Food Column: This festival serves up foods with a fine bouquet

When I caught up with Denise Schreiber, she was in the midst of baking hundreds of Italian family-recipe cookies for her daughter's wedding and writing a cookbook about cookie tables -- plus gearing up for the Edible Flowers Food Fest at 7 p.m. next Thursday, July 18, at the Buffalo Inn in South Park.

The festival is in its 13th year, and Ms. Schreiber, author of "Eat Your Roses: Pansies, Lavender and 49 Other Delicious Flowers," and her horde of volunteers change it up a bit every year.

The festival consists of a multi-course dinner of edible flower entrees, sides, drinks and desserts, plus a short presentation from a Penn State master gardener or other expert.

A few dishes are perennials, such as Rose Petal Ice Cream (see recipe). But many dishes vary from year to year. This year's focus is roses and lavender, although some dishes, such as Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Nasturtiums, will feature other edible blooms.

Ms. Schreiber and four or five of the other volunteers, many of whom are Penn State master gardeners, attend the Philadelphia Flower Show annually to spark ideas. And they look for some dishes they can prepare ahead, recognizing the difficulty of churning out five hot courses at the same time, even in a commercial kitchen. Ms. Schreiber already has the dough for her Russian Teacakes with Lavender prepared and frozen.

She chose roses and lavender this year because they're "two very accessible edible blooms" that are easy to locate. Roses have had good production this year, and lavender is easy to grow, she said.

But for those who don't grow their own edible flowers, she suggests Whole Foods as a source, along with Giant Eagle Market District stores, some Chinese markets, and the Village Herb Shop, a Chagrin Falls, Ohio, store that some diehards consider worth the drive from Pittsburgh (

Aside from the dishes already mentioned, here are the other foods that will be served at the festival:

• Basil lemonade

• Strawberry-lavender lemonade

• Spring greens with lavender-blueberry vinegar

• Oriental broccoli salad

• Seasonal fruit salad with lemon-verbena-lime dressing (see recipe)

• Lavender-honey chicken

• Beef with a cherry-rose chutney

• Shrimp with orange-ginger sauce and edible flowers

• Orange-rosemary pasta

• Dark chocolate bark with lavender, pretzels, caramel and sea salt

• Almond shortcake cookies with rose/cinnamon dusting

As you can see, there's plenty to eat, and it's not flowers alone. Ms. Schreiber said that in years past, she has had some guests arrive and tell her, "Oh, I ate dinner already" -- they thought they'd just be munching on a few petals.

Most of the dishes are gluten-free. Tickets are $20 each, and proceeds benefit Allegheny County Parks. The Buffalo Inn is fully accessible, and dedicated servers are available to assist individuals with disabilities (request this service when registering).

For reservations, call 412-473-2540 or e-mail with your name, daytime phone number and number of individuals attending.

Celebrity chef

Ina Garten: The Barefoot Contessa makes a return appearance in Pittsburgh to share her natural approach to food, including tips, stories, recipes and an interactive Q&A session. 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Benedum Center. $45 to $55. 412-456-6666.


Family Day: Games, prizes, moon bounce, magician, face painting, fire trucks, auction and ice cream eating contest. 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday, July 14, at Bruster's, Ingomar. Proceeds benefit North Hills Community Outreach.

Rib & Wing Festival: Ribs and wings, live music, games, crafts, beer garden and kids' activities. July 26 to 28 at Seven Springs.

Free lunch

Farm to Table Lunch & Learn: Leah Lizarondo of The Brazen Kitchen talks raw foods during this free lunch. 11:30 a.m. July 19 at Pittsburgh Public Market, Strip District. Register ahead by e-mailing


Two classes that cancel each other out (one on sweets, one on getting off sweets), plus one extra:

Baking Boot Camp: Whip your baking skills into shape with a two-part series covering cakes, frostings, fillings and cookies. 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays, July 13 and July 20, at Crate in Scott. $120 for the two classes.

Sugar Blues: Gain control without deprivation and learn why you crave sweets with Bill Hooton, holistic health coach. 11:30 a.m. Saturday, July 13, at Pittsburgh Public Market, Strip District. Free, but register ahead:

Learn New and Old Pickles: Learn to make dill and sweet pickles. Pickled cauliflower and pickled vegetable slaw. 1 to 3 p.m. July 21 at Fern Hollow Nature Center, Sewickley Heights. $20 ($15 for students) includes a "Ploughman's Lunch" of the pickles made in class, plus local cheeses, farm breads and iced tea. To register, e-mail

Rose petal ice cream
  • 1/2 gallon French vanilla ice cream, softened slightly

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons rose syrup

  • 1 teaspoon rose water

  • 1/2 cup fragrant rose petals, finely chopped, or 1/4 cup dried, crushed fragrant rose petals

  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios if desired

  • Add rose syrup and rose water to softened ice cream and mix thoroughly. Add rose petals and pistachios. Refreeze until hard.

  • You may serve the ice cream with a few fresh, unsprayed rose petals on top. Makes 1/2 gallon.

  • -- Denise Schreiber

  • Seasonal fruit salad with lemon-verbena-lime dressing
  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup (gently packed) fresh lemon verbena leaves, thick center vein removed

  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

  • 8 cups mixed sliced fruit and berries, such as melon, peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, pitted sweet cherries, grapes, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries

  • Process the sugar and lemon verbena leaves in a food processor to a very smooth green paste, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add the lime juice and process briefly. Shortly before serving, toss dressing with the fruit in a large mixing bowl. Serves 8.

  • -- Lyn Lang,

  • Penn State master gardener

Rebecca Sodergren: or on Twitter @pgfoodevents.


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