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Songs of the city.

Not strictly food-related. Today, though, this is where my brain is. It’s my first day in my new apartment — the first space in Pittsburgh I can truly call my own.

Almost as much as food speaks to me about what a city is, where it’s been, etc., music does that, too. I started making playlists as I got to know the city a little. Different ones for different neighborhoods or streets or the like, with what seemed to me like the character of those places as a theme.

The South Side one has many, many songs on it about drinking. One is based on Route 28. The first track: Ennio Morricone’s theme from “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” The second: Cee Lo Green, “F#$* You.”

My parents have never been here. Not even to the airport on a layover, I don’t think. My father has a rather long commute and gets sick of hearing the same music all the time. He’ll listen on one pass to the arrangement. Then just the lyrics. Then maybe just the bass line or the drums.

I figured I could show him a little around Pittsburgh and give him something new to listen to at the same time. For him, I made CDs, and he doesn’t like all the stuff I do, so his are shorter and a bit different.

I made one playlist that’s just Pittsburgh. Every song on there mentions the city by name, was written here, is performed by someone at least vaguely local or has some other connection to the city. The bass player for The Roots studied at Carnegie Mellon. Wild Cherry supposedly wrote “Play That Funky Music” in a bar here. Duke Ellington’s longtime collaborator lived in the Hill for years. The bass player Miles Davis used on “Kind of Blue” is from here. And there’s stuff from A.T.S., Wiz Khalifa, Black Moth Super Rainbow and the like.

More specifically:

My dad’s Pittsburgh playlist:

— “Clampdown,” The Clash
— “Life During Wartime,” Talking Heads
— “Pittsburgh Makes Me Drunk,” Ceann
— “Small Town,” Lou Reed and John Cale (it’s on an album from 1988 called “Songs for Drella” that was their first collaboration in more than a decade. The spark: Andy Warhol’s death. All the tracks on it are biographical in one way or another.)
— “So What,” Miles Davis
— “Blue Pepper (Far East of the Blues),” Duke Ellington
— “I Got Trouble,” Christina Aguilera
— “Zodiac Girls,” Black Moth Super Rainbow
— “Corp Phuch,” A.T.S.
— “Essawhamah?” The Roots
— “Sweet Little Sixteen,” Jerry Lee Lewis
— “Sweet Jane,” Velvet Underground
— “Living In America,” James Brown
— “Triple Double,” Girl Talk
— “Hot Fun In The Summertime,” Sly & The Family Stone (one of the record company’s promoters who helped pimp the band is from here)
— “Play That Funky Music,” Wild Cherry
— “We Are Family,” Sister Sledge
— “Better Off Without You,” The Clarks
— “Bloomfield Bridge,” A.T.S.

This was the one most closely based on my own, which also has these:

— “Mellow My Man,” The Roots
— “Red Carpet (Like A Movie),” Wiz Khalifa
— “America,” Simon & Garfunkel
— “Helsinki,” A.T.S.
— “The Way You Make Me Feel,” Michael Jackson (his business manager during this period grew up here)
— “Universal Mind,” The Doors (recorded live during a show in Pittsburgh)
— “Pittsburgh To Lebanon,” Butthole Surfers
— “All Blues,” Miles Davis
— “Tourist Point of View,” Duke Ellington
— “Black And Yellow,” Wiz Khalifa

I also made one for the North Side, my new home. So, yeah, home is a theme, but I tried to pick things that also reflected the vibe and the aesthetic here so far. Strikes me that the North Side is a little underappreciated as actual neighborhoods. Heinz Field and PNC Park are here, sure. And parts of it remind me a lot of my old neighborhood in Philly years ago.

— “Gonna Fly Now (Rocky Theme),” Bill Conti
— “Our House,” Madness
— “Pink Panther Theme,” Henry Mancini
— “Collapsing At Your Doorstep,” Air France
— “A Long Walk,” Jill Scott
— “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” The Move
— “Home Cookin’,” Junior Walker and the All Stars
— “In The Still Of The Night,” Boyz II Men
— “Snapped (remix),” Skull Snaps
— “In This House That I Call Home,” X
— “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” Billie Holiday
— “Little Child Runnin’ Wild,” Curtis Mayfield
— “I’ve Underestimated My Charm (Again),” Black Kids
— “Caught By The River,” Doves
— “Steel Head,” Banyan
— “Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything,” Veggietales
— “Cutie Pie,” One Way
— “Crazy Thinker,” Tzu
— “Next,” The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (The KLF)
— “The River,” PJ Harvey

So anyway. Hope you got a kick out of this like I do.

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Beer, Ingredients, Neighborhoods, Recipes, Seasonal, Strip District

Crested Duck Charcuterie.

Usually I wouldn’t advise you to seek out specialty meats from a software engineer.

With Adam Costa, it’s a little different. He’s one of the two brothers behind Crested Duck Charcuterie at the Pittsburgh Public Market.

The other brother, Kevin, is a trained chef. Worked in Cincinnati before moving back to Pittsburgh.

“We talked about opening a restaurant at first,” Adam said. “But I know he didn’t want to work every night for the rest of his life.”

The opening of the Pittsburgh Public Market gave them another option: to focus on food Kevin wanted to make in the quantities he thought most appropriate so he wouldn’t have to compromise quality. Much better deal, they thought, than cranking out 200 dinners on demand every single day.

They rent kitchen space and hope to have a space of their own soon enough.

“I got an electrician coming Monday,” Adam said.

Now, I said “specialty meats.” That can mean a lot of things. In this case, it’s guanciale — exquisite cured pork cheeks — for $16 a pound. Elk rillettes for $7. Rendered pork lard, $8 a pint, or basically a pound, Mexican-style chorizo at $10 a pound.

Some of that elk rillette on a toasted baguette with some seriously good beer — a delightful light December lunch if ever I heard of one.

They also make elk stock and sell elk soup bones as well as what they call “gin and juice” salami — it’s got juniper berries and a little orange zest in it. The juniper berries I could taste. The orange zest is there mostly so they can say it has orange zest in it. The “juice” part, if you will.

How does their stuff taste? Sort of like this:

I was excited, OK?

They also have salt. Many different kinds of salt.

This is important.

Some salt is for cooking. Some for finishing — whether a garnish or color or a sharper, bolder flavor. The distinctions can be subtle, but significant.

I picked up some of the Hawaiian red Alaea salt on one of my earlier trips in there. One of my favorite uses for it so far is on meat I sear and then braise. Last week I tried it on a well-marbled chuck roast I braised with fennel, onion and carrots in Troeg’s Doublebock beer. Seems to add a little smokiness, a little deeper flavor than the coarse Kosher salt I use most of the time.

At some point when I’m in the mood I want to try out some of the smoked salt as a finisher on seared scallops. But that’s for later. Like when it’s not freezing outside.

Maybe Adam won’t have to be a software engineer forever. He’s got a pretty good idea what he’s gotten himself into.

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