Ever since Conflict Kitchen unveiled a selection of Palestine-inspired dishes Oct. 6, the restaurant has faced criticism from Jewish organizations that have rebuked the Heinz Endowments for helping fund the restaurant. These critics have argued that the U.S. is not in conflict with Palestine. (The restaurant features a rotating menu inspired by cuisine form places the U.S. is currently engaged in conflict.)
Those criticisms have been included in two separate articles in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, both written by dining critic Melissa McCart. The latest story, which ran yesterday, included B’nai B’rith International's objections to Conflict Kitchen as a "deeply unsettling choice for a grant," as well as a statement from the Heinz Endowments distancing itself from Conflict Kitchen, but issuing blanket approval of artists who "perform edgy and provocative programming."
In a post that has gotten some traction online, Conflict Kitchen co-founder Jon Rubin objected to the P-G's coverage of the story, saying McCart "neglected to include any of Conflict Kitchen's answers" to interview questions — and did not include "the viewpoints of local Palestinians."
Reached by phone this afternoon, McCart says she offered Conflict Kitchen a chance to comment for the story Tuesday afternoon, roughly 24 hours before deadline. Rubin responded to questions McCart sent via email after the story had been filed late afternoon Wednesday. "It was too late," McCart says. "I appreciate that Mr. Rubin wants to be heard and that he's concerned about funds being rescinded. But I think the way he framed his voice not being heard was not honest."
On the same day the story ran, McCart posted Rubin's responses on the P-G's food blog.
"I respect Jon," McCart adds. "I wish there hadn't been such a fallout that seems pretty unnecessary."
For his part, Rubin confirmed that he preferred to be interviewed by email, and that he didn't have a chance to respond to McCart's questions until Wednesday afternoon because he was "working all day and we wanted to be very considered with what we said."
Still, Rubin says, he's concerned with the lack of attention to Palestinian voices in the controversy. "No one has asked local members of the Palestinian community how they feel about this," Rubin says. "That's an important point."
McCart declined to say why interviews with local Palestinians didn't make it into either article.
For now, Rubin says he's not concerned the controversy will jeopardize the restaurant's future. He says the $50,000 grant they received from the Heinz Endowments was largely to cover the cost of moving to Oakland and "95 percent of funding" comes from public support, including food sales.
"The public has approached us with incredible support and trust and open minds and curiosity," Rubin says. "No one has complained whatsoever at the restaurant and we're busier than we've ever been."
The East End Food Co-ops’s second annual Know Your GMOs event features a local expert on the subject as well as folks from the local food community committed to going GMO-free.
The expert is Denise Caruso, a senior researcher in Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Engineering and Public Policy. Her 2006 book Intervention: Confronting the Real Risks of Genetic Engineering and Life on a Biotech Planet questions the regulatory framework for genetically modified organisms, and the possibility of unintended consequences in their use. Caruso is a former New York Times technology columnist.
Other speakers include Trevett Hooper, owner and chef at the restaurants Legume and Butterjoint; Justin Pizzella, the Co-Op’s general manager; and Bryan Petrak, research and development director for snack-bar company NuGo Nutrition.
The speakers will be followed by a panel discussion and Q&A session. Free copies of Intervention will be available to all attendees.
The event will also feature informational tables and free samples of Non-GMO Project Verified products and a raffle.
Genetic modification of food is common in the U.S., especially in animal-food crops like corn and soy. U.S. regulators have largely allowed such practices, but others say the products are risky or have been insufficiently studied for their effects on human health and the environment.
According to a Co-op press release, 64 countries either ban or label GMOs. And 37 states in the U.S. have seen movements to label GMO foods. The Co-op’s buying guidelines favor products that are Non-GMO Project certified.
Know Your GMOs takes place from 6:30-9 p.m. tomorrow in the Connan Room, in the Jared L. Cohon University Center, on CMU’s campus.
The free event is timed to coincide with Non-GMO Month.
For more information, see here.
Downtown hot-doggery Franktuary (ne Hot Dogma), on Oliver Avenue, is closing up shop next week. The last day to get locally sourced and creatively dressed hot dogs is Wed., July 23. That's also National Hot Dog Day, so that's at least two reasons to stop by for a wiener or two.
Franktuary will continue to sell hot dogs, poutine and more at its newer Butler Street location in Lawrenceville.
The collective hive mind that is City Paper has many warm memories of Franktuary — from the "zombie" dog topped with "brains" to the venue's big-screen debut in The Dark Knight Rises. And who can forget Franktuary's foray into the contentious 2008 Democratic primary when the Barackwurst went bun-to-bun with the Hillbasa?
According to the website fallingfruit.org. there are more than 20 varieties of edible trees in Pittsburgh. And one organization is suggesting that the fruit from these trees be harvested and given to local food banks.
This notion was behind one of the many innovations presented at the Public Allies leadership conference today. Public Allies places participants with local nonprofits, and several of the allies in this year’s class have spent the past year working on the issue of food insecurity.
Among them was Rose Smiechowski, who was inspired by one of her former Chatham University instructors, Carolyn Barber, to co-found Hidden Harvest Pittsburgh, an organization that promotes urban harvesting initiatives throughout the city. Similar organizations, like one in British Columbia, were able to harvest 30,000 pounds of fruit in one year from urban trees.
“Fruit tree harvesting is a way to make use of a neglected and valuable source of food,” Smiechowski said. “Apples down the street have the same benefits as apples from the store, and are often fresher.”
Meanwhile, according to Jacob Myers, another Public Allies presenter, 20 to 40 percent of the food that’s grown in the United States is never consumed.
Myers spent his year with the Pittsburgh Community Foodbank; his presentation focused on how individuals can reduce their own food waste. By reducing wasted food, Myers said, households can reduce their spending on food; the resulting savings could be given to the Foodbank, which takes every dollar donated and turns it into $5 worth of food.
Jessica Ruffin, who serves as the Public Allies site director, acknowledges the innovations presented throughout the day are ambitious, but she hopes the local leaders invited to attend the conference were listening.
“I know it's very idealistic, but the reason we have this conference is we realized some of the insight [our allies] had needed to be shared with a much broader audience,” Ruffin said. “We're hoping a good bit of the innovations are something they can grab and take back to their organization."
Another ally, Linda Kuster, recently accepted a position with the YWCA, where she has been helping individuals with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program application process. She said 35 to 40 percent of applications are denied, and more support is needed to help people navigate the process.
“It's no secret that there's a huge problem with Pennsylvania's food-stamp system,” Kuster said.
The conference concluded with keynote speaker Leah Lizarondo, a food and health advocate and creator of The Brazen Kitchen, a healthy-living blog. While Lizarondo praised initiatives like urban farms and food education in schools, she said local government needs to play a greater role in the health of the city.
“Those initiatives are limited because they're not mandated by the city,” Lizarondo said. “We need the backing of the city.”
Think of it as a mid-summer Mardi Gras.
After being closed for several months due to damage from a fire, NOLA on the Square will re-open on July 15 with lunch service. Pittsburghers can once again indulge in po-boys, crawfish, gumbo and other Creole cuisine, for lunch and dinner, as well as kick back with some New Orleans jazz.
The adjacent champagne bar Perle will also reopen that evening.
A "grand re-opening" tied to JazzFest will roll out on July 18-19.
Mark your calendars now to get re-acquainted with some frog legs.
The list of semi-finalists for James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards — a mark of distinction in the culinary world — is out, and Pittsburgh hit twice.
Further up the river in Lawrenceville, Justin Severino, of Cure, is a semi-finalist for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic Region.
As always, it's an honor to be nominated; the finalists are announced March 19, and the awards handed out in new York City on May 2 and 5.
In the wee hours of the morning, Kevin Sousa sat in Braddock Mayor John Fetterman's living room, anticipating the success of their crowd-funded restaurant venture.
Sousa's phone had finally stopped blowing up with Twitter updates or alerts he gets every time someone donates to his Kickstarter campaign, an effort to raise money for a restaurant in a small, used-up steel town.
“I was in and out of consciousness,” says Sousa, owner of Salt of the Earth.
But by 6 a.m. today, the campaign to fund "Superior Motors" had reached its $250,000 goal, fueled by local and national media attention mixed with a frenzy of support on Twitter. It is Kickstarter's best-funded restaurant project ever.
"It took on a complete life of its own,” Sousa says, and earlier noted the project was only half-funded on Dec. 9. "It was seriously a critical mass ... I’m not that popular on Twitter — we picked up hundreds of followers last night."
"Superior Motors" — named after the long-vacant Chevy dealership whose space it will occupy — is Sousa and Fetterman's brain-child. It's billed as a "community restaurant and farm ecosystem" that will take full advantage of a nearby apiary, 4,000 square feet of farming space (including a rooftop greenhouse) and a convent, which will house the restaurant's culinary students.
Sousa says he turned to Kickstarter because "it was really our only option to build capital. Braddock is not a thriving business district; it’s not a business district at all.”