For Pittsburgh's 250th anniversary, celebratory salads throughout the metropolis will no doubt be piled to the heavens with even more fries, shredded cheese and that stuff approximating steak. Cutesy names like "The Strip Steak," "Heinz Veal" and "PNC Pork" are sure to crop up on menus as the city-wide shindig shapes up.
Roger Levine has other plans. The culinary instructor and operational manager of Taste of Art, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh's restaurant, eschewed the obvious gastronomic gimmicks, and instead required his students to respect the food traditions of the city.
There, the Pittsburgh 250 recipes were created mostly by faculty, many of whom are Pittsburgh natives and have been part of the Pittsburgh food scene for many years. The group members brainstormed how to create new twists on Pittsburgh favorites. Selecting dishes to update was pretty easy. The challenge now is for the students to reinvent them.
Much like a mechanically inclined student might take apart a toaster and make it into a bread-browning robot, AIP students broke down the ingredients of a Klondike bar, created by the once-ubiquitous local dairy institution, Isaly's. Their creation is the "Deconstructed Klondike," offering freshly made vanilla and caramel ice cream, and served with a chocolate-ganache dipping sauce and crushed peanuts on the side.
"Part of what we teach is developing relationships with local businesses," says Levine. Thus, the menu includes a hydroponic salad from Mung Dynasty, a sprout farm located in a former South Side brewhouse. The students also collaborated with Nicolas Coffee Company in Market Square to develop their house blend, called "Jitterbean."
Pittsburgh's classic diner sandwich, the turkey Devonshire, however, withstood the whims of fashion: It is composed of standard ingredients, but the students roast the turkey, bake the bread and make the cheese sauce from scratch.
The Pittsburgh 250 menu at Taste of Art is an ongoing project, and Levine hopes Pittsburghers will send their ideas and recipes. (E-mail Levine at firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggestions.)
To sample the Pittsburgh 250 results, visit Taste of Art, which is open to the public for lunch Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Due to limited seating and a changing schedule, reservations are suggested at 412-291-6532.
But keep in mind, the chipped-chopped ham may not be chipped, chopped or even ham.
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