The First Rule of Food Fight Club

… is no short cuts. Bar Marco’s No Menu Mondays has become a battle ground for chefs who love to experiment, laugh and challenge one another.

Bar Marco cocktail photo by John Altdorfer. No Menu Monday photos by Bar Marco.


Have you heard about Pittsburgh’s hottest new sport? Players don’t wear helmets, the game lasts about six hours and the fierce competition kicks off in the Strip District instead of a stadium on the North Shore.

Give up?

It’s Bar Marco’s notorious No Menu Monday! Never been? Get a Sharpie and write NOM NOM NOM over all the Mondays on your calendar right now. Your Mondays will never be the same. It’s better than “Iron Chef.” It’s Pittsburgh’s Fight Club. A Food Fight Club.

What’s it all about? It’s simple. Bar Marco opens up its kitchen to a visiting chef who can do whatever the heck he or she wants. People come to eat, sip on signature cocktails and be merry. It’s awesome.

And all in good fun, right? Until we started keeping score.

The competition began when my friend and colleague Hal B. Klein set the record helming No Menu Monday this past winter. He held the top spot for a while — until I teamed up with Kate Stoltzfus, and our Highland Park Food Co-op killed it in April.

Last Monday, we rolled up our sleeves, tied our aprons, put on our clogs and set out to break our own record. And we damn near tied our score.

On Twitter, Klein (aka @ThisMansKitchen) threw down the gauntlet.

What are you planning, Mr. Klein?

It is on. Challengers, line up.

Seriously though, I cannot say enough about the amazing No Menu Monday. Bar Marco has transformed the ickiest, grumpiest day of the week into a day where chefs — both professional and recreational — take to the kitchen to play.

Chefs test out new recipes, throw ideas off of one another, raise awareness for a cause or just have fun. Diners are in on it, too. They know that if they go to Bar Marco on a Monday, it’s going to be a unique ride.


This past Monday, we did it again — this time raising funds for Haitian Families First. Haitian Families First is a nonprofit founded by sisters (and Pittsburgh Magazine's 2011 Pittsburghers of the Year) Jamie and Ali McMutrie. Jamie and Ali moved to Port-au-Prince in 2002 and 2006, respectively, not long after graduating from high school. In Haiti, they saw the devastating effects of poverty on families, many of whom are forced to give up children because they’re not able to provide for their basic needs.

The organization nurtures and empowers families in despair through emotional, social and financial support, ensuring children remain with their biological relatives.

HFF approached co-op co-member Amanda Gillespie, whose husband’s family hails from Haiti, and me, and asked if we’d cook for No Menu Monday. We were honored.

Last Monday, we served some Haitian food. There was chicken in Creole sauce and vegetable “marinad” — a delicious fritter made with sweet potatoes. Both dishes were accompanied by a side of kick-ass rice and beans, as well as the famous Haitian pikliz, a hot relish made with cabbages, carrots and habaneros.

I’m happy to share the recipe for the vegetable “marinad,” rice and beans and pikliz!

Enjoy this introduction to Kwizin Kreyol!



  Vegetable “Marinad”


  • 2 c flour (all-purpose gluten-free blend works well, too)
  • 2 c water
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 minced scallions
  • ½ habanero chili seeded
  • 1 sweet potato mashed
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oil for deep-frying


1. Whisk flour and water to form batter.
2. Mince garlic, scallion, chili, mash the sweet potato and add to batter with salt and pepper.
3. Let rest at room temp for at least 20 minutes.
4. Mix in baking soda.
5. Form into patties (pancake-like) or balls.
6. Deep fry until brown (it will puff up slightly).
7. Drain on paper towels.

Serve with Brazen Kitchen’s Bayou Marinara dipping sauce.


  Rice and Beans


  • 6 c cooked rice
  • 1 ½ cup pinto or kidney beans
  • 5 c vegetable broth
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 hot habanero peppers, minced
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 small green pepper, chopped
  • 3 T butter, olive oil or Earth Balance soy-free


1. Sauté garlic, green onions, habaneros and green peppers in olive oil until tender.
2. Add the beans, broth and water.
3. Cook until done.
4. Season with salt.
5. Serve with rice.




  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 1 large carrot
  • ½ green pepper
  • 2 scotch bonnet or habanero peppers
  • 2 key lime or lime juice
  • ½ vegetable bouillon (I like this organic brand)
  • ½ t salt
  • Vinegar to wet


1. Shred all ingredients. Mix well.
2. Refrigerate overnight, at minimum.


Categories: Brazen Kitchen