Writing and eating in: Pittsburgh, PA
Tuesday night I had the delightful experience of dining at Paris 66 Bistro on Centre Avenue in Pittsburgh. Paris 66 is a destination restaurant according to owners Lori and Fred Rongier. Mr. Rongier says Paris 66 is “where Paris meets Route 66.” And it did feel like I took a little trip to France. The décor included postcards from France in the early twentieth century and yellow walls that were both cheery and subtle.
I had the privilege of dining with a group of Pittsburgh food bloggers. I bonded with the writer of Forked over our experiences at Chatham and a mutual favorite English professor. I got to reminisce with another about the spaghetti ubriacone at Osteria de’ Benci and the desserts at Acqua al Due in Florence. I met the writers of a bunch of other food blogs as well (I’ve added all the addresses I could remember to my blogroll. If you were at dinner and your blog isn’t there, let me know, I’ll add you. I like you guys.)
I brought Kevin along because he tastes almost everything I cook and I’m trying to break him out of his “bread is bread” mindset. Bread is not bread. It’s not even white, wheat or rye. It’s pumpernickel, focaccia, naan, and so much more. Before I met him, Kevin was already a coffee snob and a beer conuisseur. I’ve since turned him into a wine snob. I think I’ve got him convinced on the complexities of cheese as well, but this is a recent development and later in the post you’ll find out why I think I’ve got him hooked on fromage.
Paris 66 Bistro opened a few years ago as a creperie. The bistro now boasts a full lunch and dinner menu and a Sunday brunch. The new dinner menu is extensive, sections include: soupes, salades, quiches, hors d’oeuvres, plats principaux (main dishes), crepes, and desserts. There is also a good wine list. I didn’t taste the wine because I was filled up with Sudafed (oh, spring allergies…) but Kevin told me it was very good (and as I stated above, Kevin is a wine snob).
I can offer commentary on three sections of the menu. We got a bit of a discount as part of a food bloggers group we belong to so I was able to taste more of the menu than I otherwise would have. Paris 66 is not overpriced, but it isn’t an every week/month/year event for most students and recent grads. It is, however, well worth a visit for a special occasion or more often if you can swing it. (For more details and opinions, surf around some of the blogs mentioned above. You might find more reviews. If not, you’ll find other good stuff.)
Kevin and I split the Assiette Gourmande to start. The Assiette Gourmande is a large and filling plate of charcuterie selections, cheeses, and cornichons. It is good for sharing between 2-3 people. This plate is why I think I’ve got Kevin hooked on cheese. We settled on the Assiette Fromage and then one of our dining companions began to exalt the pate and I knew I just had to try it. But Kevin couldn’t be persuaded to switch to the Assiette de Charcuterie just on my whim to try pate. He really wanted to expand his cheese education. I was proud. So we splurged on the combination plate, which sounds so much more elegant as the Assiette Gourmande.
The contents of the plate varies depending on availability, but we enjoyed the following:
A wedge of soft brie, served at room temperature as it should be and drizzled with high quality balsamic vinegar
A pungent bleu cheese with thick lines of navy blue
A mild salami with a hint of pepper
Cornichons (the little pickles)
Thinly sliced ribeye with pepper
Kevin and I went in completely different directions when choosing our main courses. I went for a bistro staple: Steak-Frites. I’m so glad I did. I debated something more adventurous like the Foie de Veau or Canard Confit, but my body could not be denied red meat. I was served a large ribeye cooked just to the rare side of medium rare, which is perfect in my opinion. Except at the best steakhouses like Bern’s in Tampa, I usually order medium rare and end up with medium. Not so here. The steak was served in the typical French style with a large pat of butter on top. I’m a fan of this tradition. It is the only way to make a steak more decadent. The steak was so good I kind of ignored my fries, which is highly unusual for me. The fries were a bit too crisp; I like a fry that is soft on the inside and these just weren’t. They were seasoned well, fresh, hot, and crisp, just not to my tastes. I’m picky. You’d probably like them. The steak-frites also looked fantastic on the plate. The fries were in a basket with tissue paper that looked like newsprint. So cute!
Kevin was a little jealous of my steak. He ordered the Filet de Saumon. His analysis of the fish: “Eh, it’s okay.” It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as good as he’d hoped for. Similar thoughts on other fish dishes were voiced quietly at the table, also. Good, but nothing special like the Steak-Frites or savory buckwheat crepes. Kevin really enjoyed the mashed potatoes on the side of his fish dipped in the dill sauce plated with the fish.
Dessert, like the Assiette Gourmande, was another 100% hit. Kevin and I were both debating between the Mousse au Chocolate and the Tarte de Pomme (apple tart). We each ordered one and split them between us.
The apple tart was served warm with thick, homemade caramel sauce. The pastry was buttery, flaky, and tender with just a touch of crispness at the edges and filled with apples. The butteriness of the pastry and the caramel sauce combined with the apples to make a dessert that was rich and slightly sweet.
The chocolate mousse, made with dark Belgian chocolate, was dense and rich enough to make me feel like I was going to sneeze. In my world, a sneeze or near sneeze is the ultimate indicator of high-quality chocolate desserts. The best flourless chocolate torte I ever had induced a succession of sneezes (if you think this indicates a slight chocolate allergy, keep it to yourself). A delicate homemade whipped cream cut the dark, dense, and intense chocolate flavor of the mousse. I usually don’t like whipped cream, but I was diving into bites of this without the mousse underneath. It was fluffy and just slightly sweet with a dusting of cocoa powder on top.
Would I go back?
Absolutely. The food is good, the staff is friendly, and the prices are appropriate. I would recommend this to all of my friends.