Monday, August 12, 2013

Pittsburgh Fun

I do like Pittsburgh, especially as I have good friends there who can take me about and introduce me to new things such as the marvellous Klavon's Soda-Fountain:


To the immediate right of Dingo is Elizabeth and her daugher, Eliza. We went in here to avoid a monumental downpour with occasional claps of thunder... and to sample the old-fashioned ice-cream sundaes.

Hot Fudge Sundae

This had hot-fudge sauce, salted peanuts, cream and delicious vanilla ice-cream. The atmosphere of the place was amazing too although it has just been re-opened after having been refurbished, so it was a bit empty but once the coffee machine is moved back in and it gets re-established, it will be amazing.

We were taken to another well-established favourite of Pittsburgh's by Gerry and her partner, Rocky; Vincent's Pizza Park:


Vincent's was a shack on the side of a main through-road in Pittsburgh which has recently been refurbished - read the comments on the link above to see how shack-like it was! The pizzas are enormous. I mean really enormous. Thick, puffy bases, wood-fired with the wood-ash on the bottom like they should have (not cigarette ash on top like they used to have, I'm told). Four of us couldn't finish the one we ordered! It has to be said that this is not in any way an "Italian" pizza, nor is it refined food, but it is good and the experience of visiting and hearing the stories was great.

One of the great things about going places is that you can often discover things that people who come from the place had no idea about. For example, Elizabeth - and most other people I spoke to - had no idea that Pittsburgh is home to the first ever industrial particle accelerator, still in place although now abandoned. Of course, I really wanted to go inside, but it wasn't possible. An amazing place and one which should really be kept as an important scientific site.

Westinghouse Atom-Smasher - 3

Westinghouse Atom-Smasher - 6

Westinghouse Atom-Smasher - 2
I especially love the fading Paul Rand "Westinghouse" logo on the side.

Some of you may recall that last time I visited Pittsburgh, I was rather taken with the local speciality of "pierogi" or, in Pittsburgh-speak, "pierogis", delicious little dumplings filled with cheese and onions, fried in butter and served with fried onions and sour cream. As Dingo was with me this time, I knew that he would like them and that we would need to find somewhere good to go and get them. Elizabeth's partner, Kirk, found the very place and we had a pierogi feast at Szmidt's Old World Deli!

In Szmidt's Deli

Szmidt's is an odd place, to say the least. It is a tiny shop in the suburbs of Pittsburgh (Greenfield) which sells a variety of traditional and non-traditional pierogi, including sweet ones, served with ice-cream. We started off enjoying the traditional kraut, cheese and potato dumplings and moved onto the more bizarre strawberry, finishing with "peanut-butter cup", which is a chocolate dumpling stuffed with peanut-butter. Somewhat surprisingly, they were very good too. Five of us managed to clear many plates and none of us felt much like eating again that day...

Pierogi Aftermath

One of the things which made this visit special was the amazing staff, who were unbelievably helpful in making suggestions and letting us try samples. Can't wait to go back next time!

Pierogi are a cultural phenomenon in Pittsburgh and rightly so, I think. We were in a cafe one day for a drink and free wi-fi when we spotted the "Craft-O-Tronic", a modified cigarette vending machine which yielded little objects made by local craftspeople. A bit like a cheap and cheerful version of the shop in the SCC, perhaps?


Dingo spotted this lovely souvenir of the pierogi!

Crochet Pierogi

Some real pierogi to compare:


One of the other things I found before Elizabeth was the most monumental and eccentric junk shop that I have ever seen. It also, alas! proved to be one of the most ridiculously expensive. Crown Antiques and Collectibles... well, that is as maybe, but it is one great big, sprawling mess of a junk shop and junk is the word. Four floors of it.

Dingo and Junk Shop
I have no idea what he is doing.

The place is at 1018 Fifth Avenue and is just stuffed with stuff and is the most fascinating place: the basement is full to bursting:

Basement Scene 2

And the further up the building you go, the more cluttered and bizarre it gets...

Head Holocaust

Movie Stars

Toys and Magazines

The Attic

The downside of the whole place is that everything is just a bit too expensive and haggling is not an option. There was an enormous box of rusty keys, not all of them interesting or useful to me but I thought that if the owner was willing, I would make an offer for the box. I took some of them down to him and immediately he started talking about how "popular" keys were and how he sells them daily at $6.50 each... no deal to be struck. A similar pattern followed for Elizabeth and when Eliza wanted to buy a book, she was met with a somewhat aggressive "what do you want that for"? A very odd place indeed. Worth a visit as one might visit a museum, perhaps.

After all this, it was off to Boston for three days and then home again. More soon!