Friday's fish fry marks opening weekend at Spirit in Lawrenceville

Written by Melissa McCart on . The Forks blog


11016836 10153033331105250 4680450532507219348 nKeep Pittsburgh Fishy, an event promoted with this Warholian fish sandwich, will be this Friday, beginning at 5 p.m. at Spirit in Lawrenceville at 242 51st St. in the former Lawrenceville Moose Lodge.

The evening is a benefit for the Persad Center, an advocacy group that offers counseling and outreach for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and HIV/AIDS communities.

The night's menu includes a cornmeal-battered fish sandwich with Sriracha mayo or, for vegetarians, a zucchini sandwich; jalapeno apple slaw in a honey-lime vinaigrette; and macaroni-and-cheese for $10, with a range of desserts and pastries for sale a la carte. 

Following the fish fry, on Saturday starting up around 8 p.m., Spirit's Slice Island will be selling pizza and drinks. Slice Island is an outgrowth of Pizza Boat, from Jeff Ryan and his partners. For more information about Spirit, check it out here. 

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James Beard Awards finalists announced

Written by Melissa McCart on . The Forks blog

jamesbeardThis morning, the awards committee announced James Beard AWARD finalists as well as this year's cookbook and journalism awards. 

Pittsburgh chefs who were semi-finalists did not make short lists. Among them, executive chef of Bar Marco in the Strip District, Jamilka Borges, had been nominated as one of the candidates for Rising Star of the Year. It was the second nomination for three restaurants/restaurateurs: Butcher and the Rye, Downtown, for Outstanding Bar Program; Justin Severino of Cure in Lawrenceville for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic; and Bill Fuller and Tom Baron of Big Burrito Restaurant Group for Outstanding Restaurateur.

In the past, Trevett Hooper (Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic, 2013) of Legume in Oakland, Kevin Sousa (Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic 2012) of Salt of the Earth in Garfield and Sonja Finn (Rising Star, 2009 and 2010) of Dinette in East Liberty also have been nominated among semi-finalists. 

Among journalists, Suzanne Martinson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette won a James Beard for Newspaper Writing on Diet and Nutrition in 1998; Marlene Parrish for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette won in 2000 for Best Newspaper Series and was a nominee for the same category in 2002. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette won Best Newspaper Section in 2005. Primanti Bros. won in 2007 for America's Classics.

In more James Beard news, tomorrow evening at Heinz History Center in the Strip District, the James Beard Foundation will host the sold-out Celebrity Chef Tour, featuring Mr. Severino as the host. Joining him are Michael Solomonov of Zahav, Abe Fisher and other restaurants in Philadelphia; Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa in Boston as well as Toro in Boston and New York; Tarver King of Patowmack Farm in Lovettsville, Va.; Bryan Voltaggio of Volt and Family Meal in Frederick, Md., and Range in Washington, D.C., among other restaurants, along with as his pastry chef, Chris Ford.

Passed hors d'oeuvres were prepared by local chefs, including Ms. Borges, Mr. Deshantz, Mr. Hooper, Dennis Marron of the Commoner, Brian Pekarcik of Spoon and Grit & Grace and Derek Stevens of Eleven. 

Click here for the 2015 finalists. 

James Beard Foundation graphic

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Happy Macaron Day!

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . The Forks blog

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Tomorrow is not only the first day of spring, but also Macaron Day.

Or Jour du Macaron, as it was called when it started a decade ago by La Maison Pierre Herme Paris  and the Relais Desserts association. Several years ago it spread to New York City, and now the promotion, which benefits hunger and other charitable causes, has been picked by bakeries around North America, including at least two in Pittsburgh.

At Gaby et Jules Patisseries et Macarons at 5837 Forbes Ave. in Squirrel Hill, from 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Friday, the bakery will give a free macaron to every customer, while the cookies last, and will donate 20 percent of the day's macaron sales to Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. While you're there, check out the whimsical new collection of Easter treats.

Also marking Macaron Day is Millvale's Jean-Marc Chatellier's French Bakery (213 North Ave.), where any customer who mentions the day tomorrow will get a free macaron (while supplies last). A portion of the day's macaron sales that day will benefit The Millvale Community Library's annual fundraiser, Loud in the Library 2, which runs from 7 to 10 p.m. that night (the bakery is giving the library cake). (Thanks to Mr. Chatellier for pointing us to the promotion's Parisian origins.)

Meanwhile, Gaby et Jules also this spring is debuting its Wedding Collection, which includes Macaron Towers (four-tier to 10-tier) and Macaron Favors, even with custom flavors. Learn more by calling the bakery or visiting its booth at the Pittsburgh Bridal Showcase at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown, this Sunday, March 22. Chef David Piquard and colleagues will demonstrate macaron-making techniques  and give out samples.

EVENING UPDATE: Melissa McCart reports the news that Gaby et Jules is coming Downtown here

Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette photo of Gaby et Jules macarons

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Winery releases maple liqueur

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Spirits

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Here's a new twist on the region's maple-syrup production.

Johnson Estate Winery -- just over the border in Westfield, N.Y. -- has released a maple-infused liqueur, made by winemaker Jeff Murphy with local maple syrup and a blend of Vidal
Blanc wine and neutral grape spirits.

Available at the winery now while the region's maple-syrup production is getting into full swing, the stuff, according to the winery, "tastes like a combination of sherry and ice wine – fortified and sweet – but with a dry finish due to its 20-percent alcohol content. The light infusion of maple syrup provides a warming, not-too-sweet maple sensation. The resulting drink is excellent as an aperitif –  perhaps served with salted pecans." 

The winery suggests pouring it over ice cream or shaved ice or even snow, or serving it with cookies, cake or creme brulee.

During the the New York State Maple Association's Maple Weekends, March 21-22 and March 28-29, the winery will participate by offering tastings of the Maple Liqueur. From 1 to 5 p.m. on both Saturdays, guests can try it paired with crepes made by Chef Jeff Barr.

The 375-milliliter bottles sell for $15. 

Find out more here or by calling 1-716-326-2191 or 1-800-Drink-NY.

Johnson Estate photo

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Bakn will open in Carnegie in May

Written by Melissa McCart on . Openings

Bakn Render1Upscale casual breakfast and lunch spot, Bakn will open in May in the Carnegie Granite Works building at 335 E. Main St. in Carnegie. Chef Randy Tozzie and partner Susan McMahon have been looking for a space for three years and are pleased to have landed in this spot.

Mr. Tozzie has held positions at Giant Eagle and Market District stores, supervising chefs in prepared foods. Before that, he worked under chef Keith Coughenour at the Duquesne Club, Downtown, and attended Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts (class of 2004). He was named the American Culinary Federation chef of the year for the Pittsburgh chapter for 2011. 

Check out the sample menu below.

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Bakn photo and menu



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Bill's Bar & Burger to open in the Westin in April

Written by Melissa McCart on . Openings

billsbarRestaurateurs are still betting on burgers in the Pittsburgh market: Bill's Bar & Burger will open mid-April in the Westin Convention Center Hotel, Downtown. It's the first location outside of the New York-New Jersey area.

Bill's Bar & Burger comes here via BR Guest Hospitality, the restaurant group behind Blue Water Grill in Union Square in Manhattan and Isabella's Uptown and Dos Caminos in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and several New York locations. This is the group's first venture into the Pittsburgh market. 

Ivy Stark has been the corporate chef for the company for the past 12 years and Clare Lise will be the local chef. Ms. Lise had been the executive chef at Diamond Market Bar & Grill in Market Square. In addition to burgers such as those on this menu, there will be a sushi bar run by a chef from the Original Fish Market, which closed in the Westin in November.

A few years ago, inimitable food writer Josh Ozersky -- James Beard award-winner, author of "The Hamburger: A History"  said this about the Fat Cat burger on Bill's Bar & Burger menu in 2013: "Two crispy, greasy patties of rich Pat LaFrieda meat, cheesed, topped with caramelized onions and butter and served on a toasted English muffin: This sandwich isn't technically a burger, and nobody goes to Bill's for authenticity or atmosphere, but I don't care. It's the only burger in America I like that doesn't come on an enriched bun."

Bill's Bar & Burger website photo

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