Pittsburghers get a chance to try rare grains at Slow Foods Pittsburgh event

 Pittsburgh Post Gazette | March 30 2016

As reported by Rebecca Sodergren, in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette  March 30 2016:

” A two-day event, ‘Grains are Not Created Equal,’ will shed the spotlight on little-known grains in hopes of creating a farming, baking and eating revolution.

Host Slow Food Pittsburgh will roll out the welcome mat on Sunday and Monday to agronomist Elizabeth Dyck and baker Stefan Senders, both from New York, where Ms. Dyck grows and researches alternative grains for Organic Growers’ Research and Information-Sharing Network (ogrin.org), an organization she founded, and Mr. Senders bakes with the grains at his Wide Awake Bakery (wideawakebakery.com).

Mr. Senders will hold a baking demo from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Laughlin Music Center, Chatham University, Shadyside.

It will be followed by the blind-grain tastings, where Ms. Dyck will serve steamed grains in tiny numbered cups, asking guests to rate and describe the flavors of each. Grains will include heritage red and white wheat, buckwheat, rye, barley, spelt, einkorn and emmer.

There also will be a potluck buffet where local bakers and restaurants will bring grain-based foods and drinks for participants to try. Businesses include Legume, Ace Hotel, E2, Root 174, Chatham University’s Eden Hall campus, Mediterra Bakery, Five Points Artisan Bakery, Driftwood Oven, Wigle Whiskey, Hop Farm and more.

Slow Food Pittsburgh co-founder Virginia Phillips said grain tastings have become popular on the East Coast, but this event is a first for Pittsburgh, allowing people to try grains they might not otherwise have been exposed to.

‘People who haven’t tasted local, heritage-type grains are in for a surprise,’ Ms. Phillips said, noting that heritage rye, which people might expect to be pungent, actually has a sweet and delicate flavor when steamed like rice, which is how the grains will be prepared for the tasting session. Participants also will blind-taste two bread loaves and three crackers made with ancient grains.

The tasting session is a win-win: It allows locals to experience rare grains, and it sends Ms. Dyck home with more data for her research. When she runs grain tastings, she keeps records of how tasters respond to each type of grain; their reactions and descriptions can then be used to market grains and examine consumer preferences. Ms. Dyck hopes the tasting session will expand Pittsburghers’ interest in cooking and baking with alternative grains, which will in turn spur local producers to grow them.

On Monday, Mr. Senders will have an intensive baking class, which is intended for professional and serious home cooks, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Wigle Whiskey Barrelhouse, North Side.

Mr. Senders will discuss issues of baking with local flours and operating an artisan business, and participants will bake with him hands-on. Lunch from the Thin Man Sandwich Shop will be provided.

Both days’ activities are already full, but Slow Food Pittsburgh is maintaining a waiting list. To be added, contact Ms. Phillips at Phillips.virginia.r@gmail.com. For those who don’t get a spot, Ms. Phillips suggests a visit to Weatherbury Farm in Avella, where Nigel Tudor grows and mills organic flours and has worked with Ms. Dyck to develop plantings of rare and ancient grains. Weatherbury grains are also available through Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance (pennscorner.com).”