This month marks the end of my third year in Pittsburgh. I know that three years is not a lot of time, really. I often meet folks who have spent their entire lives here, who can tell you what everyone’s grandkids are up to and what that building was before it was a coffee shop but after it was a corner store.
But three years isn’t nothing. And boy, have they been packed. I am amazed by how much has happened in that short time, by how many restaurants have opened and beers have been released and festivals have been thrown. As a food writer, I suppose I should feel a great wave of shame when Facebook tells me I missed an incredible pop-up dinner or when I see produce from a nearby farm whose name I’ve never heard. But secretly, it’s exhilarating. There are always more places to explore and people to meet, and I doubt that will change anytime soon.
Despite all of the growth, Pittsburgh still feels like a small town in a lot of ways. I mean this as a compliment. Last Thursday, I had the privilege of attending a stellar dinner at Six Penn Kitchen that provided a preview of Chef Brian Little’s new menu. It featured tons of local ingredients as well as a few unexpected garnishes, including nasturtiums (a spicy, peppery flower) and wood sorrel (a wild plant with a lemony bite). The next day, I was at Churchview Farm, where I work weekly in exchange for a heap of produce. As luck would have it, a bunch of Chef Little’s ingredients had come directly from Churchview the day before.
This is a small coincidence, to be sure. But it’s moments like these that make me remember all over again why this city is remarkable. I am awed by the fact that I can eat nasturtiums on a beautiful plate of lamb Downtown, then head to the South Hills the next day to see the very same flowers growing in abundance. Pittsburgh’s chefs, producers, purveyors and growers, as well as an impressive array of food-related nonprofits and organizations, are constantly reimagining and renegotiating the way Pittsburgh eats and drinks. It’s an honor to watch it happen.
I am humbled by how much Pittsburgh has taught me about food and drink. When I moved here three years ago, I never expected to be welcomed so fully or to feel at home so quickly. Pittsburgh is a friendly town, and I’ve learned so much from the people working to shape our relationships with food. I’ve gotten to forage for morels in Frick Park, make long spirals of lamb sausage at Jamison Farm and see local rye being milled for whiskey at Wigle. People are doing incredible things in every corner of the city and they are eager to share them with the world.
I guess I’m feeling sentimental about Pittsburgh, the place I still think of as my “new city.” I know that it isn’t perfect (we could really use a good bagel shop, for instance), and we still face serious food justice and food access issues that must be addressed. Even so, this is a special place. I hope that it always feels this new and exciting. And with the amount of creativity and energy flowing through the rivers and rolling down the hills, that shouldn’t be hard. I could continue to gush, but I heard a new restaurant opened on Butler Street while I was writing this. I better go check it out.
In other news…
This Thursday, Chatham University and Wigle Whiskey are presenting “Ginger: From Farm to Whiskey” at Chatham’s Eden Hall Campus in Gibsonia. The event will include lessons on history and agriculture as well as cocktails and appetizers. Grab tickets here.
This Saturday, local foraging instructor Adam Haritan will be leading a “Wild Plants As Medicine” workshop and summer foraging hike in North Park. Head here to learn more and to register.
On Thursday, September 3rd, Brillobox is hosting Food Words, a spelling bee fundraiser that will benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
Tickets are now on sale for the Pittsburgh Real Ale Festival, taking place on Saturday October 3rd from 6 to 10 p.m. at Highmark Stadium. The event includes 35 gravity-poured firkins, food from Piper’s Pub, entertainment and more.