Category Archives: New

This Week on the Dormont-Brookline Patch: Eat Your Way Through the Neighborhood!

My feature on the Dormont-Brookline Patch this week is on Sylvia McCoy’s Burgh Bits and Bites Food Tours, specifically the fairly new Brookline tour, as well as the Dormont tour that is currently being planned for a summer debut. I sat down on Monday with Sylvia and Cory VanHorn, her intern designing the tour – as well as the genius behind the fabulous Culinary Cory blog – and it was an invigorating experience.

Why? Well, as a food blogger, it can sometimes feel like you’re making a whole lot of fuss out of something fairly mundane. It’s easy to feel at home when you’re immersed in the world of food writing (both print and online), but it’s tougher when you find yourself going on and on about the history of pierogi in Western PA and you suddenly realize that your dining companions are bored stiff. Even worse than boring, it’s very easy to feel bad about the amount of time you talk about food. Talking and writing about food can come off as trivial to those who concern themselves with matters of seemingly much greater importance. To be honest, when comparing and contrasting the topics, it’s a fair enough assessment. Who cares which Pittsburgh neighborhood has the most pizza places when the city is enduring socioeconomic troubles that threaten every aspect of living in the region?

Sitting down with folks who are invested in food history and knowledge the way that you are can be such a relief. Having Sylvia really sell me on the meles at Colangelo’s in the Strip District, or finding out that Cory shares my high opinion of Square Cafe, or even just knowing that if I recommended a place that they should try sometime, they would actively consider the recommendation… knowing that we shared this very fundamental common interest made for a really easy-going, engaging conversation. This may have been one of the easiest stories I have written for the Patch.

I highly recommend checking out the Burgh Bits and Bites. Sylvia is an extremely intelligent, warm person who I bet leads a hell of tour, and if Cory is any indication of the quality of her tour guides, the rest of the people involved with the tours must be just as friendly and knowledgeable as she is. As Cory said in our interview, “It’s a great way to be a tourist in your own city.” I, for one, can’t wait to try one.

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Combining My Two Favorite Spaces: Public Libraries and Public Markets


(PITTSBURGH, PA – April 6, 2011) Strip District shoppers and residents will have a new place to access free books and information.  Starting Friday, April 15, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will extend services to the Strip District’s
Pittsburgh Public Market, becoming a part of the public market’s “fresh and delicious combination” of local artisans, farmers and bakers. The extended service pilot is part of the Library’s LYNCS (Libraries in Your Neighborhood
Community and School) initiative.

Forgive me for lack of eloquence, but this development is FREAKING AWESOME. As public libraries suffer severe budget cuts that lead to shorter operating hours, staff reductions, and locations closing entirely, the Carnegie Library is continually figuring out how not to just sustain itself on its modified resources, but thrive. That’s librarians for you: You cut their budget by half and they’ll figure out how to accomplish everything with 50% the expected funds. I’m not advocating the challenge – it damn near criminal how public libraries are under appreciated – but they are up to it.

Joining up with the Public Market is an incredible way to bring more resources to an area that is steadfastly maturing into a desirable, livable place to take residence, but it is also an amazing way to bring books, media, and information to the thousands of working folks that come in and out of the Strip District every day. It’ll provide weekend resources to those who lose their access to a public library when the Downtown and Lawrenceville branches close on the weekend.

The press release – quoted above – goes on to mention that this is an innovation in the public market category. Despite the large wave of public markets opening up in cities and towns across the nation, no one has thought to include a space for public library access. It makes perfect sense to me: Eating, shopping, living, learning.

LYNCS: PPM will offer an on-site collection of materials for checkout, return services, media, and computer services, as well as a small staff to run services and see to visitors’ needs. The proximity to the Public Market will lend itself to a specialization in food and agricultural writings and events. I, for one, am excited to see what sort of food and book related events they will have lined up in the next few months, as well as the potential book collection they will have accessible to all those with a Carnegie Library card. (Looks I’ve got some fines to pay off…)

For now, if you’ve got Friday, April 15th free, think about stopping by the opening celebration for the new library. The schedule is as follows:

Friday, April 15 / 10 am
Grand Opening Ribbon Cutting

Friday, April 15 / 12 pm – 12:30 pm
30 Books in 30 Minutes
Librarians will share 30 great titles in just 30 minutes.

Friday, April 15 / 5 pm
Timbeleza
Timbeleza is a Brazilian percussion ensemble based out of Pittsburgh, PA that has been performing since 2005.  Their
goal is to expose people to samba as well as invigorate the community with music and performance.

Saturday, April 16 / 9 – 11:30 am
Drop-In Story Telling
Storytellers will intrigue and inspire audiences with their stories for young and old.

Sunday, April 17 / 12 – 2 pm
Gadget Lab
Staff will demonstrate how to use the Library’s downloadable services with eReaders and MP3 players.

Sugar Cafe Opens Today!

The much buzzed about, highly anticipated bakery-coffee shop, Sugar Cafe, opens today. I will definitely be making a stop in to sample the goods, take a look around, and enjoy the taste of something brand spanking new in our humble little borough of Dormont.

For more info on Sugar and its owner, Kelly James, check out the following links. And of course, check out the cafe itself, located right by the Potomac T Station on Potomac Avenue.

– “New Cafe Coming to Dormont” on the Dormont-Brookline Patch
– “Sugar Café will make Dormont’s Potomac Avenue even sweeter” on PopCity
– “On the Table: Unique Pittsburgh bakeries flourish with special dessert treats” on the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Kellypastry: Kelly James Twitter

Also, apologies for my relative quietness this week. First it was too busy, then it was too nice outside to concentrate on typing. Rest assured, I have a ton of new posts coming up, including trips to Chaya and Sababa in Squirrel Hill. I’ve also been working on a few new features to debut, hopefully by the middle of next week, to run in addition to the general chatter that goes on around here. I’m going to cross my fingers and hope that I can get down to some serious writing business this weekend.

But seriously, how freaking gorgeous was it out there today? After work, I walked home, so that I could soak up the unseasonably warm weather and take a few shots of my beloved neighborhood. It seemed like the entire borough was out to enjoy the few precious days of respite from the cold. My favorite shot:


Enjoy it while it lasts, kids. The temperature is going to drop drop drop come Sunday.

Check Me Out On the Dormont-Brookline Patch

I recently became a contributing writer for the Dormont-Brookline Patch, an online newsletter for the Dormont and Brookline neighborhoods. Started in early January, the site is steadily building a readership locally and in the surrounding Pittsburgh area, and I’m happy to be a part of the growth of this project.

My first article for the site has been posted. It’s a news feature on the struggling Dormont Fresh Market. If you live in or around the South Hills, or are just passing through via the Red Line T, do yourself and Cher Murphy a favor and stop by the market. She’s really built a store from a personal philosophy and is trying to bring fresh, affordable goods within reach of the entire community. The fact that she is struggling to sustain when so many people could benefit from her services is damn criminal, and an example of how communities fail their small businesses.

Click on the excerpt to visit the article!

Expecting a drop in business with the low foot traffic on Potomac Avenue, Murphy expected to make up the difference with grocery deliveries. The service, announced in October, is provided to Dormont, Brookline, and Beechview residents and is free for senior citizens. But aside from some loyal patrons, the service has yet to take off.

Now, disappointing in-store business is echoed by a delivery service that hasn’t yet justified the extra inventory it requires. Murphy predicts that if business doesn’t pick up soon, she will have no more than six weeks left.

The Local Food Report: Thursday, December 16

Local food news happens all the time, and it’s unbelievable how much you miss if you don’t check out local publications. Recently read something worthwhile? Link it at the bottom!

– Nice Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article on Aldo Coffee in Mt. Lebanon. China Millman gives us a little history of the independent cafe, thoughts from the owner, Rich Westerfield, and the ups and downs of in-house coffee roasting. “The change is not without risks. ‘People are attached to brands,’ acknowledged Mr. Westerfield.”

The PG food writing staff offer their picks for the best of the year’s cookbooks. I can never wholly get behind a list that features a Rachel Ray title, but there’s a nice variety here for cooks of any caliber. (And before you call me a snob, it’s not that I don’t think her recipes and approach to cooking have a use. They certainly do. I just don’t think her cookbooks are anything special, even as far as food television personalities go.)

– From NPR: Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University release a fascinating study on how imagining food consumption can limit actual desire to eat. “So we think what the imagining consumption is doing is leading people to habituate to a food. And what I mean by habituation is it’s a basic process that we see towards light, towards income, towards all these different kinds of stimuli, and it’s basically people become less responsive to anything that they’re exposed to repeatedly.”

Good, quick little feature in PopCity on Thai Suan Thip, the buzzed-about Thai restaurant in Bellevue. Also in PopCity, a revamp for the Children’s Museum’s eatery, now the Big Red Room Cafe. Nothing kids like more than an “emphasis on healthy eating and efficiency”!

– Fun article from Pittsburgh Tribune Review‘s Michael Machosky, planning out a day spent in the Strip District. Nothing surprising for those well acquainted, but a nice introduction nonetheless. Nice of the writer to give shout outs to several Public Market vendors, including Pittsburgh Marshmallow Factory and Four Paws.

– Finally, if you haven’t caught the first of the PG series on the founding of Notion, definitely check it out. It’s a story driven by an intriguing character, Dave Racicot, with great talent and an even greater ego.

Good Morning, Amy!

Amy Sedaris has a new book out, Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People, containing much the same design and sense of humor as her first pseudo how-to guide, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. If you haven’t had a chance to check out I Like You  yet, absolutely do. It’s filled with a zany sense of can do in any host situation, whether you’re hosting a reception for a funeral or a discount movie night for your friends. While the tone and look is firmly tongue-in-cheek, there’s also a lot of really good, effective ways of decorating and setting up a party, not to mention an array of fantastic recipes (some, admittedly, with less than impeccable directions, but that’s not really the point). For anyone who loves hosting and has a bit of a warped sense of humor, this book is a must have. I know that as soon as I have a little extra money, I’ll be picking up her new, crafting-focused book and be on my way to making crafts for Jesus and bunnies.

And did I mention funny? If you’re not familiar with Sedaris’s former series, Strangers With Candy, now is the time to catch up, at least if  you have a decent digital cable package: LOGO, the network that specializes in GLBT programming, is currently running episodes from all three seasons. Or you can just go ahead and buy the DVDs, cause if you’re like me, you’re going to want to anyway. (Also, if you buy the complete series, it comes in a commemorative trapper keeper.)

In addition to being unbelievably hilarious and a top-notch domestic maven, Sedaris is also a killer guest on talk shows, cooking shows, etc. I’ve included a few clips of her, as well as a surprisingly cute video she did for Microsoft.

Also, check out this great AVClub  interview with her, posted just from this past Wednesday.

Year of the Pie

With the at-home tailgate for the Mountaineer game on Friday, Halloween partying on Saturday, and trick-or-treaters + Steelers game/The Walking Dead premiere, I haven’t had a whole lot of down time to cook and/or write about cooking. I’m looking forward to the day I get a digital camera, because then I can properly write/display the culinary output of kitchen. Friday’s tailgate feast was particularly good, but without pictures there’s little point to devoting a whole post about it.

The little bit of food-related business from the weekend (unless you count stuffing my face with candy and drinking a lot of beer) was reading this article on The Huffington Post, reporting the Nation’s Restaurant News 2011 Food and Restaurant Trends predictions. Among the upcoming trends:

2011 is THE YEAR OF THE PIE – According to restaurant and hotel consultant, Andrew Freeman, we are on the cusp, or, rather, the crust of the 2011 Pieocalypse: “This is not just sweet pies, this is savory pies, bite-sized pies. They are even blended into milkshakes,” he said. “I’ll eat pie if I don’t get this one right at the end of the year.”
Following the trend of item-specific bakeries, notably the cupcake craze of 2007 – 2009, and a more recent spate of donut shop fever, look for more pie shops serving up sweet and savory offerings for breakfast, lunch, dinner, desert, snack time, birthdays… Look, ANY TIME is a good time for pie. Continue reading