Spoonwood Brewery

Eat: An indulgent dinner (or brunch) at Whitfield

If you haven’t made Valentine’s Day reservations yet, your options are limited. You could make your sweetie a home-cooked meal, which is a romantic but risky proposition. You could grab cheap takeout and claim you’re making a statement about the corporate holiday and rebelling against consumerist expectations (good luck with that one). Or you could celebrate at Whitfield, which anticipated your failure to plan and are offering specials throughout the weekend.

On Saturday and Sunday, Whitfield (the restaurant inside East Liberty’s new Ace Hotel) will be offering a four-course prix fixe menu for $50 a person. The star of the meal is a decadent Beef Wellington paired with bone marrow and roasted rapini. A few aphrodisiacs make appearances, of course: the meal kicks off with Beau Soleil oysters and concludes with a chocolate and raspberry dessert. Guests can add an optional wine pairing for $25. And on Monday, Whitfield is running a prix fixe “Morning After” brunch menu.

All of the specials are offered in addition to the regular menu. Whitfield, which opened in December, is the project of Brent Young, co-owner of Brooklyn’s Meat Hook. Whitfield specializes in all things meaty, from classic steakhouse cuts to roasted duck to house-made charcuterie. Their brunch menu, which is served seven days a week, is filled with indulgent comfort food like fried chicken and biscuits and gravy.

And if fancy dinners aren’t your (or your partner’s) style, check out Shot to the Heart, a Valentine’s Day dodgeball tournament happening in the Ace’s newly opened gymnasium.

Drink: Screamin’ Danger IPA at Spoonwood

Spoonwood Brewing is not the first brewery to draw inspiration from music. Magic Hat makes Ticket to Rye, Terrapin makes So Fresh & So Green, Green, Voodoo makes Big Black Voodoo Daddy (and other punny beers)—the list goes on and on. But Spoonwood didn’t just take a name from their favorite band. They actually got the band involved.

“Music is a really huge part of what we do on a daily basis,” explains Steve Ilnicki, brewer and owner at Bethel Park’s Spoonwood Brewing. “A lot of our beer names are taken from lyrics.” That includes a double IPA called Good Eye Sniper, a name grabbed from a song by alt rock band Coheed and Cambria. When Spoonwood tweeted about the name, the band took notice. Conversations started rolling and Ilnicki shipped some beer to the band members. Feedback was good, and Ilnicki knew he was onto something.

Last week, Spoonwood debuted Screamin’ Danger, a new brew made in collaboration with Coheed and Cambria. The band came up with the name, pulling it from the lyrics to the opening track on their latest album. The band also provided artwork, which will be used on a very limited run of bottles; it’s only the second time Spoonwood has bottled a beer. Screamin’ Danger is an IPA brewed with a variety of hops—including Galaxy, Simcoe and Mosaic—that lend the beer a tropical, fruity aroma. It’s an easy-drinking IPA though there is a hint of that resinous bitterness that hopheads crave. Clocking in at 5.8% ABV, Screamin’ Danger is a bit more subdued than Spoonwood’s previous IPAs.

Spoonwood recently celebrated their one-year anniversary. The first year has been booming, and the brewery has quickly gained a following for inventive brews like Cold Drip City and Smoke and Oats. For Ilnicki and his team, a chance to have a beer with Coheed and Cambria would be the ultimate anniversary present. Though Ilnicki isn’t sure if he’ll be able to get Screamin’ Danger on tap at Stage AE when the band plays there on March 1st, there will definitely be some killer tailgating beforehand.

Do: New Sun Rising’s “Cultural Gumbo” at Mr. Smalls

In 2005, Brian and Scott Wolovich held an event called Cultural Gumbo to raise money for victims of Hurricane Katrina in and around New Orleans, a city they dearly loved. Out of that event sprang New Sun Rising, a social enterprise incubator designed to improve another city they love: Pittsburgh. Ten years later, New Sun Rising has helped countless social enterprises and creative projects get off the ground, and they continue to support dozens of projects working to create a better Pittsburgh.

This Saturday, New Sun Rising is celebrating the past decade with another edition of Cultural Gumbo. On Saturday, February 13th, New Sun Rising will take over Mr. Smalls with a New Orleans inspired bash. Entertainment will be provided by an eclectic lineup of local and national acts, including Raya Brass Band, DTC Organ Trio and Colonel Eagleburger’s Highstepping Goodtime Band. There will be entertainment off the stage as well, including games by City of Play and demos from Barrels to Beethoven, an organization that promotes steelpan education and innovation.

The menu is chock full of classic New Orleans fare by vendors in New Sun Rising’s new food incubator, including Sprezzatura, Leon’s Caribbean Restaurant and Plated Trade. Options will include gumbo, beignets, Shrimp Monica (as well as a vegan version), and more. Pittsburgh Po’boy (one of our favorite new restaurants of 2015) will also be serving up their brand of Cajun cuisine.

Tickets for the Cultural Gumbo are $20 and can be purchased here. Learn more about New Sun Rising here.

Drew Cranisky is a writer, bartender and recent graduate of Chatham University's Food Studies program. He enjoys cats, pinball and fancy burgers.