Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 7 Tastiest Bites of the 2015 Best Restaurants Party

From an ancient pasta to a deconstructed dessert, this year's event offered an array of enticing choices.




PHOTOS BY LEAH LIZARONDO
 

If you love food, restaurants and fun and never have been to a Pittsburgh Magazine Best Restaurants Party, check out what you have been missing here and here. Now, put a tickler in your calendar to watch out for the announcement in 2016.

There were some marked absences in this year’s #BRPARTY, restaurants that shuttered their doors such as notion. But there were a lot of new participants as well, including Curtis Gamble’s Station, which will open in Bloomfield.

Seems like at this year’s event — held on Monday on two floors of Heinz Field —desserts were everywhere! Sweets are the way to everyone’s hearts, after all. My only wish? More restaurants that take more inventive approaches to what’s in season — less meat, folks. Nature is offering us a bounty (and where we are, we only have a few months where we can enjoy so much local goodness), so let’s make the most of it!

Here are some of my favorite plates at this year’s Best Restaurants Party, which year after year proves to be the foodie event that cannot be missed.

 

Best of the Best:

Stagioni

Testaroli with grilled asparagus, charred scallions, pistachio, garden herbs and goat cheese

Yesterday, my pasta IQ went up 20 points. At the Stagioni table, I saw a mound of crepe-like pancakes, with a texture that is a little bit reminiscent of Ethiopian injera. It was testaroli, an ancient pasta made from an egg-free dough — just flour and water — and cooked like a crepe. Cut up, to me, it almost resembles tripe. It traditionally is served with pesto, but Stagioni made a version perfect for spring (basil is not quite lush yet, locally).

I always can depend on Executive Chef/Co-owner Stephen Felder to serve something new — “new” not in any gratuitous sense but in such an understated way that in the end you just shake your head at how something so simple could be so pleasurable.

Case in point is this recipe for charred green chickpeas I featured a few weeks ago — it was inspired by what he served at another food event last year. After one bite, I was wondering, “Where have you been all my life?”

This testaroli dish is no less so. I loved this dish — an ancient tradition new to most everyone at the event. What a lovely bite.

 

Most Beautiful Thing to Eat:


 

Vivo

Hempseed brittle

What happens when you crystallize rays of beautiful sunshine? Vivo’s Hempseed Brittle. The mound of golden hempseed brittle on Vivo’s table was a like a plate of glowing treasure. Flecked with toasted hempseeds, the golden brittle almost was too beautiful to eat. Almost.

 

Best Pickle:


 

Mezzo at Sienna Mercato

Eggplant conserva with whipped ricotta

Raise your hands if you are trying to find ways to use eggplant that is not breaded and fried! Yep.

This little hors d’oeuvres winner from Mezzo greeted me as I entered the second-floor atrium, and it was fantastic. A perfect crudité with pickled eggplant, with just the perfect hint of whipped ricotta to round out the tartness. I need to learn how to make this. Eggplant season is coming soon!


I also would like to mention Eighty Acres’ pickled blackberries, though! Who knew that pickled blackberries would be such great foils for savory dishes? Another revelation. I want to buy one of these bottles!

 

Best Drink:


 

Union Pig & Chicken

Cilantro-jalapeno lemonade

I was so full from making the rounds on the second level that I almost forgot there was a first level. So glad I made it because I would have missed this refreshing lemonade from Union Pig & Chicken.

We all love lemonade. This is lemonade for grow-ups. Not too sweet, a little herbal and ends with a nice hit of hot.

Summer drink staple. I sure am going to find out how to make it.

 

Best Desserts:

Did I mention that it was dessert land? There were so many great little bites of sweets, but three of them truly were outstanding!

Station

Popcorn panna cotta
The second reason why I was happy I was able to make my way down to the first level? The yet-to-open restaurant from Curtis Gamble was, er, Station-ed there. And he had the best panna cotta I have had in a very long time. First of all, the texture was perfection. Second, he flavored the base with soaked popcorn (which is much like the deliciousness that is left at the end of your cereal bowl but with popcorn). Then he topped that velvety goodness with some salted caramel and popcorn. Heaven. OMG.

 

Salt of the Earth

Almond financier, rhubarb purée, basil meringue and violet Chantilly

How beautiful is this bowl? And it tasted just as good as you imagine it would — the almond-flavored cake with balanced by a tangy rhubarb purée, the crunch of meringue and a touch of violet-scented Chantilly. For me, it was such a great representation of how Salt has evolved — thoughtful but not fussy with dishes that layer flavors and textures in a very accessible way.


Nine on Nine

Deconstructed key-lime pie

I love it when I see the word “deconstructed” on menus. It’s right up there with “rustic,” and I always joke that they are terms of last resort when you don’t want to be precious about something — like making the perfect brunoise cuts. While Nine on Nine’s dish made me smile, it made me smile even bigger after I took a bite. The macaroons, the berry purée, the key-lime cream, the candied peel — topped with a crumble, this dish proved that a whole is more than the sum of its parts. I went back more times than I would care to divulge.

Till next year! 

 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Brazen Kitchen:

Holy Shisito!

Holy Shisito!

Forget ‘Fruit Ninja.’ This is the new must-have killer app.
These Sweet Potato Quinoa Puffs Will Love You Back

These Sweet Potato Quinoa Puffs Will Love You Back

Feeling down? These powerful puffs, packed with antioxidants and complex carbohydrates, will turn your day around.
Pumpkin Caramel Pie

Pumpkin Caramel Pie

Become the hero of your Thanksgiving dinner with this heavenly no-bake dessert.
The Simple Gluten-Free Guide to Pittsburgh

The Simple Gluten-Free Guide to Pittsburgh

It's possible to find gluten-free foods locally that are worth devouring —regardless of whether you intend to cut out gluten completely.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Restaurant Review: Poulet Bleu

Restaurant Review: Poulet Bleu

Richard DeShantz steps it up with a move from Downtown to Lawrenceville and shows Pittsburgh how to make French dining fun.
Coming Clean: Why We Aren't a Green City ... Yet

Coming Clean: Why We Aren't a Green City ... Yet

Pittsburgh is no longer a smoky city, but that doesn’t mean it has cleaned up its act. Pittsburgh's air quality still ranks among the worst in the nation. What steps are being taken to reduce Pittsburgh's ongoing dependence on fossil fuels?
Ultimate Comfort Food: The Joy of Dumplings

Ultimate Comfort Food: The Joy of Dumplings

Why our dining critic thinks dumplings might be his ultimate comfort food.
Our Seven Favorite Dumplings in Pittsburgh

Our Seven Favorite Dumplings in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, of course, is best known for the pierogi. Our love of dumplings extends beyond that, however. These seven dumplings are our favorite restaurant versions of their various styles.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Mobile Service To Connect Hungry Pitt Students to Free Food

Mobile Service To Connect Hungry Pitt Students to Free Food

PittGrub app will send folks in need to events with leftovers.

Comments

You're Going to Be Upside Down a Lot on New Kennywood Coaster

You're Going to Be Upside Down a Lot on New Kennywood Coaster

Kennywood has revealed its replacement ride for “The Log Jammer” which will be located in a new portion of the park entitled “Steelers Country.”

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Pittsburgh to Host Nation’s First Black Beer Festival

Pittsburgh to Host Nation’s First Black Beer Festival

Day Bracey and Ed Bailey of Drinking Partners Podcast and Mike Potter of Black Brew Culture online magazine will bring 12 black-owned breweries to Pittsburgh in August for Fresh Fest.

Comments

A Pop-Up Bar in Pittsburgh that Serves a Sober Alternative

A Pop-Up Bar in Pittsburgh that Serves a Sober Alternative

Empath provides the vibe and social space of a bar, as well as stepped up beverage service ... without the alcohol.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Eight Best Frozen Treats in Pittsburgh

The Eight Best Frozen Treats in Pittsburgh

Our dining critic picks his favorite ice cream, ice pop, frozen custard, vegan delight and more.

Comments

Six Underrated Kennywood Rides You Need to Try Again

Six Underrated Kennywood Rides You Need to Try Again

Leave enough time in your next visit to Kennywood to revisit some old favorites and these underrated gems.

Comments


National Aviary's New Renovations Make it Essential Pittsburgh

National Aviary's New Renovations Make it Essential Pittsburgh

It's time to add the National Aviary to the list of local favorites you visit again and again.

Comments

Stop Using Uber and Lyft, Renting a Bike is Better

Stop Using Uber and Lyft, Renting a Bike is Better

You'll save money and have an easier time hopping between neighborhoods on a Healthy Ride bicycle.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pirates Are Still a Long Way From a Hollywood Ending

Pirates Are Still a Long Way From a Hollywood Ending

Despite an 8-1 winning streak going into the All-Star break, the Bucs are in desperate need of a sequel, not only to win back some credibility with fans, but also to convince their owner not to sell off more pieces of the team.

Comments

Compelling World Cup Worth a Periodic Embrace

Compelling World Cup Worth a Periodic Embrace

The competition is as fierce as the fans are passionate and both can be appreciated without a firm grasp of the details.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: The Equalizer 2

The 400-Word Review: The Equalizer 2

An unnecessary sequel to the Denzel Washington action flick arrives for a quick beat-em-up fix.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

The 400-Word Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

The sequel to the 2008 ABBA musical is far from perfect, but might have enough charm to keep you on board.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Perfect Proposals that Flashed Back to First Dates

Perfect Proposals that Flashed Back to First Dates

Return to your roots before your relationship blooms into a beautiful marriage.

Comments

I Do, Now Let’s Have Some BBQ

I Do, Now Let’s Have Some BBQ

A five-course meal doesn’t fit with every wedding. These laid-back couples opted for casual — and delicious — cuisine perfect for their outdoor and barn receptions.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Wow Factor: Empty Nest Inspires Timeless Makeover

Wow Factor: Empty Nest Inspires Timeless Makeover

When her last child graduated from college, Ingrid Meenen did something she had been wanting to do for 20 years — renovate the first floor of her Upper St. Clair home.

Comments

Head to the North Hills for Two Blooming Garden Tours

Head to the North Hills for Two Blooming Garden Tours

The Wexford Garden and Pond Tour and the Southern Butler County Garden Club tour both take place this weekend.

Comments

Edit Module