Tag Archives: Pittsburgh

Pizza in Pittsburgh: Pizza Boat

October 2014

My middle school “Family & Consumer Science” teacher described pizza as healthy. Healthy. I could misconstrue her words. I could use some small version of her in my mind to justify greasy pizzas from large, hairy, sweaty men who haven’t consumed a vegetable, other than the peppers held hostage by greasy, over processed cheese, since the time Ms. Schwartz made her health declaration. I could go that route, but that would be terribly uncharacteristic of me. Like Ms. Schwartz, I too believe in the health benefits of pizza, but only when pizza is made with the best of intentions and ingredients… so let’s eat a healthy slice from the Pizza Boat!

Skeleton Pizza Slicer

It would be really exciting for me to show you pictures of a houseboat docked on the Allegheny River, with sailor types slinging pizzas. Hold that thought, which was part of the Pizza Boat founders’ initial vision. Logistics may have prevented the realization of their nautical pizza dreams, but the name stuck. Their “boat” is a trailer with a wood fired oven and a sink. Their river is a parking lot. Their kitchen is a tent and tables, and their pizza is top notch!

Pizza Boat Prep

Pizza Boat Oven 01

Like Howl’s Moving Castle, Pizza Boat just appeared on my horizon one day, and for whatever reason, I questioned very little of this non-boat boat. I just ate the thin crusted pizza, engaged in some sarcastic banter with the amusing dough boys, went along my merry way and praised their pizza to friends. It wasn’t until digging up this article that I learned these fellas earned their dough tossing stripes at Roberta’s in Bushwick. Roberta’s has been on my to-go list for quite some time, so I appreciate this teaser.

Pizza Boat Oven

Co-founder Jeff Ryan putting my pizza in the “Pizza Boat.”

When the sun was still beaming late summer warmth upon us, my best Italian friend and I went on a little afternoon pizza date. The Pizza Boat was docked at the Bar Marco parking lot- in the historical Strip District neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Pizza Boat Parmesan

Co-founder Matt Watson grating parmesan on our pizzas.

On this particular date, we went pretty classic, but I recommend the “Market Pizza” options which feature seasonally inspired flavor combinations.

Pizza Handoff

Pizza Boat Pizzas_vertical

Like much of the myth surrounding the Pizza Boat, what lies in store during the colder months is unclear to me, but they are waging a battle against the Anticrust this weekend, so hurry up and enjoy a slice of their pilgrimage because it’s good for you. Even my home-ec teacher Ms. Schwartz would agree.

That’s what’s happening in Pittsburgh. What exciting pizza developments are happening in your locale?

Single-Grain

Happy Pizza-ing!
-Quelcy

ShrubDown: A Shrub Competition at Wigle Whiskey + A Recipe

August 2014

“Have you got into drinking shrub yet?” I asked, and I immediately regretted the “yet” lingering pretentiously in the air.

I backtracked and attempted to erase the unintentional hipster tone I had assumed, while proceeding into what felt like a Portlandia skit. I explained to my friend, “Shrub is a syrup or concentrate made with sugar, vinegar and fruit infusions. The traditional beverage dates to colonial times when it was used as a fruit preservation method.” Luckily, my friend was a good sport because the more I spoke, the more “do you know the name of the chicken I am eating?” I seemed.

On that note, let’s talk about a gathering of shrub nerds . . !

Wigle Varieties

Sarah Walsh, owner of Caffe D’Amore Catering, is an avid shrub maker and drinker. She had the idea to bring other shrub nerds together for a tasting and friendly competition à la… a ShrubDown!

1947 Tavern

Jen from 1947 Tavern serving “shroda” and creating her competition cocktail.

We gathered at Wigle Whiskey, where we received a proper welcome in the form of a cocktail containing peach shrub, early grey tea, honey and Aged Wigle Wheat Whiskey. Set against the backdrop of whiskey barrels, was the “shroda bar,” where we sampled shrub (mixed with soda water) from local enthusiasts including Blackberry Meadows farm, Wild Purveyors, the Butterjoint, the Livermore, and 1947 Tavern. After adequate sampling time, the competition began.

Judges

Bartenders from said establishments shook, stirred and mixed at the designated bar before submitting their concoctions to the panel of judges. One critique of the event was the judges were the only official taste testers of the cocktails, but it pays to be friends with a competitor’s girlfriend and catch some of the extra sips. It’s all who you know!

Will's Cocktail

Will Groves of The Butterjoint

Shrub Jars

Various “shrodas”

Cavan and Abby

Cavan of Wild Purveyors and Abbie of The Livermore

Declaring the Winners

The panel of judges declared a first place tie- weak judging, says my competitive side, but congrats nonetheless to Abbie of the Livermore and Will of The Butterjoint on winning the first ever ShrubDown!

Winners Winners

ShrubDown organizer Sarah Walsh and the prize bottles of Wigle White Whiskey for the winners.

Good news for you local Pittsburgh shrub enthusiasts. There is another ShrubDown on the horizon! Mark your calendars for November 9th, and keep an eye open for more details. For you local and non-local shrub enthusiasts, here’s my own shrub recipe.

IMG_9688

Photo by Adam Milliron.

I made the pictured shrub from local mint, fresh strawberries and a red wine vinegar when strawberries were bursting with local flavor. Pardon my blogging delay, and I might suggest using a more seasonal fruit if you’re making this during the fall or winter. I made another variety with lemon, rosemary and apple cider vinegar, which was for the more seasoned shrub palate, as it was far more tart and acidic.

Strawberry Mint Shrub
Recipe from The Kitchn

Basic formula:

Use 2 cups fruit per 1 pint vinegar. Sweeten with 1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar (level of sweetness is up to personal preference). I suggest using an organic raw cane sugar.

Directions

Sterilize the container:
Wash the container in hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Submerge in a pot of warm water to cover by 1 to 2 inches, bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes. For the lid or cap, wash it in hot, soapy water, rinse well, and scald in boiling water.

Add the fruit:
Carefully remove the container from the pot using canning jar lifters or tongs. Place the fruit in the container.

Add the vinegar:
Place the vinegar in a saucepan and heat to just below the boiling point, or at least 190°F. Pour the vinegar over the fruit, leaving at least 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe the rim with a clean, damp cloth, and cap tightly.

Let it stand:
Let the container cool undisturbed and then store it in a cool, dark place such as a cupboard or the refrigerator. Let it stand at least 24 hours and up to 4 weeks until the desired flavor is reached.

Add the sugar:
Place the vinegar and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour into a clean, sterilized container (use the original mason jar or other bottles; see step 1 for sterilization procedure) and cap tightly.

Store:
Store the shrub syrup in the refrigerator. Tightly sealed, it may last for up to 6 months. Taste before using to make sure the flavor is still good. Discard immediately if it has mold or any signs of fermentation such as bubbling, cloudiness, or sliminess.

Serve:
To serve, mix 1 tablespoon shrub syrup into a glass of still or sparkling water. Taste and add more syrup, if desired. Shrub syrups may also be used as cocktail mixers, in salad dressings, and more. I highly recommend shrub and whiskey experiments.

Single-Grain

Remember- you can shrub that!
-Quelcy

My Favorite Healthy Eats for “Fittsburgh”

August 2014

For a city known for infusing salads and sandwiches with french fries and cole slaw, “dining out” and “healthy” are very rarely synonymous. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, the tables of greasy foods are turning, and there are plenty of healthier options. I recently added my two cents on this topic, and dorked out about whole grain rice, as part of a Fittsburgh blog post.

Screen shot 2014-08-12 at 9.10.11 AM

Check out the full story-
4 Pittsburgh Food Writers Spill it on Their Favorite Healthy Eats in the ‘Burgh

If you happen to be dining in Pittsburgh, check out my recommendation and enjoy a serene dinner at Pusadee’s Garden.

Single-Grain

Here’s to Health!
-Quelcy

A Birthday By Day & By Night

January 21, 2014

Recently, the Pittsburgh Urbanist Guide interviewed me as part of the 3 Meals & A Bar series. The premise for the questionnaire is if you only had 24 hours to show a friend the best that urban Pittsburgh has to offer, where would you take them? As it turns out, my answers were very similar to how I chose to show myself around on my own special day…my THIRTIETH special day no less!

La Gourmandine

Every January 21st begins with a ritual- I acknowledge 8:36am, the precise moment when I entered this world. I know this time because as the baby of the family, there were several people to take note of important details like birth times. I acknowledge this time faithfully because I am quirky and crazy I suppose. With my precise birthday moment properly recognized, it was time for breakfast, and a breakfast of birthday champions should begin at La Gourmandine, so that it did!

Birthday Pastries

My lovely friend Dana accompanied me on my snowy morning to the warm, bright place where pastry dreams come true [in the form of almond croissants for this dreamer]. Dana generously gifted me a bite of her clafouti too [that sounds dirty. It was not. It was pure, innocent and delicious].

La Gourmandine Almond Croissant

Full and content from a perfectly almond-laced croissant and caffeinated from one of my favorite cappuccinos, I spent the afternoon with my favorite four-legged friend, hiking in the snowy woods and cityscapes of our neighborhood until she was plum tuckered and ready to snuggle. Those tired eyes were singing “happy birthday to you.”

Hike and Cuddle

Snow treks, snuggles and one perfectly relaxing massage later, I was ready to indulge in one of my favorite menus with two of my favorite people…

Meat and Potatoes Bar

You guessed it… Meat & Potatoes!

Meat and Potatoes Place Setting

Girls and Cocktails

Favorite faces and the cocktail that could make an alcoholic out of me- the Sgt. Pepper’s Old Fashioned

Poutine is basically a birthday cake waiting for a candle, and there were plenty, plenty more birthday treats where that came from.

Meat and Potatoes Poutine

Not quite a full 3 Meals & A Bar lineup, but my 30th birthday was a day comprised of a few of my favorite Pittsburgh offerings, with a few of the people who matter most to me. That was merely the beginning. After all, I mentioned how much I like to milk my birthday month for festivities, so obviously, there was still more in store, and that “more” included LOTS of cake!

How do you celebrate your day of birth?

Single-Grain

Happy Birthday To Me!
-Quelcy

Happy Birthday To Me, Love Big Burrito

January 2014

In an effort to fully milk my birthday, I took advantage of a special offering from the Big Burrito Restaurant Group [apologies if this post's title led you to believe I would be writing about a larger-than-life burrito...maybe one day!]

Wine Collection

The Big Burrito Restaurant Group includes several Pittsburgh establishments. While I tend to associate their name with an outdated approach to fine dining (expensive prices, design that caters to stereotypical business types and websites that inspire nostalgia for the precise moment when we moved past AOL chat rooms and began to dive into using the internet), I’m not one to turn down an olive branch in the name of my birthday. Joining the Big Burrito mailing list entitles each subscriber to a token of birthday cheer good for one free entree at the restaurant of her choice.

Eleven

Of the various restaurants, Eleven is my top choice, and if it were to have an interior design overhaul, it would probably be on my regular cycle of Pittsburgh favorites. In the meantime, I’m happy to overlook the overwhelming presence of beige and the private business rooms looming overhead in honor of my 30 years on this planet. Bring on the pork belly and foie gras!

Pork Belly

Pork Belly appetizer

Eleven is nestled between the bustling food scene of the historical Strip District and downtown Pittsburgh. Its name commemorates its place as the eleventh restaurant in the Big Burrito series. Despite my critiques, I do applaud Chef Derek Stevens’ ever changing menu of contemporary American flavors. I just wish the powers that be would frame his food more modernly. His kitchen is the center of Eleven’s spacious dining room, complemented by the more hidden, in-house bakery which yields artisan breads and desserts.

Foie Gras

Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Calvados prunes, orange-thyme biscuit, candied sage and kumquat

Beautiful Radish Salad

Beet Salad with golden beets, pickled red beets, little gem, molasses vinaigrette, taleggio and cornbread croutons

Not pictured is my complimentary Seafood Sampler birthday entree [my photo did not do its deliciousness justice], which was so flavorful it should have pushed me past the point of dessert, but when I saw beignets…

Beignets and Tables

Apple Beignets with apple caramel compote, brown sugar ice cream, cherries and granola

…I just had to have at least a few sweet bites. My birthday coupon turned out to be a pleasant reminder of why Eleven stands out from its Big Burrito counterparts and should be a part of my rotation more frequently. If you live in Pittsburgh or for some reason are planning a visit for your birthday, you should sign up for your own birthday gift!

Single-Grain

Happy Birthday Dining!
-Quelcy

ps: Pittsburgh Post Gazette food critic Melissa McCart wrote a well articulated piece about the Big group which might even describe my objections more accurately than I have done myself.

Carnegie Coffee: Where History & Caffeine Converge

I apologize for the longing these blue skies and sunny streets might stir in your winter bones, but there’s a little adventure I’ve been meaning to share, and somehow it took me all these snowy months to arrive at the right words.

Carnegie, PA

On a wide, brick, turquoise-accented street in Carnegie, Pa, there’s a location where history and caffeine converge.

Light Fixture

At this intersection of time and energy, a brick facade boasts looming windows and regal light fixtures.

Carnegie Coffee Sign and Lounge

A glass pane announces your arrival and the dual function of the space- pick up your prescription and pick up your java, but first, push through the antique door and really behold the small details so unique to this place…

Antique Door

PO Box Counter

Previously the site of the Carnegie Post Office, which closed in spring 2008 and moved into smaller, leased quarters, the spacious coffee shop pays hommage to its history through the hundreds of post office boxes and the refurbished marble forming the bar.

Carnegie Coffee Menu

These antique gestures overlap in a clean, modern way with industrial furniture, bold, simple patterns and bright color accents.

PO Box Counter and Coffees

Carnegie Coffee Pastries

Post Office Door

Booth Seat

Most importantly though, the Carnegie Coffee Company serves coffee to make a trip there worthwhile. Inspired by their European travels and the requisite coffee experiences, the owners prioritized the source of their beans. They are the first coffeeshop in Western Pennsylvania to serve the Italian-grown Illy bean.

Illy Coffee

Whether you’re a Pittsburgher, a Carnegian (?!?!), or a wanderer in need of revival, I hope you have the chance to experience this history and caffeine convergence.

Carnegie Coffee Company
132 East Main Street
Carnegie, Pennsylvania 15106

Single-Grain

Bon Voyage & Santé!
-Quelcy

Waffles & Winter Reds in Defense of Beauty

February 2014

Why?
Because it’s beautiful?
No. Why?

Curved City

In architecture school, the why was always waiting around the bend in the critique. We learned to think analytically, artistically and technically. We learned to push our preliminary concepts and defend our assertions. We learned to use buzz words and reference history. We learned to turn our noses up to symmetry, unless viewing its prescriptive balance through an historical lens. Somewhere along the way though, I lost site of beauty. I buried it because beauty was not enough of a defense to answer those looming whys. 

Life Can Be Magic

It wasn’t until recently I realized how important beauty is, how misunderstood it is, how scapegoated it is. While in a business class, I listened to a woman belittle her ambitions. “I want to open my own salon. I know it’s cliché, and I know it’s just hair, but that’s what I want to do.”

Desert Tree

I refuted her lack of confidence. Her work is not just hair. Her work is expression. It is art. It is the ability to listen to someone’s wants and desires and translate them to a style reflective of the words. At its best, her work is beautiful, and it shouldn’t be underrated, especially by her. Her work is more than the hair, it’s the hours, days and lives it touches. To desire beauty is not to be entrenched in the superficial, but we often feel guilty when admiring beauty.

Birdhouse and Coffeeshop

While learning to answer the whys, I traveled to remote Kenya. Without magazines or mirrors, the Turkana women of the desert still sought beauty. They walked with dignity and grace, with necks laden with brightly colored beads, with hair spindled and accented with a desert crimson. Beauty is part of our makeup. It brings joy, brings us together and fosters memories.

Lili

Lately, these ideas have been floating in my head. The pursuit of beauty instigates so many of my endeavors, and I’m finally beginning to appreciate the value of such a contribution. This is not to abandon the whys or the narratives behind my thinking, but it’s to give myself permission to enjoy the beautiful results and the lasting effects they have.

Lili Waffles

A warming plate of waffles and a poached apple from a recent brunch at Lili Cafe. I’m very fortunate to live so close to this neighborhood coffee shop. It has rejuvenated me on so many an occasion.

These musings are the impetus for seeing past the gloomy grays to see bright reds scattered throughout a wintry neighborhood…

Iron Works

…to see fanciful creatures in an imaginary sea…

Grain

…to see amber waves of grain jutting through metal curlicues…

Facade

…to remember what brought me here and look at it anew…

Mother's Bread

…to see tranquility in quiet resilience…

Urns

A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases;
it will never pass into nothingness.

-John Keats