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YouTuber detours into deep dive on Pittsburgh food

Plus, things to do this weekend.

March 11, 2022
Inside this week's edition: Dean Bog on-demand, weekend planner, the Father of Daylight Saving, Barista Jake, AI Warhol, coal sculptures, and potato candy.

If you like what you read today, forward this edition to a friend, or show us a little love and make a gift to keep the good times rolling.

George Washington is best known for crossing the Delaware River between Pennsylvania and New Jersey on Christmas in 1776, but an earlier river crossing elsewhere in Pennsylvania almost killed him and altered the course of American history forever. What river was it? 

(We'll have a real stumper in this space each week. You'll find the answer at the bottom, but don't miss all the good stuff in between.) 
Dean Bog in a stillframe from his Pittsburgh Neighborhoods series. (Courtesy of Dean Bog)

Inspired by YouTuber Dean Bog’s viral series on Pittsburgh neighborhoods, I headed to an out-of-the-way nabe called The Run last summer for a diabolically large calzone featured in an early episode.

In the span of an hour, I saw a child no older than 10 maneuver a Ford Taurus down a main thoroughfare, tackled the largest calzone I will ever tackle, retreated with a leftovers box reinforced with electrical tape, and saw the same child apparently changing a flat. It was a memorable morning.

Needless to say, I’m excited that Dean — labeled a younger, grungier Rick Sebak by people like me — is back behind the camera for a new show that’s exclusively about Pittsburgh food. It premieres next month.

I talked to Dean about the show, the perils of politeness, his recovery from a serious rock-climbing injury, and the sometimes debilitating pressure of sophomore success. 

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length. 

PA Local: Hi Dean. Tell me about the new show. 

Dean Bog: It’s called What’s on the Menu and it starts streaming on Very Local Pittsburgh’s streaming channel in April. Each episode has a theme. For the vegan one we went to Apteka, Onion Maiden, Reed & Co., and ShadoBeni and did five-to-seven minute profiles of each and then put those together into a bigger episode. There are six full episodes in total, I think. I worked on three of them.

PA Local: How will this differ from your Neighborhoods series

Dean Bog: You won’t see me on camera. I may do a voiceover for the intros, but aside from my voice, I will not be in it. 

PA Local: You have a serious food allergy. Was that a complication at all?

Dean Bog: Not with the nut allergy. Most restaurants are very mindful. But I don’t eat meat and I found myself nibbling on meat because someone makes this amazing dish for the camera and they’re like "You should try it"… I think it would be rude to say no.

PA Local: You didn’t do food to this extent before. Was there a learning curve? 

Dean Bog: I’ve always been more fascinated by people, and so at first the rough cuts I was sending in [to Very Local Pittsburgh] were six-minute stories about the chefs that had nothing to do with the food. 

Like, Ulric [Joseph] from ShadoBeni is this brilliant painter and the first cut I sent them was five minutes about his paintings before it even mentioned the food. I went back and made it more about the food.

PA Local: Do you plan to do your own work again? 

Dean Bog: Yes. I don’t know exactly what yet. The ankle injury made Neighborhoods too hard to do. And I want to experiment but I was kind of afraid to experiment after Neighborhoods because all of a sudden I had all these eyes on me. 

PA Local: Like a Neighborhoods hangover?

Dean Bog: I think that’s a good way to put it. But there’s a million factors, really. 

There’s this quote from [author] Julia Cameron that says it’s impossible to get better and look good at the same time. I probably need to have a bunch of crap things in between and I’ve been afraid to, like, bite the bullet and just start making stuff.

Colin Deppen, Spotlight PA

"There you have the people of Philadelphia who, moreover, never fight."

— Marquis de Lafayette (this guy) who was angry with Pennsylvania's Quakers, known pacifists, for their American Revolution neutrality (page 8 here)
» Friday, March 11: Get to know NEPA residents via interviews and tintype photos with this free art exhibit at Scranton's Marywood University.
» Saturday, March 12: St. Patrick's Day parades step off in Pittsburgh, Levittown, Scranton, and Erie, some for the first time since 2019.

» Saturday, March 12: Learn about Black history in the cradle of American democracy with this Philadelphia walking tour. Tickets are $20 – $35.

» Saturday, March 12: Want to know how to find antlers naturally shed by deer and elk? Head to Benezette for a "shed hunting" seminar. The New Yorker took a look at the pastime and the subculture it's inspired.

» Sunday, March 13: Philly's St. Patrick's Day Parade, the second oldest parade in the country, returns. It will also be broadcast here.

» Sunday, March 13: Amp up the drama in your photos with a $28 course on taking heroic shots of ordinary objects at The Rivet in State College.  

» Wednesday, March 16: Join Spotlight PA for a free virtual event on the open records law, how journalists use it, and how you can use it, too

*Reminder: Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. Sunday and you have a 1930s-era Pittsburgh councilmember to blame for that hour of lost sleep.
Tell us about a Pennsylvania business that deserves a turn in the spotlight and we'll share your suggestion here.

This week's shoutout comes via reader Stacey P.: "Coffee Closet with Barista Jake is run by Jake, an autistic young man, out of his dad's record store on Main Street in West Norriton. Great story ... and the impact on our community has been inspirational."  
A selection from the Cherry Street Mural Corridor in West Reading, courtesy of @lora_explores. Send us your Pa. pics by email here, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

» One thing we learned this week: Centralia's Graffiti Highway was covered with dirt in 2020 and will be reborn as a forest.

» One more thing we learned this week: A Pennsylvania librarian named Harriet Klausner penned a record-setting 31,000 book reviews on Amazon.com, but the achievement was not without controversy.

» One thing worth watching: The Andy Warhol Diaries uses AI technology to bring the late pop artist and Pa. native's voice to life. 

» One thing to know: Down to its last dollars, Philadelphia's only remaining Civil War museum auctioned off a rare battle flag carried by a regiment of United States Colored Troops. It sold for $200,000.

» One place to visit: The Anthracite Heritage Museum in Scranton for its exhibit on Luzerne County coal sculptor Charles Edgar Patience.

» COVID-19 UPDATE: Keep up with our coronavirus tracker, or find where to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

» Low sign-ups for Pa. child care program hint at harsh realities

» Four reasons the Pa. Supreme Court picked its congressional map

» A complete guide to Pennsylvania’s redistricting court challenges

» Pa. Supreme Court weighs future of state’s popular mail voting law

» Election 2022: Tell Spotlight PA what coverage matters to you
Irish potato candy. (Grace Dickinson / Philadelphia Inquirer)

There are no potatoes in Irish Potato Candy.

Here's what you'll need instead, via Unpeeled Journal

  • 1 8-ounce package regular Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick (4 ounces; 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 32 ounces powdered sugar
  • 7 ounces sweetened flake coconut
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons (more or less) ground cinnamon

Here's what you'll do: 

  • Combine all ingredients except the cinnamon in a mixer. Mix on the lowest setting until the powdered sugar looks just incorporated. Scrape the bowl and mix on low until completely smooth and fully emulsified. Cover and chill for one hour.
  • Use a teaspoon or small cookie scoop to scoop and roll small, tablespoon-sized rounds of coconut "dough." Roll in cinnamon and tap off the excess. You may not use all the cinnamon but you need extra enough to roll the buttercream balls.
  • Serve chilled or at very cool room temperature.

Let us know how yours turn out. Photographic evidence is welcome here.

Thirty-six years before he became the first U.S. president, George Washington was a Virginia militia major on a dangerous diplomatic mission in Pennsylvania when he tried crossing an icy Allegheny River in modern-day Pittsburgh and fell in. Washington Crossing Bridge marks the spot.

WESA reports it wasn't his only close call on the journey.

Thanks for reading PA Local! We'll see you back here next week. But first ... send us your feedback. What did you like? What didn't you like? What do you want to see more of? Or, tell us your secret recipes!
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