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Moveable Feasts

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Aaron Austin and Lauren Urbschat are part of an underground culinary movement in Pittsburgh.

By day, Urbschat is the marketing director at Dance Alloy Theater. By night, she and Austin, her partner, pirouette around their tiny, dishwasherless kitchen in Bloomfield, known as The Nitty Gritty Test Kitchen (www.yinzhungry.blogspot.com and www.myspace.com/Sunday_night_suppers). You might know them from their Sunday Night Suppers at Brillobox. If you don't, they may be coming to a venue near you.

Nitty Gritty is one of the city's several nomadic food ventures, composed largely of twentysomethings who are reinventing the traditional approach to food sales. These guerilla gourmets travel to craft markets, art galleries and music venues where they set up tables, plug in Crock Pots and open up shop. They'll pick up catering jobs along the way. There are no awnings to hang or storefront rents to meet -- only menus and Web sites. The advertising budgets, save for a few bucks for business cards, are virtually nil; word-of-mouth and blogs serve their promotional needs.

And if you're hankering for something they don't make, just ask: They'll likely know where to find it. "Off the top of my head, I could tell you where to go for vegan cupcakes, homemade yogurt, kimchi and great beer. It's kind of an underground market place," says Urbschat. A friend of hers, Deanna Hitchcock, recently started up her own Web-based vegan bakery, My Goodies Bakery (www.mygoodiesbakery.com).

Last month, vegan baker Loren Sloan of Whipped Bakery
(www.myspace.com/whippedbakery) sat behind a long fold-out table lined with $2 cupcakes at the I Made It! roving craft market, in Braddock. With the help of friends and her fiancé, the 27-year-old supervising editor for a Pittsburgh-based service company bakes her sought-after Punk'in Pie and Cups O' Whiskey cupcakes in her wee kitchen in Stanton Heights. She has no plans to open a restaurant, but beginning this Saturday, her baked goods will be sold at Perk Coffee Gallery, in the West End.

"I think that there is a growing movement in that our generation is more willing to experiment with alternative ways to realize their dreams," explains Sloan.

She adds, "Not having a shop gives me the freedom to test the waters without having to do something drastic. I can jump into the baking world without having to quit my comfy day job. It's like having your cupcake and eating it too."

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