Tag Archives: Pittsburgh

PGH Vintage Grand Prix by With The Grains 07

Egg Salad Sandwiches for a Picnic at a Vintage Car Show

Egg Salad Sandwiches for a Picnic at a Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

In addition to the many hats he wears- farmer, beekeeper, graphic designer, photographer, environmentalistthe Urban Farmer also wears a kilt from time to time. Marching and playing the bass drum in the Balmoral Pipe & Drum band is one of the very few activities that motivates my soil-loving fella to wear shoes. These kilt & shoe gigs have made for many a unique weekend adventure to cathedrals, parades, historical festivals, a “Tartan Day” and most recently to the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix.

Egg Salad Sandwiches for a Picnic at a Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix is an annual car show and races right through the winding roads of Schenley Park, one of the city’s valuable green assets. In architecture school, we learned to use perspective and contour lines to translate our drawing professor’s slides (slides!) of Grand Prix automobiles to paper. Aside from the many sketches and hearing the yearly rumble of cars in race mode, I never really explored this massive gathering of car enthusiasts. However, bagpipe performances, vintage cars, and a sunny day in Schenley Park all called for a picnic, so I packed a farm-influenced egg salad, and to the car show I went!

Egg Salad Sandwiches for a Picnic at a Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Strolling through but a small section of the Grand Prix, I gained a new appreciation for these car enthusiasts. I once discounted this annual event as a pompous waste of resources and a flashy display of expensive collections. While I still see elements of excess (i.e.: semi trucks, with more amenities than my apartment, for carting car collections?), I also came to see the celebration of design, quality, old values and the idea of building something to last.

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

I had to quell the judgmental idealist inside me, acknowledge the charitable underpinnings of the event and simply indulge the side of me who believes in nostalgia, tradition and bringing people together. I also indulged the side of me who really just wants to cruise around town in a vintage, red beamer. After all, I am the owner of this beauty, who awaits some much needed love and care this winter (i.e.: when the Urban Farmer puts on his “mechanic” hat).

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

I hadn’t the slightest understanding of the racing rules or categories, but the people and car watching enthralled me. Plus, I may have discovered my spirit animal in this real-life Luigi. Consider this a glimpse of my future, white overalls and all!

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

The engine of this forest green car (above) might be impeccable. It might trace its roots to a pastural English village. I have no idea. I was simply blown away by the leather detail on the spare tire!

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

Vintage Car Show // www.WithTheGrains.com

I went for the bagpipes, the sunshine and the park picnic, but as it turns out, I’m really a sucker for a red, vintage set of wheels. Whether you’re browsing beamers, a flea market, or simply a park on a sunny day, try this egg salad for your next picnic. You’ll revel in some sandwich nostalgia made healthier and more vibrant by farm-fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Single-Grain

Bon Voyage!
-Quelcy

Farm Fresh Egg Salad Sandwiches

About this Recipe: Greek yogurt, dijon and local eggs come together with accents of local celery and sweet peppers. You don’t need to measure anything. Just trust your tastebuds and your eyes to achieve the right flavor, color and texture. Using local celery makes a big difference in flavor, and be sure to include the greens. Pick a flavorful mix of greens for the sandwich such as mustard greens, which add a pleasantly bitter accent, much like a hint of wasabi. For a little sweetness, add a slathering of organic relish to the bread.

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Wine-ing, Dining & Unwinding: Our Staycation at Choderwood

We could have been in Bali. We could have been in Thailand. We could have been in Peru. We could have been anywhere, and that suited me just fine. However, we were in Pittsburgh, hidden from all the familiar sites, soaking up the river views like we never had before. Though we were minutes from home, everything I brought with us was inspired by a trip that existed in the Urban Farmer’s head.

Choderwood by Quelcy 15

Before visions of farming fully took over his head space, the Urban Farmer had planned to celebrate his big 3-0 jeeping, surfing and beach bumming from California to Chile. Fortunately for me and for this city, he chose Pennsylvanian soil, instead of white sand, between his toes. To celebrate the travels that will come in due time, and to celebrate our one year of shared time, we escaped to Choderwood. There, the greenery and big expanse of sky encapsulated us, and our minds were free to wander wherever they chose.

Choderwood by Quelcy 56

Themes, narratives, and stories fill my head. They guide my menus, my decor, my designs, even my outfits. I forget that not everyone thinks this way, not everyone picks a bottle of wine based on what they would pick if they were in Argentina’s wine country. If you too find yourself arranging bouquets of lavender to transport you to Provence, or hovering over a pot of paneer to try to imagine how a spice market might smell in Mumbai, then the themes guiding our staycation might seem second nature, even intuitive.

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These menus were not my most intricate, and there were no recipes, but should you want to channel some South American dreams of your own, maybe you too will grab a bottle of Malbec and head to a scenic view. Maybe you’ll browse the wine store with confidence as you judge the bottles by their labels alone. Take these ideas as far as you want, and if you’re not the visual, imaginative, theme-driven type (and that’s ok indeed!), maybe you’ll gain a faint glimmer of understanding of what it’s like inside the theme party that is my head.

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These concepts and narratives are jumping off points, and when it comes to unplugging, they’re not meant to be complicated. Ultimately, all the wine-ing, dining and unwinding felt (and should feel) a little like this tune

With your feet on the air and your head on the ground
Try this trick and spin it, yeah
Your head will collapse
But there’s nothing in it
And you’ll ask yourself

Where is my mind? 

Choderwood by Quelcy 60

Way out in the water
See it swimmin’

I was swimmin’ in the Caribbean
Animals were hiding behind the rocks
Except the little fish
But they told me, he swears
Tryin’ to talk to me, to me, to me.

Choderwood by Quelcy 48

The Urban Farmer found his spirit animal in this black cat, who kneaded his legs and nestled against him. I, however, found him mocking me sarcastically.

Choderwood Pool Antiques

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Afternoon Snack Menu:

Tortilla chips, guacamole & salsa
mango lemonade
snap peas
Guajillo Chili Chocolate Mexicano by Taza

Taza Chocolate

A snack of chips and salsa is surely not the most creative menu I have put together, but I imagined how the Urban Farmer would have worked his way through Mexico, adding spice and heat to everything he ate. In between chili chocolate bites, he would have had his fill of the sweet juicy mangos. Once he ate those mangos and avocados, nothing else would ever compare.

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Choderwood by Quelcy 62

Dinner was an equally simple interpretation- sprouted grain quesadillas with quinoa, corn, grilled chicken, salsa, avocados, a dollop of Greek yogurt and repeated glasses of Argentine wine. The theme was never meant to be an intensive culinary exploreation. With such a changing, dramatic backdrop, simplicity was key.

Choderwood Wine Dinner

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Choderwood by Quelcy 70

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Choderwood by Quelcy 66

Without phones, projectors or computers, we reveled in the sun vanishing behind an ominous gray sky while playing Twenty Questions. We reveled in a very drastic change of pace that gave way to a morning of peachy tones rendering a brand new scene.

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Impressionist painters would have chased this scene with chaotic brush strokes, but we watched it slowly and blissfully, enjoying the wholesome breakfast that magically appeared at our dock in true B&B fashion.

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Choderwood by Quelcy 74

Choderwood by Quelcy 75

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Whether we were in Pittsburgh or pretending to be far, far away, whether we were crafting narratives or watching our mind float away with the waves, we were able to enjoy every minute. Time stood still, and we were able to disconnect all the stressful thoughts and just enjoy a river, many trees, fruity notes and spicy bites.

Single-Grain

-Quelcy

A Staycation at Choderwood, Part II

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

I have been in Pennsylvania more than I have not been in Pennsylvania.

This realization bewilders me. I’ve never really felt like a Pennsylvanian. I feel no allegiance to Pennsylvania. I was born a midwesterner, and though we moved when I was minuscule, my family never embraced Pennsylvania as home. Philadelphia was so close to us, but we fell shy of its strong cultural influences. Instead, my upbringing was set against the cookie-cutter backdrop of suburbia.

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

When is a city your city?

From the burbs, I ventured to college in Pittsburgh, but the university was its own microcosm, a mini globe on a parcel of manicured lawns. Carnegie Mellon, unlike the city,  was very much a part of my identity. Based on time and location, you could call me a Pittsburgher, but this city has always felt more like a backdrop than a fiber of my being. Our values don’t always align. Our ambitions don’t always align, and I surely do not wave a terrible towel.

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

Yet, here I am. I may never feel or claim to be a Pittsburgher, but I’ll take its growing amenities. I’ll sip the finer coffee drinks. I’ll watch the progress, and I’ll occasionally treat myself to the finer food scenes, but ultimately, I just want to carve my own world from its grid. I want to carve a world where nooks and crannies are curated, where the earth and sky feel clean and safe, where the food is always trustworthy, where simple details help me appreciate each passing day. (See why I fell for that Urban Farmer fella?)

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

Steve and Jody Choder did exactly that! They carved out a world, Choderwood, where the city fades away, where the rootless can relish how placeless they feel, where little details await discovery. They carved out a world where the rivers are celebrated and where relaxation enraptures you in minutes. It’s blissful.

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Staycation at Choderwood // www.WithTheGrains.com

If you’re looking for a mental, physical and spiritual escape, follow the trail to this dock, and spend a night on this houseboat. It’s a wonderful world unto itself, one that will inspire you, should you, like me, be hoping to carve your own corner.

Single-Grain

-Quelcy

Choderwood by Quelcy 89

A Houseboat Staycation at Choderwood (Anniversary Experience #2)

“Pack your guitar, your swimsuit and maybe a book…anything that helps you relax,” I told the Urban Farmer.

It was time for Experience #2 in my series of Surprise Anniversary Adventures! 

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

A staycation at Choderwood was just the escape we needed!

If you were going to beach bum and surf through South America, as the Urban Farmer had once intended to do, you might find yourself on a houseboat. This was my inspiration for Surprise Anniversary Adventure #2. (Surprise #1 was all about Star Gazing.) We were only driving a few miles from home, but once we arrived at the surprise destination, we may as well have been a continent away!

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

“This is Choderwood, and we’re going to stay on a houseboat!” 

After a very short car ride, we arrived at the entrance’s wooden gate. “Do you know where we are?” I asked the Urban Farmer, who “jokingly” had guessed I was taking him to the wave pool. He still had no idea.

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

For a city so branded by its rivers, Pittsburgh offers so few chances to interact with the riverside.  

What Steve and Jody Choder, owners of Choderwood, offer is both a chance to escape and to celebrate the city in one revitalizing experience. They have transformed what was once a private, lock master’s riverside home into an urban retreat, with beautiful gardens, a pool, a hot tub, chickens, ducks, hammocks and two houseboats- Namaste and Boho. We arrived at Namaste, our floating home for the night, shut off our phones and lost ourselves in much needed r&r!

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

We stayed at this oasis for a day and a half, but my mind, body and spirit felt as if we had escaped for weeks! Time seemed to move more slowly, as we let ourselves just stare into the distance. There were so many beautiful details, and each scenes changed with passing clouds and breezes. Even the rainy spells were mesmerizing.

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

Without schedules or to-do lists, we set about exploring our floating home and then sipping the more extravagant cold-brew coffee I had packed in my “glamping” arsenal.

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

“Namaste” felt so expansive, with smart space-saving design elements and just the right finishing touches by Steve and Jody. Plus, what other B&B in this city is going to offer river views like these?

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

The boat even had a bathroom! I had mentally prepared to “rough it” on this front, but much to my surprise, this really was glamping in all its plumbed glory.

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

We almost missed the most efficient use of the boat’s space. What I had assumed was a small cabinet turned out to be another bunk!

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Urban Farmer did bring his guitar, his board shorts and an intense desire to nap, which are all the goals you need when visiting a place like Choderwood. I’m not as naturally gifted when it comes to daytime snoozing, so I’m lucky to have such a talented master in my midst.

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Houseboat Staycation // www.WithTheGrains.com

We were uniquely in Pittsburgh, but we were also rootless. It was just the escape I needed to quell some of the wanderlust inside me. Stay tuned for dinner scenes and more glimpses into this magical riverside retreat!

Single-Grain

Namaste!
-Quelcy

ps: If you want to experience this for yourself (and I hope you do get the chance!), check out Choderwood’s Air BnB listingDisclaimer: This post was sponsored by Choderwood, but all opinions and states of relaxation are mine!

A South American Inspired Picnic at the Allegheny Observatory

I had very concrete plans to spend my 30th birthday sipping flat whites and beholding the beauty of the Sydney Opera House. However, life happened, and plans changed unexpectedly. Though I still long to venture to the land down under, I have a feeling that trip will happen serendipitously, in a way that will exceed all my plans and dreams. In one of our early conversations, the Urban Farmer told me how he had envisioned renting a jeep for his 30th and driving it through South America, with his surfboard in tow. Like me (and luckily for me!), his life steered in a very different course.

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As his big 3-0, his Dirty Thirty, rolled around, he found himself rooted, literally, to this steel city. He had buried his travel dreams behind catalogs of seeds and under mounds of compost, but the visions of Chilean beaches were not lost on me. Though I couldn’t give him his South American surf excursion, I channeled his former wanderlust into a series of surprise experiences.

Happy Anniversary by With The Grains 01

Bundled with a vintage Mexican blanket (because his journey would have begun with a long drive through Mexico) was this illustrated card of Rio de Janeiro and the Save-The-Date details (and some private, lovey dovey stuff, from which I will spare you). This was my way to say I’m truly grateful life steered him onto a new course because that course included me! He’s been my Urban Farmer for one year now, and this was my anniversary gift to him. To the fella who makes me a better person and fills my days with laughter, dirt, dancing and wine-induced snooze fests, I can’t say enough how happy you make me!

South American Inspired Picnic by With The Grains 08

Had the Urban Farmer rented that jeep and journeyed to all those beaches, he would have spent countless night blanketed by the stars, so Experience Número Uno was all about star gazing. Experience Número Uno was a surprise South American Inspired Picnic and a tour of the Allegheny Observatory, a giant telescope perched atop a lovely Pittsburgh hilltop.

South American Inspired Picnic by With The Grains 05

The Menu: A South American Inspired Picnic

Mango, Pineapple & Basil Fruit Salad
Roasted Corn, Avocado & Feta Salad with Corn Chips
Ceviche & Roasted Plantain Chips
Mexican Brownies with Mole Bitters
White Wine Sangria with Fresh Peaches, Basil & Nasturtium (I used a Trapiche Pinot Grigio from Argentina, for thematic effect)
Coconut Water (though I wish we could have jammed straws into fresh Brazilian coconuts…alas)

South American Inspired Picnic by With The Grains 06

Pro tip for my friends in the very prudent state of Pennsylvania: Paper bags are too cliche. Make your libations look rustic and pretty, and it won’t look like you’re illegally drinking in public.

South American Inspired Picnic by With The Grains 07

Alas, much like my postponed Australia trip, there were elements beyond my control, specifically, the haziness of the sky. Though we weren’t able to use the giant telescope, it was still inspiring to stand at the base of such an impressive instrument and to know it was made so long ago!

Allegheny Observatory by With The Grains 02

For all you history and astronomy buffs out there, here are the details:

The observatory was founded on February 15, 1859, in the city of Allegheny, Pennsylvania (incorporated into the city of Pittsburgh in 1907) by a group of wealthy industrialists calling themselves the Allegheny Telescope Association. The observatory’s initial purpose was for general public education as opposed to research, but by 1867 the revenues derived from this had receded. The facility was then donated to the Western University of Pennsylvania, today known as the University of Pittsburgh. [source]

Allegheny Observatory by With The Grains 05

The 30″ Thaw telescope is the primary instrument of the Allegheny Observatory. It took ten years to build and was finished in 1914. It is the third largest refractor in the United States and was constructed by the Brashear Co. It has a lens made from two glass disks cast by the Shott Co. of Germany. The original lens was designed by Professor Charles Hastings to be used with photographic plates which were sensitive to blue and ultraviolet light. The Thaw telescopes’ primary mission has been to study the distance to nearby stars. The parallax program is responsible for the collection of over 110,000 photographic plates in the Allegheny collection. Information gathered from the Thaw observations have helped set the distance scale of the universe. [source]

Allegheny Observatory by With The Grains 04

We’ll have to return for a proper look at the night sky, but listening to our tour guide, a perfect cross between Noah Levenstein and Michael Scott, was something special nonetheless. Plus, I’ll take any excuse for another picnic!

Stay tuned for recipes from this picnic!

Single-Grain

Besos,
Quelcy

ps: If you want to take a tour of the Allegheny Observatory, i.e.: the GIGANTIC telescope, here’s the info.

My Breakfast with Obama

April 2015

In the fall of 2009, Pittsburgh was an unnerving place to be. Leaders from the globe’s 20 major economies convened in our city for the G20. From the periphery, I observed protests, rattled police officers and an arsenal of army vehicles on our streets. With so many major thoroughfares shut down, the city felt like a ghost town. It was surreal, but as close as I was to the action, I never even glimpsed Obama.

Breakfast with Obama // www.WithTheGrains.com

Fast forward to 2011, and Pittsburgh welcomed President Obama with far more open arms. He had traveled to our steel city to unveil the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. After emerging from its industrial collapse, Pittsburgh was the perfect backdrop for the announcement, but even though I worked for one of the plan’s poster child companies, Obama and I still did not meet.

Breakfast with Obama // www.WithTheGrains.com

In 2014, Obama returned again, with more goals and promises for manufacturing in America. Meanwhile, I was probably editing photos in a coffeeshop. An Obama sighting was just not in the cards.

Breakfast with Obama // www.WithTheGrains.com

BUT 2015…. 2015 was the year of THE QUELCY & OBAMA BREAKFAST!!!

Breakfast with Obama // www.WithTheGrains.com

Though it’s not my kind of place, when Obama is in town, he eats a classic American breakfast at the very vintage, Pittsburgh staple, Pamela’s Diner. When Obama is calling the shots, you don’t argue. You just suck it up and eat at a greasy spoon because… YOU’RE HAVING BREAKFAST WITH OBAMA! 

Breakfast with Obama // www.WithTheGrains.com

*april fools*april fools*april fools*

I may not have had breakfast with THE Obama, but I did have breakfast with the Bronx Obama, which is a noteworthy breakfast in its own right. You may have heard of Louis Ortiz, i.e. Bronx Obama, from an episode of This American Life. Like a superhero donning a cloak, when Louis Ortiz puts on his presidential suit, he becomes Obama. His thick Bronx accent fades. His mannerisms change. His posture heightens. He becomes a walking, talking Obama, and because of his impeccable impression, this widowed, single father, unemployed, army vet found himself an almost overnight media sensation.

Breakfast with Obama // www.WithTheGrains.com

Louis Ortiz caught the attention of filmmaker Ryan Murdock, and the documentary film Bronx Obama came to be. The documentary screened at a film festival near and dear to my heart, and thus, I had the opportunity to design a very presidential backdrop, photograph Louis with his adoring audience and have breakfast with the festival crew at Pamela’s, à laMy Breakfast with Obama!

Breakfast with Obama // www.WithTheGrains.com

Since Pamela’s is more Aunt Jemima than Vermont Maple Syrup, you’d be hard pressed to find me there without presidential intervention. Thus, I thought it best to leave my review to the very polite and political, real Obama, who was quoted as saying this after his appearance at this local institution,

“Before I answer this question [about Clinton voter turnout], these really were maybe the best pancakes I’ve tasted in a very long time. Get some take-out,” he directed the reporters. “You don’t even need syrup on them. They’ve got crispy edges. Yea, they are really good.”

Or, as Bronx Obama said when we were all hemming and hawing over the menu, “it’s either flapjacks or eggs. Easy.”

Breakfast with Obama // www.WithTheGrains.com

While we ate, Louis was low key, but when it came time to leave, he entertained. He posed appropriately with a painting of the President eating Pamela’s crispy, crepe-like pancakes. “Did your face naturally look like that?” someone asked him in awe, while others stared and whispered to each other in disbelief. “Could it be? Is it really him?”

Breakfast with Obama // www.WithTheGrains.com

Filmmaker Ryan Murdock had initially intended to follow several impersonators with his camera, but when he met Louis, it was clear where the story was. Louis was destined to be the center of attention. He’s naturally a character, warm, outgoing, confident and likable, but to my sappy self, what’s most compelling about this crazy tale of a presidential lookalike, is his motivation to provide for his daughter and send her to college.

Breakfast with Obama // www.WithTheGrains.com

From the Bronx to the spotlight, Louis is now a pro! He takes selfies better than tween girls, he’ll politely tell you if you’re blocking his light, and he always knows his best angle. That being said, he is tremendously gracious, humble and uplifting, as is filmmaker Ryan Murdock. It was a real privilege to eat American-size portions of greasy diner food with them.

Breakfast with Obama // www.WithTheGrains.com

Louis plans to ride this Obama impersonator tide as long as possible, and it will be interesting to see how he uses this rare platform for his own voice. He’s humble and optimistic and simply wants to share some positivity and lightness while assuming this venerated role. In my dream world, Bronx Obama and Kid President would hit the “campaign trail” together, spreading messages of unity, hope and above all else, laughter!

Breakfast with Obama // www.WithTheGrains.com

It may not have been breakfast with THE Obama, but in the grand scheme, I’m grateful for My Breakfast with Bronx Obama.

Breakfast with Obama // www.WithTheGrains.com

If you haven’t seen the film yet, you can check it out on Showtime and a slew of other media platforms. Pop some popcorn, and prepare to enter the really bizarre world of political impersonators. Maybe pack a tissue or two also because Louis’s role as a father is his best work!

Single-Grain

Happy April Fools’ Day!
-Quelcy

A Fall Lunch at Out of the Fire Cafe

October 2014

I once stood blissfully in the general store of an old mill. A friendly older couple regaled me with the history of the town, of the brewery where the man worked as a young brewmaster, and of the grains sold in the shop. I felt like I had stepped back in time until I asked for lunch recommendations. “There’s an Eat ‘n Park or a McDonalds if you get back on the main road.” You could hear my idealism deflating slowly and dramatically like a punctured party balloon.

Out of the Fire Cafe

Hence my excitement when a recent fall adventure, through the quiet, misty mountains, resulted in a unique eating opportunity as well. My friend and I had worked up an appetite touring Kentuck Knob, the mountain home designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. About halfway between Kentuck Knob and home is Out of the Fire Cafe, a place I had often passed and had tucked away in my memory. This was the day at long last!

Out of the Fire Scallops

Sea Scallops with Butternut Squash Butter, Vanilla Emulsion and Crispy Pork

Family owned and operated, as well as a member of Slow Foods USA, Out of the Fire was just what the day demanded. We dined on seasonal flavors while taking in the view of the Laurel Highlands and a hillside of cows. Unlike my General Store anecdote, this time lunch completed the feeling of escaping the city.

Out of the Fire Cheeseburger

Grilled Cafe Burger on Brioche with Farmhouse Cheddar, Roasted Tomatoes, Charred Onion Jam , Arugula and French Fries.

Out of the Fire Cheeseburger Half

Out of the Fire view

If you’re planning a trip to Falling Water or Kentuck Knob or hiking in the highlands, I highly recommend incorporating Out of the Fire into your route.

Single-Grain

Happy Wandering!
-Quelcy

Pizza in Pittsburgh: Wood Fired Flatbreads Mobile Pizzeria at the Allegheny Green Innovation Festival

September 2014

As a lover of food, as a proponent of local resources, and as one who likes to slip into a wooded park to escape the world every now and then, I find fracking to be a terrifying force in this region. I have a very close friend who has made it her mission to fight for families being harmed by fracking. She’s an inspiration, and by no coincidence, she’s the reason I have the Urban Farmer in my life. Through this friend, I was humbled to meet a growing group of young girls who have made it their mission to protect their parks from fracking.

Tent Area

These girls may be small in stature, but they have strong voices. They inspire me as females and environmentalists. They are a tremendous reminder to stand up for our natural resources and for our basic rights to clean air, water and food. Every time I think of them, I feel such a mix of emotions and excitement. The next generation of female leaders is going to crush it in a big way, and they make me want to be a better female myself. Two of these girls, Kathryn and Liz, and their amazing mom Joy, had a table at the Allegheny Green Innovation Festival at Hartwood Acres, so the Urban Farmer, the little one and I went to pay them a visit and encourage their efforts.

Food Trucks

We had very little idea what to expect, but there were tents and people galore! There were also food trucks. In any other city, these food trucks might not be that big of a deal, but zoning in Pittsburgh was a prohibitive roll of red tape for the longest time. Seeing the food truck round ups grow in size is a great marker of progress, especially when the food on those trucks supports local agriculture like the trailblazing Franktuary.

Hot Julep

Though I love me a local frank, I had heard about and needed to test Wood Fired Flatbreads. Uninspired by the choice of asiago as a cheese topping, the Urban Farmer and I decided on the Margherita pizza, while little Julep endured the heat of waiting in line. We arrived at this decision just in time to score the very last pizza of the event!

Wood Fired Pizza

Wood Fired Flatbreads is a mobile, wood-fired oven for parties and events in the Pittsburgh area, and after thoroughly enjoying the thin-crusted Margherita, I hope to see them at an event real soon. Though I still question the choice of asiago, I suppose there is only one way to find out. Maybe next time.

Pizza

In summation:

1. No matter how big or small you are, your voice matters!
2. Support your local food scene.
3. Eat good pizza often.

Single-Grain

Sincerely,
Quelcy

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.

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