Gretchen McKay

She’s happy to be vegan, and thinks you will be, too

Sharon Gregory had what she considered a pretty good diet when she set off into the world after graduating from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a master’s degree in math education. Plenty of fruits and vegetables. Moderate amounts of protein. Always easy on the sweet treats. Even when she was constantly traveling the world, first […]

Dreams of a dreamer

Gisele Fetterman helps her son August, 4, get ready for school at their home in Braddock. (Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette) The line of new and expectant mothers stretched a half block down Braddock Avenue by the time Gisele Fetterman opened the doors of a former-pharmacy-turned-business-incubator at 5 p.m. and welcomed in the smiling faces. Inside was a […]

Wedding soup is a marriage made in heaven

LOWELLVILLE, Ohio — Nancy Grapevine and her sister, Marilee Pilkington, have been making their mother’s wedding soup for longer than they can remember. Like any self-respecting Italian cooks, they think it’s the best. Award-winning, even, which is why on a recent Saturday, they braved a wicked winter blast that dumped several inches of snow on […]

Superior Motors demonstrates “Braddock is a destination”

On what some thought would be the one-year anniversary of its failing, Superior Motors in Braddock is humming along on all cylinders. Even before the 80-seat restaurant across the street from Edgar Thomson Works celebrated its first birthday on July 15, it was named one of the best new restaurants of 2018 in the country by Food […]

Finding God, and community, in a loaf of Easter bread

Slava Martyn never could have imagined that one day he’d find God, in Homestead, by baking bread. With a pastry brush dipped in egg wash, he leans over the pan of uncooked dough in front of him. With the delicate yet precise hand of an artist, he paints the loaf’s bumpy surface until the entire […]

Late-bloomer running coach leaves no runner — and no funds — behind

Audrey Burgoon’s come-to-Jesus moment came at mile 18. It was her first marathon, in San Diego in 2006, and her training partner of four months had just hit the wall. Seeing him falter, she burst into tears. She did not know how to run by herself. Her coach asking why she was crying only made her […]

Chinese New Year: Soul food is filled with comfort and symbolism

Food has been central to Seattle food writer Hsiao-Ching Chou’s life almost since the day she was born, and it’s not just because her parents ran a Chinese restaurant while she was growing up in Columbia, Mo. Gathering around a table with family to savor a simple stir-fry or plate of chicken-stuffed wontons ( which she […]

Fueling a football team, the Steelers way

During the Steelers’ summer training camp, the Community Center Dining Hall at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe is the stuff big eaters dream of. Indecisive souls feeling ravenously hungry could go crazy mulling its many menu choices, which features a cornucopia of lean meats and fish, garden-fresh vegetables, orb after orb of plump seasonal fruit. […]

Triathlete overcomes traumatic brain injury to race again

Megan Kruth still doesn’t know what sent her flying over her bike’s handlebars on Aug. 4, 2013. The Ironman triathlete and 17-time All-American collegiate swimmer had done training rides on that stretch of Babcock Boulevard near her McCandless townhouse hundreds of times. But that Sunday morning, she probably hit a bump in the pavement. When […]

Ron Molinaro has been obsessed with pizza most of his adult life. And not just your average slice, but the lightly charred Neapolitan-style pies crafted from a slow-rising dough and baked in a 950-degree brick oven at his Il Pizzaiolo restaurants. It started when he was about 19 and visiting friends in New York. College wasn’t […]

Pittsburgh’s meister of artisan bread

Nick Ambeliotis never doubted his life’s work would revolve around food. The Ohio native grew up working for his father, Mike, in the corner grocery store he started after World War II in Warren, near the Pennsylvania border. After graduating with an accounting degree from John Carroll University in 1982, he helped turn the store […]

A different kind of runner’s high

As he lines up for Monday’s Boston Marathon, John Platt will feel the same jitters as every runner, plus a few of his own. Did I train hard enough? Will I make it up Heartbreak Hill? At what mile will I go blind? The Moon resident’s feet always are numb. It will feel like he’s […]

A519 Chocolate turns into a sweet career

With dual degrees in neuroscience and psychology, Amanda Wright possesses both a knack for problem-solving and the patience of a saint. Two skills that served her well as a research assistant studying adolescent brain development at the University of Pittsburgh. Yet, ever since she was little, the soul of an artist burned inside. When she […]

Raise your spirits this winter with toasty cocktails

Nothing may be more pleasurable at day’s end than a well-crafted cocktail. The clink of ice on glass, the magical mix of sweet, sour and alcoholic — it’s a great way to unwind and be merry, especially during the holiday season. But who says a great drink has to be cold? This time of year, […]

McLaughlin Distillery crafts fine spirits in Sewickley Hills

Kim McLaughin crafts some mighty fine spirits in the abandoned party house he’s been renovating the past year in Sewickley Hills. It’s an avocation turned vocation that’s totally hip but not all that surprising for an easy-going outdoors-type whose roots are in rural farming. Following a four-year stint in the Marines after high school, the […]

The scoop on vegetable ice cream

Ice cream is a sweet treat that is easy to fall in love with, and it tastes all the more heavenly in summer, when hot days and humid nights beg for something cool on the tongue. And if you churn it yourself, that’s really something to scream about. You don’t even need fancy ingredients — […]

Refreshing cocktails for summer

When it comes to a cold adult beverage, I almost always opt for a hop-heavy pour of India pale ale. It’s a learned taste, to be sure, but one that never seems to disappoint. But when Pittsburgh’s steamy, sticky weather rolls around, making T-shirts stick to your ribs like a damp shower curtain, I thirst […]

Into the (Wild) Woods of New Jersey

                    WILDWOODS, N.J. — Beach vacations, done right, have a magical way of getting you to eat, drink and do things you’d normally steer clear of on a regular weekday. Take roller coasters. I hadn’t been on one in years, ever since a wild ride on […]

Jazz up corn on the cob

Lots of sweet butter and a sprinkle, or two, of salt. Maybe some freshly ground black pepper, if a shaker’s within easy reach on the picnic table. That’s how so many of us enjoy fresh-picked corn on the cob. It’s hard to go wrong with tradition, but simple isn’t necessarily better when it comes to […]

George Mason’s Gunston Hall plantation offers a look at 18-century Virginia life

MASON NECK, Va. — George Washington’s Mount Vernon tends to get all the attention when it comes to historic homes in the Washington, D.C., area, and deservedly so: One of the most-visited Colonial sites in America, the white mansion with its 21 elegantly appointed rooms offers an authentic glimpse into the 18th-century plantation life of our first president. And […]

Chronic bowel disease doesn’t deter Pittsburgh runner

A love of running did not come naturally to Lauren Moran. If anything, the Baldwin native considered moving her legs forward in anything faster than a slow crawl as punishment — and she was on both the soccer and track teams in high school. “I hated to run,” says Ms. Moran, 34, of Bloomfield. “For […]

After family members’ suicides, woman heals her emotional wounds through running

For months after her older brother Allan’s suicide in November 2002, Amy Jacobson was numb. It was as if the Maryland college student had fallen into a big black hole of nothingness where the only emotion that churned inside her body, after the initial shock wore off, was total detachment. Allan had been the brainy […]

Serve afternoon tea, the “Downton Abbey” way

If you’re a fan of “Downton Abbey,” chances are you’re soon to be in a funk. After six seasons, PBS’s “Masterpiece” series will air its series finale March 6, leaving scores of Anglophiles crying in their crumpets. It’s been a long, slow ride where — admit it — it sometimes feels like nothing ever happens at the […]

Teacher with cystic fibrosis gears up to run Pittsburgh Marathon

Hannah Camic gets a look when she’s running that flies in the face of the chronic lung disease she was born with. She doesn’t smile so much as she glows, as if lit from within. This is no small feat when you’re double digits into an early morning workout that could include as many as […]

Lidia Bastianich gives a lesson in Italian cooking

Lidia Bastianich has written a dozen cookbooks since arriving in America more than 40 years ago, introducing at least two generations of Americans to the delights and intricacies of regional Italian cooking. Rather than simply dazzle like so many celebrity chefs, she keeps it simple. Ms. Bastianich’s persona on TV and in print has always […]

Simple, easy tips for rolling out Christmas cut-outs

Dough for a pie crust isn’t the only mixture of flour, sugar and fat that gives home cooks pause during the holiday season. Cut-out cookie dough also can be a source of baking anxiety, especially when you’re pressed for time and have tiny helpers who want to be part of the action. If you add […]

A few ideas for those Thanksgiving leftovers

Thanksgiving dinner takes so much time, energy and planning to prepare, and then everyone’s done eating in what feels like five minutes. It’s enough to drive a conscientious cook crazy. Thank goodness, then, for the meal’s many leftovers, which give those of us who prepare the holiday feast a second (and maybe even a third) […]

Stunning, reliable cranberries are steeped in Thanksgiving’s heritage

BROWNS MILLS, N.J. — Love ’em or hate ’em, cranberries have long been part of America’s culinary history. Even before Gen. Ulysses S. Grant gave orders in 1864 for the tart ruby berries to be given to Union soldiers as part of their holiday meal, cranberries were common on the table. Native Americans ate them and […]

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt explores the science of home cooking

A self-described science nerd, and proud of it, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt planned a career in biology when he entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the late 1990s. He was the type of kid who chose Nickelodeon’s “Mr. Wizard’s World” over ABC’s “Full House.” The only problem was, much as he loved science, he absolutely hated working in […]

Chasing fall’s colors in Virginia’s picturesque Shenandoah Valley

LURAY, Va. — Some years ago, fresh out of college and poor as church mice, my husband and I set out on our great honeymoon adventure. Our three-day drive from Pittsburgh to jobs in Miami would take us through Virginia’s picturesque Shenandoah Valley. To humor my father, we agreed to stop at Luray Caverns. Good call, […]

All-star Thanksgiving: Roast turkey parts instead of the whole bird

Every year on Thanksgiving Day, the same scene plays out on countless American dinner tables. You score with the holiday bird’s thigh meat (so moist and juicy) but its breast, most unfortunately, is a dry and stringy epic fail. Thank goodness for gravy. Or maybe it’s the reverse. The breast meat carves into tender, magical […]

A gluten-free Thanksgiving

Cooking for someone with a wheat allergy or sensitivity is never easy, but it’s particularly trying during the holidays. So much of what we love to serve at our Thanksgiving table is chock-full of gluten — from the buttery crust on the pumpkin pie, to the giblet gravy, to the fresh-from-the-oven bread and rolls that are […]

Let’s eat: Pan-seared corn and quinoa salad

So you’ve been asked to bring a potluck dish to a Memorial Day cookout this weekend, and you’re thinking a salad might be an easy way to go. How about one that highlights one of late spring/early summer’s first crops, sweet corn? If you love the vegetable boiled or grilled on the cob, you (and […]

Tart it up with rhubarb

Locally grown veggies are starting to show up in area grocery stores and farmers markets. Many of these early offerings — spinach, baby lettuces, peas, asparagus — are sweet, tender and green. Rhubarb — that brightly colored, perennial veggie we old-fashioned souls love to fold into pies, cakes and jams — is starting to poke […]

Pittsburgh’s pie guy

Frank Ruzomberka of Shaler has been in the family-restaurant business going on six decades, and he’s always been a terrific chef. (He was American Culinary Federation’s Chef of the Year, Pittsburgh chapter, in 1979.) Yet some would argue he didn’t realize his true calling in life until he had a good 30 years of cooking under […]

Tuna noodle casserole: Yuck!

Everybody remembers a food from childhood that made them shudder, if not gag outright when Mom brought it to the table. For me, it’s tuna casserole. My three older brothers all loved the dish, but me — I found the creamy, fishy-smelling mixture of egg noodles tossed with condensed soup, frozen peas and canned tuna […]

Pittsburgh’s pie guy

Frank Ruzomberka of Shaler has been in the family-restaurant business going on six decades, and he’s always been a terrific chef. (He was American Culinary Federation’s Chef of the Year, Pittsburgh chapter, in 1979.) Yet some would argue he didn’t realize his true calling in life until he had a good 30 years of cooking under […]

2015’s new kid on the block: Cauliflower

Trends are a peculiar thing, especially when you live in a city that doesn’t exactly shape the zeitgeist. (Sorry, Pittsburgh, but you know it’s true.) Somebody somewhere decides something is the Next Big Thing, and even though you might have previously been totally clueless, suddenly you’ve also got to have it, do it, see it. […]

LITITZ, Lancaster County — Squinty-eyed moles aren’t the only thing Ruth Zimmerman Martin is mindful of when checking a swath of slender purple blossoms in this quaint little town settled byPennsylvania Germans in the 1720s. All that separates the 73-year-old Mennonite from traffic whipping past her roadside garden is a few feet of grass and a couple of […]

Into the woods: recipes for deer hunters

Donny Zarra has headed to deer camp two or three days after Thanksgiving for as long as he can remember — more than 30 years in all, at cabins and with groups both large and small in Centre, Crawford and Forest counties. “I think I was born with a bow in my hand,” quips the […]

A week in California wine country

LIVERMORE, Calif. — Much as I cook and write about food for this section, I’m pretty much at a loss when it comes to figuring out a good glass of wine to serve with it. My main criteria when perusing the shelves at my local wine store is whether or not I like the label. Plus, I’m cheap. […]

Pittsburgh sets record for world’s largest pierogi

Chefs at Rivers Casino on Wednesday put Pittsburgh in the record book by preparing and serving what Guinness World Records has verified to be the world’s largest pierogi. More than a year in the making, the giant dumpling weighed 123 pounds, far exceeding the 110 pounds, 3 ounces needed to establish the record. It was […]

Pumpkin: One of fall’s favorite flavors

My beloved pumpkin has been getting a bad rap lately. More than a few of my fellow food-lovers have been calling it out on Twitter, bemoaning what they consider the over-exposure and over-commercialization of one of fall’s favorite fruits. “You know what’s great about drinking green tea?” a friend recently tweeted. “No one has tried to make it […]

The pressing business of hard cider

BENTON, Pa. —  Come September, when apples hang ripe and heavy on the tree in this tiny, rural corner of Columbia County, Bob Antanitis stands ready. No doubt there’s a giant smile spread across his mustachioed face. Time to make cider! Not the sweet and cloudy, kid-friendly variety sold at farm markets and roadside stands, mind you. (Though […]

Autumn shows its colors at Ricketts Glen State Park

BENTON, Pa. — Fresh air and blue skies are easy tonics for the stressed-out city life.  Still,  I was in a pretty foul mood when I rolled into Ricketts Glen State Park in this scenic, woodsy corner of northeastern Pennsylvania. Equally distracted by my growling stomach and the country tunes wailing on my car radio, I’d missed the rustic […]

Nestle’s Toll House teardrop chocolate morsel turns 75

Ask someone about his favorite cookie, and unless his taste runs to the exotic, the answer usually is pretty quick. Chocolate chip! Seriously: Is there any other cookie that so immediately makes you feel as warm and fuzzy? Or as desperate for seconds, or — come on, fess up — maybe even thirds? Especially if a cold […]

Meet Carol ‘Dearheart’ Pascuzzi, the ever-cheerful cheese expert of Penn Mac

Carol Pascuzzi often finds people staring at her. She’ll be standing in a line somewhere — the supermarket, perhaps, or an airport hundreds of miles from her creekside home in Turtle Creek  — when she’ll suddenly sense a stranger’s gaze. “I can tell they’re trying to place me,“ she says. Usually they can’t, if she’s sporting jeans and a sweatshirt […]

The huge Minnesota State Fair is big on decadent food creations

ST. PAUL, Minn. —  The smell washes over you in the parking lot, even before you reach the long lines that snake out in every direction at the ticket booth. The sweet, sugary aroma of cotton candy mixed with the earthy scent of manure. Weird, but also strangely appropriate. This is a state fair, after all, where horses, […]

26.2 Food: How to eat right while training

An occasional series on how to fuel for the Pittsburgh Marathon. Most serious runners will stop at nothing in the race to maximize performance. High-tech trainers that keep your feet happy while logging serious miles, the latest fitness watch or app that provides feedback in real-time, specially formulated goos and chews that promise to energize your body […]

26.2 Food: Pre-run meal before marathon training essential

                    An occasional series on how to fuel for the Pittsburgh Marathon.   Tempting as it might be to cozy up on the couch and hibernate during winter, slacking off is not an option for Pittsburgh’s Runners of Steel. Some 30,000 runners from across the U.S. and […]

Pittsburgh Pierogies: “We love you, dumpling!”

Carl Funtal has spent most of his adult life as a tough guy, protecting the public as a sergeant with the Shaler Township Police Department. Truth be told, he’s really kind of a softie. Despite his commanding appearance — at 6 feet, 3 inches (6-4 in his motorcycle boots) and 275 pounds, he dwarves most […]

Robinson “cottage” a link back to Sewickley Heights grandeur

In the 1920s and ’30s, Pittsburgh’s captains of industry built lavish summer cottages high above the Ohio River to escape the city’s smoke and summertime heat. “Cottage” was something of a misnomer; their Sewickley Heights houses were every bit as opulent as the urban dwellings of these steel, shipping, manufacturing and banking barons and their […]

Dutch oven cooking

PARK CITY, UTAH — Funny story here: When I learned there would be a Dutch-oven cooking demonstration at this year’s Association of Food Journalists conference, held last week in this mountainside ski town that’s famous for hosting the Sundance Film Festival, my immediate thought was this: Big whoop. Who doesn’t know how to cook in a Dutch oven? Like millions […]

Kinzua colors: Reborn bridge offers spectacular views of Pennsylvania fall foliage

MOUNT JEWETT, Pa. — Even before its tattered remains were reimagined as a spectacular walkway over one of Pennsylvania’s prettiest gorges, the Kinzua Viaduct was one for the history books. When it rose some 300 feet above the ground more than a century ago, the structure was the largest and longest railroad bridge in the world — higher even than […]

Find Bigfoot and more, at Jack Bell’s meat market in Kane, Pa.

KANE, Pa. — Mom-and-pop butcher shops usually are pretty friendly places, but not always the cutest businesses on the block. Not so with Bell’s Meat & Poultry, Jack Bell’s tiny market here in the heart of Allegheny National Forest. It’s tough to say what’s more Instagram-tastic about the McKean County meaterie: the baskets of local produce stacked outside the front door that […]

Pizza on the grill is easier than you think

I love BBQ chicken, burgers and hot dogs as much as anyone, so long as the meat is juicy and charred and the franks are the good ones — all beef and kosher. Yet every summer for the past few grilling seasons, I’ve vowed to learn how to cook something a little different on my trusty Grill King gas grill. A few […]

Into the woods in Cook Forest

LEEPER — Summer weekends in Cook Forest, a registered national natural landmark known for its old-growth hemlocks, usually involve this: Paddling or tubing on the lazy Clarion River. Climbing the teetering, 87-foot fire tower built as a firemen’s lookout in 1929 and then scrambling across the rocky ledges at nearby Seneca Point Overlook. (You can see for miles at both […]

Bruschetta: Carbs on the grill

  Fresh vegetables are starting to roll into local farmers markets, and what better way to whet summer appetites than by firing up the Weber for a quick and easy appetizer? You know you want to be outside after sitting behind a desk all day, and carbs on the grill are so much easier than you […]

Boston: The cradle of liberty still rocks

BOSTON — It was by happenstance, really, that we came across the memorial. This was a trip to see the historic sights and taste the seafood for which this capital city is famous. Our hotel was on Copley Square, a name that sounded vaguely familiar. Coming up from the subway station with our bags, peering […]

Joey Fatone gets ‘N Sync with City Chicken

Like so many Italian-Americans, Joey Fatone didn’t just grow up eating tomato sauce made from a recipe handed down over the generations — he helped his parents make it. His entertainer father, who performed with the doo-wop group The Orions, was something of a whiz in their Brooklyn kitchen, and nothing made Joe Sr. happier […]

Blue Ridge “Hi!”: The pleasures of Roanoke beckon

ROANOKE, Va. — Its heritage is tied to the railroad. Yet even before Norfolk and Western Railway’s steam locomotives rolled into the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, this picturesque little town was a happening place. A hub along the long and bumpy Great Wagon Road that brought 18th-century settlers from Philadelphia to central North […]

Pittsburgh marathoners get help up The Hill

For a city that’s as famous for its big hills as its 400-plus bridges, today’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and UPMC Health Plan Half Marathon will offer its 27,700 runners a fairly level course. Which is not to say it won’t have its challenges. Chief among them is The Hill, that daunting stretch of […]

Marathoners: Take these recipes and run with them

  A big bowl of pasta one or two days before a big road race is a time-honored runners’ tradition. Carbs are the body’s primary fuel source during endurance events such as a half or full marathon. So thinking runners load up on them beforehand to ensure there’s at least a little gas left in […]

Pittsburgh Food: Family puts its eggs, other holiday fare in one basket

  Sometime around 10 a.m. on Sunday, Stella Woytovich and her daughter Justine will gather with family in their neat-as-a-pin Baden home and, as they have on more Easters than anyone can remember, dig into a huge brunch. There will be a ham glazed with bourbon and brown sugar, paired with buttery scrambled eggs or […]

Female runners self-defense: Stay aware

It was a beautiful, sunny day when Leah Yingling set out on June 15, 2010, for what she thought was going to be a routine three-miler on one of Johnstown’s most popular running trails. If only. As she recounted at Pittsburgh Marathon’s inaugural Safe Strides self-defense course for female runners at Bakery Square on Feb. […]

Sexy cookbooks provide recipes for a hot meal

  Sex and food have been intertwined ever since the first man got evicted from the Garden of Eden, just for accepting an afternoon snack from a naked woman. Entire volumes have been written about the power of aphrodisiacs, those irresistible substances that many are convinced will make sex more pleasurable, not to mention easier […]

Chocolate for dinner

  The love-struck will express their dying affection with more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate come Valentine’s Day. Actually, the cocoa route isn’t a bad one if you’re hoping to stir up those lovin’ feelings. Simply put, chocolate makes us feel good, and not just because eating it causes the brain to release […]

Super Bowl victors: Cajun appetizers

  If you’re reading this, you’re probably not whooping it up in the parking lot of Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. I’m not at the NFL’s biggest game of the year either, which is a total drag, because the official Super Bowl XLVII menu sounds pretty darn awesome. New Orleans cuisine is steeped in the […]

America’s classic combo: Grilled cheese and tomato soup

  Soup for lunch or dinner always is a good idea when temperatures start to dip, and nothing quite hits the spot like the creamy, savory tomato concoction of our childhood. One spoonful and you’re instantly transported back to a time when Mom tucked you in at night, Saturday morning meant the couch and cartoons, […]

Biscotti: A friend’s tradition kept alive

  New Year’s Eve is fast approaching, and no doubt you’re headed to a party, or maybe throwing one. You’re going to want to ring in the new year with, along with flutes of Champagne and pots to bang on, something sweet. For me, deciding what to make is easy. A few years ago, my […]

Braddock mayor turns rehabbed warehouse into home

  John Fetterman has never been what you’d consider a wallflower — 6-foot-8, with a shaved head and ginormous black tats running up and down his arms, Braddock’s mayor stands out in a crowd. Nor is he afraid of a challenge. When he was elected by a single vote in 2005, this steel town lay […]

A tiny bites Thanksgiving, Part 2

  A formal Thanksgiving dinner is a wonderful opportunity to gather with friends and family at the table, but let’s be honest: It also can be a heck of a lot of work. Not to mention a timing nightmare for cooks with small ovens or ambitious menus that make it difficult to get 10 different […]

A tiny bites Thanksgiving, Part 1

  When you’re the holiday’s designated cook, and your extended family is large, Thanksgiving can be a very long day. Up early to stuff and throw a 20-pound bird in the oven, there’s barely time to swallow a single cup of coffee before starting the slow and steady work of preparing the expected smorgasbord of […]

This is Pittsburgh food: Tailgating – Sunday dinner, Pittsburgh style

  Lynn Cauley grew up in a household that bled black and gold during football season, so as an adult, there never was a question she wouldn’t carry on the Steelers tradition. “I came to all the games when I was a kid,” recalls Mrs. Cauley, of Park Place, whose sportswriter father, Carl Hughes, covered […]

Ghost spotters

  Everyone likes a good ghost story this time of year, but not many of us have actually lived one. Then there is Randy Myers, who not only claims to regularly see spirits but believes he has recorded and photographed them. As often as once a week, the McKeesport native and other members of East […]

Crazy about pumpkin

  Is it just me, or is pumpkin taking over? I was fine with seasonal pumpkin products such as pumpkin bread and pumpkin roll. But these days, you can find its distinctive autumnal flavor in just about everything from drinks to granola bars to pasta to ice cream, and the orange tide keeps rising. Even […]

Priests who are blessed in the kitchen

  The Rev. Samuel Esposito grew up cooking in his grandmother Jennie’s house in Ellwood City, Lawrence County, and for most of his adult life as a priest he has had to bach it in the kitchen. He knows how to work a bit of heaven into a pound of chicken cutlets or simmering pot […]

Hatching a plan to bring chefs, kids and others to a chile fest

  Nicola DiCio’s grin is as warm as the bright September sunshine when we pull into White Oak Farm, the 50-acre farm straddling Hampton and Indiana townships that’s been in his family for three generations. He has a good reason to be happy. Not so very long ago, the large timber-frame barn — the one […]

This is Pittsburgh food: On the cookie tables

This is the sixth “This Is Pittsburgh Food,” a series of stories and videos on local traditions by Gretchen McKay and videographer and photographer Steve Mellon. When Cristina Lazzaro started planning her wedding to Brian Perris, her checklist included all the bridal basics: A stunning gown. A swanky dinner reception for 250 guests. A relaxing […]

Up your tailgating game by building a better burger

    For the football fan who cooks, tailgates are a beautiful thing. Unlike other parties where the host feels a lot of pressure to impress, this pre-game festivity can be as fancy or down-home casual as the cook likes or has time for on any given Saturday or Sunday during football season. So long […]

Training meals: A look inside the Steelers’ training kitchen

  They look invincible. Yet beneath those steely, confident exteriors, the Pittsburgh Steelers struggle just like the rest of us schlubs — at least when it comes to their diets. The underweight players are attempting to pack on a few extra pounds. The heavier ones are working on losing some. And those who fit into […]

Pittsburgh Food: The Original Farmers Market and its bounty have been drawing crowds for nearly a century

    Farmers markets never have been more popular, with new ones popping up every season. Yet this is how Western Pennsylvania farmers always have brought their products to market during the growing season — some of them for generations. Diane Ryglewicz has staffed a stall three nights a week at The Original Farmers Market […]

To cook meat directly on the coals is to ‘clinch’ … and it’s a cinch

  Quick and clean with gas? Or slow and smoky with charcoal? That’s the question backyard grill masters have been hotly debating since the first gas grill in the 1960s. Here’s another option: Why not get down and dirty, and clinch that rib-eye to crusty perfection? Clinching — cooking meat directly on hot coals — […]

A salute to the kernels and the cobs

Janoski’s Farm typically picks the first of its sweet corn the first week of July, just in time for Independence Day cookouts. So imagine customers’ delight when they discovered heaps of silk-topped ears in the Clinton farm market on June 16 — roughly three weeks ahead of schedule. Doesn’t the farmers’ axiom have summer’s favorite […]

Braddock looks to new Kevin Sousa restaurant as urban renewal project

First in an occasional series on Magarac, Kevin Sousa’s new restaurant in Braddock, Pa.   Even more people are going to think chef Kevin Sousa is nuts: He’s not only opening his next restaurant in busted-down Braddock, he’s also moving his family there. At a press conference June 19 at County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s office, […]

“Eat & Run”: Scott Jurek is one ultra-amazing vegan athlete

  Endurance athlete Scott Jurek has run, and won, some of the world’s longest and most physically demanding races, including the Badwater 135-mile ultramarathon through Death Valley, where the temperature can slide past 120 degrees even in the shade; the Spartathlon, a 153-mile foot race that traces Greek messenger Pheidippides’ historic run in 490 B.C. […]

Bell’s, a tiny market in Braddock, keeps serving its community

This is the fourth “This Is Pittsburgh Food,” a series of stories and videos on local traditions by Gretchen McKay and videographer and photographer Steve Mellon.     Louis Greenwald was just 23 when, against his father’s advice, he bought Bell’s Market, a small butcher shop and grocery on Braddock’s main drag. His father, Edward, […]

Memorable recipes for Memorial Day

  Burgers and potato salad are traditional fare at Memorial Day picnics, but it’s also fun to shake things up every now and again with an unexpected new flavor. And if the recipe for said dish is as easy as it is lip-smacking? So much the better for the cook, who would much rather be […]

Chia seeds go from sand to goo, but they’re oh-so-good for you

    My kids usually are pretty good sports about trying unfamiliar food. Yet no amount of cajoling, begging or double-dog-daring could get my daughters to taste chia, a protein-packed member of the mint family that’s best known for its pee-wee sprouts kids have been growing in animal-shaped planters for more than 30 years. “You […]

Three ways to refuel after a marathon

  So you’re among the thousands of Runners of Steel who participated in the Pittsburgh (or another city’s) Marathon. Or maybe you’re one of the many spectators who got up at the crack of dawn to cheer the record-breaking number of entrants on. Bet you’re hungry. The average runner burns about 100 calories per mile, […]

Soldier’s Story: A year in Afghanistan changes Lt. Col Chris Cieslak, and her family

This is the last in a series on Lt. Col. Chris Cieslak’s deployment to Afghanistan:   A bunch of red, white and blue balloons danced at the front door when Lt. Col. Chris Cieslak came home earlier this month after a year in Afghanistan. But the rest of her homecoming didn’t exactly go as expected. […]

Virginia Beach: Surf, promenade, street performers lead to a swirl of activities

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Neptune, the Roman god of water and the sea, is the majestic poster boy for an annual festival that draws 500,000 visitors to Virginia Beach and its storied boardwalk each September. So naturally, a trip with my daughters over spring break to this city on the Atlantic Ocean begins by paying […]

Quinoa: A high-octane fuel for hungry runners

      This time of year when so many are obsessing about eating less in an effort to fit into warm-weather shorts and bathing suits, it’s all I can do not to think about food and how much of it I can possibly stuff in my mouth. Spring ushers in the start of racing season […]

This is Pittsburgh food: Almost ended by a fire, an Easter bread tradition is resurrected

This a third in a series of stories and videos on local traditions by Gretchen McKay and videographer and photographer Steve Mellon. As in so many Italian homes, something wonderful was always cooking in Mary Battaglia’s kitchen when she was a child growing up in Koppel, Beaver County. But nothing made the family clap their […]

Hop to it and make your own Easter basket treats

Most everyone hopes to find a few sweet treats tucked into their Easter basket along with the colored eggs and milk chocolate Easter bunny. In my house, for example, there’d be a whole lot of unhappy campers if the celebration didn’t include a whole lot of peanut butter cups and sugar-coated marshmallow Peeps. Yet who […]

Roll into spring with . . . spring rolls

It”s officially spring, but other than asparagus and early-bird spinach, it’s still too early for the tender vegetables we’re so hungry for this time of year. So instead, we’re going to celebrate the change of season by focusing on spring rolls, whose name evokes the fresh, leafy veggies on the horizon.   However you like […]

‘Pioneer Woman’ brings the frontier to Pittsburgh

  Ree Drummond wasn’t looking for celebrity when she sat down at the computer five years ago, created a blog on Blogger and started typing. Blessed with a few quiet hours free of children, she simply thought it might be fun to tell a few stories from the Oklahoma homefront — and as a cowboy […]

Casting call: Try Spanish mackerel

    People can be funny when it comes to eating fish. You want a fillet to taste vaguely of the ocean so as to distinguish it from meat or chicken. But at the same time, it shouldn’t be too . . . fishy. No wonder, then, that mackerel doesn’t much figure in when people […]

This is Pittsburgh Food: Wholey’s Fish

For most Pittsburghers, some things are as sure as the sun rising each morning. You root for the Steelers. You don’t, unless you absolutely have to, cross rivers. And you buy your seafood at Wholey’s in the Strip District. It’s impossible to think about fish in this city without also thinking about Robert Wholey Co., […]

Chilling out at Quebec’s Hotel de Glace: a night on ice

QUEBEC CITY, Quebec — I’m not going to lie. My husband thought I was nuts when I suggested spending my January birthday at Hotel de Glace here in Canada. Our winter getaways typically are spent someplace warm, preferably with a sandy beach, always with a pool or waterfront bar that serves fruity cocktails garnished with […]

This is Pittsburgh Food: Sopressata

The mercury has dipped to 18 degrees when Leon Panella pads into his garage in Prospect, Butler County, at about 8 a.m. on a recent, snowy Saturday. Still, he smiles. In an hour or so, things will warm up as close to two dozen male helpers — friends, friends of friends, Duquesne University fraternity brothers […]

Road-racing trips: Why not build a vacation around your competitive spirit?

When it comes to road races, nothing beats the classic 5K. Last year alone, the 3.1-mile distance chalked up nearly 4.7 million finishers, or 36 percent of all race finishers in 2010. Yet the half marathon is doing its best to catch up. For the first time in the U.S. last year, more athletes completed […]

Friday Night Bites: Ideas for stepping up your game … at the concession stand

  Like so many parents I know with physically active kids, I spend a lot of time at school and community athletic events. In the last 25 years of parenthood, I figure I’ve cheered my sons and daughters on at hundreds of games and practices. Not that I’m complaining: my poor parents had to go […]

Shore looks good: Three beach trips for early fall

Don’t know about you, but whenever I feel the need to rejuvenate, I head for the beach. As busy as life and work get sometimes, it’s hard to feel stressed when your toes are buried in sand and your lungs are full of the salty sea air. At the shore, it’s easy to forget about […]

Wines’ roots: Six Virginia wineries in a weekend

PARIS, Va. — History abounds in this picture-perfect hamlet snuggled in the crook of Ashby’s Gap, in the heart of Northern Virginia’s wine country. A young George Washington is said to have slept in the original Ashby Inn back when Paris was known as Pumpkintown, during his surveying trips for Lord Fairfax to the Virginia […]

Illustrated Men: Chefs and their Tattoos

Painful and permanent, tattoos used to be the mark of bikers, sailors and hard-core rock ‘n’ rollers. Today, just try finding someone under the age of 35 who doesn’t have at least a little ink under their skin. And if you’re a hot young chef? No doubt your arms, legs, chest and — in the […]

Vicksburg National Military Park

VICKSBURG, Miss. — War is never easy, but residents of this busy river town perched on the bluffs of the Mississippi River were especially miserable when on July 4, 1863, the 47-day siege ordered by Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant ended with the Confederate Army’s surrender. Cut off from supplies and shell-shocked by a steady […]

Grilling your way around the world

Summer is fast approaching, and what better way to slip into vacation mode than by trading your oven mitts for some long-handled tongs so you can sink your teeth into something hot, juicy and deliciously smoky off the grill? May, after all, is National BBQ Month, a time when those of us who enjoy cooking […]

A soldier’s story

VICKSBURG, Miss. — Most of us have a way of coping, a method for dealing with the things we’d rather not deal with. Lt. Col. Chris Cieslak chose denial when she was notified in October — just a few months shy of retiring after a 20-year career in the Army Reserve — that she was […]

Breakfast ‘n wed

 Who doesn’t love a wedding? The dress, the flowers, the promise of love everlasting … Add to the mix a good-looking member of the British royal family, an historic venue and a bride who’s just as self-assured as she is lovely to look at, and it’s guaranteed television magic. Even in the wee hours, […]

Taking the low road

Joshua Boggs and his equally fleet-footed twin, Justin, have run races on every imaginable terrain since embracing the sport in high school. But their mad dashes to the finish — Joshua insists because he’s a few minutes younger he’s also the faster brother — have always had one thing in common: the course’s beginning, middle […]

A cut below: In the basement of Downtown’s Koppers Building, a convivial barber keeps customers coming back

Retired public relations executive Larry Werner has been sporting the same no-nonsense businessman’s haircut since at least the Kennedy administration, if not longer: short around the sides and neck, smoothly tapered on top. It’s so basic a cut that even a beginning cosmetology student could do it. But Mr. Werner trusts the 20-minute job to […]

Here we go, munchers, here we go! Snacks for Steelers watching

With the Steelers one step higher on the Stairway to Seven, we know you’re more than ready for some football. Here’s what you might still be trying to figure out: What to eat when they take on the New York Jets in the AFC championship game Sunday at Heinz Field? Just a blessed few make […]

Easier holiday entertaining: Yes, it can be done

It just wouldn’t be the season without some sort of festive gathering of family and friends. Usually, bless their generous souls, some brave couple in my neck of the woods takes on the task of hosting a holiday party. This year, it was me who took the reins and ran with it — and very […]

Priest and his dad bond in the family tradition of hunting

The sun had barely started its creep toward the heavens when the Rev. Father Mike Zavage positioned himself against a tree, his .284 Winchester hanging at the ready on his right shoulder. Gusty winds made the 18-degree air feel more like an ungodly 2 degrees, but the 28-year-old priest was smiling, happy to finally be […]

Five Diamond chef, Dave Racicot, confident he’ll sparkle in new setting

First in an occasional series on the birth of Notion It’s tough to pigeon-hole Dave Racicot, the self-taught chef who earned Nemacolin Woodlands Resort’s Lautrec restaurant its coveted AAA Five Diamond rating in 2007, when he was but 29 years old. He’s extremely talented, of course. But also cocky. Outspoken. Kind of pig-headed. Almost too […]

A Thanksgiving Feast

By the time my hip pushed open my parents’ back door just after sundown, the 14-pound turkey I’d just finished roasting sliding precariously on the rimmed cookie sheet I held in my hands, their kitchen was standing-room-only. Bob was bent over the sink, hurriedly cubing apples, pears and persimmons for a colorful fall salad of […]

Scary Food: One Girl’s Bug is Another’s Big Yum

We all like to scare ourselves silly at Halloween. But usually, the goose bumps are a reaction to a frightening event we see or hear, not something dished up on a dinner plate. Here I am, though, in the awful position of trying offal at Teutonia Mannerchor in Pittsburgh’s North Side. An auxillary member, I’ve […]

twit-wrthy recps Good recipes boiled down to their Twitter essentials

When you’re strapped for time, or maybe just impatient, the difference between a good dish and a really great one isn’t just the number of ingredients or how long it takes to prepare it. To the Twitter Generation, it’s also how long it takes to read the dang instructions. Tweets are short and sweet. Shouldn’t […]

Father and son help bring back the Black Amish apple

NEW WILMINGTON — Like the four generations that proceeded him, Lyle Johnston has spent a lifetime growing what he considers the world’s tastiest apples on the fruit farm his great-great-grandfather Josiah Johnston planted in 1861. In all, he’s got some 50 varieties spread across 17 of the farm’s 147 acres, including sweet-sour Jonagold and aromatic […]

Pie Crust Demo has her going from ‘duh’ to dough

Every home cook has her Achilles heel, the one dish or technique that she simply cannot master. For me, it’s homemade pie crust. Or as it’s referred to in my kitchen: stinking $#• &%@ pie crust! To say I’m dough-phobic is something of an understatement; the mere thought of trying to combine flour, shortening and […]

Marshall couple’s home is their castle

Cara McCandless and Barton Branstetter have never forgotten their storybook wedding trip to Thornbury Castle Hotel in South Gloucestershire, England. King Henry VIII spent 10 days in 1535 in this grand country fortress with his beloved Anne Boleyn. Yet it’s what they did 12 years after their 1994 wedding that really makes for a great […]

Fast, ‘takeout’ breakfast choices can get your kids to eat

Got teenagers? Bet you have trouble getting something decent in their stomachs before they run to the bus on weekday mornings. Here’s how the school day unfolds in my house. My 16-year-old rolls out of bed, bleary-eyed and this side of grouchy, about 20 minutes before his teenaged chauffeur shows up at 7 a.m., affording […]

Lily Dale can be a spooky place

LILY DALE, N.Y. — I like a good ghost story as much as the next gal, especially this time of year, when even the staunchest disbelievers hope to hear something go bump in the night. But communicating with the dead through a medium? Now there’s a scary thought. Still, here I am in this tiny […]

Niagara on the Lake, Ontario: The quaint village is a real charmer during autumn

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ontario — Tell someone you’re heading to Niagara, and she’ll probably think of one thing: the fabulous falls straddling the Canadian and U.S. borders that draw more than 20 million visitors a year. Been there, done that. Time for a new adventure. Less than 10 miles north of the steel arch bridge that transports […]

Oktoberfest isn’t just about beer. It’s also about the food

I appreciate a nice pilsner or dunkel-style dark beer as much as the next frau. My ancestors on my mom’s side hail from the tiny village of Frommern in southern Germany, and to pay homage, I’ve nursed many a stein of this most delicious liquid while waiting for my daughters to finish their weekly dance […]

Gretchen McKay’s ‘Cooking with Gretchen’ wins big

From the Pittsburgh Post Gazette: The Post-Gazette’s “Cooking with Gretchen” video series has won a national award in the Association of Food Journalists’ Awards Competition 2010. To see the winning video, click on Cooking with Gretchen Gretchen McKay and videographer Steve Mellon and their “Plank-grilled fish” video (see PG video below) won a first-place award […]

Ben Avon family turns home over to film crew; Proves to be insane yet exhilarating

A movie production crew set up shop inside the Ben Avon home of PG reporter Gretchen McKay (center) for the filming of “Riddle,” As someone who writes about homes, I’m usually the one knocking on front doors, trying to sweet-talk homeowners into letting me tell the world about the architectural delights beyond the threshold. Sometimes […]

Adventure just around the bend on overnight kayak-canoe trip

BELLTOWN, Pa. — Every paddler has her moment when the only thing on her mind is placing her water shoes on dry land. For me, it came about five hours into the overnight kayaking trip my husband and I took a few weeks ago on the Clarion River. We’d slid our boats into the water […]

Meet the ‘Blonde Elvis’ of Mount Oliver: Tribute artists are alive and well

Dan Casne makes his living redesigning and rewinding electromagnets used on overhead cranes in steel mills. It’s a technical job, and not a bad-paying one. But his true calling just might be singing. He discovered this when he was well into his 50s. Watching karaoke one night at the Veterans of Foreign Wars building in […]

New River Gorge offers scenic outdoor challenges

West Virginia’s New River offers some of the best white water in America. On the Lower New, rafters can expect to crash through giant waves but still float through calm sections with spectacular scenery. NEW RIVER GORGE, W.Va. — Teenagers can be hard to entertain, especially when the event is a no-texting, try-to-keep-the-iPod-to-a-minimum-so-we-can-actually-have-a-conversation family vacation. […]

No doggie bags needed: More eateries let you bring in your dog

For some, it’s proof that the dining scene has, quite literally, gone to the dogs. But to animal lovers such as Dan and Joan Huber of Observatory Hill, eating with your pet al fresco at a favorite restaurant is like the cherry on top of a sundae . . . or should we say a […]