Gretchen McKay

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 nearly in ruins, a sad maze of boarded-up storefronts, vacant lots and decaying homes — hardly the most promising place for an out-of-towner to start a political career.

So it follows that the loft-style home he’s created with his wife, Gisele, in an abandoned warehouse on Library Street is as bold and colorful as the man himself.

A hip marriage of old and new, the three-story residence speaks to the town’s past while looking to its future. Much of it was refashioned with architectural goodies discovered at Construction Junction or originally found in the building, which dates to the 1950s and has large windows overlooking the historic Carnegie Library. But it’s modern, too, with a sweeping open floor plan, super-high ceilings and exposed ductwork that define today’s urban lifestyle.

Because he also wanted it to reflect the aesthetic of Braddock, he invited some of its youth to “tag the place up” by spray-painting graffiti on the cinderblock walls. Yet the most visually arresting detail is a narrow circular staircase fashioned by John Walter of Iron Eden. Situated dead-center in the main living space, it winds its way, rather precariously, to Mrs. Fetterman’s yoga studio on the roof — a visionary space Dutch MacDonald and Jen Bee of EDGE Studio created out of two empty cargo containers.

Post-Gazette photos

Like to see the space for yourself? On Dec. 8, the Fettermans will host to a pig roast/cocktail party fundraiser for 100 guests with chef Kevin Sousa of Salt of the Earth. Proceeds will be used to buy winter coats and Christmas gifts for Braddock’s youth through the nonprofit Braddock Redux, which the mayor created in 2006 to empower its young people through hands-on learning experiences. (Tickets cost $100; for reservations, call Salt at 412-441-7258 or email

“It’s a great way to come out and experience the community,” he says.

A York native with a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University, Mr. Fetterman came to Pittsburgh in 1995 to work as an AmeriCorps volunteer in the Young Fathers and Mothers program at Hill House Association in the Hill District. He moved to Braddock in 2001 and by the time he was elected mayor four years later, he had become one of its biggest cheerleaders.

“It’s the perfect combination of the people, history and the opportunity to be useful,” he says.

Mr. Fetterman paid just $2,000 for the 2,000-square-foot warehouse in October 2003, but it was hardly a bargain: full of debris and “all kinds of awful stuff,” it would take months to clear, clean and transform into livable space. Luckily, he’d found a brave contractor friend of a friend who agreed to take the project on.

By the time the mayor moved in the following March, Ron Sprow of Gibsonia had put on a new roof, replaced all of the wiring, installed windows, refinished original pine floors that could be saved and installed an HVAC system. Total cost of the renovation: about $42,000.

The funky (and sustainable) third floor came later after his marriage five years ago to Gisele, a holistic nutrition activist and third-generation vegetarian. She came to Braddock with hopes of starting a program for kids after reading a story about the town at a yoga retreat.

“I drove in and loved it. I felt an immediately connection,” she says. “Then I met John and never left.”

It took a guy with a crane and “ice in his veins” just six hours to hoist the water-tight containers onto the rooftop frame. One-half of the finished space is used as a yoga studio; the other serves as a giant walk-in closet.

Before the containers went on, Mr. Fetterman used to like to sit on the roof and watch the smoke rise from the Edgar Thomson Steel Works in the distance. Today, there’s a small vine-covered deck for sitting in the sun.

The first floor originally was an art gallery. After the arrival of the couple’s son, Karl, and daughter, Gracie — both born in the house with help from a midwife — they converted it into bedrooms and a play area.

Although it’s just 20 feet wide and 50 feet deep, the loft feels incredibly roomy, thanks to the 12-foot ceilings and a surfeit of sunshine. Its charm comes from the small details. One of Mr. Fetterman’s favorite design elements is a framed collection of old postcards of Braddock; also decorating the walls are a also dozen or so grainy black-and-white streetscene photographs Mr. Fetterman shot with a disposable camera.

From Construction Junction came the three metal cornices that dress up the windows, as well as an old confessional that serves as a headboard in the guest room. The kitchen has a modular center island with blackboard sides that shares the stage with an old gateway greeting sign spray-painted with the word “crips.”

Any coziness comes from a small fireplace nestled between two windows. If you’re standing in front of it, you’re apt to look out as Mr. Fetterman loves to do.

“The fact I live across the street from the first Carnegie Library is amazing,” he says. “Andrew Carnegie literally stood across the street on the steps.”

Cool digs, to be sure. But the mayor sees his home as a small metaphor for the Braddock itself: With equal measures hard work and creativity, anything is possible.

“It shows what the potential of the community is.”



A tiny bites Thanksgiving, Part 2

Pear-Cranberry-Ginger Cutie Pies/Gretchen McKay


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 dishes on the table at the same time.

So this year, why not simplify and build a Thanksgiving feast out of small dishes that can be prepared hours, or even a day, ahead of time and reheated throughout the day when the crowd gets hungry?


Pear-Cranberry-Ginger Cutie Pies

PG tested

Canned cranberry sauce is so boring! This festive recipe pairs fresh cranberries with juicy pears.

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 16-ounce bag fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
  • 4 medium-sized Bosc pears
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • All-Butter Pie Crust (recipe follows)

Whipped cream lightly flavored with vanilla and a hint of ginger, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place rack in center of oven. Spray cups of a muffin pan with nonstick pan spray.

To make pie filling, in a large saucepan, stir the water and sugar to combine. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high, and stir constantly until sugar dissolves.

Add cranberries to sugar mixture, and lower the heat. Simmer cranberries for about 10 minutes or until they start to pop. Drain cranberries and set aside.

Peel, core and cut pears into 1/2-inch cubes. In a large bowl, mix together pears, ginger and cornstarch. Add cranberries and stir to combine.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out each of the 2 dough patties to about 1/4-inch thickness (lightly dust with flour, if needed, to keep from sticking).

Cut 16 5 1/2-inch circles from dough. Reroll scraps to make all the circles, and avoid overhandling the dough. (I made much larger circles for 8 pies tucked into 1/2-pint jars.)

Gently but firmly press each dough circle into a muffin cup. For the crust edges, use the fold-tuck-crimp method. Spoon filling evenly into the shells and set aside.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until crust is golden brown. To see if crust bottom is golden, too, use a butter knife to pop a pie out of a muffin cup. If bottom is not brown, bake a few minutes longer. If pie top is browning too quickly, cover with foil for the final few minutes.

Makes 16 small or 8 medium-size Cutie Pies.

— “Cutie Pies: 40 Sweet, Savory and Adorable Recipes” by Dani Cone (Andrews McMeel, 2011, $16.99)


All-Butter Pie Crust

PG tested

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup ice water

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and sugar, and mix well.

Add butter to flour mixture and mix gently with pastry blender, a fork or your hands. The goal is to lightly incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients. The butter pieces should be well coated with the dry mixture and somewhat flattened.

Gradually add water to the flour mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue mixing dough until it comes together and forms pea-sized or crouton-sized crumbs. The dough should look like coarse individual pieces, not smooth and beaten together like cookie dough.

With your hands, gather dough crumbs together to form 2 patties, gently molding the mixture into a patty shape and being careful not to overhandle the dough. Wrap each patty in plastic wrap.

Chill dough for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days. The dough can also be frozen up to 2 weeks.

When ready to use dough, let it sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes to soften it and make it workable.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out each of the 2 dough patties to about 1/4-inch thickness, lightly dusting it with flour, to prevent sticking, and making sure to roll the dough evenly.

Makes 1 double-crust 9-inch pie, 2 single-crust 9-inch pies, 16 cutie pies or 36 mini muffin pies.


Mini Buttermilk Biscuits/Gretchen McKay

Mini Buttermilk Biscuits

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Perfect for slicing in half and stuffing with turkey or ham.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.

Using pastry cutter, 2 knives or your fingers, cut butter into flour mixture until it reaches a coarse, mealy texture.

Add buttermilk and mix with your hands until dough just comes together.

Form dough into an 8- to 10-inch-wide disk about 1/4 inch thick. Using a 1 1/2-inch circle cutter, cut out 8 biscuits and place on the prepared sheet.

Brush tops of biscuits with cream and bake for 16 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving.

— “Tiny Food Party!” Bite-size Recipes for Miniature Meals” by Teri Lyn Fisher & Jenny Park (Quirk, $18.95)




Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprout Lollipops

Sweet, buttery and salty, all in one delicious bite. You can find Urban Accents’ seasoning mix at Whole Foods, McGinnis Sisters or Market District.

  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
  • 2 medium white onions, sliced
  • 2-ounce package Urban Accents Harvest Maple Poultry & Turkey Glaze mix
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1 pound bacon

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saute pan set over medium heat. Add Brussels sprouts and onions, and saute until onions are cooked through and translucent.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, simmer seasoning mix with apple juice and remaining 2 tablespoons butter until it’s reduced by half, about 10 minutes.

Cut bacon into 1-inch chunks and cook to almost crisp. Drain on paper towels.

To assemble, thread one sprout, one onion slice and one bacon chunk onto skewers and brush generously with glaze. Finish under the broiler.

Serves 8.




Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Maple Icing/Gretchen McKay








Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

PG tested

Not a fan of pumpkin desserts? These taste almost like gingerbread.

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing pan
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • Maple Frosting (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped Heath bars, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush top of muffin pan with oil and line with 10 paper liners.

In medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and soda, spices and salt. In a larger bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin, sugars and 1/2 cup vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir to combine.

Scoop batter into prepared tins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely, spread cupcakes with frosting and sprinkle with chopped Heath bars.

Makes 10 cupcakes.

— “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust” by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter, Oct. 2012, $35)


Maple Frosting

PG tested

  • 6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream all ingredients except sugar on medium-low speed until very smooth. With mixer on low, slowly add confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.

Frosts 10 cupcakes.


Mini Pumpkin-Maple Tarts/Gretchen McKay

Mini Pumpkin-Maple Tarts with Toasted Pecan Streusel

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Don’t skimp on the streusel topping — it’s so good, you might be tempted to eat it with a spoon.

For filling
  • 1 cup pure pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch table salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For dough
  • 1 package (7 ounces) premade pie dough
For streusel
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans
  • 2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Make filling by putting pumpkin puree, maple syrup, cinnamon, spices and salt in bowl. Whisk until well blended and smooth. Add egg and vanilla and whisk until just blended.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease 24 mini-muffin cups. Unroll pie dough on a very lightly floured surface. Using a 3 1/2-inch cutter, cut out 24 rounds, reusing gathered scraps.

Working with 1 round at a time, use your finger to gently press the dough into a prepared muffin cup, making sure there are no air bubbles in the bottom and that the dough is pressed firmly and evenly up the side to within 1/4 inch of the top. Repeat with remaining dough rounds.

Evenly spoon filling into lined muffin cups. Bake until crusts are golden brown and centers jiggle slightly when the pan is nudged, 27 to 29 minutes.

While tarts are baking, make streusel topping. Put pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse until nuts are finely ground. (Any leftovers are delicious on ice cream!)

Move muffin tin to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Using a thin metal spatula or tip of a paring knife, remove tarts from pan and set on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Just before serving, sprinkle tarts with pecan streusel.

Makes 24 mini tarts.

— “Mini Treats & Hand-Held Sweets” by Abigail Johnson Dodge (Taunton, Sept. 2012, $22.95)



Thanksgiving Turkey Strudels/Gretchen McKay








Thanksgiving Turkey Strudels

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I made these flaky strudels with ground turkey, but I think they would be even better with minced roasted turkey breast. Next time I’ll also throw in a few dried cranberries.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/3 cup diced cooked green beans
  • 1/3 cup diced cooked carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups prepared stuffing (I used Stove Top Turkey Stuffing mix)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup homemade or jarred turkey gravy
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 15 sheets phyllo dough, defrosted
  • Seasoned salt for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Heat oil in a medium saute pan. Add turkey, and cook over medium-high heat until meat is no longer pink, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add vegetables and cook for 2 additional minutes. Fold in prepared stuffing, season with salt and pepper. Add gravy, stir and set aside.

Melt butter in a small sauce pan. Unfold 1 sheet of phyllo dough on a board with a long edge facing you. Brush the sheet generously with melted butter. Repeat process, laying phyllo and butter until you have 5 sheets piled up.

Spoon 1/3 of the turkey mixture on the edge of the long side of the phyllo and roll the dough tightly around the meat, making sure the roll is even and round. Place on sheet pan with seam side down. Repeat process until all the turkey is used. Brush the tops and sides with melted butter and sprinkle with seasoned salt.

With a small sharp knife, score strudels diagonally at 11/2-inch intervals and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until strudels are nicely browned. Slice along the scored lines and serve warm.

Serves 8 to 10.

— Adapted from “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust” by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter, Oct. 2012, $35)





A tiny bites Thanksgiving, Part 1

Turkey hand pies/Gretchen McKay


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 Turkey Day pre-dinner munchies, side dishes, starches and desserts. And that’s just the cooking part of the holiday.

Depending on your interests, Thanksgiving might also include an early morning footrace (Pittsburgh’s 22nd annual PNC YMCA Turkey Trot 5K starts at 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 22), a neighborhood turkey bowl, volunteering at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter, picking up a college student or adult child at the airport or Megabus drop-off stop, or a car trip across the city or state to visit friends or relatives. And don’t forget about the many football games on TV, and the time-consuming job of developing a plan for post-dinner Black Friday shopping.

By the time the turkey’s ready to be carved — well, who can blame you if you’re almost too tired to eat? Especially if the night before, you spent far too long at your local watering hole catching up with the people you went to high school with.

Maybe it’s time to come up with a different plan.

Instead of the traditional sit-down dinner with all the fancy trimmings, why not embrace one of the year’s hottest trends and prepare a feast of finger-friendly foods your family and invited guests can nosh on throughout the day, whenever the mood strikes?

Imagine: all the wonderful tastes of Thanksgiving served in bite-sized portions, without the need for a knife or fork. Turkey and stuffing. Potatoes and pastry. Green beans and bacon. Pumpkin and maple.

Even better, because all of the dishes offered below can be prepared ahead of time, there’s no need for the marathon cooking session. So instead of fretting over how to stir lumps out of the gravy while also mashing the potatoes while simultaneously carving the turkey and making sure there’s butter and cranberry sauce on the table, you can do the one thing you’ve always wanted to do at Thanksgiving dinner.

Relax and eat!


Turkey Hand Pies

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These grab-and-go hand pies are absolutely delicious, and the crust is easier than you might think, even for a cook with pastry issues. Feel free to substitute your favorite frozen mixed veggies. Just as good cold the next morning for breakfast as hot from the oven for lunch or dinner.

  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 to 2 cups cooked, shredded turkey breast
  • 1/3 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas
  • 1/3 cup chopped, cooked carrot
  • Salt and pepper
  • Flaky Butter Crust (recipe follows)

In a large frying pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter or oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add turkey breast, peas and carrots. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula, until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment.

Lightly flour a clean work surface. Remove half of dough from fridge, unwrap it and place on floured work surface, and flour the top lightly. Roll out dough into a rectangle that is roughly 9 by 12 inches. The dough should be about 1/2-inch thick.

Using a pastry wheel, trim off ragged edges. Then cut the dough into circles, squares or rectangles, as small or large as you like, saving the trimmings. Evenly divide half of the turkey filling on top of pastry circles, fold over and crimp the edges with a fork. (I made 8 rectangles.) Slash or prick each pie to vent steam.

Transfer pies to prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Repeat rolling, cutting, filling and crimping with the rest of the dough. Gather dough scraps from both halves, form into a ball and roll out to make more pastries.

When second baking sheet is ready, place first pan in oven and second in fridge. Place a baking rack over a sheet of parchment on your table or counter to catch sticky drips.

Bake pastries until they are golden brown on top (the sides will brown first), about 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and immediately (and carefully) move the pastries onto the baking rack, then slip the second baking sheet into the oven. Let pastries cool for at least 10 minutes before serving, but be sure to enjoy them warm.

Eat or freeze these pies the day they are made (can be frozen for up to 2 months). Reheat in a 375 degree oven for about 12 minutes.

Makes 10 to 12 hand pies.

— Adapted from “Handheld Pies” by Sarah Billingsley and Rachel Wharton (Chronicle, Jan. 2012, $19.95)


Garlic, Potato and Chive Cutie Pies

Garlic, Potato and Chive Cutie Pies/Gretchen McKay

PG tested

These bite-sized mashed potato pies will disappear almost as fast as you can pop them out of the muffin pan. For extra oomph, sprinkle with shredded Cheddar cheese before serving. Even better reheated the next day!

  • 4 to 5 medium redskin potatoes, chopped into 1-inch cubes
  • All-Butter Pie Crust (recipe follows)
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons fresh chopped chives (I used green onions), plus additional for garnish
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

To make filling, fill medium pot halfway with water and bring to a brisk boil. Add potatoes, cover and reduce heat to medium-high. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place rack in center of oven. Spray cups of muffin pan with nonstick pan spray.

Roll out All-Butter Pie Crust dough. Cut 36 circles (I used a 2 1/2-inch cutter) from the dough. Reroll scraps to make all the circles, and avoid overhandling the dough.

Gently but firmly press each circle into a muffin cup. Fold, tuck and crimp edges.

Drain potatoes. Mash in a food processor, electric mixer or by hand with a potato masher. Gradually add half-and-half and sour cream. Mix well.

Add chives, garlic, salt and pepper, and continue to mash until smooth.

Spoon the filling into the Cutie Pie shells to about the top of muffin cup.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until crust is golden and top starts to brown. If pie top is browning too quickly, cover with foil for final few minutes.

To serve, garnish with fresh chives.

Makes 36 Cutie Pies.

— “Cutie Pies: 40 Sweet, Savory and Adorable Recipes” by Dani Cone (Andrews McMeel, 2011, $16.99)


Green Beans in a Glass/Gretchen McKay












Green beans in a glass

PG tested

This sweet and buttery green bean recipe should even please the kids.

  • 1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup real bacon pieces

Cook beans in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, 6 to 8 minutes or until tender. Drain in a colander and immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. When beans are cool, drain in a colander and pat dry.

Melt butter. Add brown sugar and bacon pieces to butter and mix thoroughly. Toss beans in the brown sugar and butter mixture. Serve in tall shot glasses.

Serves 8.



Sweet Potato Latkes

Sweet Potato Latkes/Gretchen McKay

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These are a nice alternative to the usual mashed or cinnamon-scented sweet potato casserole served at Thanksgiving.

  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and coarsely grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup creme fraiche for garnish

Place sweet potato between 2 sheets of cheesecloth; grasp ends and twist to extract as much liquid as possible. (I used paper towels.)

In a large mixing bowl, toss drained sweet potatoes with green onions, shallot and garlic. Sprinkle flour over the mixture and fold to combine. Stir in egg until fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.

Warm oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Drop dollops of batter into the hot skillet and fry on each side for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain latkes on paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Top each latke with a small dollop of crème fraiche or serve it on the side as a dipping sauce. Serve warm.

Makes about 30 latkes.

— “Tiny Food Party!” Bite-size Recipes for Miniature Meals” by Teri Lyn Fisher & Jenny Park (Quirk, $18.95)


All-Butter Pie Crust

PG tested

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup ice water

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and sugar, and mix well.

Add butter to flour mixture and mix gently with pastry blender, a fork or your hands. The goal is to lightly incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients. The butter pieces should be well coated with the dry mixture and somewhat flattened.

Gradually add water to the flour mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue mixing dough until it comes together and forms pea-sized or crouton-sized crumbs. The dough should look like coarse individual pieces, not smooth and beaten together like cookie dough.

With your hands, gather dough crumbs together to form 2 patties, gently molding the mixture into a patty shape and being careful not to overhandle the dough. Wrap each patty in plastic wrap.

Chill dough for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days. The dough can also be frozen up to 2 weeks.

When ready to use dough, let it sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes to soften it and make it workable. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each of the 2 dough patties to about 1/4-inch thickness, lightly dusting it with flour, to prevent sticking, and making sure to roll the dough evenly.

Makes 1 double-crust 9-inch pie, 2 single-crust 9-inch pies, 16 cutie pies or 36 mini muffin pies.


Flaky Butter Crust

PG tested

  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 to 5 tablespoons ice water

Cut butter into 1/2-inch cubes, and freeze them while you measure and mix the dry ingredients.

Combine flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times to mix. Retrieve the butter cubes from freezer, scatter them over the flour mixture and pulse until mixture forms pea-sized clumps. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse to mix, adding just enough water for dough to come together. (You also can make the pastry by hand or by using a pastry blender.)

Turn dough out onto a clean, floured work surface. Gather dough in a mound, then knead it a few times to smooth out. Divide in half, and gently pat and press each half into a rough rectangle, circle or square about 1-inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap or parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.






On the road with the Steelers: Denver

Denver’s skyline at dusk.


When the Steelers kick off their season next Sunday against Denver, there won’t just be Broncos fans filling seats in Sports Authority Field at Mile High. They’ll also be littered with Pittsburgh fans, waving a sea of Terrible Towels.

Such is the power of Steelers Nation, among the most-traveled fan bases in the NFL.

Getting to Mile High in time for the kickoff at 8:20 p.m. is the easy part — it’s figuring out what to do with the rest of the weekend that may have fans scratching their heads. Below are suggestions for exploring Colorado’s largest city.


The ABCs

Located in the South Platte River Valley at the foot of the snow-peaked Rocky Mountains, Denver sits exactly one mile, or 5,280 feet, above sea level, earning its altitudinal nickname, the “Mile High City.” You’ll be breathing 15 percent less oxygen, so don’t be surprised if you feel a little lightheaded, especially if you’re drinking alcohol. It runs on Mountain Time, so set your watch back two hours. If you fly into Denver International Airport, there’s a $55.15 flat rate for the 25-minute taxi to the downtown area; the city also operates an airport express bus service called SkyRide. Info:

PG graphic: Steelers Nation, Denver
(Click image for larger version)

The lower downtown area (LoDo), where gold was first discovered in Colorado in the 1850s, is the hippest neighborhood in town, playing host to a bustling nightlife and restaurant scene (and the Rockies baseball team), along with chic shops and art galleries. Also worth exploring is the city’s oldest and most historic block, Larimer Square, and Five Points, sometimes referred to as the “Harlem of the West” for its jazz history. Its restaurants serve soul food, barbecue and Caribbean cuisine. Washington Park is known for its flower gardens (there’s an exact replica of Martha Washington’s garden at Mount Vernon). The Capitol Hill neighborhood, which centers on the gold-domed Capitol building, also offers lively bars and eateries.

To get from the metro area to Sports Authority Field, hop on the Federal or Market Street Shuttle, which operate every 3 to 5 minutes starting two hours before game time, until 10 minutes after kickoff. Fares and locations:

Sweet dreams

Two of the grandest hotels also are the city’s oldest. The five-story Oxford Hotel dates to 1891 (; 1-800-228-5838), while the Brown Palace Hotel, built in the Italian Renaissance style using Colorado red granite and Arizona sandstone, opened in 1892 (; 1-800-321-2599). Designed by the same architect, both are luxurious enough to have played host to presidents, famous actors and other celebrities. Amenities include beautifully appointed guest rooms, 24-hour room service and spa treatments. With its eight-story atrium and onyx lobby, the Brown is impressive enough that nonguests pony up $10 for a 75-minute guided tour (Wed. and Sat. at 3 p.m.).

Other good options include The Warwick (; 1-800-525-2888); Hotel VQ (; 1-800-388-5381), just steps from the stadium and with views of the Rockies; and the JW Marriott at Cherry Creek (; 1-866-706-7814), recognized on Conde Nast Travelers’ 2011 Gold List as one of the best places to stay in the world. For B&B fans, period choices are the Queen Anne Urban Bed & Breakfast Inn on Tremont Place ($145 and up) and the turreted Capitol Hill Mansion ($129 and up) just southeast of the State Capitol and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Rather spend your travel dollars on entertainment? There’s plenty for more modest budgets at chain hotels such as Ramada, Comfort Inn and Embassy Suites. For info, visit

Whetting your whistle

The first permanent structure in Denver was a saloon, so the city has a thriving beer scene. There are more than 70 craft breweries within a 90-mile radius of downtown, earning it the title “The Napa Valley of Beer.” You’ll find many of those brews on tap at local taverns such as Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen at 1317 14th St. on Larimer Square. Or, go directly to the source. The Wynkoop and Great Divide Brewing companies and Breckenridge Brewery all have brewpubs with full menus. Offered on weekends, the walking Denver Microbrew Tour ($25, gets you samplings at four breweries, beer trivia and a rundown of the city’s scandalous history.

The world’s biggest single-site brewery, Coors in nearby Golden, brews 22 million barrels a year and offers tours from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thurs.-Sat. and Mon. and noon-4 p.m. Sun. (

If cocktails are more your style, some of the city’s best martinis are served in the Cruise Room Bar off the main lobby of the Oxford Hotel. Fashioned after one of the lounges on the Queen Mary ocean liner, the Art Deco bar opened the day after Prohibition was repealed in 1933. At the Green Russell (, a Prohibition-style speakeasy at 1422 Larimer St., bartenders craft original cocktails with pressed-to-order juices and fresh herbs. For scratch margaritas, head to D’Corazon at 1530 Blake St. in LoDo. Strong and cheap, choices include a pomegranate version made with Oro Azul silver tequila and Chateau Pomari.

Smorgasbord of good eats

You can’t visit Denver and not sample the city’s signature green chile in stews, sauces and salsa. Some of the best, according to Denver Post restaurant critic William Porter, is dished up just a few blocks north of the stadium at Jack-n-Grill at 2524 N. Federal Boulevard, a mom-and-pop eatery serving New Mexican-style food. (Heavy on the chiles, no tomatoes.) This is where you’ll also find the 12-egg 7-pound smothered breakfast burrito ($20) featured on The Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food.” (Finish and you’ll get your picture taken.)

Other Mile High must-eats include the cream cheese- and jalapeno-topped Johnnyburger at My Brothers Bar at 2376 25th St.; the Mexican cuisine at LoLa in a hip neighborhood called LoHi; Chef Jennifer Jasinski’s Colorado Lamb Two Way at Rioja in Larimer Square; and just about anything on the menu at The Squeaky Bean at 1500 Wynkoop St., hailed as the best new restaurant in Denver.

For Old West fare including buffalo and other game, alligator or Rocky Mountain oysters (remember, they’re not seafood!), make reservations at Denver’s oldest restaurant, The Buckhorn Exchange. Just south of the art museum at 1000 Osage St., it has Western music every Saturday night.

For more elegant eats, consider high tea at the Brown Palace‘s luxurious lobby ($32, or $16 for kids 6 and under). Offered daily from noon to 4 p.m., it pairs more than a dozen teas with homemade scones served with Devonshire cream imported from England, finger sandwiches and other classic tea pastries. An additional $8 buys you chocolate truffles and a glass of champagne. Accompanying piano music is free.

Must-see Denver

A late kickoff means there’s plenty of time to explore the city’s other attractions. The Denver Art Museum ( is world famous for its American Indian art collection, while the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (2001 Colorado Blvd.; impresses with its collection of dinosaur bones and wildlife dioramas; a new exhibition called “A Day in Pompeii” includes hundreds of artifacts from the ancient Italian city. Both museums cost $12 adults, $10 seniors and $8 students.

You also can take a free tour of the United States Mint at 320 W. Colfax Ave., which pumps out 50 million “D”-stamped coins a day, but only Mon.-Fri. Reservations required ( For a panoramic view of Denver’s downtown and snowcapped peaks, climb the 99 steps to the dome of the State Capitol Building at 200 E. Colfax St. (closed on weekends). Step 13 on the west side is exactly 1 mile above sea level.

Love old houses? Denver’s historic house museums include that of “the unsinkable” Molly Brown, a suffragette who survived the sinking of the Titanic (1340 Pennsylvania Ave., Tues.-Sun., $10 adults/$8 seniors. For shopaholics, Larimer Square has a full block of speciality boutiques, including Cry Baby Ranch (1421 Larimer St.), where a pair of hand-stitched cowboy boots can easily set you back $500. Rockmount Ranch Wear in LoDo (1626 Wazee St., also merits a visit. Opened in 1946, the third-generation store popularized Western wear the world over — its fitted shirts with snap fasteners, which redefined how cowboys and ranchers living in the American West dressed, are in the Smithsonian.

The tree-lined 16th Street Mall is a mile-long promenade through the center of downtown, from the Civic Center to Union Station, with more than 300 stores, street performers and a free shuttle bus when your feet get tired. Ten minutes from downtown in Henderson is the Mile High Flea Market (; 1-303-289-4656), an open-air treasure trove with hundreds of stalls and delicious street food. It’s open Fri.-Sun. from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; entry is $3.

No game tickets? No worries

The best Steelers bar in town is The Rusty Bucket in Lakewood ( In addition to the game on 15 flat-screen TVs, it has Iron City on tap and pierogies and Primanti’s-style sandwiches on the menu.

On the road with the Steelers: Oakland, Calif.

Jack London Square, named for the author of “The Sea Wolf” and “The Call of the Wild,” is like a miniature Fisherman’s Wharf


When it comes to Northern California’s Bay Area, San Francisco understandably gets all the glory. While it’s one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, it is notoriously expensive.

So for fans who will be following the Steelers there for next Sunday’s matchup against the Oakland Raiders, we’re offering an alternative: the city of Oakland itself. And no, we’re not crazy.

We know this rough-and-tumble destination doesn’t have the best reputation. (Crime remains a problem, so you definitely need to be aware of your surroundings.) Recent redevelopment efforts, however, are putting the Bay Area’s third-largest city and busiest port on a serious upswing. Among the things you’ll find here are reclaimed squares and parks, a thriving arts scene and dozens of great bars and restaurants.

AWAY GAMES: Steelers Nation in Oakland, Calif.
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Oakland ranked the fifth-most desirable destination to visit this year in The New York Times’ story “The 45 Places to Go in 2012.”

“There’s a lot happening there these days,” says Michael Bauer, San Francisco Chronicle executive food and wine editor. “Kind of like Brooklyn.”

Below, we offer suggestions for exploring the city, including a few of Mr. Bauer’s top picks for Oakland’s bustling food scene.


Lay of the land

Oakland is located directly across the Bay from San Francisco, via the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. For those using public transportation, it’s a relatively painless commute from San Francisco International Airport through one of the longest underwater transit tunnels in the world. Bay Area Rapid Transport, or BART, costs $8.50 one way and takes about a half-hour. (Exit at the 12th Street station for downtown Oakland.) It’s just as easy from Oakland International Airport, where the AirBART shuttle bus runs to the Coliseum/Oakland Airport station every 10 minutes ($3). For a schedule or info on stations, go to

Throughout the city, visitors will find references to American writer Jack London, whose novels such as “The Sea Wolf” likely were inspired by his time spent as a boy along Oakland’s waterfront. You’ll find a life-sized bronze statue of the author at the foot of Broadway at what is now Jack London Square ( The square is a mini Fisherman’s Wharf, with picturesque piers, innovative dining, one-of-a-kind shops and a bustling farmers market on Sundays. The square’s management also offers Jack London walking tours (1-510-645-9292).

Other neighborhoods worth a visit include Downtown Oakland’s Uptown District, home to the magnificent Art Deco Paramount Theatre. (Tours are given on the first and third Saturday at 10 a.m. for $1.) The Piedmont Avenue business district runs between MacArthur Boulevard and Pleasant Valley Avenue, and boasts locally owned shops and eateries, including Fentons Creamery, founded in 1894 and featured in the 2009 movie “Up.” For pricier shopping, head to Manila and College avenues in RockridgeThe world-famous Oakland Museum of California is just off Lake Merritt, a large tidal lagoon located east of Downtown. Now a place to rent boats, it was the first wildlife refuge in the United States.

A good night’s sleep

Mid-priced hotels that won’t disappoint include the recently renovated (rooms are allergy-friendly) and centrally located Oakland Marriott City Center, which offers views of San Francisco Bay ($149 and up; 1-510-451-4000 or The nautically themed Waterfront Hotel is directly on the water, just steps from Jack London Square ($139 and up,; 1-888-842-5333). More grand is the sprawling Mediterranean Claremont Hotel in nearby Berkeley Hills, a landmark that dates to 1915. Each of its 279 rooms is completely different, and its on-site spa is named among the 10 best in the country. Rates start at $245 for a non-Bay view (; 1-800-551-7266).

The city also has more modest chain hotels/motels and several bed-and-breakfasts. Info:

Play time

Kickoff at Coliseum and Oracle Arena isn’t until 4:25 p.m. Sunday, and the time change from the East Coast gives you an additional three hours. So even if you sleep late, there’s plenty of time to squeeze in a few nonfootball activities. Love the water? Take a cruise of San Francisco Bay while learning about its history on the Bay Voyager, a Navy Seals-type large passenger rigid inflatable boat. The boat leaves from Jack London Square; prices start at $75 per person (, 1-510-542-4200). More active types can rent a sailboat, pedal or rowboat or kayak ($10/hour and up; at the Lake Merritt Boating Center on Lake Merritt, inside Lakeside Park. (Sailboats rented to experienced sailors only). Better still is a Venetian gondola ride with Gondola Servizio, which cruises from its home at the historic boathouse at 1520 Lakeside Drive on Lake Merritt (, 1-510-663-6603). Both day and evening tours are available; prices start at $40/couple for a private 30-minute tour or $100 for a 50-minute tour in a gondola with a felze, or cabin.

For strollers, the city offers free 90-minute walking tours through various Oakland neighborhoods, including old Oakland and Chinatown (; the Grand Lake Oakland Farmers Market is open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday across from the Grand Lake Theater. Oakland also is home to the Oakland Museum of California (1000 Oak St., 1-510-318-8400) and its collection of 1.8 million items representing the state’s history, natural resources and creative output. Admission: $12 or $9 for seniors; Among the city’s many cutting-edge art galleries is Johansson Projects at 2300 Telegraph Ave., which has a moss-covered ceiling (, 1-510-444-9140).

History buffs will enjoy a dockside tour of the USS Potomac, a 165-foot-long Coast Guard cutter moored at Jack London Square that served as FDR’s “floating White House” from 1936 to 1945. Tours are Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and cost $10 or $9 for seniors (, 1-510-627-1215). Pardee Home Museum at 672 11th St., a national historic landmark, is one of the loveliest intact Italianate villa estates remaining in Northern California. $5, or $15 with light tea ( or 1-510-444-2187).

Edible Oakland

No matter what your budget, you don’t go hungry in this city. On the top of many critics’ list is Commis, an upscale eatery serving high-concept, seasonal cuisine (3859 Piedmont Ave., 1-510-653-3902). Adesso (4395 Piedmont Ave.) serves 40 kinds of housemade salumi and “all of them are exceptional,” according to food critic Mr. Bauer; its sister restaurant Dopo (4293 Piedmont Ave.) offers top-notch Italian. Oakland Magazine restaurant critic Derk Richardson calls dining at Camino, where diners sit at rustic communal tables and everything on the menu is cooked in the fireplace, “a religious experience” (3917 Grand Ave., 1-510-547-5035). For exquisite small plates, both French and Italian, try A Cote in the Rockridge district (, 1-510-655-6469). Boot and Shoe Service (3308 Grand Ave., 1-510-763-2668) is known for its wood-fired pizzas.

Places to experience the craft beer scene include Linden Street Brewery (95 Linden St. in the Port of Oakland), Pacific Coast Brewing Co. (906 Washington St.) and The Trappist (460 Eighth St.), located in an 1870s building. The oldest bar in Oakland is Heinolds’ First & Last Chance Saloon in Jack London Square (48 Webster St.,; 1-510-839-6761). Built in 1883 from the remains of an old whaling vessel, it still uses its original gaslights in the bar. London was said to have made notes for future books at Heinold’s. For happy hour on the water, stop by Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill in Lake Merritt (1520 Lakeside Drive, 1-510-208-5253). It has a crawfish boil every Friday.

For a soul food brunch, consider Brown Sugar Cafe (2534 Mandela Parkway, 1-510-839-7685) — chef Tanya Holland makes a mean fried chicken and cornmeal waffle. Speaking of fried chicken, the line stretches out the door for a sandwich version, served with jalapeno slaw on a torpedo roll, at Bakesale Betty (5098 Telegraph Ave.). Handy with chopsticks? Head to Oakland’s Chinatown(11th and Broadway) for a Cantonese-style dim sum lunch at Restaurant Peony (388 Ninth St.). To sample the Bay Area’s food truck scene (tacos, BBQ, noodles, small-batch brews and wines), check out this weekend’s Eat Real Festival at Jack London Square (

For late-night eats in San Francisco, you can’t miss with the delicious Mexican fare at Taqueria Cancun at 2288 Mission St. — SF Weekly says it has the city’s best burritos. Open until 2 a.m. Saturday, closed Sunday, cash only. Fiveten Burger is an Oakland-based food truck selling artisan burgers and sandwiches (

Love dessert? Feed your cravings at Scream Sorbet at 5030 Telegraph Ave. in the Temescal neighborhood. Or, grab a cone or sundae at Fentons Creamery, noted above, which is at 4226 Piedmont Ave.

Pittsburgh on the Pacific

Giordano Bros. at 303 Columbus Ave. in San Francisco’s hip North Beach neighborhood is the West Coast headquarters for Black-and-Gold fans ( Yinz will have to make do with local brews instead of Iron City, but there is kielbasa and “all-in-one” Primanti-style sandwiches on the menu. Owners Jeff and Allison Jordan are from Pittsburgh.

More information: or 1-510-839-9000.

On the road with the Steelers: Cincinnati

Cincinnati was once known as Porkopolis, for the many pigs raised there.


CINCINNATI — This Ohio city is famous for many things, not the least its long and illustrative brewing history — waves of lager-loving Germans settled here in the mid-1800s, and by 1890, the city was the third-largest beer producer in the country — and the cinnamon-spiked chili served any of five ways that wears its name. But who knew a city that once claimed the nickname “Porkopolis” for the many hogs raised and processed there in the early 19th century could also have such beautiful architecture?

The town heralded as the “Queen City of the West” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also won the admiration of Winston Churchill, who called Cincinnati “the most beautiful inland city in America.”

Nestled on the banks of the Ohio River, with all the amenities of a major metropolis wrapped in an envelope of small-town charm, Cincinnati is a fun — and walkable — place to spend a fall weekend. Home to several museums, great restaurants and an evolving riverfront, it’s got a little something for everyone. No wonder Lonely Planet named it one of its Top 10 Travel Destinations for 2012.

PG graphic: Cincinnati attractions
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Cincinnati’s metro area spans parts of Northern Kentucky as well as parts of Southern Ohio, so as in Pittsburgh, you’ll have to cross bridges if you want to see it all. The most famous is the Suspension Bridge, which when it was opened to traffic in 1866 was the longest suspension bridge in the world (it spans 1,057 feet). It was designed by John Roebling, who also did the Smithfield Street Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Getting there

Located on the north bank of the Ohio River, Cincinnati is about a 290-mile five-hour drive from Pittsburgh (follow Interstate 70W to Columbus, then Interstate 71S to Cincinnati). You also can fly into Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport on US Airways, Delta and United airlines; fares start at about $350 round-trip. The fastest and cheapest way to get from the airport to downtown is aboard the 2X “Airporter” bus ( Just $2 each way, it runs daily from 5 a.m. to midnight. A shuttle via Executive Transportation (; 1-800-990-8841) costs $22 per person, or $32 round-trip.

Pillow talk

Cincinnati’s premier digs for out-of-towners is the four-star Cincinnatian Hotel at 601 Vine St. (; 1-800-942-9000). Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 1882 Second Empire “grand” hotel features a gorgeous marble lobby that speaks to the city’s Gilded Age and luxurious guestrooms. Rates start at about $235 for a queen room. The Art Deco Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza at 35 West Fifth St. (; 1-513-421-9100), which opened in 1931, is equally glamorous. Graced with two-story ceiling murals and rare Brazilian rosewood paneling, it’s a National Historic Landmark. Rooms start at $157 on weekends.

Another downtown hotel sure to pamper is the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati at 151 W. Fifth St. (; 1-512-579-1234; $139 and up), where you can swim in a heated glass-enclosed pool. Just across the historic Roebling suspension bridge, in Covington, Ky., is the Cincinnati Marriott at RiverCenter (; 1-859-261-2900; $159 and up), the Radisson Cincinnati Riverfront (; 1-800-395-7046; $129 and up) and Embassy Suites Cincinnati-RiverCenter ($129 and up), which offers complimentary drinks each evening in its atrium and a made-to-order breakfast. Other options include moderately priced chain hotels/motels and B&Bs such as the picturesque Clifton House, a classic Revival home in the “Gaslight Clifton” neighborhood (; 1-513-221-7600). Built in 1900 by a wealthy financier, it has six antiques-furnished rooms starting at $145.

Eat, drink

There’s no shortage of great places to eat and drink in the Queen City. Its most famous dish, and one you can’t leave without trying, is Cincinnati chili, served in a bowl on top of spaghetti with shredded cheddar cheese (3-way), cheese and diced onions (4-way) or cheese, onions and red beans (5-way). While the recipe was developed in 1922 by Empress Chili, one of the biggest chains dishing up the dish today, with three locations downtown and dozens more in greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, is Skyline ChiliGold Star is the other major chain. At either, be prepared for a bellyache.

If you’d rather carbo-load like the ’50s, there’s no better seat than at the lunch counter at Hathaway’s Coffee Shop (441 Vine St.). Located in the first floor of the Art Deco Carew Tower (the second tallest building in the city), it features servers in classic waitress uniforms and classic food such as milkshakes, tuna melts and beef BBQ. At breakfast, try the local delicacy known as goetta — a grainy sausage made from ground pork and steel-cut oats.

For brunch, consider A Taste of Belgium (1135 Vine St.), a funky cafe serving sweet and savory crepes, baguette sandwiches and Belgium-style entrees such as boulets Liégeois; it’s also open for dinner. For fine dining, head to Orchids at Palm Court in the Hilton — it’s downtown’s most lavish, and highly rated, restaurant. Also high on critics’ lists isThe Palace at the Cincinnatian. In 2011, executive chef Jose Salazar was voted People’s Best New Chef: Great Lakes in Food & Wine magazine for his ability to “reinterpret humble ingredients in brilliant ways.” At Local 127 (413 Vine St.) , the focus is on locally sourced food. Senate (1212 Vine St.), named one of the top 10 restaurants for 2012 by Cincinnati Magazine, marries gourmet street food (crispy pig tails, tricked-out hotdogs) with craft beers and modern cocktails.

Feeling more laid back? Lavomatic (1211 Vine St.) is a wine bar/restaurant housed in a former laundromat. A Tavola (1220 Vine) serves up wood-fired artisan pizzas and fancy cocktails. Tom + Chee (420 Walnut St., plus two other locations) claims to serve the world’s “most creative selections of grilled cheese.”

Alas, the 2012 season for OTR Brewery District tours is over (, but of course you still can celebrate the city’s brewing history at several local microbreweries and pubs. Our favorite was the new Moerlein Lager House at Main Street and Mehring Way, next to Cincy’s Great American Ball Park. With dozens of craft beers on tap, including seven Moerlein varieties, and countless bottles, you won’t go away thirsty. It’s rumored to be one of the largest brewpubs in the world — big enough to offers tours ($10) at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The riverfront view ain’t bad, either.

Also hoppin’ is Cock & Bull Public House (601 Main St., Covington), the Brew House in Cincinnati’s historic Eden Park district (1047 East McMillan St.), Rockbottom Brewery in the heart of Fountain Square and Hofbrauhaus Newport (at the Levee), modeled after the famous beer garden of the same name in Munich.

Play time

Kickoff isn’t until 8:20 p.m. next Sunday, so get out there and explore. Much of the action centers around recently renovated Fountain Square, a public gathering space at the corner of Fifth and Vine streets. On game days, it’s home to a giant tailgate with live music, adult beverages and a big screen TV. Just north of downtown is the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood ( The center of life for the many Germans who settled here in the early 19th century, it’s one of the largest historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and dotted with funky shops, galleries and restaurants.

Foodies will appreciate Findlay Market on Elder Street between Elm and Race ( The only surviving municipal market house out of nine operating in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it offers a great variety of fresh foods, most of them local. It was built in 1852.

There’s also more cerebral attractions. At the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal (1301 Western Ave.,, you can take a walk through the city’s history, explore a replica of a limestone cave or gaze at dinosaurs; an all-museum pass coast $12.50 adults/$11.50 seniors. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (50 East Freedom Way,; $12 adults/$10 seniors and students) traces 500 years of oppression, including the slavery that exists today in various parts of the world. The city also boasts three art museums: The Taft Museum of Art (316 Pike St., free on Sundays), which is in an 1820 villa considered one of the finest examples of Federal architecture in the Palladian style in the country; the modern art-filled Contemporary Arts Center (44 E. Sixth St., $7.50 adults/$6.50 seniors); and The Cincinnati Art Museum (953 Eden Park Drive, free), one of the oldest museums in the country and home to an unrivaled collection of more than 60,000 pieces that measure over the past 6,000 years. You also can tour the childhood home where “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” author Harriet Beecher Stowe began her writing career (2950 Gilbert Ave.;

For walkers, the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati ( offers walking tours of specific neighborhoods ($10 adults). So does art historian Kathy Stockman, whose “Cincinnati Art Snob” tours explore the city through the lens of art (; prices vary). You also can see the sights via Segway; Segway of Cincinnati has three tour routes (, $60).

For non-walkers, several companies offer horse-drawn carriage rides around downtown and beyond on Friday and Saturday evenings, with prices starting at $35/half hour ( You also can view the city skyline by riverboat. BB Riverboats’ fleet of white riverboats board at Newport Landing Dock, across the Ohio in Newport, Ky. (; prices start at $18/adults).

After the sun goes down

One of the hottest nightclubs in Cincinnati is Lunar, a 10,000-square-foot, two-story entertainment complex with several bars, dance floor and sound-proof cell phone booths (435 Elm St.). You can order your drinks by cell. For lots of choices in one spot, head to Newport on the Levee, an entertainment complex on the Newport, Ky., waterfront. Below Zero Lounge (1122 Walnut St.), famous for its martinis, has a DJ every Saturday night. Or, jazz it up at the historic Blue Whisp Jazz Club (700 Race St.). It offers live music seven days a week.

Here we go

The official Steelers bar is Martino’s on Vine (2618 Vine St.), two blocks east of the University of Cincinnati in Uptown. They’ve got Pittsburgh-style wings on the menu, as well as 31 televisions on which to watch the Steelers kick some major Cincinnati Bengals butt.

More information

Download a free downtown guide (or iPhone app) at Other guides can be found at (1-800-543-2613) or (1-877-659-8474).


On the road with the Steelers: New York

A spectacular view of Central Park from the Mandarin Hotel in New York City.


The Steelers don’t take on the New York Giants until late afternoon next Sunday. Theoretically, then, you could jump in your car at the crack of dawn on game day and get to MetLife Stadium with plenty of time to tailgate before kickoff at 4:25 p.m. But that’s missing the point.

One of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, if not the world, the Big Apple is the epicenter of, well, just about everything. Whether you’re a fan of theater or fashion, addicted to shopping (window and otherwise), a lover of art and culture, or simply hungry for a really great meal, New York’s got it all. So why not make a weekend of it?

Fall is the perfect time to visit this city of 8 million, the most populous, culturally diverse and bustling in the U.S. (a third of its inhabitants are foreign born). Just remember to wear comfortable shoes because once you hit its busy streets you’re going to want to explore.

Getting there

Seems strange, but the New York Giants don’t actually play their games in New York; MetLife Stadium is about eight miles west of the city in East Rutherford, N.J. It’s an easy seven-hour highway drive from Pittsburgh (Route 28N to Interstate 80E), but if you’d rather fly, the New York City area is served by three airports: Newark Liberty International (EWR) in Newark, or LaGuardia (LGA) and John F. Kennedy International (JFK) airports in New York. With advance planning, round-trip fares can be as low as $130; a taxi from JFK to anywhere in Manhattan costs $52.

On NFL game days, special NJ Transit service operates between Hoboken Terminal and the Meadowlands Sport Complex Station (trains run every 10 minutes, and a round-trip ticket costs $5.75). You also can connect with NJ Transit trains at New York City’s Penn Station (take the train to Secaucus Station, then use your ticket to transfer via the escalators to the Meadowlands Service). The round-trip fare from Secaucus is $4.50, and the trip takes about 10 minutes. For a schedule, visit

The primary means for getting around the city itself is by foot. Laid out on a grid, with wide sidewalks, New York is extremely walkable. It also has an easy-to-navigate 24/7 subway system that carries some 4.5 million people a day. (A SingleRide subway fare is $2.50; a seven-day MetroCard, which buys seven days’ worth of unlimited subway and bus rides, costs $29.) For a printable map or more info, go to Cabs also are plentiful, but fares quickly add up: after a base fare of $2.50, it’s 50 cents for every one-fifth mile or 60 seconds in stopped or slow-moving traffic (or for waiting time), and passengers also pay bridge and tunnel tolls — and are expected to tip.

Room with a view

So where should you stay? If you’re looking to save money or avoid a long game day commute, the answer is New Jersey. There are many reasonably priced hotels/motels in the Meadowlands area near the stadium, including The Hampton Inn-Carlstadt at the Meadowlands ( and Residence Inn East Rutherford Meadowlands (, both within walking distance and offer free parking. (Hampton Inn throws in a free breakfast.) Other inexpensive chains include Holiday Inn, Sheraton, Econolodge and Fairfield Inn.

If you’d rather overnight in one of Manhattan’s 90,000-plus hotel rooms — and who could blame you? — you don’t have to take out a second mortgage so long as you steer clear of the big name, ultra-lux digs in the heart of the city. (Although if you want to spend the money, it’s easy to find discounted rooms on websites such as Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz.) One reasonably priced hotel recommended by, the city’s official marketing and tourism organization, is Yotel (, a high-tech hotel two blocks west of Times Square. It features sleeping “cabins” with handmade organic mattresses, and rates starting at $229/night.

PG graphic: Steelers Nation in N.Y.
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The rooms are equally slick (and tiny) at the concept Pod Hotel (; two locations at 230 E. 51st St. and 145 E. 39th St.). No two rooms are alike, but all have en suite bathrooms with frosted glass doors, modular furniture, free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs. They average $229/night and range in size from a mini-bunk (with bunk beds) to rooms with two double beds. It’s cheaper still at The Bowery House in New York’s trendy Nolita neighborhood (220 Bowery, Built in 1927 as the Prince Hotel, it was reconfigured in the 1940s into single rooms just large enough for a bed to house soldiers returning home from World War II. All the bathrooms are shared, but what you give up in privacy you make up in price: rates average $89 a night. It’s especially good for groups: the Museum Bunk accommodates eight people with four twin bunks, while the Bowery Bunk can sleep 12.

Other hotels recommended by friends who live in or travel frequently to Manhattan include the Holiday Inn Midtown at 440 W. 57th Street, the Best Western Seaport Inn in the heart of the South Street Seaport (, the Skyline Hotel at 725 10th Ave., ( and any of the Apple Core Hotels (there’s five of them, If you prefer more sophisticated boutique hotels, The GEM Hotel ( has three locations: in Chelsea, Midtown West and SoHo.

Bust a gut

There are more than 24,000 restaurants in Manhattan alone, offering everything from haute cuisine to tapas to hole-in-the-wall bar food. Where to start? Personally, I think no visit is complete without sampling at least one all-beef hotdog at Gray’s Papaya (2090 Broadway on the Upper West Side, or 402 Sixth Ave. in Greenwich Village). Two dogs and a drink: just $4.45. For more substantial, casual fare, you can’t beat Five Napkin Burger (three locations) or Vynl in Hell’s Kitchen (754 Ninth Ave.), where the menu includes such divergent delights as Kung Pao Shrimp Tacos and Little Madam Hams, an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich topped with ham and sunny-side up quail eggs. For a true Chinatown experience, head to Big Wong King for a steaming bowl of congee or plate of glistening pork ribs (67 Mott St.). In neighboring Little Italy, the nod goes to Angelo of Mulberry Street (146 Mulberry St.).

For a hometown homage, go to Rye House (11 W. 17th St). Owned by Pittsburgh native Michael Jannetta, it serves a sandwich called “Pittsburgh”: grilled Andouille sausage, provolone — and slaw and fries.

Other friend-recommended restaurants include Live Bait, a Cajun eatery in the Flatiron district (14 E. 23rd St.), Shake Shack, a small chain serving fresh-ground burgers, flat-top dogs and fries that got its start from a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park (five locations) and Chimichurri Grill, a cozy Argentinean steakhouse in Hell’s Kitchen (606 Ninth Ave.) My brother-in-law swears by the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station, where a dozen Wellfleet oysters and a martini are “like heaven … assuming heaven serves booze and oysters.”

For authentic wood-fired Neapolitan pizza, consider Keste Pizza & Vino in the West Village (271 Bleeker St.) or Don Antonio by Starita in Midtown (309 W. 50th St.), which in February earned the title “Best Pizza in New York” from New York magazine. Before moving to NYC, Chef Roberto Caporuscio made his famous pies at Regina Margherita pizzerias in Bellevue and Lawrenceville.

More elegant and expensive options include Becco (355 W. 46th St.), a popular Italian eatery owned by Lidia Bastianich and her son, Joe; Red Rooster, Marcus Samuelsson’s stylish Harlem brasserie (310 Lenox Ave.); Junoon, an upscale Indian restaurant reflecting the diversity of India in the Flatiron district (27 W. 24th St.; $35 prix fixe brunch on Saturday and Sunday); Nobu for Japanese (105 Hudson St.); the Sea Grill at Rockefeller Center, which looks out on the skating rink; and Tertulia, a Spanish taverna serving tapas in the West Village (359 Sixth Ave.) … the list goes on and on. For more suggestions, visit

New York also has an amazing food truck scene; find a guide at or Or enjoy a strolling curbside lunch with Turnstile Tours. Its food cart tour includes six stops and costs $48 (

Sights and attractions

The most popular attractions almost need no introduction: bustling, shiny Times Square, where the lights never dim and the Toys R Us store boasts an indoor Ferris wheel; Central Park, home to a zoo; the Empire State Building observation deck, the Statue of Liberty, which reopens its crown to the public today following a lengthy renovation; the9/11 Memorial in Lower Manhattan (reserve a free visitors pass at; and Rockefeller Center, which is already open for ice skating.

This also is a museum-lovers town, with dozens of art and other museums. The largest museum of its kind in the world, the Upper West Side’s American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West at W. 79th St., $19 suggested donation) has 45 exhibition halls with more than 30 million artifacts — big enough to comprise four city blocks. TheMetropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Ave., $25 suggested donation), conversely, includes more than 2 million works of art representing 5,000 years of history. Adore your Van Goghs and Warhols but also love a bargain? On Friday, admission to the Museum of Modern Art (11 W. 53rd St.) is free 4-8 p.m.; at the Whitney Museum of American Art, it’s “pay what you will” from 6 to 9 p.m. More offbeat, and controversial, is the Museum of Sex (233 Fifth Ave.), the nation’s first museum dedicated to the preservation and presentation of human sexuality. (Adults only.)

Less cerebral pursuits include the Harry Potter exhibit at Times Square ($25 adults, $19.50 kids), the Saturday market at Union Square (through Nov. 17), Chelsea Market, an arcade of food stores and restaurants at 75 Ninth Ave. For an off-your-feet tour of the city, consider a Gray Line double-decker bus tour (; $49 and up) or a Circle Line harbour cruise (, $27 and up). A ride on the Roosevelt Island Tram (49th St. and Second Ave.) costs just $2.25 each way and treats passengers to spectacular views down the East River of the East Side skyline and on a clear day, all the way to Lady Liberty. The High Line, an elevated railway-turned urban park along the west side, is a delightful garden oasis above the street bustle with great views on the Hudson River (access at nine points from Gansevoort Street to 30th Street; see

Give my regards to Broadway

The must-see “Book of Mormon” has been sold out for months. So Post-Gazette theater critic Sharon Eberson suggests the also-popular “Newsies,” “Peter and the Starcatcher” or “Grace.” If you don’t mind standing in line, the TKTS ticket booth at Times Square offers tickets to Broadway and Off Broadway musicals and plays at up to 50 percent off for both matinee and evening shows on performance days, beginning at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. There’s also a booth at South Street Seaport. Info: For current shows, go to

Yep, there’s an app for that

With so many people, and so much to see and do, New York can easily overwhelm. Thank goodness, then, for smartphones. Some of the best apps for navigating the city include NYC Map, which provides directions to nearly 90,000 of the city’s restaurants, stores, attractions, hotels and bars; CabSense NYC, which uses your current location to find the best street corners near you to hail an open cab; iTrans NYC Subway, a subway guide; and ILoveNYTheater, which allows you to browse current and future Broadway productions. Explore 911 offers a walking tour of the area around the World Trade Center; NYC Museum Guide catalogs hours and locations. For dining, there’s Eat Street (menus and locations), New York BlackBook (hot restaurants, bars and nightlife), New York on Tap (bars) and (a guide to food trucks). Many can be downloaded for free; visit

Steelers country

In a city this big, there’s more than one bar in which to watch the Steelers. The best, say friends who live there, are Hurley’s Saloon in the theater district (232 W. 48th St.) and the boisterous Hibernia Bar in Hell’s Kitchen (401 W. 50th), where the “Steelers Polka” blasts before kickoff and an Iron City costs $4. The Irish Exit (978 Second Ave.) is a pretty good place to pump an Iron, too, along with pierogies and 50 cent wings.

More info

For free maps, guides and brochures, visit


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

Tailgating before Steelers’ home games at Heinz Field is a Pittsburgh tradition. Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette


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 the Steelers for The Pittsburgh Press before becoming assistant manager of Kennywood Park in 1956.

But even good friends are a little surprised at just how far she and husband, Jim, go in the days and hours leading up to a home game at Heinz Field.

A rousing tailgate isn’t just a tradition for the East End couple. It’s practically a religion, and not just because most of their parking lot-parties unfold early on Sunday morning, when the faithful of another kind are settling into pews at church.

Long before the gates to Gold A swing open at 8 a.m., the Cauleys are preparing for the pre-game celebration, which for the last few years has drawn more than 100 friends, family and business associates. Up at 4:45 a.m. to put food in the oven, the couple is on the road with a packed car by 7:15. To dawdle, says Mrs. Cauley, would be a rookie mistake.

“I know, we’re nuts,” she says, laughing. “But it’s first-come, first-served.”

In this town, they’ve got plenty of equally crazy company. Pittsburgh prides itself on being the Tailgate Capital of the World. Rain or shine, blistering heat or blustering snow, each of the stadium’s 22 neighboring lots is packed during home games with thousands of fans. They bring with them an amazing display of pre-game munchies.

Even before many of us have had our morning coffee, the intoxicating aroma of kielbasa, pierogies, wings and burgers on the hibachi fills the air. More than a few fans lay out elaborate tablecloth buffets, complete with fancy cocktails and gourmet eats. On one recent Sunday, Rocco Ferrante, a Mount Washington native who now lives in Princeton, N.J., could be found deep-frying, right on the pavement, not just a turkey, but also a duck.

And don’t forget dessert. Brownies, cakes, pies, bowls of candy and assorted cookies.

“Pittsburgh’s the best because it’s such an ethnic town,” says Mrs. Cauley. “All those family traditions are tied to the tailgate.”

She admits throwing such a big party takes lots of preparation. Wednesday finds her shopping for paper products. On Thursday, the marathon cooking sessions begin, starting with sauce that will serve as the base for her husband’s “signature” hot sausage sandwiches. They’ll make enough to fill six trays.

“The secret is to grill it,” says Mr. Cauley, who when he isn’t cooking is a sales executive at Ceiling Systems Distributors, a construction supply company.

His wife’s specialty, meanwhile, is another Pittsburgh classic: sweet banana peppers stuffed with a spicy mixture of sausage, cheese and bread crumbs, and then baked in red sauce.

“They’re homegrown,” she says of the long yellow peppers, proudly holding up a box of the veggies she brought to a recent tailgate for all to see.

Before last Sunday’s game against Washington, the menu — determined each week by the weather, and emailed to invited guests along with parking directions — also included fried chicken, honey-baked ham, meatball hoagies, two kinds of potatoes and several desserts. Helping to wash it down were pineapple vodka martinis.

There also was plenty of variety at Louis Lipps’ tailgate along Art Rooney Avenue. Once a year, aided by friends, the former Steelers wide receiver cooks up a storm to raise money for the Flight 93 Memorial Fund. It’s a Southern delight, offering invited guests everything from fried catfish to seafood etouffe to Cajun beef stew to gumbo and jambalaya . . . or as he puts it, “something you can’t get up here.

“I know Pittsburgh made me famous,” he adds, “but I’m New Orleans born and bred.”

Rob Castille’s tailgate for about 20 friends was a bit more traditional, serving up real-deal pierogies sauteed in butter and onions, big bowls of Buffalo chicken dip and hot wings. Though the Greensburg native did have one thing on the menu you might not find elsewhere: drunken gummy bears.

“They’re soaked in vodka, and they’re delicious!” his friend Renee Heininger of Fox Chapel declared. “What else could you ask for?”


Stuffed banana peppers

This recipe can be prepared ahead of time, and kept in the freezer.

  • 20 banana peppers
  • 2 pounds sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 1/2 cups Romano cheese
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 to 2 24-ounce jars Classico Italian Sausage and Pepper sauce
  • 8-ounce package Kraft shredded Italian Five Cheese

Cut off top of the banana pepper. Slice one side of pepper lengthways. Clean out seeds, rinse pepper, turn upside down on paper towel to dry. Repeat with remaining peppers.

In a large bowl, mix ingredients through salt and pepper.

Pour Classico Sauce to cover bottom of 10-by-12 inch chafing dish pan.

Gently part sliced pepper and generously fill with combined ingredients. Place pepper in chafing dish. Repeat with remaining peppers. There will be 2 layers when complete.

Cover top of peppers with sauce and sprinkle with 8 ounces of Italian Five Cheese.

Bake for 1 hour in a preheated 350-degree oven.

Serves 6 to 8.

— Lynn Cauley, Park Place


Signature Hot Sausage

48 hot sausages (Costco and/or Sam’s)

  • 2 24-ounce jars Classico Italian Sausage and Peppers sauce
  • 2 24-ounce jars Classico Spicy Tomato and Basil sauce
  • 3 large green peppers
  • 3 large onions (yellow or Spanish)
  • 4 large-sized banana peppers
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
  • Seasoned salt
  • 2 8-ounce packages fresh sliced white mushrooms
  • 36 Breadworks sausage rolls (some prefer no bun)

Grill sausage for 10 minutes on each side under medium flame/temperature. Remove from grill pad, then dry with paper towel to remove excess grease. Place in 2 chafing dish-size aluminum pans.

Add 1 jar of each Classico sauce into the pans with the hot sausage.

Cut green peppers into 21/2-inch long strips (3/4 inch wide). Cut banana peppers into 1-inch circles down the length of the pepper. Cut the onions in half and then into 1-inch sections.

Combine the peppers and onions in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the 1 stick of butter and cook for 12 minutes. Season to taste with seasoned salt. Drain excess butter from skillet and evenly divide and spread the onions and peppers onto the 2 pans of hot sausage.

Cover and bake the hot sausage pans in a 325-degree oven for 1 hour. Remove the cover and put one package of mushrooms in each pan. Cover again and place the hot sausage pans back into the oven for an additional 25 minutes at 275 degrees. When sausage is done baking, slice rolls, and enjoy a signature hot sausage sandwich — it’s the best sausage sandwich in Pittsburgh.

Serves a crowd.

— Jim Cauley, Park Place