Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference

Keep it real, keep it local. That's the motto that Farm to Table Pittsburgh puts forth.  While we unfortunately had to miss the Friday evening tastings at this year's conference, we still got to head to the Expo on Saturday and take in the sights, smells and tastes of farm-produced foods from all across Pennsylvania.  We're excited to share a few shots of our favorites from the day!  Enjoy!

Bumbleberry Farms Organic Honey

BumbleBerry Farms Honey Spreads, Available at Whole Foods

Homemade vinegars and dipping sauces, Pleasant Valley Farm 

Marmelades and mustards, Pleasant Valley Farm

Hand pulled egg noodles, Pleasant Valley Farm

Pirouette Cinnamon Pecan Bars by Barre

Pecan and Black Swan Chocolate Berry bars by Barre

This cow says Cabot Cheese is the real deal...

Cabot Cheese Horseradish Cheddar, available at Whole Foods and Giant Eagle

Adorable hand-painted glasses from Walnut Hill Winery

Walnut Hill Winery
Fresh greens with Sito's Mediterranean Dressing and liffits -- Find these at local markets and Khalil's

Vinegar-free, all-natural dressing 

Natalie's Natural Hemp Seed Jam
TONS of benefits to using and consuming hemp

Marshmallow Pretzels from Pretzel Crazy made in-house by one woman on a delicious mission!

Extremely cute idea for a wedding -- she does all kinds of wedding treats!

Sweet, delicious beets from Lucky Acres Farm

I want need one of these shirts. Buy a shirt, make a statement, make a difference. 


Soups and sauces from Mike's Kitchen in Carnegie

Sweet and spicy cranberry mustard from Tait Farm 

That's some sharp cheddar...

Delicious cheeses galore cultivated in Scenery Hill, PA

Stu's BBQ! Some old friends from GoodTaste! Pittsburgh

KVASS Raw Probiotic Cultured Veggie Drink from Zu-Kay

We walked out of the conference with a few delightful goodies:

  • Tait Farms Cranberry Mustard
  • Pleasant Valley Farms Thai How & Sour Dipping Sauce
  • Grammy's Lard all-natural stain stick (SO COOL!)
  • Summer Mist sparkling wine from Christian W. Klay Winery in Chalk Hill, PA
  • Sito's Mediterranean Dressing
  • Bumbleberry Farms organic honey
  • Pleasant Valley Farms mustard

So keep it real and keep it local, all!  And we hope you'll join us in the Farm to Table revolution and buy local as often as possible!

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Verde Tasty

Ahh, springtime in Pittsburgh.  Typically beautiful, but virtually non-existant this year. We've completely skipped over spring and melted the snow with an unnatural summer heat.  It's baffling, but I can't say I'm actually complaining. Weather like this presents the perfect opportunity to take advantage of quite possibly my very favorite activity on the planet: dining al fresca!

I'd been jonesin' hard for some primo outdoor patio time when one of Pittsburgh's newest restaurants, @VerdePGH, popped on to my Twitter feed with an announcement that their patio was indeed open for business.  That settled it. The moment the clock struck 5 I packed up my things (a rare occurrence...) and swung by to pick up a very special F.O.R.T (who we'll call E1) to head deep into the heart of Garfield and fill our bellies at Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina.

Verde is hardly difficult to find.  The neon green walls of the building serve as just one of the many reasons for the restaurants name.

The fresh and inviting exterior gave way to a lively and colorful industrial setting inside.  But although the restaurant's open floor plan allowed for it to open up to the outdoors beautifully, we weren't headed inside.

A table was open for us on the patio and we sat right down. We were barely in our seats when we were greeted by our friendly server and a complimentary serving of chips with (of course) a verde tomatillo salsa. The salsa had just the right kick and tasted incredibly fresh and delicious and the chips were crisped and salted to perfection.

Chips & Salsa, $4 (complimentary first round)
With the weather as beautiful as it was, we found it extremely difficult to pass up the happy hour $5 margarita special. So we didn't.  E1 tried the Casa Verde or house 'rita ($5 during happy hour, $7 during regular business hours) while I couldn't ignore the passion fruit and pomegranate of the Baja Eden 'rita ($9) calling my name.  The drinks were refreshing and delicious. The alcohol was far from overwhelming so the flavor was the star of the show, which is just how I like it.

Casa Verde Margarita, $7 ($5 during 5-7 p.m. happy hour)

Baja Eden Margarita, $9
E1 and I were both smitten with our server and his abounding knowledge of Verde's ingredients and flavors. His descriptions of the day's specials and answers to our questions about how certain menu items were cooked really helped us to make an informed decision about our meals.

Their menu was still slightly seasonally geared to winter but, um... technically winter had only ended the day before, so I'm not really judging.  I mention this only because I was drawn toward the Pozola Verde (a traditional hominy-based stew, pork shoulder, tomatillo, jalapeño and pumpkin seed for $8) but our server mentioned it was a bit heartier and a warmer stew, whereas I was sitting outside in the heat and wanted something fresh and light.  So I went instead with the Marlin Pescado Tacos ($15) while E1 gave the Pollo Tacos ($12) a go.

Pollo Tacos, $12
Pescado Tacos, $15
I'll let you in on a little secret: E1 and I both have a habit of talking a lot (though I'm sure reading my copy heavy food blog has NEVER given you that impression before...).  So imagine our surprise when our taco platters arrived and not a word was exchanged between us for a solid eight minutes as we devoured every last bite.

I'm starting to wonder if Pittsburgh may be becoming the Fish Taco capital of the world in a geographically surprising turn of events.  First I was blown away by California Taco Shop, and now Verde has certainly come up as a strong competitor. Using fresh, locally sourced ingredients Verde's tacos made for a meal which could rival any costly, gourmet/fine dining dish. E1's poblano crema balanced the heat beautifully while my chipotle aioli married with the crunch of the slaw in a way that made me leave no crumb behind.

Restaurant Information:

Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina
Address: 5491 Penn Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15206 
Phone:  412-404-8487
Reservations: You can make a reservation directly from their website, over the phone or at
Hours: Dinner is served beginning at 5 p.m. every day, but Brunch is on the docket later this spring...

Cliffs Notes:

Baja Eden Margarita @ $9
Casa Verde Margarita @ $5
Pescado Tacos @ $15
Rollo Tacos @ $12

Tax:                        Food tax  @ 7% (Allegheny County only) @ $2.87
Tip:                           $9
Total for two:          $52.87

Overall Opinion:
It's exciting to see innovative new eateries like Verde popping up in underdeveloped areas of the city offering local ingredients and a fresh take on preparing familiar foods. This experience was nothing short of what we were hoping to find: great tasting food and a unique dining atmosphere. I tip my hat to  native Pittsburgher Chef LBEE for bringing her Latin-American culinary experiences back with her to the 'burgh. What once was "Mexican" is now truly a refreshing twist on global cuisine in which I will be happy to partake again and again.  I look forward to the menu evolving to feature seasonal spring ingredients, especially. For the experience, for the ambiance, for the food, for the company -- do yourself a favor and go green. Give Verde a try.

Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina on Urbanspoon
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