Food & Wine

Cheers! from around the world

Consider how the weather transforms our lives. As the thermometer drops, so too do our windows and doors as we make the seamless transition from shorts to sweatpants, smoothies to soups, flip-flops to snow boots and a cotton blanket to a 16-pound down comforter. What we often enjoy most about this season are the traditions …

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Millvale’s Grant Bar

Amidst the worldly comings and goings, observe how endings become beginnings,” says the Tao Te Ching, the Chinese book of philosophy and religion from 6th century BC. Despite the separation of millennia, the ancient author could have been inspired by the comings and goings at Grant Bar in Millvale. Since 1933, Frank Ruzomberka and his …

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Someone Else’s Bar

When Else Franzmann is asked where she is from, she is quick to say, “I’m from everywhere and nowhere. I never really had a hometown.” Else lived in five different places before she was 10, her family never sinking roots. After her first job, she moved seven times in 10 years. Later, she started tending …

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The Greening of Hazelwood

Like a Polaroid picture never quite developed, a snapshot of the entire urban farming movement in Pittsburgh is fuzzy at best. But move in for a closeup and it’s clear that urban farming is on the rise, especially in Hazelwood, where a new breed of farmers is restoring the connection between our food, health and …

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The Bulldog Pub

This place has roots. decades before it became the Bulldog Pub, the little neighborhood joint on Morningside Avenue was Petrilli’s Tavern. Opened during Prohibition, it was a basement speakeasy while groceries were sold in the upstairs storefront. After the scourge, the grocery became a proper barroom. The men of Morningside worked tough, physical jobs in …

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Still Life

Each day, I post at least one photograph on Instagram. Most of my postings are of food or cocktails: my oatmeal highlighted by the morning light through my kitchen window, a beautiful loaf of sourdough bread from a local bakery, tomatoes perfectly ripened from my garden, a cocktail on my deck with the Pittsburgh skyline …

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Cooking the Books

For me, it started with “The Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls.” My sister-in-law loaned me her copy when I was 7. The 1950s spiral-bound edition depicted smiling, neatly dressed girls in aprons stirring batter and beating eggs in (now vintage) bowls with the boy in the background tasting from a pot resting on …

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Pitaland

If breaking bread is the key to world peace, Joe Chahine has a jump on it at Pitaland in Brookline. A Lebanese Maronite Christian, Joe has pita customers of all faiths and nationalities. An Italian baker, Cellone, delivers Joe’s pita to area groceries. And if you are eating pita at any area Mediterranean restaurant, and …

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Bon Bouquet

As last year’s polar vortex blew in its snow dumps and sub-zero temps, I huddled inside by the wood-burning stove. When the spring thaw came and I ventured out into the crispy, frosted mornings, I was reminded that nothing is forever. My lavender plants were toast, along with the tarragon and sage. I expected the …

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Korea Garden

Seok Kun Han was born in the mountains of South Korea as the Korean War recovery had begun. It was a time of great hardship, and his family suffered as much as any. In those tough times, it was great luck to get hired as a delivery boy for a local kitchen, working for a …

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Fall rising

An epiphany moment comes when a person bakes bread, waiting forever for its puffy belly to inch up above the bowl. Waiting and waiting until the time comes when it has doubled itself and the baker takes a light fist to its risen center, pushes, and the bread exhales all the air the yeast has …

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Rudy’s Bar and Grill

His real name is Frank, but most people call him Gus, except for those who call him Rudy, and a lot of folks call him Rudy. For 40 years, Frank Aiello has operated Rudy’s Bar and Grill in McKees Rocks. Frank has been loafing here even longer, since original owner Rudy Gerger took the young …

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Berry Bounty

It’s an early spring morning and my neighbor mike and I work in our gardens, just a shaky chain-link fence between us. We garden for a while as if we’re both alone, just grunting and digging and pulling at weeds as the birds sing their heads off. Every so often one of us starts a …

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Di’s Korner Stone Diner

Diane Elias never gives up. When she was 41, the McKeesport eatery where she waitressed was suddenly shuttered, leaving her and her friends out of work and short on hope, a common refrain in the old mill towns around Pittsburgh. Amid abandoned factories, shops and homes, and too many broken spirits, Di could have called …

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Let us think lettuces

The garden’s palette yawns tan and brown as winter ends and spring nears each year. All that’s left after the crusty snow melts (if I’ve remembered to diligently clean up the previous fall) are blank brown beds—the clean slates of gardening. I like the do-over aspect of each new garden season, but I long for …

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Cafe Raymond

Some neighborhood joints acquire an aura, off the beaten path or tucked away on some dicey back street, lending “insider” status to those who can get you there for a special lunch or evening out. A little bit like playing hard to get, this geographical inconvenience makes any great joint that much more enticing. Cafe …

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Pickling plenty

As the garden tips from late summer to fall and the plants become a little woody, then crispy, the only thing to do—if you’re a gardener like me—is turn to the things you’ve put up during the months of productivity. It’s nostalgic, opening up a jar of tomato sauce or jam. Garden memories may seem …

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Shouf’s Café

Sometimes, when Rabih Fahed pauses during a hectic night at Shouf’s Cafe, the room filled with love and laughter, families and friends hugging hello and crowding in close, and exotic aromas teasing the air, he can close his eyes and be back in the Lebanon of his youth. As a boy, he roamed the souks …

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A cookware quest

Forget about Black Friday. If you’re interested in top-quality cookware at great prices, you can sleep off that Thanksgiving meal and make the drive to Washington County on Dec. 6–7 for the All-Clad Factory Outlet Sale in Canonsburg. The semiannual sale held the first weekends of December and June started as an on-site “factory seconds” …

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Apple Obligations

There’s a point after leaving Pittsburgh, zipping in and out of lanes on Interstate 79, when you distinctly hit Country. Even the dog notices it, sticking his nose in the air, half-closing his eyes in window-seat joy. It’s the moment when the air rushing in smells sweet, like hay and dung and grass. Farther north, …

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La Prima Espresso

October 2, 1988, was a brisk Sunday in Pittsburgh’s Strip District—then more a collection of warehouses than a bustling foodies’ mecca—and Sam and Debbie Patti were hoping the naysayers had been wrong. With their 12-year-old daughter, Jamie, they sat bundled on a bench in the chilly storefront that had just become La Prima Espresso, the …

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Mateo’s

Grandson Mateo, now 8 years old, was a newborn when Franco and Lisa Gualtieri started cooking real Italian food in a small kitchen for pickup and delivery. When Mateo was 4, his grandparents opened the tiny restaurant they now operate on Brookline Boulevard and named it after him. Easy to pass before turning around, the …

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