Where do you go when you need cheese, charcuterie and Terrible Towels? Where do you go to show Steelers mayhem to visiting friends? Which neighborhood do I try to avoid when “All My Steelers’ Ladies” (a play on Beyonce’s “Single Ladies) is playing? As one who is apathetic to football (apologies Steel town) but zealous for cheese and farmers markets, my relationship with this neck of the PGH woods is of the love-hate sort.
The Strip District
We couldn’t resist the cheesesteak photo opportunity to highlight the Philly roots that bind us all together. Why is it the world is seemingly so hellbent on stealing Philly’s fame?
When the enthusiastic vendor saw the special attention we were paying to his sign, he was very quick to bestow his BIGGG!!! sampler upon the ladies. If you’re in the Strip District and for some reason find yourself craving Philly’s specialty, this is your tent, or you could also hit up the main source! Unfortunately, we had a big eating agenda for the day, and we just didn’t have the stomach capacity for a cheesesteak “snack,” but rest assured, the food went to an appreciative stomach. Our food agenda was calling us back to my ‘hood.
Polish Hill & The Invention of a New Course
Our day had begun later than we had intended, but we were still attempting to squeeze in all our food goals. We had already sampled the best French offerings the city has to offer, we had French plans for dinner, and we also had wine, cheese and picnic goals. This is when Jess so ingeniously invented a new course: Appetentrée- a fusion of the appetizer and entrée course, meaning slightly more than an appetizer, slightly less than a main course (and only slightly less, by a show of modest restraint). We could have our picnic and eat it too!
Plus picnics and pique-niques provide a great opportunity for friendships circles to form ven diagrams. Nina, of Pittsburgh, meet Jess and Heather, of Philly. All, meet Ruby (a very friendly lady despite her territorial stance on all fours).
Had my wrist rotated a tad more, you would see the red dot marking my foray into South America via the motherland of the very wine we were enjoying.
The very Italian man at the meat counter of Penn Mac told me he liked my taste upon my ordering of the speck and complimenting his previous recommendation of porquetta. When I came home and unwrapped the day’s supply of speck, I was quite surprised to find an extra hunk of speck hidden in the parchment paper! I could attribute this generosity to a regularly occurring gift given at the end of the meat hunks, OR I could attribute it to the bond I have formed through frequent visits, impeccable tastes and very polite meat counter manners (and humility obviously). Clearly, the ladder option is the most viable.
Remember the scent of fresh baked bread and the warm morning apartment? It was time to sample some! Look what a lovely job my new With the Grains interns did styling the meat and cheese for our outing. Bravo Heather and Jess, bravo!
My trusted friend at the Whole Food’s cheese counter recommended Wellspring Creamery cranberry-orange, goat cheese. Typically, I prefer to buy a cheese with its own flavor merits and add garnishes accordingly. Often I find cheeses with fruit additions to be bland. I was skeptical, but as I said, Justin is trustworthy in the cheese department, and he also said, “it tastes like cheesecake.” I believed it, I bought it, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it!
The orange-cranberry goat cheese paired especially well with the slightly sweet and salty bread and a pecan garnish. Delight in one bite!
I have zero credentials enabling me to declare a resemblance to a dinosaur egg, but I do have an active imagination. These olives looked like dinosaur eggs!
Freckled dinosaur eggs!
Not only were they visually stimulating, but they tasted good too! Jess was quite, quite pleased with her olive selection.
Also, I may or may not have proposed friend marriage to my bff, Nina…
…with a ring made of peppered salami.
No need to be concerned for me after watching that magic. Sometimes it looks like Nina just isn’t that into me. Don’t worry. She is.
The sun set. The crisp air demanded more layers, and the evening plans called for a change of locale.
The appetentrée course was perfect!