Mash Pittsburgh was deliciously nuzzled between two amazing meals, a dinner at the soon to open Butcher in The Rye, and a collaborative fall dinner at White Oak Farm, with five of the cities culinary juggernauts. The week began in the kitchen making perogies with Chef Richard Deshantz owner of meat and potatoes, and Nine On Nine. Richard opened the first Gastro Pub in Pittsburgh and is playing an integral role in revitalizing downtown Pittsburgh’s culinary scene. Downtown is transforming slowly, but outside of the city center Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods like the strip, and Lawrenceville (where you can enjoy the 40 taps at Industry Public House, or the recent brews at, Hop Farm Brewery a dinner at Cure, the Firehouse Farmers Market, or fill your sweet tooth at Mon Aimee chocolate shop), are setting the tone for the rest of the city.
Butcher in the Rye, this Mad Hatter ode to J.D Salinger is the most interesting restaurant space I have seen this year. At this downtown locale Clock Work Orange meets your favorite hunting lodge, where Stanley Kubrick and Jack Nicholson (think The Shining) would happily meet for bourbon’s and an excellent small plate meal. Butcher boasts one of the largest bourbon collections in the country, and with a an upstairs bar-lounge with barrel aged pre-mixed cocktails on tap will prove to be one the finest drinking institutions in the Pittsburgh area. Rich designed and built the restaurant himself, and never has a restaurant reflected the true nature of a chef more. From the bunny paws that lead to a butchered rabbit on the floor to the tattooed arm that leads you towards the bathroom, boasting the coolest locks I have ever seen not a single detail has been overlooked. This attention to detail carried over into the dishes we created, and paired with a fall worthy selection of our beers.
One of the things that makes Pittsburgh unique is the amount of Chef owned and operated restaurants. Our Sunday Dinner at White Oak Farm boasted three of the city’s top chefs and budding restaurateurs. Each owns all or part of their establishment and run their kitchens with passion, enthusiasm and respect for their ingredients, and their staff. From charcuterie made with heritage breed pigs (Justin Severino, Chef and owner of Cure), to ingredients harvested from her own farm (Kate Romane, Chef Owner of E2), or serious artisan sausage skills, beak to testicle cooking, and creator of the best parsnip soup I have ever eaten (Keith Fuller, Chef and owner of Root 174), I was deeply impressed by these chefs, and honored to share a grill with them on one of the nicest fall days of the year. I will drink homemade moonshine with those crazy folks anytime!
Working a farm dinner with David Cross‘ twin brother Justin Severino is always fun and the banter was as entertaining as the food, and as dry as colorful as our Brooklyn Brown Ale punch. Cocktails provided by bartender and owner of Acacia, Lynn Falk, and an array of Brooklyn beer kept our jokes quick and punchy, and made for a much more receptive audience. Adam Milliron snapped photos as over 80 guests enjoyed family style plates that welcomed their beer parings. Kriek, part of our Brooklyn Ghost Bottle Series melded perfectly with a kimchi sausage, and black bean fermented rice, funk met funk head on, and the rounded bourbon barrel accents softened the tartness of the cherries and subdued the depth of heat and acidity from the kimchi infused sausage and black rice.
The camaraderie, humbleness and level of knowledge being passed down in Pittsburgh kitchens from seasoned executive chefs and owners to the younger generation of talent will ensure that Pittsburgh continues to grow and evolve in a culinary capacity. Food writers like Hal B. Klein, and photographers like Adam Milleron are documenting the food, flavors, beers, cocktails, farmers, butchers, brewers and culinary faces of Pittsburgh, forging a vital link with a public eager for industry growth. Combine these folks with the role that Slow Food and other organizations are playing and you have a town poised for explosive culinary growth. Pittsburgh was once famous for its steel, coal, and pig iron, but now its heritage pigs and cast iron skillets are drawing the crowd.