Labor Day is the best picnic day of the year. Gardens are in full swing, food is plentiful and everyone is eager to have one last blast of summer.
Getting ready for the annual picnic doesn’t always require a ride to the big box grocery store; take a little time and grab a slice of local favorites. Make your shopping trip easy. Get your picnic cooler and put in some ice packs and fill it up with cold items as you hit the stores so you don’t worry about spoilage.
For a quick reference, Farmers’ Markets are listed here on the Post-Gazette’s interactive map, it is updated with what’s coming and going, days and times. http://newsinteractive.post-gazette.com/farmersmarkets2014/
The Strip District is full of great stores. Park your car and hit the Public Market. Then head down Penn Avenue and stop at the well-known stores, but don’t miss some under-the-radar favorites, such as, Parma Sausage Co. (prosciutto, sausage) Prestogeorge (coffee and fresh pasta) and Labad’s for Middle Eastern fare. Grab some exotic grilling spices next door at Penzey’s.
Start on the North Side and visit Breadworks to scoop up hot dog, hamburger and sausage buns, then hop on the highway and head on to 279N straight to the Wexford exit. Make a right and you will see-T-Bones; the small grocer has a wonderful prepared foods department with great hot deli items, cold salads (they actually sell fresh strawberry Jell-o Pretzel Salad) and the finest meats money can buy. Then head to one of the many farm markets and stands within a 2 mile radius that include Soergel’s Orchards and Kaelin Farm on Brandt School Road; Shenot’s on Wexford Run or Eichner’s on Richard Road. Route 19 is also the home to Whole Foods, so pull in, and also head to Loafer’s Bread Co. If you take the back roads home and find yourself on Babcock Boulevard, near Evergreen Road, there is the tiniest table with a handwritten sign that reads “Fresh Evans City Corn.” If you miss it, another will tell you “turn around.” Worth the stop, freshest corn around.
Real foodies know that there are lots of good eats to be had south of Downtown, but Brookline Boulevard is a best kept secret. Six blocks of food heaven to eat and shop. Don’t miss Pitaland, Las Palmas Speciality Meats, Party Cake bake shop, Brookline Beer and Cannon Coffee. Farther South on Route 19, the Uncommon Market offers great prepared foods, Italian meats, cheeses and more while the the famous McGinnis Sisters has a Brentwood location (other locations are Monroeville, and Cranberry) that will make your cooler overflow. Two fun farms are Trax Farms in Finleyville and Triple B in Monongahela. A nice family trip with good eats.
The offerings are great and highlighting each store is a story in and of itself. For the sake of expediency, let’s just send you over to Bloomfield on Saturday. Start at the Bloomfield Market on Liberty Avenue and work your way down. If grilling is your thing, don’t miss DJ’s Butcher Shop for some great meats.
Everyone knows East Liberty/Shadyside (or “Eastside” as the newbies call it) is home to a cluster of great chains (Market District, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Aldi, etc.) But you should get up early Saturday and visit the Farmer’s Market Cooperative, behind Home Depot. They are only open Saturday from 5 a.m. to noon (year-round). It is a one-stop shop of fresh food heaven including fresh meats from J.L. Kennedy and Amish grown produce among the offerings. Here’s a link to the blog for the weekly harvest: (http://www.farmersmarketcooperativeofeastliberty.com/blog/24884.
Squirrel Hill has some great little food places along Murray Avenue and lots of yummy baked goods including Allegro Hearth (rugelach!) and Gluuteny for gluten free options.
We are going to pull Aspinwall in this little expedition. Cross the Highland Park Bridge and two favorites are both on Freeport Road. Labriola’s Italian Market (412-784-0111) offers some great sausages, meats, olives and more. One freezer is stocked with homemade Italian favorites, sauce, ravioli, etc., and another with desserts. The next block has Patty’s Farm Market. Ask for fresh herbs from the back and pies baked with home-grown fruits. If cupcakes are your thing, run over to Bella Christie’s on Commercial Avenue behind the municipal lot — that same lot that on Sunday morning hosts a farmer/flea market where you can grab some fresh corn, tomatoes and more.
Ricci’s Sausage, (5888 Steubenville Pike, Robinson, 412-490-9531) is worth the trip. Three generations of sausage makers preserve the original recipe brought over from Sulmona, Italy by Ernest Ricci, Sr.
Happy Labor Day weekend, go eat!
Rosa Colucci can be reached at 412-263-1634 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter PGRosa_Colucci.