Food Column: There's a salty twist to GoodTaste! North

Bet you didn't know Saturday, April 26, is National Pretzel Day.

Neither did Dee Weinberg, organizer of the annual "GoodTaste! North" food show, until Snyder's of Hanover rang her up one day and basically offered to be the main attraction at this year's show because of the happy confluence of National Pretzel Day and GoodTaste.

The main attractions for all 10 years of the GoodTaste show's run have been Food Network star chefs, but even one of this year's celebrity chefs will bow to the pretzel theme.

The show will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Pittsburgh Marriott North in Cranberry. This year's chefs are Rahm Fama from Food Network's "Meat & Potatoes" and Steven Kowalczuk, aka "The Cocktail Chef," who got his start at Nick's Fat City on the South Side in 1993 before moving to Atlanta. He will demo a "Pretzel-tini" -- not a martini that contains pretzels, but one that nicely complements them.

Snyder's of Hanover will set up a photo booth where attendees can take photos and post them on social media to win prizes. Snyder's also will pass out free pretzel samples.

The chef-demo schedule:

 11 a.m.: Simple Plating by local chef Richard Panzera.

• Noon: Cocktail demos by Mr. Kowalczuk (see recipe).

• 1 p.m.: Food demos by Mr. Fama.

When the food show started 10 years ago, the Food Network was "just starting to be on everyone's radar screen," Ms. Weinberg said. So the celebrity chefs were enough to draw a crowd all on their own.

"Now they're everywhere," she said, "so we've had to be more creative in how we showcase food."

A vendor hall will feature at least 50 food companies and other local groups, some offering samples of their products.

Tickets for "GoodTaste! North" are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Information or advance tickets:

Meanwhile, if a "Pretzel-tini" isn't your style, here are more beverage events:

Drink up

Root Beer Tasting: 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at Village Candy in Sewickley. Free, but RSVP by e-mailing

Veggies, Vodka & Vino Tasting: Spring tasting featuring a vegetarian and vegan menu with wines and vodka cocktails. 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 30, at The Supper Club, Greensburg. $35. 724-691-0536.

Afternoon Tea: Tea, scones, tea sandwiches, desserts, raffles and door prizes. 1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 4, at St. Ferdinand Church in Cranberry. $15 for adults; $6 for children ages 4 to 10; free for younger children. Reservations required by Sunday, April 27; call 724-779-3986.

Wine dinner: Four-course dinner of mushroom salad, halibut, duck confit ravioli, lamb, dark chocolate truffles and other delicacies paired with Domodimonti wines. 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 7, at Osteria 2350, Strip District. $65 per person. Reservations required: 412-281-3090.

Agustin Huneeus & Prisoner Wine Company Dinner: Start the evening with a reception on the Rooftop Terrace in view of the Cathedral of Learning; continue with a four-course dinner with five wine pairings to be explained by Jen Beloz, head winemaker of The Prisoner Wine Company. 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 9, at the University Club, Oakland. $125 per person. Reservations: 412-648-8213.

For food professionals

Spring Potluck: Join Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture for a networking potluck dinner and tour of the Republic Food Enterprise Center in Fayette County, which offers kitchen rentals, co-packing and other services for small food businesses. 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 30. Bring a dish to share. 412-365-2987.

Farm to Community Conference: This conference, which offers credits for professionals, will cover food justice and policy issues, community gardening, local food, farm-to-school programs, food safety and more. Keynote speakers include a Vermont school food-service director who is actively involved in the farm-to-school movement and a Los Angeles community-gardening activist. 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, May 2, at the Double Tree Hotel in Green Tree. $35.


Grilled Steak Dinner: Steak, salad, potato, vegetable and homemade wedding soup; proceeds benefit the host, the Cecil Volunteer Fire Department. Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, April 27; advance tickets suggested. $16. 412-925-0378.

CAPA Benefit: Wine and light appetizers; proceeds benefit Pittsburgh's arts magnet school. 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 1, at Pittsburgh Winery, Strip District. $25; open only to ages 21 and up. (search "CAPA Benefit").

Volunteer op

Summer Food Service Program: Volunteers are needed for this federally funded program providing free meals to children up to age 18, picking up where school breakfast and lunch programs leave off in the summertime. Volunteers will supervise and manage lunch distribution sites and spend time with the children by engaging them in activities. To apply, call 412-460-3663 ext. 307.

Winning cakes

The Midwife Center's annual "Let Them Eat Cake" fundraiser, held April 5, attracted a crowd of 400. Bakers turned out lavish cakes with a 1920s-era theme.

Professional winners of the cake competition were Alix Levy of Josephine Baking (flavor) and Maureen Joyce of Bella Christie & Lil' Z's Sweet Boutique (decorating). Professional runners-up were Jackie Vrbanic of Petals and Pastries (flavor) and Julie Mossesso of Nola on the Square (decorating).

Amateur winners were Carrie Quinn of Avondale (flavor) and Christine Sullivan of Rochester (decorating). Amateur runners-up were Debbie Belschner of Wexford (flavor) and a group effort by Emily Murphy, Rachel Lendyak-Peters and Sara Fortnam (decorating).

People's-choice awards went to James Kauffman of Cafe Chocolade (flavor) and Ms. Joyce (decorating).


Steven Kowalczuk developed this martini variant as a complement to pretzels. To make brown-sugar simple syrup, combine equal parts brown sugar and water in a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Allow mixture to cool before using.

-- Rebecca Sodergren

3 tablespoons vodka infused with vanilla beans OR vanilla vodka

1½ tablespoons hazelnut liqueur, such as Frangelico

1½ tablespoons whole milk

1 tablespoon Southern Tier 2XIPA

1 tablespoon brown-sugar simple syrup

Combine ingredients, shake, and strain into a martini glass with ½ sea-salt rim.

-- "The Cocktail Chef" Steven Kowalczuk

Rebecca Sodergren: or on Twitter @pgfoodevents.


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