With the RoadRUNNER event behind me, the next major stop on the FORKS Tour ’14 took me to Pittsburgh—where the proximity of three rivers, The Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio made Pittsburgh ideal for settlers in the 1700’s. In more recent years, Pittsburgh gets huge nods for grading the tops of “best places to live” lists and is now often referred to as the city of bridges — all which seemed to painted in the colors of its major league sports teams the Pirates and the Steelers.
Long before FORKS was published, I reached out through social media in a search for support in testing the 40 recipes that appear in the pages of my book. Among the more than 30 people who offered to help with my project was Anne Karl Holtz, who I soon learned is a distant relative of mine through the “Karl branch” of my family.
When I announced that I was looking for cool places to hold book signing events, Anne was cook to connect me with the Narcisi family who operate the oldest winery in the Pittsburgh area, The Narcisi Winery. This beautiful Tuscan-inspired family-owned property makes wine from locally sourced grapes, many from Northern Pennsylvania near Lake Erie.
Thanks to Anne, who helped connect me with local media in Pittsburgh, I had two major interviews to promote my visit to Narcisi and my book FORKS. I did a phone-in interview for the popular drive-time news program on KDKA News Radio 1020 with Larry Richert and John Shumway. Then, just a few days prior to my even on Sunday, July 20th, I was a featured guest on “Pittsburgh Today Live” on KDKA-TV, the Pittsburgh CBS affiliate with Kristine Sorensen and Jon Burnett. Turns out, Jon is a BMW motorcycle rider.
My next task was to get the 2011 FORKS Tour Van (a 2011 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter) wrapped with graphics from the book. Working with Denny Korber and the competent team at Speedpro Imaging Pittsburgh Central wrapped the van with the incredible graphics and photos from the book. Now there is no way for me to hide.
At Narcisi I was particularly impressed by their “Stella” wine, made primarily from a little-used grape varietal from Germany and hardly grown or used in winemaking in the United States, Dornfelder, which is blended with a bit of cabernet and another unique variety, noiret, a hybrid developed by Cornell University for winemaking in the Finger Lakes and Hudson River Valley in New York. In speaking with Tony Narcisi, I was impressed by his and the Narcisi family’s dedication to working with grape varietals that are unique and grow well in local soils and in the difficult climate of northern Pennsylvania.
We had a good crowd at Narcisi Winery and I signed many books. The best thing about doing an event at a winery or even a wine festival like I did last week, is that the idea of connecting with people and learning about culture and each other over good food and drink is paramount to my message and the reason why I wrote and published FORKS as a coffee-table style art, photography and cookbook hybrid complete with compelling narrative in stories of adventure, connection, collision and culture.
While in Pittsburgh I also was able to spend time with family, Anne, and her husband Doug, daughter Emma, and their dog, Rudy, all of whom I’d never met, sharing home cooked meals, good wine, conversation and having a comfy place to sleep. Even better, Emma, an aspiring writer is involved in a very unique summer camp — Young Writers Institute ~ Western Pennsylvania Writing Project — designed to help young writers explore their craft, create and share stories, poems and writing with others. The camp is designed for kids who are in fourth to eight grades. I was lucky enough to be in Pittsburgh when the camp was in session and shared my experience not only as a WorldRiding adventure travel, but also as an adventurous independent author and publisher. I sat on the floor, shared stories and answered questions, and I hope, impressing upon them to keep writing and to never give up!
I could feel the energy in the room as the questions were fired at me — there will be more than a few published authors and best sellers from The Western Pennsylvania Writing Project!
I also managed to find some extra time to explore downtown Pittsburgh, the infamous Nicholas Coffee & Tea Company, The Church Brew Works where an old church has been converted into a brewery and the altar features large brewing tanks as well as Mount Washington for stunning views of the city, its bridges, skyline and stadiums.
Check out more photos from the Pittsburgh stop on FORKS on Tour ’14