New eats at PNC Park

Written by Gretchen McKay on . FreshFind

PNC Park - The Closer

The promise of another winning season isn't the only thing Pittsburgh Pirates fans have to look forward to on March 31.

When the Bucs take on the Chicago Cubs on opening day Monday at PNC Park, ticket-holders will have several new general-concession choices, the most exciting of which may be gourmet burgers and shakes from one of Pittsburgh's top high-end burger bars.

BRGR, which has locations in East Liberty and Cranberry, will have a stand high above home plate in Section 115. Its menu will feature four gourmet burgers, along with the restaurant's signature cole slaw and fries tossed with parmesan and herbs. Prices will range from $11.75 - $12.25 and choices include the popular Shrooms (forest mushrooms, caramelized onions and brie), Fire in the Hole (guacamole, jalapenos, pepper jack cheese) and California Lovin' (ground turkey with provolone and pesto mayo) burgers. Exclusive to the park's menu is the  Abso-Bac'n-lutely Burger, which we're guessing involves something amazing with bacon. brgr

Thirsty? The BRGR stand also will feature Salty Caramel, Strawberry Fields, Vanilla Bean and Dark Chocolate handmade shakes ($9), available via a "shake express line" if you don't want to stand in line with the meat eaters.

New menu items being offered by Pirates food-service partner Aramark, led by Executive Chef Dave Artiano, include a whopper of sandwich named for the guy whose job it is to get the final outs in a close game. The Closer grilled cheese sammie ($14.50, pictured at top) will feature not two but four slices of thick-cut sourdough bread, along with nine different cheeses. Heart still beating? Add candied bacon and a leek-and-Granny Smith apple compote to the mix.

Also new for big appetites is something called Tatchos  (pictured below)  -- sea salt-seasoned tater tots smothered with chili, spicy nacho cheese and green onions. Plus a side of sour cream. Not sure yet on the price.

Seafood lovers for the first time can enjoy a Lobster BLT made with Maine lobster claws and knuckle meat and thick-cut slab bacon on a toasted brioche bun, while chicken aficianados can carry back to their seats the Smokey BBQ Chicken Sandwich. The Salumetti Misti includes a selection of cured capicola, mortadella, salami and prosciutto on a bed of baby field greens, roasted red pepper and provolone. 

PNC Park - TatchosSo as to not forget about those of us who like our veggies, Aramark has also added to its menu a Veggie Stuffed Pita (roasted garlic chickpea puree with veggies inside a grilled pita bread) and Smoked Tomato Risotto that folds smoked San Marzano tomatoes and parmesan into long-grain Italian rice. It will be served with broccolini and asparagus.

Nope, we don't have prices yet on those either, nor details on where in the ballpark the items will be served.

Also new to the lineup is a 12-ounce, porcini-crusted sirloin steak; pork schnitzel sandwich; duck confit grilled cheese on Texas toast; and lobster mac-and-cheese. For dessert, there will be individual Oreo-crusted cheesecake topped with seasonal berry coulis and Coke ice cream floats at North Shore Refreshment locations (Sections 123, 307, 328). 

For kids 10 and under (and their parents who are trying to eat on the cheap), the Junior Pirates menu will include sides of fries or cinnamon-sugar pretzel bites. 

Not new but worth noting for beer lovers: Rivertowne Brewing Hall of Fame Club in left field will once again have a selection of craft beers on tap, including its locally brewed Babbling Blonde, Maxwell's Scottish Ale, Old Wylie's IPA and Hala Kahiki. It's open to all ticket-holders two hours before each game's first pitch.

We'll continue to update this list with prices/locations as the info comes in.

Go Bucs!

Aramark and BRGR photos


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Eat his salsa ... or else

Written by Dan Gigler on . FreshFind

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On the week that his former teammates are preparing for the game that may ultimately decide the fate of their season, ex-Steelers running back Baron Batch is having a rather big one of his own -- making salsa.

"Yeah, it's going man. Getting a huge run of it for Black Friday. We’re doing 300 jars, so that's a bunch of work."

Those jars are for his fledgling company, Angry Man Salsa. It's probably not how he anticipated spending Thanksgiving week back in the summer when he was on the Saint Vincent practice fields still trying to make the team. But after finding himself among the odd men out for the team's 53-man roster, his post-football were suddenly here.

Like they say, when life gives you tomatoes, make salsa. Or something like that.

But this didn't happen on a whim. Mr. Batch has been perfecting the recipe for years, and the business plan has been a year in the making.

"I’ve always kind of made it but was always messing with the recipe, but then I got it perfect. When I was playing with the Steelers, I gave it to some of the guys with the equipment staff as a thank you and they tried and were like, 'This is great.' Then some guys on the team tried it and they loved it, too. They were like, 'This is the best salsa I've ever had.' "

He won't let on to trade secrets, but says, "It’s just simply more and better ingredients than regular salsa. Twice as many as regular salsa. And twice as good."

Consistent rave reviews from friends here in Pittsburgh and back in Texas (Mr. Batch is a native of Lubbock) prodded him to explore further production.

"About a year ago, I started with a branding and concept, and then worked with a company in Dallas to bring it together. This was all thought out and planned very specifically," he said.

He didn’t want to put his name on the product, trading on his brief bit of fleeting NFL fame. "I wanted the product to speak for itself." The name loosely comes from a nickname he got playing football, because he "ran angry," he said, but the Angry Man has developed into a full-fledged character of his own, as he explains.

"The legend of Angry Man -- everybody has an old uncle or a grandpa [who's] a little bit of a crazy person, but there's an applicable wisdom to what they say. He's not necessarily mean. He kind of represents everybody. He wants to fight for great things. And it’s an exclusive product, so you have to fight to get it" in the small releases he's done so far.

He's sold out of every jar that he's made thus far with friends Chad Calcagno and another former Steeler and Pitt and Franklin-Regional star lineman, John Malecki, despite a steep sticker price of $20 a jar. At 9 a.m. on Friday, 300 16-ounce jars will go on sale at angrymansalsa.com.

And Mr. Batch said he doesn’t regret that he's not preparing for a showdown with Baltimore Thanksgiving night and is happy in his new endeavors.

"Football was great. And I love Pittsburgh. I love it to death. I bought a house here and realized it could be here great to be based out of Pittsburgh. 

"One of my friends was like, 'What if a team called you, would you keep doing what you're doing?' Well, the Packers called [yesterday]. I said, 'I have salsa to make.' I've hung it up. It's OK. I'm pretty sure this is it for me. My time is more valuable than any amount of money."

He elaborated on the story: "The guy said, 'Good news -- we’ll fly you in,' and I'm thinking I haven't even agreed to anything. It was just like this assumed thing. It was so funny to explain -- that I run a high-end, exclusive salsa business. He was like, 'Ooookay.' But someday when the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl is called the Angry Man Bowl, that guy from the Packers will be like, 'That's the crazy dude who said he wasn't coming for the workout.' "

Angry Man photos

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Breakfast at Marty's Market

Written by Dan Gigler on . FreshFind

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Count tomatoes and French toast among the least likely breakfast combination I’ve ever expected to put together in a sentence, much less eat and enjoy.

But indeed the rather curious pairing of nightshades and morning treat proved to be a delight during a recent visit to Marty’s Market in the Strip District which last month began serving breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m. weekdays in its cafe.

Per its mission statement, Marty’s uses local and organic whenever possible, and did so with that morning’s special, the aforementioned creative take on french toast ($9).

The lightly cinnamon flavored bricohe was topped with some lovely yellow heirloom tomatoes, and a dusting of parmesan cheese, and a balsamic reduction that stood in as an alternative to maple syrup. This was umami city. I ended up stealing half of my breakfast partner’s dish.  

I had a gourmet take on a classic breakfast “sammich” – brioche, cheddar, fried egg and a terrific housemade sausage ($7)

An omelet, pancakes, yogurt parfait and vegan sausage are also available ($4 to $9).

We each had a raw, unpasteurized, organic green juice from Pittsburgh’s GOODLife, made of kale, spinach, cucumber, parsley, celery, pear and ginger ($6.50), and split a bowl of fresh organic fruit ($4), and of course coffee, which is direct trade ($2).

The good food, airy market space and pleasant service and vibes made Marty’s a nice alternative to the sometimes hectic and cramped environment of a traditional diner or breakfast take-out spot. Not at all a bad way to start a day.

Dan Gigler photo

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Local milk that's gently pasteurized

Written by Gretchen Sneegas on . FreshFind

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Nestled deep within the grassy, undulating hills of Western Pennsylvania, near New Castle, lies Pasture Maid Creamery, a dairy farm with a dramatic past. Three nights a week, locals can come by to pick up milk, light-yellow from the grass-fed cows, cream rising to the top of the glass bottles. You can’t tell by looking at it, but Pasture Maid Creamery’s milk is different than any other milk in Pennsylvania.

“My processing is as minimal as possible,” explains Adam Dean, who operates the dairy with his father. “I’m the closest thing to raw milk you can get and still be legal, pasteurized product.”

Mr. Dean, a sixth-generation farmer, uses a form of pasteurization called low-temperature or VAT pasteurization. VAT-pasteurized milk is heated to 145 degrees for at least 30 minutes. Its proponents say the process better preserves the taste and healthful characteristics of raw milk than quicker, hotter forms of pasteurization, but removes any threat of bacterial contamination.

Mr. Dean has certainly had his share of contamination scares. Pasture Maid Creamery began making cheese in 2006, but it wasn’t long before they began bottling and selling raw milk, as well.

“The raw milk just went crazy, there was just such a demand,” he recalls. Pennsylvania is one of only 13 states where raw milk can be sold in retail stores, and by 2010 he was supplying several Pittsburgh groceries. But that March, a Campylobacter scare resulted in the suspension of the farm’s raw-milk license. The Dean family faced a lawsuit from a man from Mars, who claimed he contracted the illness after consuming their products. Although further testing was inconclusive, Mr. Dean decided it was time to exit the raw-milk business.

“Could I put raw milk back on the shelves today? Absolutely. But I’m not going to, because it’s literally like shooting yourself in the foot,”  Mr. Dean says. “I just can’t financially take that gamble, put that target on my back again.”

Today, Pasture Maid Creamery sells a mixture of cheese and VAT-pasteurized milk in the Pittsburgh area at several stores and through the Clarion River Organics co-op. Mr. Dean says their local sales are vital for the farm’s financial well-being. “The dairy industry is very regulated and very hard to make a living at,” he explains. “I mean, we’re selling milk so cheap. The wholesale dairy market is practically stealing milk off of farmers, it’s so cheap.”

Clearly, he has experienced how tenuous farming can be. “My life comes out of a valve on the bottom of a milk tank,” he says in a matter-of-fact tone. “The more direct marketing I can do, the better the farm.”

But compared to their earlier raw milk sales, Pasture Maid Creamery’s milk is not making a big dent in the Pittsburgh market. Mr. Dean attributes this to the availability of raw milk, saying, “It’s been hard to get our milk introduced to the general public. Even though my processing is very minimal, they want their raw milk.”

Gretchen Sneegas is a graduate student in the food studies department at Chatham University and works for the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council.

Gretchen Sneegas photo

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Uh oh, CheeseburgerOs?

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . FreshFind

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Campbell's Soup Co., maker of SpaghettiOs, is releasing a new flavor of the canned pasta product: CheeseburgerOs.

The well-known O-shaped pasta, with its “Uh Oh, SpaghettiOs” slogan, gets some cheese and meat sauce in this incarnation.

It's just the third time in nearly five decades that there's been a new flavor. Back in the 1980s, company came out with PizzOs and CheesOs. Campbell's continues to offer SpaghettiOs with meatballs, with franks, even with added calcium, and has released canned pasta in other, non-O shapes.
 
Campbell's says people ate more than 120 million 15-ounce cans of SpaghettiOs last year.

Bar question: How many O's per can? About 750.
 
CheeseburgerOs are, of course, on Facebook and Twitter -- Facebook.com/SpaghettiOs and  Twitter.com/SpaghettiOs -- where you can find coupons for the product.
 
Campbell's photo

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It's National Doughnut Day

Written by Gretchen McKay on . FreshFind

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My idea of the perfect breakfast almost always involves pancakes. Yet a doughnut oozing with jelly -- a guilty pleasure if there ever was one --  also can hit the sweet spot, if you don't think about the calories.

International House of Pancakes has come up with a way to marry the two tastes in one breakfast food, just in time for today's National Doughnut Day.

To celebrate its 55th birthday on July 7, the breakfast king has trotted out three signature pancakes: Jelly Donut, filled with layers of raspberry jam and topped with glaze; Tiramisu, stuffed with mocha cream and drizzled with chocolate and a dusting of cocoa powder; and Banana Graham Nut, a gut-buster if there ever was one. Slices of banana are baked right into these buttermilk cakes, which then are stuffed with marshmallow cream, graham cracker crumbs and crushed pecans. A thick squiggle of cinnamon cream cheese goes on top.

Mmm . . . Donuts!

I decided to put the new griddle cakes to a taste test. But I needed help. Enter my teenaged daughters, who were so hungry by the time I got home from work swore they'd eat "anything," if I'd just feed them. Well, almost. 
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"They sound too sugary," one complained, when I described the "fun and exciting" new offerings. 

Prescient, those kids.

The picture on the menu looked so sickly sweet (and filling) that I lost my nerve. I ended up ordering just a half-stack of the jelly pancakes, of which I managed only about three bites. (While I love it on doughnuts, glaze on pancakes seems like overkill.) My daughters each took just a nibble. 

"See?" said the cranky one. "I was right."

But you never know, you might love 'em.  They really do taste exactly like a warm jelly doughnut. 

The pancakes, which are available through July 21 at its 1,500-plus restaurants nationwide, can be ordered (I suggest with a glass of water) a la cart ($4.99 for a stack of four) or as part of an IHOP combo. 

Speaking of combos, Dunkin' Donuts also is marking National Doughnut Day with a new savory-sweet menu item that you won't want to admit you actually ordered -- a Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich. 

The franken-food gathers fried eggs and slices of applewood-smoked bacon into the "sweet, sweet embrace of a light and fluffy glazed donut."

I know -- what will they think of next? But before you dismiss it outright, consider this: It has just 360 calories, or less than a plain bagel with light cream cheese from  Bruegger'sdonutday1

It might sound like a modern-day marketing invention, but unlike so many questionable food holidays, National Doughnut Day has true cred. During the first World War, the Salvation Army sent volunteers to France, where they made doughnuts for soldiers fighting on the front lines. Absent rolling pins, the women used wine bottles to roll the hand-shaped dough, which they cut into strips and in a pinch, fried in soldiers' helmets. 
 
In 1938, as a way to raise funds and bring awareness to its social service programs, the Salvation Army declared the first Friday of June National Doughnut Day. It's meant to commemorate the work of the "doughnut lassies" who helped make the doughnut what it is today -- a sweet treat enjoyed to the tune of 10 billion a year, according to Missouri-based LaMar's Donuts. It's been an honored tradition ever since. 

Gretchen McKay, thesimpsons.com and Salvation Army photos.



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