Justin Lubecki is a man of many talents. And luckily for the hungry masses of Pittsburgh, many of them involve feeding people. For years, Lubecki has worked behind the scenes in Pittsburgh’s most popular restaurants, mastering everything from pizza dough to ice cream to handmade sausage. Lubecki is also an expert on wild foods and foraging—I once accompanied him on an enlightening stroll through Frick Park, where he pointed out the many delicious things I had been totally ignoring.
Now Lubecki is turning his attention to all things fermented. Lubecki is the founder of Ferment Pittsburgh, an initiative that seeks to promote a healthier and more sustainable local food system through fermented foods. This Sunday, Ferment Pittsburgh is presenting the first Pittsburgh Fermentation Festival, a day filled with workshops, sauerkraut sampling and an intriguing “interactive mold table.” The festival, which will be held at the Pittsburgh Public Market, is free and open to all ages.
When Lubecki isn’t fermenting and foraging, he finds a few minutes for tacos. He told us about the Mexican street stand that provides a satisfying break in his busy days.
I don’t own a computer, which brings me to concentrated work binges at the library. Putting together the Fermentation Festival has had me in front of a computer quite a bit more than usual. I tend to favor the Oakland library, so when I crave that much-needed break I can dive into the woods of Schenley Park. Another advantage is when that hunger craving strikes, Las Palmas is right around the corner.
As I find myself spending more and more money on food and food experiences, I also find myself really appreciating Las Palmas. It’s straightforward, honest food that tastes great and is often heaping with enough filling to make it feel like you’re getting the better end of the deal. And that’s just what I need after a day of working so much that I “forgot” to eat. They have enough variety with the proteins to keep you from getting bored and they are seasoned quite well.
This time I got a chicken and a chorizo. After dumping on the onions, tomatoes and cilantro (and of course a couple of the grilled whole peppers, while going light on the fiery hot sauces) from the self-serve toppings bar, I carried the goods to the heart of Schenley to stuff my face in the warm February afternoon, surrounded by the still dormant forest and soundtracked by an eager trickling creek.
I think that Las Palmas being street-side and in the open air provides an added nudge to the food that makes me pass all the other options in Oakland. I mean, these guys are out there bundled up and huddled over the grill all winter long without fail. It tends to remind me of the farmer’s toil and gives me one of those “romancing the truly unglamorous” moments.
In the end, Las Palmas has become a simple yet delicious reward for spending the day cooped up in front of a computer.
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