Eat: täkō tacos at the CONSOL Energy Center
Though täkō opened nearly a year ago, it’s still awfully tough to get a table. Their brand of Asian-Mexican street food has struck a chord with Downtown diners, who continue to vie for seats in the lively little restaurant. But now Chef Richard DeShantz and his team are offering another way to get your taco fix.
Last Monday, täkō opened a stand in the CONSOL Energy Center, just a few blocks from their original location on 6th Street. The stand, which will be open during all Penguins games and other events, joins the M&P Poutine House, another DeShantz venture that opened at the CONSOL in November.
The new täkō stand serves up a smaller version of the original täkō menu, including a selection of meat and fish tacos, snacks like Mexican street corn, and an Asian-inspired burrito. The täkō stand is only available to club-level seating and the prices are, of course, inflated to arena standards. But it’s certainly a better choice than stale popcorn and dirty water dogs.
The new stand is the latest outpost in DeShantz’s ballooning Downtown empire, but it won’t be the last. Pork & Beans, a meat-focused collaboration between DeShantz and Keith Fuller of Root 174, is slated to open this spring.
Drink: Mead, mead and more mead
A few years ago, mead was pretty easy to ignore. Perhaps it would come up when you were browsing Viking folklore or pregaming for a Renaissance fair, but it more or less lived in obscurity otherwise. And you certainly wouldn’t see mead on tap at your local bar.
Nowadays, mead is where cider was a few years ago: still somewhat uncommon but rapidly gaining a following. In the Pittsburgh area, much of that growth can be chalked up to Carnegie’s Apis Mead & Winery, which has been producing a wide array of mead (including nontraditional flavors like Hopped Passionfruit) since mid-2014. But Apis isn’t the only one getting in on the mead game. This past weekend, Laurel Highlands Meadery opened a tasting room in Irwin, where guests can sample and purchase traditional and flavored meads. And Wigle Whiskey recently announced the launch of Threadbare Cider, a cider house and meadery that will open on the North Side later this year.
All this talk about mead may have you wondering: what the heck is it? Simply put, mead is honey wine. Fermented grain becomes beer, fermented grapes become wine and fermented honey becomes mead. The strength of mead is closer to wine than beer, usually clocking in somewhere between 10 and 20 percent ABV. The flavor of the finished mead can vary widely depending on the type of honey used, and many mead makers will add fruits, spices or hops to create additional layers of flavor. And though it’s made from honey, mead is not necessarily sweet; like cider, mead can be quite crisp and dry.
Everything old is new again, and in mead’s case, that means really, really old. Some historians believe it’s the oldest alcoholic beverage in the world, and references to mead-like concoctions have been found in the writings of numerous ancient cultures. So if you’re feeling pretty cutting-edge when you order that mead on draft, just know that you were beaten to the trend by about 30,000 years.
Do: The Normal Ass Beer Fest at Altar Bar
Are you tired of all those other beer festivals, with their large selections of local, inventive and delicious craft beer? Yeah, neither are we. Nevertheless, it’s nice to occasionally step back and remember where you came from. This Saturday, take a stroll down memory lane at the Normal Ass Beer Fest.
Kicking off at 5 p.m. on Saturday, February 20th, the Normal Ass Beer Fest is just what it sounds like: an event to celebrate all the average, run-of-the-mill beers that never get any love on the festival circuit. There won’t be any brewers gushing about experimental hop varieties or special releases of barrel-aged imperial stouts. Instead, there will be unlimited sampling of all the watery adjunct lagers that fuel frat houses around the nation. Billed as a festival for “sampling the beer you liked before you liked beer,” more than two-dozen spectacularly average beers will be available, including Keystone Ice, Red Dog and Genesee Cream Ale. DJ Shawn Watson will provide tunes all night long.
The Normal Ass Beer Fest is brought to you (tongue firmly in cheek) by Pittsburgh Craft Brewhaha, who also put on several other, craftier beer festivals throughout the year. Though the choices may be questionable, this is likely the cheapest beer fest you’ll ever attend: just 15 bucks gets you all the normal ass beer you can stomach.