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Nu version of knish connects

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

 
Nupeople
The people who have brought the Pittsburgh area six iterations of Pamela’s have opened Squirrel Hill’s first Jewish bistro in recent memory — Nu, at 1711 Murray Ave.
 
It has been open for two weeks but yesterday was its official opening — an offering to media wretches.
 
I went looking for knishes. A late-September fire at Gabila’s, the oldest knish factory in the country, in Copiague, N.Y., has put the hurt on knish lovers throughout its distribution area, notably New York and New Jersey. According to the Associated Press, the fire damaged the machinery that makes the company’s biggest seller — “The Original Coney Island Square Knish.” 
 
I have spent a little time trying to find out how the shortage was affecting Pittsburgh eateries and grocers, if at all. In searching likely carriers of knishes, I found two small local retailers and did not hear back from either one.
 
knishwichOf friends on Facebook who read my message — where can a body get a good knish in this tahn? — Saul Markowitz of Markowitz Communications shot back an invitation to be at Nu’s press feeding Tuesday morning.
 
Pamela’s owners, Pam Cohen and Gail Klingensmith, who run a Pamela’s directly adjacent to Nu, consider this a sister venture, which will be operated by Pam’s sister Rise’ Cohen and chef Kelsey Sukel
 
Nu, A Modern Jewish Bistro, will be open every day but Monday from 11a to 9p. The word "nu" means several things in Yiddish, including so? huh? what's up? 
 
Kelsey said he was recruited while trying to get out of the restaurant business, but he succumbed: “I have always been a huge deli fan,” he said. “With such a large ethnic Jewish population in Squirrel Hill, this was a ‘duh’” proposition.
 
It is not a deli per se. And it is “more than Jewish,” he said. It goes back to tap the old universal methods of pickling and brining. The menu includes latke, kreplach (which I'm told is kind of liek a pierogi), Israeli salad, borscht, Jewish penicillin (chicken soup), babka and a sandwich called a Jewbano (a variation on a Cuban sandwich).
 
One of the specialties is Montreal smoked meat — beef brisket that is house cured [brined] for 10 days, smoked for 12 hours and steamed for three hours before it is hand sliced. A feature of the Nu BLT is crispy chicken skin instead of bacon, with a chicken liver pate schmear.
 
Oh, and they do have a version of knish  — a reuben knishwich.  I will probably fantasize about those at least a few times before I make it back montrealthere. They make them on-site, so no factory fire shortage at Nu.
 
Pam and Gail wanted everyone of us to have more, so while we were eating, they brought around plates of more.
 
“Anyone want a Nu BLT?” Pam asked, hovering near the table beside mine, where a photographer for Table, the local food, culture and lifestyle magazine, said, “Why not? Life is short,” and Pam shot back, “This will make it shorter.”
 
What’s that old saying?  “If you resolve to give up (fill in the blank), you don’t actually live longer; it just seems longer.”
 
Photos: Top, Rise' Cohen (crouching) and, from left to right, Gail Klingensmith, Pamela Cohen and Kelsey Sukel, partners of Nu, Modern Jewish Bistro... Middle: a plate with a knishwich (front right)... Bottom: a Montreal smoked meat sandwich
 

 

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A lost link, lost charm

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

pedbridge

Over the weekend, the pedestrian bridge in Allegheny Commons Park was demolished as expected. Everyone who uses the park was aware of its demise if not of the city's decision to hasten it. The bridge has been closed since the late 20th century due to instability.

It's always tempting to bemoan the decision to put things off, as things always get more expensive with passing time. If the bridge had been repaired in 2000 instead of left to become more unstable, it might have been an affordable fix.

Now, with finances even tighter and no plan for a new bridge, it's easy to believe it could be another 15 years looking like the photo above... or forever.

pedbridgebefore

The span was designed to tie the parts of the Commons together. It's not the biggest issue we have on the North Side and not even the biggest issue we have in the park, but it is one more reminder of what happens when the losses of  smaller amenities are explained away in terms of what we can afford.

We can afford so many things. We DO afford so many things. The design of a park -- one that provided for people to enter it and move through it without having to leave it to get to the other side -- is one of those subtle features of urban life that we forget how much we used to appreciate.

That link is now severed and all that's lost is a little piece of charm. That's all. Something historic and charming, a small delight.

Gone. That's all.

 

Photos by Paul Nawrocki

 

 

 

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It's "Crossing Fences" week

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

 
voicesSaturday Light Brigade Productions has done several remarkable rounds of oral history projects that pair elders with youth, and the latest one, Crossing Fences, features men and boys from the North Side, Beltzhoover and McKeesport.
 
SLB is a radio show that plays in  several local markets and whose staff has held workshops for children, teaching them what jobs in radio look and sound like, giving them some experience at interviewing, recording and sound presentation.
 
The latest oral history/storytelling project is the second one, with financing from the Heinz Endowments, and it is having three CD and book release parties this week to celebrate the participation in each neighborhood and give the public a chance to meet the participants, hear their stories and get a copy of the booklet and CD.
 
+ Tomorrow, from 5 to 7p, the Beltzhoover/Hilltop event will be held at the McKinley Park Recreation Center, 900 Delmont Ave.
 
+ Wednesday, same time, is the North Side’s event at the Cafe ‘n’ Creamery, 2700 Shadeland Ave.
 
+ Thursday, from 6 to 8p, the event is at the McKeesport Library, 1507 Library Ave.
 
+ Wednesday of next week, from 6 to 8p, all three neighborhoods will join a citywide celebration of at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 
 
Walk-up attendance is OK, but the SLB folks want to know how many people to plan refreshments for, so RSVPing is recommended. Call 412.586.6300 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
 
This is SLB’s description of the project: 
 
“Crossing Fences connects generations of African American boys, youth and men through conversations. The program celebrates and archives these connections by creating multimedia publications while also sharpening skills that students can use to support success in school and beyond. 
“A first-of-its-kind program in the region, Crossing Fences combines cutting-edge audio technology with intergenerational communication, historical research and youth media arts. 
 
“Last year’s program included African American men and boys from the Hill District, Homewood and Hazelwood. The project will continue in three additional neighborhoods next year. 
 
 

 

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Public works to the rescue

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

bag 
The timing could not have been better: the city’s curbside collection of yard debris is Saturday.
 
For several weeks, big paper bags full of old branches, weeds and the vegetable plants I tore out at the end of harvest have been huddling under an alcove behind my house trying to stay dry until I could get them to a city composting center.
 
That trip was going to have been tomorrow. Thank you, SanMen, for saving me that trip.
 
Being in the information business has its advantages.
 
The trucks will be running citywide Saturday morning to get yard waste but it has to be in those big paper bags that come advertised as water tolerant but are only barely so. (You have to get them at big box retailers.)  If it’s a rainy morning and you put them out the night before, the bottoms could fall out on the SanMen, so consider putting them out in the early morning. 
 
Here are some of the rules you should follow to have a smooth transition on Saturday morning: 
 
+ Bags should not exceed 35 pounds;
 
+ Tree branches and bushes must be cut, bundled and tied in lengths not more than five feet and less than four inches in diameter.
 
+ No dirt, rocks, stones or cement will be collected (but the dirt that happened into your bag with the weeds you pulled will probably sneak through).
 
+ This has to be residential detritus. No contractors or lawn care services can cadge a free ride on the city.
 
If you miss the chance, you can take your yard debris to a city drop-off center but you have to be a city resident to do this. There are three of them. The details are at this site.
 
Questions? Contact Environmental Services at (412) 255-2631 or (412) 255-2773.
 
photo from elephantjournal.com

 

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National Register honors Allegheny Commons Park

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

commons 
 
Allegheny Commons Park on the North Side has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, a status it shares with two other parks in the city — Schenley Park and Point State Park.
 
The commons is Pittsburgh’s oldest park, established during the emergence of Allegheny, which was a separate city before Pittsburgh annexed it in 1907.
 
The Allegheny Commons Initiative nominated the park, which was already a city historic district. The initiative is leading the implementation of a multi-phase restoration.
 
“We are thrilled that Allegheny Commons has joined an elite group of landscapes included on the National Register,” said Alida Baker, the initiative’s project director. “As stewards of this very special place, we hope  the designation will help us to attract much-needed investment and inspire our city to treat it with integrity and respect.”
 
Speaking of which... the city has made plans to begin  demolition of the pedestrian bridge that spans sunken railroad tracks. The bridge has been closed for about 12 years. 
 
Almost exactly four years ago, when city officials stated the concrete span was crumbling and presented a threat, the city proposed demolishing it. The Historic Review Commission delayed the decision that ultimately favored that request.
 
To say that neighborhood and park advocates objected doesn’t begin to describe the outcry. The arguments were to restore it or, if it must be demolished, to replace it. At the time, Pat Hassett, the assistant director of public works, said  he “would very much like to have the bridge replaced, but I have no money to do it. I have 120 bridges and two engineers.” 
 
The neo-classical concrete bridge was cast in place in 1906. It links two parks of the park that are separated by Norfolk Southern’s submerged tracks. 
 
One of the fears expressed by historic review commissioners and residents is that once the bridge is removed, the neighborhood has no leverage to pressure the city for a replacement. Without a replacement bridge, the site will act as a broken hinge on a door that is supposed to open for pedestrian flow. It was the intent of the designers of the park.
 
It is difficult to restore something to its original. Concessions sometimes have to be. But restorations are quite skewed when pieces disappear. The bridge demolition without a funding commitment for its replacement makes the news of the National Registry a little bittersweet.
 

 

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