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PHDA, Inc. receives subsidies grant for first-time homebuyers

First-time home buyers with low to moderate incomes can apply for help with down payments and closing costs, thanks to a grant program available from the Pittsburgh Housing Development Association, Inc.

PHDA, Inc. recently secured funding from the Wells Fargo Housing Foundation to support the First-Time Home Buyers Subsidy Grant Program for an additional year. Launched in 2014, the program assists eligible, first-time home buyers with down payments and/or closing costs.
 
The grant will be dispersed through an application process. To be eligible, applicants must have an assigned contract on a specific property, be first-time homebuyers, meet income eligibility guidelines and complete a certified Home Counseling Program.
 
“The grant is available to any qualified and eligible first-time homebuyer,” said Greg Whitted, PHDA, Inc. executive director and co-founder, about the Wilkinsburg-focused organization. PHDA, Inc. was formed in 1982 with a mission to assist low to moderate income first-time home buyers with educational workshops and resources to achieve their dream of homeownership. 
 
Whitted said the grant can be used on any Pittsburgh home, but added that Wilkinsburg has a lot of home ownership opportunities.
 
“[Wilkinsburg] is an up-and-coming community,” he said. “The housing stock is strong there.”
 
Funding for the grant program was provided in part by a grant from the national Wells Fargo Housing Foundation, which provides funding to assist nonprofit community organizations in achieving and sustaining their missions through strategic leadership in servicing low-wealth communities.
 
Applications are currently available.  Interested applicants should email info@phdainc.org or call (412) 242-2700 for additional information and an application.
 
Source: Greg Whitted, PHDA, Inc.

Convenience store opens in Public Market for Strip residents and shoppers

Living in the Strip District, one has access to some of the finest local and international goods, from Penn Mac cheese to Mon Aimee Chocolate to Wigle Whiskey. The list could go on and on.

But despite the abundance of little luxuries and ethnic varieties, neighborhood residents lacked access to things like toilet paper and paper towels — until Mike Bregman opened a new kind of convenience store for Strip dwellers in the Pittsburgh Public Market.
 
Within the microcosm of the Pittsburgh Public Market, patrons peruse handmade goods, fill growlers of East End brew and grab goodies at Eliza’s Oven. And now, among the local and organic selections, the Public Market offers Bregman’s Bull Dawg’s mini mart for Strip District shoppers.
 
The mini mart offers all-natural hot dogs for $2, Coke products, Gatorade, Red Bull, toiletries and other conveniences.

Before opening the Public Market shop, Bregman said he walked from 25th Street to 11th Street and noticed there wasn’t a convenience store selling things like chips, soda or toilet paper for Strip neighbors.
 
“In a year from now, there’s going to be more than 3,000 people living in these condos,” said Bregman, a University of Georgia alum with the nickname Bulldog. Bregman cited the current condominiums under construction in the neighborhood and other recent development in the Strip.
 
The shop's hot dogs are locally sourced and handmade at DJ’s Butcher Block in Bloomfield, Bregman said.
 
“I’d like to feed the people for lunch and I’d like the residents to know about the toiletries,” Bregman said about his business within the Public Market.
 
He added that he would love feedback from Strip District residents about the kinds of soap, hygiene products and toiletries they would like to see in his shop -- for their convenience.
 
Source: Mike Bregman
 

Hotel Monaco's The Commoner to open Downtown with a grab-and-go café

For a quick bite or a full-on dining experience, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants offers pub fare with a Pittsburgh twist for hungry downtown diners.
 
Kimpton will open its first Pittsburgh restaurant, The Commoner, adjacent to the new Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Jan. 20. The 120-seat restaurant will feature American classics with a modern flair, a wood-burning oven and an extensive craft beer list.
 
In a rush? Try The Commoner’s grab-and-go café The Commoner Corner. This sidewalk café and smoked meat carvery will serve breakfast and lunch and features a large service window on Strawberry Way for customers on the go.
 
"We've been working hard to perfect our menu and develop relationships with local farmers to highlight the best of the Allegheny region," said Executive Chef Dennis Marron. "The Pittsburgh dining scene is really making a name for itself, and I'm excited to bring my take on European pub fare and American classics to the table. The menu and vibe we've created here is going to be a hit with everyone -- from downtown professionals to sports fans and theater-goers to hotel guests."
 
Chef Marron's menus will offer American tavern classics with Old World influences and regional produce. The onion soup burger, steak and ale pie (braised with local East End Brown Ale) and brick chicken are just a few examples where pub style meets Pittsburgh flavor. Pennsylvania-grown and seasonal products, like PA Noble cave-aged cheddar, Castle Valley Mills cornmeal, Starr Valley Farms beef and Elysian Fields lamb, will be highlights in many dishes, like the cheddar board, PA burger and braised lamb shank.
 
“We’re a modern American tavern located in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh,” said The Commoner General Manager Matthew Rafferty. He added that the restaurant will focus on drafts and “slow-roasted and braised meats.”
 
The dinner menu will prominently feature an array of dishes from the kitchen's central wood-burning oven. With wood-fired dishes ranging from appetizers to main courses, diners will be able to choose from broccoli-cheddar flatbread to herb-rubbed bone marrow to charred cauliflower with sage-walnut pesto, among other smoky, rustic favorites.
 
Breakfast at The Commoner will have something for everyone, including lighter options like baked egg whites with kale, oven-dried tomatoes and zucchini, and heartier offerings like Irish soda bread, French toast with Chantilly cream and whiskey barrel-aged maple syrup.
 
At the bar, lead bartender Joshua Holliday will oversee a robust cocktail and spirits menu and a locally driven craft beer list anchored by 12 draft lines and 50 bottles and cans, including local selections like Church Brew Works' Thunderhop Extreme Double IPA and Voodoo Brewing Company's KillaPilz.
 
The wine list will feature six wines on tap, guided by Kimpton’s Master Sommelier Emily Wines. Holliday has worked closely with Chef Marron and Rafferty to create inventive cocktails, including a barrel-aged negroni and an old-fashioned, with house-made syrup and BBQ bitters.
 
The Commoner Corner’s menu will feature items that are unfussy and ideal for diners on the go. Breakfast will include a range of freshly baked pastries, croissant sandwiches, fresh-pressed juices and smoothies and artisanal coffee beverages. Lunch will feature hot sandwiches with house-smoked, hand-carved beef, turkey and portabella mushrooms and a variety of fixings. Save time and room for milkshakes and floats.
 
The Commoner, at 458 Strawberry Way, will be open seven days a week for breakfast and dinner starting January 20. The restaurant begins lunch service Feb. 3 and kicks off its Saturday and Sunday brunch on Feb. 21. The Commoner Corner will serve weekday breakfast and lunch beginning Jan. 20.
 
Full menus and information will be available at www.thecommonerpgh.com.
 
 
Source: Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, Justin Rude, Matthew Rafferty
 

Pop-up chocolate shop keeps mouths watering in Shadyside

Just before Christmas, Chocolate! featuring Jacques Torres Chocolate, a pop-up shop in Shadyside, opened its doors boasting holiday goodies. But this pop-up hasn't disappeared into the night. Chocolate! featuring Jacques Torres Chocolate will continue to see Pittsburgh through all the big chocolate holidays: Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter.
 
The seasonal chocolate emporium was launched by Pittsburgh native Lissa Guttman, who recently moved back to Pittsburgh after a 10-year stint in New York City. While there, she worked with award-winning pastry chef and Food Network personality Jacques Torres to launch a line of highly successful chocolate boutiques in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
 
“I loved the food scene in New York, but I missed the soulfulness of Pittsburgh,” Guttman said. “So, I decided to fuse the two. I also love the idea of creating whimsical shopping experiences -- unexpected retail destinations that last for a season or two, but create fun moments and leave customers craving the next incarnation.”
 
Guttman said she wanted to bring her love for chocolate and Jacques Torres quality products back to her hometown. She added that Torres was excited to expand his brand beyond New York -- Pittsburgh is the first city outside New York to carry the line. Guttman said Pittsburgh has proven to be a great market for premium goods.
 
The store’s mouth-watering offerings range from holiday favorites to exotic creations like chipotle-infused “wicked hot chocolate.” Guttman said products also range from kid-friendly to adult-friendly, including chocolate-covered cereals and nuts to chocolate ginger.
 
“Everything is chocolate,” she said of the "here today, gone tomorrow" shop featuring both large edible gifts and snacks.
 
Guttman added that the pop-up model was used at all eight of Torres’ New York chocolate stores. She said her seasonal shop could grow into something more.
 
“I could see myself doing a lot more of these in various neighborhoods or on trucks,” Guttman said, adding that, for the time being, she is focused on getting to know Shadyside.
 
Chocolate! featuring Jacques Torres Chocolate will remain open through Easter at 813 Copeland Way.
 
 
Source: Lissa Guttman

Frick Park's "Stink Creek" cleanup is national model for waterway restoration

A study by a University of Pittsburgh hydrologist shows that a local project is one of the largest urban-stream restorations in the United States and has led to the recovery of fish and, more importantly, a groundswell of local support.
 
Pittsburgh’s Frick Park is home to Nine Mile Run, a stream formerly known as "Stink Creek." From 2003 to 2006, the City of Pittsburgh and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers poured $7.7 million into restoring 2.2 miles of the stream and tributaries into waterways approximating what they were prior to urban development. The project remains one of the largest urban-stream restorations undertaken in the United States.

Dan Bain, Pitt assistant professor of hydrology and metal biogeochemistry in the Department of Geology and Planetary Science within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, says the project has made a difference and sets an example for other cities to follow. The evidence is tallied in Bain’s paper, "Characterizing a Major Urban Stream Restoration Project: Nine Mile Run," published last month in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association.

Nine Mile Run, which is part of a watershed that drains 6.5 square miles of Wilkinsburg, Edgewood, Swissvale, Forest Hills, Squirrel Hill and Point Breeze, had been abused by urbanization and industrialization. Toxins leached into the creek from a slag heap left over from the steelmaking process, sewer lines discharged into the water and so much of the waterway had been buried in culverts or diverted from its natural path that Nine Mile Run had become toxic.
 
The three-year restoration project involved rerouting the creek to a natural pathway, reestablishing flora, creating areas to catch floodwater and building natural "slash piles" and "snags" from cut-down trees to create bird and animal habitats. It also involved infrastructure interventions: adding rain barrels to residents' homes, preventing some storm water from overwhelming the stream and fixing parts of the underlying sewers.
 
Some of the impediments remain, but neighbors and Frick Park users have been motivated to continue the work. This support has been imperative to restoration.
 
“What we found is that, properly done, urban-stream restoration can create a citizen involvement in the process of appropriately managing urban streams and give us a greater opportunity to understand how restorations work in an urban system, particularly when compared with our ability to understand restoration success in less populated areas,” Bain said.

In his paper, Bain reports that fish populations are improving. However, the human response to this restoration has been vigorous -- the rise in the number of volunteer hours as well as the number of rain barrels installed at private residences appears to be associated with the restoration of the stream.
 
Those inspired by the improving health of the stream have enlisted as volunteer Urban EcoStewards with the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, a nonprofit that advocates for and monitors the area. These EcoStewards visit an assigned plot on a regular basis to remove invasive species, plant native flora, clean up trash and install rain barrels on their property to reduce runoff and slow erosion.
 
Source: University of Pittsburgh
 

Council member introduces sidewalk reimbursement plan

Pittsburgh City Council Member Darlene M. Harris (D-District 1) introduced legislation last week that could be a step toward a more pedestrian-friendly Pittsburgh.
 
The legislation would update the city’s policy for paying out city sidewalk damages caused by trees. The city currently reimburses city property owners $4.00 per square foot. Harris’ legislation would increase that amount to $8.00 per square foot.
 
According to a release from Harris’ office, the city has not increased reimbursement for tree root damage for at least 20 years.
 
“No one can recall exactly when that amount ($4.00 a square foot) had been set," Harris said. "With inflation, that original value has been cut in half. It is only fair that that there is a readjustment. It might also motivate people to make needed sidewalk repairs.”
 
The new legislation also authorizes the city solicitor to recalculate the reimbursement amount every four years based upon the consumer price index.
 
The legislation states: “Beginning on January 1, 2015, the City Solicitor shall, every four years, adjust the amount of compensation provided for sidewalk damage claims based upon the United States Department of Labor’s, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index for Pittsburgh. The percentage of increase/decrease in the Pittsburgh CPI shall be the percent of the increase/decrease in compensation provided.”
                                                          
The city solicitor would provide notice to city council of any adjustment made to the amount provided for sidewalk damage claims.
 
“That would keep the Council from having to revisit this matter every few years or so," Harris said. "It is good housekeeping. Right now, the city is only covering 20% of the replacement. This legislation would make it 40% reimbursement. That’s about what it was when the $4 number was set decades ago.”

At $20 per square foot, local contractors estimate that it costs about $500 to replace one five-square-foot sidewalk slab, according to Harris. An increase in the Law Department’s 2015 judgment account would be sufficient to absorb this cost.
 
Source: Office of Pittsburgh City Council Member Darlene M. Harris
 

Tour de Penn shopping program circumvents the "Penn detour"

The multimillion-dollar Penn Avenue reconstruction project has been a detriment to the Bloomfield and Garfield communities where the one-way detour has inhibited traffic and hidden local shops behind barricades.
 
“Our businesses have suffered pretty substantially during this process,” said Amber Epps, Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation commercial district manager.  “[We’re] trying to get some business back to Penn Avenue.”
 
But the BGC, with help from the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, is working with businesses to bring foot traffic back to the impeded mom-and-pop shops between Mathilda and Evaline streets along Penn Avenue.
 
The URA-sponsored “Biz Buzz” program Tour de Penn -- a play on “Penn detour” -- kicked off on Dec. 6 and will run through the holidays until Feb. 14, 2015. Patrons who visit construction-affected businesses along Penn Avenue can receive rewards.
 
To participate, pick up a map and attached passport at businesses outside the construction zone. This neighborhood passport is the ticket for participants to win “Penn Bucks” or gift cards to participating Penn Avenue businesses.
 
Visitors can receive one passport stamp just for stopping in at businesses within the construction zone. Make a purchase of $5 or more at these businesses and get an extra stamp.
 
Participants who earn 10 stamps will be entered into a weekly raffle for a $25 gift card; those earning 20 or more stamps will be entered into a $50 gift card raffle. Each week, four gift cards will be raffled off. They can be used at any business on Penn Avenue between Mathilda Street and Negley Avenue.
 
Epps recommends holiday shoppers head to businesses including Mostly Mod & ARTica Gallery, Most Wanted Fine Art, Modern Formations gallery, Verde Mexican Kitchen and Cantina, Robin’s Nest and the Pittsburgh Glass Center for passport stamps and gift-giving ideas.
 
Two-way traffic is expected to return at the end of December, Epps said, explaining that construction will continue in the spring with sidewalk and landscaping improvements that are projected to be completed July 31, 2015.
 
Tour de Penn visitors are also encouraged to use social media, posting images with hashtags #tourdepenn and #proudtobepenn. Visit www.pennavenue.org for more information, as well as to find out which business will be highlighted each week -- shopping at highlighted businesses will earn an extra stamp.
 
Source: Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, Amber Epps 

God rest ye merry, gentlemen: Hit up Manta Claus for a night of manly holiday shopping

When it comes to holiday shopping, are you man enough?
 
Manta Claus is back on Butler Street this year to prove to men --  and women -- that holiday shopping doesn’t have to be about braving the mall or fighting crowds. In fact, it can be a fun, local experience.
 
In 2011, a group of Lawrenceville businesses started Manta Claus, a last-minute holiday shopping extravaganza for men (and, let’s face it, anyone) who put off holiday gift purchasing. The last last-minute shopping event returns to Lawrenceville from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 18.
 
“[It’s] more or less a way to coerce men to come out and shop local,” said Pageboy Salon & Boutique owner Dana Bannon about the holiday event.
 
She added that Manta Claus started as a solution for men who shop impersonally online, grab a gift card or avoid the mall.  Bannon added that Lawrenceville businesses participating in Manta Claus also promise to help shoppers find the perfect gift.
 
And, just as Butler Street has grown, so has the holiday shopping event. Businesses up and down Butler Street will be offering free drinks, snacks, no-cost gift-wrapping and lots of great gift guidance.
 
Additionally, food trucks will be parked near 45th Street. Hitchhiker Brewing will be on hand at Pageboy Salon & Boutique to offer tastings of winter beers. And Leona’s Ice Cream Sandwiches will also be handing out treats at Pageboy.
 
Pageboy (3613 Butler St.) will also offer 10% off men's and women's grooming products, $25 gift certificates for $20 and free beard trims by a student barber. Divertido (3609 Butler St.) will offer 10% off all purchases, free snacks and beer. Jules (4502 Butler St.) will feature 10% off all menswear, plus $25 credit for every $100 spent. Jupe (3703 Butler St.) will be offering $10 off every $40 spent. Mid-Atlantic Mercantile (4415 Butler St.) will also give 10% off all purchases. Mister Grooming & Goods (4504 Butler St.) will offer 10% off grooming products. Atlas Bottle Works (4115 Butler St.) will host a holiday beer tasting. Pavement (3629 Butler St.) will provide snacks, free gift-wrapping and specials. And, Matthew Buchholz will be signing his book "Alternate Histories of the World” at Wildcard
 
Garbella Studio (5202 Carnegie St., one block off Butler and 52nd streets) will be open to the public, providing refreshments and complimentary gift-wrapping. An open house studio at Perry And Co. (5212 Butler St.) will feature FareFeathers Jewelry and 25% off -- shoppers are also welcome to enjoy their fireplace overlooking Butler with free drinks.
 
“This is the first year that we’ve had more than two or three of us … and it’s amazing the amount of camaraderie we have between businesses,” Bannon said. 
 
She added that as Butler Street has expanded, she has been pleasantly surprised by the amount of community that she still feels. Instead of competing salons and retailers, she says, Lawrenceville remains a friendly network of small businesses.
 
 
Source: Matthew Buchholz, Dana Bannon 

Maggie's Farm Rum celebrates accolades after one year in business

On the heels of its one-year anniversary, local distillery Maggie’s Farm Rum is celebrating multiple business milestones.

Allegheny Distilling, LLC, located in the Strip District, was incorporated in late 2012 and began production of Maggie's Farm Rum in October 2013. On Nov., 29, 2014, the company marked one year in business. 
 
Last month, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board announced that it will begin carrying Maggie's Farm white and spiced rums in in Premium Collection stores around southwestern Pennsylvania in time for the holidays.
 
Maggie's Farm Rum is the first commercially available Pennsylvania-made craft rum since Prohibition. All spirits are made from scratch and pot-distilled for full body and flavor on the Spanish-made copper still located behind the distillery's cocktail bar. The distillery is open for tastings and bottle sales Wednesday through Sunday and serves cocktails Friday evening and all day Saturday.

For its one-year anniversary, Allegheny Distilling released Maggie's Farm Pear Eau De Vie, an unaged pear brandy. The first of its kind in Pennsylvania, this pear brandy is made from 100 percent fresh-pressed and unpasteurized pear juice and bottled at 80 proof. A seasonal product, Maggie's Farm Pear Eau De Vie is limited to a 250-bottle single batch.
 
Maggie’s Farm is also celebrating multiple wins from the highly competitive New York International Spirits Competition, held in October at the 3 West Club in New York City. Through a blind tasting at the competition, Maggie's Farm Queen's Share Rum was awarded a silver medal. Allegheny Distilling was declared the Pennsylvania Distillery of the Year.
 
“It was a little surprising, [but] I had a lot of confidence,” said Maggie’s Farm founder and owner Tim Russell. He explained that the New York International Spirits Competition is not a medal factory like other competitions. He said the competition prides itself in its strict selection of winners.
 
Queen's Share reserve rum is made exclusively from the flavorful tail runnings of the normal Maggie's Farm cane rum distillations. It's bottled at cask strength and aged up to one year in American oak barrels. Finishes include bourbon, rye whiskey, and double barrel. Queen's Share's silver medal was among only six rums to receive this honor and no rum submitted worldwide was awarded a gold medal.

Source: Tim Russell, Maggie’s Farm Rum

Market Square arts program wins prestigious National Endowment for the Arts grant

The newfound vibrancy of Market Square will continue to thrive through Pittsburgh's bleakest winter months, thanks to a recently awarded -- and very competitive -- federal arts grant.

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership recently received a prestigious grant from the National Endowment for the Arts that will fund the City of Pittsburgh’s Market Square Public Art Program.

With support from the $35,000 NEA grant, the Market Square program will exhibit public art during the winter months for three consecutive years. The Market Square Public Art Program was designed to showcase contemporary public art and establish the recently redesigned Market Square as a local, regional and national arts destination.
 
Two new installations will be displayed in Market Square in 2015 and 2016. Next month, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership will announce details about the artwork for winter of 2015, though PDP President and CEO Jeremy Waldrup did shed a little light on what Pittsburgh can expect. While last year’s “Congregation” highlighted internationally renowned artists and works, this year’s Market Square Public Art Program will feature art specifically created for Market Square, premiering at the event.
 
“The intention of the program is to make Market Square a vibrant space during the winter,” Waldrup said, noting that the square is busy with events during the spring and summer.
 
The NEA received 1,474 eligible applications from nonprofit organizations nationwide under the Art Works category, requesting more than $75 million in funding. Of those applications, 919 receive for grants.
 
“It’s a highly competitive grant process and we feel privileged to be one of the organization’s selected,” said Waldrup.
 
The Market Square Public Art Program is a program of the City of Pittsburgh Department of City Planning Public Art Division, and is managed by the PDP.
 
The project launched in February 2014 with “Congregation,” a dynamic, large-scale, interactive video and sound installation by the UK’s pioneering new media artists KMA.
 
"I'm pleased to be able to share the news of our support through Art Works including the award to the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. The arts foster value, connection, creativity and innovation for the American people and these recommended grants demonstrate those attributes and affirm that the arts are part of our everyday lives,” said Jane Chu, NEA Chairman.
 
The plan to install temporary public art in Market Square stemmed from the desire to activate the public space throughout the winter months. For three quarters of the year, Market Square is an “urban oasis” with outdoor seating, retail and array of public projects.
 
“In the first year of the Market Square Public Art Program, ‘Congregation’ was so well received. It brought people together to experience high-quality, engaging public art,” Waldrup said. “Additionally, it created a vitality in Market Square that was previously missing during this time of year. We look forward to bringing two more exciting installations to Downtown Pittsburgh in the next two years and appreciate the support of the NEA, which will enable us to do so.”
  
Source: Jeremy Waldrup, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership

Rent-free Wilkinsburg storefront up for grabs for interested arts nonprofit

Do you work for an arts nonprofit in need of office or gallery space? Wilkinsburg may have just the place for you.
 
PMC Management Company, LLC, a firm that owns commercial property in Wilkinsburg, has offered to temporarily donate a storefront at 811 Wood St. to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit or government-run arts organization.
 
The space will be available for donation for up to two years while the firm renovates the building’s upper floors. The unit will be donated rent-free, but interested organizations must agree to pay utilities. 
 
Qualified organizations must provide documentation detailing their nonprofit or government status as well as a plan for the donated space by Dec. 15. This information may be sent to Chuck Alcorn, Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation economic development coordinator, via email (chuck@wilkinsburgcdc.org) or general delivery (1001 Wood St., Wilkinsburg, PA 15221).
 
Activating the storefront goes hand in hand with WCDC’s mission to revitalize Wilkinsburg and surrounding areas through business and residential development and cultural enrichment.
 
“We really see this as an opportunity to bring in another positive aspect to Wilkinsburg,” Alcorn said. He added that the storefront is a promising space for local artists, as the unit is large enough to showcase work. “[We] hope that people see the potential in the space and contact us with proposals.”
 
For questions about this opportunity, please email (chuck@wilkinsburgcdc.org) or call Chuck Alcorn at (412) 727-7855.
 
Source: Chuck Alcorn, Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation

Gifts and Greens Market is back with custom holiday decor and artisan gifts

For holiday decor that smells as good as it looks, head to the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens' annual Gifts and Greens Market on Dec. 4, 5 and 6 at the Phipps Garden Center in Mellon Park. 
 
The market provides a large assortment of fresh, aromatic specialty greens -- like incense cedar, magnolia branches, pepperberry and eucalyptus -- for holiday decor and one-of-a-kind wreaths made to order.
 
“What makes it really special is that we have our master gardeners set up” to craft custom wreaths on-site at the market, said Phipps adult education coordinator Gabe Tilove.
 
Shoppers can choose from pre-made wreaths, garlands, swags and door charms, or purchase a custom piece made by Phipps' expert design team from a beautiful collection of ribbons and ornaments. All proceeds will support Phipps' education and outreach programs.
 
Complementing the greens sale is a holiday boutique showcasing festive decorations from paper-white narcissus bulbs to amaryllis kits. Guest vendors will be on site until 3 p.m. each day of the sale. 
 
Offering everything from natural beauty products to terrariums, Artemis Botanicals, greenSinner and Urban Baroque will be selling wares in a “cheerful, low-stress atmosphere.” By shopping the Gifts and Greens Market, customers can beat the crowds of conventional malls and keep purchases local.
 
“You’re supporting local artisans that live in your community,” Tilove said. “It’s about supporting creativity in your city.”

Free and open to the public, the market will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. The Phipps Garden Center is at 1059 Shady Ave., Shadyside.
 
Source: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Gabe Tilove

Five shippable Pittsburgh gifts for the holiday season

Cyber Monday kicked off the online holiday shopping frenzy, but that doesn't mean you have to abandon your support of local businesses as you finish up your gift giving.

For those of you who love to shop online and love to shop local, several Pittsburgh darlings have made it easy to do both. Check off these hometown gifts that will travel for the Pittsburgh expats on your list:

1.  Primanti’s Sandwiches
 
Primanti Bros. made the news in October with the announcement that you could now ship the “almost famous” Pittsburgh sandwich anywhere in the Unites States. For $109, you can send four French fry-laden sandwiches cross-country. Choose from pastrami, capicola or a combo pack; the sandwiches are delivered deconstructed with separately packed meat, bread, slaw, fries, cheese, tomato, hot sauce and a Primanti’s tee.
 
2. WildCard’s Pittsburgh merchandise
 
That’s right, WildCard stationery and gift shop in Lawrenceville now has an online storeWhile the Internet shop is still growing, many Pittsburgh products are ready to ship in time for the holidays, from Lil' Pierogi onesies to Pittsburgh tees to a Yinzer dictionary.
 
3.  The Enrico Biscotti Company’s goodies
 
Enrico’s in the Strip offers an online bakery that will ship their authentic biscotti and pastries to the Pittsburgher who couldn’t make it home for the holidays. Send a big red tin of Italian pastry or a biscotti gift basket!
 
4.  Penn Mac imported cheese
 
You don’t have to be on Penn Avenue to enjoy Pennsylvania Macaroni Company’s famous imported cheese counter. Penn Mac’s global selection is available online and guarantees that “cheeses are cut fresh the same day the order is shipped.”
 
5. Prantl’s Burnt Almond Torte
 
Named the country’s best cake by The Huffington Post, Prantl’s will ship their burnt almond torte anywhere in the country. This delicate cake encrusted in crunchy, candied almonds would make a great dessert course at any holiday dinner.

While searching online for the perfect gift to send to friends and family near and far, keep in mind these local options that can ship anywhere in the country.

Second Breakfast debuts at Public Market with creative breakfast and brunch options

If you grabbed a tumbler of black coffee or a handful of cereal on the way out the door this morning, get a breakfast do-over at the Pittsburgh Public Market. The market's latest vendor, Second Breakfast, debuted at the Farm to Table Harvest Tasting and opened for regular Public Market hours this week.

Owner and chef Thomas Wood described some of Second Breakfast’s creative waffle and crepe options. Second Breakfast’s menu includes Tamagoyaki Japanese Omelets (rolled omelets), sweet crepes, a savory crepe of the day (which was a cider-braised turkey Florentine on the day of my visit) and Belgian Liege waffles. Wood said the Belgian Liege’s soft yeast dough is encased with caramelized, Belgian pearl sugar to create a crunch.
 
“It’s hearty, it’s unpretentious, it fits with Pittsburgh,” Wood said about his menu while working behind the counter at his market booth sporting his signature hat, which he described as a throwback to a 1940s deli.
 
The waffles come with an array of toppings, the same sauces for the crepe fillings. Options include whiskey dulce de leche from Public Market neighbor Eliza’s Oven, chocolate, chocolate hazelnut (à la Nutella), berry blends, seasonal fruit and strawberry vanilla -- with a touch of Wigle Whiskey to “wake up the vanilla.”
 
Wood added that the shop will also offer waffle hash browns and a bacon weave topper. He said customers can look forward to specials like the Belgian Liege waffle with bacon ice cream and maple bacon brandy syrup.
 
Wood previously worked as a chef at Pittsburgh restaurants and said he has always focused on organic and local ingredients, like what he now uses at his Public Market venture.
 
“The whole time, I was always focused on high-quality ingredients,” Wood said about his work as a chef. “But, we’re Pittsburghers,” he added, noting that a dense, filling breakfast can still be locally sourced. 
 
He said he has always wanted to venture out on his own and has been interested in working with the Public Market. The Market Kitchen at the Public Market gave him this opportunity, he said.
 
“It’s a wonderful tool [and] it’s a great business incubator,” he said about the shared-use commercial kitchen. Wood added that the cost of starting a business and supplies would have been almost insurmountable without access to the Market Kitchen. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the Market Kitchen.”
 
In addition to kitchen access, Wood noted the support and camaraderie that comes from working in the Public Market. During our interview, another vendor stopped by to see if Wood had gotten his bacon order.
 
“The atmosphere here is totally collaborative and awesome,” he said.  
 
 
Source: Thomas Wood 

Friendship Circle finds new Squirrel Hill home at site of old Gullifty's

Rabbi Mordy Rudolph and his wife Rivkee have been running The Friendship Circle since its inception in 2006, when 15 teen volunteers were paired with about a dozen children with special needs. Today, the program boasts more than 200 alumni. 
 
The organization has outgrown its 1,200-square-foot storefront space and will move to a new, 10,000-square-foot home at 1922 Murray Ave. in Squirrel Hill as part of a multi-million dollar renovation at the site of the now-closed Gullifty's restaurant.
 
“Friendship Circle began eight years ago with about a dozen volunteers and a desire to remove barriers for children with special needs,” explained Chuck Perlow, a founding board member and co-chair of the capital campaign. “Today, this vibrant program works through nearly 300 active teen volunteers and more than 120 friends who are no longer defined by their disabilities. This unique space will be a celebration of the dramatic connections created and those yet to come.”  

Since 1994, Friendship Circle organizations have been created in more than 60 cities around the world. The program allows children and young adults with special needs to enjoy the company of teenage and young adult volunteers in a full range of social activities. Friendship Circle aims to enrich the lives of all participants through mutually advantageous interactions and lasting friendships.
 
Rudolph said the renovation will allow the growing organization to continue to engage students with activities like art, drama and cooking clubs. The renovation will include a first-floor storefront with glass windows along the Murray Avenue front of the venue, opening it to the community. This floor will include a multi-purpose space with a performance stage, a teen lounge, a pop-up gallery space, new elevator and a working kitchen for cooking clubs and other opportunities.
 
A second floor with work pods will allow youth with special needs to actively participate in the planning and behind-the-scenes work of Friendship Circle in a supported work setting. The second floor will also include a play space for younger children, a parent lounge, executive offices and conference room space for the staff of Friendship Circle. A rooftop garden and outdoor recreational space will maximize the footprint of the building and provide space for members to garden and enjoy the outdoors.
 
On a visit to a Friendship Circle site in Michigan, Rudolph said he witnessed the organization using its center to create a simulated community within the building. Inside the site were storefronts and a manufactured Main Street. While Rudolph said the idea of community is apparent in this model, he prefers the opportunity that the Murray Avenue location gives the Pittsburgh space. Participating in an existing community is more beneficial than creating an isolated environment, Rudolph said.
 
In addition to creating a person-to-person community in Friendship Circle, Rudolph said, the new building has the opportunity to create relationships with neighboring businesses. Rudolph explained that he hopes to engage with existing neighbors, like barbers and grocers, for Friendship Circle field trips and outings.
 
Working on the new venue are Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel Architects and construction manager John Paul Busse of F.J. Busse Company. Stuart Horne, an architect with Seigle Solow Horne and former Friendship Circle board member, is helping to oversee the project. The new venue will be completely ADA-compliant, with parking available behind the building as well as at street meters.  
 
“I think that there is tremendous potential just by moving into the space,” Rudolph said, adding that though the organization has grown so much in almost a decade, he is still excited about the future. “[In some ways,] it feels like we’re still in our infancy … like we’re just getting started.”
 
Rudolph says the goal is to complete the renovation by fall 2015, in time for the start of the 2015 – 2016 school year.
 
Source: Rabbi Mordy Rudolph, The Friendship Circle
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