Carb counting is not an option when two of the region’s tastiest comfort foods are the main attractions at two different food festivals the weekend of Sept. 21-22.
Pittsburgh’s first Mac and Cheese Festival will take place at Highmark Stadium at Station Square on Sept. 21, followed by the sixth Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival at Kennywood Park in West Mifflin on Sept. 22.
The Pittsburgh Mac and Cheese Festival is run by TasteUSA, a festival management company based in Washington, D.C., and is modeled after similar events in Arlington and Richmond, Va., and Baltimore, Md.
“As the foodie scene continues to flourish locally, it’s fantastic that companies like TasteUSA want to bring festivals like Mac and Cheese Fest to Pittsburgh,” said Gina Vensel of Easy Street Promotions, Pittsburgh, who is working to help find vendors to participate in the local event.
“With the diverse list of restaurants and food trucks attending, the first-ever Pittsburgh Mac and Cheese Festival is sure to be a delicious day in the Burgh,” she said.
Some of the participating vendors will be YinzBurgh BBQ, Smoke Barbeque Taqueria, Southern Peach BBQ and Soul Food, The Vault Taproom, The Yard Gastropub, Maggianos, Moe’s Southwest Grill, The Smiling Moose, New Orleans by Myra, Brisketburgh, Coughlin’s Law Kitchen and Ale House, and City Fresh Pasta.
Ryan Grace, chef at Coughlin’s Law Kitchen, Mount Washington, said he will be bringing both smoked and Kimchi macaroni and cheese. He’s preparing for 2,000 people by ordering 125 pounds of dried pasta, equivalent to 250 pounds of mac and cheese.
The event is divided into two sessions, at 12:30 and 5:30 p.m. Each session will feature music by local bands Right Turn Clyde and Elias Khouri. Alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase for ages 21 and over.
Pierogies at Kennywood
This will be the third year the Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival will be at Kennywood Park in West Mifflin, following the event’s previous locations at South Shore Riverfront Park and twice at Stage AE, Pittsburgh.
Among the 35 vendors at the Sept. 22 festival will be first-time participants Chef Greg Andrews and his wife Ashlee Andrews, manager at The Pickled Chef Kitchen and Farmers Market in Latrobe. Chef Greg will be preparing a new version of his popular made-to-order Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.
“We’ve combined the best of both worlds, having created a special Pierogi Grilled Cheese just for the 2019 Pierogi Festival,” he said. “We’re taking our locally crafted French bread and artisanal white cheddar cheese with homemade mashed potatoes, caramelized onions and side of sour cream.”
He’ll also have his Classic Pickle Grilled Cheese stuffed with house made dill pickle relish and his Bacon Grilled Cheese stuffed with house made Apple-Maple-Bourbon Jam.
Pittsburgh food fests
“We’ve learned from participating in many regional events that Pittsburgh food festivals are the best,” the chef said. “From pickles to pierogies, we’ve grown up eating these delicious cultural dishes and are so excited to now be able to make and share them with our fellow Pittsburgh pierogi lovers.”
Returning to the Pierogi Festival will be Gosia’s Pierogies of Latrobe. Owner Terry Rawecki said they’ll have five kinds of pierogies on hand: potato and cheddar cheese, potato and feta, sweet potato, sweet cabbage and sauerkraut.
“It is fun working at the Pierogi Festival at Kennywood because I like to see people enjoy eating my homemade pierogi and voting for it to be the greatest tasting pierogi at the festival,” Rawecki said.
Also back at the festival will be Gwyn Zollinger of Happy Camper Cakes of Jeannette, with her pierogi-inspired cupcakes, including Kenny Wears a Babushka, vanilla funnel cake, cherry pierogi fill, Swiss buttercream, cherry reduction and fried Pierogi Babushka knot; Crafty Saul, chocolate sauerkraut cake, Liberty Pole craft bourbon cream ganache, chocolate Swiss buttercream, sauerkraut truffle and Pierogi Queen, made of pink Chardonnay cake, housemade raspberry preserves, Swiss buttercream, lemon curd drip and fondant crown.
“This is our fourth Pierogi Fest and we are as excited to be a part of the festivities as if it were our first year,” she said. “Kennywood is the perfect venue as it lends an amazing atmosphere to the event. Seriously, both are quintessential Pittsburgh.”
Two Kennywood food vendors also will be participating: The Potato Patch will have a pierogi-inspired French fry dish and The Swhinery will be serving its Loaded Pierogies. Beverages can be purchased at Kennywood food stands. There will be sampling of Mrs. T’s Mini Pierogies and toppings bar. Three biergartens will be serving a variety of domestic brews.
The festival’s music lineup features DJ Pandemic, Mon Valley Push polka music, Cetiri Jedan Dva Bend ensemble and Unnecessary Polka.
The Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival also will feature the Pittsburgh Pirates racing pierogies, contests and games, including the 2 nd annual Pierogi Pinching contest
Those attending the festival are encouraged to vote for their favorite pierogies. The 2018 People’s Choice Winners were Holy Ghost Byzantine Church, first place, and Gosia’s and Pittsburgh Smokehouse, tied for second place.