Saturday, August 25, 2012

Discovering Pittsburgh: Habitat, and a Behind the Scenes Tour of the Fairmont Pittsburgh Kitchen

One of the things that I've been thrilled to discover about Pittsburgh is its great restaurant scene. During the year that we've been here, I haven't eaten out at too many places - but I can say that I've enjoyed almost every place I've been to. People don't usually think of Pittsburgh as a restaurant town (we're the place that puts french fries on our sandwiches and our salads, after all) but I think that stereotype is changing (and has changed) with the revitalization of our Downtown area. When one wants to enjoy an upscale meal in Pittsburgh, fortunately we have more than a few fine restaurants to choose from in our city.

Many restaurants in Pittsburgh have been making a significant effort to focus on locally-sourced, sustainable food, and among them is the elegant Habitat, located Downtown at 510 Market Street in the Fairmont Pittsburgh. After our Pilates class at Verve a few weekends ago, Claire had made reservations for us bloggers to have lunch at Habitat. She had been there previously and enjoyed it, and she had also confirmed that they would have their "executive express lunch" available, even though we would be dining on a Saturday afternoon.

Our waitress was extremely attentive to our party of six, immediately bringing us a basket of bread, and water in the most adorable pitcher I'd ever seen.

I mean, seriously, is that not THE CUTEST THING??!! I WANT. Apparently, so do a lot of others and Habitat is savvy enough to use that to their marketing advantage; you could drop your business card in a box at the entrance for a chance to win one. (I'm still waiting for my call.) These were hand-crafted especially for Habitat, our waitress explained.

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week was upon us, unbeknownst to me (my blogging friends had to inform me). Sure enough, as promised, Habitat was indeed offering an "executive express" lunch consisting of soup, salad, sandwich, and dessert for only $16.00. I thought this would be a great way to sample several of Habitat's offerings, and I was quite pleased. (I don't know if this was a usual part of Habitat's menu or if this was a special for Restaurant Week, but regardless, I was glad.)

Shall we take a closer look?

I could have eaten an entire plate of this salad alone, especially the delicious chunks of avocado. The tomatoes were fresh and the dressing had just the right amount of tanginess without being overpowering.

I adore fish tacos (and fish in general), but the rest of my immediate family does not. Thus, it is usually one of my preferred menu items when I dine out. Succulent mahi-mahi adorned with peppers and wrapped in a flour tortilla was absolutely delicious (albeit slightly messy to eat, but I didn't really care about that).

A mini Oreo cookie cheesecake! Now, here's the thing with me and chocolate anything. I can only have chocolate in small quantities. It's a migraine-trigger for me, unfortunately, so I've pretty much had to give it up. This dessert, however, made me feel like Goldilocks: it was just the right size, just the right amount of chocolate to be satisfying, yet not enough to potentially send me into my typical three-day migraine throes of hell.

Several of my dining companions also chose the executive express lunch, however Alex selected the Bibb salad with compressed watermelon. According to the menu, this included mint, pickled red onions, and feta cheese with a herb vinaigrette.

Nikki got the Grilled Vegetable Wrap (I think) along with a side of sweet potato fries.

Sweet potato fries are A BIG THING here in Pittsburgh. (That's something else I've learned during the past year here in this city.)

We were impressed with the open kitchen at Habitat, so being the curious bloggers we are, we meandered over, cameras in hand. Imagine our surprise when Paula, the sous chef invited us behind the scenes for an impromptu tour!

Initially I thought that our spur-of-the-moment tour was going to be that of the kitchen of Habitat itself, which would have been neat. Little did I know that we were not only just seeing the restaurant's kitchen, but the kitchen and cooking operation for THE ENTIRE FAIRMONT HOTEL, which was in the midst of preparing for a wedding. ("They're at the church right now," Paula calmly explained. No worries.)

This was AWESOME and a great surprise to our already terrific day. Being foodies, we were in our glory.

Paula explaining the workings of the kitchen's high-tech fridge, which can freeze or thaw things quickly. (I didn't take notes during this tour, so this is all from my head.)

Tables ready for room service. 

Tables awaiting a romantic champagne and chocolate dessert.

 Cute chef dudes preparing appetizers for the wedding reception later that evening. 

Bruschetta in parmesan cheese cups! 
(Yes, they let us sample them ... and they were amazing!)

Dinners, plated and in a large walk in fridge, prepared for the wedding. 

Salad dishes 

Centerpieces for the wedding tables.

Salad spinner.  

Mixing bowls. 

Pastry machine.

I think I could make room on my counter for one of these. 

Or this. 

A room devoted to nothing but chocolate! 


I absolutely enjoyed my lunch at Habitat and would highly recommend it to others (in fact, I already have). Thanks, too, to Paula and her staff for our tour of the kitchen!

Habitat is located in the Fairmont Pittsburgh at 510 Market Street, Pittsburgh, PA. Habitat's website, which includes their menus, hours and directions, Chef Andrew Morrison's blog, and a schedule of events, can be found here. 

Discovering Pittsburgh is an occasional feature on The Betty and Boo Chronicles where I write about the new adventures and places we are discovering in our new city.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs.

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


Peppermint Ph.D. said...

What a cool place to eat and the impromptu tour they gave ya'll?? So nice! Can't believe they were all so calm with a wedding party on the way in a few hours! Thanks for sharing! :)

Alex @ Brain, Body, Because said...

I didn't realize that Pittsburghers enjoy sweet potato fries more than the average folk. That's such a shame! They are delicious!

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

My brother-in-law and his family live in Pittsburgh; the next time we visit, this is where we will dine. This is a great post, thanks for taking us along with you.

Beth F said...

OMG!! What an opportunity to get that fabulous tour. That is so cool. Really, I hardly have words.

The meal, the cutest froggy pitcher, and the table setting (love the way the sweet potato fries were served) are fabulous.

Gee, I'm only a 3-4 hour drive away. :)