back of the house BBQ

This weekend, we were lucky enough to be guests* of Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance at an event on the North Side called Back of the House BBQ, sponsored by Table Magazine, benefiting Youth Places and their job training programs in the culinary industry. Penn’s Corner sponsored the Pork Team and the chefs cooked with some of Penn’s Corner’s offerings.

Let me tell you. I’ve been to several different food tasting events in the city, and this one was hands down the best. I mean, spectacular. The basic set up was that chefs from the best restaurants in the city cooked a piece of a BBQ dinner – they had beef, pork and chicken, plus starches and veggies. Your tickets gave you seven tickets to take to seven of the stations to taste, with the option to purchase more.  We usually like to go whole hog at these things (no pun intended), but the portions were so generous that we were full with our tickets!

The atmosphere was really great too – you could tell people were really enjoying the food and the music was good. It wasn’t an awkward, stand around and look at each other, pick at a cheese plate fundraiser. I would definitely check out other events put on by Table in the future.

In any case, this is the important part. The food. The photos don’t do the food justice – but I was juggling my phone, drink and delicious food, so this is the best I could do.

bothbbq collage 1

From the top left, clockwise:

Great Lakes Brewing Company Eliot Ness (my favorite Great Lakes brew)

Smoked Brisket with Coffee BBQ sauce by Chef Rick DeShantz of Meat & Potatoes and Butcher & the Rye and Handmade Chorizo by Chef Keith Fuller of Root 174. The Coffee BBQ sauce was nuanced and didn’t hit you in the face, but it was so delicious on top of that brisket. The chorizo was really flavorful and packed some heat – the best kind that isn’t just spicy, but warms your mouth with every bite.

Beef Short Ribs (I believe, with shoshito peppers) by Chef Sam DiBattista of Vivo Kitchen. Meat fell off the bones – and again, with a delicious sauce. I know I shouldn’t be surprised that we had good sauce at a BBQ event, but still.

Jerk Chicken Thighs over a quinoa with almonds and a yogurt sauce by Chef Brian Pekarick of Spoon, BRGR, Grit & Grace and Willow. I was expecting chicken to be the bland dish, next to all of the beef and pork. But this was not at all bland – and Mark even remarked that it was the first preparation of quinoa he’s ever really enjoyed. It was cooked perfectly and the yogurt sauce was a great complement to the jerk seasoning on the chicken.

bothbbq collage 2

From the top left, clockwise:

Pork Confit with Blue Cornbread, Cracklings and Pickles from Chef Bill Fuller and Eli Wahl, of Big Burrito Restaurant Group (home of Next Gen House favorites Eleven, Soba, Kaya and Casbah). The cornbread was really tasty and moist, especially with some fat leeched in from the pork confit.

Pork Belly Pastor with Charred Pineapple and Togarashi from Chef Derek Burnell of Round Corner Cantina, Chef Roger Li of Tamari and Chef Domenic Branduzzi of Piccolo Forno. While the pork was great as expected, the homemade tortilla and charred pineapple really made this dish.

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Red Quinoa. I believe this one was from Chef Stephen Thompson from Bluebird Kitchen, though I’m not positive on that one. The sprouts were crisp and the red quinoa was really good – the second delicious quinoa at the event (we’re converts!). The citrus flavors were delicious.

Sweet Potato Fritters with Bacon Glaze from Chef Ryan Chavara of Whole Foods Pittsburgh. I was expecting these to be tasty, but they were out of this world. Crispy on the outside, hot and soft on the inside. And that bacon glaze with the buttermilk sauce? It would be amazing if they served these in their hot bar at the store!


bothbbq collage 3

From the top left, clockwise:

Collard Greens from Chef Kate Romane of E2. Mark laughed because he knew I’d be all over the greens like a rat on a Cheeto, seeing that I am over the moon about chard and collards and spinach, etc. These had such a deep flavor and a seasoning that really made them taste hearty and green (if that makes any sense). So simple and so delicious.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with a savory granola from Chef Jason Dalling of Habitat. (This one was in the same area as the brussels sprouts, so I might have messed this one up too.) Regardless, it was amazing how this still tasted like mac and cheese, even with the addition of squash. Usually butternut squash pasta just tastes like butternut squash, but this was great – really a “gourmet” mac and cheese. And savory granola? Who knew?

NY Strip Steak with Chimichurri and carmelized onions on toast from Chef Anthony Falcon of Gaucho. I saved this one for last, because I admit: I used two tickets so I could have a second serving. I love chimichurri but don’t make it or eat it often. It’s probably not classy to say, but every bite of this made me make a noise – like “ugh, Mark, this is so amazing” or “aahhhh, so good” or just a groan with my eyes rolling up in my head. I need to get myself to Gaucho for dinner, pronto.


We are so lucky in Pittsburgh to have the kind of culinary scene that we do – restaurants with insanely talented chefs (who are generous enough to donate their time and skills), supplied by amazing farms and cooperatives who grow the ingredients that make a food scene possible in the first place.

Thanks again to Penn’s Corner for letting us be their guests and to Table and Youth Places for putting together such a great event!


*We attended the event as guests of Penn’s Corner, but I was not asked to write about it or advertise them in any way. My words are entirely my own. I just can’t stop thinking about the food, so I had to share it.

  • Mark Stone

    Seeing these pictures makes me hungry all over again. Everything was fantastic!

  • Deanna Clouse

    I wish I had gone! Everything looks delicious!