sweet weeds

japanese knotweed
japanese knotweed

There are very few empty lots, roadsides or poorly kept yards that don’t have Japanese knotweed growing in them. This weed is one of the most powerful invasive species in the U.S. and it’s incredibly difficult to get rid of. It’s a tough weed all the way around. Its roots will grow under your sidewalk and in no time a large bush, bamboo like, will over take what once was a slab of concrete.

My wife hates this stuff with a passion. For years I’ve been telling her that a plant this strong and resilient must have some redeeming qualities. And it does: I found out that Japanese knotweed is an excellent source of resveratrol and emodin, both used for nutritional supplements and medicine.

But I was really interested to discover that bees love the nectar of the Japanese knotweed flowers. It makes a delicious monofloral honey called “bamboo honey.” This honey is like a dark, mild-flavored version of buckwheat honey and reveals a dark red color when held to the light. Joe Zgurzynski from Burgh Bees tells me that the dark honeys tend to be higher in antioxidants than light honeys, the same way red wines are higher in antioxidants than white wines. Bamboo honey is readily available from local beekeepers in this region in the fall. I haven’t had any of this honey yet, but I’m really looking forward to trying this local treat.

winners at Savor Pittsburgh

judge's ballot for Savor Pittsburgh event

Every year towards the end of August a formation of white tents is erected in the parking lot next to McCormick & Schmick’s to hold Savor Pittsburgh, a fund raiser for the American Respiratory Alliance. Under these tents more than twenty local restaurants compete for “Dish of the year.” A live band plays while the crowds enjoy some of the best culinary examples this city has to offer.

This year I was under one of the coolest tents, the culinary judges’ tent. It was a pleasure and honor to be chosen and I had a great time.

Events like this are always a great opportunity for me to see many of my colleagues and friends. And with all these great people around and excellent food, who can ask for more? For this occasion my wife, Laura, was able to come. She has not been able to get out of the house much lately since the twins were born. And yes, the twins were there also. They are a little young to enjoy any of this food yet–8 weeks old, but soon enough.

But, going back my main focus of the night, the food–1300 people had a chance to savor anything from meatballs to satays. And at the end of the night after all the votes were tallied the results were:

  • Best Appetizer: SAVOY Restaurant and Lounge with the SAVOY Satay
  • Best Entree: Tusca Global Tapas with the Pepper Pork Mignon, Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Apple Creme Fraiche
  • Best Dessert: Tree Tops Restaurant with the Praline and Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Praline Sauce and Candied Pecans
  • People’s Choice: McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant, SouthSide Works
  • Dish of the Year: Tree Tops Restaurant with the Praline and Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Praline Sauce and Candied Pecans

I’m already looking forward to next years’ Savor Pittsburgh. I recommend it to everyone!

Buen provecho!

this meal was presented in a tagine
me, Christina French of Table Magazine, and Mike Lee of WQED