Fork”
Pittsburgh Magazine

Valentina and Cindi Lash
“Best Restaurants”
Pittsburgh Magazine


Hal B. Klein and Cindi Lash
“Grow. Cook. Drink.”
Pittsburgh Magazine

Best Cover Design

Mark Bender and Jennifer McNulty
“Fall Cover — Pittsburgh Feast”
Pittsburgh Quarterly


Feature Illustration

Daniel Marsula
“A Brewers’ Thanksgiving” [image above]
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Daniel Marsula
“One Chef’s Quest”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



Kara Holsopple
“Ice Fishing on the Allegheny River”
The Allegheny Front


Community Engagement News

“PXI Live: Fish Fry Fridays”

As noted above, there is a lot of other fine journalism. Read the full list of finalists here

Daniel Marsula/Post-Gazette illustration 

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