Release Date: Tuesday, July 14th 2015
Just dill with it: Yinzers to soak up sun and salt at Picklesburgh
By: Chris Estes
Leigh White is looking forward to the “ginormous” floating pickle that will be attached to the Rachel Carson Bridge later this month.
“We were noticing the cool, innovative restaurants around town were doing pickling,” White, the spokeswoman at the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP), said. “[And] Pittsburgh has such an interesting and strong history of pickles with Heinz.”
So, from July 17-18, the city is hosting the inaugural Picklesburgh: a local celebration of all things pickled, in Downtown. The PDP, a group dedicated to revitalizing Pittsburgh with local events like Light Up Night, is hosting the event. From 3 to 10 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, local vendors like The Pittsburgh Pickle Company, Happy Camper Cakes and Heinz will serve up pickles and delicacies including ice cream, cocktails and ethnic dishes that incorporate pickling. Local musicians like Norm Nardini and King’s Ransom will perform alongside events like a pickle juice drinking contest.
“There were a lot of cool things happening [in Pittsburgh],” White said. “From homemade pickles to kimchi, we just saw this really interesting explosion.”
Local restaurants featuring dishes with pickled ingredients along with Pittsburgh’s historical association with Heinz make Pittsburgh an ideal location for a pickle-themed event, according to White.
More than 20,000 people are slated to attend the event, and the PDP hopes it becomes an annual affair. For resident foodies, Whole Foods will offer pickling technique demonstrations, which will experiment with pickled mango spears.
Vendors like Gwyn Zollinger, a Jeannette, Pennsylvania native and the owner of the mobile cupcakery Happy Camper Cupcakes,is treating the event as a challenge.
“I love creating new things that no one else thinks of,” she said of her cupcake recipes.
Zollinger will debut three new cupcakes featuring pickled ingredients. This will include “The Local Dip” — a take on Neapolitan ice cream that includes a strawberry balsamic filling and a pickled cherry on top.
Those who don’t think pickled ingredients and cupcakes mesh well together may want to reconsider. Zollinger uses a balsamic vinegar, among other ingredients, to create a rum-pineapple compote filling for her “Pickled Pirate” cupcake, served in a souvenir jelly jar.
“[The cupcakes] are all sweet,” she said. “They’re a little tart but have a really nice sweetness to them.”
Zollinger has provided cupcakes to Pittsburgh before at events like Pierogi Fest.
“It’s a great place to have a food truck,” she said. “Every event I’ve done in Pittsburgh has been so much fun.”
Other local vendors are also eager to share pickles with Pittsburghers.
The Pittsburgh Pickle Company, co-owned by John and Will Patterson and Joe Robl, will make an appearance with their "Pittsburgh-Style" pickles, nachos and cheese topped with pickles, pickled banana peppers, pickled red onions and pickled jalapeños.
“We source our pickle ingredients locally, when in season and possible,” owner and Pittsburgh-native John Patterson, said. “We don't have some old family recipe. We just grabbed what made sense.”
John avoids current trends in food, and said his favorite food to pickle is the classic cucumber.
“The cuke is like a blank canvas,” he said. “It's stiff on the edges, so it can stand up. Its face can absorb anything, allowing you to paint all kinds of different flavor combinations.”
John wants the Pittsburgh Pickle Company to gain some exposure at Picklesburgh.
“We want to let everyone know we’re here to stay, and that we want to be the ones that provide
Pittsburghers with their pickle needs,” he said. “We've been a part of the recent food scene and [play] our part in feeding Pittsburghers.”
Just as the Pittsburgh Pickle Company is here to stay, maybe Picklesburgh will be a staple, as well.
Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the PDP, said Picklesburgh will be a welcome addition to the city’s festivals.
“We believe Pittsburghers will relish this new festival,” he said.