Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week: Dinner with Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Food Bloggers at The Grand Concourse

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     The Grand Concourse restaurant is one of Pittsburgh's iconic landmarks.  It began its life in 1901  as the crowning jewel of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad.  The station, on the banks of the Monongahela River, ushered passengers on 78 trains per day.  In 1978, it was resurrected, beautifully restored and reopened as The Grand Concourse restaurant.  Its majestic walls whisper the history of its beginnings and glancing around one can view the ticket counter, have a drink in the baggage room, revel in the expanse of the main hall or experience quiet dining in the Women's Waiting Room.  Prior to Monday evening, I had dined here only once.  My family and I celebrated my college graduation there many, many moons ago.  So, I was excited to learn that dinner for the Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Bloggers would be held here.  Armed with my photographer, I wasn't quite sure what to expect - regarding the food or the other diners.  I will cut to the chase was a very nice evening.

     I will get to the food shortly.  I have to admit that I felt a bit out of my league attending my first blogger's dinner.  I realized very quickly that I was probably the oldest of the group.  In those first few minutes, I learned a great deal:  (1) get business cards; (2) Facebook, Twitter, Instagram must become my friends; (3) learn how to take better pictures with my iPhone.   By midnight, Dear Daughter had created Twitter and Facebook sites for me and I woke up on Tuesday morning with a slew of emails indicated that "so and so" was now "following" me.  I have a long way to go, but WOW!

     The $30.15 Restaurant Week Menu was quite diverse offering a choice of four starters, four entrees and two desserts.  It was instantly obvious that the restaurant management truly supported the whole idea of this food-centric week.  The Manager checked on our group several times, gave us a history of the restaurant and his overall demeanor created a welcoming atmosphere.  The wait staff were very informative, providing suggestions and expertly paired wine with each course for those that asked.  On a Monday night, the restaurant was on the quiet side, which also made it easy for a group of 15 to talk.

     Dear Daughter, my date and new photographer, chose the Martha's Vineyard Salad as her first course.  This simple salad of mixed greens, pine nuts, red onion and crumbled blue cheese was elevated with a subtle raspberry vinaigrette.  The sous chef explained that this particular dish had been on the menu for nearly 30 years.  We agreed it should be on the menu for another thirty.

Martha'sVineyard Salad - on the menu for 30 years!

     I opted for the Summer Chopped Salad, which came with grilled Chambersburg peaches, blue cheese, candied pecans and the largest blackberries I had ever seen.  It was very lightly dressed, which I loved.  So often, you get a salad that is just dripping in dressing.  This time, the dressing just complimented the dish and it allowed the stars (peaches and blackberries) to shine.  

Summer Chopped Salad with Chambersburg Peaches

    Other first course options included a menu mainstay of Charley's  Chowder, a Mediterranean seafood stew that reminded me of Soupe de Poisson and a Watermelon Gazpacho served a large martini glass.  I heard positive comments on both.

     For the main course, I went a bit out of my comfort zone, when I chose the Roasted Sirloin with Sweet Pepper Chutney and Chili Oil.   I was a bit scared by the chili oil as I normally do not like spicy food.  With the first bite I thought, "Oh, no.  This was the wrong choice for me."  I noticed several of my fellow dinners having perhaps the same thought.  However, we all ventured on and actually, it was quite good.  The meat was cooked to my request of medium rare.  The chutney provided a sweetness that offset the slight heat of the oil.  A chunky, creamy, rich mashed potatoes accompanied the dish and everyone commented on its wonderful flavor.

Roasted Sirloin with Sweet Pepper Chutney and Chili Oil

     Dear Daughter had a harder time choosing.  She did not want the beef because of the chili oil   There was a vegetarian option of Coconut Curry Vegetables served over Basmati Rice but she did not go vegetarian.  She was close to ordering the Mediterranean Chicken Breast but did not want the feta creamed spinach.  So, she chose the Lemon Scented King Salmon, which really surprised me because she is not a fan of cooked salmon.  Salmon Tartare, Smoked Salmon, Salmon Sashimi are huge favorites with her but not any type of cooked salmon and believe me, I have tried.  The presentation was quite nice, the filet of salmon was perched atop a sweet potato mash.  A relish of corn and blueberries topped the dish.  Unfortunately, the salmon was overcooked and the one could quite figure out if it was actually sweet potato or something else.  She indicated that she should have had the chicken as she heard the positive comments from the other diners.

Lemon Scented King Salmon with Corn and Blueberry Salsa

     For dessert, D2 had to have her second creme brûlée of the day but unfortunately, the custard with this one was too "eggy" for her taste.  I ordered the Media Luna, which was a beautiful chocolate bomb - very rich and very good.

Creme Brûlée

     I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food and the dedication of the chef to source locally.  The staff was attentive but not overly so.  The company was interesting and I learned a great deal from these accomplished bloggers who are so dedicated to promoting Pittsburgh.  I won't wait another 20+ (ouch) years to return.

Media Luna - Decadent and Good!

The Grand Concourse
100 West Station Square
Pittsburgh, PA

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