In our new Monday column, we’ll give you recommendations on what to eat, drink and do in the week ahead.
Eat: The Pittsburgh Po’boy
I had a Proustian moment in the Pittsburgh Public Market. Like Marcel Proust’s famous madeleine, one bite of a po’boy from The Pittsburgh Po’boy invited a rush of memories from my time in New Orleans, of sticky jazz clubs and sidewalk fortunetellers and parties that burn into the wee small hours. This was a powerful—and powerfully tasty—sandwich.
Though the flavors are easy to mimic, Ben Dougherty captures the soul of Cajun cooking. The owner and (more or less) sole employee at The Pittsburgh Po’boy, Dougherty is obsessive about creating authentic Louisiana cuisine, from gumbo to bread pudding to his signature shrimp or chicken po’boys. “I try to do just a few things really, really well,” explains Dougherty. “I’m very particular about each ingredient.” He went to great lengths to find the French bread that defines a proper po’boy, eventually deciding to ship it up from Louisiana. “I wasn’t going to do it if I couldn’t get the bread.”
Thankfully he found it, and has been cooking up a focused, flavor-packed menu of Cajun food at the Pittsburgh Public Market since mid-July. Dougherty will be adding catering services soon and is currently rebuilding the engine on his food truck, which he hopes to have on the road in the spring. The truck will serve an expanded menu of Southern staples, including beignets and fried catfish.
Drink: The Brew Gentlemen’s Mexican Coffee
Speaking of big flavors, have you had Mexican Coffee yet? If you haven’t, you’re probably dying to. According to The Brew Gentlemen, the seasonal brew is their most requested beer to date. Last winter’s limited release sold out before I ever got near a pint, leaving me full of wonder and regret for the better part of a year.
Thankfully, the gents recognized demand and scaled way up this year, and Mexican Coffee will be available throughout the fall. I got to taste it last weekend and will say that, despite what Public Enemy preaches, you should believe the hype. The oatmeal stout is brewed with coffee, Mexican vanilla and cinnamon, making for a beer that could kick off an evening just as easily as it could cap one. And at 6.5%, Mexican Coffee is weighty without being a one-and-done affair.
Usher in the suddenly chilly weather with a glass of the robust, spicy brew. You can try it at the upcoming Beer + Pierogi event on Tuesday, October 13. The taproom beer dinner will feature beer and pierogi pairings to celebrate the release of Casey Barber’s new book “Pierogi Love: New Takes on an Old World Comfort Food.” Grab tickets here.
Do: Fall farm festivals
And speaking of that chilly weather (transitions are on point today!), it’s about time to get out to the country for a good old-fashioned fall festival. You know the drill: hayrides, corn mazes and a basket of apples that is way bigger than you can possibly use. Though they require braving Sunday drivers and hordes of shrieking children, fall festivals are a delightfully nostalgic part of the season.
Luckily, Pittsburgh is surrounded by farms that do a cracking business in the fall. Triple B Farms in Monongahela offers pick-your-own apples and pumpkins as well as tons of activities for kids and families. Simmons Farm in McMurray also has apple and pumpkin picking, as well as additional activities on the weekends like live music and a pumpkin catapult. And Wexford’s Soergel Orchards, which is well known for their apples year-round, comes alive in the fall, hosting an extravaganza of picking, eating and playing that attracts thousands.
There are plenty more, of course. So if you like cider doughnuts, petting zoos and finding straw in your shoes for weeks to come, get to a fall festival as soon as possible.