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Restaurant Week gives diners reasons to check out new-to-them venues 

A local food blogger converts his passion for food into a community event.

Brian McCollum, a.k.a. "Tastebud B," a Pittsburgh food blogger who started the Pittsburgh Tastebuds blog in 2010, is the organizer behind the upcoming Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, which starts Mon., Aug. 13, and runs through Sun, Aug. 19.   

McCollum, 29, originally from upstate New York, moved to the city in 2007 after graduating from Seton Hill University, in Greensburg. "I was just in love with the area and never left," he says. 

A web programmer, McCollum says he decided to organize Restaurant Week after making contacts with restaurants through wine dinners organized through his blog. He says he has no ties directly to the industry — just a passion for food. For the event, McCollum is partnering with PUMP, a nonprofit organization for young professionals. "Restaurant Week is truly a celebration between the community and the restaurant," he says. "It's not just a week to make money." 

 The first Restaurant Week McCollum helped pull together, in January, had 30 participating restaurants. For the summer event, more than 40 restaurants have signed on and plan to offer special deals and fixed-price menus next week.

Deals include: a $25 three-course meal at the Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina, in Garfield; a $35 four-course meal at Bloomfield's Toast! Kitchen & Wine Bar; or a $30 three-course meal at the Porch at Schenley, in Oakland. Other venues, such as the Milkshake Factory, on the South Side, and James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy, on the North Side, will offer $20.12 specials.

Ida D'Errico, event marketing and production manager for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, says industry events such as Restaurant Week are a good economic boost for the area just by the act of drawing people through the doors of restaurants they might not normally go to.  

Specific sales data weren't collected from January's Restaurant Week, but McCollum says that based on anecdotal feedback he received, restaurants that offered online reservations typically did better during the promotion than those who did not. 

Angel Oliverio, general manager for Downtown's Penn Avenue Fish Company, says she believes part of the impact of Restaurant Week is the excuse it offers people to get out for an evening. "Any reason I have to get together and open a nice bottle of wine with people I like is a good time," she says.  

The kickoff party for the summer event will be held Thu., Aug. 9, at the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel, and will feature food from Downtown restaurants. Tickets are $50, and can be reserved online at www.pittsburghrestaurantweek.com.

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