Tying The Knot In The Square

Oh, you better believe that we cry at weddings. But when Andrea Gault and Koy Lopez tied the knot this past Sunday, our tears flowed like the Mon and Allegheny forming the Ohio at the Point. Actually, that's a pretty good analogy. You see, Andrea and Koy traded vows right in the middle of Market Square — the first wedding there since who knows when. Go ahead, you might want to read all that again just to make sure. But it's true, two people in love traded double "I do's" to become one happily married couple.

Of course Andrea was radiant in her elegant strapless gown and sheer veil. And Koy looked like the happiest man in the world. His smile was a bright as the sun overhead in the cloudless blue skies above as  lovely bride walked along a white runway to the center of the Square. With friends and family watching, the blushing bride and dapper groom pledged their undying love to each other under a graceful white lace canopy decorated with white roses.

Did we mention that we cried? A lot? From start to finish?

Now, we did enjoy a few laughs. Tons of people were strolling through the Square or pedaling their bikes and asking us all kinds of questions like...."Is this a movie?" "Are those people really getting married in Market Square?" and "Who would have ever thought you'd see a wedding in Market Square?" And then they stopped to watch and offer best wishes to Andrea and Koy. And instead of throwing rice — we don't want to feed the pigeons — guests blew big billowing bubbles as the happy couple walked down the aisle together for the first time as husband and wife.

And what better way to celebrate the big day than a reception at one of the Square's "hottest" restaurant — Las Velas. From what we hear the wedding party was a first for the muy bueno Mexican restaurant that not only overlooks the Square, but also has a new Tacos and Tequila eatery at ground level on Market Street that serves tasty $2 tacos at lunchtime.

If you weren't on the guest list for Andrea and Koy's big day, well, don't cry. We have a feeling wedding bells will be ringing again in the future in Market Square. And, remember, bring plenty of tissues.

Wedding photos courtesy of Melissa McMasters


Taking Care Of Business

For as long as anyone can remember, Market Square's been the place for local merchants to set up shop. Way back when, early Pittsburghers flocked to the Square to stock up on hard-to-get frontier provisions and just to catch up on the latest news around town. Over time, the city's first courthouse went up in the Square and so did the first newspaper building. And of course, the Square was the longtime home of the grand old Market House that stood smack dab in the middle of the space.

Well, all the attention and investment from Mayor Ravenstahl, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and several local Foundations* is paying off.  As a result of their investments, we are seeing another kind of investment - small businesses opening in small spaces that had lain vacant for a long time. Today, the Square plays host to merchants who sell everything from the latest fashion trends to the freshest pastries in town. And it seems like every time we visit the Square, another new business is hanging out its shingle to attract customers inside.

For instance, maybe you noticed a hip new clothing on Graeme Street — one of the shortest lanes in the city — called WEAR. Well, we played a not so secret shopper to check out their cool shades, super skinny jeans and ultra chic accessories. Now if you're in the mood a bit of pampering, the staff at Zhang's Massage will help soothe those aching shopping muscles, and it's just across the street on the second floor of the 1902 building.

One of our favorite Square activities is sampling the goodies available at the many to die for eateries there. For some finger-licking Southern style eats, A & J Ribs just can't be beat. They opened last fall but in case you were a little detered by the construction now is your chance to check it out! With a menu that serves home-cooked favorites like ribs, greens, mac and cheese and, of course, some sizzling barbecue sauce. Sometimes, we like to think of Market Square as a state of mind that crosses over its Belgian block boundaries. Which is why you might just spot us at the newly opened Tavern 245 on Fourth Avenue.  With executive chef Jay Lewis — he used to ride herd on the kitchen at Palomino's — in charge you just know the food will be great. But what really brings us back again and again are the marvelous Market Square Cosmopolitans.

Okay, back to the Square. Remember that we said the city's first couthouse — and jail — were in the Square? Well, legal eagles of the Sommer Law Group found a new nest in the Square in a lofty perch above Starbucks. Market Real Estate, with a specialty in Downtown residential opportunities, is also located in the space.

Sometimes we get so excited about happenings in the Square that we need to take a little time to walk around the corner to discover what's new. 3 Guys Optical just moved into the beautiful blue and white terra cotta Buhl Building on the corner of McMasters and Fifth. While you're eyeing up 3 Guys, you might spot the signs for the soon-to-open Splash, the Cranberry shop that sells high-end cabinets and fixtures for bathrooms and kitchens is coming to you — a real convenience for all those Downtown dwellers moving in everyday or the busy employee that comes to town everyday.

When you think about it, Market Square is still a center of commerce and social activity in Downtown. After nearly 270 years, we're still taking care of business in the Square.

*Special thanks to the Foundations who have supported the reconstruction, management and programming of Market Square including: the Heinz Endowments, Richard King Mellon Foundation, Colcom Foundation and Hillman Foundation.  And to the Laurel Foundation for supporting the Market Square plantings.  Also to the District Attorney's Office and the Pittsburgh Police Department for continued support in making Downtown a safe and welcome place to live, work, play and do business.


The Beat Goes On

Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees. At least that's what we hear. But the next time you visit Market Square, we know you'll see all the amazing details as well as the great big picture, too. By now, you've probably noticed that another piece of the Square seems to be complete just about every day. In fact, there are fewer ribbons of yellow tape, orange barrels and cones and fencing in and around the Square since before the project started. Even better, there are more people in the Square just about anytime of the day you go there.

Still, there are few more things that need to be done before the project is 100 percent complete. For instance, this week you'll see even more hanging baskets, filled with red and white blooms. These swinging splashes of color really look great against the bright blue summer skies of the past few weeks. And don't forget, when the weather cools a bit in the next month or so, we'll be planting more trees on the northern side of the Square from the Oyster House to Nicholas Coffee.

Since we really want everything in the Square to be just right, workers have been busy putting the finishing touches on the bricks in the sidewalks, installing bike racks and even shining the bollards and lamp posts.

There will be a few non-related projects continuing around the Square. On one end, PennDOT crews continue to rebuild Forbes Avenue between Wood Street and the Square. At the opposite side of the Square, the NorthShore Connector project rumbles underground. And on the streets leading to the Square from Fifth Avenue, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewage Authority remains on the job installing new pipes on some of the sidestreets.

And just like the Market Square project, they'll be done before you know it!


Second Helpings Of Square Meals

If you didn't catch last week's Toyota Farm to Table caravan during its stop in Market Square, we're hoping you stop by today during the Farmer's Market for a taste of what you missed.

Because so many people told us how much they enjoyed the Farm to Table feast in the Square we decided to cook up something special for you. Why not bring a chef home with you!  Well, in spirit, at least.  Via the recipes you sampled last week!

Today you'll have the chance to cook like Bill Fuller, executive chef of Big Burrito Restaurant Group —  the savvy restaurateurs who run Mad Mex, Eleven, Casbah and so many other great eateries around town.  Treat friends and family with a healthy and delicious gaspacho a la Casbah and astonish your coworkers when you pull out your brown bag lunch of Thai Melon Salad.  They'll say, "Oh, leftovers from Soba?" And you'll say, "Oh this? Just a little salad I whipped up with some things I picked up at the farmers market. I like to eat local."

Of course, you don't have to limit your palate pleasures to the recipe of the day. Each week the Farmer's Market delivers a harvest bounty of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, herbs and spices and cheeses — plus a smorgasbord of hot, prepared foods that Pittsburghers love. And top it all off before you head back to work or home, don't forget a little desert in the form of pastries, homemade fruit pies or a slice of yummy cake.

So if you're hungry today for some of the freshest, most delicious food in Downtown — prepared by one of the city's best chefs — stop by Market Square for the Farmer's Market. We'll see you there.

PS   a heads up on today's concert schedule: the Star 100.7 and KDKA is sharing the spotlight with a local foundation that works with youth in our community.  Local blues band Billy the Kid will perform 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. followed directly with the MGR Foundation's Youth Rally.


A Bumper Crop In The Square

You already know that local farmers set up their stands in the Square every Thursday through the summer and early fall. But yesterday's Farmer's Market delivered an especially abundant harvest of wholesome, natural goodness when the Toyota Farm to Table Tour rolled into the Square. This treat was extra special because Pittsburgh was selected as just one of the 11 cities on this exclusive, cross-country celebration of those who toil in the fields to put outstanding fresh food our tables, and the chefs that spread the good word of locally grown food.

It was a great way to shine the spotlight on local farmers and on the chefs that celebrate local food in their restaurants everyday. The chefs whipped up special dishes made with the freshest ingredients gathered from the familiar faces you see each week in the Square. If you were there, you know this alfresco feast served up something for nearly every appetite from the zesty, refreshing gazpacho to the oh-so yummy sweet potato pierogies.  We're certainly taking some of those ideas to heart. Who would think to pair smoked salmon with gouda and berry compote?  Delicious! Or to put warm, crispy, locally-smoked bacon on top of a refreshing summer salsa? Whether you got ideas for your next dinner party or put a new restaurant on your "must try" list, it was a day of sweet possibilities!  And underlying it all was the knowledge that shopping locally is good for our regional economy and good for the environment.  What's not to love?!

In between bites, the lunchtime crowd signed up to take a spin around the Square in a 3rd generatio Toyota Prius (due out in 2011), a hybrid Camry or a hybrid Highlander SUV. Earth friendly to be sure, these vehicles also are easy on the budget too, thanks to a combination of gas and electric engines that save on fuel on the road and at the pump. Even better, everyone who took a test ride got to take home a special gift — a John Boos cutting board. A favorite of professional chefs around the world, the Boos boards sell for hundreds on dollars in stores and online. Even if you're not ready for your own show on the Food Network, a Boos board can make you feel like a star in your own kitchen.

After tasting the glories of local chef + local food, the Toyota staff passed out fresh herbs just right for keeping a little bit of the market on your kitchen window sill. When you think about it, that's a great gift for those of us who are all thumbs — and none of them green — when it comes to gardening.

Sure, the food was great. And Prius and Highlander rides were fun. But what really hit the spot for us was when one happy lady from Pleasant Hills stopped us to say this was one of the best times she's had Downtown in a long time — and that she would be back for second helpings of the Farmer's Market in the Square soon.

Market Square Farmers Market
Farm to Table Tour

If you loved tasting all that local food, you won't want to miss PASA's 100% Grass Fed Beef Cook Off this Saturday.  Tickets for non-members are only $20.  What better way to spend a gorgeous weekend than hanging out at a beautiful farm, meeting local chefs and foodies, and feasting on the bounty of our region!  (And when you return you may have some great ideas for the grass fed beef available at our market!)


Farm to Table - Local Chefs and Local Food Tomorrow!

By now you know that a little bit of "Green Acres" comes to the Square every Thursday when the Farmers Market rolls into Downtown. But tomorrow's food fest brings an extra special harvest to Pittsburgh when the second annual Toyota Farm to Table Tour parks itself in the Square from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Along with all the familiar faces you'll see at the Farmers Market selling fresh produce, Greek goodies, fantastic flowers and more, the Tour will bring out some of the city's top chefs so that you can sample some of the most delectable dishes to come out of their kitchens — made with ingredients from our market. The menu du jour features these culinary masters:

• Kate Romane of the Enrico Biscotti Company
• Mark Swomley from The Carlton
• Ted Jude from The Fairmont Hotel's Habitat Restaurant
• Jason Capps of Market Square's Bella Sera Urban Trattoria
• Sonja Finn from Dinette
• Andrew Hebson of the Somona Grille
• Keith Fuller from Six Penn Kitchen
• Bill Fuller of the Big Burrito Group

And to make this mid-summer bounty of tasty treats even  more enticing, you can test drive one of Toyota's three hybrid models and take home a special John Boos cutting board.  They will also be giving away locally-grown fresh potted herbs to add a little zest and zing to your home cooked meals.

Check out the details at Toyota's Farm to Table site or at our site.


A Work In Progress

We know it seems like certain construction projects around Pittsburgh are a neverending story.  Well, we're here to tell you that the work on Market Square is definitely a tale with an end in sight —and soon.

In the next couple weeks, the crews that have done such a great job so far will place the last brick in the big jigsaw puzzle of the sidewalks that encircle the Square.  And once that's done, just about all the merchants will start adding more alfresco dining as they place additional tables and chairs outside. Even better, you'll be able to stroll all the way around the Square without any detours.

Speaking of detours. PennDot crews will continue rebuilding Forbes Avenue between Wood Street and Market Square. One lane of the street is ready for the finishing touches and hass reopened to traffic. The work on the other side of Forbes will stay there for a while as workers replace the really old infrastructure that's been buried there for years. 

We like to think that all roads lead to Market Square. However, a few of them will be out of commission now and then as the city replaces the aging water lines to ensure that Square merchants enjoy an endless supply of clean, fresh water. In case you're wondering, that means Market, McMasters and Graeme streets will be off limits for autos at times. One thing we're glad about is that the city will repave all the streets at the same time. Just think, no more walkarounds — and no more hazards for all you ladies in heels.  Market Street will especially get some nice attention with new sidewalks, enhanced lighting, and a public art project by local artist Carin Mincemoyer.

Not all the work in the Square is about bricks and stones and concrete. Some of our favorite projects are on the green side. We know that visitors to the Square love the trees that are already there. And they're always asking if we're going to plant more. Well, the answer is yes...but not just  yet. Mostly, that's because the summer heat would pretty much cook any new plantings. So, come this fall, when the temperatures cool a bit, we'll be filling those empty tree pits between the MarketSquare Place and Dunkin' Donuts.

Yes, sometimes we feel like an eight-year-old going crazy with excitement over our next birthday. It just seems like the big day will never arrive. But come fall, all the work in Market Square will be finished — and it will be worth the wait.