Thursday, February 21, 2013

Get to know the PDP Staff--what do they do, what do they like about Pittsburgh, who are they?

By, Anastasia Farmerie--Marketing Intern at PDP 

She welcomes you to PDP while walking in the office, but who is she? Meet Lynda Fairbrother, Administrative Assistant for Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. Find out why she loves Pittsburgh, and a little bit about who she is.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rockin Out at Heinz Hall with Music from Green Day

by Nick Kratsas

After a lovely dinner at Six Penn Kitchen, the time was approaching for an anticipated Broadway Musical starting just across the street at Heinz Hall. Green Day fans rejoice- American Idiot, the musical based on the album of the same high-energy, angst filled story that incorporates Green Day music, dancing, and a very cool set that features dark backgrounds and metal, multiple television screens, moveable scaffolds and staircases, and even a few high-wire flying scenes.

The story revolves around friends Will, Johnny, Tunny, and their slacker 20-something lifestyles. The trio decides to escape their boring suburban lives by buying bus tickets to head to the big city, but the realities of life sidetrack them in very serious and powerful ways; Will never makes the bus because he finds out his girlfriend is pregnant, and instead stays home and spirals into drug and alcohol use, Tunny quickly becomes disenchanted with the big city and opts to join the Army, and Johnny, who is also the narrator and main charactr, can't handle the temptations of the city and spirals quickly into multiple temptations. The three eventually find their way back home, but each are changed profoundly.

If you love Green Day's music, you'll appreciate the soulful, energetic renditions by both the actors and the on-stage band - even an actor portraying Billy Joe Armstrong is on stage at all times to oversee the music and story. It's a great story with excellent acting and singing, and make sure you stick around to the en, for the final song performed by the entire cast.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Stroll Downtown...

By, Nick Kratsas

Since I work in Green Tree, one of the things I lose out on is the phenomenon of the urban happy hour. What better way to fill time between work and home then having a few drinks with friends? So, I took the trolley Downtown to meet some friends, followed by date night with my wife.
My first official happy hour was meeting my wife and friends at Tonic Bar, on the corner of Liberty and 10th. Downstairs, the bar has a modern style, with stark gray and black décor.  At 6:00 p.m. the place is packed and animated. Upstairs, it’s a bit calmer, with lots of tables, and a style with more wood accents and vibrant art on the walls.  I like the speed of upstairs, the service was very attentive. We had some great drinks that weren’t hard on the wallet, and my friends ordered some fun appetizers. The roasted garlic and red pepper hummus had a tangy flavor that showcased the roasted red pepper, and the nachos were overloaded with cheese, salsa, fresh guacamole, and more.

After libations and munchies, my wife and I left our friends to start our date. We walked across the street to the Original Fish Market, located in the Westin Hotel by the Convention Center. We sat in the dining area, which despite the large space, our booth felt like we were dining alone, with high backed seats and a hanging light over the table. We were seated near the kitchen, which has a big glass wall so you can watch the chefs prepare your meal.
Our server was very attentive and gave us great recommendations from their 30-plus wine list, as well as explaining what the different fish would taste like from the menu. We started with the rainbow roll from the sushi menu, which was wrapped in salmon and tuna. We thought the fish was very fresh and the presentation beautiful. Next, I had a cup of the cream of blue crab soup, a thick cream soup with tons of pieces of crab meat. I’ve tried she-crab soup in Charleston, South Carolina, and other fine establishments, and the soup at OFM blew all of them away.
Next, came our main course. I opted for the Hawaiian Walu. It was tender, fresh, and clean, and came pan seared with a brandy cream sauce, fingerling potatoes, mushrooms, and asparagus. The sauce was the boss, and went well with everything on the plate. My wife had the scallops, which were large and tenderly cooked. They came with delicious mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts roasted with bacon, and long, thin strips of fried plantains that stuck straight in the air- it was a lovely, artistic presentation.

We finished our meal by sharing the crème brulee. The top was perfectly crystallized and shattered like glass with a tap of a spoon, and it was sweet and creamy. The berries on top made for a fresh contrast to the sweetness of the crème brulee.
In all, we really enjoyed our experience. Our server described everything exactly as it came, the dim-lighted dining room made for great date ambiance, and the price was reasonable and what you should expect from a fine restaurant in the city, especially one where the fish is so fresh. I read somewhere that their head chef is big on bringing in fish fresh from around the world, and they make sustainability a priority, which makes me feel good about going there. What a great experience!

Afterwards, we made a quick jaunt over to the O’Reilly Theater for a presentation of “1776” by the Pittsburgh Public Theater. This show is a quirky presentation of the Founding Fathers debating if and how they will secede from Britain and start the American Revolution. It’s filled with more than a dozen actors in period clothing, and they mix stirring speeches, heated arguments, and singing and dancing to tell the story of the writing of the Declaration of Independence. If you can catch it, it’s running until February 24. The Pittsburgh Public Theater puts on well produced shows, with quality actors and detailed sets. If you enjoy theater, check out a Public Theater show soon!

All photos taken by Anastasia Farmerie, unless otherwise noted.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day! Here's The Downtown Pittsburgh Love Story Contest Winner!

Michelle and Pete met against the backdrop of the Three Rivers Regatta and have fallen in love doing so many of the things that we Pittsburghers love! Movies in the Park, visiting  Mt. Washington, a Pitt Football game and so much more!  We thank them and so many others for sharing their stories of how they fall in love with and in Downtown Pittsburgh! 

How We Met by Michelle Hanrahan
I met Peter Kaminski for the first time, face to face, on July fourth. After chatting back and forth for a month, we were finally scheduled to meet at the annual Pittsburgh Three River’s Regatta.

With the hustle and bustle of the Regatta attendee’s, I felt it was most practical to meet under the bridge that led to the Point. I vividly remember him handsomely walking up as I leaned on the side of the bridge.  After a swift hello, we continued on to visit the various activities that the Regatta has to offer such as the speed boat racing, sand art, live music and best of all, the Fourth of July fireworks!

Little did I know at the time, this event was RIGHT up Pete’s alley (this is where I have the opportunity to brag about him, even though he would never stand for it!); he is a U.S. Merchant Marine Academy graduate with a background of competitive, collegiate swimming and currently works along the Monongahela River as an engineer for a towboat and barge company, as well as works as an Officer in the Navy Reserve.  With Pete’s knowledge of the rivers, I was able to drill him with questions about the boats that were racing, the engines aboard the vessels, the barges that were positioned to set off the fireworks and other questions in regards to the maritime industry. Although Pittsburgh is Pete’s hometown, and I am from a suburb of Philadelphia, Pete was competitively swimming for much of his younger years. I enlightened him to the Pittsburgh knowledge I had picked up from my college years, and he taught me maritime engineering.

Although I had a couple of friends “conveniently” enjoying the Regatta in case I needed a get-me-out-of- here-card, it was an evening of seamless conversation.  It was uncanny how many similarities we both possessed in general interests, religious views, and more! We both loved music; Pete as a violinist, myself as a pianist and vocalist. We both loved Long Island and New York City; Pete’s college Alma mater, the hometown of my parents and extended relatives. Ultimately, we both loved learning about each other. Between Pete’s background and my favorite holiday of the year being July Fourth, the Regatta made for an outstanding first date.

The next few dates included hitting a wide variety of neighborhoods around Pittsburgh; dinner in Station Square, a view from Mount Washington, summer Cinema in the Park at Highland Park, a Lawrenceville bar, touring my Alma mater (Hail to Pitt!), a movie in the South Hills, a Triathlon on the North Shore, and so many more. What I remember the most from all of those dates is that Pete was the utmost gentleman.

Upon exclusively dating, we have had the chance to explore the hidden treasures that Pittsburgh has to offer. It has been a whirlwind of events: Pitt football games, Penn Brewery’s Oktoberfest, South Hills swim meets, a drive-in movie theater, watching his dad officiate high school football in Moon, test driving cars in Monroeville, volunteering at the Cystic Fibrosis annual Passion for Wine event, surprise date nights, Mrs. Kaminski’s wonderful home-cooking, enjoying in the nightlife that is South Side, eating at Church Brew Works, and attending a Beatles Tribute by the PSO.

As a young couple, we have worked to find many things to do that fit both our schedules and budgets. We both work full-time but also keep busy with other activities. Pete is the head coach of his former swim club team of 8 to 12-year-old's in the South Hills, and I attend cake decorating & sign language classes, as well as volunteer throughout the city. With a young-adult budget, we have taken full advantage of all that Pittsburgh has to offer!  Many of those opportunities include the free festivals throughout the summer, strolling the Strip District, and attending as many Cultural Trust shows that our wallets and time will allow! For the Navy Reserve, Pete will be leaving Pittsburgh for a month to work along the east coast to fulfill his Annual Training requirement.  Until then, we will try to cram in as many activities and events around Pittsburgh as possible and continue to do so upon his return!

Never have I met a more genuine, respectful, kind-hearted man. And although we have not been dating for multiple years, when you find someone that meshes with your life SO smoothly, you just know it is right.

Michelle and Pete at the PPG Wintergarden

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Downtown Pittsburgh Love Story - 1st Runner Up

Today's entry in the Downtown Pittsburgh Love Story Contest comes to us courtesy of Michael Joyce and is for fitting for today as it has the exciting backdrop of a Penguins play off game (The Pens take on the Ottawa Senators tonight at the Consol Energy Center)!  Although things didn't work out so well for the Pen's that night, they did fortunately work out well for Michael and Alyson.

Our Downtown Pittsburgh Love Story by Michael Joyce

There are so many things to love about Downtown Pittsburgh: the endlessly curving arches of the bridges, the fiery reflection of a sunny day off of the mirrored glass of PPG Place, and even the clatter of consistent foot traffic and musical accompaniment that echoes through Market Square for farmer’s market Thursdays.  Falling in love with the woman of my dreams Downtown, however, became my number one metropolitan memory of the city and only amplified my love for all other things that are Downtown.

It was a rainy and overcast day in April, 2011.  It was not just one of those days when a few drops fall thorough a sunny sky.  Instead, it was one of the dark, grey days coupled with sporadic and torrential downpours that Pittsburghers are so accustomed too.  That night, the Pittsburgh Penguins would face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  I was finishing my final year of graduate school at Duquesne University and was lucky enough to “score” two tickets via the Penguins Student Rush ticket release (as many may recall, my score of the tickets was the only goal of the night, as the Penguins were shutout in Game 7 and eliminated from the playoffs that year).  As a relentless hockey fan and avid player, excitement was an understatement for mood that day.  I quickly texted my long-term girlfriend, Alyson, and let her in on the good news.  As the reliable companion that I was, I also volunteered to pick Alyson up a white Penguins t-shirt to comply with the white-out that was taking place in the arena later that night.  Of course, I could not be seen with a naïve fan that wears the incorrect garb to a mandatory Penguins white-out, so my altruism was partially self-benefiting.

During the middle of the afternoon, my day became unusually hectic and I broke the bad news to Alyson: I did not have enough time to secure a white-out t-shirt for her.  Expectedly, that news did not sit well with my better half who, at that time, was working in the Strip District with ample access to a plethora of Penguins merchandise.  Late in the afternoon, however, the rains and winds increased substantially, rendering what could have been a refreshing early morning walk before the big storms converged on the area into a soaking trek through the streets of the Strip to look for the first white Penguins shirt available.

Fast forward to 5:15 p.m. - Alyson arrives at my house in Greenfield, which is a small city neighborhood located just outside of Downtown.  We spoke briefly on the phone during her ride to my house and I could tell that she was less than pleased with my unintended alteration to her day.  Notwithstanding the unhappiness, the telephone calls gave me an opportunity to track Alyson’s ETA as she neared the neighborhood, which was an important part of my master plan.  As she entered the door, she released a deafening huff and was prepared to launch into her well-reasoned rant, or as she termed is “explanation,” as to why my inability to procure a white-out shirt for her and/or failure to inform her of said inability earlier in the day was a major miscalculation on my part.  I preemptively responded: “just give me ten minutes and I promise you won’t be mad.”

I took Alyson’s hand and led her through the house, stopping every couple of feet to reminisce about a memorable first in our relationship over the glow of a single tea candle strategically lit for each memory: the first date, meeting the parents and starting our long distance relationship while she attended Penn State, just to name a few.  The final candle was larger than the others and, as I explained, represented all of the future firsts that I hoped we would have: getting married, having a family, buying houses and cars and many other future events that were possible.  After my explanation of the final candle I slowly descended to one knee, reached under the foot of the bed and revealed a small, cherry box.  As I began to open the box I saw Alyson’s eyes well-up with tears and she quickly responded “yes” to my “will you marry me.”  She was so overwhelmed that the ring never even met her finger until approximately ten minutes after the initial inquiry, as she required ample time to lie down and compose herself.

Needless to say, Game 7 that night was a memorable one.  Although the Penguins failed to pull through with a win, Alyson and I were slightly preoccupied to be overly distraught as to the outcome.  After all, she spent most of the night admiring her new accessory in the glowing and flattering lights of Consol Energy Center.

I fell in love with Pittsburgh as a city so many years ago, as a child growing up in the South Hills.  Falling in love with the girl of my dreams in Pittsburgh, however, only opened my eyes to how many things there are Downtown and around the city to truly cherish. 

I would also be remiss if I failed to explain my fatal failure regarding the white-out t-shirt: I was unable to travel to a store to secure an appropriate t-shirt because I used the afternoon to travel to Wexford to ask Alyson’s father if I had his blessings.  In the end, following my explanation and the exchange of a diamond engagement ring in place of a white-out t-shirt, Alyson summarily forgave me and, after our wedding last September, we have truly lived happily ever after.

Sometimes, the big game doesn’t exactly go as planned.  In this case, I braved a potential rain-out, was forced to endure a painful shutout, and almost subject to a strikeout for my previously unexplained failure to obtain the proper attire, but, in the end, things worked out for the best.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Downtown Pittsburgh Love Story - Our Third Favorite Story

Throughout January, we invited Pittsburghers to share with us their Downtown Pittsburgh Love Stories. We asked for stories about falling in love...with another person, with a sports team, with a building or even an amazing meal. Today we share the first of the stories that we enjoyed.  This story is from Downtown resident Adele Morelli and is all about how she fell in love with the city she calls home.  Be sure to visit the blog again tomorrow for another Downtown Pittsburgh Love Story.

Love at First Sight by Adele Morelli
I moved into Downtown Pittsburgh 14 years ago, and it was love at first sight.  I owned a home in the North Hills but wanted to live closer to work.  My house sold way faster than expected, so I started looking for rentals.  I found an ad for a loft on First Avenue and thought, “People live Downtown?”  As soon as I walked through the door – which, by the way, was an elevator that opened directly into the loft that was the entire floor of a building – I knew I was home.  It hit me immediately – walk to work, walk to the gym, walk to the theater, walk to everything – no car needed!
I lightened my load by getting rid of two bedrooms, a game room and a garage full of stuff (including a car), and made the move Downtown.  The first thing I noticed was all the extra time I had in my day because I wasn’t commuting to work -- or driving anywhere, for that matter.  I thought, “I need a hobby.”  So I bought a piano with the money I got for my car and took lessons at Trombino’s -- which was within walking distance, of course.
The second thing I noticed was easy access to sporting and cultural events.  There were no barriers.  If I thought, “I want to go see that show tonight,” then I would walk down the street, buy a ticket and see that show.  If I thought, “It’s a nice day for a Pirates game,” then I would walk over the bridge, buy a ticket and watch a game.  Sometimes I didn’t even have to buy a ticket -- when people know you live downtown, they tend to think of you when they have an extra ticket.
The next thing I noticed was how much more active I’d become because I was walking everywhere. I took it a step further when I got a bike and started riding to places that were too far to walk in time.  I thought, “I don’t need my gym membership; being active is built into my day.”  So I quit the gym and started taking advantage of all the wonderful trails that were just a bridge away.
You’re probably thinking, “Living Downtown isn’t all that; there isn’t even a grocery store.”  Yeah, that’s true, but I haven’t starved to death in 14 years, so that’s not high on my wish list.  What is high on my list is having a neighborhood (and it’s happening!) -- seeing people I know when I walk down the street and saying hello, having a neighbor friend call at the last minute to go see a movie at the Harris Theater, and having a waiter who knows my name and order when I walk in the door.
Downtown has improved so much over the past 14 years, and my quality of life has improved with it.  That’s why love at first sight has grown into a love affair that will last a lifetime.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Things I Love About Downtown Pittsburgh

By, Kenneth Trueman

The fine folks at the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership recently ran a contest to find the best Pittsburgh love story. I didn’t enter the contest, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t already things I love about Pittsburgh, its downtown in particular.
Now, that as a society, there is an appreciation for what cities represent (Jane Jacobs and 1992 notwithstanding), Pittsburgh is fortunate in that so much of its downtown is still intact. Whereas a city like Los Angeles has start over again, filling in the parking lots that created islands of civilization, Pittsburgh has a lot to work with. These are exciting times!
Market Square
My favorite part of downtown Pittsburgh has to be Market Square. It’s not perfect to be sure. In some ways, it is early days in its current iteration. But it performs the function of a square, which is to bring people together. To be a place where people meet by plan or by serendipity. (If you see me and recognize me, please say Hi! I would be the guy with the Montreal Canadiens hockey jersey on the weekends.)
I walk through Market Square every day on my way to work, though it would save me time to stay on Liberty Avenue, I just like going there. I take my time when I walk through Market Square and I enjoy people watching. I moved to Pittsburgh in November, so I caught the tail end of the farmer’s market. It meant that I had the opportunity to grab some pierogies and a chair and enjoy the warm Fall sun. I can’t wait for it to come back! (I have a decades-long pierogi deficit that needs to be addressed.)

Photo by John Altdorfer
One of the things I like most about Market Square is that from most angles, the taller buildings are set back, allowing you to see downtown reveal itself.
My Favorite Lunchtime Restaurant
Well it’s actually a kitchen with a counter and a seating area. I am referring to Bluebird Kitchen at 221 Forbes Ave, just a stone’s throw (or a chip shot for the golfers out there) from Market Square. They have a lot of wonderful dishes cooked fresh daily and helpfully highlighted on their Facebook page just to tempt you even more. Coming from Quebec, I must admit I have a weakness for the croque monsieur sandwich that they offer. Nothing like an iconic foodstuff from France to make one feel homesick. It is somewhat rich—I suspect the butter—but oh so tasty!
Nooks and Crannies
I like the different architectural styles that can be found downtown, ranging from turn of the 19th century to buildings constructed in the last few years. I like the interplay between buildings, the contrast in styles, and the interplay between lines.

I like the things you find where buildings meet. And I like the ornamentation, the commemorative plaques and other details that are to be found. Like the globe at 201 Stanwix, on the façade of the former Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania building. Or the plaque beside the Larrimor’s clothing store.

It’s only when you are ground level, whether cycling, running or walking, but at least out of the car, that you can find these hidden treasures.
It was one of these wonderful architectural treasures that got me into trouble a few Sundays ago while running downtown with a group of folks I met on The car equivalent of what I did would be called ‘rubbernecking’, which is what happens when drivers, looking at the car accident off to the side, fail to see the stopped car in front of them and thus have an accident of their own.

In this case, I was entranced by the beautiful façade of the Dollar Savings Bank on Fourth Avenue, between Smithfield and Wood Streets. Built in 1870, it is a true treasure.

Looking upwards at the bank, I was so entranced that I failed to notice the railing for a ramp laid out in the middle of the opposing sidewalk. My running colleagues, convinced that I knew what I was doing and that I would change my path in time, said nothing.
The result, I ran straight into the square end of the railing at a pretty good clip, I came to a complete stop and went down worse than Joe Frazier in the 5th roun, ending up with massive bruising on both my groin and my thigh. I limped home, my pride injured. My official story, and the one I am sticking to, at least for my colleagues at work, is that I took a slap shot in the thigh while wearing my Montreal Canadiens jersey in Market Square!

All photos by Kenneth Trueman unless otherwise noted