Food Column: Saturday is a historic food day

When most people think Pittsburgh history, they think "steel."

But increasingly, the Heinz History Center is thinking "food."

The center serves up a foodie day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday.

The capstone of "Hometown-Homegrown" will be a trade show of some 50 vendors from local restaurants, food companies, farms, grocery stores and more. Representatives will showcase their wares, hand out samples and share a bit of history about the companies they represent.

Last year, the center named a "curator of food and fitness" -- Lauren Uhl, who had previously served the center in a different capacity -- out of a desire to focus more on food and healthy living. The first foray into the topic was the center's "SmartSteps," a stairwell exhibit with colorful murals, health tips and Pittsburgh facts, all of which encourage visitors to skip the elevator and take the stairs.

Food is a natural topic for the History Center to expand into, Ms. Uhl said, because in Pittsburgh "we have such a rich ethnic heritage and we're so family-oriented." And at the center of family and ethnic celebrations is -- what else? -- food.

Hometown-Homegrown, a collaboration with "GoodTaste! Pittsburgh" (an annual food show in Monroeville), represents the History Center's second big foray into the topic of food.

WQED's Rick Sebak and Chris Fennimore, along with other local chefs, will do cooking demonstrations Saturday. George Greig, the state agriculture secretary, will help with cooking demos and promote Pennsylvania agriculture.

Some restaurants that will participate include the Original Oyster House, Pittsburgh's oldest bar at age 141, and King's Family Restaurants, an institution for 45 years. Docents around the center will discuss how food was prepared from the French & Indian War through the post-World War II era.

And on the center's fourth floor, there will be a scavenger hunt for visitors to locate various food-related facts found in the displays.

On Facebook (, the center has posted a "virtual cookie table," representing the Pittsburgh tradition of having a cookie table at weddings, graduation parties and other celebrations. Twenty varieties of cookies -- with photos, recipes and stories all posted on the Facebook page -- are in the running to become the cookie table winner. Vote for your favorite before tomorrow. The Common Plea, the History Center's catering company, will bake up the top five vote-getters. During Hometown-Homegrown, judges (Mr. Fennimore, Mr. Sebak and Table Magazine's Victoria Bradley) will select the grand-prize winner, which will be featured in an October episode of "QED Cooks" focused on the cookie table tradition.

Also, bring a cookbook or three; you can swap them for others, or take one for a donation, which will benefit the center library's acquisition fund.

And if you're not already full of food samples by the time you leave Hometown-Homegrown, you can stop by the center's annual bocce tournament honoring the city's Italian community -- and there will be Italian food for sale.

Admission to Hometown-Homegrown is included in regular History Center admission. For information:


Emmy-winning Chef Walter Staib, host of PBS' "A Taste of History" and owner of Philadelphia's City Tavern, demonstrates some quick dishes using Market District Premium Deli Meats at Giant Eagle Market Districts -- from 9 a.m. into the afternoon on Friday at Wexford and Saturday at Robinson.


Secrets of BBQ & Summer Grilling: Two chefs at Habitat in the Fairmont, Downtown, will teach you all the tricks of the trade. 1 to 3 p.m. July 7. $65 per person includes materials, apron and lunch. Reservations: 412-773-8848.


Cooking from the Garden: At 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 27, chefs from Six Penn Kitchen and elsewhere will compete for the public's vote for best summer dish at Longwood at Oakmont retirement community in Plum. Register at or 1-877-558-4692.


Arts, Crafts and Food Festival: More than 200 art and craft booths and 30 food booths, music, dance and a children's area with face painting and sand sculpture. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 29 and 30, and 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 1; fireworks at 10:15 p.m. July 1. Ewing Park, Ellwood City. Free admission.


European Vacation Wine Dinner: Spend an evening visiting Italy, France and Spain through food and wine. 7 p.m. June 28 at Hartwood Restaurant, Indiana Township. Reservations required: 412-767-3500.

Pancake Breakfast for Pedal Pittsburgh: Nosh on some pancakes under the big white tent outside Whole Foods, East Liberty, and proceeds will benefit efforts to make Pittsburgh more bicycle-friendly. 8 a.m. to noon June 30. $10 per plate for adults and $5 for kids.

Rebecca Sodergren:


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