All the Best of All Things Local

Field Trips

  1. Field Trip — the Midwest in the Heat of Summer

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    August 2009:  St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City, Missouri

     Milk of Many Colors

    Fifteen years living in Pittsburgh makes it possible to take a two week trip back “home” as visitors with both a sense of nostalgia and discovery.  If you head to the midwest, here are a few of the places we visited…some are must-stops (for food and fun) on every trip back to the Show Me State and some are wonderful new discoveries that make up our unique home-town Local Goodness.


    St. Louis, Missouri

    Old Favorites:


    Crown Candy Kitchen

    Blueberry Hill

    Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard


    New Finds:

    City Museum


    Columbia, Missouri (Go MIZZOU!)

    Shakespere’s Pizza (recently rated best college hang-out in America by Good Morning America…but we new this a LONG time ago!!) 


    Kansas City, Missouri

    Old Favorites:

    Smokehouse Bar-B-Que (yes, Kansas City is KNOWN for its BBQ and there are hundreds of places for the tasty stuff, but Smokehouse was a favorite of ours when we lived there and still ROCKS! We bring back  bottles of sauce each trip to keep the KC Local Goodness with us til we can make it back).

    American Jazz Museum

    Country Club Plaza

    Crown Center


    New Finds:

    Shatto Milk Company (an incredible dairy farm north of KC…not only is their milk delicious, but one visit and you will have a whole new appreciation for small scale-produced moo juice and its possibilities)

    re:Verse (a cool little corner hang-out on the County Club Plaza with spectacular cocktails)


  2. Field Trip — Island Time

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    Spring 2009: St. John, USVI


    We had only visited St. John, the smallest of the US Virgin Islands, on brief stops (usually to go through customs) on our way to and from sailing trips in the British Virgin Islands.  So, our decision to commit to a land-locked week on this speck of land was met with some hesitation, but also a sense of adventure.  Little did we know that a week wasn’t nearly enough time to explore the many nooks and crannies of this wonderfully diverse and self-sufficient island.  We opted to stay on the opposite side of “touristy” (hardly!) Cruz Bay and rented a hill-top house on the quite Coral Bay side.  We had a mere five minute walk to a pristine rocky bay with no one else in sight and the best snorkeling to be found on the island!  Amazingly, we had incredible restaurants on “our” side of the island.  While most were open air or seemingly run-down shacks during the day, they all sparkled with twinkle lights and tiki torches at night…and the food was phenomenal at each one, many supplied by the island’s only organic farmer.  YES, there are farmers on St. John, tucked in the nooks and crannies of the hills.  We had the pleasure of meeting Josephine and Hugo of Coral Bay Garden Center who are bringing this island it’s own Local Goodness…check out this video to learn more about them and their farming efforts on the island.

    Being landlocked ended up giving us the time and opportunity to truly explore this gem of an island.  We’re anxious to return again to continue the discovery!

  3. Field Trip — Going Coastal Downeast, Maine

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    Summer 2008

    Beasts for a Feast Lobster Lane DSC_0045 IMGP8634 

    OK, so I’m still digesting (literally!) a two-week trip to Maine.  This end-of-summer hurrah was an omnivore’s delight and a true Local Goodness adventure.  We feasted daily on local lobster, clams, haddock, shrimp and wild blueberries.  Maine in August is the perfect time to eat your way up and down the coast, especially when daily hikes along the rocky shores treat you with a mass of Maine’s specialty — the wild Maine blueberry.  As my mind clears and my belly recedes I’ll add more including our adventure with a lobster fisherman and hikes on fog shrouded Cadillac Mountain. Suffice it to say, although this was our first trip to this magnificent state, it will certainly not be our last!If you’re heading down east, book some time with Captain Robertson to get a full Maine experience!  Visit Robertson Sea Tours for more info!

    MORE ABOUT OUR TRIP:  I documented this feeding frenzy for TABLE Magazine’s Holiday 2008 issue.  I only had space for 500 words, so here’s the rest of the story:


  4. Field Trip — Telluride Festival of the Arts (including culinary arts!)

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    Summer 2009 — Telluride, Colorado

    DSC_0180 DSC_0181

    For me (and my family) out of town excursions are always enhanced by food.  But this year our end-of-summer Local Goodness adventure was actually planned around food.  We decided we should take our 8-year old son along with us to the mountains.  Making choices where to travel in this magnificent state can be difficult, with so much to do, see and experience.  The first half of our trip, however, was made easy because the Telluride Festival of the Arts (including culinary arts!) was the impetus for this trip.  Although both my husband and I had traveled to Colorado many times, I had never been to Telluride or the surrounding area.  What a beautiful place to experience in the summertime!  But as I said, the food was what brought us here…and it was incredible!  The art and food festival was a wonderfully contained event in Mountain Village, a gondola ride up from Telluride.  We watched cooking demonstrations by local chefs, met local artists (and Sophie the dog), and capped the experience with the main event  — an incredible evening eating and drinking our way around Mountain Village, indulging on sumptuous treats from area restaurants.  In Telluride and throughout our entire trip we visited local farmers’ markets, farm stands and enjoyed a bounty of treats — grass fed beef, artisan cheeses from grass fed Jersey cows, loads of organic goodies, fresh roasted peppers, red and green okra, and Poona (a native American cucumber). We cooked trout stream-side, ate Navajo tacos in Mesa Verde, drank micro-brewed beer at the highest brew pub in the United States, and noshed on local cheeses and jerky in Rocky Mountain National Park. Our decision to go to the mountains…in search of food…was rewarded greatly.  If possible, we’ll plan to go back for the Telluride Festival of the Arts very soon and once again, eat our way around the state.

  5. Field Trip — a Day on the Farm @ Dillner Family Farm

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    Baby Goats Just 5 days old

    This third generation family farm actively farms half of its 250 acres just north of Pittsburgh, rotating its crops to strengthen and nurture the land.  Jane and Don Dillner and their four children offer more than 100 varieties of fruits and vegetables throughout the growing season.  To make the most of their efforts, subscribe to the CSA program with drops in Mt. Lebanon, Wexford, or their farm in Gibsonia.  Their seasonal products can be found at farmers’ markets throughout the city of Pittsburgh.  This is truly a family farm with all four kids working along side their parents, not only on daily the farm but at the farmers’ markets as well.  If you get a chance to visit their farm, it’s a treat for the entire family…and don’t miss the baby pygmy goats!

  6. Field Trip — Green Market at Union Square, NYC

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    In the middle of Manhattan is a small but incredible farmers’ market that draws farmers, ranchers, and local food producers from a number of states around the area. Walking around on a rainy Saturday in mid-May I was like a kid in a candy store tasting (and in some cases buying) the few offerings of early spring! Fresh ramps from a father-daughter farming team, which I  took to a nearby Connecticut cheese maker’s stand who promptly wrapped the fresh ramp leaves around bites of his gorgeous cheese (obviously made from the milk of very happy grass fed cows!).  There was hand made and smoked garlic pheasant sausage. Fresh duck and pheasant eggs. Fresh goat cheese (from Lynne’s herd of happy goats). Fresh fish and seafood. Artisan maple products. Grass fed buffalo and lamb. Tiny spring greens (many of which I’d never known existed!). And you should have seen the potatoes!!! I couldn’t get over the variety of fingerlings. It was a feast for the eyes, and since I couldn’t easily keep the market’s goodies fresh in my hotel room I took loads of pictures instead.

  7. Field Trip — Laurel Vista Farms

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    Somerset at Harvest

    Watching Rick and Rita move to the rhythm of farming, you have a hard time realizing they haven’t spent their entire lives on a farm. They started farming full time after Rick’s retirement in 2004. Before that, Rick spent his weekdays (and nights) tirelessly working in state politics and regional development while Rita ran the radio station they owned in a small river community outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. On weekends they migrated to the farm that Rick, Rita, her sister Marian, and brother-in-law Kenny purchased in the 1980s. Come Monday Rick would return to the frenetic pace of the city with tractor grease under his nails and an incredibly refreshed spirit. I’d known Rick for more than a decade and knew the farm held a special place in his life and his heart, but it wasn’t until I visited the farm for the first time that it was infinitely clear he had the heart and soul of a farmer. It was something he was meant to do.

    My first visit to the farm was in mid-August during the heat of summer. The small crop of green beans was so perfect you could pick and eat them right in the field; rows of sweet onions were bursting out of the ground just waiting to be pulled to freedom. The farm’s primary crop, potatoes, had a bumper growing season with more than 20 acres of the starchy treasure waiting to be unearthed in the fall, enough that the farm might even see a profit that year. It was ideal…a perfect day for a farmer.

    The next trip, however, revealed the unpredictability, challenges and near heartache that farming can bring. It was mid fall, harvest time, and the trees were still on fire with the season’s color. The stalks of feed corn in the fields had turned an eerie pale white and looked like ghosts rising out of an early snow that blanketed the ground. That day I walked with Kenny who has tended these fields for the past 20 years keeping the farm alive before Rick and Rita joined Kenny and Marian full time. Steady rains over the previous couple of weeks had the ground too wet for equipment, so the majority of the year’s potatoes lay concealed in the muddy ground waiting for the weather to cooperate (just a little) so the rest of the crop could be harvested. That didn’t keep us from trodding out into the field that cold autumn afternoon. With our breath visible in the cold air and pitchfork in hand we steadily dug up mounds of the starchy treasures hidden in the muddy, snow-frosted ground.

    Snow and cold temperatures are critical to successful potato farming. Snow even provides insulation against the cold for tender potatoes waiting to be harvested, but not against the bitter cold that eventually took more than half of Laurel Vista’s crop this particular year, making the few bags of potatoes we took home with us that day all the more special.