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Hometown-Homegrown Food Expo looks at Pittsburgh's ... spirited past

| Thursday, June 19, 2014, 8:55 p.m.
Senator John Heinz History Center
WQED's Rick Sebak and Chris Fennimore at the 2013 Hometown Homegrown event at the Senator John Heinz History Center.

Sarah Rooney isn't a chef, but her recipe for Pittsburgh's food history is simple enough to follow.

It all boils down to two basic ingredients, she says – equal parts of tradition and innovation. Both will be displayed June 21 at the Hometown-Homegrown Food Expo at the Sen. John Heinz History Center.

In its third year, the expo will feature more than 40 vendors from the region, offering food demos and samples of signature fare.

“Some of these vendors have been making their families' recipes for nearly a century, while others are leading big food trends and gaining national recognition,” says Rooney, community programs manager at the History Center and organizer of the Hometown-Homegrown event.

In addition to the vendors, the event will include cooking demonstrations in the Weisbrod Kitchen Classroom by Jared Lordon, chef at Social at Bakery Square at 10:30 a.m., Chris Fennimore of “'QED Cooks” at 11:30 a.m.; Kevin Sousa, chef and owner of Superior Motors at 12:30 p.m., and Bill Fuller, executive chef of Big Burrito at 1:30 p.m.

At 2 p.m., guest speaker Meredith Grelli will talk about Pittsburgh's post-Whiskey Rebellion era. It's a subject close to her heart as part of her family business, Wigle Whiskey. Her presentation, “History of Spirits in Pittsburgh,” will take place in the Detre Library & Archives on the museum's sixth floor.

“From the 1800s through Prohibition in the early 1900s, Pittsburgh remained the epicenter of American whiskey production,” Grelli says. “Every Pittsburgher knows our city as a steel town, but few know that our steel industry was built on whiskey.”

Her talk will focus on Abraham Overholt, the father of American distilling, who built what would become the largest whiskey brand in the United States in West Overton, Westmoreland County, and on Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Mellon, who she says also had roles in the history of the local distillery industry.

Hometown-Homegrown will include its annual Cookbook Exchange, offering visitors a “bring one, take one” policy on cookbooks, live entertainment, fitness activities in a SmartSteps exhibition, and children's activities on the History Center's fourth floor.

Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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