Friday, February 20, 2015

A Taste of Braddock's Brasserie

Recently, we were fortunate enough to be invited to sample several dishes at Braddock's Pittsburgh Brasserie. When we first dined at Braddock's last November, we both really enjoyed our meals, so we were excited for this tasting. We bundled up on a frigid winter evening and headed into the city. Once we arrived, we warmed up with cocktails: Hot Buttered Rum for SP and a Braddock's Smash for me. Soon enough the food started to arrive.
Shrimp & Grits. Last time we were at Braddock's, we had this and thought it was phenomenal. This time, it was again phenomenal - this is one of my favorite dishes in Pittsburgh. Chef Jason told us that he orders his grits from a company in Mississippi and just a few days after ordering, freshly ground, authentic southern grits arrive in Pittsburgh. I've always noticed a slight difference between grits we've enjoyed during our travels in the south and grits we've tried in other parts of the country. The source (and freshness) really does make a difference - these grits are so delicious.

Official description: Bacon Wrapped Shrimp with Cheddar Grits and Allegheny BBQ. The side salad served alongside this was Arugula Salad with roasted pear, pepitas, bacon lardon, sweet onions, mignonette vinaigrette. It was an excellent salad, but when there's bacon wrapped shrimp and cheesy grits in front of me, the salad, no matter how delicious, is an after-thought!
Next up was Double Dipped Chicken Livers with bacon lardon, grilled onion, honey sriracha BBQ. I had never before tried chicken livers. They were good, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, but for me, eating just one of the two pieces was enough, plus the sriracha made it a little spicy for me, the spice wimp. SP loved this dish. He finished mine and scooped up all the sauce.
On the left, Confit Rabbit Pappardelle roasted beets, grilled yams, spinach, oyster mushrooms, reggiano cheese, rabbit glace and on the right Butternut Squash Risotto with crispy Brussels sprouts and parmesan snow. Pasta and risotto - two of my favorite things. I started with the risotto, mostly just because I wasn't quite ready to tackle the pappardelle because I always make a mess when I eat this kind of shape pasta (you do not want to see me eating spaghetti or angel hair). The risotto was so good. Creamy arborio. Salty parmesan. Crisped Brussels. I couldn't stop eating it. I always marvel at how restaurants get such lovely, crispy yet still so flavorful and not burnt/black Brussels sprouts - we're still working on getting it just right at home. I was getting full when I finished the risotto and turned to the rabbit pappardelle.

I liked the rabbit pappardelle. This was the best dish of the night, according to SP. There was a very nice, for me, ratio of pasta, shredded rabbit, and veggie bits. SP loves rabbit and has eaten it frequently when we dine out. I had not before tried rabbit. It is, to me, an OK meat. I'm not really sure how to describe it because it was shredded so it's not like I had a huge hunk in my mouth. It is a mild flavor, it's not gamey to me, but neither does it taste like chicken to me (which is what many people think). It was very tender and moist, shredding easily. I couldn't eat all of it but SP happily finished it for me.
On the left is Bourbon Candied Pork Chop with sweet red onion & bacon confit sitting atop cheddar grits and with asparagus. On the right is Whiskey Short Rib Goulash - borscht short ribs, butter dumpling with seasonal vegetables (carrot). Chef Jason told us the dumpling is a German dumpling with equal parts butter and flour. The key to the dumpling is to freeze the dough before cooking the dumpling.

The pork was SP's second favorite dish of the night. The grits were again amazing. The pork slices were so moist and flavorful with sauce and bacon and onion flavor on top. Much as I love good pork, I love well prepared short rib even more, especially since we do not make short rib at home. This meat was so moist, so easy to pull apart, just so darn delicious. The dumpling was really good, too, especially if you remember to eat a bite of it with a bite of the short rib, but I got into a laser like focus zone on that short rib and ignored everything else until it was gone.
We finished with Flourless Chocolate Cake with salted caramel ganache, blackberry compote, pistachio crunch, and candied bacon. Of course I love candied bacon (how shocking). This was delicious, chocolaty but not too rich , and I liked the blackberry flavor with the chocolate and caramel. Much as I enjoyed the entire dessert, I could have happily eaten just 3-4 pieces of the candied bacon for dessert.

I'm not sure why it took us so long to try Braddock's for the first time. The cocktails we've tried have been terrific, the food delicious, and service excellent, definitely some of the best service we've experienced.

Many thanks to Braddock's and Kristen for inviting us. It was great to meet Chef Jason. He spent some time cooking in New Orleans and he was happy to talk about that as well as what ingredients are in his dishes and how he sources his meats and other ingredients. We find that very interesting since we try (but don't always succeed) at eating local, sustainable, organic, whatever you want to call it, to us it's just our personal food evolution and trying to be a bit more aware with our food choices.

If you haven't yet tried Braddock's, you should. It's definitely in the top of our favorite Pittsburgh places.

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