Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Carrie Furnace Tour

Once upon a time, steel mills lined the river banks and clouds of soot filled the air throughout Western Pennsylvania. Very few are in existence today.  Shopping malls, industrial parks, and decaying remnants are what remain in towns once dominated by the industry.  One of these dilapidated structures, the Carrie Furnace, located along the Monongahela River in Rankin/Swissvale has sat abandoned, since 1979.  The Carrie Furnace was founded in 1884 and was acquired by Andrew Carnegie in 1898 to supply iron to his Homestead works across the river.  At the Carrie Furnace, coke, limestone, and iron ore were put into one of the seven blast furnaces and cooked at 2,800 degrees. It was then transported across the Rankin Hot Metal Bridge to Homestead via torpedo cars, where the pig iron was made into steel.  Ninety-two feet tall Furnaces #6 and #7, which were built in 1907 by U.S. Steel are all that remain of the site today.  Years of neglect left the structures to rust and decay.  In 2006, the site was designated a National Historic Landmark and the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area opened the 38 acre site to tourists.  The Carrie Furnace is constantly being restored by volunteers in order to preserve history.  The site has also attracted filmmakers and photographers, as several movies and music videos have been filmed here over the years.

Torpedo car used to transport iron to Homestead

To capture Pittsburgh's past, Rivers of Steel offers tours of the Carrie Furnace on Saturdays (10 AM) April 27 through October, and Fridays (10 AM) June through August.  On the roughly two-hour guided tour, visitors walk through the cast house, furnaces, and ore yards where thousands of Pittsburghers' worked 24 hours/day, 365 days/year to create 1,000 to 1,250 tons of pig iron per day.  Tour guides provide a historical perspective of the site, the iron making process, the different jobs an employee held, and describe the working conditions of a mill worker at the Carrie Furnace.  One of the highlights is seeing the Carrie Deer that was erected in 1997.  The Carrie Deer is a 40' tall structure created by a group of artists that snuck into the Carrie Furnace and spent a year constructing using materials extracted from the site.  This is the only mill of its kind that one can tour.   It is a great way for people to learn about Pittsburgh's steel heritage.  Rivers of Steel envisions this historical site as the focal point for development in the future.   

Carrie Deer

Years of driving across the Rankin Bridge to get to my grandparents' house I always looked off into the distance at the ruins of the former mill. When I read that a restoration project was underway and tours were going to be offered I made sure to sign up.  On a recent Saturday morning, I took the tour and was fascinated with the preservation effort and scenery. The tour was very interesting and the tour guide was very knowledgeable. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in history and Pittsburgh. This is a one-of-a-kind experience that is a must-see.  I hope they get the necessary funding to continue to develop the site for everyone to enjoy.

Reservations for tours can be made at www.riversofsteel.com.

Monday, March 25, 2013

KSWA: Wrestling in Lawrenceville?

Any Yinzer knows that Lawrenceville has become a haven for the working class, hipsters, and young adults alike over the past few years.  Whether it is window shopping dahn Butler St. on a sunny afternoon, enjoying the variety of unique bars, or taking part in karaoke bowling at Arsenal Lanes there is always something to do.  Most people only stay within a few blocks of Butler and Main Streets and rarely venture past the Allegheny Cemetery.  Past the cemetery Lawrenceville is not as developed and still shows signs of the former industrial neighborhood.  Nestled about a block past Butler Street towards the Allegheny River at 120 51st Street sits the Loyal Order of the Moose Lawrenceville Lodge Number 581.  This is where the night life of Lawrenceville may not be as well known. 

A few of us were tipped off that on Saturday, March 23 there would be some WWE style wrestling taking place at the Lawrenceville Moose.  The cost of entry was $10 and $2 PBR pounders were on special.  Being fans of the WWE throughout our youth, RKorn and I decided what better way to spend the night than watching some old-fashioned studio wrastlin'.  We were not sure what to expect so we decided to head over to the Moose Lodge and check it out.  The lodge looked like a nondescript run down warehouse.  Upon entering and paying our $10, the Star Spangled Banner was blasting through a cheap PA system in a giant smoke-filled fire hall with 70's era wood paneling and a bar off in the corner.  There were a few rows of seats surrounding the ring and we were quickly introduced to the world of the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA).

KSWA was not ECW wrestling, which I was hoping for, but rather a cheesier version of WWE.  There were about 6 matches featuring a wide array of megastars of the KSWA which in many cases were low brow imitations of studio wrestlers and managers from yesteryear.  It was the cheese factor, however, that made this night unforgettable.  Each of the wrestlers stayed in character throughout, clear plot lines were acted out, and interviews featuring the megastars were conducted between matches.  The wrestlers seemed to be from the western PA area as it was woven into the characters' profiles as it was announced that "The King" Del Douglas lived in a mansion overlooking Millvale.  KSWA t-shirts and memorabilia were available to purchase for the most ardent supporters.  Overall, the matches could have used some work, but the heels, baby faces, referees, and announcers made the most of their talent.  I thoroughly enjoyed this throwback to my past. 

Who attended this event you ask?  It was a great mix of Moose Lodge members and their families, the Lawrenceville hipsters, yinzers galore of all ages, curious onlookers, and friends and families of the wrestlers.  It was a sight to see. 

After the matches ended all ticket holders were invited downstairs to the Moose lounge to grab some drinks, a bite to eat, and socialize with the wrestlers.  They were all very accessible and engaged curious fans if approached.

Apparently, the Moose is a popular stop for these wrestlers as everyone in the crowd knew the wrestlers, created signs, and wore t-shirts from past events.  If you want to check out the KSWA it is definitely worth the $10.  They'll be at the Moose next on Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 7:30 PM. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pittsburgh's Distillery: Wigle Whiskey

Southwestern Pennsylvania has a long storied history when it comes whiskey.  The Pittsburgh region was once the most important whiskey-producing area in the country being home to more than a quarter of the nation's distilleries.  Monongahela Rye was the most consumed whiskey in the country in the 19th century and after a significant lull in legal production and a new state law, local entrepreneurs are reviving the craft. 

Wigle Whiskey, founded by the Meyer family in 2012, is the first distillery in the city of Pittsburgh in since prohibition.  Located on Smallman St. in the Strip District, the distillery is named after Phillip Wigle, a rebel who was sentenced to hang for treason after burning down the home of a federal tax collector and sparking the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794.  Wigle Whiskey produces an unaged White Rye Whiskey, White Wheat Whiskey, Wigle Ginever, a Dutch-style gin, and the Aged Whiskey.  The unaged liquors are available anytime, but the Aged Whiskey is released periodically from their Small Cask Series after 6-8 months in the barrel.  The first release was on December 15, 2012 and sold out in about one hour.  For those interested in making their own whiskey, do-it-yourself kits are on-sale.  Tours and special event bookings are made available to the public where one is able to observe the distilling process and sample Wigle's products. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pittsburgh's Moustache Man

Pittsburgh could be home to the next winner of the Robert Goulet Memorial Moustached American of the Year Award.  A Mount Washington gentleman, aptly named Adam Paul Causgrove, is in the running for a prestigious national facial hair award with his finely groomed handlebar moustache.   Mr. Causgrove beat out nearly 900 entrants to qualify as a finalist by the American Moustache Institute (AMI). 

Who is Adam Paul Causgrove?  Well, according to his profile and diligent interviewing skills, he is a fixture in the nonprofit scene around Pittsburgh.  For example, he has run Tailgreat for over six years; a yearly tailgate which benefits charities such as Steps to Independence and the Pittsburgh Animal League. Adam also spearheaded the creation of Mt. Washington Olympia dog park and is a founding member of Side Project, Inc., a group committed to helping local non profits receive government grants and funding. Causgrove's infamous upper lip has also become the real life mascot, Sir Reginald, of Old Frothingslosh beer and Penn t-shirt company.  The 28-year-old University of Pittsburgh graduate can also be seen umpiring softball games for the Pittsburgh Sports League.  This moustache is totally genuine as Mr. Causgrove has dedicated several years of grooming and ordering countless jars of Captain Fawcett's Moustache Wax from England to perfect the look.   Men around Pittsburgh absolutely love the stache, going out of their way to give him a high-five or buying him a beer.   

Pittsburghers, Adam Paul Causgrove needs your help: voting for the Robert Goulet Memorial Moustached American of the Year is taking place a http://www.americanmustacheinstitute.org/goulet-voting/ and ends on October 27, 2012.  The winner will be announced at ‘Stache Bash 2012, presented by Wahl Trimmers.  Adam faces tough competition as longtime NFL coach Jeff Fisher, MLB umpire Jim Joyce, and Indiana Gubernatorial candidate John Gregg are among 14 finalists this year.  Past winners include Milwaukee Brewers closer John Axford (2011), and Tim Galvin (2008), a retired New York City police detective.  This honor also places Causgrove among the pantheon of great Pittsburgh celebrity staches as The Blast Furnace has added him to the acclaimed Famous Pittsburgh Mustaches list.  The handlebar style pays homage to the Pittsburgh's classic Industrial Revolution look worn by robber barons and mill workers alike.

Follow-up October 29, 2012:  Adam Paul Causgrove was named the winner of the Robert Goulet Memorial Moustached American of the Year Award receiving 66% of the 1.3 million votes cast.  Adam was announced the winner at 'Stache Bash 2012 in ArizonaCongrats to Mr. Causgrove!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Witnessing a No-hitter


The Pirates and Reds headed into the sixth inning on a cool autumn Friday night and a buzz began throughout the PNC Park crowd of 34,796.  Reds pitcher Homer Bailey had not allowed a single hit to the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates.  As the game progressed more excitement began to generate. 

Some typical Pittsburgh fans of course began their traditional early exit from the park. My friends and I figured that they either were totally oblivious to what was happening or they were worried that their car was going to turn into a pumpkin at 10:00pm.  We were not surprised.  Sitting in the stands, I was conflicted on how to react to a potential no-hitter.  On one hand I wanted the Pirates to get that one hit to avoid another embarrassment in yet another disappointing season.  On the other hand, I wanted to witness a no-hitter in person since it is such a rare feat.  The ninth inning arrived and I decided to root for Bailey. 

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning Pirates outfielder Alex Presley came to the plate, fans were on their feet to witness history.  Presley quickly popped out to the outfield grass to Reds second baseman Brandon Philips to clinch the no-hitter.  This was the seventh no-hitter this season and 279th all time.  Homer Bailey's final line was 9 IP, 0 runs, 0 hits, 10 K, and 1 BB.  The Reds right-hander had allowed only two base runners during the course of the game, a walk and another Pirate reached on a fielding error. 

The Pirates had not been no-hit since Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson performed the feat in 1971.  Being a huge baseball fan, this was one of those moments that any enthusiast had to see once in a lifetime.  Friends and I took the opportunity to savor the masterpiece that we just witnessed, snapping photos of the throng of Bailey's teammates congratulating him near the mound and the scoreboard displaying the 0's lining the Pirates line score.  Sure there were some fans who seemed upset and displayed apathy to the event as this was an exclamation point to the Pirates historic collapse. 

This rare accomplishment is something I may never see again in person so it was appropriate to soak it all in.  I just cannot imagine the thrill this would have been had a Pirate tossed a hit less game.  What's next to cross off on this baseball fan's bucket list?  A perfect game? Visiting classic ballparks around the country?  A World Series win by the hometown team will suit me just fine.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Mon Valley and the Whiskey History of Pittsburgh

This piece is contributed by a family member who did some research on Pittsburgh whiskey, specifically Schenley, for which his mother worked in the 1930's. Thanks Highland Park Pete!

All of this was prompted by a curiosity I found online about a San Francisco micro-distillery, High West Distillery and Saloon, bringing back the Schenley brand.

The topic is Monongahela Rye whiskey--you may remember it from a school course in colonial Pittsburgh history.

Mon Rye was first distilled by the Scots-Irish frontiersmen, that great Presbyterian majority who first settled the Monongahela Valley, after the founding of Pittsburgh in 1758.

Why rye? The flood plains of the Mon River, where the many now-dismal steel towns sit, were fertile lands, and the fur traders and such first noticed that the Indians grew there corn on these sites. Queen Aliquippa, ironically who ruled from what not McKeesport (where the Yough meets the Mon), had a large corn plantation there. But the European settlers grew old-fashioned grains, especially wheat and rye. Even though Mon flour brought a good price (one booster historian quotes that in 1800 Mon grain flour "is celebrated in foreign markets, for its superiority, and it generally sells for a dollar more per barrel in New Orleans than any other American grain.")

That said, converting rye to alcohol was even more profitable than milling flour (or trading animals furs and ginseng root, the other two main activities of the early French and English traders here).

By the 1770s in the Mon Valley there were more than 1200 stills, says one historian, run by the Scots-Irish, who had learned the trade back in the Highlands of Scotland. Beyond the local market (themselves), they shipped their whiskey downriver to St. Louis and to New Orleans, and from there by ship first to the East Coast, and some eventually to Europe, via a trading network with their clansmen back in Glasgow, Scotland. (There were also pack horse caravans running the whiskey back East to Philadelphia, to Ben Franklin and his cronies I suppose, but the shipping by water was cheaper, they say.)

This is the first Western Pennsylvania economic boom. Alexander Hamilton, who in New York was trying to figure out how raise revenue the new federal government, still indebted by the cost of the American Revolution, first thought to tax the frontier whiskey trade, thus causing the famous Whiskey Rebellion in Pittsburgh in 1794, the first use of federal troops to crush it. This is thought to also be the first use of federal force to suppress American people.

So the Mon Valley was the Whiskey Valley before it was the Steel Valley. That's an under-appreciated thought, even for me.

Mon Rye whiskey remained famous along the American East Coast, especially among sailors, who had experience carrying to Europe as well as drinking in port.

So here's where the great American novelist Herman Melville enters the story. I only read this novel, "Moby Dick," recently.

I read it in Chapter 84, a crazy chapter in which the narrator fantasizes about that the whale they've just harpooned, who is spouting red blood, should rather be sprouting Old Monongahela whiskey. He'd actually make a punch of it in the hole carved into the corpse of the beast.

So this is the proof text, which I now had time to find, the first literary reference that I've ever found to the Mon's Valley's pre-industrial whiskey fame:

MOBY DICK; OR THE WHALE by Herman Melville (1851)
Chapter 84:

. . . Look now at Stubb; a man who from his humorous, deliberate coolness and equanimity in the direst emergencies, was specially qualified to excel in pitchpoling. Look at him; he stands upright in the tossed bow of the flying boat; wrapt in fleecy foam, the towing whale is forty feet ahead. Handling the long lance lightly, glancing twice or thrice along its length to see if it be exactly straight, Stubb whistlingly gathers up the coil of the wrap in one hand, so as to secure its free end in his grasp, leaving the rest unobstructed. Then holding the lance full before his waistband's middle, he levels it at the whale; when, covering him with it, he steadily depresses the butt-end in his hand, thereby elevating the point till the weapon stands fairly balanced upon his palm, fifteen feet in the air. He minds you somewhat of a juggler, balancing a long staff on his chin. Next moment with a rapid, nameless impulse, in a superb arch the bright steel spans the foaming distance, and quivers in the life spot of the whale. Instead of sparkling water, he now spouts red blood.

"That drove the spigot out of him!" cried Stubb. "'Tis July's immortal Fourth; all fountains must run wine today! Would now, it were old Orleans whiskey, or old Ohio, or unspeakable Old Monongahela! Then, Tashtego, lad, I'd have ye hold a canakin to the jet, and we'd drink round it! Yea, verily, hearts alive, we'd brew choice punch in the spread of his spout-hole there, and from that live punch-bowl quaff the living stuff."

Rye whiskeys remained popular in the 19th century, although Kentucky whiskeys made from corn became the new fashion.

In 1900 a Pittsburgh chemist named "Frank Sinclair found an underground stream above the junction of the Kiskiminetas and Allegheny Rivers in Pennsylvania. With his charcoal expertise, Sinclair concluded that this stream water was ideal for making whiskey. Around 1900 he acquired the land from Mary Schenley and began what later became known as a Schenley distillery." [This junction is also where the flotsam & jetsam of the Great Johnstown Flood of 1889 fame, floated by, and where early Ford Citians went to watch it float by.)

Schenley--not the high school, is an unincorporated place on the Allegheny just 8 miles south of Ford City and nearly opposite from Freeport. Remember, in 1933 Prohibition had been repealed. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania took over the liquor monopoly, and to ease fears about the safety of alcoholic beverages--too many people had died from moonshine, right?--so the state affixed a seal over the whiskey bottle's cap, as a sign of safety, purity, etc.

In the early 20th century Schenley and Seagram's whiskey were the big brands, I've read, and they each morphed or died off in the 1970s and the Schenley plant was closed and abandoned shortly thereafter. The Schenley whiskey of the 1960s was a "blended rye" imported from Canada.

So, a Canadian import using an "olde formula" from the 18th-century Mon Valley.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Pittsburgh Bucket List

The Pittsburgh Skyline from Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington / Incline - take an incline up to Mt. Washington for a breathtaking view of the city of Pittsburgh. Enjoy the fine dining atop the Mount

Kennywood Park - classic American amusement park, complete with wooden roller coaster, Potato Patch fries, nostalgia and lasting memories

Cathedral of Learning - the tallest educational buidling in the western hemisphere. Take tour the Nationality Rooms found inside the University of Pittsburgh's crown jewel, also take a ride up to the top and see the entire city of Pittsburgh

Phipps Conservatory - historic flora gardens located in Schenley Park.

Carnegie Museums: Oakland - The Natural History museum features a fantastic collection of dinosaur fossils, gems and minerals, and artifacts from ancient worlds. Museum of Art displays collections of traditional art from Europe and the United States.

Heinz History Center - located in the Strip District this museum tells the story of Western PA and also features changing exhibits, and the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum.

Andy Warhol Museum - the Pittsburgh native's best collection of original Warhols anywhere in the world.

Carnegie Science Center - hands-on exhibits, live demonstrations, and spectacular movies that teach us a lot about how we work and how the world around us operates.

Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium - one of the major zoo and aquariums in the nation, exhibits more than 4,000 animals representing 475 species, including 20 threatened or endangered species. Located in the Highland Park section of the city

National Aviary - America's largest aviary and home to over 600 animals representing about 200 species located on the North Side

Visit the Children's Museum

Visit the Frick Art and Historical Center - also known as "Clayton" located in Point Breeze, this was the home of the controversial Gilded Age industrialist, Henry Clay Frick, and now serves as a museum complete with a cafe

Station Square - indoor and outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment complex

South Side bar crawl -  the quintessential Pittsburgh night life scene, it is said to have more bars per block/capita than almost anywhere else in the U.S.  Classics like Mario's and Jack's are good starters for tourists and you can certainly find some diamonds in the rough in this bar paradise

Strip District - shop for food at the wholesale markets, ethnic grocers and street vendors.  Wholey's, Benkovitz,  Parma, and Pennsylvania Macaroni Company are just some of the classic places to shop.  Restaurants, clubs, and live music also dominate the neighborhood.

Attend a Cultural District event - watch the Pittsburgh Sympothy Orchestra at Heinz Hall, see a show at the Byham Theater, Benedum Center, August Wilson Center, or O'Reilly Theater, and fine dine in this section of Downtown Pittsburgh

Tour the neighborhoods - eat, drink, shop, and walk the unique neighborhoods (90 total) that make up the city of Pittsburgh: Bloomfield, Downtown, East Liberty, Highland Park, Lawrenceville, Mt. Washington, North Side, Oakland, Regent Square, Shadyside, South Side, Squirrel Hill, Strip District.

Attend a Steeler game - get to the Heinz Field parking lots early to tailgate for the big game on Sunday.  Few NFL teams can match the gameday experience of Pittsburgh's historical professional football franchise.

Pirate game at PNC Park - The Pittsburgh skyline, one of the greatest backdrops in all of baseball.  This park always makes national top 5 ballpark lists.  Great food, beer selection, affordable tickets, and finally what looks to be a good baseball product.
Attend a Penguin game

Attend a Pitt football game

Attend a Pitt basketball game - be a part of the Oakland Zoo and root on the perennial Top 25 Panthers

Attend a high school football game - always a chance you'll be watching a highly recruited star and future NFL player from one of the many Western PA powerhouse programs.

Travel to Bradenton, FL for Pirates Spring Training

Watch Steelers Training Camp at St. Vincent College

Attend the Big East Basketball Tournament in New York's Madison Square Garden - The 2012-2013 season will be the last BET as we have come to know and love over the years as Pitt and Syracuse exit the conference for the ACC.

Own a Terrible Towel

See a U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club

Ice skate at the PPG Ice Rink

Sandcastle - waterpark located along the Mon featuring waterslides, a wavepool, and a lazy river

Shop at the Waterfront - catch a movie, shop, or dine in this vast open air shopping center built over the former site of US Steel's Homestead Steel Works plant.

Shop at Ross Park Mall - the premier upscale mall located in the North Hills where all of the new money resides

Take a ride on the Gateway Clipper - docked at Station Square, cruise the Three Rivers through locks and dams on either the Majestic, Empress, Good Ship Lollipop, Princess or Countess

Ride the "T" - take a trip to the South Hills of Pittsburgh on Pittsburgh's Light Rail System

Ride the PAT Bus

Gotta Regatta - Get dahn to Point State Park for the annual motorboat and river festival.  Eat, watch fireworks and be entertained.

Watch fireworks - Pittsburghers love fireworks and there's plenty of opportunities to see them.  New Years Eve, Pirate games, 4th of July, Regatta, Light up Night, etc.  Watch them from Mt. Washington, the Point, or PNC Park

Idlewild Park - amusement park in Ligonier that also features a water park - Soak Zone, Storybook Forest and Jumping Jungle

Visit Fallingwater - house designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935 located in the Laurel Highlands.  Listed among Smithsonian's Life List of 28 places "to visit before you die."

Visit the Laurel Highlands - located in Fayette County:  go whitewater rafting at Ohiopyle, visit Ft. Necessity, the site of a French and Indian War battle in 1754 that saw George Washington surrender to the French, and tour the largest cave in PA, the Laurel Caverns

Drink Local - Local Beers to sample include:  Iron City, Duquesne, Penn Brewery, East End, and Church Brew Works.

St. Patrick's Day Parade - Said to be the 2nd largest St Patrick's Day Parade in the country and where where it is socially acceptable to crack a beer or ten by 8am, bars, restaurants and streets vendor's serve up green beer for all of the "Irish"

Attend Oktoberfest - drink mass quantities of seasonal beer at Penn Brewery, Church Brew Works, or Hofbrauhaus in late September

Attend a fire hall wedding - complete with rigatoni, friend chicken, and of course, the cookie table

Watch a Rick Sebak documentary - mostly filmed in the late 80s and 90's these documentaries really capture the people, places, history and spirit of the Steel City.  Some of the classics include:  Kennywood Memories, Something About Oakland, The Strip Show, South Side, Things That Aren't There Anymore, Pittsburgh A to Z and Stuff That's Gone

Sit in traffic - your bound to find major congestion in and out of the city during rush hour whether it be sitting on the Parkway East waiting to get into the Squirrel Hill Tunnel, gridlock at the intersection of 51 and 88, constant construction on Rt. 28, coming to a grinding halt on the Parkway West atop Green Tree Hill, or navigating the confusing and congested Downtown streets.

Listen to 102.5 WDVE while sitting in traffic - classics like the Morning Show, Electric Lunch, or legendary DJ Sean McDowell for your requests and afternoon drive home.

Gamble at the Rivers Casino

Little Italy Days - Bloomfield, Pittsburgh's Little Italy; a three-day festival held every September that celebrates Italian-American culture and heritage with music, contests, dancing, children's activities and food.

Swim in Dormont Pool - every year community members must pony-up to "Save the Dormont Pool" from being closed due to lack of funding so enjoy a nice swim off of Banksville Rd.

See a concert at Star Lake Amphitheatre - as of now called First Niagara Pavilion.  Where concert goers travel more for the party than the music.  Legendary tailgates are found in the vast parking lot. 

See a concert at Stage AE - Pittsburgh's newest concert venue, the perfect size to see a show

Take a walk in the park(s) - Schenley Park, Frick Park, North Park, and South Park make for a great time to enjoy the fresh air

Visit Hartwood Acres - see a concert, summer theater, and the outdoor holiday light show - the Festival of Lights

Pittsburgh Parking Chair - Place a chair on the street to save your parking space

Go to Light up Night - Each November every downtown building lights up to celebrate the upcoming holiday season accompanied by a fireworks display and the Christmas tree display

Shop for chocolate at Sarris Candies in Canonsburg - No better place to shop for Easter candy, delicious, creative molds of your favorite cartoon characters, sports, and everyday items.  Also treat yourself to some ice cream at their adjoining ice cream parlor

Visit Overy's Country Christmas at the Westmoreland Fairgrounds - where else can you find a light-up jail house, and a random dinosaur while sipping hot chocolate over an open fire.  The display is topped off with a giant light-up Snoopy watching over baby Jesus in his manger.

Read Out of this Furnace - a historical novel set in Braddock, PA following a Slovak immigrant family's struggle working in the steel mills.  Describes working conditions, typical family life, and idealism of early 20th century working class Pittsburgh.

Dress in Pittsburgh Casual for school, work, church, or a night out on the town

Pick a pumpkin from Trax Farms - spend an autumn evening in the Finleyville farm then sample some delicious apple cider

Walk through the Three Rivers Art's Festival - annual event held in Point State Park and Gateway Center that includes outdoor concerts, art market, and food.  Don't forget to bring an umbrella.

Kick off the fall season at the Rib Festival - whether it be at Heinz Field or the South Park Fairgrounds one can expect this.

Visit the Roberto Clemente Museum - this little known museum is nestled in Lawrenceville honors the legendary ballplayer.

Watch the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix in Schenley Park

Watch the Delvin Miller Adios - one of the biggest harness races in the country held at the Meadows Racetrack and Casino.  Bet and get up close to the racing action at this yearly event.


Primanti Brothers - meat, lettuce, tomatos, french fries and cole slaw in between two slices of Italian bread, a Pittsburgh classic.  Featured on countless food and travel shows and tourist attraction
The Original Hot Dog Shop - eat a hot dog and have a heaping helping of fries

The Original Oyster House - eat a Pittsburgh favorite, the fish sandwich

Eat'n Park - Pittsburgh chain known for their Smiley Cookies

Mineo's Pizza House - Always ranked as one of the top pizza joints in the burgh with two locations, the original in Squirrel Hill and Mt. Lebanon

Quaker Steak & Lube - original location in Sharon, PA, but Pittsburgh has adopted the restaurant that is known for their wings

Pamela's - The hotcakes were given the Presidential Seal of Approval by President Obama as he makes this a stop on his visits to Pittsburgh.  Owners Gail Klingensmith and Pamela Cohen were even invited to the White House to cook for a Memorial Day Event

Deluca's - featured on the Travel Channel's Man v. Food this Strip District joint is known for their dessert like pancakes, breakfast burritos, and monstrous omelettes

The Triangle Bar & Grill - eat a 26" Battleship sandwhich that can feed a family at this Swissvale bar.  Once a haven for steel workers employed at the neighboring mills.

For other places to eat click here


Chipped Ham - buy this depression era creation of thinly sliced ham at the local deli.  Good for sandwiches and ham barbecues.  This lunch meat is sorely missed by displaced Pittsburghers.

Fish Fry - during the lenten season, many Catholic churches serve up jumbo fish sandwhiches with sides of macaroni and cheese and haluski

Pierogies -  they don't hold pierogi races at PNC Park for nothing

Kielbasi and sauerkraut

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Krazy Dogz: A Delectable Treat

On any typical night on the South Side once the bars are beginning to close many Yinzers are always happy to stop for a slice of pizza, gyro, or a Primanti sandwich before heading home. What does not usually come to mind is stopping for a Hot Dog. Out of coincidence a few Blast Furnace members happened to pass Krazy Dogz on Carson Street before heading into Kopy's and later Bar 11. As the night was winding down we were a bit hungry and decided to check out Krazy Dogz to see what they had to offer. This was one of the best decisions we have made for late night snacking in quite some time and we are all sure to stop back.

Krazy Dogz is conveniently located at 1220 East Carson Street right in the heart of all of the night time shenanigans of the South Side. Upon entering we were welcomed by three friendly employees who chatted with us about how long they have been open and the highs and lows of business. The service was quick and they were helpful to point out the different ways that we could design our dogs.

The menu is very extensive.  Krazy Dogz has a wide variety of their own unique creations and a topping bar which patrons can use to design their own dog as well. All hot dogs are 100% pure beef franks and come on a nice soft bun. I was tempted to design my own dog, but since it was my first visit I decided that I would try one of their own signature creations. I went with the "Hot" Dog and the Fiesta Dog. The "Hot" Dog was covered in jalapenos, nacho cheese, diced hot peppers, and your choice of hot sauce. This dog has a great burn to it and made you want to eat another. The toppings were loaded onto the dog and not an inch was bare. Even if you don't like spicy foods, this is able to be handled and is an enjoyable experience. The dogs were two for $5 so for my second I had the Fiesta Dog which is loaded with chili, cheese, salsa, corn chips, lettuce, tomato, black olives, and onion. Think of it as a taco on a hot dog. This dog was so unique that eating one would have you repeating this order many times in the future.  I can't wait to try some of their other items.

Not only were the dogs delectable, but the price was perfect. How can you beat two gourmet Hot Dogs loaded with toppings for $5? The toppings and price are what separate these dogs from the rest of the pack. As someone who has sworn allegiance to The Original in Oakland everyone can admit that their prices and toppings can both be improved. Krazy Dogz beats out all of its competition in these two categories.  Krazy Dogz is sure to become a staple for Yinzers craving a great food experience that will satisfy their taste buds after bar-hopping, taking a lunch break, or taking a stroll dahn Carson Street in the middle of the day.

Bigelow_Blvd gives Krazy Dogz 6/6 Irons and hopes to return soon.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pittsburgh: Yinz Probly Think Dis Song Is Abaut You

It sure has been a busy year for Pittsburgh.  Even when our sports teams are not winning championships, the city is earning accolades that may trump them all.  Most Livable City, Worst Dressed, Home of the Cross-dressing Beauty Queen are just some of the recent crowns to be proud of, but pride is the theme of the newest notch on the belt of Pittsburgh as Pittsburgh has just been named #6 on Men's Health Magazine's "America's Top 10 Vainest Cities."

That is right Pittsburgh now sits alongside of some of its arch nemeses such as Dallas (5), Tampa (1), and Plano, TX (2). At first, I thought that this moniker was kind of ridiculous considering the fact that we were named one of the worst dressed cities, but I suppose this just adds to the fact that even if we dress poorly, we think we look great. Some of the reasons cited for being vain include the number of tanning salons, number of people going for hair-dye jobs, and the high per-capita volume of plastic surgeons. Take a walk dahn da South Side or the Strip and I'm not sure that we would really see super models, but apparently the facts speak for themselves.

I am sure that Yinzers far and wide will have varied views of this new title for the city, but as Miyoshi Anderson, a model and executive director of Pittsburgh Fashion Week, says, "When you hear staggering number of diabetes and obesity, it makes people more aware of their appearance and the importance of looking great and feeling great."

Could our unhealthy food addictions and heavy beer drinking have been the driving force to becoming vain? We may never know. So the next time someone says that Yinzers are full of themselves, just say, "damn right yinz jagoffs."

Friday, June 22, 2012

It's a NHL Draft Night in Pittsburgh

View of Pittsburgh on Draft Eve
After all the celebration and fanfare, the 2012 NHL Entry draft is set to begin tonight at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.

Many of the sports finest young talents will descend on Pittsburgh tonight to find out what team they will be playing for in the near future.  Some of that talent is located close to home, with potential first-round pick Michael Houser raised in Wexford.  It is unlikely that Houser will be drafted by his childhood dream team Pittsburgh Penguins, as his position is that of goaltender.  Pens GM Ray Shero all but ruled out taking a goalie in the first round, stating "I don't think so...I don't think that's what we'd do."

In any case, the major news of the day is the likely departure of fan favorite Jordan Staal, who turned down a 10 year extension worth reportedly $60 million last night. Rumors are now circulating as to why he turned it down and his potential future.  Will he go to Carolina to be with his two brothers?  Or will he land in Toronto, near his hometown of Thunder Bay?  These answers could potentially be answered before tonight's draft begins, and the anticipation is very high.

Time to sound off.  In your opinion, what should the Penguins do?  Trade him right now, for some potential draft talent?  Or hold on to him the whole year for one more cup run?  Whatever happens, it will be front page NHL news.  Staal is set to be the second hottest unrestricted free agent behind Rick Nash next summer, so something is bound to occur.  Enjoy the draft.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Needles Pricks Pittsburgh and the Nation

Add yet another honor to the city of Pittsburgh. This time Pittsburgh has shown that it is not only the most livable city and the new trendiest city in America, but Yinzers can hang their hat on the fact that the 'Burgh is home to the winner of the most recent edition of RuPaul's Drag Race. Winner, Sharon Needles is a Bloomfield resident who has been seen as not only the winner of the popular TV show, but also as a symbol for Anti-Bullying and LGBT pride.

Needles was honored by the Pittsburgh City Council on June 12. Outside of the drag circle Needles is otherwise known as 30-year-old Aaron Coady. Needles has used her position throughout her life to push for LGBT rights. This has not come without risk as the fire department is currently investigating a suspicious fire at her residence and she has even thought of moving out of the city due to peoples’ unwillingness to be tolerant and hateful towards the way she lives.

Needles has brought another honor to the city of Pittsburgh further exemplifying Pittsburgh as a hip, modern city that is open and progressive. Congratulations to Sharon Needles on her accomplishments as she moves forward as a symbol for the LGBT community.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Concert Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Red Hot Chili Peppers "I'm With You" tour made its way to the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on May 30 and they did not disappoint.  Although this was the first appearance by the Chili Peppers in the 'burgh since 2003 legendary bassist Flea made sure to remind the crowd of their history in the city going back to the days of playing Graffiti, "We've been coming here for 30 years now, and every time has been better than the last!"  Hearing from others this may indeed have been a true statement.  The buzz from friends and media it sounded as if the Chili Peppers weren't a great live band.  After hearing criticism and seeing a few live concerts on TV my expectations were a bit tempered going in, but this show was great.  Fellow Blast Furnace contributor Ben State who had seen them twice before believed this was the best that they have sounded as well.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers opened the show with "Monarchy of Roses" a hit single from 2011's "I'm With You" album.  The setlist consisted of hits from the majority of their popular albums from the 90's through 2011, the most being from 1991's classic "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" and their newest album "I'm With You."  Absent were songs from "One Hot Minute."  Personally I would have liked to hear a few more songs from one of my favorite albums "Californication," but the Chili Peppers covered most of their classics.  There were a couple of jam sessions mixed into the setlist as well, featuring Flea, new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, and Chad Smith on drums.  Flea was definitely the highlight of the show by displaying his slap and slide techniques which were incredible to watch and hear live.  Newest addition Josh Klinghoffer filled in admirably for the departed John Frusciante.  A few of the older songs you could tell Kinghoffer didn't have the same skill as Frusciante, but Frusciante is considered one of the all-time great guitarists making him difficult to duplicate.  Frontman Anthony Kiedis displayed his range and talents by making the smooth vocal transitions between rock, hip-hop, and funk; the sounds that made the Chili Peppers a legendary band.  The show lasted approximately two hours and the band played almost non-stop without much chatter or interaction with the audience. 

The Consol Energy Center has hosted several legendary musical acts in its first two years of existence and the Red Hot Chili Peppers delighted the sold-out crowd.  Being a teenager in the 90's, the Chili Peppers were one of those bands that you just had to see and they certainly lived up to their Hall of Fame status on this night.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Avengers: Reignition of Comic Book Genre

It has been quite some time that I have walked out of a comic book genre movie and been as satisfied as I was after seeing The Avengers last week. Like I stated in most of my comic book movie reviews I consider myself a fringe fan of comics, but am sure to check out the majority of their movie counterpart upon release. I could not have told you off of the top of my head who all of The Avengers are or why and how they come to work together, but that did not stop my enjoyment of this spring blockbuster.

Joss Whedon did a spectacular job writing and directing The Avengers. The plot was intense most of the time and allowed me to engage with each one of the characters' personalities. With so many Avengers, I thought that it would be hard to do so, but Whedon was able to interweave each of their stories so that the casual comic book fan (such as myself) would be able to understand the motives behind each of The Avengers attachment to the group as a whole. Comedy was well placed and the struggle between each of the dominant characters was never too much.

It took a while for the heart of the plot to really get going, but this allowed the beginning of the movie to introduce the purpose of The Avengers.   Basically, the government enlists the help of each Avenger in order to fight off what we can't.  Each Avenger holds back at first, but once their emotions are plucked it is game on for the movie.  I really enjoy the genesis of the super heroes; although this was slow it was an integral part of my movie experience.  Once that passed the plot took great turns and the 2.5 hour movie seemed like only an hour. It never bored me nor left me wanting more...I was satisfied upon completion.

From my perspective there was no real main character, but Iron Man played by Robert Downey Jr. seemed to steal the show even though Loki, who is the villain, is the brother of Thor. Speaking of Loki, Tom Hiddleston did a wonderful job in this role and allowed me to see him not as the whining twit he was in Thor, but a demonic figure instead.

The Avengers was a great start to the traditional summer action movies and is one that should not be missed.

Pills gives The Avengers 5/6 Irons.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Obituary of a Legendary Eatery II: Vincent's Pizza Park

It looks as if another part of Pittsburgh's history has gone and passed. Now all that remains of Vincent's Pizza Park in Forest Hills are the memories of arguably the best pizza in Pittsburgh. Vincent's closed its doors for the final time as the current owners B & C Pizza Inc. had not paid rent since June 2011.

Vincent's has been a landmark in Forest Hills since Vincent Chianese first opened on Ardmore Boulevard in 1950. Chianese began tossing pies in 1947 in San Francisco alongside his uncle. He returned to Pittsburgh and worked nights as a fireman for the Union Railroad and after saving up enough money Vincent opened his own pizzeria. Chianese worked constantly at the Pizza Park until he sold the controlling interest of the business in 2005. Chianese died in March of 2012 from complications of ailments related to old age. Vincent's was a place of character as can be summed up by a sign over his oven that read, "This isn't Burger King; you take it our way, or you don't take the sonofabitch at all."

Unfortunately, I was never able to make it to Vincent's very often, but I have some great memories of delicious pizza that I wish I could have tasted one last time before it closed. There was nothing better than eating a burning hot pizza loaded with toppings, unevenly cut slices, and enough grease on it to cause a heart attack. I can remember the first time I had a Vinnie Pie after an amateur league ice hockey game. Arriving dying of hunger and pulling up to the pizzeria I had only heard stories of the greatness. We walked in to hear loud shouting, smoke-filled dining area, and the jukebox was pumping. We quickly sat down and ordered without a menu. I saw that pizza and my eyes lit up. Never had a tasted a pizza like that before.  It was always speculated that the ash from Mr. Chianese's cigarette was the secret ingredient in the tasty pie.  Some will say that Mineo's and Aiello's are tops in the city, but Vincent's had the character that neither can compare.

It is unfortunate that a second legendary eatery has closed its doors in the last year, but hopefully the legend will live on even though the pizzas will not. A slice of history is gone, but will live on in every clogged artery for years to come. Here's to you Vincent's Pizza Park. You will be missed.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Disturbance in the Stands: Part Deux

PNC Park had another episode of unruly behavior as a security supervisor lost his finger on Saturday night as he was escorting a father and daughter out of the stadium.  It all began when Rachel George, 21, of Hempfield was taken to the park's security office for smoking in her seat.  As security supervisor Joseph Risher was escorting Ms. George out of the park, her boyfriend assaulted Mr. Risher and ran away.  According to the complaint, Ms. George then jumped on Risher's back and started to pull him backward.  Rachel's father, Christopher George, 50, joined in the attack pushing the security supervisor up against a fence.  While trying to defend himself, Joseph Risher's left hand got caught in the fence and his middle finger was almost totally ripped off; left only hanging by a piece of skin.  Surgery reattached is finger. 

When Pittsburgh Police arrived, Rachel George cursed and spit on city police Detective Francis Rende, and kicked Sgt. Sean Duffy as he was placing Rachel George in a holding cell at the ballpark.  This prompted him to use a "palm strike" to the left side of her face. Sgt Duffy was treated at UPMC Mercy for a sharp pain he felt in his right shoulder after striking her.  The George's were taken to the Allegheny County Jail where they posted bail. 

Rachel and Christopher George were charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy, harassment, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness and face a preliminary hearing next week.  They have not identified Ms. George's boyfriend who fled the scene. 

This is the second publicized disturbance at PNC Park as a fan wearing a USA windbreaker was tasered and beaten by police in the stands for using excessive foul language and disrupting other fans' enjoyment of an April 2011 Pirate game.