The open flame was hot. Really hot. Like, 600 degrees of hot, rising a foot or more above the grill on an end-of-summer evening outside the Barn at Soergel Hollow in Evans City. Before the pork belly had been butterflied, roasting and sizzling, it had been marinating. For three days. Letting all the natural oils from the thyme and fennel—picked fresh—do their thing.
“Penetrate the meat,” clarifies Pines Tavern chef Tony Verdream, dousing the pork with sherry, thyme and lemon infused honey gastrique, momentarily quelling the 600 degrees of hot flame in a smoldering embrace.
When the Bradley Center decided to host its second annual Gathering of Chefs Farm-to-Fork event on September 10, they didn’t have to do much arm twisting to get the urbanites out into the suburbs. Way into the suburbs. Off the highway, down one side road and another, into sprawling countryside and wide-open spaces. Just as it was the previous year, this one was a sell-out. More than a sellout, actually, with 255 guests ready to devour, discretely or otherwise, signature dishes from a dozen or so of Pittsburgh’s finest, whipped up using locally sourced ingredients.
There was Chef Martin Thomas of the Sewickley Heights Golf Club with his Mulled Red Wine Braised Beef Brisket, Harvest Bread Pudding, and Green Tomato Conserve, sourced from the McElhaney and Dillner family farms.
Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus & Parkhurst Dining Chef Christopher Galarza fooled carnivores with his Vegan Pulled “Pork” (aka Jackfruit), Roasted Delicata Squash, Ryeberry & Carrot Salad with Sherry Maple Vinaigrette sourced from Eden Hall Farm.
And if you made it past the Crunchy Chicken of the Woods Mushroom Taco, Heirloom Tomato, Goat Rodeo More Cowbell Cheese, and Smoked Chicken Pastelitos with Fresno Honey Jalepeno Cheese from Chef Martin Lamarche at Breakneck Tavern, sourced from Forest Fresh Foods, Eichner’s Farm, Zimmerman Family Farm, and Goat Rodeo Farm & Dairy, you may have had room for one of 320 slices of Caramel Apple Pie from Piebird Pastry Kitchen, stuffed with two bushels of mixed apples: Ginger Gold, Zestar, and Rambo, which is kinda like a Macintosh.
“Slab pies,” said chef Annalee DePaoli. “Baked at 375 for forty-five-ish minutes.”
Which you could top off with a scoop or two or three from Nathan Holmes’ Pittsburgh Ice Cream Company. Flavors like Landlocked Vanilla, Salted Goat Caramel and Burnt Almond Torte, churned using fresh milk he picks up weekly from local farms like Brunton’s Dairy. And not 1% or even whole. Full fat, Nathan says. “Sixteen percent butterfat. The good kind of fat.”
Good enough to draw a line that snaked its way around the corner and out of the barn. Good enough to stand in line for seconds. Or thirds.
And at the end of the evening, everything was good enough for a sunset toast to the volunteers, the linens, the chefs, the food; all of which was donated allow for the $100K in proceeds to benefit the Bradley kids directly.
New tennis shoes, trips to the zoo, birthday gifts; a year’s worth of things for the kids to look forward to.
“I’m blown away by the generosity,” said CEO Lisa Fox.