Food Column: Planners can pep up grad party

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My brother had a running gag the year he graduated from Elizabeth Forward High School. Just about every weekend another friend's graduation party came along and my brother always quipped, "Time to go get me some fried chicken and rigatoni" before hopping into his pickup and taking off.

That was 1993. I don't know if it's still that way -- my kids aren't old enough to graduate, so I haven't been to a grad party in a long time. But back then, my brother was right. You could count on fried chicken and rigatoni at every party.

If you're in the graduation-party-planning stage of life, Giant Eagle Market District in Robinson is holding an open house from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday in the store's activity room. Party planners will set up displays of food, balloons, decorations, tip sheets and other items, and attendees can taste food samples, including barbecued pulled pork, pasta salads, deli sandwich rings, brownies and gobs.

Clients can meet one-on-one with party planners to discuss their needs.

"A lot of people have concerns over budget these days," said Theresa Deller, event planning team leader, who noted party planners can help with sticking to a budget.

She said customers can place orders in advance and pick everything up -- including ice, paper products, floral arrangements and anything else in the store -- on party day in one location, without waiting in lines at the register. Giant Eagle will even put your pop in the cooler so it's cold when you pick it up.

"We want to make it as easy as possible so you can have your party and enjoy it, too," Ms. Deller said.

When I first heard about this event, I thought, "Yeesh, people need professional party planners to throw a graduation barbeque in the back yard?"

But then I thought about all those weekends of fried chicken. Maybe we all need a little help cooking up some originality.

To attend Market District Robinson's graduation party open house, call 412-490-5826. Admission is free.

Charitable events

A Flavor of the East End: East End Cooperative Ministry celebrates 42 years of serving those in need from 7 to 10 p.m. May 5 at the Pittsburgh Opera, Downtown.

Dinette, Pretzel Crazy, Union Pig & Chicken, Verde Mexican Kitchen and other restaurants will make the food. William Penn Tavern is bringing libations, and Bean Catering will run an espresso bar. North Suburban Symphonic Band Woodwind Ensemble and Undercroft Opera will perform.

Tickets are $50 per person and benefit East End Cooperative Ministry efforts to provide food, shelter and mentoring for those in need. or 412-361-5549.

Used Cookbook and Cooking Magazine Sale: Did your spring cleaning unearth a mound of old cookbooks and cooking magazines? Donate them to a good cause.

In the Kitchen, Strip District, will sell donated items from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 12 to benefit the Women's Center & Shelter. Donate used books and magazines by April 30, and come back to shop May 12. Leftover books and magazines will be donated to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.


Two on the road:

Spring Fabulous Food Show: Get your grill on from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at the I-X Center in Cleveland. Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse top the celeb list. Check out displays on outdoor living, a farmers market, ice cream shop, beer, wine, celebrity autograph station and grilling demos. Tickets start at $25.

Pennsylvania Flavor: the "ultimate food pairing" runs 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, bringing together breweries, restaurants and other food producers as well as a few wineries.

It's organized by the Brewers of Pennsylvania, the American Culinary Federation and the Department of Agriculture's PA Preferred Program to showcase the state's many beer and food offerings. Tickets, available at the Church Brew Works, are $50 ($60 at the door) or $75 for VIPS who get in for a reception an hour early. More at


Two events for May 5:

Cinco de Mayo: Tacos & Margaritas: 1 p.m. at Habitat in the Fairmont Pittsburgh, Downtown. Chefs Luis Jiminez and Agustin Oliva teach a cooking class on two Mexican staples. $65 per person includes materials, apron and lunch. Reservations: 412-773-8848.

Mushroom Walk: 10 a.m. at Twin Lakes Park, Greensburg. Search for wild mushrooms with the Western Pennsylvania Mushroom Club.


Rebecca Sodergren:


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