Archive for October, 2008

Like Good Beer? Try Hough’s.

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

If you like bars that feature beer that’s worth drinking, step out to Greenfield and raise a glass at Hough’s. Of their 8 draft selections, only two (Miller Lite and Yuengling) represent the run-of-the-mill; the rest, which rotate based on what the Hough family has in stock, represent a range of craft-brewed options. Recently, they’ve added Edmund Fitzgerald, my favorite offering from the Great Lakes Brewing Company; and they’ve also had a Peak Organic Maple, which has been aged in maple and bears that wood’s distinctive, sweet flavor.

Should none of the draft beers strike your fancy, consult their list of 60+ bottled beers. If you like hops, I suggest either Dogfish Head’s 90-Minute IPA or an Arrogant Bastard. Of course, there are plenty of choices for those who prefer their beer less bitter. My wife has recently been enjoying an Ichabod Pumpkin Ale from New Holland Brewing Company.

Hough’s has a nice menu of solid bar food, as well: the benko burger is fantastic; as is the barbecue bacon burger, which I usually will order with blue cheese instead of swiss. The steak hoagie holds its own, too–though I usually get it with provolone, instead of the american cheese that’s listed on the menu. Hough’s makes its own chips and fries; or, if you want a side that’s not deep fried, they’ve got applesauce from a jar for you. The menu is expanding, and now features chicken parmesan and spaghetti and meatballs in addition to their variety of sandwiches and appetizers. I’d like to see them go a little bit further in the knife-and-fork direction and feature offerings such as meatloaf and mashed potatoes; steak and eggs; and red beans and rice. But I haven’t yet been disappointed by anything that is available that I’ve ordered.

Where is Hough’s? In true Pittsburgh tradition, I’ll tell you it’s where Pickles used to be, at the corner of Greenfield and Nantasket. Don’t let the small number of changes to Pickles’ old storefront fool you, though–the entire inside has been renovated and improved. There are lots of big-screen TVS you can watch your favorite sporting event on, especially if your favorite sporting event happens to be the Steelers or the Penguins. Otherwise, you still have a pretty good chance of watching it; I was able to get one TV tuned to a Red Sox-Rays game last week even as the rest of the bar was cheering on the Pens.

I really like the family feel. at least one of the Hough family members, if not 2 or 3, is likely to visit your table and make sure that everything is okay. I haven’t had reason to complain, but I have a definite feeling that if there were something wrong, the Houghs would be very quick to correct it. Quite honestly, sometimes when I’m sitting there sipping an ale, I half-expect the entire bar to chant “Norm!” when George Wendt walks through the door. It just feels like that kind of place.

Rating: 3 Oranges.

Hough’s is located at 563 Greenfield Avenue in Pittsburgh.

Firkins at Piper’s Pub

Friday, October 17th, 2008

Way back in May, I read in the Post-Gazette that Piper’s Pub on the south side had started to serve ale from firkins.  Though I didn’t know that word until I read the article, I was familiar with the concept: this is ale which is carbonated by active yeast in the kegs and is hand pumped into the glass: draught beer the natural way.

As I was curious to try the ale, and as Piper’s Pub is hands-down my favorite casual dining restaurant in the city (I highly recommend the lamb-and-chestnut shepherd’s pie above all else; and if your dining companions suggest splitting an order of scotch eggs, the correct response is ‘don’t mind if I do’), I was certain that I would try it within a matter of a couple of weeks.

As it turns out, i just finally got out there again last week; but I did have a firkined ale, and it was definitely worth a mention.  It’s not anywhere near as carbonated as we’re accustomed to having our beers; but it’s definitely not flat, either.  And it’s not ‘ice cold’ the way many Americans think beer ought to be served, but because it has such an enjoyable flavor, it’s actually better warm because more of the complexity comes out.

So, if you enjoy a good beer and you appreciate a fine British ale, I suggest checking out what Piper’s has in their casks and trying a pint of whatever it might be.

Piper’s Pub is located at 1828 East Carson Street in Pittsburgh; (412) 381-3977.

Homeland Security I Can Believe In

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

from Michael Pollan’s article “Farmer in Chief” in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine:

“For decades now, it has been federal policy to shrink the number of farmers in America by promoting capital-intensive monoculture and consolidation. As a society, we devalued farming as an occupation and encouraged the best students to leave the farm for “better” jobs in the city. We emptied America’s rural counties in order to supply workers to urban factories. To put it bluntly, we now need to reverse course. We need more highly skilled small farmers in more places all across America — not as a matter of nostalgia for the agrarian past but as a matter of national security. For nations that lose the ability to substantially feed themselves will find themselves as gravely compromised in their international dealings as nations that depend on foreign sources of oil presently do. But while there are alternatives to oil, there are no alternatives to food.”

Read the whole article here! With any luck, our future president is reading it, too, and will implement Mr. Pollan’s very logical and persuasive arguments about the direction our nation’s food policy needs to go.

Getting A Farm-Fresh Thanksgiving Turkey

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

It’s October—that means Thanksgiving will be upon us in less than 2 months.  Do you know where your turkey is coming from?

I’ve been buying mine farm-fresh for the last couple of years; but this year, I wanted to go the extra mile and buy a bird that was also free-range, so I made a few phone calls to find out that I couldn’t find one.  The last farmer that I called explained to me why that is the case.

“They’re free-range inside of a coop,” explained Mr. Eichner of Eichner’s Family Farm in Wexford, PA.  As far as raising turkeys in the open air goes, “There are just too many concerns with coyotes and other predators.”  In order to get a turkey from Eichner’s, it helps to already be a customer.  He raises the same number of turkeys each year and past customers get first dibs.  Orders for new customers are not guaranteed, and can be placed in person at Eichner’s Farm Market.

With that knowledge under my belt, I placed my order witht he farm that I’ve gone through for the past couple of years, Ifft’s Poultry in Evans City, PA.  They will accept orders over the phone; birds are available for pick-up on the Tuesday or Wednesday preceding the holiday; any earlier than that, and your bird is still breathing (talk about fresh!).

Another option for a fresh, local bird is Pound’s Turkey Farm in Leechburg, PA.  Their birds are available directly from the farm, and orders are accepted over the phone.  Another option for getting a turkey from Pound’s is to place your order through Schramm Farms, but Schramm will not be accepting orders until sometime around the beginning of November.

Contact Information for Local Turkey Resources:

Eichner’s Farm Market: 285 Richard Rd, Wexford, PA 15090; irections(724) 935-2131

Ifft’s Poultry: 136 Pioneer Rd, Evans City, PA 16033; (724) 538-4710

Pound’s Turkey Farm: 4200 Melwood Rd, Leechburg, PA 15656; ctions(724) 845-7661

Scramm Farms: 1002 Blank Rd,  Jeannette, PA 15644; (724) 744-7320