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During our visit to Pittsburgh, our main goal was to check out the city’s burgeoning culinary scene. Our first stop was at Whitfield.
Through the arched early 20th century doorway lies what used to be the Pittsburgh YMCA. This is not necessarily a building refurbished in all its glory.
Remove many of the accouterments that contribute to its repurposing as the new Ace Hotel Pittsburgh and you can still see the stained old concrete and some of the fading paint around the large windows that light the lobby. To the left, through simple latticework, tables occupy the dining room of Whitfield in Pittsburgh.
And while the lobby and its trendy, half-finished decor could be described by many as ‘shabby chic’, the food draws from the city’s nearby agricultural surroundings to provide an unpretentious yet refined culinary vision.
Pittsburgh is a town built on butchering, much of it done in the long antiquated yet awakening riverside ‘Strip’ district. It was smart of the Ace to consult with Brent Young of Brooklyn butchery The Meat Hook.
For Whitfield, Young has constructed a menu with lofty farm to table ambitions that remain grounded in food tradition while serving up some of the best product that Pennsylvania has to offer… and the food tastes great.
As an added twist, two female chefs, Casey Shively and Bethany Zozula, helm the kitchen, adding their special touches to the food.
Food at Whitfield in Pittsburgh
We started our meal with The Wedge. This classic salad is presented as a delicate head of crisp baby lettuce topped with pungent blue cheese and dotted with rectangular house-made bacon lardons. The lardons provide a perfect chew against the flavorful blue cheese, demonstrating that you can dress up an old idea in new clothes.
The butchering and charcuterie programs at Whitfield are relatively new, and soon the kitchen will begin curing salami. During our dinner, we were served a simple yet focused charcuterie plate constructed with smoky, sweet bacon jam (the star of the plate made by reducing the in-house bacon with onion, brown sugar and garlic), country paté, pork rillettes and creamy duck liver mousse.
Lenny Brown, our passionate server, brought the duck entree to our table – the slices of juicy, crisped breast atop a bed of whole grains mixed with an added surprise – duck confit.
Why the duck confit? On-site butcher Steven Bachy confided that the restaurant likes to “use the whole animal”. With beef from Jubilee Hilltop Ranch and duck from Joe Jurgielewicz & Son, this progressive approach makes perfect sense.
With all the meat love, the Whitfield team has not forgotten about vegetables. Their carrot risotto is a rich and creamy concoction that fully embraces the oft-forgotten orange vegetable.
The mighty carrot lends its golden orange hue to the cheesy Carolina rice. Braised, caramelized carrots and kale pesto complete the dish which is then crowned with large parmesan crisps. The sweet carrots impart their flavor in much the same way that saffron colors and flavors the risottos of Milan, but in this case we were in Pennsylvania in the winter where the carrot is king!
Whitfield was buzzing on the Monday night when we dined there, which is exciting for both the restaurant as well as for the city of Pittsburgh’s surging dining scene.
The staff set the tone with their enthusiasm, and it was easy to see their pride in working with chefs who are pushing culinary boundaries in their hometown. The female chefs add extra detail to every plate that leaves the kitchen, said Whitfield food and beverage manager Hana Zoufalik.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.