The sounds of guitars, bodhrans, fiddles, tin whistles surrounds visitors. The aromas of traditional Irish cuisine waft through the air, and around every turn is some new piece of Irish culture. No, this isn't some daydream fueled by too much shepherd's pie. Each year, the Pittsburgh Irish Festival transforms a small part of the city into the Emerald Isle. In total, the festival schedules more than 28 hours of entertainment over the course of three days. Four stages play host to Irish rock and other traditional music. Visitors might also see Irish step dancing and storytellers, who breathe new life into traditional legends and folktales.
Hands-on activities also dot the festival grounds, including the chance to pet native Irish dogs or even search your family tree for Irish ancestors. And in addition to traditional cuisine, the festival hosts a tasting tent with Irish whiskey, Irish cider, and Irish experts who explain how these spirits are made.
Owner and chef Omar Mediouni imbues La Casa Tapas and Wine Bar's menu of traditional Spanish and Moroccan small plates and entrees with local ingredients and an appetite for culinary fusion that, according to Pittsburgh City Paper, "combines sophistication and comfort, authenticity and simplicity." Flagpole-addicted tongues warm up with a choice of 16 hot tapas, including the chorizo catalan's spicy sautéed sausage and spinach in a red-wine reduction ($10), and tomatoes, sweet pepper, and eggplant form the base of a duo of Moroccan dips ($8 each). Larger entrees ($16–$28) sneak garbanzo beans, chicken, lamb, and eggplant into piles of couscous or saffron paella rice like parents tucking Easter eggs into an egg carton.
Nestled within a brick house along a neighborhood street in Shadyside, La Casa Tapas and Wine Bar greets springtime by opening its patio to warm breezes and showers of cupid arrows. Inside, a hanging Spanish guitar, lanterns lit by candles, and the wide grin of a bright red hearth contribute to a cozy, eclectic spirit.
Now in its 12th year, the Pittsburgh Wine Festival gathers more than 165 vendors who pour more than 500 diverse wines inside the Heinz Field East and West Club Lounges. Though many of the featured wines hail from countries such as France, Germany, Portugal, Argentina, and New Zealand, others call California, Pennsylvania, and the Pacific Northwest their home. As attendees wander between sips of reds, whites, and ros?s, they sample food pairings and watch live entertainment.
Winery representatives and winemakers pour their diverse libations during the annual Grand Tasting, but also uncork specialty reserve wines at a VIP tasting. Here, smaller crowds grant visitors more time to speak with the vendors, and ask questions about fermentation or how to determine whether a wine will get along with their other bottles. Outside the main events, industry leaders also hold seminars on how to taste wine like a sommelier or pair wines to specific occasions. Additionally, private wine dinners raise funds for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
The Penn Brewery’s restaurant menu features a wide selection of European dishes and German-style craft beers. Step into a dining room draped with flags, where you can enjoy foods such as traditional pierogi, schnitzel, and wurst, or try flatbreads and sandwiches. Their beer selection features 19 seasonally-rotating libations which have been honored at events like The Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup Alternatively, guests can sit amid the cobblestone walls of the biergarten to raise a few glasses of Penn Brewery’s signature beers and watch bottles of beer as they blossom on the vine.
Wednesday-Night Wine Flights merge science and education, two ideas that have been divided since a series of high-school chemistry teachers was arrested for dancing on laboratory tables in 1987. Sample three wines that have been hand-selected to complement three Cassis appetizers. Small-plate possibilities from the menu of French-influenced American fare include dumplings, baked brie on toasted baguette slices, and black-olive tapenade with sliced radish dippers. The owner and head chef selects wine and food pairings a week prior to each flight, so if you'd like to know what comestibles are coming, check the Cassis Facebook page on Tuesday evening, or simply call ahead.
Beginning with traditional American flavors, Toast! kitchen & wine bar's chefs elevate those dishes to new heights and create refined versions of familiar favorites. Habanero-spiced cheddar adds a piquant kick to servings of shrimp and organic corn grits, and flatbreads feature hearty toppings such as roasted mushrooms, brie, and white truffle oil. True to its name, Toast! also curates a selection of international wines available in tasting portions, glasses, or full bottles so the whole table can enjoy reading the label aloud.
Crimson walls, dark wooden rafters, and suede banquettes contribute to the space's calming and lounge-like ambiance. That quiet, cozy atmosphere inspired CBS Pittsburgh to place the wine bar on its 2013 list of the Best Bars For A Blind Date In Pittsburgh. As if to encourage refined conversation, framed artwork surrounds the dining room, lit by sconces and pendant lamps dangling above the bar.