Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Bridges & Bourbon

This past weekend, we found ourselves walking to dinner at one restaurant but getting side-tracked by another and never making it to the original destination. The place that side-tracked us: Bridges & Bourbon, which opened last month in the space that was formerly Seviche. We went in with the intention of just having a cocktail, just to check out the place, just one cocktail. But then SP's glucose monitor beeped that he was going low, so we decided we should have a snack. That turned into a couple snacks, and well why not just eat enough to be dinner and have another cocktail?
It's a bar but not really a bar, not the kind of bar with $1 Miller Lite specials (Do people still drink that? I don't even know.) nor does it served $3 margarita or long island iced tea specials. I've seen Bridges & Bourbon described as modern cocktails, elevated cocktails, high-end cocktails, craft cocktails. I'm going to with real fancy cocktails. I'm not mocking, I'm being serious. Just look at their Instagram feed. Special glassware (though sadly, the glass bird shaped glasses have mostly broken, our server told us). Intriguing garnishes: flower petals, smoking wood chips, sprigs of baby's breath, mini clothespins. Ingredients I had to look up on my phone. Even an old-fashioned is not just any old-fashioned.
D'Angelo's Concerto (bourbon, brown sugar syrup, lemon, basil, Bridges & Bourbon Black Walnut Bitters). See? Elevated, modern, high-end, and delicious. Maybe my favorite of the four cocktails we tried.
Bloom (strawberry, rose de combier, lychee, vodka, sparkling wine). Look at the beautiful presentation. This was yummy but a bit too floral for my liking. That's not to say it's too floral. My personal threshold for floral flavors in my mouth is pretty low. We both liked the flavor of Bloom. Also, so pretty. And refreshing & summery.
Nimbus (sochu, kefir, mandarin, verjus blanc, lime, grapefruit, Pittsburgh Honey). So here's where we had a huge brain fart. Maybe it was the heat & humidity - we'd wandered around Picklesburgh before seeing Rock of Ages and then walked several blocks to Bridges & Bourbon and it was a pretty darn hot & humid day and we were feeling it. I was like, oh, sochu, or do they mean shuchu? Shochu? Sochu? Which is it? Is that what I drank in Japan that was so good and went down way too easy? Kefir? Hmm, like lime, right? But wait, it says lime, so are there 2 kinds of lime? Lots of citrus, yum.

Nope. We both know this and neither of us managed to remember, not even after the above discussion, that kefir is a fermented milk drink similar to a thin yogurt. If we had, we wouldn't have ordered this because I don't like yogurt drinks. And later on when we remembered, we felt really, really stupid.

Also, it's kaffir lime.

So Nimbus was just OK but it sure is pretty to look at and it's got that super cute, tiny clothespin. It became tastier as the frozen orange blob melted into the milky part, flavoring it more.
Seger (Quantum Cucumber Gin, gewürztraminer, lemon, hibiscus, cardamom, ginger). Normally I do not like gin. but this drink was really good. My second favorite, SP's favorite. Most of the ingredients were served as ice cubes floating in the gin/wine (after you poured it on top the cubes). This means the flavor profile of the drink changed as you let it sit over time and the cubes slowly melted. Patience is a virtue with this one - I loved taking sips over time as first the cardamon and ginger cubes melted, then the cucumber, and finally just the purple hibiscus cube was left.
There's a small menu of "bar food." With Chef David Racicot (Lautrec, Notion, Täkō, Poulet Bleu) you know you're not getting bar food like fried cheese or Buffalo wings or jalapeno poppers. He offers elevated, modern, high-end bar fare with Snacks, Tapas, and Desserts. Real fancy bar food to go with the real fancy drinks. 
Shrimp Tempura (yuzu koshu mayo). Oh my gosh so good. So good we ordered another one. When I saw the shrimp sticks I figured he had pureed the shrimp and then breaded and fried them. Nope. It's shrimp.
Grilled Cheese (impossibly thin, gruyère & nutmeg). I had been thinking impossibly thin like maybe that super thin Pepperidge Farm bread but no, that's too pedestrian. Super thin as in 2 super thin crepes (?) or dosa (?) with cheese and nutmeg and oh my gosh so good. Crunchy. Like eating chips but so much better than chips. We ordered a second.
Monterey Bay Squid (imitating risotto, chicken bouillon, instant noodle seasoning). The squid was cut? pressed? riced? chopped? grated? into risotto. It was different. Tasted like squid, but a different texture, and wow was that chicken bouillon good.
Heirloom Tomatoes (super sweet currant tomatoes, frozen olive oil, parmesan & basil "raviolo").
These "raviolo" were so good. Tasted like parmesan and basil and pasta, but the texture was like a fresh mozzarella ball.
Lots of teeny, weeny tomatoes with basil and parmesan and frozen olive oil and a gel like substance and I was almost done with drink #2 here so all I really remember is allowing SP to think he got his equal share of "raviolo" (he didn't; I ate more than my fair share) but then again, I let him eat more of the tomatoes.
Did we need dessert? Probably not but we ordered it anyway. Frozen Yogurt (blueberries, hazelnut jam, exotic spices).
I liked cracking my spoon atop the frozen yogurt and watching it shatter. It was good. I enjoyed this frozen yogurt that was way better than regular frozen yogurt, a better texture, more fun to eat. The blueberries & jam under the frozen yogurt were tasty, too.
Our bill arrived in this box. Like opening a present. A present of how much you owe! I'm sure there are going to be Pittsburghers who complain and dislike this place because of the price and/or because there's not enough food on a plate to feed an entire football team. Our cocktails ranged from $10 to $14. Some on the menu are $16-$18. Our food ranged from $7 to $15. Add it all up and we spent a lot.

If it's not your cup of tea because of the cost or food portions, that's fine. Not everyone has the same tastes, not everyone is financially able or desires to pay that much for a cocktail or smaller quantities of food.

Bridges & Bourbon is more like an "experience" - it's not going out for a beer & sandwich with a pound of fries on the side. Did we appreciate the "different" ingredients and extra touches to our cocktails? Yes. That's the fun of it - trying different ingredients & the creative presentation. Did we like our real fancy cocktails? Yes. Did we enjoy the food "interpretations?" Big yes. Have we dined at other Chef Racicot places and enjoyed our meals? Yes. How was service? Our server was terrific. She was happy to answer our questions (like we wanted to know which cocktails were which based on the Instagram photos we'd seen!). Our food was nicely paced. I noticed in particular that both shrimp tempura arrived piping hot & crisp, as if they'd just been plucked from the fryer, not lukewarm & limp as if they'd been hanging out under a warming lamp.

The walls are a dark blue but the floors, tables, and chairs are light colors and the front windows let in a lot of natural light. The flatware is gold colored, which is different and feels a bit more luxurious. In spite of all the "real fancy," the staff are incredibly welcoming and down-to-earth. It doesn't feel like you have to be on your best formal behavior. It was relaxing. Nearly everyone was being a tad nosy, craning necks and gawking as drinks and dishes went past, looking at what everyone else ordered and wondering what it was. It's that kind of place. Also, it's really nice to be able to sit at a table and just have a drink and not feel as if you need to order food to justify being at a table. Or just order one snack with your drink and it's OK.

I noticed on our bill a carbon credit of 25 cents/person. I read that the restaurant is focusing on sustainability. Bridges & Bourbon has a Platinum designation from the Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant program and partnered with ZeroFoodprint to battle climate change. The 25 cents/person charge is used to offset their carbon footprint. I'm not sure how they measure it, but apparently they run on 98 percent renewable energy. Also, they use locally sourced products when possible and have extensive recycling and food waste composting programs.

We very much enjoyed Bridges & Bourbon. We'll be back.

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