The Pittsburgh Irish Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with three days of Celtic culture at Riverplex at Sandcastle, showcasing a wide variety of entertainers on four stages near the waterfront. The schedule includes Friday and Saturday performances by Gaelic Storm, which made an appearance in Titanic, and whose music blends traditional Irish melodies and world music. The festival includes a cultural area filled with weavers, historians, lace-makers, storytellers who weave stories about lace, and classes on Gaelic language and Celtic symbol drawing. The Genealogy Pavilion provides the resources needed to start digging into Irish roots with an Irish shovel.
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 rosés, 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.