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.
For the four guys behind Full Pint Brewing Company, beer isn't just something to be enjoyed?it's a way of life. At their brewery and pub, they make and serve a variety of craft beers including the Chinookie IPA, White Lightning Belgian-style white ale, and the Little Brown brown ale. They supplement their lineup with seasonal beers, which run the gamut from stouts to ryes, and their limited release beer?cheekily named Nerd's Release?which they brew in extra-small batches during breaks in the brew schedule. To soak up the suds and ensure they remember their date's name, visitors can dig into a menu of bar-friendly snacks and specials such as soft pretzel bites with homemade sauces and specialty flatbread-style pizzas.
Founded in 1902, when everyone walked uphill both ways, the Bulls have evolved into one of the country's best-known minor-league teams. Boasting a rich history and talented prospects making their way to the majors, the Bulls play in the 15-year-old Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Featuring a 10,000-seat capacity, comfy extra-wide seating, a new video board, and a sublime view of the bull perched atop the 32-foot Blue Monster in left field, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park is a superb place to witness the 2009 AAA National Champions run, hit, and skillfully communicate with a flurry of dexterous semaphore. Stocked with young talent, the Bulls will showcase several players in 2010 that are sure to soon end up on a major-league roster. Inspired by 23-year-old Desmond Jennings—who posted a .325 batting average and .419 on-base percentage last year—and 22-year-old, hard-throwing Jeremy Hellickson—who fanned 70 batters and walked only 15 in 57.1 innings—the Bulls are primed for another title run through an action-packed schedule this year.
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.