Archive | Downtown RSS feed for this section

Earth Market 2012 Recap

28 Apr

I must say – I’m a little disappointed with the lack of media coverage of Earth Day/Earth Week this year.  I have barely heard anything on Twitter and if the news sources ain’t tweeting it – they ain’t writing it.  This is the ONLY thing I saw regarding it:

Changin’ Time and delaCueva Soap Company teamed up this week and attended Earth Market 2012, which was sponsored by Mayor Luke’s Office of Sustainability.  Mayor Luke failed to make an appearance though, which was disappointing as well.  I remember him giving a great speech years ago when ZipCar was kicking off in Pittsburgh (I even signed up!)  The Zip Car girls were repping it anyway, despite Luke’s absence:

Anyway, in Market Square (which is beautiful – pictures really can’t communicate the vibe or urban beauty of the place), we sold our natural, locally handmade soaps and cremes and talking people up about cloth diapering.

Even though it had been cancelled 3/5 days it had been planned due to “rain,” I felt that it was a success and look forward to the Market Square farmer’s market this summer.  Only Wednesday was nice weather, so on Friday I was too bundled up to get many photos…but here’s a quick little slideshow:

Lil' Red hanging out

There was a guy talking about converting vehicles to run off of vegetable oil and gTech’s program of reclaiming lands to fuel sustainable development – very cool stuff.

This woman was weaving bags out of plastic shopping bags on a loom.  She even let me try it, which was my 1st experience weaving!  I don’t think I’d be a very good weaver…but her bags are beautiful.

They were giving away trees to plant, for Arbor Day, but mine went directly into the compost pile because I HATE pine trees.  Sorry Western PA, but I think we have enough to last us.

Anything that involved a person in a giant costume – Red was there.

If you’re interested in learning more about CFL light bulbs and why they are a good option for your family – here is a good resource.

On Friday – there were more vendors/exhibitors/nonprofits, which you’d think would be a good thing.  But the weather was crappy and there was a worker’s union going on that reminded me of a Vietnam protest, so it kind of sucked.

This made me happy though, its the PRC Litterbug who was having a dance party in the middle of Mkt Square:

Oh, and just as a WTF Friday kind of moment – why was the Pennsylvania Resource Council handing out free bottles of Dasani bottled water?  I really don’t care that they are made with a higher percentage of plant materials and less plastic.  They still go into landfills because PEOPLE DON’T RECYCLE CONSISTENTLY.  I can’t even tell you how many bottles I saw in garbage cans, not recycling bins (located directly next to the garbage can).  HELLO – hand out reusable BPA-free bottles and teach people to REUSE items instead of OVER-CONSUMING.  You would think that a progressive organization like the PRC (which I attend their workshops and usually support) would have rethought that strategy a little bit.

Whatever, I took the free reusable shopping bag and gave them a smug smile while lecturing the poor girl manning the table.

It was an exhausting day for some, obviously…but fun and it was nice talking to pro-cloth or questioning-cloth peeps.

Farm To Table 2012: Recap 2

28 Mar



Web/Phone Unknown
Sold in Pgh area

Sold in local grocery stores


It may just be my opinion, but I like to save the best for last.  A small non-profit farm was at the conference called Quiet Creek farm.  It reminds me a lot of the Robert A. Macosky Center at SRU, an educational farm where you can go to learn how to be more self-reliant in ways you perhaps couldn’t do by reading.

Here are some of the wares they were peddling to raise money for the farm:


I, as someone who has never purchased dehydrated mushrooms, was interested to know that all you have to do is simply soak them in warm liquid for 10-15 minutes.  They reconstitute well AND you can use the liquid in your cooking.

The nice young lad from Quiet Creek Farms did a Shiitake demonstration on FTT Day 2.  It was super cool!

Basically, he showed us how they innoculate substrate (aka hardwood) with a healthy bark.  The bark should be healthy so that invasive fungi and bacteria can’t ruin your mushroom crop.  Before the demonstration, we had a chance to check out the logs they had innoculated and were selling.  The ones on the left were one year old and hadn’t flushed yet.  The one on the left is a 2-year old log which has obviously flushed.

Basically, you want to find a log approximately 3-4 feet in length and about 4-6 inches in diameter.  Its best to innoculate within 2 weeks of cutting to reduce the chances of bad fungi ruining your creation.

During the demonstration, he mentioned that a healthy log can sprout shiitakes twice a year!  These logs can be used year after year.  At the farm, there are 7-8 year old logs which are extremely lightweight.  The mushrooms feed on the nutrients deep inside the log.  Pretty cool stuff…

Here’s the DIY:

First, you have to drill holes into your log, which can be done using 1 of 2 drills:

Or, for the more experienced toolmonger, an angle grinder, which goes about 400 rpms and is really scary.

He told us to drill holes in an off-set diamond pattern 4″ over and 2″ offset.  He said the holes do not need to be any deeper than 1.5 inches.  (Think maxing out your cookie sheet while you are baking cookies, people).

Once the holes are cut, mycelium (white blotchy stuff that looks like sawdust) or mushroom plugs can be inserted.  You just cover the holes and any holes in the bark/areas where branches were cut/top/bottom with beeswax.  Lock that baby down like Fort Knox, cuz you don’t want some wandering fungus to steal your Shiitake gold!

You can put your log in the basement, shed, garage, wherever you have that is 60% in the shade.  Just protect the log from wind and sun and spray it lightly with water to mimic being in the forest.

Even though they take 8-10 months to fruit initially, we bought one anyway 🙂

And for those of you Dahn-towners, it was fun to carry this 20-30 pound baby from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to the Federal Courthouse, where we were able to park for free because the MIL has super special powers.  (I assume you know that its medium far to carry a piece of forest.)

Here is our log sitting on the side of Grant St. while people stared at me and yelled: “Nice log!”

If they had gone to the conference, they would have been yelling “Nice mycelium!”


Bottom Line of the last 2 posts:  Farm to Table is an amazing experience and I learned a ton of cool stuff.  I think we were also able to chose a CSA finally, got some great swag, networked our little butts off, GOT A SHIITAKE LOG, and overall had a great time.  Next year (schedule permitting, of course), we will try to make it to the food tasting.

Did anyone make it to the tasting and want to brag a little?

Farm To Table Conference 2012: Recap Part 1

25 Mar

Farm to Table was one of the best experiences I’ve had since I began my journey into sustainability.  Events like this are so amazing because it allows people to connect with growers and find out about the REAL FOOD CHAIN, learn about how to be more self-reliant, network with other community members, and to LEARN LEARN LEARN.

Most of this recap will be told in pictures (which are worth 1000 words, right?) because much of my time was spent in the Exhibit Hall talking to awesome greenies like me!!  I will try to link most of the pictures to the company’s website, so don’t be shy 😉

Allison Park




(814) 303-9663



I think that’s about all you kids can handle for right now.  If I overwhelm you, you might get loosey-goosey…

Review: Habitat

9 Mar

Let me start by saying that I think this is one of Pittsburgh’s hidden gems.

I’d like it to stay that way because I want it all to myself, but my experience there has to be shared.  Since we visited this schmancy place during normal dinner hours, I only took photos of my own table.  While I love food and food writing, there is a time and a place for everything and I chose to be discreet with my camera.  I do want to share some photos of the restaurant, but I borrowed them from other sites.  🙂

Habitat is located on the second floor of the Fairmont Hotel, which is in the gorgeous LEED-Certified Reed Smith skyscraper in Downtown Pittsburgh.  (PS – I’m working on a post about the LEED program!)

While I’ve heard that many foodies steer clear of restaurants associated with corporate entities, I think this is foolish.  The Fairmont Hotel, which I had visited previously to attend the 2011 Beard Symposium, is an amazing example of sustainable building design and Habitat restaurant focuses on combing a variety of local ingredients into their menu.  Corporate America embracing sustainable values is a good thing and in my opinion, it can begin to shape the identity of a business region.  Pittsburgh has more potential to be a leader in sustainability than it realizes – we are a city that has easily embraced environmental policy in the past, we have a wealth of natural resources, and most importantly: a population with deep historical and cultural roots.  We’ve turned our toxic and dead mill sites into beautiful high-density, mixed use neighborhoods.  We’ve protected green space and developed a vast network of city parks.  We are friggin awesome.  Hello.

Pittsburgh is in the TOP 10 cities for constructing LEED certified buildings, we are currently even watching a living building grow from Phipps Conservatory which will exceed LEED platinum.

Not sure what LEED is?  I will be posting some info about LEED in the next few days!  For now, back to my yummy food…

For the life of me, I cannot remember what kind of wine we ordered.  Our server, Raj, was AMAZING!  He knew so much about the menu and the sourcing of the food, so when he recommended a wine – we figured that we should just go for it.  I feel like he said something about pear, but it escapes me.

Since it was our♥ THREE YEAR ANNIVERSARY (woop woop!), we decided to treat ourselves to an delicious, intimate dinner and opt out of giving each other gifts.  I’m glad we did, because we were able to try a few appetizers and not feel guilty about the bill.

I, of course, forgot to snap pictures of the appetizers.

I will tell you that following a recommendation by Blake, who writes the amazing Taste of Pittsburgh blog, we ordered the Roasted Organic Local Beets.  The goat cheese was so yummy and came from a dairy farm in Emlenton, PA (yes, its part of our foodshed!).  We also ordered the Pennsylvania Mushroom Tart.  So friggin good.  It had a tart crust and then had mushrooms in a leek-Parmesan cream, sourced from Cheswick, PA.  The fresh tandoor baked naan bread was deliciously fresh and made on site, but I didn’t care too much for the chutneys.

After talking the host, server, and assistant manager’s ears off about food – the chef must have realized that I am an insane foodie and sent us the homemade ricotta gnocchi with braised organic oxtail and root vegatables and red wine au jus.

My mouth is literally watering as I look at this picture.  The oxtail and root vegetable au jus was literally the richest, tenderest thing I have eaten in a long time and the gnocchi were absolutely perfect.

We decided to try things we wouldn’t normally try for dinner.  (Trust me, without the wine, she♥ would have gagged at the thought of oxtail and gnocchi.  But even the picky eater took a leap.)

She ordered the braised short ribs with root vegetables…

She couldn’t take a bite without talking about how tender the ribs were.  I mean, they gave her a butter knife to eat with and she didn’t even have to use it.

I ordered the roast duck with pickled beets and watercress emulsion…

The menu claimed that there were apples, but instead my duck was plated with sauteed greens and black rice.  Let me tell you, I didn’t miss the apples.  I’ve ordered dishes before where the description says things like “pickled beets with watercress emulsion” and after tasting it I just think: “Yeah, ok.  If you say so…”  This was not the case.  Each bite I took was different because each bite had different elements on the fork.  The beets were the most amazing crisp texture and the perfect amount of tart to offset the rice.

And those little discs to the roasted duck…

I have no idea what a chef would call it, but it tasted like a duck sausage.  Literally the best thing I have ever eaten, especially with the beets.

I really can’t explain how pleasant it is to speak with so many employees of this restaurant during our visit (partly because we are freakishly easy to talk to and partly because we are freakishly inquisitive), and each one to be so passionate about the values of this establishment.  I felt more passion from the workers at Habitat, a corporate restaurant, than I’ve felt from people working for a family-owned small business.

For dessert, pear dream with handmade ice cream.

I really couldn’t have asked for a better meal, a better girlfriend, a better experience or a better city to write about.

Cheers to three years of domestic bliss ♥

%d bloggers like this: