Wigle inviting food writers to Pittsburgh for 'raucous, literary' event

Capitalizing on Pittsburgh’s food scene taking the world by storm, Wigle Whiskey and a bunch of co-sponsors are inviting foodies here for a “raucous, literary three-day event” called the Three Day Blow Festival.

The Aug. 25-27 gathering, which takes its name from a whiskey-tinged short story by Ernest Hemingway, is “bringing together food and drink writers, editors, makers and explorers from around the country for a Pittsburgh-based conversation about regional food and drink systems.”

“There is so much national interest not only in our Rust Belt revival, but specifically how food and drink has both spurred and is a reflection of this evolution,” says Meredith Grelli, the Wigle co-owner who is organizing the event with several universities, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, museums, media organizations and other groups and businesses. (This writer is one of the Post-Gazette staffers who are part of the organizing committee of the not-for-profit event.)

Ms. Grelli was inspired by a recent run of good publicity about Pittsburgh’s food scene, which included Zagat’s calling the city 2015’s best restaurant city and The New York Times’ Jeff Gordinier writing this March, “If there are scholars who hope to study how a vibrant food culture can help radically transform an American city, the time to do that is right now, in real time, in the place that gave us Heinz ketchup.”

She hopes this festival will “push each other to ask new questions — to stretch food and drink writers and thinkers beyond the ‘best of’ lists we have become so familiar with in Pittsburgh in the past two years, and engage writers to help us as a region think about our own heritage and future in a larger national context.”

Events over those three days include a mix of workshops for learning and networking as well as “quirky programming and food and drink celebrations.”

Keynote speakers are to be chef Michael Solomonov, the Squirrel Hill native who was the 2011 James Beard Award winner for “Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic” for his Zahav in Philadelphia, about which he wrote a cookbook last year; Bryant Terry, chef-in-residence at San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora, author and educator; David Wondrich, a Western Pennsylvania native who writes about drinks, including five books.

Other food writers and editors who are to participate include Mr. Gordinier himself, as well as Helen Rosner, executive editor of Eater; Keith Pandolfi, senior features editor at Serious Eats; Kara Newman, spirits editor for Wine Enthusiast; Andrea Nguyen of the Viet World Kitchen website; Rico Gagliano of the Dinner Party Download broadcast; and many more, plus local writers, editors and academics as well as chefs and others in the food business.

While many of the events are for literary types, organizers believe many also will be of interest to people who work in the food industry as well as people who are interested in Pittsburgh and who just like to eat and drink.

One local heavy-hitter, Wall Street Journal food and drinks editor Beth Kracklauer, will moderate a panel titled “What Are You Calling Rustbelt Cuisine?” to explore the bigger region’s foodways.

Other highlights are more just for fun and food and drink, from the Thursday night warmup “Battle of the Food & Drink Critics,” who get the tables turned on them, to a Friday “Pierogi Pop-up” and a Saturday chocolate tasting and talk with Simran Sethi, author of “Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love.”

Most events will happen at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Downtown, which will host a lunch featuring “hidden gems” of local cuisine on Friday and author readings on Saturday. But others will happen at other locations, including Wigle’s locations in the Strip District and Spring Garden, and the North Side library. Attendees will be encouraged to attend prix fixe dinners and chef’s dinners (for additional costs) at participating restaurants. The weekend will close on Sunday (technically, the event’s fourth day) with a brunch at the North Side’s City of Asylum.

Cost for a pass to all the events is $270; $225 with the early-bird discount, available until June 17. Day passes are $130 for Friday and for Saturday ($120 before June 17), and big discounts are available for students (with student IDs) before June 17 as well.

The event will be an annual one, says Ms. Grelli, who plans to make the committee a nonprofit. Who knows where it will go, but she cites how Tales of a Cocktail in New Orleans grew from a gathering for bartenders and others in the industry into a big, well, blowout attended by cocktail lovers from everywhere.

“Perhaps,” she says, “this Pittsburgh conversation will in a small way help move the national conversation around regional food and drinkways forward.”

For a full schedule of events, passes and more, visit threedayblow.com.

Bob Batz Jr.: bbatz@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.


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