Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lady Martha Might Be My New Best Friend

Last night I had the privilege of attending an event for local food bloggers, sponsored by Pittsburgh Restaurant Week (@PghRestaurantWk). Honestly, I didn't consider myself to be a "food blogger" until AJF4 (of everybody loves you...) convinced me otherwise (well, that and my recent reflections on the increased amount of restaurant recommendation inquiries from friends). Apparently I have a voice, and people are listening. Hmpf! Imagine that!

Braddock's American Brasserie was the setting; and with local food bloggers and the lovely folks from Table Magazine as the cast of characters, I knew that the plot would be quite interesting and fun. Actually, it's a good thing it was interesting and fun because I missed the season opener of White Collar.

Three tables of food bloggers attended; and at my table sat a lively group: Brian, the mastermind behind Pittsburgh Restaurant Week and "TasteBud B" from The Pittsburgh TasteBuds;  Ashley (and her "Husband") from A Dash of Spectacular; Lou from Pittsburgh Happy Hour; and Alissa (and her brother, Adam) from PASA.

Braddock's is exactly what I look for in a hotel bar. It's stylish, it has a wonderfully designed and implemented menu, and it complements the hotel itself (in this case, it's the Renaissance). With wood, leather, and neutral textures, Braddock's maintains a rich ambiance without feeling too masculine. Perhaps its the large windows opening into the vintage, chic Renaissance lobby... or perhaps its the versatile seating arrangements which allow both locals and tourists to enjoy a pre-show libation, an intimate meal, or a candid social gathering comfortably.

Lady Martha posing the evening's prix fixe menu
Braddock's has an extensive drink menu, particularly with many whiskey options. I would have gone dahn this route, if it hadn't been a night of first impressions; however, whiskey tends to be my truth serum (or veritaserum if you speak Harry Potter), and The Steel Trap didn't need to be overly forthcoming. As you may know, I am a true "when in Rome" apostle; so instead of whiskey, I chose the "House Specialty" called Lady Martha ($10, Tito's, green grapes, fresh sours, bitters, and soda). Needless to say, I could have had [many] more than one. Thus, Lady Martha might be my new best friend. 

Small Plate trio
Pittsburgh's own Chef Brian Volmrich (@BraddocksRenPgh) served each guest a complimentary trio of items to warm up our taste buds. Starting at the top of the picture and going clockwise, we were served: Grilled Strip District Kielbasa with sauerkraut and slim grilled toast; a lobster claw with gnocchi, mushrooms, and artichokes in a parmesan cream sauce; and a Braised Short Rib Pierogie in a bourbon sauce (both the Kielbasa and Pierogie are found on the Small Plates section of the menu for $10 and $9 respectively). Each item was delicious in its own right. The Kielbasa was full-flavored, with a hint of grilled flavor; the lobster was a bit rich for me, but the gnocchi went surprisingly well the other ingredients; and this was the second time that I've had the Pierogie, which melted in my mouth again as expected. 

complimentary carbs
The warm bread itself was unremarkable; but hand-stamped wrapping added a clever touch to the presentation.
First Course
Again, since I am a "when in Rome" apostle, I opted for Braddock's Pittsburgh Restaurant Week prix fixe menu ($25). First came a Warm Goat Cheese Tart with Grilled Vegetables & Balsamic Reduction that was a light and savory segue into the Second Course. 
Second Course
Please take note of the knife on the right. It was smooth, cold, and had some weight, which was an ideal contrast to the tenderness of my Grilled Petite Filet (a nice pink medium with a hint of grilled flavor) over Whipped Potatoes (small, but appropriate portion), Buttered Asparagus (large, juicy, and slightly crisp) & Herb Demi-Glace.

Third Course (PRW=Pittsburgh Restaurant Week)
This New York Colossal Cheesecake with Fresh Raspberries earned rave reviews from my table. Unfortunately, I do not favor cheesecake; and the waitress kindly obliged my quirk with a trade...

My Third Course
...Vanilla & Peppermint Creme Brulee ($7), which was a blend of highly desirable flavors. In other words, this was dessert perfection. When combined with a pot of hot tea, I was pleasantly relaxed during the last leg of this interesting and fun evening.

 Braddock's American Brasserie on Urbanspoon

3.5 stars (3.5/4)

Note: On a previous trip to Braddock's, JTP and I shared the Charcuterie Plate ($14 or $25), which featured "Daily Selections of Cured Meats and Pates Served with Pickled Vegetables, Whole Grain Mustard & Baguette." It was fantastic.