My visit to Habitat was one of the culinary tourism features in my Destination Guide The Problem with Pittsburgh.
I spent the afternoon strolling through downtown Pittsburgh and arrived back at the Fairmont pleasantly surprised and inspired by the city’s stoic architecture. I quickly prettied myself in my suite, zoomed down the elevator and plopped myself on a stool at Andys Wine Bar. The hotels lobby lounge embraces Pittsburgh’s history with pop art influences and industrial accents paying homage to the city’s two most famous Andys: pop artist Andy Warhol and steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie. I wet my whistle on a tequila forward cocktail duo as romantic light from the setting sun shot through the hotels floor to ceiling windows. After sipping through the bartenders Sparkling Negroni and Grapefruit Rosemary Margarita I whisked myself up to the hotels signature restaurant Habitat.
Strolling through the open concept dining room at Habitat one notices maple wood slat walls which encourage a flood of natural light while also showcasing spectacular views of downtown Pittsburgh. The eyes wander: multicoloured Pop Art pieces hang from the walls, large open kitchen filled with stainless steel and granite offer an entertaining focal point and large communal table designed by local artist Tadao Arimoto impresses with panache.
Executive Chef Jason Dalling, a Vancouver export took over the kitchen in November 2012. The menu features nods to the bounty of several local farms: grass-fed beef from Burns Angus Farm in New Wilmington, poultry from Eichner’s in Wexford, lamb from Elysian Fields Farm as well as cheese, bread and produce from a handful of vendors located throughout western Pennsylvania. The menu showcases a broad offering, ranging from internationally-inspired to traditionally American. When Fairmont first launched the hotel and restaurant in 2010 it was the city’s first ever luxury hotel and it is perhaps is no shock that the menu here reads somewhat like a newbies guide to haute cuisine.
Sitting a stones throw from the restaurants open kitchen I started off the meal with an ice cold bottle of Pennsylvania’s own Yuengling Traditional Lager which is produced by America’s oldest brewery, boasting a recipe that dates back to 1829. Over the next two hours a parade of plates zoomed under my nose, starting with Habitat’s signature tandoor naan which is served on the daily as an accompaniment to a trilogy of dips: raita, baba ghanoush and hummus.
Habitat highlights on the savoury side include Cucumber and Pea Salad featuring a contrast of crispy pork belly, soft poached egg, zesty fried lemon and crunchy quinoa and Amish Raised Chicken Breast adorned with truffle pasta, petite mirepoix, tart rhubarb and umami forward oyster mushrooms.
One must save room to respect the talents of Pastry Chef James Wroblewski. I was pleased to end the evening on a sweet high note which featured a memorable interpretation of the Red Velvet Cake and decadent PB & J Ice Cream Cake. While waddling back to your room you’ll feel compelled to throw your arms in the air and let out a joyous chirp, “Hallelujah for Habitat!”
Special thanks to Visit Pittsburgh for hosting me as their guest.
1800 silver tequila, sweet vermouth, campari, grapefruit bitters, segura viudas cava
Grapefruit Rosemary Margarita
herradura silver tequila, cointreau, fresh grapefruit, rosemary, chili flakes, lime
Yuengling Traditional Lager
Fresh Tandoor Baked Naan
hummus, raita, baba ganoush
Cucumber and Pea Salad
pork belly, slow cooked egg, onions, fried lemon, red quinoa
62 degree egg, pickled green beans, shaved vegetables, avocado mousse, oregano wafer
Amish Raised Chicken Breast
wild truffle pasta, mirepoix, rhubarb, oyster mushrooms, chicken jus
12 oz Organic Pork Chop
creamed, sweet and popped corn, spinach
Spring Pea and Bacon Mac and Cheese
Red Velvet Cake
cream cheese mousse, raspberry sauce, toasted pecan ice cream, raspberries
PB & J Ice Cream Cake
peanut butter ice cream, chocolate brownie, marshmallow, peanut cereal crispy, grape jam