Category Archives: food

With food, every day is a Good Friday for meatless eaters

Growing up, I remember wondering what was so “good” about Good Friday.

I couldn’t eat meat, and Good Friday always happened to fall on a Friday (funny how that works), which meant Pizza Friday, which meant no pepperoni, which meant WHY EVEN HAVE PIZZA.

No meat on Good Friday became a carryover family tradition from older generations in the family who were far more religious than my family.

Fast forward a few decades to a time when I no longer eat meat on any day of the year.

I laugh thinking of how I felt so put out that I couldn’t have pepperoni pizza or chicken tenders.

Not having meat with a meal was unthinkable then.

Want a salad? No bacon. WHY HAVE SALAD!

A burger? No way! WHAT IS THE POINT OF LIFE!

So I recall a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches and cheese pizza — two otherwise excellent options EXCEPT WHEN MEAT WAS NOT AN OPTION!

What a minor sacrifice it was for that short period. It’s similar to how I see those who forgo something for Lent. A huge deal is made for something such as coffee or pop or candy.

Today, I only consider meatless options — of which there are plenty to choose from — for meals.

Food trucks, cancer, 20 years, skipping Sheetz … oh my!

This year marks the 20th year since my grandma died. In fact, it was this past Sunday. A lot has happened in that time, but my devotion to giving another grandma more time with her grandson — time that I didn’t have with my own — continues. And, of course, many other people.

And, in the 20 years since her death, many other friends and loved ones have been diagnosed with cancer, and some have died.

Your support helps to fund research (some of which is happening in Pittsburgh — I talked with two American Cancer Society funded researchers in June who did their work at the University of Pittsburgh) and programs offered to cancer patients and families.

mission_06So, how can you help?

You can make donation of $20 (or whatever you’d like to/are able to give) to fund American Cancer Society cancer research and programs. And I can talk your ear off about the invaluable programs and research.

Relay For Life is my chance to celebrate loved ones who have won and are winning their battle against cancer, remember those no longer with us and fight back against this disease that robs so many of so much.
mission_02More than just walking the track, I’m fundraising! Because of YOUR donations, more people:

  • Have the information and tools they need to help reduce their risk of getting cancer or find the disease early, when it’s easiest to treat
  • Have a place to turn for help 24/7
  • Benefit from the progress being made toward finding cancer’s causes and cures
  • Get access to lifesaving screenings and treatment

Please join me in fighting cancer and consider supporting my fundraising efforts by making a donation.

And what am I doing to help?

Truth be told, I’ve not been as successful this year at fundraising. So, I’ve decided to skip buying anything from Sheetz (unless if I need gas) this week and donating to my Relay For Life efforts the money I’d have spent otherwise.

And, if you know me or follow me on social media, you know I practically live at Sheetz.

So my goal is to not spend any money on food/drink items at Sheetz from July 18 through 8 a.m. July 23.

You’re probably like, “OK, but that’s maybe 10 bucks.” And you’d be wrong. There are days when I’m at Sheetz three or four times per day. Now, it’s not always for lunch, but it all adds up.

So I’ve decided I’m going to take my last seven Sheetz receipts, add them up and donate that money. If my math is correct, I’ll donate about $80.


So this Saturday (July 23) — during the Relay For Life of Greater Cranberry Township — is a FOOD TRUCK DINNER PARTY. It’s from 5-8 p.m. at North Boundary Park in Cranberry. SEVEN of the Pittsburgh food trucks will be there! Some of the proceeds benefit the event!

Amission_01nd while you’re there … be sure to check out the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Greater Cranberry Township events going on, too! Here’s a full schedule. There are a lot of events for kids, plus there are bands performing and all sorts of activities.

Can’t make the food truck dinner party or RFLCranberry? Or, can make it and still want to support research efforts and programs? Please consider a making a $15, $20 or whatever you’d like to offer donation. You can do so here.

Thank you so much for your support. Together, we will finish the fight!


Remembering Edith Hughes…

Unlike many colleagues and friends, my stories of Edith Hughes don’t involve what seemed to be a haphazard interview session or a layout filled with red ink corrections.

My first run-in with Edith came one morning in 2007 in the Gateway Newspapers former office on Greentree Road. It was early that morning — just myself and Signal Item editor Bob Pastin were in. Edith quickly zipped through the office, pausing just enough to look at me — a new face. She rushed into Bob’s cubicle and asked, “Who is that?”

Bob replied, explaining I was the new (at the time) part-time reporter for the Signal Item and Sewickley Herald. She came back out of his cubicle, looked at me as I awkwardly smiled at her — unsure of what just took place, and then she left.

The first time I spoke to Edith was in Harrisburg for a Pennsylvania Newspaper Association weeklies conference. Her first statement: “Did you get breakfast?” No, I said. She then looked me up and down and asked how I was liking the Sewickley Herald. Before I could finish a sentence, she said, “Interesting attire, young man.” I had on khakis, a polo shirt and tennis shoes — my usual work attire.

She then said, “Maybe you’ll learn something here to take back to Sewickley.”

What she didn’t know is that it wasn’t the guest speakers from The Patriot-News or any other newspaper that I’d learn from that day. It was Edith who would teach me more than I ever thought I could know.

You see, Edith had a way with more than just journalism. She had a way with life. In her eyes, good manners, proper attire and fine detail meant everything. You didn’t cut corners. You gave more than your best. And you did all of that out of respect for yourself, your talent and your colleagues.

I got to know her more through stories from colleagues and from her random visits to the Sewickley Herald office. She played a major role in the Herald’s annual honors dinner, recognizing the great community-minded individuals of the year. Place cards were handwritten, not typed. The menu offered nothing but the best food. And the entire evening was as perfect as perfect could be. Why? Because she’d settle for nothing less.

At one of the honors dinners, she looked at me and said, “You clean up well. I almost didn’t recognize you.”

In January of this year, I returned from a nearly two-week-long vacation. I had a missed call and e-mail from Edith. Odd, I thought. Out of the more than 20 voice mails and 200 e-mails, Edith’s were the first messages I responded to.

Days later, I heard from her. She wanted to talk to me in person. I was nervous, to say the least. She couldn’t fire me, she didn’t have that authority anymore. Right? But what did I do to be getting a visit exclusively from Edith?

I dressed a tad nicer than my average wardrobe (no tie, though), and awaited her visit. Snowflakes were flying. Edith called and said she’d be late. Finally, Edith arrived and whisked me away into the conference room where she shut the door.

“I need you to talk at the weeklies seminar about everything you do with technology,” she said. “It’s in April.”

This was early January — many months and inches of snow away from April.

“Yeah, I’ll do it,” I nervously said, scribbling down the words “April” and “PNA.”

“Yes, you’ll do it,” Edith said, either repeating what I said, but probably correcting my language.

She expected an outline by mid-February. I e-mailed her an outline by the end of that week in January.

The morning of the conference, Edith — oddly enough — was late. As it turned out, the massive rain and flooding from the previous day and night knocked the power out at her hotel. I stayed elsewhere in the Harrisburg area, which was unheard of in Edith’s mind because I did not get breakfast options at my hotel (though, she was impressed that I got a better room rate than she!).

Right before my turn to present, I completely re-did my entire presentation because the previous speakers took most of what I was going to say. Introducing me to the crowd, Edith explained what a dedicated and passionate reporter I was, and what I had done to help make the Sewickley Herald a newsier paper. I can remember standing there thinking, “Holy crap, Edith is saying this about me?”

Afterward, Edith told me I was the best presenter (even though I went over by 15 minutes). “That was some talk you gave” she said. “Even I was surprised. You knocked their socks off.”  She paused and said, “You’re already booked for next year.” I didn’t get a chance to agree because she grabbed a mint and walked away.

I wasn’t hired by her or even worked under her, but I still felt I needed her approval as a journalist. And I’m pretty sure I got it that day.

She didn’t make the Herald’s honors dinner this year because she was traveling. But I did sit next to her in May at the Keystone Press Awards, where she, again, spoke highly of my presentation a month earlier. At the Keystone Press Awards dinner, we talked about my presentation for next April and how she thought the awards dinner chicken was too dry and the speakers were mostly boring.

She, no doubt, has made a lasting impact on my career — and more importantly, my life. Thanks to Edith, I hold myself in higher regard and respect the decisions I make and the stories I cover, knowing that my name is on whatever story I’m writing at the moment, so it better be the best it can be.

“Reporters are a dime a dozen,” she once told me. That phrase has stuck with me, allowing me to remember what my job is and to carry it out with dignity and respect.

Edith made me realize just how important grammar and proper communication skills are, and to be poignant, sharp and decisive.

My world is a better place thanks to Edith.

Finally tasted Five Guys

There’s something very high school-ish about the name of popular fast food burger joint, Five Guys.

Any time somebody enters the place, I find tweets exclaiming, “I’ve got Five Guys in my mouth!” or something similar.

There are (to my knowledge) at least three local Five Guys establishments. Rumor has it, at least one more is on the way.

I’d never been to Five Guys until recently.

Based on my experience, the place doesn’t deserve the hype it gets. Take away the fun name and you’re left with a burger and fries that, at least on my first visit, don’t make the list of Top 10 greatest burgers ever eaten.

Was it bad? No.

But there generally was no ‘wow’ factor to the meal.

I also was amazed at how expensive the meal was. For $11 and some change, I got a bacon cheeseburger, fries and a drink. That seemed a bit expensive for a fast food joint, especially if you compare the size and quality of the burger to one at another restaurant.

The restaurant is mostly stark white — as in, emergency room, hospital white. The few wall hangings include good press from newspapers and other media outlets from across the nation.

On the Saturday I visited, I must have hit the lunch rush as there were few empty tables. Though, by the end of my time there, most customers had cleared out, leaving the place mainly empty.

Five Guys didn’t earn a strike on my “Three Strikes” list — it’s what it sounds like, “three strikes and you’re out.” A restaurant has to earn three strikes (each from a different visit) before I decide to never go there again. Only two restaurants have struck out — Applebee’s and Smokey Bones.

I’d certainly visit again. But Five Guys is not a place I’d drive out of my way to visit or even suggest to friends, especially with a multitude of other, much better, options nearby.

Sneak peek California Pizza Kitchen offers good, pricy food

I had the opportunity to visit a new restaurant at Ross Park Mall before it officially opened to the public.

Nestled alongside L.L. Bean and the Cheesecake Factory is California Pizza Kitchen, a Beverly Hills-founded chain restaurant.

It was an invite-only event one night before their grand opening, and it seemed staff members were well prepared for the big day to come. Two friends and I met there for dinner.

I’m familiar with California Pizza Kitchen’s grocery store line of frozen foods and have enjoyed them, but never have been into an actual restaurant in the chain. Until now.

The place seems a bit small and lacks much decor, but it keeps with the California style, even with the restaurant’s earth tone colors. It really has an open floor plan — nearly every table can see the televisions at the bar. The place was packed, but not loud at all, which was great.

So, what did we eat?

For an appetizer, we had spinach artichoke dip that tasted better than almost any other restaurant I remembered. Even the chips were extremely tasty — something a lot of restaurants have issues with.

There were limitations to what we could order, so the three of us opted to each get a pizza and share. We ordered buffalo chicken, tostada and goat cheese with roasted peppers.

My favorite was the buffalo chicken pizza, which offered a great spicy kick. It could have used a bit more chicken, but the amount it had was fine. The presentation of the buffalo chicken was great.

The tostada pizza was good, and the salsa dip that accompanied it tasted great, especially following a slice of the spicy buffalo chicken pizza. Each slice was filled with toppings.

Like the previous two, the goat cheese and roasted peppers pizza was good. This pizza also was filled with toppings.

Obviously, all the pizzas were on a thin crust, which was good, except some pieces did fall apart easily.

Each pizza wasn’t large — maybe six slices each? And each slice wasn’t terribly big, which can be a good thing!

None of the pizzas seemed out of this world, though. There’s a lot of hype over California Pizza Kitchen, but at the end of the meal, you realize that it’s just another pizza. Sure, the variety of pizza offerings differs from your local pizza joint, but I’m not sure California Pizza Kitchen lands in the “top five slices” category.

While the meal was free, the server did bring the bill over — our meal would have cost $72 and some change.

We ordered: an appetizer, three pizzas, four beers, a Pepsi, a Diet Pepsi and a slice of tiramisu for dessert.

The menu didn’t offer individual prices and I can’t seem to find them online, either, but $72 for three people is a bit much for pizza.

I’d love to see the restaurant add prices to its online and in-store menus.

The place certainly has potential, and no doubt will have long lines for the next several months as Pittsburghers flock to it. If I’m at Ross Park Mall, I’d certainly go back. I’m not sure I’d make it a destination visit, but if I’m in the area, I’d certainly consider dining there.