Your LOCALp Year-End Recap (Sort of)

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Welcome to a very LOCALpittsburgh year-end recap. We’ve task a multi-talented list of bloggers, writers, and contributors to tell us about the most exciting stuff to happen in their industry for 2016. Besides everyone dying, and the leader of The Apprentice now running the free world, some silver lining stuff has brightened the proverbial 2016 cloud. Enjoy our collective rambling of facts and other things.

Pittsburgh things that happened (In Pittsburgh)

by Heidi Balas

I believe it to be the popular opinion that 2016 needs to die as soon as possible; ironically, I believe that this opinion is a result of so many beloved celebrities dying (in addition to the seemingly endless series of unfortunate events that have occurred as well). Thus, when tasked with coming up with a few noteworthy things that occurred locally in 2016, I must admit that I was temporarily dumbfounded. Like, how could I possibly find anything worth mentioning from such a miserable year? And then I remembered, that there were a few things that weren’t that bad after all.

To start, the Greenfield Bridge (actually named the Beechwood Boulevard Bridge for those of us that appreciate such historical facts) is back! While it is not finished, I believe that little by little, the progress is comforting as it provides a looming structure where there was a temporary and unnerving gap above the Parkway East. It just felt like something was missing… and now it doesn’t.

Speaking of things coming back, Kennywood Park brought back the whale’s mouth entrance to the Noah’s Ark attraction. Now this might not mean anything to most of you, but I am pretty sure that every local news station covered the story as well as bloggers like myself because Pittsburgh unfailingly appreciates itself. Seventy-five percent of the appeal of the whale’s mouth has to be the squishy tongue, twenty percent has to be the thrill of playing “Jonah” to the whale, and five percent has to be pure nostalgia.

Fences. The motion picture adaptation of August Wilson’s play was filmed here and came to the big screen this year. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend that you do. Other than Teenie Harris’s photography, rarely do we get such a visual representation of 1950s Hill District culture. I re-read my copy of the play to prep for the movie, along with watching interviews with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis about the film and their experiences in our city; but that’s just me being my nerdy self. Go see it. This was certainly a local 2016 highlight.

Lastly, I want to mention that two entertainment venues have changed their names in 2016. No one can be surprised by this because it keeps happening. I mean, I still call that amphitheater all the way out in Burgettstown by its original name of “Star Lake,” but this year it became the Key Bank Pavilion. Likewise, Consol Energy Center became the PPG Paints Arena, which is actually an improvement since no one knew how to pronounce Consol anyway (Like a TV console? Or like the verb to console?).

Style Audit

photo by Sarah Collins

By Wavy Alabaster

An audit of Pittsburgh style is well underway, and we have Elysia Panda to thank. In May, Panda launched Style412, a 12-month discussion series with the goal of auditing the Pittsburgh Style Industry. Each discussion challenges attendees – a mix of style Influencers, admirers and experts with varying perspectives – to speak candidly about the current state of style in this city. Discussions range from the quality of the style industry (the good, the bad and the ugly) to what the ideal Pittsburgh fashion/style industry to a mission statement for Pittsburgh style. The culmination of this progressive series will be a “robust report outlining high-level ideas to help strengthen, promote and develop the existing Pittsburgh Style industry.” Bravo, Elysia. Click here to learn how to participate in this style movement.

Vintage on the Rise:

Breathing new life into already lived-in pieces adds a flare to style store-bought clothes just cannot attain. Just as great events trigger a memory never to be erased; one’s first vintage find makes an everlasting impression. Pittsburgh vintage style flourished this past year. From established vintage boutiques (Eons, Highway Robbery Vintage, Hey Betty!) attracting vintage virgins to the newcomers on the scene (juju, Royal, Mello & Sons) adding variety to vintage pop-up movements (Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer, Ace Hotel Pop-Up Shops) to resale boutiques (Avalon Exchange, Buffalo Exchange), vintage is diverse and accessible throughout the city. When you wear vintage, you wear a story. Even folks who refuse the influence or impact of style can relate to this. Local and sustainable; the growing vintage stamp in Pittsburgh has been a win-win.

Team Mentality:

I sought a little help from my friends; specifically the ladies and gentlemen of Style Social Pittsburgh, to round out the last point. When prying their minds for the style’s twist and turns this year, an overlying theme rose: unity. Catie of The Femhem said it perfectly, “Pittsburgh has a real work together mentality and united partnership when it comes to growing areas of the city.” 2016 was the year Pittsburgh style put its foot down, collectively. It is time to forgive and forget GQ Magazine’s 2011 article naming Pittsburgh “the third worst dressed city in America.” The now represents growth, diversity, acceptance, and fostering an inclusive style community worthy of recognition. We do this by doing it together. Through fostering partnerships between local style-centric businesses, boutiques, Influencers and style groups to supporting style events in and around Pittsburgh to sharing and praising the successes of individuals within the style community, Pittsburgh style took a cue from the sports culture is developing a team mentality.

My three favorite Pittsburgh dishes of the year

by Emily Catalano

Brisket at Pork & Beans

A lot has been written about the ribs at Pork & Beans, and, while they’re amazing, the brisket is nothing short of a revelation. Since the restaurant opened this fall, I’ve been back a number of times for these insanely-tender pieces of meat. Pork & Beans’ sauces are the perfect accompaniment to their pulled pork, but the brisket can stand on its own – it’s that flavorful.

‘Ham & Cheese’ sandwich at DiAnoia’s Eatery

The fist time I went into DiAnoia’s Eatery, I asked the guy manning the bar what he recommended – and this sandwich was his immediate pick. With honey-smoked ham and back garlic BBQ sauce, it’s not something I would typically order. But I’m so glad I did. The sweetness of the ham balances out the tang of the BBQ sauce, and a little bit of smoothness is added with the addition of Boursin cheese. All that (and some pickled red onions tossed in for good measure) is stuffed into DiAnoia’s fresh-made bread. It’s quickly becoming my pick for the best sandwich in the city.

See Yew Noodles with Shrimp at Noodlehead

My go-to dish at Noodlehead is the See Yew Noodles. I don’t do spice as well as I’d like, and this dish, with large, flat rice noodles in a soy-based sauce has about as much heat as I can handle. The noodles are tossed with broccoli, bok choy and scrambled egg, and I always add shrimp to round it out. This isn’t a new Pittsburgh dish, but it’s one that I keep coming back to again and again.

Is it drafty in here? Everything happening in the beer scene this year

By Jason Cercone

The term “beer-cation” has entered the hip and trendy vernacular of 2016 and has taken beer enthusiasts on adventures to all points of the country in search of America’s next top beer scene. Like any vacation, many factors are taken into consideration when determining where to travel for beer, including the number of breweries in a given city, proximity of those breweries to one another, quality of product, overall tourism experience, and more.

It’s all about bringing home memories that will last a lifetime…fueled by craft beer and good times with friends and family. Many cities throughout the United States have earned the distinction of “craft beer destination” based on the number of spots producing quality liquid stationed in their city limits combined with bars featuring said liquid on tap.

In 2016, Pittsburgh made significant strides towards earning its destination stripes.

We prepare to hit 2017 with high hopes of continued growth and success for beer and spirits in our town and, as we do, a popular topic of discussion has been how close the “beer bubble” is to popping. Many question how much beer the market can handle and will our current abundance hurt craft beer instead of help it. And while this all makes for popular bar stool conversation, the so-called “bubble” is far from breaking. In fact, there is still plenty of room for more breweries to produce and distribute in our region with absolutely no fear of saturating the market.

Craft breweries with tasting rooms and brewpubs with complete menus are redefining “a night out” and offering those thirsty for delicious beers an opportunity to taste their product at its freshest point…direct from the source. Likewise, breweries from across the country with large market presence are experiencing tremendous success distributing their product throughout our area. These two factors reflect Pittsburgh’s relevance in the nationwide craft beer landscape and validates the hard work and dedication of thousands of men and women throughout the industry.

As we get ready to wipe the slate clean and embark on a brand new 365-day journey, it’s important to reflect and embrace what unfolded in

2016 that continued to add to a solid foundation for Pittsburgh’s beer scene. With so much taking place and so many people working tirelessly to make it happen, we often take for granted how much effort is invested in putting that tasty beverage in our pint glass.

Below are three significant events that transpired in 2016 that will propel Pittsburgh’s libations scene forward in 2017 and beyond:

7 New Breweries Joined the Fold

Opening a new brewery is hard work. Ask anyone who’s done it. While it may seem like a dream come true to be the owner of a brewery, getting a firm grip on that dream takes tons of blood, sweat, tears, and hours.

Dozens of unexpected obstacles and hurdles that no business plan could possibly contain seem to pop up at a moment’s notice. Each day offers a brand new challenge…much like any new venture started from the ground up. But the ends justify the means and pouring that first beer for a happy customer makes every step worthwhile.

2016 brought seven new breweries to the Pittsburgh region with several more on the cusp of opening in 2017. Allegheny City in the North Side, Butler Brew Works in Butler, Dancing Gnome in Sharpsburg, Helicon in Oakdale, Levity and Noble Stein Brewing in Indiana, and Yellow Bridge in Delmont all joined Pittsburgh’s thriving brewing community in 2016 and officially opened their doors for business. The addition of these new destinations pushed the total number of breweries in our region passed

40 with plenty more to come.

It’s safe to say any beer-cationer will have plenty of spots to visit when they arrive in Pittsburgh.

Several Law Changes Help Propel PA Libations Forward

It’s no secret that Pennsylvania has always been looked at as being a tad behind when it came to the advancement of liquor laws. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that beer could be purchased in PA grocery stores. And just a few years before that, you couldn’t purchase beer on Sundays.

Thankfully, we’ve progressed beyond those days and 2016 brought about several law changes that made purchasing more convenient for the consumer and partnerships within the industry stronger.

Some of the highlights of these law changes include:

  • Breweries with tasting rooms no longer need a brewpub license to sell pints
  • Wine can be sold in grocery stores
  • Brewpubs can sell spirits alongside their beer and distilleries can sell beer along side their spirits
  • Brewers can sell growlers and six-packs at beer fests
  • Wholesalers can sell six and 12-packs

There is already a strong relationship between brewers and distillers as many trade barrels back and forth to age their product and add new layers of complexity to the liquid inside. With new laws in place that help these businesses emphasize products that complement their own brand, there’s no reason to believe stronger relationships won’t be built between these entities as time goes on.

The Beginning Stages of a Beer Museum Unfolded

When you think of Cleveland, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame immediately comes to mind. This destination tells the story of rock and roll and pays homage to those who shaped the genre. On an annual basis, it brings 400,000+ visitors to the city and serves as the driving force behind Cleveland’s tourism market.

In 2016, plans to bring a similar venue to Pittsburgh took shape. Only this venue is designed to tell an even more important story: the story of beer.

BREW: The Museum of Beer launched its first Indiegogo campaign in October as their team began its quest to bring the first beer museum of its kind to the City of Pittsburgh. BREW’s concept is to tell the complete story of beer’s 10,000-year history via state-of-the-art, interactive, and technologically-advanced exhibits in a 50,000 square-foot complex complete with a Beer Hall of Fame, brewery, gift shop, and a restaurant pouring beers made in-house and from local breweries across the city. BREW plans to focus on all aspects of beer, from its discovery to its use as currency to how it has shaped cultures to its place in modern-day history, thus providing a destination for beer enthusiasts new or experienced where knowledge is gained and beer is celebrated.

2016 furthered the notion that Pittsburgh has become a nationwide hotbed for craft beer and spirits. Using this past year as our guide, 2017 is going to be pretty epic. Cheers to a happy, prosperous, and exciting new year!

2016: A theatrical year in review

by Mike Buzzelli

It was a marvelous year for theater in Pittsburgh. There were a plethora of powerful productions. Here are a few of the top plays that graced the stage in the ‘Burgh this year.

In the spring of 2016, “The Lion” roared into the Pittsburgh City Theatre. Songwriter and storyteller Benjamin Scheuer took audiences on a powerful, personal journey of self-exploration. He wove a heartfelt tale about his trials and tribulations with his family through word and song. His narrative went from incredibly sweet to horrifyingly tragic. It was an evocative, truthful tale. I wasn’t always comfortable, but it was exceptionally well done. If Scheuer comes back to the Southside, get a ticket.

In the dog days of summer, Pittsburgh Playwright’s production of August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars” became one of the must-see shows of the season. An aspiring musician, Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton (Jonathan Berry) is on the verge of a big break, but some dangerous alliances keep him from a harmonious (pun intended) destiny.  It was deftly directed by Mark Clayton Southers with amazing performances by Barry, Wali Jamal and Kevin Brown. This Incredible experience took place at the childhood home of the late playwright, making it a truly Pittsburgh event.

In early September, PICT Classic Theatre, made great use of their new space at the Union Project in Highland Park with Willy Russell’s “Shirley Valentine.” An English housewife, who spends most of her days talking to her kitchen wall, gets a chance to get away from her dreary life and live it up in Greece. Her life is forever changed by her journey. The incredible one-woman show starred Karen Baum and she was luminescent in the role. Expert direction by Alan Stanford and a brilliant set design from Johnmichael Bohach(one half English kitchen, the other Cretan beach) made “Shirley Valentine” one of the best of 2016.

At the end of September, Robert Askins’ “Hand to God” rocked the City Theatre with a raucous and raunchy tale of a boy and his allegedly satanic puppet named Tyrone (both played by Nick LaMedica). Tracy Brigden directed one of the funniest shows of the year. LaMedica and his fellow cast mates, Michael Greer, Lisa Velten Smith, Maggie Carr and Tim McGeever made every moment of the show laugh out loud funny. The City Theatre extended the run, but it could have run even longer.

In October, Quantum Theatre produced Jez Butterworth’s “The River” at the Aspinwall Riverfront Park. A fly fisherman (Andrew William Smith) invites his girlfriend (Daina Michelle Griffith) to his cabin for a getaway weekend, but memories of another woman (Siovhan Christensen) colors the romantic weekend. Butterworth’s script is rich and lyrical. Adil Mansoor masterfully directed a top-notch cast. Smith, Griffith and Christensen all handed in stellar performances.

Honorable mention: In the basement of the Cathedral of Learning, 12 Peers produced Conor McPherson’s “The Birds.” The playwright took Daphne Du Maurier’s novella, “The Birds” and veered off in a new direction, telling the aftermath of life in a world besieged by killer birds. It had a creepy, cool set designed by Hank Bullington and terrific sound and lighting design by Angela Baughman and Andrew Ostrowski respectively. Director Vince Ventura picked some terrific cast members in Nick Mitchell and Sara Fisher, but it was Gayle Pazerski’s cool and controlled portrayal of Diane that set this show apart from the rest.

Quantum Theatre’s “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” gets an honorable mention. A chamber opera about a neurological case study was one of the most interesting pieces of the year. Katy Williams, Ian McEuen and Kevin Glavin handed in some compelling performances told entirely in song. It was completely compelling and a unique medium for an unusual story. Opera, however, is an acquired taste.

Kinetic Theater’s “Cock” had a great premise with terrific talent. Ethan Hova, Erika Strasburg, Thomas Constantine Moore, and Sam Tsoutsouvas were equally matched talents in a sharply written masterpiece. However the restrictions of the script forbade props and set pieces and it made some moments awkward, dropping the play from a top spot to an honorable mention.

Throughout the year, there were some fantastic performances. Eugene Lee as Pops in “Between Riverside and Crazy,” Leandro Cano as Chief Bromden in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Noble Shropshire and Tony Bingham as a bewildered acting troupe in “The Fantasticks,” Nike Doukas as a noblewoman tortured by love in “Three Days in the Country,” Robin Abramson’s scene-stealing Russian lover Galina in “The Last Match,” Quinn Patrick Shannon and Luke Halferty multitude of characters in “39 Steps,” and all the spectacular, glittery drag queens of the Rep’s “Wig Out.”

If you missed these shows, don’t despair. There’s some great theater coming in 2017.

What’s the Hap? The Top 3 Things to Happen for Pittsburgh Music in 2016

by Amanda Roszkowski

The Launch of Live Music PGH

Gina Vensel’s company Easy Street Promotions launched Live Music PGH, a database to connect local musicians with the community. All bands + DJs currently booking in the greater Pittsburgh area are invited to participate.

East Street announced the beginning of the site with a party held November 4th at the Funhouse at Mr. Smalls. The event featured live music from local acts Spencer Allan Patrick, Grandadchilds and Cisco Kid.

Layer Cake Music Festival

The local fest in its second year and is a labor of love of Ziggy Sawdust, the owner and operator of Ziggy Sawdust Productions. Layer Cake stands out for featuring a large number of local hip-hop acts, and regionally well-known bands. Last year, the fest packed itself inside James St. Gastropub, with over 30 bands spread across three different stages.

However, this year, the fest hosted 120 bands over two nights across four local venues, with each venue boasting multiple stages. In addition to James Street, bands performed at Spirit Lodge, Cattivo and Mr. Smalls. Layer Cake stands out for featuring a large number of local hip-hop acts, as well as a smattering of regional bands. Sawdust hopes to expand the fest beyond Pittsburgh next year.

The Commonheart” Brings Soulful Rock Back to the Burgh

Formed in Pittsburgh in September 2014, The Commonheart boasts a sound reminiscent of classic rock/soul greats like Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and Janis Joplin. The band found its cohesive sound in the soulful vocals of 33-year-old singer-guitarist Clinton Clegg, a Montongahela native who seems to channel Al Green when he sings. The rest of the band features guitarist Arianna Powell, keyboardist Buddy Rieger, bassist Matt Booth and drummer Shawn McGregor.

Since that time, they have only grown, sharing the stage with Gary Clark Jr. at Stage AE and releasing their album Grown this past November.

One of the most memorable moments for music this summer in the ‘Burgh took place at Hartwoods Acres’ Randall Baumann Rumble when Clinton Clegg, the singer-guitarist for The Commonheart faced off with soul legend Billy Price. The moment was a memorable one for the crowd and Clegg himself. To get a good feel for the band’s sound, listen to “Cannonball” and “Pray.”

Recipes that made 2016 count

by Terri Dowd

My best recipes of the year are a mashup of Between The Eats cooking show recipes and homemade yummies from my food blog Parmesan Princess.

In no particular order, the crab cakes are ah-mazing. With just a little filling to hold them together, they encompass the size and texture of the Jumbo Lump.  Perfect for brunch, lunch, dinner, or a late night snack, these crab cakes are the best!  Just follow this simple recipe!

Crab Cakes

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 -1/2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped

1 egg

1 lb. jumbo lump crab meat

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

1/4 cup olive oil

Lemon- parsley

Directions: 

Whisk together mayo, mustard,

Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and egg.

Fold breadcrumbs into crab meat.

Add egg mixture 2 tbsp. at a time make sure not to mix hard and pulverize the ingredients.

Gently fold.

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan.

Add crab cakes one at a time and brown each side, approx. 3 minutes per side.

Serve with lemon and enjoy.

Traditional Sicilian cooking often includes eggplant and I am an eggplant fanatic!  Eggplant Parmesan, Roasted Eggplant as a side dish, and Eggplant Rollatini are perfect for the Sunday Supper table. This linguini dish plays with natural tomato flavors and deep herbs and spices.  I like to spice it up with some red pepper flakes and fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Spicy Roasted Eggplant Linguini

(Serves 4)

1 large Eggplant

2 tbsp. Olive oil +1/4 cup

Salt/pepper

1 tsp. Oregano

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 Roma tomatoes, wedged

2 tbsp red pepper flakes

1 tbsp. Fresh basil, finely chopped plus some for topping

1 lb. linguini, fresh or dry

Parmigiano Reggiano, fresh grated

Directions:

Preheat oven 425 degrees.

Slice Eggplant and place in a single layer on an inset cookie sheet.

Salt/pepper and let sit for 20 minutes.

Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes until softened and starts to brown.

Meanwhile, sautéed garlic and onion in a pan with olive oil.

Add tomatoes, Basil, pepper flakes and oregano. Let it bubble until it thickens.

Remove Eggplant and continue to simmer 10 minutes.

Bring a pot of water to boil, cook pastas until al dente and drain.

Add 1/4 cup pasta water and incorporate pasta into pan with the sauce.

Top with red pepper flakes, basil, parsley, and fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

And last but not least are my favorite breakfast of 2016- Cinnamon Egg Bagels!  These are delicious when making them for one or a crowd!  Enjoy these all winter into Spring!

Cinnamon Raisin Egg Bagels

Makes 6

Ingredients:

6 cinnamon raisin bagel or other sweet breakfast pastry or make your own!

6 farm fresh eggs

fresh grated parmesan cheese

salt/pepper

parsley for fancy styling

Directions:

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Close center of bagels by pressing dough together and squeezing to secure.

Naturally, the bagels will create a nook for the egg. If using bread or another pastry, remove to create a nook.

Crack eggs into nooks – its ok if a little spills over.

Grate fresh parmesan cheese over eggs and salt/pepper to taste.

Bake 16-22 mins or until eggs are set. Note: The egg will appear runny, give it the shake test to see if yolk is set. Seriously, shake the cookie sheet and watch for jiggling. If no serious jiggling you are good to go : )

OR- Cook in a pan until egg cooked through.

Top with chopped parsley for a fancy finish!