Food Blogger Dinner at The Porch (Schenley Park, Pittsburgh)

August 2012

My number one regret about my apartment is the lack of outdoor space, so I was excited to learn about a newer, Pittsburgh restaurant named “The Porch.” I was even more excited to learn the name was no misnomer. The restaurant does indeed boast an extensive porch bordering Schenely Park, as well as a large interior. More importantly, The Porch supports many local, agricultural resources.

My opportunity to sit on said porch finally arrived when the Pittsburgh Restaurant Week planners hosted a Food Blogger Dinner. The goal of the summer installment of restaurant week was to highlight food and restaurants through fine dining, fresh harvests and outdoor seating. The goal in incorporating the local food bloggers was to gather and thank those of us who enthusiastically support the city’s growing food scene. Thus, the meal at The Porch also included a few perks.

For starters, we heard from Jamie Moore (left) who works with both the Eat’n Park Hospitality Group and PASA (the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture) to promote and source local agriculture. Jamie spends a lot of time visiting farms and restaurants in the region and facilitating the connections between the two. His interest in sustainable farming really took hold when he married into a dairy farm and started to learn more about the world of a smaller scale farm. Chef Kevin Hermann (right) followed and spoke about the restaurant’s careful attention to food sourcing from its rooftop garden and honeybees to its in-house butchering of local cows. He’s personally involved at all levels from gardening, to butchering to cooking, and he loves every step of the process! Apparently, the only thing he doesn’t really love is sleeping a lot.

Blueberry-Lavender Smash
Featuring Wigle Whiskey and rooftop rosemary

You wanna talk about a cocktail maaaade for porch sippin’? Why would you want to talk about it when you could actually sip one?!?

Even though there was a spell of rain, we were all dry and content on the porch. The rain even added to the scene, as the park began to sparkle with little puddles and water droplets in the returning sunlight.

Keystone Farm Beef Tartare
w/ wild flowers, capers, picholine olives and tomato gastrique

This was 4-star tartare!

The most exciting aspect of the Food Blogger event was the rooftop garden tour! The rooftop is host to herbs, vegetables, flowers and even bumblebees, set against the urban and whimsical backdrop of the city and park respectively.

(The Cathedral of Learning)

Arriving solo to a dinner event can be a little nerve-wracking, but I was fortunate to be seated at a great table! The conversation flowed comfortably from course to course, and I’d love for a repeat with these ladies.  The surprise seating arrangement enabled me to meet the reading, kid-wrangler you might know as Beezus Kiddo, her friend who was along for the experience and Ali of Cheaterbites. We even managed to talk about topics other than food!

Cunningham Farm Pork Saltimbocca
w/wild sage, “Porch” prosciutto, rooftop tomatoes, sweet corn & heirloom beans

One of the perks of eating locally-sourced foods is the increase in flavor, since the food item was picked as close to the time of need as possible. The freshness and preservation of flavor was definitely true of the accent herbs and vegetables in this entree. I was slightly disappointed by the choice to offer this entree as the main course for a food blogger event. I have made a version of this myself, and it’s the type of recipe one would find in the “Quick Meals To Make During The Week” section of a cooking magazine. This is not to say I do not appreciate simplicity, but I would have preferred to see more of the chef’s chops than pork chops. Oh the puns! How they floweth so poorly!

Chocolate-Blueberry Pie
w/ sweet cream and hazelnut brittle

When Chef Kevin described the menu, he was especially enthusiastic about the dessert. “[My goal wasn’t to come up here and rave about how good of a pastry chef I am, but today, I made a really good pie!]” He was right! The chocolate and blueberry combination doesn’t happen often, and this little pie made me wonder why? It was a creative and delicious finale, and slowly we made our way from the warmly lit dining room into the glow of street lights and city life.

What excites me most about the prospect of returning to The Porch is how intertwined the changes in the season and the menu will be. I imagine eating a hot squash soup on the porch as the weather requires a sweater or watching the snow collect on the many window frames while enjoying a heartier creation. Though I am a little sorry to have typed the word snow while still dreaming of sundresses. Get to The Porch before this summer is just a memory!

Special thanks to Pittsburgh Restaurant Week for organizing this event and special thanks to my table-mates for being such great dining companions!

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