I'll admit that when The Girl and I were first contemplating a move to Pittsburgh, the culinary scene scared me. Internet searches showed little in the way of excitement about the food. Blog posts were formulaic and seemed to show a cuisine that is either trying too hard to be somewhere else or so rooted in local niche cuisine that one would wonder if anyone knew the outside world existed. It is into an unknown world, one I feared would have fries on everything, in which my wife and I find ourselves.
Two weeks into our new world, and we have just began to scratch the surface of what Pittsburgh has to offer. I'll let you in on a secret: Pittsburgh food is actually pretty stellar. From amazing tacos and sandwiches from street vendors in the Strip, to a growing Food Truck scene, all the way to a relaxed take on fine dining, Pittsburgh is proving to be more than just Primanti Brother's and burnt almond cake.
For my first Pittsburgh post, I'm flying solo as The Girl is out of town, but this dining experience is one I want to share with her soon. The location - The Wine Room at Bar Marco. The Wine Room dinners are an intimate affair, 10 seats in a beautiful space in a restored firehouse. Unlike the main dining room, whose music is loud and the energy level set at TURN UP, the Wine Room is set up for relaxed and easy conversation among current and future friends. This dichotomy of space and energy works to the favor of the young Executive Chef Jamilka Borges, as it allows her to flex her culinary wings in multiple directions at once. Her enthusiasm and energy come across clearly in her food, and it is obvious her creativity would not be best served by a more traditional service.
On to the food.....in this case 10 courses with wine pairings for $125. If you balk at that number, let me reiterate......10 courses WITH wine pairings. This isn't "pop a couple bottles of Pinot and walk away" wine either. Thoughtful, distinct, low-volume wines crafted with love and paired with thought, not only with how they compliment the dishes, but how they progress throughout the meal. If you have a half hour ask Sara, Bar Marco's Sommelier, how she went from Renaissance literature and a future in medicine to being one of the brightest young minds in wine I've ever come across.
Pairing: Lillet Rosé
Pairing: Domaine Tessier Cour-Cheverny 2012
Third Course, white asparagus custard with ham and pigs head reduction. It is in this course you begin to see Chef Borges brilliance in playing with flavor profiles, textures, and artistry. The subtle sweetness of the custard playing off the salt of the ham, the creaminess to the ever so slightly crisp, a beautiful and engaging plate.
Pairing: Cantine Agriverde "Eikos" 2012
Pairing: Colle dei Bardellini pigato 2012
Pairing: Pares Balta Calcari 2012
(Perhaps my favorite wine of the night)
Pairing: Francois Pinon "les trois argiles" 2011
Pairing: Terrees Dorés FRV100
Pairing: Cascina Tavign ruchi 2010
Pairing Fleur d'Or sauternes 2010
Pairing: The greatest way to end a meal, Chateau St Aubin Armagnac
Bar Marco has such a glut of young talent that it is frankly amazing. If Chef Borges isn't recognized as a rising star on the national scene soon, I'll start writing about Fast Food exclusively. The wine program is diverse and stellar given the restrictions set on restaurants by the state. This passionate, youthful, masterful staff put together one heck of an amazing dinner, one that leaves me feeling excited about my new home.
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