Beyond Pittsburgh’s pierogies: Food Week

Summer brings new relationships, experiences, and tastes, but here in Pittsburgh, winter comes too soon. Before going into that long winter hibernation, take advantage of the remaining summer time and the whimsical atmosphere of downtown and its surrounding areas. In the midst of trying to attain ideal fitness in these short summer months, we sometimes forget to satiate our stomachs. Well, be our guest and tie that napkin ’round your neck as you sit down to experience Pittsburgh’s first annual Local Food Week.

You may have seen posters throughout the University Center and academic buildings for this program, which runs through Saturday. PASA, the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, has implemented this week-long event to help the residents of the area celebrate the local harvest and promote local agriculture.

David Eson, PASA’s regional director for Pittsburgh, said, “Our goal is to focus people on the ‘buy fresh, buy local’ campaign and encourage participation in Pittsburgh. The reason we chose the upcoming week is because this is the annual harvest time for most Pittsburgh farms.”

This is the second year of PASA’s “buy fresh, buy local” program, which attempts to connect local consumers to local farms and stores that carry fresh produce. This is part of a campaign to create awareness in the region about healthy opportunities when it comes to what you’re eating. Every restaurant and event organized in this upcoming Food Week promises to abide by those principles and encourage healthy living.

Throughout this week, some restaurants are featuring special menus to those who ask. Lucca: Italian Kitchen on South Craig Street is one of these venues. It has an outdoor seating area so that those who have waited until the last minute to grasp Pittsburgh air and culinary experiences can do so without hesitation. This is only one of the several restaurants that buy locally grown produce for their meals, allowing customers to truly taste Pittsburgh. After all, Pittsburgh has more than pierogies and fries on your salads. Pittsburgh has healthy options, too, which can be founnd nearby in both the aforementioned Lucca as well as in Café Phipps in the Phipps Conservatory.

Food Week promises more than special menus at select restaurants. The program kicks off Monday at Six Penn Kitchen, located in the Cultural District, where they will be serving hors d’oeuvres to all and beer and wine to those of age, as an opportunity for people interested in the PASA’s efforts to socialize. Monday also features chef Derek Stevens of Casbah speaking about the traditional fruits and vegetables, while also addressing the benefits of butter and chocolate — Stevens hopes to dispel myths about the typically forbidden items. Two other lectures on healthy living support him: Mary Barbercheck of Penn State speaks on Monday at the Penn Brewery, and Eson speaks at the Schenley Park Visitor Center on Tuesday.

Also, there will be cooking demonstrations by Sweetwater Cooking’s Gaynor Grant on Tuesday night and Whole Foods on Wednesday. Thursday features a hike in Schenley with catered supper at Café Phipps and Friday offers a tour of Barb Kline’s Urban Farm. Looking for something closer to home? Mad Mex and a mariachi band will be at the Oakland Farmers’ Market on Atwood on Friday. The cuisine and experience are only some of what PASA has to offer.

Eson also highlights Friday as the best opportunity for citizens of Pittsburgh to experience the fresh foods, as it is their Annual Fall Harvest Dinner, where citizens of Pittsburgh can pay a fee of $75 to experience a six-course meal at the Carnegie Science Center. The meal guarantees fresh ingredients and includes a reception before the dinner to learn more about PASA and all of its efforts in the Pittsburgh community.

This is PASA’s first annual Food Week here in Pittsburgh, but for those of you that have not saved up that $75 for the dinner at the Science Center, there are plenty of other opportunities that PASA presents under its “buy fresh, buy local” campaign throughout the year. “This is not the only thing that happens around the year, but [it is] one of the highlights,” explained Eson. “We [also] hope to have a local food week every September.”

Since this year’s Food Week is going on right now, build up your appetite and give your stomach its last treats of summer. Those jeans may not fit so well by the end of the week, but you can work it off later. Indulge yourself and sit down to a hearty, week-long meal of Pittsburgh’s culinary delights.