Collier’s Weekly: Our Picks for the Best Food and Ride Pairings at Kennywood’s Bites and Pints

You’re not here just to nibble; you’re here to ride your favorites. Pair your favorite rides with some delectable food.
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For several weekends each summer, Kennywood becomes the site of the city’s coolest tasting menu.

The annual Bites and Pints weekends, this year on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in June and July, feature nine internationally inspired food stations. Many offer heartier tastes than the word “bites” implies; with some strategic use of the available “bite cards,” you can easily turn these samples into more than one full meal.

Kennywood invited me to preview the offerings, which remain hearty and tasty. (I’ll note that I had a gluten-sensitive friend with me, who had a rough time finding appropriate options; if you have any food allergies or sensitivities, best to preview the menu and plan ahead.)

My interest goes beyond merely devouring a globetrotter’s array of snacks by the lagoon, however; I’m here for pairings. Not drink pairings; those are taken care of, as each station features different beer, wine and light cocktails. No, I’m interested in ride pairings; which signature Kennywood experiences go best with the various offerings?

Here are my picks for the five rides that match perfectly with my favorite eats at this year’s Bites and Pints.

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Irish Bangers & Mash and the Old Mill
I was pleased to find that the food of my ancestors is now a part of Bites and Pints, as the debuting Ireland station features such Emerald-Isle favorites as corned beef sliders, beef stew and Guinness. I opted for the bangers and mash and, as I am bound by birthright to do, immediately requested a Guinness, sipping its pitch-black flavor before letting out a satisfied “ahh.” While many think of Ireland as nothing but rainbows and blue skies, it’s a decidedly sleepy, overcast country; there are plenty of low light and long nights, as reflected by such heavy fare and bitter beer. Lean into the melancholy and pair your stout with a ride on the Old Mill. (Yes, the Mill is western-themed, which is a bit of a disconnect, but Irish folks generally love American country music, so it all works.)

Japanese Yellow Fin Tuna Tataki & the Racer
I was pleased to find a few lighter selections among this year’s options; while I’m always going to opt for the largest, heaviest choices, I understand that … well, not everyone out there is as comfortable with an overloaded stomach as I am. The tataki, with some very good pieces of tuna under a tasty sake cream, will make you feel light and energetic; use that verve to beat the other car on the Racer. Can you actually affect the outcome? Yes: With sheer will.

Polish Pierogies & the Steel Curtain
Fun fact: If you eat a pierogi in line for the Steel Curtain at Kennywood and then immediately sing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” you instantly become King of Pittsburgh. It’s a rule. Look it up.

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Italian Porchetta Sandwich & Noah’s Ark
What I said above about lighter bites? This isn’t one of them. Because the Kennywood team wants you to fill up for your bite-card purchase, there’s always one or two full sandwiches hidden among the offerings; head to Italy and order the delectable porchetta sandwich, a flavorful combination of pork belly, provolone, and a caper aioli on ciabatta. You’ll need to walk this one off, so head to Noah’s Ark and let the shaky floors help you digest.

Brazilian Picanha Steak & Journey With Thomas
I know many adults don’t bother with a trip to Thomas Town and a ride on the train that ambles along behind the smiling, blue locomotive. But the Journey With Thomas attraction is nothing if not peaceful; it’s a pleasant, winding journey through a beautiful part of the park, overlooking the river below. This is where you need to sit and reflect on the picanha steak, the single best item I’ve had at any Bites and Pints celebrations. The flavor on the dish, from the new Brazilian station, is so memorable — particularly thanks to the sun-dried tomato chimichurri — that you’ll need a few minutes just to reflect on how delicious it was. Climb aboard. Go for a pleasant ride and think about what to get for dessert. (Perhaps the loukoumades from Greece?)

Categories: Collier’s Weekly