Date Night Dinner on the farm with Churchview Farms and @CrestedDuck

Date Night Dinner on the farm with Churchview Farms and @CrestedDuck

One of my “to do’s” on my 32 before 32 was to attend a farm dinner. Unlike so many other things on that list that I’ve utterly failed to tick off, I have actually made it to two farm dinners this year. You can click on this link to read about the first one at Blackberry Meadows Farm. For a second one, we went on a double-date outing with some foodie friends to Churchview Farm.

Although I spent several years as a vegetarian, I fell off that bandwagon while pregnant with Baby Beez (craving hotdogs, 24-7), and now I’ve turned into quite the charcuterie snob. When I saw that Crested Duck Charcuterie, an amazing brilliant beautiful wonderful butcher shop & teeny-tiny restaurant in Beechview, was the featured restaurant for an upcoming Churchview Farm Dinner, I was ALL ABOUT IT.

Churchview Farm

Churchview is a small family farm nestled away in the hills of Baldwin. Churchview is a well-known name in the restaurant & local food circles in Pittsburgh, and it was neat to see how a farm providing so many fruits, veggies and herbs all throughout the city can provide so much on such a small parcel of land. The evening started off with a little farm tour, led by the farmer, Tara Rockacy. It was neat to see everything growing, and the chickens and guinea hens waddling around and clucking, but it was especially nice to hear in Tara’s voice how much this farm and her work mean to her. Farming is certainly not easy work, and I can imagine that running a farm in basically an urban area is even harder. But it comes through clearly that she finds meaning and beauty in what she does, and she is proud to share it.

Crested Duck Farm Dinner

On to the meal! These farm dinners are special because the chef, here Kevin Costa, spoke about the thoughts and motivations behind each course. I admit that I was really looking forward to a massive dinner all full of charcuterie, and was a little disappointed to hear the Chef announced that he instead chose to draw his inspiration from the beautiful produce of the farm, and work more with the fresh vegetables and fruits, rather than the cured meats which so often drive his dishes. My disappointment was short lived, as each course was so delightful.

Crested Duck Salad Niciose

First up was the salad nicoise, although it did not have any tuna in it, so I don’t exactly know what makes it nicoise. In any event, it was delicious. The pickles were so fresh and the boiled egg was just at that perfect level where it’s all just barely cooked, but not so cooked that it’s all pasty.

Pate en croute

The pate en croute was hands down my favorite dish of the evening. It’s so weird looking, that I think if it were offered to me in any context, I would have been like “no thank you, I do not want to eat that.” But I’m so glad that the timing and presentation was just right to get me to try it, because it was awesome. The only way I can describe it is that it’s like a little charcuterie platter baked together in pastry? I think? In any event, so good. It also satisfied my charcuterie craving for the evening, so that was a good thing.

seafood stew

Here’s the part where I will mention the lovely wine pairings that were coordinated with each course. So very, very delicious. Thanks to those delicious lovely wine pairings, this is around the course where I no longer really remember the particulars, other than “TASTY!” This is the light and lovely bouillabaisse. Tasty tasty.

cheese pairing

Oh, this cheese plate, so good. Everything about it was so perfect, except for it being so teeny tiny. I tried to steal Mr. Beez’ cheese plate but he jabbed me with his fork. So good. Did I tell you how good it was? I’ve never thought of pairing cheese and almond paste, but omg so good.

Chard tart

We wrapped up the evening with a dessert of a sweet swiss chard tart. I think this would make an amazing breakfast dish. The chard makes it hearty, but the candied pine nuts, golden raisins, orange zest and whipped cream ensure that it’s nice and sweet. Like the pate, it’s not something I would ordinarily pick on my own, but I was glad that it was presented to me how and when it was, because I did like it quite a lot.

There are a few seats left at the remaining Churchview Farm Dinners this summer. The experience was such a lovely, laid back evening, and the food and wine, just lovely. I was full from my dinner when I started writing this post, but now after revisiting all those food memories, my stomach’s rumbling again. Gotta go rustle up some grub.


Something for everyone

Something for everyone

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Weekend Update from the Beez Homefront

This has been the second quiet weekend in a row. It’s partially a matter of necessity, as both Mr. Beez and I have been finishing our weeks lately with lots of catch-up work for the weekend. It’s also partially purposeful, as my bad habit of scheduling 3-4 activities a day, for each Saturday and Sunday, has led to many exhausted work weeks. That was just not sustainable.

I have been overzealous with my 5K race sign ups. Last weekend I ran and Mr. Beez + Baby Beez walked the Brookline Breeze. Yesterday, Sandy and I ran the Yinzer 5K for Light of Life Rescue Mission. Next Saturday, we’ll be hitting the trails yet again for the Run Around the Square. The 5K distance has been nice because it’s a bit of exercise without taking over the whole day. I’m considering signing up Baby Beez for a kids race in the Steelers 5K, and maybe even running the race myself, but haven’t made up my mind. After that, I’m not signed up for another race until the Army 10-Miler in October. This is probably for the best, because I’ve been using a training program which calls for long runs on Saturday. A 5K race is too short for that purpose, and it’s inconvenient to try and tack on extra mileage before or after a race.

Yinzer 5k

Lets run, yinz!

Relatedly, the training program I’m on is essentially a half marathon training program, where the race would be scheduled the week after the Army 10 Miler, so now I’m considering signing up for a half marathon on that date. Options include the Columbus Half (which is already sold out, so I’d have to look into picking up someone’s transfer bib), the Hershey Half Marathon, or the Runner’s World Half & Festival, in Bethlehem, PA. I’m not ready to pull the trigger on any of these options yet, but I’ll have to make a decision in the next month or so.

On the flipside of cardio exercise, Baby Beez and I were on a sugar high this weekend. Baby Beez insists on continuing to grow, so I had to get her new duds for her ballet class. Afterward, we stopped over at Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor. Chocolate ice cream with rainbow sprinkles for her, and a turtle sundae for me.

Klavon's Ice Cream Parlor

photo 5

Her vociferous obsession with chocolate is just further evidence that this kid is basically the loudest, most outrageous parts of my personality in distilled form. Watch out, world.

On Sunday we also baked a cake together. No special reason, other than I wanted a cake. I learned that you should NOT bake a pineapple upside down pan in a springform pan, because the melted butter will leak all over the oven and you’ll almost burn the house down. But I promptly responded to the billowing smoke, saved the house from smoldering, and saved the cake as well. That’s a victory, right?

photo 2

photo 1

On the whole, we had a pretty sweet weekend. How was yours?


Unique eats at Grit & Grace and @PghRestaurantWk in full swing

Unique eats at Grit & Grace and @PghRestaurantWk in full swing

I went into Pittsburgh Restaurant Week planning to try a new restaurant every single day, but then the week got away from me. Thursday ended up being our only night out so far. It was a good one, and I’ll write about it soon. In the meantime, I’m sharing my lovely lunch out at Grit & Grace.

Grit is not for those with timid palates. Although they offer “dim sum” dishes, those words are in quotation marks because they all show decidedly nontraditional qualities. Grit loves contrast and the unexpected. it is essential to visit with an open mind. Such adventurous cuisine often comes with an adventurous check. This is where Grit wins me over– they offer moderately priced lunch service, which makes the dining experience even more accessible and appealing.

Grit & Grace Pork Belly

Lunch starts off with the option of picking dim sum small bites. Each day Grit offers 3 dim sum dishes, at $5 each. I picked the pork belly dish, which was fantastic. This was my favorite part of the meal. The pork belly, although generally fatty, was not drippy or chewy, but rather dense and flavorful.

Grit & Grace crispy tofu

My entree selection was the crispy tofu with baby bok choy, braised daikon, mushrooms, green onion, and “hot & sour mushroom essence.” There were large dollops of foam and some kind of cream thing, maybe that was the mushroom essence? It was decidedly different, but not in a bad way. It was filling but light, and did not give me that post-lunch food coma I’ve become so shamefully used to.

Grit & Grace roasted pork ramen

My dining companion opted for the roasted pork ramen, and reported that it was delicious. I must admit that I coveted that egg and seaweed. It looked crazy delicious. And although soup is usually a cold weather dish, Grit’s ramen does not at all seem out of place in warmer weather.

Grit is running a dim sum special for Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, so this is a prime opportunity to swing by. I did like Grit and expect to return, but because it is so unique (and I often dine out with not-as-adventurous companions) I expect I will not be able to visit frequently. But when it comes to impressing out of town guests or foodies, I’ll be calling for a reservation.

Grit & Grace on Urbanspoon


Girl on the Run

Girl on the Run

With the Army 10 Miler, EQT 10 miler, and Disney Princess Glass Slipper Challenge coming up on the horizon, I’ve been more diligent about running regularly. Especially the last two weeks, I’ve squeezed those runs into impossible schedules, because going for a run can mean the difference between losing and not losing my frickin’ mind. Plus, running is so much easier when you run multiple times a week. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. The more you run, the easier it is.

Due to the various inevitable scheduling difficulties that arise in a dual-working-parents-in-crazy-jobs household, I ended up having responsibility over Baby Beez during the time I intended to go for that run. So that meant instead of going for a brisk 3 mile run, I instead went for a full-body-workout-jogging-stroller run. I allowed myself to walk more than usual because pushing a nearly 4 year old in a jogging stroller is NOT EASY. Even with her heavy backside, we made decent time.

When she tired of eating her pretzels and waving at every soul on the trail, Baby Beez started howling that she wanted OUT and she wanted to RUN. I figured, what the heck, and I let her out. And she was so excited to run alongside me for the last half mile and she demanded to push the stroller (with some navigation assistance from me, of course). I’ve been uncertain as to whether she’s ready for kids races, as I was afraid that 1 mile might be too much for her little body. From our little run today, she seems both fit and eager to start racing alongside her mama! Disney Kids Dash in February– here we come!

Cooperating with photos is SO last year. She's nearly 4 now. Smiling is so 3 years old.

Cooperating with photos is SO last year. She’s nearly 4 now. Smiling is so 3 years old.