Today’s Local to Know is Liz Fetchin. Liz typically works behind the scenes, helping awesome folks share their work with the media — she’s even sent a few other Locals to Know our way! This time, she’s stepping out from behind the curtain to reveal how she works around her family’s food allergies without compromising on deliciousness. Liz has a new cookbook out focused on allergen-free Thanksgiving dishes. Take it away, Liz!
Tell our readers more about who you are and what you do!
Hey yinz, I’m Liz, and my most important current role is mom to my amazing 8-year-old. Putting family first informs all of the decisions I make about how I run my two businesses: Octofree, a food blog that I started during the pandemic for people with food allergies, intolerances and other dietary restrictions, and Elm Ink, a media relations consulting business that supports Pittsburgh nonprofits and small businesses.
Wax poetic for a second and tell us: what brings you most alive about this city?
The way people are so willing to collaborate, inspire one another and lift each other up, and how if you talk to someone long enough, you’ll figure out that you were both at Tequila Willie’s at the same time in the early 2000s. It’s a genuine, down to earth city, and any time I have the chance to get out and meet new people arahnd tahn, I’m better for it.
What’s your favorite Pittsburgh memory?
Taking my son on the Incline for the first time and watching his eyes light up at the views of the city from the Mt. Washington overlooks.
If you could eat only one meal from a local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The wood-fired gluten-free pizza from Mercurio’s, always add prosciutto.
Outside of the obvious stop above, share your other top three destinations for where you’d go on your perfect Pittsburgh day.
This one depends on the time of year. Since it’s fall, I’d start out with my husband and son at Soergel’s Orchards’ Fall Festival, making sure to visit their Naturally Soergel’s allergen-free market to stock up on snacks, then head to the Carnegie Museum to see the International, and finish out the day on a date with my husband at @bridgesandbourbonpgh downtown.
What’s your favorite local social media account (Instagram, Twitter, TikTok or etc.) to follow and why?
Such a tough one! I think it’s a tie between @stone.and.sparrow, a small-batch ceramics studio in Wilkinsburg that posts the most mesmerizing videos of owner Kate’s artistic process, and @the_curious_fawn, run by my friend Natalie, who forages natural materials in local forests and uses them to hand-dye the most gorgeous fabrics and ribbons. I also adore @victoriabradleystudio’s fine art nudes on antique canvases. Ooh, and @daniellebernarddesign’s handmade leather handbags. There are so many incredible ones, it’s impossible to narrow down to just one (please don’t make me!).
If you could give any one piece of advice to locals, what would it be?
Support local food makers, growers, markets, distilleries, brewers and restaurateurs whenever you can. There’s such a bounty of deliciousness and inspiration in this city.
How does Pittsburgh help you do what you do/influence your work?
The beauty of the changing seasons influences the cooking I do for Octofree, and also, I’ve found the Pittsburgh blogging community to be incredibly welcoming. When I started Octofree in early 2021, I hadn’t been on social media at all in about five years. The people I’ve met through @thebeautyboost_pgh, @theloveliestco, @tablemagazine, the Women’s Press Club of Western PA, etc. have taken me in and championed me, and that camaraderie is so inspiring and energizing.
What’s an unpopular opinion you have about the city?
Crossing a bridge is no big dill.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
I’m so excited to be debuting my first ever e-cookbook, An Octofree Thanksgiving, on Nov. 1! It’s the culmination of 15+ years of perfecting recipes for a completely allergen-free Thanksgiving feast for my family, and includes all of the classics, from roast turkey and gravy to pumpkin pie, plus time-savers such as a full shopping list, a timeline and tips. Every recipe I publish is free of the top 8 most common food allergens: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish shellfish, soy and wheat.
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