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Q&A with Cookbook Author Quelcy Kogel

Quelcy shares her Pittsburgh picks for dog treats, dining and date nights

by Stephanie Brea
April 12, 2019

Quelcy Kogel is a recipe developer, stylist, photographer, and longtime blogger (as in, her archives go waaaay back, some dating to 2007) via her website With The Grains. Her recipes can be found in Bon Appetit, Cosmopolitan and Redbook, as well as the local publication Table magazine. She’s a Design*Sponge contributor, and her Polish Hill home has been featured, as well. Most recently, she partnered with Lindsay Smith to launch the Wild Rose Collective, whose mission is “to create rituals, events and products to encourage the female-identifying torchbearers of today while remembering those who ignited the flames for change.” Their first event was the Rising Women Conference at the Ace Hotel this past March.

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But, as if all of that isn’t enough, the most recent accomplishment to add to her lengthy CV is cookbook author. “The Gluten Free Grains Cookbook” is now available at your favorite independent bookshop or wherever books are sold. Within its pages, you’ll find 75 recipes that highlight unique, wholesome alternatives to conventional wheat and processed grains. This book celebrates quinoa, teff, millet and amaranth. As someone who attempts to reduce her gluten intake for health reasons, none of these grains were new to me, and I did not need to Google what they were, but the recipes themselves were innovative. I’m all-caps EXCITED to pull out the very large bag of quinoa in my pantry to make Pickle-Brined Oven-“Fried” Chicken Tenders for dinner next week.

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Kogel has made a name for herself on the internet over the years, but since she makes Pittsburgh her home, we decided to ask her to highlight a few of her very favorite, very local things.

Hungry for more? Her book launch party will be held on Thursday, April 25 from 7-9pm at Gather in Sewickley. Tickets will include six tastings from the book, a gluten-free bar by Pennsylvania Libations, gluten-free beer by Aurochs Brewing and a signed copy of the book. Tickets are available here.

Aside: We’re also really stoked about this event a few days prior at Gluten Free Goat in Garfield.

Q & A with Quelcy Kogel

Best Gluten-free breakfast in town?

My friends Sharif Rasheed and Lindsey Smith (aka “The Food Mood Girl”) and I like to meet at Gluten Free Goat for breakfast. Lindsey and I are helping Sharif with the release of his new gluten-free product (check out his Power Bites), so we usually request some “samples” for “research” too. I’m a sucker for the GFG’s quiche, a refill on coffee and a sweet treat to take home and savor later (usually a homemade pop tart).

As someone who has had many a flop with gluten-free baking, I really applaud owner Jeanette Harris. She’s able to offer a wide array of comfort foods, familiar pastries and healthy dishes. I also have to hand it to Jeanette for the community and the business she has created. She has really paved the way for gluten-free offerings while still using real ingredients and not just leaning on cup-for-cup substitutions or weird binders, which can be just as difficult for eaters to digest.

Most surprising/adventurous use of grains or unique grains? For example, who has a great teff salad on their menu?

Both in the book and in real life, I’m very transparent about the fact that I am indeed a gluten eater and a gluten lover, so why did I create a gluten-free cookbook? My goal with the book is to create a more inclusive table, where every eater gets to partake and enjoy a meal together with “enjoy” being the key word. While creating the cookbook, believe me, I was on the lookout for inspiring gluten-free dishes. I didn’t see much, but I did see dishes that easily could have been made healthier and more inclusive by a simple grain swap.

However, since I can and do eat gluten, there are quite a few recipes inspired by some of my favorite menu options in the Pittsburgh restaurant scene, but I’ve made them accessible for gluten-free eaters (a pickle-brined “fried” chicken inspired by Burghers, a slow-cooker pork entree inspired by Noodlehead, a cheddar jalapeno waffle inspired by Meat & Potatoes, a grain bowl inspired by Kaibur, which is actually gluten-free in its original option). Think of me as your gluten translator who won’t bullshit you and wants to go halfsies on brunch.

Julep is featured prominently on your website; she has her own hashtag and social media accounts. Where do you shop for Julep’s treats? Where is Julep’s favorite place to go on an adventure?

I can’t help it. She’s just so cute! Since Julep is a very spoiled only child, I make most of her treats and all of her food myself. Strip District Meats is a must for sourcing some more obscure cuts of meat to round out her diet. While we’re in the Strip, we also like to walk to Pennsylvania Libations, where our close friend and spirits maven, Dana Dolney, serves us the latest whiskey samples. She always has some treats for Julep, too. When it comes to adventuring, one of our favorite walks, unless it’s super windy, is across the 31st Street Bridge. We jokingly refer to Washington’s Landing as Julep’s Island, but, really, she does think it’s her private park. It offers some of the most amazing views of the city, and it’s usually so quiet. It’s also one of my favorite picnic spots.

P.S: Julep makes a few key cameos in the cookbook, too! I couldn’t leave out my No. 1 kitchen assistant.

As a stylist, I’m sure you are constantly shopping for vintage treasures to use in your home or for work. Where are some of your favorite places?

I’m a little tight-lipped about my vintage sources – a girl has to keep some secrets, and plus, I don’t want all my really serious vintage hunter friends to chastise me. I can, however, gush about the PGH Vintage Mixer. So much of my collection stems from regular vendors. The Ardent Forager & Friday Cheer Co have been especially good to me, and if I ever buy a house or a warehouse, I’m just planning to buy them out (or I’m dreaming about buying them out!).

When it comes to props, I’m constantly on the lookout for something special, whether it be well worn or brand-new. I love the shop Gather in Sewickley, especially because Denise Shirley, the owner, sources so many locally made wares. I also really value the ethics behind Ten Thousand Villages. I have a gorgeous stone platter from there. You can see it in this blog post, plus some more Julep cameos.

The book features a lot of vegan recipes. What’s your favorite place for vegan/vegetarian food in town?

When it comes to vegan food, I seek out restaurants, chefs, and recipes that let vegetables and natural ingredients shine rather than imitating meat dishes with fake, processed foods. I have a similar approach to gluten-free dishes. I’m not trying to imitate sourdough bread, but I’m using the grains as tools to be valued for their inherent characteristics. Whenever vegetarian or vegan friends come to Pittsburgh, I always recommend Apteka for that reason. They let the vegetables take center stage, and they also create an atmosphere I love. It’s a beautiful space.

Best farmers market in the city?

Admittedly, I have been a little spoiled because my boyfriend, Kyle, has worked as an organic farmer for several years – first at his own farm, Hazelwood Urban Farms, then at Kretschmann Family Organic Farm (the farm scenes in the book were shot at the latter), so local veggies just showed up on my table magically. That being said, Wise County Biscuits lured me to the Bloomfield Farmers Market regularly. As a Polish Hill resident, I love walking there on sunny weekends, petting all the dogs and securing my breakfast sandwich, which they also offer on a gluten-free biscuit to those in need.

Quelcy Kogel

Ultimate Pittsburgh date night itinerary?

My ultimate Pittsburgh date night itinerary is inspired by a very spontaneous summer evening last year, and it’s essentially the two of us pretending we’re in Italy. Let’s start late afternoon on one of those perfectly spring or end of summer Pittsburgh days, when it’s warm, sunny and breezy. My boyfriend Kyle and I will walk to Lawrenceville and sip some cortados on the sidewalk tables at Espresso A Mano or Caffe D’Amore, maybe with a little something sweet, people watch and hopefully meet a few dogs on their afternoon walks. We’ll probably brainstorm some stories for Kyle’s pet portrait business, Regal Collars.

From there, we’ll find a Scoobi station, and then spend the better part of the evening winding through parts of the city we might normally bypass. Ever since scooting around last summer, we’ve been mentally archiving vistas and backroads for this season. We’ll ride through Schenley Park, Oakland, cross the 16th Street Bridge and back, take a back way (i.e., the less steep way) into Troy Hill and snake back into the Strip District, where we’ll dine al fresco at DiAnoia’s. We’ll walk to Bar Marco for a cocktail outside, then take the Scoobis downtown for a nightcap of Millie’s ice cream in Market Square, where someone is hopefully playing some music.

Then we’ll scoob home, full and happy and dreaming of a day when Scoobi offers a sidecar, so Julep can join the perfect adventure!

P.S: I created this Peach Sorghum Salad with Crispy Prosciutto recipe after a night very much like this ultimate date night, inspired by a dish at DiAnoia’s.

Where do you shop locally for the gluten-free grains used in the recipes in the book?

In creating the book, I hit almost every grocery store in town at least once a day, and hands down, my favorite place to shop is the East End Food Co-op. The people there, both the employees and the customers, are just generally happier, and I love the community aspects of the co-op. They raise so much money for local charities and support so many local purveyors. Amazingly, there is so much variety within such a small space too, and you can’t beat the bulk bins. If you want to really build a gluten-free grains pantry, this is the place to start!

Favorite replacement flour?

Before writing the book, my go-to was brown rice flour. It’s versatile and creates a pretty light crumb, but through my recipe experimentations, I now see teff flour as an unsung hero. It’s very nutty and almost chocolaty. You might be familiar with teff flour if you’ve eaten the Ethiopian flatbread injera. Most gluten-free flours are best used in conjunction with other flours or starches, but I lean on teff as a backbone. For an intro, you can try these Whole Grain Teff Blondies from my blog, and then dive into the desserts section of the cookbook.

What advice do you have for folks looking to introduce more gluten-free grains into their diet? Ease into it? Substitute things? Rip off the Band-Aid and go all in?

The book includes a guide to building a gluten-free pantry and offers a few approaches, so pick up a copy. [insert wink emoji here]

What Pittsburgh Instagram accounts do you follow?

I could go on forever and am obviously missing so many, but here are some that come to mind:

Noah Purdy // @njpurdy

My friend and the photographer for the cookbook. I am forever grateful he agreed to this crazy endeavor with me.

Madeline Quigley // @burghgal

Madeline is always eating what I want to be eating. She’s hilarious, and she makes a cameo in the cookbook, too.

Good Food Pittsburgh // @goodfoodpgh

Tom O’Connor // @tom.oconnor

Another great Pittsburgh photographer and friend.

Erin Ashley Kelly // @erinashkelly

I finally had the chance to meet and collaborate with Erin in real life, and she is so positive, supportive and talented.

Peachie Wimbush-Polk //@ogjuspeachie

You might know her as Wiz Khalifa’s mom, but I assure you, she is so much more! Her Instagram is a great place to turn when you need to pick yourself up. As part of my newer role as a creative director for One Idea Press, I’m working with Peachie on a really special project, so stay tuned!

The Wild Rose Collective  // @thewildroseco

I’d be really honored if everyone followed my newest endeavor. It’s a labor of love with my best friend and business partner, Lindsey Smith. We’re celebrating feminists past to encourage womxn of today, and we have so many workshops and events in store for Pittsburgh.

 

Who should we interview next? Let us know what Pittsburghers you would like to see in our next Q&A post. Drop us a line – [email protected] or send a tweet to @VeryLocalPGH

Stephanie has been organizing events since 1998, starting with a series of motorcycle rides through the Arizona desert to support her father’s business. She’s probably crossed your name off a presale ticket list or served you a beer somewhere around town. An undergrad degree in poetry means she has lots of unpractical knowledge about iambic pentameter, while a brief stint as a copy editor for Alternative Press taught her that twenty one pilots is stylized in all lowercase letters. Wanna throw a party in a vacant parking lot? She’s interested. At the onset of COVID-19, Stephanie took on the role...

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