Eat: Farmstead cheeses from Goat Rodeo

“This is a little wacky, but I think it might be right,” said Kelly Harding in his slow, Southern lilt. “I get molasses-based barbecue sauce on smoky pork, followed by a cup of coffee.” Harding, the creamery manager at Goat Rodeo, was describing a particularly unique pairing at a recent tasting event. Roundabout Brewery’s Sweetest Thing, a malty, chocolaty porter, joined Harding’s own Bamboozle, a raw goat’s milk cheese with a rind washed in Roundabout’s spent yeast. Harding was right: the funky cheese and roasty porter mingled for a smoky, bitter and wholly enjoyable pairing.

For years, Steve and India Loevner have raised goats and made cheese on their 130-acre farm, which is tucked down a windy road in Allison Park. But last June, the Loevners transitioned from making cheese for personal consumption to a full-fledged creamery operation. “It all starts with really great milk,” notes Steve Loevner. That milk comes from a herd of more than a hundred Nubian and Alpine goats, who have constant access to fresh pasture and alfalfa hay. Goat Rodeo also features a few cheeses made with cow’s milk, which they source from Le-Ara Farms in Worthington, PA.

For folks (myself included) only acquainted with goat cheese in its fresh, spreadable form, Goat Rodeo’s lineup is a revelation. They do make fresh chèvre, a creamy and mildy tangy cheese. But they also make varieties in nearly every family of cheese, from Chickabiddy (a “bloomy rind” style with a pronounced mushroom flavor) to Stampede (a semi-hard, mixed milk cheese with buttery, grassy notes).

Though they’ve been selling cheese for less than a year, Goat Rodeo already has an impressive presence in and around Pittsburgh. In addition to appearing in many of the city’s best restaurants, Goat Rodeo is sold through Penn’s Corner, East End Food Co-op, Penn Mac and numerous farmers’ markets. By the spring, all of the local Market Districts will carry Goat Rodeo cheeses as well. So pick up some cheeses, grab a few beers (“match strength for strength,” suggests Harding), and invite some friends over for an excellent Friday night.

Drink: Two-dozen drafts at the Wexford Pub

I’ll admit it: I like drinking in grocery stores. After battling crowded aisles and shuffling through stacks of coupons, it’s nice to reward yourself with a cold beer—especially when more and more stores have impressive craft selections and competitive pricing. The ambience, however, often leaves something to be desired: industrial lighting and the smell of the deli counter don’t do much to create a vibe. The new Wexford Pub combines the buying power of Whole Foods with the atmosphere of an honest-to-goodness bar.

The Wexford Pub, which opens on Tuesday, March 15th, marks the first time in the company’s history that Whole Foods Market has opened a standalone bar. Occupying the space next door to the Whole Foods on Perry Highway, the Wexford Pub gives the store plenty of room to expand their already popular beer program. Up front, guests are greeted by a large retail space featuring a selection of craft bottles, mix and match six-pack options and 64 feet of cold beer storage. Beyond that, a stately bar, lounge seating and a pool table await.

The focus of that bar is its impressive draft list. Twenty-four lines pour a primarily Pennsylvanian array of craft beers, from old favorites like Full Pint to newer entrants like Lawrenceville’s Hop Farm and Rochester’s Brixton Brewing. The bar will also offer a selection of wines and cocktails. The Wexford Pub shares a kitchen with Whole Foods, which means a menu of refined pub grub—think sweet and spicy Brussels sprouts, wedge salads and house-smoked kielbasa. And although Whole Foods has a reputation for running a bit pricey, the drinks are incredibly affordable: a pint of beloved seasonal Tröegs Nugget Nectar goes for just four bucks.

The pub is shaping up to be a flexible, multi-use addition to the Wexford area. During the day, grab coffee (the current bar inside Whole Foods will transition to a full-on coffee bar) and take advantage of the free Wi-Fi; later, switch to an adult beverage and unwind from the day. “This will be a great place for families to come [the draft list features non-alcoholic root beer] as well as people getting off work and coming for happy hour,” says Store Team Leader Casey Dill.

Follow Whole Foods Market Pittsburgh on Facebook for more info.

Do: Attend the 10th annual Farm to Table Conference

 The farm-to-table movement has come a long way in the past decade. Restaurants proudly trumpet the local farms that contributed to the night’s menu. Farmers are admired and respected, and CSAs and farmers’ markets play a part in many weekly routines. The simple fact that “farm-to-table” is now a household phrase points to the sea change that has occurred in American eating in recent years. Though we have a long way to go, there is plenty to celebrate. And at this weekend’s Farm to Table Conference, Pittsburghers will have a chance to do just that.

On March 18th and 19th, the Farm to Table Conference will descend upon Downtown’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, attendees can visit tables and exhibits from more than 100 local farms, producers and nonprofits. The conference also features a packed lineup of lectures and demonstrations, which range in subject from starting seedlings to baking bread to the history of the pawpaw. This year’s conference also features several additional events before and after each day’s regular hours, including a local food tasting on Friday and a “farm to flask” mixology event on Saturday.

The 10th annual Farm to Table Conference coincides with the kickoff of Pittsburgh’s yearlong bicentennial celebration. March 18th is Pittsburgh’s Official Incorporation Day, and this year, that date will mark Pittsburgh’s 200th birthday. Farm to Table Pittsburgh is one of more than 200 local organizations participating in the year of festivities.

Tickets for the Farm to Table Conference start at $20 per day. Visit Farm to Table Pittsburgh’s website for more information. And check out our March events guide for more on the conference and other great events this month.