Hungry For Something Good, Pittsburgh? Where We're Eating in March.
We're shopping at Oriental Market, tearing into whole chickens at Vivo, savoring coddled eggs at Cure and more. Plus, we talk to Madeleine Bakery & Bistro's Andrew Stump.
photos by erin Kelly
I adore specialty food stores. One of my favorite pastimes is losing myself in culinary thought while browsing through the region’s Asian markets. Oriental Market on McKnight Road is one of my favorite destinations for such an inspired wandering. There are vegetables galore, many that can’t be found at mainstream groceries, and all sold at reasonable prices. Fresh and dried noodles beg for a recipe, perhaps paired with something from the aisles filled with sauces, grains and gear. The market’s draw is its butcher case, which, in addition to more familiar cuts, is filled with hard-to-find parts such as bones, blood, tails, feet, ears and organs.
Ross Township: 4768 McKnight Road #2; 412/548-3648
Whole chickens are trending, popping up as prestige items on numerous Pittsburgh menus. Some of them even command $50 for a bird. My favorite whole chicken, served at Vivo Kitchen in Sewickley, goes for less than half that price. Sure, it’s a smaller bird, but order it along with a few of Executive Chef/Owner Sam DiBattista’s reasonably priced small plates — I recommend octopus with espelette peppers, olive oil and flake salt and pan-roasted forest mushrooms — and two people are set for an inexpensive, lovely dinner. DiBattista seasons the bird, par-roasts it and finishes it in a bath of hot oil. It’s crispy, tender, succulent and savory; you’ll be pulling bits of meat and crunchy skin with your fingers to find every last bite.
Sewickley, 432 Beaver St.; 412/259-8945, vivokitchen.com
photo by hal B. Klein
Baby Loves Tacos
Owner Zachary Shell serves his Mexican-inspired tacos, burritos, rice bowls and salads with a side of social justice. The Pittsburgh-born chef spent 17 years in Philadelphia, where he worked in restaurants (and played soccer in a semi-professional, largely Hispanic league). His food preparations — I’m partial to juicy chicken layered with pickled onion, salsa and cheese, as well as his daily vegetable specials — are top-notch. On top of that, his mission to mentor and provide training as well as employment for at-risk youths is a laudable goal.
Bloomfield: 4508 Liberty Ave.; babylovestacospgh.com
There are some good things happening at Acorn in Shadyside. The modern-American — with a strong tilt toward Scandinavian — restaurant is the first upscale dining establishment to open on Walnut Street in recent memory. There is a lot of potential in Executive Chef Scott Walton’s menu. It’s approachable, but also forward-thinking, with a few standout dishes such as smoked beets dressed with goat cheese gremolata, walnuts and potato chips. Walton plates dishes with remarkable attention to detail in structure and color. I love mossArchitects’ clean design and cool colorscape.
Shadyside: 5528 Walnut St.; 412/530-5950, acornpgh.com
photo by Erin Kelly
Seven years ago, Justin Severino and Hilary Prescott Severino upgraded Pittsburgh dining by opening Cure in Upper Lawrenceville. They’ve since introduced a second outstanding establishment, Morcilla, and have a third — a collaboration with East End Brewing — on the way. All the while, Severino and his team, led by chef de cuisine Danielle Felix, keep pressing forward at Cure with delectable dishes. Try classic and forward-thinking pastas such as burnt wheat tagliatelle with smoked pork and cabbage sugo, ricotta and coriander and perfectly prepared mains such as roasted trout with braised swiss chard, calabrian chili, crispy fried white runner beans and burnt lemon. The restaurant’s $85, six-course tasting menu is a great deal and includes bites such as coddled egg with sherry chantilly and smoked maple — one of the tastiest bites I’ve enjoyed thus far in 2018.
Upper Lawrenceville: 5336 Butler St.; 412/252-2595, curepittsburgh.com
Baker/Co-Owner | Madeleine Bakery & Bistro
Andrew Stump and his wife, Abigail, opened Madeleine Bakery & Bistro in Wilkinsburg in December. He prepares an array of delectable goods ranging from sourdough boules and airy baguettes to craveable cookies and croissants. Stump honed his skills at Iron Born, Five Points Artisan Bakeshop, Marty’s Market, Bar Marco and Lautrec.
What do you love most about baking?
I enjoy the craftsmanship of it. There are so many intricacies for something seemingly simple in which you use a very limited number of base ingredients. It’s chasing the perfection in technique.
Is there a difference in technique between bread baking and pastry baking?
You do both at Madeline. I don’t really see them as that terribly different. The same techniques and underlying principles apply. It’s all about attention to detail whether you’re shaping a loaf of sourdough or laminating a croissant.
What are you working on now? What’s driving you?
Nailing down the croissants. Why do they turn out the way they do? How can I get the consistency down to get nearly perfect croissants every time? I’m happy with the flavor, it’s more about understanding all the variables like shaping, different flours with different protein content, proofing time and temperature and relative humidity percentage in the proofer. I have pages and pages of notes on the experiments. The testing phase is something I really enjoy about baking.
Do you have any advice for budding home bakers?
It’s going to be maddeningly difficult, and a lot of things don’t turn out the way they should. Because it’s so technique based, it’s a craftsmanship thing and the best way to get better at a craft is to keep practicing. Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t look like the picture in the cookbook. Keep at it and you’ll get there.